CHAPTER 1 – First Impressions

Right after World War 2 I was left at my grandparents’ home in New Brunswick, while my parents and older brother went on to London (Canada) to build a home and a family business. During my 9-month stay there I learned to read, and devoured everything I could find to satisfy my curiosity. A memorable exposure was to an advertisement from a brewing company which chose Conservation of Nature as its theme. I recall my amazement to discover that the whooping crane had almost become extinct due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat from drained wetlands. I sent for a free brochure from the company, and learned more about this endangered bird. It was a first impression for a young and tender mind that perhaps all was not perfect in the natural world.

Shortly after I joined the rest of my family in London, we moved out of the city to a new home on a 5-acre pasture along the Thames River. The date is indelibly fixed in my memory: it was February 25, 1947, and I had turned 9 just 3 weeks earlier. Imagine the impact of this move on a growing boy who had moved every 6- to 18-months all through the war years. We were finally putting down roots in a lovely home right on the banks of a charming river, and the rolling fields, interspersed with white oak trees and sumacs, seemed to continue without end.

My brother, Lowell, was 5 years my senior, so there was little sibling rivalry, but I was especially attracted to one of his books called Indiancraft, by Ben Hunt. I would imagine growing up on these beautiful riverside hills in a teepee, and wearing Indian moccasins as I tracked wildlife. I admired the Indian’s respect for Nature.

Later I bought my brother’s canoe, and I kept it locked to a willow tree beside the river. Fortunately, my parents were fairly permissive about my using it during the daytime, but I knew better than to even ask them if I could use it at night. Instead, I just slipped out of my bedroom window and climbed down an obliging oak tree, only to creep away like an Indian in the night and explore the river in its predawn mists. I took pride in my skill as a canoeist, and I used the silent “Indian stroke” to prevent the sound of my paddle, dripping water, from giving away my presence. Sometimes, I would come to within paddle-distance of a great blue heron, and we would look at each other through the rising mist, my admiring gaze locked onto his eyes filled with growing alarm as I came closer and closer. It became a game of how close I could come before their innate fear made them fly off with a loud squawk.

I was privileged to have grown up in such an idyllic setting. While it provided me with a pantheistic respect for Nature, it did not prepare me for what came later in my life: glaring evidence of that destructive side in man


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