Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, December 14, 2019

Christmas Puppies


Don't you just want one?!
For over thirty years, our family raised Old English Sheepdogs.
Smart, dependable, protective, gentle and very hairy.
In our opinion, the best breed in the world.
In that time, we placed little balls of fur into many, many homes.
Some stories . . . . stick out in our memories . . .
Our very good friends, a wonderful family of four, were fellow OES aficionados.
They, in particular the father of the family, had unselfishly come to our aid on many occasions.
And we wanted to do something nice for him/them.
Knowing his/their love for ‘sheepies’, I consulted with his sweet wife about the possibility of surprising him with one of our puppies as a Christmas present.   
She was totally on board.
Christmas approached.
The puppies grew.
Finally, they reached the golden age of eight weeks.
It was time.
We loaded our family – and puppy – into the van and headed into the city.
Now, the actual formula . . .
We would present ourselves as a group to the front door of the home and proceed to ‘carol’ them.
Someone in back would hide the puppy until the climactic moment.
You know how, in movies, puppies are given and things turn out perfectly?
Well, sometimes it happens in real life.
We assembled.
Rang the doorbell.
And, when it opened, launched into our specially-adapted version of We Wish You a Merry Christmas:
We wish you a Merry Christmas!
We wish you a Merry Christmas!
We wish you a Merry Christmaaaaas!
And here’s your sheepdog!
The puppy was produced on cue.
Smiles and tears.
Lots of hugs.
And our family faded into the soft, Christmas night.
It was a beautiful, perfect experience.
Sometimes, you have those . . .
The puppy, Alonzo, served and loved his family for a great many years.
But there is one more thing to add.
I’ve been asking my children about their favourite Christmas memories.
And this one tops the list.
Christmas and children and puppies.
They just go together.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Stunt-ed


Sally’s back home.
I know those three little words probably don’t fill you with trepidation (real word).
I can only say this . . .
You’ve never lived with her.
For six weeks, whilst the world’s newest stunt double was filming her first movie, her fond and adoring family basked in the quiet peacefulness that was Life Without Sally.
Okay, yes, it was a bit boring.
But a whole lot relaxing.
I think Mom actually gained some much-needed weight.
I know that, for the first time, ever, I could actually see the floor in Sally’s room.
Did any of you know the rug in her room was pink?
I didn’t.
Moving on . . .
All of that ended when a brass band, 140 marching soldiers and 10-car police escort announced Sally’s return.
That and the city-wide lock-down.
Okay, there wasn’t really a brass band.
A few less than 140 soldiers.
And I didn’t really count the police cars.
But the lock-down happened.
Nearly.
Maybe I should explain . . .
There were actually . . . fans . . . waiting to welcome Sally off the plane when she arrived. Kids and a sprinkling of adults waving posters featuring Sally (well, Sally’s body with the head of the actress Sally was doubling) swinging on a rope, with a pump-action shotgun on a strap over her shoulder and fairly plump chicken clutched in her arms while the world behind her exploded into chaos.
Huh. Now that I think about it, Mom and I could probably have taken that same picture at least once a day for the past sixteen years. . .
Just a thought.
Back to Sally’s homecoming . . .
Mom and I waited until she had finished with her adoring fans. Then the three of us made our way outside and toward the bus, already filled to capacity with a sprinkling of commuters and 41 Japanese tourists.
Sally, not particularly silent at the best of times, was spilling over with NEWS.
Which I could probably distill into one word: stupendous.
She bubbled on about the cast. The shoot. The location. The director. The stunts. The daring feats she managed to pull off. The looks on the faces of everyone watching whenever she undertook those same feats.
I could totally sympathize with them.
Ahem . . .
The three of us managed to find seats—Mom and I jammed into the back and Sally somewhere on the aisle in the middle—and Sally continued to talk. She began to pull things from her capacious carry-on. Props. Curios. The actual chicken from the poster. (Like Sally, a stand-in.)
Then, just as the bus was crossing Aldersyde and Croft, kind of the geographic center of our town, Sally pulled out a rocket-launcher and waved it in the air so we could appreciate.
You can see where this is going . . .
Mom and I, both used to Sally and her ways, got a start when we saw what she was waving.
Now just imagine the scores of people, many of whom didn’t even speak English, looking on from a position of complete ignorance.
The panic was instant and notable.
As the bus-driver jammed on the brakes, people started screaming and heading for the nearest exits. By the quickest way possible.
Doors and/or windows proved mere suggestions as they burst outward and were discarded.
I should probably mention that the panic did not end when they all gained the streets and sidewalks.
Nope.
From there, they scattered through the city screaming ‘Terrorists! Terrorists!”, in at least three languages that I could pinpoint, and at the top of their supposedly-relaxed tourist-y lungs.
I’m pretty sure you can imagine the rest.
The sirens. The pretty-much-instant police response.
The barricades.
The soldiers.
In the time it took Mom and I to get over our initial shock and, with the still-talking Sally in tow, make our way from the bus, it was surrounded and the city on the brink of a lock-down. (See above.)
Then the explanations.
And the lectures.
With the distinct possibility of fines and/or community service.
Dear Lord help us all.
Welcome home, Sally.
We missed you.
Sigh.

