Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Call of Nature


Our Steed. I'll explain . . .
Our oldest daughter believed that there was something called the 'Universal Animal Call'.
It was a simple whistle. A single note rising in pitch at the end.
Tweee-eet!
She swore it worked on all animals.
We thought the idea was hilarious.
Enough background.
My husband, for our 25th anniversary, surprised me with a trip to Greece.
And a cruise around the Mediterranean on a tall ship.
My dream of a lifetime.
And the vacation of a lifetime.
Ten days of unbelievable bliss.
I probably don't have to mention, here, that I enjoyed it.
But I will anyway.
I enjoyed it.
Immensely.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm . . .
What? Where was I?
Oh, yes.
Greece.
Mediterranean.
During the cruise, we discovered the joy of laying in the nets beneath the spritsail at the bow of the ship, watching the Mediterranean slip past far beneath us.
It was the most relaxing experience of my life.
On the second last evening of our cruise, we introduced several new friends to this delicious experience.
Let me describe the scene . . .
The sun was setting, glowing orange and red on the clots of cloud floating far above us in the darkening sky. There was just enough breeze to fill every rosy sail and push us forward through gentle, perfect waves on impossibly blue water.
The air was a caress. Soft. Fragrant.
The only sounds were the occasional call of the sea birds as they floated on still wings alongside us.
Rocked gently, we hovered at the edges of complete peace.
Conversation lagged as, one by one, the members of our party flirted with the idea of succumbing to the call of Morpheus.
Drowsily, I turned to my husband and said, "What a perfect evening."
He laughed. "No, we need one more thing to make it truly perfect."
"What is that?"
"Dolphins."
He was right. The last perfect touch would be dolphins, chittering and giggling as they leaped and played in the water beside us.
"We could always try the Universal Animal Call."
We explained the UAC to our new friends, and joined in their laughter.
Then I sat up.
And whistled.
Tweee-eet! Tweee-eet!
And we laughed again.
Silence settled over us once more.
Silence broken, suddenly, by . . . chittering and giggling.
We looked down.
Several dolphins were leaping and playing alongside us.
I blinked and stared, open-mouthed.
Then rubbed my eyes and stared again.
Yes. There really were dolphins.
And yes, they really were playing beside the ship.
My husband and I looked at each other.
And laughed.
Happily, this time.
Maybe the UAC actually worked.
Or maybe it was just an amazing coincidence.
But it made the evening truly perfect.
And I'll never, ever forget it.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Raining Mice


Okay, he only looks cute . . .
We lived in the country.
Far out in the country.
We had many people living in our house.
But we weren't the only residents.
Maybe I should describe our other (for lack of a better term) tenants.
They were warm.
Breathing.
And regularly produced offspring.
They routinely got into our food storage.
And created their own comfortable little hideaways. 
Mostly in our walls and dressers.
And they never, ever paid rent.
Oh, and two important points:
1. They were covered with hair.
2. They had tails.
You're right.
We had mice.
Did you know that mice like to nest in clean baby clothes, rendering them un-wearable?
That they climb anywhere?
And can squeeze through really, really tiny holes?
So that it is nearly impossible to bar them from your home.
And they like everything we like.
Especially things that come in a cloth or cardboard package.
And some plastic.
Their standards are not high.In fact, they have even been known to burrow into boxes of Kraft dinner or bags of Ramen noodles, which we all know have no nutritional value whatsoever.
We learned to deal with them.
Trap them when we could.
Even poison some when we were truly desperate.
But still they kept coming.
We found 'mice tracks' in our clean bedding. On the shelves. On top of the TV. Even on the kitchen counters.
It was a nightmare.
One I think could easily be turned into a horror movie. Hmmm. Attack of the Mice? Or: The Teeth That Could Chew Through Anything? How about: The Really Annoying Things in the Walls?
Okay, I'm out. What are your suggestions?
Moving on . . .
My Husby and I were in bed, drifting at the edges of sleep.
Well, I was, he was reading a magazine.
Suddenly, he spotted movement.
I should explain here, that our temporary bedroom was in the basement and our bed was shoved into the corner formed by the meeting of two cinder-block walls.
Mice can climb cinder block walls.
And I was the person sleeping next to the wall.
Enough exposition.
My husband turned his head sharply and the mouse climbing up the corner, inches from my head, immediately dove for cover.
My husband narrowed his eyes, rolled the magazine he had been reading, and waited.
Okay I will admit that I'm only imagining the narrowed eyes.
But this is my story. I'll tell it how I want . . .
Soon, his patience was rewarded.
Our intrepid little explorer (See how refined I am? I could have called him *&^%$#@!!!) started, once more, upwards.
This time, Grant waited until the mouse was high enough on the wall that it couldn't possibly get back. Then he attacked.
SWAT! 
With the rolled-up magazine.
He got it!
The stunned mouse fell.
Right onto my chest.
The edges of sleep vanished as I gasped and sat up. Whereupon (good word) it fell with a plop into my lap.
Grant scooped it up, quickly dispatched it, and then turned the most apologetic face to me that I have ever seen.
And all I could do was laugh.
What else can you do when it starts raining mice?
Indoors.
P.S. We did solve our mouse problem. We moved.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Mirror Finish

