Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cookies and Cutlets

What can I say but Mmmmmm.

My Dad taught me manners.
I was a slow, but well-fed, learner.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Dad and I were on a cattle show tour.
I say, 'we' but I was mostly useless.
I had injured my hand in a grooming accident getting ready for the show.
Don't ask.
The road was long between cities. Because Alberta is a big place.
But we had eats.
Mostly sweet or salty.
But all yummy.
My Dad's favourite cookies were large marshmallow/cookie/chocolate bits of delicious-ness.
I should explain here that sometimes, in Canada in the summer, we have hot days.
I know.
The words 'Canada' and 'hot weather' usually aren't found in the same sentence.
But it's true.
Back to my story . . .
It was hot and stuffy in the truck.
Heat has a rather negative effect on marshmallow/cookie/chocolate bits of delicious-ness.
Melts them, quite effectively, into solid lumps of delicious-ness.
It was mid-afternoon.
We had been on the road since lunch.
It was now about 4:00 pm.
Snacking was indicated.
I dragged out the bag of cookies.
And realized that each row had been fused into one, long cookie.
Except the first row.
From which two were already missing.
I picked up the remaining (rather large) cookie and looked at it.
It could be done.
I shoved it into my mouth and chewed happily.
Then realized that my father was staring at me.
Incredulous (good word).
“Did you just eat that whole cookie?”
“Maybe,” I mumbled through a mouthful of marshmallow/cookie/chocolate delicious-ness. “Who wants to know.”
He just chuckled and shook his head and the matter was dropped.
Or so I thought.
A couple of hours later, we stopped for supper.
I ordered my favourite, veal cutlets.
They arrived.
Two very large cutlets.
With mashed potatoes, vegetables and thick, yummy gravy.
Remember my injured hand?
Well that comes into play here.
“Daddy, could you please cut my meat for me?”
“Certainly.” Dad grinned and slid my plate over.
Now, anyone familiar with that grin knows that something was being plotted.
Because it was.
He took his knife and fork and sliced each large cutlet down the middle.
Then he slid my plate back in front of me.
I stared at the four very, very large bites.
Then at my Dad
Who was nonchalantly cutting his own meat.
“Dad, how am I supposed to eat that?”
“Well, judging by the bite of cookie you shoved into your mouth a couple of hours ago, those should be just about right,” he said. “Go for it!”
I stuck my tongue out at him and slid my plate back.
“Now cut!”
He laughed and did so.
It exists, even on a cattle trip.
Who knew?

Friday, July 14, 2017


It was raining.
So both Reggie and I had eschewed the great, green outdoors in favour of something warmer and more welcoming to old bones.
The front room and the fireplace.
Okay, yes, it was July, but cold and damp is cold and damp, no matter the season.
Reggie was entertaining himself by whistling rising and falling notes. A sort of a do, ray, mi for birds.
Let’s face it, Julie Andrews, he’s not. And he was about two stanzas from joining that old birds home in the sky.
Where birds go up.
And never, ever come down.
Back to my story . . .
Something thumped on the stairs.
Now I know that you know my sister and I live in a haunted house. So strange noises or things that go bump (even in broad daylight) are not uncommon.
The first thump elicited no response from either Reggie or me.
But the second, third and fourth did.
And the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Reggie fluffed out his feathers. His usual reaction when something is happening that he doesn’t understand. I don’t know about you, but nothing shouts ‘I’m-dangerous-and-every-part-of-me-is-a-lethal-weapon’ better than a fat bird.
Me? I lowered my magazine.
Both of us were ready for anything.
We stared at the doorway into the front hall. The place the sounds seemed to be coming from.
Norma appeared around the corner.
I let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. “Norma, what are you doing?”
She moved further into the room.
Then pulled a gigantic, obviously heavy suitcase in behind her.
Immediately the noises were explained. Someone had been transporting something much too large down someplace much too steep.
I was suddenly thankful that I hadn’t heard more thumping and bumping.
I raised my eyebrows and looked at her expectantly.
She smiled at me. “I’m leaving,” she announced in the same chirpy, good-news voice she would have used to announce that she’d changed the toilet paper roll.
Yeah, I guess you’d have to know my sister.
“Leaving?” I stared at her. “Where are you going?”
“I’ve been invited for a visit!”
“O-kay. Who and where. And more importantly, for how long?” I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that the two of us were living in Norma’s house—she, by paying the mortgage and me, by invitation and economy.
“I don’t know for how long.” Norma went for the last question. “Maybe forever!”
My head reared back. “But, but this is your house!”
“Yeah, well, if I don’t come back you can have it!”
“I can have it?”  I wasn’t sure I heard correctly. I gave Reggie a can-you-believe-what-we’re-hearing look, then pinched myself mentally and shook my head. I’d obviously been around him too much. I turned back to Norma. “Okay, you’d better start from the front and take me through your orbit again.”
She sighed and sat down on her suitcase. “Well, you know how sick I’ve been getting. Those fevers and all.”
“Umm . . . yeah. But the doctor thinks he’s got it figured out.”
“Well I was talking to her and she said—”
Norma raised her head and looked up toward the ceiling.
“Oh. Her!”
She nodded. “And she was telling me how no one ever gets sick over there.”
“Yeah. Well, Honey, they’re dead.”
She shrugged. “Whatever.” She went on, “And she told me I could come for a visit and see how I liked things.”
“A visit.” I blinked. Then looked around. “Are we on Candid Camera?”
She gave a very unladylike snort. “No! She asked me to come for a visit and I’m going to go!”
I got up. Some things you just have to do while standing. “Norma.” I put a hand on her shoulder. “You can’t go over there—and then come back.”
“Who says so?”
“Everyone!” I sputtered. “Norma! You can’t cross into the world of—spirits and then come back.”
“Pfff.” She waved a hand dismissively. “I can do what I like.”
I have to admit that this has been Norma’s mantra from day one and, for a moment, the thought crossed my mind that if anyone could do it, she could. But then reality returned. “Norma, you can’t do this!” I was getting a bit desperate.
“Fine!” She got up and started back toward the hall, pulling her case behind her. “You never let me have any fun!” She disappeared through the doorway. “Since you moved in here, my life isn’t my own!” Her case followed her around the corner. “One day, I’m going to—” Her voice quit.
Frowning, I followed her into the hall. “Norma, try to see reason—” I stopped.
And stared.
Norma--and her enormous case--had disappeared.

