It should probably come as no surprise that I love children.
And that I had (what I consider) a stellar childhood.
I was raised with peace.
And a lot of adventure.
Today, I'm thinking of those children throughout the world who have none of these things.
And my heart breaks for them.
In my opinion, children should never have to fear.
I donate my money.
I offer them my prayers.
I keep them in my heart.
Today, I'm thinking of them.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Thursday, February 23, 2017
We depended on our horses on the ranch.
They were usually well trained and quiet, something you needed when you worked cattle. A jumpy horse would rile up said cattle and get them nervous.
This made them difficult to handle. They may hurt themselves or just go running in some crazy direction and lose lots of precious weight that Dad had just spent many feed dollars trying to put on their bodies.
Because, let’s face the hairy truth: Cows aren’t the geniuses of the ranching community . . .
It takes many years to make/train a quiet cattle horse.
You start with a colt that is full of lots of energy and you train and train using various techniques to develop a well-behaved horse.
Having said all that, somewhere in the training/breaking process, you have to use the ‘green broke’ horse to work cows as part of their schooling.
Our family had a friend that I’ll call RG, who was in the middle of one of these young-colt/quiet-horse processes.
On a beautiful spring day RG and several members of his ranch crew were taking a large herd of cattle from their ranch headquarters to the spring pasture—a trek that put Dad’s ranch at the half way point.
Our friend dropped by earlier in the day and left his green broke colt, planning to trade his well-trained cattle horse for the green horse at the halfway point. This would give the green horse the opportunity to work with cows, but the cows would be tired and quiet and not likely get excited if the horse got a little jumpy.
I was up at the barn when our friend rode up to exchange horses. He quickly saddled the green horse and mounted.
I guess his horse was not quite ready for any cattle drive because he pulled his head down and started bucking.
Now, initially I thought that this wouldn’t be a problem. RG was a seasoned cattle rancher and he could manage a green horse.
Then I realized that RG was also 75 years old and maybe not as strong as a young rancher.
The horse bucked several times.
I held my breath. With every hop of the horse a word popped into my head.
I hoped and prayed that RG could get things settled before he was piled.
And I would have to call an ambulance.
But RG couldn’t hold on any longer and the horse piled him good. He groaned and let go of the horse’s reins.
My body hurt just seeing him get planted.
It seemed for a brief moment that RG was down for the count and I was afraid that my greatest fears had come true.
I was about to run over and ask him if he was ok when RG pulled himself up, spun around and grabbed the reins of the horse. He placed his foot in the stirrup and swung into the saddle.
It was like a reflex action. I was sure that RG was hurt and would have liked to come into the ranch house for a rest.
I thought: ‘RG is going to be sore tonight.’
Once RG was back in the saddle, his horse settled. He said, “I’ll be back later for the other horse.” Then headed down the road after the herd of cattle.
I watched anxiously as he rode away, not wanting to see a repeat of the piling episode.
I learned something from this: These old ranchers are tougher than my generation.
Marlboro man you ain’t got nothin’ on RG!
It's fun to see stories of the Stringam Ranch from a different set of eyes.
Today's adventure is courtesy of my little brother, Blair.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
When we were growing up, we all had that friend who was just a bit larger than life.
That kid who tried things.
Adults loved them. Kids loved them.
Bad things never seemed to affect them.
They lived a charmed life.
And we sidekicks desperately wished we could be the same.
Stu Stories, the Adventures of Dirt Clod and his sidekick Bird Bones is a fun, crazy, highly entertaining series of adventures featuring just such a kid.
Stu Sanderson, alias Dirt Clod.
Who, on his way to becoming an eighth-grade legend, challenges knights, does magic, kidnaps the teacher’s marker box, reads minds, disappears in the middle of class . . .
And never uses a door to enter his home.
Even when life goes horribly, terribly wrong, Stu never loses his charm. Or his sense of humour.
I want to be just like Stu.
Tuesday, February 21, 2017
Spiders and I get along very well.
As long as there is space between us.
Lots and lots of space.
When I can see them ‘over there’. And I’m quite sure when they can see me ‘equally over there’.
Perhaps we could call it a mutual respect? Reverence? Esteem?
Nope, I think ‘aversion’ fits in here quite well . . .
When I was in grade seven, my seat was the last in the row next to the windows.
As far from the teacher as I could be and still be considered ‘in’ the class.
On this sunny day, a large spider had been happily parked in his web high up in the window closest to my desk. For a reason known only to his tiny little spider brain, he decided it was time to leave said window, travel down the wall and begin a journey across the floor.
Now, up to this point, my eyes had been glued to the little eight-legged cretin. That whole ‘over there’ scenario (see above).
But just as he reached the floor and started to cross between me and the student in front of me, the teacher asked me a question.
Requiring my attention.
