Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, September 24, 2020

War and Chocolates

How do you relax after dinner?
Okay, I admit it: Our family is weird.
We like theatrics.
And things medieval.
And, believe it or no, that takes bravery.
Case in point:
My husband has a collection of catapults.
Yes, you read that correctly.
He loves them.
Oh, they're not large enough to cause havoc.
And certainly not of a size to terrorize the neighbourhood.
Although I wouldn't mention that to him. It might give him ideas.
Moving on . . .
No. His catapults are small.
Suitable for launching little, foil-wrapped chocolates.
Which he does.
Usually after family meals.
Our family is large.
And we have two tables in our dining room.
One round table, built by my Husby and seen here.
And one smaller table, also built by my Husby, which seats all of the grandchildren.
It is to this smaller table that he retreats after the meal is done.
With his grandkids, his catapults and his stockpile of chocolate balls.
Which he and his little army then proceed to fire at anyone left sitting at the main table.
Remember when I mentioned 'weird'?
That would apply here.
I should point out that the balls of chocolate don't hurt.
The little catapults barely throw them with sufficient force to get them to the other table.
Back to my story . . .
The usual targets of the invading hoards are their wife and/or mothers and/or grandmother.
Who have all learned to duck when needed.
I should also mention that perhaps, fortunately, their aim isn't great.
One day, we had just finished one of Grandpa's sumptuous feasts and he and assorted grandchildren had set up a siege at the kid's table.
Several of the moms were still sitting at the main table.
One of our granddaughters, five-year-old Kyra, came to tell her mother something.
Her timing was . . . unfortunate.
She had placed herself right in the line of fire.
So to speak.
A chocolate ball whizzed towards her.
With unusual, but deadly precision.
Right in the center of her forehead.
She gasped and clapped one hand over the spot.
Everyone burst out laughing.
She wavered between laughter and tears for a few seconds.
Then her mother told her that she got to eat the offending chocolate ball.
And any thought of tears was forgotten.
She hunted for and happily ate, the treat.
Then disappeared.
A few minutes later, she was back.
“Mom, can I have another chocolate ball?”
Her mother looked at her. “You have to let Grampa shoot one at you first.”
She thought about that for a moment.
Then she put both hands, palms out, over her forehead and stood up tall. “Okay, Grampa! I'm ready!”
It comes in all shapes, sizes and ages.
But never more noticeable than in a weird family.
After dinner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Imaginary Prairie

Horses came in all shapes and sizes on our ranch.
All shapes.
And sizes.
Oh, and materials.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On a working ranch, the horse is the best, most used tool. I’m talking about the warm, four-footed, rather hairy type here.
Or, as my machine-loving brother titled them, the hay-burners.
Paired with a rider, horses work the cattle.
Check fences.
Provide transportation.
Ditto, entertainment.
And make pushing, pulling, dragging or carrying just that much easier.
No self-respecting ranch could be run without its four-footed hay-burners.
On the Stringam ranch, the people could be divided into two horse camps.
Those who loved them.
And my brother, George.
Oh, we got him up there.
But only when there was work to be done.
Moving on . . .
I was the leader of the opposite camp.
I lived, ate and breathed horses. Had been known to hang out with them at any and all hours of the day or night. Been observed taking the occasional nap in close proximity.
And pretended and improvised when the weather was bad and there simply was no horse to be had.
Did you know that the wide arm of an overstuffed chair or couch makes an excellent substitute?
Well, it does.
I spent a lot of hours in that particular ‘saddle’. Had some amazing adventures. And had even been known to get pitched off on occasion.
My next younger brother, Blair, age two, was following in the paths I had created.
Riding the same mounts.
Then, one Christmas, he was given another option.
He got our family’s first spring horse. King Prancer as it was nobly named.
And our world was never the same.
Now, when we wanted to kite off to the imaginary prairie, doing imaginary deeds of wonder and saving the lives of countless imaginary people, we could climb aboard the King.
Okay, yes. He was technically Blair’s.
But I was bigger.
Ahem . . .
That sturdy little spring horse provided us with hours (and hours) of entertainment.
Until Mom told us we had out-grown (what on earth did that mean?) it and that it was time to be handed down to the next generation. ie. little sister, Anita.
Suddenly, I was back on the old stand-by. Riding the range with my trusty, slightly dusty steed.
Why am I telling you all of this?
My granddaughter, age two was in the living room, playing.
I went in to check on her.
She had straddled the arm of our overstuffed couch and was riding, hell-bent-for-leather, across the ‘prairie’. Whooping and hollering impressively.
It was no King Prancer.
But it sure made Gramma smile.

