Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 23, 2017

An Eight Grades Education

It’s the weekend and I’m enjoying the break from teaching.

So, what could be better than a story about teaching . . .
Grandma Stringam. A few years after this story . . .
It was 1903 and my Grandma Stringam, just turned eighteen, was asked to teach school in Aldrich, Utah, forty-five miles from her home town of Teasdale.
Possessing only a grade eight education, she felt ill-equipped for such a task and hesitated to accept, but the family who had approached her were insistent, even going so far as to secure a special teaching permit.
Suddenly, she was a teacher.
Her fourteen students from grades one to six - some of whom were even taller than she was - gave her numerous experiences in her little one-room school house.
This is one . . .
In March, the weather was still quite chilly and she had a lively little fire going in the fireplace. Class had just been called to order and she was busily putting work on the board.
Suddenly a shot rang out.
The bullet took the corners of fourteen pages off the reader held by her first-grader, then ricocheted and parted the teacher’s hair before burying itself in the blackboard behind her head.
For a few moments, all was quiet in the room. Then, realizing that someone had to have tossed a bullet into the fire, she scanned the rows of children until she spotted the one with the most frightened look on his face.
She glared at him. “Arthur! Come up here!”
“I didn’t do that!” he said, refusing to get out of his chair.
Again, she asked him to come up.
Again, he refused. “I had fourteen bullets in my pockets when I came to school this morning and I can show you all fourteen!”
She had him turn out his pockets. Sure enough, there were only thirteen.
“That’s all right,” she said. “Give me those bullets and come with me. I’m going to take you home to your parents.”
She told the rest of the class to keep on with their work and she took Arthur home. Handing the bullets to his mother, she said, “I want to see the school board before this boy comes back to school. He can’t come back until I do.”
Arthur never returned.
A few days later, she spotted him out on the hillside, cleaning out a ditch. Punishment meted out by his father for a boy who wouldn’t behave in class.
Grandma wasn't tall. 
But she certainly had, for want of a better term, control.
When I grow up, I want to be just like her!

P.S. Grandma had an eighth grade education. That may not sound like a lot, but here is an example of an 8th grade exam from about 8 years before this story took place.
I couldn't pass it . . .

Friday, September 22, 2017

One Last Note

Grandma, kneeling. With my Mom. Busy. As always.
That first time away from home.
That trip and stumble into the real world.
Fortunately for me, my stumble landed me in the lap of comfort.
For the first semester of my college life, I lived with my Grandma Stringam.
Her house was like an oasis.
Every surface shining clean. No self-respecting germ would even think of taking up residence.
It was quiet. That peaceful quiet that settled into your very bones.
It was organized. Wholesome, made-from-scratch meals emerged with clockwork precision. Baking at regular intervals. Deliciousness an integral part of every morsel.
Industrious. Grandma was a weaver extraordinaire. Self-taught at the age of seventy-five, she was constantly immersed in some project--most of which went to someone else. A leather-worker. She tooled all sorts of purses and belts and even three-legged stools that had to be seen to be believed. And all of which were bestowed upon some other lucky soul.
Learned. Grandma encouraged learning in all its facets. She, herself had attended college long before it was common for women to do so. As a college student, one had to make sure one learned at least a little every day because Grandma was going to pull something out of you with her end-of-the-day questions. And it had better be knowledge.
Supportive. Grandma was interested in your life. Your physical well-being. Your faith. And you. And she had an opinion on all of the above. You wanted nothing more than to live up to her expectations.
Strong. Grandma was firm in her beliefs and ideals. And nothing was going to move her. Certainly not you, Grandchild #35 aka Diane.
She was loving, demanding, kind, sympathetic, smart, bossy, patient, ambitious, insightful, faithful, determined, and one of the most amazing people I have ever met.
I have no doubt she walks the hallowed halls with granddad.
That the meals are regular and plentiful.
And that everyone around her is clean, organized. And busy.
I miss you Grandma! I love you.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

An Enduring Romance: Married!