You’ve been ignoring me this whole morning and you ask a question now?!
It was a dilemma. Fear of the teacher vs fear of the spider.
Hmmm . . . that’s a toughie.
I decided on the half-way approach. One eye on each.
Yeah. It didn’t work.
I gave a bit too much attention to the teacher and lost sight of my busy little friend.
Partway through my answer, something touched my leg.
I am not making this up.
My brain equated said touch as ATTACK OF THE DEADLY SPIDER!!! EVERY MAN (or woman) FOR THEMSELVES!!!
I leaped up out of my chair and did a week’s worth of cardio in only four seconds, to the amusement of my fellow students and astonishment of the teacher. Finally, seeing no spider, I returned to my senses.
And my seat.
The spider never appeared.
I figure that means one of the following scenarios:
1. My impromptu tarantella flung the little monster to the far side of the sun.
2. He was never on my leg. Which also raises the question: What—or who—touched me?
3. Spiders don’t exist and are merely little brain aberrations. (Preferred.)
Which do you choose? And what scares you?
P.S. I also have a little ceremony in which I shake out my shoes before putting them on. You never know where those sneaky little beggers will be hiding.
There is a lot of 'stuff' going on in the world.
You won't find any of it here.
I want this blog to be a little oasis of peace and good humour.
Thank you for visiting!
Monday, February 20, 2017
It's time for 'Poetry Monday' again!
Let's face it, Mondays need the help!
In the Beginning:
When Father made the donkey, He said, “Fifty years is yours!”
“And you’ll eat only grass and do all the heavy chores.”
“And you will not be known as the ‘sharp knife in the drawer’ . . .”
The donkey said, “That time’s too much, gimme twenty years. No more.”
Then Father made the dog and told him he’d look after man,
He would be known as man’s best friend and serve the best he can.
He’d eat whate’er they gave him and live twenty years. Plus five.
The dog said, “Twenty-five’s too much. Just ten I’ll be alive.”
Now Father thought He’d have some fun and so the monkey made.
Who’d jump around from branch to branch there in the jungle glade.
He’d silly act and silly walk and live twenty silly years.
The monkey said, “That’s twice too much. For ten, I’ll volunteer.”
And then when he’d made the others, Father finally got to man.
He said, “You’ll be a thinker. With a twenty-year lifespan.”
“You’ll dominate the others, be the top guy everywhere.”
But man, he said. “No disrespect, but hold your horses there.”
“Twenty years is not enough, so can we make a deal?”
“The creatures cast their time away, those years I’ll gladly steal.”
And Father nodded thoughtfully and said, “That sounds okay.”
The two shook hands, their bargain made, and still it stands today.
So, man lives twenty years as man, then to an adult, turns,
And lives his thirty ‘donkey’s years—his daily bread he earns.
Then caring for his house and eating anything he’s given,
He spends his fifteen ‘doggie’s’ years, just thinking he’s in heaven.
It’s time to use his ‘monkey’s' years soon after he retires,
To silly be. And playing like his hair's been set afire.
This last decade, he gets to do the ‘dos’ he never ‘dids’,
This time’s the best of all, he spending it with his grandkids!
Sunday, February 19, 2017
|Me. Far right, second row. Renee, directly behind me.|
One of us was perfectly dressed.
It wasn't me.
I'm a horrible person.
I mocked/made-fun-of someone.
I have repented . .
It was my first day of school.
I was breathlessly, happily, finally in grade one.
I had just enjoyed my first bus ride.
It was bumpy and dusty.
I had been duly delivered to the sidewalk outside my brand new school.
Where I stood in indecision.
Okay. The other kids were lining up at the doors.
A tall, slender woman was calling for all of the "Grade Ones!"
I saw several kids about my size line up beside her.
The bell rang and Miss Warnoski turned and went into the school.
We all followed.
In Miss Warnoski's room, we toted our book bags (mine was homemade by my Mom) to our first desk.
I was in the second row.
Second seat back.
It had my name pasted onto it.
D-i-a-n-e S-t-r-i-n-g-a-m. I spelled it out by tracing with a finger.
Yep. That's me!
I watched to see what the other kids were doing.
Okay. I could do that.
I began to pull out thick, red pencils and half-lined scribblers.
Cool. There was a cubbyhole under the desktop that could hold a mountain of stuff.
Soon it was home to my stuff.
I hung my bag over the seat back, sat down at my desk, folded my hands together on top, and let my legs swing.
School was a breeze.
Miss Warnoski began to teach.
Okay, not such a breeze.
Then, it was time to line up for Recess.
The great unknown.
We filed back outside. And kids began to run and play.
This was Recess?
Pffff. What was I worried about?
This was just like playing with kids at home.
In fact, I recognized some of the kids from playing at home.
Suddenly I was in my element.
And that's when the trouble started.
