Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

Praying to Stay Awake

See? Adorable.

I went away to school.

Far away.
It was the most difficult four months of my life.
But I learned a lot.
Most importantly, I learned that I really don’t like to be away from family.
All I could think about was being home.
I learned a lot about prayer in those days.
It got me through.
My five roommates were great. Supportive, fun, encouraging, sympathetic.
And they taught me something about prayer as well.
Maybe I should explain . . .
I lived in an apartment with three bedrooms.
Each shared by two girls.
My roommate, Bev, was a sweetheart.
Kind. Sweet. Patient. Soft-spoken.
And very strong in her faith.
It was not unusual for her to kneel in prayer for a long time.
A. Very. Long. Time.
At some point, shortly after we became roommates, I realized that she wasn’t praying.
She was asleep.
There. On her knees on the hard old floor.
It couldn’t have been comfortable.
After that, when she had been praying for what seemed a sufficient amount of time, I would make some noise.
Not a lot.
Just enough so that if she really had dozed off, it would stir her.
And save those knees.
Now Bev was nothing if not proactive.
She saw that she had a problem and did what she could to fix it.
She bought a book, ‘How to Pray and Stay Awake’.
I applauded her positive, pre-emptive spirit.
That evening, she sat down happily on her bed and opened her new purchase.
A few minutes later, I glanced over at her.
She had nodded off over her book.
And was snoring softly.
Some things you just can’t fix.

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Early Parking

My stylin' ride.
The grocery store in Milk River in the 50's was on main street.
Parking was on the street.
Angle only.
I know this doesn't seem to have much to do with my story, but wait for it . . .
Mom usually came into town once a week to do the grocery shopping.
For me, it was a magical time. Mind you, I was born with unfettered enthusiasm. For me, everything was magical. But I digress . . .
On this particular occasion, my brother George was with us.
The two of us had been separated because he was causing fights.
Not me.
Never me.
Ahem . . .
So George was in the back seat and I was in the front.
Mom parked the car in front of the AGT building, directly across from the grocery store, and got out.
When we made to follow her, she put out her hand and told us to stay where we were.
As punishment for being so disruptive on the trip into town, and as Mom was only going into the store for a moment, both of us were forbidden from following.
We could sit in the car quietly and think about what we had done.
We each thought about it in our own unique fashion.
George pouted. Arms crossed, face fixed in a frown of displeasure.
I did gymnastics.
I should probably point out here that the seats of our (then) late-model car were wide.
And long.
And bouncy.
I started out small. Bouncing up and down in a sitting position.
Then I discovered that I could get more height if I got up on my knees.
Finally, I was standing, hands on the back of the seat, jumping up and down. I think I hit my head numerous times on the roof, but no brain, no pain.
I continued to bounce.
I should point out here that, in the 50's, crime hadn't been invented yet. It wasn't unusual for people to leave their kids in a car. With the keys in the ignition.
And the car running.
Don't condemn my Mom. She was a product of her time.
I bounced closer and closer to the steering wheel and wondrous, automatic gearshift attached to it.
Closer. Closer.
And then . . . that one bounce too many. I came down on the gearshift.
The car lurched into action, leaping over the curb and across the sidewalk on fat, whitewall tires.
I think I screamed, but I can't be sure.
There was a distinct 'crunch' and the car came to a sudden stop.
I don't remember George's reaction. I think he remained stoically silent in the back seat.
I picked myself up off the floor and began to cry.
And suddenly, my Mom was there. Holding me in her arms and telling me that everything was all right.
Mom was really, really good at that.
After she had calmed me down, she set me back on the seat and put the car into reverse and edged back off the sidewalk. Then she put it into park and, this time, shut it off and we all got out to survey the damage.
The bumper had pierced the stucco, leaving a half-moon crescent in the wall of the building, just below the front windows.
Where the entire AGT staff had assembled.
They waved, cheerfully.
Mom sighed and towed us into the office to explain.
The office workers were remarkably forgiving of the whole incident. Even laughing about it.
Red-faced, Mom was soon able to drag George and I back to the car.
I think I received a lecture on using the inside of the car as a playground, but it wasn't very forceful.
Probably because Mom realized that the whole thing wouldn't have happened if she hadn't left the car running.
The mark I had made in the wall remained there for many, many years. Until the building was renovated and re-faced, in fact.
Some time after my escapade, a second crescent appeared in that same wall, just a few feet from mine, obviously from a similar source.
I examined it carefully. It was a good attempt.
But mine was better.
Circa 2011. (52 AD (After Diane))
Same building. Different damage...

Wednesday, August 3, 2022


A guest post by Blair Stringam

Shammy. And humanoids.
Did you ever think about something that you did in the past and wonder “what was I thinking?”
If you have then we understand each other.
If you haven't then I guess you have your ducks all in a row.
I don’t.
My sister has told this story to you before, but I need to set the record straight . . .
When I was a wee lad of 5 years, summer on the ranch was a daily adventure. There were lots of places to explore, frogs to catch at the river, horses to ride, chickens to watch (they were very strange) and barns to explore. 
But one thing I was not allowed to do. Accompany my two older sisters on trail rides. 
The epitome of fun. The ultimate in summer adventures.
For everyone  but me.
And so I pestered.
I pestered until one day they finally relented and allowed me to follow them. And even more exciting? My sisters decided that we were not only going on a trail ride but we were going to have a picnic as well. I was beyond ecstatic.
I was to ride my horse Shammy, a very fat, very quiet, very gentle welsh pony that dad had given to me on my 3rdbirthday.
We saddled our horses. Well, my sisters saddled the horses. I couldn't reach up high enough to pull the cinch tight.
We climbed aboard and headed out across the river with my sisters leading the way. Just after we crossed, we picked up a cattle trail that followed, first the river, then a fence line up a steep embankment. 
I should note here: When fences follow steep embankments there are often high and low spots. Now, placing fence posts in the high and low spots is not a problem in itself, but when you string tight wires between said posts, it tends to pull the lower ones out of the ground. There are clever things that ranchers do to try to stop this but sometimes the posts have minds of their own. 
Illustration by Blair.