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

The year at Provo was a happy and a busy one.
My two cousins, Anne Snow and Charlie Snow were with me and we rented rooms and kept house. We took as much food as we possibly could from home.
We made up a schedule for the household chores. We all took our schooling seriously and worked hard. I was able to do some work in the home economics room and this paid my home economics laboratory fees.
There were other people who were getting by with very little so we had company in that class.
We could not afford to go home at Christmas time. Instead, we spent the holidays in Lehi with aunts and uncles and cousins.
Just before Christmas we had some lessons in candy making. I sent a box of candy home and told them not to eat it until George came over. Then I wrote to George and told him I was sending the candy and maybe he could sample it if he went over there.
My brothers and sisters complained that there was very little candy left when he finished sampling.
That fall—1904—George was elected representative from Wayne County to the Utah State Legislature. It met in the early part of 1905 in Salt Lake City. While it was in session he came to Provo a few times and I went to Salt Lake a few times for parties, banquets and the theatre. When the session was over, he went home, but before he went we set the wedding date for June 7. I spent my spare time sewing and planning my wedding.
When school was out, I went to Lehi and spent a day or two with an aunt and uncle, and then I took the train for Salt Lake City.
I stayed in a hotel that night and we were married the next morning [June 7, 1905] in the Salt Lake Temple.
After our marriage, we went to Cottonwood and spent a few a few days with George’s sister and her husband, Sade and Jim Meeks. We also spent some time in and around Salt Lake.
It was the time of June Conference and quite a number of their activities were at Saltair.
One day we had been walking and resting in the park and we decided it would be nice to go across the street to a bakery and confectionary and buy something we could carry back to the park and eat instead of going to a restaurant.
When we decided what we wanted, I started to get it and then stopped. I asked George how much it would cost.
He said, “I don’t know. Why?”
I said, “Because if it costs more than thirty-five cents I haven’t got it.”
He looked a little surprised and them smiled and gave me some money. It was a standing joke in the family all through our married life.

However, I think I did well to go to school for a year, get a trousseau and get married, all for two hundred dollars.


1955 Golden Wedding Anniversary
Grandma and Grandpa Stringam were married for over fifty years. Until his death in 1959. They had eleven children, nine of whom reached adulthood and produced families of their own. Their progeny numbers in the hundreds. They were examples of faith, devotion, kindness and generosity their entire lives. I have no doubt they are continuing their good works into the next life.
I miss them.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

An Enduring Romance: Part Three

In her own words.
From Grandma Stringam's journals:

Part One.
Part Two.

Part three . . .
I knew he had been coming to Teasdale all the winter before two or three times a month. He would visit with my mother and the family and also with my Uncle Walter [who had been his roommate at school in Provo]. Because of this I didn’t know if he had anything special in mind when he told me that he would be back on Sunday.
When he came, he asked my mother if I could go to the Fourth of July celebration at Thurber and then stay overnight with his family and attend a wedding dance there the next night.
She said yes, I could go.
When I arrived there, George’s half-sister was there and while we were visiting she said to me, “So you are here on inspection.”
I said, “Am I? I didn’t know that.”
She said, “Yes, but don’t be nervous.”
I had a great time those two days and when he took me home he told me he would be seeing me during the summer.
My mother’s two brothers and her brother-in-law lived close together, so close that they could carry on conversations without leaving their lots. The morning after the dance, Uncle Charlie was standing on his step and called over to Uncle Alex and said, “Vina’s got the right one now. Everything is all right.”
Uncle Alex seemed to feel the same way and shouted back that he thought it was a fine thing.
Uncle Alex’s wife came out then and said, “Oh you come in and shut up. They can hear you all over town!”
I [also] knew I had my Uncle Walter’s approval because he told me some time before this, “There is only one man I know that is good enough for you and I’m afraid you won’t get him because I think he will marry May [George’s first wife]’s sister.
My Aunt Sarah May had a son and a daughter who had finished school in Teasdale and were wanting to go to Provo to go on with their education. She knew I wanted to go to Provo, too. She suggested that I come along with her and some of her children and spend the summer on the Dark Valley Ranch. There we would make cheese and butter.
George and his father was running their cattle on the near-by mountain and George cane to check on them several times during the summer.
It was during this time that he asked me to marry him.
I told him I would marry him, but I also told him that I would like to go to school in Provo at least one year.
He said, “Well, I think you should go to school. I’ll wait for you. If you want this year there I think that’s what you should do."
When we finished at the ranch, I came home and started to get ready for school, Grandma took me to task. She said, “Lovina, I don’t think you should go away to school.”
I said, “Why not, Grandma?”
She said, “Because that man is older, quite a bit older than you. He is ready to get married and maybe he will take someone else while you are gone. You know a good man for the rest of your life is better than one year at school.”
“Oh, but he wants me to go to school,” I said. “He thinks I should have one year at Provo and he will wait for me.”
She looked quite relieved and said, “Then it’s all right if that’s what he said.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

