Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, May 12, 2018

Pantie Prejudice

Me - at my best . . .
I hated them.
Maybe it was the color. Yucky green.
Maybe it was the fit. Tight elastic on the legs.
Whatever.
I only wore them under duress, when there was simply nothing else in my drawer. And following a highly intellectual and diverting argument with my Mom . . .
"Put them on, Diane!"
"Mo-om!"
"Put them on!"
Sigh.
Being the semi-obedient four-year-old that I was - and because 'going commando' hadn't been invented yet - I would haul my little green panties out from under the bed where I had hidden them and . . . shudder . . . pull them on.
Quickly, I would then hide them under a pair of blue jeans and try to put them out of my mind by heading outside to play. 
They itched.
They crawled into unwanted places.
They made me sweaty.
Sighing, I ignored them and joined the group of kids on the corner.
Now a couple of points of background . . .
In 1959, as in every neighborhood in Canada, weather permitting, we local kids gathered. Play commenced. As our mothers were working busily in their homes, we kids ran up and down the street, engaged in one of a thousand different imaginative schemes. At lunchtime, we were called home. We ate as quickly as we could, then returned to the street. Our mothers cleaned up and went back to their ironing or canning or one of hundreds of other chores. We kids played until supper was announced. 
When the lunchtime scenario was again enacted.
Actual physical parental supervision was unheard of. We policed ourselves. Tattled on each other. Looked after each other. When Kenny fell and broke his arm, an army of kids ran to his house and brought his mother. When Brenda got sick on the merry-go-round, same thing. 
It was a wonderful, carefree way to grow up.
Also, at this particular time, my Dad and older brothers had put up our family's brown canvas tent in the back yard.
I know this doesn't sound like an actual part of the story, but wait for it.
Now, back to my story . . .
My best friend and next door neighbor was Laurie. A sweet-tempered, agreeable girl just a bit younger than me. 
She followed me in everything.
Not always a good idea.
By early afternoon, I had been wearing the dreaded panties for much of the day. They had been my largely unwelcome companions while running, climbing, crawling, doing gymnastics, climbing, rolling, spinning, climbing . . . okay, I did a lot of climbing, but that is another story. 
They were really starting to bug me.
But there was no way I would ever be able to sneak into the house to remove them.
And then it hit me! 
If I ducked into the tent, I could shed the dreaded panties and my Mom would never know!
It was a brilliant plan. Awe inspiring.
Completely fool proof.
I acted immediately.
"Were are we going?" Laurie was right behind me, as usual.
"Into the tent."
"What are we going to do?"
"Take off our panties."
"Okay."
Did I mention that I often got Laurie into a lot of trouble?
In a few seconds, the deed was done. I wadded my cast-offs into a little ball and stuffed them down into a hidden corner of the tent.
Laurie did the same with hers.
Then I pulled on my jeans and headed back outside.
Laurie followed.
Hah! Mission accomplished. No one would ever know.
Our friends were sitting around in my front yard, breathing hard from yet another race up and down the street. I pranced to the middle of the circle with Laurie close behind.
"We're not wearing any panties!" I sang out.
Okay, so, secret agent material, I wasn't.
"Panties!" Laurie echoed.
And suddenly, Laurie's mom was there, grabbing her little daughter and running with her towards their house.
I watched them go, wondering at the shocked and dismayed expression on Laurie's mom's face.
What on earth was wrong with her?
Maybe I should point out here that Laurie's mom always dressed her in frilly, feminine dresses.
Short-skirted dresses.
I got a lecture. Something about modesty and being a good example.
Who listened.
Parents are so weird.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hold the Onions


