Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Future public speaking . . . champions
I’ve always been a talker.
The word vociferous could be very aptly applied.
But, during my formative years, if anyone ever wanted to fill me with absolute, bone-numbing, chill-of-death dread, all one would have to do was say, “Diane, why don’t you stand up and say a few words.”
Okay, the ‘saying a few words’, I could handle.
The operative/terrifying aspect here was the part where they said, ‘why don’t you stand up’.
Because that usually means that, in front of people, one has to STAND UP.
Grade seven provided the ultimate test.
Our English teacher whose name was Miss-Mueller-How-Could-You-Do-This-To-Me!, had assigned Every. Single. Person. in our class to do a report.
An oral report.
Okay, here’s where I admit that I had to have the words 'oral report' explained to me.
Miss Mueller HCYDTTM! was happy to enlighten me.
A little too happy.
My soul was immediately immersed in dread.
Death was suddenly an imminent thing.
Due to occur on Thursday next.
I spent the following six days in an ambivalent froth.
Finally putting ink to paper the night before I was due to face the firing squad.
To this day, I can’t remember what I reported on.
Or even if I reported.
Because something happened just before my turn that is etched forever in my memory . . .
I‘m sure you’ve all been there.
Nervously Anxiously Apprehensively Terrified-ly awaiting your turn before the critical masses.
Well, the girl who preceded me was my good friend, Gladys.
She of the calm, self-possessed demeanour.
Gladys was also known for her clothes of uber-cuteness. No grunge here.
And I should mention, too, that Gladys’ outfit that day was a matching pants, top and hat that were OH-MY-GOODNESS-SOOOO-CUTE-I WANT-THEM-I-WANT-THEM-I-WANT-THEM!!!
Back to my story . . .
Gladys stood up in front of the class and began her presentation.
Suddenly, her voice . . . faded.
And the teacher leaped to her feet and caught her as she fainted.
She survived.
Gladys, I mean.
I just thought I’d mention that in case you were concerned.
I know we were . . .
But her scary experience helped me to realize something.
The other kids in my class were just as scared as I was.
Some even more so.
And every single person in that audience wasn’t sitting there waiting for me to flip out or slip up so they could laugh.
They were thinking about/dreading their own ten minutes of infamy.
And if our reaction to our good friend’s mishap was anything to go by, all we wanted was for our classmates to succeed.
Who says you don’t learn anything from public speaking.
In Grade Seven?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Winter Depths

He went out as the morning sun,
Made new snow glisten bright.
The world was still, the air was cold
The storm passed with the night.

He carefully prepared his mount
With blankets and with tack,
The snow had stopped, the wind had died
He had cattle now to check.

The two of them moved carefully
Into the world of white.
Their breath streamed out behind them
Making clouds in morning light.

But it wasn’t long before he stopped
And looked about him there.
Then pulled his ‘cell phone from his coat
And dialed his wife with care.

“Hi, Hon!” he said with chatt’ring teeth,
Just thought I’d give a call,
To let you know I’m heading back,
Things don’t look good at all.”

“The snow out here’s too deep,” he said.
“It’s cold and wet, I’ve found.
It’s reached the tops of both my boots
It’s hard to get around.”

His puzzled wife said to her man.
“Your boot tops aren’t tall.
“I don’t see how a drift that deep
Could hamper you at all.”

Her husband frowned, “They don’t,” he said.
“Well, they don’t bother me.
But this poor horse I’m sitting on.
He simply cannot see.”
Daddy in winter . . .
My poem today is part of a challenge.
My friend/intrepid leader, Karen issues them every month.
Poetry on a theme.
This month? Cold Days.
Right up my ski hill. So to speak.
Now that you've read mine, go and see what Karen and my other friends have constructed.
You'll be glad you did!
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Cold Days Saga
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Ccccold Days
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Cold Days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Staging the Holiday

