Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Condiment Test

Sweet, tasty stickiness.
It categorizes you.
Marks your place in the family.
Even decides if you will be granted admission to the family.
It provides delicious accompaniment to your breakfast, and, at times, other meals during the day. (Members of my family eat it the Swedish way, with grilled cheese. Ick!)
It is yummy, and, if not eaten in copious (Ooo, good word!) quantities, is even very good for you.
I'm talking about jam.
Tasty, sticky, always lands toast-side-up. Jam.
More particularly, strawberry vs. raspberry.
It is the family 'Maginot Line'.
You can be on one side or the other.
(Both of which are tasty--or so I'm given to understand.)
But wander over to the other side only in times of dire necessity, like when your server has run out of packets.
My Husby and I realized very early in our marriage that we needed to have a jar of each on the breakfast table.
His - strawberry. Mine - delicious.
I mean - raspberry.
And, as our kids grew, they learned to take sides.
Except for our second son, who is Switzerland.
And prefers apple jelly.
We don't talk about him.
Moving on . . .
Once the lines were duly drawn in the family nucleus, it was time to start challenging prospective additions [i.e. fiancé(e)s] to declare their preference.
I should point out here that it is a grueling test.
The nervous neophyte is seated at the breakfast table. The two jars are brought forward. The family waits, breathlessly.
And I do mean breathlessly.
If anyone takes their time making a choice, family members have been known to pass out cold.
I won't tell you what we do to them while unconscious.
But I digress . . .
The prospective member of the family makes a choice.
And my side cheers.
It's true.
Every single one has chosen raspberry.
Until one son-in-law.
Who chose . . . poorly.
I maintain that he was coached.
Money might even have changed hands.
So the score now stands at: strawberry - two, raspberry - 10.
And one son who will not be mentioned.
Now for the next generation.
Our eldest grandchildren are more than ready.
Once this pandemic is a part of history, it'll be time to make a serious choice . . .

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Something Floral

Du-dum. Du-dum. Dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-du-du-duuhhh!
He’d been away at work.
Ten days on.
And now he was home for his four days off.
The kids were in bed and he and his wife were preparing for a similar eventuality.
He was brushing his teeth.
His toothbrush was lying, conveniently, at the edge of the sink.
He grabbed it and shoved it under the water from the tap.
Then added a small strip of toothpaste.
And proceeded with the business portion of the endeavour.
At first, the pleasant taste of mint suffused his tongue.
Then . . . something different.
Was he tasting something floral?
The scent wafted up through his nostrils.
Okay, this was like no toothpaste he had ever experienced.
He pulled the brush from his mouth and looked at his wife. “This tastes funny. Why would I taste floral?”
His wife clapped a hand over her mouth. “Oh,” she said. “I forgot.”
He slowly lowered his brush into the sink, his eyes now riveted on her. “What did you forget?”
“William got hold of your toothbrush and was dipping it in the laundry detergent cup. I left your brush beside the sink so I’d remember to rinse it out!”
And . . . we’re home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Close Encounter

When Dad was talking... I was listening.
Every. Square. Foot.
The annual production sale at the Stringam ranch was the highlight of our year.
It’s when we had the most visitors.
The most traffic.
The most income.
And the most work. Both before and after.
Before, we had the cattle and the ranch to prepare and beautify.
After, we had the deliveries.
Our family hauled cattle to nearly every square foot of North America.
Every. Square. Foot.
It was a slow, exacting task.
Driving the length and breadth of this continent in a truck, hauling a boatload of bawling cattle. Mapping out places to stop each night so the animals could be released, fed and watered.
Then loading them up the next morning to continue the journey.
Yep. Slow and exacting.
And it wasn’t without its own adventures - due to oversight, wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time, misfortune.
Or all of the above.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Mom and Dad were trucking cattle through Alberta.
They had only been on the road for a few hours.
And were, ironically enough, just passing an auction market where a cattle sale was ongoing.
A truck pulled out.
Pickup. With the tailgate down.
This will become significant . . .
Spotting the slow-moving vehicle, Dad pulled into the outer lane to give it a wide berth.
For several seconds, the two of them occupied close quarters.
Dad and his heavy rig in one lane.
The man and his pickup in the other.
Then, suddenly, inexplicably, the pickup decided to pull over.
Directly in front of Dad.
The collision was immediate.
And inevitable.
Remember when I mentioned the pickup’s tailgate?
Well, that comes into play here.
Dad hit that tailgate going sixty miles per hour.
Both vehicles jammed to a halt.
Then the drivers, both unharmed, got out to inspect the damage.
The grill of Dad’s truck had been caved in, rupturing the radiator and radically displacing the fan and other important features.
Interestingly enough, though, the gate had slid with surgical precision between the headlights and the running lights of the truck, leaving all four intact.
So the front of the truck had been crushed.
But without cracking a single light.
Okay, well, it was interesting to us . . .
Dad scratched his head and looked at the driver of the pickup. “Why did you pull over in front of me?” he asked.
“Oh, I was sure you could stop,” was the reply.
Dad blinked.
The man repeated the statement to his insurance company.
Who also blinked.
And paid.
Dad was involved in two automobile accidents in his life.
Both resulting in considerable vehicular damage.
And neither of which was his fault.
I wish I could say the same about me.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

When Neighbours Meet

Stories with Dad . . .

