Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, May 28, 2021


 My eldest sister, sweet and kind,

So talented in deed and mind,

Has skills that never seem to end,

And some I cannot comprehend!

With all she does she still looks nice,

(I’ve noticed maybe once or twice.)

Cosmetics are her special gift,

To give her skin that crucial lift.

Morning routines, evening, too,

She knows how to apply the goo,

And look resplendent, glowing, young,

Till praises from our lips are sprung.

Those crèmes and gels to lave her face,

Her regimen requires space,

And one time when we two did roam,

Two bags she parked in our new 'home'.

A tiny one, with clothes and such,

This trip would not require much,

The other, larger, she did lug,

“Cosmetics.” She did happ’ly shrug.

I know her methods seem to work,

Her skin is glowing, hair so pert,

Make-up to show her features best,

With elegance, she clothes the rest.

I wouldn’t know which crème went where,

I’m lost with things for face and hair,

The one advantage I can see,

(Though I may resemble a banshee!)

But happily, when travel bound,

I’ve not so much to haul around!

Each month from Karen, we accept,

A challenge to our gifts adept,

A theme she gives, a poem we craft,

Write draft on draft on draft on draft.

(Please, I’m just kidding, one’s enough

To prove that we’ve all got The Stuff.)

So now we will present to you

What we have made for your review!

Karen at Baking in a Tornado

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Honey of a Job

The workin' man.
P.S He hates this picture. But I'm the one with the blog!

It was my husband's first job following our marriage.
Foreman of a house-building company.
He was . . . excited.
It sounded prestigious.
And would be.
Once they got the plant built.
His new boss had a plan that would cut down on initial costs significantly. They would remodel said boss' pig barn.
It was the right size.
It was in fantastic shape.
It just needed a few touches.
First, and most important, the present residents.
Then, and nearly as important, the cleaning of the sewer system, still full of sewer . . . stuff.
For those who don't know, a pig barn has little ditches running through it. Ditches that are covered by grates and which catch all of the 'icky' stuff.
When the system gets too full, a truck is brought in.
A special truck, with a large tank and hose.
This hose is inserted at the proper place and all sewage is quickly and cleanly removed.
The truck drives away and discharges its load onto the nearest farmer's field, providing nutrition to growing plants.
Not a pleasant job.
But a necessary one.
And it needed to be done before the building of the house plant could continue.
Grant's boss brought in the truck.
The two of them made quick work of draining the sewers.
Then, the next step.
The discharge.
Normally, this would be the easiest part.
You would simply reverse the switch.
And stay upwind.
Things started out well.
Sewage was being discharged at a normal rate.
Then, suddenly, it stopped.
Oh the motor was still running strongly.
It's just that nothing was coming out.
I should probably mention here that the discharge engine is quite powerful on these trucks. It needs to push a lot of stuff a long way.
Back to my story . . .
Cautiously, the two of them removed the hose and leaned over to peek into the discharge valve.
"Ah!" Grant's boss said. "I see the problem. Look. It's plugged right there." He pointed. He straightened and began to walk around, kicking at the dirt.
Finally, he spotted a large stick and brought it back to where Grant was still waiting.
"I can fix it," he said, cheerfully. He poked the stick into the valve.
"No, wait . . ." Grant started.
He got no further.
Kaaaablooooie! Or words to that effect.
Let me put it this way . . . neither of them had time to get out of the way.
I'm sure I don't need to describe the scene.
There is an addendum . . .
It was nearly time for Grant to get home from work.
I was just checking on our evening meal when his truck pulled into the yard and ground to a halt.
Ah! Early. Good. We could have a visit before we sat down to eat.
I glanced through the window.
Just in time to see my young husband, in his underwear, leap from the truck and scamper towards the house.
I admit it. My first thought was, 'Wow! Eager!'
He whipped open the door, tossed me a brief, 'Hi!' and headed directly for the bathroom.
There was the sound of the shower, then a loud, "Ahhhh!"
Now there's something that didn't happen every day.
I walked into the bathroom. "Hard day, Honey?"
"I'll tell you about it!" he said over the sound of the water.
And he did.
I thought it was hilarious.
He didn't.
Extra note: Grant's hastily shed clothes remained in the box of the truck until weeks of weather made it possible for them to be removed to the trash.
But the memories remained.
Some things you just can't wash out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Where Babies Come From

Have you ever heard the term 'catch colt'?
I'm sure you can figure out that it has something to do with horses.
And you'd be right.
Allow me to explain. And to do so, I'll have to tell you a story.
But first a little lesson in land surveying . . .
On the Stringam ranch, at its heyday, there was a lot of land.
A. Lot. Of. Land.
Two and a half townships.
Pastures were measured off in sections. 640 acres.
Sections were grouped into townships. 36 sections to a township.
With me so far?
Well, the ranch covered two and a half of those.
Not the largest ranch in Southern Alberta, but up there somewhere.
You've probably heard the term 'wide open spaces'?
That would apply here.
An animal let loose in one of those pastures had a lot of ground to cover.
And an endless selection of things to get into. Good. Or more frequently, bad.
It wasn't unusual for a cowboy out checking the terrain to come across animals in dire need of assistance. Animals that had been attacked by cougars or wolves. Cut by barbed wire. Foundered in a mud pit. Even lamed by an altercation with something as innocuous as a gopher hole.
In fact, with all the room out there for anything to happen, it's a wonder more 'anythings' didn't.
Happen, that is.
Also. When animals are out on the range, hijinks occur.
And that leads nicely into my story . . .
Our little herd of working mares and geldings (male horses with their 'male' bits removed) had been turned out to pasture.
They lost no time in heading for the nearest far-away place.
And you know just how far-away that could be. (See above.)
A few days later, those same horses were brought back into the ranch for their next work shift.
They came in as they went out.
No more. No less.
Or so we thought.
In fact for several months, we so thought.
Then one of the mares began to show signs of grass-belly.
I mean that girl could eat.
Ten months later, she surprised us by proving her belly wasn't full of grass.
Okay, I'm pretty sure that my dad, he of the veterinarian doctorate, figured it out long before I did.
But for me, it was a grand surprise to see, next to our newly-lean mare, a fine little roan foal.
A little girl whose parentage was very much in question. We didn't own a stallion. (Male horse with 'male' bits intact.) None of our neighbours ( I use this term distantly) owned a stallion.
No wandering stallion had been reported in the district.
Where did this little girl come from?
Her attentive mother hid her secrets behind quiet dark eyes and a far-away look.
I think it went something like this: Tall, dark stranger wanders into the campsite. Wows the ladies with stories of far-away lands and grand exploits. Invites the quiet one out for a stroll and enticing dip in the cool waters of the Milk River.
And . . .
Now you know where 'catch colts' come from.
You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Unwelcome Visitor

