Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Country's Child

To my friends:
Diane has the plague.
Don't worry, it's not contagious through internet contact. I don't think . . .
I'll be up an about soon.
But for the time being, a repost of my favourite story.
Enjoy!

Me. (Missing from the photo: the Chicken)
Harvest.
A mellow time.
A time to catch one’s breath and simply appreciate the bounty and euphoria of the season.
When the tireless efforts of every farmer in Alberta culminates finally in the production of golden streams of wheat, barley, canola and corn. Truckloads of peas, potatoes and sugar beets.
When sheds and storage buildings are full of the warm, sweet smell of new-mown hay and grasses, carefully dried.
On the Stringam Ranch, we, too had our harvest.
There was the bounty of endless (and I do mean endless, but that is another story) rows of garden produce to be brought in. Carrots, peas, beans, corn, turnips, potatoes, parsnips, beets, cucumbers. And many other things that a four-year-old simply couldn't name, though they did taste good.
Oh, and chickens.
Chickens?
The slaughtering of the chickens on the Ranch was a huge production. I can picture even now the great tubs of scalding hot water to loosen the feathers. The teams of choppers, pickers, and . . . innards removers. Everyone with a sharp knife or axe. Or with rubber-gloved hands working in the scalding water.
It was every parent’s dream for their small child.
Not.
But there I was. Bouncing from group to group. Being forcibly removed from the more dangerous situations.
Slowly getting covered in feathers.
Most probably looking like a large chicken myself.
When some of the more stringent voices hollering at me to keep away had finally effected obedience, and my initial fascination with viewing the death throes of the chickens had worn off, I was at a loose end.
Not a good thing for a four-year-old.
Mischief happens.
Not my fault.
The bodies of the chickens were systematically hauled away, so a closer study of them had proven impossible, but the heads . . .! Those were still there, lying forgotten near the chopping stump. They were piling up, obviously needing to be disposed of.
Please remember – I was a child of the Country.
Capital ‘C’.
One by one, I began picking them up and throwing them, unceremoniously, into the river, only a few feet away.
Hmmm. This was fun!
They would bob for a few seconds, then sink into the milky depths, perhaps to be eaten by some unseen fish, or maybe one of the monsters that our dog, Mike, was sure lived there.
I found a paint can lid. Great! Now I could throw the heads out four at a time. Much more efficient.
For some time, this obviously essential errand kept me occupied – to the vast relief of those who mistakenly thought they had more important jobs. I would collect the heads on my little ‘plate’, walk over to the river and . . . give them the Alberta version of a sea burial.
It was genius.
To a four-year-old.
Then the fateful, life altering event. I picked up a head, deposited it on my plate . . .
AND. THE. BEAK. OPENED!
No word of a lie. It opened! It was possessed! It was going to get me!
Straight into the air, the plate went.
By the time it and its contents had hit the ground, I was already halfway to the house screaming, and I quote, “THE CHICKEN HEAD! THE CHICKEN HEAD!”
Not very inventive, true, but effective.
It stopped the entire production line for several seconds. Mostly, I admit, so the people could laugh, but why haggle over details?
Mom consoled me, between chuckles, and all was smoothed over.
Except for one thing. From then on, I was afraid of chickens. I learned to wrestle 2000 pound bulls without turning a hair, but tell me to collect eggs from under a 3 pound pile of feathers and I was a quivering mass of . . . something soggy and cowardly.
My family still laughs.
There is an addendum to all of this. When my husband and I were on our honeymoon, we decided to make a day trip to the Calgary Zoo.
Fun!
There was a display of emus. And a machine that dispensed grain to feed them.
Put in a quarter, get a handful of feed. All went well to that point. I approached the emu with my little handful of grain.
It moved closer.
I moved closer.
It looked over the fence.
I looked at it.
Its beak opened.
And my new husband was suddenly staring at the handful of grain that magically appeared in his hand.
I was halfway to the car screaming . . .
You get the picture.

18 comments:

  1. What a great story! First the carpet, now the chickens!

    Regarding your label - where do MY phobias come from? I have no phobias, only a sensible, completely logical, totally valid aversion to water above my ankles :) (I almost said knees, but that would be a lie)

    I hope you feel better soon, Diane.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just a phobic mess.
      Hmmm . . . water, eh? You're gonna hate what I got you for Christmas! :)

      Delete
  2. That was a BIG chicken. Feel better soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great story! I just got back from vacation and I'm getting caught up on my favorite blogs. Sorry you're under the weather - feel better soon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome back, Lana! Will we be hearing about this vacation?!
      And thank you!

      Delete
  4. LOL! That's just hilarious, Diane--and an interesting illustration of how phobias can generalize...but I digress. Hope you're feeling well soon, and that the blerg lets you out of its grasp.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karen!
      The Blerg and I are on speaking terms this morning. No sign of vacating, but being a bit more reasonable of a guest . . .

      Delete
  5. I can see why this would be a favorite story. LOL's on this one.
    Blessings for this tonight; I needed a good chuckle!

    ReplyDelete
  6. This still makes me chuckle. I love the photo of you in that gorgeous little dress. Just lately I've seen little girls dressed in similar fashion in the city, they look so sweet. Frills, ribbons, lace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, River!
      I love the little stick legs poking out beneath the dress. Sure wish I had those now . . .

      Delete
  7. I can picture it all in my mind and I am still laughing! I guess we all have our phobias! Mine are black dogs, any other color doesn't bother me at all but a black dog can send be running from to the house. Of course, daughter felt the need for a pet and nothing would do but a black dog, they are still laughing! I really hope you feel better soon! I am working out how to get the BAM conference stuff to you. Okay I went to Facebook at the very top where the globe, lock, message tabs are there is a tab that looks like an arrow pointing down. Click on this and you will see activity log, that is where your timeline review is. It should be there if it's not let me know, you can email me at rm29303@gmail.com and I can just send it to you that way. I really hope you can make it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah. Families. They don't let us get away with anything, do they?! Heading over to look. Thank you!

      Delete
  8. I am sharing this link with my daughter - yes, the little girl I wrote about who was traumatized on her preschool field trip because her mother failed to educate her about the food chain. I actually thought of you as I was writing it - I had a feeling you would have had a different experience ... !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can totally feel for your daughter's shock and awe that day! :)

      Delete

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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