Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, February 7, 2015

That Smile

Dad has been story-telling.
Surely the best of times . . .
College Boy.
Christmas, 1946. Our newly-minted college boy was back from school in Guelph, Ontario for his first Christmas break.
His home town of Lethbridge, Alberta, was in a justifiably holiday mood.
A gathering had been organized at the new church hall.
College boy decided it would be fun to go.
Standing at the edge of the dance floor, he began to wonder if going had been a mistake. None of the people he knew were there.
Oh, there were plenty of girls.
Beautiful girls. Most of them, the younger sisters of his friends who had, surprisingly, sprouted during his absence.
He didn’t recognize any of them.
Standing there, uncertainly, he was approached by the mother of one of said friends. “Mark!” she said. “Go and dance with my daughter!”
“All right,” he said, smiling. “Happy to!”
She moved off and Dad turned back to the large group in front of him.
Now I should point out here, that this girl was well-known to my dad. He just hadn’t seen her for a while and in his absence, she had grown up.
The nerve of her.
He studied the faces of the girls on the dance floor and milling the hall.
They smiled at him encouragingly, but recognition was no closer.
Finally, not wanting to embarrass himself by approaching the girl’s mother, he wandered over to a group of boys and asked them. The girl was immediately pointed out.
Dad dutifully walked over to her and asked her to dance.
Whew! Mission accomplished.
She was a pretty girl.
Dad enjoyed dancing with her.
Feeling just a bit proud of his success, he moved with her around the floor. Then he spotted the girl’s mother in the crowd.
With a large, satisfied smile on her face as she watched the two of them.
A ‘hundred-watt’ smile.
Now, as a mother myself, I can understand that smile. Her daughter was dancing with a nice, handsome young man from a solid family, who was studying to be a doctor.
A rosy future looked tantalizingly close.
And distinctly possible.
I've used it myself. Most of the time, I'm sad to admit, it’s a relationship killer.
This particular relationship wasn't meant to be.
Though they enjoyed the evening, the two of them never really hit it off.
Soon Dad was back at school and once more hard at work.
The young girl went back to her life.
Dad doesn't remember much about her.
She was pretty. Fun. Sweet.
And her mother had a really scary smile.
See what I mean?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Nutella Protocol

Happy world Nutella day!
I love Nutella.
For many reasons.
This is the main one . . .

Sometimes, miracles are tasty!
Two years ago . . .

My Husby has been ill.
Scary ill.
We first noticed it in September.
He was . . . tired.
Through October and November, he just couldn't seem to get enough rest.
We attributed it to the fact that he was busy producing yet another play for our drama society.
A stressful job.
To say the least . . .
The play closed on November 21st and we were on the road for a book tour on the 24th.
No time for rest.
By the time we returned home two weeks later, he was very ill.
But he concluded that he was simply overtired and determined to get some real rest.
Which stretched into sleeping twenty hours a day.
And giving up food.
A rather important part of every day, in my mind.
In a two week period, he lost fifteen pounds.
I finally decided to ignore his protestations and made an appointment with our physician.
Who immediately ordered him into emergency.
Where they began pumping blood into him.
The next few days were touch and go as they tried to treat him/determine just what the problem was.
They finally decided that his body was systematically attacking and destroying his blood.
Not good.
Throughout this time, he still wasn't eating.
Nothing appealed.
They finally sent him home from the hospital, but with strict instructions to come back every day for more testing/treatments.
And to start eating.
Still nothing appealed.
Finally, as he was rummaging through the cupboard, he discovered a jar of Nutella, mostly full.
I should mention, here, that Grant lived in France for two years before we were married. Nutella was a habit he brought back with him.
Huh. Holding the familiar jar, it suddenly looked . . . good.
He spread it on a piece of homemade bread and took a bite.
It was good.
Over the next couple of days, he went through that jar of Nutella.
Sometimes spread on a bit of bread.
Sometimes on a banana.
Sometimes with a spoon.
Then he bought more.
And ate those.
He was finally eating.
I don't know what they put in Nutella.
Hazelnuts and chocolate and yumminess.
And, let's face it, if you spread Nutella on a hubcap, I'd eat it.
But there must be some other secret goodness in there, because it brought him back from the brink.
And I do mean brink.
He calls it the Nutella Protocol.
I call it a miracle in a bottle.
It kept his motor running.
Gentlemen, raise your spoons!
Taken the day before he went into hospital.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Birdbrained Birdbaths

What we wanted.
What we got.

