Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, March 15, 2019

Almost Home

I looked at the clock for the umpteenth time as I stuffed the margarine back into the fridge.
“What time did you say . . .?”
“Two o’clock!” Mom sounded a bit exasperated. I didn’t blame her. I must have asked the same question five times in the past five minutes.
I glanced at the clock again.
Mom sighed. “I can’t quite believe two weeks is already over.”
I didn’t, either. It had been a blissful two weeks. Quiet conversations. Quiet dinners. Quiet . . . everything.
Okay, I had to admit it to myself, it had been too quiet. Yep. I missed my sister.
Oh, I had tried to talk myself out of it. I mean, who misses broken tubs. Lost money. Manipulated PVR headsets. Kidnapped cats. Disgruntled neighbours.
Headlines.
Well, I guess . . . me.
I glanced at the clock again. Five minutes to go.
Mom sighed once more.
Both of us straightened as the sound of squealing tires came clearly from the front yard.
She frowned and looked at the clock as we got to our feet. “Already?”
We started toward the door, but had only taken a step or two when it was flung open. Sally, immediately followed by Cousin Ruth, darted inside and slammed it shut.
Both of them gave us a brief smile of welcome before hurrying past us to the front window. “Pretty narrow margin,” Cousin Ruth muttered. Sally nodded, her smile evaporating.
Mom and I looked at each other. Mom had an eyebrow up.
Uh-oh . . .
Parting the curtains slightly, Sally and Cousin Ruth peered outside.
Mom and I moved hesitantly toward them.
Just then a police car, lights and siren blazing, blew past.
Sally and Cousin Ruth kept staring for a couple of seconds after it had disappeared down the street. Then Sally turned to us. “If anyone asks,” she said, “we’ve been here all day.”

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado issues a challenge--and a few words--to each of her followers/friends.
My words this month were:
margin ~ margarine ~ money ~ manipulate
And were given to me by none other than my amazing friend and personal Chef-I-Wish, Karen. https://Bakinginatornado.com   
Thank you, Karen! This is SUCH fun!

Visit our other friends to continue the fun!      
Baking in a Tornado

Friday, February 8, 2019

Hanging Out in Hawaii

Mom was cuddled in a blanket in the front room when I came home--her feet up, the remainder of a plate of waffles and syrup beside her, a book featuring famous watercolors in her lap, and the TV blaring.
I had to call out twice to get her attention. “Mom! MOM!”
She looked up and smiled rather sleepily at me. She mouthed the words, “Hi, Honey.” Then pointed a remote at the TV and lowered the volume. “Hi, Honey,” she said again. “Did you get your boss’ typewriter to work?”
“Not yet.” I looked at the TV. “I guess I don’t have to ask how your day went.”
She smiled again. “Nope.” She snuggled a little deeper into the couch. “I’ve only left this couch to eat and use the bathroom. Not necessarily in that order.” She sighed. “I’ve never felt so relaxed in all my life.”
“Well, in the fifteen years since Sally appeared,” I said.
She rolled her eyes. “You’re not wrong.”
“Just think. We’re only two days into her holiday. We still have another twelve days to go!”
She sighed again and pulled her blanket up a little higher. “Mmmm . . .”
“What are you watching?” I asked, walking around the couch and flopping down beside her.
“Just the news. It’s been pretty boring.”
“Yeah, well, that’s only because you’ve been living with Sally all her life. And that does tend to skew our reality a bit.”
She laughed. “Well, now it’s up to someone else to worry . . .” Her voice faded.
I looked at her. “What is it, Mom?”
Wordlessly, she pointed at the TV screen, then lifted the remote and raised the volume. “Rescuers are en route as we speak.”
I slowly turned my head, afraid of what I might see.
A reporter was standing in front of a mountain. Behind her, we could see an aluminum stairway and a trail twisting and turning up the slope.
“Earlier this afternoon, a skydiver nearly came to grief in a remote part of the Halemaumau Trail when her chute failed to perform properly. Fortunately, though she was thrown wildly off-course, she seems to have landed safely. For now.
The camera turned past the reporter and focused on a distant object. Which then resolved itself into a tiny human in a miniscule harness, dangling from a tree near the top of the mountain. And not just any tree. This one was sticking out from the side of the mountain. The tiny person’s feet were dangling out over an abyss of some 2000 feet.
Mom, her eyes glued to the set, pushed the blanket back and raised herself to a sitting position.
I looked from the figure on the TV to my mom. “It can’t be her, Mom.”
“Don’t you believe that,” Mom whispered.
We both saw the helicopter the instant it appeared. It quickly closed the distance between it and the person swinging from the tree.
“Mom. You’re tensing up. There’s no reason to suspect . . .”
She turned and looked at me. “Are you hearing yourself?” She waved a hand toward the TV. “We just heard that a person’s chute didn’t open properly and that they were blown off course to land in a tree near the top of a volcano. It could only happen to one person in this entire universe! And we both know who that would be.”
I nodded unhappily, my eyes on the TV screen.
The picture changed, suggesting that the cameraman was now someone in the helicopter, directly involved in the rescue attempt.
A few tense minutes followed. Finally, a lowered rescuer succeeded in getting a harness around the dangler and cutting the still-tangled ropes of the person’s parachute. The rescuee was slowly raised toward the camera.
As she neared, she pulled off her helmet. Sally’s sparkling, green eyes smiled directly into ours through the TV screen. “Did you see that?” she gasped. “I’ve got to do this again! What an adventure!”
Mom sank back against the soft couch cushions and put her head into her hands. “Again?” she whispered a trifle raggedly.
I didn’t know quite what to say. “Ummm . . .”
Mom snorted softly and rubbed her nose. “My thoughts exactly! What on earth are we supposed to do?”
“There’s nothing much we can do, Mom.” I tried to sound reassuring. “Just leave Cousin Ruth to handle it.”
“Hmmm . . . yes. Cousin Ruth.” Mom smiled suddenly and snuggled back into her blanket. “For 12 more days . . .”

