Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, December 16, 2022

Sally Two

 You have to know that nothing remotely resembling ‘normal’ ever happens in our household.

“And what are these?” I pointed to the collapsed little mound of pants and shoes on the floor beside Mom’s bed.

Mom paused in her folding of a tiny, green sleeper and looked over at me. She grinned. “Oh, those are Pete’s pants and shoes.”

“O-Kay. But why are they lying here on the floor?”

“This is part of his ‘efficiency baby birthing’ plan.”

I stared at her. “Seriously?”

She laughed. “Well, you know he’s ex-army.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Mom. Who knows better than the people who live in this house?”

She shrugged. “Well…”

“So what’s with the pantsandshoes?”

“He has them arranged like that so he can hop out of bed and right into his pants and shoes. He simply steps into the shoes and pulls up the pants. Voila! Clothed and shod.”

I shook my head. 

“He has things strung out in order from here to the door. Pants and shoes. Shirt.” She pointed. “Then jacket, wallet and car keys.”

Mom tucked the little sleeper into the overnight bag on her bed. “I’m under instructions to put this bag in its proper place as soon as I’ve got it packed.”

Dad came into the room, rubbing his hands together. “There. No more rough skin!” He rubbed his knuckles against Mom’s cheek.

She smiled at him and, not for the first time, I was grateful this kind, wonderful man had come into our family.

He was such a marvellous addition.

“That’s so important!” Mom said. You don’t want to touch a baby with rough skin!”

“Right?” Dad sat beside Mom on the bed and reached for her hand.

I admit it freely. They are a cute couple.

Mom frowned and rubbed a hand over her huge belly.

Dad pulled on the hand he held. “Is it time?”

She smiled at him.”Nope. Just a twinge.”

“Oh.” He leaned over and kissed her cheek. “No regrets?”


“Ugh. You two love birds. I’m going to start supper.” I headed for the door.

“I’ll come as soon as I’ve finished packing!” Mom called after me.

Things carried on normally for the rest of the evening.

That is an unusual occurrence in our household. And cause for some alarm.

Because it is inevitably followed by…

I sat straight up in bed. Was that voices? A moan? I listened carefully. Yes to both! I jumped out of bed and sprinted down the hallway, grabbing the newel post at the bottom of the stairs and skidding around to the bottom stair. 

In seconds, I was up the stairs and standing in the doorway of Mom and Dad’s room.

The lights were on and Mom was sitting up in their bed.

Dad had managed to get his pants and shoes on but then seemed to have run down. This decorated soldier was standing in the middle of the room, rubbing his forehead and staring into space.

Mom looked up at me. “Nothing to worry about, Honey. Just indigestion.”

I stared at her. “Really? And just how often is this indigestion happening?”

“About every three minutes.”

I went to the doorway and hollered. “Sally! Mort! Baby!”

I heard an answering shout from the bowels of the house. I turned back. “Dad!”

He jumped and looked at me.

“The baby’s coming!”

He blinked.

“We’ve got to do something! Probably getting Mom to the hospital is first on that list.”

“Right.” He grabbed his shirt and put it on. Then ran toward the door picking up his jacket, wallet, and car keys. Finally, he grabbed Mom’s suitcase and charged through the door.


He reappeared.

“You forgot Mom!”

“Oh, right!” He slung the bag from its strap and headed back toward the bed.

Just then I heard a loud crash from outside. Followed by the continuing ‘beeeeep‘ of a motorcycle horn. I ran to the window and looked out.

The car was out of the garage, lights on and engine running. Mort and Sally, both barefoot and in their PJ’s were in front of it, trying to pry something out from beneath.

I opened the window.”What’s happening?!”

Sally looked up at me. “Mort parked his motorbike on the driveway and ran over it when he backed the car out.” She turned back to her straining husband. “It’s stuck!”

I looked at Mom and Dad. “Mort just backed the car over his motorbike!”

Dad ran to the window and I took his place beside Mom, carefully helping her to her feet.

“Oh, Honey!” She paused, putting a hand to her belly. “I think this baby’s coming fast!”

“Well get a crowbar!” Dad yelled.

“What?” Mom said.

“What?” I said.

He looked at us. “What?”

“Never mind!” We could hear Sally’s shout. “We’ll just take Mort’s car!”

By this point, if an elephant had shown up, Dad would have gladly flagged it down. “Fine!” he shouted back.

Dad and I managed to get Mom down to the main floor. 

The noise of the trapped motorcycle was louder here.

Oh, joy.

Dad opened the door and with Mom between us, we moved to the front porch.

By this point, every house in the neighbourhood was lit up. And neighbours were beginning to gather.

Why can’t our family do anything quietly?

Bill Baggins, from next door, was, with the help of a couple of his boys, now trying to free the motorcycle.

Mort and Sally had moved to Mort’s venerable old car, parked at the curb and had it running and the rear doors open for us.

We had nearly reached them when the motorcycle’s pain-filled shrieking finally stopped.


