Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, June 30, 2012

What Matters Most


You see animals. They see . . .

Sometimes, all that matters is the obvious . . .
Our grandchildren were playing.
I should mention, here, that my Husby has an extensive collection of plastic animals.
Mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, vertebrate, invertebrate.
Animals from every continent of the world.
And from every age.
Yep. Extensive.
He bought them for his grandkids.
He says.
Moving on . . .
Said grandkids love playing with said animals.
They have been a great source of entertainment for many years already.
And will doubtless continue to perform this service for many more years to come.
Countless scenarios had been acted out.
Did you know that a dolphin and a North American bison could be roommates and best friends?
Well they can.
Back to my story . . .
Three-year-old, Rini, our budding science buff, was playing with two-year-old Thorin.
The theme of the day was dinosaurs.
Rini was acting as voice for the brontosaurus.
Thorin, the same for the triceratops.
Rini decided a teaching moment had presented itself.
“Look, Thorin,” she said. “You have a triceratops!”
Thorin stared at her. Then looked down at the toy in his hand.
“Tri-cer-a-tops,” Rini said again. “Tri-cer-a-tops.”
Thorin frowned.
Rini started in again. “Tri-cer-a-tops. Tri-cer-a-tops.”
Thorin smiled and opened his mouth.
Rini smiled, too. Encouragingly.
Thorin pointed to the horns on the dinosaur's head.
“Pokies!” he said happily.
Yep. Sometimes all that matters is the obvious.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bravery for the 'Faint' of Heart


Which are you?
I just read that, when faced with something dire, a person will fight.
Or a person will fly.
Sometimes, we don't know which one we are until the climactic moment.
Allow me to illustrate.
My bedroom was across and down the hall from the bathroom.
And I wasn't an 'early-to-bedder'.
These two facts will become relevant . . .
I had been reading.
Something I did every night.
For a very long time.
I finally decided it was time to get ready for bed.
Which included brushing and scrubbing.
And all things hygienic.
I should point out that all other members of my household had long been asleep.
Or so I thought.
I finished my evening ablutions. (Oooh! Good word!)
And, clutching my toiletries bag, headed for my bedroom.
Now the words 'across and down the hall' may sound like a long distance.
It wasn't.
But it was enough.
And it was dark.
I darted toward my door.
And was just reaching for the doorknob when a voice came out of the darkness.
“What are you doing!”
Okay, it was the voice of my father, so it shouldn't have given me the fright it did.
But the fact remains – I was frightened.
And then, the ultimate response.
Fight?
Or fly.
Let me describe:
Pitch dark hall.
Household asleep.
Girl with large imagination and small intellect dashing across the hall.
Quickly, so as to avoid things that might come out of the darkness and 'get her'.
Voice rumbles out of said darkness.
What does girl do?
Fight?
Fly?
No. 
Girl crumples to the floor.
I am not making this up.
My legs folded up and I fell to the floor.
When faced with a crisis, or so I thought, I curled up.
Like a little spider.
But with less legs.
So, which are you?
Fight?
Or fly?
When you decide, let me know.
I will be the shivering little puddle of goo.
Curled up on the floor.
Sigh.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Can Fix That!


Foreground: Ranch. Background: Machinery Hill

On the Stringam Ranch, there was a hill.
A large hill.
It had old machinery parked on top.
We called it the 'Old Machinery Hill'.
Okay, so creative, we weren't.
There could be found the outdated, outmoded and discarded mechanical devices of ranch life.
Mowers, haybines, cultivators, tractors, cars and trucks.
All neatly parked in rows.
My brothers spent many blissful hours on that hill, deconstructing the various machines (and machine engines) to be found.
Excitedly, they would point out to me the valves and sprockets pulled from this amazing machine and 'Wow! Aren't they fantastic?!' Then proceed to explain just how these intricate little marvels fit into the whole 'making-this-machine-bale-hay' scenario.
To which I would nod and smile.
Then run off to see what the horses were doing.
But that was just the beginning of my brothers' mechanical adventures.
Throughout their lives, I can picture them with various machine parts spread out neatly as they re-constructed and fine-tuned.
Something that still goes on today.
I should probably mention that the 'mechanical bug' hit me as well.
Later.
I took apart, fixed and re-assembled in my world, too.
Mom's piano-organ. Her toaster. Iron.
The only thing that defeated me were the clippers.
Oh, and the washing machine and I have a history, too.
But we won't mention those.
Please.
Moving ahead . . .
Our four-year-old grandson was playing quietly in their basement.
A little too quietly.
Usually this heralded trouble.
His mother went to check.
She found him with one of his sister's musical toys disassembled in front of him.
Part of it had stopped working.
The need for new batteries had been ruled out because the other parts were still working.
He had rummaged through his father's tools and found the screwdriver he needed.
Then proceeded to take the toy apart.
This was when his mother came in.
He looked up at her.
“It wasn't working,” he said calmly.
Something he had pointed out to her on numerous occasions.
“So I'm fixing it.”
Now remember, this boy just turned four in April.
The two of them saw that a wire had become disconnected.
They reconnected.
No response.
“It has a micro-chip,” he said suddenly, pointing. “Maybe it just needs a new micro-chip.”
His mother stared at him. “You're probably right,” she said, finally.
When she told us the story, I was reminded suddenly of my brothers.
With their tools.
And their sprockets and wheels.
The torch is passed.
The newest generation . . .
Photo Credit


