Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sunday Suit



We are and always have been, a Church attending family.
We love it.
And I was raised to believe that, to show proper respect, we should always go dressed in our best.
And that included our children.
So from their very earliest days, our girls were in dresses.
Hair neatly done.
And our boys in suits and ties.
Sometimes, when we left, our home was in complete disarray.
Okay, often, when we left, our home was in complete disarray.
But we were neat and clean.
Even the youngest of us.
When our oldest boys were born, I made each of them a white shirt and tie and a three-piece suit; jacket, pants and vest.
They looked . . . dressy.
At least I thought so.
The clothes were handed down to our youngest son, who came some years behind.
So, at the age of 14 months, he was dressed for church in a little brown suit and vest, with a white shirt and dark red tie.
He looked like a miniature accountant.
All he needed was the tiny briefcase.
Moving on . . .
During our worship service, he wet his diaper.
And everything else below the waist.
Rats.
I took him to the Mother's room to make repairs.
Unfortunately, all I had to put him in was a fresh diaper.
The pants would have to go home for cleaning.
Fortunately, all of the upper garments has survived.
Now, my son was dressed in a white shirt and tie. Vest and jacket.
And diaper.
Okay, the accountant image was shot forever.
Or maybe not . . .
We headed back to the chapel.
He, happy to be dry once more.
Me, praying that no one would notice my baby, dressed in a less-than-normal manner.
My prayer wasn't answered.
We quietly opened the door and slipped inside.
So far so good.
We crept towards our bench.
Still well.
I released his little hand to slide into the bench.
And that's when the little cretin saw his opportunity to escape.
Giggling shrilly, he dashed up the aisle towards the front of the chapel.
I started to go after him, but stopped when I realized that the entire congregation was now watching us. I stared after the rapidly retreating shirt, tie, jacket and vest.
And diaper.
Torn between stopping the charge.
And admitting that he was mine.
I should point out here, that our chapel has two aisles, one on either side of the large room, as well as a wide space at the front and back.
My son reached the front and started across towards the other side.
Still shrieking happily.
I studied him, trying to figure out the best and fastest way to knock him into next week stop him.
I realized that when he reached the far side, he only had two options. Go back the way he had come, or start down the far aisle.
I was betting on the latter.
As calmly as I could with the entire congregation now ignoring the struggling speaker and watching the two of us, I walked back up the aisle towards the back of the room. Then began to make my way across, paralleling my son's path.
He turned the corner at the front and started down the far aisle towards the back.
Hah! I knew it!
I cut him off at the pass, scooped him into my arms and disappeared through the far door and into the safe, unpopulated hallway.
Still shrieking.
Him, not me.
Though I was considering it.
I collapsed into a chair.
And sighed weakly.
Mission accomplished.
People thought the whole episode was 'cute' and 'sweet' and 'hilarious'.
They were so understanding.
I and my family however, will never forget.
And now we have a whole new meaning for the words, 'Sunday suit'.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Do As I Say!

Our children learn from what they see.
And hear.
Most of the time, it's a good thing.
Occasionally, it's not.
Sometimes, it's just plain fun.
My husby had our twenty-month-old son, Mark, in the highchair.
Eating pancakes.
His favourite.
I was across the room, nursing our two-month-old son, Erik.
All was well.
Everyone was happy.
Then my husby decided to take advantage of Mark's utter absorption in forking pieces of pancake into his mouth and make a quick trip to the euphamism (real word – look it up!).
For a few minutes, Mark was happily engaged.
Then, the pancakes ran out.
Oh-oh.
“Daddy!”
I looked over at him.
He was waving his little fork in the air.
“Daddy!”
No response.
“Daddy!”
Still no response.
Mark changed tactics.
“Da . . . Gwant!”
I'm assuming he meant GRant.
His father's name.
“Gwant!”
Faint sounds of movement from the eupham . . . okay, the bathroom.
Not enough to satisfy Mark, however.
By the way, how did he even know his father's name?
I always called him . . .
“Honey!”
That.
Now there were definitely sounds emanating (good word) from the bathroom.
Laughter.
“Honey!”
Mark had gotten a reaction. With twenty-month-old persistence, he was going to pursue it.
“Honey!”
More laughter. But definitely getting louder.
“Honey!”
His father emerged, still chuckling.
“What is it, son?”
“More pancake, Honey!”
We had created a monster.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

