Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Monday, July 16, 2018

Music to Remember


Early mornings on a ranch
all started like an avalanche,
A tottering pile of chores to do
and food to cook and life renew.
All those days began with Dad,
all freshly cleaned, in robe of plaid,
Standing in your bedroom door,
to tell you sleeping time was o’er…
The sun was rising, up you’d get,
the time had come to toil and sweat,
But Sundays always started slow,
no need to really jump. And go,
One could lay in bed and dream,
               you were in Heaven, it would seem,
Soft music flowed around you there,
               starting low, just like a prayer,
Then rising, swirling, every note,
               by horns and strings would love emote,
One knew that Dad had placed a stack
               of music on the player’s rack,
Cause that’s how Sundays started out,
               With soft notes swirling all about.
O’er forty years have slipped on by,
               all in the blinking of an eye,
But still my childhood lingers on,
               though many who were there are gone,
Cause when I hear those flowing strains,              
               ‘tis Sunday morning, once again.



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, in our neighbourhood,
We'll talk of toys and childhood!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Going to Gramma's

Many of you will have heard this before.
But for those who haven't . . .

Gramma and Grampa Stringam
In 1912, ‘going to visit the family’ took on a whole new meaning.
Let me tell you about it . . .
My Gramma and Grampa Stringam, with their (then) three children, moved to southern Alberta in 1910, leaving their extended family behind them in Utah.
They settled in Glenwood and started to farm.
Outwardly, all was well.
Inwardly, one of them missed her mother.
Finally, after two years of pining and tears, the decision was made for an extended visit.
Gramma and her (by then) four children packed up and, kissing Grampa goodbye, boarded the train for Salt Lake.
The trip there was fairly uneventful, the highlight - seeing the sprinkler system in the Salt Lake depot.
But what came afterward . . . wasn’t.
Uneventful, that is.
Gramma and the kids climbed aboard another train for Salina and then the mail stagecoach from there over the mountain to Thurber and Teasdale.
A short hop by today’s automobile.
But a considerable prospect for the white-top mail buggy of the early 1900’s.
In the rain.
On one particularly steep pass, soaked through and tired, the team of horses gave out. Despite considerable encouragement, they refused to move one more step up the mountain, choosing, in typical balky-horse fashion, to back up instead.
They succeeded in backing the coach until they, quite literally, ran out of mountain. When the driver finally got them stopped, the vehicle was dangling right out over the edge of the canyon with the wagon tree tipped up and the horses' hind feet barely on the ground.
Gramma and the kids were frantically extricated, followed by their baggage and the mail bags. They gratefully took shelter under a large spruce, where they turned, as they had been taught, to prayer.
While they were thus engaged, the driver tried--unsuccessfully--to remedy the situation. The wagon remained hanging over the edge of the cliff.
Can anyone say,"precarious?"
Meanwhile the little family under the tree had finished praying. And it was as that exact moment that a second white-topped buggy came up over the hill.
A buggy that was empty, save for the driver, a local real estate agent. Who, to the little family huddled under the tree, suddenly took on the aspect of a saviour.
The man stopped and surveyed the situation, then climbed down and, using a knife, cut the traces holding the horses to the buggy (allowing the wagon to drop into the canyon several hundreds of feet below) and led the animals to safety.
The mail man thanked him, threw his mail bags over one horse and mounted the other, and rode on over the mountain, abandoning his little group of paying passengers without a backward look.
On the side of a mountain. In the rain.
Don’t you hate days like that?
Fortunately, the real estate man was very kind and loaded Gramma and her kids into his buggy and delivered them safely to the nearest village.
The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful.
Let’s face it. After this experience, most events would pale by comparison.
Gramma and her brood got their visit.
And, for generations to come, a story to tell.

