Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rescue Dog

A guest post by daughter, Caitlin.

In better health...
Back in October 2006, I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. 
Aside from the morning sickness that would hit any time it liked, it was a good pregnancy. 
During this time, I would sometimes hop the bus to the mall and peruse for some clothing that would fit my altering figure.
And occasionally find something for my hubby or the babby-to-come. 
One time, I went into a maternity store, but the only thing that caught my eye was a little stuffed dog toy. I bought it, thinking the new baby would (eventually) like to play with it. I paid for it, popped it in my bag and forgot about it.
I would remember it later . . .
Around that time, I was working women's clothing retail. It was my job to get the deliveries unwrapped and properly hung for display. I loved it, because it meant I didn't have to interact with people as much as the other ladies.
Ahem . . .
Also around that time, a rather nasty bug was making its merry way through everybody who worked there. It was a short-lived stomach flu, but it was still nasty.
Now, at the best of times, I dislike being sick. But I was about 5 months pregnant then, so I didn't have just me to worry about! The other ladies were very conscientious about my condition, but the bug wasn't.
I knew I had caught the flu when my hubby and I went to bed, and I couldn't control my nausea. Normally, I'd get a swift bout and I'd either run to the bathroom, or it would settle on its own. This night, after I ran to the bathroom for the third time, my sweetie got me a bucket to keep by the bed. By 3 am, I hadn't slept a wink, and I was starting to bring up food I hadn't even eaten yet.
Panic ensued.
Hubby bundled me into a jacket, and, bucket to hand, got me onto the next bus heading to the hospital.
We made it to the emergency, and when they found out I was pregnant and bringing up last week's meals, they tried very hard to get me in quickly.
Now, this was a hospital emergency ward. There were several other just-as-imperative cases there, including at least one car accident which I found out about after I'd been ushered into a cubicle and hooked up to an IV to combat my dehydration. They'd given me some Gravol to help with the nausea, and both hubby and I had managed to snooze a bit. 
Around 5 am, they took me in for an ultrasound to make sure the baby was okay. (It was) and when they wheeled me back, I noticed a little boy in tears in the emergency cubicle across from ours. 
His was the family that had been in the car accident. He was fine, but both his parents were immobilized, pending further tests to ensure no damages to . . . well, anything. 
All that little boy knew was that he couldn't sit with Mommy or Daddy, and he didn't know anybody there. The nurses tried to keep him occupied, but judging by the tears, they weren't succeeding.
That's when I remembered the little stuffed dog in my bag.
I pulled it out and told hubby to give it to the nurse to give to the little boy. 
Since the crying stopped soon after that, I think my tactic worked.
I was judged well enough to leave around 6 am, and we packed up our few things to get ready to go. I happened to glance into the main area where the nurse's desk was, and saw the little boy laughing with one of the nurses. She was stuffing the little dog into a vaccuum tube and sending it zipping up and down the vaccuum chute in the emergency ward. Every time it popped back down, the little boy would giggle so cutely I couldn't help but smile. We left to the sound of giggles, and that's when I knew why that little dog had caught my eye.
It's been eight years, and I would love to know what happened to that little boy and his parents.
Sometimes, we're moved upon to do things that we wouldn't ordinarily do.
Like me buying stuff.
 Not even I can say that with a straight face . . .

Friday, August 12, 2016

Skate, Rotate And Celebrate

When me and Husby celebrate,
Do we do it on expensive plate?
We’re simple folk, I hope you know,
Simplicity’s the way we go.

Not everyone’s the same as us,
Some people like to make a fuss.
And take their gala o’er-the-top,
From deepest cave to high treetop.

A marriage done while up a cliff
Looking like some petroglyphs.
The best that a ‘rock-climbing’ pair
Could come up with anywhere?

An anniversary below
Down twenty fathoms they must go,
To prove that they still love enough,
To make it through the tougher stuff.

A parachute? Now that’s a thing,
Out of an airplane, both did fling,
And toasted, hanging in the air,
I guess they like the view from there?

