Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, August 12, 2022

Try, Try Again

 Dad took Mom fly fishing. Someplace watery and peaceful.

He seems to be ‘taking her away’ a lot. Between you and me, I think he’s trying to preserve her mental health.
Sometimes, I wish he’d take me and Peter away as well.

Especially today.

First little background…

We live in Sally’s house. She bought it with her first paycheck from her first movie. (I guess it’ll come as no surprise when I tell you she is well-paid.) It is the largest in the neighbourhood and looks—from the outside—fairly grand.

On with my story:

The day started as days do—tranquil. Quiet.

With a couple of my windows open, I could hear the birds singing madly in the backyard. It was such a … peaceful sound.

I could faintly hear Sally and Mort downstairs laughing and banging pots and pans. Probably stirring up breakfast in their kitchen. The four of us (them, Peter, and I) had stayed up quite late watching old horror movies. Then, when discussion of the ridiculous and very unlikely rescue of the heroine by an overly-agile leading man had grown heated, Sally had taken it upon herself to prove to the rest of us that it could be done.

Peter hadn’t even gone out the door till after 1.

I stretched and reveled in being able to spend a few more peaceful minutes in bed.

And that’s when said peace was shattered.

I told you Sally earns quite a bit of money.

Well, she does.

And that’s my theory for what happened…happening.

The garden door to my room burst open. Now, normally, when something like this happens, Sally is the figure entering.

What came in was—definitely not Sally.

Nope. Three large figures, dressed head to toe in camo, toting weapons and sporting the very latest in total-head-coverings.

Not what usually steps in from the garden.

Did you know hearts can stop from sheer surprise?

Well, I’m pretty sure mine did.

I didn’t even get a chance to react. One of them—I’m assuming the ringleader—pointed to me and one of the other guys scooped me up. The third fastened my hands together with a zap strap and then ‘scooper guy’ threw me over his shoulder.

The force with which I hit that hard shoulder drove the breath from my lungs. But, still, I managed a fairly credible scream.

The ringleader spun around and motioned to my mouth.

The third guy applied a gag (emphasis on ‘gag’) and the three of them--and me--continued forward.

All of this took place in near silence. I mean, these guys were big and still they hardly made a sound!

We left my room and made our way up the hallway to the kitchen.

My scream must have alerted Mort. He had just reached the top stair. “SALLY! CODE RED!” he shouted as the leader pounced.

Man, that guy could move!

The man thumped Mort on the head and my gangly brother-in-law went down in an unconscious heap.

The other two looked at their leader and he motioned toward Mort’s hands and face.

Another zap strap and gag were applied. Though what they thought Mort would do when he was unconscious, I’ll never know. He struggles when he's awake.

We left Mort and started down the stairs. Me, still draped like an old carpet over second guy’s shoulder.

In my summer Pj’s which had been entirely adequate for sleeping—in the summer—but which were totally inadequate for a kidnapping.

Sigh.

We stepped out of the curve of the stairs.

At this point, most of the downstairs apartment is open to view. I guess that’s what ‘open concept' means.

Sally was nowhere in sight.

I blinked—the only part of me I could still move.

“Sally!” the ringleader said in a warning tone. “We’ve got your sister!”

I felt suddenly chilled, wishing I was the aforementioned old carpet.

And that an army platoon or two would appear out of nowhere.

The men spread out.

I don’t know where she came from, but suddenly Sally was there, swinging a heavy frying pan.

It connected solidly with the noggin of the third man and, like Mort before him, he dropped like a stone.

Still carrying the pan, Sally leaped over him and darted up the stairs.

The ringleader charged up after her.

So much for ‘We’ve got your sister…’

I didn’t see what happened, but I heard it. There was a heavy thud and boss guy slid down several steps and into our view, bleeding profusely from a crease in the side of his head.

Second guy let out a bellow, dropped me without even a by-your-leave, and he, too, started up the stairs.

Now, call me stupid, but something told me I needed to see what happened next, so I crept up the stairs behind him.

Just in time to see Sally swing down from the top of the stairs on the rope she had attached to the chandelier to prove her point the night before.

The point being someone could swing from a rope and accomplish an almighty rescue.

I’ll never question again.

Remember when I said these guys were packing heat?

Well, up till this time, their guns had remained holstered. I guess they thought Sally would be easy pickings.

Wrong. Remember the kidnapping attempt when she was filming in Brazil? Yeah. That.

Sally swung down in an arc and hit the guy just as he was pulling his gun.

Right in the chest.

The guy, not the gun.

He performed a spectacular back flip, right into the front door, which burst open, spilling him, unconscious, into the glorious morning light.

The light caressed his black hood and pristine camos like warm honey.

When Mom and Dad got back that evening, Sally was giving me a manicure at the kitchen table. Peter was hovering close by. Something about 'not wanting to let me out of his sight ever again'.

Mort had gone to bed early, claiming a headache.

Once more, it was peaceful.

Serene, even.

Mom hung her purse from a hook in the front hall closet and turned to us. “Hello, my sweethearts!” she said brightly. “We had a glorious day! How was yours?” 

