Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A (Possible) Alternative to Delinquincy

Me and my first 4-H calf.
I'm the nerd in the glasses and cowboy hat.

Twelve was an important age in the Stringam family.
That anxiously awaited, feverishly anticipated time.
When one was finally considered a grown up.
And, at long last, able to join 4-H.
Okay, I know what you're thinking, but we were a ranching family. What more can I say? 
Ahem . . .
Yep. 4-H. No end of excitement.
First, there was the all-important choosing of the calf, which enlisted years and years of experience and an eye for perfection. ("Umm . . . I want the red and white one over there! Nooo . . . I mean the red and white one over there . . . Wait! I want that one! He's cute!")
Then there was the twice daily ritual of feeding said calf. (Accomplished for the first day by me, and thereafter by my brother, George. For the entire six years I was in 4-H.)
There were the monthly meetings where we were expected to hand in our record books. (A concise documentation of our calf's daily diet, inevitable weight gain, and any other pertinent information. Frantically estimated and scribbled half an hour before the meeting started. Or during the meeting.)
Then, twice a year, there were the 'calf tours'. (Where we exclaimed, more or less knowledgeably over each other's calves. And then, more importantly, had a wonderful dinner at one of the homes. Usually one of the families of Hungarian descent. The best cooks in the entire world. Mmmmm.)
And finally, at the end of the year, we loaded our now-enormous darlings into trucks and headed into Lethbridge for the final show and sale.
The reward and culmination of a year of my brother's hard work.
Beyond exciting.
Three days of meeting new people (i.e. boys).
Walking along the midway and eating 'fair' food. (Foot-long hot dogs. Hamburgers. Corn on the cob. Doughnuts. Cotton Candy. Chocolate. Popcorn.)
Attending the dance.
Sleeping in the dorms.
Oh, yes. And grooming and showing and selling our calves.
Waving good-bye.
And then, way beyond exciting, came the annual club trip.
Where the club members, together with their families, would embark on a journey to . . . somewhere wonderful.
And exciting.
We toured all over Alberta and into Montana and Washington.
And saw . . . stuff.
One trip, in particular, stands out.
And in my usual long-winded way, I worked myself around to it . . .
We had traveled into Washington state and planned to camp at a brand-new and ultra modern campground.
Which, according to the pamphlet, was home to an enormous swimming pool and other amazing features.
It was the hottest day of the year.
And air conditioning hadn't been invented yet.
Our caravan of ten or so vehicles pulled into the campsite and ground to a dusty and exhausted halt.
There were trees.
And water hydrants.
But little else.
Apparently, the pictures in the brightly-colored pamphlet had been artist's imaginative renderings of amenities that would 'some day' be part of the campground.
Us kids gathered around the giant hole that would one day be a swimming pool.
Saying a silent farewell to the fun we could have had there.
Our parents started to set up camp.
It was hot.
One of the dad's hooked a garden hose up to a hydrant and started to spray the dust off a table.
Another Dad filled a pitcher to add to the radiator of his over-heated truck.
They looked at each other.
Hose, squirting cool water.
Pitcher, filled with equally cool water.
Hottest day of the year. (I know. I already said that. But it really was.)
Pool that only existed on paper.
It was a no-brainer.
The fight was on.
By the time it ended, every single person in the campsite was soaked.
More than soaked.
If you were moving. You were a target.
Let me rephrase that.
If you were breathing, you were a target.
A group of moms were sitting in a safe (i.e. dry) place, watching the fun and laughing uproariously (real word - I looked it up) thinking that their age and authority made them exempt.
Oh, the folly.
My brother, George, spotted them and immediately noted two things:
1. They were dry.
2. This was unacceptable.
He filled a bucket with water and waited for them to notice him.
They saw him standing there and, staring in disbelief, slowly got to their feet.
"No, George!"
Begging availed them nothing.
In a moment, they were as soaked as the rest of us.
The fight lasted most of the afternoon, and, by the time it was finished, everyone was wet, cool, and happily exhausted.
Much the same condition we would have been in if the pool really had existed.
I don't remember much else about that particular trip.
Everything else paled when compared to "The Water Fight'.
Six years of experiences.
Of growing up.
I miss those times.
I suppose they still have it.
4-H, I mean.
And fun.
I wish I was still part of it.


  1. Surely there must be a way to still be part of it. Particularly with your...umm...experiences. So much you could teach the young ones.....hoses, water, know.

  2. We still have 4-H on the east coast (I'm assuming it's still in your area too). But when I was a kid there was none in my community and transportation to another community would have been a problem. When my kids were growing up, we lived in town and they didn't qualify to go. But there have been so many great young people come through that program. Even if you didn't feed your calf yourself, I sense you're one of them :)

  3. Oh... it sounds like you had sooo much fun... we had a water hose fight a couple of times growing up... I don't remember it being as fun as you do though... made me smile;)

  4. Nobody got out of that fight. Even Frank, who had a heart condition got into it, until his cigarettes got wet. Then there was Hank, who thought he'd be exempted when he slid underneath his truck to work on the taillights. Gord grabbed his leg and lifted it up, and I poured water down it. Hank banged his head on the frame when he suddenly sat up...

  5. The water fight sounds like so much more fun than raising a calf.

  6. We had 4-H and FFA--Future Farmers of America. What great fun :).


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