Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Future Father

Big Brother
Our third son, Duffy, was two-and-a-half when our first daughter was born.
He stuck to the baby and I like glue.
That doesn't mean he learned anything . . .
At the tender age of three, Duffy was enrolled in the Sunbeam class in our church.
With eight little girls.
Boys were obviously something new.
Moving on . . .
The scheduled lesson was all about babies. A precious gift from God.
It was a beautiful lesson.
My four-month-old baby, Caitlin was invited into the class.
I came with her.
Sort of like show-and-tell.
But interactive.
And noisy.
Okay, just like show-and-tell.
After the little girls got tired of cooing over the real baby, their teacher (the mother of five girls, herself) brought out a large basket.
Filled with everything 'baby'.
There were dolls by the dozen.
Instantaneous heaven for the budding little mothers in the class.
Duffy was a boy.
And, though his older brother liked cuddling dolls, Duffy was more comfortable with trucks and things 'boy'.
He was handed a baby doll.
And a blanket.
He dangled his doll by one foot and looked at the little girls around him.
All had at least one (some had purloined two) little babies wrapped warmly and tucked tenderly into their arms.
Most were singing softly.
And rocking.
Duffy stared at them, then held up his baby.
Still by one foot.
Okay. He could handle this.
He spread his blanket out on the floor.
Then dropped the doll onto one corner and proceeded to roll it up like a sausage.
He then jammed the resulting package under one arm.
The teacher handed him a bottle.
There's more?
He took the bottle and looked at it.
I should mention here that I nursed my babies.
Duffy had never seen a bottle before.
I can still see his little confused face.
What an earth was he supposed to do with this?
Finally, he pulled out his little, blanket-wrapped bundle, grabbed a corner of said blanket and gave it a pull.
The doll flipped out, spun in the air for a moment, then clattered to the floor.
Duffy again grabbed it by the foot.
This time, he examined it minutely.
Ah. There was a tiny hole in one butt cheek.
Perfect for the strange little bottle he had been handed.
He stuck the nozzle of the bottle into the little hole and beamed happily at me.
All was well.
My son, father to future generations . . .

There is a codicil.
Despite this obviously rocky start, Duffy has proved to be an excellent and loving father.
Gifted with working with children of special needs.
I guess he was watching after all.

Friday, June 15, 2018

While Mom's Away

Mom had to go out for a while.
Actually, her errand should only have taken a few minutes. She needed to go to the DMV and collect her new license. But everyone knows that those places are staffed by sloths (True story. I saw it in a movie once.)
So, she had no idea just how long she would be.
A lot can happen in our home in a short period of time. Just FYI.
In her absence, Mom had put me in charge.
I am eleven months older than Sally, after all.
Sally, the sly thing, didn’t say a word when Mom delegated me. Merely sat there, with that little half-grin she usually wears. The grin that tells me Sally is . . . thinking.
Not a good thing.
The instant the door closed behind Mom’s I’ve-seen-better-days faded pink coat, Sally turned to look at me. “It’s my turn. Give me the remote,” she announced.
“What?” I protested. “It is not! You’ve had it all afternoon! I just got it!”
“But you’re the one in charge and that means that you have to keep whoever’s in your charge happy.”
“Where does it say that?”
“In any babysitting manual you can find.”
“Well I don’t know where to find a babysitting manual!”
Sally’s smiled widened. “Well, until you do . . .”
“Fine! Take the stupid thing.”
“And I want popcorn.”
“Get it yourself!”
“I’m getting unhappy.”
I rolled my eyes. “You were born unhappy!” I decided I’d had enough. “And you know what? I’m going to hold the remote!”
“You have to get it first!” Sally leaped to her feet, jerked the long, black cord out of the console and started to spin the device with it.
Like some sort of modern-day gamer gladiator.
I prepared myself, balancing lightly on the balls of my feet, hands up, ready to pounce.
Swing. Swing.
The remote went past me a couple of times.
Swing. Pounce! I had it!
For a brief, glorious moment, I felt the cool, molded plastic in my hands, then Sally jerked on the cord and both the stupid appliance and my triumph disappeared.
Now normally I would just prepare myself for round two. That’s what you have to do with Sally.
But this time, she miscalculated. And the remote slid right out of her hands, sailing with uncanny and devastating precision through the hole in the front door screen.
Where it smacked into the head of Mrs. Petrie, who just happened to be standing there, arm raised, ready to knock.
Of course neither Sally nor I had seen her.
Our only clue that she was anywhere in the vicinity came when she let out a little shriek
Just before she pitched over backward.
She must have been coming to collect for something because a little basket of papers and coins went straight into the air.
The coins made little ringing sounds as they rained around her.
The papers started to drift across the grass.
Now I should mention here that we have a new and very nosy neighbour, Mrs. Casper, or Mrs. Gasper, as Sally and I like to call her.
Who just happened to be out on her lawn where she saw the whole thing.
And immediately jumped to the erroneous conclusion that Sally and I were attacking and/or trying to rob poor Mrs. Petrie, now out cold on our brick walk.
The old bat didn’t even try to get at the truth. She merely dialed 911.
Our Mom arrived home just a minute behind the police.
She shouldn’t have been too surprised to see the red and blue lights as she drove up.
I mean, she’s seen them before.
Umm . . . maybe.
She started shrieking, though, when she stepped out of her car to see one of the officers apprehend Sally.
Then things just got confused.
Fortunately, Mom’s good at confused.
She has to deal with Sally and me after all.
While she sorted everything out, Sally and I retreated to the living room.
I plugged the remote back in and sat on the couch.
“It’s my turn,” Sally said.