October Blog Hop

Only a few more hours to get your name in for a free copy of Carving Angels!
Welcome to the October Blog Hop, where you can visit new blogs, enter to win prizes, and have a great time!

At the bottom of this post, you'll see a list of participating blogs. Just click on each link, check out the prize, and follow the easy instructions to enter. You can enter on each blog, so it's possible to win multiple times. It's frighteningly easy.


On this blog, you can win ...



To enter, all you need to do is:


1. Become a follower of my blog.

2. Leave a comment on this post and tell me why you'd like to win this prize. If your e-mail address isn't visible through your Blogger profile, please also leave it with the comment so I can notify you if you win. You can enter until midnight MST on Saturday night, October 15th.


That's it! You are now entered. Now please go visit all my friends on the list below. It's almost like trick or treating!

October Blog Hop Participants
1. Tristi Pinkston
2. I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
3. Bonnie Harris
4. Michael D. Young
5. Misty Moncur
6. Debbie Davis
7. Mandi Tucker Slack
8. Mary Ann Dennis
9. Deanna Henderson
10. Laura Bastian
11. Kristy Tate
12. Kristy Wilson
13. Jennifer Debenham
14. Jenny Moore
15. Elizabeth Hughes
16. J. Lloyd Morgan
17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
18. Billy Boulden
19. Scott Bryan
20. Maria Hoagland
21. Shirley Bahlmann
22. Shelly Brown
23. Marcy Howes
24. Lynnea Mortensen
25. Jaclyn M. Hawkes
26. Diane Stringam Tolley
27. Gail Zuniga
28. Betsy Love
29. iWriteNetwork
30. Canda's InkBlast
31. Stacy Coles

Learn more about October Blog Hop here.

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My OCD was given to me

Better Meals!

For the first twelve years of my life, 'cleanliness' and I really only had a nodding acquaintance.
I admit it.
Oh, I bathed. Whenever my Mom told me to.
And I cleaned my room/living quarters.
Again when my Mom told me.
Mom was a clean nut.
But the Christmas of my twelfth year, something happened that changed me forever.
And made me realize that I like things to be clean around me.
Really clean.
Let me explain . . .
We had been invited to the home of some good friends for dinner.
It was exciting.
Families with six kids didn't get invited out very often.
For purely logistical reasons.
At least that's what I tell myself.
Moving on . . .
We drove up and were warmly welcomed into the house.
We stepped into the entryway.
And, for the first time in my life, I noticed dirt.
The house was filthy.
I mean filthy.
You couldn't tell what colour the floor tiles were, or even if there were floor tiles. I honestly think some of them were missing, but it was hard to know.
We were led to the kitchen, where the grand feast was being prepared.
I stopped in the doorway.
Frozen.
Or stuck.
It was hard to tell the difference.
Both the counter and the table in the kitchen were generously coated in the reminder of many, many meals. And things had obviously overflowed more than a few times and dripped down the front of the cupboards to pool on the floor.
The stove was unrecognizable.
Even the walls were a hazy sort of conglomerate yellow-grey. The result of the overlapping of hundreds of filthy fingerprints, splashed whatever, and humidity.
Light was dimly provided by several bare, yellowed bulbs.
Perhaps that was a blessing.
One couldn't quite make out exactly what the rubble was, lying heaped in the far corners of the room.
And under the table.
My parents stepped carefully and cheerfully into the room, already deep in conversation with our hosts.
"Is there anything we can help with?" Mom said. This was her usual and inevitable response when entering anyone's home.
Or garden.
Or feed lot.
Huh. Speaking of feed lots. And cleanliness . . .
But I digress . . .
"Oh, no, Enes, we've got things well in hand," was her response.
Well in hand?!
I'll just keep mine in my pockets, thank you very much.
"Diane, come and help us."
Mom had noticed my hesitation.
But had somehow missed the rising green colour.
"Thanks, Mom. But I think I need to go outside for a moment."
I remember her look.
Suspicion with just a slight touch of concern.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm really not feeling very well."
She came over to me.
I remember the sound of her feet, sticking to the floor with every step.
She put a hand on my forehead.
"Hmm. You seem a little warm. Maybe you'd better join the men in the front room."
The mess went on?
I couldn't bear to venture further.
"No, I really think I'd better go outside."
I was beginning to sound more than a bit rushed.
"Do you need the bathroom, honey?" our hostess asked solicitously.
My eyes widened. I could only imagine.
"Um, no. Just some fresh air."
I bolted towards the door.
And I do mean bolted. I hardly noticed my feet sticking to the floor.
Soon, I was outside in the fresh air.
Happily sitting in the nice clean dirt.
With the family dog.
He and I knew a good thing when we found it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Music Says It All

