Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, November 29, 2019

Crimeful-ness

Caitlin Age 3
Nine o'clock pm.
Six happy, grubby little bodies scrubbed clean and clothed in freshly-laundered pajamas.
Six sets of shiny, white teeth brushed.
Six heads of hair neatly brushed.
Six stories read.
Six songs sung.
Six sweet, heartfelt prayers.
Six (times six) hugs and kisses.
And six children finally tucked up between fresh, clean sheets.
All are asleep.
Whew!
And now, their parents can relax, knowing that their happy, healthy and very active children have been properly prepared for a much-needed night's rest.
They can put their feet up and rejoice in a few stolen minutes of peace and calm. To visit together and catch up on the day's events.
All is well.
Then . . .
Little footsteps. Crossing the bedroom. Coming up the hall. Going into the kitchen.
The squeak of a refrigerator door.
Talk in the front room ceases. Two semi-alert parents are listening to the clandestine sounds.
Finally, the suspense is too much.
"Who's in the kitchen?"
Silence. A three-year-old intellect is working frantically.
"Who's there?"
"Ummm . . . not me!"
Healthy and clean and ready for bed? Yes.
Sneaky and clandestine and ready for a life of prevarication and/or crime? Not so much.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The First 25

Yes, it's blurry.
Photographing children and wildlife. It's the same . . .
For two weeks, we had our youngest son’s (then) two children (ages 3 years and 16 months) in our home while their parents were exploring places warm and sunny.
I should probably mention that, at the time, our home already housed four adults and one resident three-year-old.
It was, for the most part, a marvelous time!

Twenty-five things we learned:
1. Children are like the ocean. You never want to turn your back.
2. The decibels reached by the average toddler during normal conversation cannot be measured by normal means.
3. Enthusiasm and unhappiness are often expressed with the same ear-piercing wail.
4. Also hunger, I’m-not-tired, and he-took-my-toy.
5. Three-year-olds and scissors should never make even a passing acquaintance.
6. Just because they’re approximately the same size, two three-year-olds don’t always see eye-to-eye.
7. The definition of a toddler is someone two feet tall with an arm reach of eight feet.
8. The head is equipped with a solid bone for a reason.
9. Bike helmets should be a standard component of every outfit (see #8).
10. Just because someone is looking at you, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are also listening.
11. Hiding places turn easily into finding places. A little too easily. Sooo . . .
12. Nothing is safe.
13. A toddler can – and will – eat their weight in food.
14. And, conversely, can live on air for an inordinate amount of time.
15. If you turn on the TV, the only time they notice is for the first three minutes.
16. And when you shut it off.
17. The bathtub is an excellent place to play. 
18. With or without water in it.
19. If one wakes up in the middle of the night, one needs the company of a sibling.
20. And/or at least two grandparents.
21. If a diaper says 8 to 10 pounds, that really is all it will hold.
22. The amount of time one needs to hurry a toddler to the potty is proportionate to the amount of time it takes for them to realize they have to go. And telling you.
23. There's nothing quite like a small herd of children greeting you enthusiastically at the door when you get home.
24. A toddler hug makes anything better.
25. A toddler kiss, ditto.

Their parents returned home from a wonderful trip. Everyone was happily reunited.
And Grandma went back to bed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Mr. Scary

Me at 15 (red and white striped shirt).
And three of my amazing cousins.
My head was learning stuff. Who knew?!
I learned a few things as I was growing up.
Okay, I know that comes as a surprise to many, but it's true.
Some lessons were fairly severe, but a few, and even some of the most life-changing were quite (for want of a better term) painless.
I was fifteen. And had been staying with my best friend and nearest neighbour at her parent's ranch, fifteen miles from my own.
It was a glorious week of riding, playing, getting into her parents' hair.
Oh, yes, a glorious week.
It was time to go home. Her parents needed the break.
It was a fairly easy trip when one was merely negotiating the fifteen miles of dirt roads between our ranches.
But my parents had moved, for the winter, to our town home in Milk River a further twenty miles away.
A trip of approximately an hour, if the road conditions were favourable. Which they often weren't.
Originally, my Dad had planned to pick me up when he came out to do a vet call.
His plans had changed.
And now, so had mine.
Sigh.
I would be riding with my best friend's uncle.
The scary one.
For an hour.
Just the two of us.
I suddenly didn't care if I ever saw my parents again. I wanted to stay with my friend.
Or die.
Neither choice was given to me, however.
Amidst much hugging and goodbye-ing, I was pushed out the door and parked in the uncle's truck.
Doomed.
I curled into a little ball in my corner and tried to pretend I didn't exist.
We started out, the silence thick about us.
After a while, the uncle reached out and turned on the radio. A short time later, he turned it up.
Now, at least, we had music to fill the emptiness.
But I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable. My parents always claimed that visiting made the time go by faster. I definitely wanted that to happen.
Finally, I thought of a question about his ranching. I asked it.
He answered. Quite politely, I might add.
I asked another.
Again, he answered. With even more detail than the last.
This went on for some time. He turned the radio down. Then down again.
Then finally shut it off completely.
And it was then I realized that we were . . . visiting. And that he was funny. And not nearly as scary as when we got into the truck.
Huh. Who knew?
The trip turned out to be infinitely shorter than I had anticipated. In fact, we got so animated in our conversation that we were parked in my family's driveway before I even realized that we had reached the town.
And I learned that all you need to do to get a conversation going is to ask a question about whoever you're with. If you are genuinely interested, they like to talk about themselves.
I also learned that, when you are visiting, no one is as scary as they first appear.
Even someone else's uncle.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Kids of the City

