Hank Shelley

Column: The tale of Big Jim’s bear

Hank Shelley/Shuswap Outdoors

Big Jim Stones’ love of the bush came at an early age.

Being the oldest of six kids growing up on a rural B.C. farm, his dad was away a lot, working in sawmills and logging. His mom raised the brood as best she knew how.

Jim, however, spent hours in the woods close to home where he became enthralled watching the animals and birds. There was a brook, where he caught trout, studied and watched the beavers in a pond close by, instilling a bond with nature.

Growing up, he worked plenty of forestry jobs, joined the Canadian army and, in 1952, saw action in Korea at Kapyong with the Princess Patricia’s. On returning home, he found work in the oil patch, then a stint in guiding hunters up north.

Now 60, he finally settled on 160 acres of wooded trails and streams, with a large cabin. It was a gift from the will of an old trapper friend and neighbour who Jim visited many times as a teen, Theodosius Harper.

Related: Column: Favourite recipes for fish and game

In memory of Harper, Jim decided to turn the land into a nature preserve. He then wanted children and parents to enjoy and convey the message about the cycles of nature, in a true wilderness setting. Jim also visited many schools, telling students about the animals and bird life and inviting all to visit.

One morning in late October, a small starving grizzly cub appeared on Jim’s porch. He was a mangy little guy, and Jim took him in and managed to bottle-feed and fatten him up. He soon put on weight, and would follow Jim on the many hiking trails Jim maintained.

At first, Ringo, Jim’s aging retriever, was disgruntled. But soon they began rough-and-tumble play, and fast became buddies. Jim called the now fast-growing bear Timber, as he had came down through the dark spruce canopy from the Rim Rock canyon.

Jim then noticed Timber becoming restless as the storms from the north gathered heavy, dark clouds in the preserve and one day, Timber wandered off into the forest.

Related: Column: Where have all the game animals gone?

Late November saw snow piling up around the cabin door, and the cedars bowing their branches in white. After supper one evening Jim and Ringo heard a strange sound at the back of the cabin. There was Timber, with only his fat rear-end exposed, digging a den beneath the cabin to hibernate. A day later, with the temperature at minus 24 degrees, Timber was fast asleep.

Jim then sawed out a small square of flooring, placing a glass cover over the den. Word got around about Jim’s little buddy snoozing away and neighbour told neighbour about Timber.

When school resumed after the Christmas holidays, school buses routinely pulled into Jim’s yard so students could view Timber with his straw covered bed. The students also brought Christmas presents for Timber of blankets, pillows and treats. Jim, too, had the best Christmas he could wish for, enjoying the smiles on the children’s faces.


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