Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Generations of Lava

“Gaahh! Mom! You’re standing in the lava!”
Mom and Dad had taken us kids to see the movie ‘Krakatoa, East of Java’.
(Okay, yes, I know that the title is geographically incorrect, but that was what it was called.)
It had scared me to death. All my young, six-year-old mind could think of after that was trying to get away from the slowly-flowing river of death.
And my favourite game became the daring death walk over precariously-placed pillows across the lava lake that was the front room.
I was at it again.
And Mom wasn’t cooperating.
“Oops! Sorry!” Mom jumped lightly onto the closest pillow.
Whew! That was close! I didn’t have a lot of Moms to spare. I’d sure hate to lose this one.
For hours, my brother and I made up scenarios that necessitated leaping back and forth across the pillows and landing, temporarily safe, on the couch or coffee table.
It was fun.
And, nimble kids that we were, we never got burned even once.
Fast forward a few years . . .
My kids were downstairs playing.
I went to check on them.
They had pillows placed at strategic intervals across the family room floor.
“Careful, Mom! Don’t step in the lava!”
Now, where did they get that idea?
The déjà vu was frightening.
And, moving forward again - a lot of years . . .
Recently, my daughter and I were visiting in the front room, seated comfortably in recliners.
Her daughter and another granddaughter were playing.
They had been through the toy box.
And had graduated to hiding under piles of cushions on the couch.
A few minutes went by.
“Careful!” the three-year-old said.
I turned to see what they were doing.
They had set the cushions out across the floor in a line and were hopping back and forth along them.
“Stay on the bridge!” the three-year-old cautioned. “Don’t get hurt!”
The two-year old jumped off the last cushion and onto the floor.
“Gaahh!” my daughter and I said together. “You’re stepping in the lava!”
Okay, now I see where it comes from . . .

Monday, March 30, 2020


A large, prestigious college had a large, prestigious hall,
And through its doors came visitors. It welcomed one and all,
A bright, brass plaque was fixed o’er where the people walked each day,
Upon it clearly written the hall’s name of Hemingway.

There one day came a man, (a tourist and a writer, too)
Who took a tourist’s glee in all the rooms that he went through.
Who clapped with pleasure when he saw that name upon that plaque,
“Why, Hemingway’s my favourite!” said the man. (Let’s call him Jack.)

“As a fellow writer, I have read most everything he wrote,
“And don’t tell anyone, but he’s my favourite man to quote!
“It says something for your school that you would name a hall just so,
“I simply must explore before it’s time for me to go!”

His guide said, “Jack, I am afraid that you’re mistak-en be,
“This hall was not named for your Ernest, I must make you see,
“Though, yes by the name ‘Hemingway’ this hall is quite well known,
“You have to know it’s ‘Joshua’ who claims the name his own.”

“Joshua!” our Jack exclaimed. “Was he a writer, too?
“And was he a relation of the man that we all knew?”
“Though Hemingway’s his name, a tie to Ernest? Not a spec,
“And yes, he was a writer, for, to us, he wrote a check!”

Cause Monday’s do get knocked a lot,
With Poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts,
Perhaps a grin?
So all of us, together, we
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’re all here anyhow,
Let’s talk of Things that Scare Us now.

And now for some funnies!

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Bell of St. Vital

There is not much happening today that we could call ‘normal’.
Normal has become merely another word that belongs to the distant past (of one month ago). Those long-ago days of hugs. Handshakes. School. Dining out. Attending Sabbath services. Concerts. Plays. Sporting events. Getting together with friends and family.
Playing with one’s grandchildren.
In fact, the old curse “May you live in Interesting Times” seems to have taken a firm hold.
And so we reach out eagerly, even desperately for anything that could be considered ‘normal’.
I live in the small city of Beaumont in North-Central Alberta, nestled snugly up against the greater-metropolis of Edmonton.
A community known for its quiet bustle.
Its warm, friendly neighbourhoods.
Its village parenting.
Like most other settlements across the globe, the usually busy streets are quiet as families shelter in place.
Community chat pages have sprung up offering support and advice.
Deliveries quietly appear on the doorsteps of those in need.
But still we seek for any sign that brings back that quiet, cared-for feeling of ‘normal’.
Today, at 9:00 AM, I found one, when the silvery tones of the great St. Vital church bell rang out across the quiet city.
As it has done for over 100 years.
Since the end of another plague.
A tiny, silvery bit of ‘normal’.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


