Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, May 29, 2020


Dedicated to our beloved Shirley. Who gave us ten more years with our dad!

Shirley. Gramma and her little beans.
Great Gramma and her Little Bean
Had the greatest day you’ve ever seen.
They’d talked and laughed, played games – all sorts,
Built puzzles and a blanket fort.

Played Lego, making things just right,
Baked treats and had a pillow fight.
Played knights and forts, read stories, too,
Dressed up, and sang. (To name a few.)

Then, happily exhausted, they
Decided to slow down the day.
Great Gramma’s Little Bean and she
Were nestled down quite snug-i-ly.

Then LB stroked Great Gramma’s hair,
And to her own, she did compare,
“Yours is white!” said the little girl,
Gently touching her own curls.

Then the soft, plump hand the lines did trace,
That clearly showed on Gramma’s face.
“You’re old,” she said, with honesty.
“You’re so much older, Gram, than me!”

Great Gramma smiled, as Grammas do,
And touched the lines she too well knew,
She said, “The things you say are true,
I’ve lived a lot more years than you!”

“I’m four,” said Little Bean with pride.
And a grin that went from side to side.
“I’m eighty-six,” Great Gramma said.
She sighed. “Somewhere ‘tween birth . . . and dead.”

Then LB tipped her head askew,
And grappled with this thought so new.
And then she said, when she was done,
“Great Gramma, did you start at one?”

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Five Years

On May 28, 2015, we said good-bye to Daddy.

We've told stories and laughed and cried.
Now we have the memories . . .
Mark Reed Stringamm
Husband, father, rancher, veterinarian, brother, friend, uncle, cousin.
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
At 89 years old, he is the last surviving sibling of a great progeny.
And he has made his mark in the world. (Oddly enough, his name is Mark. Apropos . . .)
He has served in numerous leadership roles in Church and community.
Been a voice for change in Provincial/Federal politics.
Lovingly supported his wife all her life and through her final illness.
Raised six kids, numerous grandkids and even more great-grandkids.
Built heritage clocks and other woodworking marvels from caragana and other exotic woods.
Developed and refined his own award-winning genetic line of Hereford cattle.
Taught. Led. Supported. Pushed. Pulled. Guided. Built.
But what do his progeny mostly remember this great man for?
His pranks.
Yep. Pranks.
This was the man who shaved his head into a ‘mohawk’ do, long before it was acceptable. And with red, curly hair, such a style was . . . noticeable.
Proof! Daddy's on the right...
Painted a large ‘48’ on the water tower at his Alma Mater in Guelph, Ontario.
Disassembled and re-assembled the headmaster’s car on the porch of the administration building.
Played the ‘wedding waltz’ when his youngest brother-in-law showed up with a girlfriend. And rigged a smoke bomb on the engine of said bother-in-law’s car at the end of that particular visit.
Served drinks in ‘dribble’ glasses.
Lit the bottom corner of a newspaper on fire when the reader was concentrating on reading the upper corner.
Used a syringe to squirt water through a nail hole, thus winning, once-and-for-all, the title of ‘water fighter extraordinaire’.
Also used a syringe to squirt skunk ‘essence’ through the keyholes of the 'Ag' students at Guelph Verterinary College. Can anyone say ‘stink’?
Floated a plastic ice cube with encased fly in guests’ drinks. 
Hid an unwrapped prophylactic in the headmaster's handkerchief, tucked into the man's tuxedo, to be revealed with notable results.
And other monkeyshines too numerous to mention here. But which will be the subjects of future posts . . .
The once-mighty rancher is frail now.
Still clear mentally, but moving slowly and with care.
And seldom venturing far from his comfortable chair and book shelf.
It would be painful to watch, if one were not buoyed by Dad’s own words. “I’ve had fun!”
Words followed by the familiar twinkle as he recounts past pranks.
And still looks forward to future ones.
During my last visit, a dear guest looked at her glass and said, “This isn’t one of those ‘dribble’ ones, is it?”
Daddy? Never change!
How I'll always remember him. Seated at his desk. Getting things done.
See you soon, Daddy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Accidentally Awesome

For once, he’d listened to his wife,

How to ameliorate her life,
And he went without delay,
To take her on a holiday.

