Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018


I should probably mention, right up front, that Husby and I are empty-nesters.
For the first time.
It's been quite an adjustment.
First, there were our six little chicks and those years of 'oh-my-word-what-else-could-happen'!
You know what I'm talking about.
Then there were the moving-out-to-go-to-college-serve-missions-and-or-in-the-army years. And the moving-back-in when those cycles passed.
A lot of to-ing and fro-ing.
Then there were the marriages. And the moving-back-in-with-mom-and-dad-while-we-save-for-that-all-important-deposit-on-our-first-own-home phase.
And now, with each ensconced in their own place, Husby and I are well-and-truly alone.
Fortunately, most of our chicks and chicklets are nearby, so there is still quite a bit of to-ing and fro-ing.
But for the most part . . .
Today, this being alone really struck home. (So to speak.)
I was in the kitchen. We had some overripe bananas that were just calling out to be made into the yummy, deliciousness that is known as banana bread.
Note: Bananas really do call out. You just have to be on the same wavelength to hear them.
Ahem . . .
I finished mixing the batter and pulled out the beaters. Then, out of habit, I called out, "Anyone want to lick the bowl?"
That all-important point wherein the lucky contestant is handed the big mixing bowl and a spatula.
And for the first time--ever--no one answered.
No little bodies came swarming eagerly up the stairs.
No one appeared in the kitchen doorway.
There was no fighting. No arguing over 'who-got-it-last-time!'
I stood there, spatula half-raised, and stared at my empty kitchen.
And realized that empty-nesting is not all it's cracked up to be.

P.S. Okay, yes, I got to lick the bowl, also for the first time--ever--but it was only slight compensation.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Spun Pudding

Daddy, George and Me.
I'm the one in the dress . . . and curlers.
My Dad had made me a new toy.
It was a large - very large (about 5 inches in diameter) button on a string.
You would thread a long, heavy string through the holes of the button and knot it. Then you would push the button to the centre and grip one of the two loops of the string in each hand.
Now you held something that resembled . . . a button on a string.
But then came the exciting part. If you wound up the button, you could pull the string out away from the button on each side and it would unwind and rewind the opposite way.
If you handled it just right, you could keep it going.
All day.
Which I did.
And it created a bit of a breeze if you got it going very fast.
Which I also did.
Enough background . . .
Mom had just made a large pot of pudding and set it on the cupboard to cool.
I was waiting, rather impatiently, for the temperature to drop below the boiling lava stage.
That was when I got my, to date, greatest idea.
My button could generate a breeze. I had felt it. It would cool the pudding and I could eat it that much faster!
I pushed a stool over to the cupboard and climbed up.
Carefully, I manoeuvred my button over the pudding and pulled the strings.
It worked!
For a moment.
Until I relaxed my hands on the ‘rewind’ or maybe the ‘unwind’ stroke.
Then, it dipped and skimmed the top of the scalding hot pudding straight into my face.
And my hair.
And the ceiling.
The covering properties of a button on a string have never been fully explored. I think they should be.
I believe Mom was cleaning up pudding from the most impossible places for months.
Long after I had healed.
P.S. I still like pudding. I just prefer it on the inside.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Hockey for the Hungry

