Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Hay Seed Holidays

Getting ready for the LONG trip . . .
It was the late 1950’s and Dad was in Toronto.
With 15 friends.
Twelve hairy chaps with four feet each.
And three not-so-hairy fellows who were . . . more like Dad.
Intrigued? Stay with me . . .
During the 50s, the government had programs encouraging people to raise bigger and better cattle. They even sponsored ranchers who were interested in hauling a few of their best cattle to agricultural shows around the country. They reasoned that said ranchers, eager for some first-place ribbons, would selectively breed bigger and better animals.
It worked.
Ranchers arrived at shows with trailer loads of their very best animals, hoping for a trophy or two and some recognition.
And that was what had brought Dad to Toronto. He and young friends Mike, Leroy and Patrick had driven from Alberta, carting a ‘carload’ (twelve steers) halfway across the country to the agricultural show there.
They learned a few things.
Some of which were unexpected.
Maybe I should explain . . .
The four friends arrived with several days to spare.
After unloading and settling their stock, they found they had time for some sight-seeing.
And the great Niagara was where they wanted to do it.
Renting a car, the four of them set out, touring, first the Canadian side of the falls, then crossing over the border to the American.
After several hours of ‘tourist-ing’, they decided that the next item on the agenda should probably include some sort of sustenance.
They began to scout around for a likely place.
And discovered that the restaurants nestled close around the falls were of the ‘posh’ variety.
Now these boys were all from the ranches of Southern Alberta. They were good boys. Polite. Respectful.
They just hadn’t been out and about much.
And never had any of them eaten at such high-class establishments.
They wandered around a bit, looking for a place where four young men – clean, but with calloused hands and traces of real manure on their boots - wouldn’t feel quite so out of place.
Finally, they picked a likely-looking prospect and walked in.
And discovered that the quiet exterior was slightly misleading.
This restaurant was definitely of the five-star variety.
Taking a collective deep breath, they hailed the Maitre’D and secured a table. Then further hiding their discomfort, proceeded to order, trying to sound as blasé about their surroundings at the other patrons appeared to be.
They did well.
Until Patrick was asked how he’d like his potatoes prepared.
“Smashed,” he said clearly.
The waiter stared at him. Finally, “Smashed?” he said.
“Smashed,” Patrick repeated.
The waiter nodded and, making a careful note on his pad, collected the menus and disappeared into the kitchen.
Leroy punched Patrick in the arm. “Smashed?” he said.
Patrick started to giggle.
Leroy joined him.
Then Mike.
All of their pent-up nervousness and discomfort burst out of the three of them in a joyous bubble of sound.
That they vainly tried to suppress.
This went on for some time. One of them would nearly gain control. Then look at the others and start again.
Ever try not to laugh? Seriously. In church or school or somewhere people aren’t supposed to laugh?
Yeah. It’s impossible.
Certainly it was for them.
Before long, the four friends were the cynosure (real word) of all eyes. And that just made them more nervous.
And less able to control their laughter.
They managed to make it through their painful meal.
Paid and finally escaped.
Oddly enough, none of them can remember what they ate. Apart from the smashed potatoes, of course.
But each of them learned a few things.
1.       When in ‘Rome’, act as the Romans do.
2.       When in ‘Rome’, speak as the Romans do.
3.       Avoid potatoes in public.
4.       Don’t laugh.
Yeah. It seems so simple.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Medical 'Break'through

