Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Un-Match-ed Entertainment

That's Entertainment!
On the ranch, in the 50s, we burned our garbage.
It was the only option.
Each week, the trash cans were collected from every room in the house
Carried out to the burning barrel.
Emptied into said barrel.
And set alight.
It was an exciting job.
Okay, well, it looked exciting to me.
Probably because the task came with an 'age appropriate' rating.
And I hadn't reached that age.
I would scurry through the house, collecting bins for whoever was assigned.
Then help them lug everything to the trash barrel.
Then stand back and watch as they . . .
Most of the time, it only took one.
I was more than fascinated.
The lit match would be lowered into the barrel.
A curl of smoke would issue forth.
Then the first of the flames.
There was nothing . . . I repeat nothing . . . more exciting.
And I had been to movies.
And watched Bonanza on TV.
Okay, well, maybe I'd better exclude Bonanza which, incidentally, started with its own fire.
I mean, who could possibly compete with Pa Cartwright?
And his delicious buckskin gelding.
I've wandered from the point . . .
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Garbage.
And burning it.
For years, I watched, enviously as, first my parents, then my older siblings got to light the match.
Slowly, the day approached when I would be trusted with the all-important job.
And then, it was here.
"Diane, would you please burn the garbage?"
I carefully collected every bin.
Toted them all down to the barrel.
Chose one at random and dumped its contents.
Chose another.
And another.
And finally, surrounded by empty trash cans, the magic moment.
I lit the match.
And dropped it carefully into the accumulated trash.
It winked out.
I tried again.
Same thing.
This was harder than it looked.
Most of a book of matches later, I discovered that I needed to choose a piece of paper as my first victim.
Light that, then let it light the rest.
Finally, I had a blaze.
I stepped back and watched proudly.
My first trash fire.
Okay, I admit it, you have to look for opportunities to shine in this life.
Within a few weeks, I was an old hand at 'burning the trash'.
I could collect, empty and light with the best of them.
And use one match to do it.
And then the gloss wore off.
Dad: "Diane. Time to take out the trash."
Me: "Can't someone else do it? I'm watching Woody Woodpecker!"
Blair: "I'll do it!"
Dad: "Blair's too little. He can help, but Diane has to light the match."
Me: [Huge sigh.] "Okay. Fine."
Blair: "Yipee!"
The fire circle of life.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Funny Friday

Funny Friday

  Today’s post is the first of what will be a monthly feature here. 
It’s called Funny Friday,
and is a collaborative project that I’ll post on the last Friday of every month. 
Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below. 
Click on them and see what they've come up with. 
I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.

Here’s today’s picture. 

1. And in other breaking news . . .

2. Lemme guess . . . Professor Plum. In the kitchen. With the . . . spaghetti sauce!

3. Dad! Mom said a bad word and now she's ordering pizza!

4. Note to self: Don't juggle jars . . .

5. The good news? The childproof lid is still childproof!

Go on. Your turn! Give us your best shot!

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Inter-Active Hockey

It was my first ‘live’ hockey game.
Okay, I know that all of them are live.
And quite lively.
Let me re-word . . .
It was the first game I attended where I was actually sitting in the bleachers.
It’s a lot more exciting when one is surrounded by fans.
And can feel the cold air on one’s cheeks.
Just FYI.
My friend, Colleen, rabid hockey brat whose boyfriend was minding the net for our team, was explaining things to me.
I glanced at her occasionally as she spouted such foreign terms as ‘face-off’ and ‘icing’ and ‘high-sticking’ and ‘penalty’. But mostly, I just sat and merrily watched the game.
Not knowing – or caring – who was winning.
Colleen was not as . . . indifferent as me.
She wasn’t very tall, but she could sure make her presence felt, bobbing periodically to her feet to launch ‘criticisms’ at whichever aggravating party was . . . aggravating. As in: “What’d’ya call that, Ref?! Are you blind?!!!”
But as loud as she was, her behaviour had nothing on the woman sitting in front of us, next to the boards.
Now that woman was vocal.
She used words I’d never even heard of, expertly launching them at the ref with practiced ease.
I tried mentally editing out the more profane. But if I’d been successful, the woman would have been sitting there with her mouth open and nothing emerging.
Halfway through the game, she became a little more pro-active.
And that’s when things really got interesting.
After flinging a particularly incendiary little ball of nastiness at the long-suffering ref, she leaned on the boards and waited for the man to skate past.
She didn’t have to wait for long.
If you know hockey, you know that this game goes back and forth . . . a lot.
The ref skated by, intent on the next play, whistle in his mouth and hands and feet working frantically.
The woman leaned over and swung her purse at him, knocking him clear into tomorrow. I say that because it was ‘tomorrow’ before he woke up.
He was carried from the ice with reverence and care.
The woman was escorted to the hoosegow with neither of the above.
When officers opened her purse, they discovered a bottle of whisky.
The ref made a complete recovery, living to ref again.
Never saw that woman again, though. At least not at any hockey games.
But the lesson was learned.
Alcohol, in the right purse, can kill you.

