Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, October 19, 2018

A Little Mystery

Could you help me with something?
A few months ago, Husby and I purchased a secretary.
Now before you get worried, it was the kind that is beautifully crafted of wood.
We purchased it in an antique store just outside of Courtenay, British Columbia.
Husby dragged out his oils and rags and other paraphernalia and got to work.
But that isn't why we need the help.
That part comes now . . .
While Husby was busily taking apart and putting together, he discovered, trapped in a far cranny, this:
Don't they look happy?
Now comes the help part.
Anyone recognize them?
I'd love to discover the story!
If I don't find the real tale, I'm going to have to create one.
And, let's face it, the created probably won't be anywhere near the actual.
Just sayin'.
So, pass it along!

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Aerial view.

The day after.
Not far from Calgary, Alberta, and just east of the Crowsnest Pass, lies the small, bustling town of Frank, Alberta, nestled on the floor of a deeply-glaciated valley.
Looming menacingly nearby is Turtle Mountain.
Also nearby is a scene of destruction of such magnitude that it has never been equaled!
In the early morning hours of April 29, 1903, Turtle Mountain collapsed, resulting in the greatest landslide in North American history.
In 100 seconds: at least 76 people were buried alive under tons of massive limestone boulders; three-quarters of the homes in Frank were crushed like balsa wood; over a mile of the Canadian Pacific Railroad was completely destroyed, and a river became a lake.
Yet, few people have ever heard about it.    - Neil Simpson                                                                        
My parents were driving out to the coast and travelling through Frank Slide was a necessity.
In the years after the tragedy, not much of the rubble had been disturbed. The giant boulders and pieces of mountain lay where they had fallen, a silent testament to those trapped forever beneath.
The road had been cut through and the railway reconnected.
Little else had been touched.
Driving through, one's car dwarfed by the massive chunks of rock, one could easily imagine the horror and heartbreak of that fateful morning.
Unless one was four.
Which I was.
I should mention here that, when our family travelled, the scenery or anything else flying past us outside the car never interested me. Because when I was in a car I was either:
  1. Sick
  2. Oblivious
  3. Sick and oblivious
  4. Asleep
The only thing that could rouse me were the words, “Look! Horses!”
I would leap up instantly, despite being heretofore (real word) comatose and press my nose against the nearest window. “Where!? Where!?”
One or the other of my parents would point out the eagerly anticipated animals.
I would stare at them for as long as time permitted, then collapse back onto the seat with a sigh and return to whatever I had been doing.
I was fairly easily entertained.
But I digress . . .
The road had been long. We had already been travelling for an hour.
I was drowsing on the back seat.
Suddenly, Dad spoke up, “Here we are kids! Frank Slide!”
At almost the same time, my Mom said, “Look at all the rock!”
The tone of voice was the same as what my parents used whenever they pointed out something interesting.
Like horses.
But because the word 'horse' had not actually been used, I was slow to respond.
I must admit that I never even heard my Mom's comment.
I sat up and pressed my face against the window.
I don't know what I was expecting. Dad had said something about a 'slide'.
To me that meant something 'playground-y'.
All I could see were huge rocks.
What kind of playground was this?
Finally, I turned to my parents and said, “Can't see it!”
They burst out laughing.
What was that all about?
Mom pointed out the window. “Can't you see all the rock?”
I glanced outside. “Yeah.”
“Well that's it!”
I looked again. “But I can't see it!”
I don't think they ever figured out that I was talking about the 'slide'.
The real slide. The one Dad had seen.
All they wanted was to look at the stupid rocks.
Parents are so weird.
P.S. As part of his amazing job, Husby was project manager for a large, government-sponsored interpretive center built among the ruins. It's worth a visit!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Pie a la Mud


I've used many, many recipes in my life.

Starting with simple: crackers and cheese.
And, believe me, you have to get that one just right . . .
To more complicated: hot dogs.
And I'm sure I don't have to explain the vital importance of the meat to bun ratio. And I won’t even go into the selection and/or serving size of condiments.
But my very first recipe was not nutritious.
Or even edible.
In fact, though it smelled rather good, I wouldn't have fed it to the dog.
Well, actually I did try.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
I was staying with my friend/cousin, Jean.
It was summer.
We had been playing in Aunt Grace's kitchen. Under Aunt Grace's feet.
Till Aunt Grace finally had enough and kicked us outside to play.
Dutifully, we had played.
Then we started looking for something a little more . . . constructive.
“Let’s make mud pies!” Jean suggested.
Mmm. I like pie. “Okay.”
She found an old pot and we started adding ingredients.
I should mention here that, as we didn't have all of the ingredients for pie, and really weren't completely sure what those ingredients were, we . . . erm . . . substituted.
Back to my story . . .
Dirt. (For flour)
Water. (For water) And I should tell you that you have to get this ingredient just right. Too much and your mud pies are sloppy. Not enough and you can’t do a thing with them.  Just FYI.
Rocks. (Those were the raisins)
Two eggs that we stole from the hen house. (For eggs)
Grass. (For coconut)
We didn't mix any awful things into it, though I did find some dog doo that I was tempted to add.
For flavour.
Jean stopped me. “Diane! If you put that in, no one could eat it!”
Important point.
Finally, we mixed our wondrous concoction and formed it carefully into little blobs on the wall of her mother’s flower garden. Right in the sunlight where our pies could cook and get nice and toasty.
Mmmm. They even smelled good.
I never got to taste our pies.
We were called in to dinner and my Mom picked me up just after that.
But I remember them. And how they would have tasted . . .
Our good friend, Shirley was over visiting.
She told us her ‘mud pie’ story.
How she and her sister found an old pail.
Added their ingredients.
Stirred well.
When it comes to the ‘cooking’ part, Shirley’s story takes a different turn from mine.
Her family had a chicken coop.
With a little wood stove inside to keep their feathered friends warm in the cooler months of the year.
Why bother to set their mud concoction into the sun, where the actual ‘baking’ would be iffy, at best.
They would set their creation on the little wood stove.
And boil it.
No sooner said than . . .
I probably don’t have to tell you that the flaws in their technique were almost immediately apparent.
In Shirley’s words . . . “It really stank!”
So, a note to all mud-pie enthusiasts out there.
Don’t boil.
You heard it here first.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


