Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Mitten Rescue

A repost of my favourite Christmas shopping story.

Red Mittens - not just for hands any more!
We were shopping. I will admit, here, that shopping is not my favourite activity. I need a really good excuse.
It was Christmas.
Okay, Christmas is a really good excuse . . .
My youngest two children and I were out to find a gift for Husby.
Their Dad, my Sweetheart.
The hardest person to shop for.
After much wrinkle-browed thought, we had decided that whatever we were seeking would best be found at Lee Valley Tools. My husband's favourite place on earth.
It is a long-standing family joke that he must go once a month to LVT to pay homage to Thor, the Tool God.
But I digress . . .
We set out.
It was December.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, winter equals snow. Ask anyone.
But avoid those with chattering teeth. Th-th-they c-c-c-can n-n-n-never be t-t-t-trusted.
Or understood.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Winter. Shopping. Setting out.
At first, things went well. A heavy, wet snow was falling thickly, but the window wipers were managing to keep the windshield clear – sort of.
We made it into the city. And immediately slowed to a snail's pace.
Let me describe the scene for those of you not familiar with travel accompanied by snow: All roads are now white. And slippery. All surfaces have become heavily coated in ice. Nothing is recognizable. Little is even visible.
The windshield wipers are your best, and only, friends.
But even they, too, get clogged with snow and need the occasional boost. This is accomplished by stopping. Getting out of the vehicle. And slapping said wiper against the window hard enough to remove any accumulated snow.
Or, if you are my husband, by opening the driver's window and catching the wiper when it is in its furthest upright position and giving it a quick snap while it is still in motion.
It's all about timing. And coordination.
Neither of which I have.
And both of which were to be needed shortly.
Several times, I pulled out of the crawling traffic and performed the necessary operation to clear the windshield. Then waited for a break in the traffic and pulled back in. Total time wasted? Hours.
Okay, well, it seemed like hours.
There must be a better way. I would try Grant's method!
When the traffic had stopped for yet another light, or stalled vehicle, I quickly rolled down the window. Then I reached out.
I waited for just the right moment, when the wipers were at their apex (neat word, right?)
Closer. Closer. There!
I reached out and caught the top of the wiper.
Snap! Okay, that didn't sound good.
As the wipers began their downward stroke, I realized what I had done. The blade was still in my hand.
I had snapped the entire thing off its arm.
Umm . . . oops?
The window quickly became covered in a blanket of white. Well, half of it at any rate.
Unfortunately, it was the driver's half. Rather necessary if you want to see where you are going.
And usually, the driver does.
Something needed to be done. And there was no one but me to do it.
Quickly, I climbed out and switched my only remaining wiper blade to the driver's side. Okay. Now I could see. That's important.
But now, the other side of the windshield was suffering from the lack of wiper-age.
I looked around. Our options were . . . limited.
“What about this?” My daughter's voice from the back seat.
She was holding up her red mitten.
I stared at it. Huh. Might work. I took it and, climbing out into the storm once more, proceeded to tie it to the other wiper arm.
We switched on the wipers.
It worked!
Now we had a wiper and a . . . mitten.
I don't have to tell you how it looked. In point of fact, we giggled every time that mitten came into sight.
We finished our trip. Shopping done. Purchases made. Van safely parked back on the driveway.
And Husby replaced the wiper that had so inconveniently decided to come off.
Stupid thing.
The wiper, not Husby.
I learned several things from this:
1. Don't shop.
2. Don't drive.
3. Don't live in Canada
4. Don't go anywhere without your red mittens.
Okay, you're right. I didn't learn anything because:
1. I still shop.
2. I still drive.
3. I still live in Canada.
Pack your mittens!
You get the picture . . .

Friday, December 1, 2017

Starting It Right

The Season has begun . . .

A few years ago, my Husby, a slightly Santa-esque man, was asked to play Santa Claus at a local party.
He discovered that he loved it.
The rest of us discovered that he was very good at it.
A new career was born.
He offered to pay for the materials for a, to put it into his words, nice suit.
I complied.
The next Christmas, he asked if I would be willing to make myself a matching 'Mrs. Santa' outfit.
After a bit of head-scratching and a trip to the fabric store, I again did as he requested.
Mrs. Santa appeared.
And the two of us have had fun with it ever since.
Each year, our portrayal of the famous couple gets a little more . . . detailed.
Three years ago, he began to grow out his hair. 
In August. (Now he sports his 'Santa' beard year round!)
Then we made a trip to the hairdresser to get him, and myself, dyed white.
Oh, the sacrifices he makes!
The breathing apparatus and nose plugs were his idea!
Definitely lighter . . .

But the rewards are incalculable.

Wish you were here!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Cars of Me and Mine

The Great Pumpkin as she was then.

