Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In the Buff

About a mile and a half from the Millicent, Alberta school was the swimming hole.
A wooden structure, called a ‘headgate’ had been built across the main irrigation canal to control and distribute water into ditches so farmers could water their crops. Passage of the water through the headgate was confined, causing increased swirling and that, in turn eroded a great hole.
Once discovered, this swimming hole became the favourite spot for an after-school dip by many of the young boys from the school.
There was only one problem.
They never brought suits.
As there were no girls around, the solution was easy.
Strip off naked and go skinny dipping.
It worked well.
A short, active time splashing about in the cool water. A brief period of drying off. Re-donning of one’s school clothes.
And the happily-refreshed boys were back on the road for home.
Then . . . that day.
Now remember where I mentioned that members of the opposite sex weren’t present?
Well, that was only most of the time.
On this afternoon, a group of adventurous girls happened along. They, too were on their way home from school. Spotting the boys splashing about in the water, they decided to . . . cause a little consternation.
They sat down on the canal bank.
And waited.
I probably don’t have to tell you that all splashing and playing ended abruptly.
For some time, the group of increasingly chilly boys tread water and stared at the girls, visions of having to stay in the canal until after dark running through their minds.
Then one of them, a little less patient than the rest, decided to do something a little more proactive.
He leapt naked from the stream and ran straight toward the girls.
They scattered like frightened birds, shrieking wildly.
In fact, they proved that they could easily outrun the boys. Given the proper incentive.
What do we learn from this?
1.  If one is going to play a prank, be prepared.
2.  Clothes-less doesn’t mean help-less.
and
3.  Buff beats bluff every time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Good Dog


Berg Family about 1940. Front row far left: Leif
Just off camera: Patsy
Without Patsy, things could have ended much differently.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Patsy was a German shepherd dog. Unremarkable in looks.
But loyal, playful, smart, fun, an excellent companion and confidante and—as you will see in this story—attentive and protective.
Patsy was little Leif’s constant companion.
Where the one went, so did the other.
If Mother was looking for her small son, she simply stepped to the door and called Patsy.
Who immediately steered her young companion home.
On a large mixed farm like the Berg family ran, it would have been easy for the youngest son to find himself in difficulties.
But not with a Patsy as companion.
And that’s where our story begins . . .
Leif and Patsy had been playing in the warm sun of a late summer day. Their explorations had led them to a large field of grain immediately adjacent to the farmstead.
The combination of the warm sun and tall, ripened grain were most inviting to a small boy and a snooze seemed appropriate. He curled up in a comfortable spot and nodded off.
At the same time as our little explorer drifted off to sleep, his elder brother and their father arrived with tractor and binder to begin harvesting the field. A small boy happily, rosily asleep in one of the furrows was completely invisible to them.
As they approached the place where Leif was asleep, they noticed Patsy.
Remember where I said ‘constant companion’?
Well that comes into play here.
The faithful dog was standing guard at the edge of field. They decided to stop the machinery and take a moment to check things out.
Patsy led them to where Leif was sleeping.
The boy was roused. With Patsy in close attendance, the two started the trek back toward the farm.
Instead of tragic, the incident was written off as 'another bit of farm life adventure'.
Just a regular day in the life of a good dog.

Monday, October 16, 2017

He Was There



He didn’t go to work that day,
He saw it.
He went there.
The great explosions. Fear. Dismay.
He heard it.
He was there.
When embers started raining down,
Debris and bodies on the ground,
The pain, confusion all around,
He knew it.
He was there.

He wasn’t told the towers fell,
He breathed it.
He was there.
Engulfed by all the fires of hell,
He touched it.
He was there.
When first responders got in there,
And started beating back despair
True angels helping everywhere,
He felt it.
He was there.



David Handschuh, Pulitzer-nominated photojournalist, was among the few survivors of the horrific 9-11 attacks. This week, he and his wife, Staci, were visitors here in Edmonton, Alberta, to speak of his experiences.
It is a story that should never be forgotten, nor brushed aside.
This story--and his others--can be found on Instagram @flyingmanatee
Or follow him at www.davidhandschuh.com.


Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week in our neighbourhood,
We tackle 'sports'. It will be good!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nighty-Night

Our Engineer - far right.
Our son, an army engineer, was on his Combat Leadership course.
It was gruelling. Months of training. An adrenaline rush of enacting scenarios.
Strategizing.
Analyzing situations.
Digging in and getting dirty.
Yep. Gruelling pretty much describes it.
And added to the daily duty roster, morning inspections. Not only must they learn how to survive, even thrive in battle situations, they had to look good while they did it.
Each evening was spent in cleaning oneself and one's gear in preparation for inspection directly after breakfast the next morning.
For the most part, the soldiers enjoyed this relaxing time after dinner. It was a chance to unwind. Kibitz around a bit. Laugh and joke.
And keep their adrenalin up with pounding, exhilarating music. Loud. Fast. Heavy. 
Followed immediately by bed.
Needless to say, it took some time to wind down.
Except for our son. Whose choice of music was a little more . . . conservative. He would drift away almost immediately to the soft, soothing strains of Loreena McKennitt.
Or Enya.
One evening some time after lights out, the men were restless. Knowing that their morning would come fast, not to mention early, they were anxious to get some needed sleep. And it was proving elusive.
Again, except for our son, who had his stereo by his ear and had already drifted away.
To Enya.
One of the soldiers noticed. It gave him an idea.
The next evening, the group completed their usual day-end tasks. To their usual music. Then crawled into their bunks.
Lights were doused.
Then, out of the darkness, a voice. “Hey, Tolley. Play us some of your music.”
Our son turned up the song he was currently listening to.
Only TimeEnya.
Within seconds the sounds of snoring filled the dorm.
After that, immediately following lights-out, the strains of choice were something soft. Soothing.
And sleepy.
Nighty-night.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Solved

