Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Clothes of the Kitchen

Mom, with Chris and Jerry.
Mom's the cute one in the middle.
Mom liked cleaning.
With six kids, one husband, assorted hired men and various other duties and hobbies, she did a lot of it.
A lot.
I think she did it in her sleep.
Certainly, she did it in ours. If we lay down on the carpet in the front room for a nap, we would be picked up and cleaned.
That's just how Mom was.
But, as with any demon cleaner, sometimes the clutter and rubble would get away from her.
Particularly if she was busy with a project and unable to follow us around, picking up and tidying after us.
I can remember two instances when this was brought hilariously to my attention.
The kids in the neighbourhood had been playing at my house.
I don't remember what we were doing, but it involved toys and games.
And mess.
After most of the kids had left, Mom came out of the kitchen and surveyed the detritus that can only be the result of many small bodies . . . having fun.
While she was standing there, Laurie, from next door, twitched her apron.
Mom looked down.
"You sure have a messy house, Mrs. Strin-gam!"
I don't know what Mom said in response.
Probably something tactful, knowing my Mom.
But the story lost nothing in the retelling.
Another time, George and I were playing under the kitchen table.
One of our favourite places...
Mom was bustling around in the business area of the room.
She opened a cupboard.
And pulled out something . . . unexpected.
"What the . . . who put this underwear in my cupboard?!"
What she was holding was actually a pair of swim trunks.
Light grey.
With sharks printed on them.
But why quibble over details.
George and I stared at them.
Then laughed uproariously.
Mom snorted, folded them neatly, and carried them to their proper home.
We never found out who left them there.
Over the years, I've made up several scenarios that would account for it.
None practical.
Or believable.
But after that, at least once a week, George and I would hide something 'underwearish' (not a real word - I made it up) in Mom's cupboard and wait for her to find it.
Then laugh ourselves silly when she did.
Okay, we were little.
Things were funnier then.

There is an addendum.
I was busy in the kitchen, cooking, cleaning.
One of the myriad duties that accompany the care and feeding of six kids and one husband.
I set a pot in the sink and opened a cupboard door.
"What the . . . who put these dirty socks in my cupboard?!"
It had happened. I had become my mother!

Friday, September 27, 2019


Mom and Dad, with Pimple Pants, Rusty, Jerry and Bert
Parents put a lot of thought and even prayer into the naming of their offspring.
Why, then, do they go to such lengths to never use those names?
My name is Diane. Mom loved that name, so, when I made my appearance, she was happy I was a girl. Now she could use it. Let's face it, 'Diane' for a boy just doesn't fit quite as well. But that's another story.
As a second name, she chose Louise, after my Aunt Louise. A really, really, sweet lady.
So, Diane Louise.
Works for me.
I called myself Tony. I'm not sure why.
My Mom's working name for me, however, was 'Pixie'.
Occasionally, she would vary it.
“Oh, here's my little Pixie-Girl.”
Or, “What do you want, Sweet-Little-Pixie?”
I think it might have had something to do with my size.
Okay I know that, looking at me now, one would find this hard to believe, but, at one time, I was under height. And definitely under-weight.
Those were the days.
Moving on . . .
Later, when I was nine, I got my hair cut. Really short.
I loved it.
So did my Dad.
He changed my name to 'Mike'. I'm almost sure it had nothing to do with our dog. He of the same name.
Mom was horrified. “Mark! She has a perfectly good name. Use it!”
I know he was as bewildered as me. Ummm . . . which name? Diane? Louise? Pixie? Tony?
Are you beginning to see why I'm such a confused person?
So, 'Louie' I became.
????? again.
Mom retaliated by calling me, 'Diane'. For the first time in my life.
Then, my brother, George, got into the game.
His name for me was Bert.
Coming from someone whom Dad called 'Dard', and Jerry called 'Pimple Pants', I wasn't worried.
Rusty, or Chris as she had been christened, had no opinion.
Neither did Blair . . . er, 'Bare Blue', or 'The Great Root Blair'. Of course he was only two, so he could be excused.
And Anita was a baby. She was 'Sweetheart' or 'Sister'. One day to be known as 'Nutty Nita'.
Jerome got off easy.
Actually, that's a story in itself. He was always, 'Jerry' to everyone. Except when Mom got angry.
Then, he became Jerome Allen, or worse, Jerome Allen Stringam.
All the 'angry' names, as they are truly known.
But I've wandered from the point.
Which was me.
So, I've been through Diane, Louise, Tony, Pixie, Mike, Louie and Bert.
Now, my Honeybunny (don't ask) calls me, Honey. And my kids call me Mom.
Or grandma.
The best names of all.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

