Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Handling the Pressure

Note the pressure 'bob'. It's there for a reason . . .
During their early years on the ranch, my parents sponsored several German immigrants.
They all proved to be wonderful, industrious, conscientious people.
Eager to work and to become 'Canadians'.
One of the girls, Erica, was helping Mom in the house when my next older brother was born.
She proved to be invaluable with the household chores and cooking, but struggled at learning English.
Mom knew a little German, however, so they managed to muddle through.
On a few occasions, though, the language barrier proved to be just that.
A barrier.
Erica was fascinated with the pressure cooker.
That miraculous appliance that could cook food in a fraction of the time.
The microwave of the 50s.
Apparently, though they were widely used in Canada, they hadn't caught on in Erica's part of Germany.
Mom had tried to school Erica on the proper use of this amazing new contraption.
She had managed to get through steps one through four.
  1. Food and a small amount of water is placed inside
  2. Seal adjusted
  3. Lid screwed on and, most importantly,
  4. Pressure bob applied.
I should point out, here, that those are the easy steps.
Then comes the actual cooking part.
And this was where Erica always came to grief.
She couldn't seem to grasp that, if the rings are up on the pressure bob, the kettle is full of . . . pressure.
Up to this point, Mom had always been there to divert disaster.
But on this particular day, Mom was still in town running errands.
Erica decided to cook dinner on her own.
What a glorious opportunity to try out the fabulous new invention!
All went well.
The pressure cooker . . . pressure cooked.
Other pots alternately steamed and bubbled.
Dinner was nearly ready.
Erica pulled the large pressure cooker off the stove and gave it a quick dunk under a cold stream of water.
Then she wrenched off the lid.
The lid and released steam hit her. Full. In. The. Face.
And beets flew everywhere.
Erica screamed and blindly ran outside.
Dad heard her screaming and come running. There he found the poor girl, confused and in obvious pain.
Her nose was bleeding profusely and she had obviously been scalded.
He got her into the bathroom, where he started her soaking her face in cold water.
When Mom came home a short time later, she bundled Erica into the girl's bedroom and applied teabags to the exposed areas. They proved to be quite soothing and she was able to rest.
Then Mom was able to start on the kitchen which was giving a good impression of a slaughter house.
Beets were everywhere.
Mom even found one on top of the knick-knack shelf in the far corner.
Remarkably, miraculously, Erica healed without a mark.
But Mom was taking no further chances.
Though the pressure cooker remained in plain sight, the pressure bob, the little gizmo that made everything dangerous, was hidden in a very secret place.
Never store the gun and the bullets in the same cupboard.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Funny Friday

May Funny Friday

Today’s post is May’s Funny Friday, a regular feature published on the last Friday of every month.
Funny Friday is a collaborative project.
Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture.
Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, 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. It was submitted by Baking In A Tornado 

1.  A whole new meaning to ‘Getting the Toddler Trained’.
2.     Tracks are only for trains. If you can read this, you are NOT a train!
3.     It's not my place to run the train. The whistle I can't blow. It's not my place to say how far the train's allowed to go. It's not my place to shoot off steam, nor even clang the bell. But let the whole thing jump the track and see who catches hell.
4.     Stoke that engine! This is a big one…
5.     Okay. Let’s see if this baby can fly!

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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Boy Day

And they look so innocent . . .
It had been a tough day.
And we had three boys.
Those are my excuses . . .
The day had started out slowly.
Mark had sleep-walked and nearly mistook the closet for the bathroom.
Caught just in time.
Because I am superwoman.
Shortly thereafter (oooh, good word), Mark and Erik had staged an argument/battle over the TV remote.
I should explain, here, that the word 'remote' was largely optimistic at this point.
There was a device.
Attached to our VCR by a long cord.
Thus, 'remote'.
Moving on . . .
Our two oldest boys were fighting over it.
Mom won.
By banishing them to opposite sides of the family room.
Neither of which was close enough to the TV to allow access to said remote.
They were watching 'Black Hole'.
It was the only approximately 'family' movie that our newly fledged VCR rental outlet had.
Both of them could quote it by this time.
They began to discuss whether they should do what Mark wanted - watch it again - or flip to the TV for the daily episode of Sesame Street. Erik's idea.
More arguing.
Won by Mom again, when she suggested, rather forcefully that the time had come for them to go outside and bother their father.
Whereupon (another good word) they found themselves in the great outdoors.
With their little brother.
For a while, they sat and pouted.
Then Duffy discovered the mud puddle.
A short time later, there was a timid tap at the front door.
I opened it.
There was a figure standing there.
Vaguely human in shape.
Roughly the size of my third son.
Several scrubbings later, I realized that it was, indeed, Duffy.
Whose brothers had doused him, quite literally, in his own discovery.
The culprits were discovered, some time later, hiding in the basement of the house their dad was building.
Still giggling.
I dragged them into the house.
To apologize.
And to eat lunch.
Was it really only noon?
They immediately began to argue over who got the yellow cup.
And where each of them would sit.
I settled it again.
No one got the yellow cup and neither of them got to sit remotely close to where they wanted. In fact, they were lucky to be sitting at all!
As they finally bowed their heads and started scooping up Mac and Cheese, I told them, “I think I'm going to take the three of you in to the 'used kids' store and trade you in on girls!”
My second son looked at me, round-eyed. “Can you do that?”
I laughed. “No,” I reassured him.
“Oh.” He went back to scooping.
But sometimes, I wish . . .

