Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Brother Fishing

Our intrepid camping ally, Ancient of Days.

It's Summer.

Camping time again.
Something our family has done for the past 1000 years. Okay, so I only remember the last fifty or so, so I'm guessing.
We have had a lot of adventures in that time.
Today, I'm remembering one that happened because of our little blue tent trailer.
Our little trailer was purchased in Calgary, Alberta in January 1978. It was so cold that day that I thought the flooring was a sheet of tin.
In my defense, linoleum can resemble tin when it is frozen solid.
When the planet heated up a bit, we opened our new purchase and discovered a tidy, little world in itself. Three neat beds and a square central floor.
Perfect for a family of eight.
It has taken our family everywhere.
For many years, we camped yearly in a beautiful campground in Saskatchewan.
Kimball Lake.
And that's where this story takes place.
Our two youngest were napping.
I use this word lightly.
Because there was no 'napping' happening.
Youngest Daughter (YD) was on the bed she shared with her older sister.
And Youngest Son (YS) was in the playpen on the floor.
Something he had learned to crawl out of.
Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem.
Let me describe our trailer to you.
It has three wings that fold out to form the beds.
The canvas wraps around each of these wings and hooks securely underneath with elastic cords.
It is possible to slide through those spaces.
If your small enough.
And YS, at thirteen months was definitely small enough.
He crawled up onto the bed.
Rolled against the side.
And slid through.
Now it wasn't a long drop to the ground underneath, but it would have given the little fellow quite a jolt.
YD, three, had been watching.
She saw him slip through.
And, with uncharacteristic three-year-old speed and fortitude, leaped across and grabbed him.
My good friend, Tammy and I were seated just outside, visiting.
Suddenly, we saw a pair of little legs kicking and wiggling out of the side of the trailer and heard my daughter call out.
I ran into the trailer.
YD and the top half of YS were visible.
She had both of his hands and was leaning back, trying to keep him from sliding further.
He was giggling happily and trying to wiggle out of her grip.
“Mo-om!” she shouted again.
I grabbed my son and pulled him to safety.
Then put him back in his bed with stern instructions to stay there.
That tiny son is now a husband and father.
But every year, when my Husby and I put up our little trailer, I think of the small boy and his almost escape.
I picture those little legs protruding from the side of the trailer, kicking merrily.
And his sister, recognizing his danger and holding on frantically with all of her three-year-old strength..
It's a good memory.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Sunset Dating

Just the two of us.
My Husby believes in date night.
A least once a week.
He and me.
In our earlier, more penurious days we got creative.
In nice weather, long walks.
Around town. Along the river bottom.
Sometimes, we'd wander through the mall, just looking.
Occasionally buying a hot chocolate or ice cream cone to share.
Going grocery shopping.
Having an evening picnic.
Wonderful times.
As we near retirement, dating consists of movies, dinners, theatre and concerts.
Still fun.
As long as we're together.
A couple of evenings ago, Husby's truck broke down.
He pulled into the nearest parking lot, called first for a tow-truck, and then me to come and bring him home.
I arrived long before said tow-truck.
Looooong before.
Together, we waited.
Nearby were several formal restaurants.
And an A&W.
Not wanting to leave the truck until help deigned to arrive, Husby suggested that one of us run across the street to the fast food outlet and grab a couple of burgers.
I volunteered.
Between you and I, I'd rather do that then instruct a tow-truck driver if and when he decided to show up.
Ahem . . .
I returned.
We ate.
Have I mentioned that the world looks better on a full tummy?
Well, it does.
We talked and laughed.
Sitting on the tailgate of the truck in the warm sun.
And the cool summer breeze.
Oh, we both had places we needed to be.
Things that needed doing.
But, for that moment, all that was important were a couple of burgers.
The tailgate of our truck.
The warm summer evening.
And the two of us.
Re-discovering the perfect date.
In our sunset years.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

One. Last. Time.

Don't let the innocent expression fool you!

