Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 23, 2012

All Things Yummy

Mom was right about the cake . . .

My Baby Sister, aged two, had crawled up on my Mom’s lap.
It was cuddling time.
I should probably mention that this didn’t happen often.
Cuddling, I mean.
Oh, not because Mom didn’t wish it.
It was because we couldn’t get Baby Sister to slow down long enough to stay in one place.
She was one of those children who are always as bit blurry around the edges.
Because they are moving so fast.
Where was I?
Oh, yes.
Cuddling time.
Mom held her close.
Then counted her tiny, pink toes.
And all of her fingers.
And finally poked her round little tummy.
“What’s in there?” she asked.
Baby Sister looked at her and shrugged.
“Are there yummy things in there?”
Baby Sister looked at her tummy, lifting her little dress to see better. Then she looked back at Mom.
Mom went on. “Maybe there’s some cake and ice cream.”
Baby Sister’s eyes got wide.
“And some cookies. Maybe some pie and candy and pudding.”
With each new treat mentioned, Baby Sister’s blue eyes got wider and wider.
“And chocolate.”
Baby Sister could stand it no longer.
She pulled her dress up as far as she could. “Open it!” she said, pointing to her tummy. “Open it, Mommy!”
Enough talk. Let's get to the good stuff . . .

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Magic of Mail Order

Isn't it a beauty?

I had saved forever!
It was mine!
It's not fair!
Maybe I should explain . . .
In the early sixties, exciting things came in the mail.
Okay, yes, they still do.
But somehow, getting stuff in the mail is just a bit more exciting when you are eight.
At least it was for me.
Probably because it didn't happen often.
Getting stuff, I mean.
Dad would stop at the post office and come out with the usual bushel basket of ranch mail.
Whereupon (good word) I would pounce.
“Dad! Is there anything for me?”
He would look at me, smile and say,” What's your name?”
“Sorry. Nope.”
I got smarter. Or at least more efficient.
“Dad! Is there anything for me? My name's Diane.”
But the answer seldom changed.
“Sorry. Nope.”
But when I was eight, I discovered that you could 'order' stuff.
Free stuff.
Lots and lots of it.
The back pages of literally every magazine had rows and rows of ads from companies who were just aching to mail it to you.
It was a whole new world.
I scoured every magazine, gleaning offers of free stuff.
I sent out dozens of requests.
And started receiving packages in the mail.
Games and puzzles.
It was like Christmas every time Dad went for the mail.
Now he no longer asked what my name was.
He simply handed me packages.
Then I discovered something else.
I should mention here that Dad always kept a stock of ice cream and ice cream treats in the freezer.
For special times.
We weren't allowed to eat them without permission, though.
But that was all right.
We received permission a lot.
I'm sure you're wondering what this has to do with ordering stuff.
That part comes now . . .
The ice cream treats had wrappers.
Normally, we would simply throw them away when they had fulfilled their purpose.
Then I discovered that there were offers printed on them.
From 'Popsicle Pete'. Whoever that was.
Offers for 'free' stuff.
Okay, I realize that they weren't strictly free, being as you had to buy the ice cream.
But I digress . . .
If you collected 'X' number of wrappers, you could order 'Y'.
I studied the selection.
I made my choice.
I hoarded my wrappers.
Did you know that counting and re-counting doesn't magically create more wrappers?
Just FYI.
Eons later, I finally had enough.
I could order that super amazing, extra special . . . knife.
Just what every eight-year-old needs, right?
Oh it wasn't just any knife.
There was a picture of a Royal Canadian Mounted Policeman on it.
And it cost me every one of my 14 wrappers.
It was to become the heart of my collection.
Of stuff.
I sent out my wrappers.
And waited.
And waited.
Finally, Dad handed me that extra special package.
I tore into the paper.
And triumphantly held up my knife.
Whereupon (Oooh. Twice in one post) Mom grabbed it.
“Diane! What are you doing with this?”
I stared at her. “It's mine. I ordered it.”
“You can't play with a knife!”
“I wasn't going to play with it!”
“What were you going to do with it?”
“Ummm . . . cut stuff?”
“Right. Your fingers, probably.” Mom carried my special treasure to the cupboard.
The one above the fridge.
The only one in the whole house that I couldn't get to.
“Mom! I bought that!”
“I know, dear,” she said. “And I will give it back to you. After you turn ten.”
I stared at her in disbelief. “Ten?!”
“Yes. By that time, you will be old enough to own a knife.”
That was forever!
I stared up at the cupboard.
Then at my Mom.
She couldn't possibly mean it.
“But . . . I bought it,” I said again.
Maybe it would have more impact this time.
“I know, dear,” Mom said.
“But . . .” I could think of nothing else to say.
That's when the tears started.
Even those failed to move her.
For years, my knife had its home in that cupboard.
Not to be discovered until we moved.
“Huh,” she said. “Look, Diane. Here's your knife.”
“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” I said.
I took it from her and looked at it.
“Diane! Can I have the knife?” It was my little brother, Blair.
Age? Ten.
I handed it to him.
One should never have to wait for their fun.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Professionals. Do Not Attempt This At Home

Okay, yes, this is me. But that is a genuine 4-H calf behind me.
See that head? Solid bone.

