Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Streaker Peeking

Tell me you remember this.
The weirdest fad, ever, to show its hiney to the world.
Well, the only fad to ever show . . . never mind.
I was in college when I first became aware of this . . . dare I call it a phenomenon?
Yep. My current boyfriend and I were sitting at the local Dog ‘n Suds.
A car-hop burger joint.
Enjoying one Texas burger, one yummy Chili Dog and two of the ‘World’s creamiest root beers’.
With fries.
Suddenly, he stopped, mid-chew, and pointed.
I turned.
And almost choked on my hot dog.
Three young men, of varying size and . . . well, size, were coming toward us.
On the run.
They ‘streaked’ past the burger joint, through the parking lot of the next door Chinese food place and disappeared.
I know it’s not polite to leave your mouth hanging open, especially during meal time and especially when it’s full of food.
My mom would have pitched a fit.
Okay, first she would have fainted dead away at the sight of three naked, young men running hard past her ‘dining table’. Then she would have been revived and coached over her shock. Then she would have pitched a fit.
But she wasn’t there.
And her daughter was.
Let’s face it, that hot dog was cold before it got swallowed.
Then I turned and looked at my boyfriend.
“Did we see what I think we just saw?”
He nodded, grinning. “And we knew two of them.”
It was true. Two of them went to the same college as us.
One of them was even an ex-boyfriend.
After that, it was not uncommon to see naked bodies running.
Mostly through parking lots and drive-ins.
Football games and other sporting events.
And at least one down the long main concourse of the College mall.
The fad rather died out when winter hit.
It is Canada, the famous ‘nipper’ of regions nether.
And that when one is fully-clothed.
Oh, a few hardy souls still managed.
The fastest, fittest runners.
The rest of us huddled in our overcoats and shivered for them.
And then, suddenly, the fad was gone.
Yesterday, I was at the swimming pool.
Where ‘brief’ is the abiding fashion statement.
Streaking is back.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Sunny Beaches

Don't let the dapper exterior fool you.
Somewhere inside is that  9-year-old.
Ah. Influencing the young and innocent.
Even in families, it's not always a good thing . . .
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
If anyone asks him if he is related to Owen (his eldest brother) he tells them: Distantly.
When my Dad was nine, said oldest brother lived close by with his family. A wife and three-year-old son, Brian.
Brian adored his much older uncle.
He toddled along after 'Unca Mark' whenever he could.
Usually a good thing.
Occasionally . . . not.
My Dad had the twice-daily chore of milking the cow.
Brian loved to go along.
Just because.
It was a fun, companionable time for the two boys.
All was well.
One day, Brian's mother sat him in a chair in the kitchen and prepared to give her small son a haircut.
She combed the unruly locks into submission.
"Ouch!" Brian  said.
"Sorry, dear, but you have some tangles."
"Ouch!" Brian said again. "Mo-om!"
"Almost through."
Brian glared at his mom.
"If you do that again, I'm going to have to say 'Sunny Beach'!"
His mother stopped combing. "What?"
"I'm going to have to say 'Sunny Beach'."
"What?" she asked again.
"Suunnny Beeeach," he said slowly and patiently.
Light dawned.
"You mean 'Son of a . . .'"
Her mouth popped open in horror.
She gripped his small shoulder. "Where did you hear that?!"
He stared at her, not understanding her panic.
She gave his shoulder a little shake. "Where did you hear that?!"
"That's what Unca Mark says when the cow kicks him!"
Two things resulted from that haircut.
1.  Brian actually did get his hair shortened.
2.  "Unca Mark' received a lecture on language and its proper uses. Oh! And . . .
3.  I just realized that, when it came to cursing, my Dad didn't have a leg to stand on - or maybe a beach to lie on (see here).
It's a good world.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Miss Ernestine

Delores has challenged us once again.
This week's words?
Insignificant, crimson, mottled, track, border, spinning
And/or the phrase: She was as stiff as last year’s Christmas tree.
What would you do with those?
Time for a short story . . .

