Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Bow City Spectacle (A Short Story) Part Two

I'm getting into Christmas.
And what better way than a repost of one of my Christmas Short Stories?!
If you missed part one, you can go here. Go ahead. We'll wait . . .

Part Two.
During the weekly town council meeting on October 11, Councilor Makepeace proposed that a Parade Marshal be appointed for the fast approaching Christmas Parade, a highlight of the town's year.
Several names were put forward.
But two people seated impatiently in the crowd immediately surged to their feet.
"I would like to propose my own name," Jenna Grace said loudly.
"And I would like to propose mine," F. Roddy was a breath behind her.
They turned and glared at each other, then, facing the council once more, reiterated their proposals.
With a bit more volume.
"I would like to volunteer!" they said together.
Another glare.
"Me! Me!"
Mayor Mayor stood up and waved two pudgy hands. "We'd like to thank our two volunteers," he said, soothingly. "We appreciate your willingness to give of yourselves and your time," He chuckled. "The council will consider your proposals and get back to you tomorrow."
Mumbling to themselves, Jenna Grace and F. Roddy resumed their seats.
Each shot one last heated glare in the other's direction, then finally subsided.
The meeting concluded and the room emptied, leaving only the council members.
"Well, what do you think we should do?" Karen asked Mayor Mayor.
"I don't have the foggiest idea," he said, smiling at her.
"I have an idea," another councilor, Kevin Rhymes, said.
"Please, Kevin. We welcome any and all suggestions," the mayor said.
"Well, why don't we have the two of them work together?"
"Co-Marshalls?"
"Well, let's face it," Kevin said. "The two of them are trying to drum up votes for the by-election in January, right?"
"I'm sure that's what's behind this sudden surge of community spirit," Karen said.
"Well, let's let them," Kevin said. "See how well they work with each other."
"How well the children play together in the sandbox?" Mayor Mayor said.
The councilors laughed.
"What do you think?" Kevin glanced around at the group.
"Well," the mayor said slowly, "it certainly might prove interesting."
"To say the least," Karen said quietly.
"I think we should let them," another councilor spoke up.
"I agree," said another.
"Shall we hold a little ad hoc vote?" the mayor asked.
"I'm in favor," Kevin said.
"You're the one who proposed it," Karen made a face at him.
He grinned. "So that's one vote."
"What about the rest of you?" the mayor asked.
"I think it's a great idea!"
"I'm in favor."
Finally he turned to Karen. "Things seem to be unanimous, Karen," he said. "Except for you."
Karen shrugged. "Who am I to stand in the way of progress," she said. "I agree."
"Okay, who wants to let them know?"

Friday, November 29, 2013

Bow City Spectacle (A Short Story) Part One

I'm getting into Christmas.
And what better way than a repost of one of my Christmas Short Stories?!
Part One:

It was the most exciting Christmas Parade in our town's history.
Just not for the right reasons.
Maybe I should explain.
Our town, Bow Bank, Alberta, lies nestled in the crook of a branch of the Milk River.
It's a quiet, sleepy little place that really hasn't changed much in the past 50 years.
Families live there. Worship there. Grow there.
The current mayor, Hector Mayor, is a happy fellow, with a large heart and an equally large girth.
And endowed with a great sense of humor.
Well let's face it, with a title like Mayor Mayor, a sense of humor is rather important.
He's been in office for over fifteen years and rules our town with a fatherly and liberal hand.
His council has followed him in every decision he's ever made.
Well, until recently, that is.
In October, rumors started swirling through the Ladies Aid that things were not as they should be among the place holders on council.
And the rumors proved to be true.
It turned out that Rand Digby, he of the sweet wife and seven children, had eyes for another of the council members.
First timer, Karen Makepeace.
Fortunately, she was not like-minded and stopped him in his tracks.
So to speak.
But the scandal hit the air waves, being the hottest topic of discussion at the Ladies Aid, over the latest charity quilt and accompanying cups of herbal tea and tiny petits fours.
The result was that Mrs. Digby and her brood abruptly pulled up stakes and fled to her mother's.
Rand followed shortly, apologies spilling forth.
But the damage was done.
His wife refused to return to the scene of her humiliation and the now-repentant Rand refused to return without her.
When the dust had finally settled, a council seat was vacant.
A by-election was called and two people threw their hats into the ring.
Jenna Grace Chappell (Not like the church, mind! Two 'l's' and two 'p's', thank you very much!), the local librarian.
And F. Rodney Digby (or F. Roddy, as he preferred) the elementary school principal and younger brother to Rand, he of the slippery morals and newly-repentant spirit.
The by-election was set for January.
The contest was on.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Climb Every Mountain

Delores has challenged.
Her minions scramble to obey.
Today's words?
Frequent, mischief, donuts, sparkling, ankle, distress 

Cute. But hard to carry . . .

