Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dining Car

I probably don’t have to tell you that Canada is a large country.
In bygone years, the men who manned the trains crisscrossing it spent a long time aboard those trains.
A long time.
In those days, they spent much of the trip and all of their downtime in the little caboose as it clicked faithfully along the rails at the tail end of the train. It became their little ‘home away from home’. There, they did their visiting, sleeping, reading, game-playing, cooking and eating.
Let’s discuss these last two for a moment . . .
One group, in an effort to be fair, took it in turns to cook and wash up.
They had one rule: If anyone criticized the cooking in any way, their turn was accelerated instantly through the queue and they found themselves with spatula (or spoon) in hand for the next meal.
Yeah. Probably best to keep your mouth shut unless you had a hankering to take over as cook.
So the men silently choked down whatever they were given. No matter how unpalatable.
They still had to take their turn when it came, but at least they weren’t handed the apron at a moment’s notice.
One man in the group seemed singularly unable to create anything remotely appetizing. Or even edible.
Yeah. We’re definitely not talking gastronomic ecstasy here.
His friends were enduring his most recent effort, silently forking down breakfast.
Or what passed for breakfast.
One man poked disconsolately (real word!) at the blackened bit of char that had started life as an egg.
The cook narrowed his eyes, his hand tightening spasmodically on the spatula.
This is my story. I’ll imagine it how I want . . .
The man looked up and forced a smile at the cook. “Hank,” he said. “You burned the eggs.”
Hank smiled slowly and moved toward him, already extending his cooking utensil of choice.
“Which is truly remarkable,” his friend added, “Because it’s just how I like ‘em!”
Creative criticism.
It’s an art.
P.S. The trains that span our great country no longer pull a caboose behind them. With faster trains and shorter hauls between stops—and with improvements in technology—they simply aren’t needed.
I miss them.

The cover for my book, Daughter of Ishmael is once more in the news!
Having won the contest last week, it is now in the running for a larger prize.
Could you go to: http://indtale.com/polls/creme-de-la-cover-contest
And give it your vote!
You know I'll love you forever!

7 comments:

  1. In the late sixties I boarded with a couple in Barrie Ontario....he worked the trains and took his turn cooking. He was a great cook. His wife always sent home baking along with him. I'll bet he was pretty popular.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You make me want to come to Canada again. And again. I might have to come see you in '18!
    Carol C
    ahealingspirit.org

    ReplyDelete
  3. Creative and perfect! Guess I would not have been popular on the rail road, lol. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hee hee! That "creative criticism" is just what a person needs sometimes. I remember little red cabooses. If there was anyone hanging out the door, they'd wave at the people they were passing - and I think they made sure to hang out the door wherever there were people :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. The burnt egg eater thought on his feet well. I suspect I would happily cook rather than endure rubbish food though.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'm with EC, I'd rather cook then eat bad food. I haven't seen a caboose in about 50 years. I remember at crossings the conductor used to hang out of the door and wave to us kids.

    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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