Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Expensive. But Cheap

That day.
Missing: The pants
My siblings and I loved to ski.
Our Dad had introduced us to it the winter I turned eight and it had become a . . . habit.
Well, actually more of a fixation, but we'll go with habit.
We went every chance we could get.
And scoured the catalogs for new and wonderful accessories for our grand passion.
I had just made my first official 'ski' purchase.
New ski pants.
They were expensive.
But gorgeous.
Dark brown.
Perfect fit.
I was going to wow everyone on that hill! I couldn't do it with my skiing. This was the next best thing.
I should explain, here, that ski pants in the 60s weren't the stretchable remarkable cloth that we have now.
In fact, they were distinctly . . . un-stretchable.
Something which will figure largely in my story later.
But they had little side zippers at the ankles and dark elastics that slid under your foot.
They were nifty (real word).
Happily, I donned them and my brother and I were off.
Now, I should explain, here, that Big Mountain in Whitefish Montana was a wonderful place to ski.
There were numerous slopes.
Each with its own particular brand of ski tow.
I always chose the expert slope.
Not that I could actually ski the expert slope.
For two other reasons.
  1. It had a ski trail that wound around behind and through the wonderful forest, and
  2. The trail came out at the top of the Intermediate slope, allowing the skier to then ski to the bottom. Oh. And . . .
  3. Be comparatively unharmed.
It was the best of all worlds.
I made my first run to the top of the expert slope.
Disembarked. Well, slid off the chairlift into a heap. But to one side, away from the traffic.
An important point.
I got my limbs more-or-less together and headed for the mouth of the trail.
It was stunningly beautiful.
The sun was shining.
There had just been a fresh fall of snow - over a foot of sparkling, fluffy whiteness blanketed the landscape.
I took a deep, satisfying breath of the spicy air, slid onto the trail and for the next 20 minutes, was in heaven.
Finally, the trail ended.
I slid quickly out onto the slope only to discover that it hadn't yet been touched by . . . anything.
It was still in it's pristine, just-been-snowed-on condition.
Breathtakingly beautiful.
It took me a few moments to discover that this could also present a problem.
Let me explain . . .
The trail I had been on had been fairly packed and my skis were still on that level.
They hadn't yet adjusted to the extra foot of fluffy snow.
I was sliding along with everything below my knees hidden in the fresh stuff.
For a second, it was fun.
Then, it wasn't. 
I hit something.
I never discovered what it was. Rock. Lump of ice. Tree stump. Yesterday's skier.
It stopped me.
And I wasn't prepared.
My body, already bent forward in my best 'snowplow' position, bent further. In fact, I whacked my forehead painfully on my knees.
Something I wish I could do today.
But I digress . . .
My glasses popped off into the deep snow.
Oh, rats.
I rubbed my head and scrabbled around in the snow, finally, triumphantly, extracting my glasses.
Then I straightened. And felt a draft.
Remember what I had said about my ski pants being not stretchy?
This would be where that fact comes into play.
When my body had done its 'fold-in-half' trick, it proved to be something my new pants had been completely unprepared for.
They split from waistband to waistband, right along the crotch.
I was now effectively wearing two pant legs.
Held up with a narrow strip of cloth at the top.
I definitely needed a longer coat.
Or a loincloth.
And this was the first run of the day.
I made the run down the slope as carefully and unobtrusively as possible, then sneaked to the car and my suitcase.
The change from my new, albeit flimsy, ski pants to my usual jeans was accomplished in a minimum of time and a maximum of scrambling. In the wide rear seat.
I mean the wide rear seat.
Not the wide rear seat.
Never mind . . .
And I was back on the slope.
For the first few runs, I carefully peered at people to see if anyone recognized me as the almost-pantless girl who had been on the slope a short time earlier.
But, as no one seemed to be paying much attention to me, I finally relaxed.
I learned something that day.
Expensive can sometimes mean cheap.
It just costs more.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Left Hanging

