Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, October 6, 2018

Behind the Scenes

Just when you thought you knew what went on back there...
My daughter works in Theatre.
It is an adventurous, kaleidoscopic, challenging, exciting, sometimes disturbing way to make a living.
It also requires one to think quickly on one’s feet and handle any (and all) challenges that may be thrust in one’s way.
Because the show must go on.
Throughout her career, she has built sets, created props, installed/focussed/programmed lights, produced/managed entire shows and everything in between.
This story is about one of those ‘in-betweens’.
And the whole ‘show-must-go-on’ scenario.
The Fringe Festival was gearing up.
(The Edmonton International Fringe Festival is an annual arts festival held every August in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Produced by the Fringe Theatre Adventures (FTA), it is the oldest and largest fringe theatre festival in North America. The Edmonton Fringe is a founding member of the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals.)
Just FYI.
Signage needed to be installed.
Attached to the existing street lights.
Someone ridiculously tall needed to be found.
Or maybe they would just find a person who could run the forklift presently residing in the Fringe yards.
The call went out, in usual Theatre jargon. “I need someone to take their lives in their hands.”
And was quickly answered by my daughter. “I’ll do it!” A forklift was a machine. A benign, helpful, non-dangerous machine. I mean – what’s the worst that could happen?
Dutifully, she slipped into the driver’s seat and twiddled the unfamiliar controls.
Her braver-than-smart co-worker stepped into the appropriately-named man-cage and buckled up.
They were ready.
They approached the first light pole.
Daughter carefully, though rather jerkily, raised the cage plus co-worker.
Sign was duly attached.
Sighs of relief were heard.
Co-worker was lowered.
They approached the second pole.
This went on for some time.
Daughter was beginning to feel quite skilled. 
Then they reached one of the 104 Street light poles.
There was nothing to suggest that this was any different than the scores of others they had already approached and conquered.
But what they failed to see was the decorative 104 Street sign dangling from the bracket on said light pole.
Co-worker saw it first. And tried to halt the inevitable: “You’re too close to the sign! Stop! Stop!! Stop!!!”
Crunch.
Oops.
The 104 Street sign, to this day, sports an impressive dent. Every time we see it (And it happens often because we are, after all, theatre people.) we point it out to whoever may be with us.
Our daughter’s handiwork.
We’re so proud.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Misnomer

My eldest son is 41.

41.
Wow. I've just realized how old that makes me.
Sigh.
The following is a story from many years ago.
When he was little.
And cute.

Okay, I still think he's cute . . .
Little Mark. And a friend.
Big Mark

Dr. Mark Reed Stringam.

My Dad.
Husband. Father. Grandfather. Great-grandfather. Adviser. Confidante. Friend.
Veterinarian.
Rancher extraordinaire. Breeder of purebred polled Herefords, single-handedly working to improve the beef industry in Alberta and around the world.
And succeeding.
With so great a man as his example, our eldest son could only profit from sharing his name.
And so we decided to name him Mark.
Enough background.
My parents had taken my husband, myself, and our (then) two small sons to dinner to celebrate my birthday. It had been a lovely time. Wonderful roast beef for which the restaurant was famous. Wonderfully sparkling, satisfying conversation. Two well-behaved little boys. (Hey! This is my story. I can remember it the way I want!)
We were replete. On every level.
It was time to go.
I packed the baby into his carrier and my dad picked up Mark, his fourth grandson (the first named for him) and we headed toward the door.
In the entry, we paused for a few moments, waiting for my Mom.
Mark Jr., safely ensconced in his grandfather's arms, began to look around. He discovered a pin in the lapel of his grandfather's suit jacket.
A spiffy solid-gold pin in the shape of a polled Hereford.
Oooh. Shiny.
The small hand reached out, caressing the fascinating bit of gold.
Pretty.
"Do you like that, Mark?"
"Mmmm."
"Do you know what it is?" A note of pride crept into the grandfatherly voice.
Small head nodding.
"What is it?"
Our son, the namesake of the great Hereford breeder who was holding him could not help but get this right.
We waited breathlessly for the answer.
Mark screwed up his face thoughtfully. Then smiled. "Pig!" he said.
Oops.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Bed Wars

I'm a maker-of-beds; a bed-maker, me.
I do it to make things as neat as can be.
My Husby’s a nest-er; glad burrower, he.
Rolled in the bedclothes, cocooned in debris.

