Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Being Smart


It was a glorious day.

Barb and her four-year-old grandson, (hereinafter known as GS) had spent their precious time together visiting. Laughing. Playing games.

And the all-important ‘thing-I-want-to-try-most-Gramma!’, baking.

Chocolate chip cookies were largely indicated.

There was just one tiny problem . . . Gramma was out of chocolate chips.


Not to be discouraged, Gramma and GS made a second, even more thorough, search of the ‘normally chocolate-chip rich’ cupboards.

Same result.

What to do? What to do?

“Hmmm . . .” Gramma said. “I do have these!” She held up a package of Smarties.

(Side note: For those of you not from Canada, Smarties are a handy-dandy little treat consisting of chocolate encased in a ‘melts-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand’ colourful candy coating. Yummmy! And Also: at the telling of this story, ‘Smartie Cookies’ were not yet a ‘thing’.)

GS looked at them a little dubiously.

I mean, he loved them as a treat, but in cookies?

Unheard of.

Gramma shook the package. “Eating them will make you smarter!”

He smiled.

Discussion won.

The two got busy and a short time later, mounds of sweet-smelling cookies were emerging from the depths of Gramma’s cavernous oven.

Gramma set a plateful on the table and she and GS pulled up their chairs. Each grabbed a warm cookie and took that first, highly-anticipated bite.

‘Hey!’ Gramma thought. ‘I think we’re onto something!’

GS chewed and swallowed. His eyes widened. “Gramma!” he whispered loudly. “I feel smarter!”

Hmmm . . . just a thought, but maybe we could make these and distribute them widely.

I know a few of us could certainly use them!

Recipe available on request . . .


Friday, May 14, 2021

Saving Gwen

I don’t remember coming home. I’m quite sure I must have done so at some point because I’m presently (and pleasantly) perched on the couch, staring dreamily out the window.

Sally, Mort and Scary Gary, are out there, playing some sort of game in which tennis balls, golf clubs, several plastic cups and a large rock feature prominently.

Yeah, I’m not getting it, either.

But I do know that with balls AND clubs in the mix, this can’t end well . . .

I could hear Mom in her room at the top of the stairs. (This house has really good acoustics for listening in on others’ conversations. Just FYI.)

“No, I’m not what you’d call ‘computer literate’. Mom was saying. “I sincerely need training!” Then, “Seriously? No, we each had our vaccination a couple of months ago, when they first rolled them out. The CDC sent a nurse right to our house. Something about Sally being enough of a global threat without adding the whole COVID 19 disaster to the mix.”

She paused. Then laughed. “Right. All of us. I guess they felt as long as they were vaccinating her, they may as well do the same for the poor schmucks who live with her.” Another pause and she laughed again. “Okay, you're right. Those weren’t their real words, but I’m pretty sure I know what they were thinking!” She sighed. “Never a boring moment.”

You have to know Mom usually doesn’t criticize her girls like this. I think she was still steamed about the window. And the TV. And . . .

Never mind . . .

And I don’t know about you, but I was tending to agree with her assessment.

My phone rang and I looked at it hopefully.

Peter (or my Lincoln Park Saviour, as I now call him), said when he took my deets, that he would call.

But, you know, in ‘boy’ time, that could be . . . any time between birth and death.

I had just gotten in.

And my phone was ringing.

Could it be . . .?

I grabbed it. Oh, Lordy Gordy, it was!

Every ounce of calm, cool, and collected that I had ever possessed instantly fled.

I punched wildly at the button, finally managing to connect on the third try.

“H-Hello?” I said a trifle breathlessly.

Okay, in writing that, I’m wondering what ‘a trifle breathlessly’ even means. Certainly, it sounds great in a romance novel. In reality, it’s the condition wherein your breath has bypassed your vocal cords completely and all that left is the tired wheeze of escaping air—like a broken pump organ.

I desperately cleared my throat, told myself sternly to breathe and tried again. “Hello?”



I dropped the phone.

Onto the floor. Where Sally’s cat, Mr. Peebles, who had heretofore been sitting innocently at my feet, promptly batted it under the couch.


I fell to my knees and frantically scrabbled for it.

I finally had it! “H-Hello.” I squeaked, desperately hoping to sound nonchalant. Casual. Relaxed. Even blasé.

But with my now-racing heart, I’m quite sure what emerged was panic. Fright. Terror. Fear. Dread. Alarm. And the faint featherings of ‘OhmywordI’mgoingtokeelover!

Not my finest moment.

“Peter here.” He was going on as though I had said something intelligible.

My first impression had been right. And my first impulse even righter.

Hang onto this guy!

Ahem. “Yes? Hi, Peter!”

 “From the park.”

He wasn’t taking any chances on my mixing him up with anyone else. Like I would . . .

“I’ve dropped my nieces off at home and wondered if you and I—the two of us—could maybe get together for a walk? And if things go well, a slushie at 7-11?”

