Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Happily Hammered

Grandma and Grandpa Stringam. Where the humour comes from . . .
My Dad had a great sense of humour.
He came by it rightly.
Let me explain . . .
Dad was in Lethbridge, running errands, shopping.
He stopped by the local hardware store.
There, in a bin just inside the door, was a pile of hammers.
Ordinary, wooden-handled hammers.
He stopped.
He was a rancher.
Hammers were in constant use.
Building.
Repairing.
And they were just as constantly disappearing.
He could always use another one.
He reached out, picking up the one on top.
And made an important discovery.
These weren't normal hammers.
They were light rubber.
But painted so perfectly that they could easily fool even the most scrutinizing (real word) glance.
The only way to tell was to actually pick one up.
Dad picked up several.
In fact everything the store had.
On his way home, he stopped off at his parent's comfortable home near the center of the city.
His father, George, a man past eighty, was seated in his recliner in the front room.
Sounds and delicious aromas were emanating tantalizingly from the kitchen.
Obviously, Dad had come at a good time.
He walked in, tossing a greeting to everyone in general, then entered the front room.
And whacked his father on the knee with one of the hammers.
Grandpa jumped.
"Oh!" Then he chuckled. "I thought you had lost your mind!"
Dad laughed.
Grandpa reached for the hammer. "Well. Isn't that remarkable!" He turned it over and over in his hands.
Then he leaned back in his chair. "Vina!" he called.
My Grandmother bustled in from the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. "What is it, George? Dinner's almost . . ."
That's as far as she got.
As soon as she came around the corner, Grandpa threw the hammer at her.
"Oh!" she said as the soft rubber bounced off her chest. She put one hand to her heart. "I thought you'd lost your mind!" she gasped, unconsciously repeating Grandpa's words.
Grandpa chuckled as Grandma picked up the trick hammer and threw it back at him.
Yep. Humour is inherited.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Fashion Police

Sure. Now she's smiling...

Studying for final exams is hard work.

Time consuming.
Often lasting into the wee hours of the morning.
And even, at times, throughout the night.
It was exam time.
My roommate, Debbie, and I were cramming, comfortably dressed in something warm and comfy.
The clock struck three AM and there was no end in sight.
Time for a pick-me-up.
Food was indicated.
Preferably hot food prepared by someone else.
Someplace else.
Now, I should mention, here, that I always wore a long nightgown. High at the neck, full sleeved. Lovingly made of dark red flannel by my mother.
Disclosing nothing.
Debbie was also dressed in flannel. But there all similarity ended. Her flannel was in the form of ‘jammies’.
Pyjamas that had once consisted of a button-front jacket and long pants.
The jacket was now held shut by one last, tenacious button.
The pants had long since ceased to even approximate reaching the ankle and were now permanently formed to the bend of Debbie’s knee.
She loved them.
But fashionable, they weren’t.
Back to my story . . .
Our minds were too fuzzy from studying to even consider changing our clothes.
Okay, yes, there could be a valid argument made for said fuzzy minds operating machinery, ie. the car, but it was 3 am. Who would listen?
I threw on the long dressing gown that my Mom had made to go over my long nightgown.
And a coat.
I was ready.
Debbie had her short car coat which reached just above her knee. Said coat left an obvious several inches of creatively bent ‘jammies’ hanging below.
Hmmm . . .
She frowned slightly, then leaned over and rolled up the tell-tale flannel.
All was well.
We set out.
Now there weren’t many places open to the public in Lethbridge, Alberta at 3 AM in 1974.
But, happily, the pizza place was.
I pushed the door open.
Every head in the joint turned to look in my direction.
All two of them.
Both cops.
I smiled and waved cheerfully and they smiled back.
Then their attention turned to the girl behind me.
The one frozen in place with one hand on the door.
And a pyjama leg dangling obviously below the hem of her coat.
They stared at each other.
One of the policemen beckoned.
Debbie shook her head, backing slowly towards the car.
I frowned at her.
What was the matter?
A moment before, she had been cheerfully ready go out in public, unconventionally dressed as she was.
What made the difference?
Policemen?
I could guarantee that they had probably seen much worse than a couple of girls collecting a pizza while dressed in pyjamas.
But Debbie retreated to the car and left me to pick up the pizza by myself.
Sigh.
Jammies. Good for everything. Lounging. Studying. Sleeping.
But used for dining out only under certain circumstances.
So if you’re planning a late night run to the restaurant?
Wear your nightie.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

