Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

That Summer: Part Four

Summer in a Quonset Part Four

Coldest summer on record - and no heat!
In the summer of 1968, my parents sold our home ranch out on the south fork of the Milk River, and bought another place nearer to town.
There were myriad challenges.
But the most important was that it was bare land.
Absolutely everything needed to be built.
Construction was immediately started on a new home, and at the same time, on several barns, corrals and outbuildings.
The ranch buildings arose much more quickly than the house.
And that left us in a further dilemma.
Where to live.
The people who had purchased the ranch were justifiably anxious to take possession and our new house was far from completion.
My parents decided to move us into the newly-completed, steel-ribbed quonset.
It was an adventure.
And it's told here by my mother, Enes, from her journals.
(If you missed part one, you can find it here. Part two. Part three.)

Mornings were always very chilly - as was the whole summer!
With the exception of about two hot days, who could have foreseen the coldest summer in history?
Well, maybe Grey Eagle Child who forecast the coldest summer or fiercest winter every year. Sooner or later, he's right!
We never lingered over dressing in the morning, for with a Swish! Swish! on would go our clothes, socks, sweater, snow boots and usually jacket.
I would shiver my way over to the stove and turn the oven and all four burners on at once, even if I only needed two.
They must have given psychological heat because any heat calories were certainly lost in the voluminous stratosphere of the shed.
All plates and bowls would go into the oven while I prepared the meals and in order to conserve every calorie of heat.
And every one would be seated at the table and the blessing asked before the plates and food were brought out.
Then, if we hurried, the first mouthful of food would be too hot and the last one would be too cold!
Most of the time, we could see our breath. Our youngsters had great fun huffing and puffing about.
Every day brought a whole new series of unusual experiences.
Friends dropped in regularly for a momentary cheerful exchange and we enjoyed their ribbing.
"When's the auction?" one asked as he came through the one huge sliding door.
"Should get a blueprint of this," said another. "House, barn, shop and garage, all in one!"
Meanwhile, our new house was slowly taking shape.
Our amiable carpenter was trying to keep a dozen people happy by spreading his services around so thinly that he managed to put three nails in our house each week - and I believe sometimes he only managed two.
It was most frustrating and when the rain poured down along with the temperature, my temperature rose.
"Oh, what I would like to do to that carpenter," I fumed.
However, there were other days.
We were constantly amused by the sudden flood of traffic past our 'summer' home.
Necks would crane and eyes would stare.
One gal drove clear off the road!
Usually we made an effort to give them value for their effort.
I would come out with a bin full of garbage or we would scoot one of the youngsters out to the outdoor privy.
It was most interesting to watch the children on the school bus.
When it stopped, there would be a sudden surge of eager youngsters to the 'viewing side' and the bus would lurch dangerously over the roadside ditch.
I would dispatch our youngsters with a cheerful smile and a kiss and a tiny prayer in my heart that they would not be ostracized from humanity.
It takes a great deal of courage to meet the challenges in our lives without any discrimination of our fellow beings - how much more courage we need with it.
I believe our children were faced with an overload.
I certainly admired them for their determination and diplomacy. They were in constant contact with the human element and from my observation, carried on beautifully.
I imagine the conversations went something like:
"Are you really living out there in the shed?"
"Why yes, we are. We love it out there. Everything is so convenient and we have lots of fresh air and no grass to cut! We can just step into the car and drive out or our friends can drive in! We only have to walk a few steps and we can pet the animals! We don't have to worry about our muddy boots, though Mom does insist that we leave them by the door. We have great times playing hide and seek among the crates and boxes and the hopping game is the best of all. That is when you hop from box to box without touching the floor. We only play that game when Mom isn't around!"
By this point, the little friend was so entranced she couldn't wait for an invitation.
"May I come and stay with you sometime?"
"Sure. You can come any time you like," was the superior reply.
And the children did come and they danced about in happy glee. They fetched and carried and made the beds. They swept the floor, washed and dried the dishes and tidied the living room.
They helped me make pies and set the table. It was a happy, carefree experience.
And they left wishing they lived in a quonset

13 comments:

  1. What a story. I somehow missed part 3. Will have to catch-up. Enjoyed the image of the almost tipping over school bus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can't you just see those little noses pressed against the windows?

      Delete
  2. Of all the times to have a cold summer :)

    Your mom could tell a story well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no situation so challenging that you can't mix in a little 'weather' just to make it more so!

      Delete
  3. That was when I went to live with Grandma and Aunt Emily, I believe. Grade 12. I only experienced it for a short time, because the house soon was built and I have very few memories of the quanset. Those were great times, though!
    Love,
    Chris

    ReplyDelete
  4. Variations of the hopping game are still carried out by children (and cats) the world over...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just caught my grandkids doing the same thing--across the furniture in my front room!

      Delete
  5. This reminds me of when my parents built a house in 1948 and we lived an three granaries for the summer. We moved into the house when it got cold but the house was far from finished. They were great days!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Summer in a Quonset Part Four Coldest summer on record - and no heat! *In the summer of 1968, my parents sold our home ranch out ...
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    ReplyDelete

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