Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Are We Losing Our Gentility?

A rant

My Husby and I like to swim.
It keeps us healthy and young.
Or at least healthy.
After a bit of rigorous paddling, we like to sit in the hot tub and visit.
Our local pool facility inevitably has music playing.
Yesterday, shortly after we got in, a catchy tune started.
I started to listen.
The chorus came on.
The background music quit, just as the last line was sung.
A last line that consisted of the words, “What the ****!”
The words were painfully clear.
I looked around at the small children playing near us.
Children to whom the words were just as clear.
“Did you hear that?” I asked my Husby.
He didn't.
The chorus came on a second time.
“What the ****!”
“I can't believe what I'm hearing!” I crawled out of the pool and marched, dripping wet, into the front office.
The song wasn't as loud here, but still discernible.
“Can you guys hear that song?” I demanded.
The two women at the front counter frowned. “I wasn't listening,” one said.
“It's foul!” I said. “And there are little children out there listening to it!”
“Oh, my! We'll change it!” she said.
And she hurriedly did so.
They hadn't chosen the song. They had merely turned on one of the satellite radio stations, thinking that it would have a modicum of decency.
They were obviously wrong.
The experience reminded me of the time, a few months ago, when my Husby and I were eating breakfast at a local 'family' fast-food restaurant.
A young woman a few tables over was talking loudly on her cell phone to her boyfriend.
Or I'm assuming it was her boyfriend.
Some of the one-sided conversation would suggest it . . .
“You're the worst ****ing boyfriend I've ever had!” she said. “What are you ****ing talking about? I can't believe you would ****ing say that to me! How could you ****ing do that to me? Well **** to you too!”
And so the conversation went.
For nearly twenty minutes.
There were families there.
Trying to eat.
Most hurried their children through their meal and packed up and left.
And still, the girl shouted obscenities into her phone.
It turned my stomach.
Finally, we packed up what was left of our breakfast and escaped.
Finding somewhere better to finish.
Thinking of that girl and that song, I can't help but wonder . . .
Have we lost our gentility?
My Dad taught me when I was growing up, that what came out of a person's mouth was a direct reflection of what was going on in that person's brain.
That a person who resorted to obscenities in their conversation simply didn't have the intelligence to converse on a higher plain.
I think of a speech given by a woman named Margaret D. Nadauld:
“The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined.”
We can easily substitute the word 'people' for the word 'woman'.
Have we been concentrating so hard on being tough and independent that we have lost our ability to talk on an intelligent level?
Is this really how we want to be heard expressing ourselves today?
Is that how we want our music, our movies, our conversations, our lives to sound?
And, for goodness sake, can't we think of another word?!

What are your thoughts?

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Hole in the Ice

Mom was in a panic.
She had looked away for an instant.
An instant.
And her toddler had disappeared.
Christine, dressed in her warm, little woollen snowsuit had been playing happily in the front yard.
Mom had zipped into the house to check on her new baby.
Happily, rosily asleep in his cradle.
And now, seconds later, her eldest child was gone.
Frantically, Mom called and cast about for her little daughter's footprints in the snow.
Leading . . . toward the river.
Mom was off at a run.
A few seconds later, she was standing on the bank.
The little tracks meandered out onto the snow-covered ice.
To a large hole.
Mom stared at the patch of dark, swiftly-moving water.
Her entire life crashing about her ears.
She stepped out . . .
Then she realized that the little footprints didn't end there.
The trail turned and continued back to the bank.
Her heart beginning to beat again, Mom scrambled back up the bank.
And there was her little daughter, heading toward the barnyard.
Mom scooped up her baby and carried her back to the house.
Then spent the rest of the day alternately crying and hugging Christine.
Infinitely grateful for the divine intervention that had protected her daughter.
Mom raised all of her six children to adulthood on that ranch.
Rescuing them from such things as:
Altercations with the local livestock.
Wrangles with barbed-wire.
Numerous falls.
Differences of opinion with power tools.
An infinite number of scrapes and bruises.
And, yes, plucking them from the muddy jaws of death in a capricious river.
But she never forgot that moment of stark and frozen terror.
Standing on the bank of the river, looking at the trail of little tracks that ended at the great hole in the ice.
And how differently it could have ended.
Her very worst . . . and very best of moments.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Driving in Canada, Eh?

