Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, March 4, 2022

Family Manners

The dinner was exquisite.
Every preparation completed.
Pressed, linen tablecloth. Pristine, individual napkins. The finest china and crystal. 
Polished silverware.
And that’s where everything came to grief.
But I am getting ahead of myself . . .
My Dad’s eldest sister, Emily was hostess-ing a dinner party.
For her good friend and fellow teacher, Miss Duff.
It was to be a fairly formal affair, designed to impress her friend with the fact that Emily belonged to an excellent family of good breeding and proper deportment.
For a woman who taught proper deportment every day in her Home Economics classes, this was of vital importance.
Unfortunately, she made one mistake.
She invited said family.
All was ready.
Everything laid out in faultless order. 
Emily glowed with pride as she surveyed her impeccable arrangements.
The invited guest and the family members assembled.
Amidst quiet exclamations over the exquisite settings and appetizing platters of choice food, everyone took their places.
My Dad, then fifteen, glanced down. 
In keeping with the impression she was trying to convey, Emily had given each person their own polished and shining butter knife.
Maybe I should mention here that this wasn’t the usual tradition. No. In the Stringam household, one communal butter plate and a single knife were the norm.
Back to my story . . .
Dad picked up the knife. Made a show of studying it carefully.
Then held it aloft. “Erm . . . Emily?”
She looked at him.
“What is this for?”
All of her meticulous preparation and her attempts to appear elegant and refined were gone in an instant.
She put everything she had into the glare she levelled at her youngest brother.
Who simply grinned.
Just a note: If you are planning on hosting a party. And hoping for a chance to show your guests how refined and decorous your family is . . .
Don’t invite your family.

Thursday, March 3, 2022

The Gift Horse

Only in our dreams...

There’s an old saying, ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’.

Now you should know that horses, as they get older, show it mostly in their teeth.
The older the horse, the more outward sloped the teeth.
Umm . . . ick.
I’ll talk more about this later . . .
On with my story.
We once received a gift horse.
Okay, well, it was a yellow Chevette.
But it was a gift.
The car was . . . old.
Rust spots bloomed like a garden.
The doors would’t close.
Or if they did, wouldn’t open.
The internal organs alternately belched or squealed.
There was, literally, no back floor on the driver’s side.
And pieces quite frequently dropped off.
Made scraping sounds on the pavement, or detached altogether, only to be run over by the vehicle that had lost them.
Case-in-point: The muffler. It dropped to the ground during an early-morning commute and the car lurched suddenly up on one side as the wheels ran over this former appendage.
The car had one thing going for it. It had a new engine – put there by our good friends, the former owners. Who then made the magnanimous gesture of presenting it to us.
Why did they do such a thing?
Because they had finished school and had made the recent move to newer, or at least less rusty.
Why did we go on driving such a testament to rust?
We were still poor college students with four kids and little means of support.
And needed all the help we could get.
So ‘Ol’ Yellow’ made the daily commute to college with my Husby.
Often, he would sit in traffic, cars around him humming or growling happily.
While his car made its convincing impression of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Without the cuteness.
Or magic.
This went on for a couple of months.
Finally, my Husby neared graduation. He would soon have a Master’s degree under his belt.
It was time to move up a notch on the whole ‘commuter car’ scale.
Time to sell the car.
We weren’t asking much. 
Just pay for the ad and the car is yours . . .
No bites.
We tried to give it away.
Still no takers.
Finally, Husby took to leaving it parked at the college with the keys in it, hoping to entice some desperate, or at least near-sighted, student into taking it for a spin.
A long spin.
Oh, come on! Vehicle theft had reached near epidemic proportions on that campus!
Obviously, the students were a bit . . . judicious . . . with their choices. Choosing cars that were . . . road-worthy.
And didn’t stick out like warty, rusty thumbs.
Not the car, but you get the idea . . .
We finally got rid of the car.
Traded it on a push, pull or drag sale.
I think we even got $500.00 on the trade!
So, back to the gift-horse scenario.
And the looking of said horse in the mouth.
In the usual sense, it means that one shouldn’t start to find the faults in a gift.
In our case, we did look.
Saw the new engine. 
And ignored the rust spots and obvious problems.
Which later proved . . .rather important.
My lesson? Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Let the rust and disease put you off right from the beginning.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Speaking Squeaking

