Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Sunday, February 18, 2018

Island Dolls

Recently, Husby and I were on the vacation of a lifetime in the Caribbean.
Now before you start feeling too envious, let me point out the down side.
....................................................
Okay, you can feel envious.
While on the Island of St. Lucia, we were able to join some other intrepid explorers and . . . erm . . . explore.
On horseback.
And yes. It was amazing.
But what stuck most in my mind happened afterward.
We handed our steeds (yes, we rode steeds) over to our guide and his assistant, then went with another guide on a ramble over the part of the plantation we had missed with our four-footed friends.
We marched along pathways worn smooth in the days of slavery. Watched a donkey turn the mechanism that, as in days past, crushed the sugar sap out of cane.
And generally ooh-ed and ah-ed a lot.
A lot.
Then we were abandoned at the cluster of shopping huts near the plantation entrance to eat and drink and unload bags of money.
Okay, you probably know that we saved a long time for this trip and that we really don't have bags of money. But we were happy to browse. And peruse.
And then I saw it . . .
Now just to keep you in suspense a little longer, I am going to give you a bit of background . . .
My Aunt Mary Stringam had a doll collection.
Behind glass.
In her family room.
I was not allowed to touch said dolls.
Ever.
Sigh.
There was one that I found particularly interesting.
It was a topsy-turvy doll. I'm sure you're wondering what that can possibly be. It's a doll with two very different heads. One at each end. With a long dress that covers the one or the other and essentially gives you two dolls!
Genius, right?
Well, I thought so.
I don't remember what Aunt Mary's two-sided doll had for each of its heads (there are some with Goldilocks at one end and the wolf at the other.) I just remember how very much I wanted to play with it.
Enough background.
That thing I saw in the little shop on St. Lucia? A topsy-turvy Caribbean doll. And, just like that, the memories of that ever-wanted and ever-out-of-touch doll came back to me.
And I instantly knew what I was going to get each of my granddaughters as a gift from my holiday.
One last note:
When you ask a shopkeeper for 14 of any one item, especially hand-made dolls, they are quite willing to give you a break on the price. Just FYI.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

More of the Same

And then it was off to the Island of Antigua for three weeks of sun, sea, sand-in-the-suit . . .
And writing.
What a glorious time! Writing all morning. (A new novel done!)
Playing on the beach all afternoon.
And moonlight evenings with my sweetie.
I highly recommend it!
Writing. What a chore! ;)

Not something you'd see in Canada!




Sunrise

Cathedral Restoration in St. Johns, Antigua

Ditto.

Blue Moon Over Antigua.
And that brings us to home.
So happy we went.
So happy to be back!
I've missed you!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I'm Baaaaack!

Diane's Travelogue . . .
Wow! What an amazing six weeks. But I'm feeling like a new person.
Sadly, I still look like the same person--only some things change! :)
Husby and I left frozen Edmonton on the fourth of January , landing in Barbadoes 12 hours and thirty degrees later!
First stop: Our beautiful high rise hotel, the Accra Beach. On the . . . erm . . . beach.
A free gift from our sailing company.
Island View is not as exotic as Ocean view. Just FYI.
Note: Public transport is comfortable and immensely entertaining. But does not hold to any known schedule. So you know . . .













Then it was time to board the Royal Clipper for two weeks of sun, fun and FOOD!








We saw nine Islands: Grenadines, Grenada, St. Vincent, Martinique, St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Kitts and Iles des Saintes and some pretty amazing things!
A real live nutmeg. With it's little scarf of ruby red mace. Fascinating!



Martinique

St. Lucia



Also St. Lucia

Me. Sitting pretty . . . nice.
Stay tuned. The last half appears here tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Leaving Home...

Firstly, Happy New Year!
I'm so sorry for my absence over the past couple of weeks. I've been quite ill and not up to much.
Secondly, Husby is taking me away for a few weeks to see if we can find my health again.
We're turning our house over to one of our daughters and her family and flying out tonight.
It'll be fun!
But I'm not sure about connections.
I'll try to stay in touch, health and internet providing.
I'll miss you!

