Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Narrow Escape

Daddy and Me.
I loved baths.
Loved them.
In fact, once Mom got me into the tub, it was a major chore to get me out.
I would swim and play like a little marine mammal, till the water cooled to the point that it was tepid.
And I was shivering.
I know. I know.
Makes no sense to me, either.
But I was four. Little that one does makes sense when you're four.
Moving on . . .
One day, Mom discovered a technique that had me gasping on the bathmat quicker than a wet, slippery little Louisiana catfish.
Okay, I don't know much about those but I'm assuming they come from Louisiana.
And that they're wet and slippery . . .
Mom, patience growing thin, pulled the tub plug.
While I was still in the tub.
The water started down the drain.
And suddenly, I knew that I was going to go down with it.
What were we saying about making sense?
Oops. There goes Diane!
I knew what my parents would say," Darn! Lost another one! Guess we'll have to get us another little girl!”
Okay, so even at four I had a lot of imagination.
After that, all Mom had to do was reach for the plug.
It was like she put a current of electricity through the water.
I would be standing, shivering on the mat.
But whole.
Another narrow escape.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Reaching My Beak

Admit it. This strikes terror into your heart.
For three years, we lived in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’.
It was a little house. (Just over 300 square feet.)
And we lived in it.
My Husby had built it as a dog kennel.
Then turned it into a chicken coop.
Finally, cleaned it up, insulated and finished the inside.
And moved his family into it.
But that isn’t what this story is about . . .
Our little house was heated with a wood stove.
During the summer (ie. July), that stove sat cold and unused.
Once August rolled around and temperatures started to cool, however, it was pressed back into use.
And that’s where this story starts.
Oh, and I should probably mention that I‘m afraid of chickens.
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
My Dad was over for a visit. Which invariably consisted of trying to carry on a conversation with three little boys playing between us in the only available space in our little house.
It was nearly suppertime. The room was starting to cool.
Time for a fire.
I checked the damper. (I want you to know that I knew what I was doing . . .)
Opened the door of our little stove.
Piled in wood and kindling.
And lit a match.
Flames licked up immediately.
And that’s when we heard it . . .
The scratching and clawing and fluttering of something inside the chimney.
We both stood there, stunned. What on earth . . .?
“You must have a bird caught in the chimney,” Dad said.
What?! How was that possible?!
The poor thing!!!
I grabbed a bucket and doused the small fire, then began pulling out bits of blackened wood and setting them back into the box.
Finally, the stove was clear.
Dad and I knelt down and peered inside.
“Oh, I see it!” I said.
It was a blackbird.
The poor thing had obviously been overcome by smoke and dropped into the back of the stove. Quite clearly dead.
I reached out to grab what I thought was a foot in the uncertain light.
It wasn’t.
Dad shook his head and stared at me as I did the dance of disgust. *Shudder*
Eventually, he got the bird out and we gave it a proper burial.
Later, my Husby checked to see how it had gotten inside in the first place. Ah. A loose screen. Quickly remedied.
I can wrangle the most dastardly fur-bearing animals the barnyard can offer.
But chickens and I give each other a wide berth.
Turns out that it’s really their beaks I’m afraid of.
And a beak is a beak.
No matter whom it’s on.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Lament

Using Delores' Wednesday's words:
Servitude, plodding, cast iron, frequent, fanny, desperation

Join us! This is fun!

Our chief of Under-the-Porch-Light fame,
Forever blessed be your name,
Our servitude we pledge to you.
As we pen prose all fresh and new.
With cast iron will we set to work,
And struggle not to go berserk
Upon our fannies do we sit,
And strain to make the verses fit.
Your pithy words do us inspire,
And all our faculties require,
To try to make our plodding way,
And skill'fly use your words today.
With frequent dabbings of our brow
We play with ‘twist’ and ‘pot’, and ‘plow’.
Occasionally, your evil bent,
Leaves us unsure where our brains went.
We grumble but we persevere,
The challenge sent each week, all year,
And so, your words, you see, appear
Penned in desperation here.

Whew! Six more days till I again
Must take a cudgel to my brain!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Grampa's Little Helper

Kids pick up on everything we do.
Whether we like it or not.
And my Husby likes to build things.
These two facts will come together somewhere in this story . . .
As I was saying, my Husby likes to build things. Big things.
He made our dining room table.
Our games table.
Our birdcage and assorted other furniture.
Now, his big project is a cedar-log sunroom.
He does this because it’s . . . fun.
Moving on . . .
This project requires spending the days outside.
And making assorted loud noises.
Our kids grew up with Dad’s building projects and the accompanying rackets.
Our almost-two-year-old granddaughter who lives with us is just beginning to.
And she is adapting quickly.
Now, whenever there is a loud noise in the street (ie. Mower, weedwhip, atomic explosion) she gasps excitedly and says, “Grampa! Working!”
Yesterday, she learned something new.
Did I mention that Husby’s project keeps him outside all day?
Strawberry pals.

Oh, right, I did.
Perhaps I should emphasize the words OUTSIDE ALL DAY.
Because one can’t drag him inside, even for meals.
Occasionally, I will poke my head out the back door and ask, “How are you doing, Honey?”
But that’s the sum total of our ‘Husby-has-a-project’ communication.
Yesterday, my granddaughter and I were in the front room. Me, reading. She, plotting to overthrow the world.
Suddenly, she jumped down from the table where she was playing with the Playmobil castle and ran to the back door.
There followed the sounds of effort.
Then the squeak of the door.
Then a little voice, “How you doing, Honey?”
Who says they’re not watching.
And learning . . .

