Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, March 5, 2021

Bob and Murray


Before you read any further, you have to be able to accept two facts:
1.      That cats can talk.
2.      That a cat would walk around in a pair of fine boots.
I know what you’re thinking. No cat would ever submit to wearing an item of clothing.
Go with me on this…
A wealthy miller had three sons. A very good thing, except when it comes time to divide an estate. Then all sorts of complications arise.
And so it would prove with our story. When the miller died, his eldest son, Harold, received the mill.
His second son, Jerrold, a fine pair of mules.
And the third son, Bob, a cat.
I have to admit, here, that Bob, though he loved cats in general and that particular cat…particularly, was just a bit perturbed. I mean, what on earth was he to do with a cat for an inheritance?
I had the same thought.
As he was sitting with his head in his hands contemplating that very thing, the cat (let’s call him Murray) spoke to him. “Master?” it said in a very cat-like purr. “Bring me a pair of boots and I shall make your fortune for you.”
Of course the astonished young man (when he got past his astonishment) did exactly that—purchased a pair of fine boots that perfectly fitted his fur baby.
Because who is going to deny their cat such a simple request?
Murray, the cat proceeded to go out and bag a rabbit. (Hunter talk for hunter-ing and killing.) He then presented said rabbit to the king. With the Marquis of Carabas’ compliments.
You’re probably wondering where Bob got his new name.
I have only this to say: Murray is one clever cat.
For the next few weeks, Murray performed a similar service—delivering dead, but succulent animals to the king. In the Marquis’ name.
Let’s just say that, after about the second day, he had the king’s attention.
One bright and sunny day, the king decided to take his sweet and intelligent daughter out for a carriage ride/tour of the kingdom.
Because it was bright and sunny.
Murray, who in this story appears to be omniscient, (It’s a short leap from cat wearing boots to cat knowing everything. Am I right?) noticed.
And quickly devised a plan.
He instructed his young master to shed his clothing and dive into the river.
I’m quite sure there was a bit of conversational back-and-forth-ing, but the up-shot was that Bob, clothes-less, ended up in the river as his cat requested.
Murray then took his master’s rather ragged attire and stuffed it somewhere unfind-able.
Then ran out on the road and flagged down the king’s carriage.
“Help,” he shrieked in his loudest cat voice. “My master has been robbed!”
Of course, Murray was recognized. And of course, the king ordered his servants to fish Bob/the Marquis out of the water and dress him in the finest clothes. And invite him to join the cheerful touring party.
Where the king’s daughter (we’ll call her Jill) took one look at the sweet and intelligent young man and fell heart-first in love.
Good so far.
But the story’s not over yet.
Murray then ran ahead of the carriage and, stopping anyone in the vicinity of the road requested they tell the king the land they worked belonged to the Marquis of Carabas.
Which they did.
Finally, Murray came to a great and handsome palace.
Owned by an ogre.
Now, this ogre was the actual owner of all the lands that had just been ‘claimed’ by the 'Marquis of Carabas'. He ruled his lands with an actual iron fist because this ogre had one quite remarkable ability: He could change himself into anything.
No wonder the people were happy to accommodate Murray in his request to claim a different landowner.
Murray, more brave than…well…anything, marched straight into that palace and demanded a meeting with the owner.
The astonished servants complied and soon Murray and the ogre were face to face.
Well…sort of…
“I can change into anything,” said the ogre.
Probably not the way I would have started the conversation, but then I’m not an ogre.
“Interesting,” Murray replied. “Can you change into a lion?”
“Pah! That’s easy!” And he did.
A rather scary one with sharp teeth and claws.
Murray took a couple of steps back. “Very realistic. And rather scary.” He stroked his kitty chin. “Can you change into something very big?”
“Pah! Child’s play!” And suddenly an elephant was standing there in the ogre’s front room.
Murray frowned. “That is very good. But it’s easy to change into big things. How about something very tiny? Like…erm…a mouse?”
And that’s the last thing the ogre said. Because as soon as his furry little mouse body appeared, Murray was on it like a…cat on a mouse. And devoured it.
Just then, the king’s carriage arrived.
Quickly, Murray ran to the front door to welcome the king and his daughter (and Bob) inside the newly-acquired palace of the Marquis of Carabas.
I know you’re wondering how Murray got the servants to fall in with the scheme.
Let’s just say they were infinitely more excited about serving sweet and kind Bob than they had ever been serving an ogre and leave it there, shall we?
The king was properly impressed and, a short time later, when Jill and Bob announced their engagement, happily gave his blessing.
The country prospered. Largely due to the fact that Bob/Marquis put Murray in charge of everything.
Because doesn’t life always go a bit smoother when the cat is in charge?