Sundays are for my ancestors.
Their stories are fascinating. Sometimes fun. Sometimes downright scary.
Join me!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Planning Rocks

Yorkshire Pudding.
A solid piece of our history.
My Husby is a Planner.
Really.
It is a legitimate occupation.
He plans . . . stuff. Has built his career doing it.
Mostly, he plans things like: Museums. Displays. Art galleries. Special facilities for storing special collections.
It has been a varied and unusual career.
And he is very good at what he does.
Except when he tells his wife that whatever she is doing would work better if she used a different system.
That never turns out well.
Moving on . . .
Several years ago, he was leading a team of designers in Fort McMurray.
They were re-designing the displays at the Oil Sands Interpretive Centre.
A fun and exacting job.
It required spending many months in the rapidly expanding oil city of Fort McMurray, Alberta.
At the end of one particularly long day, the team was seated at what had become their favourite restaurant.
Doing what had become their favourite pastime.
Eating.
One of the team members had order a roast beef supper.
With all of the trimmings.
One ‘trimming’ was a large Yorkshire Pudding.
With gravy.
Now I’ve had Yorkshire pudding.
In all its glory.
I love it.
But this particular pudding had been baked too long.
Or left uncovered.
Or simply neglected.
It was, to use a rather over-worked phrase, ‘Hard as a proverbial rock’.
Its owner poked at it morosely.
“This thing is inedible,” he said, sadly. “It looks like one of the rocks in the display case back at the Centre.”
Husby suddenly looked at him, his face breaking into a broad smile. All eyes were on him as he explained his idea for yet another display. Then everyone got up and, pocketing the pudding, headed back to the Centre.
A short time later, they had the cover off the resident large display of rocks (and other things solid and impenetrable).
They rearranged, creating a perfect little space for this, the newest addition.
One of the designers studied the other placards in the case, figured out the font used, and quickly created an official-looking label.
When they left the building later that night, the display of rocks was richer by one ‘Jurassic Pudding Stone’.
Nothing more was said.
In due course, they completed their assignment and separated, each going back to their normal lives.
Several weeks later, my Husby received a phone call from the director of the newly-refurbished Interpretive Centre.
“Ummm . . . Grant? Did your team touch our rock display case?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well, there seems to be an addition of which I’ve only very recently become aware.”
“Oh?”
“Yes. Something called a Jurassic Pudding Stone. Now I looked through every one of my books and couldn’t find it anywhere. Finally, I removed the cover and examined the ‘stone’.
“Yes?”
“Well, it looks to me like a very old, very tired Yorkshire Pudding.”
“Well, that is odd.”
There was silence at the other end. “So you don’t know anything about this?”
“I don’t understand why you are asking me.”
“Well, it seemed . . .  odd. And I thought that you and your team . . .”
“It does sound very interesting and I’d love to see it when I’m up there again.”
Notice the clever prevarication? (Ooo. Good word!)
Back to my story . . .
“Oh. Well, I just thought of you guys and . . . well . . . okay.”
Need something planned?
A building? A display?
A prank?
I know someone you can call.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Cat-Astrophe

