Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Stronghold

The Old Garage.
Somewhere beneath Mom's garden and those walls was . . . the stronghold!

Under the floor of the old garage was a dark, mysterious, magical stronghold. A place of adventure. Of devious deeds and dead bodies long kept hidden. Where pirates, coming down the Milk River in ships, hid their treasures. And their secrets.
A place of adventure. Of wonder.
And vegetables.
Accessed only through a solid, well-camouflaged wooden door, this place was known only to the best and brightest . . . and bravest . . . that the ranch had to offer.
Me.
Okay, I admit that I had to wait until one of my larger, stronger minions actually grasped the great iron ring and pulled the door up on its protesting hinges to grant me entry, but from that point . . . I. Was. In. Charge.
Yes, okay, so they also had to reach up to the single hanging bulb and pull the string because it was too far up for me, but from then on . . .
Geeze.
I spent hours there.
Or at least as long as it took my mom to collect her baskets of vegetables and start back up the stairs.
At that point, I would abandon whatever scheme I had launched and scamper up behind her.
I could conquer worlds. Defeat any foe. Accept any challenge.
I just had a bit of a problem with being left in the dark.
The heavy door would be lowered into place with a theatrical thud, and the hideout's secrets would once more be hidden.
Entombed. Quietly, patiently waiting until the next time the sunlight briefly, piteously exposed them.
I loved the root cellar. I loved its mystery. 
Its possibilities.
But I should probably mention here that the south fork of the Milk River never, ever could have floated anything larger than a rowboat.
Well, except, maybe during the flood of '64. But a pirate raid then would, of necessity, have to be brief.
And very, very fast.
So, my stone-walled, dirt-floored stronghold probably never concealed a treasure. Or a body.
I think a cat got mistakenly shut in once for a few hours, but as it emerged unconcerned and completely unscathed, I don't think that counts.
I don't know if that particular root cellar still exists. It had been years since I was back there. But my memories of it are still sharp and clear.
The damp, cool air. The 'heavy' feel of the stone walls and dirt floor. The . . . fuzzy-looking boards that formed the staircase.
But most especially the smells. Earth. Fresh vegetables. Wet, aged wood. Things growing. Things crumbling back into earth.

There is a addendum.
My husband and I have spent many hours travelling on the underground in London, England. It is a remarkably run, efficient system.
But in the deepest tunnels, we met with an unexpected bonus.
Stepping off the escalator, I took a deep breath.
Earth. Old timbers. The natural smells of molder and decay.
I smiled.
It smelled like memories.

12 comments:

  1. The sense of smell is the gateway to the past.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh, you pulled out some memories of my own. The root cellar, the milk stalls in the barn...Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've made my day, Susan! That is why I write!

      Delete
  3. Diane, it always amazes me how a smell can bring up a memory so very clear... :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Every time I think of that root cellar I think of hauling all the old rotten vegetables out and hauling all the good ones in. It smelled like--arduous work...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How did I always miss all of the real work?!

      Delete
  5. Eek! That's one place I wouldn't have gone! Scared of the dark, worried about spiders, terrified of the boogeyman, not too keen on either that smell or the thought of all those vegetables for supper ... just call me a wuss and get it over with :)

    It's really lovely that you got that unexpected trip to the past so far from home!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't worry. I have a problem with spiders, too. Mom promised me there weren't any there. And Mom's always tell the truth . . . right?! :)

      Delete
  6. I'm very curious about root cellars, we don't have them here in Australia. What types of vegetables were kept in them? How were the vegetables stored and how long did they keep? I've read in books about carrots and potatoes stored in big barrels of sand, open shelves with apples and pumpkins. There's never any mention of green vegetables like cabbages for instance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We Canadians inherited the idea from the immigrants who came to us from other frozen northern places. The cellars were at least six feet deep to be below the frost line. Root vegetables, apples, cabbages, potatoes, strings of onions, garlic, pumpkin all were stored there in great heaps. Dad tried sand hills once, but went back to just plain heaps. Most green vegetables other than cabbages were bottled or frozen for storage.

      Delete

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