Saggot jumped back, colliding heavily with the front door and knocking a gusty ‘whoof’ out of himself.
The inspector merely stared at the hockey stick, wide-eyed, the colour draining from his face.
“Inspector? Are you all right?” I touched the man’s shoulder, but he didn’t appear to notice.
Slowly, he dropped to his knees and reached a shaking hand out toward the stick.
“Inspector! Don’t touch it!” Saggot shouted. “You don’t know where it’s been!”
The inspector looked up as his fellow officer, his face now suffused with brilliant colour.
Angry colour if I know my shades.
And I do.
The bushy brows had lowered threateningly as well. My late husband used to assume the same expression. I called it ‘dropping his visor’. I choked back a laugh.
“Saggot!” the inspector barked. “You’re off this case!”
The rotund policeman blinked. “But . . .”
“You heard me! Go wait in the car!”
“But . . . sir . . .!”
“Go. Now. Or. I’ll. Have. Your. Badge. And. Gun.”
I was suddenly glad this trim officer wasn’t looking at me. I was almost ready to hand him my badge and gun.
If I’d had either.
Saggot turned and fumbled with the door handle.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, can’t you even open a door? What are our boys in blue coming to?” Norma again.
Saggot froze, his mouth dropping open. His hand dropped from the knob and he stared as it turned smoothly without him. A moment later, the door swung wide, bumping into the stunned man.
“There you go!” Norma wasn’t wasting any time.
Saggot’s mouth snapped shut and, without a backward glance, he bolted outside.
The door closed smartly behind him, rattling the glass.
The inspector had risen to his feet, his arms clasped around the hockey stick. He looked toward the door, then shook his head and turned to me. “Could you ask your sister who . . .” he swallowed hard. “. . . who gave her this stick?”
“Norma . . .”
“I heard him!” Norma snapped.
“Well you don’t have to get snippy with me. I’m just the messenger.”
A sigh. “Fine. I’m sorry!”
“You don’t sound sorry.”
“Well I am! What do you want? You want it in writing?”
“Yes, I do.” I folded my arms across my chest.
A paper appeared out of nowhere, and drifted to the floor.
I scooped it up and turned it over. ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!!!!!!!’ was written across it in Norma’s distinct scrawl, and, at the bottom, ‘You haven’t changed Reggie’s paper today.’
“Drat, Reggie!” I shouted. “He’s your stupid bird! You look after him!”
“I can’t! He’s afraid of me!”
“Well then, he’s finally gotten some sense!”
A distinct sniff. “That wasn’t very nice.”
“Norma! This isn’t very nice! Talking to you in the air. Having policemen barging into my home, speculating on my possible proclivity for murder and mayhem.”
“Ooh! Proclivity. Good word, Sis.”
“Thank you.”
“Oh, you may need this.”
A roll of toilet paper appeared much the same as the hockey stick and sorry note. It bounced a couple of times and came to rest against the inspector’s shoe.
“Why’d you take that with you?”
“Well, one doesn’t know, does one? I mean, isn’t it best to always be prepared?”
I picked up the roll. “I guess.”
“May I speak?”
I looked at the inspector and shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Norma?” He looked up into the air.
“I’m over here, sitting in the chair.”
Both of us leaned over and peered through the doorway into the living room. Reggie, his colorful feathers slicked down tight stared back at us.
“I got tired of standing around. I needed to sit down.”
“Oh.” Still clutching the hockey stick in both arms, the Inspector maneuvered through the entry and moved hesitantly inside.
“Have a seat.”
“Okay.” He shuffled toward one of the chairs.
“Not this one. I’m in it!”
“Norma, how is he supposed to know! You’re being woefully unwelcoming. You’re usually a bit more hospitable than this.”
There was a pause. Then, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Please take the blue chair, Inspector. It’s a bit more spacious and comfortable. Then we can have a nice, cozy chat.”
He perched gingerly on the indicated seat.
“So you want to know where the hockey stick came from?”
The inspector looked down at the stick clutched tightly in his arms, then over at the chair opposite. “I think I do.”
“A rather nice young man gave it to me.”
The man caught his breath and his eyes filled with tears. “A young man, you say?”
“Yes.” There was a pause and Norma’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Yes, I’ll tell him.” Speaking normally once more, she went on. “He’s here now, Inspector. Would you like to talk to him?”
The man looked like he’d just seen the coming of the Lord. Tears spilled down his cheeks. “C-can I?”
“Well, I think so. I’m not really sure how these things work.”
“Inspector?” The voice was husky, soft. A young man’s voice.
“Yes. It’s me. Inspector Wilson. Who . . . who are you?”
“You know me as Benny, Inspector.”
The man sucked in in a quick, sobbing breath. “Benny?”
“You’ve been looking for me for a long time.”
“You were my first, Benny. The case I just couldn’t solve. You’ve . . . pardon the expression . . . haunted me for over forty years!””
The young man laughed. “Well, I appreciate that you kept on trying. I know it was hard for my parents, not knowing.”
“You just . . . disappeared.”
A sigh. “Well, I can finally tell you. I was playing hockey on the ice on the lake and fell through. I know it was stupid to be there by myself, but I wanted to practice something new on my own. The recruiters were coming and I just had to impress them!”
“So you weren’t kidnapped. Or murdered. Or a runaway.”
“Nope. Just stupid. I’m so sorry.”
“I never figured it out. You were supposed to be at training. It never even occurred to me you were training. Just by yourself.”
“Can you tell them, Inspector? So they can finally stop . . . wondering.”
“I . . . yes, I can.”
“Thanks, Inspector.”
“Thank you, Benny.” The inspector mopped at his face with his sleeve.
I pulled a long piece from the toilet paper roll and handed it to him.
He nodded his thanks. “Benny?”
“He’s gone, Inspector,” Norma said.
He shook his head and set the hockey stick on his lap so he could blow his nose. “After all this time.”
I touched his shoulder. “What will you do?”
He smiled wryly. “Go and tell his parents.” He looked up at me. “If they’ll believe me.”
“Well I believe you,” I said.
“And I do as well!” Norma added.
“Well of course you’d believe, you silly old girl. You’re there with him!”
“Oh sure. Cloud the issue with facts!”
“I think I’ll be going,” the inspector said, getting to his feet. “Erm . . . can I take the stick?”
I shrugged. “Norma?”
“Well I don’t want it. What would I do with it?”
I sighed. “Yes, take it.” I followed him through the foyer. “Good luck.”
The door opened on its own as he approached it. He shook his head, then paused just inside. “I’ve been working on this case my whole life. It’s hard to take in.”
“Well take it in and close the door! Reggie will get a chill!”
I rolled my eyes. “I apologize for my sister, Inspector.”
“No need.” He looked at me. “I’ll be in touch.”
He pulled the door shut behind him.
I turned just as another paper appeared, fluttering to the floor. I picked it up.
'Bird cage', it said.
I sighed and headed for the living room.

