Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, June 4, 2020

'Twas a Dark and Scary Night

Mischief, mayhem and entertainment in one package.
In college, I shared a two-bedroom apartment with three other girls.
Debbie, she of the famed moth abhorrence, and I in one room, the other two girls in the second.
The apartment was on the main floor of an older, period home, with wonderful hardwood floors and original doors and fixtures.
And windows.
And therein hangs a tale. 
So to speak.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
We loved it there.
The south window in Debbie's and my bedroom faced the garage.
It was never locked.
The window, I mean.
With a barrel pushed underneath, it made an excellent entrance to our apartment.
None of this having to tramp around the house, through the entrance and clear across the living room.
Nope. We could step right into our room, drop our boots under the window, and we were home.
I don't think we used our keys to the front door once in the entire year we lived there.
And neither did our friends . . .
So noises from that window were not unusual.
Though not always expected.
One evening, Debbie and I were getting ready for bed.
Well, she was.
I was busy selecting a book for my usual "read-till-you're-heavy-eyed-and-won't-be-fit-for-anything-the-next-day activity.
Without warning, the blind, which had been pulled down over the window, snapped up.
Whip! Whip! Whip!
Debbie, standing there half in and half out of her jammies, screamed. (And you can believe me when I say that no one could scream quite like Debbie.)
And scurried out into the front room, frantically tugging on her jammie pants as she went.
Where she screamed again.
Louder, this time.
Then I heard a thump. A decided body-hitting-the-hardwood thump.
I dropped my book and dashed out into the front room.
To find Debbie collapsed on the floor in front of our little entryway.
I should mention here that the entry to our apartment was about four feet square.
There was a tiny coat rack built into one side. On the wall between that rack and the door was a small window.
It was dark outside.
And the lights were on inside.
I rushed over to my friend.
And realized that she was lying there helpless . . . with laughter.
She had dashed out of our room, pulling on said pjs.
And had glimpsed movement in the entry.
Someone was looking at her!
Whereupon (good word) she screamed and collapsed.
Only then realizing that the combination of dark night and lighted room had created a mirror-like trait in our little entry window.
She had seen . . . Debbie.
It must have been a truly scary sight.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

They're All Alike

Go on. Give it a pull!
Life on a ranch is glorious.
Open, endless vistas.
Fresh air.
Time with your family.
And endless hours with your 'other' co-worker. Your steady, actually-does-most-of-the-work partner.
Your horse.
Did you know that horses are fun?
And smart?
With distinct personalities?
Some are lazy.
Some crafty.
Some love people.
All love to play.
A favourite game when I was growing up was 'tongues'. You would tickle a horse's lips until he stuck out his tongue, whereupon (good word) you would give it a little pull.
The tongue, I mean.
The horse would whip it back into his mouth.
Then promptly stick it out again.
Stick out.
They loved this game.
They would play it for hours.
Or until you got tired of it.
You can probably guess which scenario usually happened first.
Enough background . . .
My Husby and I were touring the Buckingham Palace Mews, conducted by the head hostler to the Queen, Edward.
A very proper and pleasant British man who also loved horses.
We were instantly connected.
Moving on . . .
My Husby and I were having a great time.
We had dutifully and happily walked through the storage buildings.
Gotten up close and personal with the royal family's famous Gold Coach.
And had finally headed into the stables.
Ahhh! Heaven!
Horses are intensely curious.
If something is happening, they want to be front and center.
Getting in the way.
Pretending to be startled and fleeing spiritedly.
Coming back to see if there was anything they missed.
For the resident horses, our tour of the stables was out of the ordinary.
Everyone wanted a look.
Heads popped out of stalls the whole length of the building.
One horse, a handsome grey gelding, quartered by himself, was especially interested.
I should point out here that horses, when they meet another horse, sniff each other's noses.
A much more civilized practice in my opinion than what one would typically see when dogs greet each other.
Ummm . . . back to my story.
The big grey sniffed me.
I sniffed him back, then started to move on.
He moved with me.
I think someone was bored.
I touched his lips.
He licked them.
I pulled his tongue.
His head shot up, startled.
He stared at me for a couple of moments.
Then he stuck out his tongue again.
I pulled it.
He drew it back in.
Then he did it again.
This went on for some time.
Grant and Edward had been standing a little ways off, talking.
The horse and I were enjoying our game.
Then I realized that the stable had fallen silent.
The men were watching us.
Thinking they had finished their conversation, I patted my new friend and started toward them.
The big grey leaned out as far as he could, nickered at me and stuck out his tongue. “Hey! I'm not finished with this game!”
I laughed and patted him again.
Then joined the two men.
Edward was still staring. Finally he shook his head and in his perfectly modulated English accent, said, “I've never seen a horse do that before!”
He looked at me with renewed interest and said,” Any time you want to come back here, you are welcome. Anytime.”
A horse lover knows another horse lover.
And all horses are the same. No matter what circles they move in.

