Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, September 7, 2018

Fly With Me

Mom, George, Chris, Jerry, Dad and me.
Not picuted: The clothesline.
Climbing was my thing.
Ask anyone.
My climbing ability was legendary. My experiences, many and varied.
Many's the time my mom would sprint up the old machinery hill to save her tiny daughter from the jaws of certain death.
Or at least from a very unpleasant fall to the bottom of the 100 foot TV tower.
My father, too, was no stranger to my favorite activity. During a visit with the manager of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton, Alberta, the new chandelier in the great room was being discussed.
"It's magnificent," Dad said, gazing up into the rafters 50 feet above them.
"Yeah, we really like it," the manager said, following his gaze. "The only thing I'm concerned about is how we're going to clean it."
"Clean it?!" Dad said. "Well, I have a daughter who will climb it!"
Together, my parents plucked me off the top of horses, bulls, pigs, haystacks, combines, tractors, trees, fences, shed roofs, barn roofs, garage roofs, car roofs, water towers, windmills, and even the occasional propane tank.
Admittedly, a fall from many of them probably wouldn't have been fatal. Just . . . uncomfortable.
But no amount of lecturing or lurid stories illustrating the dangers of such activities could discourage me.
I just had to climb.
And then that fateful day . . .
Isn't it odd that fateful days never, ever seem to start out any different from any other day? I mean, sullen, red skies would be entirely appropriate. With phenomena. That way, you'd know that something momentous was about to happen.
But I digress . . .
I had discovered a wonderful new activity.
It included Mom's clothesline and the picnic table.
And climbing.
For some reason, the table had been shoved close to the clothesline. Close enough that someone daring - me - could make a run along the table and launch oneself - also me - onto the clothesline.
Now I should point out here that Mom's clothesline wasn't one of those boring long stretches of wire so useless to an enterprising youngster. No.
It was a new-fangled round one.
That spun when pushed.
And if you leapt and caught the wires just right, you could spin all the way around and back to the table.
Which I did.
Several times. In fact, I was the neighborhood champion. Again and again I would perform for my audience to appreciative oohs and aahs.
Several of the kids tried it, but no one could go quite as far or as fast as I could, although some were getting close. I decided it was time to up the ante. 
I was going to try for a double axel.
It had never been done. Never even been attempted.
But I was going to do it.
My audience was assembled.
I dusted my hands together and poised at the back edge of the picnic table.
The crowd grew hushed.
I took a deep breath and launched myself along the table.
I flew gracefully across the intervening space.
Even more perfect.I reached out for the wires.
And for the first time in my life, missed.
I reached again, frantically, then looked up at the wires, as they slowly moved further and further from me.
How could this be?
With a heavy thump, I hit the ground, driving every square millimeter of air from my lungs.
My friends stared at me, frozen. Then there was a collective scream and they all rushed forward.
"Diane! Diane! Are you all right?"
I just stared at them and tried to catch my breath.
Then a horrified, "Diane, you're bleeding!"
I looked down. They were right. Blood was spattered on my shirt and shorts. I looked at my arms. My legs.
Then I tried to talk.
And realized where the blood was coming from.
My mouth.
Shocked, I put a hand over it.
"Mrs. Stringam! Mrs. Stringam!" several voices began shouting.
My Mom came on the run.
"Oh, my!" She knelt beside me and put a towel to my chin. "Open your mouth, Honey."
I tried to obey, but my mouth didn't want to. It had suddenly begun to hurt.
It wanted to stay shut.
I felt the tears begin.
"It's okay, Honey, just open your mouth."
Finally, I was able to open it. A little.
Mom gasped, and put the towel over my mouth.
"Come on, Dear, let's get you into the house."
"Mrs. Strin-gam? Will Diane be all right?" I vaguely recognized Laurie's voice.
"She'll be fine, Dear. I'll just take her into the house and get her cleaned up."
Mom half-led, half-carried me into the cool, quiet house and sat me down on the cupboard in the kitchen. Then she sponged the blood off my face and neck.
"Let me have another look, Honey," she said.
Obligingly, though I really didn't want to, I opened my mouth for her.
"Okay, well, you've cut your tongue, Honey. It's probably going to hurt quite a bit. But it'll be all right."
So she kept saying. Why didn't I believe her?
"Here. Hold this while I call Doctor Clemente."
I took the towel she was pressing to my face while she went to the phone.
"Yes, Doctor." I could hear her in the hallway. "Yes. Okay." She hung up the phone.
Then she was back beside me. "Here, Honey, let me take it."
She gently swabbed at my mouth again.
Mom could make anything feel better.
Later, after I had refused supper, a new thing for me, I overheard her talking to Dad.
"Yes, I think it's bitten at least half-way through. It's still attached, but barely. The doctor thinks it will heal just fine, but it'll be a while, and it'll be painful."
A while?
That is parent code for 'forever'.
It did heal. And quite quickly, too, in 'Parent' time.
During that time, I was the focus of all of the neighborhood kids. Everyone would come up to me and ask me to stick out my tongue.
Then ooh and ah delightedly.
I was a celebrity.
It was almost enough to get me climbing again.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Let There be Trees

