Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Sunday, March 1, 2015

When In France...

The skills he learned in France . . .

And cooking.












In his early twenties, my Husby spent two years living in Paris, France.
For a farm boy from southern Alberta, it was quite a culture shock.
But he loved it, and grew to love the French people.
During his years there, he discovered that the French love their food.
Love. Their. Food.
And he found out first hand . . .
During his stay there, Husby became acquainted with a wealthy U.S. national and his family who made their home in Paris.
Wonderful people.
One evening, the father decided to take his family out to dine.
He invited Husby and his companions.
Remember the place where I said ‘wealthy’?
That would become important here.
They went to a five-star, French restaurant.
And when the French say five-star, they definitely mean it.
Our little farm boy found himself in the very heart and soul of Haute Cuisine.
He nervously sank into a chair at one of the luxurious tables and accepted the expertly-flourished menu.
Fortunately, his French was good, so ordering didn’t cause any complications.
The meal came out in courses.
Slow courses.
When I say that the French love their food, I mean it.
And they take time to worship every. Single. Bite.
Finally, the main course appeared.
Husby’s American friend had ordered steak.
Steak was delivered. Smothered in onions and other good things.
Said steak was also very, very rare.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that would have been just fine with me. (Rancher’s daughter.)
But for Husby’s friend, it was simply unacceptable. “Could you please take this back and cook it?” he asked.
The waiter’s impeccable manners did not allow for any outward show of surprise or even opinion. He simply said, “Oui, M’sieur,” and whisked the offending plate away.
A few minutes later, he reappeared, with the same steak on a fresh plate.
Still beautifully displayed.
Still rare.
The friend stared at it, then at the waiter. “Could you please take it back again?”
Now it’s no crime to like your meat well-done.
Most of my family members actually prefer it that way.
It’s just not acceptable when you are in a very fancy French restaurant.
A short time later, the steak re-appeared.
This time carried in with tongs.
By the chef, himself.
“M’sieur,” he said, slapping the steak down in disgust on a nearby plate, “you have murdered that steak!” The man then spun about and marched back to the kitchen, outrage and repugnance (good word) in every step.
For those of you planning on visiting France . . .
The people are wonderful.
The food divine.
The meat, rare.
That is all.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Top(per) This

Chico, not Topper. But you get the idea . . .
Topper. My eldest brother’s horse. The ultimate in challenges.
My world was small. I admit it.
By the age of seven, I had moved through the ‘pony’ stage was ready for something a bit . . . bigger. Certainly more challenging.
My brother’s sorrel gelding was the answer. 
If I could ride him, I would have achieved my greatest goal. By so doing, I would enter the world of the adults. I would finally be considered a grown-up.
Or so I thought.
We were selecting our mounts for yet another round-up. This one to include branding and all of the fun and high-jinks that went with that.
My brother, Jerry, stepped into the corral ahead of me. He lifted the halter he held and approached . . . Ranger. 
Ranger?
My day had come. Before anyone could think of stopping me, I moved to Topper’s side and slid my halter over his alert head. 
So far, so good.
Grooming and saddling took next to no time. A good thing as I was in a fever of impatience.
And then I was aboard.
Wow! The ground was so far away! This horse was a giant! Okay, he would have had to stand on tip hooves to reach 14 hands, but I had been riding a Shetland pony. My measuring stick was slightly skewed.
But I digress . . .
And we were off.
All went well to that point. In fact, all continued to go well as we received our assignments and separated to begin collecting the herds. I was given one of the smaller fields. A measly little quarter section. No problem. Topper and I started off at a brisk trot. I was amazed at how much more quickly he moved than my little Pinto.
I have to admit here that Pinto had one speed.
Slow.
This was living! 
And then . . . that sun. 
In Southern Alberta, at least the corner where I was raised, the early summer days are . . . hot. There are no trees. The sun beats down on the hard-packed earth, turning it into a heat reflector of gigantic proportions. In no time, the heat waves are distorting every horizon. 
And the favourite little blue jean jacket so necessary when you first hit the barnyard is suddenly superfluous. And distinctly uncomfortable.
And really needing to be removed.
With slow, staid Pinto, a simple task. No sooner thought of, then accomplished. He wouldn't even have noticed.
With Topper, another story entirely.
I undid the buttons.
His ears flicked back. I’m almost sure his eyes narrowed. “What are you doing up there, Human?”
I slid one arm half-way out of the sleeve.
A jump. A little kick. “Whatever it is, I don’t like it!”
I stopped moving.
He settled.
I moved, he jumped.
This went on for some time. Then I finally tired of the theatrics and decided to show him who was boss.
I shed my coat entirely.
He decided to show me who was really boss and shed me.
Entirely.
I’m not sure whether I bailed off, or he planted me. It matters little because the results were the same.
My face took the brunt of the landing.
When I came to my senses a short time later, I struggled to my feet and discovered that Topper was actually waiting for me a little distance away.
I approached him slowly. The only speed I could muster.
He watched me, warily.
I drew closer.
He tensed.
Closer still.
He let fly with both back hoofs.
I really don’t know how I managed to survive life on the ranch. I must have a particularly hard head. 
The next thing I remember is one of our hired men, Bud. He had followed the trail of my belongings until he finally discovered me, lying in a very small heap and plucked me from the prairie floor, like flotsam off a beach.
I noticed, with some degree of satisfaction, that he had already rescued my beloved jacket.
Reunited. I may have smiled. I really couldn't feel my face.
Bud set me on the saddle in front of him and I looked down at the horse he was riding.
Eagle.
The delicious appaloosa.
The ultimate in challenges.
If I could ride him, I would have achieved my greatest goal . . .
You can see where this is heading.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leaving (and Arriving) on a Jet Plane

