Yvonne Trainer's Tom Three Persons

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Stampede Corral (Photo: Shelagh McHugh Cherak)

Stampede Corral (Photo: Shelagh McHugh Cherak)

On Labour Day weekend 1912, six hundred First Nations people arrive in Calgary for the first Stampede. The impresario Guy Weadick has persuaded the authorities to allow Indians off their reserves to participate in the six-day celebration. Among them is Tom Three Persons, a young Blood man from the Standoff Reserve southwest of Lethbridge. The poet Yvonne Trainer sees the Stampede through Tom’s eyes. Walking through the streets of Calgary, he notices the electric lights shining in windows.

Power

in Calgary

and none of it

carried in the bag

of the Medicine Man

or in the wisdom

of the chief

On parade day, Tom canters down Eighth Avenue on horseback.

Painted faces       war-whoops

and feathers

we rode like burning hell

through the streets of Calgary

We were stared at with wonder

 

and with more than a little fear

At the rodeo, all eyes are on the gifted Blood horseman. He mounts a black bronco named Cyclone, an outlaw horse known among cowboys as the Black Terror.

everyone was standing hands clapping

stone to stone

Then I knew

and walked out lake-quiet

into the shadows

of the motor-cars

 

but someone with a box camera

came and drew me into the sun

and I couldn’t help

smiling a little

when he snapped this picture.

 

Yvonne Trainer, “1912,” “Calgary Stampede, 1912” and “Snapshot,” Tom Three Persons  (Frontenac House, 2002)