Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Failing Grade

Quick! Take a picture!
In Southern Alberta, in the sixties, the country roads were more a suggestion than an actual fact.
Sketchy at best.
When conditions were dry, they stretched, bare and passable for miles.
And miles.
When conditions were wet, Heaven help you.
Gravel was non-existent.
Drivers used such words to describe them as: Greasy. Slick. A blooming nightmare.
And *&*()+}|?@#$%^&!!!
The county employed men and machinery to maintain said roads.
Actually catching sight of one was right up there with spotting a unicorn.
Definitely something to pass on to your children.
“Kids, there was a time when I saw . . . the road grader!!!”
But occasionally, their presence (rather than the lack of it), would be felt.
Let me explain . . .
My next older brother, George was driving our Dad’s late-model truck.
I used to know the make, model and year.
Now all I can remember is: It was yellow.
Moving on . . .
He was heading out to see friends.
Or just coming back from seeing some friends.
Both activities took him along the same stretch of road.
He topped a rise.
And there, completely blocking the entire road, was a pile of gravel.
A large pile of gravel.
Pushed there by the road grader.
Or dropped there by a passing gravel truck.
Then abandoned while the mastermind took a much-needed coffee break.
Or nap.
Stopping was out of the question.
George was left with two choices.
And two seconds in which to make one.
Hit the gravel.
Or hit the ditch.
He chose the gravel.
The truck engine instantly began to make loud, distinctly un-muffled noises.
Remember “*&*()+}|?@#$%^&!!!”?
Well, that would apply here.
He stopped and got out.
The manifold had been neatly and surgically separated from the rest of the muffler system.
“*&*()+}|?@#$%^&!!!” again.
Fortunately, that was the extent of the damage and George was able to drive home without further incident.
To face the Wrath of Dad.
After a few minutes in which:
1. George’s driving was severely called into question.
2. A diatribe against the roads and road maintenance in general.
 An appointment was made to get the muffler replaced. I went with Dad to facilitate this final decision.
We were driving down the main street of Milk River.
Now, normally, Milk River is a quiet place.
Conversations while standing on the street corner are entirely possible.
And frequent.
There was one going on as we passed.
Between, believe it or not, several of George’s friends.
Dad and I smiled and waved.
Then Dad shifted the truck into neutral and floored the gas pedal.
The truck made a loud, distinctive and courageous ‘BLAAAAAT’ that echoed off the buildings and shattered glass.
Okay, I’m making up the ‘shattered glass’ thing, but the rest is true.
The whole street turned to look.
Dad grinned.
Put the truck back into gear.
And proceeded.
I stared at him.
This was the Dad who, very recently, had been berating my brother for - and I quote - ‘horsing around causing vehicle damage’.
Dad obviously knew what he was talking about.
The acorn definitely hadn't fallen very far from that tree.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Family Light

In our corner of the world, in winter, the nights are very long.

For a period of time, the street lights are coming on when the school children are just getting home.
And don't shut off until said children are safely back in class the next morning.
One does everything in the dark.
Early morning walks.
Paper routes.
Extra curricular activities.
You might think that it would be aggravating; having so few hours of sunlight during our 'waking' part of the day.
But I love it.
For a few months, Life seems to slow down.
Family comes home earlier.
And stays longer.
But I have one memory that makes the darkness . . . special.
Let me tell you about it . . .
On the ranch, meals were served like clockwork.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner appeared with amazing regularity.
And an equal amount of delicious-ness.
During winter, at least two of those meals were prepared and served with stars in the sky.
With the modern conveniences of electricity, this was not a handicap.
Mom worked with every imaginable electronic gadget.
In a brilliantly lit kitchen.
As the rest of the house darkened with the fading sunlight, the kitchen remained a beacon.
Calling to all of us.
As suppertime neared, I would shut off the lamp in my bedroom and, without stopping to turn on any more lights, walk quickly along the dark hallway.
And that's the part I remember most clearly.
Seeing the light flooding out of every doorway leading into the kitchen.
Moving from the dark into a world of light, fragrance, warmth.
And family.
Mom orchestrating and/or supervising numerous pots and kettles and children.
The rest of the kids gathering or already seated.
An evening of great food and wonderful company ahead of me.
Mom is gone, now.
My siblings scattered throughout North America.
But whenever I come from a darkened hallway into a lighted kitchen, I feel that same anticipation.
That same joy I first felt over fifty years ago - and that time and life experiences cannot fade.
Stepping from darkness into light.
The light that is family.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My Un-Spanking