And now, something to tide you over until I see if I'll be connected from our hotel in the Caribbean . . .
New Year’s Eve.
A time of food.
Fun.
Family.
And beating the pants off someone at this year’s game of choice.
The game for the last hours of 2013 and the wee, small hours of 2014?
Clue.
What could be better than starting the New Year out with a little bit of murder/mayhem and trying to decide if the victim had been bludgeoned, shot or strangled?
For some time, the players had been trying to figure out the whom, what and where of Mr. Boddy’s demise. Manipulating rooms (Ballroom, study, kitchen, library, conservatory, hall, dining room, lounge, billiard room), characters (Professor Plum, Mr. Green, Mrs. White, Miss Scarlett, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard) and weapons (Knife, gun, lead pipe, candlestick, rope, wrench); and toying with such statements as: Miss Scarlett in the ballroom with the lead pipe, and Mr. Green in the study with the rope.
The hour was growing late/early.
And our bunch of non-drinkers was growing slightly giddy with the unaccustomed lateness of the hour.
Someone posed the statement, “Look at all of the different ways to murder someone . . . the newer versions have poison. We need poison!”
A whole new dimension in the world of homicide.
To which my son, Erik, replied, “We have it!”
Everyone looked at him.
“Yeah,” he went on. “The Colonel in the kitchen, eating beans. Murder by Mustard gas!”
For fifteen minutes, all anyone could do was laugh.
Perfect way to bring in the New Year.


I hope 2018 is your best year ever!!! Stay healthy!

Friday, December 29, 2017

Rabbit Duck Turtle

I used to sew most of my children’s clothes.
Especially their blue jeans.
Let’s face it. When one’s son wears a 28 waist and a 38 inseam, you learn how.
Out of desperation.
Now any of you blue jean aficionados know that the back pockets are the face of the garment.
Pun intended.
It is on the back pockets that one can really show one’s artistic merit.
Okay, yes, my merit lacked oomph. But I tried.
I sewed designs.
Pictures.
Initials.
And it is this last that brings me—finally—to the point of my story . . .
Our second son, Erik, was the boy who needed the ‘stretched out’ jeans. His initials were, understandably, E.T.
You probably remember the cute, classic movie of yesteryear called, simply, “ET”. And you probably also know of grade school children’s proclivity for teasing.
Somehow, I simply couldn’t expose my son (pun also intended) to that by putting ET on the back his jeans. So I went with option number 2. His full initials. ‘EBT’.
It worked. Comfortable jeans he liked.
And no teasing.
An important point.
Now the next brother, Robin, upon glimpsing the . . . ummm . . . work of art that was Erik’s jeans, loudly requested the same.
Thus the initials, ‘RDT’ appeared on his much smaller pair.
Cute.
Unfortunately, the teasing I had avoided with my patented technique on the first pair of jeans found its way to this second pair. Via the boy’s father.
Sigh.
Dad: “What’s that on your pockets? RDT? What does that stand for?”
Son: “Robin Duff Tolley!”
Dad: “What?”
Son (a little louder): “Robin Duff Tolley!”
Dad: “No. I think it stands for Rabbit Duck Turtle.”
Son: “Robin Duff Tolley!”
Dad: “Rabbit Duck Turtle!”
Repeat ad nauseam.
Moving ahead 30 years . . .
I was making my now-thirty-seven-year-old son’s Christmas stocking. He’d had another. A classic. But somewhere between moving to the coast and LIFE, it had been lost and I needed to fill the hole it left in my Christmas display.
Me: “What should I put on your stocking, Son?”
Him: “How about Rabbit Duck Turtle?”
Sometimes it just takes a while . . .

