Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

My Friend, Mrs. Amazing

Photo Credit
The important First-Day-Of-School (FDOS) has passed.
With its first-day outfits, hair dos, school supplies, shoes, and angst.
And pictures of the same.
And now we take stock. To store away for the next FDOS . . .
My good friend, Betty (I do hope she doesn’t mind me calling her Betty!) has three kids of her own.
And she fosters babies.
Tiny ones.
I know. She’s my hero, too.
Her kids attend two different schools.
Neither within walking distance of their home.
Her FDOS takes planning: 
            1. Stay up till midnight, getting FDOS supplies sorted, labelled and stowed.
            2.Up at 6:00 AM.
            3. Shower and makeup.
            4. Babies (she has two) up and bathed and changed and fed.
            5. Kids up and dressed.
            6. Kids kitted out for FDOS.
            7. Kids in the car.
            8. Drop off kid #1.
            9. Drop off kid #2.
           10. Home again by 8:30.
           11. Have baby #2 ready for pick up by care worker at 8:32.
           12. And breathe.
See? Planning.
And she did it. All of it.
She’s supermom. Or the close earthly equivalent.
Feeling happily accomplished, she set her four-year-old to playing, parked baby #1 beside some toys and began to tidy the kitchen.
Then she opened the freezer.
And discovered the breakfast she had been going to feed her school kids.
No wonder she had managed to get everything done.
All sense of triumph drained away in an instant.
She felt horrible. She had sent her children to school with empty stomachs.
Okay, yes, they did have a good-sized morning snack.
And an even bigger lunch.
And throughout the summer, they had never wanted breakfast before 10:00 AM.
But still . . .
When Betty told me this story, we laughed.
Betty tells it well.
And hindsight is often really funny.
But it got me thinking. (I do that sometimes.)
About Betty’s to-do list for her FDOS.
And how she had done it. Almost.
It made me tired.
Yep. One breakfast out of the year forgotten . . .
I still think she’s amazing.

Friday, October 27, 2017

On Friendship

Two of my favourite Mom stories . . .

Best Friends.
Little Brother, Blair, arrived home from school tousled, scratched and with a badly torn shirt.
Mom blinked.
Let’s face it, this wasn’t his normal look.
Moving quickly to her disheveled son, she asked the question I think would hover on all our lips. “What happened to you?!”
Blair frowned. “Bruce beat up on me!”
Mom was aghast. (Oooh! Good word!) “How come? Can’t you handle little Bruce?”
I should probably point out that Bruce was a small chap. Half the size of my brother.
“I can’t hit him!” Blair exclaimed. “He’s my friend!”
Many of us are taught to turn the other cheek. Some of us actually do . . .
*  *  *
In Vietnam a little girl was critically injured by flying shrapnel.
She needed a blood transfusion.
A group of young children were canvassed for a volunteer to give some blood.
One little boy slowly raised his hand.
As the doctor prepared him for the transfusion, the little boy let out a shuddering sob.
When the needle was inserted and the blood began to flow, the sobs became a steady, soft crying.
A nurse spoke to the boy and asked him if he was alright.
The boy looked at her. “When am I going to die?” he asked.
She smiled. “You aren’t going to die.”
“But—what about when all my blood is gone?”
“Oh, Son, we aren’t going to take all your blood. Just a little bit.”
“You thought you were going to give everything you had and then die?”
He nodded.
“But why, then, would you offer to give this little girl your blood?”
His answer was simple. “Because she is my friend!”