Astonishing.
Kids are observant.
If you don’t believe me, try spending an hour with a three-year-old.
They just don’t always understand what they are seeing . . .
Our goodfriend, Shirley, though a medium plane trip away, spends as much time as she can with her young granddaughters.
She (and they) love it.
She flies into the local airport and her son and his family meet her at Arrivals. Hugs and kisses are exchanged.
And she and her luggage are scooped up and transported to her son’s house.
Everyone enjoys time together.
Then, at the end of her visit, she and her baggage are returned to the airport, where more kisses and hugs are exchanged and she disappears through to Departures.
A fairly mundane – and not infrequent – chain of events.
And one that everyone thought the little granddaughters understood.
During Shirley’s last visit, the topic of transportation came up. Specifically the astounding revelation that “Grandma can drive?!”
Her youngest granddaughter was particularly amazed.
“I didn’t know you could drive, Grandma!”
“Well, I can. I even have a car of my own!”
“Huh. I didn’t know you had a car.” A short pause. Then, “I thought you had a jet.”
Yep.
Our little ones are observing.
They’re just not always putting things together in the right configuration.
Be warned.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Parked

Ha! Parked.
Driving is important.
At least when you live on a ranch a million miles from anywhere.
And it happened early.
Driving, I mean.
As soon as I was able to reach the pedals on the tractor and still hold onto the steering wheel,  I was driving. Mowing. Baling. Stacking. There were lots of reasons to perch me up on 'the beast' and start the engine.
But on a tractor, I had the entire field to turn around in. And on the Stringam ranch, the fields were . . . large.
Just FYI.
At the age of twelve, I graduated to the pickup.
Again, I was limited to travelling in the fields and doing ranch work but I was still driving.
And in control . . . more or less, as I made wide turns about the fields.
On to my story . . .
One morning, bright and early, I decided to go for a ride.
I don't know why.
It was spring.
I'm an idiot.
Take your pick.
Anyways . . .
Because I was still a fairly new driver and driving was still a treat, and because I was basically  lazy, I decided to take the pickup to the far corral where my horse, Peanuts was currently residing.
All went well.
I drove there and parked, spent an hour or so riding in the early morning sunshine, and drove back to the ranch house.
And that's where it all went so very wrong.
I should probably mention that I had gone riding really early. By the time I returned, everyone was still in dreamland.
And remember where I said that I was only accustomed to maneuvering in large spaces?
Well, that would apply here.
I drove carefully up to the carport situated, by the by, directly beneath my parent's bedroom.
And very, very carefully drove into it.
And I do mean 'into'.
Crunch.
Oops.
Frantically, I backed up.
And clipped the pillar again.
I tried to straighten out and hit it a third time.
The truck just kept getting more and more . . . crooked.
Stupid machine. This was going nowhere fast.
And suddenly, standing there in a shaft of early morning light looking like the avenging God of Sleep(lessness), was my father.
Now I should explain to you that my Dad always wears pajamas. Nicely pressed, matching, button-up top with trousers (that Mom cuts off just below the knee and neatly hems).
They are quite a sight.
But I digress . . .
At this time, I only vaguely noted his light green PJ's.
Because Dad. Wasn't. Happy.
I let the engine die.
We stared at each other.
"What the hell is going on here?!" Okay, he's a rancher. Sometimes they say 'hell'.
But only when really perturbed. Oddly enough, it's usually when I'm around.
"It's okay. I can fix it!"
"Diane, get out of the truck!"
"I can fix it, Dad!"
He just looked at me. I knew that look. I'd seen it before.
A few times.
I climbed sheepishly out of the truck and moved towards him.
"What on earth are you doing? You almost shook me right out of my bed!"
"Umm . . . I went for a ride."
"In the truck?"
"Well, Peanuts is clear over . . ."
"I know where Peanuts is."
"Well, I drove over there and went for a ride."
"At five o'clock in the morning?"
"Well, yes."
"Get in the house."
One never moves faster than when avoiding fallout. I knew this from past experience. I disappeared in a heartbeat.
Dad surveyed the damage. There were a couple of 'bruises' on one of the carport supports and a dent in the truck door. (Which popped out later when Dad went to get the mail and slammed the door.)
So the damage was relatively minor if you don't count lost sleep.
Which Dad does.
Sigh.
I want you to know that I did learn to drive.
For real.
But I'll always remember that first time. And my Dad in his PJ's.
Some things you just never forget. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

