Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Non-Alcoholic New Years

New Year's Eve.
The time for parties.
And, I know this will surprise you, but it reminded me of my first real party.
With boys.
I'd like to tell you about it . . .
It was my first real party.
With boys.
I was fifteen.
The basement family room had been cleaned to a sparkle.
Fire roaring in the fireplace.
Food and nibbles set out in a tempting array.
Soft drinks table arranged with numerous selections and/or glasses.
The pool table was set.
Music blaring.
Lights dimmed.
And actual guests circling the room.
Playing pool.
Playing games.
My first party was hitting on all cylinders.
Then . . . a snag.
Or rather, my younger brother and sister, aged ten and eight.
Okay, a snag.
The two of them, banned from the actual epicentre of fun-ness, had been circling the outside of the house and peering through the basement windows at us party-ers.
During one of their circuits, they came upon three bottles of beer.
Stashed innocently outside one of the windows.
One of the party-goers, knowing ours was a non-acoholic home, had brought his own party with him.
Recognizing those three bottles as potential disaster (their words, not mine) they dutifully came and reported.
“Oh,” I said.
“What should we do?” they asked.
“Umm . . .” Okay, so I was my usual decisive self.
They stared at me for a moment, then left.
Shaking their heads.
Sisters. Pffff.
A short time later they were back.
“We've taken care of it,” they said.
“Oh? Good,” I said.
And gave it very little other thought.
Until the next day.
At breakfast the next morning, they told me their ingenious and daring solution to the whole 'someone-brought-beer-to-our-teetotalling-party fiasco'.
They had taken the bottles.
Opened them.
Emptied out the contents.
Refilled them.
With wholesome, nourishing, party inducing . . . water.
Re-capped them.
And replaced them.
They thought it was hilarious.
I'm not sure what my friends thought.
Certainly no one mentioned anything.
But how can you complain when someone tampers with the alcohol you clandestinely (ooh, good word!) brought to a party of fifteen/sixteen-year-olds?
After that, my friends opted to hold any parties at their homes.
Where the drinks menu could be a bit more varied.
And a little less secretive.
And tamper-proof.
The jury's still out on whether they were more fun.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

From Darkness Into Light

In our corner of the world, in winter, the nights are very long.
You would think that I'd find it aggravating; having so few hours of sunlight during our 'waking' part of the day.
For a period of time, the street lights are coming on when the school children are just getting home.
And don't shut off until they are safely back in class the next morning.
One does everything in the dark.
Early morning walks.
Paper routes.
Extra curricular activities.
But I love it.
For a few months, Life seems to slow down.
Family comes home earlier.
And stays longer.
But I have one memory that makes the darkness . . . special.
Let me tell you about it . . .
On the ranch, meals were served like clockwork.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner appeared with amazing regularity.
And an equal amount of delicious-ness.
During winter, at least two of those meals were prepared and served with stars in the sky.
With the modern conveniences of electricity, this was not a handicap.
Mom worked with every imaginable electronic gadget.
In a brilliantly lit kitchen.
As the rest of the house darkened with the fading sunlight, the kitchen remained a beacon.
It called to all of us.
As suppertime neared, I would shut off the lamp in my bedroom and, without stopping to turn on any more lights, walk quickly along the dark hallway.
And that's the part I remember most clearly.
Seeing the light flooding out of every doorway leading into the kitchen.
Moving from the dark into a world of light, fragrance, warmth.
And family.
Mom orchestrating and/or supervising numerous pots and kettles and children.
The rest of the kids already seated.
An evening of great food and wonderful company ahead of me.
Mom is gone, now.
My siblings scattered throughout North America.
But whenever I come from a darkened hallway into a lighted kitchen, I feel that same anticipation.
That same joy I first felt over fifty years ago.
And that time and life experiences cannot fade.
Stepping from darkness into light.
The light that is family.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Mud and Me

Daddy and Me

Spring had finally arrived at the ranch.
Let me describe it to you . . .
The snow has melted away. Even the drifts which filled the ditches have finally succumbed to the encroaching sun.
Everywhere on the prairie one can see the signs of spring. New green in the prairie grasses and in the occasional and solitary trees. An infrequent blossom. The smells, in the prairie wind, of things growing . Scurrying animals. Birdsong.
And knee-deep mud in the barnyard.
But I am getting ahead of myself.

