Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, September 11, 2015

Work Boot Tutorial

Dad and some of his many slaves . . .
My Dad didn't have children.
He had slaves.
At least that is how his children saw it . . .
Dad worked hard doing . . . ranch stuff.
It took him most of the day.
Every day.
When he came in at the end of it, his recliner looked really, really good and it took great motivation to entice him to leave it.
Great motivation.
Silly little things like removing one's work boots weren't nearly big enough. Thus it was necessary to find other ways to accomplish these things.
That's where we came in.
His six little, willing slaves.
Every evening, one of us would be chosen for the distinct honour (his words) of helping Dad remove his boots.
Fortunately, this was a fairly simple operation, easily accomplished by a pair of small, eager hands, a backside and a large foot.
Don't get the wrong idea. There was no kicking involved . . .
The large person seated in the chair would lift his booted foot.
The standing smaller person would turn their back, straddle said foot and grasp the boot.
That's where the large foot came in.
While the small hands gripped the boot, the large foot would apply pressure to the small backside.
Small person would be pushed away from the large person and the boot would slide slowly from the foot.
Until, at last it would drop to the floor.
The boot, not the foot.
Operation completed.
The second boot would follow the first and much toe-wiggling comfort would be achieved.
And, more importantly, no one who had been working hard all day would have had to move out of his chair.
Utopia. (That's another word for Paradise, I looked it up . . .)
This operation continued nightly until his children grew up/got smarter.
Then he was on his own . . .

We had all moved away from home.
Dad had started wearing shoes that he could remove by himself.
One day, when we were visiting, he initiated our oldest granddaughter in the fine art of helping Great-Grandpa remove said shoes.
For the rest of us, it was a short stroll down memory lane.
But without the work boots.
It was almost as good.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Claiming the Real Estate

You can look, but remember who it belongs to . . .
Mountains. Beautiful. Majestic. Snow-capped. Towering.
I love the mountains. Maybe not as much as my husband, who is a true connoisseur, but why quibble over details?
All my life, I have lived in the 'shadow' of the great Rockys. They were the immovable, dependable wall immediately to the west of us.
Our friends.
Source of direction.
One distinctive peak, in particular, was familiar to us on the ranch. It was our nearest neighbour in the immense range. A huge block of stone, standing alone, with a large, rather squared-off top.
Boy scout troops had been know to clamber to its very summit. Of course, that was in the early days, before danger was invented.
I loved it.
It was my mountain.
I just couldn't remember what it was called . . .
Mom and I were heading toward the ranch.
She was driving.
I was bouncing around in the back seat.
This was before such safety measures as . . . seat belts. Shoulder harnesses.
I had been laying on the back seat, staring up at the roof. Suddenly, I thought of my mountain. I don't know why.
I sat up and leaned over the front seat. “Mom?”
That was her usual response. It didn't necessarily mean that her attention was yours, but it was a start.
“What, dear.”
Okay, the line was open.
“Where's the Old Indian Hill?”
“The what?”
“The Old Indian Hill.”
She laughed. “Do you mean Old Chief Mountain?”
“Umm, okay.” Whatever. I just knew that the name had something to do with the Native tribes.
“It's right there, Sweetheart. Straight ahead. When we're driving to the ranch, it's right in front of the road.”
She was right. There it was. Rising before us in all its purple glory.
I stared at it. My mountain.
From then on, whenever we were travelling home, I would look out the windshield for my stalwart, immovable beacon.
My guardian. My defender and protector.
The Blackfoot Tribe called it, Ninastiko.
The Peigans, Minnow Stahkoo.
The white man named it many things.
But, to me, it would always be my beloved 'Old Indian Hill'.

Read the legend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dating Disaster: Forties Style

College boy.
Who wouldn't want to date that face?
Today's post, is in honour of my Dad, and because I have him on my mind.
This should be fun . . .

Dad was home from college for the Christmas vacation in the winter of 1946.
He'd been working very hard (or so he said) and was ready for some fun.
What could be better than a dance?
With girls.
He gussied (real word) up and drove to Raymond, a nearby town.
The band was hot, and the girls were cute.
One young lady (hereafter known as The Girl) particularly took his eye. He asked her to dance.
The Girl agreed.
They danced.
He asked her again. Again she said yes.
They danced.
This went on for some time.
Finally, he asked if he could call on her. This was the 40s. Guys said things like that . . .
The Girl was most agreeable to that suggestion as well.
He floated home.
A couple of days later, he drove out to see her. Now, I should point out, here, that it was only about twenty minutes from Dad's family home to The Girl's family home.
When the conditions were good. As in - during the summer.
But it was winter.
Anything goes.
Dad reached the girl's house just as a blizzard hit. That was okay with him. He was warm and safe.
And he had The Girl totally to himself. Well, totally to himself if one didn't count her parents, siblings, siblings friends, neighbours . . . you get the picture.
They enjoyed a few minutes of conversation. Things were going well. Then, the doorbell rang.
Dum, dum Duuuum! (Actually it probably sounded more like," Bing-bong!" But that would be boring. And totally not-ominous. The story needed ominous-ness.)
Moving on . . .
It was another guy. And from the ensuing conversation, one who was already close friends with The Girl.
For the remainder of the evening, the two young men tried to engage The Girl in conversation.
And glare unobtrusively at each other.
Finally, the evening drew to a close. It was time to leave.
I capitalized this because it's important.
The Girl's mother announced that the blizzard had grown so bad that she would allow neither of the suitors to leave. The two of them would have to spend the night.
Okay, not so bad.
Wait. What?
In the same bed.
According to Dad, it was the most uncomfortable night he had spent. Ever.
Including his time serving in the army.
At daylight, he peeked out the window. The storm had blown itself out. It was the best sight of his life.
No need to even stop to dress as he'd not bothered to un-dress. In fifteen seconds he was out the front door.
Leaving an astonished The Girl's mother with a batter-coated spoon half-raised in greeting.
Dad left in such a hurry that he even beat the snowplows.
He didn't care.
The sooner he made it home, the sooner he could begin to forget the whole thing.
At the age of ninety, he almost had it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Greatest Teacher

School is starting in many places today. A great time to remember my greatest teacher.