From the Other Side

They watched as the family picked its way reverently through the cemetery, stopping to exclaim over one headstone or another.
“Look at this one!” the mother exclaimed. “This man served as a soldier in the First World War!”
Her three kids gathered around her and stared down at the marker.
“Ooh!” the oldest boy said. “A soldier!”
The three-year-old looked at his brother. Ooh!” he echoed.
Their sister simply stared, then reached for her mother’s hand.
“Come over here and look at this one!” The father had worked his way to the oldest part of the cemetery.
The family moved toward him . . .
The man snorted. “Look at them! Ooh-ing and ah-ing over the epitaphs!”
His companion smiled gently. “I think it’s charming!”
He looked at her. “Charming?! To wander among the dead, exclaiming over what their relatives thought appropriate to carve on their expensive headstones?”
“In a word? Yes.”
“Pfff.” He turned back to the family. “Look at them, wandering around in their hideously mundane existence! Just look!” He pointed to the youngest son. “He’s picking his nose. How charming is that?”
His companion laughed. “He’s a child!”
“Oh, and now he’s . . .!” The man shuddered. “You know what the difference is between broccoli and snot, don’t you?”
She shook her head. “Maybe I don’t want to . . .”
“Kids won’t eat broccoli!”
“James! That’s revolting!” She made a face.
“Yes. Revolting!” He turned a slightly nasty smile toward the wandering family.
“Well I, in probably what is a lone opinion, think they are precious! I hope they enjoy their time here today. And I dispense with any formalities and give them franchise to make a thorough and enlightening tour of the entire grounds!”
“Hmph! Like they need your permission!”
“Nevertheless, they have it!” She nodded decisively. Her face softened. “We who sleep, dream; wait 'neath marble slabs and blowing grass . . .”
James stared at her. “What are you talking about, Anne?! You didn’t wait fifteen seconds ‘neath marble slabs and waving grass!”
She laughed, rather self-consciously. “Well, I am a bit claustrophobic.”
“Claustrophobic?! How can you be claustrophobic when you’re dead?!”
“Well, you're dead too!” Anne shot back.
“Yes, I am!” James glanced at the family once more. “And here are these awful people stomping around without the least respect for the people they are tramping heedlessly over!”
“They’re not awful!” Anne said. “They’re . . .” She paused, then pointed. “Look!”
James spun around.
The little family had reached the furthest corner of the grounds. A small, slightly overgrown area, rough with tree roots from the encroaching forest growth. The father had knelt down and was pulling carefully at some grass and weeds. “Look at this!” he said softly.
“What is it dear?” The mother and her children crowded close.
“These must be the oldest graves in the cemetery! See this one?!” The man leaned closer. “Sixteen . . . something.”
The mother knelt beside him and bent over, pulling her glasses to her nose and peering over them. “I think it’s a seventy-four.” She nodded. “Yes. I’m sure it is. 1674.”
The father traced the faded carving gently. “James Marion. . . Coville? Goville?”
“I think it’s Coville. See, there has been a part chipped off to make it look like a ‘G’.”
He nodded, then pulled out a small, obviously well-used notebook and scribbled something. “James Coville.” He said. “1674.” He touched the small slab gently. “Well, that’s as good a place to start as any!”
“Wait, Dad!” The oldest boy had moved to one side. “Look! Here’s another beside it, but it has tipped over and is almost covered.”
The man got to his feet and joined him. “Huh. You’re right, son.” He knelt again and pulled away the overgrowth, then brushed off the stone. “This one has been more exposed and is more worn.”
“I can’t make out a date,” the mother said. She traced the stone with reverent fingers. “It looks like . . . Anne?”
“That’s about all I can see, too,” the father said. He stood up and studied the two stones. “They are the only two over here, so I’m going to assume that they are connected somehow and go from there.” Again, he made a note in his book.
The mother nodded. “Good idea.”
The father pocketed his notebook and reached for his smallest son’s hand. “Well, shall we go? I have a feeling that there is a lot of work to do.”
The mother nodded. “Come on kids.”
The family began to pick their way to the entrance.
Anne watched them go, then turned and elbowed her companion. “A penny for your thoughts?”
For the first time in over 400 years, James was silent.

