Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, October 26, 2018

'Jet' Setter

Astonishing.
Kids are observant.
If you don’t believe me, try spending an hour with a three-year-old.
They just don’t always understand what they are seeing . . .
Our good friend, Shirley, though a medium plane trip away, spends as much time as she can with her young granddaughters.
She (and they) love it.
She flies into the local airport and her son and his family meet her at Arrivals. Hugs and kisses are exchanged.
And she and her luggage are scooped up and transported to her son’s house.
Everyone enjoys time together.
Then, at the end of her visit, she and her baggage are returned to the airport, where more kisses and hugs are exchanged and she disappears through to Departures.
A fairly mundane – and not infrequent – chain of events.
And one that everyone thought the little granddaughters understood.
During Shirley’s last visit, the topic of transportation came up. Specifically, the astounding revelation that “Grandma can drive?!”
Her youngest granddaughter was particularly amazed.
“I didn’t know you could drive, Grandma!”
“Well, I can. I even have a car of my own!”
“Huh. I didn’t know you had a car.” A short pause. Then, “I thought you had a jet.”
Yep.
Our little ones are observing.
They’re just not always putting things together in the right configuration.
Be warned.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Aaaand...Parked

Ha! Did it!
Driving is important.
At least when you live on a ranch a million miles from anywhere.
And it happened early.
Driving, I mean.
As soon as I was able to reach the pedals on the tractor and still hold onto the steering wheel,  I was driving. Mowing. Baling. Stacking. There were lots of reasons to perch me up on 'the beast' and start the engine.
But on a tractor, I had the entire field to turn around in. And on the Stringam ranch, the fields were . . . large.
Just FYI.
At the age of twelve, I graduated to the pickup.
Again, I was limited to traveling in the fields and doing ranch work but I was still driving.
And in control . . . more or less, as I made wide turns about the fields.
On to my story . . .
One morning, bright and early, I decided to go for a ride.
I don't know why.
It was spring.
I'm an idiot.
Take your pick.
Anyways . . .
Because I was still a fairly new driver and driving was still a treat, and because I was basically lazy, I decided to take the pickup to the far corral where my horse, Peanuts was currently residing.
All went well.
I drove there and parked, spent an hour or so riding in the early morning sunshine, and drove back to the ranch house.
And that's where it all went so very wrong.
I should probably mention that I had gone riding really early. By the time I returned, everyone was still in dreamland.
And remember where I said that I was only accustomed to maneuvering in large spaces?
Well, that would apply here.
I drove carefully up to the carport situated, by the by, directly beneath my parent's bedroom.
And very, very carefully drove into it.
And I do mean 'into'.
Crunch.
Oops.
Frantically, I backed up.
And clipped the pillar again.
I tried to straighten out and hit it a third time.
The truck just kept getting more and more . . . crooked.
Stupid machine. This was going nowhere fast.
And suddenly, standing there in a shaft of early morning light looking like the avenging God of Sleep(lessness), was my father.
Now I should explain to you that my Dad always wore pajamas. Nicely pressed, matching, button-up top with trousers (that Mom cuts off just below the knee and neatly hems).
They were quite a sight.
But I digress . . .
At this time, I only vaguely noted his light green PJ's.
Because Dad. Wasn't. Happy.
I let the engine die.
We stared at each other.
"What the hell is going on here?!" Okay, he's a rancher. Sometimes they say 'hell'.
But only when really perturbed. Oddly enough, it's usually when I'm around.
"It's okay. I can fix it!"
"Diane, get out of the truck!"
"I can fix it, Dad!"
He just looked at me. I knew that look. I'd seen it before.
A few times.
I climbed sheepishly out of the truck and moved towards him.
"What on earth are you doing? You almost shook me right out of my bed!"
"Umm . . . I went for a ride."
"In the truck?"
"Well, Peanuts is clear over . . ."
"I know where Peanuts is."
"Well, I drove over there and went for a ride."
"At five o'clock in the morning?"
"Well, yes."
"Get in the house."
One never moves faster than when avoiding fallout. I knew this from past experience. I disappeared in a heartbeat.
Dad surveyed the damage. There were a couple of 'bruises' on one of the carport supports and a dent in the truck door. (Which popped out later when Dad went to get the mail and slammed the door.)
So the damage was relatively minor if you don't count lost sleep.
Which Dad does.
Sigh.
I want you to know that I did learn to drive.
For real.
But I'll always remember that first time. And my Dad in his PJ's.
Some things you just never forget. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A Quarter Thief

