Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, December 11, 2020

Sally Sitting

 It started like so many of our ‘adventures’. Quietly.
With me doing something normal, like putting a folded shirt in the laundry basket ready for transport. And examining the seam of another that looked as though it could use a mend.

Then Mom came into the room, ashen-faced.

I sat down. “Okay. What has Sally done this time?”

Mom shook her head. “It isn’t what she’s done, exactly. It’s the possibilities…” Her eyes wandered toward the window.

“Mom. Focus.”

She took a deep breath and looked back at me. “That new family? The ones who moved in next to Gary?”
Scary Gary? I’m with you.”

“Well, apparently Gary’s mother, Mary, recommended our family as possible baby sitters for their three kids.”

I stiffened. “Well, we can just say no, right?”

“I actually did. It’s on Tuesday and both you and I are already committed…”

“Or should be,” I muttered under my breath.

“What, dear?”

“Nothing. Go on. Apparently, your refusal was…refused?”

“Well, Sally came to the door, just as I was offering my regrets.”

I help up a hand. “Say no more. I can see it all. She accepted?”

Mom nodded. “Do you think we could move to, say, Timbuktu by Tuesday?”

I rubbed one eye. “How about we just plan on spending the evening under the bed?”

“That’s almost as good.”

What is it about time? Particularly when something you’re dreading is approaching. It just moves faster.

True story.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear. And warm. Warmer than was seasonal.

Part of me wondered if it was because we were at the physical threshold of hell.

The day passed quietly. 


You have to know by now that no day actually passes quietly with Sally around.

But sometimes the chaos sort of…takes a breath…so to speak.

Zero hour approached and Sally, armed with a large, well-stuffed shoulder bag, kissed Mort in the neighbourhood of his nose and waved cheerfully to Mom and me as she stepped out the door.

It swung shut with a hollow and cryptic boom.

Okay, that may have been my imagination. But it should have.

And we three were left biting our nails until she reappeared. Okay, well Mom and I were.

Mort seems to have the uncanny ability to see past all of Sally’s…erm…tendencies? Habits?

Never mind.

A few hours later, Mort was sitting at a table in one corner of the TV room, working on a puzzle. I was on the couch, with a can of coke handy, while I tried desperately to concentrate on a book that should have been riveting. The letters on the page just seemed to float in front of me.

Mom wandered into the room and snapped on the TV.

The 9 o’clock news was already underway. A field reporter was speaking.

“The child was spotted by a family taking their turn to view the city lights from the top of the Toyota building.”

A long shot of the newest, tallest building in our city’s downtown, lit from top to bottom. Flashing red lights could be seen at the base and emergency crews milled about the grounds.

A slightly disheveled, masked woman appeared. “It was so frightening!” the woman gasped out. “My Freddie was the first to see her. This little girl…just clinging to the sloping windows there at the top of the building!”

The field reporter returned. “The new Toyota building, as most of you know, is capped with a series window banks which meet at a point at the apex, forming a pyramid-like top to the structure. This holiday season, small cohort groups have been booking time there to get an unparalleled view of both the city lights and the stars.”

The woman returned. “Those windows have to be at—like—a 45 degree angle. And there was that little girl. Just clinging there.” She placed a hand over her heart and took a deep breath. “It nearly gave me heart failure to see her out there seventy stories in the air!”

“So what did you do?” the field reporter asked.

“What any parent would do. Ran to the window to see if we could get it open and get her in.” The woman closed her eyes. “She was screaming or shouting something. We couldn’t make out the message. And we couldn’t find any way to open the window.” She shook her head. “My husband dialled 911 and the kids and I gathered under her and just tried to hold her there with thought alone!”

“Now my understanding is that, by the time emergency services arrived, the girl was gone?”

The woman nodded. “She slid…upward. We watched her go.” She shuddered. “If she fell, we never saw it.”