I’m sure it was a normal, every-year, run-of-the-mill holiday season.
Everywhere but at the Tolley home.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My Husby and I have six children.
Originally, we were going for a baseball team, but we ran out of steam somewhere around shortstop.
Sooo . . . six kids. Ages five to seventeen.
It was Christmas time and we had to do something with them.
What if we put them all on the stage? Had our own theatre company?
Well, it made sense to us.
Moving on . . .
For that one magical year, we had just that.
The Tolley Troubadours. Specializing in Dinner Theatre Who-done-its.
Our most famous play? The Demise of Santa Claus?
Okay, Broadway, we weren’t. But we sure had fun.
The players:
The Grinch. Our Seventeen-year-old. Self-proclaimed hater of Santa Claus and everything he stood for. And possessor of many and varied instruments of death and destruction whose sole purpose was the final end of the aforementioned and hapless Claus.
Scrooge. Our sixteen-year-old. Hater of everyone equally. And not above threatening anyone who interfered with him (i.e. tried to engage him in conversation. Or smiled/looked at him.)
Alfie the Elf. Our thirteen-year-old. Mobile-mouthed purveyor of all things ‘cookie’. Not averse to a little bribery when the mood took him.
Mrs. Claus. Our eleven-year-old. Heavily made up, padded and hunched over model of sweetness and light. Until someone questioned her honesty. Then watch the rolling pin come out.
Angel Sweetface. Our eight-year-old. Wealthy, angelic example of Life lived well. A little too well. Heaven forbid that anything should interfere with her rather skewed view of the world.
Elfie the Elf. Our five-year-old. Son of Alfie. And mute. Until moments of stress/surprise/revelation when he became remarkably conversant and effusive. Strange.
Inspector Clueso. My Husby. Bumbling, inept investigator of all things mysterious. Namely every person on the playbill.
Bambi. Me. Feather-brained mistress of ceremonies. Woefully type-cast.
And there it is. The lineup.
Before, during and after a good dinner, based on the clues gleaned from presented scenes, the guests had to figure out who ‘done it’.
Most guessed a Tolley.
Surprisingly, they were right.
Just not right enough.
It was hard to figure out who had the most fun.
The guests.
Or the players.
Yep. The best of Christmases.

P.S. Looking for some unique entertainment for your holiday celebrations?
Not too particular about quality and/or expertise?
I have someone I can recommend . . .

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Lazy Christmas

As I get older, I have found,
(‘Tis something of which I’m not proud),
My motivation’s slipping by,
I’d rather sit. If it’s allowed…

The thought of dragging out the chests
Of Christmas tinsel, balls and bows,
Just makes me tired. I want to sit
Here ‘fore the fire in deep repose.

This year, I called the ‘chicklets’ up,
To see if they would come help me,
I tried to sweeten up the pot,
With just a little bribery.

And so they came. And busily,
They carried, hauled and opened up,
They placed and hung and rearranged,
And even did a quick clean up!

Then we made cookies: Yummy, sweet,
And laughed and talked as we rolled dough,
Though we were tired and sticky. Hot.
I’m sure we were in Heaven, though.

And lastly, there before the fire,
With much of giggles, loud guffaws,
They decorated one last thing,
Their patient, sleepy, sweet Grandpa!

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, we three will look askance
At the holiday romance!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dating in the Forties

College boy.
Who wouldn't want to date that face?
Sunday's are for Ancestors!
Tell me about yours...
Dad was home from college for the Christmas vacation in the winter of 1946.
He'd been working very hard (or so he said) and was ready for some fun.
What could be better than a dance?
With girls.
He gussied (real word) up and drove to Raymond, a nearby town.
The band was hot, and the girls were cute.
One young lady (hereafter known as The Girl) particularly took his eye. He asked her to dance.
The Girl agreed.
They danced.
He asked her again. Again she said yes.
They danced.
This went on for some time.
Finally, he asked if he could call on her. This was the 40s. Guys said things like that . . .
The Girl was most agreeable to that suggestion as well.
He floated home.
A couple of days later, he drove out to see her. Now, I should point out, here, that it was only about twenty minutes from Dad's family home to The Girl's family home.
When the conditions were good. As in - during the summer.
But it was winter.
Anything goes.
Dad reached the girl's house just as a blizzard hit. That was okay with him. He was warm and safe.
And he had The Girl totally to himself. Well, totally to himself if one didn't count her parents, siblings, siblings friends, neighbours . . . you get the picture.
They enjoyed a few minutes of conversation. Things were going well. Then, the doorbell rang.
Dum, dum Duuuum! (Actually, it probably sounded more like," Bing-bong!" But that would be boring. And totally not-ominous. The story needed ominous-ness.)
Moving on . . .
It was another guy. And from the ensuing conversation, one who was already close friends with The Girl.
For the remainder of the evening, the two young men tried to engage The Girl in conversation.
And glare unobtrusively at each other.
Finally, the evening drew to a close. It was time to leave.
I capitalized this because it's important.
The Girl's mother announced that the blizzard had grown so bad that she would allow neither of the suitors to leave. The two of them would have to spend the night.
Okay, not so bad.
Wait. What?
In the same bed.
According to Dad, it was the most uncomfortable night he had spent. Ever.
Including his time serving in the army.
At daylight, he peeked out the window. The storm had blown itself out. It was the best sight of his life.
No need to even stop to dress as he'd not bothered to undress. In fifteen seconds he was out the front door.
Leaving an astonished The Girl's mother with a batter-coated spoon half-raised in greeting.
Dad left in such a hurry that he even beat the snowplows.
He didn't care.
The sooner he made it home, the sooner he could begin to forget the whole thing.
At the age of ninety, he almost had it.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Panty Shopping