Son and Grandson

My second son is a large man.
Large.
Six foot eight in his stockinged feet. When he puts boots and a hat on, considerably taller.
And he is a body builder.
He works as a cop in our fair city.
Let me put it this way . . .
No one argues with him.
They just nod politely and do as he asks.
His very first day on the job, he and his partner responded to a knife-wielding incident. When he got out of his car, the 'perp' took one look, dropped the knife and spread-eagled himself on the sidewalk.
Size is important.
But the man inside the uniform is a gentle, loving person.
And tons of fun.
Before he began to serve with the police, he spent eight years with the armed forces, reaching the rank of Sergeant.
And he drove a big truck.
These two points are important.
Moving on . . .
One day, he was on his way home from the army base driving the aforementioned (good word) truck. It was a beautiful, warm day, and his windows were opened wide.
His head was shaved and he had his army kit on.
He looked every inch the soldier he was.
He was 'in the zone'. Listening and moving to his favourite music, blaring from two powerful speakers.
I should mention here that his favourite music probably isn't what people expect to hear from a head-shaved, muscular, giant of a man in army fatigues.
And sunglasses.
In a monster truck.
But pouring from the speakers were The Archies.
And they were singing their hit song, "Sugar, Sugar".
He stopped at a stoplight.
Still grooving.
Then he glanced to his left.
A small pickup was just pulling up beside him.
With three teenage boys in the seat.
All of whom were staring at him.
Up at him.
Their expressions were . . . interesting.
My son grinned at them and nodded. Still bobbing to the rhythm.
The light changed and he drove on.
But the small truck stayed where it was.
I think he frightened them.
Who says you need a weapon to intimidate?
Sometimes all it takes is the right music.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Summer in a Quonset Summer's End

Settled. Finally.

As the summer progressed, new items were hauled into the quonset from the old ranch.
Our summer home began to look more and more like the back yard of a junk dealer.
Soon there was only a foot path past the 'clinic' to the 'living area'.
We had to do more and higher leaping over this and jumping over that to find items that we wanted. But we finally became so efficient at finding things we almost knew which box contained what.
It was like watching a movie to see all the different expressions of our clients as we met them at the door.
I often wonder what went though their minds as they drove up to the quonset and faced that huge sliding door with the shingle hooked to the latch which said: Dr. Mark Stringam. Veterinary Office.
They always knocked and waited. So if they felt a little over-whelmed, they at least had a little more time to assemble their mixed feelings and shattered thoughts.
A quick survey never failed to bring a look of shocked amazement.
It usually took a few seconds to pull themselves together.
"Everything is sure handy, isn't it?"
"Imagine! Everything you own right here!"
"Sure is cozy in here!"
We had set up our clinic in a corner of the quonset next to the double doors.
And right next to our 'living room'.
Our examining table was three boards on two saw horses.
Clients brought their animals to be examined and we dispensed drugs right there.
One day, we had just managed to straighten the bed covers when we heard a car drive up.
A friend knocked, and then brought in his dog for a distemper shot.
Before we could guess the animal's intentions, he had made a bee-line for the corner of our couch, lifted a leg, and sprayed all over it.
Our friend was so horrified, he apologized for his dog every time he saw us for months afterward.