It seemed like a good idea.
Movie night in town.
A bit romantic.
A bit relaxing.
And a much-needed break from two tiny children.
Mom and Dad piled into the car and headed out.
Unbeknownst (Ooo! Good word!) to them their neighbour to the west also thought it was a good night for a break. The difference was that she and her friends decided to take their break at the local bar.
And they had begun a bit earlier. In fact, they were taking Last Call, just as my parents were starting out.
Their two worlds collided, quite literally at the town bridge.
Oh, and you should probably know: DUI hadn't been invented yet.
Milk River, the town, nestles closely to Milk River, the river. On February 28, 1952, there was only one bridge spanning the foaming torrent--okay, the frozen-over, snow-covered mass of ice.
This bridge was sturdy: iron bolted to iron bolted to concrete – and built to withstand all sorts of abuse.
Good thing, too. Cause 'abuse' was definitely on the horizon.
There was only one problem. It was a narrow bridge. One car at a time, thank you very much.
Mom and Dad were approaching from the south.
Car lights ahead told them that someone else was approaching from the north.
No problem. Dad slowed his vehicle.
The car opposite did the same.
As Dad was much closer, he took that as a sign that he should continue.
He drove onto the bridge.
Then realized that the car coming toward them was still coming toward them.
The two of them met on the far side.
And not in a good way.
The driver of the other car, in a warm, invincible glow derived from her time spent with friends at the local bar, decided that, though it had never happened before or since, two cars would fit nicely on the bridge.
She was wrong.
Her car hit the bridge support hard enough to shake up her passengers.
Remove a wheel with surgical precision.
And knock out her own front teeth.
The car then spun around and neatly caved in the side of Mom and Dad’s car.
Dad quickly determined that Mom was uninjured, then jumped out and ran over to the other vehicle.
The driver’s face was so swollen and bleeding from her forcible connection with the steering wheel that Dad didn't even recognize his neighbour. Now panicked, he ran to the theatre a quarter of a mile away to use their phone, quickly calling the police.
Then he ran back.
I should mention, here, that the road across that bridge is a major Canadian route. Part of the Alaska Highway
But on a quiet evening in 1952, the fact that it was completely blocked didn't even raise an eyebrow.
In fact, no one noticed.
Okay, major route is only a subjective term.
Back to my story . . .
Mom and Dad did what they could for the passengers of the other car.
The police arrived and alternately helped and pried.
Finally clearing the road for any possible future travelers.
The passengers received medical care.
And everyone limped home, surprisingly (except for the missing teeth) uninjured.
Mom and Dad missed their movie.
But that was okay.
They were unscathed.
And reality is far more exciting.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Where Friendship Starts

To a globe trotter, I am wed,
His in-ter-ests are quite widespread,
And so this rancher girl has found
That, with her man, she gets around.

Our travels started out quite slow,
To those who spoke as us, we’d go,
But soon he wanted more: To get,
Our foreign travel toe-sies wet.

And so to Rhodes. He booked us there,
A hotel ‘near the Old Town square’.
‘Online’ was in it’s infancy,
And still had glitches, as you’ll see.

So when we told the taxi man,
He frowned while loading up his van.
But drove us far away from town,
Then stopped and took our luggage down.

The inn was nice, as we supposed.
Just one thing wrong, the place was closed.
We pounded on the door, in hope
We’d raise someone to help us. Nope.

The taxi’d started moving: slow,
Something was wrong, he had to know.
We ran and flagged him. Me in tears.
This trip was feeding all my fears.

His white teeth showed in a wide grin,
He stopped and helped us climb back in.
Then gently told us not to fret.
“I’ll have you settled soon, I bet.”

To ‘his cousin’s’ place, he said he’d drive.
(I was simply glad to be alive.)
He drove us to the Phaedra then,
So we could try and start again.

A man came out to greet us there,
All white of smile and dark of hair,
His arms were—to us—opened wide,
“Welcome home, friends! Come inside!”

The Phaedra proved a real God-send,
It’s owner, soon a trusted friend.
Ironically, it proved to be,
What we had sought originally.

We travel lots, my man and I.
We drive and sail and hike and fly.
Some people speak like us, and some
Use foreign words to get things done.

My fear is gone, I must admit,
Though, at first, it hampered. Quite a bit.
Cause I won’t forget (I can’t pretend),
The kindness of that first sweet friend.

Now years and years have passed on by,
I’ve friends who help me laugh. Or cry.
You know, what I’ve discovered is,
The best I have are reading this…

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?

Up here, we've started with spring showers
Next week let's talk our favourite flowers!

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Read it! You know you want to!

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Join me on Maven

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Essence: A Second Dose

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Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

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