Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Would You Like Some Butter With That?

Fresh, Tasty, and good for the hands . . .?
Picture credit:

We had manners in our family.
Bad manners are still manners, aren't they?
Let me restart.
We had good manners in our family.
And some bad dinnertime pranks.

The evening meal was always special at the Stringam Ranch.
Mom was a terrific cook so the food was always good.
The conversation, with two parents, six kids and assorted hired men would be endless and, if not brilliant, at least entertaining.
The day's ranchwork was done, so the men were happy and relaxed.
And the pranks and hijinks were ongoing.
There were several tricks that ocurred regularly.
But the favourite had to do with the butter.
With such a large group at mealtimes, much passing of dishes from hand to hand was expected.
And necessary.
Most of it was done politely. With a nod and a 'thanks'.
The meal proceeded smoothly.
But occassionally, someone would decide to 'liven things up a bit'.
And this usually accompanied the passing of the butter.
Now, the butter at the Stringam table was always freshly churned and delicious.
And went with everything.
So it was passed frequently.
Now, I should point out here that it was good manners to receive a passed dish directly, especially if one had asked to have it passed. Thus, if one requested the butter, one should then take the dish right from the passer's hand.
Common courtesy.
But the trick at the Stringam table was to pass it in just such a manner that the receiver's thumb would get stuck in the butter.
Okay I don't know what that's called.
Common dis-courtesy?
Or just plain funny.
Inevitably, nearly everyone at the table would end up, at one point or another, with their thumb in the butter.
Good thing Mom made everyone scrub up 'doctor style' before meals or we might have gotten more than nutrition served with our food.
But I digress . . .
With 'butter dipping' a common prank, it was inevitable that the receivers would get more and more creative with their receiving.
A nod and a simple gesture to set the butter down on the table was usually the first attempt.
It was inevitably ignored as the passer waited patiently for a more polite method of transferrance.
Finally, the receiver would put out his or her hand, thumb tucked as far out of sight as possible.
It can be done.
It just isn't very comfortable.
Inevitably, no matter how hard the receiver would try to avoid, one digit or another would go in the butter.
And the passer would happily return to their meal, content in the knowledge that they had contributed to the evening's fun-filled mealtime.
While the receiver carefully wiped their fingers on their napkin.
Oh, I forgot to mention – napkins were a necessary part of the every meal.
Moving on . . .
Finally, because the prank became such a common part of the meals, people stopped receiving.
The passer could sit there forever with the butter dish in their hand.
No one would reach out to take it.
In fact, people had been know to simply put out their knife and take a bit of butter while the passer was still holding it.
Unheard of!
But clever.
But one night, my brother forgot the new order of things.
He asked my Dad for the butter and put out his hand to take it.
He did remember to tuck in his thumb.
Dad regarded the outstretched hand for a moment.
No visible thumb.
What to do?
Finally, he simply turned the entire dish over and set it, butter side down, on Jerry's hand.
Mission accomplished.
Dad went back to eating.
Jerry went to wash.
After that, no one went butter-dipping anymore.
Who could top that?


  1. Dads can get away with that! :)

    I can see why you made sure to have napkins at the dinner table. Great story!

  2. OH MY STARS! Seriously, I wish I could see those kind of events ... hilarious!

  3. I love your stories...I call it "or just plain funny" :)

  4. Great story! I wish I had family memories like these!

  5. How funny, such great sense of humor your family had:) I think my mother would have flipped if my Dad flipped over a plate of butter, but then she doesn't have a sense of humor like yours did:)LOL


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