Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, March 17, 2018

Another Glimpse

Grandma and Grandpa Stringam (circa 1930)

Grandma Stringam was born in Teasdale, Utah July 31, 1885. She passed away in Lethbridge, Alberta May 13, 1981 at the age of 95.
 The things she witnessed during her life’s span are amazing.
Mind-boggling.
She is my hero.
Following are a couple of recollections from Grandma’s journals:
The first explains her life-long dread of snakes. Though, like the rest of us (*cough* me!) she probably didn’t need much encouragement . . .
Two-year old Grandma and her older brothers and sisters were on their way to their Grandma and Grandpa William’s house. Something that involved, in their rural area, a hike across the fields.
Ahead of them, something slithered in the grass.
A Snake!
Her siblings grabbed her by the arms and helped her jump over it.
But she got a good glimpse. Her first of such a creature.
Yeah. That did it. Something so long, cold and slithery must be treated with care.
Or downright suspicion. She decided then and there that, whenever she came into contact with such a creature, she would remain aloof.
And very far away.
The second recollection was of her father, my Great-Grandpa Williams.
And her sister, Maude.
Grandma remembered her father very well, though he died when she was seven of ‘dropsy of the heart’. She remembered his height, brown eyes and dark hair. His long face and Roman nose. She recalled how strict he was, but kind. And that when he told his children to do something, they were to do it.
Or else.
At this time, Grandma—just a bit older than her first recollection (see above)—had slapped her sister Maude in the mouth for swearing.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I’d like to slap a few people, too.
Ahem . . .
Grandma receive a spanking (hiding, tanning, blistering, etc.) for her actions.
Meted out by her disapproving father.
Yeah. There’s another memory that would stay with you for a very long time.
Even after the sting had disappeared . . .


