Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Blue Plate Special

When this . . .
Becomes this . . .

Dinner time on the Stringam ranch was the best part of the day.
Plenty of good food.
Lots of company.
Stimulating conversation.
The quiet melding of day's work and evening's relaxation.
But, as usually happens, the good times must end.
And be followed by the un-stimulating. The mundane.
The dishes.
A subtle reminder that there was payment required for the privilege of eating at one of the world's best tables.
Everyone had their assignments.
Up until this point, mine had been to collect the silverware.
And things un-breakable.
Oh, and stay out from under foot of those whose job it was to deal with the more fragile of the table's settings.
But I had recently turned eight.
My duties had suddenly become more onerous.
Remember what I said about things breakable?
That would definitely come in here . . .
My job now included the ceremonial carrying of the plates to the sink.
The beautiful plates that featured a hand-drawn etching of either a horse or a bull.
For the first few weeks, I carried them one at a time.
It took a while, but no plate was damaged.
Then I got . . . efficient.
And creative.
If I scraped everything onto one plate, I could stack the plates at the table and, theoretically, carry them several at a time to the sink.
A much more efficient system.
And a great saving of my valuable time.
I did it.
First with a couple of plates.
Then three.
Finally, through a system of trial and error, I discovered that I could carry a total of eight plates at a time.
The time savings were astronomical.
I staggered under the weight of so many heavy dishes, but I got my job done in a fraction of the time.
One evening, Dad had watched me at my job.
Eyeing the heavy stack of plates uncertainly.
“Are you sure you can carry all of those, Diane?”
“Oh, I do it all of the time, Daddy!” I chirped happily, pulling the stack towards me.
“Well they look a bit heavy for you.”
“On, no! Look. I can do it!”
No sooner were the words out of my mouth then the entire stack of beautifully illustrated plates slipped from my hands and fell to the floor.
It was a crash of Biblical proportions.
I don't know what that means, but it sounds mighty.
Which it was.
The crash, I mean.
For a moment, I stared in horror at the mass of broken crockery at my feet.
The sound had drawn people from the far reaches of the house.
And even in from the yard, where the cowboys were enjoying an evening smoke.
Everyone was present to witness my utter failure.
There was only one thing to do.
And I made it good.
Angry words were swallowed as everyone rushed to comfort me.
“Diane, what did I just say?”
Gulp. “The stack was too heavy.”
“And . . .?”
“It wa-a-a-a-s!”
“Okay, no use crying over it,” Mom said, coming to my rescue. “Help me clean it up.”
I should mention here that Jerry, he whose job it was to wash that night, should have thanked me for relieving him of a large part of his chore.
He didn't. He owes me one.
Moving on . . .
One plate survived. One of the horses.
And it remained, a gentle, subtle reminder that one should never take on too much at once.
Or tragedy can follow.
Good lessons. Expensively taught.
The lone survivor.


  1. A lesson learned. You had a supportive family who immediately forgave you and came to your aid. That's a blessing.

  2. The price of many good lessons can be expensive!

  3. Your parents are very patient people. My son did the same thing, broke a few plates and chipped my travertine table. I may have yelled a little bit.

  4. I love the title and label!

    I think all of us have one of these oops moments in our path of learning :) And I'm glad there was one plate left to admire.

  5. Sigh. I am pretty sure there would have been yelling in my household. Always assuming that they hadn't stepped in before the calamitous event.

  6. That was what my Dad would have called a 'lazy mans' load. That was a painful lesson for sure,

  7. You routinely carried eight plates without mishap until one day someone mentioned they looked too heavy and suddenly they were? Hmmm. Psychology at work here I think.
    I cheated. I made my kids each carry their own plate to the sink from a very early age, while I gathered up all the smaller stuff.

  8. You get what you speak! So true.

  9. I feel bad for the little girl who broke the family's beautiful plate. On the other side, it taught her a lesson that can only be learned the hard way. I always love the way you tell a story. It's straight forward, no flowery embellishments, yet we want to continue on to the next sentence to see what happened. So great!


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