Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, June 10, 2022


They are married and we survived it.

Part of me wants to simply end there…

Actually, things went quite well from the initial disaster in the Dollar Tree (see here) right through to the actual day.

That may have been largely due to the fact that Sally was off in Alberta, Canada, shooting another movie and Mom and I were planning the festivities with only minimal contact/input from her. Instead, we were listening to the other bride.

Because, yes, of course my mom and sister would plan to be married on the same day, in the same ceremony.

Hold onto your hats…

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that Mom and Sally are on completely opposite ends of the whole ‘body shape’ scale. Both are quite slender, but that is where all resemblance ends. Mom has to stretch to hit five feet and Sally has to wear flats to pass beneath a six-foot doorway. Mom has dark hair—well, dark with grey streaks (Sally-caused, I’m sure) and Sally is white-blonde and green-eyed.

Actually, if you’re interested, I look like my mom, albeit two inches taller. Sally takes after our late father.


Anyways, Mom and I arranged the ceremony, the reception, the hors d’oevres/real food, the flowers, and the tuxedo rentals. Actually, Uncle Pete arranged his own clothes. Mom and I just had to dress Mort. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds—mostly because Mort’s taste in clothes and ours is…well, let’s put it this way—Mom and I have taste.

Sally footed all the bills.

It actually worked surprisingly well.

Oh, things got a little tense when Sally’s booked flight from Alberta didn’t materialize in the still-confused post-covid I’ve-been-locked-up-for-over-two-years-and-I-have-to-go-somewhere airport frenzy. Still, she managed to make it with a little over nine hours to go before the ceremony.

AND she remembered to buy a dress!

Mom took the news well—blotting her eyes and coming out from under her bed with a big, rather watery smile on her face. Déjà vu.

Anyways, the people we had hired to do hair and nails arrived right on time. Ditto the limo—pulling into our cul-de-sac with minutes to spare. The dresses looked good. Mom’s was a soft, rather drifty chiffon that suited her right to the ground.

Sally (the I-don’t-care-what-I-look-like-as-long-as-I’m-covered girl) was wearing a surprisingly dramatic silver sheath that fitted her like it was painted on. And what was even more startling was when she turned to me and in a tone that could have been mistaken for uncertainty, asked, “Do I look all right?”

I blinked and nodded as my eyes unexpectedly filled with tears.

Mort and Peter were over at Uncle Pete’s. Mom and I figured if anyone could get that boy pointed in the right direction, it would be his future father-in-law/former army sergeant.

Anyways, we all arrived at the church on time. And apart from the two red-headed Townsend boys getting into a pillow fight partway down the aisle using their ring-bearer pillows (with rings ricocheting off nearby pews), things went as near to clockwork as they could have.

Even the reception started out well.

Food. Stories. Presentation of little bags of sel de fleur as wedding party favours provided by Uncle Pete/Dad's brother Goeffrey, whom we had all just met and who was the spitting image of his older sibling.


And that’s where things went so very wrong.

You have to know from reading past ‘Sally’ stories that she and punch bowls do not always co-exist peacefully. (See: Salloween.)

Well, Mom and I relented for this uber-important day and opted for a lovely carved-glass punchbowl, seated in lonely glory on its own small bench next to the head table and directly in front of the stage.

Opposite, at the other end of the head table was a twin bench which held the all-important wedding cake.

With me so far?

The toasts began.

Sally and Mort climbed up on the stage, excited to deliver their toasts to important people (ie. Mom, Uncle Pete/Dad, Peter and me). Raising their glasses of sparkling apple juice (we are a tee-totaling family, just FYI), they started in.

And it was at that moment that Mort…mis-stepped.

Now normally it wouldn’t be a problem.

But the two of them were standing at the edge of the stage, directly over the previously-mentioned punchbowl.

Mort slipped.

Sally tried to catch him.

And the two of them toppled sideways together off the stage.

And onto the inner side of the ‘punch’ table.

The legs of the table folded smartly, launching the punchbowl in a perfect arc over the head table.

