Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, September 2, 2017

Short-Term Sister

Mom, third from left, and five of her eight brothers.
Her 'baby sister' Roy, alias Rosie, is far left.

A selection from my Mom's journals

This was my Mom's favorite story . . .
Being the only sister near the middle in a family of eight brothers, I found myself competing with the boys and growing up as a 'Tom Boy'.
I was athletic and could run as fast, jump as high and throw as far as my brothers.
I milked cows, drove and rode horses as well as the boys.
As the fourth in the family, I often considered myself the fourth brother.
In spite of this, I yearned for a sister, sharing my mother's yearning for another daughter.
By the time I was five, I had three new, small brothers but still no sister.
My prayers unanswered, I seemed destined to be alone in a mob of boys.
My little brothers seemed more cooperative and trusting than my older brothers; maybe little brothers could substitute as sisters? I decided to try to make one my little brothers into a little sister. Perhaps if I dressed them up in girls' clothes, they would pass as sisters. I rummaged through Mama's trunk and found an old dress and a bonnet with lace trimming.
Armed with these frillies, I looked about for a likely prospect.
Roy, the fifth brother and three years my junior, seemed the best choice. I approached him where he was playing in the yard.
"Roy, come and see what I have here."
He came willingly after I promised him a cookie.
We went upstairs where I slipped him into the dress, tied the belt and put on the lace bonnet, all the time crooning how nice he looked - so very nice. I gave the dress a tug to cover grubby clothes and ankle-height shoes.
I called my new little sister Rosie, my favorite name at the time.
For a while we played games that I supposed girls would play. We played with dolls and improvised a tea party including the promised cookie.
We were having such a good time, just us girls.
It was wonderful having a beautiful little sister.
Finally, I thought and I and my little sister should go for a walk to see the cats and the farm animals which would be frolicking about outside.
I took Rosie by the hand and for several blissful minutes, I led her around the yard, describing all the interesting features of our farmyard and garden.
Luckily, we did not encounter any brothers with their taunting giggles and snorts.
Suddenly a car came into the yard.
 The spell was broken. Rosie, reverting to Roy, leapt into the air and shot like a rocket toward the house.
As the passengers poured out of the car, they were surprised to see what looked like a human tornado, shedding clothes as it sped to the nearest hideaway.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Lik-M-Odd

Mmm. Candy. The ultimate in gustatory delight for all children.
Well, for most children.
Okay, for me.
That dangled 'apple' that entices obedience. Or commands respect.
And, growing up in the 50's, I had my favourites. Oh, the floors my Mom could get me to sweep, all on the promise of one delicious treat.
The dishes washed the bathrooms scrubbed with the prospect of yet another sweet, tasty . . . something.
And what 'somethings' there were. Chocolate in its myriad forms. Bubble gum. Wax sticks with sweet, tasty juice inside. Suckers.
But nothing quite compared to Lik-M-Aid.
The ads said it all, 'The Candy You Could Pour'.
Eating it was simplicity in itself. You didn't even need utensils. Caveman forebears would have easily been able to figure it out. You ripped open one end. Wet your finger, dipped it in.
And voila!
Tastiness.
The fact that your finger and your tongue ended up the same colour – blue, red, purple – was just a bonus. We connoisseurs could easily spot one another, too, by our discoloured pointer finger.
An added bonus.
It was like a club. (All Lik-M-Aid aficionados point to the sky!)
The only problem was that the end was too near the beginning. Within five minutes of ripping open that wonderful little bag of enjoyment, one was . . . ummm . . . licking the last.
And staring forlornly at the empty wrapper.
Sigh!
But I was undaunted. If the Lik-M-Aid was gone, one simply had to . . . substitute.
Hmm. Mom had packets of Kool-Aid in the cupboard. I had seen them. I had watched her pour them into a pitcher, add water and voila! Deliciousness.
Kool-Aid? Lik-M-Aid? Are we seeing similarities here?
I had a hazy recollection of something else being added to the cool-aid before it was poured out, but paying attention to insignificant details had never been my strong suit.
I headed for the kitchen.
I should probably point out here that finding the kitchen without Mom in residence was . . . tricky, yet I managed it on several occasions.
I was a sneaky little monkey.
I know. I heard Mom say it quite often.
Back to my story . . .
I waited until she headed towards the basement. A-ha! The coast was clear!
I stole into the kitchen, went immediately to her stash of Kool-Aid, and grabbed a purple pouch.
Mmm. Grape. My favourite.
Expertly, I ripped off the top, stuck in my finger and . . . tasted.
Yuck!
What was this stuff?
Someone had poured something different into this pouch. Disguised it as Kool-Aid to fool poor unsuspecting little kids.
The nerve.
I sneaked another one. Cherry this time. Surely it would be better.
Rip. Taste.
Yuck!
Lemon.
Rip . . . you get the picture.
I have no idea how she did it, but Mom was always able to come upon me unexpectedly.
I think she had 'ninja' blood.
“Diane!”
I dropped a packet of strawberry to the floor.
“What are you doing?”
I looked down at the . . . let's just call it 'several' discarded packets of cool-aid, then back at her.
Was that a trick question? “Umm . . . I thought it was Lik-M-Aid.”
“Well, it's not!”
Okay, yeah, I was starting to notice.
“Clean this up!”
I stared in dismay at the mess.
Mom sighed and helped me.
Mom was the soul of frugal. I guess the fact that the powder was slightly used really wasn't important. I watched as she poured all the Kool-Aid powder together into a container and capped it tightly.
It made really neat little lines of colour.
Huh. Kool.
Then she put it away. Out of reach.
I didn't point out to her that her belated caution was unnecessary. That stuff really tasted awful.
Her Kool-Aid was safe with me.
Unless mixed with that delicious 'something' that made it so . . . drinkable.
Hmm. Water. Was that the magic ingredient? Maybe the Kool-Aid was worth another try . . .
I'd like to tell you that that was the last of my experiments.
But I'd be lying.
Candy floss and dust bunnies and I also have a history.
P.S. Several of my grandchildren have also tried this experiment. According to their individual results: It was yukky.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

