Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, September 25, 2020

Holiday Monsters

Lake Okanagan. It only LOOKS peaceful and serene...
Husby and I are heading out to visit our son on Vancouver Island.
But to reach it—and him—we have to first travel through British Columbia.
And the mountains.
Gorgeous scenery.
But one of our stops will be Lake Okanagan.
And that brings back a memory . . .
The Ogopogo was going to get me!
Ahem . . .
I have a vivid imagination.
I admit it.
It’s carried me to places near and far.
Most of which simply don’t exist.
But that doesn’t stop me from visiting them.
The problem with a vivid imagination is that it can cause you a lot of needless worry and some amazing heart gymnastics.
On with my story . . .
My family was visiting Penticton on the south shore of Lake Okanagan in the beautiful interior of British Columbia.
We had been having a marvelous time.
Picking fruit.
Eating fruit.
And stopping at any and all tourist sites.
We were camped just feet away from the shore of the lake.
A beautiful, peaceful body of water approximately 80 miles long and with an average depth of about 250 feet.
Now, I should mention here that I loved swimming.
I had learned in the muddy waters of the Milk River that flowed past our ranch.
We spent our entire summer in that river.
So, murky-ness didn’t scare me.
What scared me were the tales of the great Ogopogo that supposedly inhabited that serene-looking body of water. The Ogopogo with its horse-shaped head and great undulating, serpent-like body that had been known to swallow native canoeists whole.
I stood on the beach and stared long and hard at the water, looking for anything that might betray the presence of the beast. Because I knew that, if I slid even one foot into that water, the monster would immediately sense the presence of a ten-year-old, gleamingly white-skinned, skinny, tow-headed girl and think, “Oooh! My favourite meal!”
And pop to the top.
I knew it.
I would rather have watched my feet break through the scummy surface of some smelly municipal sewer than to disappear beneath the clean water of Lake Okanagan.
Except that sewers have been known to harbour their own monsters.
Finally, with much cajoling and some really pointed teasing, I waded in.
And I do mean waded – the water never reached my knees.
Even then, I wasn’t happy about it.
Every splash made me jump.
And I had a nagging, persistent feeling that great, piercing, bloodshot eyes were watching my every move, deciding where would be the tastiest place to sink sharp, ragged teeth.
I spent the entire ‘swim’ continually glancing behind me, certain I’d see a line of ripples leading in my direction. Or worse, a great, hulking form rising up out of the water, slavering jaws wide open and  . . . eww . . . dripping.
And where would my holiday be then?
Finally, I parked my little self on the beach.
Safely back from the monster-filled water.
Under a lovely, toasty sun.
I watched my brothers and sisters and scores of others as they tempted fate.
Silly, foolish people.
Tourist view in Kelowna.

'Actual' photo of the Ogopogo. You decide . . .

Thursday, September 24, 2020

War and Chocolates

How do you relax after dinner?
Okay, I admit it: Our family is weird.
We like theatrics.
And things medieval.
And, believe it or no, that takes bravery.
Case in point:
My husband has a collection of catapults.
Yes, you read that correctly.
He loves them.
Oh, they're not large enough to cause havoc.
And certainly not of a size to terrorize the neighbourhood.
Although I wouldn't mention that to him. It might give him ideas.
Moving on . . .
No. His catapults are small.
Suitable for launching little, foil-wrapped chocolates.
Which he does.
Usually after family meals.
Our family is large.
And we have two tables in our dining room.
One round table, built by my Husby and seen here.
And one smaller table, also built by my Husby, which seats all of the grandchildren.
It is to this smaller table that he retreats after the meal is done.
With his grandkids, his catapults and his stockpile of chocolate balls.
Which he and his little army then proceed to fire at anyone left sitting at the main table.
Remember when I mentioned 'weird'?
That would apply here.
I should point out that the balls of chocolate don't hurt.
The little catapults barely throw them with sufficient force to get them to the other table.
Back to my story . . .
The usual targets of the invading hoards are their wife and/or mothers and/or grandmother.
Who have all learned to duck when needed.
I should also mention that perhaps, fortunately, their aim isn't great.
One day, we had just finished one of Grandpa's sumptuous feasts and he and assorted grandchildren had set up a siege at the kid's table.
Several of the moms were still sitting at the main table.
One of our granddaughters, five-year-old Kyra, came to tell her mother something.
Her timing was . . . unfortunate.
She had placed herself right in the line of fire.
So to speak.
A chocolate ball whizzed towards her.
With unusual, but deadly precision.
Right in the center of her forehead.
She gasped and clapped one hand over the spot.
Everyone burst out laughing.
She wavered between laughter and tears for a few seconds.
Then her mother told her that she got to eat the offending chocolate ball.
And any thought of tears was forgotten.
She hunted for and happily ate, the treat.
Then disappeared.
A few minutes later, she was back.
“Mom, can I have another chocolate ball?”
Her mother looked at her. “You have to let Grampa shoot one at you first.”
She thought about that for a moment.
Then she put both hands, palms out, over her forehead and stood up tall. “Okay, Grampa! I'm ready!”
It comes in all shapes, sizes and ages.
But never more noticeable than in a weird family.
After dinner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Imaginary Prairie

