Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It's Official

With special days all through the year to celebrate the great and small,
It’s sometimes difficult to choose a single topic from them all,
With things like ‘Ice Cream Sandwich Day’ and ‘Girlfriend’s Day’, to name a few,
And ‘Tell a Joke Day’, ‘Bow Tie Day’. And don’t forget ‘Spumoni’, too!
There’s ‘Single Working Women’s Day and ‘Be an Angel Day’ as well,
And ‘Kiss and Make Up Day’ (to follow that one day of ‘Kiss and Tell’!)
‘Work Like a Dog Day’s’ special too. And while we’re on that subject, there,
There’s ‘Dog Appreciation Day’ for those with dogs for whom they care.
We’ve ‘Sister’s Day’ and ‘Lover’s Day’ and ‘Son and Daughter Day’ besides,
And even one called ‘Lighthouse Day’ for those who love to watch the tides!
There’s hundreds more for all of us, a ‘Day of Beer’ and ‘Day of Sun’,
A ‘Fresh Breath Day’ and one for ‘Hoyle’ and one for ‘Middle Child’ fun.
But with them all, we chose the one that spoke to each of us for sure,
Not ‘Creamsicles’ or ‘Eat Ouside’ or ‘Chocolate Pecan Pie’s’ allure,
I’m sure you’d like to know the champ. (And yes, I feel like such a tease!)
It’s ‘Relaxation Day’ today! I get to catch up on my ZZZZZZZZZ’s!

Each month we have a challenge
Yes, we voted on a theme,
Then each put on our thinking caps 
And hurried to our screens.
Now you know the theme's official,
There won' be any flack,
It's National Relaxation Day,
So get ready to RELAX!

I'm not the only one taking advantage.
See what my fellow 'relax'ers' have done . . .

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: If You Insist
Dawn of Cognitive Script: A Balm To My Soul
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Relax, my Foot

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Running for the Unseen Goal

 A guest post by Little Brother, Blair Stringam

A long time ago (I won’t say how long) when I was in grade school, I was pretty much bored with everything school.  The only thing that I looked forward to was the spring county track meet.  I loved to run and I loved to compete in the sprints and relays.  Finally, I progressed through grade school to grade 6 and I thought that now that I was going to start junior high school the next year and would be with the older kids who were stronger and faster, that I wouldn’t be able to compete in another track meet.  It made me sad. 
As school ended and summer vacation began, I was given various tasks on the ranch and I enjoyed working outside.  However, I did get tired of baling hay.  Baling hay helped to get me to look forward to school in the fall. 
Another task that I was usually involved with was fencing.  If we weren’t baling hay, we were building fence. Or mending fence. Or checking fence.  
One day Dad took me out to the field where we were going to build a new barbwire fence.  The process involved pounding in corner posts, stringing a wire between the corner posts then using said wire as a guide to pound in all the posts between the corners.  It was very important to my Dad to make sure that the fence was straight so after the wire was strung and before the posts were pounded, we had to set one of the lengths of barbwire to be our post guide.  
With the wire stretched, my dad would stand at one of the corners and look along it to the other corner.  I had the job of running down the length of wire and moving it to one side or the other as Dad gave hand signals.  As I said earlier, I liked to run so I didn’t mind the task.
During the summer after grade 6, Dad started making me run faster.  I was surprised because in the past he had been content with just allowing me to run at my desired pace.  This summer he was making me put more effort into it.  Because I liked to run, I didn’t question what Dad was doing.  (I think that he may have been in a hurry that day.) 
It happened that that day was a good day for running and we were able to set all of the guide wires for the fence.  We finally got into the truck and headed for home.  I asked Dad, why he was making me run faster than I normally did.  He said that he wanted me to work on training for the track meet next year in the spring.  I said, “but Dad, I’m going to junior high school next year.  I’ll be with the big kids.  I don’t think I’ll get to run in a track meet again.” 
He just said that it is good to prepare. 
That little piece of advice has stuck with me for all of my life.  The funny thing is as I have tried to prepare for future challenges, the task that I was doing prepared me for opportunities that I didn’t foresee.  I am so very grateful for a father that had the foresight to encourage me to try to look at possible opportunities and prepare for them.  It has helped me in ways that I never imagined. 
And by the way, in my senior year, I was able to compete in the provincial track meet.  Thanks Dad.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Flying

