Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, December 24, 2021

A Christmas Story Beyond the Statute of Limitations

A guest post from little brother, Blair!


 

I tell this story with a certain amount of hesitance because it demonstrates how hard headed I can be.  A number of years ago when I was in grade school, we were rapidly approaching Christmas.  When I talked with my friends, the main topic that ruled our conversations was what we wanted.

 

This one particular Christmas season, all of us seemed to be having trouble with a member of our class.  This person did not come from the best home life and I believe acted out because of what was happening there.  As young kids in elementary school we didn’t understand this. We just thought this person was annoying because it was their desired behavior.  Unfortunately, we were not kind in return.

 

During the beginning of the Christmas season, some of my friends and I were in Sunday school class, engaged in a conversation that involved our frustration with our classmate’s negative behavior.  We were not saying very kind things about this person.  Kind of ironic to talk about this in Sunday school.

 

Our dear kind and gracious Sunday school teacher didn’t begin her lesson like usual, but let the class talk for a few minutes.  As I think about it now, I’m sure she was disappointed in our attitudes.  She probably asked herself, “have any of these kids heard anything that I have been trying to teach them this year?”  

 

Finally, she called the class to order and she said that we need to be charitable to other people.  We all agreed.  Then she said that we are going to put this into practice by preparing a Christmas package with special treats and gifts for the family of our troublesome classmate.  We immediately protested.  Somehow we forgot the lesson about charity.  Thankfully, our wonderful teacher persisted and we all agreed to contribute and picked an evening where we could take the package to the doorstep of our classmate’s home.  

The idea was to set the package on the doorstep, ring their bell and then run away so they could not see who had left it.


Finally the day came and we all brought gifts and placed them in the package.  Luckily, our classmate’s family lived 2 houses from the corner of the block so our getaway would be easy. Our Sunday school teacher parked her car around the corner and we took the package to the house of our classmate.  Our little caper worked like clockwork which is amazing for young elementary age school boys.  We set the package on the step, rang the bell, ran down the street and around the corner to our Sunday school teacher’s car and piled in.  

 

Our Sunday school teacher immediately drove away and we waited for a few minutes a block away.  Then, we drove by our classmate’s home and saw that the father was still looking out the front door onto the street.  

The feeling that we had after that experience picked us all up and filled us with joy.  From that point, Christmas began to take on a new perspective for me.  

 

I also started to see my classmate from a different perspective as well.  I started to realize not everyone had a wonderful home like I grew up in and I should be more considerate of other individuals because their challenges were MUCH worse than the ones that I had.  I also learned that the best Christmases were the ones that I was able to do something for others.  That brings the greater joy.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Good Day


Through the front window, the snow could be seen, softly falling, dusting the world in a thick blanket of pristine white.

Already, the branches of the lone pine in the front yard were heavily laden. The fallow flower beds, devoid of the rampant growth of summer, had, at least for a time, lost their forlorn and empty look in favour of a magical coverlet.

The ‘White Christmas’ of Crosby and fellow crooners was a reality.

And we could see none of it.

Well, the white stuff, obviously, because we were out in that.

But our view was of it covering the windshield of the car as we waited in yet another snarl of traffic, breathing in the fragrance of the car exhaust of a thousand shoppers as each of them scurried in an equal number of directions to find that last ‘perfect’ gift.

Sigh.

It hadn’t been so bad, really.

In fact, we had enjoyed it. We were together. We had just filled—even overfilled—our tummies with Dim Sum eaten with several of our Chicks and Chicklets. Now we had one last place to go before heading home to light a fire and spend the rest of the day reveling in that view from the front window (see above).

And that one last place was Husby’s favourite store on earth—Lee Valley Tools. The magical place that had made an inspired pairing of our two loves—woodworking and gardening—under one roof.

He had gone ahead into the store while I, content with my full tummy and a book on Kindle, waited in the car.

Then, as the minutes stretched, I began to think of all the fun gadgets and possible stocking stuffers that Lee Valley had to offer.

I decided to join him.

Now Lee Valley Tools isn’t a large store, but there are banks and banks of really good goods. The gardening department is to the right. Larger woodworking tools to the left. Kitchen curiosities and awesome toys further to the back. Order desks line the entire wall on the far side.

A patient line of people clutching newly-acquired goods waited for the ‘next available checkout’.

A masked greeter with merry brown eyes chirped out a happy “Good afternoon!” to me as I walked in shaking the snow from my shoulders. “Is there something I can help you find?” he added.

I smiled, hoping it showed above my mask. “I’m looking for a husband!” I answered.

His eyes widened. “Ummm . . . we don’t get much call for that,” he said. “I don’t know that I can help you.” He looked around the socially-distanced, but still bustling room. “There are a lot to choose from . . .”

I laughed. “I’m fairly particular. How about I wander and just look for myself?”

His eyes smiled. “That’s probably best.”

Husby is not a short man and I could see his furry hat above the racks on the far side of the room, in front of the order desks. I hurried over.

“Don’t look!” he said, covering something he had just been handed by the clerk.

I dutifully turned my back while said clerk obligingly stuffed that ‘something’ into a thick, brown paper bag, then followed Husby as he made his way one-customer-at-a-time to the checkout.

Soon, business transacted, we headed, once more, for the doors.

I caught the eye of the greeter as we passed him. “I found one!” I sang out. “He looks pretty nice. I think I’ll take him.”

“Glad we could help!” he answered. “Come back again soon!”

Soon we were back in the car and not long after that, seeing that view (see above--again) from our front window.

