Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

A Swedish Romance: Part Four

The Love Letters
From the letters found among Grandma Berg's effects.
Translated from the original Swedish by her son with the help of Swedish friends and relatives.
Missed the other installments?
Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
We'll be here when you get back...

Ostra Ras, Alghult, March 3, 1919

My Dearest Petrus,
Now finally I have my ticket and clearance for the trip on the ship Stockholm which should have sailed on the 15th of March. But I have just learned today that it won't be leaving until the 22nd. I must check with the office in Goteborg if there is any further change and I hope you will be able to find out when it will arrive in New York. I am anxious about how everything will turn out and I suppose you are the same.
But thankfully now I am so happy, so very happy my dearest, my very own darling. It is so wonderful that we will soon meet again. I loved you from the first glance with a happiness which no one nor anything could turn off.
Thanks, a thousand thanks that you wrote to Mother. It was a great help for me. It is true that she thinks that it is a hard blow that I shall leave her, but she does not wish to stop me from going. It is the same with my sisters and brother even though they only saw you once briefly. I should have told you of this in an earlier letter but I was just back from a trip and it was not so clear then. Now everything is fine for me and I no longer have any doubts.
It was kind of you to sent the fare for the ticket. It was plain proof that I would be welcome. What was more difficult was before I could travel I had to make a personal appearance at the Land Board and have my photograph taken. I had to take nine copies with me to insert in the pass and the trip declaration. Also the Church Warden had to write on it declaring that it was I. I has been so much to do but now it is all clear.
What would have been very pleasing for me would be to have visited you parents, to tell them that I shall go to you. But that was not possible and I hope in the future that I could meet them and be on as good terms with them as you are with mine.
Oh, how happy I am that in you I have a friend, a true friend who loves and is loved in return. Now life is worth living, if that isn't our fate, I cannot understand my feelings as I sit here alone in the evening. Now my darling it only remains to make a commitment and face the future and trust that here at home Mother will understand that everything in life has a pathway where meeting and separating is part of life.
The next time the Stockholm comes to America I will be on it.
En Hjartvarm fran din egan Ellen.

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Swedish Romance: Part Three

Part one is here.
Part Two here.

Found among Grandma Breg's effects.
Translated by her son with help from Swedish friends and relatives.

July 18, 1918
Alskade Ellen,
A sincere thanks for your letter. Swedish letters are extremely welcome, but yours most of all. Oh, if you only knew how sincerely I love you, not with a romantic, superficial love, but with a deliberate, composed, mature and true love. A love that will not fade.
Oh, Ellen, don't you know that I am not like other young men. There are only a few of all that I have met who are suitable for marriage. Most of them are too self-centered to make a woman happy. A woman needs sympathy, not during the first few months, but for all her life. To come there was very useful to me. Here, women are held in higher respect. So here you learn to appreciate women as they should be appreciated. I could easily have married a long time ago if I had not been as careful as I was. Not less that three girls and one young widow have been quite persistent. They all disappeared when I told them we could only be friends.
Oh, do you know how much happier I would have been if you had said in your letter that you were willing to come here? Then it wouldn't have been long before you had a ticket. You could easily board a Swedish or Norwegian steamship. They come direct and I could meet you at the destination. We wouldn't have to stay here more than a few years or until after the war. It should soon be over, shouldn't it? The Germans will soon find out that they have made a big mistake.
You know it is almost impossible for me to get home. Well, it isn't impossible but then I would have to sell everything I have and would be allowed to take only $2.50--which is the same as nothing. And then when I get home I will have to do my military training for a couple of years. I have no desire to do that because I was a member of a gun club since I was a child. So, if I came home, you would have to come back with me, if you wanted me. Then I would have to buy back what I have sold, and the cost might be too great. But if I could keep my horses and my cattle another few years, I could double my money. I have four colts which would increase a lot in value in the next year. I have been quite lucky as I have gained experience and now can count on making as much in the next couple of years as I made in the past four.
Well, it seems that I am preaching in this letter, but you must excuse me. I couldn't help telling you how things are. I am wondering if you believe in inevitable fate. I don't. Man creates his own destiny. The more you plan the better the fate you create. Or do you believe that a person that has fallen into bad habits was to be that way? I don't think so. For sure they were meant for something better. I am saying this because of your expression that if we are meant to meet again, it is sure to happen. But this is not at all sure. It depends on how much we are working in that direction, because man has been given understanding in order to learn what is best for him.
So you say you have given me your heart, that's probably why I had a feeling that I have two. Then it's best that you get mine in exchange. Otherwise, my darling, I don't know how you will manage.
You wondered  if it is warm here? It is about the same temperature as I remember in Sweden. If I have relative here? Yes I have relatives and friends, but I don't keep track of them. How are my parents? They say that so far they have been healthy. If you are welcome here? Yes, I am sure you are.
I will tell you that I had a hard time to get my parents' consent for my trip here. I would have been given 3000kr during five years if I stayed at home, and I would still get my inheritance if there was any. But at last, I got my father to write a letter of consent. I was not of age, so without it I would not have been allowed to go. Now I am happy I came.
My mother is so odd. She has always wanted me to be so very noble. So if she were to choose for me, I would of course marry none less than a princess. Well parents have their own ideas and desires, but they are loving parents so they can be forgiven. I will show them that the one I marry will be much better than a princess. I don't wish for a fairy tale marriage but a happy one, and I pray to God that this will be so.
You ask about my brothers, they are Verner, 12, Sigvard, 10 and Henrick, 8, so they will have changed a lot when I get home.
I will see how I can arrange things. 1000kr doesn't mean much when I have a chance to meet you. Now I have been chatting about this and that. I hope you are not tired before you reach the end. I wish you are keeping well and that our love will soon be fulfilled.

