Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Insignificant. Conclusion

By request, my award-winning short story.
If you've just joined us, it needs to be read in sequence.
Part One is here.
Part Two, here.
And Part Three, here.
Don't worry. We'll still be here when you get back . . .

What would you do?
If you could . . .

Marie took a bite of her sandwich. “So what have you decided? Are you going to come with us this weekend?” she asked.
“I can think of nothing I'd like more,” Lucy said.
“Really?” Marie stared at her. “Cause you usually don't like going into the outdoors. You always complain about how dangerous it is.”
“Well, maybe I've got a little secret,” Lucy said.
“A secret?” Marie looked at her. “Something that makes it less dangerous?”
Lucy smiled. “Maybe.”
Marie shrugged. “Well, anyway, we're planning on leaving after work on Friday.”
“Meet you at the front doors?”
“Sounds good!”
*  *  *
“Oh, I've waited all week for this!” Frank said, relaxing back into his chair.
“Just look at that sky!” Marie said. “You simply can't see a sky like that when you're stuck in the city!”
Lucy smiled.
“Lucy! You're not smothering yourself in repellant!” Darius said.
He handed a bottle to Frank, who squirted some into his hands and started rubbing his head and arms.
“No need,” Lucy said.
“What?” Marie stared at her. “This from the girl who bathes in the stuff?”
Lucy's smile grew wider. “I just happen to know something you don't,” she said.
“What can that be?” Marie asked. “Frank, hurry up. There are people in line.”
Frank handed the bottle to Marie.
She popped the lid and poured a line down one bare thigh. Then held it up and shook it slowly from side to side. “Lucy. Last chance. Want some?”
Lucy shook her head. “No, I'm good,” she said. “I happen to know that no mosquito will ever bite me again.”
The others stared at her.
“Mosquito?” Marie asked. “What is that?”
Lucy laughed. “Of course you don't know,” she said. “I killed the first one. Snuffed the entire species out before they even got a toe hold.” She leaned back in her chair and sighed. “Best moment of my life.”
Marie blinked, then shrugged. “I have no idea what you are talking about,” she said. She pushed the top back on the bottle and dropped it under her chair.
Lucy was watching her. She frowned suddenly. “Why are you . . .? Wait. Marie, hand me that bottle.”
Marie picked it up and tossed it to her.
Lucy turned the bottle and stared at it. There was a picture of the lizard on the front.
“T-spray? T-Spray!” she looked at her friends. “What is this?!”
They stared at her.
“This from the woman who has been basting in the stuff for the past how many years?” Frank said.
Darius pointed to the picture. “I assume that the person who discovered time travel and has spent the past year trotting through the eons can read?”
Lucy glared at him. “Of course I can read,” she snapped.
Darius pointed to the words under the picture.
Lucy frowned and pulled the bottle closer. Repels tyrannosaurs and most species of carnivore. Not effective on water beasts.
Just then, a loud roar split the silence.
“Oh, rats,” Marie said. “The tyrannosaurs are out.”

Friday, August 29, 2014

Insignificant. Part Three.

By request, a repost of my award-winning story.
If you missed Part One, it's here.
Part Two? Here.
We'll proceed slowly so you can catch up . . .

What would you do?
If you could . . .
Part Three

“It is with great pleasure that we present this award to the team of Dr. Lucy Snow and Dr. Lawrence McGovern.”
The applause was thunderous as Lucy and Larry made their way to the podium. Breathless and smiling, they stood there in the spotlight and waved to the crowd.
“Dr. Snow? Dr. McGovern?”
They turned.
“The Scintell Company is proud to present you with this award of astounding achievement,” Dr. Rogers said, holding out a large, silver plate. “In recognition for your amazing contributions this year.”
Lucy reached for the heavy trophy. “Thank you, Dr. Rogers,” she said.
“We are honoured,” Larry added.
Dr. Rogers laughed. “It's so nice to be able to come out from behind the president's desk once in a while and mix with the people who do the real work in this company.” He put a hand on each doctor's shoulder. “And especially when it is for something this momentous.”
“Well, Dr. Rogers, we have to return the thanks,” Lucy said. “If it weren't for the support and the faith of this company, Dr. McGovern and I would never have been able to achieve this milestone.” She looked out at the crowd. “And thanks to all of you!” She held up the trophy. “This is for all of us!”
The applause and cheering were deafening.
Dr. Rogers was back at the mike. “So, what's next?” he asked.
“Oh, we have many plans,” Lucy said, her eyes glowing. “Many, many plans.”
* * *
“Is that what you're going to wear?” Larry asked.
“Lare, this is all about functionality, not fashion,” Lucy said.
“Okay,” Larry grinned. “If you say so.”
“Oh, shuddup and get on with it,” Lucy said, grinning.
Larry laughed. He twisted a couple of dials. “Okay, I'm ready,” he said.
Lucy pulled the strap of a small bag over her shoulder and buttoned her heavy, cotton jacket. “Me, too,” she said.
“You're sure you've got it right this time?”
“Lare, haven't we done this enough times that you can stop asking me that?”
Larry shrugged. “You keep looking and looking,” he said, “and you haven't hit paydirt yet.”
“I'm feeling lucky this time,” Lucy said. “My research was just a trifle off before. I'm sure I've got it right now.”
“So . . . how long do you want me to give you?”
“Oh, say . . . two days?”
“You think you can finish the job in that short amount of time?”
“Lare. I told you. I've done my research this time.”
Larry shrugged. “You're the boss.”
“I am,” Lucy grinned. “And don't you forget it.”
“Well, I guess we should get on with it.”
“Wish me luck,” Lucy said, stepping into the booth.
“You don't need it,” Larry said. “You've got research!”
Lucy stuck her tongue out at him.
“But, good luck!” Larry pushed the brown button.
An orange glow filled the booth. With a slight 'pop', Lucy disappeared.
Larry set some controls and glanced at the clock. He pressed a button. “Trial 238, proceeding,” he said. “Time: 2:59 PM.” Then he left the room.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Insignificant. Part Two

