Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, July 7, 2018

With Just a Little Love

Mmmm . . . love.
We were invited out to dinner one night.
Our hostess served us Turkey a la King.
And fresh, warm muffins.
With a crisp spinach salad.
Everything was absolutely delicious.
Which is usually the case when someone else cooks.
But as I was eating my salad, I suddenly remembered the spinach of my youth . . .
My Mom was a terrific cook.
Really terrific.
I can't remember anything that she made that I didn't like.
From her breakfasts of pancakes or waffles or bacon and eggs, through to her suppers of roast beef or shepherd's pie or veggies with cheese sauce, and everything in between.
But Mom had been raised by her Mom to believe that everything . . . everything . . . needed to be well done.
Even veggies.
All had to be baked or fried or boiled to 'within and inch of their lives'.
Or at least until they had lost whatever colour they originally had.
It wasn't until I was married that I discovered the joy of 'medium rare' and 'tender crisp'.
And sometimes . . . raw.
I remember the first time someone served a mound of fresh, crisp cauliflower.
With dipping sauce.
I stared at it.
Cauliflower was suppose to be served steaming hot.
With cheese sauce.
I didn't even try it that time. Merely having seen it was sufficient for me.
Shortly afterwards, I did.
Try it, I mean.
I found it delicious.
And it opened a whole new world for me.
A world of colour and taste and texture that I never knew existed.
Back to the spinach.
Do you know how my Mom always served it?
Not steamed. Boiled.
I kid you not.
Then serve it as a glop on our plates.
With vinegar.
And you know something else?
We loved it.
Slurped it down like it was our last food on earth.
My point here is that I love food the way I prepare it now.
But I loved it equally as well when Mom fixed it.
I guess it all just comes down to how much love is served with it.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Titles of Authority

I attended a wonderful college at Rexburg, Idaho for one golden semester in the fall of 1973.
It was as long as I could manage to be away from my family.
Have I mentioned I'm a wuss?
Well, I am.
I was so homesick during those endless four months that I could have died.
I even wrote an article about being homesick that was picked up by the local paper.
I still think the tear-stains on the paper were the real sell.
Moving on . . .
During my time at college, I studied Physical Education.
I actually took classes in Soccer, Interpretive Dance, Track and Field, and Swimming.
Did you know they offer college level courses in those things?
Yeah. I didn't either.
It was a fun semester.
To round things out, I had to take some other remedial courses.
Chosen from a list.
And including such things as . . . English Language Arts.
And one or more sciences.
I chose Astronomy.
Because Zoology was filled up.
For an entire semester, I studied the stars.
We even went out in the evenings and, with the help of large telescopes, mapped the heavens.
It was . . . fun.
Our instructor for the class was a man named Brother Greg.
Oh, I should mention, here, that this was a Christian school and that we called each other brother and sister.
Even the instructors.
Soo . . . Brother Greg.
Brother Greg was a wonderful man.
Let's face it, when you are shepherding a group of seventy or more students around, you'd have to have a good dose of all three.
And he answered every one of the questions I put to him.
Smiling quietly and nodding whenever my hand shot up accompanied by, “Brother Greg! Brother Greg!”
I enjoyed my Astronomy class.
I even earned a reputable grade.
And it was then that my world stood still. As well as all of the stars and planets I had been studying.
Because when Brother Greg handed out our final papers, with our grade prominently displayed, I got the biggest shock of the semester.
Brother Greg's name was Brother Nelson.
Brother Nelson?
Where on earth did I get Greg . . .? Oh. Brother Greg Nelson.
On the very first day of class, when I had been writing things down, I had started to write his name and was interrupted.
Thus, he became Brother Greg.
To this day, I wonder how I went through an entire semester without realizing that everyone . . . everyone . . . in the class was calling him something else.
I know the class was Astronomy, but was my head literally in the clouds?
Because he was such a nice man, he never corrected the weird student from Canada who insisted on calling him by his first name.
And neither did the other sixty-nine kids in the class.
Perhaps they snickered behind their hands whenever my hand went up.
Maybe (and this is a faint hope) they never noticed.
Oh, well, as least my grades were good.
Today, I couldn't tell you a single thing taught that semester.
Except for what I learned on the very last day.
And that, I simply can't forget.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


Okay, it was cute to start with . . .

