Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Of Trolls and Gruffs


For three wonderful years, we lived in a perfect house.

Oh, don't get me wrong, all of our homes have been (in my eyes) perfect.
And very comfortable.
But this particular house was all of those things.
And a little bit more.
Because it had a stairway that was perfect for playing 'Troll Under the Bridge'.
It's a real game.
You can look it up. It will be found somewhere under 'Tolley: Favourite Games'.
True story.
Okay, my Husby invented it.
But it was still fun.
The stairway in our house consisted of a short, wide upper set of six thickly-carpeted steps.
Ending at a wide, also-carpeted landing.
Then a 180 degree turn before descending the last six steps to the basement.
A beautiful hunting/trapping/escaping set up.
Which was very well used.
My Husby would pretend he was a troll and lay on the stairs.
His head just poking above the top stair.
All of his little Billy Goats Gruff could try to run past him along the upper hallway.
Screaming and giggling wildly.
One by one, he would nab them and demand to know who they were.
One by one they would answer, “I'm a Billy Goat Gruff!”
Whereupon (good word) he would shout, “No Billy Goats on my bridge!” and set them behind him on the landing/prison.
Then, as he hunted for more victims, the entrapped would escape back up the stairs, still screaming and giggling.
And join once more with their fellow little goats in teasing and tantalizing the troll.
This went on for some time.
Usually, until Dad got played out.
Then, one day, we moved from that house.
Subsequent houses had similar, but not quite as perfect designs for playing Troll Under the Bridge.
The family made do.
Move forward 20 years . . .
Our present house is entirely unsuitable for the game, being a bungalow with one long, very dangerous, grandma-nightmare-inducing stairway.
We had put a gate at the top, which was rigidly patrolled whenever grandchildren come over to play.
A great disappointment to grandchildren who had been raised on stories of Troll Under the Bridge, as fondly told by their parents.
But in our front room, there was a large hassock. (Ottoman, pouffe, footstool.)
Padded top.
Which stood in front of our couch.
With a two-foot space between.
Hmmmm . . .
A few pool noodles strapped together with a bit of duct tape.
A bridge.
Propped between the couch and the hassock, the scene for the new and improved Troll Under the Bridge.
Which the next generation of Tolleys took to with great enthusiasm.
With just as much noise and exuberance as their parents.
There were a couple of subtle differences, though.
  1. The grandkids proved a bit craftier than their parents had been.
One nearly-four-year-old grandson, when seized and questioned by the troll, answered readily, “I'm a troll.”
Grampa/Troll blinked.
This was a first.
But, since trolls are allowed on the bridge, the boy was given a free pass.
  1. The troll got played out rather quickly.
He was, after all, an older troll, with mostly grey hair and a few creaking joints.
Usually, he was finished long before the shrieking hoards were even close to admitting defeat.
And after they left, he collapsed on the couch and took a nap.
Ah, the price of joy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Little ‘Sear’ Pressure

