Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Love of a Child

Sometimes, our experiences define us.

When he was 19 years old, Husby went to live, for two years, in France.
As a Missionary.
It was an exciting time.  A time of growth, education and change.
And of new and varied experiences.
One of the latter had such a profound effect on him that it defined his life . . .
He and his companion were visiting with a woman teetering on the very brink of disaster.
She had been married. But to an abusive animal of a husband whose daily and favoured recreation seemed to be the use of his very manly fists.
With his wife as the target.
When he finally abandoned them, he left her and their two children completely destitute.
Desperate to feed her small family, the wife, after much tearful consideration, decided the best course would be to send her small son and daughter  to live in the very large and efficient orphanage some ten miles away. Knowing, even as she did so, that she would seldom, if ever, be able to even visit.
This was the situation when Husby came by.
At the end of their call, the mother tearfully begged them to make the ten mile trip to visit her children.
They agreed to do so, covering the distance fairly easily on their bicycles.
Husby clearly remembers his first glimpse of the massive building – a former hospital – now given to the housing and feeding of hundreds of young children.
There were children everywhere. Clothed and clean and obviously well-fed, but almost without adult contact.
He and his companion made their way to the main office and inquired after the two children. They were directed to one of the wings of the building. Carefully, they mounted stairs and counted doors, coming at last to a massive room.
The young boy – about nine – and his younger sister met them in that doorway.
Husby peered into the room and saw literally hundreds of beds placed in regimental order down each side of the huge room.
Here was home.
Clean. Tidy.
Their only adult supervision supplied by the nurse in charge and their daily contact with their teachers.
Husby thought of their grieving mother and his heart melted inside him.
He and his companion spent a few minutes chatting with those children, but in that few minutes, he was changed forever.
Into the loving, giving caretaker of any child – every child - he sees.
Sometimes, our experiences define us.
And sometimes, though the experience is painful, it’s for the good.
Husby doing what he does so well...

Thursday, August 5, 2021

The Cake Break

I love hearing about people.

Where they came from.
Who their families were.
Their stories . . .

I have a good friend who was raised in a bakery.
Her family lived on the third floor of the building. The bakery was on the second, and the ‘workings’ (ovens and things) on the first.
I think it sounds like a small slice of heaven. Or maybe a large slice. Pun intended.
This is a part of her story . . .
Her father immigrated to their small Alberta town as a young man, intent on finding his way.
He took a job at the local bakery and, using skills brought with him from the old country, quickly made himself useful.
There was a girl at that bakery.
A pretty girl.
Daughter of the owner.
Much to the owner’s dismay, the two quickly became an item. I expect it was all right for Papa to be a baker, but he wanted more for his daughter.
Daughter had other plans.
The two made arrangements to be married.
And the father/boss gave grudging permission, both for the ceremony, and for the time away from the shop. But he only gave them enough of said time to perform the actual ceremony. Then both of them were to be back at the store to work.
Yes, it sounds odd to me as well.
Moving on . . .
The two slipped away to be married.
An hour later, they were back, aprons donned and ready to work.
Now the young new husband was very handy at decorating cakes.
Very handy.
In fact, he had been doing most of the decorating in the shop almost since his arrival.
As a gift for his young bride, he had created something really special. A many-tiered cake, astoundingly decorated with angels and trumpets and flowers painstakingly fashioned out of icing.
It had taken him some time.
Upon their return to the shop, he presented his gift.
It was . . . well received.
It was at that moment that another young groom came into the shop, intent on picking up the cake he had ordered for his celebration.
The cake, another decorated by our young husband, was duly handed over and paid for. Then, as the second groom carried his precious cargo out of the shop, he slipped and he and a mound of perfectly-arranged, meticulously-bedecked cake and frosting both hit the floor with a resounding splat.
He emerged unscathed.
The cake . . . didn’t.
The young man scrambled to his feet and stared down at the ruin of what had been a work of art.
And his gift to his new bride.
Dismay writ large, he looked over at the young baker.
Who, in turn, looked at his bride.
Who nodded silently.
Our young groom went into the back of the shop and emerged with his own gift. The one he had spent hours decorating for his beloved. The one she had enjoyed so briefly.
The two of them handed it silently over to the unhappy groom.
The story ends there.
I have to imagine the joy on the young man’s face.
The pain in the heart of the creator.
And that of his darling . . .
The two of them celebrated many, many years together. Took over the bakery and raised several children there.
There were other cakes.
Just as meticulously decorated.
Just as beautiful.
But none more appreciated than the first.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Hand-Holding Music

