Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Hurricane Sally

I hate phones.

Well, maybe not phones, per se, but phones that ring in the middle of the night.

Those, I hate.

This was brought home to me a few days ago.

At 3:13 AM.

I had just achieved defcon1. (Definitive nocturnal hyper-sleep level 1. The very best that sleepy time has to offer.) The shrilling of Mom’s phone jerked me into harsh reality.

I also hate reality.

But what really got my motor going was Mom’s gasp and shriek.

I hate . . . Okay, you already know where I’m going with this.

I’ve only ever heard that reaction once before. When Sally was kidnapped. You probably remember the story. I know I’ll never forget it…

I reached Mom’s bedroom doorway just as she dropped the phone. She was already standing and a shaft of moonlight pierced the curtains of her room and snared her in a noose of light. In her white nightie. She looked like the Ghost of Christmas Past.

“What is it, Mom?”

I already knew what she was going to say. Sally was away in some undiscovered country shooting another ‘Covid-acceptable’ movie.

She had been away for just over two weeks.

“Sally!” Mom managed to gasp out.

I hurried forward and lowered her back to a seated position on her bed. Then I knelt in front of her and took her freezing-cold hands. “What about Sally?”

“There was a hurricane. Well…at least it was a hurricane, but when it made landfall, it was downgraded…”

“Mom. You’re rambling. Get to the point!”

“Sally’s disappeared!”

“Good Lord Harry.”

“She and a bunch were separated from their group when they were trying to get to the hotel. The rest have been found, but Sally…wasn’t.”

She sniffed and reached out to snap on a light, then stood up and started rummaging for clothes. “I have to…”

I put a hand on her arm. “Mom. We can’t go anywhere.”

She sat down abruptly. “But…Sally.”

I know what you’re thinking. No one tangles up our lives quite like my brave, fool-hardy, kind, scatter-brained, clever and sometimes dumb sister. But life without her? That doesn’t bear thinking about.

“Mom. We can’t go to her. They are still mopping up from the hurricane. And with the Covid restrictions, well, it would be impossible!”

“The movie company flew us out last…time!” Her voice petered out somewhere around that last word.

“It’s just not possible this time.”

She looked at me. “I have to do something!”

“How about we wait to hear from the movie company. Maybe they will want us there and can make it happen.” More probably want us to stay far, far away, especially after the way we had handled the last crisis. I made a face, wondering if the officials we had roughed up had recovered their goodwill toward the good ol’ USA.

“What’s the matter?!” A sleepy Mort in shrunken, wrinkled flannel jammies had just appeared in the doorway.

I guess middle-of-the-night, shrilling phones can awaken the dead. And Mort, our resident freeloader who lives two stories down in the guest suite.

“Sally’s disappeared in a hurricane,” Mom said in a whisper.

“WHAT?!” Mort disappeared. Now, with a normal person, one would guess he was off to get dressed. But knowing Mort, he could have headed for the front door—jammies and all.

A few moments later, however, while I was still trying to coach Mom into a thick, terry bathrobe, Mort proved that, sometimes, he’s capable of rational behaviour. He re-appeared, having discarded said jammies in favour of shredded jeans and a far too-big T-shirt.

I think I preferred the jammies.

“What do we do? I’m packed!”

Of course he was.

“We wait.”


I sighed and spoke to both of them, slowly and carefully. “Sally is in South America. There has been a bad hurricane. We were watching it on the news last night. Somehow, Sally and several of her movie mates were separated from the rest as they tried to get back to their hotel. Everyone else has been accounted for. But not Sally. They have Covid there. We have Covid here. That, coupled with a hurricane makes it impossible for us to go there right now.” I paused. “We can worry just as easily from here.”

Mom seemed to shrink into herself.

“AND I WILL!” Mort declared.

It was the longest day of our lives. Followed by the longest night.

Followed by…well, let’s just say that three very long, slow days and nights went by.

I also hate long days and nights. Just thought I’d get that out there.

The movie company kept us in the loop, so to speak. There were numerous phone calls and a representative of the company even came and worried with us for one of the days.

