Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Breakfast Forts

Breakfast.
The most – interesting – meal of the day.
Mom believed in beginning the day with a good, hot, hearty meal.
Bacon. Sausage. Eggs. Pancakes. Waffles. Ham. Fruit. Muffins. Fresh bread. Cinnamon buns. French toast.
A breakfast milkshake that included eggs and fruit. And occasionally, chocolate.
She mixed and matched.
And pure deliciousness emerged.
But sometimes, she allowed us kids to graze.
Okay, her version of grazing was to set out a plethora of cold cereal boxes and let us take our pick.
Funny how kids accustomed to ‘home-cooked’ can think ‘store-bought’ is a real treat.
But we did.
We happily selected and poured and sugared and crunched.
Except for big brother George.
He did all of that . . . and built a fort.
His breakfast fort.
And, because he did it, and made it look like fun, I had to do it too.
Did you know it’s possible to sit at the same table with someone and never even catch a glimpse of them?
Well it is.
With a little ingenuity.
And a lot of cereal boxes.
George would set a large cereal box on either side of his bowl. Then add a third to connect the first two.
Voila!
Cereal box fort.
Private and exclusive.
One could eat one’s bowl of awesomeness and never even know that one had breakfast companions.
Well, until Mom came, demolished one’s fort with her genius for quick and effective relocation and a, “Stop doing that, you two. We need to see each other’s bright and smiling faces in the morning!”
To which George would inevitably reply, "My face isn't bright and smiling!"
Yeah. Cereal boxes. They can hide so much.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Guardian Angels

By little brother and fellow cattleman, Blair Stringam.

So many adventures...
If it wasn’t for guardian angels I don’t know if I would have survived my youth . . .
When I was about 18, we had a very nice saddle horse. I had been told that the horse had a tender mouth but I didn’t understand what that meant. I just thought that I could use a bridle that had a straight bar for a bit.
In the spring, Dad and I needed to drive some yearling heifers across the bridge to a pasture on our ranch.
Now said bridge and my family had “history”. For some reason the heifers or bulls on the ranch did not like to cross it.
Also: This is the same bridge off which our herd bull pushed my sister to almost certain doom. Just before she used his tail as a rope to save herself.
Where was I? Oh, right, heifers and bridge.
So Dad and I needed to chase these heifers over the bridge.
Both of us were mounted – me on the tender-mouthed horse.
The heifers, in true ‘cow’ fashion, were trying to explore everywhere but the direction in which we were trying to chase them. I had to maneuver the horse repeatedly to intercept the numerous attempts at escape. This required making the horse perform some tight turns.
I noticed that the horse would spin on a dime. I remember thinking that whoever trained the animal had done a very good job.
Finally, we had the heifers down at the bridge.
We were trying to get them to cross, but they were milling around, looking for any other places to escape to.
Any other places.
I was having to use all of my experience to work the horse and try to keep the heifers moving where I wanted.
At one point I needed to pull back on the reins to get the horse to reverse a few feet.
As I did so, the animal started to rear up on its back legs. I reacted by pulling a little harder on the reins.
Which caused the horse to rear higher and start backing up, as I had wanted, but on its hind legs.
Yikes.
Then it lost its balance and started to fall directly backward.
I was in a very dangerous position. If the horse continued to fall as it was, it would have landed directly on top of me.
The saddle horn would have been planted in my chest and I would have been seriously hurt. Even killed.
I had heard many stories where riders had been killed in this same situation.
However, lucky (or unlucky) for me, the horse turned at the last second and fell on its side. My leg and foot were smashed and I experienced pain like I’ve never felt before. I believe I expressed said pain by uttering a nasty word or two.
(I might have even said darn it!)
The horse rolled back onto its feet and went running to the comparative safety of the barn. I remained on the ground for a few minutes.
At that point we gave up the bridge idea and I drug myself to the pickup truck and Dad and I took the heifers to their destination the long (ie. safe) way.
Dad on horseback and me in the truck.
I have thought many times since about that incident and why the horse may have turned at the last second and landed on its side.
I like to think that my guardian angel may have had something to do with it. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Water for Chocolate

How do you get your motor running?
I had slept in. Again.
It was summer. I was seven. It was acceptable.
Everyone else was working outside.
Well, except for mom who was busy with my little brother and baby sister.
Somewhere else.
I had the kitchen to myself.
My day had come. I could get my own breakfast!
I got down the bran flakes and poured a generous helping into my bowl. I grabbed the sugar, the Nestle Quick and a spoon and assembled them next to my cereal, together with the tallest glass I could find.
Then I went to the fridge for the all-important ingredient to tie the whole meal together. That white miracle heavily flecked with cream that, when poured over cereal or mixed with chocolate powder, produced gustatory bliss.
Fresh milk.
The door opened.
I know I must have let out a solid gasp. Because there, on the shelf that normally held the big, frosty-cold jug was . . . nothing.
Nothing?
How could that be?
Never had there been nothing!
Had Old Bossy passed on to greener pastures?
Had all of the cow milk-ers passed on with her?
I closed the door, then whipped it open again.
Still gone.
I tried a few more times, but with the same result.
My life was over!
I looked at the bowl and glass sitting together on the cupboard.
At the box of Nestle Quick beside them.
Then I looked at the tap.
The tap that was always full of fresh, healthy, sulphur water.
Hmm . . . could work.
I grabbed my glass and filled it nearly full of water. Then I carried it carefully back to my place and set it down.
So far so good.
Prying the lid off the chocolate powder, I scooped out a heaping spoonful and tipped it into the glass of water.
Then I mixed happily and put my spoon down.
My taste buds gleefully anticipating the first chocolatey contact, I took a sip.
I probably don’t need to tell you that my little experiment didn’t . . . work out. That the liquid refreshment I had hoped to create wasn’t refreshing.
Or even palatable.
Even after the addition of several more spoonfuls of chocolatey deliciousness.
Yes. My first attempt at culinary creativity didn’t get a passing grade.
Unfortunately, it didn’t stop me.
P.S. Sulphur water on cereal. Also horrifying. Even with extra sugar. Just FYI.

And a little bonus today:
A picture of Husby, camping in the rain. Any resemblance to any garden figurines you may know is entirely unintentional.
Maybe . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Home Again

I'm home!
And what a month!
Funerals. Travel. Dodging forest fires.
Collecting fruit.
Camping with wonderful friends and family.
Visiting.
Publishing yet another book.
But I've missed all of you!
Missed our daily visits.
Missed your insights and experiences.
I've realized that you make me a better writer.
And person.
Thank you!
Tomorrow, I will begin posting again.
But for now, know that you are always in my thoughts.

And because I simply can't resist, a little story:

Husby is known for his hoard of treats. Maybe I should capitalize the word 'Hoard'. Because that would be more accurate.
Some time ago, when our chicks and chicklets were visiting, Grandpa brought out something he hadn't produced for a while. Dino-sours.
And no, that isn't a typo . . .
They proved to be a great favourite. Again.
Littlest man (LM) was quite captivated and proved the he could shove quite a number in his mouth before he was caught and emptied by his mother.
He hovered around that bowl of gummy, sweet and sour deliciousness until it was well and truly empty.
Then they went home.
A few days later, that little family was shopping at Costco.
(Our favourite place on earth.)
While walking slowly  up the fairly extensive candy aisle, a display of those delicious dinosaur treats appeared.
LM toddled over and pointed excitedly. "Grampa!" he said clearly.
How would you like to be remembered?

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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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