Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Monday, March 30, 2015

Prairie Cannon

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.
In business...


Colonel Mackie
The original Ranch House. Really had nothing to do with this story, but I like it.

18 comments:

  1. talk about banging the door shut!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now I know why my Dad always got after us for slamming doors! :)

      Delete
  2. That's amazing--and good call on your dad's part!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. He's smart. What can we say . . . :)

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  3. Nor the sort of souvenier one usually brings home in their suitcase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are times when I think I've got a cannon in my carry on. And my purse . . .

      Delete
  4. Further to Delores' comment, yes, how DID the Colonel get the cannon home?! And how neat that your dad identified it correctly - adults tend to lose their ability to be open to the incredible, and miss what is right in front of us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kids see. Adults reason. Sad, isn't it?! I've always wondered how the Colonel got it home. I'd hate to have to tote that trunk! Or maybe he just slung it over one shoulder, like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

      Delete
  5. ...and to think I've spent the last 30 years searching for Indian artifacts! Not nearly as much fun!

    ReplyDelete
  6. First of all, YIKES, that thing was loaded. This story could have taken a really bad turn.
    Second, I have to say that this is absolutely one of my favorites of the stories you've told. Such a cool find, Even if it took forever to find it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can just picture it. Garage door closes. Garage distinegrates. :)

      Delete
  7. Oh my that was an incredible story; thanks for sharing it. I love history and this story was a great one. Besides, it being interesting; I loved that cannon was used as a door prop and was actually loaded. Yikes!
    Hugs~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, LeAnn! The 'what-ifs' came thick and fast once everyone found out that gun was loaded! :)

      Delete
  8. A loaded cannon! What a stroke of luck your dad was swimming at that point of the river just at that time. I well understand the we-don't-know-what-to-do-with-it pile. There was a similar pile beside the large shed where I lived for a while when I was 15-16.
    I like the look of the original ranch house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What I can't figure out is why no one noticed it before. Mind you, the way that river bottom changed daily I really shouldn't be surprised. Every shed seems to collect its own pile of junk! I never knew that house, but Dad remembers it clearly. It had been torn down by the time I came along.

      Delete
  9. I'm sure there are lots of things at the Stringams we'd never see elsewhere!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A cornucopia of the strange and unusual! :)

      Delete

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