If things go well. I snorted silently.

How could they not?

Just then the front door burst open and Sally stepped in. “Okay, I’m in the clear,” she shouted. Go ahead!”

Immediately, a tennis ball bounced off the door behind her, landing somewhere in the vicinity of the kitchen sink and the already-boarded-over kitchen window. For just a moment, I envied that window. It had already given its ‘all’. Its job was well and truly done.

As for the rest of us . . .

“Bulls eye!” Sally shouted, running to retrieve it. She hurried back toward the door. “You got it, Mort! Well . . .” she spotted me, and her trajectory, which would have taken her safely past my orbit, changed.

Oh, dear.

“Whoya talking to, Gwennie?”

“Erm . . . Peter. From the park?”

“Oooh, him!” Sally grabbed the phone. “Peter! If you want her, you’d better hurry! There’s a line-up!”

She winked at me and dropped the phone back into my hands.

Then hurried out the front door.

“Peter?” I whispered into the phone. “Please save me!”

“I’m on my way!”

Each month, a group of us play something called ‘Use Your Words’. A game where our illustrious captain, Karen of Baking in a Tornado challenges us to send her words (and/or phrases) which she then shuffles and re-distributes. The result is unpredictable. And totally fun!
This month, my words were: training ~ CDC  ~ vaccination ~ boring ~ computer illiterate
And came, via Karen, from my good friend, Sarah at
Thank you, Sarah!

Having fun?
Go and see what my fellow bloggers have done!

Thursday, May 13, 2021


Daddy told me about his favourite game as a child. 
Run, Sheep. Run.
He explained that a group of kids would divide into two teams. The wolves. And the sheep.
The sheep would hide, then send one of their number back to the wolves. This messenger would quickly draw a map illustrating just where the sheep were hiding.
The wolves would then head out to find them.
In the meantime, the sheep could stay where they had last been seen. Or move somewhere else entirely.
Once the wolves got close to them however, their messenger, running along behind the wolves would yell, “Run, sheep! Run!”
The sheep would scatter and try to make their way back to the designated place of safety before the wolves ‘caught’ them.
Dad says he and his friends spent many, many happy hours playing this game.
It sounded like . . . heaven.
During my own childhood, we had many outdoor games that we played. Tag. Anti-Ei-Over, Frozen tag. Capture the Flag. Kick the can. How had I missed Run, sheep. Run?
Moving on . . .
A few years ago, my Husby and I were at Fort Edmonton Park.
Don’t worry. The two will connect . . .
For those not familiar with it, Fort Edmonton is a reconstruction of the original fort for which Edmonton is named. The fort itself is surrounded by several ‘streets’ of differing time periods, each telling of a moment in Edmonton’s past. 
It is a fascinating place. Where people in period costumes re-enact social, political and economic situations.
I know. I sound like a brochure.
I love it there.
The reason for our visit was the fiftieth anniversary of my aunt and uncle.
We visited. Laughed. Ate. Visited. Laughed. Watched their grandkids perform vignettes from their grandparents’ history. Laughed. Visited.
And generally had a wonderful time.
Part way through the day, my Husby and I stepped out onto the boardwalk.
To find all of their grandkids, released from their acting responsibilities, happily engaged in a game of hide-and-seek.
Hide-and seek.
I hadn’t seen kids play that in forever.  Most of the kids I see now have their noses in an electronic device.
But here they were. Ranging in age from 3 to 15, all racing around to find places to hide.
And having a marvelous time.
Kids really can (and do) play outside.
Just like my Dad did.
And me.
It gave me hope.
Quick! Hide!

