Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Prairie Flying

Add a dashboard, seat, steering wheel, and dust and this is our  steed!
Marty had a dune buggy.
Actually, it had once been a car. But it had been stripped down to the basics. Wheels. Frame. Seats. Motor. And a steering wheel.
Now it was a dune buggy.
That baby could go.
Just not on any conventional roads.
Marty would take us flying across the prairie at speeds beyond . . . what we should have been travelling.
But we were safe.
Marty had firm hands on the wheel.
As long as there was ground beneath us, all was well.
And that's where my story gets interesting . . .
It was a beautiful ssummer day.
The sun was high and hot. The air shimmered. The crickets and bugs were sending up a steady chorus. There was a haze of dust hanging in the still, dry air.
Perfect 'low flying' weather.
Marty had piled Michelle and I into his buggy for a ride.
Okay, I have to admit that the use of the word 'into' is a bit of a misnomer.
'Onto' would probably be more accurate.
I was in the middle. Marty on my left, steering wheel firmly in hand. Michelle on my right, casually slumped back in the seat, one foot propped up on the dashboard.
Oh, right. We also had a dashboard.
Back to my story . . .
We were flying across the prairie just to the west and north of Marty's family farm, talking and laughing and generally enjoying the wind in our faces.
The field stretched out smooth and green in front of us.
Marty stepped on the gas and we all felt the exhilaration of speed.
Then, quite suddenly, a . . . ditch . . . opened up in front of us.
Oh, not just a little ditch.
An irrigation ditch. 30 feet across and a good 20 feet deep.
More of a canal than a ditch, really.
Huh. Where did that come from? And, more importantly, how were we going to avoid it when it carved its way straight across the field before us from fence to fence.
And when we were travelling at upwards of 45 miles per hour.
You're right.
We couldn't.
We didn't.
We launched off the west bank in a graceful arc.
Now the Dukes of Hazzard would have made it.
Evel Kinevel would have made it.
Even Barney Oldfield would have made it.
But three farm kids in a souped-up, stripped-down 'dune buggy'?
Not a chance.
We hit the opposite bank just below the lip still doing 45 miles per hour.
It's funny just how many thoughts can race through your head in the split seconds between launch and land. I remember thinking that Marty really was taking us flying.
Then . . . crunch.
The buggy stopped instantly, of course, and slid down to the bottom of the canal.
We sat there, stunned for a moment.
And then the moaning started.
I was fine. I just thought I should point that out.
Something to note - when getting involved in an accident in a dune buggy, the middle position is the safest.
Moving on . . .
Marty and Michelle . . . weren't.
Fine, I mean.
Marty had broken his beloved steering wheel with his chin, splitting it open to the bone.
His chin, I mean.
Michelle was even worse off.
The foot that had been so casually propped up on the dashboard had been driven back by the force of our crash and dislocated her hip.
She was in . . . considerable . . . pain.
Marty put a hand over his chin and ran to the farmhouse a quarter of a mile away for help.
It was up to me to pull Michelle up out of the ditch.
Okay, it probably would have been easier . . . and wiser . . . to call an ambulance and wait for professional help, but we were kids of the country, raised to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
We acted first.
And thought after.
Slowly and painstakingly, I turned Michelle onto her uninjured side. Then I pulled her up the steep bank. One step at a time.
Step, step. Pull.
Step, step. Pull.
She must have suffered agony throughout the entire ordeal, but she said little.
As we were nearing the top, Marty pulled up in his family's car.
Between the two of us, he and I managed to pull Michelle into the back seat. Then, Marty drove us to the hospital.
Funny that it never occurred to any of us to feel alarm when we again saw Marty with a steering wheel in his hands.
Go figure.
He got us there safely.
This time, professionals maneuvered Michelle out of the car and onto a stretcher.
By this point, I'm quite sure she appreciated their expertise.
And their drugs.
Her hip was restored, though she had to suffer through traction and treatments for months afterwards.
Marty was sewn back together and sports a sexy scar on his chin to this day.
I emerged unscathed.
A few days later, I was flying across the prairie with Dennis in his dune buggy.
Some people never learn.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