Some of our blessings.
Caution: Lift with care.
I’ve been fairly active all my life.
And I have the scars to prove it.
I had all the usual bumps and bruises learning to walk as a baby.
Climbed and fell off of numerous fences, buildings, and assorted furniture.
Got trampled by an angry mama cow in the barnyard and got a flattened right boot.
Tried to fly using mom’s circular clothesline and almost bit my tongue right through.
Took a high-flier off my brother’s horse and landed on my face, resulting in impressive scratches and bruises.
Got a faceful of hoof from the same horse moments later.
Had an altercation with the arm of the armchair in my parents’ front room which resulted in one remarkable eyebrow.
Tore a twenty-two-inch groove in my leg from ankle to thigh, when I fell headfirst over the barbed-wire fence I was trying to cross.
Nearly lost my right hand in a cattle headgate.
Put all of my lower teeth through my lip when I got head-butted by an angry mama cow whose calf I was sitting on at the time.
And these were just injuries incurred in the course of growing up on a ranch.
I also sprained each ankle numerous times playing basketball, volleyball or baseball.
Sprained every single finger at least once – ditto.
Broke a wrist doing a celebratory leap.
Wrecked a knee running marathons.
Wrenched shoulders.
Sprained backs.
Twisted necks.
My purpose in telling you all of this is not so you will think I’m tough.
Or superwoman.
But because I don’t want you to think I give up easily.
That I can take pain and carry on.
But recently, I’ve developed a new injury.
Something I’ve never had before.
And I’m really struggling with it.
I went to the doctor complaining of pain in my elbow.
You heard me correctly.
My elbow.
She examined the offending joint. Worked it around. Hemmed and hawed. “You have tennis elbow,” she said decisively, moments later.
“Tennis elbow? How on earth did I get that?!” Since the knee injury, my sports participation has been strictly limited to laps of the pool.
And the occasional bike ride.
I’ve never even picked up a tennis racket.
“Well . . . golf elbow, then.”
Golf?! “Umm, that’s a game, right?”
She stared at me. “Well, what activities do you do?” she asked.
I frowned. “Swim. Bike. Play with my grandkids.”
Her eyes sharpened. “Grandkids?”
I nodded.
She smiled. “Do you lift said grandkids?”
I scratched my head. “Ye-es,” I said slowly.
“A lot?”
“Well, two of them live with me and one I babysit every day.”
She nodded, once more crisply confident. “That’s it, then.”
“What?” I was confused.
“I’m sure that the pain in your elbow can be directly attributed to the constant lifting of small bodies.” (Doctors talk like that . . .)
“I have . . . toddler elbow?”
She smiled. “In a word.”
It’ll never be discussed in ‘Sports Illustrated’.
Never be the topic of concern for professional athletes.
But it’s real.
Toddler elbow.
To be found at a many grandparents’ houses near you.
You heard it here first.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The All Nighter

Delores from The Feathered Nest has issued a new Wednesday's Words challenge.
This week's words are Donut, Flannel, Frayed, Inching, Virtuous, Cartoons.
How fortunate that they fit right into an experience from my college days . . .

Debbie sat back and stretched. “I need some donuts!” she said.
I rubbed a hand over my tired eyes and stared at her.
Debbie was known for her unusual cravings. A terrible need to find ‘the good lollipops’ when both of us were supposed to be sitting in Biology class.  A craving that only ‘the chili dogs that they sell at College Mall’ could fill during Sunday services. Some of ‘Mom’s pickles’ when half a continent stood between us and them.
I was used to following her when she hatched these schemes.
They were nothing, if not entertaining . . .
“Where do you propose to find donuts at 4 AM on a Friday morning?” I asked in my most practical voice. I flipped a page of my textbook and tried to return to my former level of concentration.
“Tom's!” Debbie chirped cheerfully. She snapped her book shut and stood up.
“The pizza place?” I frowned. “They have donuts?”
“Good ones,” Debbie said knowledgeably.
“Deb, I’ve got exactly four more hours before my exam,” I said, trying to sound virtuous. “I’m not going for donuts!”
“Oh come on. You’ll be able to concentrate better!”
Sighing, I dropped a ruler on my page to hold my place. Then looked at her. “Are you going to change?”
Debbie rolled up one sagging flannel pant leg. “Nope,” she said. “I’ll just put on a coat.”
I sighed again and pulled on my floor length dressing gown, frowning at the frayed hem. Then I looked at my roommate. She was busily rolling up the other wrinkled pant leg. I shrugged. No one was going to be looking at me.
I moved toward the door. “Ready?”
She nodded and brushed quickly past, reaching for her car keys. “Let’s roll!” she said.
A couple of minutes later, we were parked in front of Tom’s.
There was only one other car in the lot.
A police cruiser.
I walked up to the door and paused. The TV inside was tuned to the all night cartoon channel. Through the glass, I saw Yogi Bear make off with someone’s picnic basket.
I pushed open the door. Two policemen, obviously enjoying a late night meal looked up at me. I smiled at them and turned to Debbie. “So what do you want?” I asked.
But Debbie stood frozen at the door, staring at the two men. One flannel pant leg had come untucked. It hung halfway between the hem of her coat and her ankle.
One of the policemen smiled encouragingly and beckoned to her.
She shook her head and started inching back toward the door.
“Debbie, what are you doing?” I asked, following her.
“I’ve just decided that I really don’t need a snack,” she said. She looked at me. “And neither do you. C'mon, we've got studying to do!"
Have you ever heard that 'insanity rules after midnight'?
It's true.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Musical Memories

