Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Bird Sex


Yes. This story is about sex.
Ahem . . .
I was raised on a ranch.
There are animals on a ranch.
Animals that do ‘animal stuff’.
Eating. Sleeping. Growing.
Making other ‘little’ animals.
Which then eat. And sleep. And grow.
And make other little . . .
You get the picture.
It was the rhythm of life throughout my childhood.
The statement, ‘I grew up with it’?
Applies here.
My earliest memory of the whole ‘animals fulfilling the measure of their creation’ happened when I was four.
A great red and white sea of animals had been penned in the main corrals.
One jumped atop another.
“Daddy, what’s that cow doing?”
My dad turned and looked. Then realized that he wasn’t quite ready to explain the whole reproductive process to his wide-eyed daughter. “Oh,” he said. “Ummm . . . resting his feet.”
“Oh.” I was satisfied.
For a while.
Oh, he did explain things.
Later. When the whole ‘resting his feet’ explanation started to wear a bit thin.
Yes, being raised on a ranch is an eye-opening experience.
By the time I was in grade nine, I knew it all.
Or thought I did.
We were in biology class. My favourite science.
The teacher was talking about animal reproduction.
Specifically: chickens.
“Now the chicken ovulates once a day,” he was saying. “That’s where we get our yummy, delicious eggs.”
I was with him this far.
“But when . . . exposed  . . . to a rooster, the egg becomes fertilized and a chick results.”
Wait a minute.
Roosters have a purpose? Other than the obvious one of chasing us kids around and being generally obnoxious?
Hold the phone!
Unfortunately, my astonishment was, much to my dismay, expressed verbally. “What?!”
Whereupon (good word) every kid in the class turned and looked at me.
And snickered.
Yep. I was nearly 14.
And I had just learned that birds follow the same reproductive channels (so to speak) as other animals.
Okay. Now, I knew it all.

Friday, December 6, 2019

A Bunny of a Hunny

I admit it.

I call my Husby names.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Husby was serving on a church committee with several other men.
One of whom worked as a police detective in his real life.
Tough guy to the world.
Sweet and kind underneath.
It was evening. After supper but not yet bedtime.
The phone rang.
I answered.
What followed was, to me, a fairly mundane conversation.
“Hi, Diane. Is Grant there?” I recognized the voice of our friend, the police detective.
“He is! Would you like to talk to him?”
“Just a moment!” I turned and hollered - okay, yes, I do that - “Honey Bunny!”
Grant answered from somewhere in the bowels of the house.
“You're wanted on the phone!”
He appeared and took it from me. “Hello?”
There was a pause. Then, “Are you a Honey Bunny?”
I saw my Husby's face turn slightly pink.
Here was his good friend, the policeman.
Tough guy extraordinaire.
What should he say?
He looked at me, rolled his eyes and grinned. “Yes,” he admitted finally.
His friend laughed. “Good,” he said. “So am I.”
Even the most unlikely . . .

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Chirpy T. Cricket: The Conclusion

The Conclusion!
If you missed Part One, it's here...

