Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

You're a Winner!

My first official household job when I became a newly minted teenager was the vacuuming.
Mom would drag out her antiquated upright vacuum, wheel it over to where I was sitting watching Saturday morning cartoons, and say, cheerfully, “Diane! You've just won a trip!”
There, she would pause significantly, smiling widely at me.
I knew what was coming.
Which made it distinctly un-funny.
Finally, she would add, “Around the house with the vacuum!”
I hated vacuuming.
And her vacuum, whatever it's glowing attributes in its younger days, was distinctly past its prime.
In fact, it hardly had any suction at all.
Vacuuming with a machine that hardly sucks really sucks.
So to speak.
Dutifully, and after a significant number of follow-up 'encouragements', I would drag myself out of my comfy chair, grasp the handle of my nemesis, and start in.
Stupid vacuum.
Look at that! It won't even pick up that piece of lint.
Have I mentioned that I hate vacuuming?
And so it went.
Every Saturday, there was a half hour or so of my life that I'd never get back.
I learned a few things:
1.  Running an upright vacuum with a spinning brush over an area rug usually resulted in the disastrous ingestion of said rug.
2. Kind of funny to watch, but not so good for either the rug or the vacuum.
3. If you stood with a foot at either edge of said rug you could hold it down.
4. Genius.
Hmm. I think on that last point, I will elucidate:
One day, the wretched vacuum quit sucking altogether.
For several minutes, I ran it back and forth over the same piece of lint.
Without shutting it off, I tipped it up to see if the problem was something obvious.
It was! Right . . . there.
Now, just because a vacuum had quit sucking, doesn't necessarily mean that it has stopped working.
I poked one finger towards the problem.
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
I dropped the vacuum and did the dance of pain, clutching my injured right pointer finger in my left hand.
Finally, I spread my hand, palm up and gazed at it.
Looked okay from here.
I turned it over.
My fingernail was black.
I kid you not.
The spinning vacuum brush had ripped it free of my finger in one quick, easy movement. Leaving it attached only by the outer edges.
And it had filled instantly with blood.
And it hurt.
Sometime later, an incessant noise intruded upon my pain and I realized, belatedly, that the vacuum was still running.
Not that it was doing any good.
I switched it off and ran to find my mom.
My black fingernail was with me for a long time.
A long time.
A reminder that vacuuming was not to be taken lightly.
Or at least that vacuums were to be treated with respect.
After that, whenever I needed to see the inner workings, not only was the beast switched off.
But it was also unplugged.
A lesson harshly taught.
But a lesson nonetheless.

P.S. I still hate vacuuming.
Just FYI.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mission Possible

“Ummm . . . hello?” I moved out of the hallway cautiously. The reception area looked deserted, but I knew from past experience . . .
“Good morning, Jim!” The slow, distinct, whispered words were coming from someplace ahead. And below.
“Umm . . . my name’s not . . .”
“You will find a document on the desk. Read it.”
I moved slowly toward said desk, still glancing carefully all about. In the very center of the spotlessly clean surface was a large, brown envelope. I hesitated, then reached for it. It was light. Thin. Obviously not filled with copious notes smuggled out in an ongoing industrial espionage heist. I slid out a single sheet of paper. A photograph.
And stared at it.
The whisper continued. “The person caught on camera here is a fairly normal, mundane woman from a rather boring branch of the civil service.”
Normal? I had my doubts.
“Not usually prone to riveting drama or hijinks; or galvanized to action by spectacular messages sent from unseen forces.”
“Your assignment should you choose to accept it is to contact her. Set up an assignation. A meeting. Get to know her. I’m thinking maybe dinner.”
I wondered if I looked as surprised as I felt.
“And see where it takes you.”
Ummm . . .
“As always, should you or any member of your FedEx team be frightened off, or if the answer is no, the receptionist will disavow any knowledge of this transaction. Good luck, Jim.”