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rum-Running for Amateurs

The Smuggler - and her get-away vehicle.
Before she . . . got away.
Mom was a teetotaler.
I thought I should mention that. It explains so much . . .
Dad had surprised Mom with the trip of a lifetime.
Okay, in the 60’s it was the trip of a lifetime.
Driving down along the scenic 101 through Washington, Oregon, California and into Mexico.
They were going to be gone for weeks.
She was just a bit excited.
They set out.
Visiting every landmark, great and small.
Every roadside exhibit.
Every tree, post and rock along the entire route.
Dad loved to see . . . things.
When they had finally finished with Sea World in San Diego, time was growing short.
They had one day to make a hop into Mexico.
Tijuana was all they would have time for.
They set out.
Crossed the border into Mexico.
And had a day of shopping the family-run stalls and businesses on the streets of Old Mexico.
Mom was in her element.
The sheer amount of purchasable ‘stuff’ was mind numbing.
She set to work with a will.
Picking up such treasures as: Velvet paintings.
Items of leather work.
And some lovely bottles, encased in clever, hand-woven reed containers.
Happily, she piled her purchases into the back seat of the car and the two of them set off on the long road back to Canada.
Crossing the border from Mexico to the US was a simple matter of declaring that, yes, they had done some shopping and spent ‘X’ amount of dollars/pesos, and no, they weren’t transporting any firearms, tobacco or alcohol.
They continued on.
Back through California, Oregon and Washington.
Seeing whatever sites Dad had missed on their first pass.
There weren’t many.
Finally, they reached the border, again declaring how much they had spent and that they weren’t carrying any firearms, tobacco or alcohol.
The last few miles to the ranch were covered quickly.
Mom had children to see.
And gifts to bestow.
Their homecoming was noisy and enthusiastic.
Mom handed out her purchases.
Brought all the way from Mexico.
Across two borders.
She had purchased one thing for herself.
The three little bottles in their fancy, hand-woven cases.
She arranged them proudly on the mantle above the fireplace.
One larger.
Two smaller.
For many months, they sat there.
In their place of honor.
Then one of my brothers happened to pick one up as he was dusting.
It was full of liquid.
“Mom! What’s in this bottle?”
“What kind of liquid?”
“Well . . . just water, I suppose.”
“Huh.” He twisted off the cap.
Let’s just say that, if it was water, the water in Mexico is vastly different than anything that flows in Canada.
“Mom. I hate to tell you this, but this isn’t water!”
Mom appeared. “It isn’t?”
“Umm . . . no.”
“Well what is it then?”
“I think you have three bottles of tequila here.”
Okay, remember the part where I mentioned ‘teetotaler’?
That would apply here.
 “What’s tequila?”
 “It’s a very strong alcoholic drink. From Mexico. With a worm in the bottom.”
The ‘liquid’ was duly poured out, worm and all, and good old 100 proof ranch sulphur water poured back in.
Mom went back to the kitchen and my brother went back to his dusting.
All was well.
But I can’t help but think about my teetotaling Mom bringing her three bottles of tequila across, not one, but two borders.
It’s always the ones you don’t suspect . . .

