Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 29, 2018

A Little Progress

One and one-half hours from the Stringam ranch is the city of Lethbridge, Alberta.
When the Stringams really needed to shop, that was the place to go.
There were tons of great stores . . .
But, if one wanted a bit of adventure, the best was Progress Clothing.
Progress was our favourite place to shop.
It wasn’t what you would call a ‘high-end’ store.
It catered more to the farmers and ranchers in the area.
The people needing sturdy, serviceable, work apparel.
Tough boots.
Heavy leather gloves.
Progress consisted of a long, open room with thick windows facing the street.
Dangling fluorescent light fixtures.
And huge tables set evenly about the old-wood flooring.
Great piles of clothing were stacked on every available surface.
More or less grouped together according to type and size.
Colours were limited. Most articles were blue, green, black or tan.
But choosing pants, shirts or one of the myriad other items that went with working on a ranch was only the first (and less exciting) part.
The true fun of Progress Clothing began when one was holding one’s prospective purchase.
And a salesman approached.
Because the ‘suggested retail price’ on the tag was just that.
A suggestion.
From there, the haggling commenced.
“How much for these pants?”
“The tag says $7.00.”
“But I’m buying four pairs.”
“Hmm . . . okay, $6.00.”
“Really? That’s the best you can do?”
“Hey, I’m trying to feed my family!”
“And I’m trying to feed mine!”
“Okay. Okay. $5.00. But that’s my last offer.”
And so it went. It was . . . fun.
If you were lucky, you would pay half of what the original sticker stated . . .
I hadn’t been to Progress in quite a while.
I had discovered some of the specialty ‘Western’ shops.
With their high-priced ‘stylish’ western clothes.
And I had my own money.
And no encumbrances.
Then, shortly after I was married, my Husby (a newly acquired encumbrance) and I, feeling both the need to be economical and the desire for some adventure, stopped at the great old store.
I found a pair of warm, winter boots.
Practical boots.
My Husby held them up to the salesman. “How much?” he asked.
The salesman stared at him.
“How much?” he repeated.
The salesman leaned forward and touched the tag. “$8.00,” he said.
“Will you take six?” my Husby asked.
The salesman frowned. “The tag says $8.00,” he repeated.
“Oh. So . . . $8.00?”
The store and the clothes were the same.
And the prices.
But the important stuff was different.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Bad Vacuum

Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Okay, it was . . . weird.
Really weird.
But sometimes, weird has a logical explanation . . .
We were visiting with our good friends, Shane and Linda.
They had just finished building their dream home.
The last touches were slowly going in.
Shane had recently installed a new central vacuum system.
It really sucked. (But that was a good thing and has nothing to do with this story . . .)
Shortly after the vacuum was installed, and very late at night, Shane was in the front room doing . . . Shane stuff. Deciding it was time for bed, he stood up and started toward the doorway.
When the vacuum suddenly turned on.
I am not making this up.
The middle of the night. Everyone else in the house was asleep. And the vacuum switched itself on.
Let’s just say it was . . . startling . . . and go from there.
Shane immediately quickened his pace, intent on switching the mechanical demon off before it woke the whole house.
But as he crossed the room, it quit.
The vacuum, I mean.
See what I mean? Weird.
After that, it happened several times. Always when someone was in the front room. Usually when they were alone.
This went on for some time.
Then we showed up for a visit.
The four of us were sitting in the front room, catching up.
Shane told us the vacuum story.
Complete with hand gestures.
And the dance.
I frowned thoughtfully. (I do that . . .) “Shane,” I asked, “Where were you standing when the vacuum came on?”
He pointed out an area of the floor.
I crossed over and stepped on it.
The vacuum was suddenly roaring beneath us.
I moved off the spot.
The vacuum quit.
I did it again.
Vacuum on.
Vacuum off.
All three of them were staring at me.
Then Grant smiled. “I think I know what happened.”
The two men went into the basement and poked around, finally discovering a screw, just piercing the wiring. When pressure was applied from above, the connection was completed. The vacuum came on.
When pressure was released, the connection was broken. And the machine switched off.
The ‘haunted’ vacuum was explained.
But you know what?
It was heaps more fun before we figured it out.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Booger Man

