Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, August 18, 2018


Mom. Doing dishes with Aunt Grace in the motel bathroom.
Getting in her visit where she can...
I come from a long line of church-attending people.
Call it a tradition.
When I was young we attended with amazing regularity.
Did you know that Sunday comes every. Single. Week?
Well, it does.
Now a little background here . . .
We lived 20 miles from the nearest town of Milk River, Alberta.
The ranch we lived on was its own little village. With an ever-changing population.
Sometimes, there were other women (foreman’s wife, female cook). Sometimes not. (Foreman: single. Cook: Mom)
For my Mom, living there year after year, it could sometimes be a bit lonely when her husband was off ranching, serving on several committees, veterinarian-ing, searching out new bulls by attending sales in far-off places. Far, far off places.
And she ached for someone to talk to.
Then Sunday would come around.
Presenting her with myriad visiting possibilities once the church services had ended.
I remember her standing and talking almost desperately. There was a lot to say and only a short window of time in which to do it.
Because her children would be antsy to head home to the delicious dinner they knew was waiting. She carried on doggedly through a progression of frowns and eye-rolls. Throat-clearings. And finally sleeve-pullings and increasingly louder expressions of, “Mo-om!”.
I admit it, my next older brother and I were the worst.
Moving forward half a century. Mom has been happily visiting with friends in Heaven for nearly two decades . . .

I had attended Sabbath meetings with my brother and his sweet wife. The services were over. I was standing in the foyer, waiting while my brother and his wife finished their respective conversations with friends.
I knew that a delicious dinner was waiting for us at their home.
I sighed and briefly considered moving right to sleeve-pulling and, “Ge-orge!” but I restrained myself.
How far I’ve come.
Brother and Sweet Wife

Friday, August 17, 2018


“Please! Please!” Mom begged. “I’ll only be gone for fifteen minutes. Can you two girls try and behave? And husk the corn for supper?!”
I smiled and nodded. “Of course!” I looked at Sally.
Who was gazing out the back window.
She turned toward us. “Hmmm?”
“Did you hear what Mom said?”
Sally squinched her eyes up thoughtfully. “Ummm . . .”
Mom sighed. “I asked you two girls to behave. I’ll only be gone fifteen minutes.”
“Oh, that! Yeah. Sure.” Sally shrugged and turned back toward the window.
“Okay, then,” Mom said uncertainly. She started toward the door, her eyes on her youngest daughter. “I’ll be right back.”
“Bye Mom!” I said cheerfully, waving. “See you soon!”
“Yeah.” She was still watching Sally as she slowly pulled the front door shut.
Sally leaped to her feet. “Come on!” she shouted, grabbing me by the ear.
I got up hurriedly. “Come where?”
“We only have fifteen minutes!”
“Ummm . . . what are we going to do?”
“We’re going sledding!”
I looked outside at the sweltering August afternoon. Heat was rising in waves above the houses across the street. A small sprinkler, looking like an afterthought in the eerie quiet, struggled mightily to moisten a corner of Mrs. Casper’s lawn.
It was so hot that even the vast army of neighbourhood children had taken refuge indoors. The uncommonly still street closely resembled a scene out of The Walking Dead.
I know because it’s my favourite show.
Sally released my ear and disappeared up the stairs. “Come on! I saw this on YouTube! It’ll be wonderful!”
I followed slowly. You have to know that Sally’s idea of ‘wonderful’ seldom meshes with mine. “But we were supposed to husk the corn,” I said without much force. I looked at the six little cobs stacked neatly on one end of the table. “Sally?”
I climbed the bottom two stairs and gained the lower landing. 
“Look out below!”
I had a brief glimpse of my sister perched at the top, seated on a magic carpet.
Without hesitating, I leaped away in one quick movement. I’ve been Sally’s sister for fifteen years. Out of necessity, the reflexes are pretty good.
“Yahoo!” I could hear the thump, thump, thump as Sally gained momentum on the thick carpet.
By the way, I should probably mention here that our stairway is not open to the world. It has walls on two sides, and ends at a landing and a third wall, with two extra steps leading down to the right and left. When descending, one must, of necessity, turn 90 degrees to avoid contact with that third wall.
I really don’t think Sally was anticipating this.
There was a loud bang.
Followed by a muffled screeching.
As there seemed to be no further movement, I ventured forward.
How can I describe this? Sally had made the descent without incident. But . . . who was it who said ‘It’s not the fall that kills you, but the sudden stop at the bottom’? Unable to make that last turn, Sally managed to hit the wall in such a fashion that her head went right through the plaster. 
There was some good news. She somehow managed to miss any of the wall studs that must lie somewhere behind the drywall.
But my errant sister was neck-deep in it. So to speak.
At first, I was understandably alarmed. But as she continued to screech, my fears soon evaporated. No one could make that much noise while mortally injured.
I hurried to her side and put my hands on her shoulders. “Hold still!” I shouted. “Here. I’ll get you out!” Say what you will about Sally, she knows when she needs help. She grew quiet.
It took some maneuvering, but we finally managed to pull her head out, whilst ensuring it was still attached to the rest of her.
Sally blinked plaster out of her eyes and grinned at me. “That was fun!”
And that’s when we both heard the front door open.
“Hello?” Mom’s voice. From the vantage point of the front door, nothing of what had just taken place was visible. I so wished it could remain thus.
I peeked around the corner and our eyes met.
Mom’s hopeful expression vanished like a wisp of smoke. “What happened?”
Sally stuck her thickly-powdered head around the wall. “Hi, Mom!” she said brightly. “You’ll never guess what I did!”

