Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Hand-Holding Music

The year boys were discovered in Milk River.
Okay, yes, I am assured they had always been there.
I definitely had seen them.
But up until that time, they had been covered with cooties.
True story.
Also true was the fact that, in 1965, I got my first, ever, boyfriend.
A real. Living. Breathing. Boy. Who liked me.
1965 was also the year for miracles.
Moving on . . .
I was finding out about the wondrous world of sitting in a movie with a boy.
Hanging out at recess with a boy.
Talking on the phone with a boy.
Sitting in assemblies with a  . . .
You get the idea.
It was new.
It was unusual.
It was amazing.
Okay, it didn’t last long. Let’s face it, both of us were ten. Attention spans are notoriously short when you’re ten.
But for a while . . .
My boyfriend and I and another friend were sitting in the travel trailer behind his parents’ house.
I should mention here that 1965 was also the year that we realized the radio played . . . music.
Rock and roll music.
I don’t know about you, but my parents’ radio was always played the news.
Yep. The news.
And the stock prices with an occasional foray into weather.
Twenty-four hours a day.
Back to my story . . .
My boyfriend had fallen hard for a newly discovered group, The Beatles. He had bought one of their records and we were listening to it.
They were SO COOL!
It was the fifth or sixth time we had restarted the LP and by this point, all three of us were getting quite proficient with the words to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand!”
“I wanna hold your ha-a-and!” I was singing at the top of my lungs, really not caring who else might be listening. “I wanna hold your hand!”
My boyfriend took the hint. Sat beside me, took my hand and sang along.
It was the best moment of my life.
Then, suddenly, his mother appeared in the open door. “Diane, your Mom is here. Time to go.”
I looked at my boyfriend and grimaced. (Yes. Grimaced.)
Our moment was over.
But that was all right. I was sure there would be others.
Lots of them.
I was wrong. Not long afterwards, my boyfriend’s attention . . . wandered.
As did mine.
That’s the good thing about being 10.
But whenever I hear The Beatles sing, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, I’m back in the trailer behind his house and he and I are singing along at the top of our voices.
And holding hands.
Memories don’t get much better than that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Strangely Injured

Some of our blessings.
Caution: Lift with care.
I’ve been fairly active all my life.
And I have the scars to prove it.
I had all the usual bumps and bruises learning to walk as a baby.
Climbed and fell off of numerous fences, buildings, and assorted furniture.
Got trampled by an angry mama cow in the barnyard and got a flattened right boot.
Tried to fly using mom’s circular clothesline and almost bit my tongue right through.
Took a high-flier off my brother’s horse and landed on my face, resulting in impressive scratches and bruises.
Got a faceful of hoof from the same horse moments later.
Had an altercation with the arm of the armchair in my parents’ front room which resulted in one remarkable eyebrow.
Tore a twenty-two-inch groove in my leg from ankle to thigh, when I fell headfirst over the barbed-wire fence I was trying to cross.
Nearly lost my right hand in a cattle headgate.
Put all of my lower teeth through my lip when I got head-butted by an angry mama cow whose calf I was sitting on at the time.
And these were just injuries incurred in the course of growing up on a ranch.
I also sprained each ankle numerous times playing basketball, volleyball or baseball.
Sprained every single finger at least once – ditto.
Broke a wrist doing a celebratory leap.
Wrecked a knee running marathons.
Wrenched shoulders.
Sprained backs.
Twisted necks.
My purpose in telling you all of this is not so you will think I’m tough.
Or superwoman.
But because I don’t want you to think I give up easily.
That I can take pain and carry on.
But one day, not all that long ago, I developed a new injury.
Something I’d never had before.
And I really struggled with it.
I went to the doctor complaining of pain in my elbow.
You heard me correctly.
My elbow.
She examined the offending joint. Worked it around. Hemmed and hawed. “You have tennis elbow,” she said decisively, moments later.
“Tennis elbow? How on earth did I get that?!” Since the knee injury, my sports participation has been strictly limited to walking, laps of the pool.
And bike rides.
I’ve never even picked up a tennis racket.
“Well . . . golf elbow, then.”
Golf?! “Umm, that’s a game, right?”
She stared at me. “Well, what activities do you do?” she asked.
I frowned. “Walk. Swim. Bike. Play with my grandkids.”
Her eyes sharpened. “Grandkids?”
I nodded.
She smiled. “Do you lift said grandkids?”
I scratched my head. “Ye-es,” I said slowly.
“A lot?”
“Well, two of them live with me and one I babysit every day.”
She nodded, once more crisply confident. “That’s it, then.”
“What?” I was confused.
“I’m sure that the pain in your elbow can be directly attributed to the constant lifting of small bodies.” (Doctors talk like that . . .)
“I have . . . toddler elbow?”
She smiled. “In a word.”
It’ll never be discussed in ‘Sports Illustrated’.
Never be the topic of concern for professional athletes.
But it’s real.
Toddler elbow.
To be found at many grandparents’ houses near you.
You heard it here first.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Sandwich Dreaming

