Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Ransom of Sally

Sally is a little long-winded today...

Have I ever mentioned that living with Sally is an adventure?
Well I should have.
The thing is, Mom and I figured that, as she got older, she would be less of a ‘good-lord-harry-what-is-she-doing-now!’ and more of a ‘have-a-nice-day-dear’.
We were wrong.
I blame Sally’s and my father.
I don’t remember him very much. He died when we were six and spent most of those years away.
Studying polar bears.
Living with the penguins.
You know . . . ‘cold and adventures’ kinds of stuff.
Mom went with him until I was born, then she more-or-less-happily waved him off from the doorstep and went back to doing ‘mom’ stuff.
He died on one of those adventures. Ship lost in a storm.
I know it happens in movies.
But it also sometimes happens in real life.
I probably should miss him more.
But . . . Sally.
If you’ve been following my journals, you know that, in the last couple of years, she has become a world-wide sensation.
Which means that her shenanigans now get full press coverage.
Instead of just our neighbours shaking their heads and locking their doors, the whole planet has become involved.
Mom and I still aren’t quite sure how we feel about this.
I mean, we’re glad for Sally. She’s doing things that make her very happy and actually earning very good money doing it.
Not bad for a girl of 18, am I right?
But I’m not sure if we can survive this new level of  ‘global’ hijinks.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Sally’s movie company was shooting some sort of adventure film in South America.
Brazil, I think.
Over the past year-and-a-half, she has been promoted from ‘stunt girl’ to second banana.
Which is movie speak for supporting actress.
I watch the Oscars. So I know.
For three weeks, she had been sending home a more-or-less regular series of postcards with “Having fun. Wish you were here!” scrawled across them.
Then, today.
It started ordinarily enough. Which is something Mom and I are still getting accustomed to.
I’m sure you know that when Sally is home, nothing is ever ordinary.
Moving on . . .
We had rolled out of bed. Breakfast-ed.
Contemplating actually showering before heading to work.
Then we heard the unmistakable sound of Mort’s Volvo, semi-affectionately called the Mort-mobile scraping over the curb in front of the house.
Followed by a frantic pounding on the door.
You have to know that we hear a lot of pounding on that door. And other stuff. There is even a sword wound that is still waiting to be fixed.
Thanks, Cousin Ruth.
This time, whoever was pounding didn’t wait to be admitted, but pushed the door open so hard it hit the wall.
Mort charged in, his red hair on end, his face so chalk white his freckles stood out in sharp relief.
Mom got to her feet. “What is it, Mort?”
He stumbled into the room. “Sally!” he gasped out.
My heart skipped a beat. Usual with Sally.
Mom clutched his arm. “What about Sally?”
Mort gulped a couple of times. I watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down.
Mom shook his arm. “Mort?”
“Sally’s been kidnapped!”
Mom gasped and turned paper white.
Okay, I was definitely not expecting that.
I grabbed Mom and lowered her back into her chair.
“H-how did you hear?” Mom grabbed Mort’s arm again and pulled him over to her.
“Her fan page!”
Mom dropped his arm and sat there, staring straight ahead.
I looked at Mort. “But shouldn’t the company have called us? Her family?”
“It just happened! Maybe they’re . . .”
Another car screeched up in front of the house. Through the still-open front door, I watched as a man got out and charged up the walk.
He didn’t bother to knock, but came straight in.
He looked from one to the other. “Ummm, Mrs. Hart?”
Mom surged to her feet and rushed at him. “What’s happening?” she shouted in his ear.
He tried to appear calm and collected, but I could see his hands were shaking. He tucked them into his underarms. “Sally was heading to the shoot. Her driver was stopped at a bend in the road and Sally was taken.”
“Taken?” Mom grabbed his arm and shook it. “Did they hurt her?”
