Lost Land of the Caribou


I first met Ed Theriau during one of his periodic visits to his hometown, Sturgis, Saskatchewan. He was carrying an armload of three-hole school notebooks and he was looking for someone to organize into Ed Theriau a book form the memories that he had painstakingly recorded in them. In the seventh decade of his life and childless, he was impelled, he said, to leave something behind him but at the same time handicapped by lack of formal schooling. To put in order those reminiscences -- rambling and repetitious, phonetically spelt and often ungrammatical -- was a formidable and often frustrating task. Each time I felt my head safely above water, Ed's station wagon would slide to a halt at my door and there he would be bearing still more notebooks! However, as the days, weeks and months went by, the magic of his story began to cast an inescapable spell: This book, I knew, must be written! And so, at last here it is. Ed himself is a craggy-faced man of average height whose frame, though wasted now by a once near-fatal illness and by the passage of time, still bears testimony to the muscular strength that must once have been his. Shy and soft-spoken, he loves to sit talking and listening, laughing easily, while the ash-tray at his elbow fills with cigarette butts and he searches his pockets for matches because his lighter has been misplaced.

Once almost a legend in the North because of his ability to survive in solitude while tending unusually long traplines, he now confides that he no longer likes to be alone. In Sturgis, he searches out childhood playmates and together they recall people and events long gone. After a day or two, his station wagon pulls out of town and he is on his way back to Ile-a-la-Crosse to look after his raspberries, or to Prince Albert where he has a permanent home. He talks of his cousin and former partner, Fred Darbyshire, who again in 1978 has been flown with his dogs to the trapping cabin they once shared; but for Ed life in the North is only a memory.

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Ed and I are grateful to the Saskatchewan Department of Culture and Youth for generous assistance in publication, and to Pat Westberg, my son-in-law, for the artwork that enhances the cover and pages of our book.

Patricia Armstrong.


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