Did you like this story?
It's my contribution to an anthology: Mob Hit on My Gandmother's Dog
Hilarious Animal Stories
Order yours now!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Two or Four

He found a bottle in the sand,
It wouldn't qualify as grand,
He took it home, because he could,
And it upon his mantle stood.

It sat there for perhaps an hour,
Till his wife noticed, looked quite dour,
Said, “Ray, your bottle’s filthy, true,
Now clean it up. Or say adieu!”

He grumbled just a little bit,
Then shrugged and took a buffing mitt,
And polished that old bottle fine,
Till it glowed with lustrous shine.

But as he buffed that bottle shook,
A genie popped out, turned and looked,
Then said, “A wish for you—just one,
So choose most carefully, my son.”

Ray said, “Y’know I hate to fly,
But I’m a real ‘Hawaiian’ guy,
So build a bridge from here to there,
I’ll get across ‘thout being scared.”

The genie snorted, “That’s just weird,
Impossible I greatly fear,
So choose again, my silly man,
I’ll tell you if I think I can.”

Ray rubbed his chin both to and fro,
Said slowly, “I would like to know,
The secrets of a woman’s heart,
And understand them…for a start.”

The genie frowned and stared at him,
(I think he looked a little grim,)
He crossed the room and op’ed the door,
Then flexed his hands: “Two lanes or four?”

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 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?

Friday, May 29, 2020


Dedicated to our beloved Shirley. Who gave us ten more years with our dad!

Shirley. Gramma and her little beans.
Great Gramma and her Little Bean
Had the greatest day you’ve ever seen.
They’d talked and laughed, played games – all sorts,
Built puzzles and a blanket fort.

Played Lego, making things just right,
Baked treats and had a pillow fight.
Played knights and forts, read stories, too,
Dressed up, and sang. (To name a few.)

Then, happily exhausted, they
Decided to slow down the day.
Great Gramma’s Little Bean and she
Were nestled down quite snug-i-ly.

Then LB stroked Great Gramma’s hair,
And to her own, she did compare,
“Yours is white!” said the little girl,
Gently touching her own curls.

Then the soft, plump hand the lines did trace,
That clearly showed on Gramma’s face.
“You’re old,” she said, with honesty.
“You’re so much older, Gram, than me!”

Great Gramma smiled, as Grammas do,
And touched the lines she too well knew,
She said, “The things you say are true,
I’ve lived a lot more years than you!”

“I’m four,” said Little Bean with pride.
And a grin that went from side to side.
“I’m eighty-six,” Great Gramma said.
She sighed. “Somewhere ‘tween birth . . . and dead.”

Then LB tipped her head askew,
And grappled with this thought so new.
And then she said, when she was done,
“Great Gramma, did you start at one?”

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Five Years

On May 28, 2015, we said good-bye to Daddy.

We've told stories and laughed and cried.
Now we have the memories . . .
Mark Reed Stringamm
Husband, father, rancher, veterinarian, brother, friend, uncle, cousin.
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
At 89 years old, he is the last surviving sibling of a great progeny.
And he has made his mark in the world. (Oddly enough, his name is Mark. Apropos . . .)
He has served in numerous leadership roles in Church and community.
Been a voice for change in Provincial/Federal politics.
Lovingly supported his wife all her life and through her final illness.
Raised six kids, numerous grandkids and even more great-grandkids.
Built heritage clocks and other woodworking marvels from caragana and other exotic woods.
Developed and refined his own award-winning genetic line of Hereford cattle.
Taught. Led. Supported. Pushed. Pulled. Guided. Built.
But what do his progeny mostly remember this great man for?
His pranks.
Yep. Pranks.
This was the man who shaved his head into a ‘mohawk’ do, long before it was acceptable. And with red, curly hair, such a style was . . . noticeable.
Proof! Daddy's on the right...
Painted a large ‘48’ on the water tower at his Alma Mater in Guelph, Ontario.
Disassembled and re-assembled the headmaster’s car on the porch of the administration building.
Played the ‘wedding waltz’ when his youngest brother-in-law showed up with a girlfriend. And rigged a smoke bomb on the engine of said bother-in-law’s car at the end of that particular visit.
Served drinks in ‘dribble’ glasses.
Lit the bottom corner of a newspaper on fire when the reader was concentrating on reading the upper corner.
Used a syringe to squirt water through a nail hole, thus winning, once-and-for-all, the title of ‘water fighter extraordinaire’.
Also used a syringe to squirt skunk ‘essence’ through the keyholes of the 'Ag' students at Guelph Verterinary College. Can anyone say ‘stink’?
Floated a plastic ice cube with encased fly in guests’ drinks. 
Hid an unwrapped prophylactic in the headmaster's handkerchief, tucked into the man's tuxedo, to be revealed with notable results.
And other monkeyshines too numerous to mention here. But which will be the subjects of future posts . . .
The once-mighty rancher is frail now.
Still clear mentally, but moving slowly and with care.
And seldom venturing far from his comfortable chair and book shelf.
It would be painful to watch, if one were not buoyed by Dad’s own words. “I’ve had fun!”
Words followed by the familiar twinkle as he recounts past pranks.
And still looks forward to future ones.
During my last visit, a dear guest looked at her glass and said, “This isn’t one of those ‘dribble’ ones, is it?”
Daddy? Never change!
How I'll always remember him. Seated at his desk. Getting things done.
See you soon, Daddy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Accidentally Awesome