“Well . . .” he hesitated. “The driver was wounded, but Sally was fine when last seen.”
“Wounded.”  This time Mom fell back into her chair.
“I’ve come to get you.”
“I’m to take you to the jet so you can join the crew at the hotel.”
Needless to say, it was the fastest three people ever got packed in the history of the world. 
Because no way Mom was going without me. Or Mort.
I don’t remember much about the trip. Solicitous attendants on a very quiet private jet. Lots of food and drinks being offered.
Mom didn’t touch any of it.
When we landed, I remember instantly feeling hot.
One of the film company bigwigs was there to meet us and whisked us off in a limo.
Amazing how things work among the very rich.
And then we were in a room on, like, the fortieth floor of a Hilton.
Where there was more food. And dozens of people, including some very official-looking guys in uniforms.
One guy in a silk suit sat us down on a couch and told us what he knew.
Which was nothing. Basically, Sally had been grabbed out of her limo and taken to parts unknown. They were all still waiting for the first contact from the kidnappers.
The guy in charge seemed to act like this happened all the time. He was very matter-of-fact.
I decided I didn’t like him very much.
Mom had finally broken down and was weeping noisily into a tissue.
I went and stood behind her. “So what is being done?” I asked in what I hoped was my most grown-up voice.
“Well, you have to know that we really can’t do anything until we have been contacted.”
I stared at him. “So we stand here and wait.”
“Basically, yes. We have our teams standing by.”
“Oh, great. More people standing around waiting.”
He eyed me carefully. “Yes.” He cleared his throat. “Sadly, this isn’t an isolated occurrence. When we host our foreign visitors, we try very hard to protect them, but occasionally, things like this do happen.”
“And how do they turn out?”
“Well . . . the companies pay and the people are recovered.”
Mom lifted her head. “Pay? We don’t have any money.”
I spoke over her. “Recovered alive or dead?”
He shrugged. “You have to know we are doing the best we can.”
I snorted.
Just then, the phone rang. The man went over to it, nodded to someone sitting by a recorder at a nearby table, and picked it up. “Si?”
He listened for a few seconds, then put the phone down.
He turned to us. “That was the kidnappers. They are demanding six million dollars.”
Mom collapsed in a dead faint.
Everything got a little confused then, what with people rushing to help mom and someone pulling Mort off Silk Suit.
He huffily straightened his coat and gave us a glare. “You must understand that we are really doing what we can!”
Mort and I just glowered at him and sat there beside Mom.
The hours dragged by. Sometimes Silk Suit would take calls on the phone. Sometimes speak quietly to other guys in the room.
Mom hovered between asleep and awake.
Then the phone rang again.
This time, the guy got quite animated during the conversation. Actually looked surprised and . . . pleased?
He put down the phone. “You must come. Things are happening.”
We followed him down the hall to the elevator and were whisked to the ground floor. From there, we all hurried outside into a square just across the street.
Two men were crouched on a couple of benches in front of a group of soldiers. And standing beside them, chewing on what looked like a mint sprig, her head draped in a filmy, blue cloth, was Sally.
Mort passed us like a shot and scooped her up. “SALLY!!!”
Mom and I were close behind and the four of us had our arms around each other and were just squeezing as hard as we could.
When things had calmed somewhat, I realized that Silk Suit was trying to get our attention. “Mrs. Hart. Mrs. Hart.”
We looked at him. “These are your daughter’s kidnappers.” He pointed to the two men. “Apparently they are giving themselves up. Something about Sally. They keep on saying ‘never, never again’!”
Nunca! Nunca mais!” one of the men said, shaking his head violently.
I looked at my sister.
Sally shrugged and brushed some dust off her pant leg. “Sooo . . . anyone got anything to eat? I’m starved. Those guys were terrible cooks.”

