It is Stampede time in the city. Cowboys and cowgirls strut the streets, 'just out of the box' pointy-toed boots shining, belt buckles gleaming amidst freshly pressed jeans and denim shirts. Smiles greet strangers, and visitors become your next best friend beneath the brim of white stetson's and SmithBilts -- some of them even decorated up by Calgary artists who participated in yesterday's Tip Your Hat! auction festivities.
The wild west is alive on every street corner. Wrangler dudes stage shoot-outs and rodeo ropin' contests amidst square dancin' couples jostling up against hungry patrons eager to chow down on pancakes and sausages being served up from the grill. There's a pancake breakfast in every quadrant of the city, every morning of the week for the next 10 days. There are barbecues and corn roasts too. It's a party and everyone's invited. Yeehaw!
And amidst the flowing skirts and denim jackets, the pearly whites and firm handshakes, I watch a homeless man shuffle through the crowd. His shirt is grimy. His jeans torn. A once white sock peeps out from the left toe of his scuffed up sneakers. "Got any spare change for a coffee?" he asks and before the patron can respond, a police officer walks up and takes him firmly by the shoulder. "Move along sir. Move along."
It is the constant litany throughout the city during this time of high spirits and foot-stompin' good times.
Move along sir. Move along.
There is no place for the down and out in a city high on the excitement of staging "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". There is no room for poverty amidst the prosperity of a city eager to strut its stuff for the over one million visitors who will take in the festivities over the next ten days. this is Big Business and Big Business has little room for little brothers strugglin' to make ends meet on the other side of the street. Down and outs are bad for business. We gotta move 'em along.
And the man moves along, only to return when the coast is clear. "Got any spare change for a coffee?" he asks before moving along, to the next and the next and the next.