Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, December 18, 2020

Family Light


My Siblings
Mom's Family: The Bergs

Dad's Family: The Stringams

My Family

In our corner of the world, in winter, the nights are very long.

For a period of time, the street lights are coming on when the school children are just getting home.
And don't shut off until said children are safely back in class the next morning.
One does everything in the dark.
Early morning walks.
Paper routes.
Extra curricular activities.
You might think that it would be aggravating; having so few hours of sunlight during our 'waking' part of the day.
But I love it.
For a few months, Life seems to slow down.
Family comes home earlier.
And stays longer.
But I have one memory that makes the darkness . . . special.
Let me tell you about it . . .
On the ranch, meals were served like clockwork.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner appeared with amazing regularity.
And an equal amount of delicious-ness.
During winter, at least two of those meals were prepared and served with stars in the sky.
With the modern conveniences of electricity, this was not a handicap.
Mom worked with every imaginable electronic gadget.
In a brilliantly lit kitchen.
As the rest of the house darkened with the fading sunlight, the kitchen remained a beacon.
Calling to all of us.
As suppertime neared, I would shut off the lamp in my bedroom and, without stopping to turn on any more lights, walk quickly along the dark hallway.
And that's the part I remember most clearly.
Seeing the light flooding out of every doorway leading into the kitchen.
Moving from the dark into a world of light, fragrance, warmth.
And family.
Mom orchestrating and/or supervising numerous pots and kettles and children.
The rest of the kids gathering or already seated.
An evening of great food and wonderful company ahead of me.
Mom is gone, now.
My siblings scattered throughout North America.
But whenever I come from a darkened hallway into a lighted kitchen, I feel that same anticipation.
That same joy I first felt over fifty years ago - and that time and life experiences cannot fade.
Stepping from darkness into light.
The light that is family.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Seasonal Dressing

Clockwise from right: Aly (Hired man's son),
Anita, Blair, and Me - in my little gold beauty.
It wasn't often that we kids were able to go on a field trip with my Dad.
When it happened, we were eager.
When it happened at Christmas, we were beyond excited.
That's all of the 'E' words I can think of.
Except that 'energetic' should be stuck in there somewhere.
And, for me, usually immediately followed by, "Empty all tanks!"
When I think about it, I guess it's not surprising that we didn't go on field trips with my Dad very often.
Back to my story . . .
Dad was taking us four oldest kids to the Sweetgrass Hills to cut down our family's Christmas tree.
It was the 60's.
Families did things like that back then.
But we had to make a quick stop in Milk River at the Robinson's store to get me a winter coat.
I had outgrown my old one and Dad wasn't excited about trailing me through the forest wrapped in my blanket.
Go figure.
So the excitement level for this trip had just been dialed way up.
In fact, I was so elated, that Dad didn't even wait for the 'announcement' (see above), but sat me in the car with a bucket already in my lap.
Smart man.
We made the 20 miles to Milk River without incident. (see above . . . again.)
And entered the store.
I should explain here that the Robinson's Store was the only shop in Milk River that featured clothing.
There were neat piles of everything wearable.
And the wood plank floors creaked delightfully.
And if you were really lucky, you got to watch Theo Barrows gift wrap packages at her counter in the middle of the store.
The curling of the ribbons was especially fascinating.
Where was I  . . .?
Oh, yes.
New coat.
Dad asked the manager where we could find coats in my size and was conducted, with me tagging eagerly behind, to a rack at one side of the store.
My eyes were immediately drawn to a gold, furry, wonderful garment.
I reached out a hand and brushed the soft fur.
Oooooh! "This one, Daddy! This one!"
"Okay, we'll try this one," Dad said.
I dropped my blanket and slipped my arms into the sleeves.
"I guess we'll take it," Dad said.
Good thing, too, because there was no way they were ever going to pry me out of that coat.
Dad paid and we trooped back out to the car.
The other kids excited now to get to the real reason for this trip.
Me brushing and brushing the soft fur on my arms and chest.
We had fun finding the tree.
I think.
We did end up with one.
I really don't remember much about it.
Me and my coat were happy, sitting in the car together.
And watching through the windshield.
Because, after all - one couldn't wear one's new coat out into nature!
What if it got soiled?
Dad later said something about 'waste of time and money'.
But who listened?
Anita and Blair (in my now-outgrown coat which he hated). 
The original recycling program

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Mitten of Invention

A repost of my favourite Christmas shopping story.

