CHAPTER 5 - Trails and Trials

The newlyweds lived in Berens River for the summer. A few days after their wedding, Rod told Toni he and Lothar had two canoe-loads of freight to be delivered to the Hudson's Bay post at Little Grand Rapids, a distance of about one hundred and twenty-five miles via the river and lake system. The goods were ready for delivery and their plans were to leave as soon as possible.

Picture 5-1 Rod and Toni's wedding photo, taken one year after the ceremony
wedding photo

"Will Fred Whiteway be Lothar's bow man?" Toni asked Rod. When he replied in the affirmative, she went on - "Who will be your bow man?"

"You" was the monosyllable answer.

Toni was simultaneously thrilled and apprehensive. The full extent of her knowledge of canoes was from the pleasure ride she had been given on Spirit Lake in Washington. She could not swim - she felt she hardly knew which end of the paddle to use in the water.

Her concern drove her to mention these things to Rod. His unconcern heartened her, and when they talked of her lack of knowledge of canoes and freighting, he smiled and said gently - "Well, you can learn!"

The trip would take between a week and ten days, depending on how many portages had to be made and on weather conditions.

Rod spent time with Toni, giving her a capsulated course in the duties of a bow man. When the canoe was loaded, with the stern man in place to steer the craft, the bow man pushed the freight canoe off the shore or wherever it was beached, and quickly jumped in. Similarly, when the canoe was landing, the bow man was the first one out, helping to stabilize the canoe until the stern man could help pull the boat to land. Other duties he could instruct her on as the need arose. Rod was a patient and sober teacher, never laughing at his student's errors or misfortunes, and always ready to repeat a lesson if Toni missed something. He wanted Toni to enjoy life in the wilderness - derision would not be conducive to producing a positive attitude in her. Both Rod and Toni took her learning time seriously, and that was a contributing factor to the success of their relationship.

The two canoes left Berens River early one morning, both heavily loaded, and Toni's life in the bush truly began. She had never cooked over an open fire, but a large part of the cooking responsibility on the trip would lie with her. Again, Rod was her instructor, and the lessons were straight-forward and positive.

They did not carry any more personal goods than necessary, since the freight required the bulk of the available space in the freight canoes. Their sleeping accomodations were simple. A piece of factory cotton stretched over a horizontal pole, with cheese cloth attached, surrounding sleeping bags. Mere basics of clothing were included. Food was also simple - only basic staples were taken - the rivers would yield fresh fish, and all the men were expert shots, if fresh meat was desired.

Cooking was done over an open fire - another new experience for Toni. One night Rod asked her to mix bannock, saying he would help her cook it when the time came. He completed his other tasks and arrived in time to set up an arrangement of reflectors so the bannock could be set close in, all around the fire, and all would be cooking at the same time. The pieces of bannock were first browned in a frying pan , then set around the fire reflectors as Rod instructed, while the cooking of other foods was completed over the fire.

Rod was a patient, quiet and able teacher - Toni a curious, capable and apt student. They made an excellent team, and, for them, the trip was an adventure in learning more about one another, as well as a time to share their love.

One day, as Toni was working around the canoe at a portage, she stepped on some rocks at the water's edge and slipped, feet first, into the river. She made no sound, and Rod did not notice. Quickly and quietly, she pressed as much water out of her clothing as she could - then continued with the day's efforts, allowing her clothes to dry in the heat of the day.

Toni was unaware that Lothar and Fred both witnessed her accident, and had found it highly amusing. Years later, Fred visited with Toni and Rod, and talked about how funny he and Lothar had thought the incident was, and how they had laughed so hard they could scarcely pull the canoe over the portage. Toni was incensed - even so many years after the event - and then recognized the wisdom of Rod's approach to her learning and adjustment time to the wilderness lifestyle - had he laughed at her errors or accidents, she would not have found it so easy to learn from him, and to be so willing to attempt additional tasks.

