Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, August 17, 2019

Olé

Old Ranch. The barnyard is out there.
Near the  . . . ummm . . . barn.
My very first ranch memory occurred when I was two. 
I had my new little red cowboy boots on. I was ready for anything. 
Dad was out in the blacksmith shop and I knew he would be happy to see me. Certainly, I would be happy to see him and though there were a fence and a large barnyard between us, I decided to make the journey. 
I'm afraid I rather discounted the importance of . . . the Cow.
Oh, I knew she was there. I just didn't think it was important.
It was the custom in those days to take the calf away from the milk cow and only put the two of them together morning and evening, after the cow had been milked. That way, the cow’s production stayed very high, we were assured a constant supply of milk, and the calf received enough to ensure its proper growth.
A good system all around.
Except that one usually ended up with a rather irate, over-protective full-grown mama cow wandering at will in the barnyard. 
No problem. If you were an adult, or very fast.
I probably don't have to tell you - I was neither . . .
I approached the gate.
I don't know what it is about little children. But cows seem to think they are something dangerous. A dog, perhaps. Or a coyote or wolf.
I do know that this particular cow spotted me the moment I came into view.
And went into instant I-must-watch-this-creature-because-I-have-a-baby-and-who-knows-what-said-creature-may-do mode.
I stood just inside the gate and watched her. 
She looked . . . nervous. Twitchy.
Perhaps what she needed was some conversation!
Having been raised to nearly three on a ranch, I was fully confident of my ability to speak cow. I walked over to the fence, put my face against the bars of the gate and proceeded to bellow impressively. I don’t know what I said, but it must have been interesting because the cow began to make noises of her own. 
And then she started running feints at the gate. 
Being two, I thought she was merely trying to amaze me. I continued to ‘talk’. She continued to react.
We were communicating.
Finally, in a positive froth, she pounded over to the barn to make sure that her baby was still in his pen, unharmed. 
The way was clear for me to climb the fence and cross the no-man’s (or children's) land that was the barnyard. I proceeded to do so. 
I probably made it a few yards before she hit me. I don’t remember much about that part.
My mother takes over the story from there.
She had been working in the kitchen and keeping an eye on me through the window. She had seen me standing beside the gate. Suddenly, as with any toddler, I disappeared. She didn't waste time in searching. She knew instinctively where I had gone. She started out on the run, spotting me just as I dropped down from the fence in triumph.
On the cow side.
Mom’s sight was obscured for a few moments as she ran. 
Trees. Sweat. Whatever. 
By the time she again had me in her sights, I was down and the cow was turning for a second engagement.
Mom leaped the fence at a single bound (maybe she opened the gate and ran through, but this sounds better) reaching me just ahead of the black and white frenzy. 
She scooped me up and screamed for my Dad, while the cow tried to knock me out of her arms. For a few seconds, Mom avoided the angry, gesticulating cow by spinning, pirouetting gracefully.
There was some real ‘bull-fighter’ potential there.
But soon, the cow tired of the performance and changed tactics. 
She decided that the best way to the child was through the mother. Fortunately, this new ‘barn(yard) dance’ with me at the centre was cut short by the arrival of my enraged father.
When anyone, or anything, was threatening one of his children, my dad would . . . well let me put it this way. 
Mount Vesuvius. 
In work boots. 
Needless to say, in short order, the cow forgot all about her ongoing problems with me and headed for the nearest far-away place with her tail tucked–figuratively speaking–between her legs, while a tear-stained toddler was being closely examined by two anxious parents. 
My only injuries were a couple of bruises and a red cowboy boot crushed flat. 
My sense of adventure remained unscathed.
My poor parents.
Me. Cow wrestling is hard work!