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Slithery Dee

With grandchildren
Our family was camping.
With our good friends, the Boyd family.
Something we have done every year.
For the past 26 years.
Rain or shine.
Usually rain.
It involves work.
Setting up trailers and tents for nearly thirty people inevitably includes some sort of exertion.
1.      1.  There is the usual ‘tarp wars’.
Won by whichever family can set up the best, tightest, most wrinkle-free campsite covering.
2.      2.  The leveling of the tents/trailers.
Highly important if some members of the tribe are susceptible to the headache inevitably brought on by sleeping with one’s head tilted below one’s feet.
3.      3.  And the choosing of the ‘Boydolley’ camp song.
This is very important. It has to be the most aggravating, annoying, ‘stick in your head’ song imaginable.
We’ve had such treasures as: ‘Oh, How I Love to Stand’.
And: ‘Hi! My Name is Joe!’
Plus the ever-popular: ‘Ninety-Nine Bottles of Non-Alcoholic Beverage on the Wall’.
And who can forget: ‘Jon Jonson’?
Seriously, who can forget it . . .?
And then there was the year that the Grandkids were finally old enough to get involved.
And vote.
What did they choose?
What classic would take its rightful place in history?
Was it something momentous?
It was ‘Slithery Dee’.
The classic song featuring a monster that comes out of the sea and eats everyone.
Perfect camp fare.
For a family camped beside a lake.
Moving on . . .
There were various versions.
Depending largely on the age and capability of the singer.
Megan, the eldest could sing it quite well, “Oh, Slithery-Dee!”
Right behind her was Kyra, “Oh, Swivery-Dee!”
And then there was the youngest talker, Odin, “Oh, Dee-Dee-Dee-Dee!”
They sang it by the hour.
And I do mean By. The. Hour.
Until . . . THE EVENT.
It was early afternoon.
Lunch had just finished.
Grandma (me) was lying on the bed in our tent trailer, telling stories to as many of the grandkids as would lie there and listen.
At nearest count – several.
Then they asked to sing ‘Slithery-Dee’.
I complied.
We were just getting through the first verse, wherein (good word) Megan had been eaten, when we were interrupted.
I should tell you, here, that our little tent trailer consists of a central square block.
With three wings/beds.
Each wing is covered by the main canvas, which hooks under said wing.
Canvas that can be . . . un-hooked.
Without the person, or persons, on the wing knowing anything about it.
Back to my story . . .
Where were we?
Oh, yes.
End of the first verse.
Unbeknownst (another good word!) to us, my Husby had unhooked the canvas immediately below us.
Just as we started to sing, “Oh, Slithery-Dee!”, a hand and arm reached up through the wall of the trailer and grabbed the nearest grandchild.
Who promptly screamed.
Inciting an immediate riot.
Grandma and grandchildren boiled out of the trailer like angry bees.
Realizing what had happened, we started to laugh.
Then we fed Grandpa.
To Slithery Dee.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Angels Around Us

On this Memorial Day, I want to remember our servicemen and women and the other angels among us. Great and small.

There are angels around us.

And they appear in the unlikeliest places.
When they are most needed . . .
Our family had fallen on hard times.
It happens to everyone.
It was our turn.
My Husby had been out of work for some time.
And it looked as though he would remain out of work for some time more.
We were 'economizing'.
We had given up everything that was not strictly necessary.
And we were living off our food storage.
The last thing I wanted to give up . . . and indeed the last thing I didgive up was our milk deliveries.
The thought of living on skim milk powder from our storage was . . . how can I say this tactfully . . . horrifying.
But we were about to do it.
Our milkman, John, was a very nice man.
And no, none of our kids look like him.
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
I dreaded telling him that this next delivery would be our last.
But our precious store of capital was rapidly dwindling, despite our best efforts.
And the job had to be done.
He arrived, carrying our order of milk, cheese and cream.
And I told him, tearfully, that we couldn't afford deliveries any longer.
He just grinned and handed me a note.
It read: “Happy birthday . . . or something . . . for the next four months.”
I stared at it.
Then at John.
What on earth did it mean?
“Someone has paid for your milk deliveries for the next four months,” he said, finally.
Okay, so quick, I'm not.
“Someone has taken over paying your milk bill for the next four months.”
His grin widened. “I can't tell you.”
Sigh. Some people are slow.
“I can't tell you,” he repeated patiently. “Someone, who wishes to remain anonymous, has asked that your bill be forwarded to them for the next four months.”
“It was you, wasn't it, John.”
It was more a statement than a question.
He laughed. “I can absolutely guarantee that it was not me,” he said. “Cross my heart.”
I stared at him suspiciously for a few minutes.
Then finally took the carton of dairy products from him and allowed him to carry on with his route.
And that's when the tears started.
Who knew that we were having such difficulties?
And, more importantly, who cared enough to do this for us?
Moving ahead four months . . .
My Husby once more happily employed and a steady trickle of money flowing into the family coffers, I took my last free delivery of milk.
And was happy to tell John that deliveries could continue.
On our nickel.
I never did find out who our Good Samaritan was.
They had swooped in and helped.
Just when they were needed.
Then swooped out again.
But definitely not heartless.
To my Angel, and you know who you are . . . THANK YOU!

