|Grandpa: George Lewis Stringam|
Throughout his life, my Grandpa Stringam, a rancher, politician, husband, father and friend, was known for two things.
His business savvy.
And his kindness.
This is one of my favourite stories about him . . .
Grandpa used to rent harvested fields at the end of the season to feed out his cattle. Most of the crop had been removed. But there was always something left for an animal that was good at gleaning.
He usually tried to get fields that were close to water, so his animals would both be fed and watered, then every two or three days, he would ride out to check the herd and make sure they were cared for.
On one particular patch of ground, the owners had erected a small hut – not much more than a shack – for when they were in the fields during harvest. The rest of the year, the hut remained empty. But one day when Grandpa was riding, he discovered that a small family – father, mother, small son – had taken up residence.
Soon afterward, he noticed that one of his steers near the straw stack beside the hut had grown quite fat and was ready for slaughter. He determined to drive it home later that day.
But when he got back, the steer was gone.
He searched for a while, even checking the river to see if it may have slipped under the ice, but found nothing.
Finally, he called at the hut.
The man told him – in rather sharp tones – that he hadn’t seen the steer and hoped he’d never see it.
Grandpa was surprised at his answer and couldn’t imagine why the man would speak to him in such a manner.
As he returned to his horse near the straw stack, he noticed a leg of an animal in the straw. Kicking around, he discovered a second leg. Both were the same colour as the missing steer.
Mounting his horse, he immediately rode to the nearest RNWMP detachment at Standoff, Alberta.
Returning with the officer, the two of them searched through the straw stack until they found two more legs and a branded hide.
It was definitely the steer Grandpa had been missing.
They went to the hut but received no answer to their knock. Finally, the policeman announced loudly that he was entering.
After a short search, the meat from the slaughtered animal was found under the floorboards.
The officer took the man into custody and instructed Grandpa to meet them in Standoff.
When Grandpa arrived, the man, his wife and son and most of their worldly goods were there in the outer office. The police had laid charges and the man had been remanded until the next sitting of the court in Fort MacLeod.
Sometime in January.
This was a few days before Christmas.
It was at this time Grandpa discovered the desperate situation of the young family. Newly arrived from England, they had been unable to find work. Family living in the area had not been able to help and they were perilously near starvation.
Grandpa was shocked. Muttering that he never would have pressed charges if he’d known the circumstances, he stared at the little family, trying to decide what could be done.
Finally, he packed the woman, her son and belongings into his car and toted the entire entourage back to his house.
And there they stayed. The woman helped out wherever she could and the son played with my dad and uncles and aunts.
When the man came to trial, he pleaded guilty, but was – at my Grandpa’s suggestion – sentenced to time served and allowed to leave. The little family made their way to Toronto.
It was years before the rest of the family knew why the woman and her son had come to stay. Grandpa had told them only that they needed some help.
And he had provided it.