Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

I'm a Nut

I guess it comes as no surprise that I love stories about family.
And having a treasure trove like my parents' and grandparent's (and a few others) journals is a true treasure trove for me.
But today, the picture's the thing.
Though 'family' is still the theme!
Years ago, when Husby was in school and I was still a new twig in the Tolley family tree, I scratched my head for projects every time Christmas came around.
Something inexpensive.
And something fairly easy.
I crocheted blankets.
Cross-stitched pictures.
And you have to know that these were things I had never before done in my life!
And really wasn't good at.
Well, recently, in a box of things given to Husby and me after his mother passed away, I found several of the gifts I had made for her over the years.
The memories were thick about me.
This is one.
My favourite, made the year I joined the family.
And FYI, when I gave it to my MIL, the family voted me the nut.
Go figure.
It's not a plaque. It's memories.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Speaking Bus

I lived in the country.
We rode the bus to school.
[When our bus driver managed to meet their bus driver and an exchange could be negotiated.]
Just a little background: We lived 20 miles from town. The bus driver refused to drive the entire distance. Instead, he agreed to meet us at a corner nine miles from our ranch.
Hence the name 'Nine-Mile Corner'.
You wonder how these things get titled?
Well, now you know.
Mom was usually chosen as 'Harried Driver #1' shuttling sleepy offsrping into the car, then hare-ing down the road at sixty-miles-an-hour to facilitate the aforementioned meeting.
Usually we were on time.
But that only meant there was a possibility of meeting the bus because Mr. Bus Driver often went the other way.
But that has nothing to do with this story . . .
Mentioning Kathy yesterday reminded me of . . . Kathy.
Okay, yes. I'm predictable.
Now riding on the bus can be long and boring.
One can stare out the window and see exciting things: A coyote. Antelope.
The occasional pheasant.
But most of the time it is merely: Prairie.
Beautiful. But repetitious.
So Kathy would make up her own entertainment.
And she was good at it.
On this occasion, she introduced me to Bus Script. Or Bus Writing as it was also known.
Okay, you have to know that we sometimes did homework on the bus.
And our writing was affected by the bounce and jounce of the great lumbering vehicle as it negotiated sketchy gravel roads.
So Kathy made the writing the thing.
She would hold her pencil at the approved angle and then just move it across the page.
The bus actually did the writing.
Genius. Right?
I can't tell you how many scribblers I used up in this pursuit.
A few.
And somehow, I just can't help but think that, if I truly knew how to speak 'bus', the vehicle and I could have had a legitimate conversation.
Who knows what I could have learned?
Thanks, Kathy.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Glue-ing Ahead

It was THE assignment.
The one the teacher had been threatening promising since the beginning of the year.
That was worth 50% of my final mark.
Yes. THAT assignment.
She had handed it out shortly after the Christmas break.
We had three months to complete it.
Due Date: April 1.
Feverishly, I set to work.
Researched. (And just so you know, research was a lot harder back then. It involved such things as: books. Physically turning pages. Trips to the *gasp* library. Looking things up in the card catalog. Knowing the Dewey Decimal System. Becoming close friends with the librarian. Yikes.)
Drew up draft after draft.
Put on the finishing touches.
Slept soundly the night of March 31, wrapped warmly in the knowledge that I had completed the assignment to the best of my ability and that, surely, an 'A' was forthcoming.
Okay, now forget everything I wrote from the line "Due Date: April 1."
Because this is what really happened.
Then March 31 dawned.
And with it, the knowledge that I should . . . you know . . . make a start on the assignment.
What was it again?
A trip to the library was out of the question. We lived 20 miles from town and 'no way one of my parents was going to pay for my slothfulness' .
I'm quoting my father BTW.
I turned to the only resources available.
The cook.
The hired men.
The encyclopedia Britannica.
And the National Geographic.
With occasional queries to my siblings.
And my horse.
Just FYI, that last was a total waste of time. He didn't know anything.
Dumb horse.
If  Necessity is the Mother of invention, then Desperation is its Father.
And I was truly desperate. (Hence said query to my horse.)
I sifted purposefully through Dad's stack of National Geographics (see above).
Chose a topic at random.
And started in.
Now, just so you know, Dad had problems with us kids cutting up his precious magazines.
But if you hid said magazines really, really well . . .
Like with the hired men's stack of 'girly' periodicals which I wasn't supposed to know about (and for sure Dad didn't).
I don't remember what topic I chose.
But I do remember that there were plenty of colourful pictures that supported it. And as long as I cut using the correct scissors (Diane! You'd better not be using my sewing scissors?!), my biggest decision remained: Do I use this picture? Or the one on the other side ?
Fortunately, Mom had a store of poster board. I'm not sure why. Maybe because she had dealt with Procrastinator #4 (ie. me) before.
But there was one thing she did not have.
A bottle of glue.
And no it wasn't because I had eaten said glue.
This bottle, my smaller siblings had eaten.
True story.
No way you could get them to eat broccoli. But give them a bottle of processed horse hooves and they were on it!
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Glue.
Or the lack thereof.
Then Mom made the momentous announcement: "If you mix flour and water into a thick paste, it sticks really well."
The day is mine!
I mixed and slathered and pasted.
And slathered and pasted.
And pasted.
And . . . you know what? It didn't work at all!
But by now, March 31 had rapidly turned into April 1 and the bus was coming.
I packaged up my 'project' and headed out.
Kathy was proudly showing the culmination of months of preparation when I got on the bus. I don't remember her topic, but I think it had flashing neon lights and maybe an actual working model of a machine that turned lead into gold. Complete with lead. And gold.
Yeah, Kathy was amazing like that.
When she asked me about mine, I quickly changed the subject: "Oh my! Look! Balog's cows are out!"
Yeah, I was clever that way.
Shortly thereafter, I turned in my project along with the others and happily forgot about it.
I think I received a "Diane would have gotten a better grade if she'd spent more time on this assignment."
Who listened?
P.S. Years later, I discovered my assignment stuffed into a file in the back of Mom's file cabinet. And guess what? Those pictures were stuck so tight an act of God wouldn't have removed them.
Flour and water do work.
You just have to . . . plan ahead . . .