Notice the trees. Please.
When I was fourteen, Dad decided to combine the best of all worlds.
He sold the old family ranch twenty miles from the town of Milk River and bought a new spread.
Somewhat closer.
Situated immediately adjacent to the town – and I do mean immediately – it retained all the charm of living in the country.
Within walking distance of everything ‘town’.
There was just one drawback.
The ranch grew from the ashes of the old town slaughter house.
Quite literally.
The slaughter house had burned to the ground and the town butcher had taken it as a sign that it was time to retire.
Dad was only too happy to help him out and bought the almost bare patch of ground.
Oh, there was pasture. Plenty of it.
But no buildings to speak of.
My parents had to start from scratch.
After several months of construction, corrals, barns, outbuildings, quonset and finally, home, appeared.
But that was just the first part.
Now, I should point out, here, that the town of Milk River lies nestled in a crook of the actual Milk River on the prairies.
The rolling, grassy, windswept, breathtakingly beautiful, treeless prairies.
Our recently vacated old ranch had been planted, sometime in the thirties, with acres of trees. Trees that stood tall and straight and looked like they had been there forever. Tress so lush and beautiful that is was rather difficult to see the ranch house.
Though this new place had many, many amenities, its treeless state was achingly obvious.
Mom set out to do something about it.
And roped us kids into helping.
We planted trees.
Acres of them.
And then, if that weren’t enough, we watered trees.
Acres of them.
Oh, we used the garden hose – for as far as it would reach. Then we used a little water tank on wheels.
It was aching, back-breaking work.
But who is going to sneak away to happier pursuits when one’s mother is out there, sweating beneath yet another bucket of water?
No one could be that heartless.
Okay, well, Dad would have had something to say about it if we disappeared . . .
We hand-fed those trees the entire time we lived there.
Then dad, he of the itchy feet, bought another ranch, this time near Fort MacLeod, Alberta.
One that was, mercifully, well treed.
Happily, we packed our buckets and moved.
But we often drive past the old place, whose trees are now nearly fifty years old.
Trees that stand tall and straight and look like they’ve been there forever. Tress so lush and beautiful that is was rather difficult to see the ranch house.
I guess we gave them a good start.
And, really, that’s all that matters.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Dish Sisters

