Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Putting the 'Party' in Party Line

See? Behind my dad? Entertainment in a box!
My brother recently blogged about the fun/mishaps of people ‘rubbering in’ on the party phone lines.
It’s here, and is great fun to read.
Go ahead. We’ll wait . . .
But the history of the party phone line wouldn’t be complete without the following story:
Still further west of the Stringam Ranch was a community known as Twin River.
It’s accepted social leader was Alfred Jones.
Successful farmer and all-round good guy.
One morning, Alfred received a phone call from a concerned and upset member of the neighbourhood.
She had been listening in on the party line and overheard the news that, “Bert Sibley had died.”
Now Bert had farmed in the area for many, many years. He and his wife had raised their children.
Sold the farm.
And retired to the nearby town of Magrath for some well-deserved rest.
As a stalwart of their community, his death was something of note.
The woman thought that, at the very least, friends and neighbours of the Sibleys should supply flowers at the soon-to-be-announced funeral.
Alfred agreed.
“In fact,” he said, “I’m heading to Lethbridge on business right now. I’ll stop in while I’m there, and order the flowers.”
The woman agreed and hung up.
Alfred started out.
The road from the Jones Ranch in Del Bonita, to Lethbridge, runs directly through the aforementioned Magrath.
As he reached the outskirts of the town, Alfred decided it would be proper for him to stop in and offer his condolences to the grieving widow.
He pulled up to the house and made his way to the front door.
While he was waiting for his knock to be answered, Alfred happened to glance into the front room through the large window.
There was Bert.
Lying on the couch.
Oh, my word! thought Alfred. They haven’t even taken the body away yet!
But that wasn’t his only shock of the day.
Just as the door opened, the ‘body’ sat up.
Alfred stared.
And gulped.
Then turned to Mrs. Sibley, standing in the doorway and stammered out something inane about stopping in to see how they were enjoying town life.
Then got out of there.
Mrs. Sibley never knew how close she was to being offered flowers and condolences.
For a husband who was very much alive and sitting in the next room.
The good old party line.
Originator of all things informative. Mis-informative. 
And entertaining.
How can anything in this modern world compete with that?

Friday, October 21, 2016

Street Miracles

Okay. Yes. This is our preferred mode of travel.
I invented the paving machine.
And I did it with the power of my mind.
Maybe I should explain . . .
In 1964-1965, our family moved to the great metropolis of Lethbridge.
My father was running two ranching operations at the time and he thought it would be easier from a central location.
So, for one glorious year, us kids discovered the joys--and differences--of city living.
Milk delivered right to the door in handy-dandy little bottles.
Ditto cream, cheese, etc.
Weird-tasting water. Let’s face it, who in their right mind would choose chlorine over sulphur?!
Riding the city bus.
Neighbours near enough to hear/see everything your family said/did.
And a whole new crop of friends.
It was a fun year.
And over too soon.
Oddly enough, with all of this ‘new stuff’ what I struggled most with were the streets.
Yeah, I know. Strange.
The streets around our new house were gravel.
I was used to good old dirt.
Dirt that didn’t flip you and your bicycle sideways unexpectedly. Scraping flesh off of knees and legs and nether regions.
I learned to curse trying to stay upright in that gravel.
Okay, I will admit that said cursing consisted of ‘stupid gravel!’ and ‘Moooom!’, but that was getting out there. For me.
And then, the day I changed everything.
I was sitting on my bike on the sidewalk, having just pulled myself and said bike onto terra firma from the stupid, rotten (it had been a rough day) gravel street. I was glaring at said street.
Then, in my mind, I pictured a great machine that would simply drive across the treacherous coating of rocks and dirt and death, and coat it in a hard, delightfully smooth, totally bike-welcoming surface.
One a little friendlier to life and limb.
Imagine my surprise when, the very next day, such a machine was spotted one street over from mine.
All of the kids in the neighbourhood pulled their bikes as close as possible to the behemoth and just watched.
It was a miracle!
As soon as the machine and the accompanying out-rollers had moved on, we were riding our bikes on the fabulous new, delightfully smooth road.
I can still remember the heat rising up from the black surface.
The machine continued around the block until it had completely covered all of the streets with the same impermeable, biking-conducive material.
I know you’ve probably witnessed the same miracle yourself.
So, when you are driving on smooth, seamless roads.
You can thank me.
Send money . . .

