Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, February 11, 2022

Almost Sally

Sally is away.

That statement, alone, should guarantee that life for her family will sail smoothly along without mishap.




Sally's movie shoot is somewhere in Tennessee. She says it’s beautiful there. And fairly warm.

Certainly warmer than what we are witnessing here in the good ol’ Midwest. I guess I don’t have to tell you that we are languishing in a very chilly 10F.

Sooo…good for them in Tennessee.

The movie they are working on requires Sally to do something decidedly ‘witchy’.

And I’m not talking about being grumpy or nasty here.


I am talking about being a part of a coven and doing spells and all that.

Sally is having a grand time.

And Mort is fascinated. The two of them have spent hours—HOURS—on the phone, talking about souls and all the ‘stuff’ Sally is doing. The spells she is casting.

The potions she is stirring up.

Okay, we all know that all the results of said potions and spells on the set are the end result of many, many clever special effects people.

But I’m not quite sure Mort understands that.

And that brings me to today…

Mort had bounced into the house with a couple of large paper bags filled with ‘stuff’, which he then—rather gleefully—began to arrange on the kitchen counter.

Peter and I decided it was a good time to take a gander, so we walked over and…perused.

Now, admittedly, he didn’t have exactly what was required in all cases. Yes, there was cheese, corn starch, avocados and butterscotch (which Peter and I kept snitching till Mort hit Peter with a spoon). But his dragon’s liver was beef. Dragon claws—his own toenails (ew). Eye of newt—heaven knows. It was something dried and shriveled.

Hmmm…maybe it was an eye from a newt.

Moving on.

There were herbs galore.

And also a large beef bone and a cow’s horn.


Once he had arranged everything, a happily-humming Mort got to work.

He pulled out the biggest pot in the kitchen, filled it half-full of water and set it on to boil.

Okay so far.

He then smashed the bone with a hammer and threw the shards into the pot. And started adding other stuff.

He chopped and grated and peeled and mashed.

Then, in his best ‘as seen on TV’ manner, he started waving his hands over the steaming pot and—chanting. What Mort lost in actual technique (or knowledge), he made up in theatrics.

Peter and I just stood there, transfixed.

I finally got up the courage to move closer and peer into the pot.

A thick, viscous fluid was bubbling and burping like the famous mud-pots.

As I watched, it stopped its said bubbling.

Just stopped.

Then I saw that the entire mass was…swelling.

“Duck!” I screamed.

Peter and I hit the floor beneath the kitchen table.

Mort disappeared behind the cupboards.

There was a large, wet, rather muffled kablooie! and the contents of the pot…blew.

Fortunately, the hot…erm…liquid seemed to miss anything important (ie. people), but it managed to coat everything else.

And the stench?!

Surprisingly, though, through skill or happenstance, the potion worked.

It made Peter and I disappear.


Today’s post is a writing challenge. Participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now...


My words this month are hammer ~ potion ~ languish ~ soul ~ bounce ~ happenstance

And were given to me by my brilliant fellow wordsmith, Jenniy at

Thank you, my friend!

Having fun?

Visit these other Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts!
You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Silencing the Scary

My granddaughter (hereinafter known as Little One, or LO, for short) has the occasional use of her mother’s iPad.
On long trips or when she has been particularly active and needs some quiet time.
Said iPad has several movies installed. Good movies. Deemed by her mother and/or me to be suitable for a child her age.
Those of us closeted with her regularly hear most of The Princess and the Frog, Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero Six, Toy Story (1,2,and 3), Up, WallE, Brave, Monsters, Inc., and many others.
And I do mean ‘most of’.
Because LO will watch a movie closely from the opening credits through to . . . well, let me illustrate.
On a recent trip to take care of errands, she was absorbed in the colourful antics of a little, dark-haired girl with ‘race car driver’ in her genetic code; and a large, lovable troll of a man whose job was to wreck things. The movie was rolling rapidly toward its usual conclusion.
Okay, I admit it, I was absorbed as well.
And, quite suddenly, I was transported to the Deep South as Louisiana jazz filled the car.
I looked at her. “Why did you change it?”
She lifted her head and said, matter-of-factly, “It was getting scary.”
“Oh.” I said nothing more and let myself get carried into the current story: Young woman with dreams and grit and young man with charm and a penchant to idleness on a course toward things life-changing and dark and . . .
“Oooh. Scary.” And once again the program changed. This time to a couple of current enemies and future best friends on their first day of college.
See? ‘Most of’.
But she was happily engrossed and I have a strict policy of ‘never disturb a happily engrossed child’, so I left her alone.
That evening, Husby and I were watching the news just before turning in for the night. And I can think of nothing more likely to induce nightmares than a recap of yet another day in our often-scary global situation.
And, just for a moment, I found myself wishing I could just change the program.
Okay, I know that nothing is accomplished if one simply turns away from unpleasant situations or tasks.
And that if the good stop trying, the bad have free rein.
But, just for a time I wished I could do what LO does. Turn to another program when things get scary. Or better yet, make the scary things disappear entirely.
The children obviously have the right idea.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022


