Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, November 18, 2017

Princesses of the New Age

Not just another pretty face!
Our family was together.
Because we do everything in a group.
Or in our case, a herd.
We do it often. With almost everyone living close, it's an easy thing.
On this day, we were at our local church building.
We had been eating and visiting. My two favourite things.
Now, while some of us continued with that, Grampa and a couple of mothers/aunties had gathered several of the younger kids together in the gym.
They were in a circle to play some games.
Most of which included loud noises.
Clawing, scratching and biting gestures.
And animal sounds.
They were . . . involved.
One of the two-year-old girls came out of the gym.
Stomping.
And with both hands raised in her best clawing-the-neighbours-or-anyone-else-who-might-get-in-the-way position.
Auntie stopped her.
“Are you a bear?” she asked.
The little girl looked at her indignantly and sniffed. “I’m a princess!” she stated. “See my pretty dress?!”
Auntie and I looked at each other. “Not the sort of princess I was raised with, but . . . okay,” she said.
It’s a new world.
Princesses now have claws, stomp around and growl a lot.
But still wear pretty dresses.
Just FYI.

Friday, November 17, 2017

(B)EEK!

Admit it. This strikes terror into your heart.
For three years, we lived in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’.
Really.
It was a little house. (Just over 300 square feet.)
And we lived in it.
My Husby had built it as a dog kennel.
Then turned it into a chicken coop.
Finally, cleaned it up, insulated and finished the inside.
And moved his family into it.
But that isn’t what this story is about . . .
Our little house was heated with a wood stove.
Toasty.
During the summer (ie. July), that stove sat cold and unused.
Once August rolled around and temperatures started to cool, however, it was pressed back into use.
And that’s where this story starts.
Oh, and I should probably mention that I‘m afraid of chickens.
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
My Dad was over for a visit. Which invariably consisted of trying to carry on a conversation with three little boys playing between us in the only available space in our little house.
It was nearly suppertime. The room was starting to cool.
Time for a fire.
I checked the damper. (I want you to know that I knew what I was doing . . .)
Opened the door of our little stove.
Piled in wood and kindling.
And lit a match.
Flames licked up immediately.
And that’s when we heard it . . .
The scratching and clawing and fluttering of something inside the chimney.
We both stood there, stunned. What on earth . . .?
“You must have a bird caught in the chimney,” Dad said.
What?! How was that possible?!
The poor thing!!!
I grabbed a bucket and doused the small fire, then began pulling out bits of blackened wood and setting them back into the box.
Finally, the stove was clear.
Dad and I knelt down and peered inside.
“Oh, I see it!” I said.
It was a blackbird.
The poor thing had obviously been overcome by smoke and dropped into the back of the stove. Quite clearly dead.
I reached out to grab what I thought was a foot in the uncertain light.
It wasn’t.
“EWWWWW! A BEAK! A BEAK! A BEAK!!”
Dad shook his head and stared at me as I did the dance of disgust. *Shudder*
Eventually, he got the bird out and we gave it a proper burial.
Later, my Husby checked to see how it had gotten inside in the first place. Ah. A loose screen. Quickly remedied.
I can wrangle the most dastardly fur-bearing animals the barnyard can offer.
But chickens and I give each other a wide berth.
Turns out that it’s really their beaks I’m afraid of.
And a beak is a beak.
No matter whom it’s on.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Gathering

A couple of victims clients.

Action.

