Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


We are visiting out son on the west coast.
We just finished a huge dinner of fresh halibut and fires.
Now we are sitting on our deck, ejoying our view of the bay.
Mmmmm . . .
It reminde me of another - less pleasant - ocean experince.
Somewhere out there are whales . . . and nausea.
Water and I have a thing.
We love each other.
Alright, alright, so I love water. I really don't know how it feels about me.
Moving on . . .
My family was going whale watching off the west coast of California.
I was excited. Because (remember?) I loved water. And things in the water. And boats.
I should maybe point out here that this child-of-the-prairies' sum total of water experience consisted of my river and Chin lake. Not necessarily in that order.
We put on our life jackets and climbed aboard.
So far so good.
The engine started.
My heart rate increased.
We pulled smoothly away from the dock.
Still fine.
We skimmed lightly across the bay.
Okay, so, it was a fat, clumsy boat loaded to the gunwales with tourists. But I chose the word 'skimmed' and I'm sticking with it.
My more daring family members were already hanging out over the rails, looking down into the amazingly blue water as it slipped past.
I had managed to find a seat inside the little 'house' part.
Because yes, I was a little trepidatious (real word - really!).
We cleared the bay and moved out into open water.
And then the boat started . . . for want of a better term . . . bucking.
Now, I should point out here that I'm used to bucking. In fact, bucking has been a daily ritual in the horse corral since forever.
Just not this kind of bucking.
The deck under my feet rose up. Then, that same deck fell.
And I mean fell.
Worse than an elevator. (And elevators and I do have a history . . .)
Worse than when I fell off the barn roof.
In fact, most of my inner parts were rapidly in danger of becoming . . . outer.
And just like that, I was sick.
Really sick.
I had been instructed to stare at the horizon.
I tried.
But the horizon was going up and down along with the boat, the tourists and me.
Maybe it shouldn't be called 'seasick'. Maybe it should be 'seesick'. Because there sure is a lot to see.
Okay, so horizon staring wasn't going to work.
I began to count the steps. Four to the doorway. Four more across the deck.
Could I make it?
I mean, before something . . . icky . . . happened.
Another 'heave' of the deck.
Okay, so the choice was taken from me.
It was sprint or die.
I sprinted.
I needn't go into the details of what happened next. I suppose you can furnish your own particulars. Suffice it to say that I lost everything I had ever eaten.
Or even thought of eating.
Funny thing about being sick on a tourist boat.
Everyone suddenly has something else to look at.
Somewhere else.
I was abruptly, gratefully, alone where my humiliation and I could happily enjoy our time together.
I don't remember much about the rest of the trip. We saw some whales. I was hauled off of my bench in the cabin in time to see a whole herd (erm . . . pod) of them.
They were neat.
And wet.
And . . . splashy.
And never in my whole life was I so relieved to stand later on real, solid ground.
I didn't kiss it. I didn't dare shift that much. Suffice it to say the two of us were very happy to see one another . . .

There is a sort-of codicil.
My husband took me whale-watching off the coast of Maine.
I stayed outside on deck and kept my face into the wind and miraculously managed to keep my lunch where it had been placed.
All was well.
We came upon a cow/calf pair of  whales.
I'm ashamed to admit that I can't remember what kind of whale.
They were neat.
And wet.
And . . . splashy.
The mother left her baby and dove. The calf stayed where it was, lolling in the waves and the sun. Occasionally batting at the water with a flipper.
Every few minutes, our guide would say something informative.
Finally, she said, "I bet none of you can say that you've sat beside a sleeping whale!"
Okay I admit that, when hugely pregnant, I have described myself thusly (another real word).
My husband glanced at me, but wisely said nothing.
I hit him anyways.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lego My Kitty