Sloshing the hapless head-table sit-ees (Again, Mom, Uncle Pete/Dad, Peter and me) with bright crimson punch.

But it didn’t end there.


Remember that part where I said the wedding cake, in all its glory was sitting peacefully on its own small bench at the opposite end of the head table?

Yeah. That.

The launched punchbowl, after describing the aforementioned perfect arc, landed bowl-side down on that beautiful, artistic creation.

Rendering it less so.

The room went silent.

Sally and Mort scrambled upright and surveyed the damage.

For a moment, the world seemed to hold its breath.

Then everyone in the hall leaped to their feet and let out a wild cheer.

They were, after all, coming to a ‘Sally’ event.

And that means SOMETHING exciting must happen.


Mom shook her head and smiled ruefully at me while Uncle Pete/Dad dabbed at the rivulets of punch running down her cheeks with a formerly pristine napkin.

Then, as the cheering died down and people sank back into their seats, sighing with contentment, Uncle Pete/Dad got to his feet.

Once again the room went silent.

He nodded at Sally and Mort, who quickly sat down, and then turned and left the room.

A moment later, he returned, pushing a cart upon which was a massive (and quite beautiful) wedding cake.

Another cheer went up.

Yep. Dad’s got this.

Welcome to the family.

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 to be used at least once. All the posts are unique as each writer has received their own set of words. And 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: Hors d’oeuvre ~ Cul-de-Sac ~ Déjà vu ~ Sel de Fleur ~ Ricochet

Were given to me, via Karen by my friend Tamara at   

Now go and see what words the others got—and how they used them!

Baking In A Tornado

The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver


Part-time Working Hockey Mom

What TF Sarah

Thursday, June 9, 2022


 You have to know we are a theatrical family.

And live in a home decorated in ‘past-production’.

Stick horses from ‘As You Like It’ hang on the walls. 

Ditto crossed practice swords from ‘I Hate Hamet’, muskets from ‘Monstrous Regiment’ and straw brooms from ‘Weird Sisters’. 

If you look hard, you will see on our backyard pirate ship (yes we have a back yard pirate ship) the rigging, mast and ship’s wheel from ‘Peter Pan’. Nearby is the uber-sturdy table from ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ now pressed into service as Husby’s workbench...

and the enormous game show prop from ‘Pinocchio’ that is now used whenever our family needs to put up a billboard (surprisingly often…). 

In our front hall, is the table from “Arsenic and Old Lace’ also used in the ever-popular ‘You Can’t Take It with You’.

Downstairs, one entire room is filled with wardrobes full of regalia from over 40 years of Diane-will-make-the-costumes as well as bins (and bins) of hats and accessories.

Our front hall tree has spaces for umbrellas and canes. And yes, there are canes and at least one or two umbrellas.

But those ‘normal’ items have to be judiciously picked out from among the vast selection of swords.


And now we get to our story…erm…stories…one from several years ago...

A few years ago, my eldest granddaughter (then 18 months old, now 19 years old) was staying with me for an afternoon. I remember it clearly. Little girl and Gramma playing. A ringing phone in the front entry, answered by Gramma because, let’s face it, 18 month-olds aren’t known for their phone communication skills. Little girl seeking her own entertainment as Gamma’s conversation lasts more than 30 seconds.

Our (then) three sheepdogs laying in that same front entry, awaiting permission to ‘leave the rug’.

Little girl toddling over to the sword (erm…umbrella) rack and pulling out a long, well-padded-but-realistic-looking sword. Then proceeding to bop the dogs on their heads with it.

The three dogs blinking and looking at me imploringly. (It didn’t occur to any of them that they could actually get up and…you know…leave.)

My conversation went something like this: “I’m sorry. I have to get off the phone. My granddaughter is beating my dogs with a sword.”

I don’t remember the response. Let’s just say the person on the other end was used to us and leave it at that.

And that brings us to today…

We had a wasp in the house. A not-unusual occurrence in Northern Alberta in the summer. Sigh.

I pointed it out to Husby while cowering somewhere as far away as I could get.

Me and wasps. We’re not friends.

