Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Hockey For Idiots

The Arena
Ice hockey season, that time feverishly awaited by millions, is firing up.
We have ice hockey in our family.
Both Husby and I have played.
But it's probably not what you think.
It has everything to do with ice.
But nothing to do with sticks, skates, thrown gloves, or referees. (Although we could probably use one or two of those latter.)
And it has everything to do with food.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Waiting for your order in a restaurant can be excruciating.
Especially if you're hungry.
And let's face it – if you're sitting in a restaurant, ordering food, you're probably hungry.
Moving on . . .
There are many things to keep you occupied while you wait.
Studying the other diners.
Visiting with your dinner companion/s.
Reading the dessert menu.
I should point out, here, that whoever designs the dessert menus is a certified genius. Everything – everything – looks and sounds stickily, creamily, chocolately, divinely delicious. Mouth-watering descriptions merely add to the pictured perfection of chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate.
With caramel.
And whipped cream.
Where was I?
Oh, yes . . . waiting for food.
My Husby uses the time to watch the people.
But when he starts to receive a few too many irritated, uncomfortable glances, or when his reputation precedes him and we have been seated in a non-viewing zone, he must come up with some other form of entertainment.
That's how he invented 'ice' hockey.
In this activity, one uses the chunks of ice from one's glass and tries to flick them, using finger and/or thumb at one's dinner companion.
Ie. Me.
Whereupon (good word) said companion retaliates.
Because who wants to sit there and merely become a target?
We try to keep the mess to a minimum.
But don't always succeed.
Case in point . . .
We were waiting for pizza.
It was taking a long time.
Something about the cows needing to be brought in so they could be milked so the lengthy process of turning the milk into cheese for toppings could begin.
Husby was bored.
He got a chunk of ice out of his glass and flicked it in my direction.
I caught it and flicked it back.
He returned fire.
This went on for some time.
He simply couldn't get it past my ultra deft defence.
Finally, he stopped and sat there, frowning at me.
I grinned back at him.
Then he raised his eyebrows in challenge.
He picked up his glass, which, by now contained only ice chunks and . . . upended it onto the table.
Then he fired every single piece – using both hands – at me.
It was an onslaught.
A deluge.
“Excuse me, folks, here's your pizza.”
An embarrassment.
We looked up.
The waiter was standing there, holding our pizza and staring at us.
He looked . . . frightened.
“Oh,” I said.
Grant grinned. “Put it here,” he said, swiping a spot clean.
The waiter gingerly set the hot pan down on the wet table, then beat a hasty retreat.
The pizza was great.
There's nothing like pizza after you've worked up an appetite playing a good game of ice hockey.
Especially when it's served with a large dollop of embarrassment.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Saying It

Two things you need to know for today’s story: 
1. We have raised a family of movie-watchers. 
2. And quote-ers. Who are now into the third generation.
On to my story . . .
       Grandson#2 (hereinafter known as GS2) was sitting at the kitchen table. Colouring. You have to know that this boy has aspirations of becoming one of the truly greats in video game design. He was understandably absorbed.
Only Sister (OS) was running around the front room. With nothing between her tender tootsies and the big, bad furniture. Nothing.
She miss-stepped.
Two somethings collided.
The solid, wooden something remained impassive. The soft, flesh-covered something let out a screech of pain.
OS proceeded to roll about on the floor.
Holding one foot.
And crying.
The busy household came to a screeching halt.
Everyone stared.
Well, almost everyone.
Without turning or interrupting what he was doing, six-year-old GS2 said, deadpan, “There goes our last female.”
Ultimate precision.
In craft.
In speech.
It’s a gift.

For those who may not have seen it: 'Our last female' from Ice Age

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dance With Me!

By request, more Bruce and Clara.
Wherein nothing is explained . . .

