Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, August 13, 2021

Pure and Clear

With Sally growing up in our fair city, the long-suffering citizens have had to get used to terms like: Code Red. APB. Emergency. And the host of smaller crises tragedies disasters calamities cataclysms. . . erm . . . misadventures that can plague a community.

To say they’re used to it would probably be an understatement.

Every member of the police force knows her by name. All the firemen. Even the SWAT team.

Maybe it would be easier to say all the city’s emergency response personnel and leave it there, shall we?

The general population also know her as they often see her face—much larger than life—on the marquee at the local movie theatre because let’s face it, she’s a movie star and a celebrity. Which means only that her sphere of ‘influence’ is just that much bigger.

Sigh.

All of this is to explain why Mom, Peter, Mort and I found ourselves as guests at the finest restaurant in the city for the biggest Celebrity Gala of the year. (Biggest because they weren’t allowed until now. Thanks, Covid!) But why we were justly nervous about being there.

I have to admit; it was nice to see Mom all dressed in her best—a simple but lovely floating chiffon in peach. And I probably don’t need to tell you, Peter looks spectacular in tie and tails. Even Mort fancies up nicely.

The evening had been fun. All the city bigwigs were there—including the mayor, though he managed to keep a justifiably wide berth between him and Sally. He seemed to tolerate the rest of us quite well, though. I was actually part of a group wherein he was describing his new, spectacular specs (Glasses to any who may not have heard them so labelled, ie. me). His exact words?  Something to do with the optometrist finally getting his prescription right. And not knowing How he survived without them!

All proceeds were to go to our local women’s shelter—a cause our family believes in very strongly—and people were giving generously.

There had been a fancy meal with subsequent open-ended tables of munchies and drinks arranged about the enormous room. We had been entertained by acrobats, a juggler and two puppet masters, and finally, a famous opera star who nearly shattered my ears during her moment in the spotlight. I have to tell you—that woman can sing. I think she hit notes that haven’t been invented yet. A few of them will likely be named after her, you know like they do those roses that people create . . .

Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I guess the term for a great party is ‘hitting on all cylinders’.

And this one was.

Then . . . Sally.

Now up until now, she had been behaving herself admirably. Chatting with people. Eating. Watching.

You know . . . normal.

The rooms were growing hot, so our group wandered over to one of the snack tables after Madame Voice finished her performance. Several men stood there, serving wine and other spirits, but as we were not wine-drinkers, we made a bee-line for the non-alcoholic side of the table.

A large, delicately balanced pyramid of wine goblets had been arranged in between the ‘als’ and the ‘nons’.

Rather than wait for one of the servers to fetch her a glass, Sally simply helped herself . . .

I’ll bet you were holding your breath there.

I know I was.

Moving on . . .

Then, goblet in hand, she grabbed a bottle of her drink of choice—Grape Somethingorother.

One of the helpful men swooped in and opened it for her, then offered to pour it, but Sally turned him down.

I remember staring at her white dress (yes, she was wearing white) and thinking, ‘Please don’t spill on that. Please don’t!’

And she didn’t.

This really was a great party!

Then Madame Voice swooped in. “Cherie!” she gushed. She embraced Sally with all the enthusiasm (and the mass) of several hundred pounds of ‘woman’. Kissed both of her cheeks several times, then chattered excitedly in French for a few moments.

I gathered she was a fan.

Unless she was some sort of masochist, it really was the only explanation.

Ahem . . .

Sally just stood there, a wide grin on her face, nodding at intervals.

Finally, at a pause in the very one-sided conversation, Sally lifted her glass.

Thinking she was about to propose a toast, the woman gasped, then quickly reached for a glass of her own. From the ‘als’ table. Something thick and red. She lifted it to tap against Sally’s.

There was a musical ‘ping’.

And Sally looked at her glass. “Hey! Is this crystal?” She looked at Mom, who nodded.

“Cool!” She turned to our singer. “Do you know that crystal sings?”

The woman looked at her uncomprehendingly.

Sally lifted her glass, deliberately dipped the end of one finger in her soda, then started running that finger around the rim of her glass.

Immediately, a pure, clear note sang out.

The woman brightened and, copying Sally’s actions, started her own glass singing.

Not to be left out, Mort grabbed a full glass and did the same.

I should probably mention here that the notes were pure, but . . . erm . . . not quite in the same register.

Sally’s glass, the least full, produced the lowest note. The Singer’s, whose glass was a little fuller, was higher.

Then Mort’s whose glass was nearly full, higher yet.

The three of them produced a sound which . . . well does the word ‘discordant’ mean anything to you?

These notes gave that word a whole new meaning.

And they didn’t stop there. Those note-producing fingers went faster and faster and the notes got more and more intense.

Until something snapped.

Or maybe, shattered would be the better word.

Remember that tower of glasses?

The one that had us all shaking in our sparkly shoes just moments ago?

That one.

Yeah, it shattered.

From the bottom to the top.

Every. Single. Glass.

And it didn’t stop there.

Nope.

Every liquid-filled goblet within thirty feet of us simply—ceased to exist.