George and me.
Before the chair became a steed.
Blair. And the real thing.

The next generation: The King. Anita.
And a friend.
Okay, close to the real thing. George and me again.
The King. And Blair.

Monday, September 21, 2020



A knife’s a knife’s a knife, says you,

And I will nod and say it’s true,

But Husby never would incline,

To our opinions, yours and mine,

To him it’s much more than a knife,

But a work of art to last your life,

And so he forges all his own,

With wondrous steel and handle—bone,

To me, it matters not the make,

But what ‘feels’ best when cutting cake.

But know before you buy that blade

What it’s worth and how it’s made,

And now I’m getting closer to,

The tale I’d like to tell to you…


Jeremih, great, great Grampa,

(A man who fills all us with awe,)

Born in 1825,

(He’d be SO old, were he alive!)

Well he, a settler, moved out west,

Thinking Utah would be best,

But at a time when conflicts raged,

And fights were commonly engaged

‘Tween natives and the settlers there,

And neither likely to foreswear,

Well Jeremiah, able man,

Was asked to guard ‘the best he can’

The quarry, so important that

Without it, walls were pretty flat!

But while ‘Old Jer’ was standing guard,

A man whose reason had been marred,

Decided he would bury deep,

His knife in Jer’s thick skull. “Oh, *bleep*!”

A fellow guard soon saved the day,

The knife-wielding man then ran away,

But left the knife that he had dropped,

(Vowing caution, he’d adopt).

That simple knife turned out to be

Best in shape and quality,

And recognizing its true worth

Jer brought it home for a re-birth,

And with it, he and family

Made meals for all and sund-er-y.

So even though things started bad,

A fine old blade was what they had!


How do you choose a knife that’s right?

Husby’s forge or Grampa’s fight?


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, because we own a few,

We’ll talk of clothes, join us, won’t you?

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Definitely Hazardous

Admit it. This is scary...

Okay. Maybe I overreacted.

We were on holiday in a foreign land. France, to be exact.
And having a glorious time.
Our family had just finished an underground rafting trip.
Did I mention that we were under the ground?
I guess I did when I said underground.
Ahem . . .
It was fantastic!
Feeling slightly euphoric, we had driven to our hotel and were unpacking in the parking lot.
Other stuff that wasn't suitcases or food.
Our rooms were on the second floor. One door opening from the long communal balcony into two separate units.
I dragged myself and my load up to the second floor.
Then looked back into the parking lot where the rest of the family was still in the process of unloading/loading.
There, standing in the very center of the lot was a young man, dressed completely in black.
Black hoodie pulled up over his head so that only his nose showed.
He was just standing there quietly.
Looking up at me.
It was . . . startling.
I stared back at him for a moment, then turning, shoved my key in the door and escaped into my room.
Throwing my load onto the closest bed, I took a quick look around.
Nice, quiet little room.
Two double beds.
Then I walked over to the window.
And threw open the curtains.
The man in black was standing directly outside the window, now looking into my room.
I screamed.
I admit it.
He had been mysterious, standing down there in the parking lot.
Standing right outside my window, he was downright frightening.
And really, really creepy.
He made some sort of gesture, but I didn't notice.
I was too busy pulling the curtains shut and crawling under the bed.
Okay, so heroine material, I'm not.
My husby toted his burden of suitcases, etc. into the room a couple of seconds later.
And stared at me as I crawled out from under the bed.
“Ummm . . . looking for anything in particular?”
“No. That guy just frightened me,” I said, as calmly as possible.
“What guy?”
“The one dressed in black. Out there on the balcony.”
“There was a guy out on the balcony?”
“How could you miss him!” I demanded. “He was right there!”
My Husby walked across the room and whipped the curtains back.
I caught my breath.
Isn't this sounding mysterious?
There was no one there.
“But he was right outside! Looking into the room!” I stomped over to the window and peered out.
The man had disappeared.
“Huh. Weird.”
My husband was staring at me. “I think you were down in that cave too long."
I snorted.
I want to point out that it was a ladylike snort. Because I am . . . oh, never mind.
When my kids arrived a few seconds later, I challenged them. “Did you guys see the scary guy in black?”
They too, stared at me. “Scary guy in black?”
“Yeah. He was down there.” I pointed.
“Oh, you mean the one down in the parking lot who was trying to bum cigarettes?”
Cigarettes? Erm. "Yes. That would be the one.”
“Yeah. We just told him we didn't smoke and he left.”
So much for my scary encounter.
I had been hiding under the bed to escape a . . . broke smoker.
But I learned something.
Smoking definitely causes heart attacks...