City Kids!
My cousin was visiting.
For two whole glorious weeks.
She was a city girl but the only difference between a city girl and a ranch girl was location.
Right?
I took her swimming in the river.
She got sand in her suit.
She taught me ballet.
I fell over a lot.
I taught her how to swing from a rope in the hay loft.
She got a rope burn on her hands.
She taught me how to act out stories.
I . . . actually, I liked that. A lot.
I tried to get her to ride the pigs.
She stood outside the fence and made a face.
And held her nose.
She taught me gymnastics.
I fell and knocked the air out of me.
I decided it was time to teach her my most favourite thing.
Horseback riding.
I dragged her out to the corral and pushed her up to the top rail. Kicking and screaming.
Her, not me.
Looking back, I can see the differences between the two of us as we perched up on that fence.
The country and the city girl.
Me, in my inevitable shirt and jeans.
She in her white slacks and blouse and light blue sweater.
Even a fool would have found it obvious.
I wasn't a fool.
Well, actually . . . never mind.
The horses were drowsing in the corral.
She eyed them suspiciously.
“They're okay,” I reassured her. “C'mon.”
Trustingly, she followed me down and into the corral.
I picked out the nearest horse, Coco. “Here. This is a good one.”
“But she's so huge!” Her eyes got bigger as she drew closer.
“She's gentle!” I gave the large, coco-brown mare a reassuring pat. The horse reached out and lipped my hair. “See?”
My cousin moved beside me. “Okay. What do I do?”
I showed her how to stand beside the horse and grab a handful of mane. Then I cupped my hands, told her to step into them and boosted her up. At the proper time, she swung her leg.
She was aboard.
The excitement must be coursing through her! She must be palpitating with accomplishment and eagerness and a sense of 'the world is mine'!
I stepped back.
I must admit that everything my cousin did was graceful. Her walking. Her dancing.
Her falling off a horse.
It should have been all right. The horse wasn't even moving, after all.
But she didn't land on the ground.
Instead, she fell onto something much . . . softer.
I don't think she was pleased.
I guess some people have a problem with large, steaming piles of horse buns. Road apples. Horse puckies.
To the uninitiated, manure.
But then people are so weird.
She got to her feet. And looked down at her light blue sweater.
Her heretofore pristine light blue sweater.
Then she looked at me.
Uh-oh.
I never got my cousin back up on one of our horses.
Instead we spent the rest of her stay dancing. Doing plays and gymnastics.
Reading.
While Mom got the marks out of her sweater.
Before her mom saw them.
Yep. City girls.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Light


The prairies are a wondrous sweep
Of golden grains or grasses, deep,
And there, on any clear-ish nights,
A vast and velvet space—no lights,
Where darkness is so deep and soft,
And none but stars up there. Aloft.
But when the work has kept me late,
Out in that dark, as I relate,
And when I’m finally headed home,
Determined nevermore to roam,
There’s not a sight so sweet to me,
As lighted windows that I see.
And as I move from dark to light,
From cool to warm and blind to sight,
I know that family will be there,
And warmth and love and daily fare...

The years have passed, the city now,
Embraces all. My needs endow.
But still on darkish nights when I,
Must be about, our needs supply,
There’s nothing quite like heading home,
Determined nevermore to roam,
And not a sight more sweet to me,
Than lighted windows that I see.

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?
Have crafted poems for you to see,
And now you've read what we have brought,
Did we help?
Or did we not?

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Third in the series
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First romance in a decade!

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A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

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