Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Twice As Much

And into the next generation . . .
Husby is a book lover.
Always has been.
I am, too, but not to his extent.
I remember, in our lean student days, him walking in the door, happily carrying yet another treasured acquisition. I told him if he dared to bring one more book into the house, I was going to have to boil it for supper.
He just laughed. Completely unrepentant.
Moving forward . . .
We’ve raised readers.
All six of our children love it.
I thought it was because of the hours their father and I spent with this happy pastime.
And it might be.
But last night, I was reminded of something Husby used to say when the kids were small. Something I dubbed his First Rule of Acquisition.
Let me tell you about it . . .
I’ve never been a shopper. Traipsing up and down aisles, looking at ‘stuff’ never appealed.
I’d rather stay with the ‘old and familiar and comfortable’ then look for something ‘new and exciting’.
It’s just me.
But Husby loves to shop. And is gracious enough to haul all-and-sundry around with him.
Yep. Inevitably, when there was shopping to do, we went in a herd.
Mom. Dad.
Six kids. All of whom are very greedy acquisitive observant.
They would see brightly, attractively-packaged toys and immediately want them.
If we’d received a nickel for every time we heard, “Mom? Can I have . . .?” We’d never have had to pay for our shopping.
And that’s when their father, genius he, would tell them, “You can choose one toy.”
Their faces would brighten.
“Or two books!”
The thought process reflected in those faces as they turned it over in their minds was almost comical.
And, surprisingly, much of the time, they went for the books.
I thought they were simply cannily maximizing their procurements. (Ooh! Good sentence!)
I didn’t realize that their father was actually training them for a life-long love.
But he was.
And, fortunately, he did.

Friday, June 12, 2020

A Lockdown Knockdown

Still here.
With Mom, Sally and Mort.
These months of lockdown have actually gone well.
No. I mean it.
The walls are still standing. The roof is on.
Even the plumbing and electricity are still working.
You have to know that, with Sally on the premises, any or all of these could be . . . iffy.
And, surprise bonus, Mort is a neat freak.
Who would have thought?
Now, more than ever, I think he and Sally are ‘MFEO’. Because, let’s face it, she needs a neat freak!
They are out on the back lawn even as I speak. Doing something (usually) mundane like playing croquet.
I’m hiding in here because . . . mallets . . . and Sally.
For some reason, I’m remembering Sally’s and my first day of kindergarten.
I think I told you Sally and I are ‘Irish Twins’. Both born at either end of the same year. Thus we went all the way through school together.
The school we first attended was a little one. Parked in the center of the housing development we called home.
For me, it was a confused time of new people, strange new routines, and lapping up driblets of wisdom.
For Sally, it was her graduation into a larger world of . . . possibilities.
And her introduction to food carried to school in a magical new thing called a ‘lunchbox’.
Sally had insisted that Mom buy her one with a mirrored lid.
It was probably the most aesthetically-pleasing of any on offer. Particularly when compared to the popular—but rather unimaginative—Little Ponies, Backyardigans and Babar.
Sally’s lunchbox plays a rather large part in my memories of our first day.
Let me tell you about it . . .
We had deposited our belongings in individual cubicles creatively labelled with our name, and parked our small selves on a carpet at one side of the room.
Our newly-minted teacher, Miss Rona, was about to begin instructing.
And that was where we came to grief.
Because Sally categorically refused to let go of her shiny new lunchbox.
All the sweet-talking and every trick Miss Rona could invent went into the next few minutes of cajoling.
To no avail.
The most she was able to achieve was to have said lunchbox take up position immediately beside said Sally.
Moving on . . .
Miss Rona began to tell us a story.
It was very soon evident that Miss Rona excelled at story-telling.
And I don’t mind telling you that me and story-telling are really great friends.
The whole class, including Sally, was enthralled.
All except for one young man, (the tallest and broadest in the class) who shall remain nameless, but who initials are ‘Alex’.
Alex was hungry.
And his lunch box had been properly parked in his cubicle.
Waaaay on the other side of the classroom.
Whereas Sally’s was right here.
Immediately accessible.
Now there must have been some super-sneaky moves in Alex, because he somehow contrived to slide that lunchbox away from Sally without her becoming aware of it.
Her unaware-ness continued through his consuming of…not only her sandwich, but also all of what would be her morning and afternoon snack.
And her drink-box.
Miss Rona’s story ended.
And Sally’s awareness resumed.
There was a shriek which made all of us jump.
There may also have been a case or two of pants-wetting-ness.
Sally was on her feet, brandishing the now-empty lunchbox like a modern, rather squarish mace and chain.
Five-year-olds scattered like a flock of frightened hens.
Despite Miss Rona’s increasingly frantic attempts, Sally stalked across the room…Alex in her sights.
I know what you’re thinking, but Sally didn’t clock Alex in the side of the head with her lunchbox.
Perhaps it was the whole ‘seven years of bad luck’ idea if the mirror broke.
Perhaps she thought it just wouldn’t be ethical.
Pfff. . .  what am I saying?
Whatever her reason, Sally set the box down and looked up at the boy eyeing her carefully even as he towered over her. Then she clocked him in the side of the head with one little fist, knocking him right off his feet.
There was a shocked gasp from Miss Rona.
Sally shook her finger at Alex. “Not nice to steal! Didn’t’cha know that?”
“Sorry,” Alex mumbled, looking up at her and rubbing his head.
“Be nice!”
Miss Rona finally succeeded in steering Sally away from the confrontation.
And into the principal’s office.
New rules were crafted that day for the entire school.
But the biggest one was never actually written.
Beware of Sally.
Are you with me?