Each month, Karen’s (she of the Baking in a Tornado fame) followers contribute words to the collective.
Words which are then re-distributed to said collective.
Use Your Words is the result.
Resistance is futile.

This month, my words: pump ~ plump ~ post ~ poster ~ part
Were assigned to me by the Great Karen herself! Thank you so much, my friend!
And Sally thanks you, too…  

Now go forth and visit the others!

Thursday, December 12, 2019

10 Gramma House Rules


The holiday season is fast approaching. A time of family get-togethers and, hopefully, fun family times.
Hopefully.
We'll start with a . . . 
Disclaimer
Parents are responsible for their own children while at Grandma’s house. Grandpa and Grandma used to be responsible – but they’re not anymore.

Toys
1.  All toy trucks with sirens are forbidden – alarmed neighbours keep running out to see if Grandpa has run over their cat.
2.  All musical toys are also forbidden. The national anthem of the Tolley house is not “Turkey in the Straw.”
3.  “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” is not on the list either.

Food
4.  All treats for grandchildren are under Grandpa’s control. He’ll share with you as soon as they release him from the psyche ward, which will be when he stops humming “Turkey in the Straw.”
5.  Food prepared at Grandma’s house is made with TLC. Despite what Grandpa puts in it.
6.  At Grandma’s house the “best before” date on her food expires in two hours. Food ingested but not swallowed before this time will not be recycled.

Diapers
7.  Soiled diapers carry a ‘Noxious-Gas’ rating of 10. All carriers shall be banished immediately to the clean-up facility at the end of the hallway.
8.  All soiled diapers shall immediately be wrapped securely and placed on the front porch for eventual transport to the garbage can. Most grandchildren should be removed from the diaper first.
9.  Reusable cloth diapers soiled for longer than one day before washing shall be sold as fuel to the nearest nuclear power plant or placed in a rocket and shot into the sun.
10.  No pooping under the dining room table, even if you are wearing a diaper. This means you, too, Grandpa.

You can thank me after the holidays.

Grampa

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Are You Going to Eat That?

In honour of Chocolate Covered ANYTHING Day...
A poem:

It makes better the bitter and sweetens the sweet.
Improves all the muffins, e’en good on the meats,
I’ve put it on ice cream and pastries and nuts,
On caramel’s delicious. No ifs, ands, or buts.
In cookies and candies and pie (a la mode),
It’s one with the cereals, served by boatload,
I’ve had it on turkey and pheasant and goose,
On pot roast and venison, pork chops and moose,
And if there’s a campfire nearby to be had,
I’ll tell you right now that those s’mores ain’t that bad!
On bread, it’s delicious, on fruit, even more,
Don’t forget to stock up when you visit the store,
In fact, there is nothing that won’t better be,
Just pour it on thick and for sure you will see,
Why, I’ve had some things considered quite icky,
And this from a person who’s not at all picky,
Like ants and grasshoppers, a cricket or two,
And a couple of worms, to mention a few,
Thickly coated, they failed to make even a dent,
And eating would not be construed ‘an event’.
They slid down quite nice, without much of a mess,
In a chocolatey coating of pure tastiness,
Yep, chocolate and anything, dip and repeat,
Heck, give me a hubcap, I’ll coat it and eat!

Each month we write poetry, based on a theme,
Karen and all of us make quite the team,
So if you enjoyed all that you read right here,
Go peruse the rest of the other Shakespeares!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Chocolate Covered Everything
Dawn of Spatulas On Parade: Dear Chocolate Lover