Can you see it? (Ignore the mess . . .)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Getting There

My Mom was the only girl in a family of nine children.
She and/or her brothers had many adventures . . .

Getting home from school in the late 1930s usually meant a ride on Shanks Pony. (Walking.)
For three of my mom’s four younger brothers, Roy – 11, Sten - 9 and Eric - 6, it was usually accomplished by following the railroad tracks.
One hot spring afternoon, they decided to mix things up a bit.
They followed the road.
Okay, yes, it was about a mile further to the home farm, but they could at least see a slightly different view of the countryside.
Carrying their syrup pail lunch kits, they started out.
Just as they passed one of the neighbour’s farms, they noticed an animal coming toward them on the road.
A familiar animal.
It was their family’s large, horned Hereford bull.
Obviously, the warm spring day had enticed him out of winter retirement and he was ready to scout the surrounding area for possible matrimonial prospects.
Knowing that the neighbours would be less-than-pleased if some strange bull began making advances on their cow herds, the three small boys decided to turn the huge animal and head him back toward home.
For a few minutes, all was well. The bull was happy walking in whatever direction his humans pushed him and the boys were happy to keep him going.
Then the eldest, Roy grew tired of the slow pace and decided to be a little more proactive.
First, Roy’s idea was to get the bull to carry their lunch pails. This presented a problem because none of them possessed a handy bit of string or cord to tie said pails to the great animal’s horns.
Hmmm . . .
Wait. They had a 6-year-old brother who would be happy to perch up on that broad back.
And he could hold the pails.
No sooner conceived than done.
Eric, whose short legs stuck out like airplane wings, found himself astride the huge animal and holding three clumsy lunch pails.
The gentle bull, accustomed to kids, appeared not to notice.
The little parade continued down the road.
Then Eric shifted, trying to get balanced.
And the pails . . . rattled.
The bull’s ears swiveled backwards and the great head lifted as the bull paused.
Then, one of the older boys slapped him and he gave a tiny spring as he once more started forward.
More rattling as Eric struggled to keep himself and his pails together.
Another hop. And an increase in speed.
More rattling.
More speed. By this time, the bull had reached a lumbering gallop.
I should mention, here, that Bergs don’t give up easily, even when they’re six. Eric unloaded pail after pail in an effort to stay on.
Finally, with only one pail left, the noise had stopped.
But the damage was done.
That bull wanted to get out of this situation. As quickly as possible.
This time, in an effort to keep his balance, Eric accidentally swung the last pail against the bull’s side.
That was it.
The bull erupted, danced along the road for a few paces and finally hit the ditch.
Where the two parted company.
As soon as his burden disappeared, the bull, once more slowed to an amble.
The two older boys collected their lunch pails and their shaken but unhurt younger brother and started walking once more.
Sometimes slow and steady doesn’t win any races.
Sometimes it simply gets everyone home in one piece.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Birthday Present

Another of Daddy's favourite stories . . .

For years, she worked untiringly
In times of calm, or urgency,
In office work, traditional,
Her business place so integral.

Her husband was so proud of her,
His sweet, but strong entrepreneur,
So, for her birthday, he’d reward
The lovely woman he adored.

And straightway took her to the store
To blow all he did budget for,
For something pretty she could wear,
Unmatched by all who might compare.

And so received from her dear spouse
A lovely suit, with silky blouse.
A gorgeous jacket: shade of blue,
A pleated skirt of matching hue.

Then marched herself to work that day,
Receiving greetings on the way,
Confident in how she looked,
As pretty as a picture . . . book.

Her boss was in when she got there,
She checked her image with due care,
Then to his office, she did trot,
To show the suit her husband bought.

But just as she had stepped inside,
A customer with needs, applied
For entrance to their workplace there,
The boss sprang up from his wing chair.

“So sorry that I made you wait,
(Today my girl’s a fashion plate),
But she was looking oh-so-cute,
When showing me her birthday suit!”

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fluttery Fobias

For Pearl: She and Moths have a history...

Admit it. This is terrifying.

Debbie's family lived on a ranch not far from ours.
Her father had worked for my parents as a young man, before he had married.
They had remained good friends.
As had Debbie and I, once we had made our respective appearances (ie. born).In our senior year, I stayed with them for a semester.
They were kind, wonderful people.
Very clever and full of fun.
Debbie and I had a room in the basement.Lovely twin beds and assorted other furniture.
With the lamp hanging over her bed.
This is an important point.
She was also terrified of moths.
Another important point.
And I liked to read at night after climbing into bed.
These all tie together.
Let me explain . . .
It was late.
Debbie had long been trying to sleep.
I was reading.
It never occurred to me that I was being inconsiderate, as the room's only light hung directly over her, attracting any moths that might be in the vicinity.She tossed and turned and finally huffed and, throwing back the covers, got out of bed.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Bathroom,” she mumbled.
Just then, a moth that had been fluttering around in the light for the past half-hour, made the mistake of appearing where Debbie could see him.
In a blur, she headed towards the door.
For some inexplicable reason, the moth followed her out into the dark hall.You never can tell with moths.
There was another horrendous screech and Debbie darted back into the room, jumped into her bed and pulled the covers over her head.
The moth fluttered in happily behind her and was soon once more dancing in the light.
“STUPID MOTH! SHUT OFF THAT STUPID LIGHT!” Debbie shouted, through the covers.I stared at the quivering lump that was my friend.
“How on earth did you know the moth followed you into the hall?”
I complied.
Imagine. Frightened of a silly moth.
Now if it had been a spider . . .

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