Me. Sigh.
What you are about to read may be shocking. You may even want to re-think continuing your friendship with me.
I’m a thief.
Well . . . a would-be thief. If I’d gotten away with it, who knows where I’d be now.
And the funny thing is, she probably would have given me one if I'd just asked.
Maybe I should explain . . .
I was nine.
Mom was chatting in the front room with one of her friends. Their discussion had turned to something that said friend was interested in purchasing from Mom.
Goods were produced and delivered.
Exclamations of surprise and delight. (Okay, I’m assuming here.)
Friend’s handbag appeared.
Was opened.
And a coin purse came into view.
A number of quarters were counted out and cradled in friend’s hand.
To this point, all was above board, friendly and honest.
But this is where bright-eyed, slightly avaricious Diane came into the picture.
Mom turned to me. “Diane, could you please bring me the money?”
I nodded, my eyes already on the gleaming silver in the woman’s hand. I moved closer and held out my hand. She tipped hers and poured the pile of coins into mine.
And that’s when my heinous plan was hatched.
There were a lot of coins. Surely Mom wouldn’t notice if just one went missing?
Deftly (?), I sneaked one quarter into my other pocket as I turned and walked over to Mom - duly delivering the treasure.
Then, task completed, I dashed upstairs with my booty (ie. Ill-gotten gains), already planning how I was going to spend it.
A few minutes later, I vaguely heard the front door close.
And then my Mom was standing in my bedroom doorway.
“Diane, we need to talk.”
Uh-oh.
She sat on my bed and held out her hand with the quarters in it.
I looked at them. Then at my Mom. “Ummm . . . yeah?”
“Diane, one of the quarters is missing.”
“Really?” My brain started turning frantically. “A quarter?”
“Diane, did you steal a quarter?”
“Umm . . .”
“Diane?”
“Maybe it dropped. You know, when I took the change? On the floor? I’ll go look.” And I escaped out of the door and into the front room where I quickly (before my Mom could get there and see what I was doing) flipped the coin under our recent guest’s chair.
Then, dropping to my hands and knees, I miraculously, ‘found’ it moments later. Holding it out proudly in my hand, I presented it to Mom. “It was there! See?”
Mom nodded and took the coin. Then looked at me.
With a ‘Mom’ look. “Don’t ever take anything that doesn’t belong to you, Diane.”
“But I dropped . . .”
“Okay?”
I nodded unhappily. How had she seen through my clever subterfuge?
My career as a thief ended that day.
I obviously didn’t have the ‘knack’.
Mom saw to that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Amen to That

