The Vereshagins were the first people in Saskatchewan to raise buffalo.
At 83 years of age, Edith Vereshagin continues to live an active and rewarding life. The artist, poet and retired teacher has recently written two books, Reflections of a Buffalo Gal and Biography of Her Buffalo Guy and Good Morning, Boys and Girls, both of which reflect her love for country living. The first book chronicles Edith and her husband’s adventures on the farm near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan; the second is an autobiography of her life as a country school teacher beginning in the 1940s.
Edith grew up on a farm near Carrot River, the youngest of five girls. A brother arrived four years later. The 1930s were difficult years, but for Edith and her siblings there wasn’t a worry in the world. “We made our own fun. I loved nature, I loved drawing and spent many hours lying on the floor with pencil and paper,” she says.
After teacher’s college, Edith enrolled in art classes at Emma Lake. It was a fun-filled three summers. Here she met and fell in love with Alex, a handsome young cowboy. “The third year he drove up to Mont Nebo where I was teaching and gave me a ride to the camp at the beginning of the season. We were married the following December, 1950,” she says.
Life on the farm kept Edith busy — teaching, raising their daughter Conchita and helping Alex with the farm work. They also helped Alex’s sister raise her twin daughters, June and Lyn, who were born the day after their father’s death.
“Art for me those years was just a fun thing like music was to Alex. We believed in taking time out to enjoy life; and to smell the flowers,” she relates.
The Vereshagins were the first people in Saskatchewan to raise buffalo. “We raised buffalo from 1955 until 1985. There was hardly a Sunday that there wouldn’t be three or four cars drive into the yard, wanting to see our buffalo. It was quite a novelty in those early years,” she recalls.
Edith has always loved poetry and still remembers special poems she memorized in grade school. She began writing and compiling her own poems in a favourite notebook. Today she has made five CDs of recitations of her poetry. She also receives invitations to recite poetry at schools in the area.
“The first one is winter poems, culminating in a number of Christmas poems. The second one, called ‘A Dream was Born,’ records a long poem about raising buffalo, as well as other nature poems. Then in my third CD I decided to gather together my children’s poems. I call it ‘Open Wide the Window.’ The fourth one is ‘Other Winds are Whispering,’ a nostalgic collection of poems about different places, different times. The last CD contains poems about my early-morning walks watching the sun come up. About half of the poems on this recording are about the Rodouga Creek, a special place where Alex played when he was young, then the twins, and later Conchita our daughter also spent many happy hours. I ran a vacation farm for eight summers and used to take people for walks along the creek. It was the centre of existence on the farm — a very beautiful spot,” she says fondly.
Edith was inspired to write her first book one summer while travelling to B. C. to visit a sister. “I knew I had a story to tell that no one else had. I was travelling by bus so I had lots of time to think and write. I had no deadline, so I just kept writing. When I got my computer in 1997 I started typing the story, and finished it in 2004.
“Then my intention was to write my own story. The two books do overlap a little, but the second book is my autobiography. It contains many remembrances of my teaching years.”
When Edith isn’t writing, she’s in her home studio in Blaine Lake behind the easel. Her art, like her poetry and prose, reflects her love and appreciation of nature and the rural way of life.
Edith’s art, CDs/cassettes, stationery and books are available for sale every year during the art and culture tour called 12-40 and Beyond, An Adventure in Rural Life, held annually in July by the artisans and entrepreneurs of the Blaine Lake, Marcelin, Leask and Hafford area of Saskatchewan.
For more information on the tour, visit www.12-40andbeyond.com.Edith can be reached at (306) 497-2230. She would be glad to have you visit any time; just phone ahead to be sure she is home.
Edna Manning writes from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.