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Over-Baked

Husby and me
The very early days of marriage, of most marriages, in fact, are days of exploration and discovery.
Of the combination of ideas and ideals. 
Of the solidifying of the ties binding the couple together.
So it was in our house. The happiness that goes with simply being together. 
Peace. 
Love.
 Joy. 
One imagines that it will last forever. And it does. 
Until . . . The First Conflict.
I use this term lightly because it really wasn’t a conflict, but more of a steady pull in two different directions. 
He wanted us to spend Christmas with his family. I wanted to spend it with mine.
I won.
Mostly, I admit because he's nicer than me and I painted a rosier picture than he did. I snared him with magical words like . . . food, fresh baking, treats, candy, chocolate, sugar, sugar, sugar. 
And games.
Okay, I probably exaggerated. 
But my family really did have fun on Christmas Eve. I wasn’t ready, yet, to miss it.
And my Mom was a really good cook.
He gave in. And so, Christmas Eve found us nestled snugly in the bosom of my family, preparing to enjoy. 
Unfortunately, the preparing part went on a little too long.
My eldest sister was home for the holiday and she and Mom, demon bakers both, were lost in their own fragrant world. 
Admittedly a pleasant place to be, albeit potentially ‘calorific’. 
The rest of us floated by periodically, sniffing, staring hungrily at the stacks . . . and stacks . . . of pies, cookies, cakes, butter horns, brownies, fudge, lemon squares, butter tarts.
Dinner was forgotten as more and more goodies emerged from the cavernous depths of the great ovens. 
Cries from hungry tummies grew more and more insistent. 
Also, the younger set was getting impatient. It was time for that games of games, anticipated for a whole year. 
The annual Stringam bloodbath. 
The Christmas game of Rummoli.
With real poker chips.
Okay, so it wasn’t a bloodbath. Not even particularly violent. But it was as close to gambling as the Stringam gang ever got. 
And we really did anticipate it feverishly. 
By 10:30 pm, many had given up the thought of getting ‘Christmas Eve’ started. 
Baking was still being pulled from the ovens, dinner still hadn’t materialized and even the faint hope of a Rummoli game had long since vanished. 
Husby looked at me. 
He was too kind to put it into words, but I was getting fairly good at reading him, and his expression said, “For this, we gave up an eight-course meal with my family?” I shrugged my shoulders and tried to laugh.
It was a weak attempt.
He decided to take matters into his own hands. 
He got up and wandered nonchalantly past the stack of baking which completely covered the counter and nearly filled the space between the upper and lower cupboards.
Seriously, we’re talking an area eight feet long and somewhere between 18 and 24 inches deep. Covered. With. Fresh. Baking.
His hand snaked out, nabbing a butter tart. 
Quicker than the eye can blink, it was in his mouth. All of it. 
The heavenly combination of flavours poured through his soul like celestial honey. His knees grew weak. He brought his teeth together to begin chewing this small slice of perfection. 
Mom straightened from pulling yet another pan out of the oven, her face flushed with heat and effort.
He was caught. 
He suspended all chewing movements and tried to look innocent, but Mom could spot sneaky at 1000 paces. 
Certainly, she could recognize it standing across the counter.
She set the hot pan on the cupboard, placed both hands on her hips and leveled a glare at him. “Don’t eat that!” she said. “It’s for Christmas!”
He stared at her. 
Then at the mounds of baking that couldn’t possibly be eaten in the next 24 hours. 
In the next 24 days. 
He put up one hand to cover his mouth. And the precious contraband that now had a home there. No way was he removing it from his mouth. All sorts of places in his body would have rebelled if he had tried. “Sorry,” he mumbled, slowly backing away, his hands spread apologetically.
We never did get our Rummoli game.
Or supper.
After that, my husband and I saved Christmas Eve for his family. And Christmas morning for mine. 
It was easier on our relationship.
Oh, and the statement, “Don’t eat that, it’s for Christmas!”
Quoted every time someone pops something into their mouth. 
Year-round.

Monday, December 9, 2019

A Not-So-Necessary Evil?

To the tune of Leonard Cohen's glorious 'Hallelujah'.
With apologies...

For forty years, I went without,
I planned ahead,
I thought things out,
I thought it just another strange breakthrough, yeah.
But then I laid my hands on one,
E'en on the road,
I got things done,
And from my lips there came an Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah . . .

Back then it seemed to help my life,
With books and games
By bright backlight,
(Though heaven knows that Facebook will outdo ya,)
I’d follow what the others do,
And check email, the weather, too,
And still there came from me an Hallelujah.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah . . .

Maybe there’s a God above,
Perhaps cell phones
Were made with love,
But now I’d like to bid the thing adieu, yeah.
I want it far away from me,
Someday, I’ll throw it in the sea,
Then from my lips a heartfelt Hallelujah!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
Hallelujah . . .

Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot
With poetry, we all besought,
To try to make the week being
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?

Jenny
Mother Owl
Mimi
Merry Mae

Come back next week, because our rhyme,
Will be about the theme of TIME!

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