Stringams. At Gramma's house.
My Gramma Stringam lived in a house in Lethbridge.
She and Grampa had built it and moved there with their two youngest children when their older sons took over management of the ranch.
By the time I entered the world, they had lived in it a number of years.
And when I had reached an age to remember, it was already ‘seasoned’ and had received additions to the original structure.
It was a beautiful, comfortable home, with junipers growing on either side of the front door, stuffing one’s lungs with fragrance whenever one entered or exited into the wide hallway that ran from the front to the magical kitchen at the back.
To the left were the doorway to Gramma and Grampa’s room, the entrance to the upper staircase and the entrance to the laundry room and lower staircase. To the right were the double glass doors to the living room. Grampa’s recliner perched directly behind these doors in the corner. A long couch sat in front of the wide window beside his chair. Along the back wall was a white ‘fireplace’, a mirror and some book shelves.
On the opposite side of the room were some comfortable chairs and a ‘piecrust’ table with little figurines that little fingers itched to play with.
Ahem . . .
Also on that wall was the wide opening to the sunny dining room. Which contained a great sideboard that held dishes and linens. And, for those same little fingers, a drawer full of candy.
Don’t ask me how I know this . . .
The dining room was sandwiched between the great, sun-filled kitchen and the comfortable ‘sun room’ filled with books and chairs and . . . sunshine.
I loved this house. It was sparkling clean, warm, bright and welcoming. Endlessly filled with the fragrances of freshly baked bread and/or cookies and/or homemade soups and/or roasting meats.
But my reasons for describing all of this to you is because I wanted to talk about the floors.
Yes, it takes me a while.
The living room, in fact, most of the rooms, were floored in hardwood strips, polished and gleaming. Each room was additionally covered by a wide rug with reached very nearly to the edges. Only a brief, tantalizing glimpse of shining floorboards was visible near the walls.
One walked on woven carpets mostly.
But even as your stockinged feet tread along those carpets, you could hear the creak of the wooden floors beneath you. 
I loved it.
It was the ‘sound’ of Gramma’s house that went along with the fragrance.
In our home, Husby replaced the carpets with hardwood flooring many years ago. They have now developed squeaks.
And whenever I hear one, I am again that little girl, happily crossing the living room at Gramma’s house.
The piecrust table and its prohibited, fragile residents are there, just within reach. The candy cupboard sits in the sunshine a few feet away.
And Gramma and Aunt Emily are in the kitchen, where, shortly something delicious will emerge.
All recalled with the single squeak of a hardwood floor.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Hog Heaven