The year boys were discovered in Milk River.
Okay, yes, they had always been there.
And yes, I had seen them.
But up until that time, they had been covered with cooties.
True story.
Also true was the fact that, in 1965, I got my first, ever, boyfriend.
A real. Living. Breathing. Boy.
Who liked me.
1965 was also the year for miracles.
Moving on . . .
I was finding out about the wondrous world of sitting in a movie, holding hands with a boy.
Hanging out at recess with a boy.
Talking on the phone with a boy.
Sitting in assemblies with a  . . .
You get the idea.
It was new.
It was unusual.
It was amazing.
Okay, it didn’t last long. Let’s face it, both of us were ten. Attention spans are notoriously short when you’re ten.
But for a while . . .
My boyfriend and I and another friend were sitting in the travel trailer behind his parents’ house.
I should mention here that 1965 was also the year that we realized the radio played . . . music.
Rock and roll music.
I don’t know about you, but my parents’ radio was always tuned to the news.
Yep. The news.
Twenty-four hours a day.
Back to my story . . .
My boyfriend had fallen hard for a newly discovered group, The Beatles.
He had bought one of their records and we were listening to it.
They were SO COOL!
It was the fifth or sixth time we had restarted the LP and by this point, all three of us were getting quite proficient with the words to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand!”
“I wanna hold your ha-a-and!” I was singing at the top of my lungs, really not caring who else might be listening. “I wanna hold your hand!”
My boyfriend took the hint. Sat beside me, took my hand and sang along.
It was the best moment of my life.
Then, suddenly, his mother appeared in the open door. “Diane, your Mom is here. Time to go.”
I looked at my boyfriend and grimaced. (Yes. Grimaced.)
Our moment was over.
But that was all right. There would be other times.
Lots of them.
I was wrong.
Not long afterwards, my boyfriend’s attention . . . wandered.
As did mine.
That’s the good thing about being 10.
But whenever I hear The Beatles sing, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, I’m back in the trailer behind his house and he and I are singing along at the top of our voices.
And holding hands.

Memories don’t get much better than that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Join the Army. The Letters Home

Staying with my Daddy for a few days. We have lots of visiting to do. So, a repost from a couple of years ago . . .

A guest post by Erik Tolley

Erik, right and a colleague, Larry.
 On the back of the picture, it says: 'I'm the one in green'.
My second son served for eight years as an engineer/mine specialist in the Canadian army.
Including a peace-keeping mission in Bosnia. (When he returned home, he walked over to the lawn and just stood there. When asked why, he said, "I haven't been able to simply walk over and stand on grass for 10 months. This feels wonderful!)
These are excerpts from some of his letters home.
Be warned, he was a soldier and has a wicked sense of humor . . .