My 'Great' Aunt

Teacher of all things important.
Care-taker extraordinaire.
Sometimes you think you know someone.
But you really don't . . .
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
Nine boys.
And two girls.
The youngest girl, my Aunt Mary, was a short, round, happy lady with numerous children and even more numerous grandchildren.
More about her in another post . . .
His other sister, Emily, was an entirely different person.
Emily was the eldest child in the family.
She was a tall, spare, maiden lady.
Erect and correct.
And I was terrified of her.
Emily had served a mission for her church in her early twenties.
Briefly - and tragically - entertained the thought of marriage.
And lived the rest of her life teaching home economics and helping her mother care for the family home.
She was the professed cleaner to my Grandmother's cooking.
The maker of everything tidy.
The bestow-er of a set of sewing scissors to every niece who reached grade nine.
And the dragon in the den at the top of the stairs.
A note . . .
Aunt Emily's office was the first room to the left as one went up the stairs of the family home.
It was a lovely place. Neat and organized.
With a little window/door that opened out onto the roof/sundeck of the garage.
Us kids loved to sneak into that room and let ourselves out onto that deck.
But only when Aunt Emily wasn't about.
Back to my story . . .
Throughout my childhood, I loved visiting Grandma Stringam's home with my parents.
But walked softly around Aunt Emily.
When I was eighteen, all of that changed.
I had moved to the city to attend college.
Journalism.
Go figure.
For four months, I stayed with my Grandma and Aunt Emily.
At first, though I'm sure they tried to make me feel welcome, I spent very little time in their home.
Choosing, instead to study at the college or at a friend's and returning only at bedtime.
Then I got sick.
Really, really sick.
Strep throat.
Ugh.
One evening, after we had put the paper to bed (a newspaper term for sending everything to the press and washing our hands of all responsibility), I collapsed.
My friends carried me, quite literally, to my grandmother's home and to my little bed on the second floor.
I remember very little of it.
There, safely ensconced, I lost all consciousness for several days.
Someone took care of me.
Gave me liquids.
Fed me.
Cleaned up after me.
Helped me to the bathroom.
Hauled me to the hospital for a shot in the backside.
I do remember that . . .
And generally took excellent care of me.
As I slowly became more cognisant, I realized that the person who had been so patiently and lovingly nursing me was my scary Aunt Emily.
One afternoon, I opened my eyes and felt . . . almost human.
Aunt Emily appeared beside my bed.
“Feeling better?”
I nodded uncertainly.
“Oh, I'm so glad! I'm going to the store to get you something special. What would you like?”
And it was then that I realized that eighteen years had gone by without me knowing my special aunt at all.
Eighteen years of misunderstanding and unwarranted fear.
Wasted years.
I wasted no more.
In the following weeks and months, we became friends.
Aunt Emily died at the age of 85 from complications following surgery.
We were given twenty five years of friendship.
I will always be grateful.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fastidious-ness

You want me to what???
Our family spends lot of time together.
Visiting.
In fact, if I were to pick a favourite activity, it would be that one.
My eldest daughter, Caitlin, and her family were over.
We were having a comfortable gab-fest after a hearty and satisfying dinner together.
Don't I sound like an advertisement for something?
Moving on . . .
Her Baby Daughter, nearly two, was busy playing at our feet.
She managed to put a toy train together.
All by herself.
“Oh, good job!” Caitlin told her. “Fist bumps!”
Baby Daughter grinned, doubled up her hand into a tiny fist and punched Mom gently on her knuckles.
“Yeah!” Caitlin said. “Now go and give Grampa fist bumps!”
I should mention, here, that our grandkids adore their Grampa. He plays with them.
Constantly.
Ponies. Troll under the bridge. Pirates.
But fist bumps?
The grin disappeared.
Baby Daughter gave her Grampa a sidelong glance, then, simply tipped full-length onto the couch and lay there.
Her attitude said it all.
'I . . . would rather . . . die!'
“Hey!” Grampa said. “I want fist bumps!”
His only response was a giggle.
“Hey!”
More giggles.
He never got his fist bumps.
I guess you have to be selective--even fastidious--about what you share . . .

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Sendoff

Another 'Daddy' Story:

It's all true!
“Great Grampa,” said the strong young chap,
You’ve lived a very long lifetime,
Please share with me just what to do,
To stay forever in my prime.”

The aged cowboy tipped his hat
And gave the boy a level look,
“Don’t git your lariat in a knot. There
Ain’t no script and no guidebook.

But one thing I kin tell you, sure,
(Though first, the thought may not appeal!)
It has to do with eatin’, Son,
Each mornin’, gunpowder on your meal.”

The boy just nodded. That, he’d try.
Then every day, without debate,
He’d sprinkle just a pinch or so
Of sulfur, charcoal, and nitrate.

Yep. Every morn on his oatmeal.
It worked! He saw a hundred three,
And when he died, at that great age,
He left a large posterity.

He left his children. (Fourteen!) Yep.
And grandkids? Thirty. It is true.
And great-grands, forty-five of them.
And great-greats? five and twenty. Whew!

And there’s one more thing he left behind,
I’ll mention it and then I’ll quit.
The handsome crematorium?
Now a twelve-foot, smoking pit.

I love Mondays!
Because the week begins with Poetry!
Delores and Jenny agree with me.
Hop on over and see what they've created this Monday.
Oh, and have a great week!

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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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