Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A Dad's Joke

Inconsequential day with friends,
A drive along the thoroughfare,
The kind of day you hope n’er ends,
To see the sights and take the air.

Three friends were seated in the car,
Minister, Priest, and Rabbi, too.
Talk of life, both near and far,
And things they’d done or’d like to do.

Sensationalism was a theme,
As the dashboard clicked the miles away,
Discussed atomic problems, schemes,
 The mayhem common to the day.

Then talk turned with sincerity,
(Though nondenominational!)
How to divide with parity
Donations congregational.

Then one proposed a circle made,
Donations thrown aboard,
The coins, which from the circle strayed,
Would be given to the Lord.

The second shook his hoary head,
And gravely said,” Not so!”
The coins inside the circle spread,
He’d to the Lord bestow.

The third man deeply frowned, “Instead,”
“Here’s what I’d do, my peeps!”
“I’d throw the money high o’erhead,
And what the good Lord wants, He keeps!”

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 . . .

Thursday, May 31, 2018


Baby brother . . . being entertained
My father (herinafter known as 'Dad') was a rancher.
He had been born that way.
In his twenties, he added the title of 'Veterinarian' to that.
But he was first and foremost, a rancher.
As a rancher, his wardrobe seldom varied.
Heavy work pants.
And boots.
Which were so much more than mere footwear.
Dad's boots were, in fact, the signal that opened and closed the work day.
As well as a source of entertainment.
On several levels.
Dad's boots were - because he had 'special' feet – special.
They were heavy.
And specifically designed to compensate for his long, narrow, profoundly flat extremities.
They laced up the front.
And fit . . . well.
They were the favourite entertainment for my baby brother.
When he was . . . umm . . . a baby.
A source of laughter for us kids when we'd try them on.
Then attempt to walk.
Usually covered in mud and manure during the day's labours, then scrupulously cleaned before being brought into the house.
With Dad's pocket knife. (But that is yet another story.)
In short, they were a part of my Dad.
An important part.
Dad always donned them himself.
Said donning, after breakfast, was always the signal that visiting was over and the workday starting.
But Dad never, ever took his boots off by himself.
In fact, the removal of Dad's boots was quite a process.
And a family tradition.
Let me describe . . .
Dad would take his seat in his usual comfy recliner.
And his numerous children would scatter, suddenly recalling activities that needed immediate attention.
Somewhere else.
But there was always a laggard.
Someone who was the slowest to react.
Dad would pin them to their chair with a look.
Then silently hold out a foot.
Reluctantly, the child would assume the position.
Facing away from Dad and bent forward, clutching said boot between their knees with both hands.
Dad would then put his other foot on his helper's backside and start pushing.
His boot would be quickly and efficiently . . . removed.
And dropped on the floor.
The process was repeated with the second boot.
The footwear was then gathered.
And set aside.
Only then was the slave helper, released.
Mission accomplished.
As mentioned, this procedure signalled the end of the work day.
Odd, isn't it, that a humble pair of boots would assume such proportion in our daily life?
But they did.
In his later years, Dad had given up boots.
Shoes replaced his slippers when he was going outside.
And, like his slippers, they slipped on and off easily.
I was watching him one day as he sat down.
Stared at the footwear he pulled on.
And remembered.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Little Balls of Yummy-ness

Twice a week, and sometimes more, the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked bread wafted through the Stringam home.
It was followed, almost immediately, by the sight of children munching great slices of fresh yumminess, thickly spread with fresh butter.
I wasn't one of them.
Oh, I loved Mom's bread.
It was amazing.
And I definitely was munching.
But I chose a unique - ie. weird - way of doing it.
Often to be followed by my Mom saying, “Diane! I work hard to make perfectly good, soft bread! Why do you do that to it?!”
She said this because . . . I squished it.
Into a tight little ball.
Which I - then - ate.
Mom would watch, in disgust, as I took my slice of freshly-baked awesomeness.
Quickly peeled off and ate the crust.
Pressed and molded the rest.
Then nibbled.
I have no idea why I did this.
Maybe it was because I had seen the screen cowboys eating little balls of bread out of their saddlebags.
Okay, it looked like little balls of bread.
I didn't realize that what they were eating was, in fact, biscuits.
I wasn't known for my powers of observation and deduction.
Ahem . . .
I no longer eat bread this way.
There are a couple of drawbacks.
The biggest one being that it's rather hard to spread any significant amount of peanut butter and/or nutella on a tightly pressed ball of dough.
And, let's face it, bread is just the medium by which such things are ingested.
And, in a choice between eating balls of dough or getting nutella to the mouth?
Even the cowboys would agree with me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Nose Knowing

Still in a rhyming mood.
For my grandkids on this Tuesday morning . . .

