Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I love Daddy's stories!
“I’m shopping for my wife,” said he.
“For things she needs immediately.
And while I’m here, I thought I’d get
A special something for my Pet.”

 He wandered round the store a while,
And saw things staid. Or infantile.
Then found that he had ambled to
The women’s clothes all starched and new.

His eyes lit up as he assessed
New ways to help his wife get dressed.
In gowns of rough or slinky mein,
In shades from black to tangerine.

He wandered further through the store
Seeking something she’d adore,
High or low or bourgeoisie,
He fin-al-ly came o’er to me.

“It seemed so simple,” he declared.
“But now I’ve looked, and now I’m scared.
The clothes selection’s vast and mixed,
And I can’t seem to choose betwixt.”

“There’s something that she needed, though,
To wear around the bungalow.
So help me please, I do implore.
There must be something in your store!”

“There’s much to choose from, sir,” I said.
“That’s sure to please your thoroughbred.
But there's one thing I need to know,
Just how big is her bungalow?”

Friday, October 20, 2017

First Winter

Digging through Grandma Berg's Journals again . . .

Grandma and Grampa Berg were married in a small Lutheran church in Blackfoot, Idaho on April 20, 1919.
Throughout the summer, they worked on the farm they shared with another couple, Nanny and Axel Karlsson. In October of that year, they moved to their new land west of Millicent, Alberta, where they would raise their family.
But their first winter wasn’t spent on that land. Instead, they went with another couple, the Palms, to the Fort McMurray area to run a trapline.
Our story starts there . . .

What a winter it was! We had brought a supply of kerosene and food—flour, sugar, jam, beans, dried fruit, salted pork, powdered milk, butter and frozen potatoes—which supplemented with moose and rabbit meat made our diet quite adequate.
I baked bread in a stone oven built by Petrus outside the cabin. A fire was built inside the oven until the stones were hot. The heat from the rocks baked lovely bread!
The two men were often in the wilderness for days at a time, tending their trapline with snowshoes and dog teams. Although Petrus was bush wise, one time they lost their bearings in a storm and were wandering for nine days before stumbling on another trapper’s cabin. The trapper wisely, slowly brought the half-starved pair back onto food by allowing them only one pancake every hour over a period of hours.
Never had pancakes tasted so good!
I was expecting my first baby in January and plans were made to leave before that time. However, the snow kept falling and by Christmas time the train stopped running. [Mrs. Palm and I] prepared for the baby by knitting and sewing little garments out of yarn and flannelette we had brought with us . . .
When I went into labour, Petrus ran behind the dogteam twenty miles to Lac La Biche where he had been told of a midwife. When he found the experienced native midwife, she first hesitated until an RCMP constable persuaded her to come. Many precious hours had passed and Petrus was beside himself. The woman finally gathered the necessary supplies and settled herself into the sled.
With anxious urging, the hardy dogs made a short time of the twenty or more miles, arriving at the cabin about midnight.
Soon Petrus was greeted by the cry of his first-born son.
All the frustrations of the day were forgotten in the joy of holding this precious child.
There is some disagreement among family members about whether Grandpa and the midwife arrived in time to assist in the birth. To settle the issue, my Uncle Roy put the question to Uncle Glen, the baby in the story.
“Glen, you were there. Were you delivered by the midwife or not?”
Uncle Glen turned his head at a wry angle and taking his chin in his left hand, with deep thought and deliberations, he answered, “You know, I can’t remember.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Harvest in a Hurry

It's harvest season.
Time for a story about another harvest.
In another era . . .

