Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Princesses of the New Age

Not just another pretty face!
Our family was together.
Because we do everything in a group.
Or in our case, a herd.
We do it often. With almost everyone living close, it's an easy thing.
On this day, we were at our local church building.
We had been eating and visiting. My two favourite things.
Now, while some of us continued with that, Grampa and a couple of mothers/aunties had gathered several of the younger kids together in the gym.
They were in a circle to play some games.
Most of which included loud noises.
Clawing, scratching and biting gestures.
And animal sounds.
They were . . . involved.
One of the two-year-old girls came out of the gym.
And with both hands raised in her best clawing-the-neighbours-or-anyone-else-who-might-get-in-the-way position.
Auntie stopped her.
“Are you a bear?” she asked.
The little girl looked at her indignantly and sniffed. “I’m a princess!” she stated. “See my pretty dress?!”
Auntie and I looked at each other. “Not the sort of princess I was raised with, but . . . okay,” she said.
It’s a new world.
Princesses now have claws, stomp around and growl a lot.
But still wear pretty dresses.
Just FYI.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Admit it. This strikes terror into your heart.
For three years, we lived in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’.
It was a little house. (Just over 300 square feet.)
And we lived in it.
My Husby had built it as a dog kennel.
Then turned it into a chicken coop.
Finally, cleaned it up, insulated and finished the inside.
And moved his family into it.
But that isn’t what this story is about . . .
Our little house was heated with a wood stove.
During the summer (ie. July), that stove sat cold and unused.
Once August rolled around and temperatures started to cool, however, it was pressed back into use.
And that’s where this story starts.
Oh, and I should probably mention that I‘m afraid of chickens.
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
My Dad was over for a visit. Which invariably consisted of trying to carry on a conversation with three little boys playing between us in the only available space in our little house.
It was nearly suppertime. The room was starting to cool.
Time for a fire.
I checked the damper. (I want you to know that I knew what I was doing . . .)
Opened the door of our little stove.
Piled in wood and kindling.
And lit a match.
Flames licked up immediately.
And that’s when we heard it . . .
The scratching and clawing and fluttering of something inside the chimney.
We both stood there, stunned. What on earth . . .?
“You must have a bird caught in the chimney,” Dad said.
What?! How was that possible?!
The poor thing!!!
I grabbed a bucket and doused the small fire, then began pulling out bits of blackened wood and setting them back into the box.
Finally, the stove was clear.
Dad and I knelt down and peered inside.
“Oh, I see it!” I said.
It was a blackbird.
The poor thing had obviously been overcome by smoke and dropped into the back of the stove. Quite clearly dead.
I reached out to grab what I thought was a foot in the uncertain light.
It wasn’t.
Dad shook his head and stared at me as I did the dance of disgust. *Shudder*
Eventually, he got the bird out and we gave it a proper burial.
Later, my Husby checked to see how it had gotten inside in the first place. Ah. A loose screen. Quickly remedied.
I can wrangle the most dastardly fur-bearing animals the barnyard can offer.
But chickens and I give each other a wide berth.
Turns out that it’s really their beaks I’m afraid of.
And a beak is a beak.
No matter whom it’s on.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


A couple of victims clients.