Use Your Words is one of my favourite writing challenges each month.
All of Karen’s neophytes supply the words.
Karen then re-distributes.
The result is Use Your Words.
A little bit hilarious.
A little bit challenging.
And a whole lot fun.
My words this month are: confused ~ food ~ mirror ~ lapping ~ aesthetic ~ ethical
And came from Jenn! Thank you so much, my friend!                    

Let the fun continue!
Sparkly Poetic Weirdo        

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Tell-Tale Scars

Hands tell everything.
I was sitting in Church beside my dad and comparing my hand to his.
Mine were small, white and smooth.
Unmarked by life and softly innocent.
His were large, square, calloused.
Scarred by barbed wire and by life.
Hands that had wrestled cattle and the occasional bronc.
Hauled hay and grain.
Twisted wire or pounded nails.
Held books and rustled important papers.
Sewed up wounds and dispensed medications.
Smacked the occasional errant backside.
And tenderly held babies.
Hands that had accomplished something.
I measured my hand against his.
Would mine ever grow to be the same size?
I looked at my Mom's hands.
Long, tapered fingers with close-cropped nails.
Hands that scrubbed surfaces and small, wiggling bodies.
Punched bread and rolled out pie crust.
Cooked and stirred.
Gathered, sorted and folded.
Swept and cleaned.
Hands occasionally stained with ink from her writing.
And dirt from her gardening.
Scarred by her forays into the barnyard to help when help was needed.
Hands that soothed when others hurt and applied love and bandages in equal amounts.
And finally folded, blue-veined and fragile, over a still breast in peace.
Hands that had accomplished something.
Yesterday, my granddaughter was sitting next to me.
She placed her hand, soft, white and innocent, against mine.
"Will my hands ever grow as big as yours, Gramma?"
"Yes, dear. Certainly."
"I like to look at your hands, Gramma." She pointed. "What is this scar here?"
"Barbed wire, sweetheart."
"Did it hurt?"
"Probably. But not for long."
"You have lots of scars, Gramma."
"Scars are life, written in your hands," I told her.
"Oh." She turned my hand over. "Lots of scars."
"From doing things," I said.
I thought of the 'things' that my hands have done.
Cooked. Cleaned.
Baked. Sewed.
Wrestled cattle and chickens and pigs and puppies.
And small children.
Turned pancakes and pages.
Built houses and fences.
So many things.
Wonderful things.
I smiled at my granddaughter. "Your hands will do things, too," I said. "Important things."
"Like yours?"
I nodded. "Like mine." 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


Throughout his life, he’d heard the game of baseball was the best,
And so the border, he would cross, and he’d judge with the rest,
So from his Tijuana, he crept softly through the night,
And fin’lly stood outside the Padres’ home in evening light.

He tried to buy a ticket, sadly none were to be had,
He stood a while outside the doors, feeling rather bad.
But then he saw a flagpole jutting o’er the field wall,
And so he shinnied up it—and from there could see it all!

Later, back at home, his family pestered him for facts,
What he thought and what he saw and how he did react,
Well that young man just smiled as he started in to tell,
Brim full of his adventure that he thought went very well!

He said, “I loved it, every bit. I am so glad I went.
“I can’t think of a better time I, in my life, have spent.
“You have to know right off,” he said, “The most amazing thing,
“Was when 50,000 voices made me feel just like a king!”

His family stared. “What could you mean? They all knew you were there?”
He nodded. “And before the game, they sang it out with flair!”
“Si, all the people sitting stood and faced me o’er that wall,
“And sang out, ‘Jose, Can you See?’ Concerned I watch it all!”