Another day, another kerfuffle.
You have to know that Sally and I really don’t plan any of these things. They just happen.
Really.
Okay, Mom doesn’t believe us either.
On with my story . . .
Sally has been more than her usual irritating in the past few weeks. I mean, when that girl puts her mind to something, she can really get going.
Usually, I’m on the same page. Well . . . at least in the same book. Somewhere.
But this time, she was on her own.
You see, Sally wanted a cat. And not just any cat—the big orange one that lived just down the road in Mrs. Ames house.
With Mrs. Ames.
And yes, there are just so many things wrong with this . . .
Anyways, Sally reasoned that as Mrs. Ames had myriad cats, she really wouldn’t miss the single, big orange one. That sat every morning in lonely glory on Mrs. Ames front porch, waiting to pounce on the paper boy.
Now the words: ‘single orange’, ‘lonely glory’ and ‘pounce’ are rife with significance. I mean, don’t they just scream to you that, not only would this cat be missed, but also, it probably wasn’t the sweetest-tempered animal?
Well, not to Sally.
Mom was still at work when Sally and I finished our shift at McDonald’s yesterday. She mistakenly thought we would be all right by ourselves until she got home.
I don’t mean to sound fatalistic, but what’s with that woman? Doesn’t she know shenanigans only happen when she’s out of the house?
As Sally and I cut across the Prince’s lawn on the corner and turned into our street, she happened to glance across at Mrs. Ames’. And there, again in lonely glory (see above), sat Mr. Big Orange.
Sally saw her chance.
Without a word, she darted across the street and scurried up Mrs. Ames sidewalk and onto her porch in her best sub-rosa fashion. Then she scooped up the enormous cat and retraced her steps.
I merely stared. What else can you do when your sister loses her mind?
She raced ahead of me, the deceptively-calm cat clutched in her arms and, banging the gate open with a foot, skipped into the back yard.
I followed slowly. No way I wanted to be mixed up in this, but I do, you know, live in the same house.
By the time I reached the back door, Sally was inside and cuddling her new friend on the living room sofa.
As I stepped inside, the cat turned and looked at me with slitted, half-open eyes.
I stopped.
“See!” Sally said excitedly. “It was so easy and he’s so . . .” She didn’t get any further.
Without so much as a twitch of warning, the animal in her arms suddenly turned into a spitting, clawing whirlwind. It clawed its way up her arms, perched momentarily on the top of her head, then launched itself to the floor lamp beside her.
And it was just getting started.
From the lamp, it flew across to the kitchen table, leaving long claw marks as it slid the length of the shining surface, taking both the puzzle we had spent the past month fitting together and Mom’s new vase of flowers with it.
The resulting crash seemed to wake Sally from the daze she had fallen into and she leaped forward, intent on corralling the out-of-control feline.
She missed.
At the same moment, thinking only of self-preservation, I fled to the front door. Then I stood there, frozen, one hand on the knob, and stared as the disaster continued.
Sally’s reaching hands seemed to provide impetus to the animal and it continued on to new heights, leaping from the table to the pot rack above the nearby cupboard.
Turns out those racks can hold a lot of cookware.
But no cats.
The entire frame ripped out of the ceiling and fell with a decisive clatter.
But even as it fell, the orange harridan had already launched itself toward the light fixture over the table.
Remember what I said about the pot rack and cats.
Well, ditto for lights.
The metal fixture, hit the table below with a hollow clang, leaving a deep indent in the formerly pristine and now clawed and dented surface.
At that moment, someone rang the doorbell.
The cat shot up the curtains, shredding them as it went and finally landed on the back of the sofa. There it paused, likely gathering itself for future atrocities, just as I swung the front door open.
Perhaps it recognized the rather piqued face of Mrs. Ames in the opening.
I favour the opinion that it merely glimpsed the outdoors and freedom.
Whatever the reason, it launched itself at the irritated women with every orange hair on end and all claws out.
She caught it before it could clear the doorway.
Then, with the spitting, growling creature in her arms, she gave us a level look, turned and headed out across the lawn.
For a moment, my sister and I watched as the woman continued up the street and out of sight, a fully-puffed orange tail sticking out from beneath her arm.
Then Sally looked at me. “See? I told you having a cat would be fun!”

Each month, Karen's circle of cronies like-minded writers, engages in an exchange of words. 
It's fun, educational and challenging.
And did I mention fun?
My words this month: sub-rosa ~ fatalistic ~ myriad ~ rife ~ kerfuffle
were given to me by https://wannabelinguistics.tumblr.com
Now hop over and see what the others have done with the challenge!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A 'Little' Religious Education

Dinnertime is family time.
And sometimes, you learn a lot.
Let me tell you about it . . .
We had been steadily working our way through husby’s homemade beef stew.
With yummy thick slices of bread.
The conversation – revolved.
Three-year-old Granddaughter #6 (hereinafter known as G6) had finished and was waiting, somewhat patiently, for the rest to follow.
So she could be excused.
Suddenly, she remembered something exciting.
She had just received a new set of scriptures.
And in them, right there in the front, was a picture of Jesus.
This was news that simply couldn’t wait.
She had to show us.
She scrambled down from her chair and ran to fetch her book.
Opening it to the correct page, she proudly displayed the picture for everyone.
The conversation went something like this . . .
G6: “Look! It’s Jesus! Jesus. Everyone! Jesus!”
Daddy: “What’s Jesus’ last name?”
G6: Blank look.
Grandma: “What’s Jesus’ last name, Sweetie?”
G6: Blinking and blank look.
Grandma (speaking slowly in her best this-is-a-hint voice): “Jesus C-h-r-i-s-t . . .”
G6 (light dawns): “Oh!” Big smile. “Amen!”
So just in case you’re wondering about that elusive last name . . .
Now you know.
The picture.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just Kiss Him!