Teknar din innerligt alskade, Petrus

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Big Brother's Big Day

We interrupt this glimpse into a Swedish Romance to bring you something important:
Today is my big brother George's birthday.
This needs commemorating!

My big brother, George, and I are two years and four days apart.
When I was born, he wasn't quite ready to have a younger sibling. But, eventually, he accepted me.
It only took fourteen years for us to become best friends.
In our early days, George and I mostly avoided one another. Whenever we tried to play together, we inevitably ended up fighting. Usually the fights were over who started the fights, but why quibble over details?
Fortunately, living on the ranch, there were numerous other opportunities for mischief than playing with siblings.
George had his things mechanical, I had horses.
It was a perfect world.
* * *
When I turned twelve, the magical world of 4-H opened up before me. Finally, I, too, could belong to that tantalizingly exclusive club that my older sister and brothers all enjoyed. I, too could choose a calf and raise it for a year. And go on tours. And calf-club meetings.
Life just didn't get any better.
Dad brought in a group of weanling calves for us to choose from. I instantly decided on the little red-and white-one. No, that little red-and-white one. There. The one next to the other little red-and-white one.
Okay, so they were all red-and-white.
I finally made my choice and my calf, along with my siblings' calves, was shut into a special pen.
For the first day, I was ecstatic. I couldn't stop looking at my calf. He was perfect! He was going to be a champion.
He was mine!
I watched as George hauled feed into the pen, both morning and evening.
This was exciting! This was fun!
He offered to let me carry the pail.
This was . . . work!
And I think that was the last time, ever, that I fed my own calf.
If it weren't for steady, reliable George, all of my 4-H calves would have starved to death.
And, oddly enough, he never complained.
* * *
Fourteen! I was finally able to attend my first dance!
George drove us there.
I think I danced twice. (One was 'Hey Jude', the customary and interminable last song, which one would inevitably end up dancing with someone who smelled funny.)
After the dance, George and I stayed in the kitchen and talked until four am.
It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
After that, we spent hours every day, just talking. Movies, books, friends, dates, music. The topics were endless and interesting.
And fun.
We never seemed to run out of things to discuss.
Which of my girlfriends had a crush on him this week.
School. (Miss Mueller, my English teacher loved my brother, but hated me. Go figure . . .)
Dating. When I turned 16, this was a new and wondrous world for me. George guided me through some of the pitfalls and heartbreaks. Once, when my date abandoned me for another girl at a dance, George provided a ride home. And a shoulder.
He got me through.
* * *
In his twenties, George decided to travel down another road. In black leather, long hair and a beard. And on a Harley.
Still then
He was still my beloved brother. Just a bit . . . scarier to look at.
Once when he was coming for a promised visit, my second son Erik, then six, waited up to greet him. When this long-haired man appeared, Erik took one look and fled down the stairs to his bed.
It was very shortly afterwards that George asked me to give him a haircut.
And not long after that when he decided that he needed to settle down.
For many years, he had struggled with relationships and church attendance/standards. Then, just before he turned 50, he made some needed changes.
And then he met Mikenzie.
She, too had experienced hardships in her life. But, like George, she was ready for something . . . eternal.
I was a witness as the two of them, dressed in white, knelt at the altar and gave their vows to each other. And to God.
I couldn't help but think of my former long-haired, black-leather-clad brother as he took his new wife into his arms and kissed her.
And accepted her daughter as his own.
Today, as always, George is busy, organized, and frightfully clean.
But perhaps for the first time in his life, he is buoyantly happy.
And that makes me happy.
Happy 64th, big brother.
Now, with Mikenzie

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Swedish Romance: Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can find it here.
When you're done, you will find us waiting . . .

Found among Grandma Berg's effects and translated by two of my uncles (with help from a Swedish friend  and cousins in Sweden).