Note the pressure 'bob'. It's there for a reason . . .
During their early years on the ranch, my parents sponsored several German immigrants.
They all proved to be wonderful, industrious, conscientious people.
Eager to work and to become 'Canadians'.
One of the girls, Erica, was helping Mom in the house when my next older brother was born.
She proved to be invaluable with the household chores and cooking, but struggled at learning English.
Mom knew a little German, however, so they managed to muddle through.
On a few occasions, though, the language barrier proved to be just that.
A barrier.
Erica was fascinated with the pressure cooker.
That miraculous appliance that could cook food in a fraction of the time.
The microwave of the 50s.
Apparently, though they were widely used in Canada, they hadn't caught on in Erica's part of Germany.
Mom had tried to school Erica on the proper use of this amazing new contraption.
She had managed to get through steps one through four.
  1. Food and a small amount of water is placed inside
  2. Seal adjusted
  3. Lid screwed on and, most importantly,
  4. Pressure bob applied.
  5. I should point out, here, that those are the easy steps.
Then comes the actual cooking part.
And this was where Erica always came to grief.
She couldn't seem to grasp that, if the rings are up on the pressure bob, the kettle is full of . . . pressure.
Up to this point, Mom had always been there to divert disaster.
But on this particular day, Mom was still in town running errands.
Erica decided to cook dinner on her own.
What a glorious opportunity to try out the fabulous new invention!
All went well.
The pressure cooker . . . pressure cooked.
Other pots alternately steamed and bubbled.
Dinner was nearly ready.
Erica pulled the large pressure cooker off the stove and gave it a quick dunk under a cold stream of water.
Then she wrenched off the lid.
The lid and released steam hit her. Full. In. The. Face.
And beets flew everywhere.
Erica screamed and blindly ran outside.
Dad heard her screaming and come running. There he found the poor girl, confused and in obvious pain.
Her nose was bleeding profusely and she had obviously been scalded.
He got her into the bathroom, where he started her soaking her face in cold water.
When Mom came home a short time later, she bundled Erica into the girl's bedroom and applied teabags to the exposed areas. They proved to be quite soothing and she was able to rest.
Then Mom was able to start on the kitchen which was giving a good impression of a slaughter house.
Beets were everywhere.
Mom even found one on top of the knick-knack shelf in the far corner.
Remarkably, miraculously, Erica healed without a mark.
But Mom was taking no further chances.
Though the pressure cooker remained in plain sight, the pressure bob, the little gizmo that made everything dangerous, was hidden in a very secret place.
Never store the gun and the bullets in the same cupboard.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Boy Day

And they look so innocent . . .
1. It had been a tough day.
2. We had three boys.
Those are my excuses . . .
The day had started out slowly.
Mark had sleep-walked and nearly mistook the closet for the bathroom.
Caught just in time.
Because I am superwoman.
Shortly thereafter (Oooh. Good word) Mark and Erik had staged an argument/battle over the TV remote.
I should explain, here, that the word 'remote' was largely optimistic at this point.
There was a device.
Attached to our VCR by a long cable.
Thus, 'remote'.
Moving on . . .
Our two oldest boys were fighting over it.
Mom won.
By banishing them to opposite sides of the family room.
Neither of which was close enough to the TV to allow access to said remote.
They were watching 'Black Hole'.
It was the only approximately 'family' movie that our newly fledged VCR rental outlet had.
Both of them could quote it by this time.
They began to discuss whether they should do what Mark wanted--watch it again--or flip over to the TV for the daily episode of Sesame Street. Erik's idea.
More arguing.
Won by Mom again, when she suggested, rather forcefully that the time had come for them to go outside and bother their father.
Whereupon (another good word) they found themselves in the great outdoors.
For a while, they sat and pouted.
Then their little brother, Duffy, who had the sense to follow their father when he first left the house, discovered The Mud Puddle.
A short time later, there was a timid tap at the front door.
I opened it.
To find a figure standing there.
Vaguely human in shape.
Roughly the size of my third son.
Several scrubbings later, I realized that it was, indeed, Duffy.
Whose brothers had doused him, quite literally, in his own discovery.
The culprits were discovered, sometime later, hiding in the basement of the house their dad was building.
Still giggling.
I dragged them into the house.
To apologize.
And to eat lunch.
Was it really only noon?
They immediately began to argue over who got the yellow cup.
And where each of them would sit.
I settled it again.
No one got the yellow cup and neither of them got to sit remotely close to where they wanted. In fact, they were lucky to be sitting at all!
As they finally started scooping up Mac and Cheese, I told them, “I think I'm going to take the three of you into the 'used kids' store and trade you in on girls!”
My second son looked at me, round-eyed. “Can you do that?”
I laughed. “No,” I reassured him.
“Oh.” He went back to scooping.
But sometimes . . .

Monday, November 30, 2020



My Papa liked to give us gifts,

He liked to make our spirits lift,

And with those gifts, he tried real hard

To pair with them a fitting card!

I’m not quite sure how it began

I don’t think that he had a plan,

Perhaps he just mistook the year,

And as no store was very near,

The card he’d bought would have to do,

He’d merely change the ‘One’ to ‘Two’!

