Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, March 27, 2020

The Bell of St. Vital


There is not much happening today that we could call ‘normal’.
Normal has become merely another word that belongs to the distant past (of one month ago). Those long-ago days of hugs. Handshakes. School. Dining out. Attending Sabbath services. Concerts. Plays. Sporting events. Getting together with friends and family.
Playing with one’s grandchildren.
In fact, the old curse “May you live in Interesting Times” seems to have taken a firm hold.
And so we reach out eagerly, even desperately for anything that could be considered ‘normal’.
I live in the small city of Beaumont in North-Central Alberta, nestled snugly up against the greater-metropolis of Edmonton.
A community known for its quiet bustle.
Its warm, friendly neighbourhoods.
Its village parenting.
Like most other settlements across the globe, the usually busy streets are quiet as families shelter in place.
Community chat pages have sprung up offering support and advice.
Deliveries quietly appear on the doorsteps of those in need.
But still we seek for any sign that brings back that quiet, cared-for feeling of ‘normal’.
Today, at 9:00 AM, I found one, when the silvery tones of the great St. Vital church bell rang out across the quiet city.
As it has done for over 100 years.
Since the end of another plague.
A tiny, silvery bit of ‘normal’.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Corn-eeeee

I can only dream.
I’ve never been able to grow corn.
The planets are aligned against it.
Why am I thinking of this at the end of March?
Because it’s still winter here.
But we're hoping spring (and growing season) are sometime in our near future.
Moving on . . .
For over forty years, I’ve kept a garden.
Oh, it has changed in that time.
Mostly gotten smaller.
For many, many of those years, I attempted to grow corn.
Corn-on-the-cob just says summer to me.
Most of the time, my tidy little corn plants merely peeked above ground.
Sighed.
And died.
Twice, they grew to maturity.
Developed ears, even.
And then . . .
Well, let me tell you about it.
I had a large garden behind our mobile home just outside of Orton, Alberta. (Near Fort MacLeod)
It was growing beautifully.
The weather had cooperated.
The rains had come when they were needed.
Plenty of sun.
For the first time, ever, I had mature corn plants.
Nearly ready to harvest mature corn plants.
Then, one sunny, but slightly breezy day, the county sprayer drove by.
Spraying the ditches.
For weeds.
Now, if there is any wind, the county sprayers are supposed to be cautious. Not spray near homesteads. Avoid people.
This sprayer . . . wasn’t.
And did.
And the next day, I walked out into my garden and noticed that everything looked . . . wilted.
My first thought was frost.
Okay, it was July, the only month of the year when frost is . . . uncommon.
Then I remembered the sprayer.
Long story short – the weed-killer had lived up to its name.
My garden – and my beautiful corn – was dead.
Sigh.
A couple of years later, in a different small house and with a different garden patch, I again saw my efforts to grow corn rewarded.
Saw ears develop.
And then . . . grasshoppers.
In 1983, in Southern Alberta, we had a ‘plague of locusts’. A real plague – look it up. They were so numerous that cars were known to slip in the tide that constantly flowed across the roads. They devoured crops and hay.
And my corn. Drilled holes right through those babies.
Another sigh.
Oh, I didn’t give up.
I tried.
And tried.
And tried.
But never again did my corn amount to anything more than tall, attractive (earless) plants.
I still eat corn.
And corn-on-the-cob still shouts summer to me.
But, alas, someone else has to do the growing.
I will stick with the appreciating.
And devouring.
The two things I’m obviously best at.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A 'Little' Story