Wanna catch up with the Sputterling sisters?
Barbecue With Spirits
Something Scary
Christmas with the Sputterlings
Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now. 
At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. 
I’m using: Fifth ~ economy ~ orbit ~ gigantic ~ fevers
They were submitted by:
 Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ruby the Wanna-Be

Our usual Camping buddies
Panda and Chiefy
The Interloper
Okay, I admit it. She's cute.

We raised Old English Sheepdogs.
A wonderful breed.
Did I mention shaggy?
We had raised them for years.
Long enough that anyone remotely connected to us had one of our pups.
Old English Sheepdogs wherever you looked.
A good thing.
Then our close friends bought, in addition to their resident sheepdog, a *gasp* Miniature Schnauzer.
They called her Ruby.
We stared at the wee little mite suspiciously.
Snapping black eyes.
Little black nose and ‘folded-over’ ears.
Tuft of a tail.
Okay, we had to admit it, she was cute.
Really cute.
She was accepted. And immediately took over the household.
Now, I should probably mention here that our dogs went with us camping.
All of our dogs.
And our friends brought their dogs as well.
We usually got campsites adjacent or directly across from each other and put down roots.
Now we were accustomed to camping with Sheepdogs who stayed in the campsite.
Even when their family went to the beach without them.
And were seldom/never heard from.
We discovered that a Miniature Schnauzer was . . . different.
For one thing, she had a habit of speaking up when there were strangers walking past.
Or thinking of walking past.
Or breathing . . . somewhere.
And she didn’t like to stay in the campsite. If chained, she was vociferous in her opinion of families who treated their doggies so.
And, if left unchained, she would disappear.
For the first day, dealing with her was a puzzle.
Not that I pointed out that she was definitely not an OES.
Several times.
Her family soon devised a solution.
They wrapped her leash around a small log.
Which slowed her down.
Notice I didn’t say ‘stopped her’.
No, it just slowed her down. Enough that her family could keep her in sight.
Now, when they strolled across into our campsite, Ruby would appear a few minutes later, manfully (can I say that about a female dog?) pulling her little log.
“Oh, here’s Ruby,” they would say. “Pulling her log of shame!”
But Ruby learned. And found her place in our family.
Amongst the sheepdogs.
I don’t know what life would be like without her.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


I always was afraid at night
When Mother would turn out the light,
Into the darkness, I would stare
And look for monsters waiting there.

My terror's lasted all my life,
E’en after I became a wife,
Though I admit there's far less fear
When someone else is sleeping near.

But still the darkness frightens me.
Still harbours scary things, you see.
Into the darkness, I will stare
For thugs and villains waiting there.

Once, Husby took me out to see
A great new movie, just released.
About a girl, so sweet and kind
With powers that absorbed her mind.

That night, my world again askew,
The light stayed on because I knew
The darkness, into which I stared?
For certain, Carrie waited there.

And so it’s gone - the darkness wins,
The light goes off, and my mind spins.
Creating creatures in the night
That disappear in morning light.

Beings who would steal your mind
Performing tests on all mankind.
Into the darkness I still stare
And watch for aliens waiting there.

Last night I stumbled down the hall
Intent on answering nature’s call
And when I glanced into the mirror,
My reflection was one pale blur.

For my tri-focals help me out,
So I can see my way about.
If in the darkness, I did stare,
I’d not see anything waiting there.