Her name was Miss Ernestine.
And the kids in the neighbourhood were terrified of her.
We all called her Miss Scare-estine.
Miss Ernestine was a maiden lady.
A tall, slender person. Always impeccably groomed.
She had many talents.
For thirty-five years, she had taught home economics to hundreds of young girls at the local high school. Now, in retirement, she spun and wove. Was a seamstress extraordinaire. And worked in her garden - a cool, wondrous place that could sometimes be glimpsed through the slats of her back fence - with carefully laid-out tracks and flowered borders.
But her greatest talent was her ability to stare at kids through reading glasses that magnified her eyes to unbelievable proportions.
And see into their souls.
At any time of the day, you could see her sitting beside her great front window, spinning.
And watching.
Soaking up the intimate details of the actions of the kids on the block.
Obviously recording them in her steel-trap brain to tell our parents later.
The moment any of us stepped out through the front door of our homes, we felt like little insignificant insects under the careful watch of a giant, bug-eyed scientist.
Whenever her sharp, magnified blue eyes turned toward me, I could feel my face turn crimson and my heart speed up. Or my face drain of colour and my heart stop. In fact, I was always in a state of mottled anxiety: red, turning white. Or white, turning red. 
Fear does those things to you.
Sometimes, we would see one or more of the adults on the street stop and chat with her.
But it was obvious that, when it came to the art of jovial conversation, she  . . . struggled.
Okay let’s face it; she was as stiff as last year’s Christmas tree.
She would spend her time correcting any hapless person who chanced to make a comment that fell within her areas of expertise. And said areas of expertise included any and all topics.
She was sharp, critical, outspoken and downright scary.
And the bane of the entire block’s worth of children.
And then my mother got sick.
At first, it was ‘just the flu’, and would be over and done with shortly.
But it stayed, and worsened.
Finally, the doctor diagnosed it as pneumonia.
He assured us that, with proper care, she would recover and continue to live a full and happy life.
But she did need that proper care.
And how she was going to get it as a single lady with six kids - and the eldest only ten - was anyone’s guess.
Then came that knock on the front door.
My older sister answered it.
And there was Miss Ernestine, loaded down with boxes and bags.
Without even waiting for a ‘come in’, however timidly it might have been offered, she swept into the place and . . . took over.
For the next week, she cooked for us, cleaned, did laundry, helped with homework, kissed boo-boos and nursed my mother.
Bedtimes, though strictly enforced, were a relaxing time of storytelling and learning about bygone days as Miss Ernestine regaled us with tales of growing up in the mad, wonderful city of San Francisco in the roaring twenties. Of her wish for marriage and children that never came to fruition. Of her careful watching of the neighbourhood children to make sure they were safe and happy.
The day that I woke up to see my mother once more installed in the kitchen was both the best – and the worst – of my life.
And later, when Miss Ernestine disappeared out the front door, laden again with boxes and bags, I thought my heart would break cleanly in two.
After that, things on our street were different.
Gone was the fear. The dread. The ignorance and uncertainty.
Armed with the knowledge and understanding of a different perspective, we discovered there was something else that Miss Ernestine excelled at.

Drop by Delores' place and see what the rest of us came up with!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sisters. And Fear

Go ahead. Scare me.
It shouldn’t have been frightening.
We knew her. She knew us.
Previously, we had been chatting happily with her.
And we were in a church.
But it was.
Frightening, that is.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Kathy, her older sister and I had been at an activity at the church.
The activity had ended.
My ride hadn’t materialized.
I should mention, here, that, when I had a church activity, my Mom had to abandon her uber-busy life and drive twenty miles to get me.
On sketchy roads.
In the dark.
Uphill both . . . never mind.
Sometimes, her life didn’t let go easily and she arrived late.
Okay, often, her life didn’t let . . . you understand.
My friend and her sister stayed with me so I wouldn’t have to wait alone.
We were wandering around in the chapel, chatting, peering out of the tall windows.
It was dark outside and all of us were anxiously watching for the tell-tale lights of Mom’s car.
Kathy’s sister, as a joke, shook her long hair over her face and started walking slowly toward us.
That’s it.
Long hair over face.
And walking.
It FREAKED US OUT. Screaming at the tops of our lungs, we fled.
To the other side of the chapel.
(Okay, none of us should have been playing in the chapel – don’t tell the Bishop.)
Sister kept on coming. Just slowly, never increasing the pace.
But inexorably. (Ooh! Good word!)
We shrieked and ran. Turned and looked.
And shrieked and ran.
Funny, now that I look back on it that it never occurred to either of us to  - you know - leave the chapel.
I guess it was because the rest of the building was much scarier. Even without someone’s stalking sister.
The trailing and scaring and shrieking went on until the lights of Mom’s car finally lit up the front of the building.
Sooo . . . like I said, we knew her. She knew us.
Why on earth were we so scared?
But we were . . .
And we loved it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Not-So-Empty Purse
I carry a purse.
This isn’t unusual.
I carry lots of necessities in it.
A small first-aid kit.
A screwdriver.
A flashlight.
Assorted small toys to entertain grandchildren.
A book.
Used Kleenex.
But there is not (and never has been) a kitchen sink.
I just thought I’d mention that.
My Husby teases me about my purse.
With many and varied references to said kitchen sink.
I have discovered that he is not alone in this.
Let me explain . . .
We were holidaying aboard a tall ship in the Mediterranean.
Our ship was anchored in the bay near Santorini.
Let me take the opportunity to encourage you to go.
It’s . . . nice.
Moving on . . .
The ship was sending us pampered passengers to the island in the launch.
There were helpful attractive-young-men-persons to help us on and off.
One elderly couple were a trifle concerned during this process.
The woman, perched precariously between sea and sky, dropped her purse.
Before it could hit the water, it was snatched from grief by a quick-witted (and very fast) attractive-young-man-person.
Who proceeded to hand it back to its owner, now safely on board.
She thanked him graciously and commended him for his lightning reflexes and quick wits. Then she turned to her husband.
“It probably would have been all right, wouldn’t it, hon? It would have floated for a few seconds at least.”
Her husband grinned at my husby. A conspiratorial man-grin. “Are you kidding?” he asked. “Straight to the bottom! Kitchen sinks don’t float!”

