Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Little Helper

Kids pick up on everything we do whether we like it or not.
And my Husby likes to build things.
These two facts will come together later in this story . . .
Sooo . . . building things. Big things.
Husby made our dining room table.
Our games table and assorted other furniture.
Our birdcage.
Then he turned his attention to a cedar-log sunroom.
He does these things because it’s . . . fun.
Moving on . . .
This project required spending the days outside.
And making assorted loud noises.
Our kids grew up with Dad’s building projects and the accompanying rackets.
Our almost-two-year-old granddaughter who was living with us was just beginning to.
She adapted quickly.
Whenever there was a loud noise in the street (ie. Mower, weedwhip, atomic explosion) she ould gasp excitedly and say, “Grampa! Working!”
Then she learned something new.
Did I mention that Husby’s project keeps him outside all day?
Oh, right, I did.
Perhaps I should emphasize the words OUTSIDE ALL DAY.
Because one couldn’t drag him inside, even for meals.
Occasionally, I would poke my head out the back door and ask, “How are you doing, Honey?”
But that was the sum total of our ‘Husby-has-a-project’ communication.
Strawberry pals.
My granddaughter and I were in the front room. Me, reading. She, plotting to overthrow the world.
Suddenly, she jumped down from the table where she was playing with the Playmobil castle and ran to the back door.
There followed the sounds of effort.
Then the squeak of the door.
Then a little voice, “How you doing, Honey?”
Who says they’re not watching.
And learning . . .

 
Inside. Cozy!

Outside. Ignore the family members about to do battle . . .

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Old Shoes

Istanbul. Our room with a view.
Recently, Husby and I made a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Istanbul.
A fantastic, astonishing, amazing, astounding, surprising, wonderful, beyond-our-wildest-imaginings trip.
I guess telling you we enjoyed it would be moot by this point.
We stayed in an old mansion (built in 1835) turned hotel in the old city, overlooking the Golden Horn and just down from the Galata bridge which marks the boundary between the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Straight.
Husby studied the life of Suleiman, the Magnificent when completing his doctorate, so the area and the people and the architecture are very, very close to his heart.
We explored the old city. The mosques. The museums. The markets.
And it is this last that I wanted to talk about . . .
The markets in Istanbul are amazing. Crowds of people sandwiched and moving slowly between piles of goods. The scent of spices, roasted meat and corn, coffee, incense and perfume in the air.
I guess you can guess I loved it!
At the end of the day, the markets were closed. The people somehow stuffed the contents that had been spilling out into the narrow street back into their shops.
And the ‘blanket’ shops appeared in front of the stores.
Anywhere there was a sidewalk, these intrepid salesmen spread blankets and arranged piles of goods. It wasn’t unusual to see some man stripping off his shirt to try on one from the neatly-arranged stack before him. There were hardware supplies, kitchen utensils, food stuffs, knickknacks, leather goods, glassware. Everything you could imagine that could be easily carried and that someone could find useful.
But one man stood out from the rest.
Or rather, sat out from the rest.
An elderly man, we found him daily on his frayed, but spotless, blanket with pairs of used shoes spread neatly about him. Shoes meticulously cleaned and just as meticulously arranged.
Now to the rest of the story. My fellow traveller and good friend, Carol, and I had scoured the shops for a bargain on shoes. We had found one. And each purchased a pair.
Then Carol had the brilliant idea of taking our used shoes to our elderly salesman.
We did so.
Yeah. I’m, a follower.
He took them and looked them over. Testing the soles. Studying the uppers closely. Finally, he looked up at us and, through the kindly interpretations of the shopkeeper next to him, asked us our price.
“Oh, nothing,” Carol said, quickly. “We’re giving them to you.”
Then we saw the biggest smile we’d ever seen break over that seamed, elderly face. A smile with few teeth but lots of heart.
He got up and shook Carol’s hand. Then mine. Nodding and continuing to smile. Then he looked at Husby, who was wearing cream-coloured walking shoes, and pointed to his shoes. He then indicated his own well-worn, but still stout boots. His gesture was obvious. Trade?
Husby laughed and shook his head.
The salesman laughed, too and spread his hands in a ‘can’t hurt to ask’ gesture.
After that, whenever we walked past, he would greet us, his ‘Canadian friends’.
Now I don’t know what he could have gotten for our old shoes. A few lira perhaps.
But the funny thing? When I think of that amazing, stupendous trip, that is the experience that stands out the most.
I wonder why that is . . .