Friday, March 16, 2018

Reunited

I spun around.
“Your door was open and I called and I called. I even used my ‘foghorn’ voice. But you didn’t answer.”
I let out my breath and brushed self-consciously at my cheeks. “Hi, Edith,” I said. “You startled me.”
She eyed me for a moment--my reddened eyes. The obvious tear tracks down my cheeks. “You did invite me. Didn’t you?”
I nodded.
“I could hear you talking to someone, so I knew you were here.” She looked around, puzzled. “You were talking to someone, weren’t you?”
I sighed. Okay, I know that Cousin Edith is my closest relative apart from she-who-is-everywhere-but-cannot-be-seen. But let’s face it. Hers wasn’t the face I was hoping to see.
“Oh, this is for you.” She held out a basket. “I’m assuming, anyways. It was on your front step.”
I peered at it suspiciously. “On my front step?”
“Yeah. I figured someone must have left it there. It was in a pretty obvious ‘trip-over-me’ location.” She looked around. “Where do you want me to put it?”
I blinked. “What’s in it?”
She set the basket on the table and we pawed through it together.
“Huh. Pre-cooked turkey. Pre-cooked potatoes and vegetables. Pre-cooked everything!” I held up a small, stone crock. “Even pre-cooked . . .” my voice caught, “. . . Swedish meatballs.” I felt a bright stab of . . . something that approached both pain and happiness. “Whoever sent this definitely knows me. This is my idea of Christmas dinner!”
Cousin Edith finished sorting through the packages. “Look! Some nice, rum-filled chocolates to end with.”
“Or start with.” I reached for the box, deftly slit the cellophane wrapping and flipped the lid to the table. Yes. I have to admit, I’ve done this before. “Want some?”
Cousin Edith balled up plump fists and waved them excitedly. “Ooooh! Maybe just one.”
You have to know that, for women like us, ‘just one’ could mean many things. Just one chocolate. Or, more likely, just one row or, better yet, one layer.
Half an hour later, I foiled the last chocolate's escape attempt, catching it before it could roll to the floor. Cradling it in my hand, I sat back and muzzily surveyed the room. My cousin nearly comatose in the chair opposite, the empty chocolate box upside-down on the floor between us, and Reggie looking at both of us in patented bird-disgust.
He ruffled his feathers, clicked his beak and croaked out, “Smelly old broad!”
I threw the chocolate at him and he squawked and said something rude.
I turned away and slumped down comfortably in my chair, certain I was supposed to be doing something. But not caring one whit if it ever got done.
“Ohhhh, my head!” Edith said.
“My stomach!” I said in much the same tone.
Party animals, we’re not.
“I’ll get the Tums.” I got to my feet, then gripped the arm of the chair I had been sitting in as the room assumed a parabolic swing.
“And maybe a cool cloth for my head?” Edith said, hopefully.
I nodded carefully, then with equal care, started toward the kitchen. Halfway across the room, I stopped. Listened. I looked at Cousin Edith. “Did you hear that?”
She looked up at me a bit blearily. “Hear what?”
“Never mind.” I continued across the room and flipped the door back.
Norma straightened from in front of the oven and glared at me. “When I sent this food, I didn’t mean to see it left here on the table to decompose!”
I stopped breathing and just stood there, staring, the effects of my recent close encounter with rum draining away.
She lifted the chocolate box lid and looked around for the chocolates. “I see the most important things got taken care of.”
“Norma?” My words had a hard time getting past my tight throat. “Norma?”
She smiled and spread her arms wide. “Surprise!”
My legs felt rubbery as I gingerly crossed the kitchen. I reached out and touched her shoulder. “Norma?”
“Merry Christmas, Sis!”
I wrapped my arms around her plump form and squeezed. “Norma!”
She hugged me, patting my back as I took a sobbing breath. Then I gripped her by the shoulders and held her away so I could look at her. “Are you all right? Do you need to bathe? Are you . . . hungry?” Okay, yes, I guess you could say my mind was justifiably firing in many different directions.
She laughed. “I’m fine, to answer your first question. Yes, I could use a bath. They don’t have them over there, but they don’t really seem to be needed. And I’m planning on sharing this . . .” she glanced over the pre-prepared dinner sitting on the table, “. . . erm . . . feast with you and Cousin Edith.”
“Norma?”
We both turned. Cousin Edith was standing in the doorway. The expression on her face must have been a mirror image of mine.
“Hi, Cousin Edith!” Norma said, brightly. “Merry Christmas!”
Edith isn’t made of the same stern stuff as me.
Edith fainted . . .
Christmas dinner happened. Probably not as fancy as feasts in other homes.
Or as plentiful.
But, though at least one member of the party was rather peaked-looking, I don’t think there was another celebration that was as happy.
Funny how you don’t really appreciate something—or someone—until they are taken from you.
Fortunately for me, Norma was returned.
Much the same as she had always been.
“Mama’s home, Baby!” she said brightly as she reached into the cage for her looney handful of beak and feathers.
Reggie danced up her arm to her shoulder, sat there a moment, blinking and bobbing, then reached out and bit her on the ear, drawing a bright drop of blood.
“I love you, too, sweetie,” Norma crooned.
Yep. Much as she had always been.
Weird old bird.
Use Your Words is the brainchild of Karen at Baking in a Tornado.

A writing challenge with a twist. Each participant contributes a set of words.
And then Karen re-issues those words to someone else in the group.
It’s fun.
And challenging!

My words this month decompose ~ foghorn ~ location ~ pursue
came to me from:
Thank you, my friend!

Now hurry over and see what the other challengers have done!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Pi Day 2018

And it ends for another year.
Can't believe it's come and gone so soon.
But we have the memories.
And the crumbs . . .
Getting started . . .


75 pies this year. 75. Yow.