Gamer Extraordinaire.
I’m afraid I just don’t get it.
And probably never will . . .
Several of our grandchildren were over for a visit.
Something, I’m very pleased to say, that happens often.
One grandson, Thorin, aged five was very excited.
“Gramma!” he said. “Dad was playing Zelda (I’m assuming this is a video game . . .) and he got the mirror shield!”
I stared at him.  “Ummm . . . good?” I was hazarding a guess here, based on my advanced people-reading skills.
Okay, in his enthusiasm, he was hovering a foot off the ground.
Nothing advanced needed.
Moving on . . .
“Yeah and he can get all the bad guys!”
Okay. Bad guys I do understand.
“So a mirror shield will get rid of bad guys?”
“Yeah!”
I spent a couple of moments in wrinkle-browed thought.
A mirror shield?
Apart from saving Perseus when he was fighting the Medusa, I couldn’t think of a single attribute that could make such a thing into an obviously important and much-sought-after weapon.
If it broke, would that give you seven gamer's years of bad luck?
And would one need glass cleaner to keep it pristine?
And just where would one carry and keep a bottle of glass-cleaner?
These are important details . . .
“So . . . how does it work?” I asked him finally. “Do you hold it up to the bad guys and they take one glimpse at themselves and say, ‘Man, is that what I look like? How could I have walked out the door this morning?!’ and then run home?”
It was Thorin’s turn to stare.
In disgust.
“No,” Gramma,” he said. “You use it to . . .” And he was off, describing scenarios and hair-breadth escapes.
Huh.
I still think my way is better.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jobs That Stink

The workin' man.
P.S He hates this picture. But I'm the one with the blog!

It was my husband's first job following our marriage.
Foreman of a house-building company.
He was . . . excited.
It sounded prestigious.
And would be.
Once they got the plant built.
His new boss had a plan that would cut down on initial costs significantly. They would remodel said boss' pig barn.
It was the right size.
It was in fantastic shape.
Perfect.
It just needed a few touches.
First, and most important, the present residents.
Then, and nearly as important, the cleaning of the sewer system, still full of sewer . . . stuff.
For those who don't know, a pig barn has little ditches running through it. Ditches that are covered by grates and which catch all of the 'icky' stuff.
When the system gets too full, a truck is brought in.
A special truck, with a large tank and hose.
This hose is inserted at the proper place and all sewage is quickly and cleanly removed.
The truck drives away and discharges its load onto the nearest farmer's field, providing nutrition to growing plants.
Not a pleasant job.
But a necessary one.
And it needed to be done before the building of the house plant could continue.
Grant's boss brought in the truck.
The two of them made quick work of draining the sewers.
Then, the next step.
The discharge.
Normally, this would be the easiest part.
You would simply reverse the switch.
And stay upwind.
Things started out well.
Sewage was being discharged at a normal rate.
Then, suddenly, it stopped.
Oh the motor was still running strongly.
It's just that nothing was coming out.
I should probably mention here that the discharge engine is quite powerful on these trucks. It needs to push a lot of stuff a long way.
Back to my story . . .
Cautiously, the two of them removed the hose and leaned over to peek into the discharge valve.
"Ah!" Grant's boss said. "I see the problem. Look. It's plugged right there." He pointed. He straightened and began to walk around, kicking at the dirt.
Finally, he spotted a large stick and brought it back to where Grant was still waiting.
"I can fix it," he said, cheerfully. He poked the stick into the valve.
"No, wait . . ." Grant started.
He got no further.
Kaaaablooooie! Or words to that effect.
Let me put it this way . . . neither of them had time to get out of the way.
I'm sure I don't need to describe the scene.
There is an addendum . . .
It was nearly time for Grant to get home from work.
I was just checking on our evening meal when his truck pulled into the yard and ground to a halt.
Ah! Early. Good. We could have a visit before we sat down to eat.
I glanced through the window.
Just in time to see my young husband, in his underwear, leap from the truck and scamper towards the house.
I admit it. My first thought was, 'Wow! Eager!'
He whipped open the door, tossed me a brief, 'Hi!' and headed directly for the bathroom.
There was the sound of the shower, then a loud, "Ahhhh!"
Now there's something that didn't happen every day.
I walked into the bathroom. "Hard day, Honey?"
"I'll tell you about it!" he said over the sound of the water.
And he did.
I thought it was hilarious.
He didn't.
Extra note: Grant's hastily shed clothes remained in the box of the truck until weeks of weather made it possible for them to be removed to the trash.
But the memories remained.
Some things you just can't wash out.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Home-Burned Breakfast


Picture him 20 years younger.
The hair was red . . .

