Sometimes one event can forever change a person’s life. For 14 year-old Violet Harrigan, that event was in 1885 – an accident that killed her father. Now she and her family must decide whether or not they can survive life alone in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Violet loved her life on Sac Bay. “In spring, my friends Guy and Celina and I pick trillium, the white ones that grow all through the woods. I love that time of year the best,” she said. “The forest looks like a storybook picture with a carpet of white flowers growing beneath the hardwoods.”
The forest isn’t always a storybook setting, though. It can also be deadly. “My Papa was killed in a tree-felling accident recently,” said Violet. “He was a cooper, and the tree was for barrel staves. It landed on him. My mama is heart broken.” So is Violet.
“Before Pap died, we had plenty of fun,” she said. “Mr. Ansell has a dance hall, and Mama and Papa would take all of us there on a Saturday night.” With her 12 year-old brother Dan and 10 year-old sister Rose, the Harrigan children would dance all night. “I especially liked the jig we danced to the tune ‘The Irish Washerwoman’,” said Violet.
That shouldn’t be surprising. With her dark eyes and curly red hair, her Irish roots are no secret. She’ll miss the Irish heritage her Papa brought to the family. “He played the Irish whistle and taught us Irish songs and jigs,” she said. “We all sang and danced, and were so happy. I don’t suppose I’ll ever be that happy again.”
Now that her father is dead, Violet isn’t entirely sure what’s next for her. School is out of the question. “There’s no high school near here,” she said. “I’d have to go all the way to Escanaba, but I don’t need to go to high school. Mama can teach me everything I need to know to be a wife and mother someday.”
Violet’s not sure how far away ‘someday’ will be, but she has time to figure it out. Her mother married when she was 17, but that gives Violet three more years before she needs to worry about such things, and that’s okay with here. “Mama will need me more than ever now that Papa is gone,” she said. “I suppose we will have to find work.”
Life made a hard turn for Violet, and she’s not sure there’s an end in sight. Papa believed in God, so he might have prayed, but Violet isn’t so sure she can trust God. “How could he let Papa die?” she said. “I yelled at God. I was so angry that He took Papa away to heave when we need him here with us!”
She hasn’t turned her back on God, but she’s not ready to make up just yet. “Maybe someday I’ll be able to understand why Papa had to go to heaven so soon,” she said. In the meantime, Violet helps her mom and her siblings, wondering if, someday, she’ll ever be happy again.