A stroke of pen and he was done,

A birthday card for little one,

And those around, they snickered loud.

That made him really (really) proud

Of his new wise resourcefulness,

That offered him unique egress.

But after that, whenever he

Was giv’n the opportunity,

To buy a card for something fun,

Like ‘Birthday’, ‘Christmas’, ‘Miss you, Son’,

Deliberately incorrect,

With felt pen, he would interject,

And scrawl across, in letters, fine,

The correct info, line-by-line,

The rest of us when we would see,

Would praise his ingenuity.


The special days can come and go,

But what'd really make hearts glow,

Those precious cards, (by Dad) so new,

I just wish I had saved a few…


Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,

With POETRY, we all besought,

To try to make the week begin

With pleasant thoughts…

Perhaps a grin?

So Jenny, Charlotte, Mimi, 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 from Spikes's Best Mate, we'll try

To knock a topic in the eye.

So join us here and you will see,

Festive Traditions, it will be!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

12 (Part Two of Two)

 Part Two

If you missed the first part (And many did because of technical difficulties!) you can find it here!

Things went according to plan.

Okay, I know this isn’t common in a fairy tale, but go with me on this…

In next to no time, Gerrold was trailing after a little train of princesses as they made their silent way through a little-used side door and out into the gardens.

And from there through an equally little-used side gate and out into the neighbouring forest.

Intent on their destination, none of them noticed they were being followed by a soft-footed shadow.

Good thing, too, although I’m not quite sure what would have happened if Gerrold were discovered.

I mean, these girls weren’t—you know—monsters.

Silently, the group and the shadow crept through the woods, arriving finally at a strange, dark, little stone house.

A house that, as they approached, suddenly lit up until it was almost too bright to look at.

The front door opened and a very odd creature stepped out onto the stoop.

Because it must have been a stepping stoop.


The creature had very wrinkled green skin and large, bat-wing ears. But the strangest thing about it were its eyes.

They…glowed. Green.

Not something you see every day.

It was dressed very formally and, as the girls advanced, swept a beautifully-brushed top hat off a rather lumpy head and bowed deeply.

The girls smiled at it warmly, then stepped past it and entered the house.

Immediately, lights sprang on throughout the house and music began to play.

The creature followed after the last princess, Sofia, and closed the door.

Gerrold sprang from the shadows and approached the house, still walking carefully. In a moment, he had his face pressed against the tall window just to the right of the doorway.

I really don’t know what he was expecting, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what he saw.

The 12 princesses were dancing with 12 creatures exactly like the one who had just welcomed them in.

Well, almost exactly. Truth is, I can’t tell one demon from another.

They all look the same to me.

True story.

And yes, they were demons.

Those same demons, in fact, who had accepted a deal with the new Queen to overrun and generally annoy the stuffing out of the King, princesses, and anyone else who happened in their path.

Yep. Those demons.

And that’s exactly what they would be doing.

If they weren’t dancing their hairy, rather disgusting little feet off with the aforementioned 12 princesses.

Are we beginning to catch on?

Our clever little princesses, knowing of the wicked Queen’s plan, had found a solution that worked.

And at very little cost to anyone.

If you don’t count the fact that none of them were fit for active duty before about 10:00 each morning. And all needed to be re-shod with equal regularity.

Quietly, Gerrold tucked away this little tidbit of information and crept back into the cover of the trees. Later, as dawn approached, he again fell in behind the girls as they once more picked their way through the woods.

This time, they walked a little slower because: 1. Tired and 2. Worn-out shoes on rough woodsy trails. More than a few rather strident comments featuring all demons in general and the Queen in particular floated back from the exhausted girls.

Soon they were tucked up in their safe, warm beds and Gerrold was reporting to their father.

Now the King was a fairly clever chap and wasted no time in taking all his strongest guards and going straight to the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

Said horse being the queen.

Of course.

At first she denied outright.

Then prevaricated.

And finally confessed.

