Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's a What?!

See? Really old! And mysterious!

On the Stringam ranch, we had an old garage.
Really old.
It was long and single storied with white, stucco siding and very small windows.
At the north end, there was the big garage door.
Opening into a large, dark room.
Which, in turn, opened into the root cellar, described here.
But the root cellar only took up half of the 'basement'.
The other half was a really strange stable.
Well, I thought it was a stable.
It had dividers, forming stalls, though there were no gates.
And it was deeply covered with straw.
The weird thing about this stable was access.
The only entrance/exit was a small window high up in the south wall of the garage.
I often wondered how one could get any animals down there.
Someone didn't plan that very well . . .
No wonder the straw was clean, even though it wasn't fresh.
The small window, however, made an eminently suitable entrance/exit for children.
Like me.
And their toys.
Like mine.
It was my secret place.
My hiding place.
Where no one could find me.
All right, I admit that it was well within hollering distance of the front door of the house.
And that when my Mom wanted me, all she had to do was shout.
But I felt secret.
Hidden.
The single window had no covering, so, during the day, the room was brightly lit. And there was no danger that one could be shut into darkness by a heavy door.
Like in the root cellar, with which I had a history.
Shudder.
Moving on . . .
One could slide in through the window, toys and all, drop into the thick straw, and spend hours in one's own little sunlit, straw-filled world.
Perfection.
It became the place where I parked anything I didn't want the other kids to get into.
And where I hid the stuff I wasn't supposed to get into.
I once lugged in an entire boxful of old pamphlets and envelopes and stationary that Dad had tossed out.
What a treasure!
I would sneak into my secret room to play with it, certain that, if Dad caught me, there would be hell heck to pay.
I felt so sneaky!
I played happily for months in my secret stable.
Finally, I asked Dad what had happened to the door.
He stared at me, puzzled.
I explained that I had to crawl into the little stable through the window. What happened to the door?
He laughed. “That's no stable, Diane. That's the old ice house.”
Ah. Everything was explained.
Not.
“Um. What's an ice house?
Dad tried to explain to me that every winter, the men would go down to the river which just happened to flow right past the garage, and cut great chunks of ice.
Then the ice would be hauled up to the ice house and passed through the little window to someone waiting inside.
The straw was to keep it cold.
Weird.
I suspected that he was pulling my leg because I had played down there for months and I hadn't seen one bit of ice.
“Why would they do that?”
“Well, they needed the ice to keep food cold.”
“Why didn't they use the freezer?”
“They didn't have freezers.”
I stared at him. How could anyone survive without a freezer?
“They didn't even have a fridge.”
Okay, now I knew he was kidding me.
Everyone had a fridge.
Some people, like us, had two.
I shook my head. “Dad. Dad. Dad. That's just silly.”
And I went back to my playing.
But you know something?
He was right.
Sometimes dads are.


14 comments:

  1. So all that time you thought you were keeping your secrets "on ice" you were in the right place? There are such interesting places on a farm.
    There is an award waiting for you on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'On Ice'. Heeheehee! Good. Very good. And thank you so much for the award! I will wear it proudly!

      Delete
  2. I sure do remember the ice house and I also admit that I found it strange that there was no such thing as a fridge on the ranch, even when I was a kid. I think the first fridge we had showed up shortly before I did, circa 1953.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Fridges were always there for as long as I can remember. I guess the best and most important things were just waiting for us to be born. Right? Fridges. Ford Mustangs. Sigh.

      Delete
  3. Oh yes I remember ice being brought to our house by horse and carriage but not for long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are just ahead of me. I've only seen it on TV or movies. The best is at the beginning of "Meet Me in St. Louis'. Remember the ice man? Loved it!

      Delete
  4. My mom had a scar on her leg from climbing out the ice house window.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I "published" before I finished. Sigh. I had no idea what your building was until you revealed it, and I had no idea what an ice house looked like when my mom mentioned it. Got it nailed, now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I had played in it for months before I knew! I think there might still be toys there!

      Delete
  6. I spent many a happy hour in our hay loft. It smelled good, there was often a litter of kittens to play with, and no one thought of looking for me there. (Maybe they weren't looking anyway!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moms always know where we are. They probably knew (and knew also that you were safe and happy). :)

      Delete
  7. An ice house! I never gave that a thought even though my dad and both sets of grandparents grew up on a farm and have talked often of the ice harvests.

    Thanks for that delightful peek into your childhood!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a weird thing for me, too, Kim! Why didn't people just use a fridge?? People from the olden days were strange . . .

      Delete
  8. Diane, I remember when I discovered that back in the day there was no such thing as running water and electricity. My nana would entertain me for hours with stories of how they would wash clothes in the river and light the house with candles and kerosene lamps. It was surreal to discover this and every night I would beg for a new story. I love that the ice house served as your private storage/play space! We should all have a secret place! :)

    ReplyDelete

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