Tools for tagging and/or causing trouble
As the only veterinarian for 100 square miles, Dad was called upon for many different animal situations.
Some dire.
And some not so much.
It was also his job to carry out the government programs of the time.
Brucellosis (a particularly nasty infectious disease caused by bacteria) testing, for one.
And vaccinating for whatever was currently deemed important.
I should probably mention that, when a government vaccine program was initiated, the bottles of vaccine were sent along with little, metal tags.
After an animal had been properly vaccinated, a tag was clamped at the edge of one ear.
Proof of the deed.
Both duties involved long hours standing beside a chute - vaccine gun in one hand and tagging pliers in the other - while cattle were shuffled and sorted.
One herd was taking a particularly long time.
Unseasoned help?
Uncooperative animals?
Whatever the reason, Dad found himself standing for long periods of time with literally nothing to do.
Not a good situation for someone like him.
Mischief happens.
The owner had turned away, trying to see over the fence at what was going on in the next pen.
Dad glanced over.
The coat and coveralls the rancher was wearing were . . . right there. Together.
He reached out with his tagging pliers. And tagged.
Deftly (Ooh, I like that word!) and effectively pinning the man's coat and coveralls together.
The work continued.
Cattle were pressed forward down the chute.
Vaccinated and tagged.
And released.
Finally, the long job drew to a close.
As Dad was packing away his instruments, the rancher invited him inside for a chat and a hot drink.
I should mention here that the people who live in the wide stretches of ranching country are among the most welcoming and friendly in the world.
Any excuse is a good excuse for an invitation to visit.
One of the very best things about said world.
Back to my story . . .
Dad accepted the invite - albeit reluctantly. He knew what was coming . . .
The two of them walked to the farm house.
And into the back porch.
Dad removed his boots.
The rancher did the same.
Dad removed his coat.
The rancher . . . didn't.
Oh, there was an attempt.
Some grunting and a couple of gruff words.
But, for some reason, the man and his coat simply couldn't . . . part company.
So to speak.
Finally, the man stripped off his coat and coveralls together.
And discovered the little, metal clip that held both of them firmly together.
He turned an accusing glare on Dad.
Who, with a wide grin on his face, found somewhere else to look.
The tag was easily pried off.
And coat and coveralls hung neatly – and separately – in the closet.
But the prank was never forgotten.
For years afterward, whenever vaccinating, my Dad, veterinarians in general, the Government, ranching, chores, or ranch life were mentioned, that rancher would recall the time that Dad stapled him into his clothes.
The days come and go on a ranch.
But a good prank goes on forever.

Hay You!

