Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, December 4, 2020

Going Spare

So much to do during Spare.
Spare.
The best part of the school day. The period with no instruction when one catches up on things.
Gossip.
Flirting.
Sleep.
Okay, I admit it, if one was so inclined, one could even catch up on school work.
Pfff . . .
In Junior high, Spare was always supervised.
Nominally.
For the supervising teacher, it was also a time to catch up on things.
Reading.
Marking papers.
Sleep.
The class would steadily grow noisier and more unruly.
Until things reached a certain pitch.
The teacher would look up. “Okay, class. Settle down!”
And the whole process would start over.
One time, the teacher had just lifted her head.
But before she could utter the fateful, silencing words, another teacher (obviously misled by the noise level), appeared in the doorway.
“Who’s babysitting you guys!” she demanded.
Loudly.
Then realized that her friend and fellow teacher was properly seated at the ‘supervisory’ post.
Oops.
As we got older, supervision became more and more . . . Slapdash? Haphazard? Cursory? Superficial?
I’m going to go with Non-existent.
We were required to police ourselves.
It wasn’t too bad.
By this point, there were several of my classmates who actually wanted to finish their homework.
Weird.
They would effectively shush us if we got too noisy.
Kill-joys.
But we had nothing on my Dad’s class.
Oh, they weren’t noisy.
Or unruly.
Just . . . quietly creative.
Case in point:
A girl in Spare was reading the newspaper.
For those of you in the virtual world who are unfamiliar with the word ’newspaper’, it was a collection of news and advertising, published daily or weekly, and printed on very large sheets of paper. Google it . . .
The girl was engrossed in an article in the top right-hand corner.
Her absorption left the entire bottom half of the paper unguarded.
Normally, not cause for concern.
But, remember – Dad was in the room.
As she read, he approached quietly.
And, squatting down beside her, lit the bottom left corner of her paper on fire.
Yes.
On fire.
So . . . creative, he definitely was.
Cautious?
Not so much.
The girl soon realized that something was amiss.
She glanced down.
Her paper was rapidly being consumed.
She blew on the flames a couple of times.
Dropped the paper and stomped them out.
Then leveled her best glare at the guilty party.
Because, let's face it, everyone knew who it was . . .
Spare.
The best part of the school day.
For so many reasons.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Of Trolls and Gruffs

 

For three wonderful years, we lived in a perfect house.

Oh, don't get me wrong, all of our homes have been (in my eyes) perfect.
And very comfortable.
But this particular house was all of those things.
And a little bit more.
Because it had a stairway that was perfect for playing 'Troll Under the Bridge'.
It's a real game.
You can look it up. It will be found somewhere under 'Tolley: Favourite Games'.
True story.
Okay, my Husby invented it.
But it was still fun.
The stairway in our house consisted of a short, wide upper set of six thickly-carpeted steps.
Ending at a wide, also-carpeted landing.
Then a 180 degree turn before descending the last six steps to the basement.
A beautiful hunting/trapping/escaping set up.
Which was very well used.
My Husby would pretend he was a troll and lay on the stairs.
His head just poking above the top stair.
All of his little Billy Goats Gruff could try to run past him along the upper hallway.
Screaming and giggling wildly.
One by one, he would nab them and demand to know who they were.
One by one they would answer, “I'm a Billy Goat Gruff!”
Whereupon (good word) he would shout, “No Billy Goats on my bridge!” and set them behind him on the landing/prison.
Then, as he hunted for more victims, the entrapped would escape back up the stairs, still screaming and giggling.
And join once more with their fellow little goats in teasing and tantalizing the troll.
This went on for some time.
Usually, until Dad got played out.
Then, one day, we moved from that house.
Subsequent houses had similar, but not quite as perfect designs for playing Troll Under the Bridge.
The family made do.
Move forward 20 years . . .
Our present house is entirely unsuitable for the game, being a bungalow with one long, very dangerous, grandma-nightmare-inducing stairway.
We had put a gate at the top, which was rigidly patrolled whenever grandchildren come over to play.
A great disappointment to grandchildren who had been raised on stories of Troll Under the Bridge, as fondly told by their parents.
But in our front room, there was a large hassock. (Ottoman, pouffe, footstool.)
Leather-covered.
Padded top.
Which stood in front of our couch.
With a two-foot space between.
Hmmmm . . .
A few pool noodles strapped together with a bit of duct tape.
Voila!
A bridge.
Propped between the couch and the hassock, the scene for the new and improved Troll Under the Bridge.
Which the next generation of Tolleys took to with great enthusiasm.
With just as much noise and exuberance as their parents.
There were a couple of subtle differences, though.
  1. The grandkids proved a bit craftier than their parents had been.
One nearly-four-year-old grandson, when seized and questioned by the troll, answered readily, “I'm a troll.”
Grampa/Troll blinked.
This was a first.
But, since trolls are allowed on the bridge, the boy was given a free pass.
Smartypants.
  1. The troll got played out rather quickly.
He was, after all, an older troll, with mostly grey hair and a few creaking joints.
Usually, he was finished long before the shrieking hoards were even close to admitting defeat.
And after they left, he collapsed on the couch and took a nap.
Ah, the price of joy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Little ‘Sear’ Pressure