The rivers that feed into lakes drain down from higher country. When canoeists travel up-river, they are climbing and sometimes encounter rapids or other areas where swift water or other obstacles necessitate portaging.

The men had done this hundreds of times, but it was all new to Toni. At each portage, the canoes were completely unloaded, the goods loaded on the backs of the men and carried to the next spot where the canoes could be used. The construction of the freight canoes made them too heavy to be carried over portages. The canoes had wooden frames, with a squared-off stern where an outboard motor could be mounted. Over this framework, heavy canvas was stretched to provide a water-proof shell. The freight canoe would carry three to four times as much cargo as a standard canoe.

The Schuetze brothers had travelled this route many times and had most of the portages set up so current trips were more easily accomplished than earlier ones. The portage route for the canoes resembled an early days conveyor belt: a series of saplings or small logs had been laid across the path, allowing the freighters to manually tow the canoe from a landing site to the next launching site. It required endurance and a strong back - but then carrying the goods called for those abilities, too.

Back-packing the goods was no simple task. Rod explained to Toni how important it was that, once loaded, a man must remember all flexing movements must be taken from the waist down - the upper torso and back had to remain rigid to avoid injury to the carrier. Loads also had to be packed correctly, or they would rub, and soon a raw spot would be evident on the man's shoulders or back. Many freight loads contained boxes of butter - square wooden boxes, probably the worst possible shape for carrying over portages. They were too narrow for easy loading; had sharp corners that banged into the men's bodies. Toni's efforts at the portages were confined to helping Rod pack his load, then gathering up what small articles she could, and carrying them to the next loading site. Once the canoes and goods were portaged, the canoes were reloaded and the trip continued.

Each time they landed the canoes, Toni noticed her paddle produced a small puddle of water around or on top of the cargo. Wanting to do the best job possible, and concerned about bringing unwanted water into the canoe, she watched what Fred Whiteway did. On removing the paddle from the water, he laid it across the frame of the canoe with the wet end over the water. Quickly rolling the paddle up and down the canoe frame sprayed the water off. Toni did the same, and was satisfied with the results.

In her mind, she still heard her brother Karl's comments, made after he had gone on a freighting trip with Rod and Lothar. Karl was a bigger, heavier man than either of the Schuetze brothers, and, wanting to be sure to do his share, had insisted on carrying as large a load as either of the other two men. He did not want them to be able to tease him that he could not handle as much freight or hard work as they. Rod tried to encourage him to take a smaller load, since experience and prepared muscles play a large role in successful portaging, but Karl would not listen. After they returned to Berens River and Karl was asked for his opinion of the work and lifestyle, he responded: "that was my first and last trip freighting. Life is too short to live like that!"

The entire trip was an adventure for Toni. It was like being in the movies! She learned many things and returned to the settlement and Gustie with new insight into what her future life with Rod might contain.

Later in the summer, Rod and Toni made another freighting trip, this time the river was low, and the water channel narrow. Trying to omit as many portages as possible, Rod instructed Toni on helping to navigate the heavy canoe through the shallow, limited water courses (Picture 5 - 2).

Picture 5-2 Preparing to portage a freight canoe
preparing to portage a freight canoe

With Rod in the stern of the canoe, paddling, Toni ran ahead, leading the canoe on a tow rope. It was vital that Toni remain well in the lead of the canoe, to assure a straight pull on the boat. Any sideways pull would overturn the freight canoe and lead to even more problems. Toni fearlessly ran along the shore, over narrow beaches of sand or gravel, around small shrubs, and leaped over boulders in the rockier sections of the riverside. Never thinking of what a slip or bad landing could result in, she did as she was bid, and they arrived safely at their destination.

Lothar and Gustie had thought when Rod and Toni were married Rod would quit trapping and find himself a job in the Berens River area. But Rod had other ideas, and Toni stood by him. In September of 1924 they set out, by canoe, for Rod's traplines in the Whiskey Jack Lake area. They took with them the supplies and personal items they would need for the winter's trapping. They loaded the large freight canoe, tied the paddling canoe on behind, and said goodbye until the following May. Rod had traps and fur stretchers at the trapline cabins.

