Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mary (a short story) - Part One

It was a small cabin, hewn from the very stone upon which it stood.
It stood some ways back from the main highway, perched precariously on a small cliff, where the road cut through part of the mountain.
We had blown past it many, many times.
It had always appeared deserted.
Admittedly, we had allowed ourselves only the briefest of glances, hurrying to or from family obligations.
But one could take note of the empty windows. The vacant chimney.
Now, quite obviously, its unoccupied state had changed.
The cabin had come to life and it was showing a brave, cheerful face to the world.
The wide front porch, with its single rocking chair and stone tubs of red blooms looked open and inviting.
Windows gleamed.
The square central chimney blew merry puffs of smoke into the clear air.
My husband slowed down, peering upwards. "Hey, Mare, looks like our little cabin is occupied."
I smiled at him. Our little cabin? I, too, looked up. "It does."
"I've always wondered how one reached that cabin," he said.
"Me, too," I said.
He glanced behind us.
Here, near the cabin, the road twisted through the narrow cutting, disappearing almost immediately behind us. Oncoming traffic was invisible until it was only a couple of car lengths away.
It was a dangerous spot to stop.
My husband pulled over to the right as far as he could and slowed to a crawl.
I could feel the rough stones of the shoulder beneath the tires.
"What are you doing?" I said.
"Here? Someone's going to come around the corner . . ."
"We'll be fine," he said.
I rolled my eyes and clutched the little potted plant I held, but said nothing.
He was studying the steep cliff beside us.
Suddenly, he pointed. "There!" he said.
A small opening had appeared in the wall of stone.
Barely wide enough for a car.
No wonder we had missed it.
He turned into it.
"What are you doing now?" I said.
He grinned. "Going to see our cabin."
"But, honey, we don't know who lives there!"
He glanced at me. "You've always wanted to see it, right?"
"Well . . . yes."
"All right, then."
We were silent as the car labored up the short, steep drive.
It opened up suddenly and we were on a wide ledge of stone.
The cabin stood directly in front of us.
My husband pulled next to an ancient car parked there and shut the engine off.
He opened his door. "Coming?"
I stared at him, then set my plant on the seat and reached for the door handle. "I guess so."
I slid out and stood for a moment, looking at the cabin.
From this angle, it looked solid.
As though it could meet any challenge.
Withstand any threat.
I started to close the door, then spied my plant on the front seat.
For some reason, I reached out and picked it up, cradling it in my arm as I closed the door.
My husband frowned. "What's that for?"
"I'm not sure."
He shrugged and the two of us walked around to the porch, then up a small set of stone steps.
Just as we reached the wide front door, it swung inwards.
Just a crack.
"Are you lost?" a sweet little voice asked from the darkness on the other side of the door.
"No," my husband said. "We drive past here weekly, on our way to my mother's home . . ."
I glanced down at the plant I was still clutching, originally intended for said mother-in-law.
My husband was still speaking, ". . . and we couldn't help but notice that someone was living here. We thought we'd drop in and say hello."
"Oh." There was a pause, then, "Well, that's nice. Please, come in."
The door swung wide. A tiny, stooped old woman appeared in the opening.
"I don't get many visitors," she said.
My husband stepped back and let me go through first.
I sank into a thick, hand-knotted rag rug covering most of the wide, polished floorboards in the entry/living/family room which took up the entire front of the house.
Windows ran on three sides of the room, offering glimpses of the wide porch, the road below and the purple mountains fading into the distance.
A fire crackled cheerfully in the stone fireplace across from the entrance. A large, grey cat was asleep on the hearth in front of it.
A long, horsehair sofa, brightly covered in a beautiful, hand-stitched quilt, was pushed under the windows to our right with a low, highly polished wooden table in front of it. A single, winged chair with a matching footstool held the place of honor in the center of the room, within toasting distance of the warm flames.
A heaped workbasket stood beside it.
The opposite side of the room was taken up by a large quilt frame. An intricate, half-finished quilt was fastened to it.
The walls, stone and wood, were bare, except for the lone picture of two smiling, apple-cheeked children over the fireplace.
It was a warm room.
A cozy room.
I felt instantly at home.
I turned back to the woman, who had just finished closing the door, and got my first good look at her.
She looked . . . soft.
Cuddly soft.
Her figure was plump and gently rounded. Her face unlined and pleasant.
Snow-white hair was drawn gently back into a loose bun at the back of her head. She had a straight, small nose and a tiny bow of a mouth which smiled readily.