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Talking Turkey


I am bilingual.
Oh, not in the way you imagine.
My second language really isn't that practical.
Truth be told, I don't even know what I'm saying.
But the fact remains that I can speak another language.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My kids and I loved spending time at Fort Edmonton Park.
It's a stroll through Edmonton's history.
There's a bona fide re-creation of an 1846 fort.
And a small town.
Comprised of 'dated' streets.
1885 Street, devoted to life in Edmonton when dust and mud were king and electricity was something only Jules Verne imagined.
1905 Street, when modern dreams were beginning.
And 1920 Street, where modern conveniences and votes for women have become reality.
There are shops and residences with actors portraying very real Edmontonians of the past.
It was (and is) fun.
And we loved it.
We spent nearly every Thursday there throughout the summer.
Walking on stilts.
Playing games.
Eating baking fresh from the ovens.
Visiting the shops.
Inter'acting' with the actors.
It was a great way to spend a day.
Then we found the flock of turkeys behind one of the residences.
And that's when I discovered that I could speak a second language.
Turkeys make a distinct 'mmmmbladladladladladladladladl' sound.
And I could mimic it.
Really.
You want to talk talent?
We stood at the side of their large pen and I 'talked' to them.
The male got quite animated.
He ruffled his feathers and puffed up his facial dangly bits and marched around importantly.
It was very entertaining.
The kids would urge me on. “Come on Mom! Say something else!”
And I'd do my mmmmbladladladladladladladladl.
And the turkey would get apoplectic.
We even drew a crowd.
“Look! That woman can talk to the turkeys.”
Okay. Sometimes, you have to look for your entertainment.
And you have to admit that not everyone can talk turkey.
P.S. Guinea Pigs and I also have a history.

Bonus:
Gram and Gramp . . . and Me.
From Delores' wonderful Monday PhotoPrompt.
Delores' picture of she and her grandparents

Gram was in the kitchen, cooking so efficiently,
Gramp was in his easy chair and I was on his knee.
Their kindly ways and gentle spirits touched so tenderly,
Way back in the early days of Gram and Gramp . . . and me.

He was a rancher, cattleman; and honest to a 'T'.
She helped and worked right by his side and served so faithfully.
The two of them raised children strong and loved their family,
E'en before those early days of Gram and Gramp . . . and me.

When I was four, my Grampa died; he passed on peacefully,
Gram carried on as best she could, preserved his legacy.
But when I stop and think at bit, I cannot help but see,
There weren't enough of those early days of Gram and Gramp . . . and me.

My own Gram and Gramp` Stringam on their 50th wedding anniversary

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dining-Chair Buses


Oh, the places we went . . .

Mom was washing the floor.
Something she did often.
Because.
I should mention also that, when Mom washed the floor, she WASHED the floor.
Everything portable was carried into the next room.
She got down on her knees with a pail of hot, soapy water and scrubbed.
Then she applied wax.
Then she ran the polisher.
Which looked like a big, green bug on a long stick.
Just FYI.
The floor shone like a mirror.
Perfect for sliding on with stocking feet.
But this story isn't about that.
This story starts where she carted the portable stuff into the next room . . .
As soon as the chairs appeared in the living room, George and I would materialize.
From what ever places we had disappeared into when Mom announced that she needed helpers to wash the floors.
Ahem.
We would line the chairs up, one behind the other.
Voila! Bus.
George would be the bus driver and I would be the lady with the 400 children riding in the back.
Okay, you're right. I didn't have 400 children.
But I did have 400 stuffed animals.
Sheesh.
You're such a stickler for details.
Moving on . . .
Happily, we played until Mom finished with the floors and came out to dismantle our playground.
Actually, it was the one time in the week that George and I did play happily together.
A thing of note.
Oh, the places we went.
The children we dropped out of the windows.
Good times.
An aside: the couch worked well for a bus, too, but there was just something about articles of furniture sitting where they usually . . . didn't . . . that inspired – play.
Moving ahead many, many years.
Yesterday, some of our grandchildren were over for a visit.
Two of the kids had lined up several of grandma's stools.
I was holding granddaughter number five.
So I was instructed that I could be the mommy in the back with the baby.
Number three grandson, announced that he would drive.
It was then that I realized - they were playing bus.
I sat in the back as I had been told and I had to smile.
Suddenly, I was four years old again.
It was a good feeling.

