Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, April 17, 2020

Straw Into Gold


He said a few things.
She said a few things.
Temperatures rose.
You know how it is . . .
Then he was outside, loudly numbering all his daughter’s faults to his neighbour.
Some of which: ‘My daughter has claws and my supper was cold’, were overheard by the king.
Oops.
When the king asked him to repeat what he had just said, the embarrassed miller . . . juggled things a bit. “Erm . . . my daughter can spin straw into gold!”
And that’s how the whole mess started.
Needless to say, the king soon had the girl, Nell, parked in a sub-basement surrounded by masses of straw. And equipped with a state-of-the-art spinning wheel.
I won’t bore you with the tears and despair after the king left.
A little old woman popped out of somewhere and tugged on Nell’s plain, homespun dress. “What’s the matter, hon?”
Out poured the whole sordid story.
There followed a few moments of bargaining and a fine jade necklace (that had belonged to Nell’s deceased mother) exchanged hands.
After that, the old woman got to work.
And actually spun all that straw into gold.
I’m sure it won’t come as a surprise to know that the king was beyond pleased.
But not so ‘beyond’ that he didn’t recognize what a prize he’d managed to latch onto.
Rather than let the girl go, he merely set her in another, larger room, filled with even more straw.
More tears.
Another ‘little old woman’ appearance.
More bargaining, this time for a little jade ring that matched the aforementioned necklace.
And, by morning, another room filled to the rafters with gold.
And did the king give up there?
Nope.
He hadn’t even set his treasurers to counting up the gold he had already accumulated before he was setting Nell in a third, much larger chamber, again filled to the rafters with . . . well, what do you think?
This time, though, the story took a bit of a left-hand turn.
Because, when the old woman appeared, Nell has nothing left with which to pay her.
There followed some knitting of brows and thoughtful tapping of forehead with gnarled old fingers. Then a small ‘eureka’ moment. The woman looked at Nell with bright, button-black eyes. “The king has a son and, after all this, I’m quite sure he will want to marry you.”
Nell just stared at her.
You have to know that, in Nell’s day and age, arranged marriages were still fairly common. Usually, some money exchanged hands. Either the groom paying for the bride, or vice-versa.
And, let’s face it, an enormous amount of money (ie. gold) had already exchanged hands.
Things were pretty much decided.
“So, what I’m thinking is . . . after the two of you marry, there will inevitably be a first-born child.”
Nell nodded, cautiously.
The old woman gave her a gap-toothed smile. “Well, I’ll help you out in exchange for that child.”
Okay, who’s with me in thinking that is a terrible bargain?
But Nell’s nimble mind was working. No way she was going to marry some ‘for-sale’ prince. There wouldn’t be a marriage and certainly no first-born child. She smiled and put out her hand. “Agreed.”
And the old woman got to work.
Another chamber filled to the ceiling with gold.
It won’t come as a surprise to hear that the king was more than pleased. Or that things rolled out kind of like the old woman described.
The surprise came when Nell was introduced to the prince. Who turned out to be . . . nice.
And kind.
And caring of his people.
And definitely easy on the eyes.
Oh, dear.
They courted.
Married.
And, sure enough, soon announced the forthcoming birth of the next generation of royalty.
In due course, the baby arrived, a strong, healthy boy.
And, also in due course, the old woman appeared, demanding said infant.
More tears and pleadings. But a bargain’s a bargain.
Finally, in the face of certain hysterics, the old woman relented enough to strike a new sub-bargain. “If you can guess my name in three tries, the original deal is broken,” she told Nell. “And don’t pin your hopes on ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. Because that is the dumbest name in the history of the world!”
Huh. So much for the stories my parents told me.
Just sayin’ . . .
There followed three days of the princess’ guards collecting women’s names from all over the kingdom. Three attempts to match name to old woman.
And three utter failures.
Finally, Nell was facing the old woman. Her last guess had failed.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, she looked over the woman’s head to her assembled guards, intending to thank them for their service.
What she said was, “You are meritorious and . . .”
She got no further.
The old woman’s face turned red. “What did you say?” she gasped.
“You are meritorious . . .” Nell said cautiously.
“How did you guess it?”
Nell blinked, but, being an unusually intelligent girl, put it together instantly. “I’ve always known,” she said, smiling. “I just wanted to give you a fighting chance.”
The old woman said something rude and disappeared, never to be seen again.
Now you would probably like to imagine the prince and princess and their new baby lived happily ever after.
Proving that even romances begun in the strangest of circumstances can thrive.
So, you know what? Go ahead and imagine it.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Orange You Glad She Didn't See?

