Oh, the treasures one can discover on a ranch first settled by a Colonel from the Boer War . . .
The Stringam ranch lies in a crook of the south fork of the Milk River, near the Alberta/Montana border. A spot of ground dominated by towering cliffs, a large hill and a (usually) meandering stream. To Colonel Mackie, the man who first settled it, a patch of waving grass and peace after a season of bloody turmoil in Southern Africa.
Years later, it became home to the Stringams, a family of eleven.
Of which my Dad was the youngest.
Enough background . . .
A favourite diversion during the hot summer days for a young boy growing up on the prairies was a swim in the ‘milky’ water of the river. And that’s what he and a friend were doing on the day they discovered the cannon.
Yes. You hear me correctly. A cannon.
One minute, they were splashing around happily. The next, staring at a long chunk of iron sticking out of the water at the edge of the stream.
Oh, they weren’t entirely sure that that was what they had discovered. In fact, after they lugged the thirty-five pounds of iron home, no one could agree with their excited assumption. Most sided with Grampa, who stated that it must have been something used to drill wells.
I mean, how on earth would cannon from the Boer war end up in the middle of the Alberta prairies?
The interesting artifact ended up sitting next to the garage. Neatly nestled with the rest of the ‘we-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it’ junk.
For some time, it sat there.
Then Grampa, intent on installing a new door in the garage, decided it was just what he needed as a counterweight. Wired up and tied, it worked perfectly.
And then someone happened onto the ranch who knew about firearms and things ‘army’. Seeing Grampa’s counterweight, he became very excited.
It was then the family discovered that the remarkable hunk of iron was indeed, as Dad and his friend had first thought, a cannon.
The man had the cannon cut down and proceeded to examine it eagerly. And closely. He found, after he had cleaned out the silt, that it still contained pieces of metal and black powder.
All ready for business.
Yes. The Stringams had a loaded cannon serving as a door prop.
There’s something you don’t see every day . . .
The friend took the cannon home, cleaned it up properly and constructed a base for it.
It served as a feature in his home for a number of years, but finally found its way back to my Dad.
Who donated it to The Fort Museum in Fort Macleod, Alberta.
Where it sits to this day.
A little piece of history toted from Southern Africa to Southern Alberta.
|The original Ranch House. Really had nothing to do with this story, but I like it.|