“What is your favourite memory
Of summer?” Husby asked of me,
“Times you spent out in the woods?
(The best of times in his childhood.)
“Or merely memories of home
With family or all alone?”
I thought about his question some,
Those sunlit summer days of fun,
Of river mud between my toes,
And little in the form of clothes,
Or riding out in boots and jeans,
And branding, doling out vaccines,
Of showing calves at summer fairs,
And breathing in the sage-stuffed air.
Of family and cabin time,
The cold, lake swims were so sublime.
Or later? Thoughts meandered on,
Of time well spent in days long gone,
When kids were small and running free,
And rolled in mud from neck to knee,
Family trips both good and bad,
When all were there with Mom and Dad,
What memories do I like best?
When I am feeling the most blest...?
I’d have to say those I most like:
The ones spent on my ‘Bluebird’ bike,
With family ahead, behind,
And techniques good to unrefined,
And trailing out across the town,
“Teens wait! The smalls are slowing down!”
Yes, grandkids, aged fifteen to four
With sometimes less and sometimes more,
But, oh! What bliss and… Oh! What fun!
Those early mornings in the sun.
And so to answer Husby’s probe,
And pond’ring days spent on this globe,
My favourite memories, I must say?
The ones that I will make today!
All summer long!
The Tolley family on the town!
Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, because they're close to me,
My poem's of Delores and Jenny!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Price of Integrity

Grampa Stringam and his Sons.
Back row: Daddy (Mark), Bryce, Elwood, Woodrow, Alonzo.
Front row: Briant, Grandpa, Owen.

My grandfather, George Stringam, ranched in Southern Alberta in the early half of the twentieth century.
There are countless stories about those days, all of which I find fascinating.
But those I am most drawn to are the tales of his integrity and honesty.
Here is one, as told by my Uncle Owen:

Jerry Woodruff, one of the oldtimers of the Glenwood district, ran a few head of milk cows and always had a few head of calves to sell every fall. He always offered them to my father (George Stringam). Father always gave Jerry what Father thought they were worth, which price was always very satisfactory (according to Jerry).
One particular fall, Jerry called Father on the phone and told him he had six or seven steer calves that he’d like to sell.
Father didn’t have time to come and look at them but would Jerry please describe?
Jerry did so, saying they were the same calves from the same cows that Father had been buying every fall.
Father quoted him a price and Jerry agreed, then asked when he could bring them by.
Father told him he would have a pasture ready in about three days and they ended the conversation.
When Jerry delivered the calves, Father wasn’t around, so Jerry just left them in the barn and went his way.
The next Sunday, the two met and Father told him, “Jerry, those calves weren’t what you told me they were!”
Jerry responded,” Well I thought they were just like they always were.”
Father said, “Well, they were better than you told me. Here’s some more money.”
He handed Jerry a check.

It’s Ancestor Sunday! The day I celebrate my Fascinating Forebears.
Tell us about yours!

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Paltry Sum

A few days ago, Husby and I went to a movie. 

We enjoyed it.
And we got in for the price of $25.00 for the two of us.
And that included two drinks, and a bag of popcorn to share.
And as he was swiping his debit card, I was remembering another theatre experience.
In another time.
For the paltry sum of fifty cents . . .

Fifty cents used to be a lot of money.

And gave you the ability to do amazing things.
Let me explain . . .
That wonderful day of the week when one didn't have to dive frantically from their beds, feverishly dash through a morning routine, and drive frantically to catch the school bus.
On Saturday, one could leisurely climb out of bed.
Enjoy a healthy breakfast.
And spend the morning . . . diverting.
Okay, well I don't know about the rest of the family (ie. Mom . . . and everyone else), but could.
And the best part of Saturday?
Talking Dad into taking me and my siblings into town for the movies.
Remember, we lived twenty miles away.
On sketchy 'gravelled' roads.
Sometimes, it took a great deal of talking.
On the days we were successful, he would pull up to the theatre, hand each of us fifty cents, and wave as we scrambled for the door.
The smell of freshly popped and popping corn would wash over me the instant I stepped inside. Clutching my money, I made a dash for the admissions counter and handed over half of my precious coins.
Then I took up a post in front of the all-important concession and eyed the limitless possibilities.
After several moments of tempting myself with mouth-watering indecision, I made my choice.
Inevitably, a glass bottle of Grape Crush (with the all-important paper straw) and a bag of popcorn.
With a nickle for a package of red licorice.
Then, clutching my booty and my ticket, I would approach that magical doorway to infinite worlds and possibilities.
The door-keeper would tear my precious ticket in half with a grin and an, “Enjoy the show!” and I was inside.
The curtains, deep green velvet, would be tightly closed, hiding the magic behind them.
Reverently, eyes glued to them, I would slowly make my way down the sloping, creaking wooden floor to my chosen seat.
Somewhere near the front.
Preferably in the first two rows.
Then, one hand stuffing popcorn into my mouth, and the other clutching my precious bottle of pop, I would settle back.
Waiting for the magic.
Waiting to be transported to another place and time.
Suddenly, the house lights would dim and a bright beam would shoot through the air and snare the green curtains in a noose of light.
They would slowly begin to part.
I should mention here that, for years, I thought that the thick, heavy curtains actually became opaque.
And that the beam of light was shining through them from the back.
Yeah. So, Einstein, I wasn't.
Moving on . . .
For the next two hours, I was somewhere else.
Watching the lives and/or exploits of someone else.
It was magic.
Occasionally, reality would intrude for precious seconds.
Especially if the projectionist was a bit slow in starting the second and/or third reels.
But mostly, my immersion was happy and complete.
Another world.
Another time.
Another life.
Complete with yummy snacks.
All opened to me for the paltry sum of fifty cents.

