chapter 1: the road to calgary

I was originally write a monster ‘minute-by-minute’ post, but I thought this would be funner. So, here we go. Enjoy.

Daveberta’s Stampede Weekend 2005

Chapter One: The Road to Calgary

The weekend began Friday after work. It was about 3pm and I cut out early from my job at the book depository just outside the warehouse district on the southside of the river. It had been a busy week. New shipments of publications from the far east had just been delivered that morning, so it had been a pretty busy day. It was a hot day. A sweaty day. A day to lie down in the shade and open a beer. Not just any beer, good beer. The kind of beer they used to make back when the mob was bootlegging Moose Jaw gold across the border.

It was that kind of day.

After skipping out of work, I made my way back to the rooming house which I call home. It was a dusty little joint, filled with lost souls and crazy Russians, but not the scary kind. Nope, the kind that could tell you stories of old and far. The kind of stories that should be told in history books, but aren’t. Stories of crimson, crime, and lost opportunities.

After picking up my .45 and flask, I made my way over to what the average person would know as the ‘Greyhound Station.’ This may look like just a regular bus depot to the slackjawed suburbanite, but looks can be deceiving.

This was the bus depot across the street from the Grand Hotel, one of the nastiest little gin joints in all of etown. Yes, that’s right, you don’t want to get stuck in this hell hole for one second. They say after one night in the Grand Hotel, you’ll be ready to sell your soul to Satan to forget what you saw. The screams. The smells. The haunting. I’ve heard of folks that walk in and never walk out.

I hopped on the Greyhound Express to Calgary at ten to five. The air was humid and still, like something was about to happen. The sun was still high in the western sky, like it should be in July on a mid-afternoon.

I took my seat and settled in for the long ride down the QEII when something caught my eye. I slowly glanced up and noticed two unlikely folks sitting across the lane. These were the kind of people that you would never expect on the ‘one-way’ to Calgary. Nope, these were good Edmonton folk. Respectable, hardworking, tax-paying citizens. Citizens who like their taxes high and their politics Liberal. Not the kind of folk you’d ever think to find mingling with those questionable cowboy characters in the wild south.

It was a long ride, longer than the usual express. As we moved along, somewhere past Ponoka, I saddled myself in for a deep sleep. I fell into a dream of horses, spirits, and days gone by. Days before cowboys and iron horses. Days before greyhounds and book depositories. Days of innocence. Days where any horse on this side of Winnipeg could ride for miles and miles without running into any gun toting white-guy from Toronto who want to mount something on his wall. Those were the days.

I awoke as the bus pulled its way into Calgary. As any normal Edmontonian, my guard went up. My guard went up like a jackrabbit caught in a thunderstorm. Most folk have heard stories of other folks who never returned from this rough and wild southern city, but I was nothing a little shot from my flask couldn’t solve.

I dismounted out of the bus at around a quarter to nine, Calgary time. The air was smooth and jovial. A little too jovial. But not jovial like the sound of a laughing fat man on pancake day. Nope, jovial like the sound of a cowboy at the bordello. That’s right, stampede season had begun.

I made my way to a hopping little gin joint north of the river in Kensington. It was a tiny little joint filled with wanna-be cowboys showing off their belt buckles and cowgirls willing to give it all away on the first night. The kind of joint that was made for pleasure and enjoyment in liquid fashion.

I made my way to a table in the corner. I sat myself down and took a long and hard look across the room. It was certainly an interesting crowd.

After about twenty minutes, the waitress finally made her way over. She took her sweet time, but when we locked eyes, I could see what her trouble was. She had the body of a 20 year-old saloon dancer but the tortured soul of a war veteran. She’d been stuck delving out barley sandwiches to old has-beens and young wanna-be’s for 4 long months. She drew the short straw in life and she knew it.

After three or four pints of Calgary’s finest ale, I decided it was time that I find my self some sleeping accommodations.

An old friend from a previous life had offered me a space on her floor for the night. We were old friends going back years. Good friend. We met when I was running guns for the Bolivians back in ’58. The good old days. The days of idealism. The days of youth and new ideas. Of course, those days died long ago. Lost deep in the shadows and damp corners of this realistic world we live in. Crushed by the steam engine and chewed on by the fea infested rats who live under the docks. This was now a dirty harsh world. Filled with dark and cold realities that could only warmed up with the help of a shot of whiskey.

And so I made my way to my final destination of the night, moving down the dark and dusty streets of a city ready to explode with excitement and shameless debauchery.

A city with no shame. A city that was proud to be wild. This was Calgary

Next: Chapter Two: Riding with the Cowboys

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