Enjoying this episode of the Sputterling Sisters?
Catch up with them here:
Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.  
At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. 

My words for October:   colorful ~ spacious ~ brilliant ~ woefully
They were submitted by: https://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

Now go and see what the others have done with the challenge!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Vanity

Ready to work.
If you look closely, you'll note the absence of glasses.
And the presence of the band-aid.
     Before I get Started: 1. My new boyfriend had a medical condition I wasn’t aware of.
           2. The world refused to coalesce into remotely recognizable shapes when I wasn’t wearing my glasses.
           3. I was vain.
There. I think I’ve covered all of the bases.
Would you care to try to convene these statements into a story?
I’m almost sure it would be better than mine.
Fine . . .
My new boyfriend was ‘working’ for my Dad.
Which meant that he spent a lot of time on the ranch, following me around, and occasionally did some actual work.
On this bright summer afternoon, we had been assigned the arduous task of moving the milk cow from her pasture on the east side of the buildings to the more convenient pasture on the west side.
We were on foot.
He was heeling.
I was heading.
Which meant that I was in the front to get in the way if said cow decided to turn in the wrong direction.
He was behind in case she suddenly felt that she couldn’t bear to leave her former pasture.
I should probably mention here that I always wore glasses. There’s nothing more embarrassing than discovering after a lengthy, one-sided conversation, that the person you are talking to is actually the neighbour’s mule.
I will say only that he was a good listener.
Back to my story . . .
On this bright and sunny afternoon, I had removed my glasses because I was trying to improve my tan lines. Large, white, goggle-shaped circles on one’s face weren’t conducive to beauty.
Oh, I also had a band-aid on my nose for the same reason.
Let's not talk about this any more . . .
At first all went well.
Then, they didn’t.
I ran ahead to stand as a human shield when the cow crossed over the entrance to the ranch buildings.
Once I was in position, I turned to ascertain progress.
The cow had turned and was heading back to familiar ground.
Boyfriend had disappeared.
Whaaaat?
I quickly ran up the road, got around the retreating animal and turned her back in the right direction.
Then spent the next twenty minutes sweating, hollering and cursing.
Oh yes. I cursed. For the whole story, read here. It’s not a pretty tale, but we’ll wait till you get back . . .
Finally, I had the stupid, perverse, ornery, cantankerous, belligerent, of-questionable-heritage, stupid (I repeat the word, deliberately) animal where she needed to go.
Daddy picked me up for the short ride to the ranch buildings.
And that’s when I remarked that my boyfriend, he of the dubious intelligence, had abandoned me.
Had just disappeared.
Dad frowned.
He turned into the drive to the ranch.
Then stopped.
Shoved the truck into reverse.
And, tires squealing, sped back along the main road.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Your boyfriend,” Dad said, coming to a skidding stop.
“Oh.”
And there he was. My boyfriend. Lying in the ditch.
How had I missed that?
Oh, right. Glasses.
Turns out that he had a medical condition that caused him, at times, to faint.
Who knew?
Fortunately, he had simply slid down into the soft, thick grass that lined the ditch and slept peacefully in the warm sun until we discovered him.
Dad got him up and we helped him make his woozy way to the truck.
By the time we reached the ranch buildings, he was well on his way back to normalcy.
After we had gotten him seated on the couch and supplied with drinks and eats, Dad turned to me. “Glasses,” he said simply.
 I nodded sheepishly and went to fetch them.
I learned something from this:
         1. When acquiring a new boyfriend, always ascertain health concerns.
         2.  Don’t ever try to outguess your optician.
         3. Don’t be vain.
       You learned it here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Scream


When you’re canoeing with your spouse,
‘Cause you must ‘get out of the house!’,
When falling in that cold, wet stream,
The honest thing to do is scream.