 I’ve looked around and learned a bit,

Bout SANDWICHES that are a hit,

Like TUNA, its a place to start,

With cheese and spices in its heart,

A COMBINATION’S got no rules,

A sub or blt are cool!

A SIMPLE sandwich, simple, yes!

Just meat or cheese, but make it fresh!

Or STEAK, I’ve tried it once or twice,

With onions, grilled, it’s very nice,

A HAMBURGER is always good,

I’d eat it loaded, yes I would,

PANINI, that is something new,

Ciabatta bread and grill-ed too!

A CLUB, if I am not forsaken,

Chicken, Lettuce Under Bacon,

A PINWHEEL is a pretty thing,

Tortilla wrapped and cut: a king!

With RIBBON you will get no gripes,

Bread, meat, cheese cut into stripes!

PASTRAMI has some special meat,

With cheese, tomato, lettuce. Neat!

BROADWAY. With crispy, we begin,

Toast, smoked salmon, eggs stuffed in,

A PO BOY, half baguette as base.

Then roast beef, shrimp or gator place.

EGG SALAD: Boiled eggs that are diced

And mixed with mustard, spices—nice!

CROQUE MONSIEUR: add ham, gruyere,

Then dip in egg and grill for flair!

REUBEN: Corned beef, sauerkraut,

With Swiss cheese, what life’s all about!

And PBJ for something slick,

Just spread and eat. Delish. And quick!

GRILLED Cheese, best one of them all,

Beloved by both the big and small . . .


With all these choices, what to pick,

When lunch, you need that’s filling. Quick?

And tasty. That’s important, too,

Which would you choose and which eschew?

I know, for me, the answer’s there,

For which one I would say a prayer,

Sooo . . . ‘bout which of all these do I dream?

One made with rusk. Filled with ice cream! 

Photo Credit: Karen of
Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With gentle thoughts,
Perhaps a grin?
So KarenCharlotteMimi, me
Have crafted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week's topic should be nice,
We'll talk of CATS. (Ma Nature's spice!)

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Ice Cream Sandwich Day (August 2) Today!
Cats (August 9)
Tell a Joke (August 16)
Wind (August 23)
Monsters (August 30)
Shoes (September 6) From Mimi
Defy Superstition Day (September 13) Also from Mimi
Remembering 8-Tracks (September 20) Another Mimi

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Fight That Cheers

Our 4-H beef club, once a year,

Explored the cont’nent far and near,

We all looked forward to that trip,

The highlight of our membership.


The year that I was seventeen,

Washington State was to be seen,

A camp like none we’d had before,

With pool, amenities galore!


Each day we’d spend the sunlight hours,

Examine caves and trails and flowers.

At night back in our ‘crib’, we’d rule,

And splash and play in that new pool,


When we arrived, our convoy found,

When we had parked and looked around,

The campsites all were done just so,

With fire pits ready, set to glow.


The grasses clipped, the paths laid out,

Just needing kids to run and shout.

But the pool for us to plunge and caper?

Existed, true, but just on paper.


In sweltering heat, we gathered round,

That hole they’d dug there in the ground,

That someday in the coming time,

D’have boards to jump, ladders to climb.


None of which did us much good,

N’existe pas from where we stood,

And so, chagrined, we turned away,

To find another place to play.


One dad took pitcher—he would fill,

His radiator to the gills,

Another grabbed a nearby hose,

A stream of water from it rose.


And suddenly, a breathless pause,

In heat that draped like sticky gauze,

Those men each took the other in, 

And suddenly, they gave a grin.


I’m sure there’ve been more epic fights,

That really have put out the lights,

For us, there’s none that can compare,

As 4-H’ers defeat despair.


With buckets, pails and kitchen pots,

We flung lots of water. LOTS,

Till few were left e’en somewhat dry,

(To find these few, we sent out spies.)