Hmmm . . .

What you can't see won’t hurt you, right?
Shhh . . . I’m turning off the light.
Once a month our little Poetry group
headed by our intrepid leader,
Karen of Baking in a tornado,
posts (what else?) Poetry. It's fun.
And on a theme.
This month? Reflection.
Visit my team and see what
everyone has done with it!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: No Reflection
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Reflection of My Past Life
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: One Year

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Snow Angels

A guest post by little brother, Blair.

Not me, but similar.
On occasion, as a teenager, I made choices that lacked caution and or wisdom.
Okay, I made stupid choices.
On one occasion, I was out in the evening with friends riding snowmobiles and enjoying the winter in the hills near my father’s ranch.
We all drove trucks to a drop off point where we parked and unloaded our snow machines and headed up snow packed roads and trails into the woods.  The snow in the woods had just fallen and it was a blast riding on what felt like fluffy clouds of snow.
After spending some time up in the wooded area, we finally decided to pack up and head home.  However, the group was delaying our departure.
As a teenager, I tended to get impatient and after waiting for what I thought was a half hour (10 minutes), I got mad and hopped on my machine and headed down the snow packed trail by myself. Now at that age I tended to lose all caution when I got mad and I barely made it through the trees and fluffy snow back to the snow packed road without wrapping my snowmobile around one of the trees. You would think that this would have made me be a little more careful.
But I left all sense and reason back in the trees somewhere.
I came out of the treed area onto the snow packed road, operating a machine that was way more powerful than I needed considering my frame of mind. I wound it up to full speed. 
It was exciting as I heard the motor growl. 
The adrenaline coursed through me as I flew down the trail.
The lights on the machine would shine a reasonable distance ahead or what I thought was reasonable even though I had the snowmobile running at its top speed. The trees on the side of the trail were whirring by and I was enjoying the rush. 
I came to a bend in the trail that I slowed for and rounded, and once again opened the throttle wide. 
Then I looked up and saw an immediate turn and embankment directly in front of me. 
I thought, “Gee I don’t remember that sharp turn”.  Then, “I’m going way too fast. How am I going to get around that corner without planting myself in the embankment?”  And finally, “This is not good, I am going to be killed or maimed”.
I had no idea what I should do.  I was going so fast that if I tried to break on the snow packed trail, I would likely slide out of control and become part of the embankment.
I let the throttle go and the snowmobile started to slow. I dropped down and hugged my machine while leaning over to help it stay upright around the corner, certain that I was going to leave the trail and hit the embankment at any second. 
Suddenly, I was around the corner and headed down the trail.  The snowmobile continued to slow and I was not inclined to speed up at this point.  I thought, “How did I make it around that corner?” I was sure that I shouldn’t have. 
I have since imagined that if I had stopped and gone back to the corner, I would have seen a line of footprints in the snow from a whole group of guardian angels that guided me around and kept me from planting myself in the bank.
They would have probably said to each other, “This is one stupid teenager.”
Oh, wait a minute. Guardian angels would say, “This young man has just made a poor choice, but maybe if we step in this time, he will make better choices in the future.”
I managed to get back to my truck and then home a little shaken but in one piece.  I vowed that I would not be so foolish again.
I can’t say that I have always been wiser, but maybe my guardian angels can vouch for me.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sorting Souls

Just inside the graveyard fence stood a big old pecan tree.
One day two boys came hunting nuts. In actuality.
They filled a big old bucket (though they spilled some by the fence),
Then sat down right there by the tree so counting could commence.
“One for you and one for me,” said one boy, happily.
“And another one for you and then another one for me.”
A third young boy came riding past the graveyard on his bike,
Heard some voices from inside that sounded quite ghostlike.
Slowed and heard a voice say, “One for you and one for me.”
“One for you and one for me,” it continued gleefully.
In an instant, he had figured who was speaking thus,
Left to find someone with whom all this he could discuss.
‘Round the bend he came upon an old man with a cane,
Hobbling slowly down the road in quite extensive pain.
“Come here quick!” the boy said. “Please believe what I just heard!”
“They’re in there sharing out the souls, both Satan and the Lord!”
He said, “Beat it kid, you see it's hard for me to stroll?”
The boy was firm. The graveyard fence then became their goal.
Standing by the bars they heard those fateful words once more,
“One for you and one for me.” As had been said before.
The old man whispered, “Boy, you're right. What you said is true!”
“Let's move closer by the fence and bring the Lord in view!”
They gripped tight those iron bars as they tried to get a glimpse.
But they could not see anything. Though they hung there like two chimps.
At last they heard, “For you. For me. That's all and ain’t this fun?”
“Let's get those nuts o’er by the fence and then we will be done!”

The old man led for a good half-mile, just running like a deer,
Before the kid on the bike shot past and left him in the rear.

'Tis Monday and I know you know that that means poetry.
So visit Jenny and Delores. Now that you've seen me!

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