The year boys were discovered in Milk River.
Okay, yes, I am assured they had always been there.
I definitely had seen them.
But up until that time, they had been covered with cooties.
True story.
Also true was the fact that, in 1965, I got my first, ever, boyfriend.
A real. Living. Breathing. Boy. Who liked me.
1965 was also the year for miracles.
Moving on . . .
I was finding out about the wondrous world of sitting in a movie with a boy.
Hanging out at recess with a boy.
Talking on the phone with a boy.
Sitting in assemblies with a  . . .
You get the idea.
It was new.
It was unusual.
It was amazing.
Okay, it didn’t last long. Let’s face it, both of us were ten. Attention spans are notoriously short when you’re ten.
But for a while . . .
My boyfriend and I and another friend were sitting in the travel trailer behind his parents’ house.
I should mention here that 1965 was also the year that we realized the radio played . . . music.
Rock and roll music.
I don’t know about you, but my parents’ radio was always played the news.
Yep. The news.
And the stock prices with an occasional foray into weather.
Twenty-four hours a day.
Back to my story . . .
My boyfriend had fallen hard for a newly discovered group, The Beatles. He had bought one of their records and we were listening to it.
They were SO COOL!
It was the fifth or sixth time we had restarted the LP and by this point, all three of us were getting quite proficient with the words to “I Wanna Hold Your Hand!”
“I wanna hold your ha-a-and!” I was singing at the top of my lungs, really not caring who else might be listening. “I wanna hold your hand!”
My boyfriend took the hint. Sat beside me, took my hand and sang along.
It was the best moment of my life.
Then, suddenly, his mother appeared in the open door. “Diane, your Mom is here. Time to go.”
I looked at my boyfriend and grimaced. (Yes. Grimaced.)
Our moment was over.
But that was all right. I was sure there would be others.
Lots of them.
I was wrong. Not long afterwards, my boyfriend’s attention . . . wandered.
As did mine.
That’s the good thing about being 10.
But whenever I hear The Beatles sing, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, I’m back in the trailer behind his house and he and I are singing along at the top of our voices.
And holding hands.
Memories don’t get much better than that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Strangely Injured

