Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Terms of Endearment

Bare Blue Stringam
Note: To me, nicknames are exactly what the title suggests: terms of affection and endearment.
Both of my parents served in the 4-H calf club in our community.This duty included attendance at the club's annual summer retreat.
I know you are wondering what this has to do with nicknames. Wait for it . . .
Because both of my parents were going on the 4-H trip, all of their children had to come along.
My brother, Blair, was two. A happy, friendly little boy. Who didn't always spit out his words clearly.
One young man, a member of the club, asked the smiling little towhead his name.
"Blair Lewis Stringam."
"Blair Lewis Stringam.
"Admittedly, it came out sounding something like 'Blairloostringam'.
But I digress . . .
"Bare Blue Stringam?"
"No! Blair Lewis Stringam."
"Okay. Bare Blue Stringam."
And just like that, he had a nickname. Which still is in force today, even though he is in his fifties and a college professor.
Ahem . . .
My Grampa, George Stringam had a younger brother who couldn't pronounce Grampa's name 'George' clearly. It came out "Dard."
Thus, his nickname. Dard.
Which my brother, George, inherited the moment he was born.
'Dard', he remains.
My daughter, Tiana, was learning to spell her name. She wrote the letters 'T', 'I' and 'N' properly. But her 'A's' had the lines on the wrong sides, thus disguising them as 'B's'.
Her second oldest brother, Erik was looking at a sheet of paper she had been practicing on. "Who's Tibnb?" he asked.
A name we call her to this day.
My eldest daughter was . . . bouncy. She hopped everywhere. We called her 'Tigger Pie'.
A lot.
So much so, that on her first day of school, she insisted it was her real name.
I, myself have been through several incarnations of my name as told here.
My MIL didn't agree with nicknames. "Why," she would ask, "do people choose perfectly good names for their children, then go out of their way to call them something else entirely?!"  Why, indeed. . .

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fuzzy, Warm Love

And each of them has/had a name. Please don't test me . . .
My first date with my Husby-to-be was memorable.
On so many levels.
You can read about it here.
Go ahead . . . we'll wait . . .
Our second date was even more memorable. But for more exciting reasons.
It was the occasion of our first kiss.
Let me see if I can describe it . . .
Chore time. The sun has set.
Darkness drifts slowly over the prairie.
A large, quiet feed lot. Young bulls in the background, munching on grains.
The smell of fresh manure wafts on the cool, autumn breeze.
A young man and woman snared in the light of the mercury-vapour lamp.
Hey, this is ranching country, what did you expect? The light of the moon?! 
Their eyes lock. They move closer . . .
You get the picture.
Okay, maybe not to the normal person.
Fortunately for me, Husby-to-be was as un-normal as his wife-to-be.
A perfect match.
But the date was only beginning. After our kiss, we returned to my parent’s home.
And that’s when I received my second surprise of the evening.
When we stepped into the vestibule (ooh! I like that word), Husby-to-be pulled a little package out of his pocket. “Here,” he said, smiling. “I brought you something.”
Have I mentioned that I love surprises? Well, I do.
Moving on . . .
I quickly opened the little bag and tipped out two little fuzzy men. Pom-pom people. With magnets on the back.
Ooooh! Cute!
“Thank you!” I said. Then I gave him a kiss.
It seemed like an appropriate response. And I’d just discovered he was a great kisser.
Ahem . . .
And so began a tradition that lasted for years and covered a large part of our fridge.
Until a bottle of home-made root beer sprayed all over them.
Then they were relegated to a shadow box.
For safety.
And posterity.
I love traditions.
Almost as much as I love my Husby . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Picture credit
I have a vivid imagination.
I know it will come as no surprise to many of you.
It has been a great source of both entertainment—and agony—throughout my life.
The entertainment—the stories that I’ve created, both real and . . . less real.
The agony—well let’s just say we’ve finally come to the subject of this story . . .
When I was little (ie. 4), I slept by myself.
I know it sounds incredible in a household containing (then) four children that I would get my own room, but it’s true. I was on the lower floor in the room closest to my parents. All that was between us was the stairway going up to the room where my older sister slept and that occupied by my two older brothers.
Moving on . . .
I would happily go to bed each night (It’s my story, I’ll remember it as I want) with the door open and light spilling into the room from the activities of those who did not go to bed at dusk.
All was well.
But, inevitably, I would wake sometime in the night to discover that—while I slept—the scenario had changed.
The most important part of which would be that the lights were out.
Now in the thick darkness, monsters gathered.
I should point out that I had never seen said monsters. But my vivid imagination (see above) had peopled the darkness with them in astonishing detail—slavering, sharpened fangs. Giant, little-girl catching claws. Glowing red eyes. You probably understand.
I knew they were there. They knew they were there.
Now it was up to my Mom to make them go away.
Off would go the covers and a tiny, little elf-like (okay it’s time to use your imagination) girl would scramble madly the few paces to her parent’s room.
Me: “Mom!”
Mom: “Gaahhh!”
Me: “Can I sleep with you?”
Mom: “Fine.”
Dad: “Gaahhh!”
And I would snuggle down between my parents and drift off blissfully to sleep.
I can’t recall exactly when this practice ended. Suffice it to say it was at some point before I reached adulthood.
But it was revived after I became a parent.
And had a little four-year-old girl of my own.
The scenario was a bit different. She wouldn’t say anything. Just silently appear at one’s bedside and wait for one to become cognizant of the fact that she was there.
A little wraith.
Standing there beside your bed.
In the dark.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunday Bonanza