Friday, August 16, 2019

House H(a)unting


“Now this little gem is truly a diamond in the rough!”
One thing I’ll say about our real estate agent, Mr. Gregory Gorman, he knows his clichés.
In a little train, Mom, Sally and I followed him through the front door of the small, white, decades-old clapboard house.
Sally leaned close to my ear. “It looks like something out of the fifties, but old,” she whispered. “I almost expect to see that what’s-his-name come in the front door and holler, ‘I’m home!’”
I stared at her a moment.
“Who?”
“You know. That guy in Father Knows Best.”
“Father Knows what now?”
“Oh, I forgot. You haven’t been watching with Mort and me. It’s a TV show. Started in the fifties. Father Knows Best. Mort says it reminds him of us.”
Again I looked at her. “A pair of goofballs who end up together and destroy the world?”
“What? No!” Sally flounced off.
And in case you wondered: I read. I know what a ‘flounce’ is.
Back to my story . . .
“As you can see, this is the sweetest little living room/ dining room combination.” Mr. Gorman walked over to the large picture window and threw back the curtains, disclosing a wall of green. “With loads of privacy provided by the natural wonder of mature trees . . .”
Natural wonder of mature trees? This guy should have been designing billboards somewhere. Or selling real estate. Oh, wait . . .
“Dark as a pocket in here!” Sally was back. “I just peeked into the kitchen. It’s just as dark!” She looked at the large picture window. “I think the trees are about ready to move in!” She spun around. “In my opinion, this house is ghastly. A complete wreck!”
“Sally! Shhh!” Mom was looking at us.
“Yeah, Sally! Shhh!” I whispered. Secretly, I agreed with her.
“Come look at these drapes . . .” Sally disappeared into the next room.
I glanced at Mr. Gorman, who was waxing eloquent on things like 'rock-solid-foundation' and ‘they-don’t-build-them-like-this-anymore’. I wouldn’t be missed. I followed Sally.
“Have you ever seen anything like them?” Sally’s voice came from the far side of the dark little room.
I felt around for the light switch and flipped it on. A single bulb lit up, disclosing damp-stained wallpaper, a warped and rather rickety table and a single chair.
And Sally, holding out a fold of the kitchen curtains and pointing at them with her other hand.
I moved closer. “What’s the . . . oh . . .” I saw what she had seen. On what must have once been a brilliant pink background were slices of red watermelon. And widely-smiling, white-toothed African American faces. “What on earth . . .”
“Right?” Sally dropped the curtain. “It always amazes me what people thought was acceptable back in the fifties.”
I blinked. When Sally comes out with something reasonable, it always takes me by surprise.
My eyelid began to twitch. I rubbed it.
“Come on! Let’s see what else there is!” Sally headed for a door to one side of the small room and wrenched it open, disclosing a narrow stairway. “Ooh! Stairs!” She darted inside.
“Sally, maybe we should wait for Mr. Gorman. And Mom.”
But I was talking to empty space. Sally had disappeared.
“Wow, Gwen! Look at this!” Her muffled voice drifted down the stairs.
I started forward rather reluctantly and peered up the stairway.
Just then, there was a creak overhead. The sound of snapping and cracking. And, with a mighty crash, Sally dropped into the room behind me, accompanied by half of the upper story. And all of the dust.
Fortunately, she landed on the table, which then buckled slowly under her weight and dropped her, almost gently, onto the kitchen floor.
Most of the debris rained around her, missing her entirely but completely covering the lower floor.
A last, errant chunk of lath and plaster hit her squarely in the head.
“Ow.” Sally rubbed the spot and glared at the offending piece of rubbish.
“Sally! Are you all right?” I started to make my way toward her.
Just then, Mom and Mr. Gorman appeared in the doorway. “Sally!” Mom shrieked. She, too started forward.
The two of us pulled Sally from the wreckage and started brushing decades’ worth of plaster dust from her hair and shoulders.
Sally sneezed a couple of times, then pushed our hands away. “Don’t worry. I’m all right!” She turned and stared at the rubble behind her, then peered up at the gaping hole that had once been the kitchen ceiling/front bedroom floor. “Wow.”
She turned to Mr. Gorman. “So,” she asked brightly. “Have you any other houses to show us?”

Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado receives lists of words from us, her loyal fans. Which she then distributes back to those same fans.
But never to the same person who sent them.
It’s totally fun. And no one knows whose words they will be getting.
This month, my words: diamond ~ twitch ~ foundation ~ wreck ~ ghastly
were submitted by my friend, Jules at: https://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com

Now go and see what the others have done with their lists!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Small Differences


I know this will come as no small surprise.
So I’ll just put it out there . . .
Boys and girls are different.
I’m not talking the obvious, physical differences.
I’m talking the subtle ‘how-our-brains-work’ differences. Even at a very early age.
And yes, I have a case in point . . .
My daughter teaches three-year-olds. It is an exhausting, aggravating . . . utterly glorious job. Where the rewards are slim.
But totally, totally worth it.
And sometimes realized in unexpected ways.
This past week, her tiny group of little learners was visited by a former class who had now reached the grand and mature age of five.
All of whom were looking forward to their first year of school, beginning this fall. Thus, the topic of future schooling came up. Often.
One of the three-year-olds (I’ll call her Daisy) joined the conversation . . .
Daisy: “I’m going to school this fall, too!”
Teacher: “That’s exciting, Daisy! It’s fun to go to school!”
Daisy: “Yeah! I’ll learn lots of stuff!”
Teacher: “Yes you will, honey!”
Then the teacher turned to the other student in her class, a small boy (how about we call him Gary).
Teacher: “And what about you, Gary? Are you going to school this fall?”
Gary: “Bok! Bok! Bok! Bok!”
Little girl thinking ahead. Little boy totally in the moment. See? Different.
And this also illustrates one of the greatest rewards of working with small children.
The things they say.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Training My Lazy


That Mike, he was a quiet man,
A family benefactor.
He buoyed a large posterity
By sitting on a tractor.

One day, his wife, I’ll call her Jean,
Was working in the yard,
The day was warm, the sun was hot,
The task she’d set was hard.

Her Mike had finished for the day
Relaxing in his hammock,
When she called out to him, “Hon, please!
“I need someone dynamic!”

