Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Trading Up

Horse trading.

A term that doesn’t necessarily include horses.
My Father-In-Law, Ray Tolley, hereinafter known as FIL, was a master at the Art.
How do you get to be a master?
Continue and see my young apprentice . . .
FIL, when he left the farm, always wore a fedora. A smart, jaunty fedora.
His old one was getting . . . less than smart.
And a degree off jaunty.
He was in need of a new hat.
A fact that coincided with a 1960 trip into Montana with his wife and kids.
While they shopped elsewhere, FIL went into the local millinery (hat shop) and looked around.
Several possibilities immediately presented themselves.
And quickly narrowed to one.
Choice made, FIL happily carted it over to the salesman.
“This is the one I’d like,” he said.
Or words to that effect.
I wan’t there, so I’m Making It Up As I Go.
Back to my story . . .
“That’s is a fine hat, sir.” (More MIUAIG.)
“Yes. Can we make a deal?”
The salesman looked at the hat and went into his spiel. “This is one of our finest Field hats, sir. Brushed fur felt with a silk-like finish. Notice the new, open telescope shape with narrow sport brim and upper welt edge.” He pointed to the hatband. “Included is the rayon and cotton grosgrain band, with single-wing side bow and feather.” He turned the hat over. “A reeded, roan leather, cushioned sweatband and rayon, acetate lining.” He looked at FIL. “It comes in the two-tone iodeon green, and two-tone brown as well as this gray.”
See how good my imagination is? And how much you can find out on Google?
Ahem . . .
“No, I’m just interested in the grey. How much?”
“Ah. You can see that it is marked with today’s special price of $7.64.”
“Okay. Let me ask you something.” FIL took off his well-cared-for but distinctly used hat. “How much would you give me on a trade?”
A few minutes later, FIL emerged from the store wearing his smart and jaunty new hat.
MIL looked at it. “Nice. How much?”
“Well, here’s the thing. The original price was over seven dollars.”
She sucked in a breath. “Seven?!”
“Yes. But I didn’t pay that.”
She stared at him. She was used to Dad. “Okay. How much.”
“Well, you see, I traded him my old hat for this one.”
“Yeah. He gave me $2.00 for it.”
MIL shook her head. “Why on earth would he give you $2.00 for that old hat?”
“Well, I told him that was how we did it in Canada. And he didn’t want to be outdone by some milliner in Canada. So he sold the new hat to me for $5.00 and took my old hat in trade.”
Horse trading.
It doesn’t always include horses.
But it is always entertaining.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Partner Perks

I’m old.
He’s a little older.
We’re happy.
When we married, nearly 45 years ago, I looked into his hazel eyes and thought, “All I want to do is grow old with you.”
It’s happened.
We’ve had triumphs: Kids and grandkids. Family. Work accomplishments. Good health. Peace and freedom.
We’ve had tragedies: Kids and grandkids. Family. Work setbacks. Health problems. Disharmony and shackles.
But we’ve shouldered on. Through good times and bad.
Just in case you are thinking, “Oh, my word, is she going to wade through an exposition of My Wonderful Life?” let me reassure you.
You’re not far wrong.
Because this is my usual long-winded way of getting to a story . . .
I’ve hit the wonderyears that we affectionately call mid-life.
Where nothing in my physical self seems to behave the way it used to.
The way it should.
My nights are spent vacillating between shedding and/or cocooning in my blankets. At times, both. As some parts freeze and others parboil.
Last night, I discovered one of the joys of growing older with someone else.
You have to know that Husby and I used to leap happily into bed without doing much more than donning PJs, scrubbing teeth and saying prayers.
Now, our evening routine is a litany of age-defying/life-augmenting practices. Ending with my careful application of wrinkle-reducing face creams and his donning of his sleep-apnea mask.
I must admit – we are quite a sight. Darth Vader meets Slime-Faced girl.
I see a horror movie in there somewhere.
Back to my story . . .
Last night, I was particularly keyed up. Who knows why.
Awake at 3 AM. Music blasting through my mind. Blankets on. Blankets off. Turn to one side. Turn to the other. Blankets on. Blankets off. Face up. Face down.
You’ve totally been there.
Meanwhile, Husby was peacefully snoozing. His machine breathing quietly.
He rolled over to face me, and my poor overheated self was suddenly enveloped in a soft, cooling breeze.
I looked up at the window, but it was as it had been. Not really doing its part to alleviate anyone’s (ie. my) discomfort.
I turned back to Husby. Then I held out a hand in front of his face.
Ah! The lovely little breeze was emanating from the exhaust port in his mask.
I laid back, smiling, and let the cool air get in its wondrous work.
Soon, I was comfortable and cocooned once more.
You have to know that growing older has its drawbacks.
But growing older with someone else yields definite perks.
Plan accordingly.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

(Not Really A) Care Bear

Most of the stories told at a family reunion are of the belly-laugh variety.

