Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, September 3, 2021

A Hot Hand

Mabel and Percy (Casey) Jones. 1924
My parents' good friends
Mom and Dad, newlyweds, were out for the evening with their friends, the Jones - their nearest neighbours.
At the Jones’ ranch fifteen miles away.
In a time when the closest thing anyone had to electronic diversion was a radio or phonograph, the two couples and one of the Jones’ eldest sons were engaged in the next best thing.
Parlour games.
Inevitably . . . cards.
They had been playing for most of the evening, amidst much conversation and hilarity.
Casey Jones (yes, that was what he was called) had been fighting a steadily losing battle.
Another hand was dealt.
And Casey loudly voiced his displeasure at yet another 'bad' hand, then sighed heavily and played his bad hand.
As it finished, his wife, Mabel suggested refreshments and got to her feet. She bustled (yes, I meant to use that word) into the kitchen.
Mom followed her and the two women happily visited as they sliced cake and set out cups and saucers.
Meanwhile, the men stayed in the parlour, discussing the game and Casey’s apparent inability to win.
“It’s the lousy cards!” he said. “I’ve gotten nothing but bad hands all evening!” He got to his feet. “Something has to be done!”
He gathered up the deck and arranged them neatly. Then he disappeared into the kitchen with them.
Moments later, Mabel appeared in the doorway, tray in hands and announced that their game had officially concluded.
Casey had thrown the cards into the stove.
Yep. Something had to be done.
Good thing he was on hand to do it.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Breaking Bread

Worth fighting for . . .
In the Stringam household of eighty years ago, all food was prepared from scratch.
Processed or instant foods simply didn't exist.
Nothing came packaged from the store.
Bread was something that emerged, nearly every day, from the oven of the large wood stove.
No other option was possible.
No other option was needed.
Grandma's crusty, fresh bread, hot from the oven, was the favourite food of my Dad's family of nine brothers and sisters and their home was nearly always awash in the wonderful smell.
But each large, beautiful loaf only had two ends.
Because bad manners hadn't been invented yet, it never occurred to Dad and his siblings that they could do anything about that.
Side note: My husband and his brothers, the creators of bad manners, would cut off every available surface – sides, top, bottom – after the ends had been claimed.
But I digress . . .
So, as the time drew nearer for the family to assemble for the evening meal, Grandma Stringam would slice one entire loaf of fresh, warm bread.
And place it neatly on a platter to go to the table.
That was about the time that every child in the house would suddenly appear.
And wrestle each other for the privilege of 'helping'.
Bruised but triumphant, the winner would carefully carry the precious platter of warm deliciousness to the table and park it in the centre.
Then he would quickly snatch one of the two crusty ends and set it on his own plate.
At first, the sacred placing of the bread was all that was needed.
But not for long.
Soon, the instant the bread was placed and the claimer gone, someone else would creep in and slide said crusty slice of yumminess to their own plate.
Then the next person would do the same.
And the next.
This would go on until everyone assembled for the actual meal.
Whoever possessed it at that time . . . won. Sort of like a game of 'hot potato', but tastier.
As time went by, more and more sneakiness was required.
The bread was placed under the plate.
Under the napkin.
Stabbed with the owner's fork.
The owner's knife.
Finally, in full view of whoever happened to be waiting in the wings for their turn, the possessor would lick the back of the hotly contested piece of bread. (Okay, remember what I said about manners? Forget it.) Then place the now-thoroughly-claimed prize on their plate.
The entire contest came to a screeching halt.
But only for a while . . .
Gramma and Grampa Stringam.
Oh, the bread she could bake . . .

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Fifty Day #4

Today is Fifty Day!

And that means another challenge to tell a story using ONLY fifty words.

Thank you so much, Adela, for opening this new world to me . . .

The little girl had been struggling to produce…something.

Finally, with tear-filled eyes, she said, “I just can’t draw a heart!”