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Daddy's Girl

We have a dog.
Hmmm…that doesn’t quite cover it. Let me start over.
A fur baby owns us.
This fur baby came to us at the age of 8 weeks almost two years ago. A little black and white, bear-cub of cuteness.
And immediately captured our senior hearts.
A little background…
Something told me we needed a dog.
We had always had dogs. But our Aldo had crossed the rainbow bridge a couple of years before and we assumed our glorious dog-days were behind us.
As were our walks outside.
I realized that if we didn’t have an excuse to get us into the great outdoors, we’d become hopeless couch-seniors—TV remote fused to one hand—rooted and unable to move.
There was also an added incentive. Apart from his family’s sweet little Banjo when Husby was a teenager, he had never had a dog that was ‘his’.
Oh, our family had tons of dogs. Usually Old English Sheepdogs. And usually a plethora (good word) at the same time.
But none were ‘his’.
With his retirement and subsequent ‘being-at-home-all-the-time-now’ this was his chance.
It took a couple of weeks of convincing. But Husby finally relented.
Did you ever have a plan that worked? Where all the planets aligned and balls dropped into their proper places and order?
It happens occasionally.
And it did here.
These two are inseparable. Where Husby is, Pandy is not far away. Under his desk in his office. Lying beside his chair in the family room. Watching closely from an acceptable (dogs aren’t allowed in the dining room) distance at mealtimes. Out in the yard when yard-work is indicated. Riding in the truck with him to appointments or run errands. Waiting patiently while he does whatever it is humans do when doggies are told to ‘stay’ and not allowed out of the truck.
Yep. Where he goes, Pandy is…ahem…underfoot.
Husby was out at the Agriculture Grounds taking some measurements. A member of the Ag Board, he has been organizing the restoration of a period barn on the property and needed to take some measurements.
Pandy was along.
For some time, she had followed him around, keeping a watchful eye on his doings.
He set up a ladder and climbed into the loft.
Pandy sat and stared up at the hole that had swallowed her daddy.
Then he pulled the ladder up and into the loft so he could look at the ceiling some forty feet from where his little girl sat.
His last glimpse of her was big, brown eyes looking up at him from the ground so far below.
He finished his tasks and returned to ground level.
His fur baby had disappeared
He walked around, calling her.
No Pandy.
The featherings of alarm.
Then he looked toward the truck.
There she was, waiting patiently as she does whenever he takes her somewhere she isn’t allowed to follow. She knew that, at some time, he would return, so this was the safest—and surest—place to wait for her daddy.
Smart doggins.
I just watched the two of them disappear on yet another jaunt. Husby with the leash around his neck. Pandy hopping and jumping with excitement.
Yep. You know that ‘something’ which told me we needed a dog?
It was right.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Melty Deliciousness

                                                          The Pass Dairy as it looks today. 