Have I ever mentioned that cows have a head comprised mostly of bone?
Their head is 99 % bone.
With a tiny little space for a walnut-sized brain.
Okay, well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Their head can go through most anything.
You get them running and I swear they could go through solid concrete.
And laugh about it with their friends later.
That head is a force to contend with.
You get upwards of 2000 pounds of hair and hoofs going.
With a battering ram for a head.
And anything is possible.
And we puny little humans have to deal with these animals.
On a daily basis.
You want to talk about bravery?
True statistic: Dairy bulls kill more people annually than the grizzly bear.
Mind you, Dairy bulls usually have sharp, pointy things on that solid-bone head.
How can we make the situation just a bit more dangerous?
Put sharp, pointy things on it.
Where was I?
Oh yes.
Cow heads.
And puny humans.
On to my story . . .
Every fall, the eldest siblings in the Stringam household would happily show up for the organizational meeting of the Milk River 4-H Beef Club.
It was a highlight of the year.
They would then go out to the corral with Dad and choose a suitable calf to register in said club.
Then the work started.
I should remind you here, that I never really got involved in the whole ‘work’ part of the scenario.
That’s what brothers are for.
Moving on . . .
My oldest sister, Chris was a lot more ‘hands-on’ than her younger sibling.
So to speak.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Ahem . . .
She would go out and wash her calf.
Talk to it.
Put a halter on it and attempt to drag it around.
It was while attempting this last that she came to grief.
And pain.
Chris had been trying to train her calf (And I use this term lightly. Something the animal wasn’t.) to lead.
An important skill when you plan to have the animal in a show ring.
The calf wasn’t cooperating.
Chris pulled and pushed.
The calf also pulled and pushed.
In the opposite direction.
Chris became frustrated.
In an attempt to get the animal’s attention, she shaped her hand into the patented, TV-approved karate hold and . . . chopped.
Remember what I said about solid bone?
That would apply here.
You’ve heard the caution: Professional karate chopper. Do not attempt this at home.
Or something similar.
Well, such warnings should be heeded.
Chris heard the satisfying *crunch* of bone.
For a brief (very brief) moment, she thought, ‘Ha! Got you!’
Then the pain started.
Chris spent the next weeks in a cast to her elbow.
Cursing the thick-headedness of cattle in general.
And her 4-H calf in particular.
We thought it was funny.
We never let her know, though.
Because ironically, though that hand, cast-less, couldn’t make much of a dent in a solid bone calf head, that same hand, cast-ed, was a weapon of world class destruction.
Just FYI.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Drinking Problems -or - Give me something deep and cool

Soooo simple. Soooo satisfying.

Horses are like people.
They have personalities.
Like to play.
Hate to work.
Live to eat.
They even have quirks.
Some have learned to take in a deep breath just as you tighten the cinch.
Then let it out . . . later.
Loose cinches cause accidents.
Just FYI.
I could go on and on about the tricks they play.
And how crafty they can be.
But that is another post.
This story is about Harry.
Harry the Horse.
And drinking.
The horses, I mean.
Although with most cowboys, at times, there can be a lot of drink- . . . never mind.
Now, I should explain that horses, when they drink, don't lap like dogs and other animals.
They dip their lips into the water.
And suck.
Careful to keep their noses out in the air.
So to speak.
But a tired horse, coming back from a long day in the pastures, will try to drink with the bit from the bridle still in its mouth.
This results in . . . leakage.
An imperfect seal at each side of the mouth.
They ignore it and happily slurp up the water.
Except for Harry.
If Harry had been human, he probably would have been an efficiency expert.
He hated leakage.
It was messy.
And, for want of a better term, inefficient.
So Harry had come up with his own solution.
If one just dipped a little more of one's mouth into the water, one could avoid the whole 'leakage problem'.
He would lower his mouth into the trough to a level just above the bit.
Problem solved.
Of course, this meant that one's nose became, at times, perilously near, and even in, the water.
No worries.
Just lift your head, take a breath, and lower it again.
Child's play.
Soon Harry discovered that he liked dipping his head into the trough.
If he was really tired, he would dunk it right up to his eyes.
Sometimes further.
And all you would see were a pair of ears, sticking out above the water.
Unusual to be sure.
But immensely entertaining.
It give a whole new meaning to the terms, 'Here you go. Dig in!'.
Or, 'Wow. He's in it to the eyebrows!'.
Or best of all, 'Go soak your head!'.
The perfect entertainment to end a long, dusty day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Bridge

From PhotoPrompt Monday
Photo courtesy of my friend, The Contemplative Cat
Source: I Heart My Snap
Boy on the bridge
Life is a bridge from here to there,
Some years of joy, some years of care,
It's sometimes hard, while forward bound,
To stop.
And take a look around.
At times, clear footsteps on the wood
Will tell you life is sound. And good.
With all things joyful in your track
You look ahead, and never back.
But other times the winds will blow,
And send down hail, and sleet, and snow.
The struggle's more than you can bear,
You bowed before your load of care.
Then storms move off, as all storms do,
The sun returns, and warmth anew.
And life goes on, from day to day,
With times of toil and times of play.
Life is a bridge from here to there,
Some years of joy, some years of care.
And though it's hard, while forward bound,
Please stop.
And take a look around.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tell-Tail Heart