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


It started out as any other Sunday morning.
People rousing.
Getting ready for church.
Well, one member of the family was doing those things. The other two members were playing . . .
Dad had a balloon. A large, red one. He was blowing it up, then releasing it AT his six-year-old daughter (Hereinafter known as 6YO).
Much scrambling and giggling ensued.
And a lot of shrieking.
Finally, 6YO dashed into the bathroom where her mother was doing her hair.
Slamming the door in her father's--and incidentally, the balloon's--face, she locked it quickly and leaned against it with a sigh of relief.
Okay, yes, I've only heard the story, but this is how I picture it.
Moving on . . .
"He can't get me now!" she said. She waited there for some sign that her father had given up.
She didn't have to wait long.
And, FYI? He hadn't given up.
The balloon appeared under the door, slowly emerging further and further into the room.
At first, the two locked in the bathroom just stared at it. Because it was limp. Nonthreatening.
Yeah. Not.
The balloon suddenly started inflating.
And the shrieking started again.
This time, when the balloon was released, there was no escaping it.
Note: Never underestimate the ingenuity and resourcefulness of a dad.
On a Sunday morning.
With his six-year-old.
And a balloon.
Game and set.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Law By Toddler

The REALLY new face of law enforcement.
The kids were over.
With their kids.
The house was full, lively and bustling.
Dinner was finished.
The grandkids, newly released from the dinner table, were making up for lost time.
They had managed to store up a lot of energy in the hour it had taken to eat, and time was running short to burn it off before hometime.
Cousins were chasing cousins.
The noise level had risen dramatically.
The toddlers, always the last to wade out into the cousin-cyclone were hovering about the table and the adults still sitting there visiting.
Our just-turned-two-year-old (not to be confused with our two-and-a-half-year-old) had just been given an assignment.
Go and refill Mama’s glass with water.
Her responsibility rested heavily on those small shoulders and she was holding said glass carefully in front of her with both hands, and making her way slowly through the dining room and hallway and into the kitchen.
Just as she reached the hall, two of her cousins, brothers, dashed past her into the front room, intent on their game of ‘chase-and-beat-the-other-guy-with-a-pillow’.
It’s a very popular game.
Still holding her glass, she marched indignantly into the room behind them, her face a comical mix of righteous exasperation and toddler-ish-ness (real word - maybe). “Guys! Guys! No hitting with pillows!”
The two brothers bounced back and forth in front of her.
Oblivious. And giggling.
This time, a bit louder. “GUYS! NO! NO HITTING WITH PILLOWS!”
Still no reaction.
Her mother intervened. “Boys! Calm down!”
They immediately subsided.
Then she turned to her small daughter. “Hazey, are you getting Mama’s drink?”
“Oh. Yup.” The little girl returned to her errand.
How many of us have been witness to some sort of shenanigans?
Out-numbered and infinitely out-weighed.
Would we have the courage and commitment to do something about it?
To stand, feet planted, in the middle of the monkeyshines and say what must be said.
Or, more accurately, shout what must be shouted.
Obviously, the world needs more just-turned-two-year-olds.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Island Dolls

Recently, Husby and I were on the vacation of a lifetime in the Caribbean.
Now before you start feeling too envious, let me point out the down side.
Okay, you can feel envious.
While on the Island of St. Lucia, we were able to join some other intrepid explorers and . . . erm . . . explore.
On horseback.
And yes. It was amazing.
But what stuck most in my mind happened afterward.
We handed our steeds (yes, we rode steeds) over to our guide and his assistant, then went with another guide on a ramble over the part of the plantation we had missed with our four-footed friends.
We marched along pathways worn smooth in the days of slavery. Watched a donkey turn the mechanism that, as in days past, crushed the sugar sap out of cane.
And generally ooh-ed and ah-ed a lot.
A lot.
Then we were abandoned at the cluster of shopping huts near the plantation entrance to eat and drink and unload bags of money.
Okay, you probably know that we saved a long time for this trip and that we really don't have bags of money. But we were happy to browse. And peruse.
And then I saw it . . .
Now just to keep you in suspense a little longer, I am going to give you a bit of background . . .
My Aunt Mary Stringam had a doll collection.
Behind glass.
In her family room.
I was not allowed to touch said dolls.
There was one that I found particularly interesting.
It was a topsy-turvy doll. I'm sure you're wondering what that can possibly be. It's a doll with two very different heads. One at each end. With a long dress that covers the one or the other and essentially gives you two dolls!
Genius, right?
Well, I thought so.
I don't remember what Aunt Mary's two-sided doll had for each of its heads (there are some with Goldilocks at one end and the wolf at the other.) I just remember how very much I wanted to play with it.
Enough background.
That thing I saw in the little shop on St. Lucia? A topsy-turvy Caribbean doll. And, just like that, the memories of that ever-wanted and ever-out-of-touch doll came back to me.
And I instantly knew what I was going to get each of my granddaughters as a gift from my holiday.
One last note:
When you ask a shopkeeper for 14 of any one item, especially hand-made dolls, they are quite willing to give you a break on the price. Just FYI.

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