Red Mittens - not just for hands any more!
We were shopping. I will admit, here, that shopping is not my favourite activity. I need a really good excuse.
It was Christmas.
Okay, Christmas is a really good excuse . . .
My youngest two children and I were out to find a gift for Husby.
Their Dad, my Sweetheart.
The hardest person to shop for.
After much wrinkle-browed thought, we had decided that whatever we were seeking would best be found at Lee Valley Tools. My husband's favourite place on earth.
It is a long-standing family joke that he must go once a month to LVT to pay homage to Thor, the Tool God.
But I digress . . .
We set out.
It was December.
In Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, winter equals snow. Ask anyone.
But avoid those with chattering teeth. Th-th-they c-c-c-can n-n-n-never be t-t-t-trusted.
Or understood.
Where was I? Oh, yes. Winter. Shopping. Setting out.
At first, things went well. A heavy, wet snow was falling thickly, but the window wipers were managing to keep the windshield clear – sort of.
We made it into the city. And immediately slowed to a snail's pace.
Let me describe the scene for those of you not familiar with travel accompanied by snow: All roads are now white. And slippery. All surfaces have become heavily coated in ice. Nothing is recognizable. Little is even visible.
The windshield wipers are your best, and only, friends.
But even they, too, get clogged with snow and need the occasional boost. This is accomplished by stopping. Getting out of the vehicle. And slapping said wiper against the window hard enough to remove any accumulated snow.
Or, if you are my husband, by opening the driver's window and catching the wiper when it is in its furthest upright position and giving it a quick snap while it is still in motion.
It's all about timing. And coordination.
Neither of which I have.
And both of which were to be needed shortly.
Several times, I pulled out of the crawling traffic and performed the necessary operation to clear the windshield. Then waited for a break in the traffic and pulled back in. Total time wasted? Hours.
Okay, well, it seemed like hours.
There must be a better way. I would try Grant's method!
When the traffic had stopped for yet another light, or stalled vehicle, I quickly rolled down the window. Then I reached out.
I waited for just the right moment, when the wipers were at their apex (neat word, right?)
Closer. Closer. There!
I reached out and caught the top of the wiper.
Snap! Okay, that didn't sound good.
As the wipers began their downward stroke, I realized what I had done. The blade was still in my hand.
I had snapped the entire thing off its arm.
Umm . . . oops?
The window quickly became covered in a blanket of white. Well, half of it at any rate.
Unfortunately, it was the driver's half. Rather necessary if you want to see where you are going.
And usually, the driver does.
Something needed to be done. And there was no one but me to do it.
Quickly, I climbed out and switched my only remaining wiper blade to the driver's side. Okay. Now I could see. That's important.
But now, the other side of the windshield was suffering from the lack of wiper-age.
I looked around. Our options were . . . limited.
“What about this?” My daughter's voice from the back seat.
She was holding up her red mitten.
I stared at it. Huh. Might work. I took it and, climbing out into the storm once more, proceeded to tie it to the other wiper arm.
We switched on the wipers.
It worked!
Now we had a wiper and a . . . mitten.
I don't have to tell you how it looked. In point of fact, we giggled every time that mitten came into sight.
We finished our trip. Shopping done. Purchases made. Van safely parked back on the driveway.
And Husby replaced the wiper that had so inconveniently decided to come off.
Stupid thing.
The wiper, not Husby.
I learned several things from this:
1. Don't shop.
2. Don't drive.
3. Don't live in Canada
4. Don't go anywhere without your red mittens.
Okay, you're right. I didn't learn anything because:
1. I still shop.
2. I still drive.
3. I still live in Canada.
Pack your mittens!
You get the picture . . .

Tuesday, December 15, 2020



She was supposed to be weeding the garden. But the warm afternoon sun beckoned and, let’s face it, she had a short attention span. So Goldilocks dropped hoe, dusted hands, and went exploring.

Okay, so it’s not like she was strictly ‘forbidden’ said activity. It was more like an understood… erm… understanding that dire things could happen if she did so. And Little Goldie lacked discipline.

Deep into the forest that bordered her mother’s small patch of ground, Goldie walked. Enjoying the warm sunshine and the plethora (real word roughly meaning: lots) of birds, scurrying furry animals and insects.

And there, in the center (or as close as we can estimate without a yardstick) of those woods stood a tidy, little cottage. A cute little cottage. Owned by someone Goldie didn’t know.

Now that fact alone would have caused anyone else to either knock politely and await a response, or, at the very least, holler. And when either greeting failed to raise a resident—leave.

Remember where I said Goldie lacked discipline? Turns out she also lacked common courtesy. And basic manners. Because though she did knock, perfunctorily, she didn’t await a response, but simply walked right in.

Now, this little cottage wasn’t owned by just anyone. Nope. The three names on the title (they are still there if you’d care to look) were Papa Bear, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.

Of course some time has passed since the happenings penned here, so Baby Bear is no longer a baby, but an enormous fully grown Papa himself. With a large family of his own.

But for our purposes, we’ll stick to the timeline wherein these things actually took place. Sooo… Goldilocks. Cottage. Lack of courtesy. Trespassing. I think that takes us all where we need to go.

