Katherine Govier's Between Men

by Shaun Hunter

Calgary through the Eyes of Writers

Calgary Stampede Ferris Wheel (Photo: Shelagh McHugh Cherak)

Calgary Stampede Ferris Wheel (Photo: Shelagh McHugh Cherak)

After a decade in Toronto, Suzanne Vail has come back to Calgary. She wanted to settle in the east, but “There she’d had too little weight, no depth; she had passed along the streets like a shadow.” And besides, in Toronto she could never see the sky. “It’s like being up to your eyeballs in hills and trees. It’s like standing on a bed that’s gone soft.”

Coming home to Calgary in the mid-1980s is a bumpy ride. Suzanne is at odds with the city: the traffic, the construction, the macho culture of money. “It was a striving kind of place. Always trying and never, by accident of geography, arriving.”

She cowboys up for Stampede: fringed vest, beaded belt, white Stetson. Only her shit kickers are authentic: riding boots she wore as a teenager during her horsey phase. For old time’s sake, she goes down to the Stampede grounds. She rides the Ferris wheel and reacquaints herself with the view.

She was on the front of the wheel, gently swinging. It turned a dozen feet and stopped to load. She saw her years stacked beneath her in stages; she had ridden on that seat, and then that one. She could see up to the North Hill, down to the river. There was so much out there, in this large bowl offered of the city, much more even than she ever thought. The higher she got the more she could see. There was no need for limits. The wheel turned and stopped, turned and stopped. At last it was full. Grandly lifting to begin the descent, she rose up from the centre and went over the top.

Katherine Govier, Between Men (Viking, 1987)