Audience










Branding.
First a little lot of background . . .
Branding, at the Stringam ranch, invariably took place in high summer.
And lasted forever.
Okay, I was six. Everything seemed to last forever.
Except Christmas, but I digress . . .
For the entire day prior, every rider on the place would be involved in gathering the herds. With an operation the size of ours, this was no easy task. The fields were a section (640 acres) in size and, normally, two riders would have to work together, collecting the animals in their assigned area. Then those smaller herds would be gathered, one by one, into the main corrals.
The sun would be high and hot, baking the wonderful scent out of the sage.
There would be glorious vistas of open, wind-swept prairies where one could see, literally, for miles.
Heat and dust and sweat.
And an unbelievable din.
Picture this: Hundreds of cow and calf pairs, which, when herded together immediately become . . . unpaired.
They start bawling for each other. ('Where are you?' in cow, invariably sounds the same, 'Mooooah') They aren't smart enough to actually . . . look . . . for one another. And everyone looks the same anyway.
The cows merely sniff any calf that happens in their vicinity. 'Sniff', nope. 'Sniff', nope. 'Sniff', nope. 'Mooooah'.
And so it goes . . .
Slowly, each herd is driven to the corrals and penned. Hay is thrown into the mangers. The cows finally find their babies. Peace is restored, somewhat.
Then, another herd is brought in and everyone immediately becomes separated again.
More bawling. Then they get sorted out. Then another herd.
This goes on all day and into the evening.
Things are quiet for the night.
Then, the big day dawns. The most exciting, but noisiest day of the year.
Cows and calves are separated and the cows are moved into the largest pen.
The calves go into pens which connect to the chutes. One by one, these smaller, though not necessarily easier to work with, animals are pushed down the chute and into the squeeze (an apparatus which captures the calf and then converts into a table by tilting sideways).
And then, with the noise, come the smells.
Hot metal of irons in the fire.
Burning hair as those irons are briefly pressed to the tough hide.
KRS, a disinfectant.
Manure.
One by one, the calves are branded. Inoculated. Then released.
One by one, they find their Mamas. And slowly, ever so slowly, order is restored.
Then the entire herd is released and driven back out into the pastures.
More noise and confusion.
Then all is quiet . . .
 Every year, on the ranch, this is a highlight. For us humans, anyways. (I have to admit, it probably isn't quite as exciting for the cows, or their babies.)
Enough background . . .
This was the most exciting year of all. This was the first year I was able to participate. Well, as something more than just 'Diane-get-out-of-here-you're-going-to-get-trampled!'.
The excitement was palpable.
A crew had been assembled. (As branding is such a big job, invariably, neighbors come in to help.)
My oldest sister and I were given the smallest, and nearest field. We left the chatting, laughing, gesticulating crowd and headed towards our assignment.
The two of us gathered our herd and pushed them toward the 'New' corrals. The pens that had been constructed across the Milk River from the ranch buildings, within the actual fields. Somehow, that name just stuck. Even after said corrals had been there a number of years. A great number of years.
My sister and I chased our little herd into the corrals. Then we sat back and watched as the others' herds came in.
There were a few tense moments, but mostly, everything went off well.
The herd was tucked in for the evening.
The next morning, the real work began.
I was assigned to be the 'pusher'.
And no, it's not what it sounds like.
I was the person inside the chute with the calves, pushing each of them into the squeeze so they could be branded.
It was hot, heavy work, especially for a 6-year-old.
And I loved it.
Push. Push. Push. Gate closes. Squeeze squeezes. Tilts sideways. Branding. Shots. Tilts back. Squeeze unsqueezes. Front gate opens. Calf bolts.
Push. Push. Push . . .
And so it went throughout the day. At noon, Mom appeared with lunch for everyone and we abandoned our posts to gather in whatever bit of shade we could find, and gorge.
Have I mentioned that Mom was a great cook?
Two brothers, neighboring ranchers noted for their pranks and hijinks, were on hand to help us out.
They had found a comfortable spot for lunch on one side of the car Mom had driven up in.
Mom and Dad had relaxed on the other side.
Mom had made the mistake of supplying sliced watermelon for our dessert.
The two brothers, as they had finished each piece of watermelon, launched the rinds up into the air over the car, aiming for my hapless parents.
Two rinds had been met with silence. Obvious misses.
The third rind went up.
"Hey!" My Dad's voice.
Bingo.
Dad got up and stalked, playfully, around the car, but the brothers were already gone. He shook his head, turned towards the corrals and walked over to stand next to the chute.
It was the signal for the rest of us to get back to work.
I crawled up the side of the chute and prepared to drop down inside.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Alfred, one of the brothers, sneaking up behind my Dad. I turned to watch.
Alfred was carrying a pitcher of ice-cold water, which he proceeded to empty into my Dad's back pocket.
"Hey!" Dad spun around. But by then, Alfred had, once more, disappeared.
Everyone, including Dad, got a real laugh out of that one. Fortunately, with the hot, dry air, his soaked pant leg soon dried.
By sunset, the work was finished and the herds sent back out to pasture. Everyone who had been involved assembled at the house for supper, feeling sunburnt, windblown, tired . . . and happy.
That year, as in previous years, we all sat around the table, talking and laughing.
And it was then I realized that branding was a time of gathering, not just of cattle, but of  family and friends. Because of the vast distances between settlements in this prairie country, people would go months without seeing each other.
So branding, in addition to being the apex of the year regarding the work, was also a time of visiting. Re-acquaintance and exchanging of news.
Perhaps that is why it was so important to all of us who lived there.
More crew. And the squeeze.