Horses came in all shapes and sizes on our ranch.
All shapes.
And sizes.
Oh, and materials.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On a working ranch, the horse is the best, most used tool. I’m talking about the warm, four-footed, rather hairy type here.
Or, as my machine-loving brother titled them, the hay-burners.
Paired with a rider, horses work the cattle.
Check fences.
Provide transportation.
Ditto, entertainment.
And make pushing, pulling, dragging or carrying just that much easier.
No self-respecting ranch could be run without its four-footed hay-burners.
On the Stringam ranch, the people could be divided into two horse camps.
Those who loved them.
And my brother, George.
Oh, we got him up there.
But only when there was work to be done.
Moving on . . .
I was the leader of the opposite camp.
I lived, ate and breathed horses. Had been known to hang out with them at any and all hours of the day or night. Been observed taking the occasional nap in close proximity.
And pretended and improvised when the weather was bad and there simply was no horse to be had.
Did you know that the wide arm of an overstuffed chair or couch makes an excellent substitute?
Well, it does.
I spent a lot of hours in that particular ‘saddle’. Had some amazing adventures. And had even been known to get pitched off on occasion.
My next younger brother, Blair, age two, was following in the paths I had created.
Riding the same mounts.
Then, one Christmas, he was given another option.
He got our family’s first spring horse. King Prancer as it was nobly named.
And our world was never the same.
Now, when we wanted to kite off to the imaginary prairie, doing imaginary deeds of wonder and saving the lives of countless imaginary people, we could climb aboard the King.
Okay, yes. He was technically Blair’s.
But I was bigger.
Ahem . . .
That sturdy little spring horse provided us with hours (and hours) of entertainment.
Until Mom told us we had out-grown (what on earth did that mean?) it and that it was time to be handed down to the next generation. ie. little sister, Anita.
Suddenly, I was back on the old stand-by. Riding the range with my trusty, slightly dusty steed.
Why am I telling you all of this?
My granddaughter, age two was in the living room, playing.
I went in to check on her.
She had straddled the arm of our overstuffed couch and was riding, hell-bent-for-leather, across the ‘prairie’. Whooping and hollering impressively.
It was no King Prancer.
But it sure made Gramma smile.

George and me.
Before the chair became a steed.
Blair. And the real thing.

The next generation: The King. Anita.
And a friend.
Okay, close to the real thing. George and me again.
The King. And Blair.

Monday, September 21, 2020



A knife’s a knife’s a knife, says you,

And I will nod and say it’s true,

But Husby never would incline,

To our opinions, yours and mine,

To him it’s much more than a knife,

But a work of art to last your life,

And so he forges all his own,

With wondrous steel and handle—bone,

To me, it matters not the make,

But what ‘feels’ best when cutting cake.

But know before you buy that blade

What it’s worth and how it’s made,

And now I’m getting closer to,

The tale I’d like to tell to you…


Jeremih, great, great Grampa,

(A man who fills all us with awe,)

Born in 1825,

(He’d be SO old, were he alive!)

Well he, a settler, moved out west,

Thinking Utah would be best,

But at a time when conflicts raged,

And fights were commonly engaged

‘Tween natives and the settlers there,

And neither likely to foreswear,

Well Jeremiah, able man,

Was asked to guard ‘the best he can’

The quarry, so important that

Without it, walls were pretty flat!

But while ‘Old Jer’ was standing guard,

A man whose reason had been marred,

Decided he would bury deep,

His knife in Jer’s thick skull. “Oh, *bleep*!”

A fellow guard soon saved the day,

The knife-wielding man then ran away,

But left the knife that he had dropped,

(Vowing caution, he’d adopt).

That simple knife turned out to be

Best in shape and quality,

And recognizing its true worth

Jer brought it home for a re-birth,

And with it, he and family

Made meals for all and sund-er-y.

So even though things started bad,

A fine old blade was what they had!


How do you choose a knife that’s right?

Husby’s forge or Grampa’s fight?


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 Jenny, Charlotte, Mimi, Me

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 we own a few,

We’ll talk of clothes, join us, won’t you?

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