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bunked

Just add child...
I just woke up from a fair night’s sleep. For me ‘fair’ is as good as it gets.
And I know because, once, I had a fantastic sleep. The best sleep of my life. It happened when I was eight.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Dad had taken my brothers . . . somewhere.
Exactly where they went is blurry.
The important point is that they were away. And that their wonderful bunkbed in the bedroom next to mine stood empty.
I should mention here that I had long coveted their beds. They were made of beautiful, solid maple and were soooo comfortable.
But I digress . . .
My older sister, Chris, and I saw an opportunity for some fun and adventure.
We’d stay the night in our brothers’ beds!
Wow!
Okay, I admit it. We didn’t have a very exciting life.
Moving on . . .
Chris took the upper bunk and I snuggled into the lower.
We talked and laughed.
Mom made a couple of visits to the doorway to threaten to separate us and finally to *shudder* make us go back to our own beds.
It was this second warning that made me finally give up and close my eyes.
My shoulder started to ache so I decided I should turn over and get more comfortable.
I opened my eyes.
Sunlight was streaming into the room.
At first, I didn’t recognize it for what it was. I had never seen the world go from black to light quite so dramatically.
I thought someone had turned on the lamp.
I turned to look at the window.
Nope. I was right. It was sunlight.
Somehow, morning had instantly followed bedtime.
Instantly.
It took some time for me to realize that I had just had a night of deep, dreamless sleep.
I know it happens to other people, but it had never happened before.
Or since.
To me.
But I have that one night.
And, believe me, in the sleepless hours between midnight and four A.M., I often think of it.
Sigh.
Where’s a stolen bunkbed when you need it?

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Year That Santa Retired

“I’m too old for this,” sighed Santa, as he finished work that day,
“I have a pain here in my back that will not go away.
My eyes are tired, my feet are sore, my head is pounding so,
I fear its thumping may be heard way down in…Mexico!”

He sank into his easy chair, he closed his eyes and sighed,
He placed his feet upon a stool and very nearly cried.
“The miles and miles of snow up here are quite a sight to see,
But now I think that Florida should be the place for me.”

His wife brought in hot chocolate as he finished this remark.
“You silly man.” She chuckled. “You’ll be eaten by a shark!”
She looked into his troubled eyes and smoothed his soft, white hair.
“Now what’s the real problem, Dear? You know how much I care!”

He lifted up his chocolate cup and slowly took a sip,
Then in a thoughtful way, he pulled upon his lower lip.
He looked into her loving eyes, then down into the fire.
“The elves brought in a foreman elf they wanted me to hire.”

“With someone else to run the show, they won’t need me at all,
They said they could replace me with a schedule on the wall.
And someone kind of young would want to tackle greater things.
I feel the changes in the air this foreman’s presence brings.”

“He says he has a dozen plans to make our business grow,
He’s going to pay the elves much more and keep their hours low.
He says they’ll work much faster if they get more rest each day,
And all will go much better if I simply go away.”

“On his schedule all is listed from the dawn to setting sun,
And if he’s right, by June the first, the toys will all be done.
The elves will then have time for play and do what they like best,
Or simply lie down in the sun and take a good long rest.”

He turned to look at her and wiped a tear from off his cheek.
“I’d time to think, they said, and gave me nearly half a week.
I said I’d answer right away, they didn’t need to wait,
I told them you and I would leave tomorrow night at eight.”

So Santa packed his things and sadly climbed into his sleigh,

And he and Mrs. Santa very slowly flew away.
In Florida, they found themselves a house down by the sea,
And soon they had a garden full of carrots, corn and peas.

They swam and fished and talked and laughed and lay out in the sun,
And no knew that Santa wasn’t really having fun,
For though they had so much to do—were always on the go,
He never could forget the snow. And work that he loved so.

One day while they were on the beach just lying in the sun,
They noticed someone coming toward their beach house on the run.
“It’s Ralph,” Said Mrs. Santa as they scrambled to their feet.
Ralph Elf was the last person that they thought they’d ever meet!

“You must come back!” Ralph panted as he sank into a chair,
“The schedule simply doesn’t work. We need someone who cares!
Eight months, we’ve worked for Foreman and, by rights, we should be done,
But to tell the truth, my friend, the work has barely been begun!”

“Come with me now, I beg you, for there is so much to do,
We tried hard to do without you for we thought that you were through.
We thought you were too old to really help us anymore,
But now we know it’s love, not age, that really writes the score!”

“We need you so the children won’t be sad on Christmas day,
And the elves all say they’ll work for you without a speck of pay.
Come with me, please. We need you. Could you try forgiveness now?
If you can’t forgive, just help us help the children anyhow.”