And afterward . . .
Yes, it's a lot of work. My eldest daughter and I figure it took about 8 hours to roll and bake all those pies. Which gave us a chance to visit. And visit.
And roll pies.
And visit.
(Just FYI, her pie crust has officially surpassed mine.)
But it's so worth it!
A chance to get together with people we love.
And eat pie.
It's a perfect world.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Mad March

With gusty winds and snow that doesn’t quit.
The segue month that most love (not one bit).
That gusty month of March, we call it ‘mad’.
But mad or not, it’s the best month that we’ve had.
‘Cause in March a lot of great things found a patent,
All neatly filed in English, French or Latin . . .
In 1790 we got our first shoelaces,
And '94’s cotton gin improved workplaces,
Dry cleaned clothes? Yes, 1821,
And ‘41’s cornstarch made cooking fun.
In ’45 our honored rubber band,
In ’76 the phone was very grand,
The earmuff came along in ’77,
An ‘83 shoes-last thing? Cobbling heaven.
In 1895 some strange machines,
Moved entertainment fun from stage to screen.
An electric player piano—’99,
With the needed aspirin following close behind.
1902, they mass-produced our glass,
The Kewpie Doll in ’10 was such a gas.
A diver’s suit for ‘Harry’ in ’21,
And ‘Who’s on First in ’44? Number one.
The first fax sent? The year was ’55,
In ’59 the ‘maser’ came alive.
‘Twas followed by the laser, one year hence,
In ’63, the hula hoop was immense.
There are a whole lot more that I have missed,
I simply hadn’t room upon this list.
‘Mad’ scientists invented one and all,
The patents came in March. The best of all!










Karen asks, "Write for me, please?"
We write because she's our Big Cheese,
And we love her, you know that is true,

So this is what we writers do . . .

We craft a poem based on a theme,
With pencils, sharp, and eyes agleam,
Or at a 'puter screen, we stare,
Whilst sitting in our underwear,
(Okay, you're right, that is just me,
But, tell me, does it sound carefree?)
Each month we write and have such fun
We can't wait for another one,
Now this month, how well did I do?
Please go and see the others, too.

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: March Madness
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Mad As A Hatter: March Madness
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles: Mad, Mad World

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mmmmmolasses

Daddy. Rolling out the barrel.


His crew.
A major ingredient in recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, casseroles, meats, breads, vegetables.
Strong alcoholic drinks.
Let’s face it. If you eat. Or drink. You’ve probably eaten (or drunk . . . drinked . . . drank . . . dranked?) this.
Just picture it.
Sticky sweet. Dark. Rich.
Slows down in January.
Yep. Molasses. The boiled down juice of sugar cane and/or sugar beets.
Papa of golden sugar and grandpapa of crystallized. Major sweetener in so many things.
And an especial favourite/fattener of cattle.
And that is where this story starts . . .
Daddy had taken his (then) two children with him to feed the cows.
Okay, yes, that probably doesn’t sound all that exciting. But it meant a truck ride.
And thus, two willing participants. Aged three and two.
The truck pulled into the field where the aforementioned cows made their home. The three piled out.
Daddy got to work. His ‘helpers’ keeping a close watch.
He rolled a barrel of molasses to the ‘lick’.
Now for anyone who may not have seen this, a lick is just that. A large steel container with a wheel suspended inside which, when turned, dips into the sweet stickiness and brings it to whoever’s tongue happens to be operating the wheel.
Genius.
If one happens to be a cow.
Between you and I, attempting to place my own tongue on the business part of said wheel would have been . . . how can I say this without sounding disgusting? . . . icky.
Back to my story . . .
Daddy dipped his finger in the molasses as it poured from his smaller container. Tasted it. “Mmmm!” He smacked his lips for emphasis. “Yummy!”
He dipped the finger of his eldest child, the three-year-old, in it. Obediently, she did as he did and stuck it in her mouth. “Mmmm!”
Yep. She and the molasses were instant friends.
Dad tried the same technique with his two-year-old son. Who made a face and couldn’t be persuaded to try again, despite the subsequent coaxings of his elder sister.
Dad left them to it, elder sister enticing and smaller brother protesting, and went back to his work.
In a short time, his barrels were empty and the lick full.
He loaded the canisters and the kids back into the truck and headed for home.
Partway there, his little girl suddenly showed signs of gastric distress. He slid the truck to the side of the road, grabbed her and hustled her to the ditch.
Where she subsequently deposited about a half-cup of molasses.
Obviously she had been doing much more than coaxing her brother to eat. 
Oops.
Back home she was cheerful and smiling and ready for dinner.
But Daddy learned his lesson.
Already sweet kids don’t need further sweetening.
An important point.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Old Mules Rule