Friday, August 10, 2018

The Making of the Beds

Okay, that's not me, it's my little brother, Blair.
But that is one of the beds.
Picture me in it . . .

I have just realized that Mom was infinitely more patient than I am.

It's a bit of a painful discovery.
A moment of silence, please.

Now I will explain . . .
When I was four, I used to follow Mom around as she went through her morning routine.
This was before she really expected me to be of much help.
Though I did try.
I should mention, here, that about the time I became a valuable helper, I no longer wanted to follow Mom around.
Oh, the irony.
Back to my story . . .
I watched Mom clean the kitchen.
Pick up clothes and discarded items.
Vacuum and/or sweep.
And scrub bathrooms.
But my most favourite activity . . .
The one I waited patiently for . . .
Was 'the making of the beds'.
Because Mom never just made the beds.
That would be boring.
No, what Mom would do was 'make me in the beds'.
I would snuggle in and she would pull the covers up and proceed to make the bed.
With me in it.
I would lay quietly until she said, “Okay that's done. Time for the next bed.”
That was my cue to squeal and sit up abruptly, totally negating her efforts.
She would pretend to be flabbergasted. (Oooh. Real word!)
And I would laugh uproariously.
Then she would order me from the bed and make it again.
This time without any stowaways.
And we would move on to the next bedroom.
And the next bed.
Where the routine would be repeated.
I don't ever remember Mom making a bed just once.
That's something other mothers did.
Moving ahead fifty or so years . . .
Several of my grandchildren were staying over.
Everyone had finally crawled out of bed.
And were awaiting breakfast, which Grampa was cooking.
I took advantage of the interim to make the beds.
I decided to teach them the game I used to play with my mom.
“Hide in the bed,” I told them. “And don't move.”
They crawled in.
And managed not to move.
But giggling was definitely optional.
I made the bed, then said, loudly, “Well that's done. Time to move on to the next bed!”
Three kids suddenly sat up. “Gramma! We fooled you!”
I pretended to be shocked and ordered them out.
Then I made the bed a second time and we moved on to the next bedroom.
“Can we hide in this bed?” they asked.
I looked at it.
Then thought about having to make it twice.
“No. Once is enough,” I told them.
“Awwww . . .”
“Next time we'll do it again,” I promised.
They were happy.
And I had made two conclusions.
My first was that being the made-ee was infinitely more fun than being the made-er.
My second conclusion?
My Mom used to play that game at every bed.
Every bed.
She was much, much more patient than I am.
I'm sure you agree.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Get Lost With Me

