Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, March 12, 2021

Eight Seconds


I have a secret.

I guess it’s not really that big a secret. I mean, not like I’m a spy or anything…
I love the rodeo! Yes, I know I’m a city girl and always have been. But there’s just something about people and horses doing what they do.
And cowboys in tight jeans?
Who’s with me on that one?
For my sixteenth birthday, Mom and Sally put their heads together and bought us all tickets to Calgary, Alberta for the world-famous Calgary Stampede.
Rodeo at its…dustiest.
Can I just say I was thrilled and leave it at that?
We picked the Hilton, which was within walking distance, or, if one is with Sally, one long sprint from the Saddledome.
Each morning, we dressed in what we fondly believed looked ‘cowboy’ and headed out for the fairgrounds/EVENT.
And each evening returned, dusty and happy for a shower and recaps on the evening news.
For me, exactly as I had dreamed it.
For Mom and Sally? Well…they were gracious in their ‘enthusiasm’.
The first two days slipped harmlessly by.
Then, that third and final day.
You have to know that no experience with Sally ever remains…normal.
We were watching the bull-riding.
For you neophytes, this is the event wherein man is pitted again 2000-pound beast by perching his slender, Levis-clad self atop a muscular, leather-clad behemoth.
Then, in a monumental battle of wills, attempts to remain there for eight loooong seconds.
Interestingly, it is the ONLY event wherein a cowboy uses skills he wouldn’t actually use on an actual ranch, doing…actual cattle stuff.
But it is uber exciting!
Now, because these large, male cattle are, for want of a better word, unpredictable, the powers-that-be decided many, many years ago to add something to the scenario.
Okay, they may look funny to us. And even do ‘funny’ things in the arena, but their actual purpose is really quite serious.
Distract the big guy while the small guy sprints for safety following the ride.
Enough detail…
Sally had befriended one of the youngest bull-riders, Mark.
Because she was…Sally, and did that sort of thing easily.
Mark was the next rider on the program.
So Sally was down by the fence in the warm July sun, watching intently.
Across the arena from us, the chute opened and a brown and white cyclone emerged.
With Mark clinging to its back by a slender rope.
And one hand.
The first few jumps went well.
Bull bucking and twisting.
Mark clinging.
So far so good.
Then the inevitable parting of the ways.
From this point on, things didn’t go smoothly.
Normally, the rope to which the rider clings maintains its tension by his grip. He is actually, physically, holding the two ends together. When he lets go, so does the rope.
Occasionally, this doesn’t happen. The rope, for whatever reason, binds. It’s called getting ‘hung-up’. And the watching audience comes to its feet with a gasp as the cowboy dangles by one hand off the side of a still-miffed and enormous daddy cow.
Now most of the time, the situation resolves itself. Rope lets go. Rider falls. Clowns distract the bull and the man sprints to safety and awaits his score.
But sometimes, all hell breaks loose…
And of course, it did. Here. Now.
Mark attempted to release.
The rope refused.
And suddenly, he was hanging, quite literally, inches from the hooves and horns of death.
By one hand.
The clowns went into action, dodging and weaving around the bull. One of them tried to move in close and pull Mark free.
But the bull spun, flinging Mark’s body outward like some sort of appendage, and chased the clown off.
And that’s when I noticed that someone else had stepped into the middle of the arena.
A slender fifteen-year-old girl.
Carrying the brightly-coloured scarf that had just moments before been around her neck.
She waved it and the bull’s head went up. Now bulls are colour-blind. But they do respond to waving.
Much like a teen-aged boy…
Mom rushed to her feet, then cleared at least two rows of mesmerized audience members in one leap.
I couldn’t move.
The bull made a couple of hop-steps toward Sally, then charged.
A moan went through the crowd and I noticed several astonished clowns blinking and staring as the bull swept past them.
Just as the bull reached my sister, she glided to one side and, grabbing for Mark’s arm, jerked down on it. His body came loose and he dropped to the ground.
She spun around and stepped a few paces away.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. They do things like this all the time in bullfights halfway around the globe.
But we’re talking about a young girl.
Who has never even SEEN a bull before.
The bull came at her again and, once more, she spun to one side at the climactic moment.
By this time, the clowns had gathered, managing to distract the bull and direct him toward the nearest bulls-only exit.
Sally knelt down beside Mark.
And I collapsed into my seat.
Mom reached Sally about the same time as the guys with the stretcher.
I thought I’d see her smack the back of Sally’s head with a well-timed, well-deserved, mom-precision slap. But instead, she wrapped her erring daughter in her arms.
Okay, the excitement didn’t quite end there as we were forced to spend the next few hours in the offices of the event administrators, explaining and apologizing.
For a while, there was even talk of charges.
But finally, they settled for a guarantee that Sally, if she ever thought of returning, wouldn’t.
And we were allowed to return to our hotel room.
I know many of you have experienced a rodeo.
But if you ever want to REALLY experience one…take Sally.