It is a wonderful time. A time of anticipation. Of wonder.
For a four-year-old who had been cooped up in the house since time immemorial, it is a wondrous opportunity for freedom.
And I took it.
Anxious to put a new accomplishment (that Mom and I had been labouring over) into practice, I disdained my ugly, black gumboots and stuck my feet into my brand new running shoes and triumphantly tied the laces.
I was free!
I dashed out of the house and into the spring sunshine.
The day was filled with endless possibilities for exploring. There was the ice-house. The riverbank. The blacksmith shop. The feed sheds. Hayloft. Pig sty. Chicken coop.
Okay, maybe not the chicken coop.
All my usual haunts.
But today, my first day of freedom, I chose . . . where else would a horse nut go? . . . the horse barn.
Where I would find the . . . ummm . . . horses.
It started out all right. I walked down the hard-packed driveway to the grass of the foreman's house.
So far, so good.
From there, I crossed to the fence. Still fine. I climbed the fence and looked across the barnyard to the tempting building just over there . . .
I jumped down.
And that is where everything fell apart. I watched my feet disappear into the morass that the barnyard had become.
For a stunned moment, I stared down. What had happened?
I tried to lift one foot. It didn't move.
I tried again. Same result.
Panic threatened. Was I going to be stuck here for the rest of my life? I was perilously close to tears.
Then I saw my dad. He of the strong arms and wisely gum booted feet.
He worked his way over to me. I can still remember the sucking sound of his boots as he pulled them from the mud.
Ssss-thook. Ssss-thook.
My saviour.
He plucked me from the mud and set me back on the fence.
Then he frowned and looked at my feet.
“Where are your boots?”
I, too, looked down.
Muddy socks and pants, but no shoes. Huh. Maybe my lace-tying wasn't as good as I thought.
I looked at the mud.
Dad sighed and felt down into the mud that had so recently held me, and found, first one, then the other shoe.
He stood up and held them out.
“Are these your new shoes?”
I nodded silently.
“Where are your boots?” Boots that would have been vastly easier to clean, by the way.
I looked towards the house.
Dad sighed. “You take these and head to the house. I'm going to come later and give you a spanking.”
My eyes got big. I stared at him. A spanking?!
I should point out here that I had never had a spanking from my dad.
But I could imagine it. Unspeakable pain and torment.
I grabbed my shoes, jumped down from the fence and lit out for the house at my best 'four-year-old-I'm-in-trouble' pace.
I threw the shoes down in the front entry and headed for the closet in my room.
Dad never gave me my spanking.
I guess he thought that I'd been punished enough when I spent the entire morning in my closet, hiding from him.
And I never again tried to wear anything but my gumboots into the barnyard.
I may be a slow learner, but I do learn.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Smoke Break

Okay. How can we complicate this . . .