Each month, Karen's followers submit words. Which are then distributed around the circle with the instructions: Use or lose.
Okay, not really, but we are supposed to create something from them...
This month, my words: aluminum ~ watercolors ~ typewriter ~ swing ~ syrup
And were submitted by my friend Shelly of https://followmehome.shellybean.com

You can find the rest of us at:
Baking In A Tornado
Wandering Web Designer
Cognitive Script
Southern Belle Charm
The Bergham Chronicles
Climaxed https://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com
Part-time Working Hockey Mom
https://followmehome.shellybean.com/

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

My Hearts

Teaching teens is what I do,
I teach the whole week long.
I’ve grown to love these kids of mine,
I miss them if they’re gone!

It’s early when we gather there
Before the sun has ‘riz’,
We talk of sweet, important things,
Play games or take a quiz.

And every morning, in they come,
Just like the day before,
And every morn, again I feel,
I could not love them more.

For several weeks, with Husby, I
Was staying someplace warm,
With sun and sand and salty breeze,
And not one winter storm.

But I worried ‘bout my kids,
I couldn’t even call,
I had to know they knew that I
Was thinking of them all.

And so I gave them each my heart.
(A charm to represent),
So they knew I carried them,
Everywhere I went.

It’s been a year since I gave out
The hearts of plastic, red,
To carry in their pockets so
They’d think of what I said.

And though it has been many months,
Sometimes, someone will
Pull out their heart to show my love
Is carried with them still.

We love this, we are Karen's crew,
Each month we have a job to do
We're writing po-ems just for you,
Please visit all before you're through!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Hearts and Flowers
Dawn of Cognitive Script: My Heart My Gift
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles: Hearts Heal
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: 6 Hearts