The Arena
Ice hockey season, that time feverishly awaited by millions, has just ended.
A moment of silence . . .
We have ice hockey in our family.
Both Husby and I have played.
But it's probably not what you think.
It has everything to do with ice.
But nothing to do with getting paid, sticks, skates, thrown gloves, or referees. (Although we could probably use one or two of those latter.)
And has a lot to do with food.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Waiting for your order in a restaurant can be excruciating.
Especially if you're hungry.
And let's face it – if you're sitting in a restaurant, ordering food, you're probably hungry.
Moving on . . .
There are many things to keep you occupied while you wait.
Studying the other diners.
Visiting with your dinner companion/s.
Reading the dessert menu.
I should point out, here, that whoever designs the dessert menus is a certified genius. Everything – everything – looks and sounds stickily, creamily, chocolately, divinely delicious. Mouth-watering descriptions merely add to the pictured perfection of chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate.
With caramel.
And whipped cream.
Where was I?
Oh, yes . . . waiting for food.
My Husby uses the time to watch the people.
But when he starts to receive a few too many irritated, uncomfortable glances, or when his reputation precedes him and we have been seated in a non-viewing zone, he must come up with some other form of entertainment.
That's how he invented 'ice' hockey.
In this activity, one uses the chunks of ice from one's water glass and tries to flick them, using finger and/or thumb at one's dinner companion.
ie. Me.
Whereupon (good word) said companion retaliates.
Because who wants to sit there and merely become a target?
We try to keep the mess to a minimum.
But don't always succeed.
Case in point . . .
We were waiting for pizza.
It was taking a long time.
Something about the cows needing to be brought in so they could be milked so the lengthy process of turning the milk into cheese for toppings could begin.
Husby was bored.
He got a chunk of ice out of his glass and flicked it in my direction.
I caught it and flicked it back.
He returned fire.
This went on for some time.
He simply couldn't get it past my ultra deft defence.
Finally, he stopped and sat there, frowning at me.
I grinned back at him.
Then he raised his eyebrows in challenge.
He picked up his glass, which, by now contained only ice chunks and . . . upended it onto the table.
Then he fired every single piece – using both hands – at me.
It was an onslaught.
A deluge.
“Excuse me, folks, here's your pizza.”
An embarrassment.
We looked up.
The waiter was standing there, holding our pizza and staring at us.
He looked . . . frightened.
“Oh,” I said.
Grant grinned. “Put it here,” he said, swiping a spot clean.
The waiter gingerly set the hot pan down on the wet table, then beat a hasty retreat.
The pizza was great.
There's nothing like pizza after you've worked up an appetite playing a good game of ice hockey.
Especially when it immediately follows a large dollop of embarrassment.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Knowing the Quoting

Two things you need to know for today’s story: 
  1. We have raised a family of movie-watchers. 
  2. And a family of movie quote-ers. Who are now into the third generation.
On to my story . . .
       Six-year-old Grandson#2 (hereinafter known as GS2) was sitting at the kitchen table.
You have to know that this boy has aspirations of becoming one of the truly greats in video game design. He was understandably absorbed.
Only Sister (OS) was running around the front room.
With nothing between her tender tootsies and the big, bad furniture.
She miss-stepped.
Two somethings collided.
The solid, wooden something remained impassive. The soft, flesh-covered something let out a screech of pain.
OS proceeded to roll about on the floor.
Holding one foot.
And crying.
The busy household came to a screeching halt.
Everyone stared.
Well, almost everyone.
Without turning or interrupting what he was doing, six-year-old GS2 said, deadpan, “There goes our last female.”
Ultimate precision.
In craft.
In speech.
It’s a gift.

For those who may not have seen it: 'Our last female' from Ice Age

Tuesday, June 19, 2018



Remember the 'fashion' dolls of the fifties?
The straight-standing, frozen featured, supposedly beautiful dolls?
That creative people crocheted or knitted clothes for.
Or sunk into cakes.
Those dolls.
Well, besides being known for arriving 'without wardrobe', they were also known for their pre-styled, fine, beautiful hair.
Hair that was not comb-able.
That stuck together in a tight ball and defied any efforts at style change.
I know that hair well.
Because I was born with the same stuff.
And matted permanently together.
Candy-fluff hair, my Mom called it.
Okay, 'candy fluff', I loved.
Candy fluff on my head?
Not so much.
Every morning, and several times throughout the day, Mom would come at me with a comb.
Or some other implement guaranteed to make my hair behave.
None of them worked.
All of them . . . hurt.
Mom: “Diane, hold still! I'm almost done!”
Me: “Waaah!”
And so it went.
As I grew, my hair . . . changed. Subtly.
Oh, it was still fine and soft.
But it no longer stuck together in one fuzzy lump.
Now it stuck together in several fuzzy lumps all over my head.
Mom: “Diane, hold still! There's just one more!”
Me: “Waaah!”
Finally, by about age eight, I outgrew the 'fuzzies'.
But made another important discovery.
Yes, my hair no longer matted together, defying all attempts at style.
And it was now longer and straighter.
But . . . it still hurt to comb it.
Yes. I was a hair wuss.
Mom: “Diane, hold still! Your hair will look beautiful!”
Me: “Waaah!”
Finally, in frustration one day, she uttered the fateful words, “Diane, don't you know you have to suffer to be beautiful?”
I stared at her. “Really?”
She nodded sagely.
I put it together.
If I suffered, I would be beautiful.
It was that simple.
This went on for several years.
Every day, I suffered.
Every day, I looked in the mirror.
Nope. Same face as yesterday.
Finally, at age fifteen, I challenged my mother's hypothesis.
Me: “Mom! I've suffered! Why aren't I beautiful!?”
Mom (In true 'Mom' form): “Oh, honey, you ARE beautiful!”
Right. Waaait. I see where this is going . . .
Moving ahead several years . . .
I was combing my granddaughter's fiery red, naturally curly hair.
ME: “Kyra, hold still! I'm almost done!”
Kyra: “Waaah!”
Me: “Don't you know you have to suffer to be beautiful?”
She stared at me. “Really?”
And so the story continues . . .