There were exclamations of concern and disgust from several dozen party-goers as the contents of those former glasses suddenly found their way onto dress and shirt fronts, skirts, pants and shoes.

It took a moment for the three instigators/would-be musicians to realize what was happening and stop playing.

And in that instant came the final blow.

The mayor’s eyeglasses.

Our town now has a new emergency code: Code ‘S’. 

You understand.

Use Your Words is a monthly word challenge that I totally love!
Each month, we participants submit words to our intrepid leader, Karen, which she then redistributes.
None of us knows who will get our words or what they will do with them till now.
We're as surprised as you are!
My words this month:  hot ~ helpful ~ open-ended ~ restaurant ~ guest . . . came to me from our intrepid leader, Karen of bakinginatornado.com
Thank you SO much, my friend! 


Now go and see what the others in the group have created!  

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Fifty Day #1


Oh, how I admire the unabashed, unashamed innocence of the two year old…
Sweet little voice in the background during my and Daughter’s recent phone conversation: “What’cha doing Mama?”
“I’m talking on the phone, Quincy. Want to?”
“Nope.”
Aren’t there times when you wish you, too, could be a ‘Quincy’?

 This is a word challenge from my good friend, Adela of Black Tortoise Press!

Care to share the fun?

Furry, Cute and . . .

 

Blair in winter. Just add mouse...

Guest post by Little Brother, Blair.

We had little furry critters (mice) that were common around the ranch.
They seemed to be everywhere.
When a grain bin door was opened they scampered away to safety. When we pulled bales from haystacks, ditto.
A little background . . .
Every summer I had the pleasure of baling and stacking hay.
Every late fall and winter I had the pleasure of feeding hay.
Most of the time we baled an alfalfa-grass mix but on some occasions, we baled green-feed (an oat crop that is cut when green and just headed out.) Creative name, eh?
Cows really like green-feed and so do little furry critters.  Consequently, you see lots of them when you feed green-feed bales. 
On with my story . . .
One day in the middle of winter, dad and I were loading green-feed bales.
The snow had just fallen and we had a lovely white blanket everywhere.
I was pulling bales from the stack and throwing them into the back of the truck where dad was stacking them for the trip to the field. When each bale lifted, critters would skitter to the safety of another bale.
Suddenly, I got a funny feeling.
A little warm furry critter had somehow found his way up my pant leg.
Umm . . . yikes.
As the critter was slowly making his way up, I managed to grab him.
Now I had a predicament.
It was inside my pants leg. Which were inside my coveralls.
I could only stop the critter by grabbing it from the outside of said pants and coveralls.
I didn’t want it to bite me so I grabbed and squeezed.
Then I tried to shake it down my pant leg.
It wouldn’t shake. 
I turned to Dad. He of the years of experience and endless knowledge.
Surely he had some wise method to take care of this very unwanted predicament.
His advice? “I guess you’ll have to take off your pants.”
I had only this to say:
Stackyard!
In the winter!
In the snow!
In my underwear!
Yeah. Dad had a good laugh.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Black Saturday

The ranch
Production sale day.
The highlight of the Stringam Ranch year. Black Friday in our ranching world.
The catalogs have been printed, painstakingly hand-addressed (ugh!) and mailed out.
All over the world.
The cattle have been groomed, trimmed, tucked in and kissed good night.
The ranch site has been mowed, scoured, repaired and painted.
Now it sparkles like a new penny in the dawning sun as the crew slowly climbs out of bed.
Some (my parents) might not have seen their bed.
Arrivals start
Breakfast is on the table and Mom is a blur of motion as she tries to do three things at once.
A shout from the barnyard. “They’re here!”
A glance out the window. Sure enough, the first of a long line of vehicles is moving slowly up the ranch drive.
From then on, the day is a series of impressions.
Snapshots.
Greeting and handshaking.
Parking cars and the trickier trucks and trailers.
Handing out catalogues.
Tending the coffee and the all-important donuts.
Making sure the auctioneer staff are comfortable and cared for.
Dusting the bleachers, ready for customer bottoms.
Hearing the shouts and movement from the pens behind the sale barn.
The warm up patter from the auctioneer on the stand as he gathers the chatting, laughing, gesticulating crowd.
An open gate and the first animal, an outstanding heifer, in the ring.
The auctioneer assistant, armed with a cane, moving her about.
Oohs and aahs from the crowd as they thumb their catalogues, looking for this entry.
More chatter from the man with the mike.
Bidding.
The smack of the gavel.
Another open gate and the now-nervous heifer gladly disappearing.
Gates open.
Gates close.
Shouts from the pens as stock is shuffled into catalogue order.
Animals in.
Animals out.
Pounding of the gavel.
Talk and laughter as the auctioneer plays with the crowd.
The final animal, a 2000 pound bull, in the pen.
Final strike of the mallet.