My older sister and me.
Oh, and George.
And part of Dad
And a little bit of Jerry and Blair.
The food had been, as per Mom’s usual standard, delicious.
The conversation had flowed, eddying around such topics as - the day. School. Ranch work. Friends. Town politics.
I was sitting in a contented stupor.
Well fed.
My favourite people in the world around me.
Life was better than fabulous.
“Chris and Diane,” Mom said, smiling at us. “You girls are on dishes tonight.”
And, just like that, my euphoric bubble burst. I could almost hear the ‘snap’ of its passing.
We looked at each other.
“Okay!” Chris said, bouncing to her feet.
Have I mentioned that my older sister is one of those people who is always willing and cheerful?
She is.
Most of the time, I liked it.
Just not tonight.
My reaction to Mom’s announcement was anything but enthusiastic. “Dishes?! Mooom!”
Okay, I admit that my reaction was purely for selfish reasons. I was in the middle of a good book and my plan had been to drop straight back into it after supper.
But Mom’s word was law and I dragged myself to my feet and helped my perky sister scrape and stack the mountain of dishes.
We did fine to that point.
Now here is where the differences between her way of accomplishing the task, and mine, met.
And clashed.
When she washed, Chris liked to leave the tap on just a tiny trickle. Then she could wash, rinse the item by passing it through the stream, and set the dish into the draining board.
I, on the other hand, preferred the ‘turn-the-tap-on’ method.
Wherein one would turn on the tap each time one was ready to rinse.
In my opinion, it wasted less water.
Here is where I admit that Mom simply put some rinse water into the second sink and . . . dipped.
But who wanted to do it Mom’s way?
I was washing. So I got to choose.
Tap on. Rinse. Tap off.
“Why don’t you just leave it on a trickle?” Chris asked. “It saves time.”
Already feeling disgruntled, I mumbled, “I prefer it this way!”
Big sigh from older sister.
Wash. Tap on. Rinse. Tap off.
“Diane, this is really starting to bug me! Just leave the tap on!”
“Fine!” I turned on the tap and let it trickle.
Chris smiled and continued to dry dishes.
I washed something. Then, out of habit, turned the tap, forgetting that it was already on.
“Diane! It’s already on!”
“Oh, right. Sorry.”
Another dish.
“Diane! It’s already on!”
Another dish.
This time, I turned the tap a little more forcefully than usual.
Not a problem if it wasn’t already on.
Which it was.
The water splashed out, soaking every available surface.
And my sister.
Oops. “Umm . . . sorry?”
“Ugh. Get out of here and just let me do it!” She reached for the wash cloth and, just like that, I was out of a job.
I stood there for a moment and watched her.
Then I shrugged and went to find my book.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Mostly Spiky

C'mon. Give us a snuggle!
Porcupines. Not so cute and cuddly any more.
Or ever.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On a ranch, though I've heard that their meat - like pork - is quite sweet and tasty, porcupines serve no useful purpose.
Actually, anywhere, they really don’t accomplish much that could be considered ‘good’.
Herbivores, they nibble new trees to death. Devour plant life and generally make nuisances of themselves in a ‘shredding the garden’ way.
They also intimidate the livestock. It is this last that is the most aggravating.
Because said livestock have to then be rescued.
My dad and a hired man, Dale, were checking the herd.
It was winter.
Now I should probably explain, because it will be pertinent later, that in Southern Alberta, in winter, snow falls. It just doesn’t stay where it fell.
On average, parts of Southern Alberta have 13 to 14 windless days in the year.
13 to 14.
I probably don’t need to point out that that leaves 351 to 352 windy days.
Now you know why snow doesn’t stay where it’s put.
Back to my story . . .
On this particular day, Dad and Dale came across a cow with a face full of porcupine quills.
She had obviously allowed curiosity to overcome her sense. Wait. I’m talking about a cow here. She had obviously let her curiosity have free rein and discovered the folly of sniffing porcupines.
The quills had been embedded both in and outside her mouth, making grazing impossible. The poor animal was standing there. Sore. Hungry. And downright miserable.
Dad and Dale removed the quills, then decided to hunt down the culprit.
It’s a rancher thing.
They found him a short distance away, happily sunning himself in the branches of a chokecherry bush.
Breaking off branches of the bush, Dad and Dale closed in for the ‘kill’. Or at least the ‘drive the varmint to the nearest far-away place’.
Here’s where the blown snow comes in. The wind had deposited most of a recent snowfall into those same bushes. Dad found himself chest-deep in the stuff as he approached.
But thinking he’d simply knock the critter off its branch and scare it away, he really wasn’t concerned.
Big mistake.
Did you know that porcupines, far from being the shy, retiring animals they appear, are actually quite aggressive?
Make a note of it.
The porcupine hit the snow and, moving astonishingly easily over the great drifts, immediately turned and headed straight for dad’s face.
Which was, in baseball speak, right in the ‘strike zone’.
Unable to move in the chest-deep snow, Dad watched in horror as the angry little monster came right for him.
He closed his eyes.
Then heard the ‘whump’ of something striking a soft body. And the even more welcome sound of said soft body landing some distance away. Far out of the face prickling ‘oh-my-heck-this-is-going-to-hurt’ zone.
He opened his eyes.
Dale had swooped in at the last minute and hit the ball out of the park.
So to speak.
The disgruntled porcupine, realizing that it was no match for two branch-wielding opponents, tossed one last glare in their general direction and headed, quite literally, for the hills.
Mission accomplished.
Porcupine troubles?
Grab a branch and follow me!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Fall's Magic

I discovered ‘Fall’ when I was ten,
Yes, Autumn happened long before,
I just began to notice then.
Sit back, I’d like to tell you more…

To make us culturally aware,
Our Mom would haul us once a week,
To Mrs. Sproad of the greying hair,
For music lessons. So to speak.