Back to my story . . .
One of the posts in the fence we were following had pulled out of the ground and was hanging over the trail.
Chris rode by and ducked under the post. I watched her do this. Then Diane rode by and ducked under the post. I watched her do that as well.
Then I rode up to the post.
And didn't.
I don't know why.
It hit me (or I hit it) square on my forehead and I was peeled off the back of my horse.  I landed in a heap and began to cry.
I was mad and I was not going to be consoled even though my sisters were being very kind and soothing. Then (I think in desperation) Chris finally said, “Look at Shammy.  She thinks you are being silly.” 
I looked up at Shammy, who was standing just a few feet ahead.
She was looking back at me with a very puzzled expression on her face.
I was suddenly embarrassed and stopped crying immediately. A cowboy has to tough when he is around his horse.
I climbed back up, hoping that Shammy wouldn’t remember my moment of weakness.
We resumed our trail ride, had our picnic and went home.
Another note: Maybe Shammy didn't remember, but my sisters obviously did. 
It was a long time before I was allowed to go on a trail ride again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Smell of Memories

The Old Garage.
Look out below . . .
Under the floor of the old garage was a dark, mysterious, magical stronghold. A place of adventure. Of devious deeds and dead bodies long kept hidden. Where pirates, coming down the Milk River in ships, hid their treasures. And their secrets.
A place of adventure. Of wonder.
And vegetables.
Accessed only through a solid, well-camouflaged wooden door, this place was known only to the best and brightest . . . and bravest . . . that the ranch had to offer.
Okay, I admit that I had to wait until one of my larger, stronger minions actually grasped the great iron ring and pulled the door up on its protesting hinges to grant me entry, but from that point . . . I. Was. In. Charge.
Yes, okay, so they also had to reach up to the single hanging bulb and pull the string because it was too far up for me, but from then on . . .
I spent hours there.
Or at least as long as it took my mom to collect her baskets of vegetables and start back up the stairs.
At that point, I would abandon whatever scheme I had launched and scamper up behind her.
I could conquer worlds. Defeat any foe. Accept any challenge.
I just had a bit of a problem with being left in the dark.
The heavy door would be lowered into place with a theatrical thud, and the hideout's secrets would once more be hidden.
Entombed. Quietly, patiently waiting until the next time the sunlight briefly, piteously exposed them.
I loved the root cellar. I loved its mystery. 
Its possibilities.
But I should probably mention here that the south fork of the Milk River never, ever could have floated anything larger than a rowboat.
Well, except, maybe during the flood of '64. But a pirate raid then would, of necessity, have to be brief.
And very, very fast.
So, my stone-walled, dirt-floored stronghold probably never concealed a treasure. Or a body.
I think a cat got mistakenly shut in once for a few hours, but as it emerged unconcerned and completely unscathed, I don't think that counts.
I don't know if that particular root cellar still exists. It had been years since I was back there. But my memories of it are still sharp and clear.
The damp, cool air. The 'heavy' feel of the stone walls and dirt floor. The . . . fuzzy-looking boards that formed the staircase.
But most especially the smells. Earth. Fresh vegetables. Wet, aged wood. Things growing. Things crumbling back into earth.

There is a addendum.
My husband and I have spent many hours travelling on the underground in London, England. It is a remarkably run, efficient system.
But in the deepest tunnels, we met with an unexpected bonus.
Stepping off the escalator, I took a deep breath.
Earth. Old timbers. The natural smells of molder and decay.
I smiled.
It smelled like memories.

Monday, August 1, 2022

To You

When I was growing up, my brothers were my friends, it’s true,

Stuck, as we were, there in the very center of the crew,

But when I started school, I soon discovered something great,

A group of girls my age t’whom I could instantly relate!

Those that I was closest to changed every year or so,

But always there was someone helping with life’s ebb and flow,

I depended on my girlfriends—yep, they really got the knack,

And somehow life was easier when we had each other’s backs,

But life goes on, school ended, we all went our different ways,

Now most of them, mere shadows in my memories of those days,

But others came. Proved girlfriends didn’t have to come from school,

Sometimes, they’re neighbours, work colleagues, whose love and kindness rules,

Then Covid turned us upside down and life, for us, diverged,

And suddenly, a different shape remarkably emerged,

For far too long, all friendship face-to-faces were forbid,

And me and all my girlfriends went into our homes and hid!

But in that time, Life wasn’t o’er, just changing as you’ll see…

Cause suddenly, another group of girlfriends rescued me,

They laugh at all my jokes, encourage when they see I’m down,

And best of all they read my stuff and hardly ever frown!

I’ve learned I can rely on them, they’re there through thick and thin,

To guide or tease me through the problems I find myself in,

To all of you now reading this, I’m talking right to you,

Thank you for the many times that you have pulled me through,

I don’t know what life would be like–I think it’d be the end,

So know that I am grateful for my amazing online friends! 

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's not 'bout cakes or blinis,
It's sneaking about with some zucchini!

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!)...

Girlfriends (August 1) Today!

Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch Night (August 8)

Lemon Meringue Pie Day (August 15)

Be an Angel Day (August 22)

Bats -or-  More Herbs, Less Salt (August 29)

Labour Day (September 5)

Chocolate Milk Shakes (September 12)

Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19)

Field Trips (September 26)

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!

Be Courageous!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?