Among the numerous items in their larder, one found dried vegetables and fruits, flour, tea, lard, sugar, salt, yeast cakes, candles, matches and soap. Rod would supply the meat from his hunting and the camp stove burned wood. What they not bring with them, and the bush could not supply, they would have to do without until they returned to Berens River in the spring. They turned the freight canoe upside down and left it on the shore of Whiskey Jack Lake, (Picture 5 - 3) taking the paddling canoe with them over the Cranberry Rapids and the final miles to the trapping cabin. Once there, Rod left Toni to start cleaning the summer's debris and dust from their home, while he returned for another load of their belongings from the site where they had beached the large canoe. Soon they were re-chinking the log walls of the cabin, and laying in a store of firewood for the cold months ahead. The claw marks left by a bear on the cabin door served as a constant reminder to Toni that she was no longer on the Alberta homestead, or in Castle Rock. Nor was this a movie - this was real life - her life - and its lessons would not always be easy, nor convenient.

Picture 5-3 Rock formation on Whiskey Jack Lake
Rock formation on Whiskey Jack Lake

This first winter together, the first time the two of them were really on their own, was a time to learn more about one another, and to forge the bonds that produced a strong and lasting relationship. The autumn and winter days were short - darkness came early and stayed late. Their only source of light was candles and they were in limited supply. In an effort to conserve their resources, and to fill the long hours, they often went to bed and talked for hours. Rod related his life before he met her, and Toni did the same for him.

Rod had letters with him that he had received the winter before from his mother and brother Ralph. Both raved about Toni - her beauty, eligibility desirability. In his letter, Ralph added - "Hurry up, if you want her, because I have my eye on Toni for myself!"

One of Rod's traplines was too far from the main cabin to be checked from it. He had built a small line-cabin on it, and when he went out checking those traps, he was often away from Toni and the main cabin for several days. During these times, Toni busied herself at tasks Rod was instructing her in. Rod was making snowshoes for Toni and planned to teach her to use them. In the meantime, there were materials to prepare, and Toni worked at this while Rod was away.

Rod first made the wooden snowshoe frames, using ash for its strength and durability. He filled in the heel and toe meshes with gilling twine, and the centre of the snowshoe was laced with rawhide. Rawhide needed to be worked with, and this was Toni's responsibility. They had a small tub in which Toni soaked the rawhide until it reached the correct degree of flexibility, then she removed it and cut it into strips of a width Rod had designated. When he returned home, he continued the snowshoe construction.

Laundry was all done by hand - in the same small tub. With only her bare hands to rub the clothes clean, Toni's task was not an easy one. Noting this, Rod made a wooden washboard,nailing on half-inch wide strips of wood on which to rub the clothing. Toni used it all winter, and it became part of the cabin's supplies.

On the trapline, Rod wore mitts to keep his hands warm, but found he could not set the traps with them on. He mentioned this to Toni and she drew on the knitting she had seen done at home and knitted Rod a pair of gloves.

One occasion when Rod had been away for two or three days, Toni had completed her morning's routine and started out doors to empty the used water. (Picture 5 - 4)

Picture 5-4 Toni cutting wood at the cabin on Whiskey Jack Lake
cutting wood

Rod had established a site some hundred yards from the cabin where all their refuse was deposited, so the immediate area around the cabin remained clean and tidy. Toni was on her way to this site when she rounded a corner of the cabin and came face-to-face with a wolf - the first she had ever seen. Rod had instructed her how to act - "Stand still, make no noise and don't run!" She stood still, watching the wolf, and the animal returned her stare. After what seemed a short eternity, the wolf turned and trotted slowly into the bush. Toni continued on to the dump site, poured out the water and returned to the cabin and her daily routine.

