Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 21, 2019


Dad (right) and Ruel.
Who could fool these two?
As a young man, Dad spent his summers working on the ranch.
It was these summers that convinced him ranching was in his blood.
Something he could make his life’s work.
Even with its embarrassing moments . . .
Young cowboys on a big spread are often the butt of jokes pulled by the older, more experienced hands.
Dad, though he was the boss’ son, was no exception.
He and a schoolmate, Ruel, were invited to go with a couple of the men on a ‘snipe hunt’.
The snipe, they were told, was a bird that lived in the coulees around the ranch. It was very tasty, if you could nab one. But there was the problem. Snipes were tricky creatures. They only had one weakness--they were mesmerised by a light at night. Ordinarily, they stayed still when darkness fell, but if disturbed, would fly toward said light. The trick was to have someone wait quietly, holding a bag next to a lantern and, when the birds were stirred up, catch them as they flew to the light.
The boys were excited to be included on this fun hunting trip. They rode behind the two older hands and took up a position at the mouth of the coulee, bag and lantern in hand. Then they waited while the riders circled around to the other end to ride down the coulee, driving the tasty little snipes ahead of them and straight to the waiting sack and certain doom.
They waited for over two hours.
Finally deciding that something had gone terribly wrong, the two boys gave up and walked the two miles back to the ranch. When they reached the barn, they discovered the horses the two older hands had been riding, safely tucked up for the night.
Only then did they realize they’d been had.
They toyed with the idea of hiding in the hay loft and getting the rest of the men stirred up when they didn’t show up for breakfast. They even went so far as to sleep in the loft, snuggled down cozily in the soft, fragrant hay. But the enthusiastic swinging of a pitchfork early the next morning as one of the hands fed the horses convinced them that they should appear or risk being skewered.
They stood up and endured the general laugh at their expense.
Grampa Stringam was disgusted. “How could you fall for something like that?!” he demanded.
It had been embarrassingly easy, so Dad said nothing.
Sometimes, ranching isn’t about the cows.
But being cowed.

P.S. The snipe is a real bird, living along watercourses throughout the world. It is notoriously hard to catch and the person who could actually shoot one would be known as a 'sniper'. Thus the name for a skilled gunman.

Friday, September 20, 2019


We live a ten-minute drive from a large city.

A city that has more stores than our bustling little town.
Stores we occasionally need to shop at when we need something more than groceries.
Enough background . . .
We (Husby, Daughter, Granddaughter and me) were heading ‘into town’.
For a three-year-old, it is a long, exhausting trip.
A game of I-Spy was indicated.
For the first few turns, all went well.
Granddaughter would pose, “I spy with my teensy-tinesy little eye, something that is . . .”
You know the game.
She posed. We guessed.
We posed. Everyone guessed.
Then it was Husby’s turn.
He started out all right. “I spy with my little eye . . .”
But then it all fell apart, because he ended with: “. . . something that is red but not red like Mommy’s bicycle.”
There was a momentary silence in the back seat as this riddle was digested.
Then a high little three-year-old voice said, decisively, “That’s not right Grandpa!”
I want to emphasize the word ‘decisively’. Because nothing else better describes a little three-year-old playing a favourite game.
This statement was immediately followed by: “You’re out.”
What? No warning? No yellow card?
Straight to the red (but not red like Mommy's bicycle) card?
Did you know it’s possible to be immediately ejected from a game of I-Spy?
By a three-year-old?
Well, it is.
Take note.
Oh, sure. They look sweet and innocent.
But give them a striped sweater and a whistle?
Then watch the claws come out...