All over, people seek the ‘Wow!’
To spice their mundane lives somehow,
They run with bulls and hang in pools,
Or hike the wilds on stubborn mules.

What is it with our culture now?
Let me remind you, anyhow,
While courting ‘unforgettable’,
Try and keep it from regrettable!

Each month, Karen of Baking In A Tornado organizes a group of bloggers in a word exchange.
This month, my words—Anniversary ~ marriage ~ rock climbing ~ stubborn ~ culture—came from my good friend Rena of The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Now this is fun!

Hop over to my other blog friends and see what they came up with!
Baking In A Tornado
Southern Belle Charm
Spatulas on Parade
The Bergham Chronicles
The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver
Confessions of a part time working mom
Sparkly Poetic Weirdo
Never Ever Give Up Hope
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Cowboy From Hawaii

Hmmm . . . maybe we can make it work...
The Stringam ranch was twenty miles from the nearest bus route.
But it still managed to attract a lot of employment-seekers.
In the earlier days, cowboys would arrive on their horses.
In my day, they arrived by phone call or ‘thumb’. (They had been pointed in our direction when they got off the bus in Milk River and no one driving that lonely road would ever pass by someone on foot.)
So they arrived.
Often hot and sweaty.
But usually ready to work.
There were exceptions.
Oh, they still arrived, hot and sweaty.
It was the ‘work’ thing that they weren’t ready for.
Those didn’t last long.
Case in point:
A young man arrived on the bus from Hawaii.
Okay, yes, I know that’s impossible.
Let’s just say he arrived on the bus.
And that he was from Hawaii.
He told the local bus-terminal operator that he was a cowboy looking for work.
Dutifully, the operator called Dad to see if the Stringam Ranch could use an extra couple of hands if they were attached to a large, happy, Stetson-sporting fellow from Hawaii.
Well, this was something new.
Our first Hawaiian cowboy.
Dad drove the twenty miles to bring this curiosity home.
He was a pleasant fellow.
Charming and cheerful.
And he sure loved Mom’s cooking.
So far so good.
Dad gave him an assignment. An easy one to start. Tear out the fence along the tree-lined drive.
Dad wanted to replace it and he needed the old one removed.
Our newest hand was given tools.
And left on his own.
Some time later, he was discovered, lying in the shade, visiting with my eldest sister while she shelled peas.
He looked at Dad.
“Oh!” he said, jumping to his feet and hurrying back to work.
Dad went on with his day.
Only to stumble across the young man, once more, lying in the shade and visiting with my sister as she snapped beans.
Dad merely raised his eyebrows.
“Guess I’d better get back to work,” the young man said, pushing himself to his feet and sauntering back to his job.
Sometime later, the bell rang, calling everyone to supper.
The young man was first in line.
Smacking his lips over more of Mom’s cooking.
After supper, he remained in his seat and chatted with my sister while she washed the dishes.
For the next two days, he managed to find time to talk to my sister whenever she set foot outside.
He talked as she weeded the garden. Washed the 4-H calves. Hauled hay. And shucked corn.
Are we seeing a pattern forming here?
Progress on his own project was minimal.
Actually, non-existent.
On the third day, Dad loaded him into the car after breakfast and gave him a ride back to the bus stop in town.
The job that had taken him three days?
My brothers finished it in three hours.
That was our one and only experience with a Hawaiian cowboy.
I’m sure there are others.
Cowboys from Hawaii, I mean.
That are very hard workers.
They just haven’t made it to Milk River, yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Brain Cell

My cell phone’s a necessity,
Without it, I just can’t be me!
My e-lec-tron-ic brain, oh, yes.
And so much more, I do confess.

No cell? The time—I would not know,
Couldn’t Google Map the way to go,
Be forced to grade six math so I,
Could add, subtract and multiply.

I couldn’t call a single friend,
(‘Cause I ‘select’ and then hit ‘send’.)
I would not even know the date,
For all appointments, I’d be late.

Go back to being ignorant
(Without Google, data’s scant.)
Could not take those wond’rous pics,
With which, my family, I transfix.