Our family was on holiday.
A not in-frequent occurrence.
A chance for mischief and mayhem.
And donuts for breakfast.
And which, for us, meant stopping at every point of interest, museum, and huge ball of string we could find.
We were in Yellowstone Park.
The kids were loving it because there was lots of ‘nature’ and not one ball of string anywhere in the vicinity.
We had hiked to the bottom of one of the falls.
A nice steadily-downhill walk of about two kilometers (a little over a mile).
We had enjoyed the sight of the pure, sparkling water pouring down the cliff face.
The clean air.
The rampant forest growth.
And the ‘people-on-vacation’ watching.
Probably the most fun activity of all.
We were ready to start the hike back.
Now, I should point out here that the worst thing about hiking down into a site is the probability that one will, inevitably have to come up to get back out.
Unless there are people-porters about.
And there never are.
Hmmm . . . might be a good idea, though.
But back to my story . . .
We had ascended about fifty feet when my eldest daughter turned her ankle.
Awakening an old, rather nasty injury.
She was suddenly hobbling about on one leg.
Not a really convenient – or safe – way to hike up a forest path.
I don’t care how wide and smooth it is.
As everyone else had preceded us by several minutes, because my oldest daughter hadn’t finished ‘soaking in the beauty’, and because cell phones only existed on Star Trek, there was no one to turn to in our distress.
There was nothing else to do.
I would have to carry her out.
I should probably mention here that, my seventeen-year-old daughter weighed exactly the same as me at this point in time.
Exactly.
The.
Same.
And was several inches taller.
Yikes.
She climbed on my back and we started up.
Slowly.
I could make it about thirty steps before I had to stop to breathe.
And make sure my heart hadn’t found a way to climb up out of my chest.
Oh, we made it.
Though the walk that had taken us ten minutes to go down took over an hour back up.
Our family spotted us as we came up over the last rise. They closed around us and my Husby took our daughter up the last 100 yards.
Where we both, my daughter and me, collapsed on a convenient bench.
The attendants were instantly swarming around her, offering ice and wraps and comforting, consoling words.
I, on the other hand, received nothing but a blithely given, ‘Thanks, Mom!’
But that’s okay.
She still owes me.
And I have a long memory . . .


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Toddler Law

The REALLY new face of law enforcement.
The kids were over.
With their kids.
The house was full, lively and bustling.
Dinner was finished.
The grandkids, newly released from the dinner table, were making up for lost time.
They had managed to store up a lot of energy in the hour it had taken to eat, and time was running short to burn it off before hometime.
Cousins were chasing cousins.
The noise level had risen dramatically.
The toddlers, always the last to wade out into the cousin-cyclone were hovering about the table and the adults still sitting there visiting.
Our just-turned-two-year-old (not to be confused with our two-and-a-half-year-old) had just been given an assignment.
Go and refill Mama’s glass with water.
Her responsibility rested heavily on those small shoulders and she was holding said glass carefully in front of her with both hands, and making her way slowly through the dining room and hallway and into the kitchen.
Just as she reached the hall, two of her cousins, brothers, dashed past her into the front room, intent on their game of ‘chase-and-beat-the-other-guy-with-a-pillow’.
It’s a very popular game.
Still holding her glass, she marched indignantly into the room behind them, her face a comical mix of righteous exasperation and toddler-ish-ness (real word - maybe). “Guys! Guys! No hitting with pillows!”
The two brothers bounced back and forth in front of her.
Oblivious. And giggling.
This time, a bit louder. “GUYS! NO! NO HITTING WITH PILLOWS!”
Still no reaction.
“GUYS!!!”
Her mother intervened. “Boys! Calm down!”
They immediately subsided.
Then she turned to her small daughter. “Hazey, are you getting Mama’s drink?”
“Oh. Yup.” The little girl returned to her errand.
How many of us have been witness to some sort of shenanigans?
Out-numbered and infinitely out-weighed.
Would we have the courage and commitment to do something about it?
To stand, feet planted, in the middle of the monkeyshines and say what must be said.
Or, more accurately, shout what must be shouted.
Obviously, the world needs more just-turned-two-year-olds.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Dog Germs

The thief.
We buy our cheese in a large block.
We have a lot of mouths to feed.
And every one of them is a cheese-lover.
Also: grating said cheese leaves an interesting pattern of little grooves on the main piece.
And: We raise Old English Sheepdogs. Our big male is named Chiefy.
On with my story . . .
Husby and I had been out for the evening.
The kids, ages eight to nineteen were home.
Watching TV and eating . . . what else? . . . cheese.
Putting it on bread.
Then toasting the two together.
Mmmmmmmmm.
Periodically, someone would come out to the kitchen, prepare another round and disappear into the TV room once more.
When we got home, the snacking and movie-watching was still ongoing.
Or at least the movie-watching.
The food had not yet been put away.
Okay, I admit it, I’m a bit OCD when it comes to food being left out.
Spotting the large block of cheese sitting on the cupboard, I made my disgusted face and instantly turned into uber-annoying SUPERCLEAN MOM.
I picked it up.
Now, usually, when the kids are making snacks including cheese, they would simply slice pieces off.
The end of this block looked as though they had been grating it.
Hmmm. Not common, but not unheard of.
I sliced the grooved end off the cheese and ate it, then wrapped the main block and put it into the fridge and generally tidied up.
Then I went into the TV room to join my Husby and the rest of the family.
My daughter turned to look at me.
“Mom! Did you see that Chiefy has been eating the cheese?”
I stared at her. “I thought you had been grating it.”
“Nope. I came upstairs and there he was chewing on the end. I pushed it to the back of the cupboard, but left it there ‘cause I wasn’t sure what you’d want done with it.”
“Ummmm . . .” I thought of the piece I had just eaten and felt a little green.
(Lucy Van Pelt from Peanuts has nothing on me when it comes to dog-germ-phobia. I know. I know. Weird, coming from a ranch girl.)
“I’ve taken care of it,” I said finally.
I had.
Yuck.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Driving Distracted

