Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Oh, sure. She's smiling now . . .
There are about thirty miles of smooth, fast highway between Claresholm and Fort MacLeod, Alberta.
And Mom was a strict teetotaler.
These two facts will become significant . . .
Mom was heading home.
She had been out running errands and attending meetings and doing various ‘Mom’ things and supper was beckoning.
Another ‘Mom’ thing.
She was also DUI(C).
Driving under the influence of children.
Between glances into the backseat and numerous yoga-moves to reach and supply her various and sundry children’s needs, her concentration on the road, and her straight-driving-ness (my term), were sorely hampered.
From time to time, the car . . . wove.
Said weaving was noticed.
A flashing light appeared in the rear-view mirror.
Mom frowned. A ‘what-on-earth-is-this-about?’ frown.
And pulled over.
A young policeman appeared at her window.
“Ma’am, I couldn’t help but notice that you were weaving a bit in the lane,” he said. “Have you been drinking?”
Mom sucked in a deep, indignant breath and glared at the young man. “I SHOULD SAY NOT!!” she said.
Her voice was . . . let’s just say ‘firm’.
With just a bit of fire behind the words.
The poor policeman turned red and literally crumbled. “Sorry to have bothered you,” he mumbled. Then, bidding her a hasty good-night, he left.
Or rather, retreated.
Mom nodded resolutely and, putting the car in gear, continued on.
The police car made a U-turn and fled.
The reason I’m thinking about this right now?
Where was Mom when another young policeman was handing me my speeding ticket for doing 40 in a 30?
I guess some people have it. 
And some people don’t.
P.S. And when you have it, you don't get it and when you do, you don't. (Figure that one out!)

Friday, October 6, 2017


Not-Quite-Sanctuary. The family ranch in Fort MacLeod.
You can't hide things from your parents.
Just ask me . . .
I had my first 'official' job.
My Dad would argue this, as I worked for him for eight years.
Let me start again . . .
I had my first job-away-from-daddy's-ranch job.
It involved moving to Calgary, a city two hours to the north. And all the things that 'moving out' entails.
I had been an official Monday to Friday resident of Calgary for four months. And was feeling mighty independent as I made my weekly drive to my parent's ranch to fill my gas tank and stock up on food.
You look at 'independence' your way and I'll look at it in mine.
Ahem . . .
Just as I was driving into Claresholm, a small town just north of  the ranch, an ad came on the radio. A rather effective ad, as it turns out. Wherein (good word) different people were asked what was most important in their lives.
There were various answers. The last being 'family'. Which was followed immediately by the sounds of screeching tires and an obvious vehicle collision.
I hadn't seen my family in six days.
And, I will admit it here, I'm a wuss.
The ad hit me hard.
I started to cry.
At that point, things got a little confused.
My Old English Sheepdog, Muffy, happily ensconced in her seat of power (commonly known as 'shotgun') came unglued.
Tears did that to her.
She alternately tried to lick my face.
And crawl into my lap.
Neither of which is very desirable when one is hurtling along the road at 40 MPH.
Which, if I could have seen clearly, should have been 30 MPH.
You can guess what happened next.
Red and blue lights erupted just after the last intersection.
And suddenly a wavery figure was indicating, rather forcefully, that I pull over.
He poked his head into my car, took one look at my red-rimmed eyes and tear-drenched face and immediately withdrew.
"Come to my car when you've composed yourself," he mumbled.
Then disappeared.
I dried my face and blew my nose. Calmed Muffy, who was still under the mistaken impression that I needed some good, doggy-style comforting.
Then made my way over to the officer's car.
We had a nice chat, which culminated in an issued ticket for $25.00 and a warning to 'be more careful'.
Then, just as I reached for the door handle, the officer said, "If you don't mind. Why were you crying?"
I rolled my eyes. "It's silly, really," I told him.
"Do you mind telling me?"
"No." I related the entire fiasco, sparked by the ad on the radio.
It lost nothing in the telling.
I so love a good story.
He chuckled. Yes. People did that back then.
"I remember when I first went out to Regina for my RCMP training," he said. "I was one homesick puppy! I had never been away from home and I really missed my family."
We chatted a while longer.
Mostly about families and missing them.
And the incongruence (real word) of airing radio ads about car accidents specifically designed to make people cry.
And cause more car accidents.
I know. It doesn't make sense to me, either.
Then I left.
A few days later I paid my ticket and all was forgotten.
Or so I thought.
Moving forward several weeks . . .
I was sitting at the kitchen table when my parents came back from a quick trip to Calgary.
Dad came in and stopped beside my chair.
"How do you know an RCMP officer in Claresholm?" he asked.
I stared at him blankly.
RCMP Officer? I didn't . . .
I had to relate the entire story, something I had formerly neglected to do.
Because of my reluctance to confess.
Dad chuckled. See? Chuckling again. It did happen.
"So how did you find out?" I demanded.
"Your mother and I just went through a check-stop in Claresholm," Dad said.
"Oh," I said.
"And this very kind and cheerful officer took one look at my license and asked me if I had a daughter, Diane."
"Oh," I said again.
"You can't blame us for being curious."
"Umm . . . so . . . what did he say?" I could feel my face getting red.
I hate it when that happens.
"He just told us that we had quite a daughter."
"Your Mother and I agreed with him." Dad smiled. "He handed back my license and waved us off."
"Oh." For a normally talkative person, I was really groping around for something to say.
Dad patted my arm.
"And don't speed," he said.
See? Parents always find out.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