25 More

More Mom:
1. Everything worthwhile has a fence around it.  But there is always a gate and a key.
2. Keep happy and joy will form a shield against difficulty.
3. The trouble with some of today's smart kids is that they don't smart in the right place.
4. You can't get rid of a temper by losing it.
5. Confidence is that certain feeling you have just before you know better.
6. If the shoe fits, it's out of style.
7. The best way to lose weight is to eat all you want of things you don't like.
8. The nicest thing about being quiet is that you will seldom be picked to head a committee.
9. If you know you've lost your head, you've made a good find.
10. Optimist: A person who thinks the cleaner is shrinking his suits.
11. A bargain is where two people are sure they got the better of each other.
12. The best thing about the good old days is that we were young.
13. Years of square meals add up to a nice round figure.
14. There are still a few things you can get for a dollar: nickels, dimes and quarters.
15. A father is a man who expects his son to be as good as he meant to be.
16. Lord, help me to admit when I am wrong. And make me easier to live with when I am right.
17. To err is human. To really louse things up takes a computer.
18. The young look into the future. The old look into the past. The middle-aged look worried.
19. I've changed my mind. I hope this one works!
20. I do not come to teach. I come to listen to you.
21. Wise people talk when they have something to say. The rest of us talk to say something.
22. Doing nothing is fine. Unless you make it a full time project.
23. A speech often resembles a wheel. The longer the spoke, the greater the tire.
24. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
25. Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.

And my favourite:
A minister apologized for the bandage on his chin. "I was thinking about the sermon and cut my face." In the collection plate he found this note, "Next time, think about your face and cut your sermon!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

25 + 1

Mom Advice
Twenty-five of her sayings . . .
Plus one.

Treasure Trove.
1. At forty, a man knows almost half of what he knew at twenty.
2. How do Mothers ever learn about all the things they warn their daughters not to do?
3. We do not live by bread alone, though dough plays a very important part.
4. Beware of salesman with 'Pie in the Sky' ideas--They plan to use your dough.
5. Happiness can be thought, sought or caught. Never bought.
6. Little wonder today's teenager gets mixed up--half the adults are telling him to find himself. The other half are telling him to get lost.
7. What's the difference between a teacher and a train? A train says Choo, choo, choo. A teacher says, "Spit out your gum!"
8. A wife with horse sense never becomes a nag.
9. The best thing about some popular songs is they don't stay popular long.
10. A man owes it to himself to become successful. Once successful, he owes it to internal revenue.
11.The horse and buggy are disappearing, but not the waggin tongue.
12. Sometimes my Dad takes things apart when they don't go. You'd better go.
13. This is the land of opportunity. Where else could you afford to spend so much for so little?
14. Half of your troubles come from wanting your own way. The other half from getting it.
15. Tact is the art of making company feel at home when you wish they were!
16. Life begins at 40. But that's also when everything begins to wear out, fall out or spread out.
17. Middle age is when actions creak louder than words.
18. A flood is a river that's grown too big for its bridges.
19. Political bed fellows not only share the same bed but also the same bunk.
20. A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
21. All a youngster wants out of school is himself.
22. By the time a man gets to green pastures, he can't climb the fence.
23. The worst place to live in the world is beyond your income.
24. The best night spot is a comfortable bed.
25. No wishbone ever took the place of a backbone.

