Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Peeling Poo Prevention

It's magic!
Okay, this is as gritty as I get . . .
Last night, we were having dinner with our good friends.
Lots of talk. Tons of laughter.
And some eating fit in there somewhere.
You know the drill . . .
The talk turned from our kids (our favourite topic) to dogs.
Another favourite.
Our friend, I’ll call her Tammy, mentioned with a shudder, that their miniature schnauzer (hereinafter known as Ruby), sometimes would . . . umm . . . eat those droppings she should have left far behind.
Yes, this was during dinner – now you know why there was more talk and laughter than eating.
Moving on . . .
Tammy had read, recently, that this usually indicated a lack of potassium.
And that the best treatment was to feed her dog a bit of banana.
Did you know that dogs like banana?
Well they do.
Ruby snapped it up like manna from heaven.
And the . . . umm . . . unfortunate tendency . . . disappeared.
Ta-daa!
Tammy’s husby, . . . I’ll call him Gord, spoke up.
“You know,” he said. “I knew it would work!”
We all looked at him.
“Yeah. I’ve been eating bananas forever . . .”
We waited for the punch line . . .
“. . . and I’ve never once been tempted to eat my droppings!”
Banana. Tasty prevent-er of so many things . . .

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lava Love

“Gaahh! Mom! You’re standing in the lava!”
Mom and Dad had taken us kids to see the movie ‘Krakatoa, East of Java’.
(Okay, yes, I know that the title is geographically incorrect, but that was what it was called.)
It had scared me to death. All my young, six-year-old mind could think of after that was trying to get away from the slowly-flowing river of death.
And my favourite game became the daring deathwalk over precariously-placed pillows across the lava lake that was the front room.
I was at it again.
And Mom wasn’t cooperating.
“Oops! Sorry!” Mom jumped lightly onto the closest pillow.
Whew! That was close! I didn’t have a lot of Moms to spare. I’d sure hate to lose this one.
For hours, my brother and I made up scenarios that necessitated leaping back and forth across the pillows and landing, temporarily safe, on the couch or coffee table.
It was fun.
And we never got burned even once.
Nimble kids that we were.
Fast forward a few years . . .
My kids were downstairs playing.
I went to check on them.
They had pillows placed at strategic intervals across the family room floor.
“Careful, Mom! Don’t step in the lava!”
Now where did they get that idea?
The déjà vu was frightening.
And, moving forward again - a lot of years . . .
Yesterday, my daughter and I were visiting in the front room, seated comfortably in recliners.
Her daughter and another granddaughter were playing.
They had been through the toy box.
And had graduated to hiding under piles of cushions on the couch.
Giggling.
A few minutes went by.
“Careful!” the three-year-old said.
I turned to see what they were doing.
They had set the cushions out across the floor in a line and were hopping back and forth along them.
“Stay on the bridge!” the three-year-old cautioned. “Don’t get hurt!”
The two-year old jumped off the last cushion and onto the floor.
“Gaahh!” my daughter and I said together. “You’re stepping in the lava!”
Okay, now I see where it comes from . . .

Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Moving Meeting

See? 4-H. Totally important.
 I was raised on a ranch near the small town of Milk River, Alberta.
On the Alberta/Montana border.
Farming and ranching country.
We were, quite literally, children of the prairies.
Big brother, George. And calf.
And the highlight of our young lives - the very pinnacle we could aspire to – was 4-H Calf Club.
Our world was small, I admit it.
Yep. When we turned the age of twelve, we could – at last! – join the calf club.
We learned many things there.
Of course, the main (and most obvious) were the care and feeding of your calf.
In my case, handled almost exclusively by my big brother, George.
Because he’s amazing. (Are you reading this, George?)
Big brother, Jerry, ditto.
But there was also the record keeping. (Which George completely refused to do for me. Sigh.)
And the monthly meetings.
Wherein (Oooh! Good word!) we were supposed to learn the proper, accepted, efficient way to run a gathering of that type.
I emphasize the words ‘supposed to’.
Because we didn’t.
Always.
In fact, at some point during many of our meetings, our current club president would throw up his hands and exclaim, in loud and carrying tones, “I don’t know why I do this! I’m getting outta here!”
Something he never did.
Returning to the idea of running a proper meeting . . .
Me. With glasses. And calf.
We had been taught that, if we had something to offer, we should do it in the form of a ‘motion’. As in: ‘I would like to make a motion.’ And then followed by ‘I move . . .’
We were getting it. We were.
One evening, the meeting had been going well.
Everyone had been unusually attentive.
And our leader hadn’t, even once, cried out in despair.
Then one shy young man stuck up his hand.
He was recognized by the ‘Chair’.
And he proceeded. “I-I-I w-would like to m-make a movement!”
There was silence. Then some sniggers.
Umm . . . first door down the hall? Says ‘boys’ on the door?
One of the leaders whispered into his ear, “Motion.”
“Motion!” he corrected himself, turning bright red. “I-I w-would like to make a motion!”
Things carried on.
But the mood had definitely been lightened.
Who says meetings have to be boring?
4-H. Don't you wish you were here?

The grand finale.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Let Them Eat Corn

I can only dream . . .
I’ve never been able to grow corn.
The planets are aligned against it.
Why am I thinking of this in the middle of winter?
Because it’s the middle of winter.
Moving on . . .
For over thirty years, I’ve kept a garden.
Oh, it has changed in that time.
Mostly gotten smaller.
For many, many of those years, I attempted to grow corn.
Corn-on-the-cob just says summer to me.
Most of the time, my tidy little corn plants merely peeked above ground.
Sighed.
And died.
Twice, they grew to maturity.
Developed ears, even.
And then . . .
Well, let me tell you about it.
I had a large garden behind our mobile home just outside of Orton, Alberta. (Near Fort MacLeod)
It was growing beautifully.
The weather had cooperated.
The rains had come when they were needed.
Plenty of sun.
For the first time, ever, I had mature corn plants.
Nearly ready to harvest mature corn plants.
Then, one sunny, but slightly breezy day, the county sprayer drove by.
Spraying the ditches.
For weeds.
Now, if there is any wind, the county sprayers are supposed to be cautious. Not spray near homesteads. Avoid people.
This sprayer . . . wasn’t.
Cautious, that it.
And the next day, I walked out into my garden and noticed that everything looked . . . wilted.
My first thought was frost.
Okay, it was July, the only month of the year when frost is . . . uncommon.
Then I remembered the sprayer.
Long story short – the weed-killer had lived up to its name.
My garden – and my beautiful corn – was dead.
Sigh.
A couple of years later, in a different small house and with a different garden patch, I again saw my efforts to grow corn rewarded.
Saw ears develop.
And then . . . grasshoppers.
In 1983, in Southern Alberta, we had a ‘plague of locusts’. A real plague – look it up. They were so numerous that cars were known to slip in the tide that constantly flowed across the roads. They devoured crops and hay.
And my corn. Drilled holes right through those babies.
Another sigh.
Oh, I didn’t give up.
I tried.
And tried.
And tried.
But never again did my corn amount to anything more than tall, attractive (earless) plants.
I still eat corn.
And corn-on-the-cob still shouts summer to me.
But, alas, someone else has to do the growing.
I will stick with the appreciating .
And devouring.
The two things I’m obviously best at.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

In the Ear

My Sweetie and Me
Newly married.
What a wonderful time.
A time of love. Friendship. Companionship.
A time of discovering for the first time that one has a true and forever friend. Someone to be with. Always.
It's magical.
Then, too, it is the time to discover those frailties that we have tried so very hard to keep from our sweethearts. 
And finally have to admit to owning. 
Everyone has bodily functions.
Get over it.
My husband I had been married for a couple of weeks.
He had risen early in the morning and disappeared into the bathroom.
I had stayed where I was. Warm and comfy and still deliciously drowsy.
Soon the door opened and my new husband emerged, but . . . not looking as he had when he went in.
He had blown his nose, while attending to other necessities, and given himself a nosebleed.
Easily fixed. Just stuff a Kleenex into his left nostril.
Oh. He had discovered a pimple in his right ear. Quickly disposed of. And another Kleenex inserted to blot up any discharge.
Now, back to bed to snuggle with his new wife.
I stared at this apparition who was approaching my bed. It looked like my husband. But it had white tissues issuing from nose and ear. Could it possibly be . . .? I braced myself up on one arm. "Is that one Kleenex?" (Hand gestures to suggest pulling something which had been run into the head through the ear and now protruded from the nostril.)
"Harrumph!"
"Was that a 'harrumph'?"
With a glare, he jerked the Kleenex out of his ear, spun around and headed back into the bathroom.
And firmly closed the door.
He never answered my question . . .