I'm ready as soon as my feet hit the floor,
To straighten and tighten and tuck and restore.
While Husby, yes he of the im-press-ive snore
[Through his actions], explains just what bedding is for.

We don’t argue or fight – we’re above all of that,
We don’t even have what you might call ‘a spat’.
But with such different wishes, his – messy; mine – flat,
You’re wondering how we've avoided combat . . .

Well . . .

There’s something that you need to know about me,
I'm sneaky. Hereafter, I'm sure you’ll agree.
Through the night, he may bundle as tight as can be,
But, sooner or later, he’ll have to go [pee].

Forgive my crass blurting of natural acts,
But this is what happens. Yes. These are the facts.
As he nips to the ‘john’ to regroup and relax,
His spouse leaps from bed, morning ritual enacts.

Emerging, he sees, once again, he’s been bossed.
That his needed relief didn't come without cost.
He looks at the blankets, once comfy and tossed,
Heaves a soft, simple sigh for his Paradise Lost.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Speaking Tree

My Trees . . . and some of their brothers
It was lovely and cool for my walk this morning.
-2C (28F), which is, I admit a little cool for the 3rd of October.
It's been worse. A few years ago on the same date, it was -28C (-18F) with a nasty, evil north-westerly wind blowing. Temperature allowing for wind chill = -40C (-40F).
I walked fast.
The most difficult part of my walk is past the south end of a wide park.
In the summer, it is truly beautiful.
In the winter, with a north-westerly (see above) wind blowing, it is an open space where the elements can really get up a head of steam. 
So to speak.
As with many things in life, though, once one gets through the worst, the best appears. 
Just past the park is a stand of hundred-year-old pines.
Instantly, the force of the wind is lessened to insignificance.
There is only a soft 'hiss' as it threads its way through the green boughs. 
I stopped, as I do every morning, to listen.
Instantly transported back to a special time in my childhood . . .
In 1938, as a young man, my dad planted two pines in back of the family's home on the Stringam ranch.
Twenty-two years later, those same trees, now behemoths among their lesser brothers, sat in the front yard of the newly-constructed ranch house.
The kitchen, dining room and garage faced those trees.
And my bedroom.
It was summer.
One of those special days of pure, clear air, blue skies and soft wind.
When living on the prairies is a gift of inestimable value.
It was early. Mom had been stirring in the kitchen since dawn.
I was lying awake in my bed, listening to a sound that drifted in through my opened windows and was, at once, calming and intriguing.
I had never noticed it before.
A soft ssssssssssssss.
Mom came into the room and sat on the edge of my bed.
“Time to get up, Pixie-Girl.”
“Mom, what's that sound?”
She cocked her head to one side and listened. “What sound, Sweetheart?”
“Listen.”
She went still.
“There. Hear it? That ssssss.”
She smiled. “That's the wind in the trees outside your window.”
I stood up on the bed and looked outside.
The two great trees were there in the front yard, effectively screening the house from the rest of the ranch buildings.
They were still.
Then I heard it again. Ssssss.
This time, I noticed some movement in the huge branches. Slight. But there if you looked.
My trees were speaking to me!

Standing there this morning, surrounded by the massive evergreens, I closed my eyes and I was a little girl again, lying in her bed.
With my mom busy in the kitchen.
And my trees whispering and murmuring to me from the front yard.
The sweet sound of memories.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

