Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Place in the River


It snowed again yesterday.
I'm SO ready for spring.
A repost to remind me that, somewhere, it's spring . . .
Our River - almost ready for swimming . . .
Our playground flowed right around the main Stringam Ranch buildings.

To the adult residents of the ranch, it was the South Fork of the Milk River.
To us, it was a muddy, murky paradise. Our entertainment. Our recreation. Our playmate.
It provided a solid skating surface in the winter and a wonderful swimming pool in summer.
In spring through fall, it was an endless source of educational fun as we hunted snakes and frogs. Tried to trap unwary fish. And generally made life miserable for any denizen so unfortunate as to capture our attention.
I learned to skate there. What is that little dictum that states that the hardest part about learning to skate is the ice?
That would apply to me.
But I digress . . .
I learned to swim there.
And I wish I could swim there, still.
On a hot summer afternoon, my siblings and I would invariably be found in the milky depths of our river.
I can remember exactly how the water looked - billions of grains of fine sand hanging suspended as the rays of sunlight shone through it.
I can remember how it smelled. Wet mud and fresh water and things growing.
And I can remember how it felt. Cool and soft as it slid across one's nearly naked little body.
The current was slow and sluggish, but still strong enough prove a challenge when swimming against it. In fact, only my eldest brother, Jerry could make any headway. The rest of us tried manfully, or girlfully (is that a word?) as the case may be, to keep up.
We couldn't.
But we did flail with purpose and finally, I was able to at least hold my position.
It was a time of peace. When one's siblings were truly one's best friends. We watched over each other, fishing the smaller siblings out if they got in over their heads and keeping our St. Bernard, Mike from drowning anyone as he tried desperately to save them.
From time to time, the chief lifeguard, Mom, would appear at the top of the cliff beside the house and survey the area, counting heads and noting the general state of her six offspring. Then she would wave and disappear.
And we would go back to whatever she had interrupted.
It was a blissful way to spend the summer.
Sure, there were chores that had to be done. Acres of garden to hoe. Cattle to drive. Calves to brand. Feeding. Milking. Haying. Fencing. Mowing. Harvesting.
But for those few hours every afternoon, we had no duties. No pressures.
Just Chris' radio blaring out whatever was considered the day's top hits. The soft sand. The sunlight on the milky water.
And each other.
We were right.
It was paradise.

14 comments:

  1. Sounds like a wonderful childhood Diane!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I miss that old swimming hole. It's amazing how things change over the years though. The back water that ran around the north side of the island has been dry for years now; it seems to have actually risen; the sand bar has pushed upwards. The old stream still seems unchanged though. Of course up top, everything has changed. Moreso since the fire last fall.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It makes me so sad to think of it. That everything is gone. But it lives on vividly in my memory . . .

      Delete
  3. And a place you can visit whenever you want just by closing your eyes and remembering.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Paradise, indeed! And well earned after all those farm chores.

    You've reminded me of the afternoons we went to our very small river - somewhat larger than a stream but not much. In places there were deeper pools where we could swim a few strokes before coming up against the other bank. We used to hold our breath and sink to a sitting position, and watch the minnows bump into our legs. I remember how quiet everything was when I was submerged. And along the banks we could find tadpoles at various stages of development, some with two legs, some with four legs and a tail, and some fully developed, no tails, into miniature toads (I think that's what they were - they weren't frogs, that much I know). At some point we stopped going (probably when we outgrew the water) and sometime after that I developed a fear of putting my face in the water ... I tried to overcome it years later in a "scared stiff" beginner swimming class but without much success! Thanks for raising that memory of how much fun it was when I was young, though. Ahhh...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, that sounds wonderful, Jenny! Thank yo so much for sharing with me! It's such a pity that you can't go back. But so good that you can revisit in your memories!

      Delete
  5. It does sound like you had a piece of paradise Diane :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. It sounds like such a perfect place to spend summers. winters too, with the skating. Had to laugh at your dog's antics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was perfect! Crazy dog. We loved him!

      Delete
  7. Diane, have I ever told you that if I had a time machine I would go back and live your childhood? Because it's true! Not that my childhood was bad, daddy spoiled me rotten, but the stories you tell are loaded with emotion and feeling. This confirms the fact that these moments have truly been lived, enjoyed, savored. And now we, your readers, are blessed that you share them with us! Hugs! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is the best compliment I've ever had, Bella! Thank you so much! I'd love to have you join me in the past. I promise not to get manure on your brand new sweater . . .

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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