My Dad went to veterinarian college in Guelph, Ontario.
Some time during the Dark Ages.
Okay, yes, he tells me that my time periods are a little off.
But I'm writing this story.
Dark Ages, it is.
Moving on . . .
Sometime during his years there, he had occasion to hitch-hike to Toronto.
It was his first time.
And it was an adventure.
Let me explain . . .
A gentleman stopped to pick him up.
A pleasant fellow.
Travelling salesman.
They visited for a while.
Then the driver decided it was time for a smoke break.
Or at least for a smoke. Why bother to actually make it a 'break'.
Better to just keep on driving.
In today's world of pre-assembled cigarettes, this wouldn't have been a problem.
But in the Dark Ages, people 'rolled their own'.
They got out a little piece of speciality paper.
Carefully shook a tiny bit of loose tobacco onto said paper.
Spread out said tobacco.
Rolled everything up.
Licked the edge of the paper.
And stuck it down.
Now, imagine doing all of that while hurtling at sixty miles per hour down the highway.
Talk about distracted driving . . .
The driver could easily accomplish it, though, with a little help from his hitch-hiker/new buddy.
“Here, son, could you please take the wheel?”
Dad stared at him. Was he serious?
Apparently, he was.
Gingerly, Dad reached over and grabbed the steering wheel.
“Good.” The man let go and proceeded to roll himself a cigarette, without compromising speed at all.
Except when Dad started to weave a little.
Then he slowed . . . slightly.
Finally, the job was done.
“Thank you,” the man said, taking a drag from his new cigarette. He once more took control of the wheel.
Dad sat back, relieved in both body and spirit.
A short time later, he was duly delivered at his destination.
Slightly smokier and a tiny bit wiser than normal, but safe.
Dad never took up smoking.
He said it was too dangerous.
Now you know why.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

My Bread Dough Days

A poem.
For Boxing day.
Because . . .

The water's there.
The yeast is, too.
The sugar, eggs and oil.
A pinch of salt.
Some scoops of flour.
A spot of manual toil.
Then there it sits.
A work of art.
A dough that's fine and ready.
Just waiting for
The final touch.
The hand that's firm and steady.
It starts to rise.
Increase and grow.
Progressing, moving on.
Then nears the top
Success so close,
Then, suddenly, it's gone.
That hand so sure
That works with care
Deflates all it's achieved.
And in a blink
All progress seems
Impossible to believe.
Again it tries.
Again it grows.
E'en lighter than before.
Again that hand,
Again the push,
The dough is flat once more.
A third time tries.
A third time grows.
Now tasty and perfected.
Achieves at last
It's sought-for goal,
No flaws or faults detected.
At times I feel
Much like this dough.
My progress interrupted.
When wiser hands,
Press me to my knees,
All dreams and goals disrupted.
But praying hard,
I realize
Though setbacks are in store,
I rise each time,
A better me
Than e're I was before.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

At Grandma Berg's House

Merry Christmas!
I'm with my family . . .
So here's a repost!

My Grandma and Grandpa Berg
Who loved me.

