Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Aversions 101

You want me to eat what . . .?
My Dad always claimed to be allergic to onions.
Whenever he ordered any burger, he always asked them to 'hold the onions'.
We just assumed that he really was allergic to onions.
Later in life, we discovered that his reticence was due, not to allergies, but to aversions.
There's a difference.
But what a scheme!
My kids tried to use it, too.
Our eldest, Mark, became quite expert.
His particular nemesis?
Harmless, deep-browned, baked beans.
My personal favourite.
And one of the major ingredients in my award-winning chili.
Something that appeared with amazing regularity on the family dinner table.
From his very earliest years, Mark exhibited an unparallelled reluctance to put those nasty, evil beans anywhere near his mouth.
Regardless of how many times they might appear on his table.
Once, when he was just learning to say the blessing on the food, his father tried to trick him into 'bean acceptance'.
Grant: “Father in Heaven.”
Mark: “Father in Heaven.” (But imagine it in a little 20 month-old voice.)
Grant: “We thank thee for this food.”
Mark: “We thank thee for this food.”
Grant: “Because it's so yum.”
Mark: “Because it's so not yum.”
Laughter (Grant).
More laughter (Mom).
Grin (Mark).
And so it went.
For 19 years.
At the age of 19, Mark received a mission call for our church to Boston, Massachusetts.
He excitedly prepared to go.
I took him aside. “Mark, you know what they call Boston, don't you?”
“Bean Town.”
His face whitened a little. “Bean Town?”
“Yep. Where do you think the term 'Boston Baked Beans' comes from?”
He had to sit down for that one. “Boston Baked Beans,” he said, faintly.
“Yep. So you'd better get used to eating them, because you will probably be getting them morning, noon and night.”
He went anyways, brave boy that he was.
And returned two years later.
We met him at the airport.
We had sent our little boy.
We brought back an adult.
The first thing I asked him was how he felt about beans now that he had spent two years in the midst of the world's best bean eaters.
His response?
“I just got served beans for the first time yesterday.”
Even the 'Bean Towners' catered to my son . . .
Mark eats beans today.
Mostly to show his children it can be done.
But he doesn't wage much of a battle.
His oldest daughter Megan's favourite food is Grandma's chili.
Okay, maybe the acorn skipped a generation, but it still landed near the tree.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Mom Spit

Notice the cute little boys.
One with hair. One with . . . cheeks.
Ignore the glasses.
When I was expecting my second son, I craved anything 'tomato'.
Pizza, spaghetti, anything I could put tomatoes in or on.
But especially tacos.
Mmmmm. Tacos.
There was only one problem.
I couldn't get them hot enough.
I would buy the hottest salsa I could find.
Not enough.
Add a couple of drops of Tabasco.
Still not enough.
A few more drops. (I admit it. My spice world was limited to salsa and Tabasco.)
Almost there.
Seven drops.
And that's the way I ate them.
The entire nine months.
My baby boy was born without any hair on his head.
I think I burned it off.
This is relevant.
Moving on . . .
After the baby arrived, my husband took his little family out for fish and chips.
Mmmmm. More food.
I had our newest baby in a snuggly on my chest.
Toasty and comfortable.
Just the top of his little, bald head peeking above the dark green corduroy of the carrier.
My dinner arrived.
I looked at the loaded plate.
Then at my baby.
I could take the carrier off and lay it on the table, I suppose.
But that would take effort. And the food was there, waiting to be devoured.
Hunger decided. I would just eat.
Over the baby.
It was just like being pregnant again.
Sort of.
All went well.
The mushy peas went first. That was easy. I just held the bowl close and spooned.
Then the fresh, deep-fried, perfectly cooked fish.
And finally, to top everything off, the thick, golden brown chips.
With ketchup.
Then, that fateful dip.
Right on the top of my baby's bald head.
Oops. What to do?
I could get a wipe and clean it off politely.
Pfff. One swipe of my tongue would take care of it much, much better.
I happily went back to eating my chips.
That's when I noticed the woman sitting at the next table.
Looking at me.
A frozen expression of horror on her face.
Clucking in disgust, she stood up and marched huffily from the restaurant.
I remember being a trifle embarrassed.
And briefly uncomfortable.
Then I shrugged.
In the days before wipes, Mom used to clean entire faces with mom spit and a Kleenex. I even heard that Mom spit on a Kleenex would get rust off a bumper.I guess it's all a matter of perspective. Hunger and convenience win.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jam Test

