Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, November 9, 2018

Looking Younger

Children of newly-weds.
I have a theory.
Holidays make you younger.
Let me explain . . .
My Husby and I were married early.
I was 20. He was 21.
We had our first baby just before our first anniversary.
Our second followed eighteen months later.
And our third two years after our second.
We were . . . busy.
It wasn't until our third son was eleven months old that we were able to take our first vacation.
Okay, it wasn't a real vacation.
It was a conference. But it was in beautiful Halifax. One of the jewels of Canada's East coast.
And my Husby's ticket was paid for.
All we had to cover were my expenses.
That was as close to a vacation as we were going to get.
For three days, while Husby was at his various meetings, my baby and I spent our time in the comfortable hotel room.
Exploring the many sites of old Halifax.
Or eating.
On the final day of the conference, a gala banquet and ball had been planned.
The hotel supplied us with a babysitter.
And I was free to join my Husby for wonderful food and a table full of scintillating (Oooh! Good word!) company.
We ate and talked and laughed.
Partway through the evening, my Husby leaned close and said something to me.
I giggled and kissed his nose.
Then one of the women at the table sighed and said, “I just love newlyweds!”
I smiled at her.
And thought of my almost-one-year-old upstairs with the babysitter.
And my four and three-year-olds at home with gramma.
I had been married five years.
And spent much of that time either pregnant or nursing.
I felt ancient.
And this woman thought I was a newly-wed.
I could draw only one conclusion.
It was because I was on holiday.
It must have been.
Who needs surgery and/or creams to erase the years?
I know of something infinitely more fun.
Here's to holidays!

P.S. Red Skelton (Google it) agrees with me. He once said, when asked his age, "I'm 67 years old. I would be 68 but I lived for a year on Maui!"

Thursday, November 8, 2018

All Hail Summer!

The day had begun like any other that summer.
Cloudless blue skies.
Soaring temperatures.
Plans to spend a few hours near or in the river.
Dad had taken my brothers, Jerry and George out to the field, haying.
Chris and I were helping Mom do 'Mom' things in the kitchen.
Well, Chris helped.
I tasted . . .
Hey, it's an important job!
Shortly after lunch, Chris and I got decked out in our fancy swimwear, ready to head to the river.
Mom walked with us as far as the lawn. She glanced up at the sky.
"Oh, my!"
I tilted my head back.
Much of my blue sky was no longer blue.
Instead, it was rapidly being obscured by really ominous-looking clouds.
Black clouds.
A storm!
I loved storms.
And we certainly hadn't seen enough of them in Milk River in the early 60's.
Our trip to the river was forgotten as Chris and I followed Mom back into the house and took up positions in the living room.
One window each.
Then we waited.
The clouds boiled up, obscuring the sun. The remainder of the sky.
The lightning started.
I should point out here that I had learned to count by timing the interval between the flash and crash of lightning.
One. Two. Three.
With each flash, there was a shorter and shorter interval.
The excitement level increased. 
Well, my excitement level increased.
Mom was darting back and forth from one window to another, anxiously watching for her husband and sons return from the hay field.
I was little. I lived in a 'never worried, always happy' world.
Occasionally, I glanced at my worried mother curiously.
But that was the extent of my sympathy.
Moving on . . .
Finally, we heard a weird sound from outside.
A rising wind howling across the chimney.
And then we saw the wall of . . . something . . . coming towards us across the yard.
Some really white-looking rain.
I moved to the couch beside my sister.
Her window had a better view.
Mom scurried into her bedroom and emerged with several pillows. "Here, girls," she instructed, "hold these up against the windows!"
I stared at her. But if I held the pillow up against the window, I wouldn't be able to see the storm!
We all heard the shattering of glass from the kitchen.
Instantly, Chris pressed her pillow against the window.
Sighing, I copied her example.
I don't know how long the storm lasted.
Too long, according to my mother.
Not long enough, according to me.
After it passed, we stepped outside to see the damage/amazing-ness. It all depended on your point of view. 
The yard was four inches deep in snow.
Not bad for the middle of July.
I stepped out into it.
It was funny snow. Crunchy. More like pebbles than soft, white fluffiness.
I stomped around in it. Gathered a handful. Carried it back to my Mom.
She was standing where I had left her, just staring.
"Look, Mom. This snow is weird!" I tried to hand it to her.
"It's not snow, darling," she said. "It's hail."
"Huh." Yep. I was always on top of things.
As we were standing there, Dad's truck pulled into the yard and skidded to a stop on the slippery road.
He and my two older brothers got out.
At least I think it was Dad and my brothers.
Certainly, they had the right size and shape.
But there, all resemblance ended.
They were caked with mud. Straws of hay and grass sprouted all over them.
They really looked like . . . monsters.
I was prepared to run.
Before I could react, however, Mom moved forward and wrapped her arms around the taller one, mud and all. Then she moved on to the shorter pair.
Okay. Not monsters.
We all moved back into the house.
While Mom swept up the glass from a broken window in the kitchen, she and Dad told their stories.
His was far more exciting.
He and my brothers had been baling hay, with Dad and Jerry on the stooker behind George driving tractor.
When Dad had seen the clouds, he had tried to signal George to stop.
But George couldn't hear him over the noise of the tractor.
Finally, in his best Superman style, Dad leaped off the stooker, ran forward, scaled the tractor and turned off the key. Then he grabbed George, made another heroic leap, and shoved him and Jerry under the tractor.
Okay, it's always so much better in my imagination . . .
The three of them had gotten a very close up and personal view of the storm from beneath this rather sketchy shelter.
Fortunately, though the hail had splashed them with mud and debris, it hadn't caused them any permanent damage.
Not so the rest of the ranch.
Chickens and other birds, not quick enough to get under shelter lay in small heaps in the barnyard.
Fences had been smashed to the ground and the entire garden lay in ruins.
Appendages had been hammered off vehicles and other machines standing unprotected in the barnyard and many windows were broken.
And the grand new house being constructed behind the old ranch house where we currently lived was especially hard hit.
Besides other damage, the newly-installed siding had been hammered to bits.
Pockmarks had been knocked clean through the painted boards.
And we hadn't even moved in yet.
There were two hail storms that summer.
The second just as nasty as the first.
Mom finally gave up all hope of getting any peas out of her garden.
Or much else, either.
The hay crop had been ruined.
And there was a lot of repairing and clean up.
Most of which I . . . umm . . . supervised.
But we survived.
To tell the stories.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Finding Good News