But as he hastened to comply,
In proving he was one sweet guy,
He left his glistening lab in less
Than pristine order, I confess.

While those two hurried who knows where,
One petri dish abandoned there,
A part of his criteria,
Was moistened with bacteria.

When they returned, that fateful dish,
Was not as clean as they could wish.
Bacteria, possession had,
And things were looking rather bad.

Except one place had not been ‘got’,
No icky growth upon that spot.
Instead, a little bit of mold
Had landed there and taken hold.

Beating off the icky stuff,
And proving it had strength enough,
Its presence brought discovery,
And new ways for recovery.

I guess you’ve guessed by now that guy
Was christened Fleming from on high.
And penicillin, started small
S’the best discovery of all!

After that, we note that he
Made no startling discoveries.
His wife, by his chaos dismayed,
Decided she would hire a maid.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Supplier of kindliness. And food.
The Stringam ranch was a large spread situated some twenty miles from the town of Milk River, Alberta.
The land stretched for miles along the Alberta-Montana border.
The buildings were nestled in a picturesque prairie valley somewhere in the middle, surrounded by tall cliffs and the lazy sweep of the south fork of the Milk River itself.
It was nine miles to the nearest neighbour.
But we got there as often as we could.
Or, at least we kids did.
Maybe I should explain . . .
In my day, the school bus service ended at Nine-Mile corner, a triangle of crossroads exactly – you guessed it - nine miles from the ranch.
This necessitated the driving, twice a day, of a vehicle to intercept said bus.
Okay, it was something unheard-of in this day of school bus service to your door, but it was a fact in the sixties.
Mom was the driver of choice, with occasional relief work by Dad.
But that’s only a peripheral to my story . . .
Less than a mile from that corner, at the end of a long driveway, was the Sproad farm. Our nearest neighbours.
Ben and Clestia Sproad were an elderly couple who raised sheep and milk cows. Their daughter had married and moved away and they had settled into a routine of farm work, household duties, grandparenting and kindliness.
Their home was a haven of peace, cleanliness, love and fabulous German baking.
Every day, after the bus had deposited our little group beside the road, and if our intercept vehicle was not in sight, we would excitedly begin the long trek toward the promise of smiling faces and wonderful food.
We didn’t make it often.
Usually, the ranch station wagon would come skidding around the corner in a cloud of dust and slide to a halt beside us, before we had taken much more than a few steps.
But occasionally, if Mom had been delayed, we managed the ten-minute walk and actually grabbed the brass ring.
Or, in this case, the freshly-baked reward for our efforts.
Served happily by Mrs. Sproad, and accompanied by her soft, cheerful chatter.
“Oh, Di-ane! You are getting zo big. Zoon you’ll be taller than me! Here. Have another.” And she was right. By the time I was in sixth grade, I had passed her by.
On these special days, Mom would appear, rather red-faced and spilling apologies. “Oh, Clesti! I’m so sorry! I got tied up . . .”
It didn’t matter. Mrs. Sproad would laugh and offer something to Mom as well.
Soon we would be on the road back to the ranch.
Still tired from the day.
But with bellies filled with yumminess and hearts filled with cheer.
Nine-Mile corner no longer exists.
And the Sproads have long been gone.
But I can still taste that baking.
And feel the love.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Summer . . . Smells

I wait for summer all year long,
The sun, the green, the birdies' song,
The kids out playing. Hills and dells,
But most of all, I love the smells
Where I live, the clear, pure air,
Wafts fragrances from everywhere,
And one can just stand there and sniff,
In all directions, catch a whiff.
In South Alberta, where we were,
With constant wind (the saboteur),
It blew the summer smells away
Like flowers, trees and new-mown hay,
But twice a year, the wind would stop,
We’d poke our nose out of the shop,
Delighted with the still air, WHEW!
‘Twas time to have a barbeque!
And so we’d get our tools out,
Invite the family, thaw the trout,
And just when we’d sit down to eat,
The table laden, air so sweet,
Another smell would cause alarm
The neighbour’d cleaned his piggies' barn.

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?

Next week, because I call the shots,
We'll all talk 'Bridges'. Love them lots!

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