The theme for this month's challenge, well, it's Flags, I'm sure you know,
And now I hope you'll read the rest. Have fun! And off you go!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Flying High
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: Flags, flags, and more flags

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Not So Edible Etiquette

Edible Etiquette

Dad at College.
My Dad (hereinafter called 'Mark') attended college in Guelph, Ontario, training to be a veterinarian. Class of 1948.
His schooling there was fascinating.
His life in the off-school hours, even more so . . .
I should mention, here, that dad, the last child in a very large ranching family, had been raised with order.
And a degree of meticulousness.
Something he didn’t realize until he moved ‘out into the world’.
Back to my story . . .
Mark had secured a room at one of the local homes for the duration of his stay.
He and another Vet student happily carted in their belongings.
Met the family. Mom. Dad. Kids.
Settled in.
Appeared for their first breakfast.
And were immediately introduced to the differences in accepted family table practices.
At first, all went well.
Good food. Plenty of it.
Then, the son of the family grabbed a piece of toast and reached for the large jar of jam.
Taking the spoon that had been provided, he scooped out a large dollop and dropped it onto his toast.
Then licked off the spoon.
And shoved it back into the jar.
Others in the family proceeded to do the same.
Mark blinked.
And decided he’d have his toast without jam that morning.
Then that same young man poured himself a large glass of milk.
Drank some.
And poured the rest back into the jug.
Something that also turned out to be a common family practice as the boy's father cautioned him, "Pour it carefully, Son!"
Mark, wincing slightly, avoided the milk.
And anything else on the table that became ‘communal’.
I don’t want to say that Mark was fastidious but . . .
Okay, Mark was fastidious.
I think I would have been the same.
Two weeks in, he and his roommate decided they simply couldn’t take it any longer.
And said roommate decided that Mark should be the one to tell their landlady.
In what was one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life to that date, he gave notice to the thoroughly-dismayed woman.
“But the semester’s started!” she moaned. “I’ll never fill my rooms now!” She looked at Mark. “Why?!” she asked.
Ugh, the question he had most been dreading.
Haltingly, he explained.
She stared at him.
Then let him go.
Happily, Mark and his roommate settled into other housing.
The food wasn't as good, but it was a little less . . . shared.
And in case you’re wondering if that poor woman managed to secure new boarders, the answer is yes.
A few weeks later, Mark was talking to some fellow classmates and discovered that one of them was actually living in his old digs.
Mark asked--a trifle hesitantly--about the table manners there.
Fine. Perfect, even.
So either that young man was accustomed to the common trough, or the landlady had taken Dad’s concerns to heart.
The result was the same.
Everyone was happy.
And well-fed.
And that’s really all that counts.

Monday, June 8, 2020


Benny was a burglar and thought he was plenty smart,
Made breaking into houses look just like a work of art,
Though ‘danger’ was his business and his brav’ry you’d surmise,
When he robbed the Harveys, he was in for a surprise.

He got through their security. He laughed, t’was child’s play,
The kind that he could slip right through on any given day!
And when he saw the treasures there on shelves and tables stacked,
He licked his lips, got out his case and started in to pack.

He hadn’t packed a dozen things, when, from the darkness there,
A voice spoke very quietly and gave him quite a scare,
Unthinking, he said, “What?” and turned about to find out who,
The voice, it came again, it said, “Jesus is watching you.”

Ol’ Benny smiled and answered, “Well He’s watching all the time.
“And to this point, He hasn’t punished me for all my crimes!”
And he went back to packing. But the voice, it came again,
“Jesus is still watching you.” Ben said a word profane.

He flashed his light around the room and then a bird he saw,
Blinking in the light, it gripped a perch with tiny claws.
“Is your name Jesus? Yours the voice?” Ben asked it, narrow-eyed.
The bird just shivered, bird-il-y, and puffed its chest with pride.

“Well Jesus may be watching and will punish me someday,
“But, frankly, future reprimand 'don’t' fill me with dismay.
“So just you mind your business, bird, and I will mind mine, too,
“And maybe we’ll discuss this more when all my work is through!”

But still the bird repeated, “Jesus watches, He’s alarmed!”
Before too long, Ben felt like threat’ning him with fatal harm.
He chose some treasures, grabbed and stuffed and soon was near the end,
He sighed a little with relief, this bird was NOT a friend!

And then he heard a growl that made him shiver in his shoes,
And filled him with alarm and caused goosebumps on his tattoos!
A giant dog stepped from the shadows. Ben was stuck for words,
Then the featherhead spoke up, “Meet Jesus,” said the bird.

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 weeks’ topic came to us from SpikesBestMate. She’s new!
And we’re forever grateful for the topic she gave, too.
Next week, she has another one, t’will make us laugh. Or groan…
She gave us all: Delights/Disasters of "Grow-ing Your Own!

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Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

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Sunshine Award!!!
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My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

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