Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Parental Toys

My first/George's third birthday party.
Notice the bull and matador.
How come I didn't have toys like that?
My favourite toys . . . weren't mine.
Because everyone had better toys than me. Or at least Mom and Dad did.
Their neat toys were all carefully displayed on their fireplace mantle.
Okay, I thought it was weird, too.
Especially since they never, ever played with them.
Not once.
I had watched.
There was a plaster matador and bull set.
One of which, had a cape.
And one, horns.
I'll let you sort that out.
They were immensely fun to play with. Until Mom caught up with me.
"Diane, put those back!"
Then there were the models of bulls.
Horned and polled Herefords.
They were terrific when one wanted to play farm.
Of course, then the matador's bull would have to join in.
Giving the matador just that much more responsibility.
He was tall and strong and handsome.
He could handle it.
"Diane, what did I tell you?!"
But the best of all was the bronze horse.
He was glorious.
Standing looking out across the prairie, ears pricked.
He even had a bronze saddle and bridle.
With bronze reins.
"Diane! How on earth did you lug that thing down there! Put it back at once!"
Geeze. That woman was everywhere!
Mom and Dad's toys entertained me for years.
Until I dropped the matador.
It was an accident!
And twisted those bronze reins off the horse.
Oops. Who knew they would do that?
But I maintain that if they didn't want them played with, they should have put them away.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Family Dining

Guaranteed to make mealtime . . . interesting.
I had been smart.
I had managed to find two of each of the four patterns of the Campbell's Kids soup bowls.
All cute.
All capable of holding soup.
And none of which was ‘the right one’ at any given meal . . .
Dinner is served. 
Shining, clean silverware catches the light. Sturdy, colourful bowls and equally colourful cups create a cheerful, festive ambiance to the meal.
A large tureen of luscious, homemade soup, rich with meaty broth and thick with chunks of potatoes, carrots, onions and other vegetables--together with a platter of fresh-baked bread, flanked by a dish of creamy butter--is arranged at the center of the table, with careful attention to proximity for all who are gathered.
Grace is said.
Then . . .
Child #1: Mom! I wanted the skater bowl! It’s my turn to get the skater bowl!
Child #2: She always gets the skater bowl! I wanted it this time!
Me: I bought two of them! Where is the other one?
Child #3: I have it.
Me: Well, would you mind using the soccer bowl instead?
Child #3: I already started eating.
Child #1: Yuck! I don’t want it if he’s been using it! I’ll get his germs!
Child #4: I'm not hungry.
Me: Gaaahhh!
Moving ahead twenty years . . .
Dinner is served.
The table has been laid with the finest of paper-thin, bone china and glistening, polished silver.
Crystal goblets catch the light of myriad candles.
Heavily laden dishes, steaming hot and breathing out the teasing, tantalizing scents of basil, thyme and rosemary have been placed with distinct attention to both aesthetic detail and practical access.
Family has gathered.
In a surge of thankfulness for the bounties before us, Grace is said.
And then, from the kids’ table . . .
Grandchild #1: Gramma! I wanted the blue cup!
Grandchild #2: She had the blue cup last time! It’s my turn!
Grandchild #3: I don’t want the pink cup ‘cause it’s a girl colour!
Grandchild #4: I'm not hungry.
Gramma: Gaaahhh!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Pit Spitting

Summer has come to Edmonton!!!
We have a fire pit.
The gathering place for our family for every day of the summer.
When the weather allows.
It is the scene of wiener and marshmallow roasts and long, long talks into the evening, watching the flames and embers glow.Where parking toes within comfortable toasting distance and children running dangerously close (to the dismay of their parents) are the norm.
Oh, and because it’s the Tolleys, the fire pit is also the scene of . . . pittings.
Let me explain . . .
Our favorite summer food is cherries.
Cherries have pits.
That are fun to spit.
Pit spitting.
Or pitting.
See it now?
Over the years, my Husby has been able to hit that fire pit with better and better accuracy. He taught his children.
It was fun.
Until they grew up, got married and discovered manners. Or rather, discovered that their spouses had  manners.
Thus, the pittings ended.
For a while.
But in recent years, he has discovered a whole, new group of neophytes. Small people who are ready and willing to embark on any adventure he introduces.
Imagine this: A line of children, of various sizes, cherry juice dripping down their chins, spitting enthusiastically towards the fire.
Sound like fun?
Their parents don’t think so, either.
But Grampa and Gramma do.
And it’s our pit.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017