We’ve been staying in a lovely resort in beautiful Banff, Alberta. This resort has everything. Comfortable rooms with every amenity. Pool. Sauna. Play rooms. Workout rooms. Squash courts. Tennis courts. Mountain bike borrowing. Nearby everything. And happy, helpful people.
The only thing it lacks is a strong internet connection.
Sorry for my rather spotty interaction in the past weeks.
I’ve missed our daily conversations.
On with my story . . .
Okay. Now picture it lost.
The Lego Kitty was lost.
The world had ended.
Everything is a tragedy when you’re three.
And Little Girl (LG) is three.
I told LG that: It would show up. When she cleaned up.
“But I don’t want to clean up,” she told me with little girl logic.
I countered with old lady logic. “Well, when you’re done playing, you will have to clean up.”
The small lower lip came out and she turned away and continued to play.
Sometime later, we were packing the apartment for the inevitable checking-out.
Lego kitty still hadn’t had the grace or good manners to shown up.
Tears threatened at the thought of leaving the minuscule – but highly important – toy behind.
A search was initiated. With little success.
I repeated my mantra. “It’ll show up. When you clean up.”
Fortunately, Mom had my back. She nodded. “Let's try it. Let’s clean up.”
Sighing heavily, the now-put-upon LG started picking up her Legos.
In a short time, all were safely stowed in their handy-dandy little Lego-shaped box. The floor lay, pristine and clean.
Still no kitty.
I could see the doubt starting in the big, hazel eyes.
“Okay,” I said, “Let’s move the sofa!”
Mom pushed and I pulled and VOILA a little, gray kitty appeared.
LG pounced on it and held it up triumphantly. “It’s here!” She crowed happily. “When you clean up, it shows up!” She tucked the toy in with its brothers and sisters and packed her box away.
I looked at her mother and we both smiled.
Once in a while, you have a good parenting moment.
And sometimes, you have to wait a while. A generation, in fact.
I’ll take it.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cow Speak

At least one of us was a lady . . .
It was hot!
I was tired!
Give me a minute, I'm sure I can think of better excuses . . .
The milk cow had been quartered in the east pasture, waiting for her to 'freshen'. (A cowboy term for 'give birth'.)
I know.
Cowboys are weird.
Moving on . . .
Her moment was getting close and it was time for her move into closer quarters.
I was elected to do it.
On foot.
Dad dropped me off at the gate with specific instructions. "Just chase her along the ditch, past the ranch and into the near-west pasture." I nodded. Instructions received and understood.
He drove off.
Things went well at first.
Right up until we reached the ranch entrance.
Madame Cow (I use this term lightly) couldn't quite get into her head the part of our instructions that said, "PAST the ranch."
I should explain here that the entrance to the ranch was on the north side of the road. The ditch we were following toward the west was also on the north side of the road.
And, when the breach in the fence appeared, Madame Cow insisted on turning . . . north. Towards the buildings. I had to sprint around her (remember I was on foot) and turn her back towards the road.
At which time she took the corner and headed east up the ditch we had just come down.
Another sigh. A little more forceful this time. And accompanied by a "Stupid cow!"
I got around her (feet, again) and turned her back west.
She followed the fence and again turned towards the ranch.
Way wrong!
"Stupid, dumb cow!"
Back towards the road.
Please head west. Please?!
Nope. East.
*#$! Cow!
Just a little swear.
This went on for some time, and my language, I'm ashamed to say . . . worsened.
Or got more colorful. That would be the 'PC' term.
Remember, I was raised around hired men. Experts at the English language. Or at least a colorful part of it.
Not an excuse, just a reason.
Again and again, I got round her and tried to head her in the correct direction.
Again and again, she . . . didn't.
And my language got more and more peppered with, shall we say, 'colorful metaphors'?
None of which explained to said cow exactly what I expected of her.
I have to admit that the poor animal was probably quite confused by this time.
There were the buildings. With hay and comfort.
Why were we going the other way?
Okay, strange human, I'll just go back where I came from.
Except that it would have probably sounded more like this:
In 'cow' of course.
Finally, after what seemed hours of chasing back and forth, and turning the air blue with . . . ahem . . . profanities (me, not her), the cow skipped past the ranch entrance and, wonder of wonders, walked right over to the proper field.
Okay, I'd rather go here, too . . .
Eureka! (real word)
I opened the gate and she stepped sedately through.
Then turned and looked at me.
Stupid human!
At least one of us had retained her gentility.
I closed the gate and started back towards the ranch, humming happily. All that had gone on before conveniently forgotten.
Dad's truck slid to a stop beside me. "Need a ride?"
I climbed in, still humming.
Dad drove for a moment. Then he said, not looking at me, "I got a real education this morning."
I looked at him, innocently, "Oh?"
"Yes. I discovered that my middle daughter knew words I didn't think she had even heard of."
"Oh." Very tiny voice, "You heard me?"
"Heard you! They heard you in town!"
That was all that was said.
It was never brought up again.
But I knew that Dad knew.
And he knew that I knew that he . . . never mind.
I'd like to say that I never used 'foul' language again, but I'd be lying.
For some reason, working with cows brings out the lowest form of expression.
Probably a good thing I don't work with them any more.
And I should probably point out that swearing isn't an easy habit to get rid of.
Even now, years later, a very strange word will pop into my head.
I'm happy to report that it never makes it past my lips, but I feel some dismay in the fact that it appears at all.
I'm a work in progress.
I should have taken lessons from the cow.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Wrong Knife

