Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Stray Cats

The ranch house. Warm. Comfortable. A little too welcoming.
It was evening. Just before bedtime.
And my dog, Cheetah, was barking.
Something she did a lot.
Especially at night.
We had tried to train her out of it, but had never quite succeeded.
It was . . . annoying.
Finally, I set my book down and got up to see what could be bothering her.
Coyotes howling in the foothills nearby?
A cow bawling?
Water running in the canal?
Wind in the trees?
Dumb dog.
I should explain, here, that the Stringam ranch house had a large carport with two walls: one on the west, formed by a wall of the house and one on the north. The south and east sides were open.
The carport joined the overhang over the front door in a narrow strip right next to the house.
It was possible to walk from a vehicle into the house without seeing the sky, but it was tricky and involved negotiating car hoods and garden paraphernalia (good word).
See? Carport. Without the cars...
Now, normally, when one exited the house, one would walk straight to the front gate and avoid the carport entirely.
Something I usually did.
Tonight I . . . didn't.
I don't know why.
I glanced out the door into the inky blackness.
There is nothing quite so dark as as a night on the prairies, with no moon.
And the mercury vapour light in the yard not quite reaching the house.
My dog was over in that yard, at the business end of the carport.
Still barking her fool head off.
Stupid dog.
I sighed and pushed the screen door open.
Then hesitated.
And did something I had never done before. I turned and made my way, carefully, to the carport, avoiding shovels and other neatly-placed garden tools.
Then I walked between the cars toward my frantic dog.
I paused at the edge of the carport.
Cheetah was just feet away and her barking, if it could be believed, had increased. I could see her clearly now, even in the dim light. Hackles raised. Whole body stiff with intent.
I started forward again, but just as I lifted my foot, a sound shattered the darkness.
And I do mean shattered.
It was the scream of a cougar.
Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you what the sound of a cougar does to one when you hear it ringing across the prairie.
It's . . . scary.
This scream was five feet away.
Above me.
At the very edge of the carport roof.
See? Shattered.
I froze instantly.
Then started to back up, one step at a time.
Finally, I turned and sprinted towards the front door, careful to keep roof between me and our unwanted visitor and heedless of whatever might be in my path.
I called my dog and she came running.
Still barking.
The two of us ducked inside, and I banged the heavy outer door shut and locked it.
Mom's voice, “What's the matter, dear?”
I was staring out the window.
Cheetah was now standing behind me. She continued to bark.
“We have a visitor, Mom!” I said over the noise.
“Oh?” Mom appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“Yeah. A cougar is sitting on the carport roof.”
“Are you sure?”
I turned to look at her, thinking about the horrendous (Ooo, great word!) sound. “Fairly sure.”
“Oh, dear!” she disappeared.
I stayed by the window, but could see nothing in the blackness.
My dad appeared. Calm as always.
“Well it was on the carport roof a few minutes ago.”
“It'll leave.”
I stared at him. “You're not going to go out after it?”
“Not while it's on the roof.”
Good point.
Dad got a flash-light and pointed it out the window.
The roof was snared in a noose of light.
I cautiously opened the door.
Cheetah shot through and into the night. Her barking moved slowly away from the ranch buildings and toward the foothills.
Our visitor was obviously headed home.
Everyone present heaved a sigh of relief. With some visitors, that's just the way it is.
Less is more.
Moving on . . .
I will add that this was the first and only time I can remember a living creature receiving a less-than-exemplary welcome at the ranch.
And not being offered a warm meal.
Oh . . . wait.
I guess that's a good thing.

Mondays are Poetry days!If you'd like to participate, you will be so welcome!I'm writing about BEGINNINGS. 