Faded blue eyes regarded us with a merry twinkle.
Her whole being seemed to shine with good will and happiness.
I held out my hand. "I'm Mary," I said, "and this is my husband, Frank."
The tiny woman grasped my hand firmly. "Mary is my name, too," she said, smiling. Her blue eyes twinkled. "I won't have any trouble remembering that!"
She pressed my hand between both of hers, then turned towards Frank.
"And Frank. So nice to meet you!"
He shook her hand as well, then cleared his throat uncomfortably.
Now that he had gotten us inside, he seemed to be at a loss.
I shook my head. My big, strong explorer.
Obviously, it was up to me.
I held out the plant. "This is for you," I said.
"Oh!" she clasped her hands together. "Oh, this is lovely!"
She reached for the small pot with trembling hands, then held it tightly and smiled at me. "Thank you, my dear!"
I smiled back. "You're very welcome." I scratched my forehead, feeling suddenly awkward. "Ummm . . . Mary, we're sorry to barge in like this, but we have always admired your home here and wanted to just come and take a peek. We really didn't mean to disturb you."
Mary smiled. "It's no bother," she said. "I watch the cars go past on the road and often wish someone would stop to say hello." She waved a hand towards the front room. "Please. Take a look around."
I stepped towards the sofa and glanced out the window. "You have a lovely view," I said.
"Oh, yes. That is what I love most about this place," Mary said. "My husband, God rest him, couldn't stand it here. Said it made him feel . . . hemmed in."
"Oh, I'm sorry," I said, turning back to her. "Has he been gone long?"
"A few weeks now," she said. "But don't feel bad. We had a long and happy life together." She looked around. "This was my parent's home. I was born here."
"Oh, how nice!"
"Yes, but when I married, my husband's work took us to the city and we lived there until . . ." she paused.
"Until he . . ."
"Yes," she said.
I patted her arm.
"Come. See the rest," she said. She showed us proudly through the little house. The old-fashioned kitchen with its hand pump beside the sink and its wood stove.
The two tiny bedrooms, one on either side of the kitchen, with their equally tiny beds covered several layers deep in more of the hand-made quilts.
It was like stepping back in time.
I had to keep glancing at the electrical wires, obviously a later addition, tacked neatly to the stone and wood walls, to remind myself that we were still in the present.
Mary led us back to the main room. "Please sit," she said, indicating the sofa, "and I'll make tea."
"Oh, I don't think . . ." I got no further.
Obediently, we sank down.
"Could I at least help with something?"
"You are my guest," Mary said. "I'll bring in the tea." She disappeared into the kitchen.
"Now see what comes of being nosey," I whispered to Frank.
He gave me a lop-sided grin.
 In a very short time, Mary was back, with a laden tray. She set it down on the low table, then picked up something.
An old camera, in a worn, leather case.
"I hope you don't mind," she said, "but I get so few visitors that I'd like to record it."
"We don't mind," Frank said.
The two of us put our heads together and smiled obligingly.
The camera clicked.
Mary set it back on the tray and proceeded to serve us tea.
An hour later, we were once more back in our car, waving at the little, old woman as she smiled at us from her porch.
"Well, that was an adventure," my husband said, as he negotiated the narrow drive.
"I thought it was lovely," I said. "After the initial discomfort."


  1.'ve painted a beautiful picture. I can see the cabin, the rooms, Mary....just lovely.

  2. Wonderful story, beautifully told. Thank you so much for sharing it!

  3. Diane, I love your description of the cabin! And I felt like I was eavesdropping on your conversation with Frank! That's how engaged I was. The description of Mary was simply lovely. She sounds much like my granny! The realization made me smile as did Mary's photo taking. Lovely post. I look forward to the next part!

  4. Very nice. Hope the next installment is soon.

  5. I love this Diane! I'm actually glad I didn't have time to read it yesterday, because now I can go up and read part 2 and not have to wait! :)

  6. Diane I answered your question about who you open doors to on halloween, with a video on the word blog. Hope you enjoy it.:)

  7. Oh, I am so missing my mom today ... and this just makes my heart ache for her it felt so real. Lovely...


Thank you for visiting! Drop by again!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
My newest novel! A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Follow by Email

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

Google+ Followers

Networked Blogs

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

About the Mom

My photo

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 . . .

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

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!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?