In case you missed the announcement, my newest novel, A House Divided is now in stores!
Find your copy at these fine stores;
Chapters/Indigo
Barnes and Noble
Deseret Book
Cedar Fort Publishing (Books and Things)
Amazon.com
Amazon.ca

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A House Divided

It's finally here!
The long-awaited sequel to Daughter of Ishmael, A House Divided!

Hannah has proved her faith.
And her strength.
But now she must survive her greatest test.
To turn her back on everything she holds dear and somehow build something new out of the ashes of the old.
It's a journey that will try her physically, mentally and, perhaps most of all, spiritually.
Will she survive?
And as war between brothers threatens, will her people?


See the worlds of the scriptures through the women's eyes!
A House Divided is the newest in Biblical fiction by author Diane Stringam Tolley. 
It is available at all fine stores in the US and at Chapters/Indigo in Canada. 
It is also available through Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Meet the Author!
For those living in the Edmonton area, Diane will be featured at a book launch party on December 5, 2017, from 6:30 to 9:30 PM at 1061 56 Street, Edmonton.
Come and meet the author. Stay for a reading and treats.
Copies of both A House Divided and Daughter of Ishmael will be available at special prices.
Take a signed book home with you!


Monday, November 13, 2017

For Those Who Lived

Canada's most famous World War 1 poem:
During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.
As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
And now my poem:
For those who lived:

The field of crosses, white. Pristine.
Grounds are tidy. Trimmed. And clean.
Where once the guns of horror boomed,
And death and fear, like blossoms, bloomed.
They lie so sweetly, there. At rest.
Their duty done. They gave their best.
Each represents a man, believing
Each a family, giv’n to grieving.
And as we walked along the rows,
Of those who lay in calm repose.
One cross stood out, with wreath and note,
We knelt beside it, read the quote,
To W. Chater, RCA,
In 1944. The day
18 July. Aged Thirty-two.
He left a wife and children, too:
The note said: Thank you that you served,
For brav’ry and your steeled nerve,
I love you and I’m proud to be
The great-Granddaughter you set free.
The Chater family misses you.
[Until we meet again, Adieu!]
We knelt a long time, taking in,
The sacrifice of kith and kin.
Because those crosses represent,
Those who lived, plus those who went.
And, as we left the grounds that day,
With sober mien, we drove away,
Our love and gratitude we give
To those who died. And those who live.




Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

Next week, because it's dark up here,
We'll talk of 'LIGHT'. Come join us here!.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Friends at Long Last