During the winter, Toni and Rod learned they would be parents in May. They completed their winter and spring trapping, then left early in May for Berens River, to sell their furs and await the arrival of their first child.

They were both ecstatic about the advent of parenthood, but especially so Toni, who commented to Rod -"Whether it is a boy or girl, I'll love it all the same, but I hope it is a little boy who will have his father's brown eyes and look just like him!"

They arrived in Berens River and set up their household in a tent. It was there that Rod brought a local mid-wife, of mixed white and native Canadian ancestry, when Toni's time for delivery arrived.

Toni's wish came true. The child was a boy, in due course his eyes took on their brown colour, and as he grew, Frankie Schuetze resembled his father more and more.

The summer passed quickly, and soon the three of them set out for the trapline for the winter. When the family reached the point on Whiskey Jack Lake where they had left the freight canoe the previous winter, Rod left Toni and Frankie and paddled alone to the site of the cabin where they had lived the season before. A forest fire had devastated the area and the cabin was gone. Checking through the rubble, Rod was able to salvage only a small enamel pot that had been outside the cabin. Quickly he returned to their landing site and gave Toni the news - the first order of business would have to be the construction of a new cabin right here on Whiskey Jack Lake where they could reach it with the freight canoe, and no longer have to portage all their goods over the Cranberry Rapids.

Working together, with Frankie playing close at hand, the cabin was speedily built, snug and secure to face the coming winter. Rod made a brief trip to Berens River to bring back a window and extra glass for the window he planned to install in the cabin door. In an effort to make the cabin easier to heat, he also brought back a roll of building paper which he stretched from rafter to rafter, leaving an air pocket between the cabin roof and the paper. It was light coloured and helped to brighten the interior. As the winter passed, however, Toni was to discover some disadvantages, also. Log cabins have chinks and small holes in them, and every enterprising mouse for miles around was seeking warm winter quarters - many of them moved right in with the Schuetze's. Many a winter's night when Rod was checking this traplines, Toni was kept awake by the unending scurrying of numerous rodents up and down the building paper attic. Shouting at the mice brought brief spans of relief, but sleep was elusive, and many nights, fitful.

Frankie was a happy, healthy child, and Toni relished his companionship when Rod was away.

With last winter's washboard destroyed by the fire, Rod set about constructing something to help Toni with the laundry. With much more washing to do, now that Frankie was with them, Rod considered how to keep Toni's hands out of the water as much as possible. With a piece of metal he could shape, he made a cone-shaped vacuum plunger, complete with a handle made from a stick he found in the bush. Independence and self-reliance were the watch-words in living in remote areas.

They were very short of meat during the winter, and Rod set out one day to see if he could hunt down a moose to tide them through a few months. He usually came home just around dark, since travelling on foot in the bush, after dark, could be dangerous - finding one's way without light of any kind is not easy. Toni was becoming alarmed by the time she finally heard his footsteps outside the cabin around eight o'clock. Rod took his snowshoes off outdoors and strode into the cabin. His first moccasin to meet Toni's view was covered in blood - she was instantly afraid he was hurt. He had not noticed that in his haste to deal with the butchering of the moose he had shot, he had spattered blood on his foot. Rod had shot the moose just at dark, far from the cabin, and had hastily made the necessary preparations on the carcass before returning home. Next morning he took their hand-toboggan and brought the meat home.

The previous winter when they had first gone trapping, Rod had brought with him several pieces of sheet metal. From these he had made a drum-oven, to be used for baking and roasting meats. The drum-oven consisted of a short piece of stove pipe, which rose from the wood-burning camp stove, topped with a double-chambered metal oven, from which another stove pipe vented the smoke and fumes. The inner chamber was the baking area, and was large enough to hold three loaves of bread or a good sized roasting pan. Between the inner chamber and the outer wall was an area which was warmed uniformly by the rising heat, smoke and fumes from the fire below. The metal pieces of the drum-oven were soldered together, and the oven gave excellent baking results. When Rod made the oven, he also made the set of bread-baking pans Toni used, and a rack for the pans to rest on inside the oven. The drum-oven had been left in the cabin for the summer, and, along with their other possessions, had been destroyed in the forest fire.

