Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, June 5, 2020

Headwind

Okay. Picture them a little more tousled and windblown . . .

The wind blows in Southern Alberta.

And I don't mean blows in the modern 'that really stinks' way.
Although it's true.
No, I mean blows in the old-fashioned 'wind is really strong' way.
Because it blows.
Hard.
From the West.
And constantly.
One never quite gets used to it.
Even when one is raised with it.
It's . . . irritating.
People try to cope.
They make jokes about it.
Like the farmer getting out of bed hours earlier than usual, telling his wife that he needs the extra time to drive to the next province because that's where his land has drifted to.
Or being able to tell how old a person is by the direction and angle of their leaning.
Wind is a part of living on the prairies.
You just do the best you can.
When my husby and I lived in our first home, a mobile one, we were careful to park it East to West, instead of North to South.
That gave our home a marginally better chance of not being rolled.
Yes. The wind is strong.
Case in point . . .
I had been to town with my (then) four kids, ages 6, 5, 2 and 0.
We pulled up to our house.
I should point out, here, that our little home was newly-built and stood at the top of a small hill, clearly exposed to the prevailing breezes.
Which were . . . prevailing.
And the 2000+ trees we had planted in rows about the house were years away from providing any actual . . . wind break-ish-ness.
We got out of the car.
The older two boys made a bee-line for the house.
No sense in standing out in the open to be pummelled by God's natural sand-blaster.
I unbuckled my two-year-old, Duffy, and lifted him from the car, then turned and unclasped the baby's car seat.
Then I turned back and reached for Duffy's hand.
I missed.
He was eager to get to the house and was already following his two big brothers.
He had just reached the front of the car when a big gust of wind knocked him flat.
But it didn't stop there.
No, it continued to blow, rolling him over and over, across the yard.
“Mommy!” he shrieked.
I didn't dare set the baby down for fear of the same thing happening to her, so I ran after him as fast as I could, still lugging the car seat.
It was like a scene out of a movie.
Little boy doing a tumbleweed impression while his mother, hampered by yet another child (with carrier), runs after him.
I'm almost sure I saw Charlie Chaplin do something similar . . .
I managed to catch my son when he snagged against the corner post of the garden fence.
He was shaken up and dusty, but otherwise unharmed.
We grow them tough in the prairies.
Now we'll just have to work on growing them heavier.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

'Twas a Dark and Scary Night

Debbie.
Mischief, mayhem and entertainment in one package.
In college, I shared a two-bedroom apartment with three other girls.
Debbie, she of the famed moth abhorrence, and I in one room, the other two girls in the second.
The apartment was on the main floor of an older, period home, with wonderful hardwood floors and original doors and fixtures.
And windows.
And therein hangs a tale. 
So to speak.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
We loved it there.
The south window in Debbie's and my bedroom faced the garage.
It was never locked.
The window, I mean.
With a barrel pushed underneath, it made an excellent entrance to our apartment.
None of this having to tramp around the house, through the entrance and clear across the living room.
Nope. We could step right into our room, drop our boots under the window, and we were home.
I don't think we used our keys to the front door once in the entire year we lived there.
And neither did our friends . . .
So noises from that window were not unusual.
Though not always expected.
One evening, Debbie and I were getting ready for bed.
Well, she was.
I was busy selecting a book for my usual "read-till-you're-heavy-eyed-and-won't-be-fit-for-anything-the-next-day activity.
Without warning, the blind, which had been pulled down over the window, snapped up.
Whip! Whip! Whip!
Debbie, standing there half in and half out of her jammies, screamed. (And you can believe me when I say that no one could scream quite like Debbie.)
And scurried out into the front room, frantically tugging on her jammie pants as she went.
Where she screamed again.
Louder, this time.
Then I heard a thump. A decided body-hitting-the-hardwood thump.
I dropped my book and dashed out into the front room.
To find Debbie collapsed on the floor in front of our little entryway.
I should mention here that the entry to our apartment was about four feet square.
There was a tiny coat rack built into one side. On the wall between that rack and the door was a small window.
Uncurtained.
It was dark outside.
And the lights were on inside.
I rushed over to my friend.
And realized that she was lying there helpless . . . with laughter.
She had dashed out of our room, pulling on said pjs.
And had glimpsed movement in the entry.
Someone was looking at her!
Whereupon (good word) she screamed and collapsed.
Only then realizing that the combination of dark night and lighted room had created a mirror-like trait in our little entry window.
She had seen . . . Debbie.
It must have been a truly scary sight.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