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Life on the Ranch

The new barn
My big brother and me.
I was privileged to grow up on one of the last of the large old ranches in Southern Alberta. Situated halfway between the towns of Milk River and Del Bonita, it covered two-and-a-half townships, close to 92 square miles. 
Our closest neighbour was over nine miles away. 
A little far to drop by to borrow a cup of sugar, but close enough to help in the case of a real emergency, which was not uncommon on the large spread we ran, and with the number of people involved in the daily workings.
The ranch buildings themselves were nestled snugly in a bend of the South Fork of the Milk River. 
Towering cliffs surrounded us. Cliffs which were home, at times, to a pair of blue herons, and at all others, to marmots, badgers, porcupines, and a very prolific flock of mud swallows. 
We learned to swim in that river. 
We tobogganed down the gentler slopes of those cliffs. 
We built dams and caught frogs and snakes. 
I even trapped a full grown jack rabbit – almost.
It was an unusual life, as I have now come to know. 
At the time, it was normal. 
We thought everyone lived like we did. Far from any outside influences. Relying on each other. Immersed in the needs of the family and the ranch. 
For a child growing up, it was peace itself.
The Ranch
P.S. Most of the buildings are gone now, burned in the terrible grass fires of 2012. But they remain solid and real in my memories.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Today, I'm sitting in a warm blanket of nostalgia . . .

My dad had an extensive record collection. 78s.
Instrumentals. Country. Easy listening. Nonsense.
Thick, heavy records that could easily double at frisbees.
If we had thought of it.
Which we didn't.
We kids would paw through those records in search of our favourites.
I had two.
I listened to them endlessly.
Till I moved on to the Monkees, which is a whole other story.
Dad upgraded his collection and his stereo system. Replacing all of his 78 recordings with new LPs.
All but my favourites.
I've searched for them ever since in many, many antique stores. Thumbing through the 78s they have on offer for those two little songs. Or even one of them. I'd be satisfied with that.
But always, I've been disappointed.
I was telling my granddaughters about my favourite songs yesterday and describing the archaic 78 records that played them.
Yeah. They didn't believe me.
Then I went to my new friend, Google.
And guess what?!
They are there!
Both of them.
I offer them to you now, exactly as I used to listen to them.
When I was four.
And the world wasn't a scary place . . .

First: Horace the Horse

Then: Smokey the Bear

And, because we loved him too, my favourite Spike Jones:
New Years Resolution

Picture me, a little girl with white, candy-fluff hair, singing along.
My mom's in the kitchen making something grand.
Daddy's in his chair, work boots off and feet up, reading the newspaper and waiting for supper.
That's where I'm going to spend my day!

Monday, October 17, 2016

For Sale by Owner

Want to win a copy of this delightful book?
Details at the end of the post . . .
Who knew a bit of real estate could spark such a heated contest?
Single mom McKenzie, determined to escape her high-powered, painful life behind, decides to return to her small town life and buy the home she grew up in. There is only one problem. There is a firm offer on it.
By Jared, who happens to be a young, attractive, widower and single dad.
Sparks of attraction turn to sparks of animosity as the two try to outmaneuver each other in the real estate deal of their lives.
Winner gets the house of his/her dreams with room to breathe and grow.
Loser gets  . . . to keep on looking.
Will a growing attraction seal the deal?
Or simply make everything worse?
For Sale by Owner is a sweet, clean, romantic, holiday story that will warm you as surely as a cup of rich hot chocolate held between mittened hands and warm cookies straight from the oven (Recipes included!).
A tale of small sacrifices and lost love found and prayers answered. With a little bit of family drama thrown in for Christmas spice.
Looking for a sweet Christmas read for the holidays? Look in the real estate section: For Sale by Owner.

I was given a copy of this delightful book to read and review. I was not compensated in any way for said review. Darn.

Marlene Bateman Sullivan was born in Salt Lake City, Utah and grew up in Sandy, Utah.  She graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor's degree in English. She is married to Kelly R. Sullivan and they live in North Salt Lake, Utah with their two dogs and four cats. Marlene has been published extensively in magazines and newspapers and wrote the best-selling romance/suspense novel, Light on Fire Island. She has written three other mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House.

Marlene has also written a number of LDS, non-fiction books:  Latter-day Saint Heroes and Heroines, And There Were Angels Among Them, Visit’s from Beyond the Veil, By the Ministering of Angels, Brigham’s Boys, Heroes of Faith, Gaze into Heaven; Near-death Experiences in Early Church History, and The Magnificent World of Spirits; Eyewitness Accounts of Where We Go When We Die. 

For Sale by Owner is available at Deseret Book and Seagull Book and can also be purchased online at:
Seagull Book;


Want to win a copy of For Sale by Owner? 

(Ebook or hard copy.) 

Simply leave a comment!

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