For once, he’d listened to his wife,

How to ameliorate her life,
And he went without delay,
To take her on a holiday.

But as he hastened to comply,
In proving he was one sweet guy,
He left his glistening lab in less
Than pristine order, I confess.

While those two hurried who knows where,
One petri dish abandoned there,
A part of his criteria,
Was moistened with bacteria.

When they returned, that fateful dish,
Was not as clean as they could wish.
Bacteria, possession had,
And things were looking rather bad.

Except one place had not been ‘got’,
No icky growth upon that spot.
Instead, a little bit of mold
Had landed there and taken hold.

Beating off the icky stuff,
And proving it had strength enough,
Its presence brought discovery,
And new ways for recovery.

I guess you’ve guessed by now that guy
Was christened Fleming from on high.
And penicillin, started small
S’the best discovery of all!

After that, we note that he
Made no startling discoveries.
His wife, by his chaos dismayed,
Decided she would hire a maid.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Supplier of kindliness. And food.
The Stringam ranch was a large spread situated some twenty miles from the town of Milk River, Alberta.
The land stretched for miles along the Alberta-Montana border.
The buildings were nestled in a picturesque prairie valley somewhere in the middle, surrounded by tall cliffs and the lazy sweep of the south fork of the Milk River itself.
It was nine miles to the nearest neighbour.
But we got there as often as we could.
Or, at least we kids did.
Maybe I should explain . . .
In my day, the school bus service ended at Nine-Mile corner, a triangle of crossroads exactly – you guessed it - nine miles from the ranch.
This necessitated the driving, twice a day, of a vehicle to intercept said bus.
Okay, it was something unheard-of in this day of school bus service to your door, but it was a fact in the sixties.
Mom was the driver of choice, with occasional relief work by Dad.
But that’s only a peripheral to my story . . .
Less than a mile from that corner, at the end of a long driveway, was the Sproad farm. Our nearest neighbours.
Ben and Clestia Sproad were an elderly couple who raised sheep and milk cows. Their daughter had married and moved away and they had settled into a routine of farm work, household duties, grandparenting and kindliness.
Their home was a haven of peace, cleanliness, love and fabulous German baking.
Every day, after the bus had deposited our little group beside the road, and if our intercept vehicle was not in sight, we would excitedly begin the long trek toward the promise of smiling faces and wonderful food.
We didn’t make it often.
Usually, the ranch station wagon would come skidding around the corner in a cloud of dust and slide to a halt beside us, before we had taken much more than a few steps.
But occasionally, if Mom had been delayed, we managed the ten-minute walk and actually grabbed the brass ring.
Or, in this case, the freshly-baked reward for our efforts.
Served happily by Mrs. Sproad, and accompanied by her soft, cheerful chatter.
“Oh, Di-ane! You are getting zo big. Zoon you’ll be taller than me! Here. Have another.” And she was right. By the time I was in sixth grade, I had passed her by.
On these special days, Mom would appear, rather red-faced and spilling apologies. “Oh, Clesti! I’m so sorry! I got tied up . . .”
It didn’t matter. Mrs. Sproad would laugh and offer something to Mom as well.
Soon we would be on the road back to the ranch.
Still tired from the day.
But with bellies filled with yumminess and hearts filled with cheer.
Nine-Mile corner no longer exists.
And the Sproads have long been gone.
But I can still taste that baking.
And feel the love.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Summer . . . Smells

I wait for summer all year long,
The sun, the green, the birdies' song,
The kids out playing. Hills and dells,
But most of all, I love the smells
Where I live, the clear, pure air,
Wafts fragrances from everywhere,
And one can just stand there and sniff,
In all directions, catch a whiff.
In South Alberta, where we were,
With constant wind (the saboteur),
It blew the summer smells away
Like flowers, trees and new-mown hay,
But twice a year, the wind would stop,
We’d poke our nose out of the shop,
Delighted with the still air, WHEW!
‘Twas time to have a barbeque!
And so we’d get our tools out,
Invite the family, thaw the trout,
And just when we’d sit down to eat,
The table laden, air so sweet,
Another smell would cause alarm
The neighbour’d cleaned his piggies' barn.

