Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not Just the News . . .

My Dad loved to read the newspaper.
At the breakfast table, after we had finished eating.
Let me rephrase that.
My Dad loved to read the newspaper.
At the breakfast table . . . you get the picture.
Oh, he absorbed the important news stories.
And took note of local and international events and even sales.
But after he had digested the headlines, he would continue to read.
And . . . umm . . . put his own twist upon what he found there.
“Huh. Look at that. Jeffrey James died.”
There would be a pause as everyone in the room tried to decide if they had ever heard that name before.
Finally, some curious soul would ask the question, “Oh? Who was Jeffrey James?”
“Haven't got the slightest idea.”
There would be a general groan and much head shaking.
But that's my Dad.
Sometimes he would embroider a story, improving it for our benefit.
And it wasn't until the story got too outlandish that we would realize it.
“Well, it says here that they're planning a new bridge across the Old Man River near Fort Macleod.”
Again, someone would take the bait. “Really?”
“Yeah. Four lane. The works.”
“Well, it is the Alaska Highway. They probably need the improvement.”
“Well, that'll be nice.”
“Yep. It's just going to hang there. Suspended. Be hard to get on and off of.”
At which time, he would get a smack on the arm.
Or a platter of scrambled eggs upended over his head.
Either or.
Sometimes, Dad would cut the story out of whole cloth.
“Our taxes are going up.”
“Oh, no!”
“Yep. They need the money for a new fund.”
“Yep, the town council Mexico fund.”
“What sort of fund is that?”
“It's the fund where all of the town council get to go to Mexico.”
“What for?”
“Well, to hold their meetings.”
“In Mexico?”
“Well, that doesn't make much sense.”
Or . . .
“Well, look at that. The President of the United States is going up with the next Moon Mission.”
“Well, that sounds dangerous. Why?”
“I guess he wants to see for himself what all of the excitement is about.”
And, for some time we would think that the story was true.
In fact, we were even known to spread the rumour.
With embarrassing, but amusing, results.
You'd think we would learn.
But Dad wouldn't limit himself to making up stories.
Oh, no.
Sometimes, he would improve the staid old news in other ways.
By inserting his favourite poems.
Have I mentioned that he loves to recite?
Little Johnny took a drink,
But he shall drink no more.
'Cause what he thought was H2O,
Was H2SO4!”
We would nod and smile.
That part, we had gotten used to.
Anyone new to the family, however, would be understandably confused.
Once, my almost sister-in-law was seated at the breakfast table with us.
Dad was hidden behind the newspaper, filling us in on the day's happenings.
Suddenly, his tone changed.
The boy stood on the burning deck.
His feet were in the fire.
The Captain said, You're burning up!”
The boy said, “You're a liar!”
She peered timidly around the paper, trying to see where he was reading.
Finally, “Where does it say that?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “No where, dear. It's in his head!”
And still she joined the family.
Go figure.

But that's part of the Stringam legacy.
To this day, I can't simply read the paper.
I especially have great fun with the classifieds.
I guess I just had too good an example.


  1. As I read this story, I thought that this must be why you are such a great writer - because your dad encouraged imaginative thinking! I love it!

  2. Your descriptions made me miss my older brother, who lives on the other side of the country. He would always just make up the craziest stories ... and *everyone* would believe him. I've got a smile on my face ... and a twinge in my heart because I see him so infrequently because of the distance.

    Love your story!

  3. Well...I get it...I want to join your family :)

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