Friday, September 18, 2020

Being Branded

I had long, skinny children.
Who always outgrew their clothes in length, far before said clothes fit them in width.
As they grew, fitting them got to be a greater and greater problem. 
Did you know that few companies, back when my babies were growing, created clothing for children who look like they have been shaped in a taffy-puller?
Or on the torturer’s rack.
Well, it’s true.
And, by the way, shaping children in either of those methods is illegal.
Just thought I’d point that out.
So . . . long, skinny children . . .
Ever try to find pants to fit a 28-inch waist and a 38-inch inseam? 
I did what any desperate and decidedly broke mom would do. I started making my children’s clothes.
All of their clothes.
Shirts, pants, shorts, dresses, skirts, blouses.
I even took a short course in making 5-pocket blue jeans and made them.
Rivets and all.
I made so many and got so proficient that I stopped even needing instructions and could whip up a pair – from cutting to trying on the finished article – in less than two hours.
I had even been known to make them in my sleep.
Of course, they didn’t look quite the same.
But I digress . . .
One thing I discovered with blue jeans was the fact that you are fairly limited in things you can do to make them . . . remark-able.
Oh, you can sew trim into the outer seams.
And use different colours of thread.
But probably the most noticeable of TYCD (things you can do) is to mess with the back pockets.
And yes, I went there.
I embroidered many things on my kids’ back pockets.
Then I got the wild idea of using their initials.
Only they didn’t always agree.
For example, Erik refused to wear his jeans embossed with the giant letters ‘E’ and ‘T’ on his backside.
I don’t know what his problem was. I thought it would be cute to be called ‘ET’.
Finally, in an attempt at mollification, I added a ‘B’, for his middle name of ‘Blair’.
It passed.
I then used the same idea for his next younger brother’s jeans. Robin Duff Tolley. What could be better than ‘RDT’?
He thought it was great.
Until his father asked what the ‘RDT’ stood for. “Rabbit, duck, turtle?”
“Nooo! Robin Duff Tolley!”
“Oh. Rabbitduckturtle?”
Yeah. Those pockets had to come right off.
I replaced them with something a little less controversial.
Like squiggles.
But the name remained. From then on, our Duff was known as Rabbitduckturtle.
Have you ever heard of the consequences of labeling a child?
Well, the stories are true.
Now, at the age of 40, he loves his moniker. He even has a rubber duck picture on his Christmas stocking.
Beat that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Hand-Me-Down Sayings

Dad, Jerry and Chris
About 3 BD (Before Diane)
But 5 minutes AC (After Coats)
Our kids and grandkids were over for the weekend.
Fortunately for us, spring had finally arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, and they were able to spend much of the day outside.
One grandson, anxious to rejoin his cousins on the pirate ship in the backyard (yes, we have a pirate ship in the backyard) was frantically looking for his coat--discarded when he had come inside.
Moments before.
“Can’t find it!” he lamented loudly.
“Well, Sweetie,” I said. “I don’t know . . .” That was as far as I got.
Because, suddenly, I was remembering my Mom.
And something she said to us every time we were bewailing the loss of some article of clothing.
Which happened often.
Ahem . . .
There would the usual scurry to find said article.
And then the inevitable words, “I CAN’T FIND IT!!!”
Followed, if one were really good, by tears. (I was really good. Just FYI.)
Back to my story . . .
Mom would immediately bring the problem into ‘Mom’ focus with the words: “Well, I don’t know where I put it when I wore it last!”
We would frown because adult-sized Mom would never, ever have fit into it.
And this was NOT helpful!
Then she would laugh.
Whereupon (good word!) we would sigh and slump and renew our search.
So, back to my grandson. The three-year-old standing indignantly in the middle of the kitchen.
I smiled. “Well, Sweetie, I don’t know where I put it when I wore it last!”
He frowned at me.
I heard laughter from the periphery. And “I remember Mom saying that to me!”
Good family sayings traverse generations.
What were yours?