Husby leaped into I-shall-protect-my-darling-wife mode and grabbed a sword. A Gladius. (Short. Roman. Plastic.)

He stabbed a time or two at the offending creature, but it just continued to buzz around oblivious to the mortal danger it was in.

Or maybe it just knew it was really in no danger whatsoever.


Husby eventually went for something a little more ‘modern’ in his battle against wasphood. An electric fly-swatter.

It proved effective and said darling wife was able to come out from under the table.


But we learned something. Although Roman swords were truly effective in most hand-to-hand combat in days past, they are woefully inadequate when it comes to a modern battle with today’s modern wasp.

Maybe if he’d pulled the broadsword…

BTW, if you read yesterday's post (you can do it here!) this is what happened to the baseball: It flew through the window, hit the front of the stalls and bounced backward, landing right back on the windowsill!

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Barnyard Baseball

Granddaughter #6 is playing baseball, Gramma’s favourite sport. The first of the granddaughters to do so. Gramma couldn’t be happier!
And that brings me to a memory...
The mighty Ball Player/Cheer leader.
At the Stringam ranch, size definitely mattered.
Average was never good enough.
The buildings were oversized. The land was oversized. The animals were oversized.
Well, at least that's how everything looked to me.
I was four.
One thing that was larger than normal was the barnyard and I know that because . . . well, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The game of preference among the ranch residents was baseball.
On summer evenings, once all of the animals had been properly tucked in for the night, the hired men would challenge each other - and any one else who could swing a bat - to a game of pick-up.
In the barnyard. (Remember what I said about size . . .?)
I was always parked safely atop the fence behind home plate and charged with the solemn duty of being the sole member of the audience.
They told me it was because I was the best at cheering. But I knew differently. It was because they feared my 'heavy hitter' status.
Well, if they wanted me to cheer. Cheering was what they would get.
Enthusiasm, I had.
Unfortunately, staying power, I didn't.
Inevitably, something would distract me. A cat. Dog. Butterfly. Imagined cat, dog or butterfly. Clouds. Grass. Wind.
And quite often, the game went far past my all-important bedtime—which (I might point out) came while the sun was still high in the sky and was a terrible waste of daylight, in my opinion.
But I digress . . .
Once a summer, we had a most magical Saturday. One where the haying is finished and the evening chores are still hours away.
Time for the annual Saturday afternoon baseball game.
Even my mom left her evening meal preparations and myriad other duties and joined us. (I should point out here that Mom was probably the best hitter of the lot—a fact that rather irked most of the hired men. *snort*)
My Mom, Dad and brother, George, were playing on a team with two of the men. My elder brother Jerry, sister Chris and four other men made up the other side.
I was, once more, on the fence.
Figuratively and literally.
The game was pretty much tied up.
Whatever that meant.
Al was up to bat and there was a strange gleam in his eye.
Not that I could see it. On the fence. Behind home plate. Remember?
He nailed that ball and it sailed straight and fast, over the heads of our intrepid outfielders, and toward the barn. The new barn. With brand new windows.
One of which did not survive what happened next.
Everyone gasped and winced when the tinkle of breaking glass reached us a split second later.
Our only ball disappeared inside.
Time was called as everyone scrambled toward the barn.
Al was left at home plate, still clutching the bat, a look of horror on his face.
For the next half-hour, we searched for that ball.
The shattered window bore mute evidence of its passing. But it was not to be found.
Directly inside the row of windows was a corridor which ran in front of the tie-stalls and allowed for feeding. On one side of this corridor, the outer wall, on the other, solid, wood planks reaching to a height of about five feet and forming the front of the stalls. Then there were the stalls themselves. Then another, wider corridor. And on the other side of that space, the tack rooms.
Every square inch of the tack rooms, stalls and in fact, the whole lower floor of the barn were minutely searched.
No ball.
And chore time was fast approaching.
And people were talking about Al's hit as having been 'over the fence'. There were several long faces as the members of the opposite side acknowledged that Al's team had just drawn into the lead by one run.
Those people frantically began sifting through the hay in the mangers. The straw on the floor.
Still no ball.
"If we don't find it soon," my dad said, "we'll have to quit. We have to do the chores."
Redoubled efforts.
Still no ball.
Then Al, he of the mighty swing, walked over to the broken window to inspect the damage more closely.
"Well, here it is!" he said.
The rest of us turned to look. Sure enough, he was holding our baseball.
"Where was it?" Dad asked.
"Here. On the windowsill."
"What?" Everyone clustered around.
"Yeah. It was sitting here on the windowsill."
"But how could that be?" Mom asked. "It went through the window like a shot. We all saw it."
"I dunno. I just found it sitting here on the windowsill."
"Well, that is strange."
They probably figured out instantly what had happened, but I had climbed on one of the horses and missed the dénouement.
Fairly typical for someone with my short attention span.
The game went on and the incident was relegated to an amusing side note in a (with the exception of the broken window) very fun afternoon.
It was years before I figured out exactly what had actually happened.
I'll leave you to figure it out . . .