“I want some help here, if you could,
“This job is problematic.
“And while you’re up, please also check
“That roof leak in the attic.”

He looked at her and said, “Sweet Jean,
“I’d help with all that’s taxing,
“But I can’t do two things at once,
“And right now, I’m relaxing.”

She didn’t murder him right there,
I know you all were worried,
But from this tale, I gained a truth
For when life’s getting flurried.

When myriad tasks beset me,
And everything is crazy,
I simply can’t do two at once,
So I’m working on my lazy!

Each month we write upon a theme
Some folks think we're clever!
And we have such a lot of fun,
We'll do this thing forever! 

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Lazy Isn’t What It Once Was
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Lazy no More
Dawn of Spatulas On Parade: Lazy

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Cart-Wheeled

It started out innocently enough.
Twenty of us spread in haphazard rows across the gym with our trusty little yoga mats beside us.
The lights were bright. The music lively—almost drowning out the grunts and gasps of the aforementioned twenty.
My youngest daughter and I had taken up a position on one side of the gym where we had a clear view of our faithful leader . . . erm . . . leading.
With a big smile permanently spread across her face, she was enthusiastically and effortlessly taking us through all kinds of exercises.
Working our non-existent abs and biceps in the plank and pushups. Testing creaking knees in lunges and squats.
Introducing things like the ‘inchworm’ and the ‘mountaineer’.
Yikes.
But, teeth gritted in determination, we were having fun.
We had been at it for about 20 minutes.
And many of us (okay, me) were starting to see a real sweat glow.
Then, that fateful command. “Okay everyone! I want you to try a cartwheel!”
A cartwheel? Had we heard correctly?
My daughter and I looked at each other.
She shrugged. “Well, here goes,” she said.
Now I have to tell you that, in a bygone day, I was actually able to do a cartwheel. A credible one.
I even taught others how to do them.
Did I still have it in me?
Only one way to find out.
I leaned over, my hands reaching for the floor . . .
And did a perfect round-off.
I kid you not. I did. A perfect one!
Now a round-off differs from a cartwheel in that once one’s hands are on the floor, the legs come up and rather than continue over in a spread-eagled, look-at-me-I’m-a-starfish sort of fashion, are clapped together and the body turned so the feet touch the ground together in a 180 degree turn from where they left off.
Got it?
Well I did it.
A perfect one.
And yes, I was as surprised as everyone else there.
Now did I gloat over my triumph and calmly move on to the next exercise?
I did not.
Oh, I gloated all right. I gloated myself right into another cartwheel.
I mean, if I could do it once, I could do it again, right?
Wrong.
This time, I tried a regular cartwheel. The spread eagle one.
Where one’s limbs are expected to be . . . spread-eagled.
Only mine don’t do that anymore.
There was a distinct ‘pop’.
And instant pain.
Now you have to know that our instructor is the sweetest, gentlest girl ever born. No way I was going to let her know I had injured myself. She would probably bathe me with her tears.
So to speak.
Instead, I gasped and somehow maintained a smile through the rest of the exercises.
Then limped home.
And kept on limping.
For two months.
I’m telling you all this in case any of you ever want to include me in your exercise regimen. Please know this:
I've discovered I’m a one-cartwheel woman. And that cartwheel has passed.
Ouch.

Monday, August 12, 2019

First Hero


The heroes of my little world, when I was very small
Were astonishingly varied, and not a few at all.
My dad. He was my very first, he was so strong and smart,
I knew he’d give me anything, so I gave him my heart.
You have to know, my mom was there, I loved her more than life,
She gave me hugs, and food and care and sheltered me from strife.
And on the ranch, the hired men. Most notable was Bud,
He smiled and teased—put up with me (and saved me from the mud!)
I had loads of aunts and uncles. And their plethora of kids
Came often to the ranch and followed everything I did.
But even with my clan (and friends), someone else burned bright,
Someone who came to our house on every Wednesday night.
Appearing on the flick’ring screen, astride the ‘best-est’ horse,
The sheriff of Dodge City, with all peace to enforce.
Yes, Marshall Dillon, he of tow’ring strength and breadth and height,
He’d vanquish evil with one hand, curb bad guys with his might!
Each week, within that TV box, my hero came to me,
To save my world from nastiness and guard ‘gainst villainy.
Now how on earth do you compete with someone of that size?
What could you do to raise yourself there in your daughter’s eyes?
Well, my parents had it figured. Worked it slick as slick could be,
My hero-worship handled—yes, they simply watched with me!
There is a codicil, oh yes, I probably should announce it,
Gunsmoke, the show was called, but I never ever could pronounce it!


Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought,
To try to make the week begin
With pleasant thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So all of us together, we,
Have posted poems for you to see.
Now go and see what they have done
I'm sure it will be lots of fun!
And now you've seen what we have brought . . .
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week is Jenny's turn to dream,
She's chosen 'camping' for our theme!

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Third in the series
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The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on Amazon.com and .ca!

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First romance in a decade!

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