Mildred, my friend, has a nose that is great.
Not bulging. Or curving. Or big as a plate!
Not crooked. Or flattened. Or shaped like a bean.
The most beautiful nose that you ever have seen.

Can't say it's large. A potato, A gourd.
A crooked ol' carrot. An acorn. A board.
And it’s not like a flower, a rose or a lili,
Yes, nothing to ever make Mildred look silly.

It is shapely and small. In reality – fair.
The grandest appendage to ever draw air.
Fine-boned and slender. With rose petal skin.
The kind that can always draw everyone in.

But with all of its beauty, her friends still make fun.
They laugh and they tease. They catcall and run.
But why with such beauty for them to sightsee,
Would they tease their friend harshly to such a degree?

Because Mildred, oh, she of the wonderful nose.
The beauty, perfection. The colour called 'rose'.
Well there's something about her that I've not disclosed.
Something, about which you need to be told.

Though our Mildred is all she could possibly be,
A good friend and clever. And kind as can be.
Yes, Mildred has one little secret to hold.
Our Mildred's an elephant, truth to be told.
Now there’s something that you need to learn ‘fore you’re older,
That you find the beauty, when you’re the beholder.
And when seeing someone who is different than you,
Remember sweet Mildred and all she’s gone through.

P.S. If you think that Mildred's true story's a gaffe,
You should hear about Harold, the short-necked giraffe.
Painted by the uber-talented Jessica Tolley!

Monday, May 28, 2018

A Life of Laughter

I must admit, I started small,
When mama chased me down the hall,
And made me giggle wildly,
With threats of tickles as I’d flee.

From there, I moved to Daddy’s jokes,
When he entertained the mealtime folks,
Or when, the wide prairies, we rode,
And he was in his joking mode.

And then my siblings took it on,
To laughter, all us six were drawn,
And we’d quote ‘Mad’ and ‘Cowpokes’ jests,
And try to outdo all the rest.

And when I married, Husby Dear,
Worked hard to fill my days with cheer,
And he did well, my better half,
His goal was always “Make her laugh”.

Then our kids, too, got in the game,
That ‘laughter’ goal remained the same,
And they’d tell tales, quote movies, songs,
To keep the merriment going strong.

My grandkids now are starting out,
I guess there couldn’t be much doubt,
That they’d pick up the ‘laughter’ gene,
And see which one could reign supreme.

Now I have given lots of thought
To what is funny. What is not,
Tried to plot with charts and graphs . . .
I guess my family makes me laugh.

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 and you will see, 
The beauty of the glorious trees!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bettered by Feathers

You know how much I love writing the stories of family members gone before?
Well, I’ve decided to make it official with Ancestor Sundays!

I guess it could happen to anyone.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My Great, Great, Great Grandmother, Sarah then-Thornton lived ten years in a boarding school. Finally, at the age of twenty, she met and married my equally Great Grandfather, Prime Coleman, a prosperous rancher.
As Prime’s wife, and mother to their then-seven children (a number which finally capped out at eight), Sarah Thornton Coleman supervised several servants, cared for her children, and managed the household. Her leap from browbeaten student to prosperous rancher’s wife, though at first viewed doubtfully by her father-in-law, could only be called a success.
Though she had a few set-backs along the way . . .
One day, as Sarah approached her home, she met a man walking toward her. The man was carrying a lovely feather bed.
He stopped her and asked if she would be interested in purchasing said bed for a ‘nominal’ fee.
Sarah examined the bed. It was well-made and beautiful. She told the man she had one very similar and loved it. She was definitely interested.
The two agreed on a price, and several coins—and the bed—exchanged hands.
Sarah happily carted her new purchase home, then up the stairs to her bedroom.
Where she made a rather awkward discovery.
Her feather bed was gone. A quick search of the household and questioning of the servants did not reveal it. It had obviously been removed from the house by hands unknown.
It was then Sarah realized what had happened. Her new bed was actually her old bed, stolen by the man she had met and sold back to her within sight of her own house.

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