Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, April 9, 2021

78’s

Today, I'm sitting in a warm blanket of nostalgia . . .

My dad had an extensive record collection. 78’s.
Instrumentals. Country. Easy listening. Nonsense.
Thick, heavy records that could easily double as frisbees.
If we had thought of it.
Which we didn't.
We kids would paw through those records in search of our favourites.
I had two.
I listened to them endlessly.
Endlessly.
Till I moved on to the Monkees, which is a whole other story.
Dad upgraded his collection and his stereo system. Replacing all of his 78 recordings with new LPs.
Well, almost all.
Somehow, he missed my favourites.
Sigh.
I've searched for them ever since in many, many antique stores. Thumbing through the 78s they have on offer for those two little songs. Or even one of them. I'd be satisfied with that.
But always, I've been disappointed.
I was telling my granddaughters about my favourite songs yesterday and describing the archaic 78 records that played them.
Yeah. They didn't believe me.
Then I went to my new friend, Google.
And guess what?!
They are there!
Both of them.
I offer them to you now, exactly as I used to listen to them.
When I was four.
And the world wasn't a scary place . . .

First: Horace the Horse









Then: Smokey the Bear













And, because we loved him too, my favourite Spike Jones:
New Years Resolution











Picture me, a little girl with white, candy-fluff hair, singing along.
My mom's in the kitchen making something grand.
Daddy's in his chair, work boots off and feet up, reading the newspaper and waiting for supper.
That's where I'm going to spend my day!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Learning



It started innocently enough. 
Me and newly-minted four-year-old granddaughter (hereinafter known as Please-Be-Patient-With-Me-I’m-Learning. Or PBPWMIL, for short) discussing the pros and cons (mostly cons) of taking something that doesn’t belong to you.
“But I wanted it,” she affirmed.
“I know, Sweetheart. But you can’t take something that doesn’t belong to you.”
I should probably mention here that I am speaking to a little girl with snapping dark eyes, shining dark hair, and smeared chocolate from nose to ears to chin. Not to mention the chocolate wrappers strewn about her small person.
Yep. Caught red-handed.
Or chocolate-chinned.
“How would you feel if little brother took something that was yours?”
“I would take it back!”
“Would you be sad that he had it?”
“Yeah. So I would take it back!”
“So should I take the chocolate back that you took from me?”
She frowned at that logic for a moment.
I presumed I was getting my point across.
A little note: Never assume anything when speaking to a recently graduate of Being Three.
She looked at me, wide eyes earnest and opened her little red bow of a mouth.
Here it comes, I thought. I finally got through to her!
“But I wanted it.”
Sigh. We’d come full circle.
“Okay, let’s start again,” I said. “Sweetheart how would you feel if someone took something that belonged to you?”
She stared at me. Then, “I can’t answer right now. My brain is empty.”
We’re considering encouraging her to run for political office.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Bogging

How peaceful it all looks.
So deceptive . . .
The 'tree field' on the ranch was just that.
A field.
With trees.
Distinguished from all of the other fields by their barren-ness.
Because it had trees, it also offered cover. An ideal place for spring calving.
I was Dad's herdsman. It was my duty to oversee the spring calving and make sure that all calves (and their mothers) survived.
Normally, things went well.
Occasionally, they did not.
But that is another story . . .
Usually, when I rode out to check the cows, I rode.
On a horse. 
But on this day, I was in a hurry.
So I fired up Dad's one-ton truck - the one with the dual rear wheels - and headed out to the field.
I should explain, here, that the tree field had trees because it was situated next to an irrigation canal. A wide trench that meandered through the countryside. In the spring, the gates are opened and water from the Old Man River diverted into the various canals for irrigating the dry land farms and ranches throughout Southern Alberta. An effective system.
But the canals were getting old.
And water seeped from them into the adjacent land.
Great if your land was close by and needed water.
Which the tree field was.
And did.
Thus – trees.
But the land could also become quite saturated.
And boggy.
Particularly in the clearing in the center of the trees.
We thought it was very entertaining.
One could stomp on the seemingly dry ground and the land all around would quiver.
Cool.
There was enough dry soil on top to hold up a cow.
Or my horses.
But remember, I was in the truck.
Considerably heavier than any horse or cow.
Back to my story . . .
I innocently drove out to check the herd.
The first pass, the one on the higher ground near the road, went well.
But there were no cows near the road, either.
Sigh.
I moved into the trees for a second pass.
Starting at the far east side of the field, I worked my way west, toward the canal.
Stopping now and then to walk into the trees to investigate a barely-seen patch of red hide.
I reached the far west side and started to turn.
It was then that I realized that I . . . and my truck . . . were sinking.
Here's something you don't see every day. A truck, sinking out of sight in the middle of a dry land ranch in Southern Alberta.
I had two options.
  1. Holler for one of my parents.
  2. Mat that gas pedal and pray.
My parents were my parents. They lived to get me out of scrapes.
Right?
Ahem.
But both of them were at the ranch a mile away to the West.
I was on my own.
I went with my second option.
Mud and water sprayed from those dual tires as the truck struggled for purchase.
For a few, heart-stopping moments, it looked as though the bog would win.
Then, slowly, the truck started to climb up out of the hole.
Finally, I was flying along atop the bog.
I kept the gas pedal to the floor until I was through the tree line and solidly back on dry ground.
Then I stopped the truck and simply breathed.
I left the truck and walked back to inspect the ruts I had left.
They were three feet deep and rapidly filling with water.
My brother told me later that I was a heartbeat away from losing the truck entirely.
“And the only thing that would have salvaged the situation would have been to call in a cherry-picker.”
I don't have to tell you that the 'cherry-picker' he is talking about had nothing to do with picking cherries.
And everything to do with being expensive.
Thank goodness for gas pedals.
And prayer.
A little side note here: The provincial government has updated all of the canals, lining them so they are much more efficient and less--for want of a better word--leaky. On a recent visit, I couldn't find the tree field. When the water supply dried up, so did the trees.
It was a sad, sad moment.
My steed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Good Cow Pony

