Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cleanliness is Next to . . . Impossible

Okay. Let's see you do this without getting grimy . . .
Ranching doesn't encourage cleanliness.
You heard it here first.
In fact, ranching and cleanliness don't go together.
At all.
Let me tell you about it . . .
I had worked on the ranch all my life and had finally been promoted to 'herdsman' where I served for two glorious years.
This included such things as:
Riding herd.
Checking herd.
Feeding herd.
Treating herd.
Worrying over herd.
Hovering when herd was ready to calve.
Calving out herd.
Recording herd.
Eating and sleeping with herd.
Okay, maybe that last is a little extreme, but you get my point . . .
Sooo . . . cleanliness.
Cows aren't naturally clean.
I know this will come as a shock.
I'm sure you've seen the romantic pictures of mama cow licking her baby.
I have one thing to say about this.
Cow spit.
How clean can that be?
Cows also have other orifices that are . . . nasty.
And to which I have one response.
Cow pies.
Enough said.
On with my story . . .
I was ready to go to work.
Clean shirt.
Clean jeans.
Clean kerchief.
Clean socks.
Recently cleaned boots.
I headed out the door.
Bridle and riding pad on my horse and I was away.
We made good time reaching the calving field. And almost immediately spotted a cow.
But having difficulties.
I decided to take her back to the corrals. And restrain her. And help.
That's as far as my plans/actions went . . .
I grabbed the protruding calf feet.
And that's when the cow broke out of my hastily-built restraint.
Grimly, I hung onto those feet as the cow started across the corral.
Dropping me and baby in the middle of a puddle of - let me put it this way - it wasn't spring water.
I got up.
Carted the calf to safety.
And headed for the house.
My mother met me in the doorway. Her clean daughter had gone out the door only half an hour before.
Now, dripping from head to toe with--barn puddle, said daughter had returned.
Mom stopped me in the porch.
“You just left here. Perfectly clean!” she said. “What did you do out there?!”
“Well . . .”
“Never mind. Clothes off here!” she ordered.
I was divested of anything gooey.
Whereupon (good word) I sprinted for the shower.
In my underwear.
Not for the faint of heart.
Or the fanatically clean.
Okay, let's face it . . . not even for the somewhat clean.
Don't you wish you were here?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Lego Home Security

We were visiting/staying with my husband’s sister.
Her home was in the country, surrounded by acres of Adventure.
Our kids loved it.
They had worn themselves out running outside.
Created worlds with Lego inside. 
And were finally tucked into their respective beds.
The visiting adults had followed their example and were peacefully snoring.
My Husby and I were on the hide-a-bed in the family room.
All was quiet.
I should explain, here, that the family room was situated at the top of the stairs.
That the master bedroom was down said stairs.
And that anyone wanting to use the bathroom would have to walk through our room, between our bed and the only source of light in the entire house, the glass patio doors.
Back to my story . . .
I heard a noise.
As the mother of six, I was instantly awake.
A floor was creaking.
Someone was coming up the stairs.
An adult-sized figure materialized out of the gloom beside me making their slow, careful way towards the bathroom.
For a moment, they were silhouetted against the patio door.
Then they disappeared.
I’m not making this up.
They disappeared.
One moment they were there.
A black cutout against the lighter door.
And the next . . . gone.
I sat up.
“Who’s there? What happened?”
My whisper sounded loud in the stillness.
My Sister-In-Law’s voice from the end of the bed, #$%&! Lego!”
The figure reappeared, rising up from the floor.
Its gait subtly altered, it continued towards the bathroom.
Lego is the best, most imaginative toy ever, but those who have had the misfortune of stepping on one of those little blocks with an unprotected foot know the pain.
Let’s wince together.

P.S. I've just had an amazing thought! Spread Lego blocks around the house for defense. As long as the enemy approaches barefoot, you've got them!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Show Your Teeth!

Today, I`m thinking about smiles.
I love smiles.
Smiles make you feel good.
They cross all language barriers.
And ages.
One of the first milestones we watch for in a newborn baby is that first smile.
 A smile from someone in nasty traffic is a sure-fire way to put the sun back in the sky and help you relax.
A smile is wonderful news.
A smile is friendship.
A smile is love.
But smiles are weird.
Can you think of any other species that shows its teeth (Or gums. Remember the baby…) as a sign of friendliness and/or encouragement?
Okay, I’ve seen a few dogs, cats and horses and even a couple of bears use their teeth in an ‘affectionate’ gesture of correction toward their young.
Well I assumed it was affectionate.
But seriously, who figured out that smiling was a sure fire way to say, “Hello! I’m so happy to know you! I hope you have a great day!”
It must have started somewhere.
At some point in time, someone said to themselves: I’m going to show my teeth to those people as a sign that I really like them.
See what I mean?

