Convergence: Alan, Herbert, and Harry
1887: Alan Alexander is a 5 year-old boy in England and Herbert Wells is his teacher. Harry Colebourn will be born this year, not many miles away. Although Alan and Harry will both live to become old and gray, the two will never meet.
1893: Herbert Wells is extremely proud when 11 year-old Alan wins a Westminster mathematics scholarship.
1905: Harry Colebourn, now 18, emigrates from England to Winnipeg, Canada, to become a veterinarian.
1912: The 34th Fort Garry Horse Regiment is formed in Winnipeg. The veterinarian assigned to take care of the regiment's horses is Lieutenant Harry Colebourn.
1914: Two shots ring out in early summer. The first of these kills Archduke Ferdinand and starts WWI. The second kills a black bear near White River, Ontario, half a world away.
On August 24, Harry Colebourn's regiment leaves Winnipeg by train, bound for the coast where they will sail for England. When the train stops in White River, Harry spies a solitary trapper sitting on a bench with a young bear cub tethered to its armrest. Inquiring about the cub, Harry learns that the hunter has killed the cub's mother and twin brother, but couldn't quite bring himself to kill this one. Harry purchases the cub as a mascot for his regiment. Four short months later Harry entrusts the happy cub to the London Zoo just as he is shipping out to France. Harry Colebourn survives the war, but a scar on his scalp will forever mark where a sniper bullet ripped through his metal helmet.
1924: Alan Alexander, now all grown up, has a 4 year-old son of his own whom he loves to take to the London Zoo. The little boy is enchanted with the gentle old bear, Winnipeg, who does tricks for him every time he visits. Alan's little boy calls the bear “Winnie.” And the name of Alan's little boy you already know… for who could forget Christopher Robin? Yes, Alan Alexander is A.A. Milne and the orphan cub rescued by Harry Colebourn during the train stop in White River, Ontario, became the original Winnie the Pooh. Alan's book quickly sold 7 million copies when it was published in 1926. Today it's one of the world's best known works of literature.
Oh… one last thing: remember Mr. Wells, Alan's teacher in elementary school? He went on to become rather well known himself as a writer of science fiction. He gave us The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Island of Doctor Moreau and more than 50 other titles. I told you his name was Herbert, right? Herbert George (H.G.) Wells.
I promise I'm not making any of this up.
Thanks for spending these moments with me. Next week we'll talk about Wal-Mart.
Roy H. Williams