Our steed.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Blanket Conundrum

See? Blankets are traitors. Fun one minute . . .
I was helping Mom.
Okay, I was four, so ‘helping’ might be more of a hopeful term.
We were tidying the family room.
Dusting: check. All one had to do was slide a cloth over every and all surfaces. My job was actually the pre-dusting. Getting things ready for mom’s bigger and better cloth.
Vacuuming: check. I watched and moved out of the way at strategic moments.
Window washing: check. I washed. Mom dried and got rid of my fingerprints.
Putting toys away: check. Well, maybe a tentative check. Every toy I carried to the toybox must be played with a bit before actually putting in the toybox.
Folding the blankets: check. All right, a definite no check.
Because this is where I came to grief. Those blankets were huge! At least a thousand times bigger than me! And, yes, I know I was the one who dragged them out. I mean, one can’t build much of a blanket fort without the . . . you know . . . blanket. But they were huge!
Mom! Huge!
But she insisted.
And left the room.
I gathered the blankets up and set them on the couch.
We regarded each other with suspicion.
I mean, how can you trust something that is a friend one minute and a job the next?!
Finally, I pulled the top one off and set it on the floor. Then I saw a corner and pulled it out straight.
I saw another corner and did the same.
I found the other two corners and pulled on them.
Soon, I had a blanket laid out flat on the floor.
I adjusted and straightened until there wasn’t a wrinkle to be seen.
I stood back and looked.
It was a thing of beauty.
Then I lifted the one corner and pulled it across, matching it to the corner opposite.
I found this technique worked better if one wasn’t standing on said blanket at the time. That definitely slowed down the process.
Just FYI.
I grabbed the second one – pulling it across to its corresponding corner.
Then I straightened and smoothed.
Eureka! I had succeeded in lessening my problem by half!
I grabbed the two corners together and pulled them down to the other two corners.
More straightening and smoothing.
This was working!
I did it again.
And again.
Finally, I had a tidy, neatly-folded bundle, just perfect for stuffing into the cupboard.
I called my mom and showed her my thing of glory.
My triumph.
My folded blanket.
She nodded and smiled.
And disappeared.
Hmm . . . sometimes moms really don’t get the stupendousness/remarkableness/amazingness/marvelousness/fabulousness/exceptionalness of what their four-year-olds have accomplished.
Moving forward fifty-some years . . .
My granddaughter had been playing with blankets.
It was time to tidy up.
She grabbed the first blanket and spread it out on the floor.
Then proceeded to fold it by matching corners.
And straightening and smoothing.
Soon she had a neatly-folded little bundle.
I blinked and stared.
Not everyone would appreciate that tidy little parcel of neatly-foldedness.
But I did.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Horace P. Flee

More Delores words!
And rhyming ones. What could be better!
thump, bump, dump, clump, rump, plump

Horace P. Flee was the Frump Village grump,
No loveliness in his demeanour,
He lived all alone near the old county dump,
Developed his skills as a screamer.

Whenever he heard just so much as a bump,
His head would pop out of the door,
With a noise that would make almost everyone jump
And his displeasure then underscore.

One day to the village known solely as Frump,
(Please don’t think it’s for fashion expression!)
Came a strong-minded widow, quite pretty and plump,
With her children that numbered eleven.

Now, when moving, one’s household goods come in a clump
And are sorted through carefully after.
And necessitate many a trip to the dump,
For the children: Adventure With Laughter.

Now, Horace P. Flee, that old village grump
Wasn’t happy with all of the joy.
So he shouted a phrase that made all of them jump,
He intended to hurt and annoy.

Then Abigail, she who was pretty and plump,
But possessed of a lively, bright spirit,
A piece of her mind, she gave that village grump,
And forced him to stand there and hear it.

Then something strange happened that day at the dump,
With all of the parties together,
For Horace’s heart hit his shoes with a thump,
While Abby’s beat light as a feather.

Their marriage was viewed by the Village of Frump,
With the two of them there in the heather,
The minister stood on a great old tree stump,
With a smile, he joined them together.

From then, anyone using the Frump Village dump,
(If it’s not too hard to believe . . .)
Found the happy noise now from the home of the ‘grump’,
Was much more than what they could achieve.

Horace P. Flee was the Frump Village grump,
Until life with his Abby ‘begun’,
When you least expect it, you’re knocked on your rump,
‘Cause there’s someone for ev-er-y-one.

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