The first thing she noticed in the tidy kitchen that opened directly off of the back door were three steaming bowls of porridge. Well—one steaming. And two in varied stages of cooling-off-ed-ness.

It was at that moment Goldilocks realized she hadn’t eaten in some time. Since breakfast, in fact. Her stomach and several attached and/or dependent systems suddenly reminded her with a low growl.

And just like that, she decided that a bowl of yummy porridge in the hand was worth any number of distant and possibly uninteresting lunches at home. No matter who it belonged to.

She found a spoon and tasted the first—largest—bowl. “Yow!” she wailed. “Too hot!” Okay, yes, the steam should have been a dead give-away. It suggests a distinct lack of observation skills.

She moved to the second-biggest bowl. “Ugh. Too cold.” Say what you will about Goldilocks—though her talent for observation may be lacking, this girl is an authority when it comes to porridge.

And she doesn’t give up easily. By the time we had reached the third bowl, many of us would have thrown in the spoon. But Goldie remained undeterred by her two appetite-curbing failures.

Still tingling with enthusiasm—and/or hunger—she dove in. And was correct (if not right) by so doing. The third bowl, though the smallest, was perfect in both temperature and content! Trés yummy!

In no time, the porridge was gone. And Goldie was needing a spot to sit and rest her weary—though distinctly dishonest—bones. A chair was indicated. Remarkably, there were three on offer.

One too hard. One too soft. And one just right. But surprisingly poorly constructed. Or at least that’s what Goldie told herself when the whole da…darn thing collapsed into a heap of splinters.

Now urgently needing a place to recover from the shock of becoming subject to the foibles of shoddy construction practices, Goldie sought out the bedroom. And the three tidy beds she found therein.

Again a short-term dilemma. Too hard. Too soft. Just right. Goldie sank into the comfy mattress and immediately was lost in the arms of Morpheus. A fictional character. Unlike Goldie who is…never mind.

While she slumbered, the aforementioned cottage owners returned from wherever they had gone. They noticed immediately that something was amiss. Let’s face it, what Goldie lacked in manners…she also lacked in neatness.

First they spotted the empty bowl. Then the shattered chair. Yes, you’re right. Pretty hard to miss. And finally, they came upon the culprit, soundly and rosily asleep in Baby Bear’s little bed.

It was at that moment Goldilocks woke up. “Three bears!” she screamed. Leaping up, she again showed her lack of societal training and manners by simply running past them and out the door.

Papa, Mama and Baby bear looked at each other. What had just happened? Not only were they the victims of a home invasion, they had been made to feel distinctly labeled and typecast.

Mama Bear looked out the window as the golden-haired (thus, her name) eater of porridge, breaker of chairs and sleeper of beds disappeared into the woods. She sighed and turned to her family.

“I feel distinctly labeled and typecast(!),” she said. Baby Bear nodded, “And I feel violated. I’m the one who lost my breakfast and my place to sit. And should probably wash my sheets.”

Papa Bear put a fatherly hand on Baby Bear’s shoulder. “So what do we learn from this, son?” Baby Bear frowned. “Even though we live in Canada, we should learn to lock doors?”

Word Counters is a monthly word challenge.
Participants choose a number.
And the rest of us stick to it.
Sound fun?
Join us!
'Word Counters' was brought to you this month by the number: 33 
Our good friend Mimi of Messymimi's Meanderings is also participating!

Monday, December 14, 2020


My daughter works in theatre,

A carpenter. It’s true.

She’s very good at what she does,

Is always in demand because,

You seldom see her make faux pas,

Excels with nails and glue.


And you should see the things she builds!

They’re miracles, I swear,

A whole apartment on the stage,

An office, ship, a courtroom, cage,

‘Sets’ the scene for joy or rage,

All built with skill and care.


We’ve witnessed her artistic bent

In her own life as well.

Her décor can be called ‘unique’,

A mix of modern and antique,

With personality and ‘cheek’,

In vivids and pastels.


And better, yet, are holidays,

The artist does emerge,

With graves dug deep in our front yard,

Or lights with which our house is starred,

Or one enormous greeting card,

You see her talents surge!


But none are much more obvious than,

Her homes of gingerbread,

There’s never a bucolic scene,

Where lights and candles softly gleam,

And icing, trees and rooftops preen,

And only JOY is spread.


Instead, we have a ‘what we’d see’

If disasters hit:

An earthquake leaves you in the lurch,

With flames, a building is besmirched,

A Christmas train through a Christmas church,

Unusual, you’ll admit!



If homes of gingerbread you make,

And just want something sweet,

Even though your kids are bright and kind,

Fantastic at what they’ve designed,

To THEATRE, if they’re inclined,

Just stick with Trick or Treat!

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 Monday's shortest of the year,

We'll see if we can find some cheer,

So come and celebrate with us,

The Winter Solstice, we'll discuss!

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