You'd better be thankful for that!
Just sayin' . . .
Suppertime at the Stringam Ranch.
Wonderful food.
Great company.
The best part of everyone’s day.
Well . . . most everyone.
Mealtimes on a spread the size of ours inevitably meant the mixing of people of vastly different lives and lifestyles.
There was the family. Mom, Dad, children, babies.
Hired men. Ranging in age from the world-weary, leather-faced, taciturn individual who had spent a lifetime squinting into the sun, to the young, smooth-cheeked, ready-for-anything boy, away from home for the very first time.
And assorted people who simply found themselves in the vicinity when the dinner bell rang; and happily joined the queue heading into the dining room.
A fairly eclectic mix.
All knew they would be treated to the very best of good, ranch cooking.
And that the traditional meal would begin with another, more important tradition.
Thanking the Lord.
Regardless of race, creed or colour, the people gathered around my father’s table to eat my mother’s food, would patiently and solemnly bow their heads as Grace was said.
Further participation was optional.
Case in point:
My eldest sister had just turned four.
And had taken on all the heavy duties and responsibilities associated with that venerable age.
Seated happily among the people gathered around the table for the evening meal, she folded her hands tightly, bowed her curly red-haired head, and squeezed her eyes shut when the prayer was said.
There was a chorus of ‘Amens’.
Chris’ head swiveled around and she pinned the hired man seated next to her with a blue-eyed glare.
“You didn’t say ‘Amen’!” she said loudly.
The man turned slightly red and squirmed in his chair as he reached for the stack of still-warm, freshly-sliced bread.
Chris turned to her father. “Daddy! He didn’t say ‘Amen’!” she said, even more loudly.
Dad paused in the passing of a large bowl of potatoes. “Ummm . . .” he said.
She turned to the other end of the table. “Mom...!”
“That’s okay, dear,” Mom soothed.
The now red-faced man managed to make it through the rest of a meal punctuated by the side-long glances from a tiny girl with strong convictions.
I’m sure he had had more uncomfortable meals in his lifetime.
I’m also sure he was wishing he was at one of them.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Grandma Ears


For years, poor Grandma’s hearing had been slowly growing worse,
T'was steadily much tougher for her loved ones to converse,
So she marched herself to Costco, had a hearing aid put in,
When told her hearing’s perfect, well now, Grandma only grinned.
A few weeks later, back she popped for further tests and such,
Her doctor asked if life had changed. She told him, “Not that much.”
“The hearing aid you chose is number one,” he said. “First rate!”
“Your family must be pleased, now that your hearing’s gotten great!”
But Grandma merely smiled. “I’ve yet to tell them anything.”
“I sit around and listen to the chats of my offspring.”
“They don’t know I can hear their many sordid gripes and crimes,
“But I can tell you, doctor, dear, I’ve changed my will three times!”

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? That scary time of year,
Yes, Halloween. You'll find it here.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Hospital F(e)ast

Two small boys were patients in the same hospital room.
One of them was my Dad, Mark.
Age: eight.
He had been admitted to hospital for the sole purpose of having his appendix removed. He wasn’t particularly uncomfortable at the time, but the doctor had so decreed.
And removed it must be.
The day of his surgery arrived.
In those days, a folder containing a chart and/or other pertinent information was hung at the foot of every bed in the hospital. Doctor’s orders and observations were recorded there. Nurse’s actions and observations, ditto.
As of that morning, Mark’s folder contained a singly-worded sign.
“FASTING”.
Yikes. Mark, the active and usually well-fed small boy was being denied food.
Don’t you wonder why it’s called fasting?
At no other interval does time move more slowly.
Just a thought . . .
Mark knew what the word meant. But his appetite wasn’t about to be denied that easily.
Grabbing a pen, he made a tiny, little change.
Then, satisfied with his ingenuity, he sat back on his bed and waited for lunch to arrive.
Promptly at noon, an attendant appeared with Mark’s roommate’s tray.
She set it down and started back toward the doorway.
Mark sat up. “Wait! Where’s mine?”
She looked at him. “You’re fasting.”
“No, I’m not. Look!” Mark slid down to the end of the bed and held up his chart.
The woman took it and peered closely.
At the ‘FASTING’ sign.
The one which now read ‘FeASTING’.
She leveled a look at the grinning boy, then turned on one squeaky rubber-soled white shoe and left.
Mark didn’t get his lunch and he duly reported to the operation theatre for his little procedure.
Without anyone acknowledging his inventiveness.
Sigh.
But the story doesn’t end there.
Some days later, his mother received the bill for his hospital stay.
Itemized carefully in the list was a charge for $3.25 for ‘One Sign’.
Oops.
I guess someone noticed after all . . .

Sundays are for Ancestors!
Tell me about yours . . .

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