After his sister left, Chirpy sat back and thought about what she had said.
He thought and thought and thought some more.
Finally, he did something he hadn’t done in a while. He left the burrow and went to his secret jumping place and began to practice.
He put a line on the wall above his head as far up as he could reach then jumped and jumped and jumped, trying to get a little higher with each try.
Day after day, he practiced.
And, little by little, he succeeded. At first, he could touch the line with his antennae.
Then with his jaw.
Then with his knee.
And finally, his foot.
Chirpy was so excited at his progress, he nearly burst.
Which would have been pointless and also shortened this story significantly.
Instead, to celebrate, he dragged a piece of wood over to the wall to stand upon and made another line.
Way higher than the last one.
And he went back to his jumping.
As the days passed, and the jumping competition grew nearer, Chirpy kept on with his jumping.
Becoming more and more excited as he measured his progress.
By the day before the contest Chirpy’s lines up the wall were so high, he couldn’t even see them from the ground.
But that was just fine because he could see them when he jumped.
He felt ready.
In his mind, he could just picture the look on everyone’s face when he won the competition.
Finally, he would be accepted by the Jumpers in the orchestra.
Finally, he would be happy.
The day of the competition dawned cold and rainy.
But that didn’t bother anyone because how much would the weather affect you from inside a barrel?
Inside a barn.
In fact, the only reason that anyone in Chirpy’s orchestra knew it was cold and rainy outside was that all the chickens that lived on the farm had moved their whole clucking, squawking and pecking operations indoors.
Occasionally, the crickets would catch a glimpse of one of them when they perched for a moment or two on the upper rim of the barrel.
But as long as the chickens minded their own business, the orchestra was happy to be minding theirs.
Back to the story . . .
The competition started out as similar contests had in the past. With Chirpy leading . . . Floyd, the Mayor and all of the community bigwigs to a roped-off circle in the very center of the barrel floor.
Everyone assembled around them.
Chirpy gave a heart-warming rendition of Jump Cricket Jump (from the movie with the same name), and things got underway.
Ten of the elder crickets scaled the sides of the barrel to an equal height and took up positions there.
Then, the very youngest crickets assembled.
One by one, they jumped, each trying to outdo the last. For this first competition, Chirpy kept the music light and cheerful. No sense in getting anyone’s heartrate up this early in the game.
The ten judges watched carefully as each contestant jumped and, finally, a champion was chosen.
The judges climbed higher and the next age group moved to the circle.
The music intensified just a trifle.
Say what you will about Chirpy’s jumping ability, his music is good.
Again a champion was chosen and suitably rewarded.
Then The Jumpers moved front and center. Chirpy’s age group.
For this final crowd, the judges climbed to a vast height. Just a few inches below the rim of the barrel.
Chirpy smiled to himself. He had been up close and personal with that rim on his last jump. His time was at hand. Or foot . . .
One by one, The Jumpers jumped.
Each higher than the last.
Chirpy again smiled a secret smile. He was quite sure he could outjump all of them.
Finally, there were only two crickets left. Chet.
And, unbeknownst to any of them, Chirpy.
All eyes were on Chet as he sauntered to the center of the ring.
Drawing his moment out, he lifted a bit of dust from the floor and dropped it carefully, noting the drift of the wind. (None.) He spat on his front feet and rubbed them together. Then repeated the operation with his middle feet.
The crowd had grown hushed.
The steady thrumming of Chirpy’s wings was the only sound.
Placing his front feet on the ground, Chet braced himself.
Then his powerful hind legs bent.
And finally . . . released!
Chet soared straight into the air.
Higher than anyone had gone before.
The judges waved as he passed them, still climbing.
He soared far above the rim of the barrel, then seemed to hang there, suspended.
And it was at that moment a white, feathery head with a bright red comb appeared on the upper rim of the barrel.
The chicken tipped its head slightly to the right, studying this strange, hovering insect.
Then its beak opened and, before Chet could spread his wings or even react in any way, he was swallowed whole.
The entire company went still.
Then scattered.
And just like that, Chirpy completely forgot that he had ever been even slightly interested in jumping.
As he scrambled for the safety of his burrow, he was suddenly filled with . . . happiness.
Oh not because he had just seen his nemesis dispatched in a rather shocking (but tidy) way.
He had simply realized that it really didn’t matter if he wasn’t best at everything.
Because guess what?
Sometimes being the best at something gets you . . . eaten.

And one other little addendum . . .
If you're the best at one thing, you're way ahead of most of us!

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Chirpy T. Cricket: Part One

My newest short story. In two parts.
Part one:

First of all, I should probably tell you this story takes place in a barrel.
In a barn.
On a farm.
A farm pretty much like any farm you drive past on your way to Grandma’s house.
A barn that is big and delightfully shadowy with just the right mix of smells like hay and animals.
And a barrel once fine and strong. Oak. Well-seasoned and sturdy.
But now with a bottom well-rotted and non-existent.
Okay, normally, this would render a barrel pretty much useless.
But in this case, its bottomless state made it just the right home for the tunnels and burrows of a little orchestra of crickets.
And that’s where our story starts . . .
Chirpy was a cricket.
A sweet, little fellow. Full of good humour and kindness.
Very popular with all of his relatives and friends.  And much in demand when music was required.
Because Chirpy was the finest musician in the entire orchestra. Why, when he rubbed his wings together, pure magic was born.
No party or get-together was complete without the little magician of a musician on a stage or at least somewhere in the crowd.
Ready to provide entertainment.
With all of this popularity, you’d imagine that Chirpy was pretty pleased with life.
And Chirpy was pleased. For the most part.
But occasionally, he would feel down.
Because Chirpy, he of the sweet temperament and exceptional musical skill was . . . how shall I say this tactfully . . . less notable in the whole ‘jumping’ department.
In fact, his attempts at jumping were quite laughable.
Certainly the other young, male crickets in his age group thought so.
In particular, Chester (or Chet, as he was often, and affectionately, called) was quick to point it out.
Chet was the highest jumper of them all. Why, when he jumped, he nearly attained orbit.
Okay, I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture.
Yep. Whenever Chet’s group got together, strength was what mattered.
Who could jump furthest. Highest. Best.
Let’s face it, in this crowd, the guy with music in his wings, no matter how angelic and perfect simply wasn’t taken seriously.
It probably wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you that, though Chirpy was lauded from one end of the orchestra to the other for his music, what he really wanted was to be recognized for his jumping prowess.
I know. Weird.
To this end, Chirpy spent hours every day—practicing.
He would go to his quiet little spot, over behind the little dirt mound on the far side of the barrel, and jump.
And jump.
And jump.
Till his jumpers were sore.
But still, when the guys, and particularly Chet, got together to show off their moves, Chirpy finished a distant—and disappointing—last.
Sadly, the other young crickets began to make fun of his lack of ability in this regard.
“Hey, Chirpy. We’re taking the girls up to watch the sunset. Hop on up here to the rim and join . . . oh, wait . . .”
“Hey, Chirpy. Here’s a pebble. Let’s see you clear it!”
And, “Chirp, old man! A bunch of us are going over to impress the girls. Maybe you could come along. And play us some theme music.”
Each of these comments were always richly accompanied by derisive laughter. You know. The kind where not everyone is laughing.
Yeah. That.
Things got so bad that the ‘jumpers’ of the orchestra began to seek Chirpy out.
Just to make fun of him.
Chirpy got really, really good at . . . not being where they were.
His mom tried to sympathize and encourage, but she just couldn’t compete with that little voice in Chirpy’s head telling him he simply wasn’t good enough.
So Chirpy kept on practicing.
He got better. He did.
Still, when the young crickets gathered, Chirpy just couldn’t compete.
One day, when Chirpy was sitting in his room, half-heartedly rehearsing for an upcoming concert, his sister, Chirly, burst in. “Hey, Chirp! They’ve announced a contest!”
Chirpy looked at her. “Contest?”
“Yeah! A big jumping contest! All of the crickets in the orchestra will be competing!”
“Oh, goody.”
Can’t you just feel his enthusiasm?
“Think about it, Chirp! If you can win this contest, you will finally be accepted by all the Jumpers in the orchestra!”
Chirpy’s face got just a little bit flushed—a real feat for someone who is one basic colour—shrugged a tiny, little cricket shrug and turned back to his music. “Why would I want to, Chirl?”
For a moment, she was stumped for an answer. “Well . . . because.”
Hmmm. Not much of an answer.
“Won’t happen, Chirl.”
“But . . . but . . . it’s what you’ve always wanted!”
“Close the door when you leave.”
Chirly shrugged and turned to go. “I just thought you’d be interested.”
“Well, I’m not!!!”
Okay, show of hands. Who thinks he really, really wasn’t interested in competing in the big jumping contest?
Yeah, me, neither.

