Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, December 20, 2018


Been listening to Christmas music all day.
Let the Christmas memories continue!!!
For our first Christmas as newly-weds, I dutifully asked my new Husby what he would like.
I did it sneakily.
I thought.
In July.
His answer?
A router.
Okay, first, I had to surreptitiously find out just what a 'router' was.
I discovered that it had everything to do with home woodworking.
And nothing to do with computers (which at that time in history, really only existed on Star Trek).
The men at the hardware store knew exactly what Husby had been talking about.
And placed before me a perfect example of router-ness.
On sale.
The day was mine!
And soon, so was the router.
Gleefully (real word/emotion) I carried said router triumphantly to the car.
And duly hid it at Husby's parent's place.
Then I waited.
Closer to Christmas, Husby forgot all about the router he had asked for and announced that what he would really like was a deep fryer.
For a few frantic moments, I considered taking the router back and replacing it.
But, reading the receipt, I could see that that possibility had expired.
A couple of weeks before Christmas, with a heavy heart, I wrapped his present and placed it under the tree.
Sometime later, he picked it up and shook it.
It rattled.
He smiled.
What he had taken for a 'deep fryer' rattle was, indeed a 'router' rattle, but I said nothing.
And he was happy.
We both waited for Christmas.
Christmas morning, the first gift he went for was his 'deep fryer'.
He was already talking about the fries he would make.
The corn dogs.
I held my breath as he tore off the paper.
His mouth dropped open and his face was a perfect picture of surprise as he stared at the router box beneath.
“I totally forgot I asked for this!” he said finally. He opened the box and began removing parts. “I've wanted one of these forever!” He was growing more and more excited.
No more mention was made of a deep fryer.
I heaved a sigh of relief.
That particular gift went on to make tables, cabinets, houses, toys, more tables, and at least one picture frame.
Of far more use than a piece of kitchen equipment.
No matter how many fries it could have made.
I chose . . . well.
I should mention, also, that this was also the only Christmas when I managed to surprise my Husby.
Oh, he tries to 'act' surprised when he unwraps something.
But I know that he knows.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Daddy Walking

By request, I'm posting this poem I wrote for Daddy.
This will be my fourth Christmas without him...
My Hero
December. My four-year-old mind was a haze,
I’d been locked in the house as it snowed for three days.
Then quite suddenly, magically, sunlight appeared,
And my Daddy was pulling on snow boots. And gear.

I just couldn’t stand the house one minute more.
I had to get out. I’d help Dad with the chores!
So I zippered and buttoned and pulled on and tied,
Then stood by my Daddy with little-girl pride.

“I’m ready,” I shouted. “Let’s go milk the cows!”
I was set for adventure, quite done with the house.
He smiled and then, turning, stepped into the snow.
And I walked alongside. It seemed quite apropos.

At first the bright sparkles and crisp winter air
Made our walking, adventure, and senses aware.
But then I discovered as most children do,
That snow, though quite pretty, was hard to get through.

I struggled and grunted, broke into a sweat,
Then looked for the barn that we hadn’t reached yet.
My Daddy smiled down at my efforts inept,
“It’d be easier if you tried to step where I step.”

So I did. And my progress was much better then,
Soon we two reached the barn, and the cozy cow pens.
I sat perched on a stool and watched Daddy do chores,
Then followed him home, just like I’d done before.

I learned something that day, as we walked through the yard,
If I stayed in his footsteps, then things weren’t as hard.
His skill and experience, and his guidance, too,
Would make everything easier my whole life through.

Now, to my own kids, when there’s woe to be had
I give bits of advice that I learned from my Dad.
When Life dishes out dollops of good or of ill,
I find that I’m walking in Dad’s footsteps still.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Snowy Paradise