Tangmere. History makes me cry.   (bbc.uk.co picture)
For over thirty years, my Husby worked for Alberta Culture. Specifically building the great museums for which Alberta is famous.
The last two museums had been announced by the powers-that-be.
One to house a collection of cars and trucks and thing that go. Or fly.
The other to showcase the horse-drawn vehicle era.
Both having to do with transportation.
In preparation for this, my Husby was sent to the UK.
They have museums.
And could offer insights.
Thus, twenty-five years ago, he went. Taking me.
Because.
It was a wonderful, informative, exhilarating, exhausting, emotional trip.
We saw farm museums. Transit museums. Air museums. Automobile museums.
We even went to the mews at Buckingham palace and got up close and personal with the gold coach.
But one visit stands out above all of the others.
Oh, we had seen exhibits expertly assembled.
Cunningly and beautifully displayed.
Extensive, professional artwork in beautiful buildings.
And trained, informed staff.
But none of them could compete with the (then) little museum, Tangmere.
Near Chichester, England, on the site of the old RAF Tangmere Airfield, this museum was almost exclusively manned by airmen who had served there during WWII.
Perhaps that is what made the difference.
The displays came to life when your guide, who had known the showcased men personally, described them.
He had many stories to tell.
And no few tears were shed in the telling.
One, in particular, I remember most vividly . . .
The worker/veteran, I'll call him Michael, described a gentleman entering the museum.
Alone.
This man wandered from exhibit to exhibit, reading the hand-lettered cards and information.
Studying the artifacts.
Finally, he approached the desk. "Have you a cemetery?" he asked Michael in heavily German-accented English.
"Why yes, sir. It's just through there." Michael pointed him towards a door.
"Thank you." The man went outside to the small cemetery directly behind the main building.
There rests everyone lost during the August 16, 1940 raid on Tangmere during WWII.
Everyone.
The visitor stayed outside for a long time.
Finally, he re-entered the building and returned to the front desk.
"Please excuse me, but I couldn't help but notice that you have buried the German dead with the English."
Michael got a bit teary-eyed in his telling at this point. "Why yes, sir," he told the man. "They were each and all someone's son."
The German visitor began to cry. Finally he whispered, "I was in the wave of German fighters who bombed you."
The Englishman put out his hand.
"Well it's nice to actually get to meet you!" he said heartily, shaking the other's hand. "And I should tell you that you and your boys made one hell of a mess!"
Michael looked at us. "I don't know what we were when he came in, but we parted friends."
I cried all of the way back to our hotel.


P.S. Most of us can never know the agony, physically, mentally and spiritually. We can only thank those who take our places there . . .

Friday, November 10, 2017

Barnstormed

In a time of barnstormer’s ‘feats-of-skill-and-daring’ it probably would go down as the most spectacular.
And the shortest.
It was midmorning of September 12, 1922. The townspeople of Goodwin, Ohio were going about their normal, sleepy activities. Tending gardens or desks or children. Minding stores and banks. Attending school.
Then a strange sound intruded. A deafening pop-pop-pop that was, at once, peculiar and exhilarating. And which pulled everyone outside and drew all eyes skyward.
To see a small aeroplane skimming along just above the trees.
Almost immediately, a cascade of papers began raining down upon those upturned faces.
To the people of tiny Goodwin, these occurrences were anything but normal.
Byron Schultz scooped one of the papers up and examined it. Then whooped loudly and waved it aloft.
Not to be outdone, the rest of the town dove for their own.
Pandemonium ensued.
Each proved to be a carefully-penned invitation to follow the Ivan Gates Flying Circus aeroplane to unimaginable fun and excitement.
Tipping their heads back, the people watched as the small plane banked right, cleared the town’s outskirts and slowly began to descend.
Now most of these good people had never even seen an aeroplane, let alone touched one and—gasp—been offered a ride.
They needed no more direction.
Or encouragement.
As one, they started after the plane.
For the next six hours, aviator Clyde “Upside-Down” Pangborn, or ‘Pang’ as he was affectionately called, bestowed goggles and helmets and took Goodwinian citizens, one-by-one, on the joy-ride of a lifetime.
And, also one-by-one, brought his windblown and speechless customers back to terra firma a few minutes later.
Finally, when everyone who could muster up the courage—and the dollar—had experienced their turn in the passenger seat, Pang proceeded to do that which had given him his fame.
He barrel-rolled. He dove. He loop-the-looped. He spiraled.
And he streaked past the agog citizenry upside down.
With each feat, the crowd roared their approval and more than a few of the children—and some of the adults—vowed they would someday do the same.
Then, as the long, late summer day drew to a close, Pang tried one, last exploit.
Now, despite the spur-of-the-moment feel to the acts performed by the Ivan Gates Flying Circus, everything was always carefully planned and choreographed.
Stunts were rehearsed and timed.
Little was left to chance.
But Pang was afloat upon his own heady success this day . . .
The 6:20, one of the new Pacific models designed for speed, was just pulling out of the nearby railroad station—destination, Lancaster. It picked up steam as it cleared the town limits, following the long, slow curve around the field where Pang had been grandstanding.
Pang, his nose into the wind and his blood up, decided he’d try one last, unprecedented and totally unrehearsed stunt.
He flew low over the laboring engine as it straightened out past the curve, waggled the wings of his little ‘Jenny’, then performed a series of rolls and loops that brought him parallel and a little behind the train. Gunning the engine, he soon caught up and, for a few heart-stopping moments, skimmed along a handbreadth above the baggage cars just ahead of the caboose.
And then, lightly as a feather, he set the little plane down.
It was as neat an operation as had ever been seen.
Feeling more than a little proud of his impromptu finale, he stepped from the plane to the roof of the moving train and took a bow before the wildly-cheering audience.
Suddenly a scream rang out over the clamor of the crowd. Piercing enough to bring instant silence and the immediate attention of everyone to the gnarled, pointing finger of Miss Adelia Frown.
Miss Frown, alone, seemed to have remembered the little stone bridge that spanned the railroad track just along the way, where the rails ran parallel to the creek.
But the entire crowd was witness to the sickening crunch of wood and metal as Pang’s game little plane was relieved of both wings and tail.
Pang emerged relatively unscathed and, within days was once again skimming the skies in another Jenny.
Happily soaring over fields of quietly grazing horses.
But pointedly avoiding the iron ones.
It was just seemed like a good idea. 


