Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

New Age Princesses

Not just another pretty face!
Our family was together today.
Because we do everything in a group.
Or in our case, a herd.
Grampa and a couple of mothers/aunties had gathered several of the younger kids together in the gym.
In a circle to play some games.
Most of which included loud noises.
Clawing, scratching and biting gestures.
And animal sounds.
They were . . . involved.
One of the two-year-old girls came out of the gym.
And with both hands raised in her best clawing-the-neighbours-or-anyone-else-who-might-get-in-the-way position.
Auntie stopped her.
“Are you a bear?” she asked.
The little girl looked at her indignantly and sniffed. “I’m a princess!” she stated. “See my pretty dress?!”
Auntie and I looked at each other. “Not the sort of princess I was raised with, but . . . okay,” she said.
It’s a new world.
Princesses now have claws, stomp around and growl a lot.
But still wear pretty dresses.
Just FYI.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Crime, Punishment . . . and Laughter

It's my big brother's birthday today.
Hmmm . . . I just realized something.
This happens every single year.
Always on the same day.
Amazing . . .
Second birthday.
He's considerably older now . . .

I was raised in the fifties.
When a good swat on the backside got a child’s attention.
And cured all types of bad behaviour.
In one, swift, *smack*.
Sometimes with the cake spoon.
It didn’t happen often.
But it happened.
Well, to me, at any rate.
My oldest brother, Jerry, was a whole different story.
Which I’d like to tell you about . . .
I don’t know what he’d done.
Okay, yes, he was a tease and, occasionally, a torment.
And sometimes this behaviour spilled over onto Mom.
Who usually took it with a grin and an, “Oh, Jerry!”
But on this occasion, my scamp of a brother had roused her ire.
Enough that she went for the cake spoon.
You know how it is when one child in the family has gotten themselves into trouble.
All of the other children drift in from the nether regions of the household to stand and watch.
And rejoice that it isn’t them.
So the rest of us were ringside as Mom went for the spoon.
At which point Jerry started to laugh.
Said laugh caused Mom to laugh.
Which entirely nullified any feelings of outrage.
And ditto, the previously-mentioned and well-deserved swat on the backside.
Huh. So that’s how it’s done!
I stored that little crumb of knowledge away for the next time Mom’s ire was raised.
In my direction.
But, on that inevitable day, I discovered something important.
It’s takes real skill to be able to laugh directly into the face of anger.
Real skill.
I didn’t have it.
And neither did I avoid the application of correction.
My big brother Jerry.
I could have learned so many important and life-saving things from him.
If only . . .

P.S. Jerry and mom also have a history with the broom. But that is another story . . .

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Hammered

Grandma and Grandpa Stringam. Where the humour comes from . . .
My Dad has a great sense of humour.
He came by it rightly.
Let me explain . . .
Dad was in Lethbridge, running errands, shopping.
He stopped by the local hardware store.
There, in a bin just inside the door, was a pile of hammers.
Ordinary, wooden-handled hammers.
He stopped.
He was a rancher.
Hammers were in constant use.
And they were just as constantly disappearing.
He could always use another one.
He reached out, picking up the one on top.
And made an important discovery.
These weren't normal hammers.
They were light rubber.
But painted so perfectly that they could easily fool even the most scrutinizing (real word) glance.
The only way to tell was to actually pick one up.
Dad picked up several.
In fact everything the store had.
On his way home, he stopped off at his parent's comfortable home near the center of the city.
His father, George, a man past eighty, was seated in his recliner in the front room.
Sounds and delicious aromas were emanating tantalizingly from the kitchen.
Obviously, Dad had come at a good time.
He walked in, tossing a greeting to everyone in general, then entered the front room.
And whacked his father on the knee with one of the hammers.
Grandpa jumped.
"Oh!" Then he chuckled. "I thought you had lost your mind!"
Dad laughed.
Grandpa reached for the hammer. "Well. Isn't that remarkable!" He turned it over and over in his hands.
Then he leaned back in his chair. "Vina!" he called.
My Grandmother bustled in from the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. "What is it, George? Dinner's almost . . ."
That's as far as she got.
As soon as she came around the corner, Grandpa threw the hammer at her.
"Oh!" she said as the soft rubber bounced off her chest. She put one hand to her heart. "I thought you'd lost your mind!" she gasped, unconsciously repeating Grandpa's words.
Grandpa chuckled as Grandma picked up the trick hammer and threw it back at him.
Yep. Humour is inherited.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Front and Center.
I stood with my family to watch the Remembrance Day celebrations.
We had to stand because there were no seats left in the packed, gi-normous, seats-a-million, Edmonton Butterdome.
Yes, it looks like a huge chunk of butter.
And no it doesn’t really seat a million.
Moving on . . .
Our son, Erik was part of the Edmonton City Police Honour Guard.
We’ve watched him march in numerous parades.
He’s easy to pick out.
Always right marker.
Because he stands a head taller than anyone else.
Hear the buttons popping? That would be me. Pride does that to a mom.
Back to my story . . .
Two things stood out in my mind.
First, watching my son.
Second, watching those young men and women - and some not so young - representing all branches of the service as they stood in their ranks across the broad field.
As the celebration drew long, several of them, as my son puts it, ‘thundered in’.
That is the PC term for what happens when the human body is expected to remain motionless in a rigid stance for a long period of time. It gets light-headed. And, sometimes, loses consciousness.
The medics were kept busy in the latter half of the celebration, escorting soldiers off the field.
As I watched those young people making their rather wobble-legged way to the edge of the grounds, it occurred to me that those people we put up there on a pedestal are human.
Just like us.
They have weaknesses and are subject to physical limitations. Fatigue. Hunger. Illness. Fear. Sorrow.
Just like us.
They don’t have super powers. Can’t fly, don’t have x-ray vision, are not impervious to pain and certainly can’t make bullets bounce off their chests.
And yet, they are out there on the front line, putting everything they have between us and anyone who might try to hurt or deprive or enslave us.
Despite their human frailties.
And that makes them, in my eyes, even greater heroes.
Thank you.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Grandma's House Rules