The greatest teacher who ever lived, worked in Milk River, Alberta.
In the Junior High School.
I was terrified of her.
Then I  loved her.

Mrs. Wollersheim TAUGHT Social and Math.
Notice the capitals for emphasis?
I meant to put them there.
My first experience with Mrs. W was in grade seven.
I'll never forget it.
I was one of the former grade six kings and queens of Milk River Elementary, now demoted to the lowest of the low.
Grade seven in the Junior/Senior high school.
I was a worm.
Already intimidated by my surroundings, I and my classmates were seated in our desks in Mrs. W's room, awaiting the next instalment in terror that Junior High was turning out to be.
We didn't wait long.
From down the hall, outside the wide-open classroom door, we heard a sound. A steady 'Creak. Creak'.
I should mention, here, that our school was old. Methuselah old. And creaky. In fact, it would have made an excellent set for a horror movie, "The Killer Who Terrorized the Grade Sevens in the Old, Creaky School."
Okay. Movie-writing was never meant to be my forte. (Oooo. Italian.)
Moving on . . .
Each member of the class stiffened into attention, all eyes were trained on the doorway.
A trickle of sweat traced a path down the temple of the kid in front of me.
Okay, I'm exaggerating. But you have to admit that, for a moment, I had you.
Okay, you don't have to admit it.
A hollow voice rang down the hall.
"Ahem. Now class . . ."
I should point out that Mrs. W never, ever waited until she was visible to begin teaching.
She didn't have to.
" . . . and that's what we are going to do today."
She appeared in the doorway. A short, heavy-set woman in a print dress, with her hair pinned back into a bun. Sharp eyes covered by thick spectacles. And flat, black walking shoes, capable of carrying the wearer through an entire day of teaching.
The anticipation was over.
We were, at last face to face.
So to speak.
The class shivered en masse. (I'm on fire today! A French term. I think it means all together.)
She looked us over.
Complete silence.
We sat, frozen in our desks.
Does a teacher's visual acuity depend upon movement?
She moved forward. "The first thing you will have to learn, class, is that when I walk into the room, your books and notebooks will be opened to the correct page and you will be ready to learn."
Frantic zipping of binders (zippers were the newest, coolest thing on binders) and shuffling of paper.
Finally, silence once more.
Mrs. W had reached the front of the room and was standing to one side of the desk, watching us.
We felt like proverbial mice in the gaze of the proverbial hawk.
Our reaction was anything but proverbial.
I'm not sure, but I think a couple of students wet themselves.
She nodded and began to teach.
And, despite our misgivings, we began to learn.
And the first thing we learned was that, though she appeared to be a tyrant in the classroom, she was anything but.
Oh, she demanded respect.
And got it.
Even the class clowns showed only exemplary (real word) behavior when seated under her watchful eyes.
But she would do almost anything to have us succeed.
Every one of us.
At anything we tried.
If we were having difficulty with a concept, even if it was a subject taught by another teacher, she would bundle us off to her home. Feed us with the rest of her family.
And teach.
If any of us were involved in extra-curricular activities, she was on the front row for concerts and athletics.
My brother had decided to serve a mission for our Church and though she was of a different denomination, she was there in the chapel, both for his farewell talk, and for his homecoming.
And she did this for approximately 100 students.
Every year.
For 35 + years.
The things she taught us could never be found within the covers of a school textbook.
"You'll get it. Let's try again."
Respect and obedience.
"Mr. Russell. Would you mind putting that away and joining us?"
"How many of you are there? Well, I'm sure you'll all fit in the front room. If not, we'll jam some into the kitchen. Come in, come in. Let's have some hot chocolate. Don't worry about your boots. Jake'll clean up later. Okay, now what Christmas carols are you going to sing for me?"
Any Social or mathematics I learned, I got from her.
Any sense of discipline?
Mrs. Wollersheim is gone now.
She spent her last few years in a nursing home in Milk River, her brilliant mind alive, her physical self hampered by disease and old age.
But she left a legacy.
Her love for us.

Monday, September 7, 2015


What a marvellous two weeks!
Mountains. Oceans. Boats. Trees. Sightseeing. Yummy food. Comfy hotel beds.
And family.
The only thing missing was a dependable internet connection.
We got home last night.
Today? Recovery.
Because no holiday is a success unless you have to come home to recover from it.
Fenland Walk, Banff, Alberta. For the little guys.
And us old guys...

Lake Louise Sky Tram.
Lake Louise, Alberta.

My companions: Daughter and Granddaughter.

Daughter, SIL, Granddaughter and Aldo.
At the 'top' of Cascade, Banff, Alberta,

A mountain man we found up there...

Ellis River, BC - looking fantastic.

An old pair of seadogs. Tofino, BC

Seadog and son. Also in Tofino.

One of the amazing natural cedar sculptures.

Those cedars can twist themselves into the most impossible shapes.
Case in point: two complete loops!

One thing we found interesting was the leaping deer (okay, deer crossing) signs along our entire route:
And it reminded me of something hilarious I heard...
Donna and the Deer Crossing

One final thing.
We saw several of these signs:
And you have to know we didn't see One. Single. Hovering. Goat.
Not one.
Even after two weeks in the car.

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God's Tree

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Read it! You know you want to!

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Join me on Maven

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