Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Real Time Movies


The Kitchen Window

For three years, we lived next to a haunted house.

Okay, it really wasn't 'haunted'.
But strange things went on there.
Maybe I should explain . . .
We lived on a street of tiny, beautiful starter homes. Less expensive and perfect for people living on a lower income.
They were filled with senior couples and young families.
We fit into the second category.
The house beside us, whose front porch I could see from my kitchen window, was home to a little elderly couple.
Sweet people.
We saw them seldom.
Then, one day, I noticed that two young girls were going in that front door.
I should mention, here, that I spent a lot of time at my kitchen window. It was over my kitchen sink.
Enough said.
For many months, we saw those girls regularly.
Then, suddenly, more people appeared. A young woman with tattoos, piercings, a neanderthal whose whose origins were questionable, and a baby named Levi.
Then I realized that I hadn't seen our elderly couple in quite some time.
In fact I never saw them again.
For several months the two young girls and the couple with their baby came and went.
Then two young boys, similar in age to the two young girls, appeared.
And the two young girls stopped.
Appearing, that is.
Now, as near as we could figure, the young couple and their baby and the two young boys lived there.
Then all activity ceased.
No one came or went.
One morning, I opened my front door to a very tall police officer. “Do you know the people who live next door?” he asked.
“That house?” I asked, pointing.
He nodded.
“I'm ashamed to say that I don't,” I said. “There was a nice elderly couple there. Then two young girls. Then a young couple and a baby. Then two young boys. But that's about all I can tell you.”
“Come with me,” he said. He led the way to the house.
I stopped in the front doorway.
I've always wanted to use that word . . .
The cute little house had been destroyed.
Cupboards had been ripped down off the walls and shredded into matchsticks. Every single wall and door had been punched out. The bannister ripped off the stairway and broken. Toilet ripped off the floor and thrown out the window.
The damage was unbelievable.
The officer was looking at me. “You didn’t hear any of this?”
I shook my head. I really hadn’t. For just a moment, I wondered why. Then I remembered the semi-constant din in my home made by five kids and seven day-home kids.
Yeah, Not so surprising after all.
Moving on...
Obviously someone had been very angry.
Or very, very disturbed.
For six months the little house remained empty.
Then, one day, crews appeared and effected repairs.
And, finally, a sweet young couple and their baby moved in.
Ahhh. Normal at last.
Then the fights began.
Usually in the wee hours of the morning.
One morning, after breakfast, I was again at my post, hands in the sink, when a police car, followed by a van pulled up next door.
Two policeman, one carrying a large camera got out.
Oh, no. Someone's killed someone, I thought.
The two went into the house.
Sometime later, more police cars arrived.
It took me a while to notice because I had the phone and was sitting on the floor calling my husband.
“I don't want to live here any more,” I said, tearfully. “Please move me somewhere else!”
I ended my phone call and stood up.
Just as the front door opened.
A policeman came out.
Carrying two large, beautiful, healthy marijuana plants.
He was followed by another, carrying two more.
Then another.
And another.
In all, I counted 16 plants.
Okay, not what I expected.
The officers stowed the plants in the van and left.
I must admit that I was quite surprised when things next door became more or less normal for a while after that.
Then the fights began again.
One particular night, we heard the loud slam of a door.
Then pounding.
Then, “Open this door!”
The husband had pushed his wife outside and locked the door.
Soon we heard the starting of a vehicle and the squealing of tires.
Exit wife.
For a few weeks, the young husband and the baby continued to live there.
Then we moved.
I couldn't take it any longer.
Who needs TV when one has a kitchen window?

Friday, July 2, 2021

That Holiday Weekend

We had a glorious July 1 celebration! For the first time in Covid history, our family was together.
Albeit largely outside, but we were together!
And it reminded me of July 1st's of the past...

We had decided to take our children for a holiday over the long July first weekend.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time.
But we had made a couple of mistakes.
  1. We hadn't planned. 
  2. Anything.
Did you know that you need reservations to camp in Alberta over THE long weekend?
Well, you do.
It was getting late on June 30.
We had been through dozens of campgrounds.
All completely filled with people who were better planners than we were.
Or at least had started out on their holiday a bit earlier in the day.
We saw a sign for yet another campground.
Almost hidden in the undergrowth.
Maybe others would have missed it.
We drove in.
Right away, we saw an empty campsite.
Things were looking up.
The site wasn't very big.
Just down the street was a second.
Also tiny.
Forgetting the hours we had spent searching, we decided to do a loop and see if there were any better.
We completed the circuit.
A second loop opened off the first.
We decided to give it the once-over.
Grant turned.
We had gone only a few dozen feet before we realized that this was not part of the campground.
The road we were on trailed off into the trees, instantly becoming a small path.
We needed to turn around.
Grant nosed the car into the tall grass on an approach to a farmer's field.
There was a thump.
And the steering on the car . . . quit.
We couldn't turn.
Grant got out and inspected.
A large log had been pulled across the approach.
Presumably to stop exactly what we were trying to do.
The car had rolled over it.
And completely destroyed the power steering.
Grant stared at it, shaking his head.
Finally, he moved the log, opened the gate, and drove our car straight out into the field. 
It was the only thing we could do.
We stopped.
And looked at each other. 
It was seven pm on Friday, June 30.
The beginning the THE long weekend.
A disabled car.
Six hungry kids.
And no options.
We got out.
“Maybe we should say a prayer,” one of the kids said.
Good idea.
We gathered close and prayed.
For help.
For guidance.
For some miracle that would instantly replace our ailing car with a new and pristine model.
Then Grant grabbed a basin and started out for the campground.
A few minutes later, he was back.
Basin brimming with cold, clear water.
But what was even more wonderful was the police car following directly behind him.
The kids and I surrounded Grant, peppering him with questions and turning to stare at the car.
Two officers emerged.
As they came closer, I realized that there was only one officer.
The other man was dressed in 'civvies'.
Grant handed me the water and turned to the men.
“This is the car,” he said.
The second man walked over, lifted the hood and bent over the engine.
Grant joined him.
It turned out that this second man was good friends with the officer. He was a mechanic and the owner of the nearby auto wreckers. He had decided to come along with his friend as the officer ran his evening rounds.
The two of them, Grant and the mechanic, began to converse in 'car'.
Finally, they straightened.
“I'll send someone over in the morning to pick it up,” the man said. “We can fix you up. No problem.”
I could have kissed him.
But there was the fact that we were total strangers.
So I shook his hand instead.
True to his word, a tow truck arrived the next morning at 8:00 AM. Took the car and disappeared.
At 3:00, the car was back.
Driving under it's own abilities once more.
Our prayers were truly answered.
We had been granted a miracle.
My daughter looked at me. “The car's fixed?” she asked.
“It is, Sweetie,” I said.
“It's a miracle.”
“It is.”
She looked at me again. “I wonder what that policeman thought when the mechanic appeared beside him after our prayer.”
I smiled. I wonder, too.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Home Wreck