Christmas excitement at the Stringam house was always two-fold.
There was the anticipation and joy over the gift-giving.
And getting.
And then there was the Christmas trip to Grandma and Grandpa Berg's house (hereinafter known as 'Grandma's House').
My Mom's parents.
I'm still not sure which was more exciting.
After the frenzy of unwrapping had dwindled and the euphoria and excitement of yet another Christmas morning had waned, it was time to pack the car for Grandma's house.
We were allowed one suitcase.
So I had to carefully choose what gifts to bring along.
Much wrinkle-browed thought was put into what would accompany me.
One had to keep in mind that it would be many days before one could play with all of the other new toys, so the decision could not be made lightly.
What clothing and necessities went into the suitcase, however, were hap-hazard at best.
And most of the time . . . no less than sketchy.
It wasn't unusual to find that I had forgotten such necessities as . . . underwear. Pajamas. Shirts. Pants. Socks. Toothbrush.
In fact, as my Mom pointed out on at least one occasion, "Diane, what did you pack? Because there certainly aren't any clothes in here!"
I would look up at her.
She would sigh and go to ask Aunt Eva or Aunt Louise if their kids had any clothes I could borrow.
It didn't matter. I was happily playing with my numerous cousins.
None of whom cared what I was wearing.
And that was just the start of the fun at Grandma's.
My older sister and I got to sleep in my Mom's old room at the top of the grand stairway.
In a bed with a delicious feather tick.
Perfect for a little, warm sleeping nest.
There was also a little, hidden cupboard
Deeply secret.
No one knew it was there, except Chris and I.
And of course whoever hung the old clothes and other stuff stored inside, but why quibble over details?
Just outside our room, against one wall in the hall, was a ladder.
Leading to the incredible, top secret attic.
My brothers spent hours up there, reading old comics and stuff left by my mother's brothers.
I was never allowed to go.
'Cause I was a girl.
Whatever that meant.
The large bedroom across the hall from mine was where my brothers slept. It was full of treasures. Books and games from my Mom's childhood.
Or at least from her brothers'.
I imagine they happened about the same time . . .
At the bottom of the staircase in the warmly shiny, plank floor was a square vent.
Just wide enough for Sharon, Julie, Susan and I to sit on.
Or lay on.
Or play . . . you get the picture.
All during Christmas, it blew warm air.
Just for us.
Hour after hour, we cousins and siblings would crouch together on the slatted steel. Warm and toasty.
There was plenty to eat at Grandma's house. Food that left her large, sunny kitchen in great, delicious quantities.
And just as quickly disappeared.
And the all-important cookie tins.
Grandma always baked many, many different kinds of cookies.
All delicious.
Then put a selection into several tins and placed them throughout the house.
It was like a treasure hunt.
Except that, invariably, the Smaarbucklesa (spelled phonetically because it's Swedish and none of us kids knew what she was saying . . .) disappeared immediately.
From every, single tin.
Even the furniture at Grandma's house was an adventure just waiting to happen.
When Grampa Berg wasn't sitting on it, there was always his chair, sitting innocently beside the great living room window.
The chair that vibrated, if one turned the dials.
Like the rest of Grandma's house, it was magic.
And there was always the carved, wooden feet under the dining table to sit on.
And hide.
Although, looking back, I really don't know how effective my hiding was.
Especially when someone would ask for Diane and someone else would say, "Probably under the table."
Secret agent material, I wasn't.
But the most exciting part about being at Grandma's house was the little sun room on the side of the house.
A sunny little place.
That had a tenant.
Hanging silently on one wall.
Just waiting for the most daring cousin to dart in and . . . touch it.
And run away screaming.
Okay, okay, so I was always the one who was scared to go in and screamed on the way out.
But you have to admit that a stuffed moose head is really scary.
Okay, you don't.
But it was.
When I was four.
At Grandma Berg's house.
The best place on earth.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Skunked for Christmas

Guelph - 24 years later - the smell is almost gone . . .

Dad was a veterinarian student in Guelph, Ontario.
That fact, alone shouldn't strike terror into anyone's heart.
It will . . .
Christmas 1946 was a special time.
The veterinarian students (hereinafter known as the Vets) had pooled their resources and bought some decorations and a small tree.
These, they had used to decorate their balcony.
It looked quite festive.
They were rather pleased with themselves.
Something that happened often.
But I digress . . .
Other students also noticed their efforts.
Students who were either too broke or too lazy to decorate their own area.
Not a good situation.
Things happen.
The Vets came back from class a couple of days before Christmas to discover that their tree was . . . missing.
Investigation was indicated.
After a short, very short search, they discovered that the thief or thieves had left a trail of decorations down the hall.
Obviously the work of amateurs.
The Vets followed the telltale trail into their neighbour's corridor and, further, into one of the dorm rooms there.
Oh, if only NCIS could have it this easy.
They knocked.
Actually, they probably hammered violently, but my way sounds better.
Moving on . . .
Several young men answered the door, then vehemently (good word) protested their innocence.
And as strongly denied that they had access to the closet to which the trail subsequently led.
Undaunted, the Vets demanded that they open the door or it would be pulled from its hinges.
At that point a key was quickly produced, the door opened, and the disclosed tree retrieved.
The Vets wasted no time in restoring it to its rightful place of honour on their balcony.
All was well.
Or almost well.
Remember. These were young men.
In college.
Payback was indicated.
Two of these young men had recently uncovered a den of skunks.
As part of their training, and because they were bored, they de-scented those skunks.
But saved the glands.
One of them suddenly came up with a brilliant plan.
They would chop up the glands, add a little water, then carefully fill a syringe with the resulting goo.
No sooner imagined than accomplished.
Now, I should point out here that, in the late 40s, each door in the dorms at Guelph, and indeed, everywhere, opened with a large, old-fashioned key.
The keyhole was big enough to peek through.
And certainly large enough to accommodate a syringe needle.
While everyone else was at class, the two vet students took their syringe and squirted a little of their prized 'essence' through the keyhole of every door in that corridor.
The smell was immediate . . . and indescribable.
Hmm. Maybe they had been a little precipitate? (another good word!)
But the damage was done.
For the last day before vacation, everyone who had anything to do with that building, did it in as brief a time as possible.
Sleeping was out of the question.
Most of the young men simply left town as soon as their last class was over.
Perhaps distance would lessen the smell.
Dad didn't give the prank much thought during his Christmas vacation back in Alberta.
Some things are best forgotten.
And, astonishingly enough, by the time they got back to the campus, the smell was all but gone.
Good thing carpets hadn't been invented yet.
But everyone learned something from the experience.
            1. Leave skunks alone.
            2. Never, ever play tricks on veterinarian students.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Eat. Play. Love.

