Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Summer in a Quonset Part Three

Yep. We were living in the feed lot.

In the summer of 1968, my parents sold our home ranch out on the south fork of the Milk River, and bought another place nearer to town.
There were myriad challenges.
But the most important was that it was bare land.
Absolutely everything needed to be built.
Construction was immediately started on a new home, and at the same time, on several barns, corrals and outbuildings.
The ranch buildings arose much more quickly than the house.
And that left us in a further dilemma.
Where to live.
The people who had purchased the ranch were justifiably anxious to take possession and our new house was far from completion.
My parents decided to move us into the newly-completed, steel-ribbed quonset.
It was an adventure.
And it's told here by my mother, Enes, from her journals.
(If you missed part one, you can find it here. And part two here.)

The Long First Night

It was long past our bedtime before we managed to get everyone settled.
The shed had become very chilly with the setting of the sun and we found that we had to dig out many extra blankets.
It was really quite snug in our beds.
There is really something quite special about your own bed. If you could take it with you wherever you went, any place would feel like home.
As we lay there quietly listening to the last sleepy little giggle, though no words were spoken, I know we shared the same thoughts. Surely this was the most unique experience of our lives and certainly a satisfying solution for now.
And we were soon asleep.
I woke with a start!
Something had awakened me.
Something weird.
The shed was very dark and all I could see was the sky-light.
For a moment I couldn't seem to collect my facilities.
Where was I?
And what had startled me?
It was very still - a deafening kind of stillness.
Then, suddenly, a scream pierced the silence.
It was half wail, half screech and it was very close.
My hand clamped on my husband's arm and he stirred.
Then we were mesmerized by another wail - much longer than the first.
"What is it?" I whispered.
"I don't know!" he replied, "but it sounds like an animal of some kind."
Again the night stillness was shattered by this weird weeping sound.
It was right outside the shed wall.
We must surely have invaded the private territory of some wild beast. His voice was fraught with angry indignation.
I imagined a huge cat-like monster, his teeth and eyes glistening.
"What are we going to do?" I gasped.
"I'm going out to shoot him!" said my practical husband as he proceeded to dress in the dark. "I have a gun in the pick-up."
I lay back, shivering and pulled the bed clothes up around my chin. "But he might . . ." I couldn't manage to form the words.
"I'll be careful," was his parting shot and I watched helplessly as his dim form vanished into the thick darkness towards the door.
The door slid open and shut.
The screaming had stopped.
The stillness was awesome.
Every nerve and muscle tense, I huddled under the covers.
Suddenly, the moon shone through the cloud cover and the sky light brightened. I could see the monster shapes of furniture in the dim light.
One of the children stirred and laughed weirdly in his sleep.
The shed was suddenly like a huge, black cave and I felt unknown things lurking in its murky depths. At any moment, bats would descend in a cloud, their sharp teeth and claws poised.
Another scream echoed through the night. This time, its creator seemed to have moved away toward the river.
Where was my husband?
The clock on the head board of our bed said 1:30 A.M.
For an eon, I lay there waiting for the sound of the snarling monster attacking.
I could just picture my helpless mate walking into a trap.
One apprehensive hour later, Mark returned and as he undressed and slid his cold feet into bed, I learned through a whispered exchange that he had spent the whole eternal hour observing safely from the cab of the truck!
He had seen nothing.
The children slept through it all. The events of the day had tired them more than we thought.
Some time in the wee hours of the morning, I slept.
But with the coming of daylight, the young bulls to the south of the shed began to test their voices in preparation for the 'bull chorus'.
Further sleep was obviously out of the question.
First we had the deep bass. Then the baritone. Then the alto.
Then the tenor broke away in careless abandon. He sounded like the braying of an ass.
Morning also set off another reaction.
As the early sun's rays hit the quonset, we became the unwilling audience to the pop-pop-popping conversation of hundreds of bolts in its ribs.
The temperature change had obviously set off a chain of protests from our little bolt friends.
Day had come.


  1. Sounds like a horror show... what the heck was that creature?

  2. I'm waiting in anticipation for the next installment!

  3. Looks like someone is getting into the Halloween spirit already. Perfectly spooky story!


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