A Guest Post by: Grant Tolley

In recent months I have taken to walking during my lunch hour.
Walking is my favourite form of just plain old exercise. A holdover, I guess, from my Boy Scout days when I always enjoyed hiking in the mountains and following a long trail through the forests and the trees.
But I digress already . . .
My noon-hour constitutionals take me most days to a shopping plaza that is about 2 ½ kilometres away from my office.
When I get to the plaza, I often visit the bank there.
I usually have to put some money in so that they can keep operating.
When I am not paying penance to the bankers, I sometimes wander through one or more of the commercial establishments.
Now I should say that I am not much of a shopper-for-the-sake-of-shopping. But in recent years – since the marriages of my children and the arrival of an increasing gaggle of grand-kids – I have taken to just wandering through stores, casually watching for a bargain on something that one or the other of them would like or could put to good use.
So I buy it and salt it away in my joint-occupancy-with-my-Beloved closet, which holds most everything except what a closet is normally supposed to hold.
So the other day, I had found a small item or two, which I had cradled in my arms (having being either too short-sighted or just plain stupid enough not to have picked up a shopping basket) – and I headed to the cash register.
Now you must understand that this was the first really cold day of our winter, so I had on my bulky winter jacket, accompanied by dis-en-handed gloves which I held in one hand, holding the several items I needed to pay for, and then trying to fish my wallet out of a pants pocket that just happened to be underneath all of the above, and encumbered further by a set of keys and a blackberry, all not-so-neatly crammed into the same pocket.
I don’t have a clue who the idiot was who put all that stuff in there.
Needless to say, standing at the cash register, I was delayed somewhat on my wallet-fishing expedition, which held up the line of people behind me.
One of my own pet peeves! People who wait in line for 20 minutes to pay for their purchases, then wait until the cashier says “Twenty-eight dollars and two cents, please”, before they even start looking for their wallet or opening their purse.
And then inevitably not finding it.
Especially in a purse – in my Beloved’s purse, her cheque-book usually ends up hiding right underneath the kitchen sink.
But I digress again . . . .
I am sometimes annoyed by those persons – and now I find that I are one!
A woman behind me starts talking.
To me.
I keep fishing, more hurriedly, figuring that she is like me, and I am annoying her by delaying the line. I drop my gloves.
I stoop to pick them up – and drop one of my purchases out of my arms.
The woman laughs.
At me!
And keeps talking.
I’m not hearing much of what she says, because my eyes are on the floor – not literally, but almost -- and my ears can’t seem to work at the same time that my eyes do under duress.
I toss my gloves onto the counter, stoop to pick up the dropped item – oops, make that now “items” -- which I quickly scoop up and throw onto the counter.
Whereupon one skids to the other side of the counter and falls, again, at the feet of the cashier.
“I’m sorry,” I say generally, hoping to include both the cashier and chattering Mom-like lady behind me.
And then I notice: Chattering Mom-Lady is smiling -- and still laughing!
And then, with my eyes back in their sockets, I stop to listen.
Amidst chuckles, Mom-Lady is saying to me, “Don’t you just hate it when that happens! Every time I get into a rush, that happens! Why it happened to me just the other day, and I bent over to pick up the new underwear . . . . “
My mind starts racing . . . . Is this going to be one of those way-too-much-information-from-a-total-stranger type of stories?
“. . . and when I finally bent my back upright again – that floor is a looong way down there, these days . . . ." – she points to her rumpled grey hair doing its best to escape from underneath a too-small-for-so-much-hair, Canadian-flag touque -- “I turned to the guy behind me and tried to give him the panties that I had just picked up off the floor, and I told him, 'You dropped your boxers, Sonny!' And he just about fell over laughing!”
I smile, as a jolly guffaw that reminds me of one of Santa Claus’ rolling belly-laughs rises up through Mom-Lady and shines out through her face.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” I mutter in an attempt at an apology.
“Oh my heavens!” says Mom-Lady, to me and the world in general. “I'm not in any hurry, Son! You just take your time.”
Fifty-nine years old, and she calls me “son”.
“Thanks,” I mutter again. “You’re very patient.”
By this time I have successfully completed my fishing expedition, the cashier has completed the transaction, and I am attempting to put on my gloves and retrieve all my shopping bags. There is one left on the cashier’s counter that I don’t quite know how I'm going to retrieve.
“Can I help you there?” Mom-Lady queries.
Having only two fingers left on which a shopping bag could be hung, I turn to Mom-Lady and, pointing with my last two fingers at the last bag on the counter, say to her, “Would you mind handing me my panties there?”
Mom-Lady guffaws, long and loud. I'm afraid we might have to call 9-1-1.
The cashier is laughing. As are two or three people in the line-up behind us.
Between rumbles of laughter, Mom-Lady hooks the last bag on my last two fingers, and says: “You have a great Christmas, son.”
Son. She called me “son”, and she couldn’t have been more than 5 years older than me. My hair was just as grey as hers. And even more rumpled.
“And you too, Mom” I reply through my smile.
As I think about Mom-Lady on my walk back to my office – arms loaded with shopping bags, for 2 ½ kilometres – I think, what a genuine human being! What a wonderful person!
Where so many others might have been consumed by Queue Rage – or Road Rage – or Airplane Rage, or so many other of the non-existent syndromes that we have invented as an excuse to be rude and impolite and impatient and unkind – how very nice it is to encounter whom and what I regard as a genuine, true, Gentle-Woman.
Might Santa Claus bring us many more – this year and every year.
The best Grant-pa in the world.
After a visit by a couple of granddaughters...