But all good things must come to an end.
An early snow storm was predicted.
The quonset was chilly in the 'warmer' summer months. What would it be like with the world around it encased in ice?
Sub zero.
And that would just be a start.
There was only one solution. We had to move into our unfinished house.
Throughout the day, with the clouds piling up on the horizon and looking more and more threatening, I carried loads of household goods from the quonset to the car and then drove them across to the house.
It was hard, tiring work, but one look at the horizon would always serve to steel my muscles and lengthen my stride.
By evening, we had a cozy set up in the basement, with a tidy fire crackling in the new fireplace and stuff sitting or hanging everywhere.
We could hardly move!
But at least we were warm!
The promised storm swept over us, howling in frustration as it flew past the windows and chimney, trying to find a crack.
But the house was solidly built and we stayed warm and comfortable inside.
Imagining what life would be like back in the quonset on this night.
For the children, this was just another phase of the adventure.
For me, it was a glimmer of hope that one day, soon, I would again have running water and flush toilets.
And a bath tub!
Sheer luxury!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Summer in a Quonset Part Eight

All the amenities of home. In a shed!

As the summer progressed . . .
Our five-year-old, Anita had almost free run of the 'house' and she had learned to dial the telephone.
She couldn't read the numbers but she could count, and, beginning at one end, she could count the holes and dial the number.
I didn't know she could do this and I very innocently rattled off the number of a girl friend upon her request, thinking, "No harm! She couldn't dial it anyway!"
The next thing I knew, she was talking to her friend.
"We are going to visit Mortons this afternoon. You know Mortons. MORTONS! (Very indignantly.) "Mortons! Mortons!" And then in exasperation spelling it out . . . "T-I-T-T, Mortons!"
Well, I discovered she could count, but she couldn't spell. Yet!
She appointed herself Chief - in charge of almost anything - and one was Telephone Answering Service.
When she first appointed herself to this assignment, we were more than a little dubious about her ability to handle the clients. But we didn't want to come right out and tell her that we thought she might not be capable of handling the job - so when the telephone rang, we just tried to get to the phone first.
It turned out to be a race sometimes and we knew that she was beginning to get the message but she wasn't about to give up, either!
So, after a brief counsel, we decided to let her take the calls. Only we would have to give her more advice.
For one thing, there would have to be a little more consideration for the customer.
The Office Secretary would have to change her answering procedure from 'Hello. My Daddy is not home. Goodbye.' to 'Hello, Dr. Stringam's office. He is not here at the moment, but he will be in at such-and-such a time. Can I take a message?'
Then, since she couldn't write, it was difficult to keep everything stuck together right and some of the messages came out mighty strange . . .
"The man said . . ."
"What man?"
"I don't know his name, but he said his cow had pushed herself inside out and would Dr. Stringam please come and push her in immediately!"
We had a man out there somewhere with an emergency! He would have to call back and, hopefully, I could reach the phone first!
Or another time . . .
"A man called."
"Did you get his name?"
"I forgot his name, but his cow is having a calf and he wants Daddy to come right away."
Fortunately, with that one, we found out later that his cow had managed to get into the granary and engorged herself with grain. The 'calving' was a case of bloat!
But we had more counseling with the Answering Service.
The result?
"Hello. Dr. Stringam's shed. He is not here right now, but his mother is! Here she comes now!"
Generally, our customers were very patient with Anita and would exchange a little conversation with her and then ask for me.
Or if I wasn't immediately available, they would leave a number to call. (Though this, too presented a bit of a problem sometimes because the number wouldn't come out exactly right.)
With all of this, it was probably a miracle, but very seldom did a client become irate.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Summer in a Quonset Part Seven

The only existing picture of Mom's 'kitchen' in the quonset.
Behind her are The Shelves.