When movies reach a fever pitch,
With scary scenes that make you twitch,
And monsters to freeze your bloodstream,
The proper thing to do is scream.

Your lotto ticket, you have scratched,
And all your numbers are a match,
So coming true are all your dreams,
You’re right, the thing to do is scream.

When standing in the line to see,
Your heartthrob sing like a banshee,
Then he’s right there! His teeth agleam,
The coolest thing to do is scream.

Your day has gone from bad to worse,
You feel you’re underneath a curse,
The last straw: Toddler. Diaper cream.
The healthy thing to do is scream.

Now it’s October, ghosts abound,
And goblins, too, so you have found,
They’re on your street and on a theme,
They’re out to scare you. Yes, please scream.

Once a month, Karen and friends (ie. us) become poem-ists.
On a theme.
This month? Scream!
Do it. It's fun!

Visit the others and see what they have done . . .

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: You Scream
Dawn of Cognitive Script: A Bootiful Scream

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Happily (?) Wed

Still in a poetry mood.
Another of my Dad's favourite stories. 
And, who knows . . . maybe it happened . . .?

They’d been married one week, plus a day,
Sylvester and his good wife, May.
And May thought she should mark the date,
With something special for her mate.

A chicken dinner was her plan
She dug out pot and frying pan,
Consulted her mom’s recipes,
For gastronomic ecstasies.

All afternoon, she cooked and stirred,
By her love for her Sylvester, spurred,
At last she had the table set,
With goodies from her kitchenette.

She heard his step upon the stair,
And quickly pulled him to his chair,
He saw the things that she had done
And gently hugged his Honey-bun.

They ate enthusiastically,
Of fluffy spuds and buttered peas,
And other dishes by the score,
Each one, another to adore.

But when the crowning dish arrived,
So very prettily contrived,
He carved, and laid the pieces down,
And poured out fine, rich gravy; brown.

Then the anticipated taste,
And, suddenly, his smile displaced.
“My dear,” he said, with quite a sniff,
“What did you stuff the chicken with?”

She smiled upon him brilliantly,
Then sighed and answered blissfully,
“That part, I didn’t have to follow,
For the chicken wasn’t hollow!”

Monday, October 9, 2017

Love's Harvest

The prayers for rain had ended and the prayers for sun commenced,
Throughout the farming year, the pleas for either kept us tense.
The harvest was upon us and the grain was ripened gold,
The time was short to gather in before the snow and cold.

Most of the farmers had commenced. Their silos being filled.
But Ross’ sat neglected. He’d spent the summer ill.
His neighbours eyed his quiet fields and shook their heads. “When done,
I’ll go and help poor Ross,” they said, “One cannot waste the sun!”

That Sunday, those attending church received a big surprise,
When the Bishop told them: On the morrow, snow would fly.
“I know the Sabbath is for God,” he said, and then he grinned.
“But today I’ll harvest Ross’ crops. Now who can I count in?”

The meetings were abandoned. The run for trucks became a race,
And one, by one, combines and grain trucks came to Ross’ place.
While the men and boys were driving, girls and women, too,
Make thick, delicious sandwiches and ladled bowls of stew.

Now dew can halt a harvest, one needs dry to get the grain,
And as the light began to fade, they eyed the sky again.
But in the west an arch appeared, a chinook had filled the sky,
A promise they could carry on, that they’d stay warm and dry.

Throughout the night, they harvested, not one got any sleep,
And by the morning, they had won, there was nothing left to reap.
Tired, but glad, they filed home and into slumber swept,
The promised snow appeared and dropped two inches while they slept.

Only Ross of all those men had gotten in his grain,
But nary one of those who helped did fret, grip or complain,
Indeed, that day, through service, what they gained could not be bought,
For those who gave so willingly, a real Love’s Harvest had been got.