Now the King was a gentle, considerate ruler.

But when someone threatened his kingdom, he could get . . . testy.

He ordered Queen Demona imprisoned.

Then, when his girls had awakened, the fourteen of them (because now Gerrold was included) had a ‘discussion’.

About keeping secrets from their father—regardless of the reason.

The king dismissed the girls—and Gerrold—and went off by himself to ponder just what an appropriate punishment should be for a Queen who lied and cheated and tried to steal.

But as it turned out, he needed have wasted grey matter on the subject.

Because once the Queen’s dastardly (Oooh! Good word!) plan was uncovered, the strength and power poured into it to make it work snapped back—as often happens in these instances—upon the caster.

In this case, Queen Demona.

Now spells are tricky things. And even have been known to have a sense of humour.

Sometimes a bit twisted, but they are—you know—spells.

This time, the spell forced the Queen to start dancing.

And dancing.

And dancing . . .

She is dancing still.

The kind King keeps having Gerrold (now Prince Gerrold, because that’s what happens when you marry a princess…) toss new shoes at her.

And her meals are all, of necessity, fast food.

And, let’s face it, she’s very, very, very fit.

But still, sadly, she’s cursed.

We can learn a couple of things from this story . . .

First: Don’t curse people. It never works like you think it will.

And Second: There are some people who think dancing is the greatest form of totally enjoyable exercise.

And some who think it’s torture.

They’re right.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

12 (Part One of 2)


There have been many versions of this story.

This is the true one.

Would I lie to you?

The kingdom of Nie was known for three things: its prosperity, its shoes and its 12 beautiful princesses.

Yes. You heard right.


Where did they get 12 princesses?

Seriously? Ummm . . . this isn’t that kind of a story.

Moving on . . .

Now the girls’ mother had passed away a number of years before, when the youngest was a mere baby. So their father (the king), with the help of several loyal servants, had raised those girls with all the love in his heart—which was a lot—and they had grown into sweet, true girls who loved him very much in return.

All was well.

Until the king remarried.

And the shoes started wearing out.

I may be getting ahead of myself.

Sooo, yeah, the king remarried. He had been alone (apart from the aforementioned hundreds of servants in the castle) for a very, very long time and his daughters were overjoyed that he would finally have a companion and friend.

Sadly, as happens occasionally, the unspeakably beautiful woman, Demona, had never heard of the word ‘companion’ and thought ‘friend’ was just ‘fiend’ spelled wrong.

Her only goal in saying “I do!” was securing the fat kingdom of Nie for herself.

Almost immediately after the nuptials were completed, her dastardly plan went into effect.

The idea was fairly simple. Drastically distance herself from the man she had just sworn to love and cherish, and bespell all of her demon ‘fiends’ (See? That word.) to attack the kingdom and do away with said man and anyone remotely related to him.

I sure there was much gleeful hand rubbing and chortling going on in the queen’s quarters on that first night as she anticipated the outcome of a night of demon terror. Which she, incidentally, did not have to witness. Because...bespelled demons.

Pretty slick plan, right?

The only drawback was the fact that, with all her careful preparation, she forgot that she was living with a houseful of spirited, curious (and sneaky) young women.

At least one of whom overheard Demona’s demonic plans.

And immediately told her sisters.

Who then plotted to…erm…out-demon the demons.

When the queen arose the next morning, instead of sobbing, or better yet—silence—she was met by the usual, cheerful sounds of ‘a-palace-having-a-very-normal-day-thank-you-very-much’.

Speechless with surprise and, increasingly, with fury, the queen ran through the castle, taking note of the people who hadn’t disappeared.

Most noticeably the king and his wretched daughters.

What in the name of all that’s evil had gone wrong?

When she came upon the aforementioned KAHWD (see above), not only were they cheerful and smiling, they were happily discussing shoes.


Most notably the fact that 12 pairs of new and pristine had inexplicably and overnight, turned into 12 pairs of old and distinctly worn out.

The emergency cobbler was being called in.

