Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Candy Cupboard

Does this look delicious to you? Yeah, me either . . .
My Mom had a magic cupboard in her bathroom.
It was full of wonderful little bottles.
Intriguing little bottles with funny shapes and beautiful colours.
And with all sorts of interesting contents.
Most of them defied my little three-year-old fingers.
But one twisted off easily.
Disclosing little, white pills.
Okay they didn't taste very good, but they were little.
And melted on my tongue in a fun way.
I had another.
And another.
This was fun!
Mom came in just as I was finishing the bottle.
For some reason, she got quite upset.
She grabbed me and ran to the phone.
For a few seconds, she chattered excitedly.
Then she carried me to the kitchen and set me on the cupboard and hugged me tight.
I didn’t know what I had done that had gotten her so excited, but this was living!
Or not . . .
A few minutes later, a man came into the house carrying a black bag.
He put a tube down my throat.
And Mom let him!
And traumatic.
I cried.
For several minutes, the two of them fought to keep the tube where they wanted it.
With minimal/non-existent results.
Finally, Mom stuck her fingers down my throat and made me gag.
And I lost all of my wonderful little pills.
Um. Ick.
The doctor packed away his horrible tube and left.
I wasn't sad to see him go.
Mom cuddled me for most of the afternoon.
A few days later, I was again exploring Mom's treasure cupboard.
Well, look at that.
A new bottle of my little pills.
I wonder if they will taste any better.
Mom came in a bit earlier this time, but I had still ingested over half of the bottle.
She didn't bother calling the doctor, just used her patented new method to make me bring the pills back up.
This time, I got a scolding.
Moms can be so inconsistent.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Bouncer in the Rye

If you are ever in Denver . . .
Somewhere in or near Denver, Colorado, is my wonderful, stupendous, long-awaited, much-anticipated, beloved, toy of the century.
The one that was mine too briefly.
Maybe I should explain . . .
When I was growing up, my rancher father often took his family on holiday.
Said holidays usually included some form of cattle show.
Or cattle ranch visit.
Or driving down the highway slowly because someone’s herd was there.
In the field.
I know you’re wondering what this has to do with my toy.
It’s coming . . .
This particular family trip had been planned with the National Western Stock Show - annually held in Denver - in mind.
And that was okay with me.
Because said stock show also included horse classes.
And I had a new toy.
Now it comes out . . .
The Wham-o company had just released the most amazing gadget.
A solid rubber ball that would bounce higher and do more tricks than anything that had ever been invented.
Aptly named the ‘Superball’, it was a thing of beauty.
An amazing little ball of rubber that promised hours and hours of entertainment.
I had wanted one forever.
Well, since I had first seen an ad a couple of months before.
Dad had stopped at a store before heading over to the stock show.
They had them! A whole display!
I was at a store that actually had the magical little balls for sale.
And my Dad was there.
With his wallet.
The planets had aligned. The day was mine!
And so, incidentally, was my little, dark blue miracle.
I pried open the package and, for the first time, felt the cool, smooth surface of the greatest high-bouncing ball of all time.
I sat there in the truck and held it.
Staring at it.
Smelling it.
I couldn’t wait to give it a good bounce.
Dad pulled into the stock section of the fair grounds and we all got out and went into the nearest pavilion.
I found myself standing in the lane of a long, concrete-floored, stall-lined, barn of a building.
I lifted the hand holding the ball . . .
And smashed it down onto the pavement as hard as I could.
All of the ads never really paid it full justice.
That little ball hit that hard surface and shot like a missile toward the ceiling.
I stared at it; eyes wide and mouth open in a foolish grin of pleasure.
Then my magical toy came down.
Finally landing somewhere in the endless mounds of straw that filled the building.
Okay, that, I never anticipated.
I searched for that ball for hours.
I’d be searching still if my Dad hadn’t dragged me away for some frivolous ‘have-to-eat-and-sleep-and-for-heaven’s-sake-it’s-only-a-ball’ reason.
My one and only Superball.
You know, the ads claimed that it would keep on bouncing, almost forever. 
The ads were wrong.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Old Danny Boy

Oh, please! Not that song again!

I grew up on a large old Southern Alberta ranch.
Among cattle, horses and hired men.
I loved it.
I spent many happy hours riding (or sleeping) on the horses.
Chasing the barn cats.
Catching mice.
Wandering through the corrals and feed lots.
Or my favourite, watching the hired men.
It was while doing the last, that I received both my nickname and my signature song.
Let me tell you about it . . .
The Stringam Ranch generally employed six or more hired men.
They worked hard.
Wrangling cattle.
Breaking horses.
Doing one of the myriad tasks that were ranching.
But, inevitably, each job included one extra chore.
Watching over Diane.
I don't want to say that I was always under foot but . . .
Okay. I was always under foot.
When they were in the corral with the horses, I was perched on the fence.
When they were milking the cows, I was sitting on one of the empty stools nearby.
When they were hauling hay, I was in the cab of the truck, nose pressed against the back window.
Yep. If anything was happening, you can bet Diane was in the middle of it.
I should point out, here, that these men were good men.
Hard working.
A bit rough around the edges.
But that I never heard one curse word from any of them.
Looking back, I'm sure they knew these words.
They just never used them around me.
Believe me, I would have repeated anything I heard.
Back to my story . . .
It must have been a trifle . . . inconvenient . . . having the boss' four-year-old daughter always under foot.
They never complained.
In fact, they even had a nickname for me.
Which I loved.
And gave me my very own song, “Danny Boy”.
Which I didn't.
I'm not sure who was the first to discover this song.
Or my aversion to it.
But the word quickly spread.
Soon, whenever I would appear, someone would begin singing, “Oh, Danny boy . . .”
Whereupon (good word) I would cover both of my ears and scream, “Noooooo!”
Then run away.
It was magical.
Not one word need be said.
And they could continue their work in peace.
Moving forward thirty years . . .
When my youngest son Tristan was born, he was our 'Little Warty Boy'.
I'm not sure who came up with this.
Or why.
He didn't have warts or anything.
It just seemed to fit.
He even got a song. (Sung to the tune of 'Surfer Girl')
“Little tiny warty boy,
Fills my heart with so much joy.
Do you love me,
Little Warty Boy?”

We sang this for years.
Until he was about four and abruptly developed an aversion to it.
Suddenly, he began covering his ears and screaming, “Noooooo!” whenever someone started singing.
I felt his pain.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Finally Mine!

A gift, it was, to Mom, from Dad,
To celebrate the life they had,
A painting from one ‘Viski J’
Of horses. Running fast away…

Divinely done, from hooves to jaws,
For me, t’was love when first I saw,
I stared at it for hours on end,
Those gorgeous beasts became my friends.

Sometimes, I joined them in my mind,
Ran to catch up from behind,
And then, with them, we’d run enmasse,
And race each other cross the grass.

Those two in front, sweethearts they were,
Fleeing from both boot and spur,
Their heads together as they ran,
As they stayed far from cruel man.

To say it was my fav-o-rite,
Would not exaggerate one bit.
Told Dad this daughter (not his sons)…
She wanted it when he was done.

And when he moved from large to small,
He had no room for it at all,
And so a gift, from him to me,
As treasured as a gift could be.

And now it hangs upon my wall,
The best horse painting of them all,
Just looking at it makes me glad,
It makes me think of Mom. And Dad.

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?
To 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, we'll all have fun, I bet...
We'll talk about someone we've met!

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