Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Our Mike

A reworked post for a very busy day.

We had a dog. 
Big dog. 
Saint Bernard. 
Very protective. 
He thought nothing of risking his very life defending us from such dangerous things as – the cat. Tumbleweeds. 
The occasional cardboard box, blowing in the wind. 
In the history of the world, no one was safer. 
My parents could relax, knowing that Mike was on duty.
We decided to take our fearless guard dog swimming. 
We didn’t realize that Mike was a mountain dog. Swimming hadn’t been programmed into his non-rewritable brain. 
He knew only two things. 
And saving people. 
Swimming couldn’t possibly fit in there anywhere. 
But he good-naturedly followed us because he was . . . good natured. 
At first everything went well. 
We swam. 
Mike ran up and down the bank, barking frantically. 
If anyone ventured near enough to grab, he did so. 
By whatever protruded enough for him to get a grip on. 
But to his horror, the ‘saved’ person would inevitably extricate themselves and, without even a thank you, nullify all his best efforts by charging back into the milky waters.
Finally, Mike’s lack of success in the saving department became too much for him. His frustration boiled over into something more proactive. 
He started venturing further and further into the uber-dangerous, monster filled water, seeking someone – anyone - to save. 
A limb passed near. 
Or someone’s backside. 
He grabbed it, and whoever it was attached to, and dragged them to the shore. Kicking and screaming. 
How happy they must be that he was on hand to save them! 
Listen to the sound of their relief! 
He would bark happily and charge in for the next heroic act.
He never managed to drown anyone. 
Or a miracle. 
After that, when we went swimming, our hero guarded the garage. 
From the inside.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Birds and the Bees



This story is about sex.
But it’s not what you think.
I was raised on a ranch.
There are animals on a ranch.
That do ‘animal stuff’.
Eating. Sleeping. Growing.
Making other ‘little’ animals.
Which then eat. And sleep. And grow.
And make . . .
You get the picture.
It was the rhythm of life throughout my childhood.
The statement, ‘I grew up with it’?
Applies here.
My earliest memory of the whole ‘animals fulfilling the measure of their creation’ happened when I was four.
A great red and white sea of animals had been penned in the main corrals.
One jumped atop another.
“Daddy, what’s that cow doing?”
My dad turned and looked.
Then realized that he wasn’t quite ready to explain the whole reproductive process to his wide-eyed daughter. “Oh,” he said. “Ummm . . . resting his feet.”
“Oh.” I was satisfied.
For a while.
Oh, he did explain things.
When the whole ‘resting his feet’ explanation started to wear a bit thin.
Yes, being raised on a ranch is an eye-opening experience.
By the time I was in grade nine, I knew it all.
Or thought I did.
We were in biology class. My favourite science.
The teacher was talking about animal reproduction.
Specifically: chickens.
“Now the chicken ovulates once a day,” he was saying. “That’s where we get our yummy, delicious eggs.”
I was with him this far.
“But when . . . exposed  . . . to a rooster, the egg becomes fertilized and a chick results.”
Wait a minute.
Roosters have a purpose?
Other than the obvious one of chasing us kids around and being generally obnoxious?
Hold the phone!
Unfortunately, my astonishment was, much to my dismay, expressed verbally.
Whereupon (good word) every kid in the class turned and looked at me.
And snickered.
Yep. I was nearly 14.
And I had just learned that birds follow the same reproductive channels (so to speak) as other animals.
Okay. Now, I knew it all.
I just wish I could forget it . . .

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Generation Gap(e)

Look closely. I'm sure you'll see some gaps . . .

Okay, I don't want to suggest that there is a generation gap in our family but . . . well . . .
Yes. There is a generation gap in our family.
And it was never more obvious than it was yesterday.
Several of my grandchildren were over for the long weekend.
It was a fun time, made even more fun by the 'launch' of our new pirate-ship playhouse.
All of the kids were in the house.
Because it had decided to rain.
And our intrepid pirates didn't want to get wet.
Ironic, I know, but there you are . . .
The oldest girls were colouring.
The eldest was also singing.
At least I think it was singing.
“You are Beau-ti-ful! You are Beau-ti-ful! You are Beau-ti-ful!”
Over and over and over.
After a few minutes of this, I leaned over the table, collected her attention and said, “Your record's stuck.”
Now this was a term from my childhood, teenage years, adulthood.
In fact, right up to the present day.
It was something I thought everyone knew.
I was wrong.
She stared at me, blankly. “Huh?”
I thought she must have simply missed what I said.
I repeated myself. “Your record's stuck.”
“Huh?” she said again.
I stared at her.
She stared at me.
Finally, “What's a record?” she asked.
“A record,” I struggled gamely forward, “A record is what you listen to. On the . . . record . . . player . . .” my voice dwindled away.
She was still staring at me, blankly.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I can't believe that this newest generation hasn't even heard of records! Why it's only been a few years since I used them. 
Ten at the most.
I looked at her.
Nine years old.
Then I thought of all the things she would never understand from my childhood.
She would never pick up a telephone, crank the handle and hear the word, “Operator.” 
Never see the 'Indian-head' test pattern and hear 'O Canada' at the beginning of the television day. Or hear 'God Save the Queen' at the end of the day, before the TV goes dark and silent. 
Never sit around the table after dinner, listening sleepily to the hired men discuss their day's experiences with the boss.
And I thought of all of the things that I wouldn't - or didn't want to - understand from hers.
Yep. Generation gap.
Gives us a little breathing room.
Probably a good thing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