Message me your link in the comments before Sunday evening. Let's do this! :)

Friday, February 17, 2017

(S)Licked Up

Notice the cute little boys.
One with hair. One with . . . cheeks.
Ignore the glasses.
When I was expecting my second son, I craved anything 'tomato'. Pizza, spaghetti, anything I could put tomatoes in or on.
But especially tacos.
Mmmmm. Tacos.
There was only one problem. I couldn't get them hot enough.
I would buy the hottest salsa I could find.
Not enough.
Add a couple of drops of Tabasco.
Still not enough.
A few more drops. (I admit it. My spice world was limited to salsa and Tabasco.)
Almost there.
Seven drops.
And that's the way I ate them the entire nine months.
My baby boy was born without any hair on his head.
I think I burned it off.
This is relevant.
Moving on . . .
After the baby arrived, my husband took his little family out for fish and chips.
Mmmmm. More food.
I had our newest baby in a snuggly on my chest toasty and comfortable.
Just the top of his little, bald head peeking above the dark green corduroy of the carrier.
My dinner arrived. 
I looked at the loaded plate. Then at my baby.
I could take the carrier off and lay it on the table, I suppose.
But that would take effort.
And the food was there, waiting to be devoured.
Hunger decided.
I would just eat.
Over the baby. It was just like being pregnant again.
Sort of.
All went well.
The mushy peas went first. That was easy, I just held the bowl close and spooned.
Then the fresh, deep-fried, perfectly cooked fish.
And finally, to top everything off, the thick, golden brown chips.
With ketchup.
And so it went.
Then . . .
Right on the top of my baby's bald head.
What to do?
I could get a wipe and clean it off politely.
Pfff. One swipe of my tongue would take care of it much, much better.
I happily went back to eating my chips.
That's when I noticed the woman sitting at the next table. Looking at me. A frozen expression of horror on her face.
Clucking in disgust, she stood up and marched huffily from the restaurant.
I remember being a trifle embarrassed. And briefly uncomfortable.
Then I shrugged.
In the days before wipes, Mom used to clean entire faces with mom spit and a Kleenex.
It's all a matter of perspective.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Just Like Her

We are impacted by other people. It’s just a fact of living.
Sometimes for good. Sometimes bad.
And sometimes, it changes your life.

I have a friend. I’ll call her ‘Carmen’.
She is one of those people you can call a true friend. Kind. Understanding. Patient. Incredibly talented.
And there when you need them . . .
The small community in which I lived was peopled primarily by farm folk.
Men and women who had settled the land, carved out the acres.
Planted crops.
And raised families.
Many of their children had returned to raise their families.
The circle of farm life.
Husby and I were a part of that secondary group.
We had several small children. Husby had a full-time job. I ran the household and sold stitchery.
And we both had community and church commitments.
At times these duties necessitated our leaving our children in the care of others for a few hours.
Mostly, we left them with grammas.
But occasionally, that avenue wasn’t available.
And that was when we would throw ourselves on the mercy of our friends.
The conversation usually went something like this:
Me: “Hi! It’s Diane.”
Friend: “Hi!”
Me: “I’m sorry to ask you this on such short notice, but I need to ask a favour.”
Friend: “What is it?”
I would proceed to ask the favour and they would accept or refuse and I would (A) Bring them my kids, or (B) Start dialing again.
But there was one household in which the conversation went—a bit differently. ‘Carmen’s’.
There, it more closely followed these lines:
Me: “Hi! It’s Diane!”
Carmen: “Hi!”
Me: “I’m sorry to ask you this on such short notice, but I need to ask a favour.”
‘Carmen’: “Sure! I’d love to!”
See the difference?
Though she probably suspected what I was about to ask, she never made me feel as though my upcoming question was an imposition. (And, let’s face it, it probably was.)
I decided I wanted to do the same.
Be the same.
Make whoever asked me for a favour feel they were doing me said favour.
I’m sure I stumble. I’m sure I have, at times, been ungracious.
But I’m trying.
Someday, I’ll be like ‘Carmen’.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Playing Chicken