Friday, January 11, 2019

Sally Travels

“Two weeks of peace! You must be so excited!” Mrs. Ames adjusted her ever-present head scarf.
Mom and I looked at each other.
Okay, I was pretty sure she was speaking to my sister, Sally, but with Mrs. Ames, one is never really sure.
“I am!” Sally said, smiling broadly. “I’ve never done anything like this before!”
 “Whom are you going with, dear?” our neighbor asked.
“It’s my cousin, Ruth,” Mom put in. “She’s never married and spends most of her year . . . erm . . . exploring.”
“She thinks of the funnest things to do!” Sally was getting quite animated. “She’s climbed mountains and rafted rivers and dived out of planes and lived in skin huts and rode in camel trains and . . .”
She stopped for breath and I broke in. I could see that Mom was growing a little paler with the mention of each escapade. “Yes. She’s quite . . . adventurous.”
Mrs. Ames’ eyebrows had also risen higher as Sally spoke. One hand gripped the bodice of her bulky cotton house dress. “Oh,” she said at last. “Erm . . . where are you going?”
“Hawaii! We’re going to climb the volcano and go out in an outrigger and surf and . . .”
Again I cut her off. “Cousin Ruth has quite a full agenda.”
“Ah! Well, be sure to take lots of pictures,” Mrs. Ames said a trifle breathlessly.
“Oh, I will! Mom got me a new camera!” Sally dashed off.
“I take it you’re not going?” Mrs. Ames had turned her faded blue eyes on me.
“Oh. No. I really didn’t want . . . that is . . . well, Cousin Ruth and Sally have always gotten along like peas in a pod. It could be danger . . ." I glanced at Mom and bit my lip. "Anyways, I have work.”
Mom was staring at me.
“I’d better help Sally pack.” I hurried toward the stairway.
“I’ll be on my way as well,” Mrs. Ames said behind me.
Mom cleared her throat. “Thanks for stopping by,” she said. “I’m sure Sally will really appreciate the box of treats you brought for her to take along.”
“Well, I thought both girls were going. And I know these airlines don’t feed people anymore, so . . .”
“You’re so kind. Thank you!”
I heard the door close.
Sally appeared with her camera and the small red ladder that sits on her desk and holds all her necklaces. She peered at the door. “Where did she go?”
“Mrs. Ames? She left.”
“Oh. I was going to show her my camera.”
“She had to go.”
“Oh.”
“Are you packed?”
Sally turned back toward the stairs. “I am! As soon as I finish picking which jewelry to take.” She looked at her watch. “Good thing, too, because Cousin Ruth will be here any minute!”
Ten minutes later, Mom and I somehow got Sally and all her luggage out the door and into Cousin Ruth’s waiting taxi.
Sally leaned out the window, waving as it started down the street. “I’ll see you in two weeks!” she screamed. “I’ll bring you a hula lamp!”
Mom and I waved until the taxi disappeared.
"Okay, what's a hula lamp?" Mom asked.
"We'll Google it," I assured her.
"Two weeks of peace,” Mom said quietly.
“What?” I turned to look at her.
“Mrs. Ames was talking about two weeks of peace when she was here.”
“Yeah?”
“Did she mean for Sally? Or us?”
I thought of Sally’s most recent escapades and frowned. “For us, I’m sure.”
“Do you think she’ll be all right?” She looked down the street where the taxi had disappeared. “I mean . . . There are sharks and stuff . . .”
I stared at her. “Mom. Whatever could hurt her? She can out-run, out-think, out-rascal and out-bother anything on the planet! I’d give a shark one chance in 100!”
Mom smiled and nodded, then high-fived me. “Score!” she said. “So . . . What would you like to do first?”

Stay tuned for Sally’s adventures in travel-land!

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado issues a challenge. Give me your tired words, your poor phrases, my muddled lasses yearning to write free!”
Okay, maybe not like that, but she does distribute words we supply with the instructions, “Take these and do what you can!”
And we do!
The result? Use Your Words. The January Edition.
My words this month (picking ~ head scarf ~ red ladder ~ hula lamp ~ score) came via Karen from https://cognitivescript.blogspot.com/
A huge thank you!
Now go and see what the other members of our intrepid little group have wrought!  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

New Blues


‘Twas dark and dreary—
The twinkling long night stretching out before,
The cold air pinched—
It prodded round the windows and the doors,
Encased in warmth,
I huddled round the often-crackling fire,
And closely watched,
The warm flames reaching ever (and more) higher.
But though they warmed
Extremities, they somehow missed the soul,
Winter Blues
Had come, they weren’t about to let me go.
Then Husby hustled
Me out through the firmly frozen door,
Resolute
We’d go places we’d not seen before,
And now I sit,
And watch the breakers lave the spark’ling sand,
The seabirds fly
Or dive and pounce on fishes near to hand,
And all about
The world, the sun with colour, it imbues
The sky and sea
Give new meaning to the Winter ‘Blues’!
 Each month, Karen and her followers publish a poem on a theme.
January's? Winter Blues.
I'm liking my 'Blues'!
See what the others have done!
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Winter Blues
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Dark Days of Winter

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

That Night

It will always be THAT New Year's...

