Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, May 6, 2022


From the “It could have happened” Department...

“It was scandalous, I tell you! Scandalous!” 
The weekly afternoon tea of the local Ladies’ Aid Society was hitting on all cylinders.
Mrs. Petrie had the floor. Currently, she was making her point by jabbing a tiny, half-eaten petit-four in Mrs. Hall’s direction.
Mrs. Hall nodded solemnly, her own cake untouched as she carefully sipped a fresh cup of hot tea.
I watched as Mrs. Petrie took another nibble of the rich frosting, heavy jowls quivering in delight.
“Do you know what happened?” Timid little Mrs. Barry’s soft voice took advantage of the momentary break. 
Mrs. Petrie puffed up importantly and launched in again, crumbs of cake flying. “Oh, my dear, I know everything!” she said. She reached for a second petit-four, then a third, and set them carefully on her plate.
I glanced at the laden tray in the center of the table and sighed, praying silently that I’d made enough. 
Mrs. Petrie’s stories do tend to go on . . .
“Well . . .” Mrs. Petrie looked around the table, making sure she had collected everyone’s attention. Her voice lowered. “They found her at the entrance to the park!” she said. “Drugged, they said!”
“No!” someone gasped.
“Yes!” Mrs. Petrie’s voice slid up a notch. She stuffed her second cake into her mouth and chewed quickly. “She was wobbling about, hardly able to walk!” She swallowed and reached for more cake. “Her brains are absolutely fried!” She shook her head woefully and pushed in another bite. “They say she’ll never be the same!”
“But that’s awful!” Mrs. Barry said, shocked.
“Oh, my dear, you don’t know the half!” Mrs. Petrie said, her voice lowered again. “They’re saying it was the clerk she’s been seen with! He did it to her!”
Mrs. Harris looked quite shaken. “Do you mean to tell us that that boy gave her . . . drugs?” 
Mrs. Petrie nodded, her face grave.
“Oh, but that’s terrible!” Mrs. Butterfield dabbed at an imaginary tear. “What on earth will Margery do?”
“Well I know what I’d do if it was my daughter!” Mrs. Petrie said stoutly. “I’d put her on bread and water for a week!” She stuffed in another cake.
“But her brain!” Mrs. Butterfield said.
“I know!” Mrs. Petrie said. “She’s been absolutely ruined!”
Seven heads shook in sympathy.
I sighed and reached for a cake. The tray was getting perilously empty.
Just then, the door opened.
Seven heads swung around. Seven pairs of eyes speared the newcomer.
“I’m sorry I’m late!” Mrs. Beaker said, breathlessly. “I had to . . .”
She got no further. 
“Marjorie!” Three of the ladies had risen to their feet. “We just heard!”
Mrs. Beaker paused in the act of removing her coat, frowning. “Heard what?”
“About your daughter!”
“Oh, that!” Mrs. Beaker laughed. “What a mix-up!”
Several people glanced quickly at Mrs. Petrie, who calmly claimed the last cake and started eating.
“Umm . . . what happened?” Mrs. Barry asked.
“Well, that boy Abby’s been seeing took her for a walk in the park,” Mrs. Beaker said. “Apparently, he’d been planning on surprising her with a proposal.” She smiled.
“What was he proposing?” Mrs. Hall asked suspiciously.
“Marriage!” Mrs. Beaker said.
“What?” Someone drew the question in with a shocked breath.
All eyes turned to the now-silent Mrs. Petrie, who continued to chew solemnly.
“But it was sort of a disaster,” Mrs. Beaker said, seating herself at the table. She glanced briefly at the empty tray, then nodded her thanks as someone filled a cup for her.
I slid my untasted cake in front of her and she nodded again.
“Really?” someone said. Everyone leaned closer. “Do tell!”
“Well, he had hidden the ring somewhere in the park, but, as they were walking, it began to rain.” She took a sip of tea. “Oh, lovely!” she said, smiling at me.
I smiled back.
“Then what happened?” Mrs. Butterfield asked impatiently.
 Mrs. Beaker frowned. “Well, as far as I got the story straight, he had to run to the spot where he’d hidden the ring because he was afraid that the rain would wash it away and Abby ran after him and broke the heel off her shoe!” She laughed. “I guess she went down in a heap! By the time he had rescued his ring and his future fiancĂ©e, both of them were a little worse for the wear!”
The ladies at the table were silent.
“They staggered out of the park, their arms around each other . . .” Mrs. Beaker laughed again. “I guess it was quite a sight!”
“So . . . no drugs?” Mrs. Hall asked.
Mrs. Beaker frowned. “No. Well, Abby took a couple of painkillers after they had collapsed onto the bench outside the park,” she said. “She had given her ankle quite a turn.” She looked at me. “This cake is divine!”
“Thank you,” I murmured.
“And now, Abby is engaged!”
There were several rather forced expressions of congratulation and, for a few seconds, the other ladies silently sipped and nibbled, casting the occasional accusing glance in Mrs. Petrie’s direction.
Suddenly, the visibly un-repentant woman sucked in a breath. “Oh, girls!” she said. “Did I tell you about Old Man Gunnar?”
All eyes turned toward her.
“Apparently, someone is trying to murder him!”
“Do tell!” someone said.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Getting ‘Grave’ About Gravel