My Laundress.
It’s laundry day.
That sounds so odd, considering for a large part of my life, when all the kids were still at home, laundry day was every day. If at least two loads didn’t make it through the washing-drying-folding-parking cycle on a daily basis, the mountain would overtake the house.
Ahem . . .
This morning, I was snapping some pillowcases to get them to behave so they could be properly—and seamlessly—folded.
It brought back a memory . . .
For many years, I ran a day home. During that time, I was entrusted with the care of two adorable little blonde girls—ages three and five when they first appeared.
Their mother, single at the time, was doing her best to raise and train and love her girls, even while faced with the doubly momentous task of feeding them and providing shelter.
She had a good job which paid well.
And would have been totally justified in working full time and leaving her girls in my care during those days and weeks and months.
But instead, she worked as much as she needed to to pay the bills and keep the ‘wolf from the door’. The rest of the time, she spent as a mother. Going on field trips. Baking. Cooking. Loving.
And training.
I admired her greatly. (And still do.)
One day, I had descended into the basement to do laundry. Her three-year-old and my own followed.
The two of them immediately spun off into the playroom.
A short time later, I carried in a basket of clothes warm from the drier and proceeded to fold.
My daughter continued with her toys.
Hers came over to me and, to my surprise, grabbed a pillowcase, gave it an expert snap, then proceeded to fold.
Now, I should probably point out that this particular item was taller than she was.
It didn’t deter her. She finished with it and reached for something else, staying until the entire basket was sitting in a neatly-folded pile.
I think often of that single mother, struggling to provide a home—and training—to her two little daughters.
She succeeded.
P.S. Today, there are classes being offered to grown children who haven’t been taught basic life skills at home.
I know a three-year-old who could teach them.

Monday, October 15, 2018


Daddy's Favourite!
And who better to put the topic of DOORS to rhyme than Spike Jones and his City Slickers!
I can still hear Daddy singing along...

Also for your enjoyment: The best article about doors I've ever read!

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?

Though some of us have just signed up,
Next week's about The Grandma Club!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

The Other Boy

Shiny Black (Waterproof) Magic

It started out well.
But magical doesn’t always remain magical.
Maybe I should explain . . .
When Dad was three, his Mom and Dad came home from their monthly Lethbridge shopping trip with something special.
A pair of rubber boots just his size.
Boots that came without any pesky laces.
Overjoyed at being able to don them himself, he quickly did so. Then marched triumphantly around the house.
“Those are for walking in water,” his mother pointed out. Then she pointed out. “Outside.”
Excited at the prospect of being able to step in water without worrying about spoiling precious shoes, Dad hurried to comply.
He stood in the yard for a moment, glancing quickly about, looking for a currently boy-less puddle of water.
In the garden where his mother had been running the sprinkler, he found exactly what he sought. A shiny pool of water just the right size.
Eagerly, he made a dash for it.
For a second, he paused at the edge, letting the anticipation of the moment . . . erm . . . wash over him. Then he stepped into the water.
He moved further. The water came a little higher on his new rubber boots.
For a time, he kept his eyes on the magical, world-altering foot gear as he splashed around. Then he stopped and watched the ripples slowly still. The pool became calm.
And it was then he noticed that there was a small, blond-haired boy staring back at him out of the water.
He shrieked and spun around, intent on finding either his mother or the nearest far-away place as quickly as possible.
But toddler feet, new boots, mud and water in combination don’t make for graceful, gazelle-like moves.
Hopelessly tangled up, Dad landed backside-first in the puddle. Where his amazing, magical, life-changing boots promptly filled with water.
A few minutes later a nearly hysterical, decidedly soggy, mud and tear-streaked boy appeared at the back door of the house – boots sloshing with water.
I don’t know what his Mom said. I expect something soothing – over the chuckles – as her small son poured out his story.
And his boots.

Sundays are for ancestors.
Tell me about yours!

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