Drive with caution.
We country kids learned how to drive on gravel roads.
Now, I should point out here that travel on gravel roads can be rather treacherous.
Especially when the gravel is deep and loose and hasn’t been graded (scraped into an even surface) in a while.
Usually, on our sparsely-gravelled roads, this wasn’t a problem.
Occasionally, it was . . .
At those times, if one stepped on the gas pedal a bit too eagerly, the back-end of the vehicle could begin to fish-tail (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like) and one could easily lose control.
Particularly if one was not very experienced.
Usually at times like this, the ditch is the inevitable final destination.
Best-case scenario: the vehicle simply leaves the road and travels, more-or-less in a straight line, into the ditch.
Worst-case scenario: Lives are at risk as the vehicle turns over.
Most gravel-road stories landed (pun intended) somewhere between these two developments.
I had heard of some of the worst of the worst.
Had actually witnessed a roll-over when a bunch of us kids were on our way home from a day out at Writing-On-Stone Park. (Fortunately no one was seriously injured.)
And I had been intimately involved in one of the best.
FYI, there’s nothing ‘best’ about it . . .
It was late.
My friend, Debbie and I were on our way home from an activity, closely followed by two friends in a pick-up truck.
Male friends.
Cute male friends.
I was driving.
And distracted.
We were travelling at speeds a little beyond what I normally drove.
Because I was showing off. (See above - ie. distracted.)
My little red car started to fish-tail.
Instantly, I was remembering the one and only roll-over I had witnessed just a few months previously.
I decided the only way to avoid that particular scenario was to head straight for the ditch.
Which I did.
Straight in. Keeping all four wheels on the ground.
And straight into an approach.
Wham!
We stopped, dead.
Our friends pulled up in a cloud of dust and dove out of their truck.
“Are you all right?” one of them shouted.
My friend, Debbie got out. “We’re fine,” she said, sounding a bit shook up and more than a little disgusted.
It was my first and, to date, only accident.
All I could think of was how angry my parents would be.
I burst into really unattractive tears.
And sobbed like a two-year-old.
For about ten minutes.
After making sure I really was all right, our two intrepid and very attractive young men climbed back into their truck.
And sat there in uncomfortable silence.
The car was fine.
A couple of dents.
My friend, Debbie and I were fine.
A couple of bruises.
The biggest injury of the evening was to my attract-ability.
These were farm boys.
Used to farm girls.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, farm girls cry.
But let’s face it, a stoic tear sliding attractively down a smooth, unblemished cheek is a far cry from someone sobbing their heart out with swollen eyes, dripping nose and blotchy face.
And without even being injured.
Yep. Any possible connection with either of those boys was instantly severed.
So . . . my point?
If you are driving on gravel roads, be cautious.
Your vehicle and/or your hide might not be the only things injured . . .

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Small But Mighty


Now
Then
Our oldest grandson had to have his tonsils out.
Poor little guy.
But they were so huge that they made it difficult for him to swallow and were constantly getting infected.
There were perks.
For a week, he got to live on freezies and fruit pops and jello and things cold and sweet and delicious.
Paradise.
He is feeling much better now.
And able to swallow, perhaps for the first time in his life.
Bless modern medicine.
It was day surgery. In and out.
The whole experience reminded me of my older brother, George.
Who had the same problem, fifty years ago.
Are we seeing a pattern, here?
George had a big appetite.
And a small throat.
He would chew and chew and chew on a piece of tender, wonderful roast beef.
Chew and chew and chew.
Then, finally, give up in despair and sit there, morosely, with a lump of meat in his mouth that he simply couldn't swallow.
My Dad took pity on him and told him to spit his mouthful into Dad's hand.
Which he did.
And which my Dad then disposed of.
Umm. Ick.
Then George would happily move on to the potatoes and gravy.
For a couple of years, the same scenario was played out at the Stringam dinner table.
George starting out with things chewy and delicious.
Then moving on to things mushy and easier to swallow.
Finally, it became so common that Dad didn't even get the chance to offer to help.
George would chew and chew and chew, then reach for Dad's hand and spit his mouthful into it.
Often without Dad realizing it.
Until it had happened.
Sort of hard to ignore then . . .
When he did it at a restaurant, my parents decided that something had to be done.
Checkup.
Diagnosis: large tonsils.
Solution: Removal.
Back then, though the operation was common, it meant several day's stay at the local hospital.
But with lots and lots of ice cream and jello and things cold and sweet and delicious.
Modern medicine has come so far.

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