Her hair was down.
It was never down. Usually, she kept it scraped tightly back into a rusty, greying bun on the back of her head.
I admit it. I stared.
“It’s you!” She cooed.
Did you know people can coo? Well, they can.
“Umm . . . yes. It’s me. The same person as yester . . .”
“Don’t speak!” Her large, surprisingly statuesque body slipped around the end of her desk. She slid red-tipped nails across its gleaming surface and her fairly prosaic print dress actually swirled provocatively as she floated toward me. “Just . . . be.”
I felt my eyebrows go up. “O-okay.” I glanced around. “Umm . . . be what?”
She laughed. A soft, throaty little burst of sound. “Yourself, darling. Just be yourself.”
“Oh. That. I think I can . . .”
“Don’t talk.”
“But how can I be myself if I can’t . . .”
She placed gentle fingers against my mouth.
“. . . talk?” The word came out justifiably muffled.
“Feel the music, darling.” She was starting to sway.
I frowned. “Music?”
Her arms came out, one wrapping itself about my shoulders, the other reaching for my wrist. For several seconds, we swayed to some music that only she could hear. I could feel the heat of her plump arm where it touched my back. Her hand felt slightly moist on the skin just above my hand.
“Oh, this is it, darling!” she whispered.
Just then, showing more moves than a mime and catching me completely unawares, she sent me into a dramatic dip.
I admit it. I screamed.
Chuckling, she set me on the floor and stepped across me, heading back toward her desk. “Bring me something exciting today, Bruce?”
“Umm . . .” I thought about that one. “Well . . .”
She picked up the package I had dropped when she grabbed me. “Oooh! I’ve been waiting for this one for a long time!”
I laid my head back against the cool granite tiles and thought seriously about asking for a transfer. Then I lifted the hand still carrying my clipboard. “Don’t forget to sign . . .”

The challenge has been issued.
And accepted.
This week, Delores of Under the Porch Light gave us a choice of 'word-isms' to solve.
Sneaky, sneaky, Delores.
I chose the phrase 'more moves than a mime'.
Oh, this is fun!
Dance on over and see what her other followers have created.
Or, better yet, join us!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Teaching the Boys

We have four sons.
From the time they were born, my Husby taught them to honour women.
His approximate words?
“In the creation process, Heavenly Father made the earth and everything on it. With each day, the things He made were more and more beautiful. His final, greatest creation? Woman. How are you going to treat God's greatest creation?”
He also told them that their Father would find someone very special for them to marry.
But they had to pray for her now.
All of them took his teachings to heart.
They treat women – all women - with a kindness and respect that is, unfortunately, seldom seen in the modern world.
Even as small boys, they were gentlemen.
And they did pray.
When our third son, Duff, was eight, his Sunday School teacher asked her class of seven boys if they prayed.
Each of them nodded.
She handed out pieces of paper and pencils.
“I want you to write down the things that you pray for,” she said.
Dutifully, the boys took their pieces of paper and began to make a list.
When they had finished, their teacher gathered them up and glanced through them.
I should probably note here that the first Nintendo play system was just new.
And wonderful.
And greatly sought after.
Certainly by the small boys in this class.
Back to my story . . .
At the head of every list, each of them had carefully recorded, 'Nintendo'.
Except for one.
At the top of one little eight-year-old boy's list was, 'wife'.
Our son's.
His teacher stared at it.
Then she looked at Duff.
“You're praying for a wife?” she asked, somewhat sceptically.
“Dad told us if we started praying now, we would get someone special,” Duff told her. “Like he did.”
With tears in her eyes, the teacher told us the story.
And brought tears to mine.
I had heard my Husby teaching our children.
But it was at that moment that I realized just what he was teaching them.
And that they were learning it.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pantie Pansies

Okay, yes, I’m on a ‘panty’ kick.

But yesterday’s post reminded me of something . . .

For four years, I had the assignment to lead the music in the children’s organization in our church.
My dream job.
Every Sunday, I got up in front of a group of children, age three to eleven and sang with them.
Have you ever heard a group of three-year-olds singing “Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam”?
If you can do it without tears, you are super . . . person.
There is nothing cuter in the world.
And I got to do this every Sunday!
For four years!
Inevitably, there were extra perks.
Because what dream job doesn't come with unexpected bonuses?
Each week, we invited the child or children who was/were celebrating a birthday, to come to the front so the rest of the group could wish them well.
Everyone enjoyed it.
The singers.
And the sing-ee.
Afterwards, I always asked the birthday child what their favourite song was.
And then all of us would sing it.
Normally, this was fairly routine.
They would pick a current favourite.
The pianist would launch in.
The children would follow.
Occasionally, we would encounter a hitch.
Perhaps a song that was a current favourite.
But somewhere other than the church . . .
Let’s face it, launching into ‘Stairway to Heaven’, though it sounds appropriate, would be anything but.
Ahem . . .
Sometimes, they merely got the name wrong.
Case in point:
We invited little Emily to the front of the room.
Everyone wished her a happy fourth birthday.
At the top of their voices.
She was smiling broadly by the end.
I leaned down. “Emily, what is your favourite song?”
She looked up at me. “Little Purple Panties!” she said excitedly.
“Oh, I said. “Umm . . . yes.” I looked at the pianist, who was staring back, wide-eyed.
“I think what she means is “Little Purple Pansies,” I said.
The woman’s face cleared. “Ah!” She nodded in relief.
We made it through.
Though I must confess that the temptation to sing the wrong words was very strong indeed.
And who knows, maybe a song, ‘Little Purple Panties’ is just what is needed when things get a bit . . . boring . . . in church.