Use Your Words is a challenge issued by Karen of Baking in a Tornado.
Each of her followers submit a series of words which are then re-distributed among the group.
One doesn’t know what words one will get or who they will be from.
It’s fun!
My words this month?
aviator ~ goggles ~ model ~ railroad ~ steam
They were submitted by: Dawn at https://cognitivescript.blogspot.com/   
Thank you, my friend!
    

Got a minute?
See what the others have crafted!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Do It

Doing what I do!
I blog.
And now you're probably wondering why on earth I'm blogging about blogging.
Wait for it . . .
My blog is a series of short stories about growing up.
Huh. Me. Growing up. Most people think it didn't happen. Couldn't happen. Will never . . .
But I digress . . .
Occasionally, I feel guilty about spending such a lot of time with my beloved blog.
Even entertain the thought of abandoning it.
But then, someone tells me to continue.
Usually this is a reader. (I do have them!) Or a person who has read a particularly amusing tale. (true story.) But sometimes, it is someone . . . OFFICIAL. (dun, dun, duuunnn!)
This has happened to me.
Twice.
The first was my publisher, Cedar Fort.
Imagine my joy: "Diane, get your name out there. Blog. Get people reading your blog."
It's like being told, firmly, to "Eat that chocolate! All of it. Don't miss a bite! Oh, and lick the wrapper when you are done!"
Mmmmmm.
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Blog.
And officiality. (Is that a word?)
I scurried to obey, frantically typing little stories and posting them. Then telling everyone in Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Google . . . you get the picture . . .
It was . . . fun. (Fun being 'ten' on the 'fun-ness' scale.)
All was well.
Then, another magical day. I was sitting in Church (I do that sometimes.) and our Stake President was speaking. And what pithy, uplifting theme did he choose to advocate?
Blogging.
You heard me right.
It was from the pulpit.
I am not making this up.
His exact words were, "I encourage you to blog. Blog. Blog. Blog. People are reading your stories. They are making a difference."
Okay, I know that there were many, many people in the congregation, but I'm sure he was talking to me. That made it official. With a capital OH!
And good enough for an elbow in my husband's ribs and a hearty "Ha! Told you so!"
So I blog.
Officially.
It just doesn't get any better.
Aw, how to do it?
First, 
choose an amazing topic. For example, what do you most enjoy reading or hearing about? Surprise! That's what your blog should cover. That was easy.
So now you are writing a world-class blog. How do you get to be, for want of a better term, better? Be entertaining. Be unexpected. Be humorous. Be inventive. Be courageous.
Okay, yes, also be honest.
Then get yourself known. How?
Well, you could do something outrageous. But, trust me, that just creates more problems.
The best way is to blog every day. Get your name out there every day.
Post every day. (Have I said 'every day' too much?)
And read other blogs. Comment. Their authors will follow you back. In a non-creepy way, of course.
And before you know it, your readership has gone from zero to sixty to six hundred to . . . you understand.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Princess, Me And Leaves

Photo Credit
‘Twas just a simple lesson, on that farm outside of town,
With Mrs. Schultz, my teacher. She, who smiled, and never frowned.
And there, on her piano, I’d perform the things I’d learn.
And she would nod and smile and then, my lesson, she’d adjourn.