How it was done under normal circumstances.
You can see the Bundle Rack in the background...
First, a bit of background . . .
Well into the 1940s, the Berg family ran a threshing machine fed by bundles (sheaves) of grain transported by bundle ‘racks’ pulled by a team of horses.
Bundle racks were trailers usually 14 to 16 feet long and 8 feet wide, with a 5-foot wood barrier front and back. The rack was mounted on a four-wheeled running gear with the two front wheels attached to the tongue—a long wooden pole where the horses were attached and which acted as a steering apparatus for the front wheels.
The driverless team pulling the rack was controlled by the man doing the loading of the sheaves and directed by the commands, “Get up” or “Whoa”. The reins were tied to a ‘V’ notched in the top board of the front of the rack and the horses were steered next to the stooks (sheaves of grain gathered and standing together) by the man as he walked alongside. With his pitchfork, he could reach out and put pressure on either rein, depending on where he wanted the team to go.
Normally, it was a calm, peaceful and surprisingly quiet operation. At least until they reached the threshing machine.
Now on to my story . . .
The brothers were threshing a field of wheat on the South Farm, just across the irrigation canal from the home place. All had gone well to this moment. Carlo, their hired man, had his rack partly filled and Don, with a full load was heading toward the thresher. Bern, the second eldest son, and his team, Maud and Dick were stopped across the field while Bern answered a call of nature.
Suddenly, a pheasant burst out of the undergrowth, startling Bern’s team.
You have to know that horses have one response to everything out of the ordinary. Run!
They took off like a shot.
Bern got his pants into running position and sprinted after them.
But before he could affect any form of control, they spooked Carlo’s team, who joined in the race.
Carlo managed to grab the front of his rack and began climbing up toward the reins.
That was the last view either of the brothers had of him.
The team had been heading for the canal, but made a sharp turn, dumping Carlo, the rack and the load into the canal.
Carlo was on the side of the rack that turned over and, fearing for his safety, Don left his team and ran to see if he was all right. But Carlo’s head appeared suddenly above the bank. He was still waving his hands and yelling, “Whoa! Whoa!”
Meanwhile, Carlo’s team, minus the rack but still pulling the empty running gear, circled back toward Don’s team. Who now joined the stampede.
Don ran back to where he had left them to find a large pile of sheaves, but no horses.
Or rack.
When they finally caught their respective teams, they surveyed the damage.
Then silently agreed it was time for lunch.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In the Buff

About a mile and a half from the Millicent, Alberta school was the swimming hole.
A wooden structure, called a ‘headgate’ had been built across the main irrigation canal to control and distribute water into ditches so farmers could water their crops. Passage of the water through the headgate was confined, causing increased swirling and that, in turn eroded a great hole.
Once discovered, this swimming hole became the favourite spot for an after-school dip by many of the young boys from the school.
There was only one problem.
They never brought suits.
As there were no girls around, the solution was easy.
Strip off naked and go skinny dipping.
It worked well.
A short, active time splashing about in the cool water. A brief period of drying off. Re-donning of one’s school clothes.
And the happily-refreshed boys were back on the road for home.
Then . . . that day.
Now remember where I mentioned that members of the opposite sex weren’t present?
Well, that was only most of the time.
On this afternoon, a group of adventurous girls happened along. They, too were on their way home from school. Spotting the boys splashing about in the water, they decided to . . . cause a little consternation.
They sat down on the canal bank.
And waited.
I probably don’t have to tell you that all splashing and playing ended abruptly.
For some time, the group of increasingly chilly boys tread water and stared at the girls, visions of having to stay in the canal until after dark running through their minds.
Then one of them, a little less patient than the rest, decided to do something a little more proactive.
He leapt naked from the stream and ran straight toward the girls.
They scattered like frightened birds, shrieking wildly.
In fact, they proved that they could easily outrun the boys. Given the proper incentive.
What do we learn from this?
1.  If one is going to play a prank, be prepared.
2.  Clothes-less doesn’t mean help-less.
3.  Buff beats bluff every time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Good Dog