As Gerrold, the young man with the hammer, arrived, the queen decided she had somewhere else to be and brushed rudely past him in the doorway.

Some people… Am I right?

Pleasantries were exchanged, feet were measured, new shoes ordered and the Gerrold gathered up his paraphernalia and left.

But not before he and the youngest daughter, Sofia noticed each other.

Later that day, the new shoes were delivered. Just in time for the girls to try them on just as they were getting ready for bed.

That Gerrold. He’s good.

Darkness settled over the kingdom and again, Queen Demona lay awake, her eyes gleaming strangely as she anticipated her elevated status the following morning.

I probably don’t have to tell you that the next day was practically a carbon-copy of the last. With a progressively angrier queen hurrying through the castle, intent on finding people dead who had the temerity to be very much alive.

And again discussing shoes.

This time, she didn’t wait for the cobbler to arrive (missing the significant looks he and Sofia were now giving each other), but flung herself out the front door of the castle and onto the first horse that could be saddled and brought up from the stable.

Then she and her mount disappeared down the dusty road into the woods.

Later that day and in a far better mood, she returned and climbed up to her rooms where the hand-rubbing and glee re-commenced.

Again, Gerrold brought new shoes to replace the less-new shoes just as the girls were preparing for bed.

Again, the kingdom settled in.

But the next morning, Queen Demona was once more speechless with surprise and rage when the day dawned clear and bright . . . and sorrow-less.

She was for sure going to have to, at the very least, get new demons.

This time, when Queen Demona stopped in the doorway, something in the conversation the 12 princesses were having with their father made her pause.

Again the discussion revolved around worn-out shoes. Again, Gerrold was summoned. But this time, Queen Demona noticed that, during the ensuing conversation, most of the princesses (except Sofia, who really only had eyes for the cobbler), kept looking at her when they thought she didn’t notice.

Something was definitely up.

She picked up one of the worn-out shoes and examined it. Huh. Either the materials and/or workmanship were shoddy, or someone had been dancing in this shoe for hours.

Hmmm . . .

Dropping the shoe, she turned and left.

Followed shortly thereafter by all 12 of the princesses.

Sofia was the last to leave, casting one last tender look at the cobbler as she disappeared through the doorway.

The king…noticed.

Now say what you will about the low-li-ness of a cobbler compared with the high-li-ness of…say…a king and you’ll have to agree they’re pretty much on either end of the ‘li-ness’ scale.

But this king liked the cobbler. Liked that he was a hard worker. And liked how he treated his girls and Sofia in particular.

He called Garrold over and the two men had a discussion that revolved through the subjects of daughters and shoes and focused in on just-what-the-heck-is-going-on-and-why-are-the-shoes-wearing-out-so-fast?

You’ll agree, rather hefty topics.

It was decided that Gerrold would hang about the castle once he delivered today’s shoes, and follow the princesses and maybe get to the sole of things.

That’s just a little pun.


Something he was only too eager to do.

Stay Tuned tomorrow for the conclusion!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Books for Wine

Life on a ranch in the 1950s was a world unto itself.
A place where a family could grow together, leaning on each other.
Quiet. Peaceful.
A place where the world seldom intruded.
Except for that . . . erm . . . exception . . .
Three brothers were growing up on their family farm.
Just down the road from a Hutterite colony.
Both settlements were rather remote.
But it’s hard to say which was the most un-worldly.
The three teen boys had comic books.
Something the Hutterite boys wanted.
The Hutterite boys had access to homemade wine.
Something the brothers wanted.
The two groups made a bargain. Comic books for wine.
The only obstacle to the conclusion of their mutual agreement was the actual . . . conclusion.
Because neither family approved.
Go figure . . .
They finally worked it out.
The brothers would leave their offering of comic books at a pre-appointed spot in a nearby field.
The Hutterite boys would retrieve said books and leave, in their place, a bottle of the colony’s finest.
This went on for some time.
To the mutual satisfaction of all parties.
Reading and drinking were continuing apace.
Then, that eye-opening event.
When the boy’s dad brought home a bottle of wine.
From the same colony--but carried in through the front door and in full sight of all who lived there.
Huh. Weird.
The boys were given a glass.
And discovered that the colony’s best they had been receiving really wasn’t.
Hmmm . . . who do you complain to when your ultra-clandestine deal goes awry?

