On July 22 of 1985, my journal has this remark: “Letter from Farley Mowat!” He was responding to one of mine, which I had felt compelled to write because I had recently been turned back at the US border at Pearson International. I’d said goodbye to everyone, had plans in Miami … it was a devastating and humiliating experience. I knew he, too, had been turned back on his way to do a book tour in the States, and thought he might like to know of another instance of such rude (or so it seemed to me) treatment. I’m not sure why I knew he’d be interested in my plight, but trusted the good faith of a Canadian whose books I’d been reading for years. He wrote:
“Your case of refusal at the US border is certainly not unique. I now have heard from at least two hundred people who have all had something similar happen to them. I am drawing a lot of this together in a book called My Discovery of America, which will be published in October in Toronto.”
All well and good.
Two years later, on November 21, my journal has this comment on a book signing I went to in a book store in Kingston, Ontario:
Spoke briefly with Farley Mowat as he sat at a table and signed my copy of Virunga that Mom gave me for my birthday. He added an e to Dian Fossey’s name so that we could be sisters. I reminded him he’d written me a letter in response to mine about rejection at the border. He leapt to his feet – hair all askew, held out his hand, and shouted triumphantly, “Fellow rejectee!”
A long line of people had queued up way back to the door, but he took the time to fill me in on the ills of bureauocrats, how the US government had sent him an apology, and how they wanted to meet him half way on the Peace Bridge (he declined). “Down with bureaucracy!” he grinned.
Mr. Mowat turned my defeat into a victory. He welcomed me as an honoured member into an elite and respectable group. As he saw it, we had both somehow outmaneuvered the US government. What a fine moment.
Thirty years later, I sit here smiling at his jubilance. You can understand why I have a fondness for this irrepressible Canadian warrior.
Written by Diane Taylor, proud rejectee, and author of The Gift of Memoir.