The ranch house. Warm. Comfortable. A little too welcoming.
It was night. That time when dinner hour is long past and the denizens of the house are contemplating leaving their comfy chairs for even more comfy beds.
And my dog, Cheetah, was barking.
Something she did a lot. At night.
We had tried to train her out of it, but had never quite succeeded.
It was annoying.
Finally, I got up to see what could be bothering her.
Coyotes howling in the foothills nearby.
A cow bawling.
Water running in the canal.
Dumb dog.
I should explain, here, that the Stringam ranch house had a large carport.
It had two walls, one on the west, formed by a wall of the house and one on the north. The south and east sides were open.
The carport joined the overhang over the front door in a narrow strip.
It was possible to walk from a vehicle into the house without seeing the sky, but it was tricky and involved negotiating car hoods and garden paraphernalia (good word).
Now, normally, when one exited the house, one would walk straight to the front gate and avoid the carport entirely.
Something I usually did.
Tonight I . . . didn't.
I don't know why.
I glanced out the door into the inky blackness.
There is nothing quite so dark as a night on the prairies, with no moon.
And the mercury vapour light in the yard not quite reaching the house.
My dog was over in that yard, at the business end of the carport.
Still barking.
Stupid dog.
I sighed and pushed the screen door open.
I hesitated.
Then did something I had never done before.
I turned and, keeping roof between me and sky, made my way, carefully, to the carport.
Then I walked between the cars toward my frantic dog.
I paused at the edge of the carport.
Cheetah was just feet away, facing me, and her barking, if it could be believed, had increased.
I started forward again, but just as I lifted my foot, a sound shattered the darkness.
And I do mean shattered.
It was the scream of a cougar.
Now, I'm sure I don't have to tell you what the sound of a cougar does to one when you hear it ringing across the prairie.
It's . . . scary.
This scream was five feet away.
Above me.
At the very edge of the carport roof.
See? Shattered.
I froze instantly.
Then started to back up, one step at a time.
Finally, I turned and sprinted towards the front door, careful to continue keeping roof between me and our unwanted visitor and heedless of whatever might be in my path.
I called my dog and she came running.
Still barking.
The two of us ducked inside, and I banged the heavy outer door shut and peered through the window.
Mom's voice, “What's the matter, dear?”
I continued to stare out the window.
Cheetah was now standing behind me.
She continued to bark.
“We have a visitor, Mom!” I said over the noise.
“Oh?” Mom appeared in the kitchen doorway.
“Yeah. A cougar is sitting on the carport roof.”
“Are you sure?”
I turned to look at her, thinking about the horrendous (Ooo, great word!) sound. “Fairly sure.”
“Oh, dear!” she disappeared.
I stayed by the window but could see nothing in the blackness.
My dad appeared. Calm as always.
“Well, it was on the carport a few minutes ago.”
“It'll leave.”
I stared at him.
“You're not going to go out after it?”
“Not while it's on the roof.”
Good point.
Dad got a flashlight and pointed it out the window towards the carport roof.
I cautiously opened the door.
Cheetah shot through the opening and into the night.
Her barking moved slowly away from the ranch buildings and towards the foothills.
Our visitor was obviously headed home.
The first and only time I can remember a living creature receiving a less-than-exemplary welcome at the ranch.
Or being offered a warm meal.
I guess that's a good thing.
And Cheetah? Good dog.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Breakfast of Champion


Our ‘Favourite Breakfast’ theme this week,

Conjures something warm and meek,

But years ago, meant other things,

That made us kids (me!) feel like kings,

My mama cooked, you know it’s true,

Made things delicious, roast to stew,

Her breakfasts? Easily the best,

Made common tenants feel like guests,

But Saturdays, occasionally,

Were gifts to (age eight), sleepy me!

I’d miss the crowd at breakfast time,

Then make my own—Oh! How sublime!

My chocolate milk, with Mom, you know,

Two spoons of mix, then stir and go,

When on my own, the colour was,

My one condition, no faux pas,

More dark was better, sweeter, too,

Five teaspoons plus would get me through.

Then flakes of bran, that glorious food,

With creamy milk, then sweet imbued,

A generous layer—bottom, top,

I’d want to eat and never stop.

Yes, sugar was my main ingred…

A good deal more than e’er I’d need!

It’s fortunate those Saturdays,

Didn’t often come my way,

Yep. Mom’s good food did help me thrive,

The likely the reason I’m alive!

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 join us while we find...
Memorial Day is on our mind!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Favorite breakfast (May 24) Today!
Memorial Day (May 31)
Best Friends Day (from June 8) (June 7)
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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Available from

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Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

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Sunshine Award!!!
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