Yep. All in all, a good day.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Fifty Day Wednesday #19


It was growing late. The nurse in the children’s ward heard little Spencer in his room—talking. And talking. Finally, she spoke into the intercom, “All right, Spencer, it’s time to go to sleep now.”
There was quiet in the room, and then Spencer’s little voice, “OK, God, I will.” 


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 . . .

Sooo fun!

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

Leave your contribution in the comments...

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Sweet Smell of Success

43

 

My home town of Milk River, Alberta is a small place just north of the Canada/US border.
Tucked into the heart of farming/ranching country.
Generational farms and ranches surround it on all sides.
The Milk River, itself, meanders quietly through.

Cue: Suspenseful Music.

 

A peaceful little oasis, perfect for raising families and finding harmony.
In the sixties (my time), all the homes built on the edges of the town looked out, quite literally on farm fields.
And, on the west side of town, one feed lot.

 

Okay, yes, I will admit that said feed lot was across the tracks and behind the seed-cleaning plant.
But, let’s face it. It was still very, very close to the town.

Closer than some of said houses.
And older than most of them.


My dad raised bulls in that feed lot.
It was…handy.

I should maybe explain—for any of you not familiar with cattle feed lots—erm…what they are.

A feed lot is simply a large series of corrals in which cattle are fattened.

Think of Hansel and Gretel.
To the same purpose.
Without a grieving Papa. Much less candy.

And no witches.

Moving on . . .
Beef cattle are, twice daily, fed a mixture of grains and yummy nutritious stuff. (Again, no candy: see above.)


The cattle happily slurp this up, then wander aimlessly around the corrals… and grow.
When they reach a certain size, they are sold either as breeding stock.
Or as dinner.

In a cow, as in any living being, sustenance goes in one end.


Something else comes out the other.
Let’s be classy and call it ‘effluent’.

A poorly-run feed lot will leave said effluent.
For years.
A well-run operation cleans it away.

Every spring.

Ours was a well-run operation.
And said cleaning was a… smelly proposition.


And now the feed lot’s proximity to the town comes into play . . .
Early one spring, just after thaw, Dad decided it was time to clean the ol’ corrals.

He hired a specialized team, who moved in with loaders and trucks.


In no time, the corrals were tidy and clean.
The evil-smelling  ‘gleanings’ were spread on a nearby field as fertilizer.
Job finished. Money paid. Hands shaken.
Dad went back to his regular day…

Now, the town of Milk River has one distinctive anomaly.


Oh, it has beauty.
It has peace and prosperity.
It also has wind.
Mostly from the west.
That springs up . . . whenever.
Usually at the worst, possible time.

Within minutes of that field being spread, the west wind started to blow.


I probably don’t have to tell you where the accompanying smell went.
Fortunately, the pain was short-lived.
The hot, dry wind’s influence proved to be twofold. Yes, it was causing acute respiratory ickiness; but it also dried the effluent quickly.

The smell died.

 

Within 12 hours, Milk River’s residents could once more happily breathe the sweet, clean air.
But the damage had been done.
The town secretary, unused to the common smells of ranch life in the spring, decided to take matters into her own hands.


She wrote a letter.
On town stationary.
The letter informed my dad that “under no circumstances would he be allowed to operate a feed lot in close proximity to the town.”
Dad stared.
Seriously?
The feed lot had been there since time began.


Certainly since Milk River had been there.
Was he really expected to shut his business/livelihood, down?
He went to the mayor.
Who went to the council.

Who went to the secretary.
Apparently the letter had been written without the authorization of any…erm… authority.


Dad didn’t have to stop using the feed lot.

Whew.
Something about it being an old established business…?
But new procedures were introduced. By him.
After that, he did try to be a bit more judicious about what he spread and where.

Pun intended.

 

Today’s post is a writing challenge. Each month one of the participating bloggers pick a number between 12 and 50. All bloggers taking part that month are then challenged to write using that exact number of words in their post either once or multiple times. 

This month’s word count number is: 43

It was chosen by: Mimi!

 

Check out my fellow bloggers and see how they used the number!  

 



Links to the other Word Counters posts:

Baking In A Tornado

Messymimi’s Meanderings

Monday, December 20, 2021

Remembering to Music

Early mornings on a ranch 

all started like an avalanche,
A tottering pile of chores to do 
and food to cook and life renew.
All those days began with Dad, 
all freshly cleaned, in robe of plaid,
Standing in your bedroom door, 
to tell you sleeping time was o’er,
The sun was rising, up you’d get, 
the time had come to toil and sweat.
But Sundays always started slow, 
no need to really jump. And go,
One could lay in bed and dream,
               you were in Heaven, it would seem,
Soft music flowed around you there,
               starting low, just like a prayer,
Then rising, swirling, every note,
               by horns and strings would love emote,
One knew that Dad had placed a stack
               of music on the player’s rack,
Cause that’s how Sundays started out,
               With soft notes swirling all about.
O’er fifty years have slipped on by,
               all in the blinking of an eye,
But still my childhood lingers on,
               though many who were there are gone,
Cause when I hear those flowing strains,               
               ‘tis Sunday morning, once again.

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, something you will crave...
Yes, all ‘bout FRUITCAKE, we will rave!




Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
Topics for the next few weeks (with a huge thank-you to Mimi, who comes up with so many of them!)...

Music (December 20)Today!
Fruitcake (December 27)

Sleep (January 3)

Peculiar People (January 10) 

Ditch Your New Year's Resolutions (January 17)

Opposite Day (January 24)

Typo Day (January 31) Celebrate those funny (autocorrect) mistakes. 

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Irresistibly Sweet Award

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Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

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My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!


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