An Enduring Romance: Part Two

If you missed part one, there's still time. Go here.
Do it now. We'll wait . . .

In her own words.
More from Grandma's journals:

Grandma Stringam watched George, the man who would later become her husband, as he rode away on his white horse, thinking he would one day make someone a fine husband. She was sure, however that he would be married long before she grew up.

Six years later.
I was nearly nineteen and he was still not married although everyone expected that he would marry his first wife’s sister because he had been taking her out.
It was about in June after I came back from teaching that there was a new baby in the home of my Uncle Walter. I went to their home to help. While I was there, George and two of his sisters came to visit my uncle and see the new baby.
After a while George left and went over to my home and asked my younger sister to go for a ride. He came back a short time later to pick up his sisters and said just as he was leaving, “Your sister tells me you’re having a dance Tuesday night.”
I said, “Yes. Bring a bunch down and we’ll have a good time.”
The next day, I went home and there was my younger sister letting the hem of her dress down. In those days if you wore a dress long it meant that you were older and I knew she was letting it down because she was going to go to the dance with George.
Tuesday, when it was getting near dance time, I went home to bathe and get ready. My sister was also getting ready and I said, “Maude, are you going to go to the dance with me?”
She said, “No.”
Then I was sure she was going with George, so I went on alone.
Right after the dance started, it started to rain and it kept on raining. By nine o’clock almost everyone was there, but George and his sisters hadn’t arrived.
About ten o’clock, when I was dancing with somebody quite near the door, it opened and there stood George.
He said, “Where is Gus?”
I found Gus for him and he asked if he could put his team in our barn. After he helped his sisters to get out of the rain, he and my brother took the team to our barn.
My sister, Maude, had come to the dance alone a little while before this so I knew he wasn’t bringing her.
At midnight we served lunch and it was still raining. Nobody wanted to go home in all that rain so we decided to keep on dancing. At four o’clock it quit and as I was ready to start for home, George came up and said, “Can I walk you home?”
Of course I told him yes so my brother and his girlfriend, George’s two sisters, George and I made our way to my home and waited until the horses were ready.
Just as he was ready to leave, he turned to me and said, “I’ll be down on Sunday and will very likely see you then.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

Suit(able) for a Birthday

Another of 

Daddy's favourite stories . . .

For years, she worked untiringly
In times of calm, or urgency,
In office work, traditional,
Her business place so integral.

Her husband was so proud of her,
His sweet, but strong entrepreneur,
So, for her birthday, he’d reward
The lovely woman he adored.

And straightway took her to the store
To blow all he did budget for,
For something pretty she could wear,
Unmatched by all who might compare.

And so received from her dear spouse
A lovely suit, with silky blouse.
A gorgeous jacket: shade of blue,
A pleated skirt of matching hue.

Then marched herself to work that day,
Receiving greetings on the way,
Confident in how she looked,
As pretty as a picture . . . book.