The real words:
Little purple pansies touched with yellow gold,
Growing on one corner of the garden old.
We are very tiny, but must try, try, try,
Just one spot to gladden, you and I.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Dreaded Panties

Me - at my best . . .
I hated them.
Maybe it was the color. Yucky green.
Maybe it was the fit. Tight elastic on the legs.
I only wore them under duress, when there was simply nothing else in my drawer. And following a highly intellectual and diverting argument with my Mom . . .
"Put them on, Diane!"
"Put them on!"
Being the semi-obedient four-year-old that I was - and because 'going commando' hadn't been invented yet - I would haul my little green panties out from under the bed where I had hidden them and . . . shudder . . . pull them on.
Quickly, I would then hide them under a pair of blue jeans and try to put them out of my mind by heading outside to play. 
They itched.
They crawled into unwanted places.
They made me sweaty.
Sighing, I ignored them and joined the group of kids on the corner.
Now a couple of points of background . . .
In 1959, as in every neighborhood in Canada, weather permitting, we local kids gathered. Play commenced. As our mothers were working busily in their homes, we kids ran up and down the street, engaged in one of a thousand different imaginative schemes. At lunchtime, we were called home. We ate as quickly as we could, then returned to the street. Our mothers cleaned up and went back to their ironing or canning or one of hundreds of other chores. We kids played until supper was announced. 
When the lunchtime scenario was again enacted.
Actual physical parental supervision was unheard of. We policed ourselves. Tattled on each other. Looked after each other. When Kenny fell and broke his arm, an army of kids ran to his house and brought his mother. When Brenda got sick on the merry-go-round, same thing. 
It was a wonderful, carefree way to grow up.
Also, at this particular time, my Dad and older brothers had put up our family's brown canvas tent in the back yard.
I know this doesn't sound like an actual part of the story, but wait for it.
Now, back to my story . . .
My best friend and next door neighbor was Laurie. A sweet-tempered, agreeable girl just a bit younger than me. 
She followed me in everything.
Not always a good idea.
By early afternoon, I had been wearing the dreaded panties for much of the day. They had been my largely unwelcome companions while running, climbing, crawling, doing gymnastics, climbing, rolling, spinning, climbing . . . okay, I did a lot of climbing, but that is another story. 
They were really starting to bug me.
But there was no way I would ever be able to sneak into the house to remove them.
And then it hit me! 
If I ducked into the tent, I could shed the dreaded panties and my Mom would never know!
It was a brilliant plan. Awe inspiring.
Completely fool proof.
I acted immediately.
"Were are we going?" Laurie was right behind me, as usual.
"Into the tent."
"What are we going to do?"
"Take off our panties."
Did I mention that I often got Laurie into a lot of trouble?
In a few seconds, the deed was done. I wadded my cast-offs into a little ball and stuffed them down into a hidden corner of the tent.
Laurie did the same.
Then I pulled on my jeans and headed back outside.
Laurie followed.
Hah! Mission accomplished. No one would ever know.
Our friends were sitting around in my front yard, breathing hard from yet another race up and down the street. I pranced to the middle of the circle with Laurie close behind.
"We're not wearing any panties!" I sang out.
Okay, so, secret agent material, I wasn't.
"Panties!" Laurie echoed.
And suddenly, Laurie's mom was there, grabbing her little daughter and running with her towards their house.
I watched them go, wondering at the shocked and dismayed expression on Laurie's mom's face.
What on earth was wrong with her?
Maybe I should point out here that Laurie's mom always dressed her in frilly, feminine dresses.
Short-skirted dresses.
I got a lecture. Something about modesty and being a good example.
Who listened.
Parents are so weird.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mirror, Mirror . . .