I should point out, here, that I didn't always get into trouble during recess.
It just seems like it.
Moving on . . .
There was a tall, very slender girl in my new class.
She had long, silky, platinum-blond hair, perfectly groomed.
And she was dressed in the very pinnacle of fashion.
Something that would remain a trademark with her throughout our school years.
And something that would pass me by throughout . . . you get the picture.
Today, she had on a poofy pink dress.
Which I secretly thought was very pretty.
And of which two or three of the other kids were making fun.
They called out jeers and snide remarks.
A five-year-old's version of insulting.
And none of which I can remember.
Probably a good thing.
But it looked like fun!
I would join in.
"Renee, you look like a big, poofy candy floss!"
Renee just smiled. As she had been doing all along.
And suddenly, I didn't feel all that clever.
In fact, I felt stupid.
I had made fun of someone.
And I didn't like it.
I handled my new feelings of embarrassment and chagrin with aplomb and maturity.
I went and hid.
Till the bell rang and Miss Warnoski came to gather all of us.
I've forgotten much of what I was taught in grade one, I'm sure, but one thing stayed with me.
Don't say anything you wouldn't want said to you.
Okay, I never had to worry about anyone teasing me about my 'candy floss' dress. Or any dress for that matter.
But you get the point.
Saturday, February 18, 2017
|The ranch house. Warm. Comfortable. A little too welcoming.|
And my dog, Cheetah, was barking.
Something she did a lot.
Especially at night.
We had tried to train her out of it, but had never quite succeeded.
It was . . . annoying.
Finally, I set my book down and got up to see what could be bothering her.
Coyotes howling in the foothills nearby?
A cow bawling?
Water running in the canal?
Wind in the trees?
I should explain, here, that the Stringam ranch house had a large carport with two walls: one on the west, formed by a wall of the house and one on the north. The south and east sides were open.
The carport joined the overhang over the front door in a narrow strip right next to the house.
It was possible to walk from a vehicle into the house without seeing the sky, but it was tricky and involved negotiating car hoods and garden paraphernalia (good word).
|See? Carport. Without the cars...|
Something I usually did.
Tonight I . . . didn't.
I don't know why.
I glanced out the door into the inky blackness.
There is nothing quite so dark as as a night on the prairies, with no moon.
And the mercury vapour light in the yard not quite reaching the house.
My dog was over in that yard, at the business end of the carport.
Still barking her fool head off.
I sighed and pushed the screen door open.
And did something I had never done before. I turned and made my way, carefully, to the carport, avoiding shovels and other neatly-placed garden tools.
Then I walked between the cars toward my frantic dog.
I paused at the edge of the carport.
Cheetah was just feet away and her barking, if it could be believed, had increased. I could see her clearly now, even in the dim light. Hackles raised. Whole body stiff with intent.
I started forward again, but just as I lifted my foot, a sound shattered the darkness.
And I do mean shattered.
It was the scream of a cougar.
Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you what the sound of a cougar does to one when you hear it ringing across the prairie.
It's . . . scary.
This scream was five feet away.
At the very edge of the carport roof.
I froze instantly.
Then started to back up, one step at a time.
Finally, I turned and sprinted towards the front door, careful to keep roof between me and our unwanted visitor and heedless of whatever might be in my path.
I called my dog and she came running.
The two of us ducked inside, and I banged the heavy outer door shut and locked it.
Mom's voice, “What's the matter, dear?”
I was staring out the window.
Cheetah was now standing behind me. She continued to bark.
“We have a visitor, Mom!” I said over the noise.
“Oh?” Mom appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“Yeah. A cougar is sitting on the carport roof.”
“Are you sure?”
I turned to look at her, thinking about the horrendous (Ooo, great word!) sound. “Fairly sure.”
“Oh, dear!” she disappeared.
I stayed by the window, but could see nothing in the blackness.
My dad appeared. Calm as always.
“Well it was on the carport roof a few minutes ago.”
I stared at him. “You're not going to go out after it?”
“Not while it's on the roof.”
Dad got a flash-light and pointed it out the window.
The roof was snared in a noose of light.
I cautiously opened the door.
Cheetah shot through and into the night. Her barking moved slowly away from the ranch buildings and toward the foothills.
Our visitor was obviously headed home.
Everyone present heaved a sigh of relief. With some visitors, that's just the way it is.
Less is more.
Moving on . . .
I will add that this was the first and only time I can remember a living creature receiving a less-than-exemplary welcome at the ranch.
And not being offered a warm meal.
Oh . . . wait.
I guess that's a good thing.
Mondays are Poetry days!If you'd like to participate, you will be so welcome!I'm writing about BEGINNINGS.
Message me your link in the comments before Sunday evening. Let's do this! :)
Friday, February 17, 2017
|Notice the cute little boys.|
One with hair. One with . . . cheeks.