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week in our neighbourhood,
We tackle 'History'. It will be good!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Indictable at 10

The Victim
The question was innocent enough. “Daddy? How old were you when you started driving?”
The answer was anything but.
Innocent, that is.
Let’s leave Dad there for a moment while I explain something . . .
Okay, I know that, for most people, learning to drive begins at the ripe old age of 14.
In the farming and ranching community, however, it’s a tad different.
Farm and ranch kids start driving as soon as they can see over the dashboard.
Oh, never on real roads.
But in the fields, especially during seeding and harvest, they are needed.
Back to my question . . .
“Daddy?”
“I was ten,” he told me. “I learned how to drive when I was ten. And then I stole a car.”
Now there’s something you don’t hear every day. I stared at him. “Ummm . . . okay . . . details, please?”
He sighed and smiled. “My buddies, Bernard and DeVere, and I were walking home from school. Grade five.”
“I’m with you so far.” He had my total attention.
“And we were walking past DeVere’s house. And there, parked in the driveway, was DeVere’s dad’s car. A Model A Ford."
"With the keys inside.”
I should explain that people did that back in the thirties. Crime hadn’t been invented yet. Moving on . . .
“Bernard said, ‘Let’s take your dad’s car for a ride!’” Dad said. “At first, there was a bit of discussion.” He smiled. “DeVere didn’t think it was such a good idea.”
“Understandable.” I shook my head.
“But we talked him into it with: ‘we’ll only be a few minutes’ and ‘just around the block’. Things like that. Then we all piled in and I started the engine.”
“So you were the actual thief.”
“That’s what I said.” Dad grinned at me.
“Okay.”
“ ‘Let’s take turns!’ Bernard said. When he took over, DeVere suddenly sat up and said he’d forgotten something. We looked at him. Bernard said, ‘What did you forget?’ And DeVere said, ‘I forgot to stay home!’”
“We drove past my house and into the country and things went well for a few minutes. Then suddenly, DeVere pointed at a car coming toward us and shouted, ‘THAT’S UNCLE ALVIN!’ Sure enough, it was. His uncle stared at us as we drove past. ‘STOP!’ he bellowed. I guess this family always talks in exclamations. ‘WE HAVE TO GET HOME!’ DeVere hollered. “WE HAVE TO GET THERE BEFORE HE DOES!’ We did a quick turn and headed back to town, certain that Uncle Alvin was hot on our heels. But he wasn’t. We pulled into the drive, parked and got out. And never saw any sign of Uncle Alvin. Then or later.”
I stared at my Dad. “That’s it? That’s the whole story?”
He nodded.
“Oh.” I hate to say I was disappointed, but I was. Somehow, I was picturing sirens and heart-stopping chase-scenes and dust flying as cars made nearly impossible turns on sketchy country roads.
Then I thought of those three ten-year-old boys.
I guess this is better.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

D.U.I.

Oh, sure. She's smiling now . . .
There are about thirty miles of smooth, fast highway between Claresholm and Fort MacLeod, Alberta.
And Mom was a strict teetotaler.
These two facts will become significant . . .
Mom was heading home.
She had been out running errands and attending meetings and doing various ‘Mom’ things and supper was beckoning.
Another ‘Mom’ thing.
She was also DUI(C).
Driving under the influence of children.
Between glances into the backseat and numerous yoga-moves to reach and supply her various and sundry children’s needs, her concentration on the road, and her straight-driving-ness (my term), were sorely hampered.
From time to time, the car . . . wove.
Said weaving was noticed.
A flashing light appeared in the rear-view mirror.
Mom frowned. A ‘what-on-earth-is-this-about?’ frown.
And pulled over.
A young policeman appeared at her window.
“Ma’am, I couldn’t help but notice that you were weaving a bit in the lane,” he said. “Have you been drinking?”
Mom sucked in a deep, indignant breath and glared at the young man. “I SHOULD SAY NOT!!” she said.
Her voice was . . . let’s just say ‘firm’.
With just a bit of fire behind the words.
The poor policeman turned red and literally crumbled. “Sorry to have bothered you,” he mumbled. Then, bidding her a hasty good-night, he left.
Or rather, retreated.
Mom nodded resolutely and, putting the car in gear, continued on.
The police car made a U-turn and fled.
The reason I’m thinking about this right now?
Where was Mom when another young policeman was handing me my speeding ticket for doing 40 in a 30?
I guess some people have it. 
And some people don’t.
Sigh.
P.S. And when you have it, you don't get it and when you do, you don't. (Figure that one out!)