Her boss was in when she got there,
She checked her image with due care,
Then to his office, she did trot,
To show the suit her husband bought.

But just as she had stepped inside,
A customer with needs, applied
For entrance to their workplace there,
The boss sprang up from his wing chair.

“So sorry that I made you wait,
(Today my girl’s a fashion plate),
But she was looking oh-so-cute,
When showing me her birthday suit!”

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.
And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week in our neighbourhood,
We'll tackle 'underwear'. It'll be good!

Sunday, September 17, 2017


In Pat's part of Vancouver, BC of the late fifties, there were two options for attending school.
St. Helen, where she attended. And Seton Academy, for the well-heeled, which she didn’t. The nun sister teachers moved back and forth between the two.
Once a year, she and her fellow St. Helen(ians) were allowed to enter the hallowed Seton halls. On cleaning day. At the behest of a combination of parents/nuns/church.
Willingly—or slightly less willingly—these kids appeared at the gates of Seton Academy and awaited their assignments.
Pat and her crew were sent to the dorms to remove the light mattresses to the courtyard for airing/sun.
Now I should probably point out that said mattresses were currently residing in rooms at the top of a lengthy set of stairs. And that these mattresses had to be lugged. Both up and down.
Now, Pat, she of the quick mind surveyed the situation and, in a burst of inventiveness (inspired by a desire to do less, not more) suggested that, rather than lug, the girls should simply suspend.
And drop.
The stairwell was perfectly situated.
What’s the worst that could happen?
What indeed.
The first mattress or two made the drop with no problems.
And surprising accuracy.
Then, just as Pat released the next in a large pile, visiting Mother Superior opened the doorway halfway down the stairway and stepped to the landing.
Remember when I mentioned ‘surprising accuracy’?
Well, that becomes more important here.
The mattress met headmistress . . . ummm . . . head on.
The mattress won.
Wimple askew and senses rather scattered, the Sister was rescued from the landing by a colleague and whisked inside out of danger.
While Pat and her fellow mattress(ians) stood there, mouths agape in horror.
They were so dead.
In absolute silence, they continued with their job, abandoning their earlier cost-saving actions and creeping down the stairs, mattresses in hand.
Job finished, and using the same ninja-like stealth, they crossed back through the building toward the exit.
A path which led through the academy kitchens.
Two nuns were busy in the great room, stirring up lunch.
As the girls approached, one of them whipped around.
Many things went through Pat’s mind. Not the least of which was a reprise of: We are so dead!
But word of her latest escapade had not yet reached the kitchen. Rather, in the hands of the sister was a tray of cookies.
The girls partook. And then took themselves out of there.
Much to Pat’s surprise and delight, there were no repercussions.

However, a few years later, that same Mother Superior walked into Pat’s classroom on a visit. She looked around at the bright faces and smiled. Then she saw Pat. “Ah,” she said. “Pat. I remember you.”

Saturday, September 16, 2017

An Enduring Romance

From Grandma Stringam's journals
In her own words:
Grandpa. Taken shortly after this story.
 As I grew older, Mother would take us to what we called 'Dark Valley Ranch' for several weeks during the summer. The ranch was owned by one of her brothers, Alexander Coleman.
While we were there we would milk as many as 65 cows and make butter and cheese.
The cows did not belong to us.
They belonged to George W. Stringam [and his son, George L. Stringam] who pastured them on the mountain meadows next to the ranch.
George W. was willing for us to milk the cows if we would leave half of it for their calves. We would put the calves in a pen to keep them away from their mothers, and then we would tie the cow's legs and sit down on a one-legged stool and milk till we had about half. Then we'd let the calf out to finish the job.
There were always two or three of my brothers and sisters there to help.
The first time I remember seeing the man who was to be my future husband was at this Dark Valley Ranch.
This would have been in the summer of 1897, just a few months before he married [his first wife] May Snow.
He would come every two weeks to check on the cattle. He rode a white horse and led another white one which carried his camping gear.
He usually spent a night or two at the ranch when he made these trips. He was a good friend of my uncles and also my brother, Gus.
At the time, I was barely twelve, just a kid, and he was a man about to be married.
I can remember he liked to tease and gave me quite a time about a calf that was my special pet.
I can also remember seeing him ride over the hill at the ranch in the late summer, the next year, just after his wife died.
I thought to myself that he was a fine man who would make some girl a good husband.
I wished that I was a few years older and then I just might have a chance.
However, I put it out of my mind because I was sure he would marry again, long before I grew up.