With the first oven gone, Rod gathered materials to make another. A few days later he presented Toni with a new drum-oven, which she put right to work. It was a little larger than the first one, and she would have to time her work so the baking was completed and the oven removed from the stove top before she needed the stove surface for cooking. But it baked as good as the first oven, and both Rod and Toni were glad to have it. Rod had utilized what came to hand - and their daily bread, that winter, was baked in a drum-oven constructed from two empty gasoline cans!

Rod had a muzzle loader gun which he left in the cabin with Toni. He had instructed her on it's use, showing her how to load and fire it. As he left to check traps one day,he said to her: "If you get a chance to shoot a rabbit or some fool hens, I could sure use some bait for my traps." 'Fool hen' was a term used to describe partridges. Stepping out of the cabin, Toni noticed a covey of partridges in the clearing. She returned to the cabin for the gun and shot one. The rest did not fly away, they just kept walking and scratching around; so she re-entered the cabin and re-loaded the gun. Once again she shot a bird and the rest remained. Re-loading, she shot a third partridge and the rest took flight. Some of the meatier parts Toni cooked for Rod and herself, the rest Rod used as bait in his traps.

In the quiet times when Rod was away, the baby asleep and her daily tasks caught up, Toni would think about the changes in her life. She had been educated to work in an office - her skills as a bookkeeper and typist served no purpose in a cabin deep in the Manitoba wilderness (Picture 5 -5). Nothing she had done earlier in life had helped her adapt to the duties she now faced each day. Her love of poetry and books, and the stories and verses remembered, filled some of the solitude she faced - but her life had taken a great turn from what she had once expected.

Picture 5-5 A red fox, animals were the only neighbours they had
red fox

The family returned to Berens River for the summer, where Toni and Frankie spent their days close to Gustie and her children, while the men were busy hauling freight to inland Hudson's Bay posts.

Gustie and Lothar had thought when Rod and Toni were married, Rod would give up trapping. This had not happened, but now that they had a child, and another one on the way, they were confident when winter came, Rod and Toni would remain in the settlement. Wrong again. Late September saw Rod, Toni and Frankie once again set out for Whiskey Jack Lake and a winter's trapping.

Around Christmas time, Lothar arrived to visit with Rod and Toni, and to discuss some business matters. Earlier Lothar had bought out a friend's trade goods from a trading post at Flour Point, and had moved the goods to a trading post at the mouth of the Poplar River. Rod had been invited to be part of the venture, but had declined. Gustie and Lothar were now operating their privately owned trading post in competition with the Hudson's Bay Company. Recently, Lothar had become interested in serving as a missionary with the United Church, taking a post in remote areas of Manitoba, where the church often had problems placing staff. In this job, he would have steady employment and income, he would be teaching the Word of God and he would be helping people with their daily lives. He wanted to become involved in this work as soon as possible, but needed someone to take over the trading post. Were Rod and Toni interested?

Their answer, after some thought, was "no". They were content with their life of trapping in the winter and freighting in the summer, and if they assumed responsibility for the trading post, they would have to forego what they were now enjoying.

Lothar was disappointed, but offered to take Rod's furs from his winter trapping and arrange to have them reach the January fur sales in Winnipeg where the prices would be much better than at the spring sales.