Every week, Delores of Under the Porch Light stands atop her mountain . . . . well, sits at her computer and issues a challenge to those foolhardy courageous enough to accept it.
This week's words?
Expensive, Thorough, Franchise, Dispense, Broccoli, Mundane
-and-
we who sleep
dream
wait
'neath marble slabs
and blowing grass
 What could this suggest but genealogy? :)


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

One Quarter Thief

Me. Sigh.
What you are about to read may be shocking. You may even want to re-think continuing your friendship with me.
I’m a thief.
Well . . . a would-be thief. If I’d gotten away with it, who knows where I’d be now.
Maybe I should explain . . .
I was nine.
Mom was chatting in the front room with one of her friends. Their discussion had turned to something that said friend was interested in purchasing from Mom.
Goods were produced and delivered.
Exclamations of surprise and delight. (Okay, I’m assuming here.)
Friend’s handbag appeared.
Was opened.
And a coin purse came into view.
A number of quarters were counted out and cradled in friend’s hand.
To this point, all was above board, friendly and honest.
But this is where bright-eyed, slightly avaricious Diane came into the picture.
Mom turned to me. “Diane, could you please bring me the money?”
I nodded, my eyes already on the gleaming silver in the woman’s hand. I moved closer and held out my hand. She tipped hers and poured the pile of coins into mine.
And that’s when my heinous plan was hatched.
There were a lot of coins. Surely Mom wouldn’t notice if just one went missing?
Deftly (?), I sneaked one quarter into my other pocket as I turned and walked over to Mom - duly delivering the treasure.
Then, task completed, I dashed upstairs with my booty (ie. Ill-gotten gains), already planning how I was going to spend it.
A few minutes later, I vaguely heard the front door close.
And then my Mom was standing in my bedroom doorway.
“Diane, we need to talk.”
Uh-oh.
She sat on my bed and held out her hand with the quarters in it.
I looked at them. Then at my Mom. “Ummm . . . yeah?”
“Diane, one of the quarters is missing.”
“Really?” My brain started turning frantically. “A quarter?”
“Diane, did you steal a quarter?”
“Umm . . .”
“Diane?”
“Maybe it dropped. You know, when I took the change? On the floor? I’ll go look.” And I escaped out of the door and into the front room where I quickly (before my Mom could get there and see what I was doing) flipped the coin under our recent guest’s chair.
Then, dropping to my hands and knees, I miraculously, ‘found’ it moments later. Holding it out proudly in my hand, I presented it to Mom. “It was there! See?”
Mom nodded and took the coin. Then looked at me.
With a ‘Mom’ look.
Yikes.
“Don’t ever take anything that doesn’t belong to you, Diane.”
“But I dropped . . .”
“Okay?”
I nodded unhappily. How had she seen through my clever subterfuge?
My career as a thief ended that day.
I obviously didn’t have the ‘knack’.
Mom saw to that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Saying Amen