“Oh, and leave any packages you may be carrying on the desk. She’ll sign for them later.”

Each week, Our favourite blogger, Delores of Under the Porch Light, extends greetings.
And a list of words.
She only does this to friends.
I shudder to think of what she does to enemies . . .
Moving on . . .
This week's list? 
industrial, copiousgalvanizedbranchrivetingcamera
Take that, Delores!
We love you!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


This'll be my sweetie and me in another 20 years...

Now you have a Love that is loyal and true,

And perfect in every way.
But knowing all that, now I put it to you . . .
What in the world would you say?

From the time that we met as she walked down the street,
Just a’singing her favourite song,
Every moment together was perfect and sweet,
Put it mildly, we two got along.

Daily we’d treasure our moments together
And the years have gone past in a blur,
But lately, I’ve found that there’s one sort of weather,
I’m finding it hard to endure.

Now I’m not nasty or mean and I try to be kind,
I’ve given her arms that are strong.
It’s been fifty-five years, I’m mos’ deaf and near blind,
And I’m needing a different song!

I admit that I liked it when our Love was first new,
But more and more often, I find,
That ‘Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do’,
Is driving me out of my mind!
And to make the ear worm complete: Manfred Mann.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All-Day Hookey

So nice! Sigh.

I played hooky.
For those of you who don't know, 'hooky' is a term coined to describe being absent without leave.
In my case, I was absent from school.
And I didn't do it alone.
Maybe I should explain . . .
We were in grade twelve. For the last semester of my grade twelve year, I lived with Debbie's family, the Joneses, and attended school in the town of Magrath.
Our school bus arrived promptly every morning at 7:30.
After an hour and a half commute, we would arrive, sleepy and slightly dishevelled at the Magrath High School to begin a day of instruction.
One morning, one of us really wasn't in the mood.
Oh, she got up all right.
Got ready.
Endured the bus ride.
But, standing there in front of those venerable halls of learning, she balked.
“I don't wanna go,” Debbie said.
I stared at her. “What?”
“I don't wanna go,” she said again.
“Oh.” What did one say to that?
“Let's play hooky!”
“Debbie, we can't play hooky!”
“Yes we can! We've never done it and the semester, the year, the school experience is nearly over!”
She had a point. Both of us had been exemplary students.
Precisely what our fathers expected.
“Deb, my dad would kill me!”
“C'mon, Diane, it's only one day!”
I looked at her. Have I mentioned that Debbie was the only reason I ever got into trouble? Well she was . . .
At that point, our friend Leonard, he of the pick-up truck, appeared.
“Leonard! Take us to Lethbridge!” Leonard looked at Debbie. Then he looked at me. I shrugged.
“Okay,” he said.
. . . and she got other people into trouble, too.
The three of us trailed out of the school and into Leonard's pick-up.
There was plenty of room on the wide seat.
We settled in for the 12-minute ride to Lethbridge, a city of about 75,000 just to the north of Magrath.
For a guy, Leonard had a surprisingly clean truck. No trash rolling around. In fact, the only thing on the dashboard was his brand shiny new 'Western Horseman' magazine.
“Oooh!” I said, picking it up. “Is this the new issue?”
“Yep. Just picked it up this morning!”
“Do you mind if I read it?”
“Nope. Just don't damage it.”
Leonard took good care of his things. Obviously magazines were no exception.
“I'll be careful.” I sat back happily while the two of them chattered all the way to the city.
Lethbridge is not a huge place, but one with several malls and lots of shopping.
We spent the day going from one to another.
And having fun.
At one of our early stops, Debbie and I bought large lollipops.
On long sticks.
We spent the rest of the time . . . ummm . . . licking.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to catch our bus. No sense in proclaiming that we had just spent the day somewhere other than where we should have been.
Leonard stopped his truck.
“This has been fun!” I told him. “C'mon Debbie, we'd better hurry!” I slid out.
At that point, a friend of Leonard's walked up to his window. “Hey, Leonard, where were you today?”
Distracted, Leonard turned to answer his friend.
Debbie started to follow me.
“Oh, my sucker,” she said, turning back.
Now Debbie had gotten tired of holding the heavy sucker and had laid it down. Not certain of the surface of the dash of Leonard's remarkably tidy truck, she had chosen to lay it down on his copy of the Western Horseman.
That same brand new copy he had been so protective of earlier.
She grabbed the long stick, only to realize that the magazine came with it. 
Not only had the sucker stuck to the cover of the magazine, but it had also stuck the pages together.
“Ummm . . .” Debbie glanced at Leonard, still engrossed in his conversation. “We'll just leave that,” she said, and slid out after me. “See ya, Leonard!” She slammed the door.
Leonard, still talking, waved cheerfully and the two of us headed for our bus.
Leonard never mentioned his sucker-stuck magazine.
The one he obviously never got to read.
After he had toted two girls all over Lethbridge.
Some fellow hookey-players are just plain nice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Playgirl(s). Not.

