Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 16, 2019


It was time for another 'cousins' sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa's.
Between you and me, the term 'sleepover' is a misnomer.
It should totally be changed to 'wake'over.
Just sayin'...
Sooo...cousins. Here.
Number? 10.
That means grandparents were outnumbered by five times.
Age range? 6 to 14. Or every local grandchild not currently in a diaper.
The schedule?
Spaghetti supper: By Grandpa.
Visiting around the supper table: Everyone.
Old Bugs Bunny cartoons: Grandpa.
Stories and songs and 'bedtime' for the younger half: Grandma.
Skull King for the older half: Grandpa.
More Skull King plus Sherlock Holmes movies and visiting until nearly time to get up for breakfast: Grandma. (Smart Grandpa was snoring happily in bed during this period.)
Dollar pancakes with sausages and scrambled eggs: Grandpa.
Visiting over the breakfast table: Everyone.
Playing and/or visiting: Everyone.
Kisses and hugs and see-ya-soon-I-love-yous at the door as parents arrive for the pick-up: Everyone.
Naptime: Grandpa and Grandma.
Things went fairly smoothly. Several of the older cousins are deep into Dungeons and Dragons and were schooling the next group in creating their characters/bad guys/good guys.
The younger set was playing stuffies/school/???
I found these on the younger girls’ door.
Maybe you can help me figure it out...

Well...according to this, at least the boys will be safe...

Friday, November 15, 2019


Have I mentioned that Sally never—ever—has any good ideas.
Maybe I should re-word: Sally has awesome ideas, but they never come to anything ‘good’.
Oh, she often has good intentions.
But the outcome seldom is what any normal person could predict.
I mean, it was only last week that she, ably encouraged and abetted by her boyfriend Mort and our Cousin Ruth, managed to turn an innocent celebration of all things ‘pirate’ into a ‘sink-the-enemy’s-ship’ debacle. Sending The Adventure Slide Park’s life-sized model of the Jolly Roger to Whatshisname’s locker.
I can still see the look on Mom’s face when I fished her out from under her bed and told her.
Then there was today, for another example . . .
It started out as an innocent shopping expedition.
We needed milk.
And eggs.
Such normal activities, right?
But Sally insisted on coming along.
For a while, all was well. We entered the store like normal people. Wandered the aisles. Perused shelves and produce.
Collected. Purchased. Bagged.
And left.
I remember pausing in the doorway on the way out. So this is what ‘normal’ is like.
As I stood there, I noticed store employees popping out all over like tree buds. Employees who had been noticeably absent while Sally had been in the store.
Hmmmm . . .
I turned and followed Sally across the parking lot.
We walked along the sidewalk toward home, each laden with a couple of grocery bags.
It was a warm day. The sun was shining. I could hear birds in the trees, singing madly at each other.
It felt, for want of a better word . . . normal.
We were walking along the high, page-wire fence that enclosed the long-abandoned Paxton’s Shoe Factory and warehouse.
Sally suddenly stopped and turned toward the great, grey-weathered, windowless structure.
I stopped behind her. “What is it?”
“I heard something.”
I put on my best ‘listening’ face and tipped my head toward Sally.
Huh. Someone was crying. Loudly.
“Do you hear that?”
“The crying?” I asked.
She gave a short nod, her eyes focused on the building.
Suddenly, she hooked both of her bags over her shoulders, grabbed the fence with long fingers and scaled it.
Like a monkey.
Or a spider.
I blinked, then hurried back the way we had come and went through the wide-open gate, shaking my head as I did so.
Trust Sally to make the showy entrance.
I joined her just as she darted through an entryway.
It proved to be a short walkway lined with rickety shelves that opened into a large central court, overgrown with weeds and the repository of many, many years’ worth of trash.
On the far side, we could plainly see a man standing over a girl. He was . . . well . . . not shouting, but talking loudly and poking her with a stick or something with every phrase.
She was cowering away from him, trying to push at the stick and sobbing heavily.
Sally didn’t pause for even a moment. She pulled the bags from her shoulders and, swinging them wildly, charged across the open space.
I took a deep breath and followed, not quite sure what the two of us were getting into.
I saw the bag in Sally’s right hand connect soundly with the man’s head, knocking him off balance.
Then before he could react, her left came around and laid him out.
I stopped and stared down at him.
His unconscious face wore a look of complete and utter surprise.
And fear.
As Sally stood triumphantly over him, grocery bags at the ready, the girl he had been abusing rose to her feet.
Tears seemingly forgotten, she asked, rather breathlessly, “What are you doing?”
Sally turned to her. “Helping.”
“But . . .”
“CUT!” someone roared.
Sally and I turned toward the voice and noticed, for the first time, the cameras and crew lined up in the shadows along the far wall.
One rather red-faced man was advancing toward us followed by someone with a clipboard and someone else carrying a little case of something.
I’m not really sure, but I think the first man may have had steam coming from his rather prominent ears.
He stopped beside the guy on the ground. “Is he dead, Brady?”
The person with the little case knelt down. “No, just stunned, I think. He’s coming around now.”
The man then turned to Sally. The words that exited his mouth contained more than a few expletives, so I will edit. “What the ********************** are you doing?!”
Sally looked at him calmly. “Helping.”
“Helping?! ********************** who are you **************************** helping?!”
She pointed toward the girl, who was frantically shaking her head.
The man took a deep breath. “I could have you ************************ arrested and charged! I could . . .”
“Mr. Armin, sir? I think you should see this . . .”
The man turned. One of his cameramen was gesturing.
He gave one last glare to Sally, then with a brief “We ain’t ************************** finished with this, yet, Honey,” he started toward his cameraman.
The two men stood by the camera, looking at the screen.
A short conversation followed in which the words, ‘natural’, ‘born-for-this’ and ‘magic’ featured prominently.
Mr. Armin slowly retraced his steps, stopping beside Sally once more. “Ummm . . . sooo . . . would you like a job?” he asked.
It was the first time in my life I can remember Sally speechless.
I took the opportunity. “Hey, Sally. Were you carrying the eggs?”