The scene. Sigh.
It was a Saturday afternoon at the movies.
Two sisters happily sitting, munching popcorn and ooh-ing and ah-ing over Ryan Reynolds.
What could possibly go wrong?
Maybe I should start at the beginning . . .
Mom was having a group of friends in for tea and—in her words—a good gossip.
Sally and I had been happily internet surfing and largely staying out of Mom’s way.
But Mom seemed especially anxious to have us out of the house. Something about really needing some time with women her own age.
So she gave us money and sent us off to the movie.
Oh, Sally and I weren’t complaining.
Not really.
I mean . . . Ryan Reynolds.
So we gathered up our coats (it is December) and headed over to the Bijou.
Now a word here about our community’s theatre. It’s old.
Really old.
Built in the late 1800’s for real, live theatrics, it has a genuine stage, thick, velvet curtains, a floor that slopes from back to front and a balcony overhanging the audience for . . . more audience. It is considered the hallowed hall of memory nestled in the quiet center of our sleepy little town.
Sometime in the 1920s, some town bright light conceived the notion of opening up a little hole in a rear wall to poke a projector through and the movie industry was born.
The old projector is still there, sitting in lonely glory in a far corner, shrouded with a great dust cloth. Whilst the more modern replacement has taken place of importance.
I know all this because I used to date the projector man. A beanpole slender boy with a shock of red hair named Billy.
The boy is named Billy. Not the hair. I thought I should clarify.
Ahem . . .
Sooo . . . Saturday. Me and Sally.
And Ryan Reynolds.
Things were going well.
The audience wasn’t huge, but it was enthusiastic. Mostly kids about Sally’s and my age.
My sister and I were sitting in our favourite spot—the front of the upper balcony. Where we could survey the people below, haughtily aloof.
Well, I was going for haughty aloof-ness.
Sally was pretty much just going for the popcorn and the little cylinder of M & M’s that came with her ‘theatre meal’.
A couple of Sally’s friends were sitting below us. Just down the row from them, I spotted a couple of Billy’s friends, Tim and Michael. So the girls’ reluctance to come up and sit with us became suddenly apparent.
Sally had been munching happily for several minutes, her eyes glued to the screen.
“Pssst! Sally!” someone whisper-shouted from below.
“Shhhh!” someone else said.
Sally leaned forward, still chewing. “Huh?”
“Give us some of your M & M’s! My lid wasn’t on and ours fell over and spilled all over the floor!”
“Shhh!” someone said again.
I shuddered to think of what might be on a floor that had been collecting candy and sodas and who-knows-what-else in its 140-year history. I heard that a group of people studying the building went into the basement and found actual stalactites of solidified sugar (from spilled drinks) hanging beneath the stage.
True story.
But I digress . . .
Eyes still on the screen, Sally reached blindly for her M & M’s and tossed them over the rail.
“Hey!” I shouted. “Those were mine!”
“Shhh!” someone said.
Sally clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oops.”
Now you have to know that a normal person would simply acknowledge their mistake and offer to replace.
Not Sally. In the next breath, she had launched herself over the balcony after the airborne candies.
Now she must have realized, partway over, that it's quite a distance to the main floor. Because somewhere in midflight, she managed to reach out and grab the decorative rail fastened to the outer edge of the balcony.
A girl screamed, “Somebody fell out of the balcony!”
“Shhh!” someone else said.
There was a sudden hubbub as the house lights came on.
All eyes were on Sally, hanging from the railing like a limp acrobat on a dead trapeze.
I probably don’t have to tell you that, amid people grabbing Sally’s wrists to keep her from falling, the arrival of the local firemen (fortunately, housed immediately next to the Bijou.) and the dragging in of ladders and rescue equipment, the movie pretty much got forgotten.
No one seemed to mind.
I mean, how can you top that?
It was like a scene out of some fantastical storybook.
Of course, Sally was forbidden from ever setting foot in the balcony again—something we both knew she’d never obey—and sent home.
The two of us arrived in the middle of Mom’s tea party and Sally immediately disappeared.
Mom slowly rose to her feet. “What happened?” she asked a bit breathlessly.
I started to explain. I could almost see Mom’s gossipy friends’ ears growing longer.
Mom noticed it, too. She waved a hand. “Never mind. Just tell Sally I’ll be up later to murder her.”
She didn’t. I thought I’d tell you so you wouldn’t worry.
Yep. Sally lived . . . to make the front page of the local paper.

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado collects and then distributes words.
And we, her enthusiastic followers, craft something meaningful entertaining ambitious from said words.
This month, my words wereacrobat ~ cylinder ~ memory ~ online ~ storybook
And were submitted by my friend, Rena at
We aren't alone.
Zip over and visit the others!