Now, while I waited patiently for little brother’s chance
To play the Shultz piano, and let his fingers dance,
I had time to leave the house and wander in the yard,
With Schultz’s collie, Princess, by my side, to act as guard.

Now, the farm was very pretty with its rows and rows of trees,
That at this autumn time of year, were losing all their leaves.
When me and Princess wandered out, the air was crisp and sweet,
 The leaves were thick and crunchy, formed a carpet ‘neath our feet.

And there, we romped and played, until my Mom roared up the drive,
And I knew the time for me to go had finally arrived,
Then running, knee deep, through those leaves to head back to the house,
I kicked up a leafy storm (and a family of grouse).

And as I climbed into the car, leaves tangled in my hair,
Mom stared at me, then asked to know what I’d been up to there.
I entertained her with the quests of Princess Dog and me,
Our explorations through the leaves from Mrs. Schultz’s trees.

All this was fifty years ago; I was much younger then.
But, when in fall, I smell the smells, I’m right back there again.
The tangy air, the muffled sounds, the lofty, giant trees,
When for a little time, the world was: Princess, me. And leaves.

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado gathers her group of poets and issues a challenge.
This month's theme?
The Joys of Fall
Apt. Very apt.
Well played, Karen . . .

See what the others have created!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: The Joys of Fall 
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Indian Summer Jubilation 
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: The Joy of Fall 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Play(ed)girls

It was HER fault...
College years are for making all sorts of mistakes.
Right?
Well, that's what I tell myself.
But this is one I didn't make.
My roommate, Debbie did.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Maybe I should explain . . .



Debbie and I were browsing through the convenience store.
Both of us were suffering from chocolate withdrawal.
We needed a fix.
There was a magazine rack near the checkout line.
Debbie was glancing over the offerings.
“Hey!” she said. “There's a magazine here called 'Playgirl'!
I looked at her. “I thought it was called 'Playboy'.
“Well, there's that one, too.”
“Huh. Weird.”
“What do you suppose 'Playgirl' is?”
The guy behind the counter spoke up. “It's pictures of naked men instead of naked women,” he said.
We stared at him.
Surely not.
I should explain here that both of us were children of the country. The words, 'sheltered', 'naive' and just plain 'dumb' come to mind.
“I've never seen a naked man,” Debbie said.
“Me neither,” I said. Something I was blissfully happy to continue for a good long time.
“Hmm.”
I should mention, here that when Debbie said, 'Hmm' in just that way, anything was possible.
Anything.
“I'm buying it,” she said, reaching for the cellophane-wrapped magazine.
“Ick!” I said. I was ignored.
She shoved it into her bag with her chocolate bars and we headed home.
At this time, we were sharing a two-bedroom basement apartment with two other girls, both as unworldly as we were. And neither of which was at home.
Debbie set her shopping bag on the apartment's only desk, which stood in our roommates' room and pulled out the magazine.
Then she stripped off the cellophane.
“Okay,” she said. “Ready?”
I shook my head. Again, I was ignored.
She flipped back the cover.
The magazine fell open to the centrefold.
Gasp!
I caught a brief glimpse of a handsome young man leaning casually against the doorway of what looked like an abandoned house.
Fortunately, I got no further.
Roommate slapped the book shut.
“Well, that's that,” she said, her face bright pink.
She shoved the magazine under the pillow of the nearest bed.
Episode over, we forgot about it.
Until a couple of days later when our roommate returned from her weekend home and crawled into bed.
We heard a shriek.
Then silence.
“Uh-oh,” Debbie said.
There was a knock at our door.
Debbie answered.
“What is this doing in my bed?” The magazine, held distastefully by finger and thumb, was extended.
“Oh,” Debbie said. “Umm. What makes you think we had anything to do with that?”
Our roommate gave her a 'Nice try, Debbie' look, dropped the magazine at our feet and disappeared.
Debbie picked it up and threw it into the trash.
Episode truly over.
But to this day, I wonder what was happening during the moment of silence after the roommate discovered the magazine . . .
You learn a lot of things during your college years.
One way or another.