Once again, the camera panned across the brightly-lit building, then zeroed in on the fire chief, speaking to a group of firefighters. He turned to the camera. “We have combed the area and, thankfully no body has been discovered but we are left with far more questions than answers. We will continue to search for clues, but, as of this moment, we have no information.”

The field reporter returned. “We just have to hope that this little girl, and whoever rescued her, are safe and sound…somewhere. This is Lise Roberts reporting for KDC News.”

Mom shut off the TV.

“Hey! I was listening to that!” Mort protested.

Mom and I looked at each other.

“Surely not,” Mom whispered.

I shook my head. “She’s been just a couple of doors down the street this whole night.”

Mom just stared straight ahead.

“Right, Mom? Right?”

Just then the door opened and Sally’s cheerful face appeared. “Hi-ho, everyone! Have a good evening?” She dumped her bag on the floor next to the door and pulled off snowy boots.

Mom slowly stood up. “Tell me you stayed in the house all evening, Sally.”

Sally frowned. “What? Oh by the way those new kids say they won’t EVER have any other babysitter but me!”

“Tell me!”

“Tell you what?”

“That you stayed in the house all evening!”

“O-kay. We stayed in the house all evening.”

“But is it the truth?”



Use Your Words is a word challenge. Each of the participants submits words which are then re-distributed to the other participants. None of us knows who will get our words and what will be done with them. Totally fun!

This month, my words were:

folded ~ mend ~ handy ~ message ~ float

And submitted by my friend Jenniy at               


Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:


Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer


Part-time Working Hockey Mom

The Crazy Mama Llama 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

To Cat Herders I Have Known..


I love cats, you know I do,

They’re smart. And entertaining, too,

Sometimes, they just don’t think things through,

Or fail when trying to construe,

Wind up in something of a stew,

And give you something fun to view…

To drapes and screens, they stick like glue,

Have inconvenient timing, true,

Mess up the portrait you just drew,

Or bid your brand new rug adieu,

Your hugs and kisses they eschew,

Until the times when they want to,

Beneath your window, half-past two,

Loving, fighting right on cue,

Until you’d like to throw a shoe,

And think you’d rather have a gnu,

But I think you would be so blue,

If you didn’t have your ‘ballyhoo’,

You’d have to find a new way to

Be entertained by something new,

So, here’s to cats, I’ve known a few,

I love their ways and their miscues,

Love watching antics on ‘YouTube’,

But one more thing and then I’m through…

Love most that they belong to you!

Today's a challenge--po-et-ry,

We're having fun, my friends and me,

And you get rhyming all for free!

Now you've read mine, so go and see

The others. I know you'll agree,

They've everything a poem should be!

Karen of Baking in a Tornado

Tuesday, December 8, 2020


Hmmm . . . maybe we can make it work...
The Stringam ranch was twenty miles from the nearest bus route.
But it still managed to attract a lot of employment-seekers.
In the earlier days, cowboys would arrive on their horses.
In my day, they arrived by phone call or ‘thumb’. (They had been pointed in our direction when they got off the bus in Milk River and no one driving that lonely road would ever pass by someone on foot.)
So they arrived.
Often hot and sweaty.
But usually ready to work.
There were exceptions.
Oh, they still arrived, hot and sweaty.
It was the ‘work’ thing that they weren’t ready for.
Those didn’t last long.
Case in point:
A young man arrived on the bus from Hawaii.
Okay, yes, I know that’s impossible.
Let’s just say he arrived on the bus.
And that he was from Hawaii.
He told the local bus-terminal operator that he was a cowboy looking for work.
Dutifully, the operator called Dad to see if the Stringam Ranch could use an extra couple of hands if they were attached to a large, happy, Stetson-sporting fellow from Hawaii.
Well, this was something new.
Our first Hawaiian cowboy.
Dad drove the twenty miles to bring this curiosity home.
He was a pleasant fellow.
Charming and cheerful.
And he sure loved Mom’s cooking.
So far so good.
Dad gave him an assignment. An easy one to start. Tear out the fence along the tree-lined drive.
Dad wanted to replace it and he needed the old one removed.
Our newest hand was given tools.
And left on his own.
Some time later, he was discovered, lying in the shade, visiting with my eldest sister while she shelled peas.
He looked at Dad.
“Oh!” he said, jumping to his feet and hurrying back to work.
Dad went on with his day.
Only to stumble across the young man, once more, lying in the shade and visiting with my sister as she snapped beans.
Dad merely raised his eyebrows.
“Guess I’d better get back to work,” the young man said, pushing himself to his feet and sauntering back to his job.
Sometime later, the bell rang, calling everyone to supper.
The young man was first in line.
Smacking his lips over more of Mom’s cooking.
After supper, he remained in his seat and chatted with my sister while she washed the dishes.
For the next two days, he managed to find time to talk to my sister whenever she set foot outside.
He talked as she weeded the garden. Washed the 4-H calves. Hauled hay. And shucked corn.
Are we seeing a pattern forming here?
Progress on his own project was minimal.
Actually, non-existent.
On the third day, Dad loaded him into the car after breakfast and gave him a ride back to the bus stop in town.
The job that had taken him three days?
My brothers finished it in three hours.
That was our one and only experience with a Hawaiian cowboy.
I’m sure there are others.
Cowboys from Hawaii, I mean.
That are very hard workers.
They just haven’t made it to Milk River, yet.

