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Updated: Apr 25, 2022

By Helen Hamlin (1945)

We were actually snowbound. Cyril Jandreau and the Bridges had moved out of the country before January and we were in sole possession of Umsaskis for the winter. Our nearest neighbors were ten miles away and the nearest town was fifty miles away directly across country through the woods. We had only ourselves to depend on, and in the gradual settling for winter we began to look forward to small events, most particularly to mail.

We had but little mail that winter. A company tractor made one trip to Lac Frontiere before the snow became too deep and they brought the mail as far as Churchill. The mailman snow- shoed to Clayton with two dogs and a sled to bring in the mail, but that was less than a trip a month, and it only came as far as Clayton Lake. Curly harnessed Boots to the single sled and went for our mail. It was a one-day trip, but even eighteen miles on snowshoes is tiring.

Mail day was a holiday. There was a collection of newspapers and letters to read, and on rare occasions there were packages to be opened. When I could send mail, I sent advertising coupons that I cut from magazines for toothpaste, shaving cream, chocolate milk powders, hand lotion, cosmetics and recipe pamphlets. Some of them required a dime with the coupon, but it was worth it just to get a package in the mail.

Curly was as interested in them as I was. “Gee, look at all the packages. Here’s some shaving cream. I hope it isn’t that brushless stuff. What’s that?”


“Cost who?” he growled.

“Powder, rouge and lipstick.”

“But it says for redheads, and here’s some for brunettes. You

can’t put on that stuff.”

“Whoa, now, wait a minute. Don’t you put that on the dog.

You used my last bottle of perfume on her the other day.”

We had ordered some things from a mail-order catalogue, including small parts for the car that Curly entertained himself by tinkering with. Six weeks later the postmaster called on the phone and said we had a package at Clayton. Curly went for our mail and came back hopping mad. “Of all the bald-headed outfits!” he sputtered. “Eighteen miles for this!”

“What is it?”

He looked at me suspiciously. “Did you order this?” He threw six powder puffs on the table.

“No, I didn’t order it.”

“Well, that’s supposed to be spark plugs. If I ever lay my hands on the pinhead that sent them I’ll tie him in a knot!”

Boots hated to be harnessed to go to Clayton. She was perfectly capable of hauling a small load, but like all house pets, she was lazy. She had a sneaky disposition at times, a gluttonous appetite all the time, and she stole everything she could find—but she was my dog and I liked her. Curly couldn’t do anything with her, and when she was harnessed to the sled she would get ahead of him on the trail and hightail it for home—pure cussedness and a desire to sleep behind the stove.

The first time she ran away from him, she was hauling a can of gasoline to the main road. Curly let her go ahead, and that was the last we saw of Boots until late that night. The can of gasoline upset on the first curve, and Boots’s tracks were headed toward Churchill, eleven miles away.

Late that afternoon Anna called me on the telephone. “Your dog is here.”

“Is she still harnessed to the sled?”

“Yes. What will we do with her?”

“Turn her around and head her for home.”

When Boots bumped onto the porch again, she was covered with white frost and really had an excuse for lying behind the stove and groaning all night.

What little housework there was to do was not enough to keep me busy, and the less I had to do, the less I wanted to do. At first I spent quite a bit of time and imagination on meals; then, when I had exhausted our variety of foods, I wasn’t so particular about insisting on hot biscuits with our supper. When I mopped the linoleum, Curly usually tore into the c