Debbie and I had spent the morning dreaming about the big ‘B’.
All of whom were fascinating and none of whom were interested.
We were drooling over yet another male lead in a long line-up of romantic movies.
This one was a Western. My personal favourite.
Mmmmm . . .
Suddenly, Debbie jumped up and shut off the TV right in the middle of blood and blue shadows under the midnight sun.
Who does that?!
“I want to do something,” she announced.
I glowered at her and briefly considered pointing out that we were doing something. Her whole demeanour suggested . . . action. Which probably meant that, sooner or later, I was going to have to get off the couch.
“I want to build a birdbath.”
I stared. Had I heard her correctly?
“I’m serious!” Her voice started to gain in pitch and enthusiasm. “I saw one in a magazine article. It was made of cement and had an all ‘dignified and harmonious-with-nature’ theme. It started with a little pool up top, then looping around with a waterfall plunging down to iridescent bubbles at the bottom!” In her eagerness, she began to pace.
I hated it when she did that.
“We could make a little thatched roof to limit weather-ly interference.” She spun around to face me. “So what do you think?!”
I should point out here that her asking me that was merely a magnanimous gesture. We were doing it. She just wanted me to feel included.
I rolled my eyes and pushed myself to my feet. Let’s get this over with . . .
Pulling her little brother’s wagon, the two of us walked downtown to the hardware store. Then followed a frenzied rush to grab anything she thought would help. And the expenditure of two months of allowance.
As we toted her baggage home, she talked endlessly about the indelible impression her creation would make. About how the town gentry would stroll past, abandoning their normally impartial opinions in their excitement over this brush with the . . . wet and bird-like.
Yeah, she dreamt big that Debbie.
What followed could only be considered inhumane – which is really ironic, considering we were creating something to benefit nature.
Because I was a farm girl – with muscles - I hauled cement. Mixed Cement. Formed cement in a great hole which I had also helped dig.
Then I collapsed.
Debbie looked at the mass of grey glop in the bottom of our hole and then at her exhausted friend.
“It’s perfect!” she said.
I, too, looked into the hole. At the plop of cement in the bottom. Seriously?
Debbie got the garden hose and filled the little indent in the top of her creation. “See? Perfect!”
I blinked. Then turned to look at the paraphernalia strewn about. “What about . . .?” I got no further.
“Perfect!” Debbie nodded decisively, then gathered everything else up and packed it away.
After that, when the weather cooperated, Debbie happily filled her birdbath. Her beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing work of art.
Well, to her . . .
Debbie’s family moved away from Milk River decades ago.
But I think her birdbath sits there to this day.
A monument to what can be accomplished by the lazy and unmotivated. Or of an afternoon spent with a friend.
Take your pick.

Every week, Delores of Under the Porch Light offers a six-word challenge. Okay, yes, I know I've exceeded that, but I'm playing catch-up.
This (and last) week's words? Cementharmoniousdignifiedfrenziedbaggageloopinginterferenceplungingmagnanimous,
gentrybrushindelibleimpartial, thatchedglowerbirdbath, inhumaneiridescentBlood and blue shadows under the Midnight sun.
Go ahead and see what her other friends have done!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Cattle SHOW