Eldest Granddaughter (hereinafter known as EGD) and I were standing beside the guinea pig cages at the local pet store.
We had made faces at the fish.
Chirped and squawked at the birds.
And had now started down the ‘furry’ aisle.
“Did you know that Gramma can talk to guinea pigs?” I asked her.
Wide-eyed, she looked at me. “You can?!”
I nodded. “Watch.” I proceeded to imitate the low-to-high-pitched squeak common to the modern short-legged furry.
“Squee-eeek! Squee-eeek!”
It sounds more convincing than it looks.
Moving on . . .
The little furries in the cage began to react. Kicking their feet and running about.
EGD, mouth open, again looked at me. “You’re amazing, Gramma!”
Hey. I’ll take it where I can get it.
“Great Grampa could talk to chickens.”
Again, that wide-eyed stare. “Really?”
“Yes. He said if you listen really hard, you can understand what they are saying. Especially after they’ve laid an egg.”
“They’re saying stuff?”
“Yep. But you have to listen really hard.”
Sceptical frown. Then, “What are they saying, Gramma?”
I smiled. “Look-look-look-look-look-look-what-I-did!”
Listen closely next time you see a chicken.
Great Grampa was right.

There is a lot of 'stuff' going on in the world.
You won't find any of it here.
I want this blog to be a little oasis of peace and good humour.
Thank you for visiting!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Toot. Too

Happy Valentine's day!!
I don’t often write about bodily humour.
Okay, you’re right. This makes twice in one week.
It was just so cute . . .
Momma and Little Girl (hereinafter known as LG) were having a ‘sleep over’.
They had enjoyed a fun evening of movies.
Pillow fights.
And staying up way too late.
Morning had arrived, as morning often does.
Both were lying in bed. Momma, trying to get the energy to roll out of said bed.
LG watching Momma.
Someone tooted.
Momma looked over at LG. “Was that you?”
LG giggled.
“You just tooted in my bed!”
More giggles.
“You’re not supposed to toot in my bed!”
LG looked coy. “That’s okay, Momma,” she said. “I’m on Daddy’s side of the bed!”

There is a lot of 'stuff' going on in the world.
You won't find any of it here.
I want this blog to be a little oasis of peace and good humour.
Thank you for visiting!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Toe Dancing

I love poetry.
The rhythm. The cadence. 
It's like dancing. With words.
Because of this love, I've decided to implement Poetry Monday.
The day when I get to rhyme. All the time.
To start things off, a poem dedicated to the person who gave me the love of words. 
My dad.
Enjoy . . .

When I was four, my dad adored, and followed him around,
The things he did (to this small kid) did fascinating sound.
From ‘doing chores’ and things outdoors, to office work. With pens.
Well, I’d appear, interest sincere, and lots of time to spend.

Our barn, it burned, all were concerned, that year that I turned four.
Soon things were bought and experts sought. A barn was built once more.
Then we ranch folk (in a masterstroke) with this new elbow room,
Thought we’d have fun, perhaps some sun would clear away the gloom.

We’d have a dance. Some wheel and prance, was what was needed now.
Our neighbours, too, would gloom eschew, and our new barn endow.
We hired a band who took command, and music did ensue,
We ate and twirled and stomped and whirled from hello through adieu.

I don’t recall that much at all, I do remember this:
My dad was there, in shined footwear, and nothing was amiss.
He took my hands and had me stand upon those shiny toes,
Then slowly lead (my fears all fled), and love for Daddy rose.

The days have passed, the years amassed, I don’t remember much,
Though far I gaze, that’s day’s a haze, of people, stuff and such.
I know they had both good and bad, some happiness and woes.
One thing that’s best above the rest. I danced on Daddy’s toes.

My friend Delores has made a suggestion. Would anyone else like to join in? I can include your URL here on my page. I'd love to have you with me!The rules are simple. Poetry. Any type. Any topic. Any length.Monday morning. 'Cause what Monday wouldn't be a little better started off with rhyme?Let me know in the comments!

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