Farley Mowat was born in Belleville, Ontario, on May 12, 1921, to Helen and Angus Mowat, both of Scottish ancestry. Farley was an adventurous child and a dedicated reader by age six. When Angus moved his family to Windsor in 1930, Farley was complementing James Fenimore Cooper and Ernest Thompson Seton with rambles around the city’s hobo jungles and collections of wildlife (for example, Limpopo, a six-inch Florida alligator) and moths. A romantic move to Saskatchewan in a ship’s cabin mounted on a Model T truck and a trip to Vancouver Island were followed in 1936 by an expedition to the Arctic with the ornithologist Frank Farley, his great-uncle, who taught him to collect bird nests and eggs on the tundra. Farley met his first Indians on this trip and was shocked by the brutal rifle assaults on the friendly whales around Churchill. In 1937, the Mowats resettled near Toronto, where Farley devoted much time to studying birds as a prelude to a two-month field trip to Saskatchewan to undertake an ornithological survey.
Mowat grew up fast during World War II, when he served as a brigade intelligence officer engaged in hard combat in Sicily and Italy. Discharged in 1946, he enrolled at the University of Toronto and in 1947 accompanied Francis Harper, a Pennsylvania biologist, to Canada’s Keewatin District. Returning to Toronto that fall, Mowat married Frances Elizabeth Thornhill, a classmate. The trip with Harper inspired the first half of People of the Deer (1952), and a second trip, in 1948, partially funded by the Dominion Wildlife Service, exposed him to the suffering among the Ihalmiut that he was to recount in The Desperate People (1959). His long absences damaged his marriage, and in 1951, after two years in Palgrave, Ontario, in a house without running water, Fran...
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