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hunting Arti-facts

Have you seen one of these?
In 1979, Husby and I moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba so he could complete his Master’s degree in history.
It was an interesting, eye-opening experience for a girl who had never been off the ranch for more than a few days.
We were there for eight months.
It was as long as I could be away from my beloved Alberta prairies . . .
But moving back to Alberta necessitated some commuting back and forth as he completed his thesis.
These trips, a necessity for him, were pure holidays for me.
One, in particular, stands out . . .
We had packed up another couple, parked our kids with our respective mothers, and headed out.
It was a joyous, happy group that talked and laughed our way across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
One evening, the four of us camped at Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, an historic buffalo hunting site just outside of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (Yes, there really is a place called Moose Jaw.)  Years ago, native hunters used to drive herds of buffalo into the bogs in the area and dispatch them as they struggled in the mud.
Umm . . . ick.
Remember where I said that Husby’s thesis was in history?
Well, that would become important here . . .
 Because such sites are a good place to find artifacts. My Husby’s favourite pastime.
And what else would one want to do when holidaying?
Immediately after setting up camp, the two husbys set out.
Most notably, they were looking for arrow heads.
We wives stayed at the campsite, visiting, preparing the evening meal and generally enjoying the outdoors and the fact that we weren’t sitting in a car.
About half-an-hour after they set out, our Husbys returned.
With broad grins denoting success.
“We found an arrowhead!” they announced.
“Really?” Okay, we wives were a little bit surprised. Pleased for them. But surprised.
“It really wasn’t that hard! We just looked around and there it was, laying right out in the open!”
“Well, let us see it! Let us see it!”
A hand was extended and there, in the palm, was indeed an arrowhead.
A real arrowhead.
Rubber. With a suction cup on one end.
Our great archeologists’ work was done.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Going in the Woods

Ahhh! Romance!
Our good friends had been dating . . . umm . . . each other . . . for some time.
For a young man deeply in love, a despairingly long time.
He had decided that the moment had come.
In a surge of love and commitment, he had purchased . . . the ring.
Then, being a man of imagination and daring, he plotted . . . the proposal.
He would take his love to their favourite place and pop the question there.
Where was their favourite place?
The woods.
Brilliant.
All had gone according to plan.
They had rambled along the woodsy paths.
Had a picnic.
The time had come to hide the ring, then lead his love to the magical spot.
And propose.
He excused himself, citing ‘having to take care of some business’.
Now I don’t know about you, but if I was walking with someone in the woods, and he excused himself saying . . . that . . . I know what I would think.
His soon-to-be-if-all-went-well fiancée thought the same thing.
He disappeared.
She sat on a log among the pink, white and indigo flowers and waited.
And waited.
Finally, a large grin of satisfaction on his face, her date returned.
She stood up.
“So!” he said heartily, thinking of the ring he had just so cleverly hidden. “Do you want to see where I went?”
Now, in his mind, all was sweet, romantic and full of promise and anticipation as he led his love to that beautiful, magical little clearing.
In hers . . .
“Umm . . . no,” she said, giving him a strange look.
It took a moment to register.
His well-planned, uber-romantic idea had just fallen flat.
‘Business in the woods’ flat.
And looking in from the outside, I would have to side with her.
Oh, they did get engaged.
And married.
Enjoyed parenthood and are now enjoying grandparenthood.
He just learned, when planning surprises, he had to be more careful of how things look.
And how he worded them.

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