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Eleven Twenty-Twos

My foot hurts. I don’t know why; it keeps its own council. But this morning when I first walked, it hurt.

Yesterday, it was my shoulder. It—creaked—whenever I moved it. And forget lifting or carrying anything. It was just determined to hurt.

My knees are always ‘iffy’. Most days, we get along. But occasionally, we are at odds. One or the other—or both.

And forget my memory. I mean, really forget my memory. Things from when I was 4 are crystal clear. Breakfast? Never happened.

I used to listen to ‘old people’ talk about their aches and pains. And think, “I will never get to that point!”

I was wrong. Now it isn’t unusual for a bowel movements discussion between Husby and me to take up an entire lunch.

How did I get here? I was young a moment ago. Strong. Elastic. Now I wear wrist and elbow guards to skate.

I worry about falling. What if I break into pieces and all the king’s horses and men can’t put me back together?

Getting old isn’t for sissies. There, I said it. My baby sister posted something yesterday that I think expresses this time nicely:

I came. I saw. I forgot what I was doing, decided to retrace my steps and got distracted on my way back.

“Now I have no idea what’s going on and realized my hip hurts. And I have to pee.” Yep. This is me.

Today my fellow Word Counters and I are sharing our monthly group post. Each month one group member picks a number between 12 and 74. All participating bloggers are then challenged to write something (or a few somethings, as the case may be) using that exact number of words. Today's number is 22 and was generously donated by Karen of Baking in a Tornado!
Today we all share what we came up with.
Go and see what the others have created!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Sneaky Words

It started out with Dr. Seuss,
And went from there to Mother Goose,
Then Nancy Drew, (clues to deduce),
And any horse tale and excuse.

I loved the mysteries, yes, it’s true,
And romance—some. Well, not a few,
The classics gripped me through and through,
Till Sci-Fi came to my purview.

Distracted when I’d clean or cook,
E’en though I vowed for ‘just one look’,
That’s all it took the get me hooked
To quote my Mom: ‘Lost in a Book!’

But lots of things I did take in,
Some facts and figures, yes, some sins,
Times I’d cry and times I’d grin,
But always magic found within!

But something I can’t say enough,
To whom all books are wondrous stuff,
The what and where of words? Creampuffs!
Pronunciation, though, is tough.

"One way to identify a reader? They know where and how to use a word. They just don’t know how to pronounce it!” *
     *Grant Tolley

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?
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've something great in store,
We'll talk about An Ancestor!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Learning Manners