Use Your Words is a word challenge issued by, Karen of Baking in a Tornado. (She who keeps us all pointed in the right direction.)
Each of us submit our words to her, and she then distributes to the other members of our circle.
It’s totally fun.
Sally fun.
My words this month were:
rodeo ~ glide ~ picked ~ warm ~ exactly
And given to me by Karen (see above). Thank you, my friend!
Now go and see what our other friends created!
You’ll be glad you did!
Baking In A Tornado
Wandering Web Designer
Part-time Working Hockey Mom 
The Crazy Mama Llama                                               

Thursday, March 11, 2021

It’s Not Over

I love the stories about my Dad’s mother, Grandma Stringam . . .

My paternal grandmother, Sarah Lovina Williams Stringam and her husband, George Lewis Stringam, homesteaded and raised their family in Glenwood, Alberta.
While Grandpa ranched and served in the legislature, Grandma worked in the home and community and as the accepted nurse/doctor in the rural area.
She is credited with saving many lives.
A little girl who was nearly frozen to death. Her own sister with diphtheria.
Several during the 1918 flu epidemic. Subjects of future posts.
But this story is about babies.
The Wood twins had been born four and a half months before to Mr. and Mrs. Glen Wood. The little ones were frail and sickly and still near their birth weight.
And now both of them had contracted pneumonia.
When Grandma arrived, their father was sitting in the kitchen with one of them.
He looked at Grandma and said, “Sister Stringam, I’m afraid you’re too late.” 
Grandma told him not to speak that way. “Where there’s life, there’s hope,” she said.
Just then, the little one quit breathing. His father blew in his face and he revived.
Grandma told him to hold the baby for just a moment and she would get a mustard plaster to put on his chest.
The father just looked at her, so she stirred up a weak plaster, warmed it in the oven, and put it on the baby’s little chest until it turned pink.
Then she rubbed in oil and wrapped it in cotton batting. This seemed to make the baby breathe easier and it slept.
Both babies were coughing and Grandma called the nearest doctor half an hour away for instructions, but he told her he had done all he could for the babies and figured there was not much of a chance for them.
Grandma asked him, “Do you think I could give them mustard plasters?”
“Do you think they could stand them?” 
“Oh, yes, if I’m careful.” 
Then, the fateful words: “I don’t think they have a chance in the world. I’ve done all I can. Now it is up to you and the Lord. Do whatever seems best to you, Sister Stringam.”
So Grandma did. She and the babies’ parents took turns through the next days and nights caring for the two little ones.
By the end of a week, they had ‘improved greatly’ and Grandma was finally free to go home and care for her own family.
Though she didn’t agree, their parents insisted that Grandma had saved their babies.
When everyone else had given up, she carried on.
Sometimes, that makes all the difference.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cookie Monster


Daddy was a dessert/sweets aficionado.

Most meals ended with some incarnation of treat—usually homemade and delicious. Or ice cream. Or both.

And…sometimes…those same treats would be re-introduced during whatever evening activity the family was engaged in.

Said introduction was normally preceded by the clearing of a fatherly throat. Followed by, “Blair (or insert name of child), Jerry (insert another child) would like some cake and ice cream and strawberries. And while you’re up, would you be so kind as to bring me some as well?”

Now ‘Jerry’ would not have said a thing prior to this exchange.

Though he/she/they were totally happy to be included.

Spotlighted child would obediently (albeit with some slight verbal remonstrations) rise and fetch treats for the entire family.

Daddy would happily tuck in and all was well.

This went on for the entirety of his life.

Skip a couple of generations…

My second granddaughter (hereinafter called GD2)—bright, red-headed pixie of a girl, was sitting on her grandpa’s knee. Dinner was over and the family had settled in to do what they do best—visit.

Across the room, on the food table, resided a platter of favourite cookies.

Which GD2 had been eying closely.

Finally, the little girl turned to her Grandfather. “Grampa? Would you like a cookie?”

Now she well knew her grandfather’s penchant for all things sweet and delicious. The question was mere flimflam.

Grampa: “Why yes, I would!”

The little girl bounced off his knee and quickly made a return trip. “Here, Grampa.”

She handed him a cookie with a little bite taken out of it.

Her grandfather looked at the cookie, then at his granddaughter. “Umm…thank you?”

She smiled happily. “You’re welcome!”

A few minutes later, she again turned to him. “Grampa? Would you like another cookie?”

He looked at her. “Ye-es.”

Again, she hopped off his knee. Again she ran quickly to the table and returned with a treat.

Again it consisted of just a bit less cookie than when she had plucked it off the platter.

This time, her mother caught the whole operation.

“I told you no more cookies!” she said sternly.

GD2 just grinned.

And suddenly, I was reminded of my dad and his ability to snag treats by getting them for 'someone else’.

Yep. That acorn didn’t fall far…


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

And That's Lunch, Everyone!