With, from the left: Flint, Iggle and Muffy

I love cars. Especially old ones.
We have owned many vehicles which have taken our family, in its various incarnations, to many places.
Most of the cars worked.
Some didn't.
All were old. And all had a personality of their own.
In the early days of our marriage, my husband and I had a Dodge Colt.
On which my Dad had made the down-payment before turning the monthly payments over to me.
My husband used to tell people that he married me for my car - and got the payments.
But I digress . . .
And we had an old beater of a truck.
For which my husband paid $200.00.
The Colt, we called The Great Pumpkin. Or GP for short.
Because it was orange.
The truck we named Ralph.
For no real reason.
Both were dependable.
One had character. I know you're wondering, so I'll tell you.
It was the truck.
Ralph would start completely without a key, which was notable.
And under any conditions. In Alberta, Canada, that could mean anything.
Ralph's horn honked when you pulled out the ash tray.
I have to admit, here, that the horn renovation was my husband's handiwork. He liked character.
After Ralph and The Pumpkin, we went through a steady stream of vehicles.
An Impala, The Lemon or #$%^&*@#$!!!, that looked really, really good, and was only missing one part.
A transmission.
Let's just say that transmissions are really, really important and move on.
An old Chevy van, Block-ie (with a home-made bench seat bolted to the floor), that we got by trading in a rusted set of harrows.
A station wagon, TanVan, that we got by trading in the van. Actually, that station wagon, an old brown Chevy, was interesting to start.
Oh, it would.
Start, I mean.
It just took a little 'coaxing'. And by coaxing, I mean that Grant would have to crawl under it with a hammer and give the solenoid a little tap while I, seated comfortably in the driver's seat, turned the key.
For those who do not know, a solenoid is a little wire coil that theoretically acts as a switch or relay between the car battery and the motor. In reality, it is designed to act as aggravation for the car owner.
Especially when it is pouring rain or is -40.
As often happens in Alberta.
On consecutive days.
Moving on . . .
We traded that old brown wagon for a newer blue one, Blue-y. Yes, imaginative, we aren’t.
Then we traded that one for a 12-passenger Beauville. Das Boat.
Trust me, we needed the space.
Then, as our family began to move out, we traded the big van for a nice car.
A really nice car. Aptly named: Lady.
Buick. Root beer brown. My husby's favourite colour.
For a few wonderful years we knew what comfort was.
But, like us, it aged. And finally, pooped out in our front drive.
We could never replace it, so we did the next best thing.
Supplanted it with an almost new Olds van from some good friends.
“Owlyet’ ran dependably till it died an ignominious death somewhere near the mis-named Hope, B.C.
It was replaced by a 2010 red cross-over (unimaginatively named ‘Red’) purchased from Daddy when he decided he was done with driving.
And that is what we are driving today.
Oh, and my Dad's old 2000 Sonoma truck, Everready.
Good vehicles all.
But you know what? I miss Ralph.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Curtain Wars

Okay. Turns out this IS rocket science.
Have you ever done anything dumb?
I mean really, really dumb?
I'm not saying that I have but . . .
Okay, I'm saying that I have.
But, in my defense, our family always had a shower cubicle.
With a door.
Maybe I should explain . . .
It was my first time living away from home.
I was dizzy with joy. And heavy with responsibility.
So many things that I suddenly needed to know.
And hadn't paid attention to, when my parents had tried to teach.
The learning curve wasn't just steep. It was nearly vertical.
I muddled through.
With prayer, many phone calls home. 
And a smart roommate.
Our apartment had indoor plumbing. I just thought I'd mention it.
And a bathtub with a shower nozzle.
I stared at it.
Huh. How could one use that and not spray water everywhere?
You would have to make sure that the nozzle was pointed directly at the wall and be very careful.
Why didn't they just put in a cubicle, like the Stringams?
And there was something else I had never seen before.
Above the tub and reaching from wall to wall, was a long rod.
I stared at it, mystified.
What on earth could that be for?
I went to my roommate.
“Guess showering is out of the question.”
“Why,” she asked.
“How do you keep the water off the floor?”
She laughed. “Diane, please tell me you've used a shower curtain before.”
“A what?”
Okay, I should clarify here that I had seen shower curtains before.
It's just that I had always designated them decorative, rather than useful.
“I have one. I'll get it.”
My roommate was not only smart, having lived on her own before, but she was also handy.
In no time, we had a brand new plastic curtain strung from the rod over the tub.
But did my education stop there?
Sadly, no.
I prepared for my first shower in my new apartment.
As an adult.
I added that last, because, based on what happened next, you might not have realized it.
Moving on . . .
I had a nice shower and pushed back the curtain.
Oh, man! Now there was water all over the floor!
I was going to have to lay down towels to catch the water that ran down the curtain and onto the floor.
What a pain.
I mopped up the water and dressed.
“Shower curtains are dumb!” I said as I passed my roommate, headed for my room.
“They let water get all over the floor!”
“Ummm . . . Diane, you're supposed to put the curtain inside the tub.”
I stopped and looked at her.
I'm sure she spent the next few moments regretting her decision to invite me to stay with her.
She hid it well.
“Yes,” she said patiently. “If you put the curtain inside the tub, the water runs down the curtain and down the drain.”
My kids call it the two percent rule. You have to be two percent smarter than whatever it is you're using.
I failed.
I'd like to say that was the last time I did something silly.
I'd be lying.
It wasn't the curtain that was dumb.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Teaching the Teachers