Sweet, tasty stickiness.
It categorizes you.
Marks your place in the family.
Even decides if you will be granted admission to the family.
It provides delicious accompaniment to your breakfast, and, at times, other meals during the day. (Members of my family eat it the Swedish way, with grilled cheese. Ick!)
It is yummy, and, if not eaten in copious (Ooo, good word!) quantities, is even very good for you.
I'm talking about jam.
Tasty, sticky, always lands toast-side-up. Jam.
More particularly, strawberry vs. raspberry.
It is the family 'Maginot Line'.
You can be on one side or the other.
Both of which are tasty.
Or so I'm made to understand.
But wander over to the other side only in times of dire necessity, like when your server has run out of packets.
My Husby and I realized very early in our marriage that we needed to have a jar of each on the breakfast table.
His - strawberry. Mine - delicious.
I mean - raspberry.
And, as our kids grew, they learned to take sides.
Except for our second son, who is Switzerland.
And prefers apple jelly.
We don't talk about him.
Moving on . . .
Once the lines were duly drawn in the family nucleus, it was time to start challenging prospective additions [i.e. fiancé(e)s] to declare their preference.
I should point out here that it is a grueling test.
The nervous neophyte is seated at the breakfast table. The two jars are brought forward. The family waits, breathlessly.
And I do mean breathlessly.
If anyone takes their time making a choice, family members have been know to pass out cold.
I won't tell you what we do to them while unconscious.
But I digress . . .
The prospective member of the family makes a choice.
And my side cheers.
It's true.
Every single one has chosen raspberry.
Until our last son-in-law.
Who chose . . . poorly.
I maintain that he was coached.
Money might even have changed hands.
So the score now stands at : strawberry - two, raspberry - 10.
And one son who will not be mentioned.
Now for the next generation.
Our eldest grandchildren are ready.
Time to make a choice . . .

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Close Brush

Du-dum. Du-dum. Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-du-du-duuhhh!
He’d been away at work.
Ten days on.
And now he was home for his four days off.
The kids were in bed and he and his wife were preparing for a similar eventuality.
He was brushing his teeth.
His toothbrush was lying, conveniently, at the edge of the sink.
He grabbed it and shoved it under the water from the tap.
Then added a small strip of toothpaste.
And proceeded with the business portion of the endeavour.
At first, the pleasant taste of mint suffused his tongue.
Then . . . something different.
Was he tasting something floral?
The scent wafted up through his nostrils.
Okay, this was like no toothpaste he had ever experienced.
He pulled the brush from his moth and looked at his wife. “This tastes funny. Why would I taste floral?”
His wife clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh,” she said. “I forgot.”
He slowly lowered his brush into the sink, his eyes now riveted on her. “What did you forget?”
“William got hold of your toothbrush and was dipping it in the laundry detergent cup. I left your brush beside the sink so I’d remember to rinse it out!”
And . . . we’re home.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Close Encounter With Stupidity

