W. O. Mitchell's Ladybug, Ladybug

by Shaun Hunter


Calgary through the eyes of writers

 Cottonwood snow in North Glenmore Park, early June  (Photo: Shaun Hunter)

Cottonwood snow in North Glenmore Park, early June  (Photo: Shaun Hunter)

Read Ladybug, Ladybug and you will see the corner of Calgary where W. O. Mitchell once lived. The novel doesn’t name the neighbourhood but it is clearly Roxboro – a few square blocks tucked below an escarpment in a bend of the Elbow River – where Mitchell and his family lived from 1968 until his death in 1998, at 3031 Roxboro Glen Road SW. The action in Ladybug, Ladybug revolves around a retired university professor and a psychotic university student bent on revenge, but the Calgary landscape often steals the novelist’s attention. The ancient buffalo jump a stone’s throw from the professor’s house. The carillon from the Catholic church nearby. The inner-city wildlife – “And there goes the neighbourhood, you urban squirrels and field mice, mallard ducklings in river-bank nests, gophers and garter snakes, rabbits and Chinese ring-necked pheasants.” Calgary’s strange weather also makes an appearance: spring chinooks – “the season conning people into thinking the world was simply wonderful” – and the cottonwood snow of a Calgary June.

 

“It’s snowing!” She was right.

It was as though an absent-minded morning had forgotten it was June. The air was bewildered with white down freed from the cottonwood trees in the park to float and to fall and to drift against curbs and parked cars and house foundations, skiffing sidewalks, lawns, and hedges.

 

W. O. Mitchell, Ladybug, Ladybug (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1988)