My Hero.
It’s happened.
For forty years, we were knee-deep in cossetting a career, raising kids, paying bills, grooming a home and living.
With the turning of the stars, we have become empty nesters.
And retirees.
All at once.
Now, our mornings consist of: visiting as we leisurely climb out of bed.
Bike rides with grandkids.
Breakfast together.
Lunch together.
Supper together.
More visiting.
And the final cap on the day, a favourite movie.
We’ve stepped into an alternate universe.
And I’m discovering I like it.
Now, before you think it’s all sunshine and roses, let me bring you to this morning . . .
I was seated by the computer, reading.
Husby was pottering about. Getting dressed and organizing himself for heading outside to tend his jungle garden. He had donned a shirt, then become distracted with putting in his ‘ears’ and grooming his hair and beard.
Then he stood in the middle of the room. “I’m ready to go out.” He frowned. “But I’m forgetting something.”
I looked at him over my glasses. “Pants?”
“Pants!” He happily dug some out of his dresser and put them on, then disappeared.
Yep. We’ve arrived.

Don't forget to enter the contest for an E-copy of Searching for Irene! Wonderful new mystery by my good friend, Marlene Bateman!

Enter simply by commenting on this post! Or this one!
Winner announced Friday!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Guessed Wrong

I love a good mystery.
Let me rephrase.
I LOVE a good mystery!
A page-turner that simply won't let you put it down.
With a plot and characters that keep you reading.
And make you wish the book was longer!
Searching for Irene has it all and more: An innocent young woman hired by a mysterious wealthy family. An enigmatic (and magnetic) heir. A missing secretary. Suspects. Clues. Red herrings.
Clandestine meetings.
Family feuds.
And remodeling.
All packaged together in a bonafide modern castle.
The quiet Virginia countryside will never be the same.
P.S. I totally guessed the wrong murderer. I'm so dead.

I'm hosting a giveaway! One lucky comment-er will be given an e-copy of this book. Don't miss out. Simply comment to enter!

What happened to Irene?
When Anna Coughlin, a modern 1920’s woman, travels to the secluded hills of Virginia to work for wealthy Lawrence Richardson, she discovers that the previous secretary, Irene, mysteriously disappeared a few weeks before.  Upon arriving at the castle-like mansion to begin working, Anna finds that Lawrence’s handsome, but antagonistic son, Tyler, wants nothing more than to have her gone. And he isn’t the only one—

After Anna sets out to find the truth behind Irene’s disappearance, a series of frightening incidents ensnare her in a maze of intrigue. Anna is helped—and often hindered—by the temperamental Tyler Richardson, who—despite her best intentions—begins to steal her heart. 

But even as Anna begins to uncover dark secrets in a troubled household, she must continue to hide a significant one of her own. When her life is threatened, Anna is left to wonder if she’ll be able to unravel the mystery before she disappears as mysteriously as the unfortunate Irene—

Purchase Links:

Marlene’s website
Marlene Bateman Sullivan grew up in Utah, and 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 cozy mysteries; Motive for Murder, A Death in the Family, and Crooked House, as well as the romance, For Sale by Owner.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Foreign Friendship

To a globe trotter, I am wed,
His in-ter-ests are quite widespread,
And so this rancher girl has found
That, with her man, she gets around.

Our travels started out quite slow,
To those who spoke as us, we’d go,
But soon he wanted more: To get,
Our foreign travel toe-sies wet.

And so to Rhodes. He booked us there,
A hotel ‘near the Old Town square’.
Online was in it’s infancy,
And still had glitches, as you’ll see.

