Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, September 10, 2021

Train-ing Day

 You know the word: Serendipity? The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way: "A fortunate stroke of serendipity"

I’m beginning to believe . . .


“But you’re sure it’s okay that we’re here?”

Sally turned from the large, covered birdcage she had been contemplating for the last couple of minutes and shrugged. “Sure. Why not?”

“I mean, won’t we be in the way?”

She looked puzzled. “Not if you stay . . . out of the way.”

She had a point. Mom and I looked at each other and Mom shrugged. I should probably mention that our discussion was moot. Mom and I were on the train with Sally and her movie people, barreling toward the destination of her newest shoot.

And, apart from jumping off, superhero/train robber style, while the locomotive was under full throttle, we were pretty much committed . . .

The day had started out fairly normally.

Sun rising.


Sally packing to leave for her next job.

Then the phone had rung.

From what I had picked up from Sally’s end of the conversation, their location had just been cancelled—not an unusual occurrence in the modern, Covid ‘filming world’. And, wonder of wonders, a similar location found just outside our fair city.

Okay, you have to know that this doesn’t happen often.

In point of fact, never.

So our family was a bit excited by the prospect of Sally filming somewhere close.

Then when she had turned and invited Mom and me on the set, that ‘bit’ of excitement . . . blossomed.

And here, not two hours after that initial phone conversation, we found ourselves enroute to sharing Sally’s exciting life.

I know what you’re thinking. Sally’s exciting life is often—usually—a bit more exciting than the normal person is ready for.

What can I say? Covid has been boring.

Sally turned back to the cage and, with a single pull, slipped the cover off, disclosing the fat, green parrot that resided there. It blinked at her ‘owlishly’ for a moment or two.

“Hey, Herc!” Sally said, “say something funny!”

The parrot blinked one dark eye at her and dipped its head. “Pleased to meet you!” the bird said.

Mom and I burst out laughing. “Did it say that by accident?” Mom asked. “Or in response to . . .?”

Sally made a face at her then turned back to the parrot. “Herc! Am I bothering you?”

The bird turned its head upside down. “Nope. Not listening!”

This time, even Sally laughed.

She looked at us. “This is Hercules. Isn’t that the perfect name? What could be better than a parrot named after a demigod?”

“What, indeed?” I muttered under my breath.

“He’s the co-star of my new film, Jailbird. Sort of a ‘James Bond if he was a bird’ theme. He’s super clever!”

“Smarter than you!” Herc said, bobbing up and down.

Mom frowned. This was getting a little scary.

“He’s so clever that they have to put a special lock on his cage. He’s gotten out of everything else!”

Herc walked along the perch to the lock on the door of his cage and pecked at it a couple of times. Then he looked at Sally. “Please?”

“No way, Herc,” Sally said, laughing. “I’ve heard the stories!” She turned back to us. “See? It takes two hands to make it work.” She demonstrated.

The lock clicked free and in that moment, Hercules launched his bright green and not unsubstantial self at the door.

It burst open, knocking Sally aside, and instantly, a feathered ruffian was leaping and flapping about the car amidst cries of “Not again!” and “Herc, you idiot!” and “Eeeeeeee! There’s a bird in my hair!”

The door at the front of the car opened suddenly, disclosing the movie’s director, Jamie Lassiter, whom Sally now knew on a first-name basis. The woman instinctively ducked as Herc made a bid for the openness of the open road—or whatever lay on the other side of the door Jamie had just exited—and, in that split-second, Herc succeeded.

He didn’t escape totally.

I know you were probably worried.

Nope. Instead, he made it as far as the next car. The locomotive.

I probably don’t have to describe the chaos that ensued. The shrieking engineers—did you know that a burly, coverall-clad man can scream just like a little girl when properly motivated?

Yeah, it was news to me as well.

The shuffling and dancing of rotund male figures and the subsequent and frantic application of brakes that effectively tipped nearly every passenger—and much of the stored cargo—out of their seats and/or places of security.

The breathless pause as everything finally came to a halt.

You know that pause—the one the precedes the looks of venom as everyone begins to sort out a mess.

“Oops,” Sally said.

“Salleeee!” Jamie shouted.

Sally bounced to her feet. “Yeah, Jamie?”

“This was you, wasn’t it?!”

Sally shrugged and grinned.

I closed my eyes, expecting at any moment to see my sister’s fair head rolling freely up the aisle.