Finally, somewhere around breakfast time on the third day, Mom and I were at the kitchen table. I was trying to coax her into eating something. Light spilled generously into the room from an unsympathetic sun and lit up her pale, wan face and dark-ringed eyes.

The phone rang.

Both of us stared at it. It had been three days. We had almost given up hope.

This call, I knew, would make or break my mom.

She reached for it, but Mort appeared out of nowhere and dove under her hand, snagging the receiver. “What?” he shouted.

His face lit up. “Where?!”

My heart started beating again.

With tears streaming down his face, he wordlessly handed Mom the phone.

You have to know that, in normal times, Mom is remarkably quiet and well-spoken. “What?” she barked into the receiver. Then she dropped the phone and, putting her face into her hands, released the tears she had been holding in for three days.

I sighed audibly and grabbed the phone. “Please tell me what has happened!” I said, as calmly as I could.

“Sally has been found!” a voice said. “She apparently was washed downstream and found by a tribe of natives. They have nursed her back to health and two of their members canoed her back to civilization this morning!”

It was my turn to drop the phone.

We were asked to await Sally’s return in our home.

We did.

It wasn’t easy.

Finally, a whole day after receiving that fateful phone call, the door swung open and there she was.

Big as life.

“Wow! Am I hungry!”

And just as annoying.

We hovered around her for most of that day. Mort couldn’t be pried off with a crowbar—even a bent one, which is all we have.

We managed to get some of her story out of her. A jumble of “A great confluence in what (she was glad) wasn’t a glacial river. Following a tree-top trail to the native’s home camp. Something about ‘squirrel’ being the local specialty.” 

Mostly she talked about how kind the natives were and how they marvelled over her pale skin and blonde hair.

She was sporting a sizeable wound down one cheek and had some remarkable bruising on both arms. But still she was whole.

And alive.


P.S. It would’t be for a year after this story that a couple of explorers would again come upon Sally’s tribe of ‘kind’ natives. The ones who had been SO interested in her.

When the two men stumbled into the camp, those same natives immediately escorted the explorers to their most sacred place. A temple with a figure of a goddess on a glistening gold stand at its centre.

A figure that bore an uncanny resemblance to a world-famous actress who had been temporarily lost in that area a year before.

Sally? A goddess?

Oh, dear.


Use Your Words is a writing challenge. Each month we participants donate several words and/or phrases to our noble leader, Karen, who then re-distributes them.

The catch is, none of us knows who will get our words and what will be done with them.

Totally fun!

My words this month: Tree-top trail ~ confluence ~ freeloader ~ squirrel ~ glacial river ~ local specialty were donated by my good friend Tamara at Part-Time Working Hockey Mom.

Thanks so much, Tamara!


Having fun? Visit the other participant’s blogs!

Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:


Baking In A Tornado

Wandering Web Designer


What TF Sarah

Part-time Working Hockey Mom 



Thursday, October 14, 2021


Mom lied to her kids.
Okay, yes, she had a good reason.
And no, it didn’t turn out well.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On the Stringam ranch, the ranch house and buildings were nestled snugly in the bend of the south fork of the Milk River.
A river that, at certain times of the year, turned into a rushing, deadly torrent.
A river to which my older sister was drawn like a baby to an IPhone.
After several hair-raising episodes in which my mom, my sister and wet, cold, muddy, slightly deadly and totally unsympathetic river water featured strongly, Mom decided to get more pro-active.
What better way to police than to make the kids want to police themselves?!
And by the way, this is where the lying comes into play . . .
Using her not unspectacular story-telling abilities, Mom described the octopus that lived in the milky waters of the great Milk River and waited patiently for little kids – its favourite snack – to show up by themselves on the river bank.
Little kids that, without parental accompaniment, were fair game. The octopus would then be able to seize and drag them down to the ‘depths’.
Her dramatic portrayal lost nothing in the telling and she soon had my sister shivering with fear.
Or what Mom mistakenly thought was fear. 
The next day, Mom, happily secure in the fact that her daughter would never, ever again go near the octopus-infested waters of the Milk River, turned her back for a moment.
Only to discover that her daughter had, once again, disappeared.
And taken her 18 month-old brother with her.
Mom sprinted, out of habit, to the river.
And there she found her two little ones.
Happily clambering about the slippery slopes, looking into the dark water for a glimpse of the octopus that lived there.
I think we all learn a lesson from this.
Don’t waste your most lurid story-telling skills on a child with more imagination than you.
Now picture it with a frown.
And a little less friendly...