Yes. That's me.
Just before I turned fifty, Husby took me and our two youngest children on a holiday.
To Italy. And, even more exciting, on a tall ship cruise through the blue Mediterranean waters surrounding Italy.
We met our second son there. He was stationed in Bosnia and was quite happy to make the short hop to meet us when he was on leave.
There are lots of stories.
The one I’m going to tell you about could easily be titled “Scuba Diving for the Direction-ally Challenged”.
Ahem . . .
Whilst Husby was topside, exploring such wonders as . . . Malta. Sicily. Corsica. The rest of his party was under the water--air canisters strapped to our backs and flippers and wet suits correctly and prudently donned-–exploring the wonders of undersea ship wrecks. Fish schools. Sea life.
We still argue about who had the most fun.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
First we had to get in the water . . .
It was a perfect day.
Perfect as only a bright, sunny day in the Mediterranean can get. The tender, filled to the gunwales with happy, excited tourists all attractively clothed in black wetsuits, made its way out to the center of the bay immediately adjacent to the Island of Malta.
We had been given extensive instruction.
Do this.
Never, ever even attempt to do that.
We were ready.
Our first duty was to attach any and all tubes necessary to continued breathing and/or life, and fall backward into the warm, welcoming depths of the blue, blue water.
I emphasize the word ‘fall’.
It was a simple procedure.
All you had to do was fall.
And this is precisely where I came to grief.
I flipped over backwards, twisted around a bit.
And came up under the boat.
Under the boat.
It was about then that I got totally confused.
And forgot which way was up.
I was equally muddled about which way was down.
While I was thrashing around, trying to sort things out, my knowledgeable (and very attractive, but that is a different story) instructor, who fortunately had up and down . . . erm . . . down, reached in and extracted me.
We had an amazing time. We swam through great clouds of yellow fish. Past entire undersea gardens. And flew out over a cliff.
The best of all was the WW2 battleship wreck which we covered from stem to stern.
An entire new hemisphere opened to our eyes.
And me? The instructor kept me right by his side the entire time.
His reasoning was simple.
If I could get lost falling out of the boat, just imagine what I could do with a whole ocean.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Who Needs Enemies?

Don't blink! Blink and you're dead
Way, way too scary . . .
We had been visiting with our daughter.
Had a wonderful time.
Making puzzles.
Playing games.
And she had introduced us to the TV show, Doctor Who.
Yes I know that most of you will have seen this program.
I know I had certainly heard of it.
But I had never actually sat down and watched it.
Our daughter (loving person that she is) chose, for our first experience, an episode called, “Blink”. Also known as the 'Weeping Angels' episode.
A story of statues that come to life when you aren't looking at them.
And do terrible things to you.
It was, in a word, SCARY.
Truly frightening.
Chilling enough that I watched the entire thing snuggled close to my Husby.
And holding his hand.
Okay, so . . . brave, I'm not.
Through the last half of the episode, I had to visit the 'little girl's room', but was watching the screen so attentively that I . . . didn't.
Once the show had finished, I shivered, then turned on every light as I made my hasty way down the hall.
A few seconds later, much refreshed, I opened the door.
And this is what was sitting on the floor directly in my path.
I screamed.
And heard loud answering laughter from the family room.
I hate my family.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Dinner Talk

An actual conversation . . .
The family of Second Son (hereinafter known as SS) was gathered for supper.
All had been quietly and happily munching.
The meal was winding down.
Time for the most important part.
Youngest Son of SS (Let’s call him YSSS to be creative) was studying his father as the latter was talking.
Then, completely ignoring the ongoing conversation, he burst out with, “Dad! You have really big, black hairs in your nose!”
The current discussion derailed.
SS looked at YSSS. “Yup!” he said. “They’re like trees in there. What else would my nose beavers chew on and build stuff with?!”
YSSS’s eyes looked back and forth as his mouth hung open, speechless.
YSSS’s mother blinked and did the same.
For just a moment, all were silent at the table.
Then Only Daughter of SS (okay, yes, ODSS) spoke up. ODSS: “I’m not going to touch Dad ever again.”
Yep. ‘Nuff said.
SS and family at dinner.
Not (clearly) pictured: Nose Hairs

Monday, August 6, 2018


“I’d do anything for love,” it said,
               In the lyrics of the song,
Or, “Do it all for you!” Another,
               Equally as strong,
Just “Do it for the World!” we’re told,
               To treat our planet nice,
And, “Do it for the children!” Heard
               Oh . . . once or twice or thrice.
“Please do it for your country!” Found
              When things have gone awry.
And “Do it for your neighbourhood!”
               It sometimes is the cry,
 “Please do it now for Peace!” I saw,
               In the news just yesterday,
“Please do the things that must be done!”
               Mysterious, I’d say.
Now, with all this advice right here,
               And good, it is. And true,
What is it that’s impelling and
is motivating you?
For me, I find that nothing pushes—
               Causes, drives or money,
Like the motivation CHOCOLATE gives,
               As it goes from mouth to tummy!
Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, you'll find, with them and me,
Our favourite summer memory!

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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