You'd better be thankful for that!
Just sayin . . .
Suppertime at the Stringam Ranch.
Wonderful food.
Great company.
The best part of everyone’s day.
Well . . . most everyone.
Mealtimes on a spread the size of ours inevitably meant the mixing of people of vastly different lives and lifestyles.
There was the family. Mom, Dad, children, babies.
Hired men. Ranging in age from the world-weary, leather-faced, taciturn individual who had spent a lifetime squinting into the sun, to the young, smooth-cheeked, ready-for-anything boy, away from home for the very first time.
And assorted people who simply found themselves in the vicinity when the dinner bell rang; and happily joined the queue heading into the dining room.
A fairly eclectic mix.
All knew they would be treated to the very best of good, ranch cooking.
And that the traditional meal would begin with another, more important tradition.
Thanking the Lord.
Regardless of race, creed or colour, the people gathered around my father’s table to eat my mother’s food, would patiently and solemnly bow their heads as Grace was said.
Further participation was optional.
Case in point:
My eldest sister had just turned four.
And had taken on all the heavy duties and responsibilities associated with that venerable age.
Seated happily among the people gathered around the table for the evening meal, she folded her hands tightly, bowed her curly red-haired head, and squeezed her eyes shut when the prayer was said.
There was a chorus of ‘Amens’.
Chris’ head swivelled around and she pinned the hired man seated next to her with a blue-eyed glare.
“You didn’t say ‘Amen’!” she said loudly.
The man turned slightly red and squirmed in his chair as he reached for the stack of still-warm, freshly-sliced bread.
Chris turned to her father. “Daddy! He didn’t say ‘Amen’!” she said, even more loudly.
Dad paused in the passing of a large bowl of potatoes. “Ummm . . .” he said.
She turned to the other end of the table. “Mom . . .!”
“That’s okay, dear,” Mom soothed.
The now red-faced man managed to make it through the rest of a meal punctuated by the side-long glances from a tiny girl with strong convictions.
I’m sure he had had more uncomfortable meals in his lifetime.
I’m also sure he was wishing he was at one of them.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Landslide

Aerial view.




The day after.
Not far from Calgary, Alberta, and just east of the Crowsnest Pass, lies the small, bustling town of Frank, Alberta, nestled on the floor of a deeply-glaciated valley.
Looming menacingly nearby is Turtle Mountain.
Also nearby is a scene of a destruction of such magnitude that it has never been equalled!
In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, Turtle Mountain collapsed, resulting in the greatest landslide in North American history.
In 100 seconds: at least 76 people were buried alive under tons of massive limestone boulders; three-quarters of the homes in Frank were crushed like balsa wood; over a mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed; and a river became a lake.
Yet, few people have ever heard about it.    - Neil Simpson                                                                        
My parents were driving out to the coast and travelling through Frank Slide was a necessity.
In the years after the tragedy, not much of the rubble had been disturbed. The giant boulders and pieces of mountain lay where they had fallen, a silent testament to those trapped forever beneath.
The road had been cut through and the railway reconnected.
Little else had been touched.
Driving through, one's car dwarfed by the massive chunks of rock, one could easily imagine the horror and heartbreak of that fateful morning.
Unless one was four.
Which I was.
I should mention here that, when our family travelled, the scenery or anything else flying past us outside the car never interested me. Because when I was in a car I was either:
  1. Sick
  2. Oblivious
  3. Sick and oblivious
  4. Asleep
The only thing that could rouse me were the words, “Look! Horses!”
I would leap up instantly, despite being heretofore (real word) comatose and press my nose against the nearest window. “Where!? Where!?”
One or the other of my parents would point out the eagerly anticipated animals.
I would stare at them for as long as time permitted, then collapse back onto the seat with a sigh and return to whatever I had been doing.
I was fairly easily entertained.
But I digress . . .
The road had been long. We had already been travelling for an hour.
I was drowsing on the back seat.
Suddenly, Dad spoke up, “Here we are kids! Frank Slide!”
At almost the same time, my Mom said, “Look at all the rock!”
The tone of voice was the same as what my parents used whenever they pointed out something interesting.
Like horses.
But because the word 'horse' had not actually been used, I was slow to respond.
I must admit that I never even heard my Mom's comment.
I sat up and pressed my face against the window.
I don't know what I was expecting. Dad had said something about a 'slide'.
To me that meant something 'playground-y'.
All I could see were huge rocks.
What kind of playground was this?
Finally, I turned to my parents and said, “Can't see it!”
They burst out laughing.
What was that all about?
Mom pointed out the window. “Can't you see all the rock?”
I glanced outside. “Yeah.”
“Well that's it!”
I looked again. “But I can't see it!”
I don't think they ever figured out that I was talking about the 'slide'.
The real slide. The one Dad had seen.
All they wanted was to look at the stupid rocks.
Parents are so weird.
Perspective.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Magic