Today is a word challenge.
Karen’s Girls, as we affectionately call ourselves supply words to our intrepid leader. Who then shuffles and re-distributes. 
We can then craft our given words into whatever we see fit.
Fact. Fiction.
The choice is ours.
This month, my words were: 
warehouse ~ crying ~ short ~ shelves ~ fence
And given to me by my good friend Dawn at
Thanks so much, Dawn! Your words were awesome!
Now go and see what the others have done with their challenge...

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Low Language

At least one of us was a lady . . .
Dad always told me that foul language is a sign of a feeble mind. We'll go from there . . .
It was hot!
I was tired!
Give me a minute, I'm sure I can think of better excuses . . .
The milk cow had been quartered in the east pasture, waiting for her to 'freshen'. (A cowboy term for 'give birth'.)
I know.
Cowboys are weird.
Moving on . . .
Her moment was getting close and it was time for her move into closer quarters.
I was elected to do it.
On foot.
Dad dropped me off at the gate with specific instructions. "Just chase her along the ditch, past the ranch and into the near-west pasture." I nodded. Instructions received and understood.
He drove off.
Things went well at first.
Right up until we reached the ranch entrance.
Madame Cow (I use this term lightly) couldn't quite get into her head the part of our instructions that said, "PAST the ranch."
I should explain here that the entrance to the ranch was on the north side of the road. The ditch we were following toward the west was also on the north side of the road.
And, when the breach in the fence appeared, Madame Cow insisted on turning . . . north. Towards the buildings. I had to sprint around her (remember I was on foot) and turn her back towards the road.
At which time she took the corner and headed east up the ditch we had just come down.
Another sigh. A little more forceful this time. And accompanied by a "Stupid cow!"
I got around her (feet, again) and turned her back west.
She followed the fence and again turned towards the ranch.
Way wrong!
"Stupid, dumb cow!"
Back towards the road.
Please head west. Please?!
Nope. East.
*#$! Cow!
Just a little swear.
This went on for some time, and my language, I'm ashamed to say . . . worsened.
Or got more colorful. That would be the 'PC' term.
Remember, I was raised around hired men. Experts at the English language. Or at least a certain part of it.
Not an excuse, just a reason.
Again and again, I got round her and tried to head her in the correct direction.
Again and again, she . . . didn't.
And my language got more and more peppered with, shall we say, 'colorful metaphors'?
None of which explained to said cow exactly what I expected of her.
I have to admit that the poor animal was probably quite confused by this time.
There were the buildings. With hay and comfort.
Why were we going the other way?
Okay, strange human, I'll just go back where I came from.
Except that it would have probably sounded more like this:
In 'cow' of course.
Finally, after what seemed hours of chasing back and forth, and turning the air blue with . . . ahem . . . profanities (me, not her), the cow skipped past the ranch entrance and, wonder of wonders, walked right over to the proper field.
Okay, I'd rather go here, too . . .
Eureka! (real word)
I opened the gate and she stepped sedately through.
Then turned and looked at me.
Stupid human!
At least one of us had retained her gentility.
I closed the gate and started back towards the ranch, humming happily. All that had gone on before conveniently forgotten.
Dad's truck slid to a stop beside me. "Need a ride?"
I climbed in, still humming.
Dad drove for a moment. Then he said, not looking at me, "I got a real education this morning."
I looked at him, innocently, "Oh?"
"Yes. I discovered that my middle daughter knew words I didn't think she had even heard of."
"Oh." Very tiny voice, "You heard me?"
"Heard you! They heard you in town!"
That was all that was said.
It was never brought up again.
But I knew that Dad knew.
And he knew that I knew that he . . . never mind.
I'd like to say that I never used 'foul' language again, but I'd be lying.
For some reason, working with cows brings out the lowest form of expression.
Probably a good thing I don't work with them anymore.
And I should probably point out that swearing isn't an easy habit to get rid of.
Even now, years later, a very strange word will pop into my head.
I'm happy to report that it never makes it past my lips, but I feel some dismay in the fact that it appears at all.
I'm a work in progress.
I should have taken lessons from the cow.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Be Kind

Kindness is my motivating force for life!
In honour of World Kindness Day, a poem I wrote.
My talented son put it to music!