P.S. I think the refs should be pulling in the big salaries, they’ve got the tougher jobs . . 

Delores of Under the Porch Light, gives us six words each week. And issues an ultimatum. "Use these! Or don't. I'll love you anyway."
Okay, maybe not so much of an ultimatum.
This week's words?
glancedmerrilypurseindifferentbrat and blind
How did I do?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ceremonial Tucking

Routines are important.
Especially when one has many small bodies that one is trying to shuffle into bed.
The bedtime ritual in the Tolley household was probably one of the most adhered-to in the entire day.
Little, wiggling bodies were scrubbed clean.
Teeth brushed.
Hair combed.
Jammies donned.
Stories read.
Family prayer said.
And lastly, the all-important Ceremony of the Tucking In.
The grand and glorious final scene in the whole bedtime scenario.
I won't mention here that the tucking in was usually immediately followed by the "I can't sleep" or "I wanna drink of water" or the all important "I have to go pee".
Okay, maybe I will.
Moving on . . .
One of our children, particularly, looked forward to being tucked in each night.
Our daughter, Tiana.
She would emerge happily from the bathroom, sparkling clean and dressed for bed and announce to her Dad, "I'm ready!"
Whereupon (good word) he would drop the evening paper and follow her to the bedroom she shared with her sister.
Then would follow the boosting into bed.
The careful molding of the blankets around the warm little body.
And the ever important good-night kiss.
Then lights were doused, doors closed and Mom and Dad could relax.
At least until the post-tucking parade began.
One evening, Tiana announced to her father that she was ready to be tucked in.
Then realized that she had forgotten something and disappeared.
But notice had been given.
Dad was already on the move.
He went to her room, performed his usual ceremony.
Then resumed his chair and his reading.
Tiana re-appeared.
"I'm ready now," she said.
Her father looked at her. "I already tucked you in," he said.
"What? I'm right here! You didn't tuck me in!"
"Well, I tucked somebody in."
Tiana ran to her room.
"You tucked in my teddy bear!" she said loudly.
Her father grinned into his newspaper. "Well, he was there!" he said.
After that, it was a race to see who could get to Tiana's room first.
She, grinning as her father was forced to perform the usual ceremony.
Or her father, who would then tuck in whatever was close at hand.
I repeat. Routines are important.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paddy Craig O'Connor

He’s not a  mean or nasty lout,
In fact, were you to ask about
Our Paddy Craig O’Connor boy,
You’d find he’s just a hoi polloi.

He’ll shoulder in, with work to do
He loves his wife, and kiddies too,
He’s loyal, almost to a fault,
A fisherman – a seasoned salt.

But after a long day at sea
He’ll meet the boys occasionally,
And, of the good stuff, have a dram,
Then get himself into a jam.

‘Cause Paddy, when he’s had a few,
Well, there’s nothing he won’t do,
Though he draws the line at lawless stuff,
He doesn’t quit till he’s had enough.

He’s mixed the pigs in with the sheep,
And upset everybody’s sleep,
Howled with the dogs, sang with the cats,
Joined Ladies Aid with a box of bats.

Dropped a pig in the local pub,
Took chickens to the senior’s club.
Yes, Paddy really had a bent.
For mischief everywhere he went.

Until that time e’en Paddy knew
He’d knocked the Universe askew.
He had to make a major change.
Frivolities, he’d rearrange . . .

It’d started harmlessly enough,
With Paddy swimming ‘in the buff’.
Just floating out there in the bay
Till the Archbishop came his way.

I must admit, how could he know?
An august visitor would show,
But there He was upon the sand,
With formal robes and raise-ed hands.

Well, Paddy rose out of the waves
Wearing just what God had ‘gave’,
Advanced to ask Him “What's the craic?”
And give His Grace’s hand a shake.

And right there on the sea levee,
And in his frank and simple way,
Beseeched His Excellence to leave.
A blessing for one who believed.