I can only dream.
I’ve never been able to grow corn.
The planets are aligned against it.
Why am I thinking of this at the end of March?
Because it’s still winter here.
But we're hoping spring (and growing season) are sometime in our near future.
Moving on . . .
For over forty years, I’ve kept a garden.
Oh, it has changed in that time.
Mostly gotten smaller.
For many, many of those years, I attempted to grow corn.
Corn-on-the-cob just says summer to me.
Most of the time, my tidy little corn plants merely peeked above ground.
And died.
Twice, they grew to maturity.
Developed ears, even.
And then . . .
Well, let me tell you about it.
I had a large garden behind our mobile home just outside of Orton, Alberta. (Near Fort MacLeod)
It was growing beautifully.
The weather had cooperated.
The rains had come when they were needed.
Plenty of sun.
For the first time, ever, I had mature corn plants.
Nearly ready to harvest mature corn plants.
Then, one sunny, but slightly breezy day, the county sprayer drove by.
Spraying the ditches.
For weeds.
Now, if there is any wind, the county sprayers are supposed to be cautious. Not spray near homesteads. Avoid people.
This sprayer . . . wasn’t.
And did.
And the next day, I walked out into my garden and noticed that everything looked . . . wilted.
My first thought was frost.
Okay, it was July, the only month of the year when frost is . . . uncommon.
Then I remembered the sprayer.
Long story short – the weed-killer had lived up to its name.
My garden – and my beautiful corn – was dead.
A couple of years later, in a different small house and with a different garden patch, I again saw my efforts to grow corn rewarded.
Saw ears develop.
And then . . . grasshoppers.
In 1983, in Southern Alberta, we had a ‘plague of locusts’. A real plague – look it up. They were so numerous that cars were known to slip in the tide that constantly flowed across the roads. They devoured crops and hay.
And my corn. Drilled holes right through those babies.
Another sigh.
Oh, I didn’t give up.
I tried.
And tried.
And tried.
But never again did my corn amount to anything more than tall, attractive (earless) plants.
I still eat corn.
And corn-on-the-cob still shouts summer to me.
But, alas, someone else has to do the growing.
I will stick with the appreciating.
And devouring.
The two things I’m obviously best at.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A 'Little' Story

She was supposed to be raking leaves.
But you know how an assigned job can be forgotten. Or an assigned worker . . . sidetracked.
I know it happens to me. Why, once . . .
Never mind.
Chicken Little Feathers, of the Merrywoods Feathers, was supposed to be working. C. Little, as she preferred to be called, had been asked to rake the leaves in the front yard.
Now admittedly, the front yard was enormous, taking in, as it did, most of the forest.
But C. Little, full of energy and good intentions started in with a will.
An hour later, with several enormous piles of well-raked leaves behind her and several thousand more ahead, she decided to take a well-deserved break.
Any of us would have done it. I know I would.
She flopped down into one of her heaps of crunchy, brightly-coloured leaves.
For a few seconds, she lay there happily, totally relaxed.
A small breeze sprang up, cooling her slightly over-heated self.
But this breeze, unbeknownst (Ooh! Good word!) to her, also twirled cheerfully around the tree just over her head.
An oak tree.
With dozens of baby oaks—AKA: acorns—nestled snugly against their parent.
Well most of them were snug.
One or two, not so much.
You can probably guess what happened next.
Yep. One of them lost its grip and dropped straight down (This acorn wasn’t going to fall far from the tree!) onto the head of the little would-be gardener thirty feet below.
Now I know there are often comparisons made between mighty oaks and their tiny, little acorns.
And acorns are comparatively tiny.
But drop one from thirty feet onto your head and see how you feel.
C. Little gasped and sat straight up, one wing over the rapidly-swelling bruise on her little head. She looked up into the tree and came to the only conclusion possible. A piece of the sky, barely glimpsed between the thick branches of the towering oak, must have somehow become detached and fallen.
Okay, yes, there are other conclusions. Each of which would have been vastly superior to the one jumped to.
But we’re talking about a little, feather-headed chicken here.
C. Little leaped to her feet and screamed.
Loud enough for one of her nearby friends, Goosy Loosy (hey, I didn’t name these people) to hear her. She hurried over.
“What is it, Lit? What’s wrong?”
“Loos! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” C. Little pointed in the general direction of up.
Goosy Loosy tipped her head, peering along the trajectory of the pointing feather. She frowned a rather goosy frown, then looked back at C. Little. “I don’t see any . . .”
And it was at that precise moment that the second of the not-so-snug acorns lost its not-so-powerful hold on its parent.
Hitting Miss Loosy right on top of her rounded goosy head.
“Gahhh!” she screamed. “It’s true! It’s true!”
Okay, say what you will about panic. It has been known to motivate people to do amazing things.
Most of them bad.
“We must go and warn the king!” C. Little screamed. “The entire kingdom is at risk!”
And, just like that, the two of them were off.
Now I won’t bore you with the details of their encounters with several other members of the feather-headed variety that peopled (you know what I mean) the forest.
Suffice it to say their hysteria was contagious and leave it at that.
Soon there was a panicky, but determined group of would-be saviours on their way to warn the king of the imminent danger to, and probable destruction of, his kingdom.
Partway there, they came upon a rather shifty fellow by the name of Loxy. First name Foxy.
Who, quite notably, wasn’t panicking.
“Wooah, Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “What seems to be the problem?”
Now, normally, when there exists a mob situation, the individuals in it have ceased to think as individuals.
This was far from a normal situation.
But part of it, notably the whole not-thinking-for-themselves part, was still very much in effect.
Moving on . . .
“You might not have noticed it yet,” C. Little started out . . .
“BUT THE SKY IS FALLING!” The rest of the group chimed in.
Mr. Loxy looked up at the cloudless, blue sky, then back to them. “Seriously?”
Several feathered heads nodded.
He raised a rather foxy eyebrow. “Huh!”
“We’re on our way to warn the king!” C. Little said importantly.
“I bow to your selflessness and industry,” Mr. Loxy said. Again he looked at the sky. “It’s funny how serene everything looks. You’d never know there was a problem.”
“Hah! Remember the Titanic! And how serene it appeared to be in the early minutes after striking the iceberg!”
Everyone turned to look at Miss Loosy.
“Say what?” Mr. Loxy said. “Ti-. . .”
Goosy Loosy’s eyes shifted away. Then back. “. . .-tanic. It was a ship. That . . .  you know what? Never mind.”
Mr. Loxy gave her a long look, then took a deep breath. “So back to our discussion. You’re on your way to warn the king?”
C. Little nodded. “Yes. It’s our civic duty.”
“It’s a long way to the palace from here,” Mr. Loxy said. “Look. Why don’t you come to my apartment and just post things on Forestbook. Everyone will get the message and of course they will believe it. And share it millions of times. The king is sure to hear.”
“Oooh! That sounds so much easier,” Ducky Lucky said. He held out one of his little, duck feet. “All this walking is making my arches fall.”
The little feather-headed mob was soon in agreement (see above vis-à-vis mob mentality) and following Mr. Loxy toward his apartment/lair.
It will probably not be a surprise to learn that Mr. Loxy, contrary to what he said, had absolutely no intention of helping them out.
In fact, he was more concerned with what was going into his stomach than what may be falling out of the sky.
And it will probably be equally non-shocking to hear that none of the good-hearted but woefully-ignorant citizens ever emerged from Mr. Loxy’s lair.
There are several lessons to be learned.
1.                When the world around you seems to be panicking, don’t.
2.                Seek credible sources.
3.                Not everyone has your best interests at heart.
4.                Troubles bring out the good or the bad in people.
5.                Be one of the good.