Note the pressure 'bob'. It's there for a reason . . .
During their early years on the ranch, my parents sponsored several German immigrants.
They all proved to be wonderful, industrious, conscientious people.
Eager to work and to become 'Canadians'.
One of the girls, Erica, was helping Mom in the house when my next older brother was born.
She proved to be invaluable with the household chores and cooking, but struggled at learning English.
Mom knew a little German, however, so they managed to muddle through.
On a few occasions, though, the language barrier proved to be just that.
A barrier.
Erica was fascinated with the pressure cooker.
That miraculous appliance that could cook food in a fraction of the time.
The microwave of the 50s.
Apparently, though they were widely used in Canada, they hadn't caught on in Erica's part of Germany.
Mom had tried to school Erica on the proper use of this amazing new contraption.
She had managed to get through steps one through four.
  1. Food and a small amount of water is placed inside
  2. Seal adjusted
  3. Lid screwed on and, most importantly,
  4. Pressure bob applied.
  5. I should point out, here, that those are the easy steps.
Then comes the actual cooking part.
And this was where Erica always came to grief.
She couldn't seem to grasp that, if the rings are up on the pressure bob, the kettle is full of . . . pressure.
Up to this point, Mom had always been there to divert disaster.
But on this particular day, Mom was still in town running errands.
Erica decided to cook dinner on her own.
What a glorious opportunity to try out the fabulous new invention!
All went well.
The pressure cooker . . . pressure cooked.
Other pots alternately steamed and bubbled.
Dinner was nearly ready.
Erica pulled the large pressure cooker off the stove and gave it a quick dunk under a cold stream of water.
Then she wrenched off the lid.
Oops.
The lid and released steam hit her. Full. In. The. Face.
And beets flew everywhere.
Erica screamed and blindly ran outside.
Dad heard her screaming and come running. There he found the poor girl, confused and in obvious pain.
Her nose was bleeding profusely and she had obviously been scalded.
He got her into the bathroom, where he started her soaking her face in cold water.
When Mom came home a short time later, she bundled Erica into the girl's bedroom and applied teabags to the exposed areas. They proved to be quite soothing and she was able to rest.
Then Mom was able to start on the kitchen which was giving a good impression of a slaughter house.
Beets were everywhere.
Mom even found one on top of the knick-knack shelf in the far corner.
Remarkably, miraculously, Erica healed without a mark.
But Mom was taking no further chances.
Though the pressure cooker remained in plain sight, the pressure bob, the little gizmo that made everything dangerous, was hidden in a very secret place.
Never store the gun and the bullets in the same cupboard.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

A Boy Day

And they look so innocent . . .
1. It had been a tough day.
2. We had three boys.
Those are my excuses . . .
The day had started out slowly.
Mark had sleep-walked and nearly mistook the closet for the bathroom.
Caught just in time.
Because I am superwoman.
Shortly thereafter (Oooh. Good word) Mark and Erik had staged an argument/battle over the TV remote.
I should explain, here, that the word 'remote' was largely optimistic at this point.
There was a device.
Attached to our VCR by a long cable.
Thus, 'remote'.
Moving on . . .
Our two oldest boys were fighting over it.
Mom won.
By banishing them to opposite sides of the family room.
Neither of which was close enough to the TV to allow access to said remote.
They were watching 'Black Hole'.
Again.
It was the only approximately 'family' movie that our newly fledged VCR rental outlet had.
Both of them could quote it by this time.
They began to discuss whether they should do what Mark wanted--watch it again--or flip over to the TV for the daily episode of Sesame Street. Erik's idea.
More arguing.
Won by Mom again, when she suggested, rather forcefully that the time had come for them to go outside and bother their father.
Whereupon (another good word) they found themselves in the great outdoors.
For a while, they sat and pouted.
Then their little brother, Duffy, who had the sense to follow their father when he first left the house, discovered The Mud Puddle.
A short time later, there was a timid tap at the front door.
I opened it.
To find a figure standing there.
Vaguely human in shape.
Roughly the size of my third son.
Several scrubbings later, I realized that it was, indeed, Duffy.
Whose brothers had doused him, quite literally, in his own discovery.
The culprits were discovered, sometime later, hiding in the basement of the house their dad was building.
Still giggling.
I dragged them into the house.
To apologize.
And to eat lunch.
Was it really only noon?
They immediately began to argue over who got the yellow cup.
And where each of them would sit.
I settled it again.
No one got the yellow cup and neither of them got to sit remotely close to where they wanted. In fact, they were lucky to be sitting at all!
As they finally started scooping up Mac and Cheese, I told them, “I think I'm going to take the three of you into the 'used kids' store and trade you in on girls!”
My second son looked at me, round-eyed. “Can you do that?”
I laughed. “No,” I reassured him.
“Oh.” He went back to scooping.
But sometimes . . .

Monday, November 30, 2020

Festive

 


My Papa liked to give us gifts,

He liked to make our spirits lift,

And with those gifts, he tried real hard

To pair with them a fitting card!

I’m not quite sure how it began

I don’t think that he had a plan,

Perhaps he just mistook the year,

And as no store was very near,

The card he’d bought would have to do,

He’d merely change the ‘One’ to ‘Two’!

A stroke of pen and he was done,

A birthday card for little one,

And those around, they snickered loud.

That made him really (really) proud

Of his new wise resourcefulness,

That offered him unique egress.

But after that, whenever he

Was giv’n the opportunity,

To buy a card for something fun,

Like ‘Birthday’, ‘Christmas’, ‘Miss you, Son’,

Deliberately incorrect,

With felt pen, he would interject,

And scrawl across, in letters, fine,

The correct info, line-by-line,

The rest of us when we would see,

Would praise his ingenuity.

 

The special days can come and go,

But what'd really make hearts glow,

Those precious cards, (by Dad) so new,

I just wish I had saved a few…

 


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 from Spikes's Best Mate, we'll try

To knock a topic in the eye.

So join us here and you will see,

Festive Traditions, it will be!

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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 Amazon.com and .ca!

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New Tween Novel!

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The newest in my Christmas Series

SnowMan

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A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.

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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

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Essence: A Second Dose

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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 Smashwords.com

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

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