Husby is a knife connoisseur.
A bona fide expert in all things sharp.
He and our son have a forge in the back yard and create their own.
Give lessons.
He could tell you the quality of the steel just by holding it. Could explain what the ‘tang’ is. (And no, it’s not a drink for astronauts.)
Soooo . . . Connoisseur and expert.
Usually, it’s a good thing.
Except when I’m cooking and using my favorite knife-for-all-occasions. The knife that fits my hand. And is sharp and pointy.
And does the job.
Inevitably as I'm working, Husby will enter the room and announce, to any who may want to hear (no one), that I am once again using the wrong knife.
The fact that he is still alive is testament to my restraint and/or his ability to stay just out of reach.
I can see the headstone now: Here Lies Husby. Stabbed With The Wrong Knife.
Moving on . . .
Today, the planets aligned.
The ‘I’s’ were dotted. The ‘T’s’ crossed.
My ducks were finally in a row.
My ship had come in.
Because Husby, he of the infinite knife wisdom, used a small paring knife to slice the block of cheese.
Eschewing the handy-dandy cheese knife sitting nearby.
His excuse? The paring knife was already dirty and he didn't want to dirty another.
The consequence? The knife broke. Just behind the stubby little tang that cheap knives are known for. (See? I was paying attention.)
But the best part - the very best part – is this:
For the first time ever, I was finally able to say, “You used the wrong knife!”
You’ll have to picture the glee and handsprings.

My day has come.
I'm buying a lottery ticket . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Perfect Dog