“Well I’m so glad to be able to have this chance to get to know you, Mrs. Townsend!” Mom took a sip of tea and smiled at the red-headed woman sitting opposite her in our living room.
“Likewise, Emma!” the woman winked. “And it’s ‘Mary’, please.”
Mom nodded.
Mary went on. “Of course I needed a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how your family survives when I realized that you, too were the mother of . . . one of ‘those’ kids. Whose mere existence is a life-changing-event.”
Mom nodded sagely and took another sip of tea. “Of course I’ve had mine a bit longer than you’ve had yours.”
“How old is Sally?” Mary asked.
Mom sighed.
I broke in. “I’m quite sure she’s been with us for—oh—a thousand years or more, right Mom?”
She smiled. “At times, it seems so.” She looked at Mary. “Sally is eighteen.”
Mary pushed the fingers of one hand through her fiery hair. “Eighteen. And Gary is eleven.”
Mom smiled sympathetically. “You have lots to look forward to.”
Now it was Mary’s turn to sigh.
“By the way, how did your family end up here?”
Mary took a bite of a cookie and chewed thoughtfully. “It’s kind of a strange story, actually.”
Mom smiled and settled back in her chair. “I like strange stories.”
“Well, my husband, Emmett, had been out of work since the pandemic started. He’s an auto mechanic. A really good one. But with no one using their cars, his boss simply laid everyone off.”
Mom nodded sympathetically.
“Anyway, he sent his resume to a company here and apparently they liked his profile and it didn’t take much convincing for them to invite him here for an interview.”
“That’s pretty exciting!” Mom said, offering Mary another cookie.
“Well, when you’ve been out of work for as long as he has, with COVID and everything, it sure is!” She smiled. “He got all his ducks-in-a-row and came. Sadly, he didn’t get that job. And to top things off, his car literally laid down and died just after his interview. Transmission.”
Mom winced. “So what did he do?”
Mary smiled. “The tow truck took him to a nearby repair place and Emmett got to talking with the guys there, and, before he knew it, he had a job offer.”
“Well, I’m glad you ended up here. And even more glad you chose our neighbourhood!”
“We like it. And now with our Gary finding a kindred spirit in your Sally . . .” She frowned. “By the way, where did they go?”
Both women looked at me.
I shrugged. “They said something about teaching Old Man Smith’s dog, Tanner, some manners . . .”
Mom snorted. “Gwen! You rhymed.”
I shrugged. “Don’t worry it won’t go to my . . .” Something moved on the front lawn. I leaned closer to the great front windows.
“What is it, hun?” Mom asked.
“If I didn’t know any better, I would guess it’s Old Man Smith’s dog, Tanner. Running for all he’s worth. And crying . . .”
“And learning some manners?” I could hear the smile in Mom’s voice.
“Well, learning something. He’s got clothes on.”
“Yeah. He’s . . .”
Just then a small, flesh-coloured streak zipped across the yard behind the dog. “Taaaaner! Taaaaaner!” a boyish voice screamed. “Come back here. Bring me my paaaaants!”
Just then another, larger streak appeared. “It’s okay, Gaaaary! You can have miiiiine!”
Then the much slower figure of Mort, carrying something in a bundle. “Saaaally! Don’t give away your paaaants! Use mine! Use miiiine!”
I glanced back at the two women seated together in the front room. "Ummm . . . there are three people outside, none of whom are wearing any pants."
Mary’s hands were on the arms of the chair as though she was about to get up.
Mom reached for her tea and took a sip. "So, a normal day, then."
Mary settled back and took a bite from another cookie.

Today’s post is a writing challenge. Participating bloggers submit 4–6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.
At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. 
My words this month? behind the scene ~ transmission ~ life-changing event ~ profile ~ convincing ~ ducks in a row
They were submitted by my good friend, Tamara at: Part-time Working Hockey Mom
Thanks so much, Tamara!      

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

A Four-Footed Character

Just driving ‘round the backwoods in his trusty Chevrolet,
Ol’ Art spied him a sign that made him turn another way,
Cause ‘Talking Dog for Sale’ would catch the eye of anyone,
And Art, he figured sure a dog that talked could be so fun!

He drove into a yard and asked a man just sitting there
If he’d a dog for sale and if so, could he point where?
The man, he shrugged and told him that the dog was out in back,
Then pointed. Art, he thanked him, and the man said, “No prob, Mac.”

In the yard, ol’ Art, he found a black Lab sitting there,
"You talk?" he asked the dog. And the dog said, “Mid to fair.”
After Art recovered from the shock, while still a little dazed,
He said, “What's your story?” and prepared to be amazed.

The Lab looked up and said, “Well, I discovered pretty young
“That I could talk and so I thought that I could help out some,
“I told the CIA. And soon they flew me cross the skies,
“And sat me in some rooms with world leaders and with spies.”

I was their most valued spy for eight years running, true!
“But the jetting around got to me and I figured I was through.
“So I went to an airport. Thought I’d do security,
“Standing near suspicious guys who never noticed me.”

“I uncovered some amazing stuff. Rewards came thick and fast,
“Then I got married, had some pups, and I'm retired at last.”
Ol’ Art was just amazed. He stumbled to the owner then,
Said, “How much for the dog?” “Oh, a tenner,” said the man.

“Ten dollars? Are you sure? This dog's amazing! Why so cheap?”
“Because he never did those things. The dog’s a lying creep!”
So just a note, in ending, s’not how talented you ‘ere’,
But whether you’re a man (or dog) of greatest Character.

Each month, for fun, and on a theme, we two write poetry,
Tell me what you think of poems from Karen and from me! 

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Follow by Email

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

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Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

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Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

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