Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Welcome to the Neighbourhood. Not.

For farm use only . . .
For kids who had been raised on the farm, moving to the big town was a big step.
They handled it well.
The street we were on was a 'local traffic only' type.
Alive with kids and bikes and . . . playing.
Perfect for anyone excited at the prospect of making new friends.
Which my kids were.
In no time, they had troops of buddies traipsing through the house.
Playing in the yard.
Running in the street.
Okay, that last activity probably sounds . . . dangerous.
But there were nearly 50 kids living in the houses on our street.
Anyone coming into the street lived there.
And drove carefully.
Moving on . . .
For the first while, our family was simply happy to have landed in such a wonderful place.
Friendly neighbours.
Private park.
Tons of playmates.
A dream come true.
But, like many dreams, this one came with a cold dose of reality.
Let me explain.
Our house was built on the side of a hill.
With a potential walk-out basement.
Which didn't.
Walk-out, I mean.
But the balcony looking out from the back had a lovely view of the neighbours below and on either side of us.
And on to the fields outside of town.
The kids spent a lot of time out there on the balcony.
Talking and playing.
Hollering across at the neighbours' kids.
Generally having a good time.
But our children were essentially farm kids.
They were virtually innocent when it came to the sophisticated 'town' children.
One day, a young man came home with our oldest son.
They had played Nintendo for a while, then moved out on the back deck to see the sights.
Which included our next-door neighbour's three children, happily playing in their back yard.
Now, here is where the story gets sticky.
My son had a BB gun.
A 'You'll put your eye out!' BB gun.
On the farm, it had been great fun.
Target shooting.
Trying to hit gophers.
Sometime, I'll tell you about the gophers.
But once we had moved to town, the gun had stayed in a rack on the wall.
There was nothing to safely shoot at in town.
I emphasize the word, 'safely'.
But my son's new friend was intrigued by this toy.
He asked if he could hold it.
Take it outside.
Shoot at the fence boards.
Ummm . . . I guess that's all right.
But it didn't stop there.
The boy shot a couple of times at the fence.
Then decided that the little kids next door offered better targets.
My horror-struck son watched as the boy shot over the fence.
Then he grabbed the gun and ran down to his room.
Soon, there was a knock at our front door.
I opened it to find our neighbour, red-faced with anger.
“Did you know that your kids were shooting a BB gun at my kids?”
I stared at him.
Surely not.
My kids knew better than that.
Didn't they?
I hollered for my son, who dragged himself up the stairs.
The picture of guilt.
I didn't even have to ask.
“It was my friend,” he said. “He shot at the kids over the fence.”
“Well, he hit one of them,” the outraged dad said.
I looked at my son, horrified. “Why didn't you tell me?”
“I didn't know what to do,” my son said. “I grabbed the gun and ran with it.”
“Where's your friend?”
“He left.”
“Probably a good thing,” the dad muttered. “What's his name?”
My son told him.
He looked squarely at my son. “You have some apologizing to do,” he said. Then he stalked off down the street, intent on retribution.
My son and I stared at each other for a moment.
Then he quietly handed me the gun.
And walked next door to apologize.
We learned a few lessons that day.
  1. You can make friends with kids.
  2. But all kids don't make good friends.
  3. And farm toys seldom make the transition to town.
The BB gun never saw the light of day again, until we moved from that house and it ended up in the garage sale.
And my son found different friends.
Good friends.
Painful lessons, in more ways than one.
But well learned.


  1. Talk about an idiot....that kid had some wonky brains in his head. I wonder how he turned out.

    1. It was a pretty sad story. Single parent home. Kid with bad wiring. He ended up in serious trouble later. I was sorry for him, but happy that my son didn't have anything to do with him after THE INCIDENT.

  2. How come I don't remember this?

  3. Oh how true this is: You can make friends with kids. But all kids don't make good friends. We live in a neighborhood with houses close to one another and lots and lots of kids. Usually all out playing in the alley behind our house. There has been more than one situation in which my children learned valuable lessons about what not to do or how not to act. It's one of the most difficult parts of parenting, in my opinion - the necessity of dealing with the good or bad parenting that other children have had/not had. And yes, we have discovered that even Nerf guns can pose too great a risk in the hands of some children. Hence the confiscation of all the Nerf bullets at our house. Thanks for this post. As usual it took me down memory lane and made me smile and relate! Smiles -

    1. You learn to deal with your children in your own household. But then you have to learn to deal with children from other households. Sometimes, I think that is the hardest part about parenting!

  4. Such a difficult part of parenting-dealing with parents who don't know how or don't care about how to be good parents.

    Your tale reminds me of a story. We, too, grew up in the country, and my brothers had a bb gun. They got to wrestling over it one day and it went off as they struggled. They both were completely shocked and frightened and dropped the gun. Fortunately, no one was hurt and they decided that day it wasn't a good idea to fight over a loaded bb gun ever again.

    1. Oh. My. Word! What a valuable lesson learned cheaply! It certainly could have been much, much worse (you'll put your eye out!) So glad they were able to learn without pain!


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