Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, December 31, 2016

It's the Ver-Very Last Day of the Year

With apologies to Andy Williams.
Sung to the tune of It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

It's the ver-very last day of the year.
Candidates were compelling and everyone yelling,
T’was hard to find cheer!
It's the ver-very last day of the year.

It's the think-thinkingest season of all.
It’s a time to remember how we reached December,
With wars to appall!
It's the think-thinkingest season of all.

There were issues for joining,
And deeds disappointing,
And stars disappearing like snow.
There were scary world stories
In all categories!
We wished we were long, long ago.
 

(Now)It's the time for us to plan for the next year.
We will need to get going, good deeds overflowing,
And a clear atmosphere!
It's the time for us to plan for the next year!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Puffed Up

How do you spell 'delicious'?
There was a bright spot to every school day.
And no, it wasn’t that magical moment each morning when we first stepped into the hallowed halls of learning and knowledge.
Ick.
No, it was that moment, when the whole thing was safely in the past.
The long bus ride to school.
The sweat and toil.
The long bus ride home.
Ta-da!
That moment.
When Mom would usher us into the house and the smell of warm deliciousness would sweep over us like a welcome blanket.
Snack time.
The wonderful reward for having made it through yet another school day.
And mom made it special. Homemade snacks like pudding, cake or pie.
Hot chocolate.
Sometimes the extra-special spudnuts.
Fresh, warm bread with melty butter.
It made all of the pain and drudgery worth every drop of effort.
Then, as we grew older, Mom stepped back a bit and let us create our own snacks.
In the process, something was lost. But something else was definitely gained.
Our snacking of preference grew and changed as our skills did.
At first, my brother, George, would simply spread cheese on crackers and create a giant stack.
Which was then happily consumed, layer by layer.
I would toast bread – just barely – and spread it with peanut butter.
Peanut butter is better all soft and melted.
Just FYI.
Then Mom got a new invention, a Teflon frying pan and I discovered the magical world of omelets.
With lots of melty cheese.
Hmm . . . I’m beginning to see a pattern there.
Mmmmmmelty things.
Moving on . . .
Then George was introduced to tapioca pudding.
Made from scratch and eaten while still warm.
And sometimes shared with his sister.
Until she was shown the amazing chocolate wonderfulness of puffed-wheat squares.
I should explain here that the puffed-wheat is simply a medium to get the chocolate syrup to your mouth.
And it does it well.
Did you know that a hungry teenager can eat an entire pan of puffed wheat squares and still have room for supper?
It’s true. And I proved it on many an occasion.
Moving forward many, many years.
Yesterday, I dug out my tattered old recipe for puffed-wheat squares.
It was stained.
And worn.
But still readable.
I mixed and cooked.
Added, pressed down and cooled.
Then, with my daughter and granddaughter, sliced and consumed.
And, just for an instant, relived the best part of growing up.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Starting at Eight

For Christmas this year, I received Lego.
Yep. Lego.
As I have done every year for over 50 years.
It sparked a memory . . .
Maybe he should have wrapped up some teeth . . .
In the Stringam family, birthdays were always exciting.
Family. Good food. Cake.
And presents.
My fourth had been truly memorable, with a little barn fire thrown in for . . . umm . . . excitement.
But my eighth was memorable for two other reasons.
Let me explain . . .
It began ordinarily enough, with Mom's wonderful breakfast and good wishes all around.
Dad had gone into the city, on ranch business, and wasn't expected back until later--when us kids got home from school.
But that was okay, because I knew that my real birthday, complete with birthday food and cake and the all important presents wouldn't happen until supper time.
I went through the day with high anticipation.
I'm sure my teachers tried mightily to teach me something that day, but who can compete with birthday supper and cake?
And presents.
By supper time, I had worked myself into a rare mood.
Mom made my favourite.
Spaghetti.
With meat balls.
Mmmm.
Then the cake. Again my favorite - Angel food. With fluffy seven-minute frosting.
I should point out that the name of the frosting had to do with how long it took to make it.
Because it certainly didn't describe how long it took to eat it.
But I digress . . .
And then that moment.
The time I had been anticipating for an entire year.
When the wrapped boxes came out and were given the place of honour.
Right in front of me.
The first one was rather . . . book sized.
I tore into the colourful paper eagerly.
I should explain, here, that I had fallen in love with reading in the first grade, at the age of six.
Dr. Seuss had introduced me to world of books and I hadn't looked back.
By the time I was eight, I had graduated to the next step.
Chapter books.
And here, on my birthday, I was suddenly holding the greatest treasure I had ever seen.
Nancy Drew. The Secret in the Old Attic.
A chapter book.
All my own.
My world had just gotten bigger.
Then there was more.
A large, rectangular package.
Intriguing.
Reluctantly and reverently, I set down my precious new book.
And ripped into my other present.
The wrapping came off easily.
Revealing . . . Lego.
Lego?
What on earth was that?
I stared at the package.
Everyone stared at the package.
My father was well known for finding the new and the wondrous.
He didn't fail here.
I opened the box and poured out a stream of little red, white and blue blocks.
Of varying sizes and shapes.
I unfolded the brightly-coloured instruction sheet.
And my world got bigger, still.
I needn't tell you that my Nancy Drew collection expanded to include every volume ever written.
Or that Lego became a large part of the Stringam world that day.
And that a major part of playtime, for three generations now, consists of amazing feats of construction with myriad colourful blocks.
Or reading.
I only need to tell you that everything began on my eighth birthday.
A day truly worth celebrating.
This year's.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Gas