The mid-term elections that have so dominated the airwaves for the past weeks are over.
The cheering/nay-saying will probably continue for some time.
I'm here to tell you that in today's climate of consistently negative news, there is a bright spot.
We just have to look for it.

My Dad loved to read the newspaper at the breakfast table, after we had finished eating.Let me rephrase that.
My Dad loved to read the newspaper at the breakfast table . . . you get the picture.Oh, he absorbed the important news stories.
And took note of local and international events and even sales.
But after he had digested the headlines, he would continue to read.
And . . . umm . . . put his own twist upon what he found there.
“Huh. Look at that. Jeffrey James died.”
There would be a pause as everyone in the room tried to decide if they had ever heard that name before.
Finally, some curious soul would ask the question, “Oh? Who was Jeffrey James?”
“Haven't got the slightest idea.”
There would be a general groan and much head shaking.
But that's my Dad.
Sometimes he would embroider a story, improving it for our benefit.
And it wasn't until the story got too outlandish that we would realize it.
“Well, it says here that they're planning a new bridge across the Old Man River near Fort Macleod.”
Again, someone would take the bait. “Really?”
“Yeah. Four lane. The works.”
“Well, it is the Alaska Highway. They probably need the improvement.”
“Well, that'll be nice.”
“Yep. It's just going to hang there. Suspended. Be hard to get on and off of.”
At which time, he would get a smack on the arm.
Or a platter of scrambled eggs upended over his head.
Sometimes, Dad would cut the story out of whole cloth.“Our taxes are going up.”
“Oh, no!”
“Yep. They need the money for a new fund.”
“Yep, the Town Council Mexico fund.”
“What sort of fund is that?”
“It's the fund where all of the town council get to go to Mexico.”
“What for?”
“Well, to hold their meetings.”
Or . . .“Well, look at that. The President of the United States is going up with the next Moon Mission.”
“Well, that sounds dangerous. Why?”
“I guess he wants to see for himself what all of the excitement is about.”
And, for some time we would think that the story was true.In fact, we were even known to spread the rumour.
With embarrassing, but amusing, results.
You'd think we would learn.
But Dad wouldn't limit himself to making up stories.
Oh, no.
Sometimes, he would improve the staid old news in other ways.
By inserting his favourite poems.
Have I mentioned that he loves to recite?
Little Johnny took a drink,But he shall drink no more.'Cause what he thought was H2O,Was H2SO4!”We would nod and smile.
That part, we had gotten used to.
Anyone new to the family, however, would be understandably confused.
Once, my nearly sister-in-law was seated at the breakfast table with us.
Dad was hidden behind the newspaper, filling us in on the day's happenings.
Suddenly, his tone changed.
The boy stood on the burning deck.His feet were in the fire.The Captain said, You're burning up!”The boy said, “You're a liar!”She peered timidly around the paper, trying to see where he was reading.
Finally, “Where does it say that?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “No where, dear. It's in his head!”
To this day, I can't simply read the paper.
I especially have great fun with the classifieds.
I guess I just had too good an example.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

That's How You Were Designed

In honour of 'World Kindness' Day, I've decided to share a song I wrote.
Admittedly, it was written with children in mind and, in point of fact, has been sung by same.
But I thought, in view of the anger and fear that seem so plentiful in the world right now, I would share it with you.
Sadly, you will have to imagine the happy, upbeat tune. And the cheery little voices.
But the words are there.
And I hope they help . . .