Monday, November 6, 2017

COLD

The theme for Poetry Monday is 'Cold'. It seems apropos, as winter has hit my northern Canadian climes with a vengeance.
And I can't think of any better tribute than that penned by our own Robert W. Service (1874-1958) back in 1907.
Here it is, one of the best poems ever on the subject of COLD!

The Cremation of Sam McGee

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the curs├Ęd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

Next week for daughters and for sons,
We're REMEMBERING the deeds they've done.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Put on (Most of) Your Sunday Clothes

Ready, set...
We are and always have been, a Church attending family. We love it.
And I was raised to believe that, to show proper respect, we should always go dressed in our best.
And that included our children.
So from their very earliest days, our girls were in dresses. Hair neatly done.
And our boys in suits and ties.
Sometimes, when we left, our home was in complete disarray.
Okay, often, when we left, our home was in complete disarray.
But we were neat and clean.
Even the youngest of us.
When our oldest boys were born, I made each of them a white shirt and tie and a three-piece suit; jacket, pants and vest.
They looked . . . dressy.
At least I thought so.
Those clothes were handed down to our youngest son, who came some years behind.
So, at the age of 14 months, he was dressed for church in a little brown suit and vest, with a white shirt and dark red tie. He looked like a miniature accountant.
All he needed was the tiny briefcase.
Moving on . . .
During our worship service, he (in mother parlance) had a . . . erm . . . blowout.
Let's face it, that diaper was done. And so was everything else worn below the waist.
Rats.
I took him to the Mother's room to make repairs. Unfortunately, all I had to put him in was a fresh diaper.
The pants would have to go home for cleaning.
Fortunately, all of the upper garments has survived.
Now, my son was dressed in a white shirt and tie. Vest and jacket.
And diaper.
Okay, the accountant image was shot forever.
Or maybe not . . .
We headed back to the chapel. He, happy to be dry once more.
Me, praying that no one would notice my baby dressed in a less-than-normal manner.
My prayer wasn't answered. Just FYI.
We quietly opened the door and slipped inside.
So far so good.
We crept towards our bench.
Still well.
I released his little hand to slide into the bench.
And that's when the little cretin saw his opportunity to escape.
Giggling shrilly, he dashed up the aisle towards the front of the chapel.
I started to go after him, but stopped when I realized that the entire congregation was now watching us. I stared after the rapidly retreating shirt, tie, jacket and vest.
And diaper.
I was torn between stopping the charge.
And admitting that he was mine.
I should point out here, that our chapel has two aisles, one on either side of the large room, as well as a wide space at the front and back.
My son reached the front and started across towards the other side.
Still shrieking happily.
I studied him, trying to figure out the best and fastest way to knock him into next week stop him.
I realized that when he reached the far side, he only had two options. Go back the way he had come, or start down the far aisle.
I was betting on the latter.
As calmly as I could with the entire congregation now ignoring the struggling speaker and watching the two of us, I walked back up the aisle towards the back of the room. Then began to make my way across, paralleling my son's path.
He turned the corner at the front and started down the far aisle towards the back.
Hah! I knew it!
I cut him off at the pass, scooped him into my arms and disappeared through the far door and into the safe, unpopulated hallway.
Still shrieking.
Him, not me.
Though I was considering it.
I collapsed into a chair.
And sighed weakly.
Mission accomplished.
People thought the whole episode was 'cute' and 'sweet' and 'hilarious'.
They were so understanding.
I and my family however, will never forget.
And now we have a whole new meaning for the words, 'Sunday suit'.
And, just because I want to, here's Sunday Clothes from Hello, Dolly! Happy Sunday!
https://vk.com/video51240594_169490607

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