Some moms had gathered by a tent,

And laughed as children came and went,

Secure that no one in the troop,

Would soak the mothers of the group.


My brother spied them sitting there,

With pleated dresses, curl-ed hair.

Twitt’ring like some little birds,

“No, George, NO!” were their last words.


An hour or so of laughing din,

Saw everyone soaked to the skin,

Then happ’ly cooled and tired from play,

We set up camp to end the day.


I learned that day there in those woods,

Some things don’t work out like they should,

But don’t despair, it’s not the end…

Cause ‘better’s’ just around the bend!

Today's post was a challenge from the inimitable and totally awesome Karen at Baking in a Tornado
Visit her and see what she’s done with the theme!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Holiday Smash


Getting ready for the LONG trip . . .
It was the late 1950’s and Dad was in Toronto.
With 15 friends.
Twelve hairy chaps with four feet each.
And three not-so-hairy fellows who were . . . more like Dad.
Intrigued? Stay with me . . .
During the 50s, the government had programs encouraging people to raise bigger and better cattle. They even sponsored ranchers who were interested in hauling a few of their best cattle to agricultural shows around the country. They reasoned that said ranchers, eager for some first-place ribbons, would selectively breed bigger and better animals.
It worked.
Ranchers arrived at shows with trailer loads of their very best animals, hoping for a trophy or two and some recognition.
And that was what had brought Dad to Toronto. He and young friends Mike, Leroy, and Patrick had driven from Alberta, carting a ‘carload’ (twelve steers) halfway across the country to the agricultural show there.
They learned a few things.
Some of which were unexpected.
Maybe I should explain . . .
The four friends arrived with several days to spare.
After unloading and settling their stock, they found they had time for some sightseeing.
And the great Niagara was where they wanted to do it.
Renting a car, the four of them set out. They toured, first, the Canadian side of the falls, then crossed over the border to the American.
After several hours of ‘tourist-ing’, they decided that the next item on the agenda should probably include some sort of sustenance.
They began to scout around for a likely place.
Only to discover that the restaurants nestled close around the falls were of the ‘posh’ variety.
Now these boys were all from the ranches of Southern Alberta. They were good boys. Polite. Respectful.
They just hadn’t been out and about much.
And never had any of them eaten at such high-class establishments.
They wandered around a bit, looking for a place where four young men--clean, but with calloused hands and traces of real manure on their boots--wouldn’t feel quite so out of place.
Finally, they picked a likely-looking prospect and walked in.
And discovered that the quiet exterior was slightly misleading.
This restaurant was definitely 'five-star'.
Taking a collective deep breath, they hailed the Maitre’D and secured a table. Then further hiding their discomfort, proceeded to order, trying to sound as blasé about their surroundings as the other patrons appeared to be.
They did well.
Until Patrick was asked how he’d like his potatoes prepared.
“Smashed,” he said clearly.
The waiter stared at him. Finally, “Smashed?” he said.
“Smashed,” Patrick repeated.
The waiter nodded and, making a careful note on his pad, collected the menus and disappeared into the kitchen.
Leroy punched Patrick in the arm. “Smashed?” he said.
Patrick started to giggle.
Leroy joined him.
Then Mike.
All of their pent-up nervousness and discomfort burst out of the three of them in a joyous bubble of sound.
That they vainly tried to suppress.
This went on for some time. One of them would nearly gain control. Then look at the others and start again.
Ever try not to laugh? Seriously. In church or school or somewhere people aren’t supposed to laugh?
Yeah. It’s impossible.
Certainly, it was for them.
Before long, the four friends were the cynosure (real word) of all eyes. And that just made them more nervous.
And less able to control their laughter.
They managed to make it through their painful meal.
Paid and finally escaped.
Oddly enough, none of them can remember what they ate. Apart from the smashed potatoes, of course.
But each of them learned a few things.
1. When in ‘Rome’, act as the Romans do.
2. When in ‘Rome’, speak as the Romans do.
3. Avoid potatoes in public.
And, most importantly . . .
4.  Don’t laugh.
Make a note in your guidebook.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Worrying About Worry

I remembered something while talking to my baby brother.
A quote from Daddy:
It ain't no use to grumble and complain.
It's every bit as easy to rejoice.
When God sorts out the weather and sends rain . . .
Rain's my choice.

It reminded me, that, not only can't we control the weather, sometimes it does precious little good to stew over much of what happens in life.
So, whatever life chooses to dish out, that's what I'm going to go with.
Thanks, Daddy!
Daddy. See him there in the back? Raining...

