Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, June 1, 2018


Me. Swinging. And reciting.
Words are amazing.
And I love them.
I learned at a very early age that they could be assembled in ways that were truly magical.
Let me explain . . .
My Dad loved to recite.
Poems, mostly.
On long car trips, he would inevitably break into song.
Or verse.
I especially loved the rhythm of his chosen poetry.
Always there was a story involved.
The boy stood on the burning deck
His feet were in the fire.
The captain said," You're burning up!"
The boy said, "You're a liar!"
The telling was truly magical.
And often educational.
Little Johnny took a drink.
But he shall drink no more.
'Cause what he thought was H2O,
Was H2SO4.
I should mention that that particular verse earned all six of my children kudos in high school chemistry class.
Moving on . . .
I determined that, when I grew up, I would be JUST LIKE DAD.
When I was five, my oldest sister, then just entering junior high, was labouring over a Language Arts assignment.
Memorizing a poem.
She had chosen, for her effort, the Hillaire Belloc poem, Jim.
A cautionary tale of a boy who runs away from his nurse at the zoo and is eaten by a lion.
What better poem for a young girl to start with?
As my sister laboured over the lines, so did I.
I should probably point out, here, that I couldn't read yet.
My patient sister rehearsed each line to me until I had it.
I should also mention that I really didn't understand what I was saying.
Apart from the whole “boy eaten by a lion” bit.
I followed her around for days.
“What's the next line, Chris?”
She would tell me.
And I would repeat it, ad infinitum, for hours.
Or until Chris got home from school and gave me another.
I'm sure my mother heard, “And gave him tea and cakes and jam and slices of delicious ham” in her dreams.
Moving on . . .
By the end of a week, I had it.
All of it.
Then, the fun began.
For months afterwards, my parents would trot me out at family reunions and local bridge parties to show how their young daughter could recite heart-stopping tales of misbehaviour and woe.
In perfect rhyme.
It could only lead to a career in writing.
Or maybe some 'zombie apocalypse/end of the world scenario.
Hmm. Maybe both . . .

For your pleasure –

 By Hillaire Belloc

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when—Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, ``Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!''
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

P.S. I can still remember it . . .


  1. That is AMAZING that you could recite all of those poems from memory!

  2. I don't know if I'm more impressed that you remember it or distressed at the story it tells.
    I memorized Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne when I was six. Not nearly as long as Jim, but I have to say definitely more upbeat!

  3. We obviously come from very similar families.
    I grew up with the H2SO4 ditty too.
    And our lion poem was by Marriot Edgar.
    Some of the poem includes these priceless lines
    'So straight 'way the brave little feller
    Not showing a morsel of fear
    Took his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle
    And shoved it in Wallace's ear.

    You could see the lion didn't like it
    For giving a kind of a roll
    He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im
    And swallowed the little lad 'ole '

    1. Another gruesome tale! Kids used to be tougher, right? :)

  4. Well, this does help explain how you are such a prolific poet/poetess (do we still use the word poetess nowadays?) . . . you were raised on rhyme!

    The poem reminds me of Grimm's fairytales. They always had some kind of lesson. Often gruesome :)


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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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