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

50 Word Wednesday #10

Was that a groan?
Blair looked up toward the hayloft, thinking hard.
None of the ranch staff were remotely close to the milking barn.
Another groan. This time, even the cow he was milking reacted.
He had only two choices. 
Or run.
Which should he choose?
Which would you?

Today is Fifty Day Wednesday!

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 . . .

For the rest of October, I think I’ll concentrate on things spooky.

Sooo fun!

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

Leave your contribution in the comments...

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Forbidden Territoyry

My first/George's third birthday party.
Notice the bull and matador.
How come I didn't have toys like that?
My favourite toys . . . weren't mine.
Because everyone had better toys than me. Or at least Mom and Dad did.
Their neat toys were all carefully displayed on their fireplace mantle.
Okay, I thought it was weird, too.
Especially since they never, ever played with them.
Not once.
I had watched.
There was a plaster matador and bull set.
One of which, had a cape.
And one, horns.
I'll let you sort that out.
They were immensely fun to play with. Until Mom caught up with me.
"Diane, put those back!"
Then there were the models of bulls.
Horned and polled Herefords.
They were terrific when one wanted to play farm.
Of course, then the matador's bull would have to join in.
Giving the matador just that much more responsibility.
He was tall and strong and handsome.
He could handle it.
"Diane, what did I tell you?!"
But the best of all was the bronze horse.
He was glorious.
Standing looking out across the prairie, ears pricked.
He even had a bronze saddle and bridle.
With bronze reins.
"Diane! How on earth did you lug that thing down there! Put it back at once!"
How did she find me? I was clear behind the couch! Geeze. That woman was everywhere!
Mom and Dad's toys entertained me for years.
Until I dropped the matador.
It was an accident!
And twisted those bronze reins off the horse.
Oops. Who knew they would do that?
But I maintain that if they didn't want them played with, they should have put them away.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Thanks Giving

Hmmm . . . Throwing a Party or Thanksgiving? Which to choose...
I decided to go with Thanksgiving, just because I’m SO grateful for so many things this year!
Including you, my good friends!

‘Please bow your head and all give thanks for blessings you’ve been given,’
I did as I was told, then thought of this old life I’m live-n.
I’ve fam-i-ly, that’s number one and a modicum of wealth,
And food to eat and clothes to wear and yes, I’ve got my health.
There’s things that I can do that make each day diverse and fun,
And friends and family to help (that keep me on the run).
I’ve tales and articles to write and some to read as well,
And always there’s a grandchild near and stories I can tell.
I’ve got my job, I’ve got my faith, I’m grateful for them both,
And even problems when they come, assuring spiritual growth.
I’m grateful for my childhood, and parents I hold dear,
And all my precious memories that still remain so clear.
My friends both near and far I simply could not do without,
I’m grateful for their caring, even when they bawl me out!
I’m grateful for my country and the freedoms I enjoy,
And happy, too, that I can choose just how I’ll be employed.
My list goes on and on and, yes, it truly humbles me,
When I think of all I have and all that I can be,
And so, today, you’ll find me, folding arms, with eyes shut tight,
For blessings I’ve been given...I thank Him with all my might!

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 is different, you’ll agree,
We’ll share a meatloaf memory!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?

We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks...
Throw a Party (October 11) (Also Canadian Thanksgiving!) Today!
Meatloaf Appreciation (October 18)
Opera (October 25)
New Lease (November 1)
Puns (November 8) 
Clean Out Your Refrigerator (November 15) 
Your favorite record (or) best stereo or record player ever (November 22)

Chia Pets (November 29)

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