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: fly fishing ~ manicure ~ tranquil ~ ringleader were sent to me, via Karen, from my good friend, Rena! Thank you, Sweet Girl!

See what my friends have done with their words!

 BakingIn ATornado     

TheDiary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver 

Climaxed  

Part-timeWorking HockeyMom 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Baby Words

Husby and I had spent the weekend in Provo, Utah.

He, walking, relaxing and catching-up-on-sleep in the Marriott.
Me, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ally Condie, Brandon Sanderson, James Dashner and Jennifer Nielsen at the Storymakers Conference.
Yep. Me (and over 700 other writers) were all sharing with and learning from the best and brightest, including several New York Times bestselling authors.
What a weekend!
But, as with any good thing, it ended. And I had many long months to wait until the next Storymakers.
But, after we had packed up and checked out, something happened that made the joyous weekend of books and words last just a teensy bit longer . . .
Husby and I decided to attend Church a short distance from the hotel. We walked in as the congregation was singing a hymn. (Yes, we were late.)
We took a seat near the back, where many of the families with small children had taken up residence. (I was missing my grandchildren, so this was the perfect place for us.)
A tiny girl—just shy of actually walking—was in the pew just across the aisle from us. For the first few seconds, she stared steadily at Husby’s bearded face.
He gets that a lot.
Then another couple walked in (We weren’t the latest arrivals. Whew!) with a tinier baby in a carrier. They took a seat a few rows back from us and set the carrier down on the floor in the aisle right next to their bench.
The little girl’s attention was immediately diverted. “OOOH!” she said, pointing to the baby. Getting down on her hands and knees, she quickly closed the distance between her and her soon-to-be-best-friend.
Her parents watched her go.
Did they jump up and retrieve their wandering daughter?
Nope.
Instead, her father quietly took out a board book and propped it up on the floor in the aisle beside their family’s pew where it would be in plain sight of their little explorer.
The tiny girl sat down beside the baby carrier, then spied the book.
“OOOH!” she said again. She started crawling back toward her family. And her book.
Halfway back, she again sat down, her head swiveling between the baby and the book. Hmmm . . . which to pursue?
Finally, decision made, she closed the distance between her and her reading material. Happily, she grabbed the book. Her dad grabbed her and the two of them proceeded to make their way through something brightly-coloured and catchy.
The baby in the carrier slept on, unaware that her friend had abandoned her for an adventure of the printed kind.
And I realized how important it is that we are readers. That we are raising future readers.
And the thought struck: If more children chose reading over hanging with friends—even part of the time—what kind of world would we live in?
Just wondering . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Field Promotion

Sorrel gelding (male).
And yes. I can tell the difference . . .
During college, I rode with the LCC Equestrian Team.
It was infinitely more exciting than anything my journalism instructors could teach in the classroom.
Though not quite the same preparation for real life.
Every afternoon, I would present myself to my teacher at the tack shed and draw my piece of string.
This is exactly how it sounds.
There was a bundle of old twine strings hanging from a hook just inside the door.
I would grab one and head out to the pasture.
Once in the pasture, I would pick out a suitable mount (ie: one that I could get close to), and place the string around its neck.
Then swung aboard and ride the horse back to the tack shed to . . . tack up.
Simplicity in itself.
The heaviest thing I was ever forced to carry was a piece of string.
Okay, I will admit that everyone else carried bridles, or at the very least a halter.
I was weird.
And/or lazy.
Moving on . . .
It was a beautiful day.
The sun was shining. (A fairly common occurrence.)
The wind wasn't blowing. (Not so common.)
I was excited to be out of the classroom and into the field.
So to speak.
I should point out, here, that there were two sorrel (liver brown) horses in the herd.
One a gentle gelding (male).
One a sprightly mare (female).
The differences were obvious.
But I was simply looking for 'sorrel'.
I walked up to the first one and slipped my piece of string around its neck.
Then swung aboard.
The trip back to the shed was quick.
I remember being astonished at the spirit the old gelding was showing.
Wow. He'd never had this much life!
This was going to be a good day.
I stopped near the shed door.
My instructor was standing there. “Wow!” he said. “The last person who tried that ended up getting piled.”
'Piled'. That's a cowboy term for . . . piled.
There really isn't a better way to say it.
Back to my story . . .
I looked down at my mount. “You mean this isn't Chico?”
He looked at me strangely. “Umm, Diane, Chico is a boy.”
“Oh. I never even . . .” I slid off the horse. Sure enough, he was a she. “Oops.”
He went on. “GG has never allowed anyone to ride her bareback. She doesn't like it. She just bucks them off.” He looked at me. “Let's try something, shall we?”
“Umm . . . Okay!” My Dad always said that I had more guts than brains.
He was right.
My instructor grabbed a halter and handed it to me.
I exchanged it for the string.
“Now get on.”
I obeyed.
“Let's run some jumps, shall we?”
GG and I went over the entire course.
I will admit that the jumps were small and definitely not a challenge.
But the point is that we did them.
GG and me.
Something that had never been done before with that particular horse. 
In that particular tack.
My instructor was smiling when we returned. “I've been wondering who to appoint as team captain,” he said. “Now I know.”
I smiled back.
I still don't know exactly what happened that day. With that horse.
But I was right.
It was a good day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Where the Love Came From