Look at that cute, fuzzy face!
For over thirty years, we raised Old English Sheepdogs.
To us, they are amazing.
Friendly. Energetic. Smart. Teachable. Protective. Gentle. Loyal.
And really, really fuzzy cute!
Our last breeding pair passed away several years ago.
Now, the house that used to be overrun with large, hairy, four-legged beauties, is home to one.
The last puppy from our last litter.
Who just turned the grand old age of thirteen.
When Aldo was just starting to eat solids, we noticed that he wasn't developing like his brothers and sisters. Something was definitely wrong. Concerned, we took him to the vet, who promptly announced that he had Parvovirus and should be put down – along with the rest of the puppies in the litter.
But I’m a veterinarian’s daughter. And his symptom - diarrhea - just didn’t convince me that such was the case.
I put him in the bathroom in the care of my fifteen year old daughter.
For two days, she made sure the tiny puppy ate and drank – especially drank.
And then we discovered that he did just fine if he was fed adult dog food. That the puppy formula was simply too rich for those sensitive puppy innards.
We changed his diet. He began to thrive.
But the time spent together in that small room created a bond that we simply didn’t have the heart to try to break.
So Aldo stayed.
He has been an amazing companion to all of us. And boasts a higher vocabulary than many people.
My daughter has him very, very well-trained.
We didn’t realize how well-trained until yesterday.
My daughter’s theatre job necessitates some late nights. Yesterday was one of them as, following her production, she and her husband and co-workers struck the set.
It was very late indeed before they opened the front door of home.
Aldo, who usually waits quietly on the front hall carpet until his mistress gets home, was nowhere to be seen.
There was evidence that he had been there. A few crumbs from a Dentabone were visible.
My daughter called him.
I should mention here that Aldo is in perfect health. He just can’t hear any more.
Unsruprisingly, there was no answering scramble of dog feet.
She went to the back door – which had been left open into the sunroom.
There she noticed something else. The screen door of the sunroom was slightly open.
When Husby installed that door, he put brightly-coloured strips of hard plastic at intervals across the screen so Aldo wouldn’t run into it and harm himself – or anything else.
Ironically, Aldo figured out how to open the door – using those handy strips of plastic. And his all-purpose doggie nose.
There is only one drawback. He hasn’t yet figured out how to close the door afterward.
She went into the yard, still calling, and stopped at his doggie run. Aldo’s run is cleaned after each use, but she found evidence that someone had walked him.
She went back into the house and finally to her room and Aldo’s bed.
There he was, in blissful doggie-dreamland.
He noticed her, happily welcomed her, then flopped down and went immediately back to what he had been doing.
Obviously not needing a quick trip out back because someone’s mistress was doing who knows what instead of tending to him.
It took a moment, but she finally figured out what had happened.
When his mistress didn’t appear at the usual time, he got himself a treat. Walked himself. And put himself to bed.
The prefect dog.
His DNA is available on request . . . 
Yep. Tired of waiting.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Flimsy Fish

When Husby's family took a trip to the ocean, they had all sorts of . . . experiences.

As told by Grant Tolley

Grant, age 3.  Jelly Fish rescuer.  And cutie.
It looked like a blob.
It was a blob.
A blob of jelly-like substance, trailing long streamers and lying inert on the dark, sandy shore.
We stared at it. Walked around it. One of my brothers touched it with a tentative toe.
Yep. Blob.
The rest of my family soon lost interest and walked away. I squatted down and continued to study the strange . . . thing.
We were children of the prairies and knew, intimately, the frogs, snakes, minnows and other creatures that inhabited our little river. But here, facing the great and awesome expanse labeled 'ocean', we were . . . out of our depth (pun intended).
And this? This was something new. Something unheard of. Something mysterious.
I think it was a jelly fish, but, somehow, admitting that takes away the magic.
I continued to study it.
It didn't move. Probably a good thing, considering that it was roughly the size of a chicken.
I narrowed my eyes. Something about the creature was wrong.
Oh, I might be from the prairies, but, believe me, I know when something is out of place. And that jelly fish was definitely out of place.
Somehow, in my mind, I could picture it . . . floating happily.
That's it! Floating!
I was a genius!
All I needed to do was to somehow get this creature back into the water where it belonged.
I walked around it again. Maybe I could pick it up . . .
I reached out. Then stopped and looked at my hands. Then back at it.
No. That didn't seem right.
Another circuit.
I had it!
I would find something to lift it as unobtrusively (and yes, that is a word) as possible and send it home.
I ran up and down the beach, and finally spotted a worthy tool for the job at hand. A long plank, weathered and beaten by the waves.
I drug it across the sand and carefully maneuvered one end of it underneath my . . . erm . . . blob.
Gently, I slid it further and further, careful not to jar or disturb my stranded friend.
Finally, I had pushed it completely underneath.
I was ready.
Carefully, I lifted the plank.
With . . . most . . . of the jelly fish aboard.
In horror, I watched the strange creature disintegrate.
I mean, I've heard of going to pieces, but this thing really did.
Imagine trying to lift a blob of jello with a board.
Soft jello, like my Mom makes. Not the concrete kind that they serve in restaurants.
You get the picture.
This was worse.
It left it's legs and arms and a good portion of the rest of it on the sand.
Umm . . . Ick.
Panicked, I swung my board and threw the portion I had managed to collect into the water.
The rest, I abandoned.
What would be the point?
I'm pretty sure both halves were dead.
Or at least very, very ill.
Who is it that says that no good deed goes unpunished?
They were right.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Winners!