It is titled, simply, Be Kind.

When I grow up, here’s what I’ll be: An Astronaut in space.
A doctor or a farmer or an athlete in a race.
A soldier or an Engineer, a miner in a mine.
No matter what I choose to be, I’m choosing to be kind.

Be kind! Be kind! That’s how you were designed!
Be smart, be fun, be fast on the run,
But best of all, be kind!

Or maybe I could be a nurse, a clerk or guide or cook.
A mom or dad or carpenter, a writer, writing books.
A vet-erin-ar-i-an, I'd heal the animals I find.
No matter what I choose to be, I’m choosing to be kind.

Be kind! Be kind! That’s how you were designed!
Be smart, be fun, be fast on the run,
But best of all, be kind!

May this sentiment roll forward. This day and all the days to come.
My Three Little Bakers. Being kind...
My friends have joined me in honouring Kindness in all its forms.
Please take a little time today and visit them!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: World Kindness Election Day
Dawn of Cognitive Script: World Kindness and Elections
Jules of The Bergham Chronicles: Kindness Matters
Jenn from Sparkly Poetic Weirdo: What We Need to Know When It Gets Bad: Kindness Keeps Us Here

Monday, November 5, 2018

Being Common

Today's Poetry Monday is dedicated to COMMON SENSE.
Which isn't common. Or, as my Father always said, "Common Sense Ain't."
Here are some of my favourites . . .

And now, my poem!

Common sense is not a gift,
It’s a punishment,
Because you have to deal with those
Who were not blessed with it!

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, as the snowflakes start to swarm,
We three'll be dreaming Someplace Warm!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Cry Hammock...

From this . . .
But everyone had one!
Well, almost everyone.
Okay, he had seen one.
And wanted it . . .
It was summertime on the ranch. The perfect season of cloudless blue skies, soft, sage-soaked breezes, warm, golden sunshine and scented, star-studded nights.
And what better way to enjoy one’s occasional leisure hours than by swinging – relaxed, semi-conscious and blissful - in one’s very own hammock.
To ten-year-old Mark, the concept seemed heaven-sent.
There was just one catch.
He didn’t possess a hammock.
And his parents did not appear to be forthcoming with one.
But Mark was a kid of the prairies. What he didn’t possess, he made.
Or made do.
His dad was changing out the old canvas on the binder. Hmmm . . .
Mark studied the discarded heap of coarse material carefully. Then he scooped it up and carted it to the trees. Specifically to the two tall trees he had picked as being the biggest and most hammock-support-like.
Sometime later, following a maximum of grunting, sweating and words sometimes thought but seldom said, Mark was looking at a brand new hammock.
His brand new hammock.
His pride of accomplishment overspilled its banks.
Handsprings anyone?
A party was called for.
A celebration.
A . . .
Mark would have to settle for talking his mother into allowing him to sleep out on his new acquisition.
It took some doing, but he was finally able to convince her.
Happily, he gathered blankets and gear for his amazing outdoor adventure and in short order was perched atop his newest and best acquisition.
Snuggled down and shivering with delight, he waited for the sun to go down.
Then to come up again.
Which it did.
Mark blinked sleepily at the newly-risen sun. It was then he realized that his mouth felt . . . funny.
Sliding out of his hammock, he ran to the house and the nearest mirror.
Where he received a distinct shock. His upper lip was swollen like a balloon.
With no idea what could possibly have happened, he ran for his mother. Who took one look at his face and said, calmly, “Looks like a bug bit you, son.”
A bug bit him?! His face was three times its normal size and ‘a bug bit him’?!
Frantically, he raced back to the mirror and minutely studied his poor abused outside. How was he going to go through life looking like this?!
In case you're worried, I'll tell you that the swelling did go down. Fairly quickly in fact. With only one side effect. Mark now regarded hammocks with a degree of suspicion.
I mean – no one ever told him that they could come with uninvited and totally unexpected ‘guests’.
Overly friendly guests.
His was a hammock for one.
Maybe someone should have explained that to the bug.
. . . to this.
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