Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Parenting Fail

Chris, Jerry and Dad.
Background: The RIVER
Sometimes, in our best efforts to raise and protect our children, we blow it.
My Mom was amazing, but even she had her moments . . .
My eldest sister, Chris, was a wanderer.
On a ranch, that is never good.
Mom often was forced to perform herculean feats in order to keep her small daughter safe. (See here.)
She tried many different things.
And, on one occasion, resorted to ‘reason’.
With less-than-stellar results.
Three-year-old Chris was very fond of wandering down beside the river that flowed past the ranch house.
At times, Mom had to physically pluck her daughter from the very jaws of death.
Finally, she decided to try something that would encourage Chris to police herself.
She told her small daughter that it was dangerous to walk near the river.
Because there was a giant octopus that lived there.
And it would get her if she got too close.
Chris stared at her mother wide-eyed.
“Octopus,” Mom said knowledgably.
Mom went back to her chores, happy in the knowledge that her little girl would now stay far from the wicked river’s banks.
A few minutes later, she looked up to see that, not only had her daughter disappeared, but her even smaller son.
Sighing, Mom began her search.
Even though she knew that the probability of the two of them heading for the river with the ravening, slavering octopus living there, her footsteps just naturally turned her in that direction.
Good thing, too.
Because it was there on the river bank that she found her intrepid duo.
Chris had toddler Jerry’s hand and was leading him along the bank.
Encouraging him to look out into the water and see if he could spot the octopus.
Yeah. Parenting fail.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Where Little Cows Come From...

Oh, the things you learn from the top rail...
It’s spring.
The time of new growth.
And baby animals.
Farm kids are exposed to the mating habits of animals early in life.
They just don’t always understand what they are seeing . . .
I was sitting on the top rail of the corral fence with my Dad.
Some cows, and a few bulls, just brought in from the nether pastures, were milling about below us.
Suddenly, one bull reared up.
Right onto the rear quarters of a cow.
I stared at them.
The bull slid down.
And another took his place.
Really weird.
After three or four re-enactments of the same scenario, I turned to my dad.
“Daddy.” Indicating the bull. “What is that cow doing?”
Where did YOU think they came from?
Dad got a bit red-faced.
This was the fifties. Sex hadn’t been invented yet.
“Erm. Well . . . he’s resting his feet.”
“Oh.” Yeah. I was fairly easy to fob off in those days.
Today’s kids are also educated.
At least as well.
Case in point . . .
My friend raised rabbits.
Beautiful, lop-eared, gentle, soft, furry rabbits.
And by raised, I mean hutches in the back yard, carefully and successfully monitored.
With the help – or at least close scrutiny - of her children.
Babies (kittens or kits) came with amazing regularity.
These are rabbits we’re talking about, after all.
One day, a school friend asked the daughter where the baby rabbits come from.
“From the mommy,” she said, knowledgeably.
“Oh,” said the friend. “How does that happen?”
“Well,” the daughter said, “The daddy rabbit gets on the mommy rabbit and shakes her!”
We've come so far.
What can I say but CUTE!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Blair's Prayer

 . . . or crying works, too
It was an uncharacteristically quiet day in the Stringam household.
The older kids were at school.
Dad and the hired men were out doing . . . ranch stuff.
Mom and the two youngest children were in the house.
Anita asleep in babyland.
Blair, known for playing quietly . . . umm . . . playing quietly.
In the basement.
I should point out, here, that two-year-old Blair was being toilet-trained.
The lessons were ongoing.
With mixed results.
Mom was busy in the kitchen.
Her 'mom alarm' went off.
Time to check on Blair's progress.
Or lack thereof.
She stood at the top of the stairs and called down.
“Blair! Time to go potty!”
Okay, so subtle, we weren't.
Her little tow-headed boy appeared at the bottom of the stairs.
Definitely not making eye-contact with his mother.
“Blair! Did you wet your pants?”
The answer was quite obvious.
Mom sighed. “Blair you come up here this moment!”
Obediently, the small boy started up the long flight of stairs.
On little hands and knees.
About midway, he paused.
Looked up at his mother standing like a nemesis at the top of the stairs.
Then put his little hands together.
Bowed his head.
And squeezed his little blue eyes tightly shut.
“Heavenly Father. Please bless Mommy, Daddy, Brothers and Sisters. And Blair.”
He looked up.
His prayer had been answered.
By this point Mom was sitting on the top step.
Laughing too hard to even consider another lesson in toilet training.
Who says prayer doesn't work?