Another of Daddy's favourite stories...
It’s important you know that Emerson Ells loved beans most of all when he dined.
But it’s also a fact that his good wife Elaine, was not one to be so inclined.
It wasn’t the taste or the texture abhorred, but the methane that followed hereafter.
I’m sure you appreciate all her displeasure when gas filled her home to the rafters.
So Emerson, he of the bean adoration, betook himself oft times to lunch,
And happily chose from the menu extensive, a large plate of baked beans to munch.
On this day it was doubly important to him, for his birthday, again, had appeared.
He decided a good plate of beans would endorse his making it through one more year.
He happily slurped up—not one, but two—plates of his favourite food.
Then laughed when he thought of his unwary wife and her wishes that he could elude.
When Emerson got to his home after work, his wife met him as he came in.
“I have a surprise!” she said as they kissed. Then blindfolded him with a grin.
She led him, unwary, along the main hall, the dining room clearly her goal,
When someone knocked loudly upon the front door. She sighed and disrupted their stroll.
And parking her husband in a dining chair, she hurried herself off to see,
Who could possibly be interrupting her plans and to knock with such temerity.
Now, remember those beans so happily consumed and their unlucky penchant to’ard gas?
Well, through the drive home, old Em’s  innards roiled and now he had something to pass.
He listened. Elaine was still neatly engaged. He could hear as she spoke from somewhere.
So Emerson leaned to one side (sneakily) and let loose a blast of hot air.
He felt better at the ensuing release, but his bowels soon started to strain,
And knowing his wife was still there by the door, he tipped himself over. Again.
A third time inflated, a third time released and a third time his needs were addressed,
Then hearing his wife as she closed the front door, decided he’d just keep the rest.
Soon his dear wifey was there at his side. As she murmured her apologies,
Old Em, he just smiled in a secretive way and thought of his release. Times three.
“And now your surprise!” his sweet wifey exclaimed as she pulled off his blindfold with care.
 Its removal revealed some guests at the board. Twelve of them were seated there.
So to you who like beans, and I’m one, I confess, please beware of the spouse-ly surprise,
Cause the likelihood’s there that you may just end up: the sole cynosure of all eyes.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Santa's Report Card: 2016

