John Ballem's Alberta Alone

by Shaun Hunter

Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Pierre Trudeau rides in the Stampede Parade, 1978 (Photo: Calgary Herald)

Pierre Trudeau rides in the Stampede Parade, 1978 (Photo: Calgary Herald)

It’s Sharon’s first Stampede parade and she’s anxious about parking and crowds. Leaving her Chevy Vega in an impromptu parking lot, she guides her five-year-old daughter to their reserved seats on one of the bleachers on Ninth Avenue. Soon, the cloudless sky is marred by a sense of menace. The crowd erupts into a thunder of boos and catcalls as the parade marshal approaches. Prime Minister Lambert sits rigid atop a golden palomino, glaring straight ahead. He ignores the banners and placards. STAY OUT OF ALBERTA… CANADA WHO NEEDS IT?... SEPARATE NOW. The parade continues and the tension eases. Sharon’s daughter delights in the animal mascots dancing down the street. Then a giant raccoon scoops the girl up and dances her into the parade.  

The laughter died on Sharon’s lips as the animal figure disappeared in the mass of prancing horses… In the distance she saw the furry figure with the small, pale face of her child peering over its shoulder. The blaring racket of the band still blotted out all other sounds but she could see Shelley’s lips forming “Mommy, Mommy!” They disappeared behind a flower-decked float.


John Ballem, Alberta Alone (General Publishing, 1981)