By request, a repost of my award-winning story.
If you missed Part One, it's here!
Go ahead. We'll be here waiting . . .

What would you do?
If you could . . .
Part Two

“Who's to pay today, Lare?” she asked.
Her lab assistant, Larry turned to look at her. “Oh, Hello, Boss! Have a good weekend?”
“Why does everyone keep on asking me that?” Lucy muttered.
Larry stared at her. “I guess . . . because they're wondering if you had a good time?”
Lucy sighed. “Yes. I had a nice weekend. It would have been better if a few less mosquitoes had showed up, but still, we had a good time.”
Larry shook his head. “You and your mosquitoes,” he said, grinning.
Lucy made a face. “Can we please start our day?” she asked.
Larry coloured slightly. “Sorry, Boss,” he said.
He turned and picked up a delicate instrument. “I have been thinking and thinking all weekend,” he said, “going over the results of that final test we did on Friday, and I think I've figured it out. Initially, everything works. But we always seem to come to grief when we try to increase the power. The damper field erodes, spilling energy and causing the entire process to break down, system by system.”
He went on. “I filmed that last attempt and went over it frame by frame.” He held up the device. “I observed two weak joints in the whole process, here and here.” He indicated. “I have reinforced the shielding in those two places.”
Lucy carefully took the device from Larry's hands, cradling it gently in her own. “You think it could be that simple?” she asked.
“I do,” Larry said. “Who was it who said that the simplest solutions are often the right ones.”
“I don't know, but I think he – or she – is a genius.” Lucy grinned. “Or an idiot.”
“I'm going to vote for genius,” Larry said. “Shall we give it a whirl?”
“Lead on,” Lucy said.
The two of them crossed the lab.
“Oh, I had them replace the door in the booth,” Larry said. “Again.”
Lucy grinned. “We are rather hard on doors,” she said.
“Well, I think replacing a door now is a small price to pay,” Larry said.
“And I agree with you,” Lucy said. “But I don't know if the powers that be agree with us.”
Larry sighed dramatically. “Lack of vision, Boss,” he said. “Complete lack of vision.”
Lucy laughed and stood to one side as Larry opened a heavy glass door, then crossed a small inner chamber and pressed a recessed button in a console on the wall.
A door lowered slowly, revealing delicate and intricate wires and connectors. Lucy placed the instrument she held into the only clear spot and fastened it carefully.
Larry attached several connectors.
Then they both ran through the checklist mentally.
“One more time, and I think we're ready to try again,” Lucy said.
“I'll get the list. Let's do this right.” Larry ran to his workbench and came back with a clipboard.
The two of them checked off each item.
“Well?” Lucy looked at her assistant.
“Let's do it!” Larry said.
They both stepped out of the booth.
“I'll get the camera,” Lucy said.
“Starting the countdown,” Larry said.
“Give me ten seconds.”
Lucy picked up a small video camera and carried it back into the booth. “How much time should I give it?” she asked.
“Oh, I think we need at least thirty seconds,” Larry said.
“Okay, I'm going to set it for thirty,” Lucy said, pressing some buttons. She looked at Larry. “We can always increase it later.”
He laughed. “Yeah. If there is a later.”
“Hey! No pessimism allowed!”
Lucy set the small camera on a pedestal that she pulled to the centre of the booth. She smiled down at it. “Ready.”
“Okay,” Larry said. He paused. “Maybe you should join me on this side of the glass,” he added.
“Oh. Right.” Lucy stepped out of the booth and carefully closed the door. She took a deep breath. “Here we go again,” she said.
Larry flipped a switch and spoke into a small mike. “July 19. Process 486.2B. Trial 46.” He looked at the large clock on the wall. “Time: 9:49 AM.”
“Do it,” Lucy said.
Larry pressed the large, brown button in the centre of his console. “We're away!” he said.
Lucy reached out and gripped Larry's hand.
Ribbons of orange light began to swirl about the small booth. More and more. Faster and faster.
The booth began to glow.
“This is as far as we've come before,” Larry said.
“I know,” Lucy whispered. “Turn it up.”
Larry reached for a dial on the far right side. “Ready?”
Lucy nodded jerkily, not taking her eyes from the glowing booth in front of her.
Larry slowly began to twist.
The glow brightened. A high-pitched hum began.
And then, with a faint 'pop', the camera disappeared.
The glow died suddenly and completely.
Lucy looked at Larry, her eyes wide. “Did it . . .?”
“I don't know,” Larry said. He had his eyes on the clock.
For several seconds, both of them watched the sweep of the second hand as it made its way silently around the clock face.
Finally, Larry pushed a second button.
With another 'pop' the camera re-appeared. Sitting innocently on its pedestal as if it had never left.
Lucy caught her breath, and gripped Larry's hand even harder. She started forward.
“Wait,” Larry cautioned, pulling her back. “Let me shut everything down first.”
He pressed several buttons and turned a couple of dials. “Okay. That should do it,” he said.
The two of them made their way slowly to the door of the booth.
Lucy reached for the doorknob. She looked at Larry and grinned. “Ready?”
He grinned back. “Ready.”
She turned the knob.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Insignificant. Part One