I couldn’t text, could not emote,
I couldn’t bake or sew or vote.
And don’t forget that cell phone spark
That keeps you walking in the dark.

For forty years, I did without,
I found my way, I did not doubt,
What do I miss with my long rant?
Being lost, alone and ignorant!

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado issues a Poetry Challenge.
This month's topic?
Weird and Whacky
What did you think of my attempt?

Want some more?
Here are the others . . .
Karen of Baking In A Tornado:
Sarah of Not That Sarah Michelle:
Dawn at Spatulas On Parade: Candice at Measurements of Merriment:
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles:

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Spare-ly There

So much to do during Spare.
The best part of the school day. The period with no instruction when one catches  up on things.
Okay, I admit it, if one was so inclined, one could even catch up on school work.
Pfff . . .
In Junior high, Spare was always supervised.
For the supervising teacher, it was also a time to catch up on things.
Marking papers.
The class would steadily grow noisier and more unruly.
Until things reached a certain pitch.
The teacher would look up. “Okay class. Settle down!”
And the whole process would start over.
One time, the teacher had just lifted her head.
But before she could utter the fateful, silencing words, another teacher (obviously misled by the noise level), appeared in the doorway.
“Who’s babysitting you guys!” she demanded.
Then realized that her friend and fellow teacher was properly seated at the ‘supervisory’ post.
As we got older, supervision became more and more . . . Slapdash? Haphazard? Cursory? Superficial?
I’m going to go with Non-existent.
We were required to police ourselves.
It wasn’t too bad.
By this point, there were several of my classmates who actually wanted to finish their homework.
They would effectively shush us if we got too noisy.
But we had nothing on my Dad’s class.
Oh, they weren’t noisy.
Or unruly.
Just . . . creative.
Case in point:
A girl in Spare was reading the newspaper.
For those of you in the virtual world who are unfamiliar with the word ’newspaper’, it was a collection of news and advertising, published daily or weekly, and printed on very large sheets of paper. Google it . . .
The girl was engrossed in an article in the top right-hand corner.
Her absorption left the entire bottom half of the paper unguarded.
Normally, not cause for concern.
But, remember – Dad was in the room.
As she read, he approached quietly.
And, squatting down beside her, lit the bottom left corner of her paper on fire.
On fire.
So . . . creative, he definitely was.
Not so much.
The girl soon realized that something was amiss.
She glanced down.
Her paper was rapidly being consumed.
She blew on the flames a couple of times.
Dropped the paper and stomped them out.
Then leveled her best glare at the guilty party.
Because, let's face it, everyone knew who it was . . .
The best part of the school day.
For so many reasons.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Troll. And Gruffs.

For three wonderful years, we lived in a perfect house.