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Future public speaking . . . champions
I’ve always been a talker.
The word vociferous could be very aptly applied.
But, during my formative years, if anyone ever wanted to fill me with absolute, bone-numbing, chill-of-death dread, all one would have to do was say, “Diane, why don’t you stand up and say a few words.”
Okay, the ‘saying a few words’, I could handle.
The operative/terrifying aspect here was the part where they said, ‘why don’t you stand up’.
Because that usually means that, in front of people, one has to STAND UP.
Grade seven provided the ultimate test.
Our English teacher whose name was Miss-Mueller-How-Could-You-Do-This-To-Me!, had assigned Every. Single. Person. in our class to do a report.
An oral report.
Okay, here’s where I admit that I had to have the words 'oral report' explained to me.
Miss Mueller HCYDTTM! was happy to enlighten me.
A little too happy.
My soul was immediately immersed in dread.
Death was suddenly an imminent thing.
Due to occur on Thursday next.
I spent the following six days in an ambivalent froth.
Finally putting ink to paper the night before I was due to face the firing squad.
To this day, I can’t remember what I reported on.
Or even if I reported.
Because something happened just before my turn that is etched forever in my memory . . .
I‘m sure you’ve all been there.
Nervously Anxiously Apprehensively Terrified-ly awaiting your turn before the critical masses.
Well, the girl who preceded me was my good friend, Gladys.
She of the calm, self-possessed demeanour.
Gladys was also known for her clothes of uber-cuteness. No grunge here.
And I should mention, too, that Gladys’ outfit that day was a matching pants, top and hat that were OH-MY-GOODNESS-SOOOO-CUTE-I WANT-THEM-I-WANT-THEM-I-WANT-THEM!!!
Back to my story . . .
Gladys stood up in front of the class and began her presentation.
Suddenly, her voice . . . faded.
And the teacher leaped to her feet and caught her as she fainted.
She survived.
Gladys, I mean.
I just thought I’d mention that in case you were concerned.
I know we were . . .
But her scary experience helped me to realize something.
The other kids in my class were just as scared as I was.
Some even more so.
And every single person in that audience wasn’t sitting there waiting for me to flip out or slip up so they could laugh.
They were thinking about/dreading their own ten minutes of infamy.
And if our reaction to our good friend’s mishap was anything to go by, all we wanted was for our classmates to succeed.
Who says you don’t learn anything from public speaking.
In Grade Seven?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Winter Depths

He went out as the morning sun,
Made new snow glisten bright.
The world was still, the air was cold
The storm passed with the night.

He carefully prepared his mount
With blankets and with tack,
The snow had stopped, the wind had died
He had cattle now to check.

The two of them moved carefully
Into the world of white.
Their breath streamed out behind them
Making clouds in morning light.

But it wasn’t long before he stopped
And looked about him there.
Then pulled his ‘cell phone from his coat
And dialed his wife with care.

“Hi, Hon!” he said with chatt’ring teeth,
Just thought I’d give a call,
To let you know I’m heading back,
Things don’t look good at all.”

“The snow out here’s too deep,” he said.
“It’s cold and wet, I’ve found.
It’s reached the tops of both my boots
It’s hard to get around.”

His puzzled wife said to her man.
“Your boot tops aren’t tall.
“I don’t see how a drift that deep
Could hamper you at all.”

Her husband frowned, “They don’t,” he said.
“Well, they don’t bother me.
But this poor horse I’m sitting on.
He simply cannot see.”
Daddy in winter . . .
My poem today is part of a challenge.
My friend/intrepid leader, Karen issues them every month.
Poetry on a theme.
This month? Cold Days.
Right up my ski hill. So to speak.
Now that you've read mine, go and see what Karen and my other friends have constructed.
You'll be glad you did!
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Cold Days Saga
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Ccccold Days
Lydia of Cluttered Genius shares Cold Days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Staging the Holiday

I’m sure it was a normal, every-year, run-of-the-mill holiday season.
Everywhere but at the Tolley home.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My Husby and I have six children.
Originally, we were going for a baseball team, but we ran out of steam somewhere around shortstop.
Sooo . . . six kids. Ages five to seventeen.
It was Christmas time and we had to do something with them.
What if we put them all on the stage? Had our own theatre company?
Well, it made sense to us.
Moving on . . .
For that one magical year, we had just that.
The Tolley Troubadours. Specializing in Dinner Theatre Who-done-its.
Our most famous play? The Demise of Santa Claus?
Okay, Broadway, we weren’t. But we sure had fun.
The players:
The Grinch. Our Seventeen-year-old. Self-proclaimed hater of Santa Claus and everything he stood for. And possessor of many and varied instruments of death and destruction whose sole purpose was the final end of the aforementioned and hapless Claus.
Scrooge. Our sixteen-year-old. Hater of everyone equally. And not above threatening anyone who interfered with him (i.e. tried to engage him in conversation. Or smiled/looked at him.)
Alfie the Elf. Our thirteen-year-old. Mobile-mouthed purveyor of all things ‘cookie’. Not averse to a little bribery when the mood took him.
Mrs. Claus. Our eleven-year-old. Heavily made up, padded and hunched over model of sweetness and light. Until someone questioned her honesty. Then watch the rolling pin come out.
Angel Sweetface. Our eight-year-old. Wealthy, angelic example of Life lived well. A little too well. Heaven forbid that anything should interfere with her rather skewed view of the world.
Elfie the Elf. Our five-year-old. Son of Alfie. And mute. Until moments of stress/surprise/revelation when he became remarkably conversant and effusive. Strange.
Inspector Clueso. My Husby. Bumbling, inept investigator of all things mysterious. Namely every person on the playbill.
Bambi. Me. Feather-brained mistress of ceremonies. Woefully type-cast.
And there it is. The lineup.
Before, during and after a good dinner, based on the clues gleaned from presented scenes, the guests had to figure out who ‘done it’.
Most guessed a Tolley.
Surprisingly, they were right.
Just not right enough.
It was hard to figure out who had the most fun.
The guests.
Or the players.
Yep. The best of Christmases.

