Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Neighbours

Supplier of kindliness. And food.
The Stringam ranch was a large spread situated some twenty miles from the town of Milk River, Alberta.
The land stretched for miles along the Alberta-Montana border.
The buildings were nestled in a picturesque prairie valley somewhere in the middle, surrounded by tall cliffs and the lazy sweep of the south fork of the Milk River itself.
It was nine miles to the nearest neighbour.
But we got there as often as we could.
Or, at least we kids did.
Maybe I should explain . . .
In my day, the school bus service ended at Nine-Mile corner, a triangle of crossroads exactly – you guessed it - nine miles from the ranch.
This necessitated the driving, twice a day, of a vehicle to intercept said bus.
Okay, it was something unheard-of in this day of school bus service to your door, but it was a fact in the sixties.
Mom was the driver of choice, with occasional relief work by Dad.
But that’s only a peripheral to my story . . .
Less than a mile from that corner, at the end of a long driveway, was the Sproad farm. Our nearest neighbours.
Ben and Clestia Sproad were an elderly couple who raised sheep and milk cows. Their daughter had married and moved away and they had settled into a routine of farm work, household duties, grandparenting and kindliness.
Their home was a haven of peace, cleanliness, love and fabulous German baking.
Every day, after the bus had deposited our little group beside the road, and if our intercept vehicle was not in sight, we would excitedly begin the long trek toward the promise of smiling faces and wonderful food.
We didn’t make it often.
Usually, the ranch station wagon would come skidding around the corner in a cloud of dust and slide to a halt beside us, before we had taken much more than a few steps.
But occasionally, if Mom had been delayed, we managed the ten-minute walk and actually grabbed the brass ring.
Or, in this case, the freshly-baked reward for our efforts.
Served happily by Mrs. Sproad, and accompanied by her soft, cheerful chatter.
“Oh, Di-ane! You are getting zo big. Zoon you’ll be taller than me! Here. Have another.” And she was right. By the time I was in sixth grade, I had passed her by.
On these special days, Mom would appear, rather red-faced and spilling apologies. “Oh, Clestia! I’m so sorry! I got tied up . . .”
It didn’t matter. Mrs. Sproad would laugh and offer something to Mom as well.
Soon we would be on the road back to the ranch.
Still tired from the day.
But with bellies filled with yumminess and hearts filled with cheer.
Nine-Mile corner no longer exists.
And the Sproads have long been gone.
But I can still taste that baking.
And feel the love.

16 comments:

  1. I love theses glimpses of a world so different from mine!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it fascinating? I love these visits!

      Delete
  2. That Nine Mile Corner is still there, albeit not as defined as it once was. At least those county rocks/boulders that said county called 'gravel' has long since been replaced with asphalt. And yes, memories of Ben and Celestia Sproad and their home that was fashioned by pushing (2) granaries together, sealing, insulating and plastering; it was still a home where love prevailed. I believe the farm was originally homesteaded by Ben and Celestia. They lived there all their lives.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't even see 9MC when I drove past. It's just a bend in the road now! I was reading up on them. They homesteaded two miles north and then rented/bought this place from another couple. Both of them loved it. Called it 'Peaceful Valley'. They loved horseback riding! Definitely my kind of people!

      Delete
  3. Great Memory Diane,
    They were great people. I used to worry that you would have to wait a long time at that corner. I'm glad that I was mistaken.
    Chris Barnhart

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If there was food nearby, you can bet we didn't wait around! And a smiling face included? Even better!

      Delete
  4. As long as you remember them....they are still there.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Do neighbours like that exist nowadays? Sadly, probably not. They're out working to keep body and soul together. What lovely memories to have...and German baking! Oh, yummy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were truly unique.
      I gasped when I saw this picture! That was Clestie! Such SWEET memories!

      Delete
  6. Baking neighbours are the best kind to have. I had one right next door when I was 8-9-10.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We had wonderful neighbours when I was growing up, also. I think it was more of a country thing, or maybe it was that generation. Everyone looked out for everyone else. Clestia has such a kind face.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe both.
      She was infinitely kind. And full of sass! I can still see her eyes twinkle!

      Delete
  8. What and endearing story; I loved it.
    Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They really were adorable people. I miss them!

      Delete

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