Oh, don't get me wrong, all of our homes have been wonderful.
And very comfortable.
But this particular house was all of those things.
And a little bit more.
Because it had a stairway that was perfect for playing 'Troll Under the Bridge'.
It's a real game.
You can look it up. It will be found somewhere under 'Tolley: Favourite Games'.
True story.
Okay, my Husby made it up.
But it was still fun.
The stairway in our house consisted of a short upper set of six thickly-carpeted steps.
Ending at a wide, also-carpeted landing.
Then a 180 degree turn before descending the last six steps to the basement.
A beautiful hunting/trapping/escaping set up.
Which was very well used.
My Husby would pretend he was a troll and lay on the stairs.
His head just poking above the top stair.
All of his little Billy Goats Gruff could try to run past him along the upper hallway.
Screaming and giggling wildly.
One by one, he would nab them and demand to know who they were.
One by one they would answer, “I'm a Billy Goat Gruff!”
Whereupon (good word) he would shout, “No Billy Goats on my bridge!” and set them behind him on the landing/prison.
Then, as he hunted for more victims, the entrapped would escape back up the stairs, still screaming and giggling.
And join once more with their fellow little goats in teasing and tantalizing the troll.
This went on for some time.
Usually until Dad got played out.
Then, one day, we moved from that house.
Subsequent (Ooo, another good word!) houses had similar, but not quite as perfect designs for playing Troll Under the Bridge.
The family made do.
Move forward 20 years . . .
Our present house is entirely unsuitable for the game.
It is a bungalow with one long, very dangerous, grandma-nightmare-inducing stairway.
We have put a gate at the top, which is rigidly patrolled whenever grandchildren come over to play.
A great disappointment to grandchildren who have been raised on stories of Troll Under the Bridge, as fondly told by their parents.
But in our front room, we have a large hassock. (Ottoman, pouffe, footstool.)
Leather covered.
Padded top.
And it stands in front of our couch.
With a two-foot space between.
Hmmmm . . .
A few pool noodles strapped together with a bit of duct tape.
A bridge.
Propped between the couch and the hassock, the scene for the new and improved Troll Under the Bridge.
Which the next generation of Tolleys has taken to with great enthusiasm.
With just as much noise and exuberance as their parents.
There are a couple of subtle differences, though.
  1. The grandkids are a bit craftier than their parents had been.
Our nearly-four-year-old grandson, when seized and questioned by the troll, answered readily, “I'm a troll.”
My Husby/Troll blinked.
This was a first.
But, since trolls are allowed on the bridge, the boy was allowed a free pass.
Smarty pants.
  1. The troll gets played out rather quickly.
He is, after all, an older troll now, with lots of grey hair and a few creaking joints.
Usually, he is finished long before the shrieking hoards are even close to admitting defeat.
And after they leave, he collapses on the couch and takes a nap.
Ah, the price of joy.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sear Pressure

Note the pressure 'bob'. It's there for a reason . . .
During their early years on the ranch, my parents sponsored several German immigrants.
They all proved to be wonderful, industrious, conscientious people.
Eager to work and to become 'Canadians'.
One of the girls, Erica, was helping Mom in the house when my next older brother was born.
She proved to be invaluable with the household chores and cooking, but struggled at learning English.
Mom knew a little German, however, so they managed to muddle through.
On a few occasions, though, the language barrier proved to be just that.
A barrier.
Erica was fascinated with the pressure cooker.
That miraculous appliance that could cook food in a fraction of the time.
The microwave of the 50s.
Apparently, though they were widely used in Canada, they hadn't caught on in Erica's part of Germany.
Mom had tried to school Erica on the proper use of this amazing new contraption.
She had managed to get through steps one through four.
  1. Food and a small amount of water is placed inside
  2. Seal adjusted
  3. Lid screwed on and, most importantly,
  4. Pressure bob applied.
  5. I should point out, here, that those are the easy steps.
Then comes the actual cooking part.
And this was where Erica always came to grief.
She couldn't seem to grasp that, if the rings are up on the pressure bob, the kettle is full of . . . pressure.
Up to this point, Mom had always been there to divert disaster.
But on this particular day, Mom was still in town running errands.
Erica decided to cook dinner on her own.
What a glorious opportunity to try out the fabulous new invention!
All went well.
The pressure cooker . . . pressure cooked.
Other pots alternately steamed and bubbled.
Dinner was nearly ready.
Erica pulled the large pressure cooker off the stove and gave it a quick dunk under a cold stream of water.
Then she wrenched off the lid.
The lid and released steam hit her. Full. In. The. Face.
And beets flew everywhere.
Erica screamed and blindly ran outside.
Dad heard her screaming and come running. There he found the poor girl, confused and in obvious pain.
Her nose was bleeding profusely and she had obviously been scalded.
He got her into the bathroom, where he started her soaking her face in cold water.
When Mom came home a short time later, she bundled Erica into the girl's bedroom and applied teabags to the exposed areas. They proved to be quite soothing and she was able to rest.
Then Mom was able to start on the kitchen which was giving a good impression of a slaughter house.
Beets were everywhere.
Mom even found one on top of the knick-knack shelf in the far corner.
Remarkably, miraculously, Erica healed without a mark.
But Mom was taking no further chances.
Though the pressure cooker remained in plain sight, the pressure bob, the little gizmo that made everything dangerous, was hidden in a very secret place.
Never store the gun and the bullets in the same cupboard.

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