That Smile

Dad was story-telling.
Surely the best of times . . .
College Boy.
Christmas, 1946. The newly-minted college boy was back from school in Guelph, Ontario for his first Christmas break.
His home town of Lethbridge, Alberta, was in a justifiably holiday mood.
Parties.
Get-togethers.
Dances.
A gathering had been organized at the new church hall.
College boy decided it would be fun to go.
Standing at the edge of the dance floor, he began to wonder if going had been a mistake. None of the people he knew were there.
Oh, there were plenty of girls.
Beautiful girls. Most of them, the younger sisters of his friends who had, surprisingly, sprouted during his absence.
He just didn’t recognize any of them.
Standing there, uncertainly, he was approached by the mother of one of said friends. “Mark!” she said. “Go and dance with my daughter!”
“All right,” he said, smiling. “Happy to!”
She moved off and Dad turned back to the large group in front of him.
Now I should point out here, that this girl was well-known to my dad. He just hadn’t seen her for a while and in his absence, she had grown up.
The nerve of her.
He studied the faces of the girls on the dance floor and milling the hall. They smiled back at him encouragingly, but recognition was no closer.
Hmm.
Finally, not wanting to embarrass himself by approaching the girl’s mother, he wandered over to a group of boys and asked them. The girl was immediately pointed out.
Dad dutifully walked over to her and asked her to dance.
Whew! Mission accomplished.
She was a pretty girl.
Fun.
Vivacious.
Dad enjoyed dancing with her.
Feeling just a bit proud of his success, he moved with her around the floor. Then he spotted the girl’s mother in the crowd.
With a large, satisfied smile on her face as she watched the two of them.
A ‘hundred-watt’ smile.
Now, as a mother myself, I can understand that smile. Her daughter was dancing with a nice, handsome young man from a solid family, who was studying to be a doctor.
A rosy future looked tantalizingly close.
And distinctly possible.
I've used it myself. Most of the time, I'm sad to admit, it’s a relationship killer.
Sigh.
This particular relationship wasn't meant to be.
Though they enjoyed the evening, the two of them never really hit it off.
Soon Dad was back at school and once more hard at work.
The young girl went back to her life.
Dad doesn't remember much about her.
She was pretty. Fun. Sweet.
And her mother had that smile.
See what I mean?

Monday, October 1, 2018

A Harvest of Love

A true story.

Most visitors were welcomed in this quiet, prairie town,
But no one hailed this guest when it circulated ‘round.
With indiscrimination, it touched friends and family too,
What horror! They were stricken by the dreaded Spanish ‘Flu.

Now Uncle George’s fam’ly, were, like the others, caught,
A son and three small children gone. With sorrow all were fraught,
As one by one he brought them, and prepared them tenderly,
With aching heart, he placed them ‘neath the lonely willow tree.

Then sadly turned, with younger son, and to their land they wheeled,
Where their crop of beets awaited, frozen in the field.
But as they drove along the road, some farmers came their way,
Each driver had a wagon load. A kindly word to say.

“Sure praying for you, George!” said one. Another shook his head.
A third reached out and gripped his hand then turned and looked ahead.
One by one the wagons passed, each full as those before,
George wiped his eyes, “I wish t’was ours all harvested and stored!”

A final wagon passed, a youngster stood up and he called,
Said, “That’s the last now, Uncle George! And everything is hauled!”
Old George, he wiped a tear and put an arm about his son.
Then sadly smiled and said, “I wish ‘twas our beets that were done.”

They rode a little further and finally came into their field,
Then stopped and stared as suddenly the truth was now revealed,
The tears they'd held inside were flowing freely down their cheeks.
Their crop had all been harvested. Every. Single. Beet.


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's Thanksgiving, we'll be frank,
My friends and me will all give thanks!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Loom-ing Old Age

I come from a long line of ‘workers’.
The enthusiastically employed, I’ll call them.
People who believed in hard work and industry. That idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
My grandma Stringam is one of the first and foremost in that long line.
The things she managed to accomplish in her lifetime are varied . . . and astounding.
Raising eleven children would probably be considered a good life’s work. But she didn’t stop there. She served her family and entire community as nurse, midwife, secretary, teacher, general aide, social leader and counselor.
Her husband passed away in 1959 at the age of 83 after a battle with cancer.
Grandma was 74 at the time and had worked many long years.
Most of us (ie. me) would have relaxed and coasted gently into our sunset years.
But Grandma decided that what she needed was a new interest.
She had dabbled in crafts most of her life. When time allowed.
Now she became serious about mastering them.
Especially weaving.
She purchased a large, floor loom.
And spent many of her waking hours (and a few of her sleeping ones, I’m sure) seated at that loom.
Creating amazing works of art.
Which she then fashioned into other works of art.
Every one of her numerous grandchildren received something from the talented hands of their grandmother.
I received several. Each carefully crafted and beautiful.
At the age of 75, Grandma, who was also serving as the Work Director for her church, was asked to travel to Salt Lake City to do a demonstration on weaving. She packed up her loom, 68 articles to display, her daughter and a long-time friend. And did it.
The demonstration.
At 75.
Grandma is one of my heroes.
Her example gives me the courage to try new things.
I love you, Grandma!

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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