Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, November 23, 2019


You can look, but remember who it belongs to . . .
Mountains. Beautiful. Majestic. Snow-capped. Towering.
I love the mountains. Maybe not as much as my husband, who is a true connoisseur, but why quibble over details?
All my life, I have lived in the 'shadow' of the great Rockies. They were the immovable, dependable wall immediately to the west of us.
Our friends.
Source of direction.
One distinctive peak, in particular, was familiar to us on the ranch. It was our nearest neighbour in the immense range. A huge block of stone, standing alone, with a large, rather squared-off top.
Boy scout troops had been know to clamber to its very summit. Of course, that was in the early days, before danger was invented.
I loved it.
It was my mountain.
I just couldn't remember what it was called . . .
Mom and I were heading toward the ranch.
She was driving.
I was bouncing around in the back seat.
This was before such safety measures as . . . seat belts. Shoulder harnesses.
I had been laying on the back seat, staring up at the roof. Suddenly, I thought of my mountain. I don't know why.
I sat up and leaned over the front seat. “Mom?”
That was her usual response. It didn't necessarily mean that her attention was yours, but it was a start.
“What, dear.”
Okay, the line was open.
“Where's the Old Indian Hill?”
“The what?”
“The Old Indian Hill.”
She laughed. “Do you mean Old Chief Mountain?”
“Umm, okay.” Whatever. I just knew that the name had something to do with the Aboriginals.
“It's right there, Sweetheart. Straight ahead. When we're driving to the ranch, it's right in front of the road.”
She was right. There it was. Rising before us in all its purple glory.
I stared at it. My mountain.
From then on, whenever we were traveling home, I would look out the windshield for my stalwart, immovable beacon.
My guardian. My defender and protector.
The Blackfoot Tribe called it, Ninastiko.
The Peigans, Minnow Stahkoo.
The white man named it many things.
But, to me, it would always be my beloved 'Old Indian Hill'.

Read the legend!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Low Flying

Add a dashboard, seat, steering wheel, and dust and this is our  steed!
Marty had a dune buggy.
Actually, it had once been a car. But it had been stripped down to the basics. Wheels. Frame. Seats. Motor. And a steering wheel.
Now it was a dune buggy.
That baby could go.
Just not on any conventional roads.
Marty would take us flying across the prairie at speeds beyond . . . what we should have been travelling.
But we were safe.
Marty had firm hands on the wheel.
As long as there was ground beneath us, all was well.
And that's where my story gets interesting . . .
It was a beautiful ssummer day.
The sun was high and hot. The air shimmered. The crickets and bugs were sending up a steady chorus. There was a haze of dust hanging in the still, dry air.
Perfect 'low flying' weather.
Marty had piled Michelle and I into his buggy for a ride.
Okay, I have to admit that the use of the word 'into' is a bit of a misnomer.
'Onto' would probably be more accurate.
I was in the middle. Marty on my left, steering wheel firmly in hand. Michelle on my right, casually slumped back in the seat, one foot propped up on the dashboard.
Oh, right. We also had a dashboard.
Back to my story . . .
We were flying across the prairie just to the west and north of Marty's family farm, talking and laughing and generally enjoying the wind in our faces.
The field stretched out smooth and green in front of us.
Marty stepped on the gas and we all felt the exhilaration of speed.
Then, quite suddenly, a . . . ditch . . . opened up in front of us.
Oh, not just a little ditch.
An irrigation ditch. 30 feet across and a good 20 feet deep.
More of a canal than a ditch, really.
Huh. Where did that come from? And, more importantly, how were we going to avoid it when it carved its way straight across the field before us from fence to fence.
And when we were travelling at upwards of 45 miles per hour.
You're right.
We couldn't.
We didn't.
We launched off the west bank in a graceful arc.
Now the Dukes of Hazzard would have made it.
Evel Kinevel would have made it.
Even Barney Oldfield would have made it.
But three farm kids in a souped-up, stripped-down 'dune buggy'?
Not a chance.
We hit the opposite bank just below the lip still doing 45 miles per hour.
It's funny just how many thoughts can race through your head in the split seconds between launch and land. I remember thinking that Marty really was taking us flying.
Then . . . crunch.
The buggy stopped instantly, of course, and slid down to the bottom of the canal.
We sat there, stunned for a moment.
And then the moaning started.
I was fine. I just thought I should point that out.
Something to note - when getting involved in an accident in a dune buggy, the middle position is the safest.
Moving on . . .
Marty and Michelle . . . weren't.
Fine, I mean.
Marty had broken his beloved steering wheel with his chin, splitting it open to the bone.
His chin, I mean.
Michelle was even worse off.
The foot that had been so casually propped up on the dashboard had been driven back by the force of our crash and dislocated her hip.
She was in . . . considerable . . . pain.
Marty put a hand over his chin and ran to the farmhouse a quarter of a mile away for help.
It was up to me to pull Michelle up out of the ditch.
Okay, it probably would have been easier . . . and wiser . . . to call an ambulance and wait for professional help, but we were kids of the country, raised to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
We acted first.
And thought after.
Slowly and painstakingly, I turned Michelle onto her uninjured side. Then I pulled her up the steep bank. One step at a time.
Step, step. Pull.
Step, step. Pull.
She must have suffered agony throughout the entire ordeal, but she said little.
As we were nearing the top, Marty pulled up in his family's car.
Between the two of us, he and I managed to pull Michelle into the back seat. Then, Marty drove us to the hospital.
Funny that it never occurred to any of us to feel alarm when we again saw Marty with a steering wheel in his hands.
Go figure.
He got us there safely.
This time, professionals maneuvered Michelle out of the car and onto a stretcher.
By this point, I'm quite sure she appreciated their expertise.
And their drugs.
Her hip was restored, though she had to suffer through traction and treatments for months afterwards.
Marty was sewn back together and sports a sexy scar on his chin to this day.
I emerged unscathed.
A few days later, I was flying across the prairie with Dennis in his dune buggy.
Some people never learn.