Tell me you remember . . . sigh!

Every Sunday evening when we were kids . . . hmmm . . . maybe a little preamble . . .
Sundays were family/TV nights.
Our one TV channel outdid itself on that particular evening.
And if we were good--okay, I admit it, even if we weren't good--we got to watch.
First Disney's Wonderful World of colour.
In black and white and shades of grey.
Then Ed Sullivan.
Then Bonanza.
The best of them all.
The cherry on top of the sundae . . . well . . . Sunday.
Not a sound would be heard.
We barely breathed.
Pa and Adam and Hoss and Little Joe filled the air around us.
There was room for nothing else.
If you wanted to do something noisy . . .
Like blink.
Or swallow.
Do it during the commercials from the Kraft Kitchens.
But the best part . . .
The best part, was the opening: du-duddle-uh-duddle-uh-duddle-uh, Bonanza!
Du-duddle-uh-duddle-uh-duddle-uh, Bonanza is it's name!
We'd 'sing' along happily and wait.
Remember the aforementioned (good word) no breathing.
That would be here, too.
Warning: Hot!
Because the fire was coming.
From the map that burned right there on the screen.
All of us kids would run up and touch the B&W&SOG (see above) flames and then run howling and screaming about the room pretending we had been mortally burned.
Our patient parents would nod and smile and shake their heads and wait for the music to finish.
Because that would be our cue for absolute quiet.
Without either of them having to say a word.
Sunday evening.
With family.
And Bonanza.
It just didn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Crime and Punishment