Contraband!
Mervin stared at the tell-tale pile of orange peels.
Then, at the large, strictly-forbidden, freshly-peeled, plump and juicy orange in his hand.
He and his friends could all hear the sound of the approaching librarian.
Their nemesis was only two book stacks away.
Death was certain.
What to do?
What to do . . .?
In Fort Macleod in the early seventies, the new library of the equally-new local high school was under the watchful gaze of Mrs. (Eagle Eyes) Mason.
A crack-a-jack librarian who could, quite literally, spot evil-doing across the room and through twenty stacks of books.
Watching her in action was a thing of beauty . . . erm . . . if one wasn’t the culprit.
Something would trigger her radar.
Ugh.
The glasses would be whipped from her face.
And she would peer, narrow-eyed, around the room – inevitably zeroing in on the virtually invisible culprit.
Call it a gift.
Her cardinal rule?
Never, ever bring food into the library.
Food attracts silverfish. (Google it – I had to . . .)
And silverfish eat the glue in books.
And soon, every book would be destroyed.
And children would then grow-up in complete and utter ignorance.
Yes, her rules were simple.
Her logic? Unerring.
Her reach? Vast.
And still, the students tried to, in her words, ‘get away with it’.
Case in point . . . Mervin.
And the telltale orange.
Though he and his friends were literally at the very furthest point from the librarian that the library afforded, the instant he had cracked the outside of his handful of citrus deliciousness, the fragrance had wafted straight to those sensitive nostrils.
The glasses had come off. “Who’s eating an orange in the library?!”
And the footsteps of doom had started.
And drawn ever closer.
Mervin’s friends stared at him.
Mervin stared at the evidence.
Finally, desperately, he shoved the peels in his pocket.
Then, opening his mouth, shoved in the large, juicy orange.
Whole.
I am not making this up.
Not only did he get that entire fruit inside.
He then  . . . closed his mouth.
Just as Mrs. Mason rounded the corner.
“Who here is eating an orange?” she demanded.
His friends had been staring at Mervin in amazement. They turned to the librarian.
There was a chorus of ‘Not me’s!’ From everyone except, of course, Mervin.
Mrs. Mason peered at them suspiciously, then turning, continued her hunt.
The boys looked back at their friend.
Who had spit his orange into his hand and was calmly starting to eat it.
Looking for somewhere to hide things?
A place you know will be safe and secure?
Undetectable?
If you really don’t care about its inevitably moist condition...
Call your big-mouthed friend.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Nasty Little Ball of Death

Warning: Use with caution...
“Gramma! Can we make some popcorn?”
Words so innocently uttered.
So casually agreed to . . .
Some of our grandchildren were over for the evening. (Yes, this was pre-Covid.)
A movie was indicated. And what’s a movie without popcorn?
We are a popcorn family. We have a large, ‘theatre’ popper.
Fully capable of keeping up with the masses.
Gramma enjoys making it.
The kids enjoy watching.
Everyone enjoys eating.
It’s a perfect world.
But, sometimes, even perfection has its drawbacks . . .
The machine was in full pop. Kernels sizzling and swelling in the ‘cooker’.
Spilling out in a fluffy, white, delicious tide over the side and into the ‘hopper’.
Then . . . a tiny problem.
The twin lids over the cooker are merely metal flaps. Designed to hold in the hot, rocketing little explosive devices that are popcorn kernels. And to flip up as needed to let the deliciousness out.
One of these flaps got jammed open.
Little molten balls of death were spewing everywhere.
I had quickly ushered the assembled grandkids away.
And was approaching the machine, set on repairing the problem.
And that’s when it got me.
A sneaky little smoking-hot kernel.
And the term, ‘smoking hot’ is, in this case . . . not good.
It hit me above the collarbone, then proceeded to roll into my collar and from there, down under my shirt and into my bra.
Where it stayed as I tried, madly, to reach it.
The dance I performed is classic.
The blisters I have are noteworthy.
After things had calmed down, and noting my woebegone (Ooh! Good word!) expression, Husby decided to cheer me up with a story of someone who had it far worse than me . . .
It was in high school shop class.
Husby and his fellow classmates were being taken, carefully, through the basics of welding.
“Remember, boys,” the teacher said in. “Never, ever, weld over your head!”
Now the consequences of such an action should have been obvious. 
Right
And they were obvious. Except to Monty.
A few days later, he was happily welding.
Directly over his head.
Now I probably don’t have to explain that the temperatures of metal and binding substances used during welding reach temperatures of over 2500 (F) degrees. 1371 (C)
Ummm . . . hot. Like hotter-than-hot hot.
A piece of slag dripped from his project and down the open collar of his shirt.
Where it formed a small ball of death. 
It proceeded to roll - consuming skin, hair and anything else it encountered - down the boy’s body.
Wrong
Lodging somewhere way too near his groin.
Screaming, dancing and frantically shedding clothes, Monty finally retrieved the little purveyor-of-death and spilled it out onto the floor.
While his classmates, teen-aged boys all, laughed at his discomfort.
He and his appendages survived.
Though they sported some rather impressive scars.
Husby was right.
Suddenly my little popcorn kernel took on a whole diminished perspective.
I have seven little blisters.
I’m glad I wasn’t around to count Monty’s.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