I set the basket down on the desk and took a seat in the proffered chair, hooking my dripping umbrella on the carved, wooden arm.
For a moment, there was silence between us as we studied each other.
Then his eyes turned to my basket.
I felt a frown gather, drawing my brows together. What was so interesting? I followed his gaze.
It was an ordinary enough basket. Plain. Serviceable. Stiff, yellow straw with brown leather hinges and bindings.
Unremarkable.
My frown deepened as a small, cold trickle of fear? anger? disgust? looped its way down my back. Could he smell them? I thought I had disguised them so well. My nostrils twitched slightly as I stealthily took a sniff of the air.
Nothing.
Did he have super senses? Should I be alarmed?
Outside in the street a group of boisterous children ran past, screaming with laughter as they splashed through the puddles.
Both of us turned, distracted for a moment. Then I swung my head back to him.
Now his eyes were on me. Strange eyes. Green. With a blue center next to the pupil.
Cold eyes.
Hungry.
I took a deep breath and held out my hand, palm up. “If you’ll ‘cross my palm with silver’, figuratively speaking, we can get on with this,” I suggested.
He started and blinked. “Oh. Oh, yes. Of course.” He reached into a vest pocket.
I kept my eyes on his hand.
I had been fooled before.
Something jingled slightly and he dragged out a tightly closed fist. Spinning his chair, he presented his back to me and peered down at his hand.
Then he turned back, his fingers closed once more over his palm. “Okay,” he said softly. “I’m ready.”
“Good.” I slid a paper across the desk toward him. “If you’ll just sign . . .”
He nodded and pinned the sheet to the table with his fist, then grabbed a pen with his free hand, scrawled something across the bottom and released it.
I pulled it back toward me. His scrawl seemed indecipherable, but I was fairly certain those who needed to would be able to decrypt it.
I gave what passed for a smile and pushed the basket toward him.
His eyes flared and, with one hand, he eagerly began to attack the straps.
Again, I held out my hand. “Maybe it would be easier if . . .”
“Oh. Of course. He held his closed fist over my palm and uncurled his fingers, releasing a fair-sized stream of silver coins into it. “That should be about right.”
I looked down and poked at the money. “It seems so.”
He hadn’t waited for my response, but was once more tackling the straps. This time with two hands.
In a moment, he had flipped the lid back and was staring down inside. “Is this really . . .?”
I nodded.
He reached in and, with two hands, tenderly lifted his prize out of the basket. Then, eyes still fixed on it, he set it reverently on the spotless blotter in front of him.
I stood up, pocketing both his change and the receipt and reached for my basket, then said, in a rather sing-song voice, “The one and only Furiner’s Market Special 'Count-To-Five' Deluxe. One oven-fresh roll, two seasonings, three meats, four cheeses and five vegetables, all rolled together with a heaping dollop of love.” My eyes narrowed slightly and I felt a small smile tickle the corners of my mouth. “Or, in your case, the Count-To-Four Special because you instructed us to withhold the onions.” I turned away and continued under my breath, “Which, in my opinion, gives the sandwich it’s unique flavour.”
“What?”
I looked at him.
His eyes were on mine. “You’re sure. No onions.”
I nodded. “Quite.”
As I walked out the door, I let the smile that had been teasing my lips for the past five minutes widen. “No onions, indeed!”



Each month, we, the followers of Karen, submit words. Which are then re-submitted by our fearless leader to other members of our circle.
The resulting Use Your Words posts are unique, inspiring, thoughtful, entertaining and/or all of the above.

My words this month receipt ~ pen ~ basket ~ screaming ~ umbrella
were submitted by: https://cognitivescript.blogspot.com/  



Here are Karen's other victims happy fellow writers.
See how they did!
              

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Birdbaths for the Birdbrained

What we wanted.

What we got.