It's July.
Time for a story about Christmas.
And in keeping with what has become a week of stories about my Husby, my favourite . . .

In the Tolley household, Christmas . . . the actual ‘business portion’ which includes frantic tearing of colourful papers and scrabbling through mounds of discarded wrapping, was an event on hold.
Until the father of the house finally succumbed to the pleadings of his numerous children and crawled out of bed.
Once he hit the front room, it was every man for himself.
Or every woman . . . or child . . .
You get the picture.
To facilitate the introduction of said father to the ‘action room’, the children, over the years, had graduated from begging to more . . . proactive methods.
As their size and strength increased, they finally achieved the impossible.
Plucking their sire from his warm downy and carrying him, bodily, to his place of honour.
In an attempt to thwart their . . . growing . . . expertise, their father began to incorporate thought into the proceedings.
He resorted to sneakiness.
With varying degrees of success.
Allow me to illustrate . . .
Christmas, 2001, began like many others.
Tiny noises in the bowels of the house which told us that the natives were stirring.
And that time for any needed preparation was short.
Grant leaped from the bed and, under cover of darkness, began to shed his pyjamas.
Not unusual.
However, considering that our children would soon be bounding up the stairs demanding to open presents . . . Well . . . okay, unusual.
Sleepily, I noted the sound of fabric sliding over flesh.
He was pulling something else on.
Then, he crawled back into the bed and snuggled close.
Suspicious, I asked him what he was wearing and he chuckled.
“Not much,” he said.
Then the pounding started. “Mom, Dad! Time to open presents!”
“Okay,” he called, cheerfully.
Another sign that all was not as it should be.
The door swung open.
Several suspicious noses poked into the room, the light from the hallway throwing their shadows across the bed. Remember, these children had been exposed to many different devices in an attempt to discourage them from their desired goal.
Duct tape, catapults, duct tape, air horns, chains with padlocks, duct tape, yards of medical gauze, mustard, duct tape.
Okay, I admit it. He likes duct tape.
Back to my story . . .
The group stayed huddled for a moment, afraid to pierce the unknown blackness that pervaded our room.
We remained still.
Finally one brave soul reached for the switch, flooding the scene with light.
I blinked sleepily at them.
They moved slowly forward, still tightly packed.
A group makes a harder target.
Okay the reasoning needs a bit of work, but there is safety in numbers.
They approached the bed.
Still cautious.
Still peering anxiously into the shadows and flinching at every sound.
Finally, they reached their father.
Grant’s eyes were closed, a small, blissful smile creasing his face.
Not a good sign.
One of the older boys grabbed the covers, then paused, gaining courage.
The silence stretched.
He threw them back.
And disclosed his portly father clad in a ‘speedo’.
I am not making this up.
It was a bright blue one.
Oh, and a bow-tie. Red. With sequins.
Now I would like to take this opportunity to state that the ‘speedo’ swimsuit was created with speed in mind, hence the name. Comfort is secondary, and looks a far distant third.
Certainly they look . . . ummm . . . delicious on a trim, incredibly fit man.
On a middle aged, fairly Santa-esque male?
Not as good.
But certainly effective.
The kids scattered.
We could hear one of them moaning in the hall. “I don’t want to open presents, do you want to open presents?”
Another, “I can’t un-see it! I can’t un-see it!”
Still another, “Presents? What are those? I’m going back to bed!”
My husband chuckled. “I should have thought of this years ago!” he said.
Mission accomplished.
Okay, you'll have to use your imagination regarding  clothing.
This is the best I can do.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Honey Bunny

He is a Honey Bunny!