When Dad was talking.
I was listening . . .
Every. Square. Foot.
The annual production sale at the Stringam ranch was the highlight of our year.
It’s when we had the most visitors.
The most traffic.
The most income.
And the most work. Both before and after.
Before, we had the cattle and the ranch to prepare and beautify.
After, we had the deliveries.
Our family hauled cattle to nearly every square foot of North America.
Every. Square. Foot.
It was a slow, exacting task.
Driving the length and breadth of this continent in a truck, hauling a boatload of bawling cattle. Mapping out places to stop each night so the animals could be released, fed and watered.
Then loading them up the next morning to continue the journey.
Yep. Slow and exacting.
And it wasn’t without its own adventures - due to oversight, wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time, misfortune.
Or all of the above.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Mom and Dad were trucking cattle through Alberta.
They had only been on the road a few hours.
And were, ironically enough, just passing an auction market where a cattle sale was ongoing.
A truck pulled out.
Pickup. With the tailgate down.
This will become significant . . .
Spotting the slow-moving vehicle, Dad pulled into the other lane to give it a wide berth.
For several seconds, the two of them occupied close quarters.
Dad and his heavy rig in one lane.
The man and his pickup in the other.
Then, suddenly, inexplicably, the pickup decided to pull over.
Directly in front of Dad.
The collision was immediate.
And inevitable.
Remember when I mentioned the pickup’s tailgate?
Well, that comes into play here.
Dad hit that tailgate going sixty miles per hour.
Both vehicles jammed to a halt.
Then the drivers, both unharmed, got out to inspect the damage.
The grill of Dad’s truck had been caved in, rupturing the radiator and radically displacing the fan and other important features.
Interestingly enough, though, the gate had slid with surgical precision between the headlights and the running lights of the truck, leaving all four intact.
So the front of the truck had been crushed.
But without cracking a single light.
Okay, well, it was interesting to us . . .
Dad scratched his head and looked at the driver of the pickup. “Why did you pull over in front of me?” he asked.
“Oh, I was sure you could stop,” was the reply.
Dad blinked.
The man repeated the statement to his insurance company.
Who also blinked.
And paid.
Dad was involved in two automobile accidents in his life.
Both resulting in considerable vehicular damage.
And neither of which was his fault.
I wish I could say the same about me.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Meeting the Neighbours

Stories with Dad . . .

It seemed like a good idea.
Movie night in town.
A bit romantic.
A bit relaxing.
And a much-needed break from two tiny children.
Mom and Dad piled into the car and headed out.
Unbeknownst (Ooo! Good word!) to them their neighbour to the west also thought it was a good night for a break. The difference was that she and her friends decided to take their break at the local bar.
And they had begun a bit earlier. In fact, they were taking last call, just as my parents were starting out.
Their two worlds collided, quite literally at the town bridge.
Oh, and you should probably know: DUI hadn't been invented yet.
Milk River, the town, nestles closely to Milk River, the river. On February 28, 1952, there was only one bridge spanning the foaming torrent - okay, the frozen-over, snow-covered mass of ice.
This bridge was sturdy - iron bolted to iron bolted to concrete – and built to withstand all sorts of abuse.
Good thing, too.
There was only one problem. It was a narrow bridge. One car at a time, thank you very much.
Mom and Dad were approaching from the south.
Carlights ahead told them that someone else was approaching from the north.
No problem. Dad slowed his vehicle.
The car opposite did the same.
As Dad was much closer, he took that as a sign that he should continue.
He drove onto the bridge.
Then realized that the car coming toward them, was still coming toward them.
The two of them met at the far side.
And not in a good way.
The driver of the other car, in a warm, invincible glow derived from her time spent with friends at the local bar, decided that, though it had never happened before or since, two cars would fit nicely on the bridge.
She was wrong.
Her car hit the bridge support hard enough to shake up her passengers.
Surgically remove a wheel.
And knock out her own front teeth.
The car then spun around and neatly caved in the side of Mom and Dad’s car.
Dad quickly determined that Mom was uninjured, then jumped out and ran over to the other vehicle.
The driver’s face was so swollen and bleeding from her forcible connection with the steering wheel that Dad didn't even recognize his neighbour. Now panicked, he ran to the theatre a quarter of a mile away to use their phone, quickly calling the police.
Then he ran back.
I should mention, here, that the road across that bridge is a major Canadian route. Part of the Alaska Highway. On a quiet evening in 1952, the fact that it was completely blocked didn't even raise an eyebrow.
In fact, no one noticed.
Okay, major route is only a subjective term.
Back to my story . . .
Mom and Dad did what they could for the passengers of the other car.
The police arrived and alternately helped and pried.
Finally clearing the road for any possible future travellers.
The passengers received medical care.
And everyone limped home, surprisingly (except for the missing teeth) uninjured.
Mom and Dad missed their movie.
But that was okay.
They were unscathed.
And reality is far more exciting.

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