by Grant Tolley

Parents are responsible for their own children while at Grandma’s House.  Grandpa and Grandma used to be responsible but they’re not any more.

All toy trucks with sirens are forbidden – the neighbours keep running out to see if I have run over their cat.  Again.

All musical toys are also forbidden.  The national anthem of the Tolley house is not “Turkey In The Straw.”

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is not on the list either.

All treats for grandchildren are under Grandpa’s control.  He’ll share with you as soon as they release him from the psych ward, which will be when he stops humming “Turkey In The Straw.”
Food prepared at Grandma’s house is made with TLC.  Despite what Grandpa puts in it.

At Grandma’s house the “best before” date on her food expires in two hours.  Food not swallowed before this time will not be recycled.

Soiled diapers cause leprosy.  All pre-lepers shall be banished immediately to the leper colony at the end of the hallway.

All soiled disposable diapers shall be immediately wrapped securely in a plastic bag and placed on the front porch for eventual transport to the garbage can.  Most grandchildren should be removed from the diaper first.

Reusable cloth diapers soiled for longer than one day before washing shall be sold as fuel to the nearest nuclear power plant or placed in a rocket and shot into the sun.

No pooping under the dining room table, even if you are wearing a diaper.  This means you, too, Grandpa.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Becoming Friends

A repost of my favourite Remembrance Day story.
Because it's Remembrance day . . .
Tangmere. History makes me cry.   ( picture)

My Husby worked for Alberta Culture.
Specifically building the great museums for which Alberta is famous.
The last two museums had been announced.
One to house a collection of cars and trucks and thing that go. Or fly.
The other to showcase the horse-drawn vehicle era.
Both having to do with transportation.
In preparation for this, my Husby was sent to the UK.
They have museums.
They could offer insight.
Thus, twenty-five years ago, he went.
Taking me.
It was a wonderful, informative, exhilarating, exhausting, emotional trip.
We saw farm museums. Transit museums. Air museums. Automobile museums.
We even went to the mews at Buckingham palace and got up close and personal with the gold coach.
But one visit stands out above all of the others.
Oh, we had seen exhibits expertly assembled.
Cunningly and beautifully displayed.
Extensive, professional artwork in beautiful buildings.
And trained, informed staff.
But none of them could compete with the (then) little museum, Tangmere.
Near Chichester, England, on the site of the old RAF Tangmere Airfield, this museum was almost exclusively manned by airmen who had served there during WWII.
Perhaps that is what made the difference.
The displays came to life when your guide, who had known the showcased men personally, described them.
He had many stories to tell.
And no few tears were shed in the telling.
One, in particular, I remember most vividly.
The worker/veteran described a gentleman entering the museum.
This man wandered from exhibit to exhibit, reading the hand-lettered cards and information.
Studying the artifacts.
Finally, he approached the desk.
"Have you a cemetery?" he asked in heavily German-accented English.
"Why yes, sir. It's just through there." The worker pointed towards a door.
"Thank you." The man went outside.
To the small cemetery directly behind the main building.
There rests everyone lost during the August 16, 1940 raid on Tangmere during WWII.
The visitor stayed outside for a long time.
Finally, he re-entered the building and returned to the front desk.
"Please excuse me, but I couldn't help but notice that you have buried the German dead with the English."
The man telling the story got a bit teary-eyed at this point.
"Why yes, sir," he told the man. "They were each and all someone's son."
The German visitor began to cry. Finally he whispered, "I was in the wave of German fighters who bombed you."
The Englishman put out his hand.
"Well it's nice to actually get to meet you!" he said heartily, shaking the other's hand. "And I should tell you that you and your boys made one hell of a mess!"
The worker looked at us. "I don't know what we were when he came in, but we parted friends," he said.
I cried all of the way back to our hotel.