College years are for making all sorts of mistakes.

Well, that's what I tell myself.
But this is one I didn't make.
My roommate, Debbie did.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Debbie and I were browsing through the convenience store.
Both of us were suffering from chocolate withdrawal.
We needed a fix.
There was a magazine rack near the checkout line.
Debbie was glancing over the offerings.
“Hey!” she said. “There's a magazine here called 'Playgirl'!
I looked at her. “I thought it was called 'Playboy'.
“Well, there's that one, too.”
“Huh. Weird.”
“What do you suppose 'Playgirl' is?”
The guy behind the counter spoke up. “It's pictures of naked men instead of naked women,” he said.
We stared at him.
Surely not.
I should explain here that both of us were children of the country. The words, 'sheltered', 'naive' and just plain 'dumb' come to mind.
“I've never seen a naked man,” Debbie said.
“Me neither,” I said. Something I was blissfully happy to continue for a good long time.
I should mention, here that when Debbie said, 'Hmm' in just that way, anything was possible.
“I'm buying it,” she said, reaching for the cellophane-wrapped magazine.
“Ick!” I said. I was ignored.
She shoved it into her bag with her chocolate bars and we headed home.
At this time, we were sharing a two-bedroom basement apartment with two other girls, both as unworldly as we were. And neither of which was at home.
Debbie set her shopping bag on the apartment's only desk, which stood in our roommates' room and pulled out the magazine.
Then she stripped off the cellophane.
“Okay,” she said. “Ready?”
I shook my head. Again, I was ignored.
She flipped back the cover.
The magazine fell open to the centrefold.
I caught a brief glimpse of a handsome young man leaning casually against the doorway of what looked like an abandoned house.
Fortunately, I got no further.
Roommate slapped the book shut.
“Well, that's that,” she said, her face bright pink.
She shoved the magazine under the pillow of the nearest bed.
Episode over, we forgot about it.
Until a couple of days later when our roommate returned from her weekend home and crawled into bed.
We heard a shriek.
Then silence.
“Uh-oh,” Debbie said.
There was a knock at our door.
Debbie answered.
“What is this doing in my bed?” The magazine, held distastefully by finger and thumb, was extended.
“Oh,” Debbie said. “Umm. What makes you think we had anything to do with that?”
Our roommate gave her a 'Nice try, Debbie' look, dropped the magazine at our feet and disappeared.
Debbie picked it up and threw it into the trash.
Episode truly over.
But to this day, I wonder what was happening during the moment of silence after the roommate discovered the magazine . . .
You learn a lot of things during your college years.
One way or another.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pudding on a String