Debbie and I had spent the morning dreaming about the big ‘B’.
Boys.
All of whom were fascinating and none of whom were interested.
Sigh.
We were drooling over yet another male lead in a long line-up of romantic movies.
This one was a Western. My personal favourite.
Mmmmm . . .
Suddenly, Debbie jumped up and shut off the TV right in the middle of blood and blue shadows under the midnight sun.
Who does that?!
“I want to do something,” she announced.
I glowered at her and briefly considered pointing out that we were doing something. Her whole demeanour suggested . . . action. Which probably meant that, sooner or later, I was going to have to get off the couch.
Ugh.
“I want to build a birdbath.”
I stared. Had I heard her correctly?
“I’m serious!” Her voice started to gain in pitch and enthusiasm. “I saw one in a magazine article. It was made of cement and had an all ‘dignified and harmonious-with-nature’ theme. It started with a little pool up top, then plunging down a waterfall  to iridescent bubbles at the bottom!” In her eagerness, she began to pace.
I hated it when she did that.
“We could make a little thatched roof to limit weather-ly interference.” She spun around to face me. “So what do you think?!”
I should point out here that her asking me that was merely a magnanimous gesture. We were doing it. She just wanted me to feel included.
I rolled my eyes and pushed myself to my feet. Let’s get this over with . . .
Pulling her little brother’s wagon, the two of us walked downtown to the hardware store. Then followed a frenzied rush to grab anything she thought would help. And the expenditure of two months of allowance.
As we toted her baggage home, she talked endlessly about the indelible impression her creation would make. About how the town gentry would stroll past, abandoning their normally impartial opinions in their excitement over this brush with the . . . wet and bird-like.
Yeah, she dreamt big, that Debbie.
What followed could only be considered inhumane – which is really ironic, considering we were creating something to benefit nature.
Because I was a farm girl – with muscles - I hauled cement. Mixed cement. Formed cement in a great hole which I had also helped dig.
Then I collapsed.
Debbie looked at the mass of grey glop in the bottom of our hole and then at her exhausted friend.
“It’s perfect!” she said.
I, too, looked into the hole. At the plop of cement in the bottom. Seriously?
Debbie got the garden hose and filled the little indent in the top of her creation. “See? Perfect!”
I blinked. Then turned to look at the paraphernalia strewn about. “What about . . .?” I got no further.
“Perfect!” Debbie nodded decisively, then gathered everything else up and packed it away.
After that, when the weather cooperated, Debbie happily filled her birdbath. Her beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing work of art.
Well, to her . . .
Debbie’s family moved away from Milk River decades ago.
But I think her birdbath sits there to this day.
A monument to what can be accomplished by the lazy and unmotivated. 
Or of an afternoon spent with a friend.
Take your pick.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Monthly SWS

“Please tell us all your problem, sir,
You know we’re here to help.
Supporting is how we get through,
You only have to yelp!”

“Just look around the circle, Sir,
There’s not but friends you’ll see.
Get the whole thing off your chest,
Then Madge will serve us tea.”

“It started much as any day,”
He said. And then he sighed,
“A run together in the dawn,
I was so proud, I cried.”

“Then changing for the workday, but
A load of laundry first.
Who knew that act would be her last?
‘Twas like we both were cursed!”

“So innocent as soap went in,
Naive as buttons pressed,
Then watched as clothes began to swirl,
And tumble with the rest.”

“All was well until the load,
Was moved into the drier.
We were watching it together as
The heat was getting higher.”

“Then she was gone, t’was just that fast,
My love was there no more.
And all I had was memories
Of what we had before.”

“I’ve tossed it round within my mind,
There really is no doubt
As a pair of socks, we two went in,
As a single, I came out.”


Each month we have a challenge
Yes, we voted on a theme,
Then each put on our thinking caps 
And hurried to our screens.
So you know the theme 's official,
It was on the internet,
Today's Lost Sock Memorial Day,
Join us in our SOCK regrets!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Ode to a Sock

Dawn of Cognitive Script: Ode to My Sock


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Leaving Little Girls

Me. And my Daddy.
My first experience with the radio . . .

