Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Never Anger the Ranching God!

Blair. Getting a haircut. And shave.
By Mom, the barber.

The calving field (aka: the tree field), was a quarter of a mile from the ranch buildings.
Not so great a distance if you wanted a good walk, or a short ride.
But a marathon in length when you were pushing sick, weary stock.
Dad came up with plan 'B'.
Metal corral panels that could be instantly set up anywhere.
In the corner, next to the road and immediately adjacent (good word) to the main gate, he assembled his new acquisition.
Shiny green panels of tubular, green-painted steel.
They were heavy-duty. Solid.
And could be set up at a moment's notice.
The answer to all of our prayers.
Okay, we hadn't been praying about it, but you get the picture.
Moving on . . .
We rounded up the herd and pushed them into the corrals which had magically appeared in their own field.
I can't tell you how easy it was.
Okay, I probably could, but . . .
All was going well.
Never say that when ranching.
Because Alfred, the God of Ranching, immediately begins to get creative.
And sends all sorts of 'challenges'.
On this particular day, he sent Nature.
Capital 'N'.
Now, ordinarily, I love storms. The bigger and noisier, the better.
I witnessed (and lived through) the great Edmonton Tornado of 1987.
But that is another story.
Today's storm was a bit different.
There wasn't any wind. A miracle where we lived.
Or rain.
There was only lightning.
And we were standing immediately adjacent (that word again) to metal corrals.
I needn't tell you that lightning likes metal.
My Dad, my younger brother, Blair, and I were busily engaged in . . . cattle stuff.
We really didn't notice the approaching storm until it broke, quite literally, over our heads.
The air suddenly turned a sort of greenish colour.
Then a deafening ZZZZZZZZZZST!
There was a transformer on a tall power pole immediately outside the main gate of the field, not 30 feet from where we were working.
It exploded.
No, really.
It was there one moment.
Then gone the next.
A curl of smoke rose from the place it had been.
It was rather hard to ignore.
We all froze in our various positions.
Dad and I outside the corral.
Blair stuck in the middle.
With several head of cattle.
Instinctively, he started towards the corral fence.
“Freeze!” Dad barked.
Blair did.
The cattle weren't as obedient.
Now that I think about it, cattle never are.
Obedient, I mean.
But I digress . . .
Let's just say that they were nervous, shall we?
They immediately began to move around, jostling Blair and each other.
“Blair! Don't move!” Dad said. “The next strike will be close!”
Sometimes I hate it when people are right.
Again, the greenish colour.
Again the loud ZZZZZZZZZZST!
Again the exploding.
But what I can remember most is Blair, staring at me from inside that metal corral.
That green lightning magnet.
Completely helpless.
I know I did do some praying then.
That second strike hit the next power pole, just down the road from the first one.
And then the storm moved away from us.
We started breathing again.
Blair lost no time in sprinting across the corral and vaulting the fence.
Let's just say that the Olympics committee would have been impressed.
For several minutes, we just stood there.
Outside the corrals.
Thankful to be alive and safe.
It was sometime before Dad could convince us to get back to work.
Not an unusual challenge.
But this time we had a good excuse.


  1. So to recap....metal fence/middle of field/instant lightning rod. Glad everybody pulled out of that one safely.

  2. So scary! My friends laugh at me because I'm afraid of lightning, but I think I'm more rational than they are :)

  3. So scary! We have lightning storms like that here too. A poor little young family was out at one of our ponds fishing a few weeks back and almost got struck. The wife felt like they needed to get into their vehicle... the husband didn't think it was a big deal, but they all got in the vehicle anyway. Just a minute or two later the lightning struck one of the big cottonwood trees right where they had been standing just moments before and splintered the tree. I would say it was lucky, but I don't believe in luck! :)

    Lightning is not something to be tested! So glad your brother was okay. Has he always been afraid of lightning since then? I would have been!

  4. Wow! Hair raising to say the least. I love your ranch stories.

  5. Not sure I would have ever gotten back in there after that storm. I am scared to death of lighting. Glad your brother was unharmed. Thanks for linking up to the NOBH


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