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Squeaks

Stringams. At Gramma's house.
My Gramma Stringam lived in a house in Lethbridge.
She and Grampa had built it and moved there when their older sons took over management of the ranch.
By the time I entered the world, they had lived in it a number of years.
And when I had reached an age to remember, it was already ‘seasoned’ and had received additions to the original structure.
It was a beautiful, comfortable home, with junipers growing on either side of the front door, stuffing one’s lungs with fragrance whenever one entered or exited into the wide hallway that ran from the front to the magical kitchen at the back.
To the left were the doorway to Gramma and Grampa’s room, the entrance to the upper staircase and the entrance to the laundry room and lower staircase. To the right were the double glass doors to the living room. Grampa’s recliner perched directly behind these doors in the corner. A long couch sat in front of the wide window beside his chair. Along the back wall was a white ‘fireplace’, a mirror and some book shelves.
On the opposite side of the room were some comfortable chairs and a ‘piecrust’ table with little figurines that little fingers itched to play with.
Ahem . . .
Also on that wall was the wide opening to the sunny dining room. Which contained a great sideboard that held dishes and linens. And, for those same little fingers, a drawer full of candy.
Don’t ask me how I know this . . .
The dining room was sandwiched between the great, sun-filled kitchen and the comfortable ‘sun room’ filled with books and chairs and . . . sunshine.
I loved this house. It was sparkling clean, warm, bright and welcoming. Endlessly filled with the fragrances of freshly baked bread and/or cookies and/or homemade soups and/or roasting meats.
But my reasons for describing all of this to you is because I wanted to talk about the floors.
Yes, it takes me a while.
The living room, in fact, most of the rooms, were floored in hardwood strips, polished and gleaming. Each room was additionally covered by a wide rug with reached very nearly to the edges. Only a brief, tantalizing glimpse of shining floorboards was visible near the walls.
One walked on woven carpets mostly.
But even as your stockinged feet tread along those carpets, you could hear the creak of the wooden floors beneath you.
I loved it.
It was the ‘sound’ of Gramma’s house that went along with the fragrance.
In our home, Husby replaced the carpets with hardwood flooring many years ago. They have now developed squeaks.
And whenever I hear one, I am again that little girl, happily crossing the living room at Gramma’s house.
The piecrust table and its prohibited, fragile residents are there, just within reach. The candy cupboard sits in the sunshine a few feet away.
And Gramma and Aunt Emily are in the kitchen, where, shortly something delicious will emerge.
All recalled with the single squeak of a hardwood floor.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Arrived

Then . . .
Now . . .











Ringing a little bell here . . .
I liked to read with my children.
But more than that, I liked to sing to them.
Little songs that told a story.
I did it a lot.
One, The Biplane, was a particular favourite.
And therein hangs a tale.
So to speak . . .
When our eldest son was three, our family attended a family reunion.
People were getting re-acquainted—talk and laughter filled the wooded area where we had gathered.
Food was set out. A vast array. And talking lessened as gullets were filled.
An impromptu program began.
Someone recited and a couple sang.
My little three-year old stood up in front of that group.
And sang.
The Biplane.
All five verses.
With choruses.
People clapped and cheered.
And enthused.
I hadn’t realized he knew the entire thing. It was a proud moment for his dad and I.
Yesterday, I sat with his father in a crowd and watched that same son, now a man holding numerous degrees in music and education, working with a choir.
His knowledge, talent and skill were obvious. The choir responded and the music was amazing.
It was another proud moment.
He sang one difficult passage for the group, helping to clarify and, in that moment, I suddenly remembered the small boy who had stood in front of the large crowd—all alone—and sang.
All five verses of The Biplane.
Maybe it had something to do with our singing together when he was little.
And maybe he just got there on his own.
Do we ever really know what path we’re steering our children along?
Until they get there?

The Biplane

Way out in London airport in hangar number four
A lonely little biplane lived whose name was EvermoreHis working days were over no more would he sailUpon his wings above the clouds flying the royal mail

ChorusBye bye biplane once upon a sky planeBye bye hushabye lullabye plane

All the mighty jet planes would look down their noseThey'd laugh and say oh I'm so glad that I'm not one of thoseAnd Evermore would shake away the teardrops from his wingsAnd dream of days when he again could do heroic things

Chorus

Then one day the fog and rain had closed the airport downAnd all the mighty jet planes were helpless on the groundWhen a call came to the airport for a mercy flight'Twould be too late, they could not wait, someone must fly tonight

Ah they rolled the little biplane out to runway number fiveAnd though he looked so small and weak he knew he could surviveAnd as he rose into the storm the big jets hung their wingsAnd they hoped someday like Evermore to do heroic things

Chorus

And so my baby bundle I have spun a tale for youYou must learn there's nothing in this world that you can't doDo not be discouraged by circumstance and sizeRemember Evermore and set your sights upon the skies

Daughter of Ishmael

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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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