Guest Post by Santa Claus (aka: Kris Kringle)
Kris and Rebecca Kringle
Photo by: Kimberley Laaksa Photography.
As has become our tradition, Mrs. Santa and I would like to share with you the joys and delights we receive from visiting the world when it is at its cheeriest and most positive. There truly is a wonderful Spirit which accompanies the Christmas season.
My Beloved and I have been recreating Santa and Mrs. Rebecca Claus (there – you heard her first name here first!) for some years now, and each year it is a special treat. We sincerely hope it also is for the people with whom we have the pleasure of visiting.
This year, for about the last five or six weeks, we have visited some 25 organized events and several spontaneous ones (disorganized events?), and they have each and every one been special to us.  We have sat over 1000 little ones on our collective knees this year, over 200 not-so-little ones, and we have had the great pleasure of visiting with some 450 seniors, some of whom were not able to sit on our knees, so we bent ours to them.  As it should be.  And our knees are still working!  That in itself is a great Christmas blessing!
We were privileged to visit a Seniors Lodge to which we have been invited for several years.  My failing memory notwithstanding (as my Beloved would say, ‘ooh, good word!) many faces are familiar – though I still struggle to put a name to most faces. I enjoy the smiles elicited when I flatter the ladies with the thought that they have seen what, now? 29 or 30 Christmases?? And the men always seem to enjoy my un-pretended envy of their beautiful white hair (mine still takes a little dye and paint to remove the last of the colour).  After visiting with these dear folks for a moment or two, we ask them not what they would like for Christmas but rather “what is your Christmas wish – for you, for your loved ones, or for the world?”
Many—having endured the ravages of war themselves—many wish for the proverbial Peace on Earth; the Christmas-time phrase that many of us toss off without really thinking about its meaning. These folks are sincere.  In their age and disability and declining health caused by a lifetime of caring and struggle, they truly are burdened with the weight of war and strife in the world. 
We assure them we will do what we can to end the strife. We assure them that the secret to doing so is in working with the children of our little corner of the world. Chidlren who will need to know joy in their life, that they may be armed to stand up to the evils they will inevitably encounter.
Amongst the senior crowd this year was a dear little old woman, 93 years old, assisted by a wheelchair due to an aged, bent body that could no longer keep up with her sharp mind.  I knelt down to greet her, took her hand in mine and asked, “What would you wish for this Christmas, Estelle? (We love the beautiful ‘old-fashioned’ names that we encounter!). Estelle looked up at me as best she could, caught my eye and said: “A kiss from Santa Claus”.
I know that I hesitated, noticeably, with this request, as the possible implications of fulfilling her request ran through my mind. I must add here that I am most grateful to have Mrs. Santa at my side, who does a magnificent job of monitoring ‘players’ of all ages, even the 93-year-old ones. (A tangent to follow, if you will indulge me for a moment: I have, over the years, received some, shall we say, ‘interesting requests’ to intervene in the love-lives of teens and twenty-somethings. The most interesting and strident one this year was a request from Jackie, who asked me to stop off at Dave’s house in San Diego to let him know that Jackie was expecting him to bring back a ring – ‘a big one’ -- this Christmas.  “Have you taken this up with Dave yet, or will this be a surprise when I tell him?” “Oh, Santa,” said Jackie, “He knows who he is! And he knows alllllll about the rock I want!” I assured Jackie that I would deliver a reminder to Dave. ‘Nuff said. Merry Christmas to Jackie and best wishes to Dave!)
Estelle was still waiting for her kiss from Santa, and while my mind was still on pause with the request I asked her “Why would you want a kiss from this whiskered old face?” Estelle paused a moment also, and with a tear forming in the corner of her eye she breathed quietly, “I have not had a kiss from anyone for over 25 years . . . . “.   Estelle’s grip on my gloved hand tightened, but this was not the cause of a tear welling in my own eye.  As I returned the firmness of the hand grip, Santa and Mrs. Santa both granted a Christmas wish that, in the grand scheme of things, was easily granted and that cost nothing but a bit of the ‘milk of human kindness’, as Dickens so succinctly summarized it in the words of Jacob Marley. While delighted to grant so simple and meaningful a request, we were saddened by the tale of neglect that had sparked Estelle’s Christmas wish.
I will end this 2016 Report Card with the story of Isabella, a gangly and quiet-spoken 10-year-old who had been on Santa’s knee, in turn with some 30 other children at a lively community-league Christmas event. Once all of the children had had their turn and had gone off to unwrap their gifts, two young ladies hovered nearby. One was a delightful 5-year-old who, with the full approval of her mother, had suspended a dozen or so candy canes in the neck of her crimson Christmas dress, delivering them to various and sundry at will.  Mrs. Santa and I were the grateful recipients of, I think, more than half of her deliveries.  Isabella hovered nearby until the candy deliveries were mostly completed, and until I noticed her there, again.  I waved my hand for her to ‘come over’, which she did, slowly.  “Would you like to sit on my knee again, Isabella?” (I actually remembered her name this time!).  She nodded, and I hoisted her up onto my lap, feeling that maybe she had forgotten to tell me something during her first visit. I tried to strike up a conversation with her.
“What grade are you in at school, Isabella?”
“Five.”
“Do you like school?”
“Yeah.”
“What’s your favourite subject?”
A shrug of the shoulders.
“Do you like sports?”
“No.”
“Do you like to draw, make art?”
“Yeah.”
With each question, Isabella had snuggled closer and more closely into Santa’s warm furry suit.  After several more attempts at eliciting some information, I finally figured out that Isabella was sending me the only message that she needed to hear back from me.
“Would you like Santa to be quiet now?”
She snuggled right in close and leaned her head on my shoulder. “Yeah.”
I wrapped my arms around her and granted two wishes, one of which was unspoken. I realized that Santa’s blathering on, trying to learn something about this lovely little lady, was masking the unspoken request she was making, which was simply to be loved.
Isabella spent some twenty minutes on my lap that night, encircled by my arms.  A priceless moment in time we shall never forget and shall always cherish.
My Christmas wish for 2017?  That each and every one of you will experience the milk of human kindness in the coming weeks and months and years.  God bless, and Merry Christmas to all!
With our love to you at Christmas 2016,
Santa and Rebecca Claus




Monday, December 26, 2016

Pajama Game 2016

We have a tradition in our home.


Well, several, actually.
But I'm only going to talk about this one . . .
Pajamas. On Christmas eve.
And spaghetti, but that is another story.
So . . . pajamas.
Every year, Mom hunts up the most distinctive pattern she can find and everyone is forced excited to wear it.
So, in honour of this very special time, here are a few examples from the past.
Enjoy!
 Christmas, 2002.  And no, that isn't a cow print couch . . .
Christmas 2003. And yes, we do look like escaped prisoners.

2007.  Little jump, here.

2008 and our numbers are increasing.
You can't see the striped socks, but they're there!
2009. Things are changing radically . . .
2010. What a mob!
2011. Well, a small, but important sample.
2012. The year of the polka dot.

2013 The year of the Googly

2014 - also glowed in the dark.
2015. What can I say? Gingham.
And now for 2016.
Gramma and Grampa and a choice selection of Grands.
And PJ's. What do you think?

And look what my DIL made for me . . .

Isn't it gorgeous?! Fifteen, count 'em, fifteen years of Tolley Christmas Jammies. Every one since this sweet DIL joined our family. Perfect!
How was your Christmas?
Warm?
Colourful and bright?
I do hope it was MERRY!
Merry Christmas, everyone!

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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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