Dad was the youngest in a family of 11 children.
He had never been anywhere.
When Dad was five, his father decided he was old enough, finally, to go along when he took supplies to one of the family cow camps - about 35 miles away over roads that were mostly trails across the prairie.
The two of them started out.
Though the day had started out beautiful, the weather quickly turned sour.
As often happens in Southern Alberta.
And before they could start for home, a blizzard had blown in.
Travel quickly went from difficult to impossible.
Granddad decided that he and his youngest son would have to bunk with the rotund keeper (who also served as cook, bottle washer, chore boy, range rider and chief spinner of horrendous tales) of the camp.
Dad was beyond excited.
It was his very first time sleeping away from home.
The next morning dawned bright and clear.
Something else that often happens in Southern Alberta . . .
And Granddad decided that travel home would be attempt-able.
Before the two of them left, however, they were offered breakfast by the keeper.
He made bacon and eggs and, because the old, wood-burning, camp stove was rather unpredictable, biscuits that were burned black.
At first, Dad turned up his nose at the sight of the large, black lumps, but, after seeing his father eat a couple, he decided to try.
They weren't too bad.
He even got through a second.
Safely back at home a few hours later, as they were sitting down to lunch, his mother asked how he had liked it at the camp.
Dad was quite excited about the whole experience and talked about it enthusiastically.
He wished he could have stayed.
His Mom asked what he had eaten for breakfast.
It had been great, he enthused.
And he had eaten all of it!
"What did you have?" his mother asked.
"Bacon 'n eggs 'n coal!" Dad said proudly.
No wonder people were hardier back then.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Flight or [and] Faint

I'm late, I know! 
But this is the first chance I've had to use Delores' challenge words from last Wednesday!
The first word was enough to send me into a spin. 
Oh, dear . . .

Flight, tropical, balanced, sunstroke, despair, slime

Ready for anything . . .
My Husby loves to travel,
It’s just the way he is,
North or South; East or West,
The world is truly his.

He loves to take me with him,
(It’s good I love to go)
Foreign or domestic,
Above or Down Below.

But there’s one thing problematic,
One teeny, little blight - 
To see most things he wants to see,
We have to take a flight.

To get us two from here to there
We hurtle through the air,
While all around me talk and eat,
I curl up in despair.

He says we’re safe, quotes stats galore,
The balanced dance of gear.
I see a tube with flimsy wings,
That gives me naught but fear.

Next month, our target’s tropical,
Amenities sublime,
But though my mind’ll be happy there,
In flight, it’s dark like slime.

I love to go to Mexico,
And be sunstroke aware.
I’ll treasure each small moment,
The pain is getting there!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Phone Phorce


My 'Creative Parenting 101' Professor
When Dad spoke. We listened.
Most of the time.
But one ignored my father at one's own risk.
Let me tell you about it . . .
I had a boyfriend.
It was a new and exciting experience for me.
We would say good-bye at the school bus stop, get on our respective buses and head for home.
Fifty minutes later, we would be on the phone.
Talking.
For hours.
Literally.
I should point out here that, in the 1960s, we had one phone line to the ranch.
And, because we were ultra-modern and progressive, two phones on that line.
One in the kitchen.
And one in my parents bedroom.
The epitome of modern convenience.
Back to my story . . .
I don't know what we found to talk about. But talk, we did. Until one or both of us was tagged for chores.
Or supper was announced.
Or our parents got annoyed.
My Mom was usually quite predictable, saying such things as, “Diane! Get off the phone! You've been on there for an hour!”
To which I would comply.
Eventually.
And under protest.
My Dad was a little more creative.
He would walk in the door, see me there on the phone, note the time, and leave the room.
That was my cue.
And my only warning.
I had seconds to say my good-byes.
Because Dad wanted me off the phone. And I wasn't going to like his methods.
They were . . . effective.
He would simply walk into his bedroom and turn on the radio.
Loudly.
Then take the phone receiver and lay it down beside said radio.
If I hadn't already ended my conversation, I did so then.
With a shouted good-bye and hastily cradled phone.
Mission accomplished.
Simply and elegantly, without a word being spoken.
Genius.

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