Enjoy it now. It'll be gone tomorrow!
In southern Alberta, where I was raised, snow seldom stayed very long.
Even though it was winter.
Oh, it snowed.
Sometimes a lot.
But then the famous Chinook would blow through, drastically raising temperatures.
And melting said snow.
Let’s face it. When the temperature goes from minus ten (14F) to plus twenty (68F), snow disappears fast.
In a few hours, any accumulation would be limited to the ditches and snowbanks.
So when it snowed, and if one wanted to enjoy it, one had to move quickly.
Just FYI.
On with my story . . .
Someone was out in the yard.
I looked out the window onto a scene of glistening white.
And my oldest brother, Jerry, holding the family toboggan.
Squealing (and I do mean squealing) with eight-year-old delight, I donned snow pants, parka, boots, mittens, scarf and toque (it's a Canadian thing).
Remember what I said about the snow lasting a short time?
I donned them quickly.
In no time I was out with my brother.
All of our siblings joined us.
Well, all but tiny baby, Anita.
She wasn't coming.
Jerry sat our youngest brother, two-year-old Blair, on the toboggan, then turned and started pulling the sled toward the river.
The Stringam ranch proper had been built in a bend of the south fork of the Milk River. Any sled-able hills were on the opposite bank.
We trudged along behind Jerry and his sled across the frozen river to the hills opposite.
Then, for the next couple of hours, we towed up and slid down.
The older kids choosing the steeper slopes.
The younger crew sticking with the gentle-er.
Our shouts and screams of sheer happiness echoing across the wide, open prairie.
Finally, it was time to head home. Dusk comes quickly in Southern Alberta and, trust me, you really don't want to try to walk home in the dark.
We crossed the river once more and climbed the hill to the house.
To be greeted by the warm, amazing smell of . . . baking.
In the entryway, we peeled off layer after layer, laughing excitedly and telling Mom about our adventure.
She just smiled and nodded.
Then surprised us with warm spudnuts (doughnuts made with mashed potatoes in the batter. Yum…) fresh from the oven, and gallons of hot chocolate.
The very best of days.

A little addendum:
I still go sledding. And there is still hot chocolate and doughnuts in the program.
But, as when I was eight, I choose the gentle-er slopes.
Full circle.

And for those interested, Mom's Spudnut recipe:
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1/2 Cup Warm Water
1/2 Teaspoon Sugar
Soak for five minutes.

1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Shortening
2 Cups Scalded (and cooled to warm) Milk
1 Cup Mashed Potatoes
2 Eggs (slightly beaten)
Mix these six ingredients.
Add Yeast mixture.
Add 6 to 7 Cups Flour
Knead--Allow to raise--knead--Roll out and cut--Allow to raise
Deep Fry
Dip in granulated sugar, or glaze with thin icing

Add Grandchildren...

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Holiday in the Romance

If one believes the songs they sing, then Love at Christmas, it’s the thing,
And all one needs, to happy be, is someone special ‘neath that tree.
The mistletoe and wondrous gifts, to give your special one a lift.
In cold and snow, the winter walks; by firelight, the special talks,
The billing, cooing—sappiness, and plans for future happiness,
‘Tis wonderful and sweet, it’s true, when couples start to bill and coo,
But tell me just exactly what’s expected after all the glut,
Tell me, will the magic stay? Even after Christmas day?
It has been done, I’ve heard it said. When planning for the days ahead,
If both remember what was great, about those special Christmas dates,
And try and keep the magic there together year by year by year!
And one last thing before I go, but something about which you should know:
"Don't make love by the garden gate, love is blind but the neighbours ain't."

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, 'cause Christmas Eve is here,
We'll talk about THAT time of year!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Grandpa Edward

Today’s story is a tragedy.
As often happened in the early days of the pioneers . . .

I love the stories of my pioneer ancestors.
The things they accomplished under often harrowing circumstances. Stories of strength, patience.
But their stories very often end tragically--including that of my Great-Great-Great Grandfather, Edward Tuttle.
Edward had been a baker in the town of Nauvoo, Illinois.
But when (over religious differences) he and his people were driven out in the mid-1840s, they settled in a place called Winter Quarters, Nebraska. Living, at first, in a dugout, they later moved to a small, hastily-finished house with makeshift cupboards on the wall. Cupboards that will play a significant role later . . .
In true ‘pioneer’ fashion, they carried on. Edward worked a lot with the livestock. A very necessary skill at a time when your animals could mean your survival.
Or something very different . . .
You have to know that Bulls (male cattle) can be particularly cantankerous. Living in close proximity with humans, they have more deaths to their credit than grizzly bears.
True fact.
One day, while he was working with the community’s cattle, Edward was badly gored in the abdomen by a particularly vicious specimen of the breed.
Unlike many others who had been similarly injured, he survived.
Though in considerable pain, he began to heal. A slow process.
One day in mid-August, 1847, while still in a rather delicate condition, Edward insisted on being up and around, though not capable of moving very fast.
Remember when I mentioned the cupboards and the fact that they were ‘make-shift’? That becomes significant now . . .
One of the cupboards started pulling away from the wall. Instinctively, Edward tried to catch it.
His action re-opened his terrible wound.
This second injury proved fatal.
He was buried there in Winter Quarters on August 17, 1847.
I’m grateful for every single one of the men and women who has gone before me.
Though often tragic, their experiences are inspiring.
I would love to have their strength and perseverance.
Though maybe not those actual experiences . . .

Sunday's are for ancestors. Tell me about yours!

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