Maybe it wouldn’t have been quite so bad if I hadn’t just finished reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “Telltale Heart”.
Maybe . . .
It had been a busy day.
Our children, and our children’s children, had just left.
With six originals, plus spouses and offspring, that comes to quite a number.
I had collapsed into the couch for some well-deserved R & R.
After the noise from so many bodies, the silence was almost thick around me.
I laid my head back.
I relaxed there for a few moments.
I could hear the sound of my heart beating.
I smiled.
Then frowned.
I put one hand to my chest.
That couldn’t be my heart.
It was a different rhythm.
I sat up and looked around.
The sound was gone.
I got up and listened.
Made a circuit of the room.
I must have imagined it.
I relaxed back on the couch again.
Laid my head back.
There it was!
The steady ca- thump, ca-thump of a heart.
Coming from . . . inside the couch.
My couch was haunted!
I leaped to my feet and went in search of my Husby.
He would be able to tell me that I was just imagining things.
That my furniture hadn’t really taken on a life of its own.
“Sit down, honey,” I directed.
“No. Right here.”
He sat down, eyeing me doubtfully.
“Now lean your head back.”
He did so, still keeping his eyes on me.
Then, those eyes widened.
He sat up and looked at the couch.
“You hear it, too?” I asked.
He nodded, still staring at the couch.
He leaned over again, putting one ear against the fabric.
“Huh,” he said. “I hear a heartbeat.”
“Is it a sign or something?” I asked.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking.
What on earth would a couch with a heartbeat be a sign of?
Humour me . . .
He shook his head. “There must be some explanation.”
“Well, you have to admit that it’s not every day you have furniture that develops . . . bodily functions,” I told him.
We took turns sitting on the couch and pressing our ears against the back.
Each time, we heard the steady thumping of a heart.
Stranger and stranger.
Our front door opened.
We both jumped.
It was our second son, returning to pick up something his family had forgotten.
“Erik! Come in here!”
We directed him to the couch.
“Sit here!”
We pushed him down.
“Now put your head against the back.”
He did so, thinking all the while that both of his parents had suddenly taken the last bend in the road before reaching the loonie bin.
Then he frowned. “It that . . .?”
He turned his head and pressed his ear against the couch.
He looked up at us. “It’s a heartbeat.”
“I know!” we said together. “Our couch has a heartbeat!”
He frowned and put his head down once more. “Yup. Definitely a heartbeat.”
He got up and started probing the cushions.
“Erik, what are you doing?” I suddenly had visions of him coming up with a bloody, beating heart grasped in one hand.
“Ah!” he said.
He pulled his hand out.
Clutching a soft, furry little lamb.
With cute little ears and a tiny little stub of a tail.
“I think this is your problem,” he said.
He put the lamb against my ear.
‘Ca-thump! Ca-thump!’
“Oh!” I said. I took the lamb from him. “Ummm . . . why does it have a heartbeat?” I asked stupidly.
I’m sure the rest of you have heard of these things, but I swear I had not . . .
“It’s supposed to be soothing to a new baby,” Erik said.
“Yeah. You put it in the cradle. The baby’s used to the sound of a heartbeat. It soothes them.”
He took it back and flipped a switch.
The beating sound stopped.
He laughed at the two of us staring down at the little lamb. Then he left.
Case solved.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

To All the Fathers in My Life

To my Dad, My Husby, My Sons and SILs.
I love you!

My Dad and me
It starts out with a snuffle – a voice he's never heard before,
And suddenly, he's a Father and there's a whole new world in store.
The time goes by, he's changed a thousand diapers, maybe more,
His hair's grown grey along the sides, his back is bent and sore,
He knows feeding, changing – is expert on most everything that's sold,
Imagine how much more he'll know when his child is two days old . . .

The years fly past, his baby's reached the great old age of three,
That wondrous time when head and hands reach just above the knee,
The scars have healed from babe's first tooth, the child can even talk,
The tiny hard hat's put away – his little one can walk.
The child is toilet-trained, survived each illness, scratch and sore,
Dad knows it all, good thing because his wife just had two more.

His babes grow tall - or he grows small – there's a definite shift in size,
He's not as smart as he once was, through his adolescent's eyes.
He's older now and he can see both sides of any fight,
But it matters not 'cause like his child, he knows that he is right.
And as he watches, painfully, the sometimes good and bad,
There's one thing that will never change - the fact that he's their dad.

And so it goes, he does his best, survives on little sleep,
He goes to work each day, comes home and tends his growing sheep.
There is little recognition for the work he does each day,
A baby hug, a chocolate kiss may be his only pay.
But he strangles his impatience as he watches tiny hands,
And he gently speaks when teenage heads just do not understand
His prods and pushes – anger, too, he tempers, 'cause he cares,
His one reward, his children's love, he treasures through the years.

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A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


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Read it! You know you want to!

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Connect with me on Maven


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E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
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Semper Fidelis
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