Now you have a Love that is loyal and true,

And perfect in every way.
But knowing all that, now I put it to you,
What in the world would you say . . .?

From the time that we met as she walked down the street,
Just a’singing her favourite song,
Every moment together was perfect and sweet,
Put it mildly, we two got along.

Daily we’d treasure our moments together
And the years have gone past in a blur,
But lately, I’ve found that there’s one sort of weather,
I’m finding it hard to endure.

Now I’m not nasty or mean and I try to be kind,
I’ve given her arms that are strong.
It’s been fifty-five years, I’m mos’ deaf and near blind,
And I’m needing a different song!

I admit that I liked it when our Love was first new,
But more and more often, I find,
That ‘Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do’,
Is driving me out of my mind!
And to make the ear worm complete: Manfred Mann.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Pie for the Fourth

Happy Fourth!

Today is the celebration of the birth of a great nation.
The country where my grandparents were born and raised.
And where most of my family still lives.
I both love and salute you, my neighbours!
In the best way I know how.
With pie.
My Mom. Doing what she did best!
That king of treats.
The amazing union of lightly browned, flaky crust and yummy filling.
And topped with a delicious scoop of iced or whipped cream . . .
It's like heaven.
In your mouth.
Today is pie-making day. Whenever our family celebrates, we do it with pie. It's a long-standing tradition . . . that spans one generation.
Okay, yes, we started it, but it's still a good tradition!
So, because today is the anniversary of the birth of a great nation, and every party requires pie, I will spend today making it.
Pie, I mean.
I love doing this. My Mom made fantastic pie. Sweet. Flaky. (This is the only place where 'flaky' is a good thing.)
And utterly delicious.
And so, when I make it, using her recipes, it's like spending time with her. I even have the above picture, which I prop up and talk to.
Yes, it's weird, but she's been gone for well over a decade and I miss her.
And now, in honour of this great occasion, I am including eight of my favourite 'pie' quotes:

1. "Keep your knives, we're having pie!"  ~ My Dad. Just before Mom whacked him.
2. "Keep your fork, Duke, there's pie."  ~ The proprietress of a diner to the Duke of Edinborough.
3. "A boy doesn't have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn't like pie when he sees there isn't enough to go around." ~ E.W. Howe
4. "But I, when I undress me
Each night, upon my knees
Will ask the Lord to bless me
With apple-pie and cheese."
                  ~ Eugene Field
5. "Thy breath is like the steame of apple-pyes."  ~ Arcadia   Robert Green, 1590
6. "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe."  ~ Isaac Asimov
7. If all the world were Apple pie, 
And all the seas were ink, 
And all the trees were bread and cheese, 
What would we have to drink?  
                   ~ Unknown
7. "Pie? Is that those round things?" ~ My FIL. Just before my MIL whacked him.
8. "It is utterly insufficient (to eat pie only twice a week), as anyone who knows the secret of our strength as a nation and the foundation of our industrial supremacy must admit. Pie is the American synonym of prosperity, and its varying contents, the calendar of the changing seasons. Pie is the food of the heroic. No pie-eating people can ever be permanently vanquished."  ~ EDITORIAL New York Times, 1902
Which is your favourite?