Thursday, September 19, 2019


Husby and I are empty nesters.
It's a fairly new experience. One that we are enjoying immensely. Maybe because we get all the perks (quiet evenings) with all the blessings (grandkids over daily).
But what we didn't have was a four-footed furry.
Maybe I should explain...
For over thirty years, we raised Old English Sheepdogs. We love the breed. Smart, loyal, protective, easily trained.
And highly amusing.
When our last puppy bid us farewell and crossed the rainbow bridge two years ago, we decided our 'furry' days were over.
We were truly empty nesters.
Then, back in March, our friends got a puppy. An OES cross.
And quite suddenly I knew my own dog days weren't done.
A week later, I was the proud owner of the newest generation of Old English Sheepdog.
Her name is Pandora, but we call her Pandy. Among other things...
She is everything we've come to love about the breed.
And has settled into her own little corner of my heart.
Enough background...
Yesterday, Husby and I were in the family room, watching the movie 'Dragonslayer'. I was multi-tasking in that I was also working on a puzzle.
Pandy was rousting around, nose to the carpet.
A habit of hers, I must admit.
She rousted herself into Daddy's office.
Now, normally, this isn't cause for concern as usually, Daddy is in there with her.
This time, he wasn't. (See above.)
I allowed the normal amount of time necessary to wander into the room, realize that your beloved person is not there and wander out again.
That time had elapsed.
"Pandy!" I called.
She came out immediately.
But the reason for her tardiness became immediately-and painfully-apparent.
And yes, that's an Eat-More bar wrapper stuck to someone's furry face.
I've heard of wearing your guilt.
But never quite this accurately.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Gorilla in the Room

Ahh, Sinbad. Hero. Heartthrob.
Movies are the greatest creation since . . . well . . . forever.
Needless to say, I'm hooked on them.
And have been since . . . well . . . forever.
In Milk River, we got movies twice a week.
First run movies.
Which was a real scoop for a town of 499.
My Dad told me it was because there were a limited number of prints and that the theatre owner in Milk River had been around longer than the bigwig in Lethbridge, so had seniority.
Yes. I’m sure ‘seniority’ is the word he used.
I only knew that we got all the cool movies first.
For example, when ‘Lassie Come Home’ was released, everyone in Southern Alberta came to Milk River to see it. I remember the theatre owner setting up rows of folding chairs all down the aisles and across the front.
Fire regulations were obviously in the conceptual stage in the late 50s and early 60s.
But the theatre was crammed full and everyone cried together when Lassie finally came home.
Lassie came to Lethbridge several days later.
But I digress . . .
Every Bonanza Day (Milk River’s fair day) the theatre owner would offer a free movie to everyone in the town.
Usually, it was the hit flick, ‘Santa Claus Meets the Martians’, but sometimes, he would get creative and offer, ‘The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’.
I don’t have to tell you which I enjoyed the most.
Or which one inevitably gave me nightmares.
I think it was the scene when my hero Sinbad and his men had escaped from the giant Cyclops and had pressed themselves back into a tiny crevasse in a stone wall.The Cyclops, a little piqued that his lunch would have had the temerity to run, was hunting them.
Over and over, the giant hand would reach into the shallow cave, trying to grab Sinbad or one of his men, who would press themselves a bit tighter back against the wall.
This time, the creature would get him!
No. This time!
I was into it.
And it didn't seem to matter how many times I saw the picture, I still gasped and grabbed my Mom’s arm every time the huge hand reached.
At the end, with Sinbad safe once more and kissing the pretty girl, I would shiver with delight.
And that night and for the following several nights, I’d have another nightmare.
Now my nightmares never, ever starred a gorgeous, rippling-muscled Sinbad.
That would have been . . . not scary.
No, my dreams inevitably starred a huge gorilla.
And he was going to eat me.
Okay, yes, I know that they don’t eat little girls, but I was four.
And they had teeth.
Enough said.
My gorilla would chase me through our house and finally, corner me underneath the dining room table.
I would shrink back to the far side as that hairy, dark hand reached for me.
And missed.
He would move around the table and bend over, looking at me. Then he would stretch out his arm again.
I would slide to the other side of the table and stay just out of reach.
This would go on until I finally awoke, dripping with sweat and whimpering.
And still, I was the first in line when the theatre showed ‘The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’.
I think the term ‘Glutton for Punishment’ was coined by someone who knew me.
Maybe the Gorilla.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

My Criminal Past?

