Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, May 24, 2013

Southern Alberta Slavery

Dad and some of his many slaves . . .

My Dad didn't have children.
He had slaves.
At least that is how his children saw it . . .
Dad worked hard doing . . . ranch stuff.
It took him most of the day.
Every day.
When he came in at the end of the day, his recliner looked really, really good and it took great motivation to entice him to leave it.
Great motivation.
Silly little things like removing one's work boots or tossing things in the garbage weren't nearly big enough. Thus it was necessary to find other ways to accomplish these things.
That's where we came in.
His six little, willing slaves.
Every evening, one of us would be chosen for the distinct honour (his words) of helping Dad remove his boots.
Fortunately, this was a fairly simple operation, easily accomplished by a pair of small, eager hands, a backside and a large foot.
Don't get the wrong idea. There was no kicking involved . . .
The large person seated in the chair would lift his booted foot.
The standing smaller person would turn their back, straddle said foot and grasp the boot.
That's where the large foot came in.
While the small hands gripped the boot, the large foot would apply pressure to the small backside.
Small person would be pressed away from the large person and the boot would slide slowly from the foot.
Until, at last it would drop to the floor.
The boot, not the foot.
Surgery completed.
The second boot would follow the first and much toe-wiggling comfort would be achieved.
And, more importantly, no one who had been working hard all day would have had to move out of his chair.
Utopia. (That's another word for Paradise, I looked it up . . .)
Moving on . . .
Dad was also reluctant to leave his chair for such frivolities as throwing things in the garbage.
Call in the slaves once more.
Dad always finished the evening meal with a toothpick.
I know, I know, the rest of the world would infinitely prefer ice cream, but what can I say? Dad even followed his ice cream with a toothpick.
That's just Dad.
He even had a preference.
For toothpicks, I mean.
He liked the wooden ones.
Which he would then proceed to chew into a little ball of pulp.
Umm . . . ick.
Now in our earlier years, we kids could always be counted on to receive the little ball of 'ick' and drop it into the proper receptacle.
As we grew older, we got, for want of a better term, smarter.
We found other places to be when Dad got to the end of his little splinter of wood.
Dad had to get . . . creative.
My Mom had a plant. A beautiful pineapple plant. She had grown it from the cut off top of a pineapple imported from her and Dad's trip to Hawaii.
I think the rules for bringing fruit across the border were different then.
But I digress . . .
It was large.
Really large.
And it sat in a tub on the floor right beside Dad's chair.
He's only human, he can't be blamed for what happened next.
He finished with his toothpick and called out for a child.
Any child.
We were all hidden in the family room.
He sighed and looked for someplace to deposit his little, wooden offering.
Huh. A large, leafy plant right beside him.
If Mom hadn't wanted it tampered with, she should have found somewhere else to put it.
He hid his little lump of sawdust in the pot under the convenient leaves.
Mission accomplished.
Hey, that worked great! And there wasn't a sign of anything!
He had discovered something new and wonderful. Especially when one was blessed with slacker children.
Like us . . .
He did it the next night.
And the next.
And for many, many nights afterwards.
Then, one day, when Mom was taking care of her beloved plant, she noticed that it wasn't looking very healthy. She pulled out the pot to investigate.
I don't have to tell you what she found. At this point, the layer of chewed up bits of toothpick was a couple of inches deep.
The plant was obviously as fond of them as we kids were.
And protesting in the only way it could.
By dying.
Okay, yes, that is a bit extreme, but it was a plant. You have to admit it really didn't have many options.
Huffily (real word), Mom moved the plant somewhere . . . not close to Dad.
And put a garbage container beside his chair.

We have all moved away from home.
Dad still has the garbage can conveniently beside his chair.
And now he wears shoes that he can remove by himself.
When we were visiting a short time ago, he initiated our oldest granddaughter in the fine art of helping Great-Grandpa remove said shoes.
For the rest of us, it was a short stroll down memory lane.
In work boots.


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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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