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cause Blonde is Better

See? Blonde.
My Father-in-Law (hereinafter known as FIL) did not like blondes.
And my Mother-in-Law hated beards.
These two statements go together.
Just give me a moment . . .
So . . . back to my FIL.
No one knew why he did not like blondes.
And they did ask.
“Dad! Were you dumped by a blonde?”
“Dad! Did some blonde do something horrible?”
“Dad! Could I borrow twenty bucks?” Oh, wait, that has nothing to do with this.
Back to my story . . .
He passed away without ever sharing the reasons for his aversion.
But his family knew it well.
Whenever one of his five sons asked to borrow the car for a date, the first question was, invariably, “She’s not a blonde, is she?”
To which the invariable answer was, “Oh, no, Dad! She’s not a blonde! Definitely not a blonde!”
Even if she was.
The keys would be produced.
The date embarked upon.
All was well.
Yep. FIL’s aversion was well known.
Sometimes a little too well known.
His wife had an aversion as well.
To facial hair.
Here it comes . . .
If her husband ever suggested that he was considering growing a beard, she had the perfect answer.
“I’ll dye my hair blonde!”
Even the remote possibility of beard growing disappeared instantly.
In his later years, he did make allowances.
I mean, he personally picked me for his son, and I had the white-blonde hair only found in people of Swedish heritage (like me) or points north.
And, in fact, two of his sons married blondes.
Call it parental opposition.
But the mystery remains.
The only other statement we ever heard from him concerning blondes was, “You know why blondes have more fun, don’t you? Because they get dirty quicker!”
Hmm . . . was that a hint?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Server and Servee.
I'm a people-pleaser.
Or try to be.
Call it a weakness.
But I've always had this compulsion to make everyone around me as comfortable as possible.
Most of the time, it's fun.
Occasionally, not.
Let me tell you about it.
When I was first married, my greatest wish was to see my new Husby happy, comfortable and well-fed.
I worked hard at it.
Fortunately, he is a kind and considerate man, so all was well.
I had meals ready at meal times.
Kept the laundry done.
Cleaned the house.
Ran errands for him.
This went on for some time.
Then, I began to realize that some of the 'errands' were jobs he could have done equally well himself.
And probably should.
Case in point:
Whenever he would use a tissue ( Kleenex), he would then hand me said used tissue and I would hunt for a garbage to throw it in.
True story.
Can everyone say “gullible”? Everyone?
This went on for nearly three years.
Then, one day, we were at a reception.
My Husby used a tissue and turned and held it out to me.
Now, the normal people-pleasing Diane would have taken it and found a place to dispose of it.
The new Diane looked at the tissue, then at my Husby and said, “Throw it out yourself.”
Whereupon (good word) he laughed and stuck it into his pocket. “Finally caught on, did you?” he said.
And that's when I hit him.
Oh, not hard.
Just enough for him to know that I was . . . displeased.
And that he could run his own stupid errands from now on.
I said it. See how much I've learned?
Erm . . . can I take that for you?

Monday, June 27, 2016

The (Fire) Circle of Life

That's Entertainment!
On the ranch, in the 50s, we burned our garbage.
It was the only option.
Each week, the trash cans were collected from every room in the house
Carried out to the burning barrel.
Emptied into said barrel.
And set alight.
It was an exciting job.
Okay, well, it looked exciting to me.
Probably because the task came with an 'age appropriate' rating.
And I hadn't reached that age.
I would scurry through the house, collecting bins for whoever was assigned.
Then help them lug everything to the trash barrel.
Then stand back and watch as they . . .
Most of the time, it only took one.
I was more than fascinated.
The lit match would be lowered into the barrel.
A curl of smoke would issue forth.
Then the first of the flames.
There was nothing . . . I repeat nothing . . . more exciting.
And I had been to movies.
And watched Bonanza on TV.
Okay, well, maybe I'd better exclude Bonanza which, incidentally, started with its own fire.
For years, I watched, enviously as, first my parents, then my older siblings got to light the match.
Slowly, the day approached when I would be trusted with the all-important job.
And then, it was here.
"Diane, would you please burn the garbage?"
I carefully collected every bin.
Toted them all down to the barrel.
Chose one at random and dumped its contents.
Chose another.
And another.
And finally, surrounded by empty trash cans, the magic moment.
I lit the match.
And dropped it carefully into the accumulated trash.
It winked out.
I tried again.
Same thing.
This was harder than it looked.
Most of a book of matches later, I discovered that I needed to choose a piece of paper as my first victim.
Light that, then let it light the rest.
Finally, I had a blaze.
I stepped back and watched proudly.
My first trash fire.
Okay, I admit it, you have to look for opportunities to shine in this life.
Within a few weeks, I was an old hand at 'burning the trash'.
I could collect, empty and light with the best of them.
And use one match to do it.
And then the gloss wore off.
Dad: "Diane. Time to take out the trash."
Me: "Can't someone else do it? I'm watching Woody Woodpecker!"
Blair: "I'll do it!"
Dad: "Blair's too little. He can help, but Diane has to light the match."
Me: [Huge sigh.] "Okay. Fine."
Blair: "Yipee!"
The fire circle of life.

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