Mid-month Fridays are the best! That's when Karen of Baking in a Tornado and her rag-tag group of followers exchange words.
And get creative.
This month, my words came from our amazing leader herself!
They were:
apprehend ~ collect brick ~ home ~ remote
How'd I do?
Looking for some more fun?
Hop over to my fellow Karenites and see what they've created!

Thursday, June 14, 2018


Three. (With sister, Tiana)

Tristan on the left.
Somewhere in the middle years.
With beloved friend, Zack (and brother, Dillon)
How did this happen?
April 7, 1991.
Husby and I were visiting with his mother and other family members in her home in Fort MacLeod, Alberta.
It had been a beautiful day.
Great food.
Lots of laughter.
And birthday cake.
Also somewhere in the middle...
We were celebrating the birth of her son, Husby's youngest brother.
Who was turning thirty.
I was sitting beside her as she shook her head, her eyes on her tall son standing with his wife and several children.
"Wow," she said. "I can't believe my baby's 30!"
I looked at my various children running in and out--the youngest with a second piece of absconded cake in his already-chocolate-coated fingers.
"I can't believe my baby's nearly three!" I said, thinking I was somehow still in the competition.
She smiled.
Move forward a few years.
It's June 14, 2018.
Husby and I were visiting over breakfast. "Wow! June 14," I said. "Tristan's birthday!"
"Yep." He nodded. "What year is this?"
I thought about it for a moment. "Huh. Thirty!" I looked at him. "I can't believe my baby's thirty!"
Yeah, Mom Tolley. I get it now.
Happy Birthday, Son.
Today. With youngest daughter, Twizzle (aka: Elizabeth).

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


The thought of Barefoot Days suggests
A time of peace, with sunlight blessed.
Shoeless feet along a trail,
Or treading beach to scan for whales.
Squishing mud between one’s toes,
With no thought giv’n to fears or woes.
What a carefree life! I praise
All simple, sunlit Barefoot Days.

But now I must admit that I,
Find this old world one ‘scary guy’,
From rising, till I find my bed,
The news is filled with fear and dread.
No one to trust and families torn,
And many still to hatred sworn.
I need as I traverse the haze,
A few more of those ‘Barefoot Days’.

Karen of Baking in a Tornado issues the Monthly Poetry challenge and we, her friends/obedient followers, drag our sorry selves jump to the task.
The result is as you see. Several poems on a theme, but with vastly differing results.
It's totally fun!
See what the others have created:
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Barefoot Days
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles: Barefoot with You
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Barefoot Summer
Dawn of Cognitive Script: My Barefoot Days

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Oak Memories

One of the vast displays.
Notice the barrel, off to the right...

I guess if one had to pick a theme for this blog, that theme would be ‘Memories’.
Mostly mine, but occasionally, someone else’s.
Today is one of the ‘someone else’s’.
Throughout his career, Husby worked as a project manager for every one of our amazing world-class Alberta museums. 19 of them. Much of his time was spent in a large, rather stuffy office, but frequently, he was on the road doing actual, physical . . . stuff.
During office time, take-a-child-to-work-day wasn’t possible. But when he was on the road . . .  
Our middle son, Duff, loved to go with his dad to work.
The construction of the Reynolds Museum in nearby Wetaskiwin was nearing completion. The buildings were up. The inside displays were ongoing. And it was this need that was being addressed when Husby loaded Duff into the truck and headed for the nearby farm outfitters.
There they purchased what was, to eight-year-old Duff, a HUGE oak barrel.
Loading it into the back, they headed for the museum, where Duff made a bee-line for his usual hidey-hole in one of the center’s vast closets and switched on the video he had been watching the last time he had come to work with Dad.
He loved it in there. People would come by to get something and greet the small boy with a smile and a ‘which video are you watching now?’ greeting.
Then the big day came for the grand opening, attended by thousands.
As Husby’s family, we were given preferential treatment, being admitted hours before everyone else for a first glimpse.
We wandered through the amazing displays, ooh-ing and ah-ing on command.
One of the kids got thirsty and we stopped at a water fountain to get a drink.
“That’s my barrel!” Duff said excitedly.
Sure enough, the water fountain had been constructed using a large oak barrel as the base. Fitting it right into the ‘farm’ theme of the central floor of the museum.
Moving forward fifteen years . . .
As a young man, Duff visited the Reynolds Museum once more with a group of friends. They wandered through the displays, again ooh-ing and ah-ing on command.
Duff stopped at the water fountain, still housed in the oak barrel. It didn’t seem quite as huge now.
But it still brought back the memories.
Of time spent with his father.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Eternal Sunshine

