Rae Spoon's First Spring Grass Fire

by Shaun Hunter

Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers

Like many Calgary kids, Rae watches the Stampede parade in a straw cowboy hat and cheers the Flames at the Saddledome. In elementary school, when the city is bright with Olympic fever in 1988, she takes her turn running around the school field with a replica torch and marvels at the real gas flame glowing on top of the Calgary Tower. At nine, Rae attends a Billy Graham rally at the Saddledome with her Pentecostal family and senses the first inklings of doubt and difference. By the time she’s fifteen, Rae knows she’s neither Christian nor straight. To survive in her turbulent, abusive family, she takes “the most alive parts” of herself and hides “like a sea snake trying to stay out of view.” She thinks about running away from Calgary, but gives up before trying. “You could run for half an hour and not even get to the end of your own neighbourhood, and all of the neighbourhoods looked the same, so it didn’t really feel like escaping at all.” By the time she’s in high school, Rae has discovered grunge music and decides to risk standing out. She quickly finds out she is not the only kid who doesn’t fit in.


The thing about Calgary was that boys didn’t really need to be gay to get called “faggot.” You only had to do something a little out of the ordinary, like grow your hair long or play the acoustic guitar. And if you were a girl, all you had to do was cut your hair short or stand up to boys and you would be called a dyke… There was danger in being different and there was safety in numbers. That’s why the straight kids who were grunge were treated the same as the gay kids. We were all fags in the eyes of our school.


Rae SpoonFirst Spring Grass Fire (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2012)