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 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, because I call the shots,
We'll all talk 'Bridges'. Love them lots!

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Grampa Memory

My Grandpa as I remember him.
With my older siblings, Chris and Jerry. 
My Grandpa, George Lewis Stringam, was born in 1876, in Holden Utah.
He ranched there with his dad. Married. Prepared to welcome children.
And then tragedy struck.
His first wife, Mary Ann (May) Snow, passed away, together with her twin unborn sons, following an accident involving a carriage and runaway horses.
Broken hearted, Grampa continued to ranch. Then accepted a call to serve a mission for his church to Australia.
After his return home, he married longtime friend, Sarah Lovina Williams and they set up housekeeping, first on his father’s farm, then on their own place in Teasdale, Utah.
A few years later, they had settled in Glenwood, Alberta, ranching there and in the Milk River area, and raising nine of eleven children.
My dad was the baby.
Grampa was a rancher, husband, father, grandfather, MLA for Cardston for three terms, faithful church attender and leader, neighbour and friend.
He was faithful, honest, hardworking, kind, and thorough, with a terrific sense of humour and a firm belief that actions should always speak louder than words.
My Dad loved him and tried to emulate him throughout his life.
Grandpa Stringam passed away just before I turned four.
I have only one memory of him . . .
My grandparents, in their later years, moved to the city of Lethbridge, in Southern Alberta. The main entry of their home opened onto a hallway that bisected the house, front to back, with French doors to the right, leading into the living room.
Behind those doors was my grandfather’s recliner.
At this point in time, he must have been quite ill with the cancer that finally took his life.
All I know is that’s where I found him.
Reclined in his chair, feet up and newspaper spread out in front of him.
“Grampa!” I said.
The newspaper dropped. “There’s our little Diane girl!”
That was all the invitation I needed.
There was Grandpa. There was Grandpa’s lap. Just waiting for a little girl to snuggle.
And that’s what I did.
For several minutes, I cuddled there, listening to his heart beating and the sound of his voice coming through his chest as he talked to my parents.
I didn’t follow the conversation, which was probably quite serious.
All I knew was that I felt safe. And cared for.
Breathing in, for what turned out to be the last time, the scent that was Grandpa.
As a young man

During his mission to Australia

Grampa in the apron. Oh, the missionary life!

May 4, 1903

At my parents' wedding
Gramma and Grampa Stringam on their Golden Anniversary

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


I’m not tech savvy. My students would shudder when I picked up a TV remote—an action inevitably followed by the frenzied pressing of buttons and a few muttered church-friendly expletives.

When churches and schools closed, I was sad about being barred from my beloved students, but what could I do? The only senior citizen in the class, I was most at risk.

When I groused to my uber-helpful and very tech astute elder sister about missing my students, she suggested I download a program called Zoom, gather up my kids and teach online.

I laughed and laughed. Because . . . see above. No way I was going to ‘gather my students’ and learn something new. Especially something that could possibly require online computing.

When the ‘powers that be’ announced I would teach every day on a newly-discovered program called ‘Zoom’, I laughed again. Then cried a little. Surely they knew me better than that?

Nope. They promised to help me learn. Promised I would enjoy it. Promised I would be a tech amazing whiz-senior before the week was out. But firmly told me to ‘do it’.

Now every morning, I am seated at my desk in front of 23 teenagers, teaching. Watching videos. Following Power Point presentations. Even separating into ‘rooms’ to work as individuals or groups.

I am the king of the world! Yes, it’s a small world, peopled with teenagers 14 to 18, too polite to laugh out loud when I screw up. (Which I do.)

But I’ve done it. Learned a new program. Implemented it without too many disasters. And best of all, I get to ‘see’ my teenagers nearly every day! It’s a beautiful world.

Today’s post is a writing challenge. We contributing bloggers each picked a number between 12 and 74. The submitted numbers were then assigned to other bloggers challenged with writing at least one piece using that exact number of words.
I was assigned the word count number: 31
It was submitted by my best blogging friend, Karen of Baking in a Tornado.
Thanks so much, Karen! You are awesome!

Here are the links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what numbers they got and how they used them. 

Links to the other Word Counters posts:
Baking In A Tornado
Spatulas on Parade 
Messymimi’s Meanderings   

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