Tomorrow: The Conclusion
Will Chirpy enter the contest?
Will he *gasp* win the contest?
All will be revealed in the stunning conclusion to Chirpy T. Cricket.
Don't miss it!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Decorating Different-ly

Wraith - His usual location
We are a theatrical family.
And by that, I mean that we are deeply involved in theatre.
Not that we are prone to theatrics in the home.
Ahem . . .
The Tolleys are known for things like – bursting into song spontaneously.
With everyone knowing the words.
Launching into long quotes at the mention of a single phrase.
Dressing up.
Our family was, quite literally, raised on the stage. (I can remember, on more than one occasion, saying to one of my kids, "Put your homework down! That was your cue!")
To anyone not so inclined, we're weird.
We do weird things.
We direct/perform in/produce plays.
We host Medieval feasts for no reason.
We dress up on a theme and invite the neighbourhood to come in and eat pie to celebrate . . . whatever.
To our neighbours, we are that family who doesn't do anything normally.
Even our Christmas decorating is a bit . . . I'm going to stay with the 'PC' term and call it . . . different.
We don't do lights.
We did, but we've gotten lazy.
Now our Christmas decorating consists of our Halloween decorating, plus a small addition.
Yep. Weird.
Wraith at Christmas
And, yes, that's a Humbug hat.
It's a Tolley thing...
Years ago, for her Theatre Production graduation project, our youngest daughter sculpted a wraith.
You heard correctly.
A wraith.
Nine feet tall and rather spooky looking.
We love it.
It comes out of our back yard every Halloween and is prominently displayed next to the front door.
Where it can scare the cookies out of the little 'trick-or-treaters'.
And where it usually freezes so solidly to the grass that it must remain through Christmas and into the spring thaw.
How do you hide a nine-foot-tall behemoth?
In plain sight.
You can see what I mean.
Yep. Christmas at the Tolleys.
Everyone welcome!

Monday, December 2, 2019


A hummingbird’s a tiny chap,
Whose minute wings, like lightning flap,
The smallest of the birding world,
Some like a bee with wings unfurled,
Their home is The Americas,
As good a place as ever was,
Specialized nectarivores,
They pollinate the plants by scores.
With wing strokes up to 80 beats
Per second as each deftly eats,
And, holy smoke, their top-est speed
Can 34 miles-per-hour exceed!
And one more thing you'd like to know,
Only they can backward, go.
From Trochilidae family,
Wow! Now you’ve learned a lot from me.
But this is what I’m ‘bout to say,
In my us-u-al long-winded way,
The reason that they’re HUMming birds,
(And this is really quite absurd,)
But according to the reference books,
S’the sound their wingbeats make. Gadzooks!
You have to know, my dad told me,
The actual truth and you’ll agree,
The real reason that they hum,
(And Dad knew everything. And some.)
They hum because those silly birds,
They simply do not know the words!

Cause Mondays to 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 crafted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, we'll tell you (from our homes)
Our love/hate deal with wretched PHONES.

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

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

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

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

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?