I'm thrilled to announce the winners of the draw for my books!
First, I'd like to thank everone who entered. I was touched that so many were interested and wanted to read something I wrote! :)
So... The winners, chosen at random by two blindfolded granddaughters:

SnowMan the 'real' story behind the song, Frosty the Snowman.

The winner is: Veryl Stockdale

Gnome for Christmas The adventures of an efficiency expert at the North Pole.

The winner is: Claudette Esterine

Words Life in Rhyme

The winner is: Penny Cameron

Congratulations to the winners and a huge thank you to everyone who entered!
(Winners, please forward your mailing address to me via email:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Last Day for Free Books!

Last day!

Until midnight tonight, I will be taking entries.
Three lucky people, drawn at random, will each win one of my new books!
All you have to do to qualify is visit my website:
That's it. That's all. Respond here with 'Visited' and a word to describe your visit and you will be entered.
Good luck!

 Driving a busload of happy, young scouters on rain-slick roads John Benjamin Frosst is faced suddenly with the unimaginable. In a fraction of a moment, he makes a decision, selflessly offering his life in exchange for the lives of innocents.
Now confronted with the knowledge that the comfortable existence he had expected is in tatters, Ben realizes that, instead of doing the serving he loves, he must now humbly receive it from others.
Hampered by this new reality, the fine man that is still Ben Frosst discovers the term ‘handicapped’ is only a starting point from which to find new ways to give and to help.
That service comes in many forms.
And, with enough love and support, anything is possible.
 Sometimes, life simply doesn’t turn out the way you plan.And that's okay.
Diane Stringam Tolley’s newest Christmas novel is a charming, heart-warming story of sacrifice, love and the strength of family and community.

“For some of us receive one gift,
And some, another. True.
Her gift was drying silverware.
And mine? Is telling you.”

Diane Stringam Tolley’s Words is a collection of thoughts and feelings from six decades of living.
A happy romp from childhood to old age. Ranch to city life.
In rhyme.
And isn’t life just a little bit better in rhyme?

North Pole Society is uncomplicated.
But everything the Elves of the North Pole hold dear is about to be challenged and, perhaps, changed forever.
Can a society that has survived – even thrived – based on love and goodwill, endure the advent of modern ideas. Incentives programs?
Buzz words?
Can generations of innocence, helpfulness, friendliness and generosity outlast the introduction of an effiency expert?
Will the love that forms the beating heart of North Pole Society survive? 
In her long-awaited sequel to (Kris Kringle’s) Magic, Diane Stringam Tolley has created a tale of friendship, perseverance and the enduring power of love.