The Sweet and Innocent Grade Ones. Really.
In the sixties, schools had strict rules.
Breaking said rules carried punishments.
1. A severe ‘talking to’.
2. Being kept in at recess or lunch hour.
Or *shudder* 3. being sent to the *gasp* principal’s office. Where there was always the looming specter of ‘THE STRAP’.
Which, I should point out, none of us had ever seen. But which our entire class had heard on one occasion. But that is another story.
Moving on . . .
I started grade one in the fall of 1960.
There were three of us Stringams in Milk River Elementary at that time.
Myself. My next older brother, George, in grade three. And our eldest brother, Jerry, in grade six.
Our eldest sister, Chris, had just graduated to Junior High. Because she had reached the unbelievable and unreachable age of twelve.
Jerry and his classmates ruled our school. We lowly serfs in grade one observed their doings with awe bordering on worship.
I should mention that this was the brother who teased me mercilessly at home. And who Mom chased around with the broom.
But at school, he was a lord.
He could do no wrong.
We spent hours in observation.
And mimicry.
Until . . . the event.
Remember when I was talking about rules/punishment?
Well that comes into play here.
In Milk River Elementary School in 1960, the principal had instituted a bold new form of punishment.
I am not making this up. We really had punishment by lemon.
And no one was exempt.
No one.
On Friday mornings during Assembly . . .
Oh, I should tell you we also had Assembly every Friday morning.
Ahem . . .
On Friday mornings, any malefactors were marched to the front of the gym, before the entire school population, and handed a lemon. Which they then had to peel and eat.
For most of them, it was a painful process.
For those of us watching, it was a painful process.
Let’s just say it. Rules in Milk River Elementary weren’t often broken.
But one time, it was my brother, Jerry who had transgressed. It was his turn to stand there.
And he had company.
Let me explain . . .
Jerry’s teacher was busily doing 'teacher' things at her desk. Jerry and his friend, Stan had made a paper jet. Okay, yes, they were supposed to be doing school work. This was more fun.
They threw it.
And watched, proudly, as it flew, straight and smooth. Then, in dismay, as it sailed neatly out into the hall.
It landed at the feet of the Principal, who just happened to be standing there at that precise moment.
He picked it up.
The boys held their breath and watched.
The Principal looked at the clever little plane. Then, forgetting himself for a moment, threw it back into the room.
In full view of the teacher, who chose that moment to look up.
If there was a punishment bell, it would have clanged loudly at that point.
Paper planes were on the ‘forbidden’ list.
And all three ‘launchers’ were guilty.
At that Friday’s Assembly, my brother and Stan--and the Principal--all took their places at the front of the gym.
Each was handed a lemon.
Which Jerry and Stan peeled and ate at lightning speed. Just to get out of the spotlight.
The Principal took his time. Wincing with every bite.
The assembled students were screaming with laughter by the time he was done.
Finally, he waved for silence and dismissed us.
Then probably hurried to the bathroom to gargle.
We never forgot.
And school crime hit an all time low.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Modern Conveniences

In 1848 or 9,
The guys in charge thought it was time,
To close the place that represented
Everything that was invented.

“What need have we of patents, new?
There won’t be any more breakthroughs.”
“We’ll save some cash, if we close down,
The patent office in each town.”

Yes, they had electric power,
And indoor plumbing, bath and shower.
They’d bifocals and games of ball,
The clock, the telegraph and all.

But let’s see what we would have missed,
Had they done just what they wished,
In 1848 or 9,
Had they been allowed to draw the line.

The first dishwasher (of a kind),
In 1850 was designed,
And the wash machine to make clothes new?
Invented in the 50’s, too!

The vacuum came a little later,
The 1860’s. Ask its maker.
The clothespin and sewing machine,
Toilet paper, jelly beans.

The phonograph. The mason jar.
Kleenex or the chocolate bar.
And what would you, if you had known
Do without the telephone?

And airplanes and the ballpoint pen,
I’m sure you use them now and then.
Air conditioning. And jeans.
Earmuffs and most all machines.

There’s millions more that I could tell,
Like penicillin, solar cell.
I’ll put computers on the list,
And that is where I will desist.

We're glad that they did not succeed,
To close the patent place. Agreed?
With me, let’s raise a plastic cup,
Thankful someone shut them up.

Mondays get an awful rap,
They start the week out with a slap,
Delores, Jenny and me, too
Feel poetry will help us through!
Stay tuned for next week when we three,
Will tackle Meetings here. Come see!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mom Stories

From a story I found in Mom's journals.
For my straight-laced Mom, I'm as surprised as you are . . .

The boss walked in.
All sound in the office ceased as his employees paused in their work to give him their usual cheerful greeting.
(Yes, it was that kind of office.)
As he walked past, person after person called out to him.
But he kept his eyes down and answered none.
For a normally cheerful and effusive boss, this wasn't at all like him.
His employees looked at each other.
Finally, his assistant got to his feet. "Something must be wrong," he announced to the others. "I'll go see." He knocked once at the closed door, then, without waiting for a response, entered.
"Everything okay, Boss?" he asked.
His boss sank with a groan into his leather chair. "No," he said. He leaned forward and put his head into his hands. "I've got the worst headache!"
His assistant moved closer. "I'm so sorry to hear that." He paused and pursed his lips thoughtfully, tapping them with one finger. "You know a couple of days ago, I had a terrible headache, too."
The boss lifted his head just enough to peep out at his assistant with one eye. "Yeah? What did you do?"
"I went home to my wife." The man smiled. "She kissed and cuddled me. One thing led to another and suddenly, I had no more headache!"
"Hmmm." The boss got to his feet. "That might be worth a try." He reached for his hat. "Would your wife be home now?"

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