When one lives in the country, and rides the bus to school, one learns to take lunch.
I did.
Live in the country, take the bus and pack a lunch, I mean.
Lunch time was the high point of my school day.
The bell would ring.
The scramble for our various lunch boxes would be completed.
The inevitable question, "Whatd'ja get?" would be asked.
And serious eating would begin.
My Mom took extra pains to make our lunches varied and delicious.
With mixed results.
There was always the sandwich.
Which was the mainstay of ninety percent of our lunches.
Thick slices of homemade bread containing one of the following:
Tinned tuna salad. Yum.
Chicken Salad. Yum.
Ground Beef and pickle. Yum.
Peanut butter and honey. Double yum, as long as peanut butter had been liberally smeared on both slices of bread before the honey was added, because otherwise, the honey seeped into the bread and made a sort of . . . crust.
Not yum.
Peanut butter and jam. Easily exchanged for my neighbour's cold hamburger patty and mayo stuffed into a homemade bun. Yum.
Tinned salmon salad. Not in my lifetime. And not easily traded, either.
Hot dogs. The best. The very best.
I should mention, here, that microwaves existed only on Star Trek. And pre-packaged meals, like Lunchables, hadn't even been thought of.
Mom's hot dogs were an amazing feat.
She would cook the hot dogs while we were eating breakfast, then put two of them into our thermoses with a small quantity of the hot water.
Then seal it up.
Add a couple of hot dog buns wrapped in waxed paper, and a packet or two of ketchup and mustard and lunchtime couldn't come fast enough.
She always included some extras as well.
There was the inevitable sadly-bruised banana.
Which had looked perfectly good when it was put in.
Or the un-eat-able apple.
I've decided that the idea of gifting a teacher with an apple came from a student who simply didn't want to eat theirs. And had been taught that wasting food was unacceptable.
But I digress . . .
Mom also included a treat.
Usually something homemade and yummy.
Like squares.
Or her famous butterhorns.
Mmmm . . .
Occasionally, she would change things up a little.
When my thermos wasn't filled with hot dog deliciousness, she would usually put in chocolate milk or hot chocolate.
Either of which just nicely rounded out a lovely lunch.
Once, she put in something different.
But didn't tell me.
I saw the sandwiches, so I knew that hot dogs were out of the question.
So I did what I always did. Grabbed my thermos and shook up what was supposed to be milk and chocolate in some form.
Then I unscrewed the lid.
It hit the ceiling hard enough to bounce clear over to the door.
And brought students from every room down the hall to see who was opening champagne in the grade nine classroom.
I looked up from my fizzing-over thermos and grinned.
Umm . . . Mom had filled it with Seven-Up.
The first and only time.
Another attempt at variety.
A good one, but wasted on me.
Later, when I started making my own lunches, they included fresh tomato sandwiches.
Made from tomatoes that I sliced at school so the bread wouldn't get soggy.
And packages of cellophane-wrapped goodies.
The sandwiches were good.
Though they were made with store-bought bread.
But the treats never quite measured up.
To this day, when I hear someone mention lunch, I think of my Mom's homemade bread sandwiches, home-baked goodies, hot chocolate and my one experience with Seven-Up.
I miss those days.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Mr. Nasty

Today is Be Nasty Day! Let's celebrate! ;)

Horace P. Flee was the Frump Village grump,
No loveliness in his demeanour,
He lived all alone near the old county dump,
Developed his skills as a screamer.

Whenever he heard just so much as a bump,
His head would pop out of the door,
With a noise that would make almost everyone jump
His displeasure well underscored.

One day to the village known solely as Frump,
(Don’t think it’s for fashion expression!)
Came a strong-minded widow, quite pretty and plump,
With her children that numbered eleven.

Now, when moving, one’s household goods come in a clump
And are carefully sorted out later.
And necessitate more than one trip to the dump,
As they separate lessor from greater.

Now, Horace P. Flee, that old village grump
Wasn’t happy with all of the noise.
So he shouted out something that made them all jump,
Just to silence those girls and those boys.

Then Abigail, she who was pretty and plump,
But possessed of a lively, bright spirit,
A piece of her mind, she gave that village grump,
And forced him to stand there and hear it.

Then something strange happened that day at the dump,
With all of those parties together,
For Horace’s heart hit his shoes with a thump,
While Abby’s beat light as a feather.

Their marriage was viewed by the Village of Frump,
With the two of them there in the heather,
The minister stood on a great old tree stump,
With a smile, he joined them together.

Now the villagers using the Frump Village dump,
(I know this will just make you smile!)
Find the happy noise now from the home of the ‘grump’,
Can be heard for full many a mile!

Horace P. Flee was the Frump Village grump,
Until life with his Abby began,
When you least expect it, you’re knocked on your rump,
There’s a sweetheart for ev-er-y man!

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 KarenCharlotteMimi, me
Have crafted poems for you to see.
And now you’ve read what we have wrought…
Did we help?
Or did we not?

It will be small, but that's okay,
Next week we'll talk about 'Pi' day!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
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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