First a little lot of background . . .
Branding, at the Stringam ranch, invariably took place in high summer.
And lasted forever.
Okay, I was six. Everything seemed to last forever.
Except Christmas, but I digress . . .
For the entire day prior, every rider on the place would be involved in gathering the herds. With an operation the size of ours, this was no easy task. The fields were a section (640 acres) in size and, normally, two riders would have to work together, collecting the animals in their assigned area. Then those smaller herds would be gathered, one by one, into the main corrals.
The sun would be high and hot, baking the wonderful scent out of the sage.
There would be glorious vistas of open, wind-swept prairies where one could see, literally, for miles.
Heat and dust and sweat.
And an unbelievable din.
Picture this: Hundreds of cow and calf pairs, which, when herded together immediately become . . . unpaired.
They start bawling for each other. ('Where are you?' in cow, invariably sounds the same, 'Mooooah') They aren't smart enough to actually . . . look . . . for one another. And everyone looks the same anyway.
The cows merely sniff any calf that happens in their vicinity. 'Sniff', nope. 'Sniff', nope. 'Sniff', nope. 'Mooooah'.
And so it goes . . .
Slowly, each herd is driven to the corrals and penned. Hay is thrown into the mangers. The cows finally find their babies. Peace is restored, somewhat.
Then, another herd is brought in and everyone immediately becomes separated again.
More bawling. Then they get sorted out. Then another herd.
This goes on all day and into the evening.
Things are quiet for the night.
Then, the big day dawns. The most exciting, but noisiest day of the year.
Cows and calves are separated and the cows are moved into the largest pen.
The calves go into pens which connect to the chutes. One by one, these smaller, though not necessarily easier to work with, animals are pushed down the chute and into the squeeze (an apparatus which captures the calf and then converts into a table by tilting sideways).
And then, with the noise, come the smells.
Hot metal of irons in the fire.
Burning hair as those irons are briefly pressed to the tough hide.
KRS, a disinfectant.
One by one, the calves are branded. Inoculated. Then released.
One by one, they find their Mamas. And slowly, ever so slowly, order is restored.
Then the entire herd is released and driven back out into the pastures.
More noise and confusion.
Then all is quiet . . .
 Every year, on the ranch, this is a highlight. For us humans, anyways. (I have to admit, it probably isn't quite as exciting for the cows, or their babies.)
Enough background . . .
This was the most exciting year of all. This was the first year I was able to participate. Well, as something more than just 'Diane-get-out-of-here-you're-going-to-get-trampled!'.
The excitement was palpable.
A crew had been assembled. (As branding is such a big job, invariably, neighbors come in to help.)
My oldest sister and I were given the smallest, and nearest field. We left the chatting, laughing, gesticulating crowd and headed towards our assignment.
The two of us gathered our herd and pushed them toward the 'New' corrals. The pens that had been constructed across the Milk River from the ranch buildings, within the actual fields. Somehow, that name just stuck. Even after said corrals had been there a number of years. A great number of years.
My sister and I chased our little herd into the corrals. Then we sat back and watched as the others' herds came in.
There were a few tense moments, but mostly, everything went off well.
The herd was tucked in for the evening.
The next morning, the real work began.
I was assigned to be the 'pusher'.
And no, it's not what it sounds like.
I was the person inside the chute with the calves, pushing each of them into the squeeze so they could be branded.
It was hot, heavy work, especially for a 6-year-old.
And I loved it.
Push. Push. Push. Gate closes. Squeeze squeezes. Tilts sideways. Branding. Shots. Tilts back. Squeeze unsqueezes. Front gate opens. Calf bolts.
Push. Push. Push . . .
And so it went throughout the day. At noon, Mom appeared with lunch for everyone and we abandoned our posts to gather in whatever bit of shade we could find, and gorge.
Have I mentioned that Mom was a great cook?
Two brothers, neighboring ranchers noted for their pranks and hijinks, were on hand to help us out.
They had found a comfortable spot for lunch on one side of the car Mom had driven up in.
Mom and Dad had relaxed on the other side.
Mom had made the mistake of supplying sliced watermelon for our dessert.
The two brothers, as they had finished each piece of watermelon, launched the rinds up into the air over the car, aiming for my hapless parents.
Two rinds had been met with silence. Obvious misses.
The third rind went up.
"Hey!" My Dad's voice.
Dad got up and stalked, playfully, around the car, but the brothers were already gone. He shook his head, turned towards the corrals and walked over to stand next to the chute.
It was the signal for the rest of us to get back to work.
I crawled up the side of the chute and prepared to drop down inside.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Alfred, one of the brothers, sneaking up behind my Dad. I turned to watch.
Alfred was carrying a pitcher of ice-cold water, which he proceeded to empty into my Dad's back pocket.
"Hey!" Dad spun around. But by then, Alfred had, once more, disappeared.
Everyone, including Dad, got a real laugh out of that one. Fortunately, with the hot, dry air, his soaked pant leg soon dried.
By sunset, the work was finished and the herds sent back out to pasture. Everyone who had been involved assembled at the house for supper, feeling sunburnt, windblown, tired . . . and happy.
That year, as in previous years, we all sat around the table, talking and laughing.
And it was then I realized that branding was a time of gathering, not just of cattle, but of  family and friends. Because of the vast distances between settlements in this prairie country, people would go months without seeing each other.
So branding, in addition to being the apex of the year regarding the work, was also a time of visiting. Re-acquaintance and exchanging of news.
Perhaps that is why it was so important to all of us who lived there.
More crew. And the squeeze.

In case you missed the announcement, my newest novel, A House Divided is now in stores!
Find your copy at these fine stores;
Barnes and Noble
Deseret Book
Cedar Fort Publishing (Books and Things)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A House Divided

It's finally here!
The long-awaited sequel to Daughter of Ishmael, A House Divided!

Hannah has proved her faith.
And her strength.
But now she must survive her greatest test.
To turn her back on everything she holds dear and somehow build something new out of the ashes of the old.
It's a journey that will try her physically, mentally and, perhaps most of all, spiritually.
Will she survive?
And as war between brothers threatens, will her people?

See the worlds of the scriptures through the women's eyes!
A House Divided is the newest in Biblical fiction by author Diane Stringam Tolley. 
It is available at all fine stores in the US and at Chapters/Indigo in Canada. 
It is also available through or

Meet the Author!
For those living in the Edmonton area, Diane will be featured at a book launch party on December 5, 2017, from 6:30 to 9:30 PM at 1061 56 Street, Edmonton.
Come and meet the author. Stay for a reading and treats.
Copies of both A House Divided and Daughter of Ishmael will be available at special prices.
Take a signed book home with you!

Monday, November 13, 2017

For Those Who Lived

Canada's most famous World War 1 poem:
During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.
As the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “In Flanders Fields”.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
And now my poem:
For those who lived:

The field of crosses, white. Pristine.
Grounds are tidy. Trimmed. And clean.
Where once the guns of horror boomed,
And death and fear, like blossoms, bloomed.
They lie so sweetly, there. At rest.
Their duty done. They gave their best.
Each represents a man, believing
Each a family, giv’n to grieving.
And as we walked along the rows,
Of those who lay in calm repose.
One cross stood out, with wreath and note,
We knelt beside it, read the quote,
To W. Chater, RCA,
In 1944. The day
18 July. Aged Thirty-two.
He left a wife and children, too:
The note said: Thank you that you served,
For brav’ry and your steeled nerve,
I love you and I’m proud to be
The great-Granddaughter you set free.
The Chater family misses you.
[Until we meet again, Adieu!]
We knelt a long time, taking in,
The sacrifice of kith and kin.
Because those crosses represent,
Those who lived, plus those who went.
And, as we left the grounds that day,
With sober mien, we drove away,
Our love and gratitude we give
To those who died. And those who live.

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 . . .

Next week, because it's dark up here,
We'll talk of 'LIGHT'. Come join us here!.

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!

Grab and Add!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?