Twice a year, in July and December, we have 'Grandparents Sleepover' at the Tolleys.
When everyone over the age of three gets to spend the weekend at Gramma and Grampa's
We bake.
Make stuff.
Watch movies.
Sometimes sleep.
And generally have a really good time.
Then the kids go home.
It's fun.
It's family.
Follow us . . .
You might not be able to see it here, but the bad guys are losing

Okay. So not everyone shines when they rise.

Breakfast. Feeding the hoards.
Making Chocolate Bears


What's a party without cotton candy? Everywhere.

Falling off the roof takes on a whole new meaning
Excuse me.
Gramma and Grampa have to sleep now.

Friday, December 21, 2012


The school massacre in Newtown Connecticut was one week ago today.
The stories are everywhere.
Horrific tales of terror, panic and death.
And the agony that followed.
But out of those stories have risen tales of heroism and bravery unequalled anywhere in history.
The principal and school psychologist who lost their lives as they rushed toward danger when the first shots were heard.
The teachers who hid children in closets and cupboards and bathrooms and then kept them absolutely quiet and safe as terror stalked past.
And those who used their last shield, themselves, in a desperate and futile bid to save the lives of the little children in their care.
They are true heroes.
In every sense of the word.
And I weep for them and their sacrifice.
It has gotten me thinking of the heroes in my life.
The men and women who have appeared, sometimes fleetingly, and had a profound and lasting influence.
My Mom, who taught me responsibility, caring for others and to always, always be kind.
My Dad, who taught me the value of integrity, hard work and a sense of humour.
My eldest brother who taught me generosity.
My next older brother, who taught me the joy of friendship.
My oldest sister, who showed me true patience.
My youngest sister, who is a constant example of focused energy and unfettered joy.
My youngest brother, who showed me that one must never quit. That by keeping on, great things are accomplished.
There were others.
Teachers who spent their entire lives . . . teaching.
Store owners who cared.
Neighbours who watched out for.
People who appeared only briefly and taught me wonderful, important things.
None of them have had to make the ultimate sacrifice in my behalf.
None of them will ever appear in a newspaper or on TV as a description of their heroism is proclaimed aloud.
But still they are heroes.
And they need recognition.
So to those whose actions are so justifiably blazoned across news headlines and TV spots.
And those whose contribution is not as noticeable or dramatic.
I am offering a prayer of gratitude today.
Thank you.
All of you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

All I Want for Christmas . . .

My first 'real' Christmas. Age 14 months.