Our popping bolt friends announced the rising of the sun and we found we didn't need any other alarm. In fact, we weren't just exactly ecstatic about rising at 4 A.M.!
Sleep became impossible as flocks of birds began their daily effort of trying to gain a foot hold on the slippery dome of the shed.
They chirped excitedly as they scratched and slid.
We could see the shapes of their fluffy little bodies and wings as they lit on the sky light.
They were having such great fun sliding and flying.
We snuggled down in our warm beds watching and listening.
Soon, our bull chorus greeted the day with their lusty song.
Where is everybody this fine day!
Where is my breakfast, my grain and my hay?
We quickly shivered into our clothes and rushed through breakfast.
I filled my canning kettle with cold water and set it on the stove to heat while we ate.
I was always anxious to finish dishes and straighten our 'apartment' before a veterinary client came.
On this particular morning a Matt Clemens was bringing his cat for a rabies shot.
He brought him in a sack.
Mark laid the sack on the clinic table (three boards over two saw horses), put on some leather gloves, and began rolling the top of the sack down to the wild cat in one corner.
Two beady eyes gleamed from the depths of the sack.
Before the cat could spring, Mark clamped one hand on the neck and head, and the other hand on his back through the sack.
He extracted the cat and held him out flat on the table.
Then it was my turn to hold the creature.
I had done this many times but my courage had not improved with the practice.
In each hand, I clamped two legs just above the claws and wedged my wrist on the neck of the cat, forcing the jaw over and the vicious teeth away from me.
He flexed every muscle as he strained to be free making a desperate attempt to turn his head and slide it out from under my arm. His head was small and he could turn it almost completely around.
Like an owl.
His sharp teeth were just grazing my wrist.
Just as the needle penetrated into the muscle of his hip, I moved my arm a little to try to get a more secure clamp on the cat's jaw.
The movement released the animal just enough for him to twist his head a fraction more and he clamped his teeth into my wrist.
“He's got me!” I whispered, transfixed as numbness crept through all of my muscles.
Very slowly, Mark said, “Let . . . him . . . go . . . both . . . hands . . . at . . . once . . . quickly!”
I couldn't move!
The cat couldn't move!
There was no pain.
“Let . . . him . . . go . . . now!”
I suddenly came to life and obeyed.
The cat, too, came to life. Extracted his teeth and shot like a bullet off the table and across the floor and up to the highest far away place.
Which happened to be the steel shelves where I had all of my dishes and kitchen supplies.
There he sat, with every muscle tensed for a spring, looking down on us with all the venom of a rattle snake.
Our 8-year-old, Blair, had been watching all the proceedings with much interest.
He suddenly grabbed the sack and said, “I'll get him Dad!”
For a moment, we were so astonished we couldn't move.
The he advanced towards the cat.
I climbed a ladder at one end and Blair climbed the table at the other end and held the sack open near the cat's head.
The creature turned its head and looked at me and leaped right into the sack!
Well.
I thought I had a face that would stop a clock, but I didn't know it would scare a wild cat!
At that moment, my arm began to give me the most excruciating pain.
Feeling faint, I lay down for a moment while Doc called the M.D.
He advised us to get a tetanus shot immediately, which we did.
Three or four hours later, my arm was aching from my finger tips to my shoulder and the swelling was beginning to move into the upper arm.
As night came on I became increasingly nauseated and dizzy.
I can't remember too much about the next three days except the pain and dizziness.
I spent most of the time in bed.
However all 'good things' must come to an end.
At the end of the third day, I was out pulling weeds in the lane of new trees we had planted in May.

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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 . . .

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