1.  I was four years old. Grocery shopping with Mom. I wanted an orange gumball. She said no. Thought I could fool her. I was wrong.
2. I was in grade three. Forged a needed note to go downtown to buy treats for Jody’s and my ‘Fair’. Yeah. The principal wasn’t amused.
3. My parents didn’t smoke. One of my friend’s cousins did. She had cigarettes. We decided to hide and try it. Moms can see through walls.
4. Dad told us not to ride the pigs. We all thought we could fool him by sheer sneakiness. Turns out Dads know everything. True story.
5. In grade eleven and stony broke. Window shopping with friends. Unbeknownst to me, one pocketed two pomegranates. We all got blamed. I’ll never forget it.
6. Mom had some expensive toenail clippers that lived on her dresser. I wondered if they could cut a straight pin. They couldn’t. I never confessed.
7. I absolutely loved my friend’s ‘elephant pants’. She even let me wear them on occasion. I know what you’re thinking. I didn’t steal them. Ha!
8. Dad told me getting paid but not working was theft. At times I’m pretty sure I was the only one in the office occupied. Sigh.
9. Do you think it’s stealing to come home weekly for food, fun and a fill of gasoline? My parents didn’t think so either. Thank goodness…
+1. I have decided I could never be a criminal mastermind. I have too much imagination. All I can visualize are the consequences. None very good. Yeah.

Word counters is a monthly word challenge, issued to us by our noble Karen of Baking in a Tornado.
Doesn't she have the best ideas?
My word count this month was 26 and given to me, via Karen, by Sarah Nolan.
Thank you, Sarah! This was such fun!
Wanna see what the others did with the challenge?

Monday, September 16, 2019

Fowl Language

A woman wished to buy her husband something really neat,
To celebrate his birthday and to show him he was sweet.
She knew that he liked birds so to the bird shop she did go,
To find a wondrous gift that on her man, she could bestow.
While there she saw a lot of birds, some colourful, some plain,
(She needed something really grand, so he would not complain.)
The salesman showed her one, he said, was smarter than the rest,
She cocked her head and looked at it, then tried a little test.
“Pretty bird,” she whispered. “Pretty bird. Please say it now.”
“Well, *bleep*!!” The old bird shouted. “Why’d I want to anyhow?!”
The woman blinked, then smiled and said, “This is the one for me.”
“I’ll take the cage as well and then we'll see what we shall see!”
In the corner of the living room, she set the bird and cage,
To celebrate her husband’s advent into middle age.
When he came home, he took one look, said, “What the heck is this?”
“Your birthday gift,” his good wife said. “Now come give me my kiss.
 “He’s smart,” his wife went on to say. “I know you will be glad!”
“Nice bird!” the old guy told her. “Well, I guess it ain’t that bad.
“Hey, fella! Gotta name?” he asked. “I think I’ll call you Fred.”
His new pet turned and looked at him. “*Bleep* off,” the old bird said.
“I won’t have this! I’ll show you!” said the husband, now enraged,
He grabbed, then stuffed, him in the fridge (instead of in his cage).
“This will show you!” Husband barked. “I’ll frost your beak a mite.
“And perhaps when you’re released you’ll be a little less ‘forthright’.”
A short time hence when Fred came out, said shak’ly, “I admit,
“It’s cold as *bleep* in there and I don’t like it one *bleep* bit.”
“Still swearing? Well, let’s see the freezer change your nasty tone!
“And if your words get better in the dark and cold alone!”
This time when Fred came out, and as he straightened frozen wings,
And clacked his frosty beak and picked some frost off toes and things,
He looked up cautiously at his new owner, and he said,
“Thank you for freeing me. In one more minute, I’d be dead!
“But could you answer just one question for me now, I pray?
“I have to ask…what the *bleepy-bleep* did the turkey say?”

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, it will be fun, I think,
Our topic is our favourite drink!
Thanks, Jenny! 

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