And bonus--My personal favourite:
Smokey the Bear and his wife could never have kids. Whenever she got fire in her eyes, he'd hit her in the head with a shovel.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cutting Day

Sifting through Mom's journals again . . .

And/or Alberta
I was feeling a little cross as I changed into my jeans and T-shirt. I had planned a whole day of fun things--like baking and sewing--
Why did I have to be the Joe-Boy around here?
But, of course, I knew the answer to that. If I hadn't been asked to go along I'd have felt a little cheated. Now how can I explain that?
As Max slowed down briefly with the four-wheel-drive, I swung open the door and leaped inside. "You know, one of these days I'm going to miss a step and fall right under this truck of yours!"
Max just laughed and stepped on the gas.
Now what did he mean by that?
In the corral, I was given a whip and posted at the gate.
At the command to open the gate wide, I pushed it very carefully to what I thought was wide.
"Wider!" he yelled.
I flung it wide open. But the cow he wanted to pass through just passed by!
Followed by the whole herd of stampeding Mamas. Now thundering right toward me.
"Head 'em off! Head 'em off!" he yelled.
I headed off for the nearest top rail of the fence and sat there, shaking from the sheer relief of having saved my life.
My irate husband threw his hat on the ground and tried out a few of his 'angry' words, then came quietly over to me and said, "Janie? How are we going to get these cows cut when you're up there?"
I crept slowly back down to the ground, dug my whip out of the churned up dirt and very meekly waited for further instructions.
Surprisingly, the rest of the cutting went very well. Max is a real artist when it comes to cutting cows. He bobs and weaves around, taps one cow on the face and whacks one on the fanny and they just seem to do exactly what he wants.
As for me, I actually faced some of those critters without turning 'mushy'!
As we rode out with the last herd of cows for the last breeding field, we were feeling a little pride in the smoothness of the day's work and I knew Max deserved a little praise.
"That was pretty good cutting we did today," he stated.
"Yes!" My mind groped around for a nice return compliment.
He went on, "You're just about as good as Hansen's dog!"
Yep. A good day.

Monday, August 28, 2017

(Mis)Takes


Things progressed as normal, as the bright sun sailed that day,
And then we watched in awe as Mister Moon got in the way,
And isn’t that a bit like life? Our plans flow normally,
Then all at once, something comes that we did not foresee . . .

Percy was an engineer, known for brains, not brawn,
Was fiddling with some microwaves from a magnetron.
When the chocolate in his pocket melted where it was,
His discovery? The microwave. To worldwide applause.

Play-Doh: It was made to clean the paper on the wall.
But poor results and sales had the business in free-fall.
But when kids started using it for their crafts and games,
It gave the struggling company some money and some fame.

Harry couldn’t get cyanoacrylate to work.
Instead of forming what he wished, it stuck. ‘Twas quite a quirk.
Then suddenly he realized that he’d made a breakthrough,
And what he had invented would be known as Super Glue.

Teflon wasn’t what Roy Plunkett started out to make,
He wanted different CFC’s, but he made a mistake.
Instead of gas, he found white flakes, intriguing little bits.
You’ll love it on your non-stick wear for when you’re frying grits.

Velcro was an accident, invented via dog.
When George took his pet hunting: picking burrs, the epilogue.
When closely studied, George could see the tiny little ‘hooks’.
He experimented and he won. It’s there in all the books.

So just because the sun is hidden for a tiny spell,
You simply do not have to fear that things aren’t going well.
And just ‘cause life is different than what you may have planned,
Sometimes, it is the unforeseen that truly makes it grand

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.
And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week in our neighbourhood,
We'll tackle 'PARENTS'. It'll be good!

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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