Monday, March 23, 2020

When Needed

Every time I have a need,
The good Lord sends a pet to me.
It’s true, It’s happened all my life,
Whenever life is filled with strife.

There’s Cheetah. Yes. She was my first,
In barking she was very versed,
It didn’t take long for it to pall,
Except when cougars came to call.

Then Mike, he of the size and hair,
Who followed us kids everywhere,
And when we six would swimming go,
He guarded us from friend and foe.

Then Muffy. Man I loved that dog,
Though she was bigger than a hog,
When I moved out, she came to stay,
And kept the bad guys all away!

Then Panda, Sheepdog number two,
She raised puppies—not a few—
And ran with me before the light,
And kept me safe throughout the night.

And now we’re in a time of trial,
With troubles gathered in a pile,
My Pandy (sheepdog number three),
Gives all the cuddles that I need!

You know, I given lots of thought,
To what’s important, what is not.
When I think of all the pets He’s given,
I must be loved by that Man in Heaven!

Cause Monday’s do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week being
With pleasant thoughts.
Perhaps a grin?
So all of us, together, we
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, cause ‘writing’ is our ‘zen’
Come back, we’ll talk of writing then!

Saturday, March 21, 2020

An Education

School is memorable for so many reasons.
Friends. Enemies. Sports.
Life lessons.
The occasional chance bit of 'learning' that slips in and the teacher(s) who accidentally accomplish it . . .
In Lethbridge, Alberta in the early ‘40s, there a great teacher.
Young and energetic, he was one of those inspiring men with the enthusiasm and determination needed to pour knowledge into thirty-plus mostly-resistant heads.
One of which was my dad’s.
Every day, this teacher would painstakingly write out his lessons—filling the blackboard.
Then, just before the end of the period arrived, just as painstakingly review everything he had struggled so hard to put down.
And, every day, he would begin said review with these words: “Class? Watch the board while I go through it.”
Now, admittedly, to him, these words were supposed to suggest exactly what he said. The review was about to begin.
To his students, something far different was understood.
And they waited, day after day, for it to happen.
But never, in all the years this man taught my dad did he actually go through the board.
Because that would have been an education.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Watching the Cow

Don’t ask me how he got it,
(I don’t know anyway!)
But Bill Jones owned a golden watch,
‘Twas with him every day.