Remember the 'fashion' dolls of the fifties?
The straight-standing, frozen featured, supposedly beautiful dolls?
That creative people crocheted or knitted clothes for.
Or sunk into cakes.
Those dolls.
Well, besides being known for arriving 'without wardrobe', they were also known for their pre-styled, fine, beautiful hair.
Hair that was not comb-able.
That stuck together in a tight ball and defied any efforts at style change.
I know that hair well.
Because I was born with the same stuff.
And matted permanently together.
Candy-fluff hair, my Mom called it.
Okay, 'candy fluff', I loved.
Candy fluff on my head?
Not so much.
Every morning, and several times throughout the day, Mom would come at me with a comb.
Or some other implement guaranteed to make my hair behave.
None of them worked.
All of them . . . hurt.
Mom: “Diane, hold still! I'm almost done!”
Me: “Waaah!”
And so it went.
As I grew, my hair . . . changed. Subtly.
Oh, it was still fine and soft.
But it no longer stuck together in one fuzzy lump.
Now it stuck together in several fuzzy lumps all over my head.
Mom: “Diane, hold still! There's just one more!”
Me: “Waaah!”
Finally, by about age eight, I outgrew the 'fuzzies'.
But made another important discovery.
Yes, my hair no longer matted together, defying all attempts at style.
And it was now longer and straighter.
But . . . it still hurt to comb it.
Yes. I was a hair wuss.
Mom: “Diane, hold still! Your hair will look beautiful!”
Me: “Waaah!”
Finally, in frustration one day, she uttered the fateful words, “Diane, don't you know you have to suffer to be beautiful?”
I stared at her. “Really?”
She nodded sagely.
I put it together.
If I suffered, I would be beautiful.
It was that simple.
This went on for several years.
Every day, I suffered.
Every day, I looked in the mirror.
Nope. Same face as yesterday.
Finally, at age fifteen, I challenged my mother's hypothesis.
Me: “Mom! I've suffered! Why aren't I beautiful!?”
Mom (In true 'Mom' form): “Oh, honey, you ARE beautiful!”
Right. Waaait. I see where this is going . . .
Moving ahead several years . . .
I was combing my granddaughter's fiery red, naturally curly hair.
ME: “Kyra, hold still! I'm almost done!”
Kyra: “Waaah!”
Me: “Don't you know you have to suffer to be beautiful?”
She stares at me. “Really?”
And so the story continues . . .

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Butt of the Game

Take me out . . .

I love baseball.
In fact, if I was to think about it, baseball is probably my favourite sport.
My mom was a helluva heckuva player.
I don't know if I ever equalled her ability.
Though I sure enjoyed trying.
But did you know that baseball and self-image go together?
Well, they do.
In my grade twelve year, I boarded for a few months with my best friend Debbie's family while attending school in Magrath, Alberta.
I should mention that her family were . . . characters.
Moving on . . .
During that time I played, along with Debbie, for the Del Bonita team.
It was a blast.
And we made a respectable showing in the league.
One afternoon, we were back at Debbie's house.
Celebrating a win.
I was euphoric (Oooh! Good word!) because I had hit a three-bagger that had brought in two runs.
The team hero.
Well, in my eyes, at least.
Debbie's parents had watched the game.
And were enjoying re-hashing it with us.
Her dad sat back and took a deep, satisfied breath. “Yep. That was a good game,” he said. He looked at me. “It's a good thing you joined the team.”
I smiled, feeling quite satisfied with myself.
He looked at his daughter and grinned. “Yep. Until you came, Debbie had the biggest . . .”
He paused.
I waited. Was he going to say hit? Arm? Throw?
Hero ability?
“ . . . butt on the team.” He looked back at me. The grin widened. “Now she has the second biggest.”
“Hey!” I said, my euphoric bubble bursting abruptly.
He laughed. “What makes you think I was talking about you?”
“But it was a good game,” he said.
I stared at him, narrow-eyed.
Did he really mean it?
Did I have a big butt?
I looked down at my 28 inch waist men's jeans.
Did they hide a monstrous backside?
He laughed again, got up and left the room. “Yep. Good game.”
“You don't, Diane,” Debbie said.
“What?” I looked at her.
“You can stop checking. You don't have a big butt. In fact, you don't have a butt.”
“Oh. Ummm . . . okay.”
“And you played a good game. That's just Dad's way of telling you.”
Did I mention that her family was quirky?
To this day, when I see a well-played baseball game, I think of . . . good plays.
You thought I was going to say big butts, didn't you?
Nope. That I save for when I'm playing.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Aunt Emily