Dad (Right) and one of his classmates, Grant.
Oh, and their dates for the Little Royal.
You probably can't see it, but they are standing just outside of . . . well, read on . . . 
Dad was a veterinarian.
He received his education at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada.
It was an . . . interesting three years.
For everyone involved . . .
In the spring of each year, everyone in the area geared up for the much-anticipated Little Royal Agricultural Show. There were numerous displays put on by all three colleges in the area: The Vets (My Dad’s group) from Guelph Veterinary College, the Aggies from the Ontario Agriculture College, and the Mac Hall girls from the MacDonald Institute for Women.
There was also a show of livestock right on the campus.
Being a Hereford enthusiast, Dad chose to show a Hereford cow. Two of his classmates chose similarly and the three of them spent most of their evenings working with their animals, gentling and training them.
A week before the show, they decided that their animals had worked hard enough to have earned a little R and R (Rousing and riotous fun).
Because . . . Dad. I'm sure I don't need any further explanation . . .
The quiet, gentle animals were led out into the compound.
All was well.
The boys led them around the campus.
Still good.
Finally, they led the cows up the stairs and into the humans’ residence. Happily, the animals trotted along behind.
The three men and their ‘exhibits’ circled the hall to loud acclaim, (Okay, there was a lot of shouting and laughter, I’m going to call it ‘acclaim’.) and started back toward the door.
Which suddenly became blocked.
By the Dean of Men.
For a moment, the three boys and their Dean simply stared at each other. Then, without a word, the Dean backed away and let them out onto the porch.
After a quick couple of pictures there (What event doesn't need to be recorded – or proved?), the cows were meekly led back to their barn and re-in-stalled. So to speak.
For a week, Dad walked about gingerly, expecting at any moment to be called onto the Dean’s carpet.
Nothing happened.
I guess because the cows didn't leave anything on the dorm carpet, the Dean was happy to overlook the whole episode.
Then, too, he probably knew my dad . . .

Monday, February 2, 2015

Grampa Waits For Me

Some of the grandkids were over for the weekend.

This is what Connie Francis would be singing in this situation . . .
(To the tune of "Where the Boys Are')

Where the toys are, grandpa waits for me!
A smilin' face, a warm embrace, two arms to hold me tenderly.
Where the toys are, Grandpa’s love will be!
He's sittin’ in his re-clin-er and I know he's waitin' there for me.

In the world of billions of people I think he looks just fine.
Then I'll eat his treats and play his games and tell the world he's mine.

Till we get there I wait impatiently.
Where the toys are, where the toys are,
Where the toys are, Grandpa waits for me.

Till we get there, I wait impatiently.
Where the toys are, where the toys are,
Where the toys are, Grandpa waits for me!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Conquering Dad Mountain

My Daddy and me
My Dad and I had a trick.
Something that only Daddy and I could do.
It was my favourite thing in the world.
Let me tell you about it . . .
My Dad was strong.
And tall.
He could take my hands and hold me steady while I walked up his body.
I know this sounds like something out of Cirque Du Soleil, but it’s true.
I would lift my feet and plant them on his legs, then walk up till I reached his chest.
Then - and this is the exciting part - I would flip over and start again.
It was immensely fun.
For a four-year-old, hugely entertaining.
And didn’t happen nearly enough.
Dad would come in the door and be greeted by, “Daddy! Daddy! Pick me up!”
Obligingly, he would take my hands and let me use him as an acrobatic frame for my . . . acrobatics.
Again and again.
Then smile and set me down and go on with his duties.
I would happily return to mine.
This went on for years.
Then one day, I think I must have been about nine, Dad uttered the fateful words, “Sorry, honey, you’re just too heavy for me!”
I stared at him, aghast.
How could this be?
He was still taller than me.
Stronger than me.
Broader than . . . you get the picture.
How could I possibly be too heavy for him?
But, sadly, it was true.
And, just like that, my 'Daddy’s-Frame' climbing days were over.
Last night, I was watching one of our youngest granddaughters climb up her daddy.
Giggling happily as she did so.
And suddenly, I was remembering.
Being four-years-old again.
Holding my Daddy’s hands.
Using his help and his frame to do my acrobatics.
Daddy is nearly ninety. Frail and shrunken.
Climbing for each of us is in the past.
But we have the memory.

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