Drive with caution.
We country kids learned how to drive on gravel roads.
Now, I should point out here that travel on gravel roads can be tricky—even treacherous.
Especially when the gravel is deep and loose and hasn’t been graded (scraped into an even surface) in a while.
Usually, on our sparsely-gravelled roads, this wasn’t a problem.
Occasionally, it was . . .
At those times, if one stepped on the gas pedal a bit too eagerly, the back-end of the vehicle could begin to fish-tail (yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like) and one could easily lose control.
Particularly if one was not very experienced.
Usually at times like this, the ditch is the inevitable final destination.
Best-case scenario: the vehicle simply leaves the road and travels, more-or-less in a straight line, into the ditch.
Worst-case scenario: Lives are at risk as the vehicle flips over. Often multiple times.
Most gravel-road stories landed (pun intended) somewhere between these two developments. 
I had heard of some of the worst of the worst.
Had actually witnessed a roll-over when a bunch of us kids were on our way home from a day out at Writing-On-Stone Park. (Fortunately no one was seriously injured.)
And I had been intimately involved in one of the best.
FYI, there’s nothing ‘best’ about it . . .
It was late.
My friend, Debbie and I were on our way home from an activity, closely followed by two friends in a pick-up truck.
Male friends.
Cute male friends.
I was driving.
And distracted.
We were travelling at speeds a little beyond what I normally drove.
Because I was showing off. (See above - ie. distracted.)
My little red car started to fish-tail.
Instantly, I was remembering the one and only roll-over I had witnessed just a few months previously.
I decided the only way to avoid that particular scenario was to head straight for the ditch.
Which I did.
Straight in. Keeping all four wheels on the ground.
And straight into an approach.
We stopped, dead.
Our friends pulled up in a cloud of dust and dove out of their truck.
“Are you all right?” one of them shouted.
My friend, Debbie got out. “We’re fine,” she said, sounding a bit shook up and more than a little disgusted.
It was my first and, to date, only accident.
All I could think of was how angry my parents would be.
I burst into really unattractive tears.
And sobbed like a two-year-old.
For about ten minutes.
After making sure I really was all right, our two intrepid and very attractive young men climbed back into their truck.
And sat there in uncomfortable silence.
The car was fine.
A couple of dents.
My friend, Debbie and I were fine.
A couple of bruises.
The biggest injury of the evening was to my attract-ability.
These were farm boys.
Used to farm girls.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, farm girls cry.
But let’s face it, a stoic tear sliding attractively down a smooth, unblemished cheek is a far cry from someone sobbing their heart out with swollen eyes, dripping nose and blotchy face.
And without even being injured.
Yep. Any possible connection with either of those boys was instantly severed.
So . . . my point?
If you are driving on gravel roads, be cautious.
Your vehicle and/or your hide might not be the only things injured . . .

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Sorry, Sis!