Okay, a bit older than our car, but you get the picture.
At some point during our junior year in high school, every student was required to take Driver's Education.
It wasn't an imposition.
Though most of us were farm/ranch kids and had been driving since we could see over the dashboard, none of us had ever been allowed to drive on a real road.
Okay, well, I have to admit here that some of us had.
Driven on a real road, I mean.
It's just that our parents didn't know.
Moving on . . .
So it was to be our first experience driving on a real road . . . officially.
The anticipation mounted as we completed every session of pre-driving training.
The lectures and films grew longer and more boring.
More and more, we craned our necks to glance outside at the shiny new car that would soon become ours.
We were getting feverish to actually take the wheel and floor the accelerator.
Finally the day came.
In groups of three, names were drawn.
And then it was my turn.
My time slot allotted.
My waiting at an end.
All right, yes, I still had to wait, but at least I knew just how long the wait would be.
My group was scheduled to go out in a couple of days, after the end of the school day.
I counted the minutes.
And finally, it was our turn!
The other two students from my group slid into the back seat.
Our instructor, alias: my biology teacher, and I got into the front.
And that was when I discovered that this wasn't quite like any other car I had ever seen.
For one thing, it had two sets of foot pedals.
One on my side.
The other on his.
We started out.
Slowly. Though every gram of me (and that was a lot of grams) was itching to stomp that gas pedal to the floor.
We made a circuit of the town.
So far so good.
I was instructed to head out of town along the highway.
Obediently, I followed my instructions.
All went well.
We made a safe (it can be done . . .) U-turn and headed back towards town.
As we were approaching the town limits sign with its stark and very pointed suggestion of speed, I turned to my instructor. "Does that mean we need to start slowing down when we get to the sign, or should we be going that speed when we reach . . .?"
I got no further.
My teacher decided, then and there, to teach me what the second set of floor pedals was for.
He stomped on the brake.
Whereupon (good word) I had a heart attack.
Fortunately, my varied experiences on the ranch had taught me that I could still function, even when my heart had permanently taken up residence somewhere in the vicinity of my throat.
But the lesson was well and truly taught. One must have already achieved the strongly suggested speed limit by the time one reached the sign.
Point taken.
After a few tense seconds of hands-over-the-face whimpering by both I and my teacher, we were once more off.
The rest of my turn passed without further incident.
Which was probably a good thing for my heart.
And my passengers.
We stopped back at the school and one of my team members exchanged seats with me.
I could officially relax.
For some time, we drove around the town.
Then, as we were following the dirt road north, on the far east side of town, our Social Studies teacher approached and flagged us down.
He did this is a subtle, yet clever way.
He drove past, honking, then pulled over to the right directly in front of us.
Our young driver squeaked out, "What do I do?"
Whereupon (that word again) our instructor told her to pull over directly behind the other car and put our car into 'park'.
She sighed and leaned back against the seat.
The four of us watched our social teacher walk around to our instructor's window.
The window was rolled down and the two began to visit.
Meanwhile, our driver was looking forward.
Towards the other car.
Which appeared to be getting . . . closer.
She stomped on the brake and quickly discovered that it wasn't we who were moving.
Ah! The other car was rolling backwards.
Toward us.
Our driver began to shriek, "Ooh! Ooh! What do I do?! Should I back up?!"
Both teachers looked up.
Just as the 'parked' car collided with us.
Shock warred with embarrassment on both faces.
It was quickly ascertained (another good word) that no damage had been done, either to property or personnel.
And everyone went back to what they were doing before our social teacher had entered the picture.
We completed our training.
Receiving full credit and accolades.
And all of us received our driver's licenses.
It really wasn't that difficult.
Look at the guys who taught us.

Monday, November 27, 2017

My People

My family tree. I look and see
My parents’ parents’ day,
The women kind, with strength of mind
Through joy, fear or dismay.
And both men, too, were just and true
With family worked and played,
All pioneers, with sweat and tears,
Who built our land today.

Then the lines next, between, betwixt,
My parents take the space,
I think of them, their diadem,
For children they embraced.
And they stood fast, good works amassed,
Their values firm in place,
Mortar and bricks, they raised we six,
With sure and steady pace.

Today, right now, I’ve turned somehow,
I see my children there,
And they have grown, and all have flown,
I can but stand and stare.
As each has wed, those paths, they’ve tread,
I, to my thoughts repair,
And think of joys, of girls and boys,
When halls weren’t still and bare.

Through pleasure, tears and creeping years,
I find a new joy comes,
And kids ‘a few’, have joined our crew
Again our hallway drums.
Programs anew and trials, a few,
Once more, I’m mopping crumbs,
With parents, fight with all our might,
So a triumph each becomes.

Far and near, both sights are clear,
Bygone. And present days.
I see past folks, those mighty oaks.
Now striplings earn my praise.
And here I stand, my life is grand,
Love’s light affects my gaze,
I can’t resist, I’m in the midst,
And looking out both ways.

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, cause it's the season, 
We tackle 'shopping' . Good-bye to reason...

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E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

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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!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?