Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Well and Truly Blessed

Dinner time was special in our house.
It was the time when everyone gathered.
When everyone ate.
And everyone visited.
We are a family of expert visitors. Just FYI.
Sometimes, the talk and laughter would go on for hours.
Long after the eating had finished.
It was the best part of our day . . .
And every dinner time began with prayer.
Thanksgiving for the food.
For the blessings of the day and every day.
For each other.
Our children had been raised with prayer at meal times.
It was as important as the food.
As soon as each of them began to speak, they had their turn.
Gently coached in the very earliest days.
Given their freedom as they got more proficient.
And kids can certainly pray. Sometimes those prayers would go on for some time.
Blessing everything from their friends to their toys to their favourite TV programs.
It was . . . sweet.
And went by all too quickly.
Our kids are all grown up now with families of their own.
But prayer is still a big part of their lives.
And especially their mealtimes.
The next generation is being carefully trained up.
Case in point:
Our eldest daughter and her family were sharing the evening meal with my Husby and I.
Everyone sat down.
I looked around. “I think it's Baby girl's turn to say the prayer.”
I should point out, here, that this little girl was just learning to talk. Her vocabulary of decipherable words was . . . not extensive.
And this was her first opportunity to say the prayer.
Everyone bowed their heads and closed their eyes.
Little arms were folded.
Beloved Heavenly Father,” her mother began.
There was a pause as we all waited for the expected response - the repetition of her mother's words.
Baby girl opened her mouth. “Eyes!” she said.
We're thankful for our blessings,” her mother went on.
“Eyes!” Baby girl said louder, pointing to her mother.
We're thankful for safety today.”
“Mama! Nose!” She was making progress.
We're thankful for this wonderful food.”
“Mouf! (Something unintelligible) Mouf!”
Please bless it to nourish us.”
“Eyes!” We were back to that.
In the name of Jesus Christ . . .?” her mother paused, waiting for the obvious answer.
Way wrong.
A chorus of 'Amens'.
Than another chorus of long-suppressed chuckles.
“Oh, Sweetheart, you said your first prayer!” I said. “You're such a big girl!”
She clapped.
Her words weren't 'right'.
But the food was well and truly blessed.
As were we.
A precious moment indeed.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Royal Winter Ballet

Okay. Picture it in orange . . .
If one was raised on a ranch in Southern Alberta, one was driving by the time one could clearly see above the dashboard.
This involved getting physically taller.
Because Dad wouldn’t allow one to use the Sears catalogue for added height.
By the time I was 12, I was there. Dad handed me the keys, took me through car control basics in a nearby empty field, and set me loose.
Oh, I wasn’t allowed on any roads.
And my driving was strictly limited to running errands to and from said fields.
But I was driving!
Oddly enough, in those early days, I never had any accidents.
Not one.
Those were reserved for after I received my driver’s license and had discovered the joys of driving on real roads.
Case in point:
I was driving a friend’s cool, orange, 1974 Ford truck.
Four-on-the-floor with a smooth clutch.
The steering was a bit dodgy. Armstrong, as we were fond of calling it.
But it was a sweet truck to drive.
We were heading to the track.
I should mention, here, that I used to help my friend with his uncle’s racehorses at the track.
It was . . . fun.
But that is another blog post.
Moving on . . .
It was time to feed and start the day’s training.
And, as is usually the custom in Alberta in February, the roads were icy.
We were coming to a curve.
Slowing was indicated.
Now I had been well-instructed by my brothers on the best way to begin.
By down-shifting.
I pressed the clutch.
Expertly shoved the gearshift into the next lower gear.
And let out the clutch.
All while driving over a sheet of black ice.
The next few moments are a blur.
I do remember the sensation of spinning.
Because we were.
That old truck performed maneuvers that could have put it on center stage during a performance by the Royal Alberta Ballet.
Did you know a truck can pirouette?
Well, it can.
And very gracefully, too.
Eons and multiple circles later, we finally came to a rest, parked neatly on the median.
Facing the wrong way.
We had, somehow, managed to miss three traffic signs, two trees and one astonished pedestrian.
With dog.
For a moment, we caught our breath and counted limbs.
Then I put the truck into gear and started forward.
Down off the median and onto the street.
The wrong way.
“In Canada, we drive on the right side,” my friend pointed out shakily.
Oh. Right.
I drove back onto the median and crossed over it to the other side of the street.
We made it to the track safely.
But, for some reason, my friend would never let me drive his truck again.
Even though I pointed out, rather intelligently I believe, that there couldn’t possibly be ice on the streets in the middle of July.
Even in Alberta.
Some people simply don’t forgive and forget.
Emphasis on forget.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In the News

Under construction.
Busy days at the Tolleys.
First, our pirate ship in the newspaper.
Then, on the news.
They say everyone has their fifteen minutes of fame.
This is ours . . .
Come sail with us . . .