Soup Bowl Conundrum

Guaranteed to make mealtime . . . interesting.
I had been smart.
I had managed to find two of each of the four patterns of the Campbell's Kids soup bowls.
All cute.
All . . . capable of holding soup.
And none of which was ‘the right one’ at any given meal.
Child #1: Mom! I wanted the skater bowl! It’s my turn to get the skater bowl!
Child #2: She always gets the skater bowl! I wanted it this time!
Me: I bought two of them! Where is the other one?
Child #3: I have it.
Me: Well, would you mind using the soccer bowl instead?
Child #3: I already started eating.
Child #1: Yuck! I don’t want it if he’s been using it! I’ll get his germs!
Me: Gaaahhh!
Moving ahead twenty years . . .
Dinner was served.
The table had been laid with the finest of paper-thin, bone china and glistening, polished silver.
Crystal goblets caught the light of myriad candles.
Heavily laden dishes, steaming hot and breathing out the teasing, tantalizing scents of basil, thyme and rosemary had been placed with distinct attention to both aesthetic detail and practical access.
Family had gathered.
In a surge of thankfulness for the bounties before us, Grace was said.
And then, from the kids’ table . . .
Grandchild #1: Gramma! I wanted the blue cup!
Grandchild #2: She had the blue cup last time! It’s my turn!
Grandchild #3: I don’t want the pink cup ‘cause it’s a girl colour!
Gramma: Gaaahhh!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Yep. Dumb.

Okay. This IS rocket science.
Have you ever done anything dumb?
I mean really, really dumb?
I'm not saying that I have but . . .
Okay, I'm saying that I have.
But, in my defense, our family always had a shower cubicle.
With a door.
Maybe I should explain . . .
It was my first time living away from home.
I was dizzy with joy.
And heavy with responsibility.
So many things that I suddenly needed to know.
And hadn't paid attention to, when my parents had tried to teach.
The learning curve wasn't just steep.
It was nearly vertical.
I muddled through.
With prayer.
And many phone calls home.
Our apartment had indoor plumbing.I just thought I'd mention it.
And a bathtub with a shower nozzle.
I stared at it.
Huh. How could one use that and not spray water everywhere?
You would have to make sure that the nozzle was pointed directly at the wall and be very careful.
Why didn't they just put in a cubicle, like the Stringams?
And there was something else I had never seen before.
Above the tub and reaching from wall to wall, was a long rod.
I stared at it, mystified.
What on earth could that be for?
I went to my roommate.
“Guess showering is out of the question.”
“Why,” she asked.
“How do you keep the water off the floor?”
She laughed. “Diane, please tell me you've used a shower curtain before.”
“A what?”
Okay, I should clarify here that I had seen shower curtains before.
It's just that I had always designated them decorative, rather than useful.
“I have one. I'll get it.”
My roommate was not only smart, having lived on her own before, but she was also handy.
In no time, we had a brand new plastic curtain strung from the rod over the tub.
But did my education stop there?
Sadly, no.
I prepared for my first shower in my new apartment.
As an adult.
I added that last, because you might not have realized it.
Moving on . . .
I had a nice shower and pushed back the curtain.
Oh, man! Now there was water all over the floor!
I was going to have to lay down towels to catch the water that ran down the curtain and onto the floor.
What a pain.
I mopped up the water and dressed.
“Shower curtains are dumb!” I said as I passed my roommate, headed for my room.
“They let water get all over the floor!”
“Ummm . . . Diane, you're supposed to put the curtain inside the tub.”
I stopped and looked at her.
I'm sure she spent the next few moments regretting her decision to invite me to stay with her.
She hid it well.
“Yes,” she said patiently. “If you put the curtain inside the tub, the water runs down the curtain and down the drain.”
My kids call it the two percent rule. You have to be two percent smarter than whatever it is you're using.
I failed.
I'd like to say that was the last time I did something silly.
I'd be lying.
It wasn't the curtain that was dumb.

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