Our eldest son had a world class talent.
World class.
If it had been an event in the Olympics, he'd have taken home the gold.
But there wasn't.
And he didn't.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Mark was born with the ability to throw a tremendous, colossal, stupendous, prodigious, enormous, fantastic, howling, mind-blowing tantrum.
I know that many children do.
Even some adults.
But no one has ever done it quite at the same level.
And he saved his best performances for when we were in public.
Usually in the toy section of the local department store.
When he was three, he gave his most memorable performance.
Well, I certainly can't forget it . . .
He wanted a toy.
I can't remember which one, but he wasn't getting it.
The family budget was already suffering chills and fever.
Any unnecessary purchases would have surely sent it into a coma.
We started to move away from said toy.
Mark realized that his begging and pleading had come to naught.
He dropped to the ground.
And began to flop around like a landed fish.
Then the screams started.
Ear-shattering. Air raid worthy.
Now, my Husby and I had learned that that proper way to handle a tantrum was to just keep walking.
Which we did.
To this point, it had never worked.
We discovered that Mark could flop and scream AND keep up with his moving parents.
Skill and talent.
But this day was a little different.
This day, we had unexpected . . . help.
As we ducked around the corner, and before Mark could start after us, an elderly gentleman walked up to our writhing boy and stood there, looking down at him.
Mark finally realized that someone was standing beside him.
He opened his eyes.
To see a perfect stranger.
“I guess you'd better come with me,” the man said.
Tantrum instantly forgotten, Mark scrambled to his feet.
His father poked his head around the corner.
Mark ran to him and grabbed him about the knees in a grip fuelled by three parts fear and one part . . . okay, four parts fear.
My Husby silently looked at the man.
Both of them smiled.
And just like that, Mark's public tantrums were finished.
Oh, he still treated us to private performances, but never again were we humiliated in public.
We often think of that man.
A father?
Whoever he was, his wisdom . . .
. . . and timing . . .
Were one of the greatest blessings of our parenting years.
I wish we could tell him.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rise and Shine

Go ahead! Sing!
How do you 'rise and shine'?
Throughout my life, I have been summoned from sleep in various ways.
Some gentle.
Some strident.
All annoying.
My mom, a member of the 'never wake a sleeping child' sorority, let me sleep in till I woke up on my own.
Well, until I went to school, that is.
Then, her usual wake up call consisted of, “Diane! Get up! The bus will be here in ten minutes!”
Okay, I will admit that she usually called me much earlier than that.
I just wasn't listening.
Dad's form of summoning consisted of one word. “Spring!” And it was always obeyed instantly.
Mom, you could coax and cajole, but dad?
You moved.
Often, I found myself standing beside my bed with no idea of how I got there.
My Husby took a more creative, albeit (Oooh! Good word!) equally annoying route.
He would sing.
And loudly.
In our house, 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!', the usually bright, happy, uplifting anthem from Oklahoma, sounded more like . . . honking.
Or a chorus of frogs.
Or ball-bearings rolling around in a hubcap. (Don't ask me how I know what that sounds like.)
His 'singing' brought instant . . . let me put it this way: No one slept through it.
“Dad! Aarrgghh!”
Moving ahead . . .
Our oldest son had recently become engaged.
To a beautiful girl.
Our entire family had traveled to Fort Macleod to a reunion.
Our future daughter-in-law was bunking with our other daughters.
It was morning.
There was far too much sleeping going on.
My Husby decided he needed to do something proactive.
He went to the door of the girls' room.
Cleared his throat.
And started singing.
You really haven't heard 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning' sung quite like he sings it.
Our future daughter-in-law looked at her future sister-in-law. “Does he always do this?”
FSIL's answer was muffled by the pillow over her head. “Yes.”
“Oh. Maybe I'll have to rethink my joining this family.”
She did join. She comes from hardy stock.
I thought I'd tell you that in case you were worried.
Back to my story . . .
This morning, my alarm woke me.
“Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla . . .”
Suddenly I missed my Mom's repeated time updates, my Dad's single word warnings and my Husby's singing.
It's all a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sex (Lack of) Education