With apologies to Lewis Carroll...

Twasn’t brilliant, and the nighttime coves
  Did show no sparkle in the waves:
Still shady were the darkening groves,
  And the footpaths the same.

"Beware the Bladderwalk, my son!
  The urge that wakes, makes your breath catch!
Beware the vision blurred, and shun
  The nightytime Slumbersnatch!"

He took his blankets, warm, in hand:
  Long time the prodigious urge he fought --
Still resting, he with his full ‘tummy’,
  He laid awhile in thought.

And, as in gloomy thought he lay,
  The Bladderwalk did lastly claim,
To come whiffling through the dark causeway,
  And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
  The blankets, warm, went snicker-snack!
He sprightly fled, into the ‘head’
  Then went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Bladderwalk?
  Then back to bed, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
  He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brilliant, and the daytime coves
  Did sparkle brightly in the waves;
All misty were the brightening groves,
  But he never got to sleep again.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In America

On March 22, 1919, Ellen, with great anticipation, sailed from Goteborg on the Swedish liner Stockholm bound for New York on her way to join Petrus.
The boat trip was not a luxury cruise; accommodation on the emigrant ship was quite spartan. However, Ellen enjoyed the vast view of the sea and the relaxation of the long, seven-day cruise, spiced with the occasional buffeting of the North Atlantic.
Ellen had not previously been far from home and at 24 years of age, had little worldly experience. Arriving in New York, she recalls being quite afraid, having been warned of the 'White Slave trade' which was a threat to immigrant girls travelling alone. She was told not to trust anyone except travel agents who had the correct ribbon identification.
At the hotel where she was billeted, a Norwegian lady spoke to her. Ellen could not understand much of what was said. Later when she was settled, the lady came to her room offering to show her New York. However, Ellen had just washed her hair and since it was quite long and would take a while to dry, she declined. She never knew whether she had missed a great chance to see the famous city or had avoided a potential threat.
The next day the travel agent took her to the train. Her trip, almost all the way across America, was long and exciting--so big, so beautiful and so empty! She slept three nights on the train. To pass the time, Ellen studied the train schedule and memorized the stations on the way. Her excitement  increased as the train neared Idaho. When the train reached Pocatello, on April 10th, she knew this was the last station before Blackfoot, her destination.
Station stops were long enough to allow passengers to stretch their legs so Ellen got off the train and entered the station.
"There was Petrus," she recalled. "Oh! I was so surprised, I was so happy!"

Monday, October 2, 2017

On Giving Thanks

An old story. But in a new way . . .
On Stringam ranch at mealtime,
At the end of every working day,
The talk was great, the chuck sublime.
The fragrant smells of food. And hay.

They ‘washed up good’ and took a seat,
Respectful nod and smile to mom,
Then rough hands folded nice and neat,
With lowered eyes and faces calm.

Then thanks expressed, I’m not sure who
Was acting voice this time around.
But when it finished, all the crew,
Passed ‘tatoes--white, and gravy--browned.

All had closed the prayer, “Amen.”
Except the man beside the girl--
The small girl, seated at the end,
The one will all the fiery curls.

She gave the man a heated scowl,
And pointing at him, shouted shrill,
“He didn’t say ‘Amen’!” she howled.
The poor man suddenly looked ill.

The little girl persisted, too,
She spoke to others seated there,
“Mommy! Daddy! Listen, do!”
“He didn’t close our supper prayer!”

There is a lesson to be learned,
If a Stringam dinner is your yen,
You’ll never have to be concerned,
If you simply say, “Amen.”

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 tackle 'Harvest'. It will be good!

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