Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Failing Grade

Quick! Take a picture!
In Southern Alberta, in the sixties, the country roads were more a suggestion than an actual fact.
Sketchy at best.
When conditions were dry, they stretched, bare and passable for miles.
And miles.
When conditions were wet, Heaven help you.
Gravel was non-existent.
Drivers used such words to describe them as: Greasy. Slick. A blooming nightmare.
And *&*()+}|?@#$%^&!!!
The county employed men and machinery to maintain said roads.
Actually catching sight of one was right up there with spotting a unicorn.
Definitely something to pass on to your children.
“Kids, there was a time when I saw . . . the road grader!!!”
But occasionally, their presence (rather than the lack of it), would be felt.
Let me explain . . .
My next older brother, George was driving our Dad’s late-model truck.
I used to know the make, model and year.
Now all I can remember is: It was yellow.
Moving on . . .
He was heading out to see friends.
Or just coming back from seeing some friends.
Both activities took him along the same stretch of road.
He topped a rise.
And there, completely blocking the entire road, was a pile of gravel.
A large pile of gravel.
Pushed there by the road grader.
Or dropped there by a passing gravel truck.
Then abandoned while the mastermind took a much-needed coffee break.
Or nap.
Stopping was out of the question.
George was left with two choices.
And two seconds in which to make one.
Hit the gravel.
Or hit the ditch.
He chose the gravel.
The truck engine instantly began to make loud, distinctly un-muffled noises.
Remember “*&*()+}|?@#$%^&!!!”?
Well, that would apply here.
He stopped and got out.
The manifold had been neatly and surgically separated from the rest of the muffler system.
“*&*()+}|?@#$%^&!!!” again.
Fortunately, that was the extent of the damage and George was able to drive home without further incident.
To face the Wrath of Dad.
After a few minutes in which:
1. George’s driving was severely called into question.
2. A diatribe against the roads and road maintenance in general.
 An appointment was made to get the muffler replaced. I went with Dad to facilitate this final decision.
We were driving down the main street of Milk River.
Now, normally, Milk River is a quiet place.
Conversations while standing on the street corner are entirely possible.
And frequent.
There was one going on as we passed.
Between, believe it or not, several of George’s friends.
Dad and I smiled and waved.
Then Dad shifted the truck into neutral and floored the gas pedal.
The truck made a loud, distinctive and courageous ‘BLAAAAAT’ that echoed off the buildings and shattered glass.
Okay, I’m making up the ‘shattered glass’ thing, but the rest is true.
The whole street turned to look.
Dad grinned.
Put the truck back into gear.
And proceeded.
I stared at him.
This was the Dad who, very recently, had been berating my brother for - and I quote - ‘horsing around causing vehicle damage’.
Dad obviously knew what he was talking about.
The acorn definitely hadn't fallen very far from that tree.


  1. That was quite a memory. I was on sort of a date that night. She was scared half to death but she complimented me on my ability to keep the truck under control... And not spill my beverage...

  2. And there's George with "The REST of the Story", as the line goes :)

    Dads - hah! They were boys once, and if you watch you can see them be boys again for an instant here and there :)

    1. I love it when George comments. He has such a better memory than I do!
      Yeah, sometimes we catch a glimpse of the boy our dads used to be...

  3. So the truck effectively "farted in their general direction".
    Nice! I'm grinning from ear to ear.

  4. You do paint a picture on this one. I can imagine the whole thing. Yes, it is true like Father, like Son. I guess true; like Mother like daughter.

  5. Tee-Hee! That's our Daddy!

  6. Something about a loud pick up truck that turns grown men into little boys! I've seen it in my own house a time or two!


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