Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Another Stringam Car Trip

Ready to go.
Pictured L to R: Anita, Blair, Dad, George, Jerry,
Missing: Mom, Chris, Diane and the potty.

Traffic has slowed to a crawl.
Not a usual thing for a small, hard-topped, two lane, secondary road twisting through the foothills of Southern Alberta.
We join the end of a line of cars.
"Huh. Weird," Dad says.
"What on earth could be causing this?" Mom asks, spitting on a Kleenex and cleaning the face of her youngest son. "Careful with that chocolate bar, son, you're getting it on your father."
"Can't see, yet," Dad says. "But the line will be straightening out soon and . . . ah!"
The line has done so.
Disclosing the culprit.
A house.
White clapboard.
Two storey.
Not something you see in the middle of the road every day.
Usually that's reserved for bungalows.
The house creeps along.
We creep along behind it, more cars joining us every minute or so.
Like the growing tail of some large, unwieldy, blockish monster.
"I wonder if he knows we're here," Mom says, pulling the potty out from under her seat. "You'll just have to go while we're moving, dear," she says. "We don't want to lose our place in line."
Right. Because we'll be left behind?
As the rest of the line of traffic moves off at 20 MPH.
"Mom! I hate going when the car is moving!"
"Well, try not to miss."
"How long till the turn?" she asks Dad.
"At this rate? About three days," Dad says.
We are heading to our relatives for dinner.
I'm beginning to hope that their food tastes 'just as good the second day'.
Mom opens her car door and dumps out the potty, then wipes it out with the spit Kleenex and stuffs it back under her seat.
She drops the tissue into her handy-dandy paper bag trash receptacle and glances around at her brood.
Four are scattered across the wide back seat.
Important note: Seatbelts and safety measures hadn't been invented yet.
Jerry and George are arguing over a car magazine.
Chris and Diane are reading. Diane is getting rather green around the gills.
Mom frowns. Might be a good time to distract Diane.
She glances out the window, hoping to spot some horses.
The only thing known to pull Diane from a book.
Blair is happily parked in the front seat between Mom and Dad, looking at the pictures in one of his brother's comic books.
And Anita is perched on Mom's lap, nose against the window.
"Mom! I wanna drink!" George has given up trying to wrench the magazine from his older brother and is now sitting with his arms cross on the back of the front seat.
"Okay. I just get one here . . ." Mom mimes taking a glass and turning on a tap.
"There you go!"
"Mom! A real drink!"
"There's plenty of water in the well!" Dad says.
"You can have some of mine!" Anita says, offering her bottle of cream soda.
George looks at the pale-pink liquid that started out a brilliant red.
"That's okay," he says. "I can wait."
"Mom? I'm car sick!" Diane has emerged from her book on her own.
Not a good sign.
Again the potty comes into play.
Diane now sits with it on her lap.
"How much further?" Chris has come up for air.
"A year or two," Dad says, leaning forward and peering through the front windshield.
"Let's play a game!" Mom says. "How about 20 questions?"
"Okay! I've got it," Jerry says.
"Animal, vegetable or mineral?"
"Animal."
"Alive or dead?"
"Alive."
The game is played to its usual conclusion.
Elvis.
And another round starts.
Blair and Anita have fallen asleep.
Mom rescues the offensive cream-soda bottle just before it tips over. She again opens her car door and discretely empties it out onto the road.
I imagine, for a moment what it must be like to follow our car at 20 MPH. Heads bobbing about. Car door opening periodically to expel various fluids.
"Oh, look!" Dad says. "The house is pulling over!"
Mom laughs. "Now that's not something you hear often," she says.
Mom always manages to keep her sense of humour.
It's a gift.
Slowly, the line of cars begins to pull out around the house.
Like a stream finding its way around a large, recently introduced stone.
Dad pulls up beside the house driver and gestures to Mom, who rolls down her window.
"Why don't you get a travel trailer, like everyone else?" Dad says, with a grin. "You'd find it immensely easier!"
"I'm so sorry!" the driver says. "Were you following me long?"
About four years, three months, twenty-one days, and thirteen hours, Dad thinks.
What he says is, "Oh, no. Not long!"
They wave to each other and we are off.
Just another family car trip.

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