Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pi(e) Night 2014

As the evening began . . .
Sixty-two pies!
Sixty two.
And they ate all but twenty . . .
Left-overs anyone?!
As it ended . . .
And a fun time was had by all . . .
Well, by me at any rate!
Cleaning up now.
See you tomorrow!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Great Gifts

It's Pie night! 32 done and 20 more to go. 

Eating starts at 6! Grab a fork and join us!

So, a repost of parties past - by request - from a year ago...

My parents were a social sort.
And often entertained.
With friends and food and games galore
And fun for hours, sustained.

And in those days of party fun,
When er’ food came in sight,
There were no paper plates to serve
With gusto and delight.

Only the best that could be found
Would aid my parents’ guests,
And so they served on china, fine
And silver for the rest.

And when the meal was done, the guests
Rose quickly to their feet.
And, as a group, cleared table, and
Would in the kitchen meet.

The duties there were quickly giv’n,
Who’d man the towels and sink.
And in an instant, all was done,
E’en faster than you’d blink.

When I was ten, above the rest
Stood out one woman there.
I watched in awe as she took towel
And dried the silverware.

Her movements were that quick, I found,
My eyes could barely follow.
And soon a gleaming pile she had
All ready for tomorrow.

“I’d love to be that fast,” I said.
“My goal is clear to see.”
She shook her head, “I’m sorry, dear,
You won’t be fast as me.”

I took it as a challenge then
And practiced faithfully.
And finally knew just what she meant,
“You won’t be fast as me.”

For some of us receive one gift,
And some another. True.
Her gift was drying silverware,
And mine is telling you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Forever Blowing Bubbles

On the street where we lived...
The tricycle in the background sits on Penny's drive.
I asked my youngest daughter what was her favourite memory of growing up.
Her answer surprised me . . .
When our family moved to Beaumont, Alberta, our first home was ‘up on the hill’.
A term for all of the houses built before 1980.
When the town was still . . . small.
Every home on our lively little side-street was filled, quite literally, with children.
We once tried to count all of the kids.
And got lost somewhere around fifty.
Yep. Lively.
On any given day, rain or shine, sleet or snowstorm, the street seethed/boiled/churned with children.
They were running everywhere.
Between homes.
Through backyards.
To the semi-private park tucked neatly into the corner.
It was a safe, perfect world in which to raise them.
Across the street from our house was the home of Penny and her family.
Penny was my best friend.
And our kids liked each other, too.
On a warm day in spring or fall, with the afternoon sun shining on her front yard, it wasn’t unusual for she and I to be found sitting on her front step, visiting and waiting for our school-age kids to make their way home.
And blowing bubbles for our still-at-homers.
Our little learners would come around the corner, spot us up there on the porch, and quickly join in the fun.
Talking about their day between batches of bubbles.
It was, in a word, peaceful.
I remember it as a fun, happy time.
My youngest daughter remembers it as the very best of times.
Penny and her family moved away.
We are still in touch, as time and distance allows.
But, sometimes, in my mind, I’m sitting on that front porch visiting with my best friend and waiting for my children to gather.
Forever blowing bubbles.
I think my daughter is right.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Getting There

Navigate this! (Taken from Blarney Castle. Just after I kissed the famous stone.)
In Canada, we have The Dominion Land Survey. 
And my husband has iron boogers. 
These two are connected.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My husband's favourite program on TV was the Tim Allen show, Home Improvement.
In one episode, Neighbour Wilson told Tim that men are actually endowed with minute bits of metal in their noses that aid in navigation.
Tim, putting his twist on it, called them 'iron boogers'.
A term that my husby whole-heartedly embraced and endorsed.
When Canada was first being mapped/documented, it was divided into a perfect grid.
Or maybe an imperfect grid, but a grid, just the same.
We were raised in an area where the roads were straight and regular and one mile apart.
If one road was blocked, you could find 113 other ways to get where you wanted to go.
It was a perfect system.
People growing up in that environment developed an unerring sense of direction.
Thus, my husby.
See the connection?
Moving on . . .
We were travelling in Ireland.
Have you ever heard it said that there is no green quite like the green of the Emerald Isle?
It's true.
But I digress . . .
We had just driven into town and were looking for our bed and breakfast.
Our map only covered the specifics of reaching said town, not the particulars of what to do when we got there.
There was a woman walking down the street.
Grant pulled over and we asked her how to reach Thus-and-So Bed and Breakfast.
These are her exact words, "Oh that one. It's rather difficult to describe. You need to go up that hill (pointing) and turn right. There is a hotel there and they can direct you further."
We thanked her and did as she directed.
Except for the 'turn right' part.
My husby turned left.
At which time, I gave up.
He drove around for a total of thirty seconds, then pulled over to the side of the street. "Why don't we just stop here?" he said.
I looked out of the window and gasped.
Thus-and-So B&B. Right there.
In front of us.
I gasped and turned to stare at him.
He merely tapped his nose and looked at me significantly.
From then on, I used the map merely to get us to the next town, then tossed it into the back seat.
Grant was much better at finding our destination when he wasn't hampered by such distractions as maps.
Old Iron Boogers.
Old Iron Boogers.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Honey For Sale