We are visiting out son on the west coast.
We just finished a huge dinner of fresh halibut and fires.
Now we are sitting on our deck, ejoying our view of the bay.
Mmmmm . . .
It reminde me of another - less pleasant - ocean experince.
Somewhere out there are whales . . . and nausea.
Water and I have a thing.
We love each other.
Alright, alright, so I love water. I really don't know how it feels about me.
Moving on . . .
My family was going whale watching off the west coast of California.
I was excited. Because (remember?) I loved water. And things in the water. And boats.
I should maybe point out here that this child-of-the-prairies' sum total of water experience consisted of my river and Chin lake. Not necessarily in that order.
We put on our life jackets and climbed aboard.
So far so good.
The engine started.
My heart rate increased.
We pulled smoothly away from the dock.
Still fine.
We skimmed lightly across the bay.
Okay, so, it was a fat, clumsy boat loaded to the gunwales with tourists. But I chose the word 'skimmed' and I'm sticking with it.
My more daring family members were already hanging out over the rails, looking down into the amazingly blue water as it slipped past.
I had managed to find a seat inside the little 'house' part.
Because yes, I was a little trepidatious (real word - really!).
We cleared the bay and moved out into open water.
And then the boat started . . . for want of a better term . . . bucking.
Now, I should point out here that I'm used to bucking. In fact, bucking has been a daily ritual in the horse corral since forever.
Just not this kind of bucking.
The deck under my feet rose up. Then, that same deck fell.
And I mean fell.
Worse than an elevator. (And elevators and I do have a history . . .)
Worse than when I fell off the barn roof.
In fact, most of my inner parts were rapidly in danger of becoming . . . outer.
And just like that, I was sick.
Really sick.
I had been instructed to stare at the horizon.
I tried.
But the horizon was going up and down along with the boat, the tourists and me.
Maybe it shouldn't be called 'seasick'. Maybe it should be 'seesick'. Because there sure is a lot to see.
Okay, so horizon staring wasn't going to work.
I began to count the steps. Four to the doorway. Four more across the deck.
Could I make it?
I mean, before something . . . icky . . . happened.
Another 'heave' of the deck.
Okay, so the choice was taken from me.
It was sprint or die.
I sprinted.
I needn't go into the details of what happened next. I suppose you can furnish your own particulars. Suffice it to say that I lost everything I had ever eaten.
Or even thought of eating.
Funny thing about being sick on a tourist boat.
Everyone suddenly has something else to look at.
Somewhere else.
I was abruptly, gratefully, alone where my humiliation and I could happily enjoy our time together.
I don't remember much about the rest of the trip. We saw some whales. I was hauled off of my bench in the cabin in time to see a whole herd (erm . . . pod) of them.
They were neat.
And wet.
And . . . splashy.
And never in my whole life was I so relieved to stand later on real, solid ground.
I didn't kiss it. I didn't dare shift that much. Suffice it to say the two of us were very happy to see one another . . .

There is a sort-of codicil.
My husband took me whale-watching off the coast of Maine.
I stayed outside on deck and kept my face into the wind and miraculously managed to keep my lunch where it had been placed.
All was well.
We came upon a cow/calf pair of  whales.
I'm ashamed to admit that I can't remember what kind of whale.
They were neat.
And wet.
And . . . splashy.
The mother left her baby and dove. The calf stayed where it was, lolling in the waves and the sun. Occasionally batting at the water with a flipper.
Every few minutes, our guide would say something informative.
Finally, she said, "I bet none of you can say that you've sat beside a sleeping whale!"
Okay I admit that, when hugely pregnant, I have described myself thusly (another real word).
My husband glanced at me, but wisely said nothing.
I hit him anyways.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Lego My Kitty

We’ve been staying in a lovely resort in beautiful Banff, Alberta. This resort has everything. Comfortable rooms with every amenity. Pool. Sauna. Play rooms. Workout rooms. Squash courts. Tennis courts. Mountain bike borrowing. Nearby everything. And happy, helpful people.
The only thing it lacks is a strong internet connection.
Sorry for my rather spotty interaction in the past weeks.
I’ve missed our daily conversations.
On with my story . . .
Okay. Now picture it lost.
The Lego Kitty was lost.
The world had ended.
Everything is a tragedy when you’re three.
And Little Girl (LG) is three.
I told LG that: It would show up. When she cleaned up.
“But I don’t want to clean up,” she told me with little girl logic.
I countered with old lady logic. “Well, when you’re done playing, you will have to clean up.”
The small lower lip came out and she turned away and continued to play.
Sometime later, we were packing the apartment for the inevitable checking-out.
Lego kitty still hadn’t had the grace or good manners to shown up.
Tears threatened at the thought of leaving the minuscule – but highly important – toy behind.
A search was initiated. With little success.
I repeated my mantra. “It’ll show up. When you clean up.”
Fortunately, Mom had my back. She nodded. “Let's try it. Let’s clean up.”
Sighing heavily, the now-put-upon LG started picking up her Legos.
In a short time, all were safely stowed in their handy-dandy little Lego-shaped box. The floor lay, pristine and clean.
Still no kitty.
I could see the doubt starting in the big, hazel eyes.
“Okay,” I said, “Let’s move the sofa!”
Mom pushed and I pulled and VOILA a little, gray kitty appeared.
LG pounced on it and held it up triumphantly. “It’s here!” She crowed happily. “When you clean up, it shows up!” She tucked the toy in with its brothers and sisters and packed her box away.
I looked at her mother and we both smiled.
Once in a while, you have a good parenting moment.
And sometimes, you have to wait a while. A generation, in fact.
I’ll take it.

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