Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Perfect Pet

Look at that cute, fuzzy face!
For over thirty years, we raised Old English Sheepdogs.
To us, they are amazing.
Friendly. Energetic. Smart. Teachable. Protective. Gentle. Loyal.
And really, really fuzzy cute!
Our last breeding pair passed away several years ago.
For several years, the house that used to be overrun with large, hairy, four-legged beauties, was home to one.
The last puppy from our last litter.
Who, when this story starts, had just turned the grand old age of thirteen.
First, a little background...
When Aldo was just starting to eat solids, we noticed that he wasn't developing like his brothers and sisters. Something was definitely wrong. Concerned, we took him to the vet, who promptly announced that he had Parvovirus and should be put down – along with the rest of the puppies in the litter.
But I’m a veterinarian’s daughter. And his single symptom - diarrhea - just didn’t convince me that such was the case.
I put him in the bathroom in the care of my fifteen-year-old daughter.
For two days, she made sure the tiny puppy ate and drank – especially drank.
And then we discovered that he did just fine if he was fed adult dog food. That the puppy formula was simply too rich for those sensitive puppy innards.
We changed his diet. He began to thrive.
But the time spent together in that small room created a bond that we simply didn’t have the heart to try to break.
So Aldo stayed.
He was an amazing companion to all of us. And boasted a higher vocabulary than many people.
My daughter had him very, very well-trained.
We didn’t realize how well-trained until that day.
On to the story...
My daughter’s theatre job necessitated some late nights. That day was one of them as, following her production, she and her husband and co-workers struck the set.
It was very late indeed before they opened the front door of home.
Aldo, who usually waited quietly on the front hall carpet until his mistress got home, was nowhere to be seen.
There was evidence that he had been there. A few crumbs from a Dentabone were visible.
My daughter called him.
I should mention here that, at the time, Aldo was in perfect health. He just couldn’t hear any more.
Unsruprisingly, there was no answering scramble of dog feet.
She went to the back door – which had been left open into the sunroom.
There she noticed something else. The screen door of the sunroom was slightly open.
When Husby installed that door, he put brightly-coloured strips of hard plastic at intervals across the screen so Aldo wouldn’t run into it and harm himself – or anything else.
Ironically, Aldo figured out how to open the door – using those handy strips of plastic. And his all-purpose doggie nose.
There is only one drawback. He hasn’t yet figured out how to close the door afterward.
She went into the yard, still calling, and stopped at his doggie run. Aldo’s run is cleaned after each use, but she found evidence that someone had walked him.
She went back into the house and finally to her room and Aldo’s bed.
There he was, in blissful doggie-dreamland.
He noticed her, happily welcomed her, then flopped down and went immediately back to what he had been doing.
Obviously not needing a quick trip out back because someone’s mistress was doing who knows what instead of tending to him.
It took a moment, but she finally figured out what had happened.
When his mistress didn’t appear at the usual time, he got himself a treat. Walked himself. And put himself to bed.
The perfect dog.
I wish we'd saved his DNA . . . 
Yep. Tired of waiting.

Friday, November 8, 2019

A Teacher

Truly home now from my holiday and back in the classroom with my beloved students.

Have I mentioned I teach the greatest group of teenagers in the entire universe?
Well, I do.
And I missed them.
I was sitting, thinking after they all filed out of the classroom yesterday. Would I be a teacher who made a difference in their lives?
We all had at least one of 'those' teachers.
The ones who made such an impact that they changed your life.
Let me share mine with you...

The greatest teacher who ever lived worked in Milk River, Alberta.
In Junior High School.
I was terrified of her.
Then I  loved her.