Santa’s eyes were dimmed with tears as he looked at Mrs. Claus,
He smiled at Ralph. “We’ll get our things.” Then suddenly, he paused.
 “My friend,” he said as he looked at Ralph, “Do the elves all want me too?
“Or do they just want someone who will work as hard as you?”

Ralph smiled and said, “Dear Santa, we have found it’s you we love,
We couldn’t work for someone else for all the stars above!”
We are a team, or better yet, a father, girls and boys,
Most families have a hobby. And ours is making toys.”

“We work so well together and together, we should be,
We’ll make the toys for everyone for all eternity.
Come with me now. We need you so. We each would like to say
If you’re with us, we’ll have more fun with each and every day!”

So Santa went with Ralph that day and started with a will,
By Christmas Eve the work was done and every packaged filled.
They worked so hard throughout those weeks, that on that happy day,
The children never knew how Santa had been sent away.

So now on Christmas morning when you see that he’s been there,
Remember that it’s love that brings your presents through the air.
And if we work together, loving as a family,
Love can accomplish anything that’s good. Take it from me!

Yes. Santa does recycle...
Merry Christmas, my friends!
And I hope that 2018 is the Best. Year. Ever!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Other Side

By Christmas Eve request, My Women's Night Before Christmas. 
With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore . . .


On the night before Christmas, long hours ahead
The toddler awake, I’d just got her to bed.
The stockings were hung in a haphazard row,
While Mama assembled new toys just below.

The kids were asleep. Well, except for the last,
Just waiting for morning to get downstairs fast.
I toiled on alone, ‘cause there wasn’t a dad.
I had broken a nail and my language was bad.

Then out on the lawn rose a terrible noise,
A talent that only my oldest employs.
I flew to the window, and thought as I ran,
‘What's he doing out there, my nine-year-old man?!’

It was bright (as can only the moon on snow be),
And I narrowed my eyes to be able to see.
And what did I glimpse, coming over the way?
But some deer, all in harness, and a stout little sleigh.

With someone in a coat that looked comfy and soft,
And clearly some magic to keep them aloft.
They flew like a Michael Schumacher on course,
While the driver attempted some will to enforce.

"Now Baby! Now, Jazzi! Now, Frolic and Jolly!
On, Cherub! On, Angel! On, Kitten and Folly!
I need you to get to the rooftop this time!
And a fine, gentle landing would be so sublime!"

To say that they flew like some leaves past the attic,
Would be perfectly true, it was quite that erratic.
I was holding my breath as they shot toward the sky,
And prayed that my windows and roof would survive.

Then finally (thankfully) up on the roof,
The unmistakable sound of twenty-four hoofs.
Then some noise in the chimney I’d not heard before,
And someone emerged, on their knees, on the floor.

The figure was dressed in a warm, sooty coat,
With some Uggs on their feet and scarf round their throat.
With toys, books and clothes in a gi-normous sack,
Which they dropped to the floor with the words, “Oh, my back!”.

And then sparkling eyes were directed at me!
From under a hat that was worn with esprit.
I surprisingly saw, not a man, but a miss,
With no  beard (though a tweezer would not go amiss).

In white teeth, she had clutched a short pencil end,
And a notebook, she held in one mittened hand.
Her round, wrinkled face shone with laughter and fun,
And I don’t think her happy laugh could be outdone!

She was joyful and glad, and just a bit plump,
Her smile made me smile, and her laugh made me jump!
She gave me a grin and then winked an eye,
All my fears passed away and I waved them goodbye.

She didn’t say much, simply nodded my way,
And I watched as she worked – like a pudgy ballet.
She finished her job, made a note in her book,
Then nodded and smiled and her exit she took!

I heard her footsteps as she ran to her sleigh,
Heard her call to her team as they all flew away.
Then this sweet woman shouted, as she flew o’er the town,
"Happy Christmas to all, don’t let life get you down!"


Merry Christmas, my friends! And a very Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Daddy's Footsteps

Today and Tomorrow, I'm reprising some of my most popular posts.
Some you may remember.
All are true! :)
My Hero
December. My four-year-old mind was a haze,
I’d been locked in the house as it snowed for three days.
Then quite suddenly, magically, sunlight appeared,
And my Daddy was pulling on snow boots. And gear.