I've been trying to remember gifts I have received for Christmas.
I know I received some.
Many, in fact.
Stuffed toys and dolls. And the snuggling that ensued.
Lego. Always popular.
Books. Nancy Drew in particular.
Puzzles. Nearly always completed with my Dad.
There was the one year that my parents gave me a small musical instrument. I think they called it a musette.
It had a tiny black membrane that fit into one end and made the whole thing work.
A delicate membrane.
One could put a finger right through it.
Don't ask me how I know this . . .
I clearly remember the year we all got skis.
And the adventures that followed.
And the time my brother gave me a camshaft.
A real camshaft.
As it turned out, though, it wasn't my real present.
He had wrapped it up to confuse me just in case I had caught a glimpse of what he had actually purchased for me.
Moving on . . .
There were things I needed.
And things I didn't.
Tinned Vienna sausage.
And a mounted and stuffed Jack-a-lope head.
Things I really, really wanted.
A Palm Pilot. (Google it.)
Video Camera.
And a PT Cruiser. (I got three – all three inches long.)
And things that were just . . . sweet.
Several pairs of slippers.
And at least one bath robe.
I've truly loved them all.
They were given with love.
And accepted with the same.
But I have been around for fifty seven Christmases, including this one.
Fifty seven.
Why can't I remember fifty seven gifts?
I know there was at least one per year.
Many times, more.
I guess it's because the memory of family and being together stands out more clearly.
And that's how it should be.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bear Memories

It was Christmas.
The time of magic.
And gift-giving.
For a single mom with two little girls, an income sufficient for the necessities and little else, it was a time to get creative.
And Pinterest hadn't been invented yet.
She desperately wanted to give something to the family who cared for her two girls, but what could she afford?
She saw some little clay ornaments in a magazine.
She and her girls would make a set of those.
They spent several evenings mixing.
And detailing.
Six little Christmas bears emerged.
Perfect and beautiful.
They were wrapped and presented.
And very, very much appreciated.
Move forward a few years . . .
Those same Christmas bears were the Tolley family favourite.
A reminder of the precious years when we welcomed two little girls and their lonely single mother into our family.
They were the first things out of the box when we decorated our Christmas tree.
And always handled with care.
Until that Christmas.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Our family had welcomed in two little special needs foster children.
A brother and sister.
Both had come from . . . difficult circumstances.
Christmas was something that had been observed only from a distance.
They were enthralled with everything.
The gifts.
The lights.
The baking.
The tree.
Especially the tree.
Four-year-old Little Girl spent hours looking at that tree.
And when looking wasn't sufficient, she would pull the decorations off.
Systematically tasting each one.
Most were inedible.
But the little salt-clay Christmas bears, that so closely resembled cookies, could, with just a little effort, be eaten.
She did so.
I caught her at it.
“No! Those aren't for eating!”
I took them away and tried to instruct and advise.
Then moved them up, out of reach.
But when I was downstairs doing laundry, she got into them again.
By climbing the tree.
And knocking it over.
A few minutes later, I sadly rescued what was rescue-able.
It wasn't much.
Only scattered, semi-chewed pieces remained.
One precious bear remained intact enough to still hang on the tree.
It hangs there today.
Still 'bear-ing' the scars of its trauma.
Our little foster daughter has grown and gone.
The single mom, married with two more girls - most themselves married with children of their own.
One, lone bear hangs every year with the other decorations on our tree.
But it isn't just a bear.
It's memories . . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Best Holiday . . . Ever!