Daddy, George and Me.
I'm the one in the dress . . . and curlers.
My Dad had made me a new toy.
It was a large - very large (about 5 inches in diameter) button on a string.
You would thread a long, heavy string through the holes of the button and knot it. Then you would push the button to the centre and grip one of the two loops of the string in each hand.
Now you held something that resembled . . . a button on a string.
But then came the exciting part. If you wound up the button, you could pull the string out away from the button on each side and it would unwind and rewind the opposite way.
If you handled it just right, you could keep it going.
All day.
Which I did.
And it created a bit of a breeze if you got it going very fast.
Which I also did.
Enough background . . .
Mom had just made a large pot of pudding and set it on the cupboard to cool.
I was waiting, rather impatiently, for the temperature to drop below the boiling lava stage.
That was when I got my, to date, greatest idea.
My button could generate a breeze. I had felt it. It would cool the pudding and I could eat it that much faster!
I pushed a stool over to the cupboard and climbed up.
Carefully, I manoeuvred my button over the pudding and pulled the strings.
It worked!
For a moment.
Until I relaxed my hands on the ‘rewind’ or maybe the ‘unwind’ stroke.
Then, it dipped and skimmed the top of the scalding hot pudding straight into my face.
And my hair.
And the ceiling.
The covering properties of a button on a string have never been fully explored. I think they should be.
I believe Mom was cleaning up pudding from the most impossible places for months.
Long after I had healed.
P.S. I still like pudding. I just prefer it on the inside.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pesky Titles of Authority

I attended a wonderful college at Rexburg, Idaho for one golden semester in the fall of 1973.
It was as long as I could manage to be away from my family.
Have I mentioned I'm a wuss?
Well, I am.
I was so homesick during those endless four months that I could have died.
I even wrote an article about being homesick that was picked up by the local paper.
I still think the tear-stains on the paper were the real sell.
Moving on . . .
During my time at college, I studied Physical Education.
I actually took classes in Soccer, Interpretive Dance, Track and Field, and Swimming.
Did you know they offer college level courses in those things?
Yeah. I didn't either.
It was a fun semester.
To round things out, I had to take some other remedial courses.
Chosen from a list.
And including such things as . . . English Language Arts.
And one or more sciences.
I chose Astronomy.
Because Zoology was filled up.
For an entire semester, I studied the stars.
We even went out in the evenings and, with the help of large telescopes, mapped the heavens.
It was chilly.
But fun.
Our instructor for the class was a man named Brother Greg.
Oh, I should mention, here, that this was a Christian school and that we called each other brother and sister.
Even the instructors.
Soo . . . Brother Greg.
Brother Greg was a wonderful man.
Let's face it, when you are shepherding a group of seventy or more students around, you'd have to have a good dose of both.
And he answered every one of the questions I put to him.
Smiling quietly and nodding whenever my hand shot up accompanied by, “Brother Greg! Brother Greg!”
I enjoyed my Astronomy class.
I even earned a reputable grade.
And it was then that my world stood still.
As well as all of the stars and planets I had been studying.
Because when Brother Greg handed out our final papers, with our grade prominently displayed, I got the biggest shock of the semester.
Brother Greg's name was Brother Nelson.
Brother Nelson?
Where on earth did I get Greg . . .? Oh. Brother Greg Nelson.
On the very first day of class, when I had been writing things down, I had started to write his name and was interrupted.
Thus, he became Brother Greg.
To this day, I wonder how I went through an entire semester without realizing that everyone . . . everyone . . . in the class was calling him something else.
I know the class was Astronomy, but was my head literally in the clouds?
Because he was such a nice man, he never corrected the weird student from Canada who insisted on calling him by his first name.
And neither did the other sixty-nine kids in the class.
Perhaps they snickered behind their hands whenever my hand went up.
Maybe (and this is a faint hope) they never noticed.
Oh, well, as least my grades were good.
Today, I couldn't tell you a single thing taught that semester.
Except for what I learned on the very last day.
And that, I simply can't forget.

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Available from

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I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
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Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

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Sunshine Award!!!
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My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

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