Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Starting Out Bad

Our second son, he of the six foot eight inches in height, has been a pillar (pun totally intended) of the local city police force for nearly two decades.
But, the experiences he has gathered over all of those years, serving as one of Edmonton's finest, still haven't been able to erase the experiences of his early days of training.
Case in point:
Each new officer must demonstrate his ability to continue to work under the most trying and difficult of circumstances.
Scenarios are crafted especially to create such a premise.
One of these is designed to demonstrate how well the new officer can function after being sprayed in the face with pepper spray.
The recruit stands to one side of the exercise yard and receives, directly in the face, a full dose of pepper spray.
That would be where a lessor man, ie. me, would just lay down and die.
But this is only the beginning.
Once sprayed, the officer, nearly blind and almost incapable of breathing, must call for backup and subdue and handcuff not one, but two suspects. Then finally, he may find his way to the sink at the far side of the yard to receive the blessed spray of water to clear eyes and air passages.
It is a gruelling, trying five minutes.
And ends with said recruits silent and contemplative as they sit blinking brilliantly reddened eyes, and breathing blessed pure air.
Fortunately for them, with the completion of this test, that particular day of training is over.
Family members are allowed to come and pick them up.
My son performed well.
He thinks.
Certainly he received a passing grade.
One can only assume what must happen if a recruit receives a failing grade . . .
Moving on . . .
As he sat there, blinking and sniffing, his new wife (of less than a month) arrived to take him home.
With much sympathetic cooing, she tucked him into a corner of the couch.
With a cool compress for his poor eyes.
And a warm, snuggly blanket.
Then she made him a batch of her famous cookies.
Remember where I said that his more recent experiences haven't erased those of his early training?
Well, I didn't say they were all bad.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Clock(s) Watcher

I have a thing about time.

I am a clock-watcher.
I have to know the time at any given moment.
Day or night.
I didn't realize just how bad I was until I was in hospital after the birth of our third son.
He was born at 9:30 in the evening and I was so keyed up that I couldn't sleep.
All night long.
I'm sure you've heard people say, “It was the longest night of my life.”
Well, that night was.
I kept listening for stirrings that would indicate the coming of day.
But in a hospital, in a maternity ward, there are constant stirrings.
From that day to this, I have made sure that I have some sort of time-keeper handy.
Moving on . . .
For all of his life, Daddy was a rancher.
He was good at it.
After retirement, he poured his energy and meticulous nature into the making of clocks.
Beautiful, inlaid, hand-crafted, gently-chiming clocks.
Which he then sold.
Many to me.
At one time, I had six of them.
They, together with my tall grandfather's clock, adorned various parts of my living room.
Even their ticking was noticeable.
When they collectively chimed the quarter hours and then the hours, it was pretty nearly deafening.
I loved it.
Had gotten so accustomed to it that I often don't even notice.
Sort of like living next to a set of very busy train tracks.
Sort of.
Oh, I had comments.
“It sounds like a clock shop in here!”
“I feel like I'm in some sort of creepy movie!”
Okay, I'm not sure that the person who made that last statement was totally talking about the clocks.
Ahem . . .
And my favourite, “Could someone please tell me the correct time. I think it just chimed forty-two in here!”
Hey. Love me, love my clocks.
Get over it.
My first purchase in walnut and purple heart

One of the newest in walnut and maple
More details in Rocky Mountain Juniper

There is a codicil:
At the age of 89, failing health forced many changes for Daddy. The first was the giving up of his beloved workroom. There were no more clocks from those gifted hands.
Then, a year later, he went home.
Suddenly, my collection took on a whole new meaning.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Demon Cleaner