16 People Who...


1. A beautiful, loving, clever mother who took care of me and everyone else in my world.
2. A father who laughed and led. And also built ranches, raised cattle and horses and kids.
3. A big sister who loved me, even after I was responsible for her getting trampled/broken.
4. An oldest brother who patiently taught me how to drive the tractor, then bravely worked alongside.
5. A second big brother who was my friend/companion/champion during my long hopeless/stupid teenage years.
6. A younger brother who taught me what sunshine-of-the-soul meant. Cause he lived it.
7. A baby sister who brightened my every day with her joie-de-vivre. And notable monkeyshines.
8. A sweet Husby who taught me the real meaning of ‘forever’. Then gave it to me.
9. An oldest son who patiently taught me how to be a mother. In spite of me.
10. A second son who arrived with a wicked sense of humour. And the ability to apply!
11. A third son with a gentle soul who showed me how to care for the marginalized.
12. An oldest daughter who proved to me that handicaps don’t ever have to be a handicap.
13. A youngest daughter who showed me that courage can come in many various and hilarious forms.
14. A youngest son who has always finished. Even when it wasn’t something he wanted to do.
15. Precious grandchildren who steadily make me try to do more because they all think I can.

16. These are my people. Who make me believe in myself because they all believe in me.

Welcome to Word Counters!
Today my fellow Word Counters and I are sharing our monthly group post. The bloggers who are joining me this time all picked a number between 12 and 74 and sent it to our intrepid leader, Karen.
Karen gave the numbers out as assignments to other bloggers who are then challenged to write something (or a few somethings, as the case may be) using that exact number of words. Today we all share what we came up with.
My assigned number was 16.
A gift from my good friend Dawn at Spatulas on Parade
Want to read some more counters?

Monday, April 13, 2020

My Favourite


My favourite lunch, oh, what to choose!
Deciding it, will me bemuse,
 I’ll (your assumptions) disabuse,
For certain, it will make the news!

That time we met down by the lake,
And dined—deluxe—on sirloin steak,
Then gorged enough eclairs and cake,
To give us both a bellyache!

Of maybe at that fried food place,
Where we ate chicken by the case,
With cobs of corn and chips to chase,
Both munching fast like ‘twas a race.

That Uncle Burger meal you bought,
With onion rings and gravy: hot,
And apple pie, we sought and got,
Washed down with the best shake, I thought!

You’ve taken me out for Chinese,
And Greek and Turk, Vietnamese,
And Swiss with lots and lots of cheese,
Each one has made me more than pleased!

So what to choose, I cannot tell,
Each was a coup of taste and smell,
And satisfied my need as well,
In diner, ship or grand hotel!

Then yesterday, you made for us,
A simple meal of fresh bread, plus
Some fresh tomatoes, sliced just thus,
And nothing else superfluous.

And I decided then, you see,
(I’m sure that you won’t disagree!)
My favourite lunch in this precis,
‘S the one that you make just for me!

‘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?


This week we talked of Lunches, true,
Next week our FAVOURITE SNACK. Woohoo!


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