Each month, we of Karen's crew volunteer words to the collective.
And receive words back.
It's a wonderful, challenging, fun prompt!
This month, my words were: 
by the way ~ this ~ wonderful ~ ear ~ cob
And were given to me by my good friend Jules at The Bergham Chronicles

 There are quite a few of us involved in the challenge!
Care to see what my friends have crafted?
Baking In A Tornado 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Along for the Ride

My sometimes ride. And chauffeur.

 For many of you, the statement: ‘The Tolley family tends to spend a lot of their summer outside on bicycles’ will come as no surprise.
I’m almost sure I’ve mentioned it before.
And it's true.
Every morning, weather permitting, we saddle-up—Grampa, Gramma and as many of the chicks and chicklets as are out of bed and/or conscious.
With 22 members of our family living within town limits, at times it’s quite a group.
And the fact that we live in a community riddled with small lakes and a veritable web of biking trails makes the whole thing . . . in a word . . . easy.
Even taking into account that our town crowns the highest hill for miles and there is, of necessity, a lot of up-ping and down-ing.
With such a trail of cyclists, it’s a blessing that we have to cross only the occasional major street.
Our mishaps have been relatively few.
In fact, the only people who have pitched off their bikes are Granddaughter #4 (our newest little rider) . . . and Grandma.
And guess which one holds the record?
I did it again just yesterday.
And yet I still insist on going.
Finally, sitting on a park bench, putting yet another band-aid on Grandma's much-abused knee, and while the kids played at that day’s choice of park, Daughter #1 came up with an ingenious solution. One, I should point out, that would still allow Grandma to continue on the rides, but would be marginally safer and include two-wheeled death traps only peripherally.
Ahem . . .
Her answer? Pump Grandma full of helium, tie a string to her ankle, and float her along behind one of the bikes.
Like a balloon.
Can’t you just see it?
Her idea sparked all kinds of responses: “Ahhhh Reel me in! Low bridge! Low brid . . .!” and “Kids! Power li . . .zzzzaaaap!” and the ever popular: “I told you not to untie Grandma! Now we’ll never get her back!” That little beauty was also followed closely by: “Good thing we wrote her address on her forehead!”
There were suggestions of “Old Air/Wind/Gas bag” and something to do with “being full of hot air”. But by that point, I was already on my bike and halfway out of the parking lot.
My family’s for sale if you want them.
You get the idea . . .

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

It's Official

With special days all through the year to celebrate the great and small,
It’s sometimes difficult to choose a single topic from them all,
With things like ‘Ice Cream Sandwich Day’ and ‘Girlfriend’s Day’, to name a few,
And ‘Tell a Joke Day’, ‘Bow Tie Day’. And don’t forget ‘Spumoni’, too!
There’s ‘Single Working Women’s Day and ‘Be an Angel Day’ as well,
And ‘Kiss and Make Up Day’ (to follow that one day of ‘Kiss and Tell’!)
‘Work Like a Dog Day’s’ special too. And while we’re on that subject, there,
There’s ‘Dog Appreciation Day’ for those with dogs for whom they care.
We’ve ‘Sister’s Day’ and ‘Lover’s Day’ and ‘Son and Daughter Day’ besides,
And even one called ‘Lighthouse Day’ for those who love to watch the tides!
There’s hundreds more for all of us, a ‘Day of Beer’ and ‘Day of Sun’,
A ‘Fresh Breath Day’ and one for ‘Hoyle’ and one for ‘Middle Child’ fun.
But with them all, we chose the one that spoke to each of us for sure,
Not ‘Creamsicles’ or ‘Eat Ouside’ or ‘Chocolate Pecan Pie’s’ allure,
I’m sure you’d like to know the champ. (And yes, I feel like such a tease!)
It’s ‘Relaxation Day’ today! I get to catch up on my ZZZZZZZZZ’s!

Each month we have a challenge
Yes, we voted on a theme,
Then each put on our thinking caps 
And hurried to our screens.
Now you know the theme's official,
There won' be any flack,
It's National Relaxation Day,
So get ready to RELAX!

I'm not the only one taking advantage.
See what my fellow 'relax'ers' have done . . .