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Gopher Tail

Nature boy. (Daddy at 12.)
It was 1934 and the Stringams had a gopher problem.
For any of you who have lived on or near a farm/ranch, you know that gophers cause no end of troubles. They dig burrows that can (and do) break the legs of horses and cattle. They eat grain intended for the livestock. They make little gophers, who then become big gophers who, in turn, add to the all-of-the-above-mentioned problems.
The fact that they’re cute and furry with big, dark eyes, has no bearing on the story. And no, Diane, you can’t keep one!!! [Sorry. Remembering my childhood and the voice of my father there.] Back to my story . . .
Nine-year-old future-Dad-to-Diane had been assigned the all-important job of gopher eradication. It was a fairly simple process.
1. Find a burrow.
2. Set the traps. 
3. Dispatch the cute but unwanted vermin that wind up in the traps.
Oh, and: 
4. Remove the tails from the dead gophers and give them to your father and receive one penny.
Yep. Simple.
A little background is needed: The Stringam chicken coop was actually a cave dug back into the cliff. Faced with river rock, mortared together with mud, it seemed an impregnable fortress for things feather-headed and vulnerable. Said feather-heads were moved in.
And almost immediately, attracted something that seemed to very much like things feather-headed and vulnerable. Something small and gopher-sized that could dig through the mud mortar and into the coop.
I should probably mention here that gophers really weren’t known for their chicken-dispatching tendencies. This was one weird gopher.
Dad hunted around and finally discovered its burrow. Then set his little snares. And waited.
After four days, he decided that nothing was going to be fooled into stepping into his cleverly-disguised traps, so he walked over to the burrow, prepared to dismantle the whole set-up.
And discovered that he had finally been successful.
He had snared a gopher.
But what a gopher!
He stared at it. It was the approximate colour of a gopher. And furry. But there, all similarities ended. This animal was absurdly long. And narrow. With a long tail.
Dad shrugged. He had a job to do and a penny is a penny. He moved closer and reached for the animal.
Then jumped back in alarm as the animal leaped at him, hissing.
In Dad’s own words, “It scared the wits out of me!”
The intrepid hunter burst into tears. And ran to his brother, Lonnie, working in the shop a short distance away. Lonnie, with still-sobbing Dad following closely behind, went to take a look at this strange gopher that had the nerve to scare his baby brother.
“You’ve caught a weasel!” he said.
Weasels are also persona non grata on a farm/ranch. They eat the chickens (see above).
In short order, the weasel suffered the same fate a gopher would have.  The chickens stopped dying and peace was restored.
But the best part was that Dad got a whole nickel for the weasel’s tail. Four cents because it was four times longer than a gopher tail.
And one cent for tears and anguish.

Monday, June 6, 2022


 “I’m here to buy a horse,” Jim said. “A horse that likes to run.”

“So point out one you think I’d like and let us start the fun!”

The rancher scratched his head, “I think it’s Yo-yo I will sell.”

“He’s faster than the others and he listens very well.”