The love letters:

Pingree, Idaho R.F.D.#1, Feb. 15, 1918

Alskade Ellen, (Darling Ellen)
That's what I call you even though I don't have the right, since I haven't done enough to deserve it. Thank you very much for you letter. It was such a special, loving letter, coming when it did, after what seemed such a long time.
I couldn't hope for such lofty thoughts, expecting that your feelings would be a little milder. But now my happiness is full since you believe me to be better than I deserve. And Ellen, I love you very much. I cannot get over my love for you, my darling. You have made me very happy with your letter. Now I can quit worrying about something I might have done for which I could not get your forgiveness.
But thank you for your own and unique kind heart.
I hope that you will not find any reason to be concerned about me. I trust you will find that I have matured from a problem young boy to a thinking, steady young man who seeks to go forward to the highest possible goal.
Oh, Ellen, that you really love me so, surprises me, but makes me very happy. I think how sad it would be if I never see you again. It is true that it is very hard to travel to this country, but it is certain that it will be worse before fall. I have thought that I could go home in the fall but I am not sure that I can manage it. But if I cannot come home, it may be better that you come to me. Should you have something against coming for a few years, since the war cannot last long couldn't you leave all at home and travel over the Atlantic for my sake? If I can't travel home, I will naturally look after your ticket. In your next letter please be so kind and tell me you will come. Naturally I will try to come home if at all possible. Oh, my darling of you were here with me, I would be so happy. Never again would we part.
Now please tell me about everything, where you have been and what you have done during the whole year. Even the smallest detail interests me more than you can imagine. It is such a long time since we have seen each other. Can you believe it is five years and it only seems like yesterday? However in the winter you will see me if God wills.
If I come home I'm sure we would soon come back here again. Believe me, my own little darling, I feel it is as good here as back in Sweden. So I beg you to come here. When you have been here a little while you will find that it will be better than you think.
Oh how wonderful it will be. I miss you terribly. I will write a long letter soon. I never tire of reading your letter over, your many kisses enclosed, last a long time. Dearest greetings to you my own loving Ellen.
Technar med innerlig karlek, din alltid tillgivne, Paterus Berg (Sending with heartfelt love. Yours for ever, Petrus Berg)

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Swedish Romance

Equal time.
The story of my Grandma Berg's courtship and marriage, as told by her son, Roy.

My Grandma Berg's Mother, Fredrika. 1890
My Grandma, Signe Ellen Viktoria Jonsson 1919
Ellen, daughter of Fredrika and Efraim Jonsson, was born August 23, 1894 in Alghult in the province of Smaland in south east Sweden. She was the second in a family of six girls and one boy. They lived in the small farm hamlet called Ostra Ras. The hamlet consisted of four family homes located on a keyhole drive in the centre of the farm holdings. The four families owned and operated the farm and attached woodlot jointly.
(Smaland is a rocky, treed province, famous for fine glassware and superior furniture. Over the centuries, Smalanders had grubbed and hewn their small holdings out of the rough terrain. There is a Swedish saying that if you put a Smalander on a rock with a goat, both would thrive.)
The small community produced most of their necessities--food, clothing, shelter—on the farm. Income for other needs and luxuries was generated primarily from their woodlot. Occasionally, pigs, chickens or calves, as well as some farm produce, were sold or traded.
Life on the Swedish farm was filled with hard work. The six girls and their brother shared all the outdoor chores. They assisted in the cultivation, seeding, tending and harvesting of their small fields. This took a great deal of manual labour, supplemented with horse and oxen power. The men and older boys cut the hay with a scythe. Women and girls raked the hay into bunches and piled it on six-foot upright stakes for curing.
In the autumn, the men scythed the ripe grain, mainly rye, the staple for bread. The women gathered the crop by hand and tied it into bundles with a few stems twisted into a rope. Six to eight bundles were placed together into stooks for drying. All participated in the threshing—by flailing and winnowing. Flailing involved bashing the heads of grain with a short board, about two feet long, hinged with a leather thong to a 4 to 5-foot pole. The grain was then separated from the straw by winnowing—tossing the flailed mixture into the air with a fork on a windy day. The straw blew away and the grain fell directly to the ground. Finally, the grain was scooped into bags and stored for future use.
Ellen recalled that the rye produced was often just enough to last to the next crop.
Ellen’s family kept a large garden with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Also, wild strawberries were plentiful in the woods. Together, the family kept a few animals, three or four milk cows, a few sheep, fifty or more chickens and one sow. Chickens and pigs acted as scavengers and lived primarily on field, yard and kitchen scraps.
Through their own efforts, the diet of subsistence farmers in Smaland was quite healthy: Milk, cheese, bread, potatoes, vegetables, fruit in season or canned, and chicken, fish or home-canned meat in summer. They slaughtered a few pigs, and steers from the milk cows over the winter, keeping the carcasses cooled or frozen by hanging them from a shed gable. Any surplus pork or beef was canned for use throughout the year.
The women produced linen from flax and wool from the sheep which they carded and spun into yarn and wove into clothing, blankets, sheets and tablecloths.
It wasn’t all work for the young people growing up in Sweden at the beginning of the 20th century. Ellen and her siblings had a happy childhood, sharing responsibilities, joys and sorrows in a closely-knit family and community. She remembered the fun and joy at gatherings, centered on feasting with traditional dishes and festivals with music and folk dances.
When Ellen was thirteen, tragedy struck the family. Her father was killed while he and the other three men of the farm hamlet were improving a road over a creek. They were dynamiting rocks and a flying rock from one of the explosions struck her father on the head, injuring him fatally.
The eldest sister, Hannah, eighteen at the time, soon married and increased responsibility fell on Ellen, the second in the family. Her brother, Josef, two years her junior, was not interested in farming and left home in his teens. The strength of character and responsibility which Ellen developed as the eldest sister in a fatherless family in Sweden, sustained her through her long life in her role as the care-giver to a large family in Canada.
At eighteen, Ellen met Petrus when they were both attending a temperance meeting near Monsteras on the Baltic coast about 30 miles from Alghult. Ellen recalled going to the meeting by train. Their courtship began when they exchanged cards and then letters. Any chance of further meeting was suspended when, in 1914, at nineteen years of age, Petrus emigrated to Idaho in the USA. Their correspondence seemed to have stopped until Petrus, in early 1918, renewed the contact, encouraging Ellen to join him in Idaho. Five years had passed and Word War 1 was over before the young couple were able to see each other again.