Occasionally . . .
My cousin’s son-in-law worked with his dad, a contractor.
Said SIL and a friend were scouting out an area in the remote woods, looking to build a new oilwell site.
Friend was carrying a bow and arrow.
SIL was carrying a rifle.
They were walking through the Great Canadian Woods. They brought the weapons for protection.
Spoiler: They would need them.
As they were hiking, they suddenly smelled something very dead.
The two men stopped. Obviously, they were near a bear’s cache.
Should they back up?
Change course?
They chose to keep following the path, thinking they would simply by-pass the cache.
It didn’t work that way.
Ahead of them, waiting in the bushes, was a very large, very real grizzly.
With a very real attitude.
The bear went for the man with the bow, who immediately commenced running.
SIL fired three shots. Emptying his gun.
With little effect.
In fact, the only thing it did was cause the bear to change course.
From his friend.
To him.
Suddenly, he was staring into the teeth of a large omnivore and all he had to defend himself was an empty gun.
In one panicked movement, and almost without thinking, he shoved his gun, barrel first, down the bear’s throat. Right up to the scope.
It was at that moment the bear keeled over.
At least one of the shots had finally found its mark.
The two men called Fish and Wildlife to report the tragic incident.
And received a lecture entitled: Grizzly Hunting is Really, Really Against the Law.
Something, in other circumstances, the two scouters totally agreed with. They didn't want to shoot the bear. If there had been an alternative, they definitely would have taken it.
Fish and Wildlife officers came out and surveyed the area, mapping the men’s tracks through the snow.
Studying the bear’s.
Examining the bite marks on the gun and scope.
And concluded, finally, the men were telling the truth.
The men were then informed that they were free to take the bear and have it stuffed. But once it was done, they weren’t allowed to keep it and, instead must turn it over to the government.
They learned something from this experience.
If one’s job necessitates walking through the more remote parts of the Great Canadian Woods, always, always take a Fish and Wildlife officer.
Preferably one you can outrun . . .

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Mowing Smarts

Me and everyone on the ranch who was smarter than me.
(except Dad who was taking the picture. . .)

I was nine! I made it! I could do anything!
I was supergirl!
As you may have guessed, nine years old was an important time in my family.
The time when one was moved up to the next level of responsibility.
Now I could do all of the cool things that my older brothers and sister could do. Things I'd been waiting years to do.
Wonderful 'adult' things like . . . mowing the lawn.
Odd, isn't it, how exciting and attractive something looks when someone else is doing it?
And how not-exciting and not-attractive it is when suddenly, it is your responsibility?
By the second time, the thrill of mowing our acres and acres of lawn had begun to pall.
In fact, I hated it.
Maybe if there were such a thing as a really cool riding mower, I could have retained my enthusiasm.
But the fact was that we only had a small, electric unit. 
And you had to push that little cretin every square foot of the way...Oh, and watch out for the cord.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
My instructions were very specific. Always start at or near the plug-in. Then work away from it in rows.
And rows and rows and rows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sorry! Got caught up in the memory . . .
Needless to say, my mind didn't stay focused on what I was doing.
In fact, it rather wandered. A bit.
One bright, sunny summer afternoon, when my horse and I could have been a small dot on the horizon, I was, once more, pushing that wretched mower.
But it wasn't all bad. Part of me - the thinking part - was off riding. Suddenly, I was rudely made aware of just why we are supposed to keep our minds at least in the vicinity of what we are doing.
The mower . . . quit.
Just like that.
There were some tell-tale sparks in the lawn, if one cared to look, but other than that, the stupid thing had just suddenly become lifeless.
I narrowed my eyes and began my investigation.
Aha! A cord. That just . . . ended. Snapped off as though it had been . . . cut. I searched around for the other end. There it was! Lying in the grass! Now how do you suppose . . .
The truth hit me like one of Dad's yearling bulls. I had done the unspeakable. The unpardonable.
Soon, if Dad found out, I was going to be as dead as this mower.
I had to fix it.
I grabbed the two ends. Maybe if I just put them back together, they will magically join . . .
I sometimes wonder just how many guardian angels I wore out during my growing up years on the ranch. I think I went through them at an alarming rate.
But they were good at what they did.
There was an enormous explosion and a First-of-July amount of sparklers.
I dropped those two ends like they were hot.
Which they probably were.
And headed for my dad.
He just shook his head and followed me to the scene of the crime. Then he unplugged the live end of the cord (funny that I didn't think of that) and with a few quick strokes and some electrician's tape, mended everything.
Good as new.
I sat there in the un-mown grass and watched him work.
He got to his feet. "Okay, Diane, back to work. And watch the cord a bit more carefully."
I stared up at him.
After that traumatic experience he was going to make me get 'back on the horse'? (Something I would loved to have done, in reality.)
He smiled and turned away.
He was! He actually meant for me to start mowing again!
I looked at the couple of swaths I had completed.
Then at the millions of swaths left to do.
I reached out and tentatively flipped the switch. My trusty little cohort hummed into life.
I started pushing.
Okay. Careful of the cord. Always keep it between you and the plug-in. Be watchful. Be wary . . .
Oooh! Look at that hill. Soon my pony and I will be . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 
And yet another guardian angel sighs as he is called into service.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Being Inoculated