Grandma and Grandpa Stringam were married in June of 1905. Their marriage lasted for over fifty years, until his death in 1959.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Sticking To It

I looked through the frosted glass of the front door. The silhouettes of two people could be plainly seen, thrown into sharp relief by the setting sun behind them.
One of them was speaking. “We’ll get to the bottom of this real quick, Inspector.”
I rolled my eyes. Officer Saggot was back. And by the looks of it, had brought reinforcements.
One of them put a finger on the bell and left it there.
I jerked the door open, startling the two men standing on the front step. “Officer?”
“Oh, erm . . . Mrs. Sputterling, I mean Kayser,” the officer said. He hitched his uniform up over his too, too solid midsection. “Yes . . . well . . . um . . . I'm back.”
I nodded. I mean, he was standing right there. Hard to miss. I leaned against the edge of the door. “Yes, Officer?”
He waggled a finger at me. “And to make sure there are no more shenanigans, I’ve brought Inspector Wilson with me.”
The way the title rolled off his tongue, I almost felt I should be bowing. I glanced at the man beside him. About retirement age. Short. Lean. With a gleaming bald head and thick, bushy eyebrows. “So?”
Now, I know you know I’m really not a rude person. But I’d been accused of nasty things by this officer and I wasn’t feeling charitable. Plus, I still hadn’t found my sister. Okay, yes, I had spoken to her, but you also know that speaking to Norma without benefit of visual aid is usually . . . unproductive. Or downright confusing.
“Mrs. Kayser.” The Inspector had decided to get into the conversation. “May we come in?”
I stood back and swung the door wide. “Of course. But I don’t know what you are going to be able to do.”
The two men stepped into the front hall.
“My colleague informs me that you have been uncooperative on this investigation.”
I frowned sharply. “I have not!” I snapped. “It’s just that he didn’t believe me!”
The inspector’s eyebrows went up. They looked like two big, fat caterpillars perched above his eyes.
“Did you know your eyebrows look like big, fuzzy caterpillars?” someone asked.
I suppressed a smile.
“I . . . erm . . . what?” The inspector looked around. “Who said that?”
“It’s her! The sister. I told you!” The officer leaned toward his colleague, looking smug. “Still up to their tricks!”
The inspector narrowed his eyes and looked at me. “Would you be so kind as to explain this, Ma’am?”
I shrugged. “I will but you won’t believe me.”
He merely waited.
I sighed. “This house is haunted.”
The Inspector sucked in a quick breath.
I paused, but when he said nothing, went on. “My sister has been quite friendly with the spirit or spirits who live here. Christmas, BBQ’s. Weekends at the lake. She invites them to everything. Yesterday, she disappeared in the middle of a conversation about going to the ‘other side’ for a visit.”
Officer Saggot snorted. “See? And she expects us to swallow this!”
But the Inspector was looking . . . interested. “Go on,” he said.
I blinked. “Well . . . there’s not much more to tell.” I scratched my head. “I’ve talked with her. She says she having fun. Norma never really was much into details.”
“So she’s on the other side right now?”
I nodded.
The eyebrows again as he tipped his head toward me. “Could I talk to her?”
His colleague looked at him, a sharp frown on his round face. “Sir, I . . .”
“If you aren’t interested, go wait in the car, Saggot!”
“No. No, I’m interested,” he said hurriedly.
“Well, we can try,” I told him. I looked up. “Norma? Are you here?”
“Well where else would I be!” Norma sounded a little testy. “I live here, don’t I?”
“The inspector wants to talk to you.”
“I heard!” There was a pause. “So? What do you want to talk about?”
“Well . . . maybe you’d like to describe to me . . . erm . . . where you are?”
“I’m right here!”
He looked around. “I don’t see you.”
“Well, on the other side of right here.”
“Could you describe it?”
A sigh. “Foyer. Stairway. Doors to the front room and the outside. Hallway to the back of the house. My sister and two policemen standing looking around. I don’t know. What do you want to hear?”
“That’ll do.” The inspector was looking more and more  . . . happy? Excited?
“Sir, I really think we should be . . .”
“Quiet, Saggot!”
The officer pressed his lips together and took a step back.
“So you don’t have to wait for night or the light of a full moon or anything like that to talk to us?” the Inspector asked.
“Nope.” Norma was sounding a little more cheerful. “The lines are always open.”
“Are there other . . . people there?”
“Oh, yeah. Lots of them.”
“Any . . . young people?”
I looked at him. His expression had just gotten very intense.
“Oh yeah!” I could hear the smile in Norma’s voice. “They keep things hopping!” Her voice lowered a bit in volume, almost as though she had turned away from us.” “Yeah. Yeah. Okay.”
“What?” the Inspector asked.
“Oh, I was just talking to someone. I’m supposed to give you this.”
A hockey stick appeared out of the air, narrowly missing Saggot as it clattered to the floor between the two officers.