I admit it.
I call my Husby names.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My Husby was serving on a church committee.
With several other men.
One of which worked as a police detective in his real life.
Tough guy to the world.
Sweet and kind underneath.
It was evening.
After supper but not yet bed time.
The phone rang.
I answered.
What followed was, to me, a fairly mundane conversation.
“Hi, Diane. Is Grant there?” I recognized the voice of our friend, the police detective.
“He is! Would you like to talk to him?”
“Just a moment!” I turned and hollered.
Okay, yes, I do that . . .
“Honey Bunny!”
Grant answered.
From somewhere in the bowels of the house.
“You're wanted on the phone!”
He appeared.
Took it from me.
There was a pause. Then, “Are you a Honey Bunny?”
I saw my Husby's face turn slightly pink.
Here was his good friend, the policeman.
Tough guy extraordinaire.
What should he say?
He looked at me and rolled his eyes. “Yes,” he admitted finally.
His friend laughed. “Good,” he said. “So am I.”
Even the most unlikely . . .

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Beaumont Pie-Rats

Monday's PhotoPrompt:
Inspired by my PhotoPrompt group and my good friend Delores at The Feathered Nest  

For several months, my Husby's health wasn't . . . very good. 
In fact, we were quite worried about him.
But, with excellent medical care and ongoing treatment, he has stepped back from the brink.
The conception and planning for a new PROJECT has completed the cure.
I present his 'cure'.
The New Tolley Grandchildren Playhouse

We now have a pirate ship in our back yard.
Or as my Husby prefers to call it, a 'Pie-Rat' ship.
I won't mention the looks we have been getting from the neighbours.
Or the speculation over whether 'we know something they should know'.
And the watching of the sky for the threat of heavy rains.
Moving on . . .
Our ship is built completely out of recycled and scavenged materials.
It consists of three levels.
Spiral staircase.
Rope ladders.
A plank, ideal for walking into the family pool.
A slide.
And a flag picturing a pie and crossed forks.
I should probably mention that we rather like pie.
Hence the renaming of all grandchildren, 'Pie-Rats'.

Looking forward

The spiral

Looking back
Photos by: Kallie Tolley
We opened it to the grandchildren - ahem - Pie-Rats, on Saturday.
Following very brief speeches.
The tossing of a pie.
And the equipping of grandchildren with the necessities.
Pirate head scarves.
And lots and lots of food.
I think it is a hit.
Who says the Tolleys don't know how to party?!
More pictures to follow . . .

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The 'Eyes' Have it

The Stringam ranch house had one delicious feature.
That kids love.
And parents hate.
The kitchen ran right into the hallway, which ran into the living room, which ran back into the kitchen.
Or, alternately, if one wanted to change things up a little - from the kitchen into the living room into the hallway, back into the kitchen.
It was a perfect setup.
For running laps.
Which we did.
Usually at mealtimes.
Because it kept us near the kitchen.
But not completely under Mom's feet.
Unfortunately, in an effort to keep us safe, Mom would inevitably holler, “You kids stop that before someone loses an eye!”
We would stop.
Oh, not because we were afraid of losing something important.
But because Mom usually had a large spoon or knife in one hand when she said it.
Okay, yes, we were afraid of losing something important.
Moving on . . .
It was suppertime.
Mom was cooking.
My brother and I were running.
Mom said, “You kids stop running! Someone's going . . .!”
That was as far as she got.
I skidded out on the corner.
Just going into the turn between the living room and the hallway.
There was a chair there.
It, and my eye, had what could only be called a 'close encounter'.
It won.
Remember what Mom said about 'losing an eye'?
Well, she was close . . .
There was the sound of contact.
Then the pause.
Then the shriek.
Mom came running.
I was writhing around on the floor, screaming.
Both hands clamped over my right eye.
I'm sure Mom's heart probably stopped.
She pulled my hands away.
Probably expecting to see the fulfilment of her prognostication (Oooh, good word!).
Fortunately for me, it hadn't happened.
The fulfilment, I mean.
My eyebrow had taken the brunt of the blow.
It puffed up and out quickly and remarkably.
I looked like a prize fighter.
Mom dragged me, still screaming, into the kitchen.
Where she produced her largest and deadliest-looking knife.
I stared at her, then clamped my hands back over my injured and puffy eye and screamed, “No, Mom! Don't cut it off!”
You see, when she picked up the knife, she had been looking for 'cool'.
Something to lay against my wound to take down the swelling.
I was looking at an instrument of a far more radical method of 'swelling removal'.
Fortunately, her more humane treatment was what we went with.
“Diane! I'm not going to cut it off! The knife is cool. It'll help the swelling!”
I finally dropped my hands and allowed her to continue.
She pressed the cool surface against my eyebrow.
Moms know everything.
I'd like to say we stopped running.
That we learned our lesson.
That one close call convinced us that Mom knew whereof she spoke.
I'd be lying.

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