Once a month, Karen issues a challenge to her followers.
Plus a selection of words, passed from them to her to . . . someone else.
This month, my words: polar bears ~ benches ~ mint ~ leg ~ host, came via Karen from my good friend Michelle Mariott.
Thank you, Michelle! This was so. Much. Fun!

Now go and read what the others have done with their words!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Getting Trained

Sarah, my grandmother, on her wedding day 1905.
Life was just . . . different back then.
In rural Utah, one made do.
And soldiered through.
Later, perhaps, one learned the whole story . . .
Sixteen-year-old Sarah, fifth of eight children and oldest surviving girl still at home, was put in charge of her younger siblings while their mother went to the big city for several months of formal midwifery training.
It was a time of learning.
Hard work.
And learning.
Did I mention learning?
Things were going surprisingly well.
Then youngest sister, twelve-year-old May, developed a sore throat.
A bad sore throat. That shed white ‘pieces’.
Older sister, Sarah, thought she merely had a bad throat and nursed her as best she could.
Without any outside influences.
Like the local Health Officer.
She had her sister “gargle everything she could think of, but it was still very bad.”
At length, she sought the advice of her grandmother, who lived nearby, and who did what she could to help.
Finally, when May was nearly better, Sarah’s Grandmother called the Health Officer.
Who told Sarah she had just nursed her sister through Diphtheria.
Maybe sometimes we’re better off not knowing . . .

Wednesday, February 12, 2020


“It’ll be a great escape!” said he,
“The sun, the sand, the water, me.
“Come fly out cross the wide blue sea,
“It’s how the winter’s s’posed to be!”

And so I packed my bags and went,
The first two weeks moved like cement,
With problems, rain, that left us spent
I’m sure that wasn’t what he meant.

Then all at once, repairs were done,
And in the sky, the shining sun,
Soft breezes blew on everyone,
So this is what he meant by ‘fun’!

I’ve thrown out all my sour grapes,
Bikini’d my amorphous shape,
Laid back on my warm, sandy drape,
Ahhh. Now it’s truly an escape!

“Come!” Karen said. “Let’s have a ball!”
The rest of us all heard her call,
And madly scribbled, one and all,
While making sense out of the scrawl.

And we present to you our ‘pomes’,
Where we have bared our hearts, syndromes,
Perhaps betrayed our chromosomes,
Now go! And to the others, roam…

Karen of Baking In A Tornado:  Can’t Just Go  
Dawn of Spatulas On Parade:     The Great Escape
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Escape the Madness

Monday, February 10, 2020

It’s All Relatives

Two of my relatives.
Gramma and Grampa Stringam
I love to hear the stories of my relatives who went before,
Great Grandfather, whose neighbour’s hammer helped to build a second floor,
Then, when he went to lunch, was buried somewhere neath those planks of yore,
Discovered when that place was razed at the ripe old age of 54!

For a visit, Grandma took four kids and she was heading home,
Was quite a distance train and wagon, that those five would have to roam,
When partway there, their not-so-trusty beasts belied their chromosomes,
And backed the wagon off the cliff at the apex of the mountain’s dome.

When Grampa found some steer’s legs hidden far beneath the large hay pile,
He knew a poacher had been there. He brought police ‘cross country miles,
A young dad charged, his starving kin had nowhere they could stay a while,
Gramp took them home and had them stay till Dad’s return brought back their smiles.

1918, the world was in the grip it called, “The Spanish Flu”
But Grampa’s family lived on onions—seemed to make them all immune,
For several weeks, he did the chores of those in Stirling’s small commune,
Milking cows and feeding stock from rise of sun to rise of moon.

Gramma, she was famous for the cookies baked at Christmastime,
Selections packed in tins, but there was one we all found so sublime,
Those were the first that disappeared. Be it snacks or mealtimes.
When she passed, she took the method with her. It was such a crime.

My mom was famous for the scrumptious pies that she would always bake,
In groups of six, they left her oven, for her fam-i-ly’s intake,
Now, once a year, on March 14, we think of Mom as time, we take,
Constructing crusts and fillings for our flaky Pi Night bellyache.

When I and Future Husby went for what would be a date, our first,
My Daddy locked the door on me, I tell you, it was just the worst,
We broke in through a window and I breached the hallowed halls headfirst,
And Dad forever teased about our ‘break-and-enter’. May he be cursed.

Each one of them has stories and I’m fortunate I have their store,
And as I read them, I’m excited. Truly, how could one be bored?
And they must be remembered, so I vow to never close that door
On those wondrous thrilling tales of relatives who went before.

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’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, cause it’s my favourite, true,
We’ll talk about the colour: BLUE!

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