Dad’s way.
Farm kids have all the fun.
Except when they don’t.
Maybe I should explain.
In my day, hay on the farm was cut by machine. Bound into bales – also by machine. The picked up by hand and gathered into neat stacks in the hay loft or hay shed.
And left there smelling warm and fragrant.
For some reason, it always made me think of baled sunshine.
We kids would spend hours lugging said bales around and constructing intricate forts and ‘hidy-holes’.
Many a day was passed dreaming dreams from inside a dark, sweet-smelling stronghold.
In my Dad’s day, hay on the farm was cut by horse-powered mower. Gathered using a horse-drawn rake. Moved using a great hay sling. And piled into massive mounds of loose, fragrant wonderfulness.
Sheds on either side of the large barn housed the farm animals. But much of the barn itself was given over to an immense pile of newly-gathered hay. A perfect place for a young boy to spend hours working . . . on his imagination.
Building a fort was quite a different prospect in these circumstances. All one had to do was put one’s head against the wall of the hay pile and . . . push. The soft, loose hay gave way and one could burrow through much like Bugs Bunny on his way to Miami Beach (See here).
Ten-year-old Dad made a positive warren of the place.
When a boy finds something really, really fun, he generally wants to share it with a friend or companion.
Or, barring either of those, a young nephew will serve almost as well.
Enter four-year-old Brian, son of Dad’s eldest brother. Sweet, malleable, totally trusting, eager. A perfect companion for an adventurous devil-may-care farm kid.
Dad drew him into the barn and showed the small boy how to push his way into the hay. Brian thought it was greatest trick ever and started in with enthusiasm.
And that’s when the whole plan came to grief.
Because little Brian suffered from asthma and was allergic to the timothy in the hay.
Within seconds, his eyes were swollen nearly shut, he was coughing and sneezing and – well, let’s just say it - was one thoroughly miserable little adventurer.
Fortunately Dad recognized that all was not as it should be and managed to drag his companion from the hay and hurry him to his mother where Brian was soon made comfortable somewhere far, far from the nasty old timothy.
Dad felt bad. Bad enough that he never again invited Brian back to his magical little hay-strewn world in the barn.
But not bad enough that he didn’t get him into trouble in other ways.
Remind me to tell you about it . .  .

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Why I Do What I Do

My 3000th Post!
Where it all started...
The new barn
My big brother and me.
I'm the one in the dress...
I was privileged to grow up on one of the last of the large old cattle ranches in Southern Alberta. Situated halfway between the towns of Milk River and Del Bonita, it covered two-and-a-half townships, close to 92 square miles. 
Our closest neighbour was over nine miles away. 
A little far to drop by to borrow a cup of sugar, but close enough to help in the case of a real emergency, which was not uncommon on the large spread we ran, and with the number of people involved in the daily workings.
The ranch buildings themselves were nestled snugly in a bend of the South Fork of the Milk River. 
Towering cliffs surrounded us. Cliffs which were home, at times, to a pair of blue herons, and at all others, to marmots, badgers, porcupines, and a very prolific flock of mud swallows. 
We learned to swim in that river. 
We tobogganed down the gentler slopes of those cliffs. 
We built dams and caught frogs and snakes. 
We rode horses and worked the cattle.
Gardened and gathered eggs.
Explored the river and the surrounding and on horseback.
I even trapped a full-grown jackrabbit – almost.
It was an unusual life, as I have now come to know. 
At the time, it was normal. 
We thought everyone lived like we did. Far from any outside influences. Relying on each other. Immersed in the needs of the family and the ranch. 
For a child growing up, it was peace itself.
The Ranch
P.S. Most of the buildings are gone now, burned in the terrible grass fires of 2013. But they remain solid and real in my memories.

Monday, February 7, 2022


A kite is such a wondrous thing,

It’s magic; held aloft with string,

And for a moment, lets you be

At once on ground, and in the breeze.


It tugs and tugs, as though it tries

To leave the earth and touch the skies,

And when it does, for you, it seems,

You’re floating there, fulfilling dreams.


But did you know that airy kite,

That tries to leave you in its flight,

Simply would not—could not—last,

Without that string that you hold fast?


An anchor sure is what it needs,

So it won’t fall into the weeds,

Conundrum, strange--to reach the skies...

Must be held down to make it rise.


I think, whene’er I fly my kite,

That I am like it, just a mite,

To fly as I am wont to do,

I know I need safe anchors, too.

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, will truly be sublime...
We will discuss our Valentine!

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!)...

Kites (February 7) Today!

Valentine (February 14)

Predictions (February 21)

DNA (February 28)

Telephone (or Say Hello Day) (March 7) 

Genius Day (March 14) 
Celebrating Poetry (March 21) 
Respect Your Cat Day (March 28) (Richard II's 1384 edict forbidding eating them.)
Imperfection (April 4)


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