Monday, June 25, 2012

All That's Necessary


Finished at last.

For one summer, the Stringams lived in a quonset.
Between moving from one ranch to another.
And waiting for our house to be finished.
You can read about it here, here, here, here, here, here, here, or here.
(It was a long summer . . .)
We had electricity, but no indoor plumbing or heat.
It could easily have been an ordeal.
My ultra-organized mother made it an adventure.
But even SuperMom couldn't control the weather.
And summers must end.
Especially in Canada.
It had been getting colder.
Noticeably colder.
We could lay in our beds and see our breath.
A fact that made us reluctant to leave said beds.
And we were setting new records for getting dressed.
Mom was starting to gaze longingly at her nearly-finished house across the field.
The one that didn't yet have any indoor plumbing or heat.
Rather like the place she was living in.
But it did have one attractive attribute.
One modern convenience.
It had a fireplace.
Okay, well, maybe not such a modern convenience.
Moving on . . .
Mom had been nervously studying the weather forecast every day.
And eyeing the house.
Which crept all-too-slowly towards completion.
Which would come first?
Winter?
Or her beautiful new home?
And then, the day arrived when all discussion became moot.
Because no one tells winter when to arrive.
Which it did.
With a fury.
A not-so-rare September blizzard.
We had a little lead time.
Schools were quickly closed to give students time to bus home.
Anyone who's ever been caught out on the shelter-less prairies in a blizzard knows that that is something to be avoided at all costs.
When we arrived at the quonset, it was to see Mom and Dad frantically packing.
For the next couple of hours, we carted carloads of necessities from the quonset to the house.
By late afternoon, though, the time was definitely up.
One could no longer see to drive.
Even in the barnyard.
We would have to make do with what had already been hauled.
Mom started organizing.
A few hours later, everyone was quite comfortably settled in the one room of the new house that was inhabitable.
The downstairs family room.
Mom had bedrolls laid out.
An electric stove set up.
And ropes strung to hang things on.
The kids were soon fed and in bed.
The dishes washed and stacked.
Mom still didn't have indoor plumbing.
In fact, nothing in the house worked.
And there was a monster storm was raging outside.
But Mom was doing something she had been dreaming about since she first set foot in the quonset, months before.
Sitting in front of a fire.
With every part of her warm at the same time.
Life was good.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Snow and Doughnuts


Okay, you have to use your imagination on this one.
Picture those hills covered in snow.
And kids. And toboggans . . .

It's nearly 30 degrees Celsius (86 F) outside.
Okay, for those of you living in warmer climates, that's probably not very hot.
For those of us in normally snow-bound northern Alberta?
Tropical.
Time to hide in the cool basement.
And tell another winter story.
I should probably mention that in southern Alberta, where we were raised, snow seldom stayed very long.
Even though it was winter.
Oh, it snowed.
Sometimes a lot.
But then the famous Chinook would blow through, raising temperatures.
And melting said snow.
In a few hours, any accumulation would be limited to the ditches and snowbanks.
So when it snowed, and if one wanted to enjoy it, one had to move quickly.
Just FYI.
Someone was out in the yard.
Hollering.
I looked out the window onto a scene of glistening white.
And my oldest brother, Jerry, holding the family toboggan.
Squealing (and I do mean squealing) with delight, I donned snow pants, parka, boots, mittens, scarf and toque (it's a Canadian thing).
Remember what I said about the snow lasting a short time?
I donned them quickly.
In no time I was out with my brother.
All of our siblings joined us.
Well the oldest five.
The baby, Anita, wasn't coming.
Because.
Jerry sat our youngest brother, Blair on the toboggan, then turned and started pulling the sled towards the river.
The Stringam ranch proper had been built in a bend of the south fork of the Milk River. Any sled-able hills were on the opposite bank.
We trudged along behind Jerry and his sled.
Across the frozen river.
To the hills opposite.
For a couple of hours, we towed up and slid down.
Our shouts and screams of sheer happiness echoing across the wide, open prairie.
Finally, it was time to head home.
Dusk comes quickly, even in Southern Alberta.
And you don't want to try to walk home in the dark.
We crossed the river once more and climbed the hill to the house.
In the entryway, we peeled off layer after layer, laughing excitedly and telling Mom about our adventure.
She just smiled and nodded.
Then produced warm spudnuts (doughnuts made with mashed potatoes in the batter. Yum.) fresh from the oven, and gallons of hot chocolate.
Sigh.
The very best of days.

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