14 June
Greeting, Earth Dwellers,
The average temperature is currently hovering around +34C, which it has been all week. My secretary, Aida, was translating the radio for me and told me that these temperatures are the hottest in 68 years. Boy, are we lucky. The humidity is about 10000000% on top of that, so as you towel off from your freezing shower, the water droplets are replaced by sweat droplets as fast as you can wipe them off. I'm drinking 10 liters of water a day. 4 of them during my workout alone. Just crazy.
*  *  *
I forget what the date is, July something.
Hi, everybody!
I hope you all had fun at camp this last week, You'd better have. I had a lot of fun diving on the island of Vis. Even without the diving, the scenery was unbelievable. Except for the old ladies on the beach without tops on. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!! That sort of thing could scar me for life. It should be illegal. Fortunately, I spent lots of time under water. I even held an octopus. He wasn't impressed. His suction cups felt really neat, though. The laser vision burns, though. Who knew octopus could cook their own food? National Geographic had taught me nothing!
Calm now.
*  *  *
I'm doing well, since you asked. I just drove here for the first time yesterday, and I had a lot of fun. The road signs are just a vague suggestion to the motorists here, so I had to adjust my driving doctrine to suit the conditions. Basically, we speed everywhere, and pass when we want to. Even driving like a maniac, my boss, Major Thelwell, says that I'm the safest driver she's seen here. I can't wait to drive around with her at the helm. Apparently I'm in for an exciting trip.
Later this week, I get to drive to Banja Luka on Tuesday, Zgon on Wednesday (it's right beside Kluc on the map, if you're looking for it), and then we go to Sarajevo by way of Tuzla on Thursday, returning on Friday by going through Kakanj. Basically, I get to see the whole country in a week. Sarajevo will be fun, I think.
Please send pictures of the dogs. I told my assistant, Aida about them and she wants to see them. There are a lot of dogs around here, but most are the end result of decades of hasty, unplanned dog sex. There was a cute little puppy who lives in the entrance bunker at the camp in Zgon, though. He was there with all the guards who were dressed in their fighting gear, and he was inspecting our vehicle while we talked to the guards. What a little cutie. I think he was a little Doberman without a docked tail, and no doubt he gets away with murder at the guard bunker. Fortunately, everyone seems to like Canadians.
*  *  *
The Book of Bosnia
Chapter One
1. And it came to pass that the soldiers of the Queen did go forth into the land of Bosnia, to bring a lasting peace unto the land.
2. And the soldiers did look about them and did see many peoples throughout the land, and behold, the land was bountiful, and beautiful to be seen.
3. And it came to pass that there was a spirit of contention throughout the land, causing much death and destruction.
4. And the soldiers dwelt in a tent.
5. Now the soldiers went forth unto the people, saying:
6. What is wrong with you people?
7. Lo, these words were heard by many, and the people did listen. But the people did not speak English, so they did continue to fight, and ignored the Queen's soldiers.
8. And there was no air-conditioning to be had.
9. Now the soldiers were angry, because the people were fighting among themselves, and many people had died. Plus one leg had fallen off their foosball table, which did enrage them.
10. Therefore, the soldiers did cry out to their Lord:
11. "Oh, Lord, why hast thou forsaken this land?"
12. And the Lord did hear the cry of the soldiers, and did pity them, and did say unto them:
13. "Quit whining! For crying out loud. You sound like a bunch of little girls!"
14. And many great and glorious things did the Lord speak unto the disgruntled soldiers in this manner, until the soldier's hearts were softened and they did fall to the earth in amazement.
15. Lo, their parachutes had not opened.
16. Now the soldiers were of the mind that the Lord had played a rotten trick on them, what with the parachutes and all, so therefore the soldiers did decide to bring peace unto the land of Bosnia by circumventing Him.
12. And it came to pass that the soldiers did cry unto a false god.
18. And this false god was called Chrétien, the father of lies, the ancient enemy of all men.
19. And Chrétien did speak words unto the soldiers, but the soldiers were deceived, and did misunderstand his words, since Chrétien cannot speak any mortal language.
20. And it came to pass that the soldiers began to wander aimlessly throughout the land, and their faith did diminish, and they forsook the false god Chrétien, and did end their days as wanderers, eating berries and kittens and other nasty stuff.
21. And peace was brought by Superman, and there was much rejoicing.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Join the Army. Get and Education. Third and Final

Staying with my Daddy for a few days. We have lots of visiting to do. So, a repost from a couple of years ago . . .A guest post by Erik Tolley

There are also some other trades that you could join, like the Military Police, Intelligence (I still can't get any answers as to why they call it that . . .), Logistics (nobody will tell me what they do, either . . .), Medics, Marching Band, Cook, etc.
Unfortunately, I've never seen anybody from these trades, so I can't elaborate on what they do.
Not that anyone in the Combat Arms does much, either.
After selecting your preferred trade, you will be given several pounds of forms to fill out, a medical examination (thank goodness the doctor didn't need a rubber glove), and an aptitude test.
This all finds out if you are in good health, or if  you need to come back when you look less like an overstuffed sofa.
Now, when that's all over and done with, you will be told whether you qualify for your preferred trade or not.
If you do, you will be given another annoying pamphlet with an attractive picture and a catchy slogan, which will describe in detail what you will learn to do in Basic Training.
Here is a list of some of the things that it will tell you:
Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence
Rifle Drill
First Aid
Rank Structure
Everything Else

Strangely, this annoying pamphlet doesn't list many of the other things that you will learn while on your Basic Training course.
These other things are just as important to military life as the things listed above.
To correct this, I have added a few of my own ideas of what should be placed on future annoying pamphlets:
Dirty Jokes
More Swearing
Female Anatomy
Male Anatomy
Alcohol Abuse
Washing Vomit Out of Your Clothing
Dragging Drunken Comrades Back to Base
Standing At Attention When You Blood Alcohol Content is 0.25
Scaring Civilians

Who says the Army isn't educational?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Join the Army. Get an Education. Part Two

Staying with my Daddy for a few days.We have lots of visiting to do.So, a repost from a couple of years ago . . .

A guest Post by Erik Tolley

InfantryIn 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'.

EngineersIn 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'.

ArmouredIn 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.

ArtilleryIn 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.

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