They're All Alike

Go on. Give it a pull!
Life on a ranch is glorious.
Open, endless vistas.
Fresh air.
Time with your family.
And endless hours with your 'other' co-worker. Your steady, actually-does-most-of-the-work partner.
Your horse.
Did you know that horses are fun?
And smart?
With distinct personalities?
Some are lazy.
Some crafty.
Some love people.
All love to play.
A favourite game when I was growing up was 'tongues'. You would tickle a horse's lips until he stuck out his tongue, whereupon (good word) you would give it a little pull.
The tongue, I mean.
The horse would whip it back into his mouth.
Then promptly stick it out again.
Pull.
Retract.
Stick out.
Pull.
They loved this game.
They would play it for hours.
Or until you got tired of it.
You can probably guess which scenario usually happened first.
Enough background . . .
My Husby and I were touring the Buckingham Palace Mews, conducted by the head hostler to the Queen, Edward.
A very proper and pleasant British man who also loved horses.
We were instantly connected.
Moving on . . .
My Husby and I were having a great time.
We had dutifully and happily walked through the storage buildings.
Gotten up close and personal with the royal family's famous Gold Coach.
And had finally headed into the stables.
Ahhh! Heaven!
Horses are intensely curious.
If something is happening, they want to be front and center.
Gawking.
Getting in the way.
Pretending to be startled and fleeing spiritedly.
Coming back to see if there was anything they missed.
For the resident horses, our tour of the stables was out of the ordinary.
Everyone wanted a look.
Heads popped out of stalls the whole length of the building.
One horse, a handsome grey gelding, quartered by himself, was especially interested.
I should point out here that horses, when they meet another horse, sniff each other's noses.
A much more civilized practice in my opinion than what one would typically see when dogs greet each other.
Ummm . . . back to my story.
The big grey sniffed me.
I sniffed him back, then started to move on.
He moved with me.
I think someone was bored.
I touched his lips.
He licked them.
I pulled his tongue.
His head shot up, startled.
He stared at me for a couple of moments.
Then he stuck out his tongue again.
I pulled it.
He drew it back in.
Then he did it again.
This went on for some time.
Grant and Edward had been standing a little ways off, talking.
The horse and I were enjoying our game.
Then I realized that the stable had fallen silent.
The men were watching us.
Thinking they had finished their conversation, I patted my new friend and started toward them.
The big grey leaned out as far as he could, nickered at me and stuck out his tongue. “Hey! I'm not finished with this game!”
I laughed and patted him again.
Then joined the two men.
Edward was still staring. Finally he shook his head and in his perfectly modulated English accent, said, “I've never seen a horse do that before!”
He looked at me with renewed interest and said,” Any time you want to come back here, you are welcome. Anytime.”
A horse lover knows another horse lover.
And all horses are the same. No matter what circles they move in.

Did you like this story?
It's my contribution to an anthology: Mob Hit on My Gandmother's Dog
Hilarious Animal Stories
Order yours now!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Two or Four


He found a bottle in the sand,
It wouldn't qualify as grand,
He took it home, because he could,
And it upon his mantle stood.

It sat there for perhaps an hour,
Till his wife noticed, looked quite dour,
Said, “Ray, your bottle’s filthy, true,
Now clean it up. Or say adieu!”

He grumbled just a little bit,
Then shrugged and took a buffing mitt,
And polished that old bottle fine,
Till it glowed with lustrous shine.

But as he buffed that bottle shook,
A genie popped out, turned and looked,
Then said, “A wish for you—just one,
So choose most carefully, my son.”

Ray said, “Y’know I hate to fly,
But I’m a real ‘Hawaiian’ guy,
So build a bridge from here to there,
I’ll get across ‘thout being scared.”

The genie snorted, “That’s just weird,
Impossible I greatly fear,
So choose again, my silly man,
I’ll tell you if I think I can.”

Ray rubbed his chin both to and fro,
Said slowly, “I would like to know,
The secrets of a woman’s heart,
And understand them…for a start.”

The genie frowned and stared at him,
(I think he looked a little grim,)
He crossed the room and op’ed the door,
Then flexed his hands: “Two lanes or four?”


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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Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

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What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

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E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from Smashwords.com

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