Mrs. Wollersheim TAUGHT Social and Math.
Notice the capitals for emphasis?
I meant to put them there.
My first experience with Mrs. W was in grade seven.
I'll never forget it.
I was one of the former grade six kings and queens of Milk River Elementary, now demoted to the lowest of the low.
Grade seven in the Junior/Senior high school.
I was a worm.
Already intimidated by my surroundings, I and my classmates were seated in our desks in Mrs. W's room, awaiting the next installment in terror that Junior High was turning out to be.
We didn't wait long.
From down the hall, outside the wide-open classroom door, we heard a sound. A steady 'Creak. Creak'.
I should mention, here, that our school was old. Methuselah old. And creaky. In fact, it would have made an excellent set for a horror movie, "The Killer Who Terrorized the Grade Sevens in the Old, Creaky School."
Okay. Movie-writing was never meant to be my forte. (Oooo. Italian.)
Moving on . . .
Each member of the class stiffened into attention, all eyes were trained on the doorway.
A trickle of sweat traced a path down the temple of the kid in front of me.
Okay, I'm exaggerating. But you have to admit that, for a moment, I had you.
Okay, you don't have to admit it.
A hollow voice rang down the hall.
"Ahem. Now class . . ."
I should point out that Mrs. W never, ever waited until she was visible to begin teaching.
She didn't have to.
" . . . and that's what we are going to do today."
She appeared in the doorway. A short, heavy-set woman in a print dress, with her hair pinned back into a bun. Sharp eyes covered by thick spectacles. And flat, black walking shoes, capable of carrying the wearer through an entire day of teaching.
The anticipation was over.
We were, at last face to face.
So to speak.
The class shivered en masse. (I'm on fire today! A French term. I think it means altogether.)
She looked us over.
Complete silence.
We sat, frozen in our desks.
Does a teacher's visual acuity depend upon movement?
She moved forward. "The first thing you will have to learn, class, is that when I walk into the room, your books and notebooks will be opened to the correct page and you will be ready to learn."
Frantic zipping of binders (zippers were the newest, coolest thing on binders) and shuffling of paper.
Finally, silence once more.
Mrs. W had reached the front of the room and was standing to one side of the desk, watching us.
We felt like proverbial mice in the gaze of the proverbial hawk.
Our reaction was anything but proverbial.
I'm not sure, but I think a couple of students wet themselves.
She nodded and began to teach.
And, despite our misgivings, we began to learn.
And the first thing we learned was that, though she appeared to be a tyrant in the classroom, she was anything but.
Oh, she demanded respect.
And got it.
Even the class clowns showed only exemplary (real word) behavior when seated under her watchful eyes.
But she would do almost anything to have us succeed.
Every one of us.
At anything we tried.
If we were having difficulty with a concept, even if it was a subject taught by another teacher, she would bundle us off to her home. Feed us with the rest of her family.
And teach.
If any of us were involved in extra-curricular activities, she was on the front row for concerts and athletics.
My brother had decided to serve a mission for our Church and though she was of a different denomination, she was there in the chapel, both for his farewell talk and for his homecoming.
And she did this for approximately 100 students.
Every year.
For 35 + years.
The things she taught us could never be found within the covers of a school textbook.
"You'll get it. Let's try again."
Respect and obedience.
"Mr. Russell. Would you mind putting that away and joining us?"
"How many of you are there? Well, I'm sure you'll all fit in the front room. If not, we'll jam some into the kitchen. Come in, come in. Let's have some hot chocolate. Don't worry about your boots. Jake'll clean up later. Okay, now what Christmas carols are you going to sing for me?"
Any Social or mathematics I learned, I got from her.
Any sense of discipline?
Mrs. Wollersheim is gone now.
She spent her last few years in a nursing home in Milk River, her brilliant mind alive, her physical self hampered by disease and old age.
But she left a legacy.
Her love for us.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

When Sailing

Our Steed
When cruising aboard a tall ship, guests are treated to every luxury.
Many gravitate to the wine list and the limitless selections at the bar.
We non-drinkers gravitate to the food.
The plentiful, Michelin-three-star-chef-rated, out of this world food.
Food so tempting and divine that one really can't refuse.
Thus my saying that they should just weigh us guests checking in and again checking out and charge by the pound.
Also, for one evening during a sailing, we--guests and crew--have a talent show.
These two topics go together.
I will elucidate...
For many of our sailings, Husby and I have chosen to participate in the talent show. Two of a handful of guests that do.
Usually, we recite. He, something Canadian.
Me, something cautionary.
It's totally fun.
This year, I decided to change things up a bit and taught the other guests the Royal Clipper Food Song.
Okay, yes, I made it up.
And it goes like this...

Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!
Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!

Verse One:
A guest likes things that can be chewed,
So boiled or baked or fried or stewed,
Just simply brings us lots of food
And happy guests we'll be!

Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!
Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!

Verse Two:
We like your omelets and cakes,
Your sausage cured, and puddings baked,
Your Entrees, salads, soups and 'plates',
Your gouda, swiss and brie.

Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!
Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!

Verse Three:
So bring us lots of food, my friends,
I promise you will not offend,
We'll pray this trip will never end.

Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!
Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!

The audience did the chorus and I did the verses.
Let's just say it went down well.


Served by wonderful waiter, Arnold...

Less formal.

Served with limited self-control.
Foo-oo-oo-oo-ood. Delicious!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019


On the sea.
First up, Bonifacio, Corsica.
Bonifacio. Awesome, right? Who's with me!
Still not up to much, so I only got this far. Then back to the ship.
Then on to Mahon, Menorca and our first castle. Have I mentioned I love castles?
I did better this time. Managed to scramble around the castle a bit.
Ugh. Upping.
Just a couple of pictures to whet your appetite for...
Ibiza, Balearic Islands
And no, I had no idea it existed until I went there.
I'm woefully ignorant of all things geographical.

A couple of guards at the gates.

Have I mentioned I love photographing hallways?

And stairs...

And cannons?
And now on to Motril, Spain. From there, a bus to Granada and the World Heritage site: The Alhambra! (Long number one on Husby's to-see list!) An amazing palace and gardens that once housed the Sultan and his household. Became the home to Granada's homeless, now restored to much of its former beauty.
Remember when I mentioned gardens?


View of the city wall from the Sultana's rooms.

One of the amazing courtyards.

And another.
And on to Morocco!
First stop, Safi. 
From there, we took a bus to Marrakech. We sang 'Marrakech Express' along the way. Most of the passengers didn't get it...

 Amazing countryside in Morocco. Hot and dusty. Plenty of donkey wagons. And each family had their own little compound with high, cement walls, usually a little mud-brick home with a satellite dish on the roof. Unlike any place I've ever seen!

Another palace.
With the *ahem* Sultan and Sultana. (Hey, I can dream!)

Marrakech market!

More market. And lots of bargaining.
They now call Husby the Canadian Bandito...

They know gates in Marrakech!
Then bus ride back to the ship and on to Casablanca. Morocco.
To prepare for our visit, the ship showed Casablanca, the movie.
Sadly, Casablanca was a bit of a disappointment.
Apart from the absolutely beautiful mosque, the third-largest in the world, the city itself was rather run-down and dirty. Many, many beggars.
A city of wildly varying contrasts. The utterly poor and destitute compared to the most stunningly beautiful building I've ever seen.
And the Rick's Cafe they took us to?
Not the real one. Just FYI...
Wait for it...

Seriously one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen!




From there, on to Tangier, Morocco.
A beautiful city. Very progressive and on the move. Restorations in every quarter we saw.
My next home.

Ali Babba at the gate.

One of the local streets.

And markets.
I loved Tangier. A little sad our visit was so short!
From there it was back to Spain and Cadiz, where we went to a sherry-making plantation.
And to see the Andalusian horses train.

These guys are serious about their sherry.
25,000 barrels in this storage room alone!

Sadly, the only horse I managed to photograph at the Andalusian training school.
Photos of the real thing were prohibited. Sigh.
P.S. They were AWESOME!
And then it was back to the ship and on to our final port, Lisbon, Portugal.
We said a sad good-bye to our shipboard acquaintances and headed into Lisbon for the final three days of our holiday.
Doing what we do best.

Hallway. Why do I love them so much?

Castle hallway. Ditto.

Monastery. Catch your breath beautiful!

Lisbon city street.
And an elevator built around the same time as the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

View from the top of said elevator.

Another view...

Typical city street

Typical delicious food.

Out in the country. (Sintra. The most amazing place!)

 And home.
We had the very best of times. Great company. Great food. 
And tons of site-seeing.
We packed a lot into a few weeks, but crossed many, many items off the bucket list.
My only problem now is... where to next?!

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