Miss Wornoski and her 31 little readers
That's me on the far right, second row.
With my eyes shut.
Sigh.
I love to read.
It started very early.
Grade one.
Miss Woronoski taught me.
I don't remember the mechanics of learning.
Only the sudden explosion of knowledge that came with recognizing series of letters strung together.
Miss Woronoski had a list of words on a large flip chart. And each of us in the class was taken, publicly, through it. I remember her pointing to each word with a long, slender stick and the victim participant having to then read it out.
A word about the stick. It was about three feet long, with a soft, squishy, plastic, cone-shaped tip. Tons of fun to play with when the teacher wasn't in the room.
Ahem . . .
Day by day, she worked her way around the room. Closer and closer to me.
Who would have guessed that panic was one of the subjects taught in the first grade?
Well, it was.
If I would have studied the chart, I would have realized that I could read every word on it.
But I didn't. I just glanced at it briefly with silent 'deer-in-the-headlights' terror.
Thus started a pattern in my life that has served me far too well.
But I digress . . .
Finally, it was my turn. Miss Woronoski looked at me. “Diane.”
Everything I had ever known simply . . . fled. Taking my blood and body temperature with it.
A now-frozen lump, I turned slowly and stared at her.
“Its your turn, dear,” she said softly.
Her words might as well have been: Ready! Aim! Fire!
I was about to die.
I swallowed.
And nodded.
The pointer was raised.
I watched as it moved.
Sooo slowly.
Tapped on the first word.
“And,” I said, shakily.
Next word.
“The.”
Next. Ooh, a toughie.
“Into.”
Next.
“For.”
And so it went.
Pointer . . . pointed.
I said the word.
Pointer moved on.
I was doing it!
The panic started to ebb.
With only one slight hesitation, on the unbelievably difficult word, 'house', I was done.
Faster than anyone.
Miss Woronoski smiled. “Very well done, Diane,” she said.
I had done it!
Celebrations were in order.
“Diane, sit down.”
Later.
She handed me my first. Real. Book. “Here, dear, read this,” she said.
And she moved on to the next student.
I stared at the book she had given me.
The Little White House.
There was a picture of a boy riding a horse on the cover.
We were instant friends.
I opened it and, for the first time began to read a story to myself.
Riveting tales of Tom, Betty and Susan as they:
  1. Helped their parents
  2. Got presents
  3. Rode Pony
  4. Played with Flip
The magic had begun.

There is a codicil . . .
My Husby and I were on a book-signing tour through the US.
We stopped at a tiny little restaurant in tiny-er Dell, Montana, called the Calf-A.
Exceptional food, especially the roast beef.
And pie to die for.
Sorry. Moving on . . .
The restaurant was housed in what had been the little country school.
The blackboards and even some of the pictures and furniture were still there.
On a shelf was a stack of old text books.
While waiting for my order, I wandered over and looked at them.
And there, right in the middle was my book.
My first book.
Just as I remembered it.
I dragged it out and hurried back to our table.
“Look!” I shoved it under my Husby's nose. “Look! It's my first book!
I sat down and opened the cover.
Instantly, I was transported back to my sunny classroom at Milk River Elementary.
To my seat beside the windows.
Right in front of the teacher's desk.
I could smell the chalk dust.
And see Miss Woronoski taking yet another student through her chart of words.
Paradise.
I had nearly read The Little White House through by the time our meal arrived.
Not a statement on how long it took to be served.
But rather on how quickly I could now read.
Thank you, Miss Woronoski.
You changed my life.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Gifted


I go to church, it’s what I love,

I do believe in God above,

And all the folks who attend with me

Are people that I like to see.

 

They’re honest, faithful, loving, too,

Will gladly help with things to do,

I mentioned ‘honest’, did I not?

Their honesty, I love a lot…

 

So it will come as no surprise,

It is a fact that opens eyes,

That seldom do these people lock

Their car doors when to church they walk.

 

It’s not uncommon when we meet,

To traipse along that sunny street,

And try a car door, here and there,

And find admittance to their lair.

 

But there’s one time (you will be shocked),

When no one leaves their cars unlocked,

It happens late in summertime,

Or early autumn. (So sublime!)

 

But it’s not theft they worry ‘bout,

Nope. That thought really has no clout,

What’s taken out is not the sin,

It’s what someone is putting in!

 

Yep. If unlocked you leave your car,

You may have to travel far,

With your backseat filled with a catch

Of zucchini from your neighbour’s patch!

 

So if you go to church, you must,

Lock your car doors as we discussed,

Cause you will end up just like me…

Your back seat filled with zucchini!


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, we'll have hunger pangs,
And Pie of lemon--with meringue

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!)...

Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor's Porch (or car) Night (August 8) Today!

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)


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Read it! You know you want to!

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What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

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Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from Smashwords.com

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I've been given an award!!!

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Irresistibly Sweet Award

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

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

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