To celebrate the squeaky-clean beginning of yet another year, I'm going to regale you with the tale of our most memorable New Year's Eve.
It's a heart-stopper. 
Really . . .
We spent the evening, much like millions of other people, happily celebrating with friends.
Eating wonderful food that someone else prepared. (My personal favourite.)
Playing games: Charades. Word scramble. Card contests.
And visiting.
Sometime after midnight, we senior citizens called it a successful, wonderful night and left for our respective homes.
Husby and I were safely in bed by 2:00 AM.
All was well.
All was not to remain well.
Just as we were both deeply asleep, someone pounded on our front door.
Pounded.
In my half-awakened state, it sounded frantic to me.
Frightened.
Panicky.
“Grant! Something's wrong!” I screamed, leaping from the bed and switching on lights as I sped down the hall.
Mentally, as I ran, I tallied where my kids and grandkids were. Who had stayed in for the evening and who might still be out.
One family, I knew, had taken their little girls to a friends' party.
They could conceivably still be out.
What's wrong? What's wrong?
I reached the front door, heart racing and breathing heavily.
I peeked out.
No one.
I opened the door.
The front step was echoingly empty.
I stepped out and peered around.
No one.
The night was quiet.
The street deserted.
Nothing moved.
I came back inside and shut the door.
Then I peeked out again.
What on earth...?
By this time, my Husby was also up.
Doing a circuit of the windows and doors.
No one.
We looked at each other.
Did another circuit.
Still no one.
Puzzled, I headed back to bed while Husby locked up again.
He soon joined me and almost immediately dropped back to sleep.
I didn't.
For the next two hours, heart still racing, my mind spun through every terrible, horrible thing that could ever befall a family that (at the time) numbered twenty-five.
It was a long night.
We survived it.
None of the terrible, awful things happened.
I know, because this crazy mom/grandma phoned everyone as soon as it was light this morning.
Two facts remain.
  1. Someone pounded on our door last night. The reasons remain obscure.
  2. Somewhere in our bed is my Husby's liver, scared out of him when I screamed.
Happy New Year.

To my friends: I will be away for most of January. 
Picture me snorkeling or lying on the beach in St. Vincent. 
Cause that's where Husby is taking me.
Mmmmmm...
I will be back periodically, depending on connectivity, but poetry Monday (which I totally missed yesterday) will be suspended.
Happy January! See you in February!
I'll miss you!

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Together-ness

It’s really nothing new.
Over the holidays, we’ve had many opportunities to ‘gather the troops’, so to speak.
Family get-togethers are a common and pretty much-accepted part of the season of celebration that runs throughout December and into January.
Here in the frozen north, that means massing many, many people into a structure meant to house only a few. Without much chance to escape as temperatures outside dip into the ‘Brrrr’ or ‘cold-enough-to-freeze-your-nose-hairs-stiff’ zones.
Inevitably, altercations happen.
Recently reading my Grandmother Stringam’s journal, I discovered a passage where she quotes Grandfather Stringam’s Uncle, David Coombs. (The Coombs family lived with Grandfather’s family for about a year when Grandpa was a lad of 9.)
“…The little boys have been fighting. Davie (Coombs) claims that Dard (Grandpa) brought on the quarrel, and he tried to defend himself and Dard had the best of it, and on top. Ray struck Dard in the back with a piece of board and Arthur did the same. These proceedings caused me much pain, and also a little scene that transacted on the night of the 10th whilst Davie was scuffling with one of the Stringam girls.
Mary came up to him and commenced to pull at him and he told her to go away and says that he gave her a push and she claims that he bit her, but she commenced to hit him and pull his hair and then they commenced to fight, Davie pushing her down and shaking her.
These scenes and others make me wish that I was back to our home and makes my spirit very sorrowful and causes me much reflection and anxiety…the thing causes me many unhappy hours and I also have to put in practice all my self-control and in turn, I learn a lesson in controlling my temper.
This entry is dated April 11, 1886.
All of these people grew up to be fine, upstanding citizens, becoming parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and so on.
So I guess I won’t worry too much that someone isn’t playing ‘pretend dragons’ just right or that someone else is hogging all the best Lego or Playmobile pieces.
This, too, shall pass.
Right?

Sundays are for my ancestors.
Tell me about yours!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Little Progress