The blunt request no sooner said,
His Grace’s face turned slightly red,
T’was only then Pad realized
They were the mark of many eyes.

The village, all, was there to see.
Pad sobered up immediately,
And in the mayhem that ensued,
Vowed he would be more subdued.

So if you’re staying there to sleep,
Hear pigs and chickens and some sheep,
Know, with those feats of fun and brawn,
That Paddy’s clothes are staying on.

Each week, Delores of Under the Porch Light gives her followers a 6-word challenge.
Last week's words were: leveemayhemblessingarchbishopfrank, and blunt.
Okay, yes, I'm behind. But these words were too good to miss!
Hop over to Delores' and see what her other followers have concocted!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Elementary Horse Trading

Me and Zee.
Now that's a little more like it!
At sixteen, I made my first foray into the wide, exciting world of horse trading.
Let's just say it was a learning experience.
Let me explain . . .
I had been saving my money for months to purchase my first horse.
Okay, yes, we had dozens of horses on the ranch, but none of them had been purchased by me.
See the difference?
Okay, my Dad didn't, either.
Moving on . . .
Some friends of ours knew of a rancher near Waterton Park who had some horses to sell.
Beautiful scenery and a chance to buy my own horse.
It was a perfect world.
We drove into the mountains and left the main road, winding down the mountainside and into the prettiest little ranch I had ever seen.
I was filled with anticipation.
Only the best in horseflesh could come from such a place.
I was wrong.
Just FYI.
The owner introduced us to several horses, but one little bay mare immediately caught my eye.
The rancher noticed.
Perhaps my glassy-eyed stare and drool was a give-away.
He went into his spiel.
Yes. Ranchers have a spiel.
He told me I would love her. Her gait, conformation and performance were perfection.
Here. Let's saddle up and you can take her for a spin.
He did.
I did.
Everything he had said was true.
Money exchanged hands.
We loaded the sedate little mare into our handy-dandy trailer and headed home.
Before we had gotten back to the main road, I had a name for my new best friend.
It suited.
Back at home, my Dad got his first look. He examined her carefully, then shrugged. I don't know, he said. She looks pretty enough, but I don't know.
Horse sense. Some of them have it . . .
Some of us don't . . .
The next morning, I went out to saddle up my new little beauty.
And got a distinct shock.
During the night, someone had come and switched my sweet tempered little Fancy with a roaring, man-killing beast.
And I do mean man-killing.
The drugs had obviously worn off.
No sooner had I bridled her, then she reared up and struck out at me with her front hooves.
I should point out, here, that hooves are hard and can easily be used to cause 'blunt force trauma'.
I watch C.S.I. so I know about B.F.T.
Her first unexpected attack caught me, fortunately on the very top of my head where my skull is the thickest.
She knocked me to my knees, but did no permanent damage.
I struggled quickly to my feet and moved to the nearest far-away place.
Where I watched in wonder as she began her second attack.
Yep. The first attack had been no accident.
But I was ready and she posed no danger at that point.
My decision was made, however.
This horse had to go.
I talked to my friend, the one who had taken me to buy my little whirlwind of terror.
He was very interested.
He should be, he had gotten me into this mess . . .
He dealt with difficult horses and offered, on the spot, to trade me for a horse of my choosing.
This time, I took my Dad with me.
I may be dumb, but I do learn quickly.
We agreed on a nice, black gelding.
Tall. Lively.
But without one important aspect.
He wasn't out for my blood.
An important aspect as it turns out.
'Zee' and I became instant friends.
Something Fancy and I could never be.
Sorry, Fancy.
But it is your fault.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cheap But Plentiful

The Tolley Easter turkey.
Well. One of them . . .
Ours is a Christian family.
Easter is important to us.
We spend time in worship service.
Offering many prayers of gratitude for our Saviour.
For His sacrifice for us.
But Easter is also a time of fun.
Easter chocolate will be hidden.
And consumed.
By children and adults alike.
But here is where our family differs from many others out there.
Our chocolate is not brought by the Easter bunny.
As my Husby says, why do things like everyone else?
Why, indeed . . .
In the Tolley house, our chocolate is brought a day late.
By Peter the Frugal Easter Pig.
Who shops – and has always shopped – for cheap chocolate.
The day after the official Easter morning.
I know. I know.
It smacks of treason.
But at least it smacks.
And who’s complaining when one is gorging on chocolate?
And I do mean gorging because, at 75% off, we can buy so much more!
Mmmmm . . .
Happy Easter, everyone!

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