Berg Family about 1940. Front row far left: Leif
Just off camera: Patsy
Without Patsy, things could have ended much differently.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Patsy was a German shepherd dog. Unremarkable in looks.
But loyal, playful, smart, fun, an excellent companion and confidante and—as you will see in this story—attentive and protective.
Patsy was little Leif’s constant companion.
Where the one went, so did the other.
If Mother was looking for her small son, she simply stepped to the door and called Patsy.
Who immediately steered her young companion home.
On a large mixed farm like the Berg family ran, it would have been easy for the youngest son to find himself in difficulties.
But not with a Patsy as companion.
And that’s where our story begins . . .
Leif and Patsy had been playing in the warm sun of a late summer day. Their explorations had led them to a large field of grain immediately adjacent to the farmstead.
The combination of the warm sun and tall, ripened grain were most inviting to a small boy and a snooze seemed appropriate. He curled up in a comfortable spot and nodded off.
At the same time as our little explorer drifted off to sleep, his elder brother and their father arrived with tractor and binder to begin harvesting the field. A small boy happily, rosily asleep in one of the furrows was completely invisible to them.
As they approached the place where Leif was asleep, they noticed Patsy.
Remember where I said ‘constant companion’?
Well that comes into play here.
The faithful dog was standing guard at the edge of field. They decided to stop the machinery and take a moment to check things out.
Patsy led them to where Leif was sleeping.
The boy was roused. With Patsy in close attendance, the two started the trek back toward the farm.
Instead of tragic, the incident was written off as 'another bit of farm life adventure'.
Just a regular day in the life of a good dog.

Monday, October 16, 2017

He Was There

He didn’t go to work that day,
He saw it.
He went there.
The great explosions. Fear. Dismay.
He heard it.
He was there.
When embers started raining down,
Debris and bodies on the ground,
The pain, confusion all around,
He knew it.
He was there.

He wasn’t told the towers fell,
He breathed it.
He was there.
Engulfed by all the fires of hell,
He touched it.
He was there.
When first responders got in there,
And started beating back despair
True angels helping everywhere,
He felt it.
He was there.

David Handschuh, Pulitzer-nominated photojournalist, was among the few survivors of the horrific 9-11 attacks. This week, he and his wife, Staci, were visitors here in Edmonton, Alberta, to speak of his experiences.
It is a story that should never be forgotten, nor brushed aside.
This story--and his others--can be found on Instagram @flyingmanatee
Or follow him at

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 'sports'. It will be good!

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Our Engineer - far right.
Our son, an army engineer, was on his Combat Leadership course.
It was gruelling. Months of training. An adrenaline rush of enacting scenarios.
Analyzing situations.
Digging in and getting dirty.
Yep. Gruelling pretty much describes it.
And added to the daily duty roster, morning inspections. Not only must they learn how to survive, even thrive in battle situations, they had to look good while they did it.
Each evening was spent in cleaning oneself and one's gear in preparation for inspection directly after breakfast the next morning.
For the most part, the soldiers enjoyed this relaxing time after dinner. It was a chance to unwind. Kibitz around a bit. Laugh and joke.
And keep their adrenalin up with pounding, exhilarating music. Loud. Fast. Heavy. 
Followed immediately by bed.
Needless to say, it took some time to wind down.
Except for our son. Whose choice of music was a little more . . . conservative. He would drift away almost immediately to the soft, soothing strains of Loreena McKennitt.
Or Enya.
One evening some time after lights out, the men were restless. Knowing that their morning would come fast, not to mention early, they were anxious to get some needed sleep. And it was proving elusive.
Again, except for our son, who had his stereo by his ear and had already drifted away.
To Enya.
One of the soldiers noticed. It gave him an idea.
The next evening, the group completed their usual day-end tasks. To their usual music. Then crawled into their bunks.
Lights were doused.
Then, out of the darkness, a voice. “Hey, Tolley. Play us some of your music.”
Our son turned up the song he was currently listening to.
Only TimeEnya.
Within seconds the sounds of snoring filled the dorm.
After that, immediately following lights-out, the strains of choice were something soft. Soothing.
And sleepy.

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