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Lady

Age and/or inexperience were no barriers when it was time for roundup on the Stringam ranch.
The newest Stringam was merely perched up on Lady and told to "Hang on!"
A little background . . .
Or multiple riders.
That worked as well . . .
Lady was a tall, black mare of indeterminate years, who knew more than most of the humans in the vicinity. She would be put on tail (the position in the . . . er . . . tail . . . of the herd) and could keep the entire herd going.
With or without human guidance.
So it just made sense to put the most inexperienced rider with the wisest teacher. All one had to do was be ready for any sudden shifts and turns. If a cow suddenly took it into her head to take off for . . . elsewhere, Lady was on them in a heartbeat.
Less, if said heartbeat is slow.
Over the years, we had a few mishaps. Lady would suddenly spot a member of the criminal element sneaking away and she would charge, heedless of whomever was sitting in her saddle.
Many times, if her rider was particularly inattentive, she turned right out from under and her hapless human would suddenly discover just what it was like to hang, suspended, in the air.
For a moment.
Then he, or she, would discover that the hardest thing about learning to ride was the prairie.
Lady would complete her transaction and return peacefully to the scene of the crime. She would nose her rider gently and look down at them with soft, 'Now what are you doing down there?' eyes.
She was too sweet and too gentle to really make any of us angry, regardless of how long it took to regain our breath.
Plus she was a darn good worker.
The funny thing is, we never tried bringing her out without a rider. As I look back, that would have been a logical experiment. (And certainly one that my brother George, he of the strange aversion to horses, would have loved to try.)
But the fact of the matter was that there were simply too many other Stringams clamoring for a chance to help with roundup. To send out an empty horse would have been criminal, however entertaining the rest of us might find it.
Lady was definitely one of a kind.
Oh we had other horses. Lots of other horses.
Slim: tall and rangy, and with a terrible loathing for men. But a sweetheart when ridden by a woman or child. Coco: another gentle mare, quiet, unassuming, but lazy. Far happier with her nose in a manger than breathing the soft prairie winds.
Steamboat: an enormous and unholy mix of thoroughbred and percheron. He could cover the ground quickly and efficiently, but with a gait that could rattle the fillings out of anyone's teeth.
The ponies, Pinto, Star and Shammy, who would submit to anything their young riders could inflict, except leaving the ranch buildings.
Luke. Nipper. Topper. Eagle. Peanuts. Gypsy. The list goes on and on. These, and others like them were our partners and friends during the long hours that define ranching. Each had their own distinct personality. Likes and dislikes. And all were graded according to ability, size, and disposition.
As us kids grew, we were graduated from one to the next.
But we all started with the same mount.
To say that we could ride before we could walk was, literally, true.
We had Lady.
She of the very, very apt name.
Feisty little Rebel

The Amazing Shammy.


Which of these things is not like the others . . .
My littlest sibling, Anita (she's so cute!)
With King Prancer. Another early ride.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Familial Feeding

Mark, his wife, and the first two of six.
Feeding the next generation . . .
It only ever happened once.
But I’ll remember it forever.
Maybe I should explain . . .
My Husby and I raised six children.
Four of them, sons.
They are, all of them, tall people, ranging in height from six feet to six feet, eight inches.
They were, all of them, big eaters.
And that’s where my story starts . . .
My oldest boy, Mark, ate like a bird. And by that, I mean he consumed his weight in food every. Single. Day.
His next brother, Erik, wasn’t far behind.
We used to joke that we simply gave each of them a trough and a shovel.
And watched the food magically disappear.
The two of them easily ate as much as the rest of the family combined.
It’s true.
In fact, when Mark moved out, our food bill was cut in half.
When Erik moved out, ditto.
But back to that day . . .
It was a coupon day at the local McD’s. Two-for-one.
My Husby (a coupon collector extraordinaire) had managed to hoard a mittful of the colourful, valuable bits of paper.
We loaded the kids into the car for a rare, but fun, family treat.
And we were off.
Feeling distinctly magnanimous, we told the kids to order what they liked.
And Mark did.
His order? Four Big Macs. Two large orders of fries. Two large drinks. And four apple pies.
Did he eat them?
He did.
And, swallowing the last bite of apple pie, he turned to me and said something I’d never heard.
Before or since.
“I’m full.”
I stared at him. Had I heard correctly?
He nodded and patted his stomach.
Who says miracles no longer happen?!

There is a little addendum:
As we were leaving the restaurant, I had linked arms with each of my tall eldest sons. We were laughing about something that one of them said. Full and happy.
A woman seated near the doors looked up and smiled. “I just love seeing brothers and sisters such good friends!” she said. “It’s inspiring!”
We smiled back and thanked her, not bothering to explain that one of those ‘siblings’ was, in fact, the mom.
A good day on sooooo many levels.

Monday, May 10, 2021

SWS Support Group

 The Monthly Meeting...

“Please tell us of your problem, sir,
We're here to give you aid.
Supporting is how we get through,
Speak up! Don't be afraid!”

“Just look around the circle, Sir,
There’s not but friends you’ll see.
Get the whole thing off your chest,
Then Madge will serve us tea...”

“It started much as any day,”
He said. And then he sighed,
“A run together in the dawn,
I was so proud, I cried.”

“Then changing for the workday, but
A load of laundry first.
Who knew that act would be her last?
‘Twas like we both were cursed!”

“So innocent as soap went in,
Naive as buttons pressed,
Then watched as clothes began to swirl,
And tumble with the rest.”

“All was well until the load,
Was moved into the drier.
And watching it together as
The heat was getting higher.”

“Then she was gone, t’was just that fast,
My love was there no more.
And all I had was memories
Of what we had before.”

“I’ve tossed it round within my mind,
There really is no doubt
As a pair of socks, we two went in,
As a single, I came out.”

Photo Credit: Karen of
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, come give us all a hand,
Pay tribute to the Rubber Band!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
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Monkey Around Day (June 14)
Fathers (June 21)
Bubbles (June 28)
Bikinis (July 5)
Cheer the Lonely (July 12)
Raspberry Cake Day (July 19)
Parents Day (July 26)

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