Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, October 11, 2014

An Old Joke


Inconsequential day with friends,
A drive along the thoroughfare,
The kind of day you hope n’er ends,
To see the sights and take the air.

Three friends were seated in the car,
Minister, Priest, and Rabbi, too.
Talk of life, both near and far,
And things they’d done or’d like to do.

Sensationalism was a theme,
As the dashboard clicked the miles away,
Discussed atomic problems, schemes,
 The mayhem common to the day.

Then talk turned with sincerity,
(Though nondenominational!)
How to divide with parity
Donations congregational.

Then one proposed a circle made,
Donations thrown aboard,
The coins, which from the circle strayed,
Would be given to the Lord.

The second shook his hoary head,
And gravely said,” Not so!”
The coins inside the circle spread,
He’d to the Lord bestow.

The third man deeply frowned, “Instead,”
“Here’s what I’d do, my peeps!”
“I’d throw the money high o’erhead,
And what the good Lord wants, He keeps!”

Each week, Delores of Under the Porch Light issues a six-word challenge to her devoted followers.
Then sits back and watches the scramble.
And laughs.
I'm almost sure she laughs . . .
It's the highlight of my week when I get to participate.
This week's words?
inconsequentialnondenominationalsensationalismatomic,
dashboard and mayhem
Hop over to Delores' and see what the others have created!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fuzzy Love

And each of them has/had a name. Please don't test me . . .

My first date with my Husby-to-be was memorable.
On so many levels.
You can read about it here.
Go ahead . . . I promise you won't miss anything . . .
Our second date was even more memorable.
But for more exciting reasons.
It was the occasion of our first kiss.
Yumm.
Let me see if I can describe it . . .
Chore time.
The sun has set.
Darkness drifts slowly over the prairie.
A large, quiet feed lot.
Young bulls in the background, munching on grains.
The smell of fresh manure wafts on the cool, autumn breeze.
A young man and woman snared in the light of the mercury-vapour lamp.
Hey, this is ranching country, what did you expect? The light of the moon?! 
Their eyes lock.
They move closer . . .
You get the picture.
Romantic?
Okay, maybe not to the normal person.
Fortunately for me, Husby-to-be was as un-normal as his wife-to-be.
A perfect match.
But the date was only beginning.
After our kiss, we returned to my parent’s home.
And that’s when I received my second surprise of the evening.
When we stepped into the vestibule (ooh! I like that word), Husby-to-be pulled a little package out of his pocket.
“Here,” he said, smiling. “I brought you something.”
Have I mentioned that I love surprises?
Well, I do.
Moving on . . .
I quickly opened the little bag and tipped out two little fuzzy men.
Pom-pom people.
With magnets on the back.
Ooooh! Cute!
“Thank you!” I said. Then I gave him a kiss.
It seemed like an appropriate response.
And I’d just discovered he was a great kisser.
Ahem . . .
And so began a tradition that lasted for years.
And covered a large part of our fridge.
Until a bottle of home-made root beer sprayed all over them.
Sigh.
Then they were relegated to a shadow box.
For safety.
And posterity.
I love traditions.
Almost as much as I love my Husby . . .

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Words, Adorable Words

Me. Swinging. And reciting.
Words are amazing.
Descriptive.
Alliterative.
Explanatory.
Lyrical.
Adventurous.
Romantic.
And I love them.
I learned at a very early age that they could be assembled in ways that were truly magical.
Let me explain . . .
My Dad loves to recite.
Poems, mostly.
On long car trips, he would inevitably break into song.
Or verse.
I especially loved the rhythm of his chosen poetry.
Always there was a story involved.
The boy stood on the burning deck
His feet were in the fire.
The captain said," You're burning up!"
The boy said, "You're a liar!"
The telling was truly magical.
And often educational.
Little Johnny took a drink.
But he shall drink no more.
'Cause what he thought was H2O,
Was H2SO4.
I determined that, when I grew up, I would be JUST LIKE DAD.
When I was five, my oldest sister, then just entering junior high, was labouring over a Language Arts assignment.
Memorizing a poem.
She had chosen, for her effort, the Hillaire Belloc poem, Jim.
A cautionary tale of a boy who runs away from his nurse at the zoo and is eaten by a lion.
What better poem for a young girl to start with?
As my sister laboured over the lines, so did I.
I should probably point out, here, that I couldn't read yet.
My patient sister rehearsed each line to me until I had it.
I should also mention that I really didn't understand what I was saying.
Apart from the whole “boy eaten by a lion” bit.
I followed her around for days.
“What's the next line, Chris?”
She would tell me.
And I would repeat it, ad infinitum, for hours.
Or until Chris got home from school and gave me another.
I'm sure my mother heard, “And gave him tea and cakes and jam and slices of delicious ham” in her dreams.
Moving on . . .
By the end of a week, I had it.
All of it.
Then, the fun began.
For months afterwards, my parents would trot me out at family reunions and local bridge parties to show how their young daughter could recite heart-stopping tales of misbehaviour and woe.
In perfect rhyme.
It could only lead to a career in writing.
Or maybe some 'zombie apocalypse/end of the world scenario.
Hmm. Maybe both . . .

For your pleasure –

Jim 
 By Hillaire Belloc

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when—Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, ``Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!''
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

P.S. I can still remember it . . .