When you meet a fella, new, and that guy seems the best to you—
In your hunt,
You plan your kiss ‘tween you and he, considered by society—
Important.

Imagining where it will be, in thickest grove, or lone prairie—
Amazing.
When first your dewy lips will lock, and your frame tremble with the shock—
Heart’s blazing.

But though you plan beyond all doubt, sometimes it simply won’t work out—
It happens.
Just when you expect it least, you stumble onto your ‘love feast’—
Caught nappin’.

And thus we come to my own tale, of kisses planned and what prevailed—
I’ll tell you.
That what you plan won’t always be, sometimes it’s different, you’ll agree—
A boo-boo.

Our first kiss would be someplace nice, in fragrant fields or paradise—
‘Twas my plan.
Instead it was in feedlot there, with shoes in poop and bugs in hair—
Kissed my man.

The moonlight wasn’t o’er us shed, we’d mercury-vapour light instead—
It caught us.
I looked into his hazel eyes, it probably is no surprise,
They got us.

But still he stayed and our love grew, we’ve grown from us to thirty-two—
So listen . . .
And though a plan is what you’ve got, please know it really matters not—
Just kiss him!

 P.S. Husby's birthday is July 11th. Coincidence? I think not!



Each month we have a topic new, from Karen to us, then to you,
Employ it!
And now go read what others wrote, each I'll happily promote,
Enjoy it!



Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Just One Kiss
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Finding Her Prince
Kim of That Writer Junkie Writes: 슬픈 사랑 or This Sad Love.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Elusive

Yep. Back then, the brain . . . worked.
The summer I was ten, my oldest sister, Chris, volunteered to run a summer day camp for the kids in Milk River.
We had a marvelous time.
Games. Treats. Crafts. Treats. Contests. Treats. Activities. More treats.
I was ten.
Anything to do with food took priority.
Hmm. Still does in fact.
Moving on . . .
Chris put heart and soul into the program.
There were no parameters laid out, so she had to come up with the guidelines and curriculum herself.
She did a wonderful job.
Part way through the summer, she decided that it would be fun if she got all of the kids involved in performing a play.
And not just any play.
The Wizard of Oz.
A fairly ambitious undertaking for a seventeen year old girl and her group of pre-teens.
First, she had to come up with a script.
That was all right, because our family had the story on an LP.
LP.
Go ahead. Google it. We'll wait . . .
And that's where I came in.
I had one talent as a child.
I could memorize.
If I listened to it once, I could pretty much give a detailed description.
If I listened to it a lot?
I could recite it.
With voice inflections and sound effects.
And that was what I did.
For three days, I recited and Chris wrote.
The entire hour-and-a-half of 'The Wizard of Oz'.
As it had been recorded.
We had our script . . .
I should mention here that we never got to perform our play.
We simply ran out of time.
But we learned something important.
If you wanted anything remembered, let Diane listen to it ad infinitum for a couple of days and it was there forever.
Word perfect.
This skill stayed with me for a while.
In fact, I played the lead some years later in 'The Rented Christmas', and memorized the entire play.
To the point that I served as the prompter.
On stage.
My point in telling you all of this is simply to reminisce.
And to lament.
I've been trying to figure out what I watched last night on TV.
I know it was a good movie. And that I enjoyed it immensely.
I can't - for the life of me – remember.
Oh, for just a portion of that bygone talent!
Sigh.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Glory

 
“‘Tis feasible,” my mother said,
“One day you won’t approach with dread,
The culinary preparation needed.”
“To keep your family fine and strong,
Health’s maintenance. And life prolong!”
I sighed and knew, this once, she should be heeded.

And so she set the gadgets up,
She showed me teaspoon, timer, cup,
And joyfully, she started my instruction.
And while I watched in blank dismay,
Components hybrid on display,
I feared I’d never manage reproduction.

My poor family ached long-term
Gelatinous stews that made them squirm,
And casseroles known only by their toppings.
But still my mother laboured on,
Her lines of duty, clearly drawn,
From morn till night. Without. Ever. Stopping.

