Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, February 22, 2020

The White Stuff

It’s the ‘white stuff’ in the middle of the Oreo cookie that sets it apart from all the others of its friends in cookie-dom.
But only if you know about it.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Oh, and I’ve changed the names of the people in this story to protect the guilty.
Because she told me to . . .
Beverly had a younger brother, Farley.
A sweet young boy who doted on his big sister and often did her bidding.
Their Mama didn’t bring store-bought treats home often. She preferred to bake her own.
But when she did, the occasion was noted.
When the Oreos appeared, it was a very good day, indeed.
Beverly, without fail, would take a cookie, un-sandwich it and eat the white bits, re-sandwich it, find Farley, and with a, “Here, Bro! Mom got Oreos! Have one!” give the de-icinged cookie to him.
He was delighted and would happily crunch his treat. “Thank you!”
This went on for some time.
Years, in fact.
Then that momentous day when big sister went off to university.
Shortly thereafter (Oooh! Good word!) Mama brought home a package of Oreos.For the first time—ever—Farley took his cookie right out of the package. 
He bit into it.
“Wow! Mom, they sure have improved these Oreos! They’ve started putting white icing in the middle!”
In life, you can get away with things for a while.
But just know that, eventually, they are going to catch up to you.
And then where will the icing be?

Friday, February 21, 2020

Driving or Driven

Throughout my early years, I spent many, many hours herding cattle.

Driving them into corrals.
And loading them into big cattleliners for shipping.
It was long, hot, dusty, tiring work.
But at the end of the day, it was done.
Done.
Check written. Hands dusted.
Done.
Now, let me tell you my grandfather’s version of the same process, sixty years earlier . . .
The cattle, which had been wintering out in the desert, were gathered to the home place in Teasdale, Utah. From there, they were trekked by Grampa and his brother-in-law, Gus, to the nearest railroad hub, Green River—a distance of over 100 miles through mountains and desert that took the better part of a week to accomplish.
The trip was mostly uneventful, until the herd reached the Green River.
There, they found the Green River ferry ill-equipped to handle such a large number of cattle. Their only recourse was to convince the animals to swim across.
The cattle, natives of the mountains and desert of Utah, were unused to large bodies of water. Especially water that moved. They could not be convinced to cross.
For two hours, Grandpa and Gus tried.
Finally, feeling the two men’s discouragement, the boy who ran the ferry suggested that he bring his family’s cows to the opposite side of the river and see if that would encourage ‘cross-age’ (my word).
It worked! Either because the visiting cows wanted to make new friends, or because they were simply tired of the wretched cowboys whistling to them and chasing them about. Whichever.
They crossed.
Then the cattle were driven up the hill to the stockyards and loaded into train cars.
Now the actual trip could begin . . .
The rules of the day dictated that one man could accompany a certain number of train cars of cattle. Grampa’s herd had filled enough cars that two men could have accompanied them. Grampa was going along, but Gus was not, thus, when another man ran up just as the train was about to leave and asked if he could ride along, Grampa gave permission and installed him in Uncle Gus’ place.
The train started out—destination, Chicago.
When it made a routine stop a few hours later, Grampa saw an old friend he hadn’t seen in years and left the train to visit with the man.
Then got so busy talking that he didn’t notice when the train pulled out.
Without him.
In dismay, he stared after it.
There went his cattle. And, to make matters even worse, the papers that accompanied said cattle. Papers that allowed anyone with the animals to sell them.
Pocket the money.
And disappear.
Bearer bonds for livestock.
Grampa’s only hope of catching them was the next train. A passenger one.
That left in six hours.
After a nerve-wracking wait, he boarded the train and started out.
There are all kinds of people in the world.
Honest.
And less-than-honest.
Fortunately, Grampa had chanced upon one of the former.
When he finally caught up to the livestock train, he discovered his cattle had been well-cared for by the stranger. Fed and watered.
And awaiting their true owner.
The trip to Chicago and sale of the herd was completed and Grampa was able to head home.
A little tired-er. A little richer. And a little wiser.
But what a trip!
Not sure, yet which I prefer.
His day.
Or mine.

From here. Teasdale, Utah.
Through here. Green River, Utah.
To here. Chicago, IL

The only picture I have of Grampa on a horse.
Taken shortly before his death in 1959.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

True Grit

Or something similar...
Teaching school has never been easy.
Even in the heavy-handed discipline days of 1903 . . . 
Eighteen-year-old Sarah hadn’t really considered teaching.
When she was approached by a family, her response was: “Well, I really can’t teach. I’ve only passed the eighth grade. I couldn’t teach unless they gave me a permit.” 
A week later, she was facing the fourteen students of Aldrich, Utah.
Some of whom were taller than she.
The woman with whom she boarded told Sarah that the children had run the last teacher out.
Somewhat alarmed, Sarah made some inquiries.
She discovered that the students had flipped rocks at the woman. Constantly. Nothing she could do seemed to help.
They had brazenly done the same to the Superintendent when he came to investigate.
It had finally gotten so bad the teacher quit.
Sarah quietly determined that wouldn’t happen to her.
She called the class to order and assigned seating. Then she told them to get on with their lessons while she put some work on the board.
When she turned her back, two rocks flipped.
She stopped and ordered all of the children up to the front, boys andgirls, and made them turn their pockets inside out.
Most had said pockets filled with little stones.
Sarah confiscated all the rocks and had peace until recess.
After recess, she again lined everyone up and turned out their pockets. Again, many of them had been filled with little stones.
After lunch, she did the same.
And the afternoon recess.
This went on for several days.
Finally, the children tired of the exercise and she had no more trouble.
Sarah might have been tiny.
And only possessed a grade eight education.
But she had the right skill for the job.
Grit.
Beats rocks every time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Twenty-Seven Twenty-Sevens

1. Mom started me out over 64 years ago with a mixture of evaporated milk, Caro syrup and water. In a bottle. It’s starting to sound good again....