My Hero

Over forty years ago, my first OES (Old English Sheepdog, for the uninitiated) was my constant companion as I left the small lights of my home town for the larger lights of the metropolis of Calgary.
It was my first job away from home.
Huge learning curve.
Something that my six-month OES puppy, Muffy, helped me with immeasurably.
In one way in particular.
Let me tell you about it...
You have to know that OES puppies get large.
Rather quickly.
And even at six months, Muffy was already the size of a good-sized black lab.
Just furrier.
Now the important part of the story . . .
I had gotten back to Calgary at around 1 AM. Yes, I know. I should have left home earlier.
Ahem . . .
I was unpacking my car at the curb in front of my rather run-down apartment house.
All right, it was clean and comfortable and affordable and had once been new.
The hour really didn't bother me. I had lived all my life on the ranch. Anyone walking around at that time of night was either checking up on a sick animal.
Or running the fox out of the henhouse.
Either occupation was totally harmless.
To any humans in the vicinity.
It didn't occur to me to be alarmed by the two men approaching along the sidewalk.
Hey, my apartment was, literally, right there!
Muffy spotted them, though, and went rigid.
Then she threw herself back against my legs, pinning me against the car and placing herself between me and the strangers.
Her head lowered, she glowered menacingly at the approaching men, a deep, vicious growl emanating from . . . somewhere.
I stared down at her in surprise. This was new.
The men were watching her as well and both of them slipped to the far side of the sidewalk and hurried past.
I'll never know what was in their hearts and minds that night.
If it was something awful, Muffy scared it right out of them.
Now the reason I am bringing this all back was because of what happened just today. With Pandy.
My newest generation of uber-protective OES. (See Above.)

Muffy would be so proud...

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Frozen Assets

We just got a new freezer. Upright because we're no longer able to stand on our heads to reach for things in the bottom of the good old 38 year-old chest style. And also because said chest style no longer froze things. 

A technicality, but an important one. 
I was reminded of my first freezer. The one my parents had from the time I was small . . .
Admit it - this strikes terror into your heart!
Mom and dad had a freezer.
Chest style. 26 cubic feet.
Whatever that means.
To me, that just meant that it was large.
They had had this behemoth since they were married.
It had far outlived its 'best before' date.
Oh, it still froze anything and everything that was put into it.
It just didn't stay closed anymore.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Mom and Dad's freezer, aptly named 'Frigidaire', sat in solitary glory, in the downstairs bathroom.
In a space created especially for it.
Beside the shower cubicle. And across from the 'porcelain throne'.
For years, it had been humming busily along, doing . . . freezer stuff. Keeping cold things cold. And slowly filling with ice.
Every couple of years, Mom would take out whatever food was left in it, stack it all neatly aside, and attack the ice build-up with an ice pick and a butter knife.
Then, she'd scrub it shiny, replace the food and start the whole cycle over again.
It was fun to watch.
Okay, yes, I probably should have helped, but why deprive Mom of something she so obviously enjoyed?
Well, that she appeared to enjoy . . .
Okay, I should have helped.
One thing of note: when one closed the freezer, one had to be very careful to push the handle in till it clicked, or in the middle of the night, or some other equally inconvenient time, the door would open. All by itself.
With scary amusing results.
One afternoon, the house was quiet.
Too quiet.
I was in the bathroom . . . minding my own business.
Without warning, the lid of the freezer opened.
With an appropriately eerie squeal.
Eeeeeeeeeeee . . .!
Now, my head knew that Dracula never really existed, except in the brilliant mind of Bram Stoker. And certainly, if he did exist, the last place he would appear would be in an old freezer.
In the middle of the bathroom of the Stringam ranch house.
By no stretch of the imagination would that be . . . romantic. (Does that word work here?)
But, no matter how frantically and reasonably my head was whispering all of this to my heart, my heart was still expecting Count Dracula to sit up, in all his dark majesty, maybe with a touch of real frost in his dark hair, and say, “Good evening!”
My business of the moment forgotten, I charged out of the bathroom, frantically zipping my pants as I flew.
Once in the family room, I stopped.
Sanity returned.
And I started to laugh.
And laugh.
I went upstairs and told my Mom.
She laughed.
One by one, we told it to every member of the family.
They all thought it was a huge joke.
Okay, we're weird.
I did remember to go back into the bathroom and latch the freezer properly.
And every time thereafter.
But now, years later, whenever I see a glistening white freezer, I half expect the door to open and to see Dracula sit up and smile menacingly at me.
It still makes me want to . . . mind my own business.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Wild West Pirate

I live in land-locked Canada, the pirates here are few,
Unless you count the people who, sound ethics, they eschew.
And so I’ll tell you all of someone, though he never sailed,
When’er his gang came into sight, the population quailed.

