Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 3, 2016


                                                          The Pass Dairy as it looks today. 
                                  It has morphed some, but the ice cream inside is just as good!

My Father-in-Law (Hereinafter known as FIL) loved ice cream.
Maybe I should re-word.
My FIL LOVED ice cream.
Nearly every meal ended with the creamy deliciousness.
No matter how large the portions had been.
In his words: “Ice cream just melts and goes in the cracks.”
Snack times must always include some form of the treat.
If one was traveling, one could always find someone, somewhere, who could provide a scoop or a spiral.
And that is where this story starts . . .
FIL knew the best places in all of Southern Alberta to buy ice cream.
He would be driving and suddenly turn off the main road.
When questioned, the answer inevitably contained some form of the words: Ice cream. And Need. Some. Right. Now.
Many, many places catered happily (and satisfactorily) to his passion.
But his particular favourite was The Pass Dairy.
In the Crowsnest Pass.
More specifically in the town of Bellevue in the Crowsnest Pass.
For a dollar, they would give you an ice cream cone that was truly heroic in size.
In fact, they took pride in the fact that theirs was the largest, best cone anywhere.
Something FIL challenged them on regularly.
On this particular day, he had gone into the little shop.
And emerged with a cone piled high with a perfect spiral of soft, melting deliciousness.
I think we could properly insert the word: Massive.
Mother-in-Law stared at it, wide-eyed. “Ray,” she said. “If you eat all that, you’ll be sick!”
FIL just looked at her and smiled. “You know better than that!”
He was right. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Sign Language

We have just spent the last few days with our coastal son.
The one who lives in paradise.
He is fun, funny and a deep, deep thinker.
He is also the one who remembers everything.
At the top of his list of memories during this visit?
His Dad’s Dad-isms. The strange things his dad told him during his upbringing that he realized, belatedly, really couldn’t be true.
But now are an integral part of his childhood.
If not a part of reality.
A few road signs:
The ‘Deer en pointe’ sign.

A sure warning that there are deer practicing—or performing—ballet in the vicinity.
Occasionally in the middle of the road.
Hence the sign.
The Snakes on Road sign.

Which gives a warning and also a estimate of number.
But you have to look closely to find them.
When they aren’t slithering down the middle of the road.
Just FYI. We’ve never seen them slithering down the road.
Those signs are erroneous.
Then the Sign which, to the rest of the word says: Loose Gravel.

To Dad, it said “Loo-Che Gravel-lay”.
An Italian fellow who obviously haunts roads in poor repair.
Enough signs . . .
Now we move on to a couple of animals that only Dad knows.
The first and foremost: The rock gopher.

A small rodent-appearing animal that bores holes through solid rock.
I know you’ve seen the holes.
Now you know how they occur.
And, finally, the side-hill gouger.

These are cows seen grazing on the sides of steep hills or mountains.
Their legs are shorter on one side than the other.
Thus their ability to walk comfortably on those steep sides of mountains.
Their only draw-back is their inability to turn the other way.
That would be—a disaster.
And would cause the inevitable, but rarely seen, rolling cow slide.
What your kids remember instead of real facts.
And that’s just fine.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Family Germs