Monday, November 23, 2020


We’ve spent our lives in theatre, t’was what we loved to do,

But stage life didn’t always work the way we wished it to.

So here is just a taste of the things ‘to be or not to be’,

That tell that you belong within the ‘Theatre Community’!

If your trusty sofa’s on the stage much more than you, yourself,

You have a ‘Frequent Shopper’ card for all the Goodwill shelves,

Or can’t find your own vacuum, but within the Prop Room there

Can easily find a prop that’s not been used for twenty years!

You've ‘cleaned up’ a tuxedo using black felt pen.

It’s hot glue holds your costume on until production ends,

You’ve seriously considered NOT enacting the murder scene,

Cause a gun would wake the audience and might make them really mean,

Tech Week finds you devoting all your troupe’s impressive powers

In getting your play’s running time to under four long hours,

Your kids have begged you not to buy them Happy Meals once more,

They’re better with your lines (and with your cast, better rapport),

Your son just played your father with his makeup thick and veined,

You race back to rehearsal ‘cause you forgot your kids—again,

You’re the only guy auditioned, so you nat’rally got the part,

The cast outstrips the audience when the play is due to start,

Your gun is held together with electric tape, quite black,

You've leaned out through a window ‘fore you thought to fold it back,

The audience recognizes you in makeup and moustache,

Cause just before the show they saw you taking out the trash!

The set designer cautions not to enter from stage left,

(Though you're onstage in five) cause all of that half is still wet,

In dinner gown and heels, you’ve moved a sofa ‘cross the stage,

Or done the same (and you’re a guy!) and feeling mighty strange…

All this and more is just a taste of what it means to be

A member of the troupe of the ‘Theatre Community’!


Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,

With poetry, we all besought,

To try to make the week begin

With pleasant thoughts,

Perhaps a grin?

So Jenny, Charlotte, Mimi, 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, it won’t be very hard,

We’ll talk about the festive CARD!



Friday, November 20, 2020


That wonderful time when two people are starting out.
And learning so much.
For good or bad . . .
June was a happy bride.
Determined to do everything right.
Unfortunately, her mother had also insisted on doing everything right.
Particularly in the cooking department.
By herself.
So June remained untaught.
Willing and eager. But untaught.
Then: Marriage.
And the aforementioned DER (Doing Everything Right).
June asked her new husband what he would like for breakfast.
Pleased, he told her just something simple. A couple of boiled eggs.
“O-kay,” June said doubtfully, wondering frantically how to make a boiled egg.
Determined, she went into the kitchen. Put the eggs in a pot.
Added water.
Good so far.
Now. How long to boil them?
Most cakes take 30 to 45 minutes.
She’d go for the longer time, just to be sure.
And she did.
45 minutes later, she proudly presented her new Husby with her version of The Boiled Egg.
Now, at this point, these eggs would be suitable for such things as:
Perhaps lobbing into enemy territory.
What did Husby do?
He ate them.
With a smile on his face.
That wonderful time when two people are starting out.
And learning so much.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Getting What You Need