Nog, as was.
The Tolleys love pigs.
Our pigs lived in delux accommodations: a stout, wooden granary, next to the chicken coop. The door had been removed. It was now the pig house.
It was a comfortable place, deeply filled with straw. Warm. Dry. Situated in it’s own private yard, which, in turn contained the all-important feed trough. Food magically appeared there following the shouted words, “Pig! Pig! Pig!”
A cloud of dust would immediately ‘poof’ out of the perpetually open doorway and the pigs would emerge as though shot from a cannon. Zip! Zip! Zip! They would scamper excitedly around the pen. Then make their way over to ‘dinner’ where they would nose through the day’s offerings. 
And I do mean ‘nose’. 
From that point, one could leave them munching happily, or simply stand beside the fence. Inevitably one, or all, of the pigs would move closer for a scratch.
They were a gregarious lot. And they loved humans. For obvious reasons.
Unfortunately, fulfilling the measure of their creation meant that, inevitably, they would end up on someone’s plate. This never bothered them. Or us.
Because our loading ramp was ‘under construction’, our pigs were loaded, literally, by hand. Four members of the family would grab a leg and lift the pig into the back of the truck. Of necessity, this had to be done before the animal reached a size that would . . . make this difficult.
Then we acquired Nog.
When just a piglet, Nog and his brothers were attacked by a pack of dogs running in the neighbourhood. His brothers were killed. Nog was badly injured, the dogs having torn a wicked slash across his back, from hipbone to hipbone.
He healed, more or less, but had difficulty walking quickly. That didn’t slow him down in the eating department, however. Or the growing department, for that matter. Somehow, we were so excited over his recovery, that we missed the fact that he was . . . getting bigger. By the time we realized it, he was already too big to load by our usual method. We would have to wait for the loading ramp. 
Which we did. 
And allow him to continue to grow.
Which he also did. At a startling rate.
Along with the ramp, we were also building new corrals at the time, the old ones being somewhat . . . old. As new areas were enclosed, we would send in the milk cow to graze down the grass and weeds. One particularly overgrown spot, just outside the pigpen, seemed an ideal place to let both the cow and the pig graze. We put them in together.
With startling results.
For several minutes, they attacked the fresh green growth. Then they spotted each other.
Nog, by this time weighed in at about 600 pounds. A solid mass of fat built low to the ground. An eating machine. Kitty, our Jersey milk cow, probably weighed about the same, but stood considerably taller. With long, graceful legs and a slight body. The corral wasn‘t big enough for the both of them. 
They attacked.
At first, my son, Erik and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing. A slight, tawny cow, head to head with a massive hunk of red pig. But it was real. The two of them pushed and shoved for several seconds, breathing heavily. 
Then the cow realized, finally, what we observers had seen at the start. That she couldn’t win. The pig’s lower centre of gravity and generous girth were an advantage.
She broke off the . . . umm . . . exchange and headed to the far corner of the corral. There she calmed herself and proceeded to eat once more. 
Nog did the same. Several minutes went by. Then they ‘discovered’ each other once more, and treated their audience to round two. Also entertaining. Also won by the pig. 
By this time, my son was laughing so hard, he had fallen off the fence he was sitting on and now lay in a helpless heap on the ground. Nog moved over and sat beside him, still breathing heavily from this second encounter. His manner said it all. “There, I took care of that little problem! Now you are safe!”
The cow had had enough, and though the two of them remained in the same pen for several more minutes, she carefully kept the breadth of it between them.
But left us with the memories.

Monday, February 28, 2022

D, N and A

I’d like to track my DNA,

To me, it’d be a hit,

My tiny little sample

Could tell me quite a bit.


Like—who am I descended from,

And from whence I came,

 A little ‘bout my ancestors,

And something of my name.


I’m not sure how it works, it’s true,

A scientist, I’m not,

But ‘genotyping’ is the path

To tell me what I’ve got.


But there’s a little squiggle,

A tiny little hit,

To access all this ‘Science’,

Would cost a little bit.


I’ve really not the assets,

To pay that mighty sum,

So I’ve come up with something else

To get the matter done.


I tried a little trickery,

(Not as nasty as it sounds)

I said I won the lottery…

Now relatives abound!

P.S. Husby wants to know 

We talkin’ Canada? USA?

Will US folks say DN-huh?

While we say DN-eh?!

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 for 'Say Hello' Day
With TELEPHONES, we'll have our say!

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!)...

DNA (February 28) Today!

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)

Pets (April 11)

Juggling (April 18)

Brothers (April 25)

Babies (May 2)

Music (May 9)

Purple for Peace (May 16)

Turtles (May 23)

Memorial Day (May 30)

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!

Real Estates: All Murders Included in the Price!
My FIRST murder mystery!

Blessed by a Curse

Blessed by a Curse
My very first Medieval Romance!

God's Tree

God's Tree
For the Children

Third in the series

Third in the series
Deborah. Fugitive of Faith

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael

The Long-Awaited Sequel to Daughter of Ishmael
A House Divided is now available at all fine bookstores and on and .ca!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Romance still wins!

Romance still wins!
First romance in a decade!

Hosts: Your Room's Ready

Hosts: Your Room's Ready
A fun romp through the world's most haunted hotel!

Hugs, Delivered.

Compass Book Ratings

Compass Book Ratings

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series


A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.


My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven


A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.


Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.


Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

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

Sunshine Award!!!

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

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

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?