Red Mittens - not just for hands any more!
Photo credit:

We were shopping.
I will admit, here, that shopping is not my favourite activity.
I need a really good excuse.
It was Christmas.
Okay, Christmas is a really good excuse . . .
My youngest two children and I were out to find a gift for Grant. 
Their Dad, my Sweetheart.
The hardest person to shop for.
After much wrinkle-browed thought, we had decided that whatever we were seeking would best be found at Lee Valley Tools.
My husband's favourite place on earth.
It is a long-standing family joke that he must go once a month to LVT to pay homage to Thor, the Tool God.
But I digress . . .
We set out.
It was December.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, winter equals snow.
Ask anyone.
But avoid those with chattering teeth.
Th-th-they c-c-c-can n-n-n-never be t-t-t-trusted.
Or understood.
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Winter. Shopping. Setting out.
At first, things went well.
A heavy, wet snow was falling thickly, but the window wipers were managing to keep the windshield clear – sort of.
We made it into the city.
And immediately slowed to a snail's pace.
Let me describe the scene for those of you not familiar with travel accompanied by snow: All roads are now white. And slippery. All surfaces have become heavily coated in ice. Nothing is recognizable. Little is even visible.
The windshield wipers are your best, and only, friends.
But even they, too, get clogged with snow and need the occasional boost.
This is accomplished by stopping. Getting out of the vehicle. And slapping said wiper against the window hard enough to remove any accumulated snow.
Or, if you are my husband, by opening the driver's window and catching the wiper when it is in its furthest upright position and giving it a quick snap while it is still in motion.
It's all about timing.
And coordination.
Neither of which I have.
And both of which were to be needed shortly.
Several times, I pulled out of the crawling traffic and performed the necessary operation to clear the windshield.
Then waited for a break in the traffic and pulled back in.
Total time wasted? Hours.
Okay, well, it seemed like hours.
There must be a better way.
I would try Grant's method!
It was genius!
When the traffic had stopped for yet another light, or stalled vehicle, I quickly rolled down the window. Then I reached out.
I waited for just the right moment, when the wipers were at their apex (neat word, right?)
Closer. Closer.
I reached out and caught the top of the wiper.
Okay, that didn't sound good.
As the wipers began their downward stroke, I realized what I had done.
The blade was still in my hand.
I had snapped the entire thing off it's arm.
Umm . . . oops?
The window quickly became covered in a blanket of white.
Well, half of it at any rate.
Unfortunately, it was the driver's half.
Rather necessary if you want to see where you are going.
And usually, the driver does.
Something needed to be done.
And there was no one but me to do it.
Quickly, I climbed out and switched my only remaining wiper blade to the driver's side.
Okay. Now I could see.
That's important.
But now, the other side of the windshield was suffering for the lack of wiper-age.
I looked around.
Our options were . . . limited.
“What about this?” My daughter's voice from the back seat.
She was holding up her red mitten.
I stared at it.
Huh. Might work.
I took it and, climbing out into the storm once more, proceed to tie it to the other wiper arm.
We switched on the wipers.
It worked!
Now we had a wiper and a . . . mitten.
I don't have to tell you how it looked.
In point of fact, we giggled every time that mitten came into sight.
But it worked.
We finished our trip.
Shopping done. Purchases made.
Van safely parked back on the driveway.
And Grant replaced the wiper that had so inconveniently decided to come off.
Stupid thing.
The wiper, not Grant.
I learned several things from this:
  1. Don't shop.
  2. Don't drive.
  3. Don't live in Canada
  4. Don't go anywhere without your red mittens.
Okay, you're right. I didn't learn anything because:
  1. I still shop.
  2. I still drive.
  3. I still live in Canada.
Pack your mittens!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Diary of a Home-Wrecker

I really wanted to take Shop class.
Working with power tools.
Smelling the aroma of freshly-sawn wood as you constructed your first-ever endtable.
Making pottery and jewellery.
A handi-girl's dream.
But in 1970 (yes that's really when I started high school) girls weren't allowed to take Shop class.
I know.
Because I asked.
Moving on . . .
I, and the rest of the girls, took Home Economics.
Home Ec., for short.
Or Home Wreck, as it was not-so-affectionately titled.
So we were 'Home-Wreckers'.
The place where we 'learned' to sew.
And generally find our way around running a home.
Once I got past not being able to take Shop, I really had fun.
I sewed a potholder.
An apron.
And a little purple linen dress with the sleeves in backwards.
I baked cookies.
Made Chicken-a-la-King served in little toast cups.
And Gourmet Hot Dogs.
I learned the proper way to scour pots (and the sink).
Scrub a floor.
And generally make my house squeaky clean.
Sew straight.
Cook carefully.
And scrub hard.
I did pass.
With unremarkable marks.
And, surprisingly, I actually used some of the things I learned.
And still do today.
There is a codicil:
Now my brother . . .
Yes, they allowed boys to take Home Ec. 
For one glorious week sometime during the year.
And yes, I know it wasn't fair . . .
My brother remembers Home Wreck differently.
He remembers cooking.
Something he excels at today.
And hunting for mice with frying pans and spatulas.
Boys make everything more fun.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Rainy Days

Something for Everyone!