See? Don't you wish you had one?
Mom's had little white 'eyes'.
Mom’s kitchen and dining room floors were amazing.
Gleaming, shining clean.
Perfect for sliding about in one’s socks.
And the most exciting thing about her clean floors was the little demon that came out to clean them.
Let me tell you about it.
Once a week, Mom would move all of the kitchen and dining room chairs into the living room.
Which was an adventure itself. (See here. Go ahead. We’ll wait . . .)
And while my brother and I were thus engaged, she would get down on her hands and knees and scrub the floors.
And I do mean scrub.
Never, in the history of the world, were there cleaner floors.
I know, because I spent a lot of time down on them.
Ahem . . .
Following the scrubbing, Mom would bring out the wax.
And this was about the time that my brother and I would abandon our chair play and lay at the edge of the floor to watch.
Because after the wax was applied, the ‘demon’ came out.
It was green.
And had a rounded, wide head and a long, stiff tail.
And, if you looked carefully, little white eyes.
That stared at you.
It also had three sets of interchangeable little pads that snapped on and off.
Dark and ‘bristly’, Steel wooley, or white, soft and ‘puffy’.
It was the latter that created the longed-for shine.
Mom would turn the demon over, snap on the soft pads and then flip it back and hit the switch.
Instantly the wide, white pads would begin to spin.
This was the best part.
As she polished, Mom would move the demon closer and closer to George and I.
Bravely, we would hold our ground. Daring each other to be the last to head, shrieking, for the nearest couch.
I should point out, here, that I never won.
George has nerves of steel.
Brothers. Pfff . . .

There is a codicil:
Years later, when I was newly married with waxable floors, and my Mom had graduated to kitchen carpeting, I inherited the ‘demon’.
It still had the interchangeable pads.
And still achieved an amazing shine.
And still terrorized small children.
Full circle.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


Well, it was fun for me . . .
My friend, Cathy's dad had a wonderful job.
He got to sneak into the schools after everyone had left.
Wander at will through the empty hallways and classrooms.
And clean.
Oh, man, it was the coolest!
And sometimes, wonder of wonders, he let Cathy and I and some of his other kids (12 in all ) . . . help.
There were times when we got to race the huge, soft dry-mops up and down the hallways.
And I do mean race.
Empty the garbage cans.
Did you know that the teacher's lounge of the sixties smelled like cigarette smoke?
Just FYI.
Moving on . . .
And, best of all, he let us clean the brushes.
In the sixties, whiteboards were black.
And pieces of chalk were used instead of today's dry-erase felts.
These pieces of chalk marked the blackboards very effectively.
There were only a couple of drawbacks.
They had the ability to squeak against the board at decibels that could shatter glass.
And they left a lot of chalk dust.
A lot.
Especially when someone tried to clean said chalk from said blackboard.
The thick, black-felt erasers used to accomplish this quickly became saturated with the fine, white dust.
Then they had to be cleaned.
Now a normal person would simply take the vacuum to them.
Or use the handy-dandy 'chalkboard spinner' in the basement.
A normal person.
Cathy and I were ten.
I should point out here that there is nothing normal about a 10-year-old.
Back to my story . . .
Cathy and I would collect the brushes.
Cart them outside.
And bang them together.
Imagine, if you will, a cloud of fine, white dust.
With two little girls somewhere near the center of it.
You get it, right?!
What on earth could be more fun?
The fact that the dust merely got relocated and that the two little girls then had to, themselves, be cleaned, never even entered our minds.
For a brief, wonderful while, we were the center of our very own little dust storm.
I can still remember how it smelled.
And, as it collected on our tongues, just how it tasted.

There is an unexpected codicil: Fifteen years later, I was expecting my third child. Another boy.
I craved something. In fact, I could almost taste it. It took forever to figure out what that taste was.
Then it hit me.
I was craving chalk.
And not the light, cheap stuff that had become common.
I was craving the good stuff.
The stuff that Cathy and I used to clean out of those brushes and catch in our mouths all those years ago.
The doctor told me I was lacking in minerals and gave me some pills to swallow.
I wish he would have simply given me some brushes to clean . . .