One and one-half hours from the Stringam ranch is the city of Lethbridge, Alberta.
When the Stringams really needed to shop, that was the place to go.
There were tons of great stores . . .
Eaton’s.
Woolworth’s.
Kresge’s.
Hoyt’s.
Woolco.
But, if one wanted a bit of adventure, the best was Progress Clothing.
Progress was our favourite place to shop.
It wasn’t what you would call a ‘high-end’ store.
It catered more to the farmers and ranchers in the area.
The people needing sturdy, serviceable, work apparel.
Tough boots.
Heavy leather gloves.
Progress consisted of a long, open room with thick windows facing the street.
Dangling fluorescent light fixtures.
And huge tables set evenly about the old-wood flooring.
Great piles of clothing were stacked on every available surface.
More or less grouped together according to type and size.
Colours were limited. Most articles were blue, green, black or tan.
But choosing pants, shirts or one of the myriad other items that went with working on a ranch was only the first (and less exciting) part.
The true fun of Progress Clothing began when one was holding one’s prospective purchase.
And a salesman approached.
Because the ‘suggested retail price’ on the tag was just that.
A suggestion.
From there, the haggling commenced.
“How much for these pants?”
“The tag says $7.00.”
“But I’m buying four pairs.”
“Hmm . . . okay, $6.00.”
“Really? That’s the best you can do?”
“Hey, I’m trying to feed my family!”
“And I’m trying to feed mine!”
“Okay. Okay. $5.00. But that’s my last offer.”
“$4.50?”
And so it went. It was . . . fun.
If you were lucky, you would pay half of what the original sticker stated . . .
I hadn’t been to Progress in quite a while.
I had discovered some of the specialty ‘Western’ shops.
With their high-priced ‘stylish’ western clothes.
And I had my own money.
And no encumbrances.
Then, shortly after I was married, my Husby (a newly acquired encumbrance) and I, feeling both the need to be economical and the desire for some adventure, stopped at the great old store.
I found a pair of warm, winter boots.
Practical boots.
My Husby held them up to the salesman. “How much?” he asked.
The salesman stared at him.
“How much?” he repeated.
The salesman leaned forward and touched the tag. “$8.00,” he said.
“Will you take six?” my Husby asked.
The salesman frowned. “The tag says $8.00,” he repeated.
“Oh. So . . . $8.00?”
“Yes.”
“Oh.”
The store and the clothes were the same.
And the prices.
But the important stuff was different.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bad Vacuum

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Okay, it was . . . weird.
Really weird.
But sometimes, weird has a logical explanation . . .
Darn.
We were visiting with our good friends, Shane and Linda.
They had just finished building their dream home.
The last touches were slowly going in.
Shane had recently installed a new central vacuum system.
It really sucked. (But that was a good thing and has nothing to do with this story . . .)
Shortly after the vacuum was installed, and very late at night, Shane was in the front room doing . . . Shane stuff. Deciding it was time for bed, he stood up and started toward the doorway.
When the vacuum suddenly turned on.
I am not making this up.
The middle of the night. Everyone else in the house was asleep. And the vacuum switched itself on.
Let’s just say it was . . . startling . . . and go from there.
Shane immediately quickened his pace, intent on switching the mechanical demon off before it woke the whole house.
But as he crossed the room, it quit.
The vacuum, I mean.
Huh.
See what I mean? Weird.
After that, it happened several times. Always when someone was in the front room. Usually when they were alone.
This went on for some time.
Then we showed up for a visit.
The four of us were sitting in the front room, catching up.
Shane told us the vacuum story.
Complete with hand gestures.
And the dance.
I frowned thoughtfully. (I do that . . .) “Shane,” I asked, “Where were you standing when the vacuum came on?”
He pointed out an area of the floor.
I crossed over and stepped on it.
The vacuum was suddenly roaring beneath us.
I moved off the spot.
The vacuum quit.
I did it again.
Vacuum on.
Vacuum off.
All three of them were staring at me.
Then Grant smiled. “I think I know what happened.”
The two men went into the basement and poked around, finally discovering a screw, just piercing the wiring. When pressure was applied from above, the connection was completed. The vacuum came on.
When pressure was released, the connection was broken. And the machine switched off.
The ‘haunted’ vacuum was explained.
But you know what?
It was heaps more fun before we figured it out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Booger Man

The boy.
No, that isn't the right finger, either...
In our house, over the holidays, love and goodwill abound.
And so does the food.
And the treats.
Especially the chocolate.
With, sometimes, amusing results . . .
A group of us adults was sitting around the table, intent on a game of cards.
Members of the younger set were dashing in and out, equally intent on activities.
Games.
And treats.
We had just opened a new box of exotic chocolates.
A gift from our dear next-door neighbours.
Five different kinds of luscious, melt-able deliciousness, each in a different (intriguing) shape.
Chocolate mousse.
Crunchy.
Espresso.
Crème Broulee.
And pistachio.
Each more mouth-watering than the last.
Our five-year-old discovered the box and immediately seized it.
“What’s this?!” he said, holding it up.
“Chocolates!” I said. “Really yummy ones!”
“Oooh! What’s this one?!” He jabbed a finger into the chocolate mousse.
“That’s dark chocolate.”
“And this?” Another jab.
“Hey!” his dad said, taking the box. “Don’t touch all of the chocolates with your booger-covered finger!”
Da-ad!” he said, disgusted. “That’s not my booger finger!” He held up his other hand, pointer finger erect. “That one is!”
At least he was honest . . .

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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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