Each time, I’d sweat my half an hour,
On piano bench. With tongue in teeth.
When brother sat, I got to scour
The farm. From barns to distant heath.

With collie, Princess, by my side,
I wandered out wher’er I could.
Through grasses long and leaves all dried,
Just two of us there in the woods.

The sounds, the smells I can’t forget,
The crisp and spicy odors pleased,
If I could, I’d be there yet,
Running through the crunchy leaves.

With Princess and her ringing bark,
My trustworthy companion, she,
A furry, friendly matriarch
Who now is just a memory.

So now each time I smell those smells,
Or find myself knee deep in leaves,
The memories, I can’t dispel,
Fall's magic? On my heart it breathes.

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, we'll celebrate with flair,
The funny, fuzzy Teddy Bear.                             

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Catching a Thief

Grandpa: George Lewis Stringam
Throughout his life, my Grandpa Stringam, a rancher, politician, husband, father and friend, was known for two things.
His business savvy.
And his kindness.
This is one of my favourite stories about him . . .
Grandpa used to rent harvested fields at the end of the season to feed out his cattle. Most of the crop had been removed. But there was always something left for an animal that was good at gleaning.
He usually tried to get fields that were close to water, so his animals would both be fed and watered, then every two or three days, he would ride out to check the herd and make sure they were cared for.
On one particular patch of ground, the owners had erected a small hut – not much more than a shack – for when they were in the fields during harvest. The rest of the year, the hut remained empty. But one day when Grandpa was riding, he discovered that a small family – father, mother, small son – had taken up residence.
Soon afterward, he noticed that one of his steers near the straw stack beside the hut had grown quite fat and was ready for slaughter. He determined to come back another day and drive it home.
But when he got back, the steer was gone.
He searched for a while, even checking the river to see if it may have slipped under the ice, but found nothing.
Finally, he called at the hut.
The man told him – in rather sharp tones – that he hadn’t seen the steer and hoped he’d never see it.
Grandpa was surprised at his answer and couldn’t imagine why the man would speak to him in such a manner.
As he returned to his horse near the straw stack, he noticed a leg of an animal in the straw. Kicking around, he discovered a second leg. Both were the same colour as the missing steer.
Mounting his horse, he immediately rode to the nearest RNWMP detachment at Standoff, Alberta.
Returning with the officer, the two of them searched through the straw stack until they found two more legs and a branded hide.
It was definitely the steer Grandpa had been missing.
They went to the hut but received no answer to their knock. Finally, the policeman announced loudly that he was entering.
After a short search, the meat from the slaughtered animal was found under the floorboards.
The officer took the man into custody and instructed Grandpa to meet them in Standoff.
When Grandpa arrived, the man, his wife and son and most of their worldly goods were there in the outer office. The police had laid charges and the man had been remanded until the next sitting of the court in Fort MacLeod.
Sometime in January.
This was a few days before Christmas.
It was at this time Grandpa discovered the desperate situation of the young family. Newly arrived from England, they had been unable to find work. Family living in the area had not been able to help and they were perilously near starvation.
Grandpa was shocked. Muttering that he never would have pressed charges if he’d known the circumstances, he stared at the little family, trying to decide what could be done.
Finally, he packed the woman, her son and belongings into his vehicle and toted the entire entourage back to his house.
And there they stayed. The woman helped out wherever she could and the son played with my dad and uncles and aunts.
When the man came to trial, he pleaded guilty, but was – at my Grandpa’s suggestion – sentenced to time served and allowed to leave. The little family made their way to Toronto.
It was years before the rest of the family knew why the woman and her son had come to stay. Grandpa had told them only that they needed some help.
And he had provided it.

It's Ancestor Sunday! Tell me about your people . . .

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!

Grab and Add!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?