And now, my favourite song, by Alabama that just happens to cover this exact topic . . .

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Warmth From Unusual Places

Today's post comes from a guest writer.
My baby brother, Blair. 
Who also grew up on the ranch.
With me.
Blair. With another wet, slimy calf . . .
Dad was an experienced rancher and veterinarian.
And very good at detecting which pregnant cow was going to calve next.
When a cow was due, dad and I would sometimes place bets over bowls of ice cream about the day and time the calf would enter this world.  If dad won, I dished him a bowl of ice cream.  If I won, I dished dad a bowl of ice cream.
Hey, wait a minute . . . 
The problem was, when a snow or rain storm suddenly blew in we could count on 2 or 3 cows that were close to calving suddenly dropping their nice bundle of red and white into the wet snow or mud.  Dad said it had something to do with the change in air pressure.
One year in the early spring we had many cows that were expected to calve in the next few days.  Mom and dad had to go out of town for the day, so I was left in charge with a reminder that we had 2 or 3 cows that were due.  I completed the normal chores, checked the cows, and then went to school.  The weather had been clear until about the last half hour of school when it started to snow.  I knew that there was a good chance that one or two cows had calved so I headed home as soon as school was over.
Now as a teenager, I loved driving anything that made a vroom sound and there was just enough snow for me to take the snowmobile out into the field where the cows were located. 
Sometimes I could mix work with machines (bonus).
I quickly took my powered sled out to the group of expecting mamas to see if any had calved and if they had done so, make sure the calves were dry and happy. As I got out into the field I found that two cows had dropped their calves.  Both mamas were mature and should have been able to take care of their calves without any problems.  One cow had licked off her calf.  He was dry and happily nursing.  
I should tell you that there are times when cows seem to blow a mental fuse.
The second cow was demonstrating this phenomena.
She had dropped her heifer calf in the middle of the wet snow and was standing staring at her very wet - very cold baby. She was not licking the calf, she was not trying to nurse the calf, she was just staring.
I decided that all I could do was take the cow and calf to the barn. Normally when you pick up a new born calf and take it to another place like a barn or corral, the mother will follow you.
In some cases, the mother will try to dance on you and make you hurt very badly (see some of my sisters previous posts). 
But most of our cows were tame and would just follow you.
I stress most cows.
I picked up the very cold, wet, shivering calf - that also had lots of wet goo from its birth all over it - and climbed on the snowmobile. I placed the calf on my lap. I would get wet and slimy but I could take care of that later.
I started driving the snowmobile to the barn. 
Now remember the part where the cow usually follows?
In this case, she was still suffering from the blown fuse. She continued to stand and gaze at the spot that her wet calf had once occupied.
I realized that I would have to return and herd the cow back to the barn as well.
I was not happy about this because it meant that I would be very wet, slimy, and cold for an additional 20 minutes.
I quietly expressed my disappointment, using a few expressions that we had previously refined when dealing with other ??*%$# cows. 
For now I would take the heifer calf to the barn.
I should mention that wet snow was falling while I was out in the field with these cows and it continued to fall as I drove back to the barn with the wet slimy calf on my lap. I was cold and wet from the snow, slimy from the calf and very uncomfortable.
Normally, I would wind up the machine and zip back to the barn, but I had a new born calf and I needed to make the trip at more of a moderate pace.
I was about half way when my left hand got really nice and warm.  
I thought how nice, my hand is warm and I feel less cold, wet, and miserable.
Then I realized that the calf was peeing in my mitt.
Now I was cold, wet, and miserable with a mitt full of calf pee.
Well at least I knew that the urinary system was working well. 
I got to the barn, dropped off the heifer, grabbed a clean pair of mitts, drove back and chased in Blown Fuse.
She started mothering her calf and I started wondering if she intentionally blew a fuse so she could be nice and dry in the barn.
I later shared my experience with my dad.
He just laughed and told me that he had carried a bull calf across the front of his saddle while riding his horse and the calf was kind enough to pee on the saddle that my dad was sitting on.
Oh well it all comes off with soup and water.

Pee. S. Diane had the same thing happen with her brand new riding pad. Sigh.

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