My Father-in-Law (hereinafter known as FIL) loved ice cream.
Maybe I should re-word.
My FIL LOVED ice cream.
Nearly every meal ended with the creamy deliciousness.
No matter how large the portions had been.
In his words: “Ice cream just melts and goes in the cracks.”
Snack times must always include some form of the treat.
If one was traveling, one could always find someone, somewhere, who could provide a scoop or a spiral.
And that is where this story starts . . .
FIL knew the best places in all of Southern Alberta to buy ice cream.
He would be driving and suddenly turn off the main road.
When questioned, the answer inevitably contained some form of the words: Ice cream. And Need. Some. Right. Now.
Many, many places catered happily (and satisfactorily) to his passion.
But his particular favourite was The Pass Dairy.
In the Crowsnest Pass.
More specifically in the town of Bellevue in the Crowsnest Pass.
For a dollar, they would give you an ice cream cone that was truly heroic in size.
In fact, they took pride in the fact that theirs was the largest, best cone anywhere.
Something FIL challenged them on regularly.
On this particular day, he had gone into the little shop.
And emerged with a cone piled high with a perfect spiral of soft, melting deliciousness.
I think we could properly insert the word: Massive.
Mother-in-Law stared at it, wide-eyed. “Ray,” she said. “If you eat all that, you’ll be sick!”
FIL just looked at her and smiled. “You know better than that!”
He was right. 

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Travel Signs

We had spent a few days with our coastal son.

The one who lives in paradise.
He is fun, funny and a deep, deep thinker.
He is also the one who remembers everything.
At the top of his list of memories during this visit?
His Dad’s Dad-isms. The strange things his dad told him during his upbringing that he realized, belatedly, really couldn’t be true.
But now are an integral part of his childhood.
If not a part of reality.
A few road signs:
The ‘Deer en pointe’ sign.

A sure warning that there are deer practicing—or performing—ballet in the vicinity.
Occasionally in the middle of the road.
Hence the sign.
The Snakes on Road sign.

Which gives a warning and also a estimate of number.
But you have to look closely to find them.
When they aren’t slithering down the middle of the road.
Just FYI. We’ve never seen them slithering down the road.
Those signs are erroneous.
Then the Sign which, to the rest of the word says: Loose Gravel.

To Dad, it said “Loo-Che Gravel-lay”.
An Italian fellow who obviously haunts roads in poor repair.
Enough signs . . .
Now we move on to a couple of animals that only Dad knows.
The first and foremost: The rock gopher.

A small rodent-appearing animal that bores holes through solid rock.
I know you’ve seen the holes.
Now you know how they occur.
And, finally, the side-hill gouger.

These are cows seen grazing on the sides of steep hills or mountains.
Their legs are shorter on one side than the other.
Thus their ability to walk comfortably on those steep sides of mountains.
Their only draw-back is their inability to turn the other way.
That would be—a disaster.
And would cause the inevitable, but rarely seen, rolling cow slide.
What your kids remember instead of real facts.
And that’s just fine.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Snack of Choice

When Bro and I got home from school,

For both of us, the standing rule

Was finding something good to eat,

A goodie, nosh, a snack, a treat.


When mom was there, we were so glad,

She’d something warm (and never bad),

With cookies, cakes, to name a few,

To savour. Smiling as we’d chew.


But, sadly, when our mom was out,

We had no treats to talk about,

And Bro and I were on our own,

Our snackless state we two’d bemoan.


 But soon we learned to seek and find,

We knew our mom would never mind,

His choice was sardines. In a can.

I’d shudder. Try a different plan.


Soft bread. I’d toast it just a bit,

Light brown was best, I do admit,

Then quickly, ‘fore it cooled (what dread!),

Some peanut butter, thickly spread.


It melted finely to my toast,

T’was just the way I liked it most,

And, to this day, I do recall

That first taste, best one of them all.


I love it still. Just yesterday,

Some peanut butter came my way,

Via bread and knife and jar,

Still my favourite snack by far.


But now I ask of all of you,

Given choice, what would you do?

A sardine tin (like my dear Bro),

Or peanut butter. How’d you go?

Cause Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we all besought
To try to make the week begin
With gentle 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, for fun (and not dismay),
We'll celebrate Be Nasty Day!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Peanut Butter Day (March 1) TODAY!
Be Nasty Day (March 8)
Pi(e) Day (what else would it be?) (March 15)
World Poetry Day (March 22)
Something on a Stick Day (March 29)
Read a Road Map Day (April 5)
Favorite invention (From Mimi) (April 12)
National Garlic Day (April 19)
The ocean or beach (From Mimi) (April 26)
The best thing about spring (From Mimi) (May 3)

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