Rod and Toni agreed, and the men loaded the furs onto Lothar's dog-team sled. They sat together over a cup of tea and visited and laughed. Rod and Toni had once travelled from Poplar River to Berens River by dog team, and later, south of Berens River, while crossing Lake Winnipeg, they encountered blizzard and heavy snowfall. They could see very little, and decided to find shelter for the night. Seeing a clump of trees, Rod found a small island in the lake. They camped there (Picture 5 - 6) for over thirty-six hours before the weather permitted them to travel on. The weather was very cold; the snowfall so great that the dogs were buried in the morning. They left the dogs at a Gypsumville boarding house and travelled by train to Winnipeg. Toni had some dental work attended to and they began the trip home. The dogs were so pleased to see them and so excited about going home, they frequently upset the sled, spilling Toni and their luggage across the frozen surface of the lake. She and Rod laughed at the struggle Rod had in turning the dogs around to gather everything together again. As the three sat in the small cabin on the shore of Whiskey Jack Lake, they enjoyed the humour their lifestyle generated and laughed together at the adventures they had experienced. As Lothar said goodbye and left for Poplar River, Toni and Rod knew his visit had been a tonic for them, and the rest of the winter would pass quickly.

Picture 5-6 Winter camping along the trail
winter camping

Rod assured Toni, if she wished, he would see that she was in Berens River before the baby was due to be born. On the other hand, if she wished to remain with him on the trapline, he would be sure to be with her for the birth, and would deliver the child himself. She considered her options carefully, and decided she would stay with him. She trusted Rod - he had proven himself so very capable in so many ways - she was sure he could deliver babies with the best of them!

The time was coming for Rod's regular trip to the line cabin to check on his other traps, but Toni was uneasy. She asked Rod to delay his departure for a few days, and he agreed. Later that night, Toni went into labour and Rod delivered his second son, Ray, two months prematurely. The birth went well, and as soon as Toni could care for herself and the children, Rod made a quick trip to his other trapline.

Ray was a tiny child - so small that Rod could cup his head on his fingertips and Ray's heels rested just below his wrist. The baby's first bed was a shoe box lined with cotton batting - his clothing so tiny it was made from snatches of material taken from other clothing items. In an effort to help the baby feed, Toni first used a teaspoon to feed him canned milk. Later Rod fashioned a small spout on a can, and Toni tipped a little warmed milk onto the baby's lips - Ray learned to drink this way.

When they returned to the settlement at Poplar River in May, Rod and Toni stopped to see Lothar and Gustie, and to pick up the money from the sale of their furs. Lothar told them he had invested the money into trade goods for the post, and would soon be leaving for Little Grand Rapids, his first posting with the United Church. They were shocked at Lothar's actions. Rod did not want to be a trader - he loved their life in the bush, and Toni was prepared to share it with him. But their money was spent - to recover it, they would have to take over the post. Reluctantly, and angrily, Rod and Toni agreed, and they settled into a life of more routine, dealing with additional people.

They were concerned about Ray, and sailed on the Keenora to Winnipeg to have a doctor examine the child. The first doctor angrily lectured them on the consequences of bearing and raising children in remote areas. They consulted another doctor, who counselled them on how to help Ray gain weight and thrive, and prescribed medicine and procedures to that end. The child needed lots of sun, and fresh air. At the doctor's urging, Toni found a sheltered corner of their yard, where the sun shone but the wind did not blow - and here, on warm days, Ray napped, clad only in a bonnet, his tiny body absorbing the warmth and nurturing rays of the sun. This treatment, along with daily doses of cod liver oil, plus a diet recommended by the doctor, all added to the baby's weight gain, improved health and added strength.

Rod needed another freight canoe and when the Icelandic fishermen arrived from points south for their summer's fishing, he purchased a boat from them. It was an old one, and had many leaks. Rod spent his free time patching holes, sealing joints, filling cracks. Many times he floated the old boat, only to find more leaks. Back to the beach and more repairs. Finally one day, he happily told Toni the boat was all sealed up and ready for use. "It needs a name - do you have any suggestions?"

Recalling newspaper advertisements she had seen, Toni responded - "Call it Ivory, because it floats!" - referring to Ivory soap. When Toni next saw the boat, the name was on the prow - "Ivory of Poplar River."

Frankie was now a very active two year old, and Ray a few months. The trading post at Poplar River was comprised of the post, a separate house, plus a dock, and was bounded on three sides by bush, on the fourth by the lake.