Monday, June 18, 2018

Gnome, Sweet Gnome

‘Twas a surprise, my Husband said, this gnome with lederhosen, red,
Cause I needed something to regard, and help adorn my dreary yard.
His words embarrassed, just a bit, but rather than to pitch a fit,
I tried to show him I was pleased, and smiled and gave my man a squeeze.

Then dutifully, I embraced, my acquisition and I raced,
To prove to Hubs I was a fawner, I put it in a place of honour.
And there it sat, all smiles and glee, and pleasing everyone but me.
But Hubs was happy, so I was, too, and life went on a day or two.

“I saw him in the window, thought... they’d be a pair, and so I bought!”
And thus he brought Gnome number two. This one, with lederhosen, blue.
Dear Husband bought with such great glee. And so I placed it carefully,
And now two faces in my yard, dressed red. And blue. And standing guard.

“A little trio! Look. And See. That one is there on bended knee.
‘Tis a proposal… (Oh, what fun!) …of marriage to that other one!
The third a preacher. Ready. Set. Just how much better can it get?!”
And thus acquired four, five and six. And added to my little mix.

And so it went. With each new day, more little figures came my way,
For Husband, thinking they gave joy, bought little Gnomish girls and boys.
And I placed each and every one, to try to please my Honeybun.
And soon, one couldn’t walk or run, without colliding with someone!

Now my yard’s crowded, oh, dear me! There’s gnomes as far as one can see,
Some are seated, some stand up. They’ve kittens, horses, birds and pups.
I think there’s three that carry snails. Look! One has brought me gnomish mail!
Those painted eyes, they do not see, repeated pleas to leave me be.

And so I know what I must do, to save my yard (and reason, too).
I’ll have a little garden sale. It’s what I need, it cannot fail!
The sign, I’ll make so carefully, it’s letters large and filled with glee:
For sale, one husband, not alone, with him come 80 Garden Gnomes!

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 through our working haze,
We'll celebrate vacation days!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Men in Training

To all the amazing Fathers.
And especially to those in my life...

We have four sons.
From the time they were born, my Husby taught them to honour women.
His approximate words?
“In the creation process, Heavenly Father made the earth and everything on it. With each day, the things He made were more and more beautiful. His final, greatest creation? Woman. How are you going to treat God's greatest creation?”
He also told them that their Father would find someone very special for them to marry.
But they had to pray for her now.
All of them took his teachings to heart.
They treat women – all women - with a kindness and respect that is, unfortunately, seldom seen in the modern world.
Even as small boys, they were gentlemen.
And they did pray.
When our third son, Duff, was eight, his Sunday School teacher asked her class of seven boys if they prayed.
Each of them nodded.
She handed out pieces of paper and pencils.
“I want you to write down the things that you pray for,” she said.
Dutifully, the boys took their pieces of paper and began to make a list.
When they had finished, their teacher gathered them up and glanced through them.
I should probably note here that the first Nintendo play system was just new.
And wonderful.
And greatly sought after.
Certainly by the small boys in this class.
Back to my story . . .
At the head of every list, each of them had carefully recorded, 'Nintendo'.
Except for one.
At the top of one little eight-year-old boy's list was, 'wife'.
Our son's.
His teacher stared at it.
Then she looked at Duff.
“You're praying for a wife?” she asked, somewhat sceptically.
“Dad told us if we started praying now, we would get someone special,” Duff told her. “Like he did.”
With tears in her eyes, the teacher told us the story.
And brought tears to mine.
I had heard my Husby teaching our children.
But it was at that moment that I realized just what he was teaching them.
And that they were learning it.

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