It was a cold November morn,
And Sid had come to town for corn,
But when he passed old Joseph’s farm,
He thought there might be some alarm.

A crowd of men were packed in tight,
So Sid went over, thought he might
See something curious there today,
A thrill to send him on his way.

So as he moved on through the crowd,
He voiced his question right out loud,
“Say what has happened, folks?” said he.
“What is it that you all can see?”

“A tragedy,” said his friend Gus.
“It’s really causing quite a fuss.”
He pointed. “See right there by the straw?
The old mule kicked Joe’s Ma-in-law!"

Sid craned his neck and, sure enough,
The woman lay there on her duff,
Not moving much that he could see,
As cold and still as she could be.

Gus shrugged and then he looked around,
“Joe found her lying on the ground!
 The old mule kicked her in the head,
We do believe the woman’s dead!”

Sid nodded, “Yep. Misfortune, true.”
He looked around, “But don’t be blue.
“It’s obvious she’d lots of friends
To come and mourn her in the end.”

Gus shook his head, “Yep, they were stirred,
And they came running when they heard.
But not for sympathy, the fools.
They simply want to buy the mule!”

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, we'll share, if you are good,
A lesson from our childhood!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Stacked


I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again: Mom was a terrific cook.
But that is only incidental to this story . . .
Sunday dinner in the Stringam household usually consisted of some form of baked or roasted, uber tender beef and/or turkey and/or chicken and/or ham.
Creamy mashed potatoes.
Salad (green and/or jellied), cooked vegetables.
And thick, delicious gravy.
Okay, yes, there were variables on the theme.
But most of the time, this is what we looked forward to.
There were numerous ways of eating said delicious-ness.
Some of us had little, individual countries of food. Separated by the no-man’s land of bare plate. (I know that is how Husby insisted his food be served when he was very young. Till his father pointed out that all the food ends up in the same place anyway. Hmmm . . .)
Some didn’t care how the food was put on the plate.
As long as it was there.
And in large quantities.
I had my method, which rather morphed as time went by.
First of all, it was mashed potatoes in a mountain, hollowed out at the top to receive a lake of gravy.
And yes, it was so I could get—and maintain—more of the rich, brown yummy-ness.
Other things, veggies, meat, were crowded closely and if they got gravy on them, well and good.
Emphasis on good.
Except for the salad (green or otherwise), which was kept away from the others and eaten quickly (and first) to avoid any chance of gravy splash-age.
Say what you will. The food was amazing.
And gone.
As years passed, I discovered a new and better way of gormandizing.
Layers.
Potatoes topped by veggies topped by chunks of meat topped by a fountain of gravy.
Eaten all together.
Mmmm . . .
Married, with small kids, I went back to things flotched on the plate and eaten quickly (and usually cold) as I tried to get food into my littles.
I have found that this method has remained even though my littles are far from little.
Husby always has and still does calmly arrange his food. Season and butter to taste. Enjoy every mouthful. And finish long after me.
Now, my point in telling you this is:
During our last family supper, we had salads, roast beef, vegetables and gravy.
Most of my kids simply took.
And ate.
#3 son put down a foundation of mashed potatoes. Covered it well with vegetables and chunks of meat.
And smothered the whole mountain in gravy.
Yep. He’s mine.



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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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