P.S. Looking for some unique entertainment for your holiday celebrations?
Not too particular about quality and/or expertise?
I have someone I can recommend . . .

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Lazy Christmas

As I get older, I have found,
(‘Tis something of which I’m not proud),
My motivation’s slipping by,
I’d rather sit. If it’s allowed…

The thought of dragging out the chests
Of Christmas tinsel, balls and bows,
Just makes me tired. I want to sit
Here ‘fore the fire in deep repose.

This year, I called the ‘chicklets’ up,
To see if they would come help me,
I tried to sweeten up the pot,
With just a little bribery.

And so they came. And busily,
They carried, hauled and opened up,
They placed and hung and rearranged,
And even did a quick clean up!

Then we made cookies: Yummy, sweet,
And laughed and talked as we rolled dough,
Though we were tired and sticky. Hot.
I’m sure we were in Heaven, though.

And lastly, there before the fire,
With much of giggles, loud guffaws,
They decorated one last thing,
Their patient, sleepy, sweet Grandpa!

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 three will look askance
At the holiday romance!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Dating in the Forties

College boy.
Who wouldn't want to date that face?
Sunday's are for Ancestors!
Tell me about yours...
Dad was home from college for the Christmas vacation in the winter of 1946.
He'd been working very hard (or so he said) and was ready for some fun.
What could be better than a dance?
With girls.
He gussied (real word) up and drove to Raymond, a nearby town.
The band was hot, and the girls were cute.
One young lady (hereafter known as The Girl) particularly took his eye. He asked her to dance.
The Girl agreed.
They danced.
He asked her again. Again she said yes.
They danced.
This went on for some time.
Finally, he asked if he could call on her. This was the 40s. Guys said things like that . . .
The Girl was most agreeable to that suggestion as well.
He floated home.
A couple of days later, he drove out to see her. Now, I should point out, here, that it was only about twenty minutes from Dad's family home to The Girl's family home.
When the conditions were good. As in - during the summer.
But it was winter.
Anything goes.
Dad reached the girl's house just as a blizzard hit. That was okay with him. He was warm and safe.
And he had The Girl totally to himself. Well, totally to himself if one didn't count her parents, siblings, siblings friends, neighbours . . . you get the picture.
They enjoyed a few minutes of conversation. Things were going well. Then, the doorbell rang.
Dum, dum Duuuum! (Actually, it probably sounded more like," Bing-bong!" But that would be boring. And totally not-ominous. The story needed ominous-ness.)
Moving on . . .
It was another guy. And from the ensuing conversation, one who was already close friends with The Girl.
For the remainder of the evening, the two young men tried to engage The Girl in conversation.
And glare unobtrusively at each other.
Finally, the evening drew to a close. It was time to leave.
I capitalized this because it's important.
The Girl's mother announced that the blizzard had grown so bad that she would allow neither of the suitors to leave. The two of them would have to spend the night.
Okay, not so bad.
Wait. What?
In the same bed.
According to Dad, it was the most uncomfortable night he had spent. Ever.
Including his time serving in the army.
At daylight, he peeked out the window. The storm had blown itself out. It was the best sight of his life.
No need to even stop to dress as he'd not bothered to undress. In fifteen seconds he was out the front door.
Leaving an astonished The Girl's mother with a batter-coated spoon half-raised in greeting.
Dad left in such a hurry that he even beat the snowplows.
He didn't care.
The sooner he made it home, the sooner he could begin to forget the whole thing.
At the age of ninety, he almost had it.

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