Thursday, November 21, 2019


Somewhere out there are whales . . . and nausea.
Water and I have a thing.
We love each other.
Alright, alright, so I love water. I really don't know how it feels about me.
Moving on . . .
My family was going whale watching off the west coast of California.
I was excited. Because (remember?) I loved water. And things in the water. And boats.
I should maybe point out here that this child-of-the-prairies' sum total of water experience consisted of my river and Chin lake. Not necessarily in that order.
We put on our life jackets and climbed aboard.
So far so good.
The engine started.
My heart rate increased.
We pulled smoothly away from the dock.
Still fine.
We skimmed lightly across the bay.
Okay, so, it was a fat, clumsy boat loaded to the gunwales with tourists. But I chose the word 'skimmed' and I'm sticking with it.
My more daring family members were already hanging out over the rails, looking down into the amazingly blue water as it slipped past.
I had managed to find a seat inside the little 'house' part.
Because yes, I was a little trepidatious (real word - really!).
We cleared the bay and moved out into open water.
And then the boat started . . . for want of a better term . . . bucking.
Now, I should point out here that I'm used to bucking. In fact, bucking has been a daily ritual in the horse corral since forever.
Just not this kind of bucking.
The deck under my feet rose up. Then, that same deck fell.
And I mean fell.
Worse than an elevator. (And elevators and I do have a history . . .)
Worse than when I fell off the barn roof.
In fact, most of my inner parts were rapidly in danger of becoming . . . outer.
And just like that, I was sick.
Really sick.
I had been instructed to stare at the horizon.
I tried.
But the horizon was going up and down along with the boat, the tourists and me.
Maybe it shouldn't be called 'seasick'. Maybe it should be 'seesick'. Because there sure is a lot to see.
Okay, so horizon staring wasn't going to work.
I began to count the steps. Four to the doorway. Four more across the deck.
Could I make it?
I mean, before something . . . icky . . . happened.
Another 'heave' of the deck.
Okay, so the choice was taken from me.
It was sprint or die.
I sprinted.
I needn't go into the details of what happened next. I suppose you can furnish your own particulars. Suffice it to say that I lost everything I had ever eaten.
Or even thought of eating.
Funny thing about being sick on a tourist boat.
Everyone suddenly has something else to look at.
Somewhere else.
I was abruptly, gratefully, alone where my humiliation and I could happily enjoy our time together.
I don't remember much about the rest of the trip. We saw some whales. I was hauled off of my bench in the cabin in time to see a whole herd (erm . . . pod) of them.
They were neat.
And wet.
And . . . splashy.
And never in my whole life was I so relieved to stand later on real, solid ground.
I didn't kiss it. I didn't dare shift that much. Suffice it to say the two of us were very happy to see one another . . .

There is a sort-of codicil.
My husband took me whale-watching off the coast of Maine.
I stayed outside on deck and kept my face into the wind and miraculously managed to keep my lunch where it had been placed.
All was well.
We came upon a cow/calf pair of  whales.
I'm ashamed to admit that I can't remember what kind of whale.
They were neat.
And wet.
And . . . splashy.
The mother left her baby and dove. The calf stayed where it was, lolling in the waves and the sun. Occasionally batting at the water with a flipper.
Every few minutes, our guide would say something informative.
Finally, she said, "I bet none of you can say that you've sat beside a sleeping whale!"
Okay I admit that, when hugely pregnant, I have described myself thusly (another real word).
My husband glanced at me, but wisely said nothing.
I hit him anyways.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Little Lego Lost

We’d been staying in a lovely resort in beautiful Banff, Alberta. 

(This resort has everything. Comfortable rooms with every amenity. Pool. Sauna. Play rooms. Workout rooms. Squash courts. Tennis courts. Mountain bike borrowing. Nearby everything. And happy, helpful people.)