Her daughter must be well prepared,
No defeat would be declared.
And suitors would not ever find her wanting.
From soup to nuts and all between,
She taught me her divine cuisine,
And introduced aromas rich and haunting.

And I learned to cook, I truly did.
Discovered secrets ever hid,
Explored the states of ‘Heaven, Gustatory’,
And though I’ll never famous be,
My friends and all my family
Are satisfied. And that, to me, is glory.


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 will heed the call, 
And tackle 'Music' for you all!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Iron Lady

Today's ancestor?

My Mom.
Mom. All pressed and ready to go.
My mom was an ironer.
A Demon ironer.
She ironed everything.
Shirts. Pants. Dresses. Shorts. T-shirts. Socks. Pillowcases. Handkerchiefs. Sheets. Pajamas.
I kid you not.
Everything.
And when I say ‘she’, I mean her girls.
From the age of eight, I had my own little ironing pile.
Admittedly, it was the more easily ironed items. Pillow cases, handkerchiefs, and  . . . flat stuff.
But it was all mine. No other hands could – or would - touch it.
Ever.
In fact, it would still be there waiting for me, even if I’d been hiding in the barn all day.
Ahem . . .
Mom was very particular about her ironing. Everything had to be done just so. I was fortunate in that my items left very little scope for mistakes.
My sister wasn’t nearly so lucky.
I can still see my mom preparing things to iron. She would sprinkle everything with water, via a spritzer attachment atop a seven-up bottle.
Incidentally, we thought that said spritzer would be great fun in a water fight.
It wasn’t.
Moving on . . .
Then she would carefully roll the sprinkled items into a tight bundle and put them into a plastic bag.
Then put the plastic bag into the fridge.
I know.
I thought it was weird, too.
She said something about ‘keeping things moist’.
Who listened.
One by one, the items were pulled from the bag and ironed.
Then hung.
Then put away.
There was a definite process.
And one didn’t dare skip any of the steps.
Because Mom always knew.
Even if one folded up the handkerchiefs into tiny, tiny little squares.
Tiny.
Those gimlet eyes saw through everything.
Sigh.
Though most everything these days is permanent press, I still iron.
Sometimes.
Once in a while.
Okay, I admit it, the bottom of my ironing basket has never actually been seen.
There is a dress down there that's a women's size three!
It’s like an archeological dig.
I miss my Mom.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

With Just a Little Love

Mmmm . . . love.
We were invited out to dinner one night.
Our hostess served us Turkey a la King.
And fresh, warm muffins.
With a crisp spinach salad.
Everything was absolutely delicious.
Which is usually the case when someone else cooks.
But as I was eating my salad, I suddenly remembered the spinach of my youth . . .
My Mom was a terrific cook.
Really terrific.
I can't remember anything that she made that I didn't like.
From her breakfasts of pancakes or waffles or bacon and eggs, through to her suppers of roast beef or shepherd's pie or veggies with cheese sauce, and everything in between.
Terrific.
But Mom had been raised by her Mom to believe that everything . . . everything . . . needed to be well done.
Meats.
Carbs.
Even veggies.
All had to be baked or fried or boiled to 'within and inch of their lives'.
Or at least until they had lost whatever colour they originally had.
It wasn't until I was married that I discovered the joy of 'medium rare' and 'tender crisp'.
And sometimes . . . raw.
I remember the first time someone served a mound of fresh, crisp cauliflower.
Uncooked.
With dipping sauce.
I stared at it.
Weird.
Cauliflower was suppose to be served steaming hot.
With cheese sauce.
I didn't even try it that time. Merely having seen it was sufficient for me.
Shortly afterwards, I did.
Try it, I mean.
I found it delicious.
And it opened a whole new world for me.
A world of colour and taste and texture that I never knew existed.
Back to the spinach.
Do you know how my Mom always served it?
Boiled.
Not steamed. Boiled.
I kid you not.
Then serve it as a glop on our plates.
With vinegar.
And you know something else?
We loved it.
Slurped it down like it was our last food on earth.
My point here is that I love food the way I prepare it now.
But I loved it equally as well when Mom fixed it.
I guess it all just comes down to how much love is served with it.

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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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