Friday, October 6, 2017

Busted

Not-Quite-Sanctuary. The family ranch in Fort MacLeod.
You can't hide things from your parents.
Just ask me . . .
I had my first 'official' job.
My Dad would argue this, as I worked for him for eight years.
Let me start again . . .
I had my first job-away-from-daddy's-ranch job.
It involved moving to Calgary, a city two hours to the north. And all the things that 'moving out' entails.
I had been an official Monday to Friday resident of Calgary for four months. And was feeling mighty independent as I made my weekly drive to my parent's ranch to fill my gas tank and stock up on food.
You look at 'independence' your way and I'll look at it in mine.
Ahem . . .
Just as I was driving into Claresholm, a small town just north of  the ranch, an ad came on the radio. A rather effective ad, as it turns out. Wherein (good word) different people were asked what was most important in their lives.
There were various answers. The last being 'family'. Which was followed immediately by the sounds of screeching tires and an obvious vehicle collision.
I hadn't seen my family in six days.
And, I will admit it here, I'm a wuss.
The ad hit me hard.
I started to cry.
At that point, things got a little confused.
My Old English Sheepdog, Muffy, happily ensconced in her seat of power (commonly known as 'shotgun') came unglued.
Tears did that to her.
She alternately tried to lick my face.
And crawl into my lap.
Neither of which is very desirable when one is hurtling along the road at 40 MPH.
Which, if I could have seen clearly, should have been 30 MPH.
You can guess what happened next.
Red and blue lights erupted just after the last intersection.
And suddenly a wavery figure was indicating, rather forcefully, that I pull over.
Sigh.
He poked his head into my car, took one look at my red-rimmed eyes and tear-drenched face and immediately withdrew.
"Come to my car when you've composed yourself," he mumbled.
Then disappeared.
I dried my face and blew my nose. Calmed Muffy, who was still under the mistaken impression that I needed some good, doggy-style comforting.
Then made my way over to the officer's car.
We had a nice chat, which culminated in an issued ticket for $25.00 and a warning to 'be more careful'.
Then, just as I reached for the door handle, the officer said, "If you don't mind. Why were you crying?"
I rolled my eyes. "It's silly, really," I told him.
"Do you mind telling me?"
"No." I related the entire fiasco, sparked by the ad on the radio.
It lost nothing in the telling.
I so love a good story.
He chuckled. Yes. People did that back then.
"I remember when I first went out to Regina for my RCMP training," he said. "I was one homesick puppy! I had never been away from home and I really missed my family."
We chatted a while longer.
Mostly about families and missing them.
And the incongruence (real word) of airing radio ads about car accidents specifically designed to make people cry.
And cause more car accidents.
I know. It doesn't make sense to me, either.
Then I left.
A few days later I paid my ticket and all was forgotten.
Or so I thought.
Moving forward several weeks . . .
I was sitting at the kitchen table when my parents came back from a quick trip to Calgary.
Dad came in and stopped beside my chair.
"How do you know an RCMP officer in Claresholm?" he asked.
I stared at him blankly.
RCMP Officer? I didn't . . .
Oh!
I had to relate the entire story, something I had formerly neglected to do.
Because of my reluctance to confess.
Dad chuckled. See? Chuckling again. It did happen.
"So how did you find out?" I demanded.
"Your mother and I just went through a check-stop in Claresholm," Dad said.
"Oh," I said.
"And this very kind and cheerful officer took one look at my license and asked me if I had a daughter, Diane."
"Oh," I said again.
"You can't blame us for being curious."
"Umm . . . so . . . what did he say?" I could feel my face getting red.
I hate it when that happens.
"He just told us that we had quite a daughter."
"Oh."
"Your Mother and I agreed with him." Dad smiled. "He handed back my license and waved us off."
"Oh." For a normally talkative person, I was really groping around for something to say.
Dad patted my arm.
"And don't speed," he said.
See? Parents always find out.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Bladderwalk-y

With apologies to Lewis Carroll...