Friends are important.
They provide words of encouragement when you most need it.
Suffer along with you during dark times.
Laugh when events call for it.
Sometimes all at once.
Umm . . . maybe I should explain . . .
That exciting time when cowpokes and horses are pushing herds of cows from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.
If this was a math equation it would be something like: If eight cowpokes on eight horses were pushing 400 head of cows from pasture A to pasture B, how many opportunities would there be for accidents/hi-jinks?
Answer: Yes.
Roy and his crew were pushing cows along their usual route.
A route which included at least 1 (one) muddy-watered, swiftly-moving river.
All sorts of things can happen in a river.
It’s wet. And muddy.
And did I mention swiftly-moving?
Fortunately, most of the cattle had crossed safely.
Then there was that 1 (one).
Who foundered. (ie. Stopped going across and started going down.)
One of the hands roped her and, together with said rope and strong language, towed her to safety on the far side.
This is where Roy stepped in.
Because he . . . stepped in. And loosened the lasso off of the animal.
I should probably mention here that cows aren’t noted for their brains.
But are noted for their sharp and pointy horns.
Did she get to her feet and kiss and profusely thank her rescuers?
Ummm . . . no.
Instead, she lowered her head, sighted on the nearest two-footed person (ie. Roy) and proceeded toward him.
At a run.
In an instant, Roy was high-stepping just ahead of those horns.
Now, remember where I mentioned friends at the beginning of this story?
And how they are always there for you?
That applies here.
Because as Roy was hot-footing it around trees and across muddy river banks and shouting for help in several languages, his friends were right there for him.
Friends. Those people who are yours just when you need it the most.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Running With Rum

The Smuggler and her get-away vehicle.
Before she . . . got away.
Mom was a teetotaler.
I thought I should mention that. It explains so much . . .
Dad had surprised Mom with the trip of a lifetime.
Okay, in the 60’s it was the trip of a lifetime.
Driving down along the scenic 101 through Washington, Oregon, California and into Mexico.
They were going to be gone for weeks.
She was just a bit excited.
They set out.
Visiting every landmark, great and small.
Every roadside exhibit.
Every tree, post and rock along the entire route.
Dad loved to see . . . things.
When they had finally finished with Sea World in San Diego, time was growing short.
They had one day to make a hop into Mexico.
Tijuana was all they would have time for.
They set out.
Crossed the border into Mexico.
And had a day of shopping the family-run stalls and businesses on the streets of Old Mexico.
Mom was in her element.
The sheer amount of purchasable ‘stuff’ was mind numbing.
She set to work with a will.
Picking up such treasures as: Velvet paintings.
Items of leather work.
And some lovely bottles, encased in clever, hand-woven reed containers.
Happily, she piled her purchases into the back seat of the car and the two of them set off on the long road back to Canada.
Crossing the border from Mexico to the US was a simple matter of declaring that, yes, they had done some shopping and spent ‘X’ amount of dollars/pesos, and no, they weren’t transporting any firearms, tobacco or alcohol.
They continued on.
Back through California, Oregon and Washington.
Seeing whatever sites Dad had missed on their first pass.
There weren’t many.
Finally, they reached the border, again declaring how much they had spent and that they weren’t carrying any firearms, tobacco or alcohol.
The last few miles to the ranch were covered quickly.
Mom had children to see.
And gifts to bestow.
Their homecoming was noisy and enthusiastic.
Mom handed out her purchases.
Brought all the way from Mexico.
Across two borders.
She had purchased one thing for herself.
The three little bottles in their fancy, hand-woven cases.
She arranged them proudly on the mantle above the fireplace.
One larger.
Two smaller.
For many months, they sat there.
In their place of honor.
Then one of my brothers happened to pick one up as he was dusting.
It was full of liquid.
“Mom! What’s in this bottle?”
“What kind of liquid?”
“Well . . . just water, I suppose.”
“Huh.” He twisted off the cap.
Let’s just say that, if it was water, the water in Mexico is vastly different than anything that flows in Canada.
“Mom. I hate to tell you this, but this isn’t water!”
Mom appeared. “It isn’t?”
“Umm . . . no.”
“Well what is it then?”
“I think you have three bottles of tequila here.”
Okay, remember the part where I mentioned ‘teetotaler’?
That would apply here.
 “What’s tequila?”
 “It’s a very strong alcoholic drink. From Mexico. With a worm in the bottom.”
The ‘liquid’ was duly poured out, worm and all, and good old 100 proof ranch sulphur water poured back in.
Mom went back to the kitchen and my brother went back to his dusting.
All was well.
But I can’t help but think about my teetotaling Mom bringing her three bottles of tequila across, not one, but two borders.
It’s always the ones you don’t suspect . . .

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