All Shapes and Sizes

Look at this!
I caught a snake. Garter variety.
The banks of the river abounded with such things, as well as frogs, tadpoles, minnows and other slithery, slimy denizens of the milky water.
It wasn't unheard-of for my mother to be the calm recipient of a bullfrog, salamander, and cup full of minnows . . . all on the same day.
Okay, so, squeamish, I wasn't.
And my mother was a saint.
But snakes, we usually had a harder time catching. Actually laying hands on one was a treat. An achievement.
I know. We probably should have explored other hobbies . . .
I was understandably excited about my snake. I wanted to share.
I decided to take it to school.
I can't remember just how I managed this. Perhaps my Mom helped me by putting it in a shoe box. But it, and I, somehow managed the long bus ride.
Then I was the center of attention as everyone on the playground crowded in for a peek. In fact, my snake was so popular that my teacher arranged for me to take it to every classroom to show the kids.
For the first time in my young life, I was the center of attention. I was popular. I was famous.
Yes, well, it rather went to my head . . .
To make my snake a bit more visible, the principal offered me his own glass fishbowl. Now it could be seen at all times.
I thought it was terrific. I don't suppose the snake was very impressed.
I walked into each of the six classrooms, filled with importance. Then I would talk about my snake . . . ummm . . . knowledgeably.
"This is a garter snake. I caught it by the river. It's kind of cold and . . . smooth. It can swim. It eats frogs and other stuff."
Hey, I was six. That was as knowledgeable as it gets.
Then I would reach in, grab my snake by the end of its tail and lift it out for everyone to see. The snake would, obligingly, stretch up and flick its tongue.
This went on for the lower five grades.
Then, the last class. My oldest brother Jerry's class. The grade sixes. The big guys.
I was more than a bit intimidated.
I carried my sideshow exhibit into the class and went into my spiel. Then I lifted my snake. And stared in horror as the last two inches of its tail . . . broke off.
The poor thing dropped to the floor and began a frantic slither towards somewhere else.
Several girls screamed.
I quickly pounced on it and scooped it up, dropping it back into the goldfish bowl.
Order was restored.
Then I realized that I was still holding the piece of the snake's tail. Flushing, I dropped it in with the snake, then quickly seized the bowl and scurried out of the room.
My 15 minutes of fame were over.
For the rest of the day, my snake sat on the shelf at the back of my grade one classroom.
After school, my Mom was waiting for me at the bus stop. She loaded my brothers, George and Jerry, my snake and I into the car.
On the way out of town, she pulled over into the campground beside the river.
"Okay, Diane," she said, "let the snake go."
I stared at her, horrified. Let him go? But he was mine! We'd been through so much together!
She nodded.
Heaving a sigh, I opened the car door and carried my prize to the riverbank.
I looked back at her.
She nodded again.
Now, I should point out here, that I could have simply taken my slithery friend out and laid him in the grass beside the river. Or even set the bowl down and let him crawl out there.
But no. Instead, I made my way down the very edge of the river and tipped up the fishbowl to drop my companion and friend into the milky water.
And unwittingly added an exciting postscript to the story.
Because I also dropped the fishbowl.
My principal's fishbowl.
I did try to make a grab for it, but it quickly slid out of my reach and disappeared. I stared at the place where it had last been seen.
I was in so much trouble.
I remember looking at my mom, horror written across my whole face. She just rolled her eyes and shook her head.
She was so accustomed to me.
She must have sorted things out with my principal, the first of many such exchanges, because I never heard anything of it and it was soon forgotten.
But I often think of my little garter snake friend and wonder just what happened to him. Dropped into a foreign world, miles from his home. Part of his tail snapped off.
Did he survive? Even prosper?
I like to think so.
But more thought provoking is the fact that I had absolutely no fear when catching and handling my snake.
If he had been a chicken?
Totally another story.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Got Clean?

Okay. I admit it.
Sometimes kids have a strange idea of what’s funny.
Let me explain . . .
My brother, George, and I loved watching TV.
Like millions of other baby-boomers before and after us.
And, between our beloved slices of Gunsmoke, Woody Woodpecker, Bonanza, Ed Sullivan and Disney we were electrified by the ads for snowier wash, whiter teeth, hot drinks good to the last drop, better cleansers, stickier bandages, fluffier pastries, softer bread, happier soft drinks and new, new, new contraptions.
We had the jingles - indeed most of the ads - memorized.
Often, putting them to our own distinct uses.
George had a beloved T-shirt.
One he insisted on wearing daily until it was forcibly (sometimes surgically) removed for cleaning.
When it was returned to him, clean and fresh, he would happily re-don it for yet another cycle.
Said shirt justifiably began to show the wear.
Tiny holes started to appear along the seams and in a couple of places on the front.
These were happily ignored until, inevitably, they grew to sizes where ignorance could not justifiably be bliss.
And this is where he and I thought things took on a whole new hilarious angle.
Mom had been agitating for George to retire his adored shirt.
George was resisting.
Their dialogue was ongoing.
Finally Mom took the shirt and held it up, pointing out the obvious wear and gradually widening holes.
George took it and he, too, held it up. “This shirt is not only clean,” he said. He placed his eye up to one of the larger holes. “It is clean clear through!”
Okay, the makers of Fab laundry detergent probably didn’t have holes in mind when they created their ads. But George and I thought it was totally apt.
And totally hilarious.
Mom? Not so much.

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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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I Am A Reader, Not A Writer

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Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!

Grab and Add!

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