Monday, December 7, 2020

New-ish Traditions


We moved away from kith and kin in 1983,

‘Twas not an easy time for us, I know you will agree…

Cause our traditions then depended on those fam’ly ties,

And eating, playing games and FUN (and all that word implies),

But work would call us northward. So for years we made the hike,

At Christmas time o’er icy roads with all our toys and tykes.

And then that year. The mercury, at minus 40, stopped,

And Husby found just what it’s like to drive a curling rock…

With all six kids (and packages) in blankets in the back,

All praying for a little warmth before they outright cracked!

T’was at that moment, we decided for our fam’ly’s good,

We would start our own traditions—staying where we should.

With new PJ’s on Christmas eve and pasta for the meal,

Rummoli and assorted games; and movies for the ‘feels’,

Christmas Bears and other baking, gifts beneath our tree,

And visiting beside the fire with choc-o-late or tea.

Then Christmas morning, trying to drag their dad out of the sack,

Avoiding traps and crafty tricks (assured to give flashbacks),

When finally, he had arrived, to the tree they all would scoot,

Then tearing, and excitement and “Just look at all my loot!”

Eggs Benedict for breakfast and then visiting until,

The turkey dinner, guaranteed all empty spots to fill,

More games and puzzles all together while we would digest,

With talk and laughter constantly and feeling mighty blessed.

Each year, our family has grown, with chicks and chicklets, too,

And now there’s over thirty gather (yes, it’s quite a crew!),

And sometimes when it’s quiet, which I must admit, is rare,

I’m glad we are at home, instead of taking things elsewhere,

And have we been successful in creating ‘fun’ our own?

Now our kids pack their tykes and toys and join us here at home!


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 JennyCharlotteMimi, 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, some joy we hope to spread,

With houses out of gingerbread!


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Brain Cell

 My cell phone’s a necessity,

Without it, I just can’t be me!
My e-lec-tron-ic brain, oh, yes.
And so much more, I do confess.

No cell? The time—I would not know,
Couldn’t Google Map the way to go,
Be forced to grade six math so I,
Could add, subtract and multiply.

I couldn’t call a single friend,
(‘Cause I ‘select’ and then hit ‘send’.)
I would not even know the date,
For all appointments, I’d be late.

Go back to being ignorant
(Without Google, data’s scant.)
Could not take those wond’rous pics,
With which, my family, I transfix.

I couldn’t text, could not emote,
I couldn’t bake or sew or vote.
And don’t forget that cell phone spark
That keeps you walking in the dark.

For forty years, I did without,
I found my way, I did not doubt,
What do I miss with my long rant?
Being lost, alone and ignorant!

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