Daddy and Me
It's winter.
I'm dreaming of spring . . .
Spring had finally arrived at the ranch.
Let me describe it to you . . .
The snow has melted away. Even the drifts which filled the ditches have finally succumbed to the encroaching sun.
Everywhere on the prairie one can see the signs of spring. New green in the prairie grasses and in the occasional and solitary trees. An infrequent blossom. The smells, in the prairie wind, of things growing . Scurrying animals. Birdsong.
And knee-deep mud in the barnyard.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
It is a wonderful time. A time of anticipation. Of wonder.
For a four-year-old who had been cooped up in the house since time immemorial, it is a wondrous opportunity for freedom.
And I took it.
Anxious to put a new accomplishment (that Mom and I had been labouring over) into practice, I disdained my ugly, black gumboots and stuck my feet into my brand new running shoes and triumphantly tied the laces.
I was free!
I dashed out of the house and into the spring sunshine.
The day was filled with endless possibilities for exploring. There was the ice-house. The riverbank. The blacksmith shop. The feed sheds. Hayloft. Pig sty. Chicken coop.
Okay, maybe not the chicken coop.
All my usual haunts.
But today, my first day of freedom, I chose . . . where else would a horse nut go? . . . the horse barn.
Where I would find the . . . ummm . . . horses.
It started out all right. I walked down the hard-packed driveway to the grass of the foreman's house.
So far, so good.
From there, I crossed to the fence. Still fine. I climbed the fence and looked across the barnyard to the tempting building just over there . . .
I jumped down.
And that is where everything fell apart. I watched my feet disappear into the morass that the barnyard had become.
For a stunned moment, I stared down. What had happened?
I tried to lift one foot. It didn't move.
I tried again. Same result.
Panic threatened. Was I going to be stuck here for the rest of my life? I was perilously close to tears.
Then I saw my dad. He of the strong arms and wisely gum booted feet.
He worked his way over to me. I can still remember the sucking sound of his boots as he pulled them from the mud.
Ssss-thook. Ssss-thook.
My saviour.
He plucked me from the mud and set me back on the fence.
Then he frowned and looked at my feet.
“Where are your boots?”
I, too, looked down.
Muddy socks and pants, but no shoes. Huh. Maybe my lace-tying wasn't as good as I thought.
I looked at the mud.
Dad sighed and felt down into the mud that had so recently held me, and found, first one, then the other shoe.
He stood up and held them out.
“Are these your new shoes?”
I nodded silently.
“Where are your boots?” Boots that would have been vastly easier to clean, by the way.
I looked towards the house.
Dad sighed. “You take these and head to the house. I'm going to come later and give you a spanking.”
My eyes got big. I stared at him. A spanking?!
I should point out here that I had never had a spanking from my dad.
But I could imagine it. Unspeakable pain and torment.
I grabbed my shoes, jumped down from the fence and lit out for the house at my best 'four-year-old-I'm-in-trouble' pace.
I threw the shoes down in the front entry and headed for the closet in my room.
Dad never gave me my spanking.
I guess he thought that I'd been punished enough when I spent the entire morning in my closet, hiding from him.
Or maybe he simply forgot.
And I never again tried to wear anything but my gumboots into the barnyard.
I may be a slow learner, but I do learn.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Rolling Down the Highway

Okay. How can we complicate this . . .
My Dad went to veterinarian college in Guelph, Ontario.
Some time during the Dark Ages.
Okay, yes, he tells me that my time periods are a little off.
But I'm writing this story.
Dark Ages, it is.
Moving on . . .
Sometime during his years there, he had occasion to hitch-hike to Toronto.
It was his first time.
And it was an adventure.
Let me explain . . .
A gentleman stopped to pick him up.
A pleasant fellow.
Travelling salesman.
They visited for a while.
Then the driver decided it was time for a smoke break.
Or at least for a smoke. Why bother to actually make it a 'break'.
Better to just keep on driving.
In today's world of pre-assembled cigarettes, this wouldn't have been a problem.
But in the Dark Ages, people 'rolled their own'.
They got out a little piece of speciality paper.
Carefully shook a tiny bit of loose tobacco onto said paper.
Spread out said tobacco.
Rolled everything up.
Licked the edge of the paper.
And stuck it down.
Now, imagine doing all of that while hurtling at sixty miles per hour down the highway.
Talk about distracted driving . . .
The driver could easily accomplish it, though, with a little help from his hitch-hiker/new buddy.
“Here, son, could you please take the wheel?”
Dad stared at him. Was he serious?
Apparently, he was.
Gingerly, Dad reached over and grabbed the steering wheel.
“Good.” The man let go and proceeded to roll himself a cigarette, without compromising speed at all.
Except when Dad started to weave a little.
Then he slowed . . . slightly.
Finally, the job was done.
“Thank you,” the man said, taking a drag from his new cigarette. He once more took control of the wheel.
Dad sat back, relieved in both body and spirit.
A short time later, he was duly delivered at his destination.
Slightly smokier and a tiny bit wiser than normal, but safe.
Dad never took up smoking.
He said it was too dangerous.
Now you know why.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Rainy Days and Sunshine

Something for Everyone!
My Husby's father was a wonderful man.
Devoted to his numerous offspring and grand-offspring.
Who, in turn, loved him and anxiously awaited any opportunity to go for a visit.
I must admit here that seeing and visiting with their Grampa wasn't their only reason for wanting to spend time at his house.
Their motives were a bit more . . . self-serving.
Because Grampa had treats.
Really yummy treats.
He had learned over the years to put a little something away for, as he called it, a 'rainy day'.
And 'rainy days' were much sought after and appreciated.
Especially by the younger set.
Inevitably, when visiting Grampa's house, after the initial excitement of greeting and getting everyone inside and settled, Grampa would say, “Well, I think I'll just go and see if I have anything for a 'rainy day'.
Which meant that he did.
Yummy-ness was forthcoming.
Moving ahead several years . . .
My Husby learned many things from his father.
One of which was, to the joy and delight of his children and grandchildren, the stashing away of 'rainy days'.
He does this religiously.
And, as a result, generally grows more than it diminishes.
His present stash consists of two huge cardboard boxes and several bags, taking up the entire space under his desk.
Several fancy wooden chests of 'treasure'.
And a shelf full of boxed chocolates.
Do you fancy a treat?
You're invited.
Rainy Days for everyone.
And I do mean everyone.

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

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

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

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

Be Courageous!

Grab and Add!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?