Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Friday, July 4, 2014

For Farm Use Only

For farm use only . . .
For kids who had been raised on the farm, moving to the big town was a big step.
They handled it well.
The street we were on was a 'local traffic only' type.
Alive with kids and bikes and . . . playing.
Perfect for anyone excited at the prospect of making new friends.
Which my kids were.
In no time, they had troops of buddies traipsing through the house.
Playing in the yard.
Running in the street.
Okay, that last activity probably sounds . . . dangerous.
But there were nearly 50 kids living in the houses on our street.
Anyone coming into the street lived there.
And drove carefully.
Moving on . . .
For the first while, our family was simply happy to have landed in such a wonderful place.
Friendly neighbours.
Private park.
Tons of playmates.
A dream come true.
But, like many dreams, this one came with a cold dose of reality.
Let me explain.
Our house was built on the side of a hill.
With a potential walk-out basement.
Which didn't.
Walk-out, I mean.
Sigh.
But the balcony looking out from the back had a lovely view of the neighbours below and on either side of us.
And on to the fields outside of town.
Perfect.
The kids spent a lot of time out there on the balcony.
Talking and playing.
Hollering across at the neighbours' kids.
Generally having a good time.
But our children were essentially farm kids.
They were virtually innocent when it came to the sophisticated 'town' children.
One day, a young man came home with our oldest son.
They had played Nintendo for a while, then moved out on the back deck to see the sights.
Which included our next-door neighbour's three children, happily playing in their back yard.
Now, here is where the story gets sticky.
My son had a BB gun.
A 'You'll put your eye out!' BB gun.
On the farm, it had been great fun.
Target shooting.
Trying to hit gophers.
Sometime, I'll tell you about the gophers.
Ahem.
But once we had moved to town, the gun had stayed in a rack on the wall.
There was nothing to safely shoot at in town.
I emphasize the word, 'safely'.
But my son's new friend was intrigued by this toy.
He asked if he could hold it.
Sure.
Take it outside.
Sure.
Shoot at the fence boards.
Ummm . . . I guess that's all right.
But it didn't stop there.
The boy shot a couple of times at the fence.
Then decided that the little kids next door offered better targets.
My horror-struck son watched as the boy shot once over the fence.
Then he grabbed the gun and ran down to his room.
Soon, there was a knock at our front door.
I opened it to find our neighbour, red-faced with anger.
“Did you know that your kids were shooting a BB gun at my kids?”
I stared at him.
Surely not.
My kids knew better than that.
Didn't they?
I hollered for my son, who dragged himself up the stairs.
The picture of guilt.
I didn't even have to ask.
“It was my friend,” he said. “He shot at the kids over the fence.”
“Well, he hit one of them,” the outraged dad said.
I looked at my son, horrified. “Why didn't you tell me?”
“I didn't know what to do,” my son said. “I grabbed the gun and ran with it.”
“Where's your friend?”
“He left.”
“Probably a good thing,” the dad muttered. “What's his name?”
My son told him.
He looked squarely at my son. “You have some apologizing to do,” he said. Then he stalked off down the street, intent on retribution.
My son and I stared at each other for a moment.
Then he quietly handed me the gun.
And walked next door to apologize.
We learned a few lessons that day.
  1. You can make friends with kids.
  2. But all kids don't make good friends.
  3. And farm toys seldom make the transition to town.
The BB gun never saw the light of day again, until we moved from that house and it ended up in the garage sale.
And my son found different friends.
Good friends.
Painful lessons, in more ways than one.
But well learned.

18 comments:

  1. This is one of those cringe-worthy stories that always seem to be funny in retrospect. LOL, tough lesson learned.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! From a few years down the road, it sort of comes into focus! :)

      Delete
  2. My husband has twin brothers, and when they were about 10, they were arguing in the backyard over who could play with a screwdriver (I have no idea what they were doing with it). One of the twins grabbed it and threw it over the fence - and then they heard screaming. They looked over, and it was sticking out of the top of the 8 year old neighbor boys' head, blood streaming down. He required a few stitches, and they had a LOT of apologizing to do. I always felt bad for my mother in law with those two!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yikes! It's all about timing! Fighting over a screwdriver. That could have gone bad in so many ways . . .

      Delete
  3. I hope someone kept a watch over that young lad who was visiting from that day forth. Any kid of any age who finds it amusing to shoot at another human has a frightening potential as he/she progresses to adulthood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He progressed right from disturbed into downright scary. Poor kid.

      Delete
  4. I will be thinking about this story all day. You have a way of making your readers think and bringing up a lot of our own memories Diane!
    Hopefully that young boy just had such limited exposure to BB guns that he thought what he was doing was hopeless - ignorance is not excuse, but better than violent intent!
    Oh - and anyone who read my post on Thursday will probably guess that I never had a BB gun ... and we had a LOT of gophers where we lived!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately, as he later proved, it was violent intent. Poor kid.
      P.S. I need to send the link from our post to all of my kids!

      Delete
  5. In our neighborhood we have been overwhelmed by gophers. The hawks can't begin to keep up so a couple of neighbors have taken to the .22 rifle with substantial results. I know it's illegal but since one of the neighbors is a police officer, maybe it isn't a bad idea at all...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Could they bring their guns - and intelligence - up here for our crow problem?

      Delete
  6. Valuable lesson, but potentially expensive.....

    ReplyDelete
  7. A scary way to learn some important life lessons, but probably more effective than a lecture alone. We raised 2 boys and they also learned some things the hard way which accounts for at least some of my gray hair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. I can pretty much 'name' my grey hairs as well! :)

      Delete
  8. My brother had one of those, shot out a neighbour's window when aiming at a bird on the windowsill. Dad wasn't happy. Gun was gone the next day.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Country/town kids really are two different things, at least in my experience. And it gives me chills to think what happened in later life with the boy who shot the child, as you've indicated he did not improve. I'm glad your son found some real friends among the townies.

    ReplyDelete
  10. We had a boy who used to shoot at my girlfriend and I everytime we walked past his house if he was out (which was most of the time.

    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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