Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Fight That Cheers

Our 4-H beef club, once a year,

Explored the cont’nent far and near,

We all looked forward to that trip,

The highlight of our membership.


The year that I was seventeen,

Washington State was to be seen,

A camp like none we’d had before,

With pool, amenities galore!


Each day we’d spend the sunlight hours,

Examine caves and trails and flowers.

At night back in our ‘crib’, we’d rule,

And splash and play in that new pool,


When we arrived, our convoy found,

When we had parked and looked around,

The campsites all were done just so,

With fire pits ready, set to glow.


The grasses clipped, the paths laid out,

Just needing kids to run and shout.

But the pool for us to plunge and caper?

Existed, true, but just on paper.


In sweltering heat, we gathered round,

That hole they’d dug there in the ground,

That someday in the coming time,

D’have boards to jump, ladders to climb.


None of which did us much good,

N’existe pas from where we stood,

And so, chagrined, we turned away,

To find another place to play.


One dad took pitcher—he would fill,

His radiator to the gills,

Another grabbed a nearby hose,

A stream of water from it rose.


And suddenly, a breathless pause,

In heat that draped like sticky gauze,

Those men each took the other in, 

And suddenly, they gave a grin.


I’m sure there’ve been more epic fights,

That really have put out the lights,

For us, there’s none that can compare,

As 4-H’ers defeat despair.


With buckets, pails and kitchen pots,

We flung lots of water. LOTS,

Till few were left e’en somewhat dry,

(To find these few, we sent out spies.)


Some moms had gathered by a tent,

And laughed as children came and went,

Secure that no one in the troop,

Would soak the mothers of the group.


My brother spied them sitting there,

With pleated dresses, curl-ed hair.

Twitt’ring like some little birds,

“No, George, NO!” were their last words.


An hour or so of laughing din,

Saw everyone soaked to the skin,

Then happ’ly cooled and tired from play,

We set up camp to end the day.


I learned that day there in those woods,

Some things don’t work out like they should,

But don’t despair, it’s not the end…

Cause ‘better’s’ just around the bend!

Today's post was a challenge from the inimitable and totally awesome Karen at Baking in a Tornado
Visit her and see what she’s done with the theme!

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Holiday Smash


Getting ready for the LONG trip . . .
It was the late 1950’s and Dad was in Toronto.
With 15 friends.
Twelve hairy chaps with four feet each.
And three not-so-hairy fellows who were . . . more like Dad.
Intrigued? Stay with me . . .
During the 50s, the government had programs encouraging people to raise bigger and better cattle. They even sponsored ranchers who were interested in hauling a few of their best cattle to agricultural shows around the country. They reasoned that said ranchers, eager for some first-place ribbons, would selectively breed bigger and better animals.
It worked.
Ranchers arrived at shows with trailer loads of their very best animals, hoping for a trophy or two and some recognition.
And that was what had brought Dad to Toronto. He and young friends Mike, Leroy, and Patrick had driven from Alberta, carting a ‘carload’ (twelve steers) halfway across the country to the agricultural show there.
They learned a few things.
Some of which were unexpected.
Maybe I should explain . . .
The four friends arrived with several days to spare.
After unloading and settling their stock, they found they had time for some sightseeing.
And the great Niagara was where they wanted to do it.
Renting a car, the four of them set out. They toured, first, the Canadian side of the falls, then crossed over the border to the American.
After several hours of ‘tourist-ing’, they decided that the next item on the agenda should probably include some sort of sustenance.
They began to scout around for a likely place.
Only to discover that the restaurants nestled close around the falls were of the ‘posh’ variety.
Now these boys were all from the ranches of Southern Alberta. They were good boys. Polite. Respectful.
They just hadn’t been out and about much.
And never had any of them eaten at such high-class establishments.
They wandered around a bit, looking for a place where four young men--clean, but with calloused hands and traces of real manure on their boots--wouldn’t feel quite so out of place.
Finally, they picked a likely-looking prospect and walked in.
And discovered that the quiet exterior was slightly misleading.
This restaurant was definitely 'five-star'.
Taking a collective deep breath, they hailed the Maitre’D and secured a table. Then further hiding their discomfort, proceeded to order, trying to sound as blasé about their surroundings as the other patrons appeared to be.
They did well.
Until Patrick was asked how he’d like his potatoes prepared.
“Smashed,” he said clearly.
The waiter stared at him. Finally, “Smashed?” he said.
“Smashed,” Patrick repeated.
The waiter nodded and, making a careful note on his pad, collected the menus and disappeared into the kitchen.
Leroy punched Patrick in the arm. “Smashed?” he said.
Patrick started to giggle.
Leroy joined him.
Then Mike.
All of their pent-up nervousness and discomfort burst out of the three of them in a joyous bubble of sound.
That they vainly tried to suppress.
This went on for some time. One of them would nearly gain control. Then look at the others and start again.
Ever try not to laugh? Seriously. In church or school or somewhere people aren’t supposed to laugh?
Yeah. It’s impossible.
Certainly, it was for them.
Before long, the four friends were the cynosure (real word) of all eyes. And that just made them more nervous.
And less able to control their laughter.
They managed to make it through their painful meal.
Paid and finally escaped.
Oddly enough, none of them can remember what they ate. Apart from the smashed potatoes, of course.
But each of them learned a few things.
1. When in ‘Rome’, act as the Romans do.
2. When in ‘Rome’, speak as the Romans do.
3. Avoid potatoes in public.
And, most importantly . . .
4.  Don’t laugh.
Make a note in your guidebook.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Worrying About Worry