“Please tell me someone had a camera going!”

A short, rather squat man seated up the aisle from us with a camera pressed to his eye, got to his feet. “Always, James!”

“Thank God,” Jamie said. “Print!”

See? Serendipity.

What, for anyone else on the planet, would have been a complete and total disaster was, for Sally, a career enhancer.

Yeah, I don’t get it either.

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 were:
cage ~ demigod ~ locomotive ~ theme ~ green
And given to me by my amazing friend, Rena at:
Enjoying yourself? Keep the party going with these other “Use Your Words” posts:
Baking In ATornado
Wandering Web Designer
What TFSarah
Part-time Working HockeyMom

Thursday, September 9, 2021


 I live in the past.

It's peaceful there...

The group. Husby is in the back row. With the whiskers.
Donny is directly in front of him.

Reunions are so much fun.
Spending hours - sometimes days - remembering the fun times.
Oh, and sometimes commiserating together over bad times, too. But even those, shared, become good memories.
Husby and I spent the a weekend immersed in his reminiscences. He and twenty or so of his schoolmates, as part of a grand twelve-class reunion, assembled for a wonderful couple of days.
Husby was speaking to his high school best friend, Donny MacLean. The conversation went something like this:
Husby: Remember our trips to the dump?
Donny: The TVs!!!
Maybe I should explain . . .
It was the sixties. 
Two fourteen-year-old boys were looking for something to do.
They decided it was a good day to ride their bikes over to the dump. Just to see what amazing things they could discover.
In case you’re wondering, this was a favourite pastime. Twenty years BE. (Before electronics.) And before the town dump was regulated. Or controlled.
And before the invention of germs.
Or good judgement.
Or danger.
Husby was carrying his twenty-two rifle. (All of the above.)
The two of them scrambled around for a while.
Then discovered a heap of old TVs dumped and forgotten by who-knows-who.
To me, such a thing would have suggested storage units.
Or display cabinets.
But these two boys were a little more knowledgeable. 
And knew about vacuum tubes.
And, more specifically, what would happen when something disturbed or upset said tubes.
Gleefully, they lined up the TVs.
Then they backed away to a safe distance. Roughly a quarter-mile.
Carefully, the first shooter took aim.
Pulled the trigger.
And the two of them stared at the spot where the TV used to be.
The bullet had struck the screen (actually the front of the vacuum tube) and the entire thing had exploded. 
I do mean exploded.
A sheen of shiny dust that used to be a glass object, and a few splinters of wood littered the area.
The two boys stared.
Then grinned.
And took aim at another TV . . .

The two grown men laughed together over this memory.
And their survival.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Fifty Day #5


Gramma Tolley had bins of toys.


But the toy that everyone wanted? Fought over?

A necklace made of  spools. The kind that used to hold thread.

30 years have passed.

Recently my daughter presented me with a precious gift. All for myself.

I cried.

We’ve come full circle…

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 . . .

This is an uber-fun, uber-challenging exercise.
Join us!

Leave your contribution in the comments...



Home economics for girls and shop class for boys.
The 1960s pigeonhole view of the world.
In Milk River, where I grew up, it was a tradition long set.
And trying to buck convention didn’t work.
Trust me, I tried . . .
They had the wondrous world of power tools to explore as they overhauled engines and built furniture.
We learned the proper use of a skillet, how to clean anything and sewing our sleeves in backwards. (Okay, they really didn’t teach that last – that’s just how I did it.)
Mostly, it was all right.
I mean, I like cooking and cleaning and sewing.
But when you do it at home a lot, there’s really not much excitement to doing it at school, too. Right?
Well, there wasn’t for me.
Every day, when we reported to our Home-Ec lab, it was not without a longing glance at the line of boys heading in the opposite direction.
In Fort Macleod, where Husby grew up, it was the same. The girls went one way.
And the boys the other. But that wasn’t the end of their perks.
Not only did they get to fool around with potentially life-threatening implements, they also got to eat whatever the girls had whipped up.
Can anyone spell n.o.t. f.a.i.r.?
One such day stands out in Husby’s mind . . .
The aromas wafting from the kitchens down the hall had been teasing the young men all afternoon. Causing them to be even less attentive than usual.
I know that’s hard to fathom but stay with me.
Just as they were threatening to fall to the cold cement in a hunger-induced swoon, the door opened and manna from Heaven walked in.
Fine. It was several girls carrying slices of pie.
There was only one thing wrong.
There weren’t enough pieces of pie to go around.
Rather than start what was sure to be a battle to the death, the teacher announced that each boy could have exactly half of one of the slices.
Numbly, they agreed.
Husby and his good friend, Donny MacLean were handed one of the plates.
Husby, ever the gentleman, told his friend to eat half and then give the rest to him.
Donny nodded happily and Husby turned away, intent on whatever he had been doing when their class had been interrupted.
A few moments later, Donny nudged Husby with the plate.
It was finally his turn.
Eagerly, he reached for his share of the treat. And found himself staring at a gaping, empty shell. He turned and glared at his ‘friend’.
“I saved you half,” Donny said, shrugging.
Pie with friends. Brings a whole new meaning to ‘taking your half out of the middle’ . . .