Outside Fort Sumner, way down south, there sits a lonesome grave,
A testament to Someone who could never quite behave.
Fatherless for most his life—an orphan at fifteen,
This young man was a lot of things, and all of them were mean.

He started as a laundry thief (when first he got arrested),
He soon broke out and roamed the west. The law this boy detested,
It didn’t take six years before he brought the country grief,
He’d murdered 21 and been a gunslinger and thief.

He loved to sing, but breaking law sure was his fav’rite thing,
He seemed to thrive on violence and the chaos that it brings.
He stole cattle, he stole horses and he shot a man or ten,
Caught and sentenced, shot some more, escaping from the ‘pen’.

His crimes earned him a bounty and they finally locked him in.
Sentenced to be hanged, he was to pay for all his sins,
But once again, those jail walls, they simply didn’t hold,
Killed two deputies escaping. You know, wow! this guy was bold!

His luck ran out a short time hence, when good old Sheriff ‘Pat’,
Shot him once right through the heart and laid the boy out flat.
The celebrating started then, throughout the ‘wild west’,
Sighs of relief and happiness and gratitudes expressed.

But sadly, in the after years, this boy became a star,
The Man who finally shot him was despised both near and far.
The story’s gotten twisted and now Pat’s the nasty one,
He caught this young assassin in the dark and with a gun.
But now you’ve heard the story of young William McCarty?
His six-year reign as outlaw, his assassinating spree.
Cause Billy the Kid was many things. And all of them were bad...
So who really was at fault that day? The sheriff or the lad?

Our new po-e-try challenge had a fun, pirate-y theme,
For Karen and her followers, a captivating dream,
And now you've read my take on it and judged it bad or fun,
Go now to others in my 'hood' and see what they have done! 
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Pirate Table for One Dawn of Spatulas On Parade: Argh Matey
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: A Pirate’s Booty

Monday, September 23, 2019

This One's For You

You’re Favourite Drink’s our subject and I really must admit
My favourite drinks have morphed around. And not a little bit.
When I was young a chocolate milk would satisfy my wants,
And was the first thing ordered when we hit the restaurants.

From there, I guess I’d have to say that soda pop became
The chosen drink at movies or when cheering at the games,
In orange, grape or lime the flavours all would satisfy,
With na-tur-al ingredients (not one additive or dye).

Then Mountain Dew took over and I couldn’t wait to see
Who bottled it: from Ann and Bill to Harriet and Zee.
It claimed that it would ‘tickle yore innards’. So this I will state,
It seemed to make the grade and Wow! It tasted really great!

I must admit about that time, I started mingling things,
Discovered brand new tastes that mixing orange pop could bring,
Before you try to guess, I’ll take this time to clarify,
Swamp Water’s made with root beer—goes with Teen Burgers and fries!

From Seven-Up which took a hefty portion of my wealth,
I moved to fresh, fruit juices and their claims of ‘improved health’,
The juice of vegetables then beckoned. I was so surprised,
That I was drinking something I, in younger years, despised.

And now I stick to water. When I do, then nothing hurts.
And bodily functions can’t be weighed in ‘small’ or ‘mega’ hurtz.
No extra shots are needed from a glass or in the vein,
And no one bothers me or asks my actions to explain.

But . . .
I must admit that if I had my ‘druthers’, I would choose,
Another drink with calories, and not a hint of booze,
And strange enough, the one I loved from birth, now to my grave
Has followed me Full Circle. Again chocolate milk’s my fave!

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.
Please go. See what my friends have done.
I'm sure it will be lots of fun!
So now you've seen what we have brought.
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Thanks so much for the topic, Jenny! This was such fun!

Next week to celebrate Mud Pack Day,
We'll tackle 'beauty' in our own way!

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A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

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New Tween Novel!

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The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

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Read it! You know you want to!

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What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

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