P.S. I did have a dog that smiled. Muffy. (She of the long, shaggy hair and the wiggly bum and the heart of sweet, sweet marshmallow.) She really smiled. But one day, when she was in the yard and I wasn’t, she smiled at the letter carrier, who then called her supervisor to report a vicious dog.
Yep. Smiles are weird.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Psycho! The Toddler Version

Oh, she only looks innocent...
The soft cascade of warm water and sweet-smelling soap caresses the aged body, following every curve.
And/or bulge.
Problems and irritations disappear down the drain with the water as total relaxation is, finally, achieved.
The warm water continues.
A state of near-bliss is achieved.
Ahhh . . .
Cue: Sharp strings played in a tight Eee! Eee! Eee! Eee!
The shower curtain is pulled back abruptly.
The shower-er spins about with a startled gasp.
A shadowy figure sticks its head into the cubicle.
“Hey! Gramma! What’cha doing?!”
And ‘Gramma’ collapses and dies of a heart attack.
Okay, it doesn’t quite have the punch of the original Psycho. But the death is just as real.
And permanent.
Death by Toddler!
Coming soon to a shower near you.
Rated: ‘T’ for Toddler. There is no stronger rating…
P.S. No skin was shown in the making of this experience.
Absolutely none.
The world simply isn’t ready for that.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Scary Story

Story Teller extraordinaire.
Storytellers come in all shapes.
And sizes . . .
I am a storyteller.
I come from generations of the same.
Mealtimes were especially noted for the ‘visit’ after the actual ‘stuffing-your-face-with-yummy-food’ part.
A visit that sometimes went on for many enchanting hours.
When we were raising our children, the tradition continued.
One evening we finished eating, then sat visiting until midnight.
True story. And the very best of nights.
Our children are carrying on with their children.
Case in point:
Our eldest son and his family were camping.
Their favourite part of camping is sitting around the campfire and—you guessed it—telling stories.
Everyone has a turn.
Including their newly-minted, just-turned four-year-old, hereinafter known as LeahSqueeah, or LS for short.
LS came out with such notable efforts as: This one night a guy sailed on a ship. Then he flew away. The end.
Okay, admit it. That is adorable.
But she truly shone when telling ‘scary’ stories.
Picture her. Blond hair a nimbus of curls around her little face. Dark eyes shining.
A creepy, 4YO voice.
And little hands curved into claws.
This is her story:
This one night?
There was a GHOST!
And I DIPPED him in hot chocolate.
And ATE him!
The movie rights are available.

Monday, August 15, 2016

When Mom's Wrong

Two sweet faces
Occasionally, Moms make mistakes.
I just want to get that out there.
They do.
Not often.
But occasionally.
Moms are busy. Usually keeping at least three balls in the air at any given moment.
It's totally understandable . . .
My younger brother, Blair was playing in the front room.
Because he was always quiet.
Our baby sister, Anita, was playing nearby.
Less quietly.
Because she . . . never mind.
She had disdained her basket full of colourful toys and was climbing up on the coffee table and sliding off.
This had been entertaining her for several minutes.
Then, she mis-calculated. Slid off a little too quickly and bumped something important.
Tears ensued. Bringing Mom in a hurry from the kitchen.
She picked her sobbing daughter up from the floor where she lay in a crumpled, miserable heap.
“Blair! What did you do?!”
Blair looked up from the book he was reading, his mouth a perfect 'O' of confusion. “Ummm . . .”
He, too was picked up. 
And summarily parked on the piano bench.
The 'you've-done-something-terrible' spot.
Blair blinked and frowned thoughtfully. Had he done something? He didn't think so.
He had been quietly reading.
Anita had been playing a few feet away on the coffee table.
“But Mom . . .!”
“Don't you 'but mom' me! You stay there and think about what you did!”
Mom marched back out to the kitchen.
Leaving a very confused little boy sitting on the piano bench in the front room.
Anita, tears forgotten, was back crawling onto the coffee table.
Yep. Moms make mistakes.
Fortunately for the future of the world as we know it, it doesn't happen often.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

A Field of Daisy

A guest post by my Husby, Grant.

Meet Daisy.
On the farm in the early 1960s, one of the daily chores – actually twice daily, morning and evening – was milking the cow. 
For a few years we had a super-gentle, highly-milk-productive Jersey cow named Daisy. 
In rotation with some of my brothers, our twice daily job was to go out into the north pasture, bring Daisy into the barn, and tease from her the twice-daily bounty of rich, creamy milk.
Milking Daisy wasn’t a terribly hard task.  She always stood very quietly while one of us milk-boys would sit on the three-legged stool beside her and extract her bounteous supply. 
Her only quirk – and I am convinced she knew exactly what she was doing – was that she quite enjoyed swishing her tail around to her human-occupied side, pretending to swat at flies but hitting us square in the side of the head with a rather hard and hairy-raspy appendage. I think it was her way of saying “hurry up, I haven’t got all day here!”  Daisy loved her rich pasture much better than the annoying milking barn.
Daisy’s pasture was directly north of the barn, and she seemed to always migrate to the far side, at least a half mile away.  When it was time for milking, we could always bet that she would be right in the far corner.  Bringing Daisy in was the hardest part of the milking routine, because we always had to walk out to bring her in – about a mile or more, twice a day.
Then, as a young lad, I discovered the concept of laziness.
I realized that Daisy was a gentle enough soul that I could actually hop up on her back and she would let me ride!  This cut down the twice-daily walking by half!! 
I thought I was pretty smart.
Except that Daisy liked her pasture. 
Oh, she would move alright when I was on her back, but she would head to yet another far corner of the pasture rather than towards the barn.
I decided that what Daisy needed was a steering wheel.  So one day, going out to get Daisy, I took an old corn broom with me, hopped up on Daisy’s back, and used the broom to “steer” her, so to speak.  She would start walking in a random direction, but if I wanted to steer her meanderings toward the left, I would cover her right eye with the broom – magic!  She would move left.  And of course the opposite happened when I needed to go to the right.  Within days I had the system perfected, and Daisy had been trained to take me right to the milking stall in the barn, complete with my laziness and broom steering mechanism.
Daisy was with us for many years.  
I am sure my bones are still made out of her wonderful, fresh milk.  
When Diane and I married, we bought two more lovely Jersey milk cows largely because of the good memories I had of Driving Miss Daisy.  

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