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From Daredevil to Grandmother
Rain beat down on the tin roof; thunder rumbled in the dark skies and lightening flashed miles away. My mom and oldest sister had traveled to Washington DC, leaving my sisters and me in my grandmother’s care while dad was working. One wet summer evening, one of us had the brilliant idea of running out in the storm while Grandma Adina was distracted. We didn’t think she would mind, but after dancing in the rain for a few minutes and coming in soaked, we found out Grandma was worried about us catching a cold. What happened between this stage and her past as a daredevil child, teen, and young adult? It might have had something to do with her age, or maybe the fact that she wore out all her excitement. Yes, my Grandma Adina led a thrilling life, even through moments of suffering and pain.
Adina Knutson lived through the Depression, grew up with eleven siblings, and was known for being tough, hard-working, daring, but on occasion, fearful. Adina and her twin brother were born on December 27, 1929, the year the stock market crashed. Her real father died when she was around two and a half, and her mother remarried twice. By the time Adina was 15, her mother had a total of 12 children and died that same year.
“I had a wonderful mother,” she said. When Adina was younger, she and her siblings would try to surprise their mother by doing the dishes or cleaning the house whenever she went out shopping. When they hoed the garden, Adina’s mother would bring a basket of food before and after noon. “We always looked forward to see what she had in those baskets because she cooked a lot,” Adina said.
Adina has proven to herself and everyone around her that she's daring. When living in Minnesota, Adina and her siblings would play tag. To prevent herself from being “it” Adina would fling herself off the second story loft onto cows. Because of her action, she was rarely it. Although sometimes when Adina's stunts don’t scare her, others think she's flirting with stupidity. She used to fill gunny sacks with hay and jump on them to practice her acrobatics. Adina’s sister would even twirl her around on her back. “My mother always said I was gonna kill myself.”
Growing up, Adina always had an aura of toughness about her, although she did have one weakness. One cold winter day, she and a few of her siblings were playing in a drainage ditch where the water was iced over. Her brothers told her to fetch a sled so they could ride across, but after retrieving it Adina said she wanted the first run. Skidding across the ice, Adina heard a crack and broke through. This began her fear of water.
Adina was not only brave, but kind. She and her siblings each used to buy a huge five cent candy bar once a week. She would cut hers into seven pieces so that she would have one every day, but her brothers ate theirs right away. "Then when I went to eat my allowance for the day I'd cut it into three pieces and give my brothers each a piece of mine every day,” Adina said. Her mother yelled at her, saying her brothers needed to learn to save theirs’.
As a child, Adina and her family always provided for themselves. They had sheep for wool and quilts, ducks’ feathers for pillows, and cows for milk. “One month, mother only bought a spool of thread. That’s all she bought at the store, because she canned 800 quarts of fruits and vegetables. We had strawberries, raspberries, june-berries, apples, plums, you name it.” They also had bees for sugar, and to begin the hive Adina would throw a shiny pie plate in the air whenever she heard a swarm. “And then you’d hurry up, run, because [the bees] would come right down to the pie plate and they’d put the hive underneath there and they’d get it goin’.” Her family had up to five hives.
Adina’s whole family loved to sing and their neighbors loved it too. Sometimes they would even sit on their lawn just to listen. “We had no toys but, boy, did we sing.” Adina’s mother even wanted them to have a job. Adina and her sister, Bernice, had to milk the cows by hand and they both sang, harmonizing with each other. “And mother said that if the cows don’t give milk now they never will,” Adina laughed.
Adina began working for money when she was 11 by picking strawberries commercially. She was paid in one dollar bills and raised 51 dollars. "I continued picking berries and was the fastest raspberry picker in the area." After her mother died, when she was 15, Adina began waitressing. She worked six nights a week, was the youngest employee and the highest paid; other employees were mad at her because of that. She was paid for her reliability. When someone didn't show up, Adina was asked to work for them. She often worked seven days a week.
When she got older, Adina and a bunch of guys went target practicing for a buffalo hunt, and she was asked to practice. They thrust the biggest gun into Adina’s arms without her knowing all that much about it. She aimed, fired, was propelled backwards a few feet, and thought she broke her arm. Adina stormed home, angry. Later someone from the group came to see her and said that even though they shot with the smaller guns, she was the only one to hit the bulls-eye.
Adina has had many experiences with her son, Tony. When she had a deluxe trap line south of Chitina past the second tunnel by Haley Creek, Adina would skin, stretch, and dry all the animals she caught and some others. Her last day trapping for the season, Adina took Tony along and caught five lynx. Also, one day Tony and Adina stayed the night where there were buffalo tracks. They set the tent up in some brush, and during the night they heard the loud stomps of the buffalo hooves coming closer and passing by their tent. "Oh, I've had so many close calls," Adina recalled. And in the early 1970s, Adina and Tony went skydiving in Kenny Lake. Being the daredevil she is, Adina jumped twice.
Throughout her lifetime, Adina has had many close encounters with bears. She's had one take a sandwich out of her car, one was in her meat house, and another growled at her while she was gathering wood in McCarthy. The most recent encounter occurred when a bear went after cat food on her porch. Adina had to open her screen door to close the sliding glass door so the bear wouldn’t walk right through the screen.
From close calls to daring stunts; from a loving mother to rowdy siblings, Adina’s had a great life. She has lost people she’s loved, but gained more. Adina remains strong in her actions but now takes a little more caution.