Monday, September 25, 2017 Shorts

She lived alone, her spouse was gone,
With no one left to lean upon,
To a senior’s lodge was drawn,
And there, she met a man named John.

And it was there that she and he,
Enjoyed each other’s company.
A friendship that was meant to be
Companionship, a guarantee.

At breakfast, which they often shared,
She waited for him, on her chair,
Becoming more and more aware,
That he was anywhere but there.

Finally, she stood. And went.
To see what kept him was her bent,
And hoping there was no event,
That dining with her, did prevent.

But when she knocked upon his door,
Through the plank, his voice did soar,
He’d be five minutes, nothing more,
Her inconvenience, he deplored.

And so she went back down to wait.
The minutes ticked by. Seven. Eight.
Her growing fears to then abate,
Went back to check upon her date.

She met him coming down the treads,
Her fears reduced—he was not dead.
And, though he moved as slow as lead,
“It’s tough but I’ll be there,” he said.

She finally got him seated right,
Their meal was a true delight,
But afterward, try as he might,
Just to stand, took too much fight.

The medics took her friend away,
She called there later in the day,
Hoping news, they would convey,
And all her fears would be allayed.

Someone by the name of Schwartz,
Said he was fine. In her report.
Got started just a bit off sorts,
Both legs in one leg of his shorts.

To you with parents, or a spouse,
Whose strength seems weaker than a mouse,
You must be sure, don’t be a louse,
Please check before you sell the house!

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 'thanksgiving'. It'll be good!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

AGE of Electronics

For three days, we had been travelling across the country with a one-year-old.
It was a wonderful, educational, exhausting time.
And I learned something about electronics.
Yes. I said electronics.
Maybe I should explain . . .
First, a little background.
Kids now seem to have an affinity for anything ‘electronic’.
If I have any problems with my computer or anything that attaches to the wall with a plug or adapter, I hit ‘control-alt-delete’. Then shout for my son or son-in-law.
They hit a couple of keys and I’m once more off and running.
And these abilities start at a very early age.
Our four-year-old grandson watched his father type in the password for his computer, then load and play a game.
Only watched, mind you.
A few days later, his mother walked into the family room and found her son playing his father’s game.
I should mention that this is a bang-bang, shoot-shoot game, but not spectacularly gory or detailed.
“Hey!” she said. “How did you get on there?!”
The son giggled and fled.
A short time later, his mother called his father at work.
“You left your computer on!” she said.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Well, you must have! I just caught our son on your game!”
There was silence on the other end of the line. Then, “I haven’t been on the computer for days,” he said. “The computer would have long gone to sleep.”
“Well then how . . .?”
“He had to have watched me type in the password.”
“But he’s only four!”
“It’s the only explanation.”
Now, back to today . . .
Compared to our one-year-old, our four-years-old is . . . old.
And this incident, I watched, seated beside said one-year-old in the back seat of the car.
She grabbed her mom’s cell phone.
Flipped it over.
Switched it on.
Slid the lock.
And immediately started punching buttons, rearranging some, cancelling others.
All as fast as you could blink.
Faster, even.
So simple, even a child could do it . . .
This Gramma needs help.
Is there a child out there?
And she's good with other things as well!

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