Me - and my Disneyland Holiday hat

It was the trip to end all trips.
That magical place that only existed in my dreams.
My Dad had come up with the plan, mostly because we had been everywhere else on the western half of the continent.
We kids were . . . ummm . . . a bit enthusiastic.
And we were going over Christmas, so none of that pesky waiting for Christmas morning. Instead, we took care of all of that days earlier.
We handed over the reins of ranch management to a young couple, packed up the truck and camper (nothing but first class here!) and headed out.
At first, singing and then talking about the wonderful and exciting experiences that were before us, sufficed to keep us entertained. Then book reading, desultory (real word) conversation and looking out the window.
By the way, looking out the window was my Mom's favorite pastime on our car trips. Mom was decidedly predictable.
Sort of like my car sickness. But that is another story . . .
Christmas day was . . . different.
We couldn't find a Denny's.
And no other restaurants were open.
Dad finally found what could only be deemed a 'Greasy Spoon' or 'Dive' and we ate surprisingly good burgers and fries.
For Christmas dinner.
Then we were again on the road.
As we drove further and further south, the weather grew noticeably warmer. Slowly, layers of clothing were shed. By the time we reached Los Angeles, we were down to just one layer. (Unless you count our underwear, but we all know how I felt about that . . .)
We stopped at Marineland.
And Knotts Berry Farm
And Hurst Castle. Which I loved and where I would gladly have taken up residence.
Except that the guards found me.
Guards definitely don't have a sense of humor.
Or paternal instincts.
Then, finally, Disneyland.
Dad managed to find a parking spot at the outer rim of the lot, quite near Canada, actually and we trudged with purpose towards . . . the Great Gates.
The doorway to magic land.
The entrance to dream world.
Access to . . .
You get the picture.
At that point in time, one did not buy a 'pass'. That would have been . . . convenient.
Instead, we all got coupon books.
There was a section of 'first run' attractions. A section with 'lesser', but almost as popular. And several sections after that.
The 'Haunted Mansion' had just opened.
Does that date me a bit?
The only problem was that this was the first sunny day in Los Angeles for several weeks.
And the entire population of the planet had suddenly decided that Disneyland was the place to be.
We had to share our magical world with 70,000 other people.
The line-ups were so long that choosing which ride to go on was not a matter of which was the most exciting, but which was the most available.
My brother and I stood for 3 hours to see the Haunted Mansion. The entire afternoon.
Oh, it was definitely worth it, even though George refused to go in the same car with me and I had to be frightened out of my wits all by myself.
For some reason, he had a problem with me wrapping my arms around his neck and screaming into his ear.
Brothers are weird.
After that, things are rather a blur.
I remember seeing Lincoln giving an address.
The real Lincoln. Somehow, Disney had convinced him to come out of retirement (ie: death) and perform for us.
We went on a few 'ride' rides that didn't have enormous lineups.
And, at sundown, went for a romantic ride on the Mark Twain riverboat.
Yes, I'm sure the sign said 'romantic'.
I was, again, with George.
Who told me to stay on my side of the boat.
Okay, so, what did he think I was going to do? Cuddle up to him and coo in his ear like all of the other people were doing?
I remember eating a lot.
But then, I always remember the food.
And I remember thinking it was the best day of my life.
We only had one day there, but there were no complaints because Dad then took us to San Francisco and we got to ride the trolley car and tramp around Alcatraz Island.
And I got a shirt that said 'Property of Alcatraz - Unlisted Number' which I thought was hilarious.
And then, home. Which was an adventure all by itself.
We hit high winds near Pocatello, Idaho that nearly tipped us over, so Dad and the rest of the family parked in a campground with the truck's nose facing into the wind to keep it from performing gymnastics.
And he put George and I on the bus home.
Apparently, the couple looking after the ranch had to leave.
Who listened?
All I knew was that I got to ride on a Greyhound.
Okay, it was with my brother, but why haggle over details?
It was the perfect end to a perfect trip.

There is an addendum . . .
This summer, we were camping with our good friends and the topic of Disneyland came up.
They've been several times.
I described my own experience.
They stared at me in disbelief. "You mean you only got to go to one major attraction?!"
I described the circumstances again.
More incredulity (another real word). "You drove all that way and hardly got to do anything?!"
And for the first time, I thought about that.
Huh. We had only gone on one main ride. We had wandered round the place and seen a lot of other people going on other rides. We had eaten treats and watched exciting things.
And it had been a very long drive.
Nope, it was still worth it.
The best holiday, ever!

