Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Hiding Place

Foreground: Mom's flowers.
Background: The garage. My hiding place was down and left.
On the Stringam ranch, we had an old garage.
Really old.
Grampa Stringam old.
It was long and single storied with white, stucco siding and very small windows.
At the north end, there was the big garage door.
Opening into a large, dark room that smelled of old oil and farm cats.
Cut into the thick planks of the floor of that room, was the heavy trap door to the root cellar, described here.
But the root cellar only took up half of the 'basement'.
The other half was a strange stable.
Really strange.
The entire room was deeply covered with straw. And had solid wooden dividers, forming tie stalls, though there was no where in the stone walls to actually tie anything.
And there were no mangers if one did manage to . . . tie . . . anything.
The weirdest thing about this stable was access.
The only entrance/exit was a small window high up in the south wall of the garage.
I often wondered how one could get any animals down there.
Someone didn't plan that very well . . .
No wonder the straw was clean, even though it wasn't fresh.
The small window, however, made an eminently suitable entrance/exit for children.
Like me.
And their toys.
Like mine.
It was my secret place.
My hiding place.
Where no one could find me.
All right, I admit that it was only about forty feet from the front door of the house. Well within hollering distance.
And that when my Mom wanted me, all she had to do was shout.
But I felt secret.
Hidden.
The single window had no covering, so, during the day, the room was brightly lit. And there was no danger that one could be shut into darkness by a heavy door.
One could slide in through the window, toys and all, drop into the thick straw, and spend hours in one's own little sunlit, straw-filled world.
Perfection.
It became the place where I parked anything I didn't want the other kids to get into.
And where I hid the stuff wasn't supposed to get into. (I once lugged in an entire boxful of old pamphlets and envelopes and stationary that Dad had tossed out. I know. Kids . . .)
I played happily for months in my secret stable.
Finally, I asked Dad what had happened to the door.
He stared at me, puzzled.
I explained that I had to crawl into the little stable through the window. What happened to the door?
He laughed. “That's no stable, Diane. That's the old ice house.”
Ah. Everything was explained.
Not.
“Um. What's an ice house?
Dad tried to explain to me that every winter, the men would go down to the river which just happened to flow right past the garage, and cut great chunks of ice.
Then the ice would be hauled up to the ice house and passed through the little window to someone waiting inside.
The straw was to keep it cold.
Weird.
I suspected that he was pulling my leg because I had played down there for months and I hadn't seen one bit of ice.
“Why would they do that?”
“Well, they needed the ice to keep food cold.”
“Why didn't they use the freezer?”
“They didn't have freezers.”
I stared at him. How could anyone survive without a freezer?
“They didn't even have a fridge.”
Okay, now I knew he was just making stuff up.
Everyone had a fridge.
Some people, like us, had two.
I shook my head. “Dad. Dad. Dad. That's just silly.”
And I went back to my playing.
But you know something?
He was right.
Sometimes dads are.

7 comments:

  1. I love this memory. It reminds me of my neighbors garage that we kids would play hide and seek in. It's also where we caught the little boy from next door eating the dog food!

    Mary
    #AtoZChallenge J is for Jewel

    ReplyDelete
  2. What I find amazing is that so much of our technology, from home fridges to computers, has only come about in the last century. My parents, too, could remember "iceboxes" and putting milk in the well or in the brook to keep it cold in the summer. A lot of that knowledge has been lost to the current generation except in books. Thank goodness for books :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh yes.
    My secret place was at the bottom of the very big hole our German Shepherd dug. Not big enough to do more than scrunch down and hide, but it felt soooo safe.
    Thinking about it, fridges and running water were MUCH bigger and more useful than smart phones and their ilk...

    ReplyDelete
  4. My mother grew up without any of those things. She didn't get her first TV until after her and my father married. She grew up in the mountains of Eastern KY, but I was like you I couldn't fathom it as a child.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I remember when I was little, my mom telling me the story of how hers was the first family in their neighborhood to have a TV. I didn't believe her either!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Unlike freezers, secret places have been around forever. How could children manage without them? Loved reading about yours.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I remember the advent of colour TV, cassette players, video recorders, computers, and the list goes on - it's strange to think that the generation before us had even more new things that were firsts for them.

    ReplyDelete

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