Daddy at 6 on Peggy.
Another good cow pony.

A good cow pony is more than just transportation in the ranching world.

It is partner, confidante, shelter, and yes, even protector.
Dad's horse had been superbly trained.
By him.
Calving season is a rather exciting time of the year. For at least a couple of reasons.
Because new babies are appearing in the fields. And new baby calves are cute.
But also because you are getting up close and personal with warm, furry creatures who outweigh you by several hundreds of pounds.
See? Exciting. In an unpredictable/ohmygoodness sort of way.
Most cows on the Stringam ranch calved between January and March.
Without ceremony or fanfare.
In the field.
Calves were tagged and given their newborn shots within a few feet of where they were born.
I should mention here that Hereford cows are docile and easily managed.
Except when they have a newborn calf nearby.
You've heard the stories about getting between she-bears and their babies?
Well, Hereford cows would kill to have that reputation.
Hmm . . . Actually, they would have to kill to get that reputation.
Just thought I'd point that out.
Because it really has nothing to do with this story.
Moving on . . .
Hereford cows may not be the black-leather-clad, chain-toting members of the bovine family, but they can still be rather aggressive when their babies are in danger.
Or when they think their babies may be in danger.
As when people are around.
My Dad found this out the exciting way.
He had come across a newborn calf, lying 'hidden' in the tall grass.
Dismounting, he straddled the calf and prepared to vaccinate.
And that's when Mama noticed him.
Suddenly, a thousand pounds of red and white indignation were breathing down his neck.
And I do mean down his neck.
I know this will sound funny, but when a cow is threatening, the best place to be in the wide-open prairie is 'under' one's well-trained horse.
Really.
You crawl under your horse and no cow will come near.
Hastily, Dad pulled himself and his captive under his horse and continued with his work.
The cow snorted and fidgeted, circling around, trying to find the flaw in this scenario.
The horse kept one eye on her. All the while turning to keep his hindquarters directed towards the irate bundle of hair and aggression.
This worked for a few moments.
But finally, even the presence of a larger, stronger, and infinitely smarter creature didn't deter.
She charged.
Remember where I mentioned that the horse kept his hindquarters towards the cow?
That's because that is a horse's 'dangerous' end. (Brings a whole new mean to calling someone a horse's a##, doesn't it?)
Ahem . . .
The end that is always loaded.
And ready to fire.
He let fly.
With both barrels.
He caught the cow in the head.
In mid-charge.
Now a cow's head is composed mostly of bone.
They can be hurt.
But it takes a lot.
This kick merely stopped the cow for a moment.
She shook her head, confused.
Then looked around.
What had she been doing?
About that time, Dad finished with the calf and let it go.
It trotted over to its mother and the two of them hurried towards the nearest far-away place.
Dad stood up and gave his horse a pat.
“Good boy.”
Then mounted up and continued his ride.
Another rather mundane day in the life of a good cow-pony.
What would we do without them?

Monday, April 5, 2021

ADVENTURE!

 


Sometime, I’d like to take a trip,
To parts mysterious and deep,
‘Cross vast and strange new lands, I’d skip,
Go tooling in my trusty jeep.

Taking everything in stride,
No mayhem, monsters, storms or signs
Would startle me or turn the tide,
From exploration I’d designed.

I’d walk on lands both near and far,
And check out strains indigenous,
No qualms, no fears of things bizarre.
No misgivings to discuss.

I’d leave my sterile world behind,
And with my own exciting map,
Feeling free and unconfined,
Adventures falling in my lap.

I’d learn the jargon: trudge, poop deck,
Adventure, survey, navigate,
Tramp, spelunk and cruise and trek,
Ramble, hike, triangulate.

I’d do all this, and without fear,
Though one thing dims my zeal somewhat,
To see those worlds both far and near,
I’d have to get up off my butt.

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?
 

Next week, avoiding all convention,
We'll talk of our Fav'rite Invention!




Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
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Read a Road Map Day (April 5) Today!
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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