Oh sure, they look healthy now . . . Little beggars.
It gets very cold in Southern Alberta.
Calves need to be vaccinated.
And ranching can be a dangerous business.
These three statements actually go together.
To create one of the scariest experiences of my young life.
Let me explain . . .
Dad was at a neighbouring ranch, on a -40 spring day, vaccinating the new spring calf crop against Blackleg.
I should probably tell you that Blackleg is a particularly vicious and deadly disease, caused by a spore in the ground.
This tiny spore, inadvertently ingested by calves between six and twenty-four months of age can cause death within 12 to 48 hours.
And impossible to treat, once an animal has been infected.
But, happily, almost completely controlled by early vaccination.
As in 'before-it-gets-warm-in-Alberta'.
So, sometime before July.
That explains Dad, the calves and the cold.
Moving on . . .
The calves were being shuffled down a chute, one by one, to receive their vitally necessary little jab.
All was going well.
One group finished.
Another was being sorted into the catch pen for further shuffling.
Meanwhile, Dad had placed his favourite pistol syringe under his coat to keep it, and the vaccine it contained, from freezing.
Remember? Minus 40?
One of the animals in the pen bumped into him.
The syringe pricked the skin of his belly.
Those needles are sharp for a reason . . .
He could only have taken in a very minute amount of the Blackleg vaccine.
But it was enough.
By the time he finished with the herd, he knew he was in trouble.
He drove himself to the hospital.
And stayed there.
For three weeks.
He was a very, very sick man.
But his strong constitution and normally healthy lifestyle finally tipped the balance and he began to respond to treatment.
At the end of the third week, a thinner, whiter version of my father returned home.
My brave mother hadn't explained, at least to the younger half of the family, exactly what was wrong with Daddy.
We knew he was in hospital, but had no idea why.
Or how serious it was.
It was only years later that I found out the whole story.
Okay. Much too late to panic now.
But I did learn several things from this experience:
  1. Vaccine for calves should really only be given to calves.
  2. People don't respond well to it.
  3. Never hold one's syringe under one's coat.
  4. Don't vaccinate in the cold. And...
  5. If there's ever a blackleg outbreak, Daddy's had his shots

Monday, October 26, 2020

Bottom's up!

To all my faithful readers, I have something to confess,
This poem is recycled, 'case this life's in such a mess!
Though some things are not hap'ning, there are others car'ying on,
And somehow those replacements make sure all my time is gone! ;)

Your Favourite Potable’s our subject and I must admit
My favourite drinks have morphed around. And not a little bit.
When I was young a chocolate milk would satisfy my wants,
And was the first thing ordered when we hit the restaurants.

From there, I guess I’d have to say that soda pop became
The chosen drink at movies or when cheering at the games,
In orange, grape or lime the flavours all would satisfy,
With na-tur-al ingredients (not one additive or dye).

Then Mountain Dew took over and I couldn’t wait to see
Who bottled it: from Ann and Bill to Harriet and Zee.
It claimed that it would ‘tickle yore innards’. So this I will state,
It seemed to make the grade and Wow! It tasted really great!

I must admit about that time, I started mingling things,
Discovered brand new tastes that mixing orange pop could bring,
Before you try to guess, I’ll take this time to clarify,
Swamp Water’s made with root beer—goes with Teen Burgers and fries!

From Seven-Up which took a hefty portion of my wealth,
I moved to fresh, fruit juices and their claims of ‘improved health’,
The juice of vegetables then beckoned. I was so surprised,
That I was drinking something I, in younger years, despised.

And now I stick to water. When I do, then nothing hurts.
And bodily functions can’t be weighed in ‘small’ or ‘mega’ hurtz.
No extra shots are needed from a glass or in the vein,
And no one bothers me or asks my actions to explain.
But . . .
I must admit that if I had my ‘druthers’, I would choose,
Another drink with calories, and not a hint of booze,
And strange enough, the one I loved from birth, now to my grave
Has followed me Full Circle. Again chocolate milk’s my fave!

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
(And Karen for a special treat!)
We've posted poems that we have wrought.
Did we help?
Or did we not?

Next week, I hope we won't be frantic,
From Mimi, we've: A High School Antic!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

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Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

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A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

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Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

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First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

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A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

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Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

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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?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

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Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

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I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

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

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Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

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

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Ghost of the Overlook

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