“Mark and Enes Stringam would like to thank all of you for making this day special!” the auctioneer says. “And to invite you to come and enjoy a nice home-grown beef dinner on them!” A grin. “It should be good, it’s out of the neighbour’s bull!”
Much laughter. The crowd is well aware of the almost fanatic fence maintenance required by the ranch owner.
And the unlikely possibility of anything four-legged crawling through with mischief/romance in mind.
Everyone moving down the hill toward the long tables set out in front of the ranch house.
Tables groaning with mountains of Stringam beef, salads, rolls, and every other good thing.
A buzz of contented ‘people noise’ as food is consumed.
Sounds of vehicles as buyers take turns backing up to the loading chutes.
Visiting. Laughter.
The crowd slowly dwindling, along with the sunlight.
Finally, peace.
The mercury-vapour barnyard lamp shining on the faces of a family of people, collapsed in chairs in front of the house.
Tomorrow the whole process begins again, from the beginning, with breeding, calving, culling, choosing, feeding, grooming and all the processes within the processes. But for this minute, everyone is quietly, happily exhausted.
It’s been a good day. A good year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Communication ‘50s Style

As I was driving to the city for an appointment, I saw two trucks stopped on a frontage road paralleling the highway.

They had been travelling in opposite directions and had pulled over next to each other in the centre of the road so the drivers could chat.
It brought back memories . . .
In the fifties, in the sparsely-inhabited and phoneless outer ranchlands of Southern Alberta, neighbours didn’t see each other much. Busy with ranch demands and family life, they only got together at county shindigs and the occasional branding or barn dance.
Oh, they travelled the same roads to and from the nearest towns, but the chance of running into one another on those long trails was slim to nil.
When it did happen, it was cause for excitement . . .
A cloud of dust appears on the horizon, slowly coalescing into a dark spec. Then into a vehicle.
As it draws closer, said vehicle is recognized – a friend or person who is not yet a friend.
The vehicle slides to a stop in the middle of the road.
Your car does the same and you look out to see that the other person is already leaning on his crossed arms out his open window – ready for a chat.
Everyone in each vehicle crowds around their driver for a peek and a listen.
Inevitably, there’s a few minutes of chatter, beginning with: “Well, Enes! I haven’t seen you in dog’s years! How are you? The kids? And how’s Mark?”
And Mom’s answer: “Oh, everyone’s fine. Busy. You know.”
“Heading into town?”
“Oh yeah. This crew never stops eating. And I have to make a call at the hardware and the shoemakers.”
“Yeah, the missus sent me on much the same errands. Oh, she’d like to drop by sometime, if that’s okay.”
“I’m always happy to see her! Tell her to bring the kids down for an afternoon. They could go swimming.”
“Had any rain at the ranch? We’re so dry, the birds are building their nests out of barbed wire and the trees are bribing the dogs.” 
“You still have birds? And Dogs?”
“Good one.”
This goes on for some time. Until one or the other realizes that they have to be somewhere . . .
Then it ends with: “Well, better get back. I’ve got ice cream and we all know how much it likes this hot weather! Could you please tell Mark that I’ve got those bulls that need testing and we still haven’t done our vaccinating. Maybe have him stop by?”
“I’ll do that.”
“And you and the kids come by any time! The pot’s always on and you know you’re always welcome!”
The driver shifts into gear and, with a wave, heads off down the road.
We continue our trip, with us kids all swivelled around to watch the truck disappear into another cloud of dust.
Communication.
On the prairies. 
In the fifties.
It was always personal, neighbourly and eye-to-eye.
And you took it when you could get it.
Where you headin'?
P.S We kids often re-enacted the whole visiting-on-the-road scenario. When playing with toy cars, we would inevitably stop beside someone else and discuss plans - which usually included going for groceries.
P.P.S. It was even funnier when we were playing with model planes. Did you know those guys can hover? Well, when they see someone they know, they can hang there for inordinate amounts of time and discuss the weather.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Cat's Tail


You’ve heard this tale before, you have,

I thought I’d tell it one more time,

Perhaps it’ll be less scary when,

The whole darn thing’s put into rhyme?


‘Twas evening on the Stringam Ranch,

The cows were fed, tucked in for night,

The cowboys all were TV bound,

T’was Friday—time to watch the fights.


But Cheeta, our small terrier,

Disturbed the joy we 'hands' pursued,

Her barking (loud) drowned out the sound,

Trust dogs to bark and spoil the mood!


I went to see what had her miffed,

I walked beneath the carport there,

And just as I was stepping out,

My foot raised to the evening air . . .


A scream rang out above my head,

A cougar, sure, was on the roof,

Like us, he’d had enough of noise,

Was offering his best reproof.


I spun around and headed back,

Then called my dog. The errant waif

Came like a shot. The two of us

Determined to find somewhere safe!


Dad looked. By then the cat had gone.

And Cheeta, barking once again,

But moving t'word the hills, for sure,

No longer skulked on our terrain.


There is a moral here today,

If, a cat, you'd like to own...

Before you make your final choice...

Make sure it'll fit INSIDE your home!

Photo Credit: Karen of bakinginatornado.com
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, for all you special folks...
Please come. For you we'll Tell A Joke




Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
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Tell a Joke (August 16)
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