The deal was struck, the money paid, but just before Jim mounted,

The rancher said, “There’s one thing more that cannot be discounted.”

“This Yo-yo, he is great to ride—to stop, you say ‘Hey! Hey!’”

But say the words, ‘Thank God’ to get him started on his way.”

Jim nodded quick. Too eager now to note the rancher’s word,

Then scrambled up and soon forgot the things that he had heard.

Away across the fields they went and Jim was soon a-grin,

This horse was fast! Jim made a deal when he’d selected him!

But then, across the prairie, there appeared a chasm deep,

No worries, they would simply stop. No landing in a heap!

“Whoa!” said Jim, and pulled the reins. But Yo-yo wouldn’t mind,

“Yo-yo stop!” he yelled again, (then said a word less kind!)

Ol’ Yo-yo ran the faster. Poor Jim soon was filled with dread,

And he began to rack his brain for what the rancher’d said,

What were the words that stopped the horse? Jim simply didn’t know,

Then all at once, it came to him. “Hey! Hey!” The horse did slow!

Just a mere foot from the edge, he froze like a cadet,

And Jim, he sat there in the saddle, scared and soaked with sweat,

But grateful he’d remembered those two crucial words, ‘Hey! Hey!’,

And vowed he’d ne’er forget them to the very end of days,

He breathed a largish sigh and, grateful that he wasn’t dead,

Looked up into the heavens and, “Thank God!” our Jimmy said.

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, our talents you'll decide
We'll take a roller coaster ride!

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!)...

Yo-yo (June 6) Today!

Roller Coaster (June 13)

World Refugee Day (June 20)

The Happy Birthday song (June 27)

Independence Day (US) or Sidewalk egg-frying day (July 4)

Loneliness (July 11)

Ice Cream (July 18)

Old Jokes (July 25)

Sunday, June 5, 2022

My Turn!

 Every six weeks or so, I get to host my peeps, The Best of Boomer Bloggers...and TODAY'S THE DAY!

First, let's hear from Carol Cassara:

Some of us give and give....sometimes, though, we don't get anything back, blogs Carol Cassara. How important is reciprocity and when should we stop giving? Check out her post, When to Stop Giving.

Next is Meryl Baer:

The economy has been making headlines recently. Inflation, rinterest rates, the price of everything from appples to ziplock bags and everything inbetween increases with each trip to the store. Meryl Baer of Beach Boomer Bulletin has a few things to say to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen about the state of economy in this week’s post, Why didn’t they ask me?

When Laurie Stone’s parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, she wondered what it was like going through life with the same person for so long. One day she asked their secret. The answer surprised her. 

And Rebecca Olkowski:

Rebecca Olkowski with geeks out watching historical dramas and documentaries on TV. Recently, she watched a PBS – American Experience show about publisher William Randolph Hearst. That got her to thinking about the evolution of sensationalized news that really took off in the 1890s. Read her musings about it here.

Watchout for loans at auto repair and tire chains through EasyPay Finance and TABBank, says Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist. Through auto repair and tire shops across the country, EasyPay Finance issues loans up to 189 percent APR. In states that don’t allow predatory interest rates, EasyPay launders its loans through Transportation Alliance Bank or TAB Bank because banks are exempt from state rate caps.

Followed by Jennifer Koshak:

Jennifer, of Unfold and Begin, likes to journal. She uses it for a variety of reasons, to express gratitude, to track her day, and for self-care. She thinks everyone should try their hand at it and shares how to use journaling to help with your self-care in her latest post.

And finally, Tom Sightings:

Tom from Sightings Over Sixty worries that life expectancy has been declining recently. As a group, we're becoming more obese. We suffer from more diabetes, and many of us have difficulty performing routine tasks. But there is some hope. Find out what it is at his post Are You As Healthy As Your Parents Were?  

Last and not least, ME! (AKA Diane Stringam Tolley)

With five of her six children and all 17 of her grandchildren living within 2 minutes of her, Diane gets plenty of opportunities for interaction and babysitting. This is what she learned while watching two three-year-olds and one 16-month-old for two weeks...

And that's a wrap.
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