2. From when I was little, Mom always said I was a good eater. Mind you she was a good cook. Maybe it was just a good combination.

3. In a large family, at mealtimes, one learns to gather food on the first round. You never know if there is going to be a second chance…

4. The first thing I remember eating is (are?) potatoes. Mashed. Baked. Fried. Hash-browned. 
Drowned in butter or gravy. My little baby spoon happily scooped up every drop.

5. Mom could save nearly everything by adding cheese sauce. Even formerly-frozen/rather soggy cauliflower took on new life under a generous coating of its golden cheddar deliciousness.

6. Pancakes and eggs and sausages and hot chocolate for breakfast were wonderful. Pancakes and eggs and sausages and hot chocolate for supper were a bona fide treat.

7. Mom always baked fresh bread. Served with fresh butter. Everyone liked—and ate—the crust. I ate the center. Why d’you suppose she was mad at me?

8. I even loved liver and onions. I don’t know what Mom did to them, but I slurped everything down like it was my last meal on earth.

9. If I rose late, I made my own breakfast. Sugary cereal. And chocolate milk with so much powder mixed in you could eat it with the spoon.

10. After school, my treat of choice was puffed wheat squares. Which I made for myself. Brother George often chose to eat a tin of sardines. I won.

11. During volleyball practice after school, I always dreamed of saltine crackers deep-fried in butter. I don’t know why. I never tried them. Now I wish I had.

12. Catsup on a hot dog or French fries or even a bowl of chili? Acceptable. Catsup on Mom’s delicious pot roast. Less so. Meat connoisseur, Dad, disapproved.

13. What’s the record for most number of cobs of corn consumed? I think I beat it. Of course it meant for interesting washroom visits for a while.

14. When Mom made tuna sandwiches, I was first in line. When she tried to sneak in some tinned salmon, I was outta there. Fish bones are gag-worthy.

15. Smooth Kraft peanut butter was the only truly acceptable brand. When Mom tried to foist something ‘cheaper’ on us, it remained uneaten. Till the end of time.

16. Mom would finally break down and buy Kraft again. Which disappeared immediately. Mom would say, “I’m going to stop buying that Kraft. You kids just eat it!”

17. I loved raisin cookies. Till my brother, George, told me that Mom got the raisins off the fly-paper at the back door. After that? Not so much.

18. Our sick milk cow gave really ‘icky’ milk. Even equal amounts of chocolate to milk didn’t help. And our beloved chocolate pudding couldn’t mask the taste! Blaaaaah!

19. When us kids went sledding, Mom welcomed us home with hot chocolate and fresh, homemade donuts. I don’t know which was better. Going out. Or coming in!

20. I loved school lunches. Mom’s were amazing. Except when she put 7-Up in my thermos and I shook it like hot chocolate. That stopper hit the ceiling!

21. Mom put hot dogs in our thermoses. And buns with catsup and mustard in a sandwich bag. Hot hot dogs for lunch! I thought Mom was genius!

22. My favourite dessert was Mom’s Angel Food Cake. Topped with her patented orange deliciousness. She took the recipe with her when she went home. Dessert hasn’t recovered.

23. Although her recipes for butterhorns, chocolate, spice or carrot cakes, pies, chocolate chip cookies, brownies, chippy squares, date squares, and dozens more could almost make you forget.

24. I loved it when Daddy did the grocery shopping. He brought home such store-bought necessities as: Pirate cookies. Jujubes. Cheezies. Ice Cream. Chocolate bars. Soda Pop. Perfect!

25. Daddy believed in stocking up at service stations while on a family road trip. A pop and chocolate bar for every member of the family. I approved.

26. Demon baker, Mom, forgot to make Christmas Eve dinner and when we foraged for ourselves from the fresh deliciousness, she said, “Don’t eat that! It’s for Christmas!”

27. Mom was a fantastic cook. I blame her for the fact that I like everything. Except tinned salmon or sardines. Even Magician Mom couldn’t make those palatable.

Today’s post was a word challenge. 
Each of us in Karen’s fan club submits a number.
Which Karen then issues to another in the group.
Totally fun!
My number this month was 27.
And came to me from the maestro, herself, Karen of Baking in a tornado!
Thank you so much, my friend!


Want to continue the fun?
Visit our other participants.
You’ll be glad you did!

Monday, February 17, 2020

Ol’ Blue

A horse much better  than the rest, Ol’ Blue,
Although you’d have to look for it, it’s true,
Cantankerous as a horse could be,
Would often hide out in the trees,
And even take a nip at me,
Ol’ Blue.

She had no mane or tail to speak of, Yikes!
Nothing to grab if tragedy should strike,
It made her trash for swatting flies,
Nothing to comb or braid with ties,
But grooming was an easy prize, 
I liked!

A saddle she would not accept, the pill,
And so I rode her bareback o’er the hills,
No saddle horn to dally to,
So when we’d chase the calves so new,
I had to get creative, whew!
What thrills!

The hours I spent up on her back, to ride,
And o’er the waving prairie grass, we’d glide,
Even to the wind and rain resigned, 
We’d do the work that Dad assigned,
Our corner of the ranch aligned,
With pride.

I’m sad she’s long gone from my life, Ol’ Blue,
She was a scamp, but a good companion, true,
She was my blue-haired friend for life,
Her leaving cut me like a knife,
I’ll see her in the afterlife,
My Blue.

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?
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?

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