Mom must have heard the sobs.
She came out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a towel. “Diane?”
More sobs.
“Diane, where are you?”
She followed the heartbroken sounds to the couch.
To behind the couch.
To the little four-year-old who had crawled between the piece of furniture and the large picture window just behind.
I looked up at her.
Can’t you just see the little tear-stained face?
Mom smiled at me and reached out to pull me into her arms. “Diane, what’s wrong?”
The two of us sat down on the couch.
Mom dabbed at my face with her towel. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“He left her, Mom!” I managed at last.
Mom stared at me. “Who? Left who?”
“He left her. His little girl. Why did he leave her?”
Mom’s face was a veritable cornucopia of expressions.
Worry.
Defiance.
Sympathy.
Defense.
With a large dollop of confusion.
“Honey, what are you talking about?”
“The man!” I looked at her intently through drenched eyes. Surely she knew him. She had been listening to him. I reached out and grasped her arm, giving it a shake. “The man you were listening to!” I looked away. “He was so sad ‘cause he had to leave his little girl in gings-tin-down.” I looked back at her. “Why did he leave her?”
Mom’s face suddenly lit up. “Oh. The radio!” she said.
It was my turn to stare at her. “The radio?”
She cuddled me closer. “Honey, you were listening to a man singing on the radio!”
“But he left his little girl! He said!” I scrubbed at my nose with a slightly grubby hand. “And he was sad.”
Mom smiled. “It was just a song,” she said.
“But his little girl!” I couldn't get past the thought that, somewhere, there was a little girl who was missing her daddy.
“He’s not actually talking about a little girl . . .” Mom began.
“But he said!” I broke in. “I heard him! He said his little girl!”
“In this case he’s talking about his wife or sweetheart.” She tightened her arms around me. “Sometimes men call their wives or sweethearts, ‘little girl’.
I felt my face twisting into my favourite - and most effective - confused expression. “What?”
She nodded. “It’s just their way of saying, I love you.”
“Oh.” I thought about that for a minute.
Just then the front door opened.
Tears and forlorn little girls forgotten, I leaped down from Mom’s lap and headed for the front hall. “Daddy! It’s Daddy!”
Tall and strong, he was there to scoop me up. “How’s my little girl?” he said.

True story.
And here's the exact song, by the incomparable Harry Belafonte. Enjoy!
I have Kleenex . . .

Monday, May 7, 2018

New Green

It Monday.
And warm.
Everybody cheer!
Thank you.

Our winter’s finally backed away,
Those days of cold and snow-y.
And Spring has slid the curtain back,
Has giv’n us warm and grow-y.
But though we curse the winter’s snow,
And praise the heavens when it goes,
While gaily heaving heavy clothes,
There’s something we should know-y . . .

From October through to April on
Our mansion or our hovel,
Snow is moisture that we need,
Though we look on it as trouble,
And now, with spring, still moisture falls,
And drips from eyebrows, hats. And walls,
We curse and put on over-alls.
(But it’s easier to shovel!)




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 . . .

Come back next week, we'll share our thoughts,
On leaves and flow'rs the rain has brought!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Queen of the Griddle

Yes, she could do other things, too . . .

Breakfast.

One of the three best meals of the day.
Especially when one stumbled from bed into the kitchen and realized that Mom had the griddle out.
Mmmm. Pancakes.
The best of the best.
Mom's pancakes were famous. Well in our world. Light and fluffy and oh, so eat-able.
And when one started eating, one simply couldn't stop.
My record?
Twelve.
Dripping with butter and syrup.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.
When I started dating my future Husby, I couldn't wait for him to taste my Mom's pancakes. Fortunately for him, and his status as boyfriend without sleep-over benefits, there were times when she made them later in the day.
What is even better than breakfast for breakfast?
Breakfast for supper.
My Husby-to-be agreed that Mom's pancakes were truly remarkable. So much so that he asked her for her recipe.
Now, you have to realize that, by this time, Mom had been making these same pancakes for nearly forty-five years.
She could do them in her sleep. An important skill first thing in the morning.
But I digress . . .
“Hmm,” she said, frowning thoughtfully. “Sure I can give you the recipe.”
She then proceeded to list ingredients and amounts as she had been adding them for decades.
“A couple of scoops of flour. Eggs. Sugar. This much salt.” She held up finger and thumb pinched together. “A couple of cake spoons of baking powder. Milk to make it batter-y.”
My Husby-to-be was frantically scribbling, a slight frown between his brows. When he was done, he stared at what he had written. “Ummm . . . okay,” he said doubtfully.
And he went home and tried them.
Adjusted ingredients and tried again.
And again.
For over 42 years, he has been struggling to get it right.
He's still not there.
And Mom took the original recipe with her when she went home.
Sigh.
I love pancakes.
I miss my Mom.
P.S. I'd give you the recipe, but it's a work in progress. I'll let you know . . .

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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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