Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 21, 2019

When You're the Answer

A true story.

Carol’s big suburban slid into the parking lot of the Native Friendship Centre in Slave Lake, Alberta.
Her boss met her in the foyer. “Can’t do it this year,” he said sadly.
Carol stared at him. “What?”
“The basket delivery to Trout Lake? Can’t do it. There’s a storm and our pilot says there’s no way he can land on the strip.”
Carol’s heart sank. There were people in Trout Lake who needed those hampers of food very much. Families who counted on them.
“I’m sorry,” her boss went on, starting to turn away.
“I’ll drive up there.”
He turned back. “What?”
“I’ll drive.”
“Carol, it’s three hours in good weather! And there’s a storm so bad we can’t land in it. Who knows what the roads will be like?”
“There’s someone who wants that food,” Carol said quietly. “I know it. I can feel it! Someone desperately needs their basket.”
He stared at her for a moment. “Well . . .”
“How many baskets have you got?”
“Let’s load them in my truck. And I need one of your staff to come along. I don’t speak Cree.”
Soon, over her boss’ continued protests, the boxes of food were carefully loaded and she and young Theresa Cardinal seated in front.
They were off.
The trip went surprisingly well despite the near-white-out conditions in the blowing snow and the continuing cold. The only difficulty was one point when the two of them slid into a ‘T’ intersection with no idea of which way to turn.
Carol looked at her co-pilot. “Which way?”
Theresa shrugged. “We don’t use roads.”
Carol laughed. “I’m turning left.”
Her instincts were right. Four hours after they left the Centre in Slave Lake, they were pulling into the small hamlet of Trout Lake, Alberta.
On a usual year, there would be people and the horse-pulled school wagon available to help with deliveries.
This year, in the frigid temperatures and blowing snow, there was only Carol, Theresa, and Carol’s big suburban.
Still pressed by that sense of urgency, they started going from home to home where their offerings of food and gifts were received with smiles of gratitude.
Finally, they pulled up before a tiny, log cabin and Carol slid out of the truck.
The wind was blowing quite strongly, whistling around the little structure. For a community deep in the protection of the bush she knew that the storm around them must have grown mighty indeed.
Her long, fur-lined Cree coat kept out the worst of it and, grabbing the large box of food, she walked to the door.
Something was odd. The door, ice built up all along the edge, wasn't closed. Couldn't close.
And someone, in an effort to keep out the howling winds had stuffed an old quilt in the space.
Carol knocked. A soft voice inside, barely discernible over the sound of the storm, called out in Cree.
The two women entered.
The cabin consisted of one room. There was a tiny, elderly woman standing in the kitchen area to the left, looking unsure and frightened.
Across the room, seated on an old bus seat, were several children of various ages. They, too were staring at the two snow-covered, frost nipped women standing in the doorway.
Carol had a vague impression of a bed in the corner to her right and of someone in that bed.
Theresa began to talk to the woman as they deposited their burden on the table.
The woman stared at the box, then back at them.
“How many children live here?” Carol asked.
Her companion translated.
The woman held up six fingers.
Carol went back out to the truck to grab six brightly-wrapped packages.
When she got back, the woman was in conversation with Theresa.
Unable to understand them, Carol turned her attention to fixing the door. Picking up a hatchet, she began to carve away the icy build-up on the door until it could, once more, close.
As she was testing the door, the woman came over to her and tearfully thanked her. In Cree: "God will always remember you."
Carol and Theresa left the cabin and continued with their deliveries, but the dreadful sense of urgency that had been so much a part of their journey had melted away.
And that was when the story came out.
The elderly woman’s husband had been sick for over a week. The sole breadwinner for the household, he had been unable to get outside to find food.
The family, quite literally, had nothing to eat.
The woman had been praying for someone–anyone–to come to their aid.
In the nearly 40 years since that day, Carol can still see that small, Cree woman, huddled in almost complete despair with a sick husband, six hungry children and a door that wouldn't close in a Northern Alberta snowstorm.
And Carol is grateful to have been, for just an instant, the answer to someone’s prayer.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Warming Winter