I really wanted to take Shop class.
Working with power tools. Smelling the aroma of freshly-sawn wood as you constructed your first-ever end table.
Making pottery and jewelry.
A handi-girl's dream.
But in 1970 (yes that's really when I started high school) at Erle Rivers High in Milk River, Alberta girls weren't allowed to take Shop class.
I know. Because I asked.
Moving on . . .
I, and the rest of the girls, took Home Economics. Home Ec., for short.
Or Home Wreck, as it was not-so-affectionately titled.
So we were 'Home-Wreckers'.
The place where we 'learned' to sew.
And generally find our way around running a home.
Once I got past not being able to take Shop, I really had fun.
I sewed a potholder. An apron.
And a little purple linen dress with the sleeves in backwards.
I baked cookies. Made Chicken-a-la-King served in little toast cups.
And Gourmet Hot Dogs.
I learned the proper way to scour pots (and the sink).
Scrub a floor.
And generally make my house squeaky clean.
Sew straight. Cook carefully. And scrub hard.
I did pass. With unremarkable marks.
And, surprisingly, I actually used some of the things I learned.
And still do today.
There is a codicil:
Now my brother . . .
Yes, they allowed boys to take Home Ec. 
For one glorious week sometime during the year.
And yes, I know it wasn't fair . . .
My brother remembers Home Wreck differently. (See here!)
He remembers cooking.
Something he excels at today.
And hunting for mice with frying pans and spatulas.
Boys make everything more fun.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Dine-in Car

I probably don’t have to tell you that Canada is a large country.
In bygone years, the men who manned the trains crisscrossing it spent a long time aboard those trains.
A long time.
In those days, they spent much of the trip and all of their downtime in the little caboose as it clicked faithfully along the rails at the tail end of the train. It became their little ‘home away from home’. There, they did their visiting, sleeping, reading, game-playing, cooking and eating. 
Let’s discuss these last two for a moment . . .
One group, in an effort to be fair, took it in turns to cook and wash up.
They had one rule: If anyone criticized the cooking in any way, their turn was accelerated instantly through the queue and they found themselves with spatula (or spoon) in hand for the next meal.
Yeah. Probably best to keep your mouth shut unless you had a hankering to take over as cook.
So the men silently choked down whatever they were given. No matter how unpalatable. 
They still had to take their turn when it came, but at least they weren’t handed the apron at a moment’s notice.
One man in the group seemed singularly unable to create anything remotely appetizing. Or even edible.
Yeah. We’re definitely not talking gastronomic ecstasy here.
His friends were enduring his most recent effort, silently forking down breakfast.
Or what passed for breakfast.
One man poked disconsolately (real word!) at the blackened bit of char that had started life as an egg.
The cook narrowed his eyes, his hand tightening spasmodically on the spatula.
This is my story. I’ll imagine it how I want . . .
The man looked up and forced a smile at the cook. “Hank,” he said. “You burned the eggs.”
Hank smiled slowly and moved toward him, already extending his cooking utensil of choice.
“Which is truly remarkable,” his friend added, “Because it’s just how I like ‘em!”
Creative criticism.
It’s an art.
P.S. The trains that span our great country no longer pull a caboose behind them. With faster trains and shorter hauls between stops—and with improvements in technology—they simply aren’t needed.
I miss them.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Bubbled Over

I have a thing for bubbles, I could watch them constantly,

I love to see them, big or small, drift off away from me,

Sparkly iridescent—catching sunlight as they float,

They’re so carefree, and friendly-like, not angry, not remote,

And yet, their lives are short, they neither toil, nor do they spin,

But still make an impression—even adults sport a grin!

Sometimes, I’d like to be one, floating up so happily,

A shining, gleaming bubble all would recognize as me,

I’d fly across the neighbourhood, I’d never want to stop,

There’s just one thing, I hope that I would never have to ‘POP’! 

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's topic, what a blast!
Bikinis—YES—to clothe your . . . behind.

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Bubbles (June 28) Today!
Bikinis (July 5)
Cheer the Lonely (July 12)
Raspberry Cake Day (July 19)
Parents Day (July 26)
Ice Cream Sandwich Day (August 2)
Cats (August 9)
Tell a Joke (August 16)
Wind (August 23)
Monsters (August 30)
Shoes (September 6) From Mimi
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Remembering 8-Tracks (September 20) Another Mimi

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