When I grow up, here's what I'll be
An astronaut in space.
A doctor or a farmer or
An athlete in a race.
A soldier or an engineer,
A miner in a mine.
No matter what I choose to be,
I'm choosing to Be Kind.

Be Kind. Be Kind.
That's how you were designed.
Be smart, be fun, be fast on the run...
But best of all, Be Kind.

Or maybe I could be a nurse,
A fireman, or cook,
A pilot or photographer,
A writer, writing books,
A vet-rin-ar-i-an who'd help
The animals I find,
No matter what I choose to be,
I'm choosing to Be Kind.

Be Kind,
Be Kind,
That's how you were designed,
Be smart, be fun, be fast on the run...
But best of all, Be Kind.

This post is part of a monthly challenge.
Why don't you head over and visit the other participants?
You know you want to...

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Kindness of Strangers
Dawn of Spatulas On Parade: A Kinder Gentler World
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: TheyAin’t Your Friend

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Wrong Knife

Husby is a knife connoisseur.
A bona fide expert on all things sharp and/or pointy.
He and our son have a forge in the back yard and create their own.
Give lessons.
He could tell you the quality of the steel just by holding it. Could explain what the ‘tang’ is. (And no, it’s not a drink for astronauts.)
Soooo . . . Connoisseur and expert.
Usually, it’s a good thing.
Except when I’m cooking and using my favorite knife-for-all-occasions. The knife that fits my hand. And is sharp and pointy.
And does the job.
Inevitably as I'm working, Husby will enter the room and announce, to any who may want to hear (no one), that I am once again using the wrong knife.
The fact that he is still alive is testament to my restraint and/or his ability to stay just out of reach.
I can see the headstone now: Here Lies Husby. Stabbed With The Wrong Knife.
Moving on . . .
Today, the planets aligned.
The ‘I’s’ were dotted. The ‘T’s’ crossed.
My ducks were finally in a row.
My ship had come in.
Because Husby, he of the infinite knife wisdom, used a small paring knife to slice the block of cheese.
Eschewing the handy-dandy cheese knife sitting nearby.
His excuse? The paring knife was already dirty and he didn't want to dirty another.
The consequence? The knife broke. Just behind the stubby little tang that cheap knives are known for. (See? I was paying attention.)
But the best part - the very best part – is this:
For the first time ever, I was finally able to say, “You used the wrong knife!”
You’ll have to picture the glee and handsprings.

My day has come.
I'm buying a lottery ticket . . .

Monday, November 11, 2019

Glasses. And a Prayer

First pair.

Mom noticed I was squinting, that
I couldn’t read the signs,
It didn’t take her very long to see between the lines.

Her darling nine-year-old had early
Gotten her birthright,
And now she needed glasses to correct her poor eyesight.

I chose the frames I wanted, watched
The doctor hem and haw,
And finally was fitted without fanfare or hoopla.

For several weeks I wore them, then
One day they disappeared,
And I was back to ‘blindness’, or a ‘something else’ quite near.

Now I was at the church,
With lots of kids one afternoon,
And we were singing hymns and trying hard to stay in tune.

Then a teacher told a story from
The pulpit up the stair,
A story of a child who needed help. And offered prayer.

That tiny prayer was answered,
She was given what she sought,
And I began to think: to say a prayer was what I ought.

No sooner thought, then done, I folded
Up my arms and prayed,
‘Twas simple, but I hoped my need had duly been conveyed.

I opened up my eyes again,
It hadn’t taken long,
I smiled to myself and then went back to singing songs.

Then I noticed something sitting on
The pulpit, quietly,
It looked to be a shadow, and it interested me.

You have to know the span was far,
I really couldn’t see,
But still my eyes kept straying. Yes, it’s strange, you must agree.

And when the service ended, I
Went to investigate,
Hurrying through the throng because I really couldn’t wait.

And what was there? I’m sure you’ve guessed,
My glasses safe and sound,
My prayer had worked and, oh, my precious glasses had been found!

That was the first time I remember
Answers to a prayer,
O’er years and years, I now have used what had been started there.

T’was such a little thing, you know,
A prayer to find my specs,
And who could know that it would have such lasting, long effects.

Newer and . . . improved?

Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With gentle thoughts, perhaps a grin?
Have crafted poems for you to see.
And now you've read what we have brought...
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, because we have a few,
We'll talk of 'Neighbours' just for you!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

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

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

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Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

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Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

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Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

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The Liebster Award
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Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

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Sunshine Award!!!
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My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
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