Twin brothers. One a pessimist, his life’s outlook sour,
And one an optimist. It’s true! Was gladder by the hour.

A fam’ly blessed with healthy sons, one Jonny, one named Joe,
They grew together in the light that fam’ly love can show.
But Jonny, eldest of the twins, a confirmed cynic, he,
Saw ‘life’ in only adverse terms, the worst that they could be.

Now Joe was different. Joe could see the best that life could give,
A ‘glass-half-full’ old chap was he, and happy just to live.
Before I go much further, tell me, which would you prefer?
The optimist or the pessimist? (I’ll probably concur!)

Now on their birthday (ten years hence), their father had prepared
A test for his beloved boys. Their feedback, he’d compare.
For Jon, he wrapped up carefully the best toys he could find,
For Joe, a box of smelly dung with golden cords entwined.

Now when they opened up their gifts, poor Jonny sat and sighed,
“They’ll all be broken in a week!” he, to his fam’ly, cried.
But Joe, he looked inside his box, then started for the door,
His father started after him. “Joe, where’re you headed for?”

Joe laughed as he donned hat and coat and headed for the yard,
“You have to know, dear Dad,” he said. “It really isn’t hard.”
“When I unwrapped that box of ‘poo’, I knew some mastermind
Had left my gift outside and soon, a pony, I will find!”

Which would you choose, the pessimist? The one who’s always sad?
Or would you choose the optimist? Who’s never-ending glad?
Now this is just a silly story, meant to entertain,
And now you’ve had your giggle, but the question still remains . . .

Mondays to get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thought--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week from our happy homes,
We'll celebrate the Garden Gnome!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Getting a Knife

One of Husby's hand-made originals.
Notice the initials at the base of the blade.

Knife shopping in our family is a large deal.
Husby and our second son have their own forge and, when time allows, create their own custom-made cutlery.
Using only the finest of materials.
They have been known to teach classes on the topic.
With every student leaving said class carrying one hand-made (mostly by their own hands) knife.
Needless to say, Husby has a large opinion on the subject. Knife shopping requires research: Where the steel is from. How it was forged. How many times it was folded.
Words like: Point, Edge, Tip, Heel, Spine, Bolster, Scales, Handle Fasteners, Butt, Tang, and Balance are bandied about.
I just nod and smile, then look for the knife that ‘fits my hand’.
Yes. I’m a knife-making family disgrace.
Now I know that most of you will have different knife-procuring traditions than me.
Some may even be like my Husby.
If so . . . ummm . . .
Moving on . . .
In my family’s history, there were other ways entirely.
Let me tell you about one . . .
Great, Great Grandfather, Jeremiah Stringham (notice the 'H' in Stringam), born in Colesville, Broome, New York in 1825 lived a life of Adventure (also notice the capital ‘A’).
He and his growing family moved out to the ‘untamed’ west in the early 1860’s, finally settling in a small place named Manti (in what would one day become Utah) in the latter part of 1863.
It was a time of upheaval, with misunderstandings and disagreements resulting in skirmishes with some local tribes.
During this ticklish time, GG Grandpa Jeremiah was assigned to guard the stone quarry so important to the industry of the area. Just in time to be intimately involved in one of the aforementioned skirmishes.
GG Grandpa Jeremiah was attacked by a man wielding a large knife who seemed quite determined to embed said knife in grandfather’s skull.
Another guard saw what was happening and intervened.
The situation was defused.
The knife remained.
And became the butcher knife of choice in GG Grandfather’s family’s kitchens for many, many years.
Now I don’t know about you, but I think, given the choice, I’d stick with my method of selecting a knife.
Or Husby’s.
Either seems to require a little less heart-pounding excitement.
A little.
Great Great Grandfather Jeremiah
At the age of 65.
Sundays are for my ancestors.
What were yours up to?
I'd love to hear!

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