My Sister.
She only looks tough.
In youth, I was a daring sort,
A heedless, reckless charge-right-in.
In games, activities and sports,
In all events. And lose or win.

My sister, she of softer mien,
Would often follow where I led.
On dusty trails or tracks unseen,
The paths where ‘Angels fear to tread’ . . .

Upon Montana’s ski slopes there,
smooth trail beckoned through the woods.
A path, the incandescent air,
Promised everything that’s good.

But I’m a cowgirl to my toes,
E’en upon the mountain side,
I had one speed and t’wasn’t slow.
My sister’s caution, I’d deride.

Spectacular and fast, my run,
I made a final, breathless stop.
Then waited for my Chris to come,
And happily scanned the mountain top.

She didn’t show, I’m sure you’ve guessed.
She’d fallen, twisted up her knee.
And now her holiday was messed
Cause she’d been trying to catch me.

One summer, as we headed home,
Bedecked in prairie dust and grime,
From checking through the herds that roam,
(And it was nearing supper time).

The lot fell to my sister there,
To man the gate so we’d get through.
She finished the small task with flair,
Re-mount was all she had to do.

But as she slipped her foot into
The stirrup, something went awry,
Impatient me had spurred my horse
And off t’ward home this goose did fly.

My sister’s horse did join the run
And spilled her owner in the dirt
A badly injured knee (not fun),
And for my Sis, a world of hurt.

The message that I’ve tried to tell,
In my picturesque and silly way,
Is: We all know the one to blame
And who should really have to pay.

So if adventure’s what you crave,
If, into sports, you plow headfirst,
Remember: Though they may seem fun,
Avoid the cowgirls. They’re the worst!

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Great Race

Spring. And babies. They just seem to go together.
I couldn't do better than to see them both through my mother's eyes.
A poem by Enes Stringam . . .

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

God planned to make things new and bright,
That's why He made the spring.
When birds and creatures everywhere,
O'er sweet new babies sing.

Bobbi Cow, some years before,
Was born on icy ground;
Froze her tail and ears right off,
Before she had been found.

We called her pet;
She had a fearsome face.
Now she and I were bound together
In an anxious race.

All through winter, cold and dark,
Bobbi's belly grew.
Embarrassed, but a little proud,
I blushed, for mine did, too.

All the cowboys' bets were on,
Just who would win the race?
The boss' wife or Bobbi pet—
Now milk cow on the place.

One by one, the days groaned by,
As I suffered all their cheer.
"Bobbi Cow will win, you'll see!
Her time is very near!"

Every day I stroked her side,
Lamenting the ways of women.
She switched her tail and tossed her head,
Her only thought was winnin'!

Then, that night. I tossed and turned,
There was no thought of resting,
Within the womb, the baby stirred,
The time had come for nesting.

We fired up the four-wheel-drive,
Just at the crack of dawn,
With wheels spinning, sparks a-fly,
The mighty race was on.

Each of us was sure she'd win,
The adrenaline flowed all day,
Me, in the delivery room,
And Bobbi in the hay.

Bobbi, then, received her cue,
(The same as her archrival,)
Urged on by a wildly cheering crew,
As they watched her calf's arrival.

And in the bright delivery room,
I pushed with all my might,
But the baby took its time,
And long became the night.

My hair and gown were soaked with sweat,
My strength began to fade,
And then one last colossal push,
Out popped our howling babe!

Then, suddenly, the race was done,
Who really cares who wins?
As I cuddled my darling baby girl,
And Bobbi licked her twins.

There were no losers, only champs,
It was a tie, you see.
A miracle and a Mother's love,
Transformed the cow. And me.

Bobbi and I declared a draw,
Both wiser and both thinner;
The light of love shone in our eyes,
Each one of us a winner!

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?

Our topic for next week is fun,
It’s MUSIC! Come. Let’s get ‘er done!

Thinking of joining us for Poetry Monday?
We'd love to welcome you!
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Music (May 9)

Purple for Peace (May 16)

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World Refugee Day (June 20)

The Happy Birthday song (June 27)

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