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sharp and Pointy

He sees a work of art. I see a cutting  . . . thing.
My Husby plays with knives.
I guess you could call him a genuine aficionado.
When he sees a knife, he has to examine it.
Check out what steel it's made of.
Feel its balance.
Grade the overall quality of its construction.
Yep. Aficionado.
Several years ago, he and our second son, who inherited all of his father's love of knives, took a knife-making course.
This merely served to up the ante, so to speak.
Now the two of them are constantly examining and purchasing bits of steel that could be used in the creation process.
We have a forge in our back yard.
My garage is stacked with pieces of specialized woods and animal horns that would be 'absolutely perfect' for a particular knife handle.
And all the tools used in the cutting, grinding and polishing of fine steel sit where a normal person would park their car.
It keeps him happy.
And did I mention that we have very fine knives in our kitchen?
Well, we do.
Every shape and size imaginable.
They are S.H.A.R.P.
Each knife in my kitchen has a specific purpose.
My Husby would be happy to elucidate.
At great length.
I wouldn't be listening.
Because I use only two.
A small, paring knife that he purchased for me in Corsica . . .
I should point out, here, that most people buy souvenirs when they travel. My Husby is the same. Except that said souvenirs invariably consist of something sharp and pointy.
With excellent steel, good balance and a really, really interesting handle.
He bought the first on our honeymoon. 
And continued.
Moving on . . .
My second knife is an ordinary-looking blade.
Just the right size for me.
Both are wrong.
Oh, they are good knives.
Do an excellent job.
Look nice.
But as my Husby is so fond of pointing out, they are not the right knife for whatever job I am requiring of them.
Invariably, when he comes into the kitchen when I am cooking, the first words out of his mouth are, “You're using the wrong knife.”
To which he is rewarded with a heated glare.
Let's face it, he's a brave man to say such things when his wife has something razor sharp and very pointy in one hand.
I have often told him so.
He just laughs.
But I will have the last laugh.
And I tell him that on his gravestone, it will read, “She used the wrong knife!”
No jury would convict me.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A Very Tall Tale

It's Poetry Monday again!
Today we're discussing Vacation Days.
My joy of vacation days? The freedom to continue telling silly stories . . .

The good Lord read a new report that made him feel quite grim,
Now I have to tell you this report did really not please Him,
It said, of his retirees, only 5 percent were good,
While 95 percent were doing other than they should!

The good Lord was admissibly dismayed by all He read,
And sent another angel to endorse what had been said.
Sadly, when the man returned, he’d confirmation, true.
95 percent were doing things they shouldn’t do.

The good Lord sent an email to the 5 percent who tried,
To tell them they were doing well and he was satisfied.
But now a question I must ask, you really can’t ignore…
I haven’t got my email yet. Have you all gotten yours?

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 as we come and go,
We'll talk of people that we know!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Crossing the Plains

It was 1848 and the time had come.
Paternal Great, Great, Great Grandmother Polly Hendrickson Stringham's daughter, Elmeda and her husband were living in a small community in Nebraska.
It was their turn for a move west.
A couple of experiences in Elmeda's words:
We were very busy getting ready for our departure to the valley in the mountains where the first pioneers had located a permanent home for the poor travel worn people.
We had a good team of 2 oxen, also 2 cows, 2 heifers, 2 chickens, 1 pig and 1 horse with provisions enough to last a year, so we were all very happy to be on our way to our future home.
We crossed the Horn River on a raft, where we joined the camp under the leadership of Heber C. Kimball and were placed in Brother Isaac Higbee's company of 60 wagons.
At one time on our journey along the Platte River, a band of [natives] came to our camp.
They were always asking for food and watching a chance to take a horse or ox.
They were given as much food as we could spare, for it was wisdom to keep on friendly terms with them.
I noticed a fine-looking [native]--evidently the chief--talking to my husband, counting on his fingers as though offering something in a swap or trade.
My husband kept shaking his head--no--no. 
Afterward, he told me the Chief wanted to buy me, offering him 20 ponies for me.
After that incident, we women were cautioned to stay close by the wagons when we were walking ahead of the train.
We arrived in the Valley September 24, 1848 and camped in Pioneer Square.
As soon as we were camped, the women of the company got our kettles of water hot and went to washing our dirty clothes...

Here's where I mention that, for me, any long journeys are never undertaken without hotel (and quite possibly dinner) reservations.
And though I admit I would have been a bit flattered to be a '20-horse-woman', I'm just as happy that, for me, a kettle is used strictly for making tea.

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