She was supposed to be raking leaves.
But you know how an assigned job can be forgotten. Or an assigned worker . . . sidetracked.
I know it happens to me. Why, once . . .
Never mind.
Chicken Little Feathers, of the Merrywoods Feathers, was supposed to be working. C. Little, as she preferred to be called, had been asked to rake the leaves in the front yard.
Now admittedly, the front yard was enormous, taking in, as it did, most of the forest.
But C. Little, full of energy and good intentions started in with a will.
An hour later, with several enormous piles of well-raked leaves behind her and several thousand more ahead, she decided to take a well-deserved break.
Any of us would have done it. I know I would.
She flopped down into one of her heaps of crunchy, brightly-coloured leaves.
For a few seconds, she lay there happily, totally relaxed.
A small breeze sprang up, cooling her slightly over-heated self.
But this breeze, unbeknownst (Ooh! Good word!) to her, also twirled cheerfully around the tree just over her head.
An oak tree.
With dozens of baby oaks—AKA: acorns—nestled snugly against their parent.
Well most of them were snug.
One or two, not so much.
You can probably guess what happened next.
Yep. One of them lost its grip and dropped straight down (This acorn wasn’t going to fall far from the tree!) onto the head of the little would-be gardener thirty feet below.
Now I know there are often comparisons made between mighty oaks and their tiny, little acorns.
And acorns are comparatively tiny.
But drop one from thirty feet onto your head and see how you feel.
C. Little gasped and sat straight up, one wing over the rapidly-swelling bruise on her little head. She looked up into the tree and came to the only conclusion possible. A piece of the sky, barely glimpsed between the thick branches of the towering oak, must have somehow become detached and fallen.
Okay, yes, there are other conclusions. Each of which would have been vastly superior to the one jumped to.
But we’re talking about a little, feather-headed chicken here.
C. Little leaped to her feet and screamed.
Loud enough for one of her nearby friends, Goosy Loosy (hey, I didn’t name these people) to hear her. She hurried over.
“What is it, Lit? What’s wrong?”
“Loos! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” C. Little pointed in the general direction of up.
Goosy Loosy tipped her head, peering along the trajectory of the pointing feather. She frowned a rather goosy frown, then looked back at C. Little. “I don’t see any . . .”
And it was at that precise moment that the second of the not-so-snug acorns lost its not-so-powerful hold on its parent.
Hitting Miss Loosy right on top of her rounded goosy head.
“Gahhh!” she screamed. “It’s true! It’s true!”
Okay, say what you will about panic. It has been known to motivate people to do amazing things.
Most of them bad.
“We must go and warn the king!” C. Little screamed. “The entire kingdom is at risk!”
And, just like that, the two of them were off.
Now I won’t bore you with the details of their encounters with several other members of the feather-headed variety that peopled (you know what I mean) the forest.
Suffice it to say their hysteria was contagious and leave it at that.
Soon there was a panicky, but determined group of would-be saviours on their way to warn the king of the imminent danger to, and probable destruction of, his kingdom.
Partway there, they came upon a rather shifty fellow by the name of Loxy. First name Foxy.
Who, quite notably, wasn’t panicking.
“Wooah, Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “What seems to be the problem?”
Now, normally, when there exists a mob situation, the individuals in it have ceased to think as individuals.
This was far from a normal situation.
But part of it, notably the whole not-thinking-for-themselves part, was still very much in effect.
Sigh.
Moving on . . .
“You might not have noticed it yet,” C. Little started out . . .
“BUT THE SKY IS FALLING!” The rest of the group chimed in.
Mr. Loxy looked up at the cloudless, blue sky, then back to them. “Seriously?”
Several feathered heads nodded.
He raised a rather foxy eyebrow. “Huh!”
“We’re on our way to warn the king!” C. Little said importantly.
“I bow to your selflessness and industry,” Mr. Loxy said. Again he looked at the sky. “It’s funny how serene everything looks. You’d never know there was a problem.”
“Hah! Remember the Titanic! And how serene it appeared to be in the early minutes after striking the iceberg!”
Everyone turned to look at Miss Loosy.
“Say what?” Mr. Loxy said. “Ti-. . .”
Goosy Loosy’s eyes shifted away. Then back. “. . .-tanic. It was a ship. That . . .  you know what? Never mind.”
Mr. Loxy gave her a long look, then took a deep breath. “So back to our discussion. You’re on your way to warn the king?”
C. Little nodded. “Yes. It’s our civic duty.”
“It’s a long way to the palace from here,” Mr. Loxy said. “Look. Why don’t you come to my apartment and just post things on Forestbook. Everyone will get the message and of course they will believe it. And share it millions of times. The king is sure to hear.”
“Oooh! That sounds so much easier,” Ducky Lucky said. He held out one of his little, duck feet. “All this walking is making my arches fall.”
The little feather-headed mob was soon in agreement (see above vis-à-vis mob mentality) and following Mr. Loxy toward his apartment/lair.
It will probably not be a surprise to learn that Mr. Loxy, contrary to what he said, had absolutely no intention of helping them out.
In fact, he was more concerned with what was going into his stomach than what may be falling out of the sky.
And it will probably be equally non-shocking to hear that none of the good-hearted but woefully-ignorant citizens ever emerged from Mr. Loxy’s lair.
There are several lessons to be learned.
1.                When the world around you seems to be panicking, don’t.
2.                Seek credible sources.
3.                Not everyone has your best interests at heart.
4.                Troubles bring out the good or the bad in people.
5.                Be one of the good.


Monday, March 23, 2020

When Needed

Every time I have a need,
The good Lord sends a pet to me.
It’s true, It’s happened all my life,
Whenever life is filled with strife.

There’s Cheetah. Yes. She was my first,
In barking she was very versed,
It didn’t take long for it to pall,
Except when cougars came to call.

Then Mike, he of the size and hair,
Who followed us kids everywhere,
And when we six would swimming go,
He guarded us from friend and foe.

Then Muffy. Man I loved that dog,
Though she was bigger than a hog,
When I moved out, she came to stay,
And kept the bad guys all away!

Then Panda, Sheepdog number two,
She raised puppies—not a few—
And ran with me before the light,
And kept me safe throughout the night.

And now we’re in a time of trial,
With troubles gathered in a pile,
My Pandy (sheepdog number three),
Gives all the cuddles that I need!

You know, I given lots of thought,
To what’s important, what is not.
When I think of all the pets He’s given,
I must be loved by that Man in Heaven!

Cause Monday’s 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?

Next week, cause ‘writing’ is our ‘zen’
Come back, we’ll talk of writing then!

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