Some of our blessings.
Caution: Lift with care.
I’ve been fairly active all my life.
And I have the scars to prove it.
I had all the usual bumps and bruises learning to walk as a baby.
Climbed and fell off of numerous fences, buildings, and assorted furniture.
Got trampled by an angry mama cow in the barnyard and got a flattened right boot.
Tried to fly using mom’s circular clothesline and almost bit my tongue right through.
Took a high-flier off my brother’s horse and landed on my face, resulting in impressive scratches and bruises.
Got a faceful of hoof from the same horse moments later.
Had an altercation with the arm of the armchair in my parents’ front room which resulted in one remarkable eyebrow.
Tore a twenty-two-inch groove in my leg from ankle to thigh, when I fell headfirst over the barbed-wire fence I was trying to cross.
Nearly lost my right hand in a cattle headgate.
Put all of my lower teeth through my lip when I got head-butted by an angry mama cow whose calf I was sitting on at the time.
And these were just injuries incurred in the course of growing up on a ranch.
I also sprained each ankle numerous times playing basketball, volleyball or baseball.
Sprained every single finger at least once – ditto.
Broke a wrist doing a celebratory leap.
Wrecked a knee running marathons.
Wrenched shoulders.
Sprained backs.
Twisted necks.
My purpose in telling you all of this is not so you will think I’m tough.
Or superwoman.
But because I don’t want you to think I give up easily.
That I can take pain and carry on.
But one day, not all that long ago, I developed a new injury.
Something I’d never had before.
And I really struggled with it.
I went to the doctor complaining of pain in my elbow.
You heard me correctly.
My elbow.
She examined the offending joint. Worked it around. Hemmed and hawed. “You have tennis elbow,” she said decisively, moments later.
“Tennis elbow? How on earth did I get that?!” Since the knee injury, my sports participation has been strictly limited to walking, laps of the pool.
And bike rides.
I’ve never even picked up a tennis racket.
“Well . . . golf elbow, then.”
Golf?! “Umm, that’s a game, right?”
She stared at me. “Well, what activities do you do?” she asked.
I frowned. “Walk. Swim. Bike. Play with my grandkids.”
Her eyes sharpened. “Grandkids?”
I nodded.
She smiled. “Do you lift said grandkids?”
I scratched my head. “Ye-es,” I said slowly.
“A lot?”
“Well, two of them live with me and one I babysit every day.”
She nodded, once more crisply confident. “That’s it, then.”
“What?” I was confused.
“I’m sure that the pain in your elbow can be directly attributed to the constant lifting of small bodies.” (Doctors talk like that . . .)
“I have . . . toddler elbow?”
She smiled. “In a word.”
It’ll never be discussed in ‘Sports Illustrated’.
Never be the topic of concern for professional athletes.
But it’s real.
Toddler elbow.
To be found at many grandparents’ houses near you.
You heard it here first.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Sandwich Dreaming

 I’ve looked around and learned a bit,

Bout SANDWICHES that are a hit,

Like TUNA, its a place to start,

With cheese and spices in its heart,

A COMBINATION’S got no rules,

A sub or blt are cool!

A SIMPLE sandwich, simple, yes!

Just meat or cheese, but make it fresh!

Or STEAK, I’ve tried it once or twice,

With onions, grilled, it’s very nice,

A HAMBURGER is always good,

I’d eat it loaded, yes I would,

PANINI, that is something new,

Ciabatta bread and grill-ed too!

A CLUB, if I am not forsaken,

Chicken, Lettuce Under Bacon,

A PINWHEEL is a pretty thing,

Tortilla wrapped and cut: a king!

With RIBBON you will get no gripes,

Bread, meat, cheese cut into stripes!

PASTRAMI has some special meat,

With cheese, tomato, lettuce. Neat!

BROADWAY. With crispy, we begin,

Toast, smoked salmon, eggs stuffed in,

A PO BOY, half baguette as base.

Then roast beef, shrimp or gator place.

EGG SALAD: Boiled eggs that are diced

And mixed with mustard, spices—nice!

CROQUE MONSIEUR: add ham, gruyere,

Then dip in egg and grill for flair!

REUBEN: Corned beef, sauerkraut,

With Swiss cheese, what life’s all about!

And PBJ for something slick,

Just spread and eat. Delish. And quick!

GRILLED Cheese, best one of them all,

Beloved by both the big and small . . .


With all these choices, what to pick,

When lunch, you need that’s filling. Quick?

And tasty. That’s important, too,

Which would you choose and which eschew?

I know, for me, the answer’s there,

For which one I would say a prayer,

Sooo . . . ‘bout which of all these do I dream?

One made with rusk. Filled with ice cream! 

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 should be nice,
We'll talk of CATS. (Ma Nature's spice!)

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Ice Cream Sandwich Day (August 2) Today!
Cats (August 9)
Tell a Joke (August 16)
Wind (August 23)
Monsters (August 30)
Shoes (September 6) From Mimi
Defy Superstition Day (September 13) Also from Mimi
Remembering 8-Tracks (September 20) Another Mimi

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Read it! You know you want to!

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E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

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