Enjoying this episode of the Sputterling Sisters?
Catch up with them here:

From Over There
Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.  
At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. 

My words for September: bell ~ moon ~ hockey stick ~ real ~ car

They were submitted by: Karen at   

Now go and see what the others have done with the challenge!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Behind the Apron

Mom being Mom
My Mom was amazing.
She was the force behind:
Meals appearing at clockwork intervals.
Soiled clothes in hampers being replaced by clean, folded clothes in neat stacks in drawers.
Floors scoured to a mirror finish.
Dirty dishes disappearing from the table.
Clean dishes appearing.
Yummy snacks, (ie. Puddings, cakes, pies, pastries) showing up with amazing regularity.
Gardens stretching, lush and weed-free for miles.
Lawns being mowed.
Pets fed and cared for.
Kids travelling to and from school.
Deadlines met.
Bills paid on time.
New, hand-made outfits appearing.
Hired men cared for.
Doctor's appointments kept.
Sewing and other women's clubs attended.
Bedtime routines honoured.
Sicknesses nursed.
Arguments refereed.
Church attended.
In fact, she was the driving force behind every facet of our daily life.
Always there.
To me . . . just Mom.
When I was four, she bought me a pair of skates.
Sat me on our front step and strapped them on my feet.
Then took me across the yard to the ice-covered street and taught me how to skate.
Once I got my balance, she skated along behind me for a while.
Encouraging, instructing and safe-guarding.
Finally, when she was sure of me, she struck out on her own.
Swooping and spinning across the ice like a bird.
I stopped and watched.
This was the woman who spent her days 'looking after'.
For the first time in my four years, I realized that there was more to my Mom than what I had always seen.
Here was a woman who had been talented enough to skate competitively.
I later discovered that she had also been invited to play ball professionally.
Offered a scholarship to university.
And many other opportunities.
All of which she set aside for my Dad.
My siblings.
And me.
I watched her as she spun in a tight circle.
Going faster and faster.
Coming to a final, breathless halt.
And skating smoothly away.
My Mom.
She skated past me.
She spun and looked at me.
“I'm hungry.”
She smiled. “Time to go in, dear?”
I nodded.
Immediately, she stopped and reached for my hand, helping me carefully back across the yard to our front step.
Mom was just 'Mom' again.
But for an instant, I had caught sight of something else.
Someone else.
The woman inside.
That day.

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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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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
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