Teacher of all things important.
Care-taker extraordinaire.
Sometimes you think you know someone.
But you really don't . . .
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
Nine boys.
And two girls.
The youngest girl, my Aunt Mary, was a short, round, happy lady with numerous children and even more numerous grandchildren.
More about her in another post . . .
His other sister, Emily, was an entirely different person.
Emily was the eldest child in the family.
She was a tall, spare, maiden lady.
Erect and correct.
And I was terrified of her.
Emily had served a mission for her church in her early twenties.
Briefly - and tragically - entertained the thought of marriage.
And lived the rest of her life teaching home economics and helping her mother care for the family home.
She was the professed cleaner to my Grandmother's cooking.
The maker of everything tidy.
The bestow-er of a set of sewing scissors to every niece who reached grade nine.
And the dragon in the den at the top of the stairs.
A note . . .
Aunt Emily's office was the first room to the left as one went up the stairs of the family home.
It was a lovely place. Neat and organized.
With a little window/door that opened out onto the roof/sundeck of the garage.
Us kids loved to sneak into that room and let ourselves out onto that deck.
But only when Aunt Emily wasn't about.
Back to my story . . .
Throughout my childhood, I loved visiting Grandma Stringam's home with my parents.
But walked softly around Aunt Emily.
When I was eighteen, all of that changed.
I had moved to the city to attend college.
Go figure.
For four months, I stayed with my Grandma and Aunt Emily.
At first, though I'm sure they tried to make me feel welcome, I spent very little time in their home.
Choosing, instead to study at the college or at a friend's and returning only at bedtime.
Then I got sick.
Really, really sick.
Strep throat.
One evening, after we had put the paper to bed (a newspaper term for sending everything to the press and washing our hands of all responsibility), I collapsed.
My friends carried me, quite literally, to my grandmother's home and to my little bed on the second floor.
I remember very little of it.
There, safely ensconced, I lost all consciousness for several days.
Someone took care of me.
Gave me liquids.
Fed me.
Cleaned up after me.
Helped me to the bathroom.
Hauled me to the hospital for a shot in the backside.
I do remember that . . .
And generally took excellent care of me.
As I slowly became more cognisant, I realized that the person who had been so patiently and lovingly nursing me was my scary Aunt Emily.
One afternoon, I opened my eyes and felt . . . almost human.
Aunt Emily appeared beside my bed.
“Feeling better?”
I nodded uncertainly.
“Oh, I'm so glad! I'm going to the store to get you something special. What would you like?”
And it was then that I realized that eighteen years had gone by without me knowing my special aunt at all.
Eighteen years of misunderstanding and unwarranted fear.
Wasted years.
I wasted no more.
In the following weeks and months, we became friends.
Aunt Emily died at the age of 85 from complications following surgery.
We were given twenty five years of friendship.
I will always be grateful.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Walk With Me

In housework, she is most devout,
Tidies, takes the garbage out.
Dusts and scrubs like a machine,
Till everything is shining, clean.

This automatic cleaning bent,
Alleviates her discontent.
‘Cause she’s alone and lonely, too.
But cannot figure what to do.

Her married friends come to her aid,
“There’s no such thing as an ‘Old Maid’”!
Utopian, your life is now.”
“To no one do you e’er kowtow.”

“Yes, you’re alone, but you should note,
You’ve sole control of the remote.”
“You needn’t ask another’s view
When making changes old to new.”

“You needn’t sleep with someone’s snore,
Who leaves socks and neckties on the floor.”
“Then walks around in underwear,
Trailing crumbs from here to there.”

 “Whate’re you want to do, you do.
And no one picks or barks at you.”
“Your perfect life, your good friends see,
Of plagiarism, guilty be.”

 She smiled and said, “My Spinster state,
Appears to you, my friends, as great.
There’s no one that I must consult.
None who would demean, insult.”

“But still sometimes, it would be nice,
To be noticed – once or twice.”
“And have someone with whom to talk,
Commit to me and walk the walk.”

“Yes, your life’s messy; yes, it’s tough.
At times it may get downright rough.”
“But still, you are together, see?
I’d love somebody there for me.”

“I’ll carry on. I’m happy, true!
Because I have such friends as you!”
But here’s what my good friends can do,
It’d help if you were watching, too!

Again, Delores challenges with her six little words.
Again, her minions scramble to answer.
This week?
 Utopian, plagiarismnecktieautomaticspinsterdevout
It's an introspective day.

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My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
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My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
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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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