Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Un-Match-ed Entertainment

That's Entertainment!
On the ranch, in the 50s, we burned our garbage.
It was the only option.
Each week, the trash cans were collected from every room in the house
Carried out to the burning barrel.
Emptied into said barrel.
And set alight.
It was an exciting job.
Okay, well, it looked exciting to me.
Probably because the task came with an 'age appropriate' rating.
And I hadn't reached that age.
Sigh.
I would scurry through the house, collecting bins for whoever was assigned.
Then help them lug everything to the trash barrel.
Then stand back and watch as they . . .
 . . . LIT THE MATCH.
Oooooo!
Most of the time, it only took one.
I was more than fascinated.
The lit match would be lowered into the barrel.
A curl of smoke would issue forth.
Then the first of the flames.
There was nothing . . . I repeat nothing . . . more exciting.
And I had been to movies.
And watched Bonanza on TV.
Okay, well, maybe I'd better exclude Bonanza which, incidentally, started with its own fire.
I mean, who could possibly compete with Pa Cartwright?
And his delicious buckskin gelding.
Ahhh.
I've wandered from the point . . .
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Garbage.
And burning it.
For years, I watched, enviously as, first my parents, then my older siblings got to light the match.
Slowly, the day approached when I would be trusted with the all-important job.
And then, it was here.
"Diane, would you please burn the garbage?"
Eeeeeeee!
I carefully collected every bin.
Toted them all down to the barrel.
Chose one at random and dumped its contents.
Chose another.
And another.
And finally, surrounded by empty trash cans, the magic moment.
I lit the match.
And dropped it carefully into the accumulated trash.
It winked out.
Huh.
I tried again.
Same thing.
This was harder than it looked.
Most of a book of matches later, I discovered that I needed to choose a piece of paper as my first victim.
Light that, then let it light the rest.
Ahhh!
Finally, I had a blaze.
I stepped back and watched proudly.
My first trash fire.
Okay, I admit it, you have to look for opportunities to shine in this life.
Within a few weeks, I was an old hand at 'burning the trash'.
I could collect, empty and light with the best of them.
And use one match to do it.
And then the gloss wore off.
Dad: "Diane. Time to take out the trash."
Me: "Can't someone else do it? I'm watching Woody Woodpecker!"
Blair: "I'll do it!"
Dad: "Blair's too little. He can help, but Diane has to light the match."
Me: [Huge sigh.] "Okay. Fine."
Blair: "Yipee!"
The fire circle of life.

15 comments:

  1. I remember becoming excited doing dishes, then mowing the lawn(s). Then they became chores... and still are...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ugh! Where's a younger, less world-weary sibling when you need them?!

      Delete
  2. Hubs and I had to burn the trash for Dad when we went to see him on weekends.....have to admit....still loved it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My parents were clearly not doing it right - I cannot EVER remember being excited to do chores. But I got to do them anyway. Sigh. (Maybe it was me not doing it right :)) ... now, anticipating a good reading session of the latest library book ... THAT was exciting :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh! I can definitely go along with that one! :)

      Delete
  4. Such big moments in life, and yet the flame sizzles out. I remember that trash burning thrill as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The flame sizzles out. Exactly right!

      Delete
  5. I had older brothers and being the only girl I was never allowed to do any of the FUN stuff! Like burning garbage or mowing grass! Now I just tell my husband, "Sorry babe, I never learned how to mow the lawn."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heehee! See? It was only painful for a while . . .

      Delete
  6. The spark went out of your fire lighting too soon. I enjoyed burning the trash for many years. We had a cinder block incinerator which we filled until the lid would barley close, making sure paper was on the bottom, because that's where we lit it through a little hatch. We'd light it up and after a while use a long iron rod to open the lid, then reach in with the rod and stir it all up so it would keep burning.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A world I can only imagine. I eat this stuff up, it's so different from my own life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I love hearing from your experiences! This blogging is a sweet education! :)

      Delete
  8. I remember watching my Dad burn trash. I always wanted to light the match but he was of firm belief that was not a "girl's job" Great post bringing back good memories

    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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