I remembered something while talking to my baby brother.
A quote from Daddy:
It ain't no use to grumble and complain.
It's every bit as easy to rejoice.
When God sorts out the weather and sends rain . . .
Rain's my choice.

It reminded me, that, not only can't we control the weather, sometimes it does precious little good to stew over much of what happens in life.
So, whatever life chooses to dish out, that's what I'm going to go with.
Thanks, Daddy!
Daddy. See him there in the back? Raining...

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Taking Bunnies to Church

As a rancher, during the work week, Dad was usually seen in work shirts and pants.
Heavy boots.
Leather gloves.
But on Sundays, all of that changed.
He would appear, dignified and tidy, in 'church' attire.
White shirt.
Polished boots.
And a tie.
Usually, Dad chose his own ties.
He had good taste.
Well . . . conservative taste.
No garish patterns.
No fluorescent colours.
Yep. Conservative.
But one of his ties stands out in my memory.
One that . . . wasn't conservative.
It was a quiet, dark tie.
With tiny, white polka-dots.
His favourite.
He wore it for three years.
And that is hilarious.
Maybe I should explain . . .
One day, just after church, I was giving my dad a hug.
Something I did often.
But now I was getting tall enough that his tie and my eyes were pretty much on the same level.
I buried my face in his clean, white shirt.
Then I opened my eyes.
And saw . . . dots.
No . . . wait . . . they weren't dots.
They were . . . something else.
I grabbed his tie and examined it closely.
“Daddy, do you know what's on this tie?”
“Polka-dots,” came the ready answer.
I lifted the end of the tie up to his face and held it there.
He looked. Then took the end of the tie from me and looked again a bit more carefully. “Oh,” he said.
That tie he had been wearing for the past three years, teaching and/or officiating in church before lots and lots of people.
That tie.
Well, the tiny, regular pattern?
Wasn't polka-dots.
It was playboy bunny heads.
Tiny little white playboy bunny heads.
My dad had been a leader in our local church congregation for three years . . .
Wearing a tie with playboy bunny heads on it.
See? Hilarious.
I think he thought it was funny, too.
But the tie never again made an appearance at church. Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Where it ended up, only big brother, George, knows.

When he passed away, Daddy still had quite a collection of ties.
But not one of them had polka dots.
Real or imagined.

Monday, July 26, 2021

For Our Parents!

 I know you’ve read this one before,
‘Bout my dad, whom I adored,
And as today is Parents Day,
I thought I’d share it once again!

Daddy’s Footsteps
December. My four-year-old mind was a haze,
I’d been locked in the house as it snowed for three days.
Then quite suddenly, magically, sunlight appeared,
And my Daddy was pulling on snow boots. And gear.

I just couldn’t stand the house one minute more.
I had to get out. I’d help Dad with the chores!
So I zippered and buttoned and pulled on and tied,
Then stood by my Daddy with little-girl pride.

“I’m ready,” I shouted. “Let’s go milk the cows!”
I was set for adventure, quite done with the house.
He smiled and then, turning, stepped into the snow.
And I walked alongside. It seemed quite apropos.

At first the bright sparkles and crisp winter air
Made our walking, adventure, and senses aware.
But then I discovered as most children do,
That snow, though quite pretty, was hard to get through.

I struggled and grunted, broke into a sweat,
Then looked for the barn that we hadn’t reached yet.
My Daddy smiled down at my efforts inept,
“It’d be easier if you tried to step where I step.”

So I did. And my progress was much better then,
Soon we two reached the barn, and the cozy cow pens.
I sat perched on a stool and watched Daddy do chores,
Then followed him home, just like I’d done before.

I learned something that day, as we walked through the yard,
If I stayed in his footsteps, then things weren’t as hard.
His skill and experience, and his guidance, too,
Would make everything easier my whole life through.

Now, to my own kids, when there’s woe to be had
I give bits of advice that I learned from my Dad.
When Life dishes out dollops of good or of ill,
I find that I’m walking in Dad’s footsteps still.


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?

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