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Taking Bunnies to Church

As a rancher, during the work week, Dad was usually seen in work shirts and pants.
Heavy boots.
Leather gloves.
But on Sundays, all of that changed.
He would appear, dignified and tidy, in 'church' attire.
White shirt.
Polished boots.
And a tie.
Usually, Dad chose his own ties.
He had good taste.
Well . . . conservative taste.
No garish patterns.
No fluorescent colours.
Yep. Conservative.
But one of his ties stands out in my memory.
One that . . . wasn't conservative.
It was a quiet, dark tie.
With tiny, white polka-dots.
His favourite.
He wore it for three years.
And that is hilarious.
Maybe I should explain . . .
One day, just after church, I was giving my dad a hug.
Something I did often.
But now I was getting tall enough that his tie and my eyes were pretty much on the same level.
I buried my face in his clean, white shirt.
Then I opened my eyes.
And saw . . . dots.
No . . . wait . . . they weren't dots.
They were . . . something else.
I grabbed his tie and examined it closely.
“Daddy, do you know what's on this tie?”
“Polka-dots,” came the ready answer.
I lifted the end of the tie up to his face and held it there.
He looked. Then took the end of the tie from me and looked again a bit more carefully. “Oh,” he said.
That tie he had been wearing for the past three years, teaching and/or officiating in church before lots and lots of people.
That tie.
Well, the tiny, regular pattern?
Wasn't polka-dots.
It was playboy bunny heads.
Tiny little white playboy bunny heads.
My dad had been a leader in our local church congregation for three years . . .
Wearing a tie with playboy bunny heads on it.
See? Hilarious.
I think he thought it was funny, too.
But the tie never again made an appearance at church. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Where it ended up, only big brother, George, knows.

When he passed away, Daddy still had quite a collection of ties.
But not one of them had polka dots.
Real or imagined.

Monday, July 26, 2021

For Our Parents!

 I know you’ve read this one before,
‘Bout my dad, whom I adored,
And as today is Parents Day,
I thought I’d share it once again!

Daddy’s Footsteps
December. My four-year-old mind was a haze,
I’d been locked in the house as it snowed for three days.
Then quite suddenly, magically, sunlight appeared,
And my Daddy was pulling on snow boots. And gear.

I just couldn’t stand the house one minute more.
I had to get out. I’d help Dad with the chores!
So I zippered and buttoned and pulled on and tied,
Then stood by my Daddy with little-girl pride.

“I’m ready,” I shouted. “Let’s go milk the cows!”
I was set for adventure, quite done with the house.
He smiled and then, turning, stepped into the snow.
And I walked alongside. It seemed quite apropos.

At first the bright sparkles and crisp winter air
Made our walking, adventure, and senses aware.
But then I discovered as most children do,
That snow, though quite pretty, was hard to get through.

I struggled and grunted, broke into a sweat,
Then looked for the barn that we hadn’t reached yet.
My Daddy smiled down at my efforts inept,
“It’d be easier if you tried to step where I step.”

So I did. And my progress was much better then,
Soon we two reached the barn, and the cozy cow pens.
I sat perched on a stool and watched Daddy do chores,
Then followed him home, just like I’d done before.

I learned something that day, as we walked through the yard,
If I stayed in his footsteps, then things weren’t as hard.
His skill and experience, and his guidance, too,
Would make everything easier my whole life through.

Now, to my own kids, when there’s woe to be had
I give bits of advice that I learned from my Dad.
When Life dishes out dollops of good or of ill,
I find that I’m walking in Dad’s footsteps still.


Photo Credit: Karen of
Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With gentle thoughts,
Perhaps a grin?
So KarenCharlotteMimi, me
Have crafted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, We hope you’d like to try...
An ICE CREAM SANDWICH, please drop by!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Parents Day (July 26) Today!
Ice Cream Sandwich Day (August 2)
Cats (August 9)
Tell a Joke (August 16)
Wind (August 23)
Monsters (August 30)
Shoes (September 6) From Mimi
Defy Superstition Day (September 13) Also from Mimi
Remembering 8-Tracks (September 20) Another Mimi