My Husby's father was a wonderful man.
Devoted to his numerous offspring and grand-offspring.
Who, in turn, loved him.
And anxiously awaited any opportunity to go for a visit.
I must admit here that seeing and visiting with their Grampa wasn't their only reason for wanting to spend time at his house.
Their motives were a bit more . . . self-serving.
Because Grampa had treats.
Really yummy treats.
He had learned over the years to put a little something away for, as he called it, a 'rainy day'.
And 'rainy days' were much sought after and appreciated.
Especially by the younger set.
Inevitably, when visiting Grampa's house, after the initial excitement of greeting and getting everyone inside and settled, Grampa would say, “Well, I think I'll just go and see if I have any 'rainy days'.
Which meant that he did.
Yummy-ness was forthcoming.
Moving ahead several years . . .
My Husby learned many things from his father.
One of which was, to the joy and delight of his children and Grandchildren, the stashing away of 'rainy days'.
He does this religiously.
And, as a result, generally grows more than it diminishes.
His present stash consists of two huge cardboard boxes and several bags, taking up the entire space under his desk.
Several fancy wooden chests of 'treasure'.
And a shelf full of boxed chocolates.
Do you fancy a treat?
You're invited.
Rainy Days for everyone.
And I do mean everyone.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Good Friends and Car Troubles

Okay. I'm sure it was one of these . . .

My Husby and I drive vintage cars.
'Vintage' is a classy name for 'old'.
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
Wonderful vintage cars.
They are affordable.
I can sympathize with their creaking joints and less-than-stellar performance.
And they have real engines.
Or at least engines where the components are recognizable.
But they do have their drawbacks.
They really are old.
And their parts are equally old.
At times, like me, they get . . . balky.
Allow me to illustrate . . .
We were driving a Buick.
Station wagon.
It had developed some internal problems.
Gall bladder, I think.
Or, in car talk, an stubborn solenoid.
While we waited for the funds to actually fix said solenoid, we were reduced to a two-person starting method.
One to crawl under the car and whack the balky part with a hammer and the other to actually turn the key.
It worked.
Sort of.
We were visiting with friends.
It was a warm summer evening.
The sky had been threatening rain all day.
Sometime during our visit, the threat became reality.
The sky opened up and dumped everything it had on us.
At the exact time we decided we should be heading home.
I took up my position in the driver's seat, key inserted and ready to turn.
My Husby quickly slipped underneath the car, hammer in hand.
*Tink*. *Tink*.
“Okay! Try it!”
I turned the key and the engine roared to live.
My Husby crawled out – remember, it was pouring rain at this time – and started towards the driver's door.
He paused.
Someone was laughing.
We both looked toward our friends' front door.
The two of them were silhouetted in the light from their front room.
They had watched the whole procedure.
We laughed with them.
Then my Husby shrugged and jumped into the car and we drove off.
We learned an important lesson from this.
Always choose your friends with care.
They should be fun.
And be able to laugh you through your car troubles.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


If you think the outside is fantastic . . .

Edmonton, Alberta is a good-sized city.
Not distressingly large, by the world's standards.
But a nice, comfortable million or so people.
It has many, many attractions.
Our family's favourite is the Telus World of Science.
When the kids were small, it was called the Space and Science Centre.
And we were there almost every week.
The kids would wander through their favourite displays.
Interact with their favourite activities.
And go with us to see an Imax show.
If you've never seen Imax presentation, you should.
It consists of a huge screen.
And crystal-clear photography.
And you feel as though you were part of the action.
When our Caitlin was three, we went to see a show, simply titled, Speed.
For forty minutes, we were part of car racing, flights, train rides, roller coasters, and anything in this world that went fast.
To say we enjoyed it would be a vast understatement.
Our sons in particular were quite literally hanging onto the edge of their seats.
Finally, the show, as shows do, ended.
The lights came up.
Caitlin, who had spent the entire time in the seat next to her father, looked up.
“Dad? Is it done?”
Her father nodded.
“Can I put my feet down now?”
It was then we realized that, when the action started, she had pulled her feet up.
And held them up.
For forty minutes.
Now that's movie realism.
Edmonton is a wonderful place.
There are tons of things to do.
But when you tire.
Stop at the Imax.
It's all about seeing.
Keep your feet up.

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