By request, a repost of my award-winning short story:

What would you do?
If you could . . .
Part One

“Oh, rats! The mosquitoes are out!” Lucy reached into her beach bag and pulled out a large bottle of bug-repellant. Uncapping it, she looked around at her companions. “Have I mentioned how much I hate mosquitoes?” she asked.
“Frequently,” Marie said.
“Is there a word that means more-than-frequently?” Darius asked.
“How about 'constantly'?” Frank asked.
“Perfect!” Darius laughed.
Lucy made a face at them, then proceeded to rub repellant onto every exposed surface.
There weren't many.
The temperature was in the eighties, but Lucy was kitted out in long-sleeves, long pants, thick wool socks and ankle-high hiking boots.
She put down the bottle and grabbed her beekeeper's hat. “There,” she said, adjusting the net. “I'm ready.”
Darius rapped on her hat. “Hello?” he said. “Can Lucy come out to play?”
Everyone, except Lucy, laughed.
“Shuddup!” Lucy said, folding her arms.
“Honestly, Luce, they're not that bad,” Marie said.
“Believe me, Mare, even one is bad!” Lucy peered out through her screen. “If I could have my way, I would go back to the day the first two mosquitoes appeared and SMASH THEM FLAT!”
“Stop beating around the bush, Luce, and tell us what you really think!” Darius said, laughing.
“Think of what I would save all of you from!” Lucy said. “Think of the service it would be to mankind if they never had to contend with those little, evil blood-sucking parasites!”
“When did we start talking about politicians?” Frank asked.
“I hate you all,” Lucy said.
Everyone laughed again.
“But think of all the companies that would fold if mosquitoes were eradicated from our world,” Marie said. “Every company that manufactures repellant in all its myriad shapes and forms.”
“Well, they'd just have to find other things to repel,” Lucy said. “And sucks to be them.”
“You're a hard case, Luce,” Marie laughed. “A hard case.”
“So now that you've got me up here as mosquito bait in the wilds, what are you planning to do with me?” Lucy asked.
“Well, if we could unwrap you, we were planning on a swim in the lake,” Frank said.
“And maybe a hike and a nice wiener roast around the campfire,” Darius added.
Lucy patted her hat. “Sorry guys,” she said. “But the wrapping stays on. I'll just watch.”
Frank looked at Marie and Darius. “Why do we keep on doing this to ourselves?” he asked.
Marie laughed. “What is the definition of 'insane'? When you keep doing the same things expecting a different outcome.”
“I guess we're all insane,” Darius said.
“Well I am,” Lucy said. “I keep coming out here, expecting a quiet, mosquito-less experience.”
“Yep. It's official. We're all insane,” Darius said.
* * *
“So how was your weekend?” Jen asked.
“Well, most of us had a great time,” Marie said.
Lucy stuck her tongue out at her friend.
Jen laughed. “Let me guess. You tried to get Lucy-the-mosquito-hater out of her armour.”
Marie sighed volubly. “It was hopeless,” she said. “Hopeless.”
“Did the rest of you enjoy yourselves?”
“Yeah,” Marie said. “The lake was warmer than I ever remember it being. The hike was wonderful and the campfire, a great end to a great weekend.”
She looked at Lucy. “If we hadn't had to drag Luce's sorry butt around all weekend, it would have been perfect!”
“Hey! I didn't ask you to haul me out to 'mosquito haven'!” Lucy said.
Marie laughed. “Really, we had a fun time,” she said. “I think even Lucy enjoyed herself, once we moved inside.”
Jen shook her head. “Luce, you really have a thing about mosquitoes,” she said.
“I think there is a word for it,” Marie said. “Phobia.”
“A mosquitobia?” Jen asked.
“Or a phobosquito,” Marie suggested.
Both women laughed.
Lucy shook her head and stomped off to her lab.
* * *