Thursday, December 6, 2018

(S)Now Day

I was raised on a ranch twenty miles from the nearest town.
It was a wonderful place in which to grow up.
I lived and worked and spent my days with family and farm animals.
A peaceful, beautiful sunlit life.
Except when it snowed.
And then it was something else entirely.
It became perfect.
Maybe I should explain . . .
To get to school each day, my siblings and I rode the school bus.
There were flaws in the system.
The bus driver of the day refused to make the entire trip to the ranch.
And instead, would meet us at Nine-Mile Corner.
Situated nine miles from the ranch.
Okay, so, creative name-ers, we weren't.
Moving on . . .
Every day, Mom, and occasionally Dad, would drive us to meet the bus.
So we would be driving a vehicle to the middle of nowhere to meet another vehicle.
We didn't always connect.
At which time, Mom, and occasionally Dad, would have to take us the remaining eleven miles into town.
And all of this was when the weather cooperated.
When it didn't, things were a tad different.
During the winter, when it stormed, driving to the school bus was very nearly impossible.
But our parents would gamely try unless told to do otherwise by someone in authority.
The announcer on the radio was just such an authority. 
When we awoke to howling winds and/or thickly falling snow, we would wait breathlessly to hear the magic words.
Which schools were being closed.
Inevitably, Milk River was on the list.
At which time, we would rejoice, loudly, and proceed to plan out a day of skating and/or sledding and/or playing in the snow. With fresh doughnuts and hot chocolate to follow.
The very best of days.
Because a Snow Day is a gift and isn't to be wasted.
Moving ahead . . .
When my own kids were growing up, schools were never closed due to snow.
But buses were often canceled.
When that happened, even when our family was living in town, I kept my kids home.
Because a Snow Day is a gift and isn't to be wasted on going to school.
Moving ahead again . . .
A few days ago, a blizzard blew into Edmonton and area.
A large blizzard.
Preceded by freezing rain.
Which made the roads almost impassible.
The commute to work quickly became a snarled mess of broken automobiles and frustrated drivers.
I kept my Husby home.
Because a Snow Day is a gift and simply isn't to be wasted on going to work.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

What We Do

I love this time of year!
Hannukkah, the Festival of Lights from December 2 to the 10.
Christmas, which can last anywhere from July to January, but officially begins in our house around the first of December.
Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1.
It truly is the season of celebration.
The very best of times.
For just a short time, goodwill and love for each other abound. Acts of kindness are everywhere.
And I feel that mankind and I are one.
Husby and I get into the spirit of the season in a large way.
We play Santa and Mrs. throughout.
This year, our visits actually began in October. (Yeah. What I said about the blurred start and end times for Christmas...)
And we couldn't be happier.
Greeting families. Seeing the sparkle in the children's eyes.
And the widening of those same eyes when the idea of Santa crashes headlong into reality.
Just FYI: Santa is really big.
And hairy.
And scary.
Aaaand... maybe I'll just sit with Mrs. Santa, thank you.
I can't think of anything we enjoy more.
Photo Credit: Kimberley Laakso Photography

