Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Making an Ash of Oneself

Before. 
My Husby built our family a picnic table.
Cedar.
Nice.
It was the scene of many, many family meals and celebrations.
And occasionally the scene of . . . adventures.
Let me explain . . .
First, a little background.
Husby built a little home for us.
Okay. Originally, it was built as a dog kennel.
Then converted to a chicken coop.
Then we cleaned it up, insulated and panelled the interior.
Put down new flooring.
Now it was a house.
We moved our family in.
Snug and cozy.
It was heated with a wood stove.
That is an important point.
But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
When I was expecting our fourth child, we decided that we needed more than 300 square feet to live in.
Husby built a basement and we moved our little house onto it.
Wow! Double the space!
We could now have such luxuries as . . . bedrooms!
A bathroom!
But still heated with a wood stove.
Now comes the part where the picnic table and the wood stove come together.
It was winter.
Not much call for meals outdoors when the temperature is hovering around minus 20.
The table had been shoved close to the house.
One day, just as we were preparing to head into town, Husby decided to clean out the little well-used stove.
He carefully collected the ashes into a paper sack and carried them outside to put in the ash can.
Yes, we really had an ash can.
Don't ask.
Moving on . . .
One of the kids had a minor emergency just as Husby reached the front door.
He set his bag of 'mostly dead' ashes on the picnic table and scrambled to take care of the problem.
Done.
Then we packed up and left.
The bag of ashes sat, forgotten, in the centre of the picnic table.
I should explain, here, that the wind always blows in Southern Alberta.
This is important . . .
We were gone for some hours.
The wind blew on the little paper sack full of ashes.
And finally, ignited some of them.
They consumed the bag.
Then started on the nearest combustible object.
You guessed it.
Our picnic table.
Pushed up tight against the house.
When we returned from town, my Husby stopped the car and turned it off,
Then hollered something unintelligible and ran for the house.
I was busy unbuckling children and pulling the baby out of her car seat.
I turned around just as Husby appeared with a bucket of water.
Which he threw on the picnic table.
It was then that I noticed the plume of smoke.
And heard the hissing of unhappy flames meeting . . . something extinguishing.
I moved closer.
Husby stood, surveying our picnic table.
Or, through the smoke, what was left of our picnic table.
An expression of relief and chagrin on his face.
“What on earth happened?” Me.
“I think I must have left the bag of ashes on the table.” He.
“Huh.” Me.
I herded the kids into the house while Husby poured more water on the picnic table.
Later, we took stock.
The table, miraculously, was mostly intact.
The bag of ashes had burned a large (12”) hole in the very centre.
The rest of it was still usable.
The miraculous part was the fact that the fire had confined itself to the centre of the table.
With the brisk wind, it could easily have burned the entire thing.
Not to mention our house.
Miracles, indeed.

There is a codicil.
My brother, Jerry, and his family were over to our little house for dinner.
As they were leaving, Jerry spotted the hole in the middle of our picnic table.
He laughed, sat down and said, “This porridge is too hot! said Papa Bear.”
Miracles aside, it was pretty funny.
After.


18 comments:

  1. Hmmm...just the spot for one of those lazy susan serving trays.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why didn't I think of that? I'm lazy . . .

      Delete
  2. Somebody whipped up a batch of mean chili...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hate to think of what it would do in a digestive system, right?

      Delete
  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow ... that hole speaks volumes. What if? What if?

      I'm glad things weren't worse.

      Delete
    2. The physical evidence that there are still miracles among us!

      Delete
  4. Oh my! What an adventure, and yes, very lucky it didn't get the house too!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. When I think of how windy it was. And dry? It could so easily have had a different outcome!

      Delete
  5. Getting off the hook for our stupid mistakes hopefully deters them in future...or not.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I was thinking the worst as the story went on. Just an interesting hole to tell friends and family about and nothing tragic. You were all so fortunate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep. Ended up with a comedy Instead of a tragedy!

      Delete
  7. Wow, that was quite a story. I am glad it had a miracle ending.
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  8. That was a lucky break for sure.
    And now the picnic tale has a salad hole.
    Smooth off the edges, place a large bowl with a rim into it. When needed for salad, half fill the bowl with ice and place salad bowl on it. Or put cans of soft drink in the ice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How to turn tragedy into triumph! What a great idea! :)

      Delete
  9. Wow, that is a perfect hole. I am definitely admiring it. I'm also admiring the fact that your husband MADE your house and that table. Wow! Impressed. And lovely.

    ReplyDelete

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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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