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Eyesore No More

Uncle Bern and Aunt Eva Berg

As with many rural families in Southern Alberta in the 1950s, Uncle Bern and Aunt Eva Berg carried on without the benefits of indoor plumbing.
They made do with the little building out back.
Also known as (but not limited to): John, backhouse, outhouse, privy, johnny, two-holer, little house, one-holer, crapper, biffy, can, garden house, outdoor library, reading room, toilet, shanty, white house, rest room, big John, half-moon, outdoor plumbing, dooley, half-moon house, jo, little house behind the big house, Roosevelt, stink house, baggy, bank, bass house, bath with a path, biffy, Big Bertha, boonie, bughouse, Casey Jones, comfort station, corner house, courthouse, cribby, depository, does and bucks, doll house, dollar house, first national bank, going out back, going out to mail a letter, going to see the president, going to take a walk, gooseberry grinders, gramma's house, head, hers and his, hooter, hoover, Jones house, jug, latrine, little brown shack, little house out back, little shack out back, opera house, path house, privy house, queen's throne, roost, sears-roebuck library, shanty house, sheriff, superintendent's office, Uncle john, Uncle Sam's roost, dunny.
And many more too numerous (or PG) to mention.
Back to my story . . .
Also, as with other rural families of . . . (see above) Uncle Bern and Aunt Eva built onto their house and added a (gasp) modern bathroom with (bigger gasp) indoor plumbing.
Their day had come.
No more quick dashes along a frozen path in the middle of the night in the middle of winter. No more Uncle Gordon warming up the car so he could drive as close as possible to the privy and then warm up as soon as possible when the ‘chores were done’.
But now, with installation of the ‘new and improved’, Aunt Eva was determined to get rid of the ‘old and outdated’. And the sooner the better. According to her, it was an eyesore.
Uncle Bern agreed in principle. But turning that agreement into something more proactive took time. After all there was a lot of nostalgic history attached to the little shack. To quote him: “Much important planning had been carried out in silent, undisturbed contemplation in that quiet, dark space over the years.”
But in case you're wondering, Aunt Eva won out.
Apparently her friends are a little more influential than his.
One day, a tornado touched down on their ranch.
Exactly on that little house.
It plucked the little building from the ground and carried it a quarter-mile away—finally dropping it near the canal.
When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. 

Monday, September 6, 2021


My first were red and kinda cute,

White stitching made them pop,

Protected little toddler feet,

When cows were wont to stomp!


From there I learned to lace and tie,

White runners were the thing.

Until the day that I found out,

They don’t do well in spring.


From there, a lot of shoes went past,

Both feminine and not,

One thing they had in common were,

They were by Mama bought.


The sling-backs from my outfit broke,

My teen-aged heart broke, too,

I carried one, and wore the mate,

Told friends the break was new.


Competing for the Hereford Queen,

Dad said to dress the part,

Fine, handmade boots, he bought for me,

Convinced that I’d look smart!


Poor newlyweds. The shoes I bought,

Though cheap (and from a bin),

Well, when I finally wore them out,

‘Twas just like losing kin!


My running years saw shoes galore,

Some cheap, some with a bill,

But, oh the miles they helped me run,

I wish I had them still!


And now I look from here to there,

At shoes I loved or scoffed.

Some comfort now, is all I ask…

And easy on and off.

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?

A superstition you'd defy?
Next week, we'll give it our best try!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?

We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
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Remembering 8-Tracks (September 20) Another Mimi
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Meatloaf Appreciation (October 18)
Opera (October 25)

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