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Will James
The romantic picture of the lean, seasoned, tough, sun-browned cowboy riding his pony across the endless, wind-swept prairies, hand-rolled cigarette clamped between firm lips and keen eyes narrowed against the glint of the sun, is just that. A picture.
According to my Uncle Owen, the reality was far, far different.
Also . . .
The great cattle-liners of today didn’t exist in the 1920s.
No convenient 18-wheeler showed up at the home corral to load and transport your cattle to wherever you needed them to go.
Instead, cattle were herded from their native pastures (sometimes a trip of many, many days) to the nearest railhead and put into cars there.
When arrangements went according to plan.
And there were cars available . . .
Over to Uncle Owen:
The fall of 1924 was extremely wet.
Crops were not harvested until late in the year and the sugar beets were very difficult to get out of the ground.
We cut our beef (selected the animals that were ready for slaughter) along in October, intending to drive them to Magrath (Alberta) to ship out to Winnipeg. But when we got them all ready to leave, we found that we couldn’t get stock cars to ship them in.
So we had to herd them for a week or ten days. (With no corrals, someone had to be in the saddle 24 hours a day to keep the cattle together.)
It was during this period that I got my first experience at night herding in bad weather.
We had about 300 head of beef cut out and I took a shift herding these cattle during each night for about five or six hours.
Pure misery.
It was snowing and raining most of the time but not cold enough for the snow to accumulate on the ground. It melted just about as fast as it fell and the ground was a swamp any place you wanted to put your foot.
When we finally did get cars and were able to take the cattle into Magrath, we had to ride our horses all the time we were handling them in the stockyards because the water and mud was so deep [there] that a man couldn’t wade around in it.
I don’t know about you, but the picture of someone hunched and freezing against the onslaught of rain and snow and with his horse knee-deep in mud and water rather spoils my image of the ‘cowboy’.
Maybe it’s for the best . . .

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Morning Bath

Just a little glimpse into the round-up days of 1918.
In the words of my Dad's eldest brother, Uncle Owen Stringam . . .
Rope corral.
Along in July or August of 1918, my father [George L. Stringam] sent Bert Quinton and I along to the roundup to bring back the strays.
We were awakened at 4:00 AM by the breakfast bell.
The night herder had already brought in the saddle horse herd and put them in a rope corral. (A rope was tied to short posts about four feet off the ground and was just large enough to hold a crowded horse herd.)
Each cowboy came out to rope his horse. No one was allowed to swing a loop over his head for fear of frightening the horses. All horse roping was done from the outside by a back-hand throw and the horse was then worked around to the drop rope gate and out of the corral.
I watched one young fellow saddle up his horse and [before mounting] walk him around for a while to get the kink (hump) out of the horse’s back.
[A little aside here: Many of these horses were newly-broke and still didn’t like the idea of having something strapped to their backs. For the first while, they would protest in any way they could. Usually by arching their back up, perhaps to try to get the saddle as far away from themselves as they could!]
Gradually, the hump subsided and the horse seemed okay.
Now, about ten feet below the corral, in a small depression, was a large spring where the cook came for water. This spring was fenced to keep out the livestock.
Once the young fellow was aboard (mounted) the horse started to buck, heading straight for the spring.
He came to a sudden stop as he hit the fence.
The cowboy didn’t.
Nothing like a cold, refreshing bath before the start of the workday.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Slipping in Memories

Mom and Dad, Chris and Jerry.
If you look closely . . .
What articles of clothing do you treasure?
Get foolishly sentimental (ie. I’m never washing this!) over.
And why?
That jacket you bought that Peter Tork sneezed on when you went to that amazing concert back in ’66?
The red dress that was so eye-popping and perfect at the Christmas dance in ’80?
Those jeans that flattered so well and, even as they became more and more ragged, continued to be your best and truest friends from ’78 through to ‘92?
Those boots that were sooo warm and sooo comfortable that you wept when the sole ripped right out of the left one?
That slip.
Ummm . . . Maybe I should explain . . .
My Mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in the 1985 at the age of 61.
It is a horrifying, wasting sort of illness.
For several years, she gamely battled it, exercising, proper diet.
But the disease won and she passed into eternity on April 9, 2002.
We were happy for her – she had been so ill.
But sad for the rest of us.
In the months after her death, Dad found homes for her jewellery, clothes and keepsakes.
Each of her three daughters carted home boxes of Mom’s ‘stuff’.
Special because it had been hers.
I had great fun going through my boxes.
Immersing myself in the memories.
I put jewellery into my own case, remembering special pieces Mom had worn.
Set fancy, fun hats on the shelf in the closet, thinking about the times I had sneaked into her closet to play dress-up with them.
Hung up dresses and other clothes. More memories.
And went back to my normal life.
Then, Sunday rolled around.
I should point out here that we dress in our best for Sunday worship services.
It’s just our way . . .
I scrambled through my closet for a slip and grabbed the first one I came to. One of my Mom's.
I slipped it on.
And was immediately immersed in the soft scent of Mom’s ‘special occasion’ perfume.
I had forgotten.
Mom had been ill for so long, and, in all that time, had worn no perfume at all.
Suddenly, I was lost in memories.
Mom hugging me before she and Dad went out somewhere special.
Mom sitting beside me in Church.
Mom smiling across from me in a restaurant.
And thousands and thousands more.
It took me a long time to get ready that day.
Stepping from the softly-lit past into the garishly -coloured present took great effort.
After church, I hung the slip up carefully.
Almost reverently.
And vowed never to wash it again.

