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Jack Miner and the Birds and Some Things I Know about Nature

241 pages
Library of Alexandria
Long and intimate acquaintance with the author of this book must be my apology for attempting to write a brief introduction. Meeting Jack Miner for the first time in 1888, I was at once impressed with his striking personality. I found myself instinctively attracted to him, and a cordial friendship sprang up between us, which grew in intimacy as the years passed. Although lacking in academic culture, his manner was decidedly urbane, and it was not long before I discerned beneath his rough exterior an enshrined soul. Inheriting, as I did, a passion for dog and gun, I cultivated his friendship, and many delightful days have we spent together afield. I was a novice in woodcraft; he taught me to hunt and shoot. Many a bird fell to his gun for which I took full credit in those early days, until, on one occasion, when I had made, as I thought, a particularly clever kill, I glanced over my shoulder as I heard him say: “Good Shot, Doctor!” only to see him hurriedly slipping a shell into the smoking breech of his gun. I said: “Did you shoot, Jack?” and his face betrayed guilt as he replied: “Take more time, Doctor. If you hit a bird fair at that distance, you will have nothing to pick up!” I was shooting too soon, and of course missing. He had got on to my time, and was now and then dropping a bird, apparently to my gun, to give me confidence. What impressed me most, perhaps, in the days of my novitiate was the determination with which he pursued a wounded bird. He would spend an hour ferreting out a cripple rather than leave it to die in misery, or become the prey of its natural enemies, owls, hawks or vermin. He invariably repiled the logs and brush he had dislodged in his efforts to retrieve a wounded bird. And this is but one evidence that a keen sense of justice, a full regard for the rights of all living creatures, are conspicuous traits in Jack Miner’s character. Years passed. Until now he had held aloof from church and social life in the community. Then trouble came. Trouble, that so often floors the weak man, is the strong soul’s opportunity to reveal itself. Thus it proved in Jack Miner’s case. Death robbed his family circle of three of its members in a comparatively brief period of time. Of an exceptionally emotional and sympathetic nature, his grief was overwhelming. Something had to move, or break. Gradually he came over to the allies, and became active in social and Sunday school work. All his dormant virtues seemed bursting with life, and latent genius sprang into activity. He pursued his hobby of making friends with the birds with a zeal, as it were, begotten of despair. Steadily he plodded on in the face of financial burdens, in spite of the discouraging indifference of the many, and in defiance of the more malignant opposition of the few. Ultimately he secured possession of the entire Miner homestead. He procured thousands of evergreen trees from the Government, and using native trees as well, prosecuted his work of beautifying his surroundings, until he had transformed what was an ordinary farm of two hundred acres, without one attractive feature, into a place which would arrest the attention of the passer-by, and which formed a veritable paradise for birds and waterfowl. Inheriting a love of the beautiful from his mother, he has developed his home surroundings into a bower of lilacs and roses. I venture to say that there is no spot in Western Ontario, if indeed in the entire Province, that attracts to itself, season after season, the thousands of visitors—distinguished men and women of Canada and the United States—that come to see the Miner Bird Sanctuary. As a lad, however, he did not see exactly eye to eye with his mother. Of what use was an old, battered spoon, the sole surviving member of a set of pewter, that had been in the family for generations?