Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Little Knowledge

For years, the Canadian Government had a program.
Okay, they have many, many programs.
But this particular program was designed to share ranching knowledge and expertise with people from other countries.
Candidates would be chosen.
And would then spend up to a year with a Canadian ranching family.
Learning the ropes.
So to speak.
My father, being one of said ranchers, participated in the program many times.
We had people from Germany, Korea, Denmark and other countries.
It was definitely a learning experience.
One particular gentleman arrived, all smiles and eagerness.
Excited to learn the 'Canadian' ways.
His enthusiasm lasted until suppertime.
I should mention that this man was the head of his own household in his native country.
At home, he was fed first and his family took what was left.
I don't know if that was common in his country, but it was certainly common in his household.
Moving on . . .
Mom passed him the first dish.
He took half and set it down.
We stared at him.
Then at what he had left.
That still needed to feed two hungry parents and four hungry teenagers.
Mom handed him the second dish.
Again, he put a neat line in the centre and took half.
She picked up the third, and last dish.
There was a smothered protest from my elder brother as she handed this dish, again, to our guest.
Good manners must.
Our new employee again took half.
After that initial meal, Mom learned to hand the dishes to someone else first.
Lesson one learned.
One of the chores on the ranch included hauling water to a row of newly-planted trees.
Our friend was given hoses and equipment suitable to accomplishing this.
When Dad went back to check on him, he discovered that man had found a broomstick and two five-gallon buckets and was hauling water with the stick over his shoulders and the buckets suspended from either end.
Dad realized that he had to instruct the man on the proper way to connect everything to accomplish his task with a fraction of the effort.
Lesson two learned – after a fashion.
We had a large field that needed to be cross-fenced.
The trees and undergrowth needed to be cleared back to a distance of about eight feet to allow for the construction of the fences.
Dad supplied our friend with chainsaws, axes and saws.
And a little ATM to get to and from.
Our friend loved the ATM.
Though he never learned how to change out of first gear.
But he never could get the knack of using the power tools.
Or any of the tools, for that matter.
Oh, he cleared that field all right.
Using a machete and his right hand.
Lesson three . . . glanced at.
I don't want to suggest that he was stupid.
Because he certainly wasn't.
He was, in fact, quite brilliant.
We were, all of us, simply struggling against the pull of generations of 'this-it-how-it-has-always-been-done'.
And it became quite obvious one day after he head been with us for several months.
I had had a busy day.
Early that morning, I had been milking.
My little brother's usual chore, but one he occasionally dumped on me.
Our friend glanced inside the barn and greeted me.
After breakfast, I was working with one of my green-broke horses.
Our friend watched me for a few minutes, shaking his head and grinning.
A couple of hours later, I saw him look over the fence as I was pulling a calf.
And a short time after that, he came in as I was helping Mom make lunch.
That afternoon, I was in the room I shared with my little sister, just off the dining room.
We were putting up wallpaper.
He glanced inside and watched us for a few minutes.
Then he turned away.
Later, as I was helping Mom with the dishes, he came into the kitchen.
“You are amazing girl,” he said to me. “You would be worth much, very much in my country.”
I didn't know if I should be flattered.
Or alarmed.
A short time later, he left us.
Taking all he had learned back to his country.
The program was successful on many levels.
Much knowledge was given.
I really don't know who learned the most, though.
Or us.


  1. Well, if you are ever feeling unappreciated you know where to go...somewhere you are worth very very much.

  2. AH.....isn't it great to feel appreciated and validated?! Especially in front of mom and dad? HA ha.

    I would of been a bit frightened by that comment, too, however. ; S

    1. I'd like to tell you what my mom and dad thought . . . :)

  3. What was it he was willing to pay? 113KRW?

  4. This reminds me of my sister-in-law's mother's stories. She was a young Polish farm woman during WWII, and conscripted for German farm work. In short, she was a slave. In her broken English she told of the work she was made to do, and finished every story by saying "Woman. Strong."

    1. Amazing woman! An example to the rest of us!

  5. That sounds interesting to learn so many different cultures:)


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