Then, one sad day, he lost it,
Out, somewhere in the plain.
Mid grazing cows and antelope,
And miles of golden grain.

For hours his household hunted,
(It was that dear, you see),
But none could catch one glint of gold,
Though all searched carefully.

The watch was not recovered,
And years all passed away,
At times, Ol’ Jones still pondered hard
‘Bout where it went that day.

Then, one day, took to market,
A grand old ‘herbivore’,
It was her time, the poor old dear,
To serve the carnivores.

The butcher soon discovered,
(With meat before him spread),
A glint of gold in the old girl’s gut,
(She’d clearly been well fed.)

The watch had been discovered,
And this I must admit:
Restored to the old farmer there,
When it’d be cleaned a bit.

Now the part that’s hard to ‘swallow’,
Is this part coming now . . .
For the golden watch was running true!
After years inside the cow.

Now how could this one object,
So miraculously found,
Survived the years down deep inside,
While keeping itself wound?

The experts speculated,
Their investigations done.
That the churning of the stomach there,
Had made the gold watch run.

Well, now you’ve heard the story,
As Dad told it to me,
Of farmer, cow and running watch,
Do you--like me--believe?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Doing the Swing

Photo Credit
Dances are fun.
Even for the unenlightened (ie. non-dancer).
In my Dad’s younger days, dancing was one of few forms of entertainment.
Alongside books (Google it) and games.
Let’s face it. It was the 1930s. Electricity was just out of the gate. Radio was the sought-after-but-not-yet-universally-available ‘new’ home amusement and only Jules Verne or H.G. Wells had any conception of electronic devices.
Soooo . . . dances.
Dad went to a lot of them. Some at his school, but most in the basement of the local church.
Taught basic steps by his Sunday School teacher, he tried to wow the ladies in his adolescent circle. In those days, it wasn’t really a necessity. Everyone danced with everyone, regardless of danceability or social prowess.
One evening, his future brother-in-law, Ken, was one of the dancers.
A Virginia Reel was introduced.
I should probably mention, if you are not already aware, that the Virginia Reel is a fun, old-time dance that involves a lot of swinging. And/or whooping.
Usually at the same time.
But occasionally for different reasons . . .
Ken’s partner was a woman of . . . well, let’s just say she was large and leave it at that.
Ken was a stick of a man. Tall and slender.
The two had been doing well to this point in the dance. Then came the swing.
Hooking elbows in the tried and true technique, they started in.
Now, normally, there is no cause for alarm during this manoeuvre.
The partners simply swing around and return to their usual positions.
Except when there is . . . enthusiasm.
And a difference in weights.
As they swung, Ken felt himself being lifted right off his feet.
In a blind panic, he let go.
The woman went down on her . . . erm . . . posterior, and slid ten feet across the dusty, waxed floor; sweeping a nice, clean path two feet wide.
The dancers froze.
Then the whole room erupted into laughter.
The whole room.
Dancers and slider.
Say what you will about dancing.
Even for the non-participant, it has entertainment potential.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Six Forty-One’s

There are many negatives swirling about concerning the Covid-19 Pandemic. And we are right to be concerned. But I was determined to find something positive. And I did. From a woman quarantined with her housing complex in the storm center, Wuhan.

In their pre-pandemic days, she and her husband, schoolteachers, would dart off in the early morning to work. Their children were dropped into the arms of day care workers. Evenings were more bustle. Occasionally they would manage an evening meal together.

Now every day is spent together. They play games together. Eat meals together. Talk. And listen. For the first time, they are getting to know each other. This, to her, is the great blessing of the Pandemic. Time with her family.

Their complex surrounds a large, beautiful courtyard. The formerly great empty space is now filled with people. Neighbours who care for each other. She walks circuits of the courtyard with a next-door neighbour she hadn’t even met . . . before . . .

Every day, the people in her complex order their groceries from nearby stores. The boxes are quietly delivered to the courtyard and the workers quickly disappear. But it doesn’t matter if they have no outside contact. Because they have inside friends.

Even though there is much worldwide fear and uncertainty in our present circumstances, this woman has shown me that we can find the positives in any situation. Even the scariest ones. We just have to slow down and look for them.

Words Counters is a word challenge. Each of us in submits a number, which is then assigned to another in the group. It’s totally challenging. And totally fun!
My number this month, 41, came from my good friend Mimi. Thank you so much!
Want some more Word Counters?

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