When I was growing up, germs were something that lived in dog’s mouths.
Or cats.
Or any animals.
I was cautioned to avoid them.
Living on a ranch, that was a lot of avoiding.
It didn’t occur to me that there could be germs in someone else’s (human) mouth.
That paranoia didn’t show up until a few years later. When one of my friends wiped my germs off her pop bottle before she took a drink.
On with my story . . .
Supper time.
That special moment in the day wherein everyone gathers at the table to enjoy a home-cooked meal.
And some great visiting.
Okay, well, that’s what happens in the Tolley household.
Notice I didn’t say a great home-cooked meal.
Because, let’s face it, some of my experiments fail to jell.
But usually . . .
On this particular night, I had made something that passed the ‘yummy’ test.
But also crossed the ‘sloppy’ barrier.
Most of us did well.
Four-year-old granddaughter (or GD4 for short) didn’t fare as well.
And needed tidying.
Her mother licked her finger and swiped at the little girl’s cheek.
The rest of us thought nothing of it.
We were obviously wrong.
GD4 looked passively at her mother in the midst of her cleaning. “You know, Mom, you just got germs all over my face!”
Her mom stopped. “Oh.” She looked at me. “Oops.”
I should probably mention here that GD4’s face failed to fall off.
Or turn green.
But we had been informed.
Coming from a four-year-old near you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Husby and I are on a holiday on beautiful Vancouver Island.
Our son lives here and as often as we can, we come out to visit.
To—ummm—see our son.
Not to walk the beaches and watch the ever-changing ocean or hike the endless woodland trails and visit the centuries-old trees.
Or take a boat and deep sea fish.
Or gorge on freshly-caught cod and hand-made fries at our favourite restaurant.
Which incidentally makes the best coconut-cream pie I’ve ever tasted.
Just FYI.
Where was I?
Oh, yeah. Island. Holiday.
Last night, we were returning with our son from a day of rambles.
Our car was following the twisting, turning road into Courtenay.
A last long curve.
A curve marked by a line of reflective poles.
That lit up brightly as our car lights caught them.
One. Then the next. Then the next.
Each going dark as we passed them.
Watching them, I remembered something . . .
I was four and travelling with my family.
Nose pressed against the glass because I had been looking at a book but it had grown too dark to see anything.
Oh, and also because seat belts hadn’t been invented yet.
Every so often, we would pass by some small posts that lit up as we approached.
It was magical.
First one.
Then another.
I stared at them long and hard.
How did they do that?
How did they know to light up just as we were passing?
I thought about it.
Then finally figured it out.
Somewhere inside, there were little people who waited until we approached.
Then lit them just for us.
It was very kind of them.
And I was sure to thank each one.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Mom looked at me. “Who are you thanking?”
I pointed. “The little pole people.”
She didn’t ask.
She was used to me.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tapping Troubles Away

Shoes hide.
They do.
Especially when there is something important that they need to be at.
Movie night.
Going outside.
There are solutions.
Some of which are—creative—
Little sister was getting ready for Church.
She had been scrubbed shiny.
The only thing keeping her from heading out the door to the waiting car was a pair of Sunday shoes.
Oh, she could find her ratty everyday sneakers.
Her manure-y boots.
Even her tall, black rain boots.
But nothing that resembled (or smelled) like it could be worn to church.
She had asked everyone.
Including—as a final act of desperation—Mom.
Who had responded with her patented: “I have no idea where I left them when I wore them last.”
In tears of despair, she sat down on the floor.
And that’s when she saw them.
The shiny tips of her black tap shoes.
Hmmm . . .
Not smelly.
Gleaming with care.
Definitely church approved.
She grabbed them and put them on, jumped to her feet and headed for the door.
And that’s when their one drawback became apparent.
Remember when I said ‘tap’ shoes?
Well that comes into play here.
In church generally we are, for want of a better term, quiet.
And tap shoes aren’t.
Let’s just say that Mom and Dad could keep track of everywhere she went.
And everything she did.
As could the rest of the congregation.
Yep. Creative solutions.
Sometimes more creative than solution.
But definitely memorable.

Monday, August 29, 2016

It's All in How You Look At It

They had all been at their cousin’s birthday party.
It had been a much-anticipated opportunity for fun and games.
And had delivered.
On every level.
They had played in the pool.
Dashed through the sprinklers.
Had a water fight.
Screamed and laughed through several games.
Gorged on food and treats.
Sang and stuffed their faces with rich, gooey birthday cake.
And meltingly-creamy and delicious ice cream.
Tired, but entirely satisfied, they were lined up, ready to go home.
It was then they received the last perfect surprise to what had been a perfect day.
A large, loaded—identical—treat bag.
Brimming with anticipation, they dashed out to their car and their waiting Mama.
Submitted to the mundane but necessary process  of seating and buckling.
Then, at last, the opening of that last hurrah.
That sweet, final cap on the day.
The icing on the cake, so to speak.
Sister dipped in her hand and emerged, holding a large, hand-frosted cookie.
“I got a flower!” she exclaimed.
Brother did the same.
Pulled out the same.
 “I got a flower, too!”
Little sister reaching eagerly into her bag of treats.
Grabbed her flower cookie by the other end and pulled it out and held it aloft excitedly.
“I got a squid!”
It’s all in how you look at it.

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