The boy.
No, that isn't the right finger, either...
In our house, over the holidays, love and goodwill abound.
And so does the food.
And the treats.
Especially the chocolate.
With, sometimes, amusing results . . .
A group of us adults was sitting around the table, intent on a game of cards.
Members of the younger set were dashing in and out, equally intent on activities.
And treats.
We had just opened a new box of exotic chocolates.
A gift from our dear next-door neighbours.
Five different kinds of luscious, melt-able deliciousness, each in a different (intriguing) shape.
Chocolate mousse.
Crème Broulee.
And pistachio.
Each more mouth-watering than the last.
Our five-year-old discovered the box and immediately seized it.
“What’s this?!” he said, holding it up.
“Chocolates!” I said. “Really yummy ones!”
“Oooh! What’s this one?!” He jabbed a finger into the chocolate mousse.
“That’s dark chocolate.”
“And this?” Another jab.
“Hey!” his dad said, taking the box. “Don’t touch all of the chocolates with your booger-covered finger!”
Da-ad!” he said, disgusted. “That’s not my booger finger!” He held up his other hand, pointer finger erect. “That one is!”
At least he was honest . . .

Monday, December 24, 2018

Single Mom's Christmas

With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore . . .

On the night before Christmas, long hours ahead
The toddler awake, I’d just got her to bed.
The stockings were hung in a haphazard row,
While Mama assembled new toys just below.

The kids were asleep. Well, except for the last,
Just waiting for morning to get downstairs fast.
I toiled on alone, ‘cause there wasn’t a dad.
I had broken a nail and my language was bad.

Then out on the lawn rose a terrible noise,
A skill that usually my oldest employs.
I flew to the window, and thought as I ran,
‘What's he doing out there, my nine-year-old man?!’

It was bright (as can only the moon on snow be),
And I narrowed my eyes to be able to see.
And what did I glimpse, coming over the way?
But some deer, all in harness, and a stout little sleigh.

With someone in a coat that looked comfy and soft,
And clearly, some magic to keep them aloft.
They flew like a Michael Schumacher on course,
While the driver attempted some will to enforce.

"Now Baby! Now, Jazzi! Now, Frolic and Jolly!
On, Cherub! On, Angel! On, Kitten and Folly!
I need you to get to the rooftop this time!
And a fine, gentle landing would be so sublime!"

To say that they flew like some leaves past the attic,
Would be perfectly true, it was quite that erratic.
I was holding my breath as they shot toward the sky,
And prayed that my windows and roof would survive.

Then finally (thankfully) up on the roof,
The unmistakable sound of twenty-four hoofs.
Then some noise in the chimney I’d not heard before,
And someone emerged, on their knees, on the floor.

The figure was dressed in a warm, sooty coat,
With some Uggs on their feet and scarf 'round their throat.
With toys, books and clothes in a gi-normous sack,
Which they dropped to the floor with the words, “Oh, my back!”.

And then sparkling eyes were directed at me!
From under a hat that was worn with esprit.
I surprisingly saw, not a man, but a miss,
With no beard (though a tweezer would not go amiss).

In white teeth, she had clutched a short pencil end,
And a notebook, she held in one mittened hand.
Her round, wrinkled face shone with laughter and fun,
And I don’t think her happy laugh could be outdone!

She was joyful and glad, and just a bit round,
Her smile made me smile, 'twas so friendly and sound!
She gave me a grin and then winked an eye,
All my fears passed away and I waved them goodbye.

She didn’t say much, simply nodded my way,
And I watched as she worked – like a pudgy ballet.
She finished her job, made a note in her book,
Then nodded and smiled and her exit she took!

I heard her footsteps as she ran to her sleigh,
Heard her call to her team as they all flew away.
Then this sweet woman shouted, as she flew o’er the town,
"Happy Christmas to all, don’t let life get you down!"

Merry Christmas, my friends! And a very Happy New Year!

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 is New Year's Eve. It's true!
How this 2018 flew!

So we'll discuss (because we can),
All our 2019 plans!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Rushing for Gold

The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began on January 24, 1848 when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.
That news would eventually bring 300,000 people to California from the rest of the United States and abroad—driving out the original ‘Native Californians’ and completely altering the landscape.
Gold fever struck hard.
The California gold rush was in full swing.
So to speak.
My Great, Great Grandfather, George Coleman made a decision. He, too would join the trains of eager gold seekers and make his own way to California.
A determined young man, he did exactly that.
On arrival, he witnessed first-hand the ‘fever’ that affects people seeking after the elusive gold metal. The sacrifice of families and even lives in its pursuit.
So, George, whose motto could easily have been: ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’, decided to take a different course.
Instead of joining the men—and women—sifting frantically through the waters and soils of California, he decided on a more practical avocation.
He would, instead join the ranks of those who supplied necessities to the gold-diggers.
He took a job washing dishes.
Which paid a healthy $15.00 per day.
Many flocked to California during the seven years of the California Gold Rush seeking a fortune.
Great, Great Grandpa George was one of few who found one.

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