In settling down at the trading post, Rod made arrangements to have his sled dogs (Picture 5 - 7) cared for away from the settlement. He loaded all but one of the dogs into the outboard-motor powered "Ivory of Poplar River" and transported them to George Island, about eighteen miles out into Lake Winnipeg. There was a lighthouse on the island, and the keeper was prepared to care for the dogs for the summer months. When Rod delivered the animals, the men tied them in such a manner so they could reach the lake for water at will, but not close enough together that they could tangle their lines or fight. The keeper would fish for them daily.

Picture 5-7 One of Rod's best sleigh dogs
sleigh dog

The one dog Rod kept at the trading post was his lead dog, a collie of which he was very fond. The dog, plus three goats Lothar and Gustie had left at the post when they left to serve as missionaries, now became Frankie's playmates. Each morning Toni would feed Frankie his breakfast, bathe and outfit him in fresh clothing and let him go outdoors to play while she continued with her daily chores. As she tended Ray, with his special needs, she watched for Frankie and his four-footed friends as they entertained one another. They often played a game that looked like Follow the Leader - the billy goat led off, with the nannies following in single file, next came the dog, and Frankie brought up the rear. They established a circuit through the bush adjacent to the post, and often times Toni could see them from her kitchen window, standing at the top of a large rock where the earth suddenly dropped away, and there was a sharp precipice over the cold waters of Lake Winnipeg. Toni and Rod talked with Frankie often, telling him not to go close to the water. The child knew he was not to go out on the wooden dock, where only a narrow walk separated the walkers from the lake water.

Lothar arrived, wanting to go to Berens River to catch the weekly sailing to Winnipeg. As Rod and Toni had already planned to go to Berens River, they all travelled together in one of Rod's freight canoes. Enroute a terrible storm overtook them, with waves that rose at angles of up to forty degrees to the bottom of the boat. Fortunately, they had no cargo except their camping gear, making the boat easier to handle. However, when one huge wave crashed over the canoe, it killed the motor, and all three occupants of the canoe expected the worst. Feverishly, Rod wiped at the spark plugs in the motor. The only cloth he could find was his handkerchief, and he wiped and wrung the cloth, re-wiped, and managed to re-start the motor before the storm could do them more harm.

Toni and Rod doted on Frankie. (Picture 5 - 8) He was the light of their lives, a beautiful child. Even though they would now not be able to go trapping in the winter, since they had their money invested in the trading post, they were a happy family, living in an area of the world they loved.

Picture 5-8 Toni and Rod with Frankie
Toni, Rod and Frankie

One Sunday morning, as Rod was catching up on the bookkeeping and other routines in the trading post, Toni and Frankie also followed their regular morning pattern, and soon Frankie was out playing, and Toni turned her hands to Ray's needs. Household tasks, some cooking for the day, and keeping an eye on Frankie were filling her morning.

Shortly before noon, Rod came into the house with Frankie's limp, dripping body in his arms. He had found the boy floating in the bay, close by the tradingpost. Desperately Rod and Toni worked over Frankie, trying to revive him - but all in vain. It had been a blustery day - had he fallen in from the dock? wandered down on to the sandy beach and walked in? Many questions - no answers - only the still, silent body of their beautiful, much-loved, first born son.

Hoping to spare Toni some pain, Rod went alone to bury Frankie. Like so many children of pioneer families all over the world, Frankie Schuetze lies in an obscure, unmarked grave, remembered only by his loving parents.

The death of a child can drive a wedge between a couple, or it can draw them together. Often Rod would come into the house and find Toni in tears. Embracing her, he wept, too, and they consoled one another. They never exchanged words of reproach; there was no fault-laying, no accusations. They dried one another's tears, shared their grief, and in time found the joy Frankie's short life had brought them, and they remembered him with gladness for the time he was with them.


©1992,2006,2007 E.Woytowich