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Getting the Boot

Baby brother . . . being entertained
My father (herinafter known as 'Dad') was a rancher.
He had been born that way.
In his twenties, he added the title of 'Veterinarian' to that.
But he was first and foremost, a rancher.
As a rancher, his wardrobe seldom varied.
Heavy work pants.
And boots.
Which were so much more than mere footwear.
Dad's boots were, in fact, the signal that opened and closed the work day.
As well as a source of entertainment.
On several levels.
Dad's boots were - because he had 'special' feet – special.
They were heavy.
And specifically designed to compensate for his long, narrow, profoundly flat extremities.
They laced up the front.
And fit . . . well.
They were the favourite entertainment for my baby brother.
When he was . . . umm . . . a baby.
A source of laughter for us kids when we'd try them on.
Then attempt to walk.
Usually covered in mud and manure during the day's labours, then scrupulously cleaned before being brought into the house.
With Dad's pocket knife. (But that is yet another story.)
In short, they were a part of my Dad.
An important part.
Dad always donned them himself.
Said donning, after breakfast, was always the signal that visiting was over and the workday starting.
But Dad never, ever took his boots off by himself.
In fact, the removal of Dad's boots was quite a process.
And a family tradition.
Let me describe . . .
Dad would take his seat in his usual comfy recliner.
And his numerous children would scatter, suddenly recalling activities that needed immediate attention.
Somewhere else.
But there was always a laggard.
Someone who was the slowest to react.
Dad would pin them to their chair with a look.
Then silently hold out a foot.
Reluctantly, the child would assume the position.
Facing away from Dad and bent forward, clutching said boot between their knees with both hands.
Dad would then put his other foot on his helper's backside and start pushing.
His boot would be quickly and efficiently . . . removed.
And dropped on the floor.
The process was repeated with the second boot.
The footwear was then gathered.
And set aside.
Only then was the slave helper, released.
Mission accomplished.
As mentioned, this procedure signalled the end of the work day.
Odd, isn't it, that a humble pair of boots would assume such proportion in our daily life?
But they did.
Now in his late eighties, Dad has given up boots.
Shoes now replace his slippers when he is going outside.
And, like his slippers, they slip on and off easily.
I was watching him the other day as he sat down.
Staring at the footwear he now pulls on.
And remembering.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Bread Balls

Yumminess.
Twice a week, and sometimes more, the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked bread wafted through the Stringam home.
Magic.
It was followed, almost immediately, by the sight of children munching great slices of fresh yumminess, thickly spread with fresh butter.
Mmmmm.
I wasn't one of them.
Oh, I loved Mom's bread.
It was amazing.
And I definitely was munching.
But I chose a unique - ie. weird - way of doing it.
Often to be followed by my Mom saying, “Diane! I work hard to make perfectly good, soft bread! Why do you do that to it?!”
She said this because . . . I squished it.
Squished.
Into a tight little ball.
Which I - then - ate.
Really.
Mom would watch, in disgust, as I took my slice of freshly-baked awesomeness.
Quickly peeled off and ate the crust.
Pressed and molded the rest.
Then nibbled.
I have no idea why I did this.
Maybe it was because I had seen the screen cowboys eating little balls of bread out of their saddlebags.
Okay, it looked like little balls of bread.
I didn't realize that what they were eating was, in fact, biscuits.
I wasn't known for my powers of observation and deduction.
Ahem . . .
I no longer eat bread this way.
There are a couple of drawbacks.
The biggest one being that it's rather hard to spread any significant amount of peanut butter and/or nutella on a tightly pressed ball of dough.
And, let's face it, bread is just the medium by which such things are ingested.
And, in a choice between eating balls of dough or getting nutella to the mouth?
Even the cowboys would agree with me.

Monday, October 6, 2014

For A Monday

A poem.

Because it's Monday . . .
Mildred's Nose
Mildred, my friend, has a marvelous nose.
Not bulbous.
Or hook-ed.
Or bellicose.
Not crooked.
Or flattened.
Or shaped like a bean.
The most beautiful nose that you ever have seen.
Can't say it's large.
A potato,
A squash.
A crooked ol' carrot.
An acorn.
A cosh.
(A nickname for what's really a good copper's 'billy'.)
Yes, nothing to ever make Mildred look silly.
It is shapely,
And small.
In reality – fair.
The grandest
Appendage
To ever
Draw air.
Fine-boned.
And slender.
With rose petal skin.
The kind that can always draw everyone in.
But with all its beauty, her friends still make fun.
They laugh,
And they tease.
They jeer.
And they shun.
But why with such beauty for them to behold,
Would they scoff,
And deride,
Mock,
And then scold?
Ridicule, ostracize, taunt, and tell jokes?
Snicker
With all
Of the fair
Jungle folks?
Because Mildred, oh, she of the wonderful nose.
The beauty,
Perfection.
The colour
Called 'rose'.
Well there's something about her that I've not disclosed.
Something, about which you need to be told.
Though our Mildred is all she could possibly be,
Good friend,
And clever,
And kind
As can be.
Yes, Mildred,
Has one,
Little secret
to hold.
Our Mildred's an elephant, truth to be told.

P.S. If you think that Mildred's true story's a laugh,
You should hear about Harold,
The short-necked giraffe.

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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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