Photo Credit: The Little Things Photography Studio 

Photo Credit: The Little Things Photography Studio

Photo Credit: Funtime Express Entertainment

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Admit it. You want some . . .
Cookies. The ultimate in snack foods. That perfect balance of sugars, grains, fats, and deliciousness. And the most unique and perfect forum for getting small, semi-disguised chunks of chocolate into your mouth.
Chocolate that you can savour but dismiss as insignificant when tallying your calorie count at day's end.
Or at least I can.
I love cookies. And I make the mistake of baking them on a regular basis.
Call me a glutton for punishment.
Or just a glutton - the shoe fits. (Or did, before I started making cookies.) But I digress . . .
My six children have been raised on my cookies. Mostly with some form of chocolate as a noteworthy ingredient. They love those small handfuls of pure perfection as much as I do.
But life, and reality, tend to sneak up on you and smack you soundly, just when you aren't paying attention. And so it was with my cookie consumption.
I was going merrily along, enjoying my cookie-filled life until, one day, I dragged my favourite and freshly-washed jeans out of the drawer . . . and couldn't do them up.
Now I know this has happened to many of us, and certainly is nothing new, but it was a first time for me.
And it made me . . . unhappy.
To make matters worse, which we all try to do far too often, I decided to step on the scale.
I should note here, that the person who invented the scale, and non-stretchy clothes, was a nasty, evil individual. But again, I digress . . .
I had to make some changes.
Or buy a new wardrobe.
Finances won. Losing weight was in order. And the first thing to go was my mostly-cookie diet.
I baked one last batch . . . and started eating them as though they constituted my last meal on earth.
Finally, heroically, I put the lid on the still-half-full cookie jar and left the room.
But they . . . called to me.
Cookies do that.
Finally, I could stand it no longer. I answered that call.
I went back into the kitchen and discovered that my beloved cookie jar . . . was empty.
At first, dismay. Then, relief.
"Who ate all the cookies?"
From somewhere in the house, my daughter, Tiana's voice, "Tristan!"
Also from the nether regions of said house, my son, Tristan's voice, "Sorry!"
Me. "Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, Tristan! I could hug you! I just couldn't leave the silly things alone!"
A pause, then my daughter's voice, "Tiana."
The cookie doesn't fall far from the tree.

Today is National Cookie Day.
I know. A well-deserved honour.
So a group of us decided this special day needed...commemoration.
You've read my effort.
Now go and visit my friends...
You'll be glad you did!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Chocolate Mint Slice and Bake Cookies for National Cookie Day Dawn of Spatulas On Parade: Lemon Meringue Cookies for National Cookie Day Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Let it Go

Monday, December 3, 2018


It's Poetry Monday!

The topic is Gifts.

Hmmm . . . what to do? What to do?

My parents were a social sort.
And often entertained.
With friends and food and games galore
And fun for hours, sustained.

And in those days of party fun,
When er’ food came in sight,
There were no paper plates to serve
With gusto and delight.

Only the best that could be found
Would aid my parents’ guests,
And so they served on china, fine,
And silver for the rest.

And when the meal was done, the guests
Rose quickly to their feet.
And, as a group, cleared table, and
Would in the kitchen meet.

The duties there were quickly giv’n,
Who’d man the towels and sink.
And in an instant, all was done,
E’en faster than you’d blink.

When I was ten, above the rest
Stood out one woman there.
I watched in awe as she took towel
And dried the silverware.

Her movements were that quick, I found,
My eyes could barely follow.
And soon a gleaming pile she had
All ready for tomorrow.

“I’d love to be that fast,” I said.
“My goal is clear to see.”
She shook her head, “I’m sorry, dear,
You won’t be fast as me.”

I took it as a challenge then
And practiced faithfully.
And finally knew just what she meant,
“You won’t be fast as me.”

For some of us receive one gift,
And some another. True.
Her gift was drying silverware,
And mine? Is telling you.

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, unless you tell us nay,
We Decorate for the Holidays!

My Newest!

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First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

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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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