Ignore the glasses.
When I was expecting my second son, I craved anything 'tomato'. Pizza, spaghetti, anything I could put tomatoes in or on.
But especially tacos.
There was only one problem. I couldn't get them hot enough.
I would buy the hottest salsa I could find.
Add a couple of drops of Tabasco.
Still not enough.
A few more drops. (I admit it. My spice world was limited to salsa and Tabasco.)
And that's the way I ate them the entire nine months.
My baby boy was born without any hair on his head.
I think I burned it off.
This is relevant.
Moving on . . .
After the baby arrived, my husband took his little family out for fish and chips.
Mmmmm. More food.
I had our newest baby in a snuggly on my chest toasty and comfortable.
Just the top of his little, bald head peeking above the dark green corduroy of the carrier.
My dinner arrived.
I looked at the loaded plate. Then at my baby.
I could take the carrier off and lay it on the table, I suppose.
But that would take effort.
And the food was there, waiting to be devoured.
I would just eat.
Over the baby. It was just like being pregnant again.
All went well.
The mushy peas went first. That was easy, I just held the bowl close and spooned.
Then the fresh, deep-fried, perfectly cooked fish.
And finally, to top everything off, the thick, golden brown chips.
And so it went.
Then . . .
Right on the top of my baby's bald head.
What to do?
I could get a wipe and clean it off politely.
Pfff. One swipe of my tongue would take care of it much, much better.
I happily went back to eating my chips.
That's when I noticed the woman sitting at the next table. Looking at me. A frozen expression of horror on her face.
Clucking in disgust, she stood up and marched huffily from the restaurant.
I remember being a trifle embarrassed. And briefly uncomfortable.
Then I shrugged.
In the days before wipes, Mom used to clean entire faces with mom spit and a Kleenex.
It's all a matter of perspective.
Thursday, February 16, 2017
We are impacted by other people. It’s just a fact of living.
Sometimes for good. Sometimes bad.
And sometimes, it changes your life.
I have a friend. I’ll call her ‘Carmen’.
She is one of those people you can call a true friend. Kind. Understanding. Patient. Incredibly talented.
And there when you need them . . .
The small community in which I lived was peopled primarily by farm folk.
Men and women who had settled the land, carved out the acres.
And raised families.
Many of their children had returned to raise their families.
The circle of farm life.
Husby and I were a part of that secondary group.
We had several small children. Husby had a full-time job. I ran the household and sold stitchery.
And we both had community and church commitments.
At times these duties necessitated our leaving our children in the care of others for a few hours.
Mostly, we left them with grammas.
But occasionally, that avenue wasn’t available.
And that was when we would throw ourselves on the mercy of our friends.
The conversation usually went something like this:
Me: “Hi! It’s Diane.”
Me: “I’m sorry to ask you this on such short notice, but I need to ask a favour.”
Friend: “What is it?”
I would proceed to ask the favour and they would accept or refuse and I would (A) Bring them my kids, or (B) Start dialing again.
But there was one household in which the conversation went—a bit differently. ‘Carmen’s’.
There, it more closely followed these lines:
Me: “Hi! It’s Diane!”
Me: “I’m sorry to ask you this on such short notice, but I need to ask a favour.”
‘Carmen’: “Sure! I’d love to!”
See the difference?
Though she probably suspected what I was about to ask, she never made me feel as though my upcoming question was an imposition. (And, let’s face it, it probably was.)
I decided I wanted to do the same.
Be the same.
Make whoever asked me for a favour feel they were doing me said favour.
I’m sure I stumble. I’m sure I have, at times, been ungracious.
But I’m trying.
Someday, I’ll be like ‘Carmen’.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Eldest Granddaughter (hereinafter known as EGD) and I were standing beside the guinea pig cages at the local pet store.
We had made faces at the fish.
Chirped and squawked at the birds.
And had now started down the ‘furry’ aisle.
“Did you know that Gramma can talk to guinea pigs?” I asked her.
Wide-eyed, she looked at me. “You can?!”
I nodded. “Watch.” I proceeded to imitate the low-to-high-pitched squeak common to the modern short-legged furry.
It sounds more convincing than it looks.
Moving on . . .
The little furries in the cage began to react. Kicking their feet and running about.
EGD, mouth open, again looked at me. “You’re amazing, Gramma!”
Hey. I’ll take it where I can get it.
“Great Grampa could talk to chickens.”
Again, that wide-eyed stare. “Really?”
“Yes. He said if you listen really hard, you can understand what they are saying. Especially after they’ve laid an egg.”
“They’re saying stuff?”
“Yep. But you have to listen really hard.”
Sceptical frown. Then, “What are they saying, Gramma?”
I smiled. “Look-look-look-look-look-look-what-I-did!”
Listen closely next time you see a chicken.
Great Grampa was right.