Perfect for each other.
My Mom had been raised on a ranch.
She knew cattle and could speak the language with anyone.
But there were times when she very much longed to change the conversation . . .
She and Dad were out with a group of friends.
Fellow Hereford breeders.
The conversation veered, as it always did, to the discussion of the newest miracle bull.
"That 55L! What a bull! Longest animal I've ever seen!"
An animal's length is important. More beef on the hoof.
Just FYI.
The men were enraptured.
The women, silent, polite listeners.
Mom tried to add some colour other than red and white to the conversation.
"We did something different this weekend," she said. "We went to a Gilbert and Sullivan . . ."
But the men's conversation continued unabated.
"You know, 55L was unknown until his calves hit the ground! Long. Tall. Big as colts!"
"We saw the Pirates of Penzance," Mom finished weakly.
No one heard her.
She sighed and withdrew.
But her mind was working busily.
A few days later, Mom again took a back seat to Dad's cows. Giving up on a much anticipated wedding because Dad couldn't go.
That was the last straw.
The next day, she decided to play a prank on him.
She called the local paper and had this ad inserted:
            HUSBAND FOR SALE - Cheap
            Complete with blue jeans, SSS monogrammed shirt,
            rubber boots, old floppy hat, B.S. spattered coveralls,
            pitch fork, scoop shovel, feed bucket,
            25 Hereford cows and one grumpy bull.
            Not home much.
            Speaks only COW. Call 244-2108
Then she waited.
Not a word was said, though she saw my father reading the paper and knew that he always finished every word.
The next day, another ad appeared, directly below Mom's.
This one read:
            HONEY FOR SALE
            The sweetest gal this side of Texas. Good mother,
            helpful, kind, patient, understanding, loving,
            cheerful, caring, cooperative, self-sacrificing,
            grateful for all favours, especially a frugal income,
            and as a bonus, is beautiful and loves
            my Hereford cows. Call 244-2108.
Enough said.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Catching Sunshine

The afternoon sun spilled through the living room window like golden honey.
Making the air glow and creating a cozy pool of warm delicious-ness.
I watched my three-year-old granddaughter, white-blonde hair a shining halo about her smiling face, as she tried to capture the floating dust-motes in the beam of light.
“Gramma, look!” she said excitedly. “They’re dancing!”
And suddenly, I was remembering another time.
And another little girl . . .
I had just graduated from the Nursery. The place, in our church, of food, toys, warm hugs, and sitting on the floor. Also the room in the basement. With the least amount of windows.
My fellow three-years-olds and I had been guided upstairs and into the sunlit chapel. Then given the gi-normous (expressive/made up word) front pew to sit on.
Don’t get me wrong, we were used to those pews.
But normally we sat on them with our parents/families.
Suddenly that great expanse was ours. Alone.
We were ‘big kids’ now.  
My classmates alternated between sliding about on the polished, golden oak surface and staring at the women in charge of this meeting.
I was seated furthest from those women. And nearest the tall window next to our pew.
The late afternoon sunshine was streaming through.
On me.
For a while, that was amazing enough.
Then, I discovered that there were floating . . . things . . . in that golden beam of light.
Things that danced and swirled about when I waved my hand.
Things that gently, but effectively, eluded capture. No matter how quickly I moved. Or how hard I tried.
While the rest of the kids in the room sang or listened to stories, I concentrated on the little ‘floaties’ so tantalizingly close and so difficult to actually grasp.
Suddenly, the girl seated next to me slid to her feet. I looked around, startled. Our little group was following Auntie Grace and filing out of the room. I glanced one last time at my golden beam of magic, and reluctantly followed.
We were led to a tiny classroom that opened directly off the chapel.
And sat down on chairs.
Real, our-size chairs.
Auntie Grace smiled at us and welcomed us warmly.
Then she said something I’ll never forget. “Diane was playing in the sunbeam during opening exercises.”
I stared at her. Was I going to get into trouble?
She looked at me and smiled again. “Diane, that’s what you are! That’s what this class is! Sunbeams! You’re not in nursery any more. You’re all Sunbeams now!”
I blinked at her, not quite certain what she was telling us.
But I never have forgotten.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

ABC Gum*

Chris. Taste is everything . . .
My parents were travelling and had made a stop in a small town for lunch.
At a tiny hotel restaurant.
They perused (real word) the menu and made selections for themselves and their -then- three children.
This was pre-Diane days. (Oh, the joy that was in store for them! Soon they would welcome Diane . . .)
Where was I?
Oh yes.
Ahem . . .
They made their order.
And waited.
Suddenly, Mom noticed that my elder sister, Chris, age four or so was chewing happily on something.
She watched her, suspiciously, for a few moments.
Finally, "Chris, what are you chewing?"
My sister looked up at Mom and said, "Gum."
Mom thought about it for a moment.
"Wait a minute. You're chewing on gum?"
"Umm-hmm," Chris said, still chewing.
"I didn't give you any gum." Mom turned to Dad. "Did you give her some gum?"
He shook his head and pulled Jerry out of the sugar bowl. "Enough sugar, son."
"Well where on earth did she get gum?"
"Why don't you ask her?" Dad said. "Jerry, leave the salt and pepper alone."
Mom turned to Chris. "Honey, where did you get the gum?"
Chris slid the wad in her mouth to one side and said, "Here, Mom!"
She pointed . . . under . . . the table.
"There's lots more! You want some?"
*Already Been Chewed

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