As a family, we were new residents of a small community in South western Ontario. It wasn’t built at the time we lived there, sixty plus years ago, but Highway 401 now passes just north of the town. My father was the new minister in town and he insisted we as a family become actively involved in all of its activities.
Very little happened of significance in the town then. The New York Central (NYC) and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O)Railroads provided much of the daily excitement. Both railroads ran from Buffalo to Detroit through south western Ontario. The NYC was still running huge steam locomotives on their system, but the C&O sported new deep blue and yellow diesels! Steam locomotives require huge quantities of water to produce the steam to drive the engine. Not wanting to have to stop to take on water on its 100 mph run, water troughs were installed between the tracks. When the locomotive got to the troughs, a large scoop was lowered out of the locomotive and into the heated water forcing it into the large water tank. It was a magnificent sight, one that we never grew tired of watching, especially in the cold winter months.
Both Railroads are gone now, as are the tracks and the water troughs, but the images live on in my memory.[wc_row][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”first”]
The other major highlight in our town occurred when impresarios came to town. One particular evening, my father took his 9 year old son to hear, a man who ranks along with my father and a couple of other men who would shape my life. Would you believe, his name was Dick Bird![/wc_column][wc_column size=”one-half” position=”last”]
“How vitally important that we introduce our youth to meaningful experiences which may have profound impact on their lives.”[/wc_column][/wc_row]
I didn’t know it then, but Dick Bird, an immigrant from England to Regina at the turn of the century, became one of the World’s foremost bird cinematographers. He worked primarily for Walt Disney productions. The company he founded in Regina is still in business many years after his death.
Bird’s presentation that night is indelibly etched on my mind. (Remember, this was long before we had television in our homes and the plethora of nature programs available today). The presentation was with 16mm film (in colour too!) and he provided the live narration. It was breathtaking to see so many birds, up close. One image that I remember specifically was a pair of western grebes, dancing together across the water in a courtship ritual.
Little did Dick Bird or my father realize the impact that experience has had on my life–neither did I at the time, but I know now.
How vitally important that we introduce our youth to meaningful experiences which may have profound impact on their lives.
Fortunately we live in an area where there are opportunities and experiences available. The Couchiching Conservancy has a number of such nature related opportunities for young people occurring year-round, with programs such as: Little Sprouts; Passport for Nature; Nature Funfest and Kid’s Safaris. Check out the Conservancy Website for information.
[wc_button type=”primary” url=”http://www.couchichingconserv.ca/general-info/event-calendar/” title=”Visit Site” target=”self” position=”float”]For great chances to learn something new, check out our events calendar![/wc_button]
David A. Homer is a volunteer and on the Board of Directors at The Couchiching Conservancy, a non-profit land trust dedicated to protect nature for future generations.