He looked at me. “So? What’s your wish?”
I scrunched up my face into my most impressive I’m-thinking-about-it form and . . . thought about it. So many options. So much to choose from. I opened my mouth, expecting something of import to emerge.
What came out was, “Ummmm . . .”
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
He sighed heavily and started tapping on the palm of one hand with a . . . Rats! I knew what it was, but the word ducked around the corner before I could bring it forward. I finally settled for calling it a wand. He tapped on one hand with a wand. “C’mon, lady. Make a wish. I really don’t have all day!”
I blinked and gulped and nodded. Maybe I could try . . . or . . . no . . . what I really wanted . . . Suddenly a brilliant suggestion presented itself. “Could I have a combination? A mixture?” I whispered hopefully.
He shrugged. “Please keep in mind I’m not a wizard,” he said. He scratched his ear and glanced toward the window.
Not a wizard? But I thought . . . I looked toward the window, too. The streetlights had come on and were casting pools of gold on a black street; shining bravely in a dark and moonless night. It appeared that a wind was starting to kick up. I could see bits of litter being blown around. I shivered and turned back.
He was watching me. “Well . . .?”
I took a deep breath. “I’ll have a Double Magic Burger with everything on it except the cheese. And a side order of Onion O’s and . . .” - I again glanced outside - “. . . a Wizard-size mug of chocolate.”
He dropped the spurtle (I finally remembered the name of it!) he had been fiddling with to the counter and punched some buttons in the cash register. “Fine. You’re order number 16.” He took the ten from me, efficiently made change and then nodded and looked past me.
I stuffed my change into my purse and quickly shuffled to one side.
“Welcome to Magic Burger,” he said to the person in line behind me. “What's your wish?”

Delores of Under the Porch Light comes up with a challenge once a week. A word challenge. One never knows what it will be, except that it will be fun! Tricky, tricky Delores.
This week's challenge?
a wisha wanda wizarda dark and moonless night
This is what I did with it. Go to Delores' and see what her other minions have created!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pie a la Mud

Mmmmm...

I've used many, many recipes in my life.

Starting with simple: crackers and cheese.
And, believe me, you have to get that one just right . . .
To more complicated: hot dogs.
And I'm sure I don't have to explain the vital importance of the meat to bun ratio. And I won’t even go into the selection and/or serving size of condiments.
But my very first recipe was not nutritious.
Or even edible.
In fact, though it smelled rather good, I wouldn't have fed it to the dog.
Well, actually I did try.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
I was staying with my friend/cousin, Jean.
It was summer.
We had been playing in Aunt Grace's kitchen. Under Aunt Grace's feet.
Aunt Grace had finally had enough and had kicked us outside to play.
Dutifully, we had played.
 Now we were looking for something a little more . . . constructive.
“Let’s make mud pies!” Jean suggested.
Mmm. I like pie. “Okay.”
She found an old pot and we started adding ingredients.
I should mention here that, as we didn't have all of the ingredients for pie, and really weren't completely sure what those ingredients were, we . . . erm . . . substituted.
Back to my story . . .
Dirt. (For flour)
Water. (For water) And I should tell you that you have to get this ingredient just right. Too much and your mud pies are sloppy. Not enough and you can’t do a thing with them.  Just FYI.
Rocks. (Those were the raisins)
Two eggs that we stole from the hen house. (For eggs)
Grass. (For coconut)
We didn't mix any awful things into it, though I did find some dog doo that I was tempted to add.
For flavour.
Jean stopped me. “Diane! If you put that in, no one could eat it!”
Important point.
Finally, we mixed our wondrous concoction and formed it carefully into little blobs on the wall of her mother’s flower garden. Right in the sunlight where our pies could cook and get nice and toasty.
Mmmm. They even smelled good.
I never got to taste our pies.
We were called in to dinner and my Mom picked me up just after that.
But I remember them. And how they would have tasted . . .
Last night, our good friend, Shirley was over visiting.
And told us about her ‘mud pie’ story.
She and her sister had found an old pail.
Added their ingredients.
Stirred well.
Now they were ready for the ‘cooking’ part. But here, Shirley’s story takes a different turn from mine.
When she was young, her family had a chicken coop.
With a little wood stove inside to keep their feathered friends warm in the cooler months of the year.
Hmmm.
Why bother to set their mud concoction into the sun, where the actual ‘baking’ would be iffy, at best.
They would set their creation on the little wood stove.
And boil it.
Genius.
No sooner said than . . .
I probably don’t have to tell you that the flaws in their technique were almost immediately apparent.
In Shirley’s words . . . “It really stank!”
So, a note to all mud-pie enthusiasts out there.
Bake.
Don’t boil.
You heard it here first.

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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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