Monday, October 23, 2017


The world likes baseball, I am sure,
And loves their teams, famed or obscure,
But what of those who don’t partake?
Well this should help thwart a mistake:

Baseball bat:
This is a wood or metal bar
That, like the ball, can fly afar.

Foul ball: 
For just a moment you don’t quit,
Because you think, I got a hit!

Babe Ruth: 
A player who was really great,
One (who they say) was overweight.

Right field: 
A quiet place where only you
Can sit and watch where flowers ‘grew’.

Right Field (also):
Until you hear a clang, Oh No!
And someone shouts, “Look out below!”

Fly ball: 
That moment when the sun (it’s said)
Drops a boulder on your head.

Has mostly ground balls, so you’ll thrive,
And thus, this ballgame, you’ll survive.

Line drive: 
That point where something whizzes through,
And you bid your shortstop days adieu.

How long it is before snack time,
Divided tidily by nine.

Pro Athletes:
Play games and practice vanity,
Speak their language. And profanity.

The world of baseball can befuddle,
And leave you in a murky puddle.
Now, aren’t you glad you stopped today,
So we could take your fears away?

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 'feet'. It will be good!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Four Cold Noses

As the only veterinarian in a 100-mile radius, Dad certainly got around. Within months of his graduation, he was being called further and further afield.
Pun intended.
But thus far in his career, he had never performed a caesarean.
Oh, he had watched. Even assisted a time or two.
But never completed one solo.
For a new veterinarian, there must be a first . . .
From Dad’s journals:
As winter came on, we found the roads often heavy with snow. A trip could give good roads one day and be plugged the next. When I went on a call, I wanted to be sure I would be able to get home before the roads drifted in.
On one particular call, it was to a farm to the west of home and the road was often bad in snowy weather.
The case was a cow in labour. Upon examination, it became quite evident that she hadn’t dilated very much. I told the farmer that I could give the cow a shot of hormone and she should be ready to calve by morning.
The only alternative would be a caesarian to deliver the calf now. I didn’t want to do the surgery because the wind was blowing hard and the road would be blocked in an hour or so. Another drawback was the fact that there wasn’t a warm place to do the job. His barn was so in need of repair that it would barely act as a windbreak.
Another thing worrying me was my lack of experience. This would be my first caesarian.
With the farmer’s insistence, I decided to go to it right away.
We took the cow to the barn and to the corner farthest from the wind and I parked my car close by and kept it running so as to have a place to warm up from time to time.
I put the cow to sleep and started to work. As soon as the calf was out, it was taken to the house quickly to keep it from freezing.
Now it was time to start sewing.
I could only work a few minutes at a time because of the cold and had to get in the car frequently to warm up.
Finally, the job was completed and now we had to do something to keep the cow warm. There was lots of straw so we buried the cow completely.
Next, they brought in their small herd of sheep and they helped to keep the wind away.
As soon as this was done I was on my way home, and not a bit too soon. The road was so badly drifted that I was glad to get through.
The wind continued all next day and there was no traffic in that direction for two weeks.
Under the circumstances, I really didn’t think the cow had a chance to survive. The temperature dipped to 25 below zero (F) that night and stayed much the same for the next two weeks.
I didn’t have a telephone and was reluctant to see the farmer, but when I did, he surprised me by telling me the cow came through very well. She was on her feet the next morning and looking for the calf.
“I knew she would be okay,” he said.
I guess he had more confidence in me that I did.

I never did tell him that this was the first caesarian I had done since leaving College.

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