Twasn’t brilliant, and the nighttime coves
  Did show no sparkle in the waves:
Still shady were the darkening groves,
  And the footpaths the same.

"Beware the Bladderwalk, my son!
  The urge that wakes, makes your breath catch!
Beware the vision blurred, and shun
  The nightytime Slumbersnatch!"

He took his blankets, warm, in hand:
  Long time the prodigious urge he fought --
Still resting, he with his full ‘tummy’,
  He laid awhile in thought.

And, as in gloomy thought he lay,
  The Bladderwalk did lastly claim,
To come whiffling through the dark causeway,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The blankets, warm, went snicker-snack!
He sprightly fled, into the ‘head’
  Then went galumphing back.


"And, has thou slain the Bladderwalk?
  Then back to bed, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brilliant, and the daytime coves
  Did sparkle brightly in the waves;
All misty were the brightening groves,
  But he never got to sleep again.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In America


On March 22, 1919, Ellen, with great anticipation, sailed from Goteborg on the Swedish liner Stockholm bound for New York on her way to join Petrus.
The boat trip was not a luxury cruise; accommodation on the emigrant ship was quite spartan. However, Ellen enjoyed the vast view of the sea and the relaxation of the long, seven-day cruise, spiced with the occasional buffeting of the North Atlantic.
Ellen had not previously been far from home and at 24 years of age, had little worldly experience. Arriving in New York, she recalls being quite afraid, having been warned of the 'White Slave trade' which was a threat to immigrant girls travelling alone. She was told not to trust anyone except travel agents who had the correct ribbon identification.
At the hotel where she was billeted, a Norwegian lady spoke to her. Ellen could not understand much of what was said. Later when she was settled, the lady came to her room offering to show her New York. However, Ellen had just washed her hair and since it was quite long and would take a while to dry, she declined. She never knew whether she had missed a great chance to see the famous city or had avoided a potential threat.
The next day the travel agent took her to the train. Her trip, almost all the way across America, was long and exciting--so big, so beautiful and so empty! She slept three nights on the train. To pass the time, Ellen studied the train schedule and memorized the stations on the way. Her excitement  increased as the train neared Idaho. When the train reached Pocatello, on April 10th, she knew this was the last station before Blackfoot, her destination.
Station stops were long enough to allow passengers to stretch their legs so Ellen got off the train and entered the station.
"There was Petrus," she recalled. "Oh! I was so surprised, I was so happy!"

Monday, October 2, 2017

On Giving Thanks

An old story. But in a new way . . .
On Stringam ranch at mealtime,
At the end of every working day,
The talk was great, the chuck sublime.
The fragrant smells of food. And hay.

They ‘washed up good’ and took a seat,
Respectful nod and smile to mom,
Then rough hands folded nice and neat,
With lowered eyes and faces calm.

Then thanks expressed, I’m not sure who
Was acting voice this time around.
But when it finished, all the crew,
Passed ‘tatoes--white, and gravy--browned.

All had closed the prayer, “Amen.”
Except the man beside the girl--
The small girl, seated at the end,
The one will all the fiery curls.

She gave the man a heated scowl,
And pointing at him, shouted shrill,
“He didn’t say ‘Amen’!” she howled.
The poor man suddenly looked ill.

The little girl persisted, too,
She spoke to others seated there,
“Mommy! Daddy! Listen, do!”
“He didn’t close our supper prayer!”

There is a lesson to be learned,
If a Stringam dinner is your yen,
You’ll never have to be concerned,
If you simply say, “Amen.”

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week in our neighbourhood,
We tackle 'Harvest'. It will be good!

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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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