Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Happy Barn Burning

A repost for my birthday . . .
What was left of the barn
October second. My birthday. A time of reflection and renewal. Time to reminisce.
It was exactly 60 years ago today that I made my way into the world.
Feet first.
Fourth of six children and second daughter for Mark and Enes Stringam. A pretty exciting time for everyone. Well, for me at any rate.
I grew, healthy and strong in a loving, ordered world. My birthdays approached, were celebrated with varying degrees of success, and then left behind. First. Second. Third. For my fourth, something special was planned. Very special. And very secret. No one knew what was coming.
No one.
Early on the morning of my fourth birthday, a frantic phone call jolted my Dad out of his bed.
“There is a rather major emergency at the ranch. Would you possibly be able to come out?”
“Emergency?”
“Erm, yes. The barn is on fire.”
“On my way.”
Or at lest that is how I picture the conversation. It was probably something more in the way of . . . “EEEEEEE (high pitched screaming)!”
And Dad, “AAAAAAAAAH (Not quite so high pitched)!”
And that was the total exchange. But I digress . . .
So dad jumped into his truck and drove the twenty miles to the ranch in record time.
Really record time.
The only other occasion that would warrant such reckless driving and high speeds was the imminent arrival of yet another small Stringam . . . but that event was months away.
He arrived just after the fire department.
By then, the barn was well on its way to being a memory. Flames had consumed most of it and the remainder was burning purposefully . . . and cheerfully . . . in the early morning light.
Acrid smoke coiled across the barnyard, obscuring the crowd gathered to watch.
Tears filled most eyes. Some because of said smoke. Others due to the fact that their most precious possessions had – literally – gone up in it.
One hired man stood there, in his longhandles, shaking his head helplessly. It took some time, and the appearance of the attractive ranch cook, for him to realize that his attire was . . . less than conventional. He beat a hasty retreat to find something a little more . . . conservative . . . to wear.
And not just the humans were concerned.
The smaller denizens of the barn had been rudely awakened and forced to – quickly – find new lodgings.
One mouse, intent on that very errand, scampered from the mass of smoking debris that had been his home, and into the pale morning light.
He stopped. Something was very wrong. There were two humans standing directly in his path. He worked it through his little mouse brain, then darted back into the smouldering pile.
Better the evil you know . . .
There was great loss. Two litters of pigs - with sows, several horses, calves. Not to mention saddles, tack and equipment. None irreplaceable, but all valuable.
Oh, and my birthday.
Somehow, in all the melee, that was lost as well. Not that I cared. I was happily perched on the fence, just within toasting distance of the glowing fire, watching the spectacle. Not really understanding what was going on. Knowing only that, in four years of mischief, I’d never been able to come close to this excitement. Never.
The barn was rebuilt. Bigger. Better. More modern. And my . . . birthday was never forgotten again. Every year, Dad called on this date to wish me a . . . Happy Barn Burning.
With music.
And the dance.
There is a codicil. Twenty years ago, my barn burned down. Our losses were not as enormous as the ‘original’ barn fire. We lost two little pigs and some equipment. But the most important fact was the date. April first. My father’s seventieth birthday. I had to phone to wish him . . . Happy Barn Burning.
Payback is so sweet.

Further news:
Huge grass fires in Southern Alberta in 2012 consumed all of the outbuildings on the old ranch.
Including the 'new' barn.
It was a landmark.
Devastating.

20 comments:

  1. Happy, happy Birthday Diane! I can't bring myself to wish you a happy barn burning, although it does sound like your family should keep fire extinguishers handy on your birthdays!
    My twin sister was born on the same day in October as you - but I was not. Can you figure that one out?! ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Susan and you're right! :)
      Hmmm . . . I can only guess that one of you was born first an that seconds count when delivering twins! :)

      Delete
  2. Never heard 'em called longhandles before :) (just longjohns)

    Happy Birthday, Diane, and many more! How lovely of fate to hand you that payback for your Dad :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Jenny! Isn't it funny how what probably should be considered a tragedy is really anything but?!

      Delete
    2. Well, really, I didn't think that through very well - not very "lovely" to have a fire. But I'm hoping you knew I meant the date, not the fire :)

      Delete
  3. Happy Birthday Diane! Barn burnings and all. But I guess this is not an easy thing. So, I will keep saying happy birthday but so sorry that you had these burnings on such fine days!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Donna! We looked at it this way - barns can be rebuilt and no one was hurt. So . . . happy day!!! :)

      Delete
  4. Happy Birthday...may there be no more burnings to come. So you were born October 2...I was born October 1....who among our blogging family was born on October 3..come on...I know you're out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. we're pretty much out of barns now.
      Let's page Susan. I'm not sure which way she and her twin sister go, though.

      Delete
  5. Happy birthday.
    No more fires though. Unless the candles on a cake count...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Getting to be more and more of them. Looking dangerously close to a conflagration!

      Delete
  6. Happy Birthday to you but so sorry to hear about the 2012 burning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Marcia. I'm so glad we have our pictures and memories! :)

      Delete
  7. I'm a day late but Happy Birthday/Barn Burning to you and congrats on entering a new decade!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Leanne! Best decade yet! :)

      Delete
  8. Happy Birthday! Same day as my ex-hubby who turned 67. So sorry to hear the animals died in the fire.
    Perhaps your next birthday cake could be made like a barn? then you could have another Happy Barn Burning with all those candles.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I missed your birthday! Happy Belated Birthday and stay away from matches!

    ReplyDelete

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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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