I just couldn’t stand the house one minute more.
I had to get out. I’d help Dad with the chores!
So I zippered and buttoned and pulled on and tied,
Then stood by my Daddy with little-girl pride.

“I’m ready,” I shouted. “Let’s go milk the cows!”
I was set for adventure, quite done with the house.
He smiled and then, turning, stepped into the snow.
And I walked alongside. It seemed quite apropos.

At first the bright sparkles and crisp winter air
Made our walking, adventure, and senses aware.
But then I discovered as most children do,
That snow, though quite pretty, was hard to get through.

I struggled and grunted, broke into a sweat,
Then looked for the barn that we hadn’t reached yet.
My Daddy smiled down at my efforts inept,
“It’d be easier if you tried to step where I step.”

So I did. And my progress was much better then,
Soon we two reached the barn, and the cozy cow pens.
I sat perched on a stool and watched Daddy do chores,
Then followed him home, just like I’d done before.

I learned something that day, as we walked through the yard,
If I stayed in his footsteps, then things weren’t as hard.
His skill and experience, and his guidance, too,
Would make everything easier my whole life through.

Now, to my own kids, when there’s woe to be had
I give bits of advice that I learned from my Dad.
When Life dishes out dollops of good or of ill,
I find that I’m walking in Dad’s footsteps still.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Meat Mystery

Mmmmmm . . .

Every family has traditions at Christmas.
Some are fun.
Some funny.
Some weird.
Our family has several that fit into this last category.
One is Christmas stockings.
Okay, yes, I know that many, many families enjoy the custom of stuffing a stocking for each family member.
It's what goes into said stockings that sets our family apart.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On Christmas, after the kids have been shuttled off to bed, Mom and Dad (Spoiler Alert: Alias Santa) bring out the loot.
Erm . . . gifts.
Each stocking is laid out and stuffed full.
I look after the common, everyday, run-of-the-mill gifts:
1.Toothbrushes.
2. Socks.
3. Underwear.
4. The orange in the toe.
My Husby looks after the strange and bizarre:
1. Various styles of catapults.
2. Magnets.
3. Quirky -- ie. strange – books, puzzles and games.
4. Expanding T-shirts. Just add water.
5. And little tins of meat.
I know what you're thinking.
Why on earth would someone give his kids catapults?
You weren't?
My mistake.
Sooo . . . tinned meats.
Every year, each of our children finds a tin of . . . something . . . stuffed into the inner reaches of his or her stocking.
And I'm not talking tuna fish here.
These are tins of something fancifully called: Vienna sausage.
In various flavours.
All neatly and brightly and attractively packaged.
And yes, I realize that there may be people around the world who love Vienna sausage.
My kids were raised on the prairie.
And served beef three meals a day.
With the occasional foray into the world of chicken or pork.
If the animal didn't originally bellow, oink or cluck, they regarded it with deep suspicion.
Or outright revulsion.
Okay, the ingredients listed on the Vienna sausage tins said: beef and/or chicken and/or pork and/or meat.
But it was mechanically de-boned and mixed with . . . other stuff.
So in the words of my kids, mystery meat.
Need I say that my Husby's gifts weren't received with gladness?
Probably not.
Oh, they tried it.
The very first year.
It . . . wasn't popular.
No tin was every willingly opened again.
And when the detritus had been cleared from the front room after the all-important opening of the gifts, the only things remaining were several tins of meat.
Left where they had been dropped upon being discovered.
Husby immediately scooped them up and stowed them carefully away.
Only to bring them out and drop them into another stocking the next year.
One particular tin of sausage re-appeared six years in a row. The last a few years ago. In Argentina (where our youngest son was living at the time).
His roommate ate it.
Something we didn't think was possible.
One of our kids asked their father why he kept putting those little tins of -to them- inedible meat in the stockings.
His answer surprised all of us. “Because I want you to appreciate that we live in a place where we have plenty. That tiny tins of mystery meat can be laughed over and disregarded. We are very blessed.”
We truly are.

Over the next few days, I'm reprising my Favourite stories of Christmas. Some you may remember. All are true! :)

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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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