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: If You Insist
Dawn of Cognitive Script: A Balm To My Soul
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Relax, my Foot

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Running for the Unseen Goal

 A guest post by Little Brother, Blair Stringam

A long time ago (I won’t say how long) when I was in grade school, I was pretty much bored with everything school.  The only thing that I looked forward to was the spring county track meet.  I loved to run and I loved to compete in the sprints and relays.  Finally, I progressed through grade school to grade 6 and I thought that now that I was going to start junior high school the next year and would be with the older kids who were stronger and faster, that I wouldn’t be able to compete in another track meet.  It made me sad. 
As school ended and summer vacation began, I was given various tasks on the ranch and I enjoyed working outside.  However, I did get tired of baling hay.  Baling hay helped to get me to look forward to school in the fall. 
Another task that I was usually involved with was fencing.  If we weren’t baling hay, we were building fence. Or mending fence. Or checking fence.  
One day Dad took me out to the field where we were going to build a new barbwire fence.  The process involved pounding in corner posts, stringing a wire between the corner posts then using said wire as a guide to pound in all the posts between the corners.  It was very important to my Dad to make sure that the fence was straight so after the wire was strung and before the posts were pounded, we had to set one of the lengths of barbwire to be our post guide.  
With the wire stretched, my dad would stand at one of the corners and look along it to the other corner.  I had the job of running down the length of wire and moving it to one side or the other as Dad gave hand signals.  As I said earlier, I liked to run so I didn’t mind the task.
During the summer after grade 6, Dad started making me run faster.  I was surprised because in the past he had been content with just allowing me to run at my desired pace.  This summer he was making me put more effort into it.  Because I liked to run, I didn’t question what Dad was doing.  (I think that he may have been in a hurry that day.) 
It happened that that day was a good day for running and we were able to set all of the guide wires for the fence.  We finally got into the truck and headed for home.  I asked Dad, why he was making me run faster than I normally did.  He said that he wanted me to work on training for the track meet next year in the spring.  I said, “but Dad, I’m going to junior high school next year.  I’ll be with the big kids.  I don’t think I’ll get to run in a track meet again.” 
He just said that it is good to prepare. 
That little piece of advice has stuck with me for all of my life.  The funny thing is as I have tried to prepare for future challenges, the task that I was doing prepared me for opportunities that I didn’t foresee.  I am so very grateful for a father that had the foresight to encourage me to try to look at possible opportunities and prepare for them.  It has helped me in ways that I never imagined. 
And by the way, in my senior year, I was able to compete in the provincial track meet.  Thanks Dad.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Summer Flying

“What is your favourite memory
Of summer?” Husby asked of me,
“Times you spent out in the woods?
(The best of times in his childhood.)
“Or merely memories of home
With family or all alone?”
I thought about his question some,
Those sunlit summer days of fun,
Of river mud between my toes,
And little in the form of clothes,
Or riding out in boots and jeans,
And branding, doling out vaccines,
Of showing calves at summer fairs,
And breathing in the sage-stuffed air.
Of family and cabin time,
The cold, lake swims were so sublime.
Or later? Thoughts meandered on,
Of time well spent in days long gone,
When kids were small and running free,
And rolled in mud from neck to knee,
Family trips both good and bad,
When all were there with Mom and Dad,
What memories do I like best?
When I am feeling the most blest...?
I’d have to say those I most like:
The ones spent on my ‘Bluebird’ bike,
With family ahead, behind,
And techniques good to unrefined,
And trailing out across the town,
“Teens wait! The smalls are slowing down!”
Yes, grandkids, aged fifteen to four
With sometimes less and sometimes more,
But, oh! What bliss and… Oh! What fun!
Those early mornings in the sun.
And so to answer Husby’s probe,
And pond’ring days spent on this globe,
My favourite memories, I must say?
The ones that I will make today!
All summer long!
The Tolley family on the town!
Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--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, because they're close to me,
My poem's of Delores and Jenny!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Price of Integrity

Grampa Stringam and his Sons.
Back row: Daddy (Mark), Bryce, Elwood, Woodrow, Alonzo.
Front row: Briant, Grandpa, Owen.

My grandfather, George Stringam, ranched in Southern Alberta in the early half of the twentieth century.
There are countless stories about those days, all of which I find fascinating.
But those I am most drawn to are the tales of his integrity and honesty.
Here is one, as told by my Uncle Owen:

Jerry Woodruff, one of the oldtimers of the Glenwood district, ran a few head of milk cows and always had a few head of calves to sell every fall. He always offered them to my father (George Stringam). Father always gave Jerry what Father thought they were worth, which price was always very satisfactory (according to Jerry).
One particular fall, Jerry called Father on the phone and told him he had six or seven steer calves that he’d like to sell.
Father didn’t have time to come and look at them but would Jerry please describe?
Jerry did so, saying they were the same calves from the same cows that Father had been buying every fall.
Father quoted him a price and Jerry agreed, then asked when he could bring them by.
Father told him he would have a pasture ready in about three days and they ended the conversation.
When Jerry delivered the calves, Father wasn’t around, so Jerry just left them in the barn and went his way.
The next Sunday, the two met and Father told him, “Jerry, those calves weren’t what you told me they were!”
Jerry responded,” Well I thought they were just like they always were.”
Father said, “Well, they were better than you told me. Here’s some more money.”
He handed Jerry a check.

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