This story is about sex.
Ahem . . .
I was raised on a ranch.
There are animals on a ranch.
Animals that do ‘animal stuff’.
Eating. Sleeping. Growing.
Making other ‘little’ animals.
Which then eat. And sleep. And grow.
And make other little . . .
You get the picture.
It was the rhythm of life throughout my childhood.
The statement, ‘I grew up with it’?
Applies here.
My earliest memory of the whole ‘animals fulfilling the measure of their creation’ happened when I was four.
A great red and white sea of animals had been penned in the main corrals.
One jumped atop another.
“Daddy, what’s that cow doing?”
My dad turned and looked. Then realized that he wasn’t quite ready to explain the whole reproductive process to his wide-eyed daughter. “Oh,” he said. “Ummm . . . resting his feet.”
“Oh.” I was satisfied.
For a while.
Oh, he did explain things.
Later. When the whole ‘resting his feet’ explanation started to wear a bit thin.
Yes, being raised on a ranch is an eye-opening experience.
By the time I was in grade nine, I knew it all.
Or thought I did.
We were in biology class. My favourite science.
The teacher was talking about animal reproduction.
Specifically: chickens.
“Now the chicken ovulates once a day,” he was saying. “That’s where we get our yummy, delicious eggs.”
I was with him this far.
“But when . . . exposed  . . . to a rooster, the egg becomes fertilized and a chick results.”
Wait a minute.
Roosters have a purpose? Other than the obvious one of chasing us kids around and being generally obnoxious?
Hold the phone!
Unfortunately, my astonishment was, much to my dismay, expressed verbally.
Whereupon (good word) every kid in the class turned and looked at me.
And snickered.
Yep. I was nearly 14.
And I had just learned that birds follow the same reproductive channels (so to speak) as other animals.
Okay. Now, I knew it all.
I just wish I could forget it . . .

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Gap

Look closely. The gaps are there . . .
Okay, I don't want to suggest that there is a generation gap in our family but . . . well . . .
Yes. There is a generation gap in our family.
And it was never more obvious than it was that day.
Several of my grandchildren had been over for the long weekend.
A fun time, made even more fun by the 'launch' of our new pirate-ship playhouse.
All of the kids were in the house.
Because it had decided to rain.
And our intrepid pirates didn't want to get wet.
Ironic, I know, but there you are . . .
The oldest girls were colouring.
The eldest was also singing.
At least I think it was singing.
“You are Beau-ti-ful! You are Beau-ti-ful! You are Beau-ti-ful!”
Over and over and over.
After a few minutes of this, I leaned over the table, collected her attention and said, “Your record's stuck.”
Now this was a term from my childhood, teenage years, adulthood.
In fact, right up to the present day.
It was something I thought everyone knew.
I was wrong.
She stared at me, blankly. “Huh?”
I thought she must have simply missed what I said.
I repeated myself. “Your record's stuck.”
“Huh?” she said again.
I stared at her.
She stared at me.
Finally, “What's a record?” she asked.
“A record,” I struggled gamely forward, “A record is what you listen to. On the . . . record . . . player . . .” my voice dwindled away.
She was still staring at me, blankly.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I can't believe that this newest generation hasn't even heard of records! Why it's only been a few years since I used them. 
Ten at the most.
I looked at her.
Nine years old.
Then I thought of all the things she would never understand from my childhood.
She would never pick up a telephone, crank the handle and hear the word, “Operator.” or stealthily lift the phone to listen in on the neighbours' conversations. 
Never see the 'Indian-head' test pattern and hear 'O Canada' at the beginning of the television day. Or hear 'God Save the Queen' at the end of the day, before the TV goes dark and silent. 
Wringer washers.
Cassette tapes.
Never sit around the table after dinner, listening sleepily to the hired men discuss their day's experiences with the boss.
And I thought of all of the things that I wouldn't - or didn't want to - understand from hers.
Yep. Generation gap.
Gives us a little breathing room.
Probably a good thing.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Terms of EnDEARment

He is a Honey Bunny!
I admit it.
I call my Husby names.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Husby was serving on a church committee with several other men.
One of which worked as a police detective in his real life.
Tough guy to the world.
Sweet and kind underneath.
It was evening. After supper but not yet bed time.
The phone rang.
I answered.
What followed was, to me, a fairly mundane conversation.
“Hi, Diane. Is Grant there?” I recognized the voice of our friend, the police detective.
“He is! Would you like to talk to him?”
“Just a moment!” I turned and hollered - okay, yes, I do that - “Honey Bunny!”
Grant answered from somewhere in the bowels of the house.
“You're wanted on the phone!”
He appeared and took it from me. “Hello?”
There was a pause. Then, “Are you a Honey Bunny?”
I saw my Husby's face turn slightly pink.
Here was his good friend, the policeman.
Tough guy extraordinaire.
What should he say?
He looked at me, rolled his eyes and grinned. “Yes,” he admitted finally.
His friend laughed. “Good,” he said. “So am I.”
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