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Judgement . . . Seat

Me and my Partner in Crime/ Future Best Friend
I was sitting in a Sunday School class yesterday.
The group was studying a particular scripture.
It concerned what happens when we all die.
The teacher explained that, when we die, all of us will be taken back to that God who made us.
I was with him that far.
Then he explained that everyone will wait there until the final judgement.
The righteous in a state of peace and calm.
The wicked in a state of anxiety knowing that the final judgement won't be pretty.
It was an interesting class.
It reminded me of something.
Because I have an active imagination.
And because I can't pay attention to anything for more than two minutes.
Unless there are moving pictures and/or shiny things . . .
My next older brother, George, and I used to squabble.
A lot.
It was his fault.
I can say that because this is my blog.
Okay, yes, it's connected to his blog, but I'm going to worry about that later.
Moving on . . .
I don't think we could exist in the same room for more than a few seconds before a fight would break out.
She's touching me!
He's taking my toys!
She's playing stupid games!
He says I'm playing stupid games!
You know the drill.
My mother tried all sorts of remedies.
Confiscation of treats.
Loss of privileges.
The only thing that worked was 'time out'.
George and I spent many, many minutes thus engaged.
Or rather dis-engaged.
For first offences, such as minor disagreements over toys, she started out small.
“You two go and sit on a chair!”
This punishment was usually informal.
Consisting of a few moments spent sitting at opposite ends of the table.
If the crime was a bit more serious, ie. name-calling, time was added.
“You two sit there until the timer on the stove goes off!”
Then there were the major offences.
Where things had gotten a little . . . physical.
Hair pulling and/or pinching and/or scratching.
“Both of you sit there on that piano bench until your father gets home!”
Oh, man.
Not only did we lose playing privileges.
But we had to sit in very close proximity to the person who had landed us in this predicament.
Did you know that, sometimes, older brother have cooties?
Well, they do.
Just FYI.
So there we sat.
Back to the discussion in Sunday School.
And I don't mean to be disrespectful.
But I think I know precisely what the teacher was trying to tell us.
My brother and I sat on that piano bench for what was probably only a matter of minutes.
But which seemed like hours to a four-year-old.
In a confined space.
Unable to leave.
Waiting for the punishment of a just father.
Yep. I know.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Okay. Sometimes, it worked.
Next to bedtime, the highlight of a mother's day.
Or at least in my mother's day.
Mom was a great believer in the taking of naps.
It didn't matter if her children – ie. me -- weren't tired.
It they, meaning me, were willing and able to perform amazing feats of strength and energy. Provide positive proof that a nap definitely wasn't needed.
Someone needed a nap.
She would march me to my room.
Pull the blinds.
And point to the bed.
Reluctantly, I would lie down.
Mom would lie down beside me.
To make sure I stayed.
It worked.
I did stay.
Until she went to sleep.
See? One of us definitely needed a nap.
But I digress . . .
And that's when the skills I had learned over time at great personal cost came into play.
Let me describe . . .
First, I would slide out from under Mom's arm.
You have to know that this was only the beginning.
And, oddly enough, the easiest part.
Because once free of that arm, things got more complicated.
Mom was attuned to the slightest shift in the mattress.
I had to make sure that I didn't get careless and move too quickly.
Slowly, I would slide toward the edge of the bed.
An inch.
And carefully.
With long pauses between.
That fourteen inches of mattress looked mighty big at times.
And I didn't get a second chance if I got caught.
Countless times, I would have nearly reached my goal and Mom's eyes would snap open. “Diane! Get back here!”
But there were glorious days when I was really sneaky, and would make it clear out to the living room before she noticed.
She would appear in the doorway, bleary-eyed and unsteady.
“Diane! What are you doing?”
It was a small victory.
But a victory nonetheless.

P.S. You know you're truly an adult when you no longer take naps.
But wish you did.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Little Health. Matters.

Bonk Eye.

Recently, I've noticed something.

That, in itself, is remarkable.
Moving on . . .
I work with a group of elderly people.
Some of them like nothing better than talking about their health.
Or lack thereof.
I've been treated to stories of gall bladders.
Mysterious lumps.
And a plethora of aches and pains.
I cluck sympathetically.
Knowing that each of these ailments will probably visit me at some point in the very near future.
But what is truly remarkable is the fact that the very young people I also associate with, ie. my grandchildren, are equally interested in their health.
Scrapes, bruises and cuts are examined minutely and then displayed, accompanied by a lurid tale of woe.
Sometimes, a tiny wound might go undetected for several days. Have scabbed over and be well on its way to healing. But once discovered, it must be fussed over and bandaged and kissed.
Several times.
My two-year-old granddaughter had fallen and bumped her head.
Just above her eye.
After the initial tears and hysteria, she had examined her wound in the mirror.
There was a distinct bruise.
“Mom!” she said loudly. “Bonk eye!”
Her mother agreed that, yes, she had 'bonked' her eye.
But that wasn't enough.
She had to tell everyone in the room.
Several times.
Later, at dinner, she mentioned it again.
Several more times.
Her uncle Tristan, having been at an activity, was late to dinner.
He slid into his chair and started dishing out food.
Here was someone new to tell.
“Unca Tristan!” she said, “Bonk eye!”
Tristan looked at her. “Yes, I see that you bonked your eye,” he said. He started eating.
“Unca Tristan, look! Bonk eye!”
“Yes,” he said.
“Bonk eye, Unca Tristan!”
She took a couple of bites of food. Then, “Unca Tristan!”
“I know,” he broke in, rather wearily.
“Bonk eye!”
This went on through the remainder of the meal.
And every time we saw her for the next few weeks.
Long after the slight bruise had healed.
And until the next injury pushed it off the front page.
Then it was, “Unca Tristan! Look!”
He looked at me. “On, man. Are we going to have another chorus of 'bonk-eye'?” 
I laughed.
Health issues.
Most important at each end of the age scale.
Differing only in seriousness.
Not in concern.

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