Monday, December 17, 2012

An Unexpected Angel

Ella Davies hates Christmas and everything about it.
But she didn't always.
There was a time when Ella loved Christmas.
Until one horrifying night that would change a young girl's life forever.
Work and solitude offer her comfort now.
Work and solitude and a simple system of never caring too much.
But an encounter with a young grocery clerk on Christmas eve starts Ella on a journey that will take her into the vastly different lives of several very special people.
And give her the opportunity to be the angel that these people so desperately need.
And one of those needy people just might be her.

I loved this story.
It is a tale of discovery, courage, compassion and love.
Beautifully, tenderly told, it touches the heart just the way a Christmas story should.
And clearly illustrates that the best way to find our own heart is to give it to someone else.
Bring tissues!

Ella Davies hates Christmas. Every year she spends the holidays working, trying to forget the pain of a childhood tragedy that left her all alone. But this season, Ella’s about to learn something only an angel could teach her. This modern twist on a Christmas classic will remind you that the best gifts of all are the loved ones you learn to treasure!
Meet the Author:
Janet Halling discovered her love of writing at the age of six when her story of a lonely duck won a first grade writing contest. She has a BA in Marketing Communications and lives with her husband and four children in northern Utah. She is currently working on her next novel.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dressing for the Season

Still away . . . having a great time!!!

Clockwise from right: Aly (Hired man's son),
Anita, Blair, and Me - in my little gold beauty.

It wasn't often that we kids were able to go on a field trip with my Dad.
When it happened, we were eager.
When it happened at Christmas, we were beyond excited.
That's all of the 'E' words I can think of.
Except that 'energetic' should be stuck in there somewhere.
And, for me, usually immediately followed by, "Empty all tanks!"
When I think about it, I guess it's not surprising that we didn't go on field trips with my Dad very often.
Back to my story . . .
Dad was taking us four oldest kids to the Sweetgrass Hills to cut down our family's Christmas tree.
It was the 50's.
Families did things like that back then.
But we had to make a quick stop in Milk River at the Robinson's store to get me a winter coat.
I had outgrown my old one and Dad wasn't excited about trailing me through the forest wrapped in my blanket.
Go figure.
So the excitement level for this trip had just been dialed way up.
In fact, I was so elated, that Dad didn't even wait for the 'announcement' (see above), but sat me in the car with a bucket already in my lap.
Smart man.
We made the 20 miles to Milk River without incident. (see above . . . again.)
And entered the store.
I should explain here that the Robinson's Store was the only shop in Milk River that featured clothing.
There were neat piles of everything wearable.
And the wood plank floors creaked delightfully.
And if you were really lucky, you got to watch Theo Barrows gift wrap packages at her counter in the middle of the store.
The curling of the ribbons was especially fascinating.
Where was I  . . .?
Oh, yes.
New coat.
Dad asked the manager where we could find coats in my size and was conducted, with me tagging eagerly behind, to a rack at one side of the store.
My eyes were immediately drawn to a gold, furry, wonderful garment.
I reached out a hand and brushed the soft fur.
"This one, Daddy! This one!"
"Okay, we'll try this one," Dad said.
I dropped my blanket and slipped my arms into the sleeves.
"I guess we'll take it," Dad said.
Good thing, too, because there was no way they were ever going to pry me out of that coat.
Dad paid and we trooped back out to the car.
The other kids excited now to get to the real reason for this trip.
Me brushing and brushing the soft fur on my arms and chest.
We had fun finding the tree.
I think.
We did end up with one.
I really don't remember much about it.
Me and my coat were happy, sitting in the car together.
And watching through the windshield.
Because, after all - one couldn't wear one's new coat out into nature!
What if it got soiled?
Blair (in my now-outgrown coat which he hated), and Anita
The original recycling program
Dad later said something about 'waste of time and money'.
But who listened?

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

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God's Tree
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Hugs, Delivered.

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My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

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New Tween Novel!

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My novel, Carving Angels

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Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

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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.

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E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
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