Ready to tour.
The Milk River 4H Beef Club was the brain-child of my Dad.
He lived in an agricultural area where most of the families earned their living either farming or ranching.
The training up of the next generation seemed like a good idea.
He approached the powers-that-be - convinced said powers-that-be.
And the club was formed.
With eleven new members.
Calves were purchased.
Things were underway.
A few months later, the man (power-that-be) who had given permission decided to make a visit to his newest club.
A tour was organized for his benefit.
But on a school day so the parents were delegated to show the official around.
Accompanied by my dad and Dad's two assistants.
It was a cold day in December.
They had visited several farms and were about to get into their vehicles after seeing one more.
The farmer, seeing that they were a bit chilled, reached behind the seat of his truck and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. "This'll warm you a bit!"
He handed the bottle, first, to Dad.
"Thanks, but I don't drink," Dad said, passing the bottle on to the next fellow.
Who happened to be the official.
"Well, we government officials aren't allowed to drink," the man said. "But since Mark doesn't drink, I'll drink his drink."
He took a sip.
Then handed the bottle to the next man.
Finally, the bottle made its way around the little group and back to the official.
"Oh. Does Mark take two?" the man asked, taking another sip. "Well, he is a glutton, isn't he?"
Memorable, educational, satisfying,
And warming.
On so many levels.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Pocket Shopping

Not exactly. But close...
‘Twas Christmas. My Mom had us all in the car.
It was time for the shopping. We had to go far,
To Lethbridge ‘most seventy miles away.
We talked and we laughed—just enjoying the day.

My brothers and sister had done this before,
Gone shopping for Christmas with Mom at the stores.
But for four-year-old me, this time was the first,
I was way beyond eager, nigh ready to burst.

But when she had parked and I looked from the car,
From the ranch to the city was more than just far,
I had somehow moved on to a whole other sphere,
And I stared at the thousands of folks that were here.

I was used to my world, I’ll admit it. It’s true.
I was here, I must shop. What else could I do?
All my siblings had spread—in the crowd, disappeared,
I slowly climbed out, tried to swallow my fear.

Mother picked up my brother and gave me a grin,
As I stood there so anxious on trembling limbs.
“Let’s go shop for Christmas, Diane,” to me, said.
And I nodded and shivered and wished I was dead.

But then she said something that filled me with hope,
As she showed me the pocket attached to her coat,
“Now you hold on tight and we’ll wander along,
And no one can hurt you and nothing go wrong.”

So I did and I found that my mother was right,
Holding tight to her pocket, I let go of my fright.
I discovered that shopping for Christmas was fun!
If I held really tight till the shopping was done.

Years have passed, I forgot ‘pocket shopping’ with Mom,
Till one day, with my kids, we had errands to run,
And with my arms full with the baby and all,
We started our tour of the stores in the mall.

A tug on my coat and I looked down to see,
A toddler’s hand clutch my pocket. And me.
I knew how she felt—the security. Calm.
I’d felt it myself with a pocket. And Mom. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

One Seventy-one

On her wedding day.

It’s Christmas. I’m missing Mom...
Our Christmas house had just been decorated, but now, my perennially-busy mother was nowhere to be seen.
I entered the front room, lit only by the lights on the tree.
There she was, just sitting quietly, looking at it.
I remember those lights bathing her in a soft glow.
A different, more heavenly light is shining on her now.
How I wish I could see it!

Today is a word challenge.
Each of Karen’s followers submit a number between 12 and 74.
Those numbers are then re-distributed by our intrepid leader to each of us.
My number this month? 71
And it came from my good friend Mimi at Messymimi

Here's everyone else.
Visit them. It'll be fun!

Monday, December 16, 2019

On Time

Time moves at different speeds, it is an actual fact,
Faster when your happy and your day is packed,
But slower when you’re stuck through something tedious,
Like when your babe won’t sleep and making quite a fuss.

As a child, time seemed to move at sluggish speeds,
The time ‘tween Christmas seasons left me rather keyed
Up about the time it took in getting there,
It took FOREVER and it simply wasn’t fair!

And when we sat in church to listen faithfully,
I was astonished at how slow the time would be,
 I’m sure that wretched clock was ticking different,
And time moved on like it was swimming through cement.

At school too, the time, it hung and didn’t move,
It really didn’t care how much I disapproved,
But ticked along the minutes at a snail’s pace,
And I was stuck there in my stupid desk’s embrace!

But strangely, when my friends and I were on the run,
Moving through the day (and games) and having fun,
It seemed an eye blink. Time was, in an instant, gone,
And Mom was shouting from the back door, “Supper’s on!”

But now I find all time seems to just disappear,
I barely start my day and then the evening’s here,
And even things that drag are, in a moment, done,
And projects finished that I’ve only just begun.

But, you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s fast or slow,
Time, that flighty spirit with its ebb and flow,
Cause I’ve been blessed to have it whether good or bad,
Forever grateful for all that I have. And had.

 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?
So all of us, together, we
Have crafted poems for you to see,
And now you read what we have wrought...
Did we help?
Or did we not?
Mother Owl
Merry Mae

Next week, because the time is here,
We'll talk about this time of year!

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