Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Join the Army. Get an Education (Part Two)

A guest Post by Erik Tolley

In the infantry, you will be subject to many different forms of violent death, such as getting shot, stabbed, burned, shredded and eating field rations more than twice a day.
The sad thing is, these will all be inflicted by your own troops.
I won't even mention what the enemy will do to you.
Basically, you will be a moving target, which is a lot more fun than a paper target, but a lot harder to patch up afterwards.
You will also get to freeze, starve, sweat, stink, roast, and stay up long enough that you will begin to hallucinate about giant pink bunnies running circles around you singing songs from 'Lion King'.

In the Engineers, you will get to do almost all the same things as in the Infantry, but you will also get to play with explosives.
Powerful explosives.
At least your targets are made out of something stronger than paper.
Unfortunately, the pink bunnies now hum the tune to 'Star Wars'.

In the Armoured trade, you will be able to drive and service large, cool-looking vehicles, often fitted with big guns that make loud noises and wake up the Infantry and the Engineers, if they happen to be asleep, which seems unlikely.
You will also be able to go places that no other vehicle can go, and get stuck in places that no other vehicle could even reach.
Then you send for the Infantry and the Engineers, who are conveniently awake, to come and dig you out, while you sit and play cards.

In the Artillery, you will get to shoot big guns.
If anyone in the Artillery is reading this, please call me and let me know what else you guys do, because there are a lot of people who really want to know.

These are the trades known as the Combat Arms trades. I don't know why they are called this, because practically everyone's arms can be used as weapons.
Oh, well.
I guess that's why I'm in the Army.
If I knew, I'd probably be smart enough to still be a civilian.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Join the Army. Get an Education

Superik to the rescue
Drawn by Erik in Grade Nine
During Math class.
Don't ask.
Guest Post by Erik Tolley

Upon first sight, the army looks real cool.
The recruiting posters depict big, brawny, attractive soldiers (and strong, beautiful women soldiers, too) all dressed up in their warpaint and carrying automatic weapons and squelching about in the mud as if they're doing something constructive and enjoying it, too.
The posters usually include some sort of catch phrase like "Join the Army  - See the World" and "Be a Part of the Armed Forces, and You Could Look Like One of These Attractive Young Soldiers, Instead of the Lumpy, Greasy, Smelly, Disgusting Couch Potato You Are", which usually makes you want to improve your lifestyle by joining the army and squelching about in the mud, wearing warpaint and carrying an automatic weapon.
Unfortunately, the thought that mud, grease, and gunpowder don't necessarily improve you lifestyle all that much usually doesn't occur to people until after they're actually in the army.
This is why most civilians think that soldiers are idiots.
They are.
I can speak from experience on this one.
I'm an idiot and I'm in the army.
Enough said.
I first decided to join when I saw an ad in the newspaper. If I hadn't seen it, I might have gone on to lead a normal productive life. I might even have been a manager at an A & W restaurant by now. (A management position at McDonald's being too ambitious for me).
But such was not my destiny.
Oh, well.
When you first go into the recruiting center, they ask you what trade you were thinking of.
At this point, you blurt out whatever first comes into your head, because the only part of the army that you've ever heard of is the Infantry, and you don't want to stand there looking like an indecisive idiot while the paperwork-person stares at you.
So, you say Infantry.
Fortunately, the paperwork-person has seen dozens of morons like you every day since he or she joined the army, and he or she will give you a cute little pamphlet with another attractive picture and catchy slogan on the front, which outlines the basics of all the different trades in the army.
This will help you to decide better what you want to be, otherwise the army would be made up thousands of Infantry soldiers, and one clerk named Homer.
Strangely, this little pamphlet doesn't point out the actual tasks that you would be forced to carry out in an actual war zone, such as getting shot and tortured.
For clarity, I have provided you with a little more information that will be invaluable in determining which trade to choose, or rather, which trades to avoid.
To be Continued . . .

Monday, December 12, 2011

Texting Through Time by Christy Monson

Looking for a good sci-fi story for your tween?
You've found it.
Texting Through Time by Christy Monson.

"When 12-year-old Micah “borrows” his father’s experimental time-travel phone, his hopes for seeing the future are dashed as he and his sister, Alicia, end up trapped in the past at Brigham Young’s boyhood home. This book is a fun way to discover Church history and learn that no matter what time period you are in, God is still aware of you."

I love a good time travel story!
There is something exciting, intriguing and mysterious about exploring the past.
Living the stories of history.
Seeing them become reality.
And that is what happens in Texting Through Time.
Micah and Alicia are trapped in the past with a time-travel device they don't know how to control. As they struggle to understand, they pop through important times in Brigham Young's life, beginning when he was a boy.
Through prayer and faith (and a lot of texting) they discover that their way back home wasn't as impossible as they imagined.
That one can learn a lot when one is trapped in the past.
And sometimes, being in the past isn't as frightening as it first appears.
I loved that the story begins with the need to research Brigham Young and discover just why he became known as the Lion of the Lord.
Research in my past consisted of dragging out heavy, dusty tomes. Then it progressed (happily) to 'Google'.
Maybe time travel is the next logical step?
Thank you, Christy. I will be recommending this to all of my friends seeking 'middle grade' readers!