I have to go. My Mom is waiting.
Happy Fourth of July, everyo

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Boy Crazy

Stringams. And one addition.
The boy, second from the right is Graham. The son of one of Dad's college buddies.
He was staying with us for the summer.
Poor kid.
The Stringam ranch was twenty miles from the town of Milk River.
And nine from the nearest neighbor.
Admittedly, it took many, many people to keep the homestead wheels turning.
People we associated with on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.
Many people employed there had families who lived with them on the ranch.
And these families had kids that we Stringam kids played with.
So none of us really lacked for company.
But when Dad received notice that someone, maybe one of his old classmates or a friend from his bachelor days, was stopping by with his family for a visit, it was a cause for some excitement.
My first question was, inevitably, “Are there any girls my age?”
Because we lived so far from civilization, visits usually lasted for days rather than hours. Thus, if there happened to be peers in the anticipated company, I was set for a very good time indeed.
Usually I was answered with a non-committal, “ I'm not sure. I think they have a couple of kids. They might be around your age.”
I would scoff quietly. How could my parents not know the most important fact, like whether there were any possible playmates in the crowd of eagerly awaited arrivals?
I've said it before. Parents are weird.
Inevitably the guests would arrive.
Most of the time, their kids were pretty close in age to at least some of us.
And after five minutes, it didn't matter. We all played together anyway.
Time moved forward and things . . . changed.
Oh, we still had guests stopping by the ranch and said guests still stayed for a few days with us.
And brought their kids with them.
But now that I was twelve, my interest in their children was slightly different.
Now, when a visit was announced, my question was, “Is there anyone my age?”
Notice the slight difference?
I’ll say it again. “Is there anyone my age?”
This is significant.
Because I was no longer looking for girls to play with. Now I was looking for boys to flirt with.
And I thought I was being subtle about it.
But looking back, I remember Dad’s grin whenever he told me, “I think they have a couple of sons. Probably a little older than you.”
He could read me like a book.
Probably a good thing I was never a gambler.
Or that there were boys in the poker pot.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Tale of Olaf and Lena

I love 'people' tales.
One of Daddy's favourite silly stories!

While he perused the shops that day, young Olaf met a girl,
She stopped him right there in his tracks and gave his heart a whirl,
A little dazed, he bought her baking right there on the spot,
And soon he found her cookies were the best he’d ever got.

A girl with looks and figure and as fine a cook could be?
It didn’t take him long to think, “Yes, she’s the one for me!”
Right there, our Olaf took a knee; asked Lena for her hand,
‘Midst pretty blushes, she agreed. Yes, with him, she would stand.

And so for nearly sev’nty years, they two lived, man and wife,
Blessed in every way, they had a blissful, happy life.
Our Olaf went to work each day, then came home to discover,
That Lena had been baking and make cookies for her Love-er.

Then old age caught them by surprise and illness came to stay,
Our Olaf soon succumbed and he grew weaker by the day,
And by his bed, our Lena stayed and nursed him patiently,
Though old, their sweet relationship was strong as it could be.

One day, our Olaf sniffed the air and smiled a tired smile,
‘Twas Lena’s cookies he could smell; he’d know them from a mile!
Summoning the last vestiges of his ebbing strength,
He rolled onto the floor, then crawled the total house’s length.

Then finally, the kitchen reached and saw the cookies there,
For a time, all he could do was sigh and simply stare.
For Lena had outdone herself—the cookies piled high,
From Olaf’s point of view, they seemed like they could reach the sky.

He slowly raised up from the floor and with a trembling hand,
Reached out for the treat. The sight was more than he could stand.
Well, Lena saw him as he took a snack phenomenal,
“Olaf, don’t take those!” she said. “They’re for the funeral!”

Mondays do 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 sure will be a treat,
We'll talk of food. It will be sweet!

Sunday, July 1, 2018


I love ancestor stories . . .
The Council House was being built in Manti, Utah, using volunteer labour.
And borrowed tools.
My Great Great Grandfather (hereinafter known at GGGrandfather) Stringam was one of those labourers.
With one of those borrowed tools.
In this instance, a hammer, lent to him by his friend, Augustus Dodge.
GGGrandfather, together with the rest of the crew, was busily laying flooring on the upper level of the mostly-finished building when the call came for lunch.
Setting the hammer down, he happily answered said call.
When he returned, he discovered that everyone had not left when he did, but had continued working.
And the entire floor had been finished.
In dismay, he looked over the beautiful job, knowing that, somewhere under those boards, was the hammer he had borrowed.
Yeah. I know. That happens to things I borrow, too.
Back to my story . . .
He found Augustus and told him his dilemma. He added, “If you’re around when that building is demolished, I guess you can claim your hammer.”
Moving ahead . . .
In 1910, fifty-plus years and a new century later, the Council House was scheduled for removal to make way for a spanking new library.
GGGrandfather, now an elderly man, heard the exciting announcement and went to observe the proceedings.
When the time came for the floor in the upper story to be removed, he was on hand to personally examine the space under every board as it was pulled up.
And finally, there it was.
Augustus Dodge’s borrowed hammer. Safe and sound.
There's a lesson in this.
Always return what you borrow.
Even it it's centuries later.

P.S. I wonder what the fine would be on that 'library book'?!

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