So when we told the taxi man,
He frowned while loading up his van.
But drove us far away from town,
Then stopped and took our luggage down.

The inn was nice, as we supposed.
Just one thing wrong, the place was closed.
We pounded on the door, in hope
We’d raise someone to help us. Nope.

The taxi’d started moving: slow,
Something was wrong, he had to know.
We ran and flagged him. Me in tears.
This trip was feeding all my fears.

His white teeth showed in a wide grin,
He stopped and helped us climb back in.
Then gently told us not to fret.
“I’ll have you settled soon, I bet.”

To ‘his cousin’s’ place, he said he’d drive.
(I was simply glad to be alive.)
He drove us to the Phaedra then,
So we could somehow start again.

A man came out to greet us there,
All white of smile and dark of hair,
His arms were—to us—opened wide,
“Welcome home, friends! Come inside!”

The Phaedra proved a real God-send,
It’s owner, soon a trusted friend.
Ironically, it proved to be,
What we had sought originally.

We travel lots, my man and I.
We drive and sail and hike and fly.
Some people speak like us, and some
Use foreign words to get things done.

My fear is gone, I must admit,
Though, at first, it hampered. Quite a bit.
Cause I won’t forget (I can’t pretend),
The kindness of that first sweet friend.

It's Monday.
Poetry day!
Zip over to Delores and Jenny and see what their Monday is like!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

That Summer: Summer's End

More of the story, as told by my Mom, Enes. From her journals . . .

Settled. Finally.
As the summer progressed, new items were hauled into the quonset from the old ranch.
Our summer home began to look more and more like the back yard of a junk dealer.
Soon there was only a foot path past the 'clinic' to the 'living area'.
We had to do more and higher leaping over this and jumping over that to find items that we wanted. But we finally became so efficient at finding things we almost knew which box contained what.
It was like watching a movie to see all the different expressions of our clients as we met them at the door.
I often wonder what went though their minds as they drove up to the quonset and faced that huge sliding door with the shingle hooked to the latch which said: Dr. Mark Stringam. Veterinary Office.
They always knocked and waited. So if they felt a little over-whelmed, they at least had a little more time to assemble their mixed feelings and shattered thoughts.
A quick survey never failed to bring a look of shocked amazement.
It usually took a few seconds to pull themselves together.
"Everything is sure handy, isn't it?"
"Imagine! Everything you own right here!"
"Sure is cozy in here!"
We had set up our clinic in a corner of the quonset next to the double doors.
And right next to our 'living room'.
Our examining table was three boards on two saw horses.
Clients brought their animals to be examined and we dispensed drugs right there.
One day, we had just managed to straighten the bed covers when we heard a car drive up.
A friend knocked, and then brought in his dog for a distemper shot.
Before we could guess the animal's intentions, he had made a bee-line for the corner of our couch, lifted a leg, and sprayed all over it.
Our friend was so horrified, he apologized for his dog every time he saw us for months afterward.

But all good things must come to an end.
An early snow storm was predicted.
The quonset was chilly in the 'warmer' summer months. What would it be like with the world around it encased in ice?
Sub zero.
And that would just be a start.
There was only one solution. We had to move into our unfinished house.
Throughout the day, with the clouds piling up on the horizon and looking more and more threatening, I carried loads of household goods from the quonset to the car and then drove them across to the house.
It was hard, tiring work, but one look at the horizon would always serve to steel my muscles and lengthen my stride.
By evening, we had a cozy set up in the basement, with a tidy fire crackling in the new fireplace and stuff sitting or hanging everywhere.
We could hardly move!
But at least we were warm!
The promised storm swept over us, howling in frustration as it flew past the windows and chimney, trying to find a crack.
But the house was solidly built and we stayed warm and comfortable inside.
Imagining what life would be like back in the quonset on this night.
For the children, this was just another phase of the adventure.
For me, it was a glimmer of hope that one day, soon, I would again have running water and flush toilets.
And a bath tub!
Sheer luxury!

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