Hands on Spirituality

We were listening!
Hands on Spiritual training.
On Sundays our family regularly attended church.
For three hours.
It was divided into three sections.
Sacrament meeting, the most sacred.
Sunday School.
The 'classroom' portion.
And Relief Society.
The Women class.
The men also had their class, but who paid attention?
Moving on . . .
The class portions of our meetings were usually quite lively.
Sleep was impossible.
But the Sacrament portion, the most sacred meeting, featured speakers taken from the congregation.
Some were fantastic.
Some . . . weren't.
On those occasions, sleep was not only possible, but inevitable.
Distraction was needed.
Oh , nothing that would detract from the sacred spirit or nature of the meeting. Just something that would keep the hands busy, while freeing the mind to concentrate on the speaker.
At least that was the theory.
Some kids looked at picture books featuring the Saviour.
Some had picture books featuring other things, like animals.
Some had dry cereal fed to them.
One cheerio at a time.
Some played quietly with toys.
The operative word there, was 'quietly'.
My brother and I drew.
We took turns.
I would draw something silly.
He would reciprocate.
We kept our giggles to a minimum. Mom had been known to snatch and stash our drawing equipment without warning.
But as long as we were quiet, she was satisfied that we were soaking in what needed to be soaked.
So to speak.
It got us through many a dry meeting.
And I think we still learned a few things . . .
Forward several years.
To my own children.
Who entertained themselves hugely with pencil and paper.
In Sacrament meeting.
They were a bit more creative than my brother and I had been . . .
Caitlin drew fantasy pictures of dragons and unicorns.
Tiana drew episodes of Intiana Jones, a tiny stick figure with a hat and whip.
And Erik reciprocated with installments of Superik.
Supposedly called sup-ERIK, but which his sister-in-law titled SUPER-ik.
I will admit, here, that the stories they created were not as spiritually uplifting as what was being said at the pulpit.
But often more entertaining.
What did they get from those meetings?
Well . . . they still attend.
With pad and pencil in one hand and their child's hand in the other.
But they are attending.
Spiritual training and umm . . . tradition, all in one package.
It's a good thing.

Superik to the rescue!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Memories of My Home Town

My home town!

Southern Alberta small town life in the 50s.
Crime hadn't been invented yet.
It was, literally, an entirely different world.
Our doors were never, ever locked.
Every house contained numerous children, who ran hither and yon (good term) all day long. In and out of each-others' yards and homes and refrigerators.
Mom, like all of the other moms, worked in her home, cooking, polishing and cleaning.
She would come to the door at meal times and call out into the street, whereupon (another good word) her various offspring would head home for home-cooked food.
Canned soup was something new and wonderful.
At some point during the day, one of us kids would be sent downtown with a pillowcase to the local post office to retrieve the mail.
Shopping inevitably meant going to one of the two (yes, we had two) grocery stores, or, if clothing or dry goods were required, Robinson's.
The drug store ran a tab (a sheet of paper with our names written on it) for chocolate bars purchased.
At ten cents each.
Freshly-roasted nuts could be procured from the display in the centre of the store.
Trips with Dad to see the insurance agent inevitably meant a Hershey chocolate bar, because the bottom drawer of Mr. Hofer's desk was full of them.
We had our own cobbler, and I loved to go with Dad to his shop because it was fascinating to watch him fashion greats hunks of leather into real shoes.
A trip to one of the two local car dealers turned into an adventure when he showed us his brand new Polaroid camera.
That magically developed its own pictures while you waited.
Every Saturday, Dad would send us to the movies with fifty cents. Twenty-five for the movie. Ten for popcorn and ten for a bottle of Grape Crush with a straw.
With five cents left over.
Until I discovered that the five cents could be spent on a package of licorice. Whereupon (that word again), I started coming home empty-handed.
But happy.
The theatre also had 'cuddle seats'. Double sized seats at both ends of every other row.
Perfect for two sweethearts to cuddle in together while they watched 'Santa and the Martians' or 'Sinbad' or 'Lassie'.
All candy contained sugar and natural flavours.
Most of it was made on this continent.
Our clothes were mostly cotton.
Easily wrinkled, but pressed into shape by Mom's ever-present iron.
Easter Sunday was an opportunity to wear one's new spring hat and matching outfit.
And absolutely everyone attended church.
Thanksgiving was a chance to gather, not only one's own enormous family, but any and all extended family members. Somehow, the entire mob was shoe-horned into any available space.
At Christmas, an enormous, real tree was erected in the centre of the intersection of Main and First streets.
The traffic happily drove around it for the entire season.
The arrival of Santa, a much anticipated event.
And, once again, everyone went to church.
Midnight mass with one's Catholic friends was a special treat.
We rode our bikes down dirt - then gravel – roads.
One always held one's breath when a car went past until the dust cloud following it settled down.
Cars always drove slowly because the streets were inevitably teeming with children (or better known by their technical name - 'small fry').
There was only one channel on the black and white TV set, so if the program airing didn't appeal, there was literally nothing on TV.
In the evenings, when one wasn't involved in cubs, scouts, or CGIT, one was home with the family, watching the one TV channel or playing games together.
Mom always made treats.
Yummy ones.
We had whole neighbourhoods of Hungarians, Germans and Japanese.
And all of them were terrific cooks.
Funny how so many memories revolve around food . . .
Sports events were exactly that.
Ball games were played in a dirt lot and the crowd sat on the ground or brought their own chairs to enjoy the fun.
Basketball was huge.
The whole town would pack the high-school gym to cheer on our teams.
Winter sports were limited to home-style rinks, or the town rink, and only when it was cold enough to support ice.
The curling rink, with its refrigeration unit, was always popular.
'Bonspiel-ing' was a sport in itself.
The town was founded on and supported by, farming and ranching.
Most of the vehicles that rumbled down the streets were dusty farm trucks, many containing a farm animal or two.
And everyone knew everyone else.
Their address, phone number, family members.
Even pets.
It was a wonderful way to grow up.
Like an enormous, caring family.
I loved growing up in Milk River.
It was a perfect life.
And it's largely vanished now.
Oh, one can catch glimpses of it.
Friendly neighbourhoods.
Caring neighbours.
But the absolute freedom of those days is gone.
Replaced by something . . . darker.
More suspicious.
It's a great pity.
What are your memories of growing up?

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