But no by-the-minute maid service.
On with my story . . .
Okay. Now picture it lost.
The Lego Kitty was lost.
The world had ended.
Everything is a tragedy when you’re three.
And Little Girl (LG) was three.
I told LG, "It'll show up. When you clean up."
“But I don’t want to clean up,” she told me with little girl logic.
I countered with old lady logic. “Well, when you’re done playing, you will have to clean up.”
The small lower lip came out and she turned away and continued to play.
A day or two later, we were packing the apartment for the inevitable checking-out.
Lego kitty still hadn’t had the grace or good manners to show up.
Tears threatened at the thought of leaving the minuscule – but highly important – toy behind.
A search was initiated. With little success.
I repeated my mantra. “It’ll show up. When you clean up.”
Fortunately, Mom had my back. She nodded. “Let's try it. Let’s clean up.”
Sighing heavily, the now-put-upon LG started picking up her Legos.
In a short time, all were safely stowed in their handy-dandy little Lego-shaped box. The floor lay, pristine and clean.
Still no kitty.
I could see the doubt starting in the big, hazel eyes.
“Okay,” I said, “Let’s move the sofa!”
Mom pushed and I pulled and VOILA a little, gray kitty appeared.
LG pounced on it and held it up triumphantly. “It’s here!” She crowed happily. “When you clean up, it shows up!” She tucked the toy in with its brothers and sisters and packed her box away.
I looked at her mother and we both smiled.
Once in a while, you have a good parenting moment.
And sometimes, you have to wait a while. A generation, in fact.
I’ll take it.
P.S. On several different occasions, I've heard LG, now 8, telling her cousins that, 'If you clean up. It'll show up!'
With varying degrees of success.
We'll keep at it...

Tuesday, November 19, 2019


Daddy, Big Brother George. And me.
I'm the one in the curlers...

Near Misses:
1. When I was just two, Bobby the Cow (the queen of the barnyard) and I had a disagreement. I lost. Turns out she hates children. Who knew?
2. Did you know that mothers are capable of scaling a 100 foot TV tower in mere seconds? They just need toddler-at-the-top motivation. True story.
3. When butchering chickens, it’s probably best if four-year-olds remain somewhere out of the picture. Chicken heads have been known to cause varying degrees of trauma.
4. Chicken-traumatized children would also much rather wrestle 1500-pound bulls than venture into the dreaded chicken house to retrieve eggs from underneath 3-pound bundles of nastiness.
5. Graduation from one’s pony to one’s brother’s spritely gelding may not be all that wonderful. Though it may guarantee a medical emergency ride on Dad’s amazing stallion.
6. When vaccinating calves, always remember the large crossbar of the cattle squeeze. And remember, too, to always look up. Believe me, your nose will thank you.
7. When crossing the barbed-wire fences on a ranch, long pants and good balance are a necessity. Although impressive thigh-to-ankle scars make for a good story…
8. Okay, this wasn’t me, but I heard and it’s still a good lesson: Even from the distance of the house roof, don’t pee on the electric fence.
9. When moving a cow herd across sideless bridges, make quite sure there is a bull’s tail in the immediate vicinity. Your bones will bless you. And it.
10. It’s important to note that even polled (hornless) cow heads are capable of significant damage when they meet human heads. Just ask my traumatized mother. Or me.

Word Counters is a monthly challenge from Karen at Baking in a Tornado and her gang.

Each of us submits a number and the lucky recipient uses that number to craft...something.
It's so fun!
This month, my number is 28 and it came from my awesome friend, Sarah at Writer Sarah Nolan

Monday, November 18, 2019

Night Riders

I was ten, and George was twelve,
And Jerry close to fifteen,
And Chris, the eldest of us all,
The grand old age of sixteen.
But most important, she could drive,
She’d just received her permit,
And we were planning something grand,
On roads of dirt. And moonlit.
Yes, we were going into town,
The first time without parents,
To see a movie, cruise down main,
Just fun. (And not aberrant.)
And all went just as we had planned
Then much too soon, our ‘party’
Was done and we were headed home,
Feeling all grown up and smart-y.
But partway there, the fuel line,
Well, it just disconnected,
But nimble fingers went to work,
And soon it was corrected.
A little further on, we stopped
Cause now the tank was dry,
On such a dark and lonely road,
When no one lived nearby!
But then some lights! Who could it be?
Our neighbours, soon it prov-ed,
Had made their annual trip to town,
To do whate’re behoov—ed. 
They tumbled from their ancient truck,
“Now, kidsh, whash ish the matter?”
When we explained, they laughed and then,
They started in to chatter…
“Don’t worry kidsh, we’ve got a shain,
We’ll help you in a jiffy!”
We kids could smell the liquor,
(And were feeling rather ‘iffy’.)
But soon they’d gotten out their chain,
And wrapped it round our frame,
Our sister drove like Mario,
The speeds were nigh the same!
They dropped us off in our barnyard,
And waved to us so cheerful,
We kids trooped over to the house,
To give our folks an earful!
I often contemplate that night,
And think what might have been,
When neighbours came and saved us all
By appearing on the scene!
Though, it was a little scary and
it was a bit insane,
Driving 50 m.p.h.
On 12 short feet of 'shain'!

Cause 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 Mother Owl, Jenny and Mimi,
Have posted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve seen what we have brought...
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, because I Think it’s fun,
We’ll talk of WINDOWS. Everyone!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

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My FIRST murder mystery!

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My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

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For the Children

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Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

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

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Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

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Hugs, Delivered.

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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!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

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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...

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Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

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Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

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

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

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

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

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

Be Courageous!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?