Friday, July 23, 2021

Kitty Kleaning

Two things you have to know before I start.
Blacken was a black cat. A thirty-pound black cat.
And Blacken could take care of himself . . .
It was a fairly normal day in the Hippard household.
People doing . . . household things. Cooking, tending children, office work, cleaning.
It was this last that was ultimately responsible for the ‘incident’.
Logan was in the office, attending to the afore-mentioned work when he detected a change in the regular household sounds.
A different voice.
A man’s.
Stepping to the door, he clearly heard, “And as you can see, the Sux Vacuum can easily clean up this mess. Far better than any other conventional cleaning product. Because it really sucks!”
Or some such statement-guaranteed-to-make-a-sale.
Shaking his head, Logan returned to his work.
But no sooner had he crossed the room, when he heard, “And now I’d like to show you the ‘pet attachment’.”
Logan knew the only animal that could possibly be within reach was Blacken (see above).
This, he had to see . . .
Hurrying down the short hallway, Logan was just in time to see the salesman – not without difficulty – pick the large cat up from its comfortable ‘I’m-relaxing-don’t-bother-me-if-you-know-what’s-good-for-you’ position on the living room rug.
Gripping the animal firmly, he picked up the vacuum hose with handy-dandy pet attachment . . . erm . . . attached.
“Okay, turn it on!” he said to someone else in the room.
The sound of the motor was immediate.
As was what happened next.
Just a hair (pardon the pun) behind the sound of the motor, and in an effort to get somewhere – anywhere – else, the cat instantly came to life.
With every sharpened digit fully extended, it climbed the man’s face.
And leaped from the top of his head to the nearest vacuum-less place.
Everyone in the room, with the possible exception of the two protagonists, saw the fall-on-the-floor-laughing potential of the incident.
Which they did.
For some minutes.
I should probably mention, here, that both claw-er and claw-ee survived the encounter – though the cat with much less wear and tear.
And, possibly in an act of contrition, the family purchased the vacuum.
But without the pet attachment.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Lights Out

Husby has always paid the bills in our home.
As a single income family and he the one earning the money, it seemed apropos.
He has also tried to convince his rather large family that we need to at least make a show of being economical.
It’s an uphill battle.
Lights are a biggie.
Because power is a biggie.
It isn’t unusual for one to hear – several times per day – the phrase, “You forgot to shut off the light!”
You’d think we’d learn.
Sometimes, though, the shoe is on the other foot.
With mixed results . . .
Husby and I were getting ready for bed.
Actually, he had already readied and was cozily cocooned and, I thought, drowsy.
I was a few minutes behind him.
I approached the closet wherein the change to pajamas would occur.
And noticed that he – the-mighty-earner-of-the-money-and-payer-of-the-bills – had left the light on.
My day (night) had come.
“You left the light on!” I said gleefully as I entered the closet.
I should probably mention here that some joker, when designing the closet, put the light switch on the outside.
No sooner had I closed the door, when the light went off.
Yeah. He thought it was pretty funny, too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Good Remembering

I have a selective memory.
Sometimes, there’s a reason . . .
I was going on a date. A nice young man had asked and we were heading out to see a movie.
It was one I’d seen before. Death Wish. A Charles Bronson getting-it-done, bad-guys-beware sort of movie. 
I had recommended it to my date. I had seen it already and remembered it as a most satisfying experience where the bag guys get got and crime in New York hits an all-time low.
All because of one man who, for some reason, decides to take the law into his own hands.
We pulled up to the drive-in entrance, paid our fee and found a place to park.
“You’ll love this movie!” I told my date as I stuffed popcorn into my mouth. “Charles gets it done!”
The lights came up on the screen. The opening credits. Opening scene.
Two women getting attacked in their own apartment.
I slid to the floor and stuffed my fingers into my ears.
My date, wide-eyed as he watched the screen, finally turned to me. “I thought you said it was a good movie!”
“Oh it is! Is the bad stuff over?”
“Ummm . . .”
I slid back into my seat. “Oh, I love this part! Where Charlie takes out his attackers with a roll of quarters!”
And, just like that, I realized something.
I had never seen the ‘bad part’.
I had covered my eyes and plugged my ears until that scene was over.
Fast forward forty years.
I still do the same. Ignore the ‘bad parts’. Well, first of all, I avoid violent movies altogether, but when I’m sitting through a movie and it unexpectedly dumps a nasty scene on me, I cover my eyes – usually with Husby’s hand. 
Let's face it, through my lens, Platoon was just a walk through the jungle with some soldiers.
I don't like it when good people get hurt. It happens enough in real life. I don't like it in my entertainment . . .
I’ve seen a lot of good movies.
Just don’t ask me to ‘scene-by-scene’ them for you.
I might leave something important out . . . 

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