I smiled. “Gramma will do it for you.” With a pink marker, I drew an ‘almost’ heart. “Here, sweetheart!”

She handed it back. “Look, Gramma, I made you a heart!”

This is an uber-fun, uber-challenging exercise.
Join us!
Leave your contribution in the comments...

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Baby Swears

She of the foul mouth . . .
There are creative ways of making one's anger and frustration known.
Even when one is little . . .
My friend's two eldest children were having 'one of those days'. When arguments erupted at regular intervals. And no one was happy.
Periodically, one of them would go to their mother and say, “Sister said the 'S' word!”
Now their mother was an adult.
I probably don't need to point that out.
She knew what the 'S' word was. But had no idea how her children had learned it.
Appropriate punishment was carried out.
A few minutes later, the other child was at her side. “Brother said the 'S' word!”
This went on for some time.
Finally, totally exasperated, their mother pulled both of them aside and asked them where they had learned the 'S' word.
“Well you and Dad say it!”
Now my friend lived in a non-cursing home. Expletives were kept strictly within certain bounds. She knew she had never, in her entire life, said the 'S' word.
She shook her head. “When did I say it?”
“Mom, you say it all of the time!”
“All the time!”
Finally, she realized that there was one question she had not asked.
“Kids, what is the 'S' word?”
Together they chorused, “Stupid!”
Ah. Okay. Not a desirable word, but not quite what she was thinking, either . . .

We, too had our forbidden family curse words.
Mom and Dad had a problem with children abusing each other verbally.
Stupid was a no-no.
But we were raised on a ranch.
With hired men.
Whose language was, how shall I say it? . . . spiced with colourful metaphors. And it was inevitable that we should pick some of them up.
I remember the first time we heard our little sister curse. It shocked my younger brother and I to our toes.
That's a lot of shock.
We stared at our tiny sister in disbelief. Had we heard what we had just heard?
Mom was gonna have something to say about this!
We ran to tell her. Let's face it, getting each other into trouble was the thing we liked doing the most.
“Mom! Mom! Anita said something bad!”
Mom stopped what she was doing and followed us to where the guilty party stood.
Feet planted.
Chin out.
Bristling with anger and defiance.
Mom knelt next to her.
“Anita, what did you say?”
“Anita, Diane and Blair told me you said a bad word. What was it?”
“Didn't say anyffing!”
Finally she sighed. "Stupid Poop,” she said.
Her two-year-old ears had heard what the hired men had spouted and processed it to this?
There was hope for the world after all.

Monday, August 30, 2021


My childhood monsters used to park

With slavering fang, there in the dark,

And if I carelessly did step,

They’d jump at me. Like Imhotep.

(I’d no idea what he was, 

But he scared me—like Santa Claus!)

As I got older, my mind grew,

And conjured terrors not a few,

Ghosts and cyclops, dragons, trolls,

Zombies, werewolves, vampires, ghouls,

Or the things that scared me most,

(Our country home seemed glad to host,)

Those creepy, leggy, furry bugs,

That spun their webs to give flies hugs. 

These fears that lasted all my life

And made my nights with danger rife

Have been supplanted recently

By something scarier, to me.

And what, you ask could possibly

Be worse than what I do not see?

Things that, though they do not leap,

Excel at making me lose sleep?

Why, those who stand and promise me

A vote for them will set me free.

Ensure my life will be a joy,

And nothing ‘bad’ will e’er annoy,

Do I believe them? Not one bit,

I mostly want to pitch a fit

Each time I see another one,

Who pledges only days with sun.

You know I think that, really, I

Would go back to those other guys,

The ones that lingered out of sight,

And pounced whene’er we doused the lights.

Their fangs were scary. They looked mean,

(I think. If I had ever seen!)

They could not possibly be like

Those scary ones there—At The Mic.

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?

To some the best thing we can choose...
Next week we are discussing ‘SHOES’!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?

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