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bucket Wars

Not just for food storage any more.

Son Two is tall.

In his stocking feet, six-foot-eight. Put shoes on the lad and . . . well, you get the picture.
I have a close family friend.
I don't want to say that she is short, but . . . okay, she is short.
Her head reaches somewhere between our son's chest and his belt buckle.
She makes up for lack of quantity with excess of quality.
In fact, the word 'feisty' might describe her perfectly.
ST used to tease her about her height.
Or lack thereof.
I should point out that this woman has six children of her own. She could give it right back.
One day, she and ST had been exchanging insults.
After a particularly pointed comment which ended with his pretending to put an elbow on the top of her head and using her as a fence post, she tried something a little more proactive.
“Oh!” she said. Nearby was a bucket of honey.
Okay, yes. When one has six children, plus foster kids, one buys honey by the bucketful.
Moving on . . .
She pushed the bucket close and stood up on it.
I should point out that it only increased her height by about ten inches. Not nearly enough.
“Ha!” she said, looking up into his face. “What are you going to do now?”
ST merely stepped backwards.
“Oh!” She said again. She jumped off her bucket and kicked it over beside him.
Then she stepped up once more.
“Ha!” she said a second time.
He stepped back once more.
This went on for some time.
She pushed that bucket of honey all over the kitchen.
Somehow, confrontation is a bit less . . . confrontational . . . when one partner has to keep moving their honey bucket to continue with the . . . confrontation.
I wonder if we could market this idea on a global scale . . .

Monday, August 25, 2014

Boy's Toys

It's time for our family's annual trek to beautiful Banff, Alberta.
Hiking. Swimming. Climbing. Games. Reading.
We are staying at a beautiful hotel. Comfortable.
Even luxurious.
The only thing it lacks is a steady connection to the internet.
Posts for the next few days may be spotty.
Or completely absent.
You know I love you!
Picture it green. And nickel-plated.

When my Husby was a teenager, he bought an old truck.

Which he painted green.
Forever after, it was known as The Frog. And became a common sight on the streets of Fort MacLeod, Alberta.
The Frog was Husby's pride and joy.
He loved tinkering with it.
Often, his father commented on the amount of time spent with that old truck.
And the dollars.
“What are you doing now?” he asked one day. “Nickle-plating it?”
Husby laughed, but an idea was born.
He bought a small tin of aluminium paint.
Then crawled under the truck.
Scraped the rust and dirt off the chassis.
And painted it.
Shortly thereafter (oooh! good word) his father took the truck down to the local shop to have the oil changed.
The mechanic slid underneath to begin proceedings.
“Hey!” he shouted. “It's chrome-plated under here!”
Husby's dad had to see it. Then shook his head and snickered.
Yes. Snickered.
“I knew it!”
Later, Husby and many, many friends were heading to a youth activity down near the river in Lethbridge.
The cab of the truck was stuffed with young bodies.
And the back with many more.
A policeman pulled them over.
“Have you been drinking?” he asked my Husby.
“No, officer,” came the respectful reply. (It's my story, I'll tell it how I want.) 
Moving on . . .
“No officer. We are just heading to a youth activity.”
“Well you have a taillight out,” the officer said. “While we're at it, let's give this truck the once-over.”
“Okay,” Husby said.
The officer and his trusty flashlight began a systematic search for 'things wrong'.
Brake lights.
High/low beams.
Horn. Husby pulled out the ashtray.
The horn honked loudly.
The officer swung his flashlight back to the console.
“Do that again!” he said.
Husby pulled out the ashtray.
“This thing belongs in a museum!”
He was right.
I never got to meet The Frog.
It had been sold long before I came on the scene.
It's definitely my loss.

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