In the relative silence that followed, we managed to manoeuvre Mom into the back seat.

Dad followed and I ran around and got into the far side.

Then, Mort jammed his foot down on the gas and with the squeal of tires and swirl of exhaust, we were off.

Sally slid back the sunroof and stood up. “We’re off!” she shrieked. “See you after the baby comes!”

There was a cheer from the neighbours. Not sure if it was for Sally’s words or our final exit from the neighbourhood, but whatever.

The trip to the hospital was relatively short and thankfully uneventful, considering the speeds Mort coaxed from his ancient auto and the fact that Sally insisted on announcing the imminent birth of her brother or sister at the top of her lungs whenever we approached an intersection.


Mom and Dad were whisked away and the rest of us took our seats in the waiting room to…erm…wait.

Peter arrived just seconds after we had gotten settled. Needless to say, I was tearfully grateful to see him.

We didn’t have long to wait.

An hour after we had charged through the doors of the Emergency ward and waved our parents off, Dad floated back to tell us to come and meet our new sister--born 15 minutes after they had arrived.

We followed him to a small, private room where Mom was sitting in bed, tenderly holding a little cloth-wrapped bundle. The smile on her face rivaled the sunshine.

We crowded around, jostling each other for a better view.

Just as I leaned nearer, the baby opened her eyes and, I swear, looked right at me.

I caught my breath.

She was perfect.

A perfect double of Sally.

A Sally in miniature.

Good golly.

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:  regrets ~ sunshine ~ double ~ miniature were sent to me, via Karen, from my good friend, Rena! Thank you!

Now see what my friends have done with their words!


Thursday, December 15, 2022

I Ear You

Our family has had an epiphany.
Something that has been playing around at the back of our minds and only just now realized…
We exist to keep the magic alive.
There, I said it.
And there are countless others who do it—and to them, I say, “Thank you!”
It’s an important job, keeping the magic alive.
But it’s totally fun to do.
Husby and I do it by acting as Santa and Mrs. through the Christmas season.
Others do it…well, let me tell you about it…
Eldest daughter (hereinafter called ED) works at a local Dollar Tree store.
She loves it—meeting people. Visiting.
Occasionally working. (Okay, yes, she works hard—I just had to throw that in.)
Throughout the Christmas season, she has been wearing ‘Elf’ ears.
They look fairly real. Quite spectacular, in fact.
And the children who come into the store with their Mamas notice.
Many of them ask her if they are real.
She responds with a finger to her lips and a “Shhhh.”
Yesterday a little boy came into the store with his Mama looking for gift bags.
ED was helping them.
The little boy was staring at her ears. Finally, he couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Are those ears real?” he asked.
ED put a finger to her lips and said, “Shhh. Not everyone can see them!”
He looked at his mother.
She was looking at him. “What ears?” she asked. She, too, looked at ED. “I don’t see anything different.”
He gasped and put both hands over his mouth as his eyes lit up like stars.
The magic continues.

Into the next generation.

Husby and Me. More Magic...

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Potato Playing

I received my first set when I was four.

And it entertained me and my siblings for many, many years.
But one ingredient for fun was missing.
And had to be supplied by the owner.
Stay with me . . .
It was a yellow box.
With writing that I couldn’t read yet.
The picture on the front showed round-faced, rather lumpy people.
I wasted no time in opening it. Hmmm. Body parts.
I looked at my Dad. What on earth . . .?
“You make people with it!” he said, helpfully. 
I looked at my Dad doubtfully.
Make people?
I tipped the box and poured out eyes, noses, mouths, ears, hands, feet and even ‘hair’.

“Yeah,” he said, picking up an eye. “Mother! We need a potato!”
Obligingly, Mom brought us one and Dad proceeded to poke eyes, nose, mouth, etc. into it.
And I got my first glimpse of Mr. Potato Head.
“Let me try!” I grabbed the potato and jammed it full of everything on the table.
Okay, so my first attempt looked like something out of a heretofore (ooo, good word) unknown horror movie, and my technique and strategy were nothing more than simply finding a space to put things (FYI: Potatoes aren’t very big).
But it was fun.
I played with that little set for hours, creating people. People who were easily dismantled and re-formed.
Hmm. Maybe we’re onto something here. Dismantling and re-forming. I wonder if that can be done with hips.
But I digress . . .
That set was around for many, many years. And grew. And expanded.
Little bits that had to be painstakingly picked up after each session. (Because Heaven help the person who left it out if Dad stepped on something during a barefoot foray through the house.)
And many, many potatoes, carrots, turnips and at least one pickle were snitched and sacrificed in the quest for fun.
Moving ahead . . .
My daughter recently gave her daughter a Mr. Potato Head.
A slick, complete set.
Including a head with pre-punched holes.
It is bigger.
Gramma still isn’t sure if it’s better.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


Magic happening
Life on the ranch demanded creativity and resourcefulness from every member of the community.
Except for me.
I was four.
Oh, I was resourceful.
Just not in a productive way.
Moving on . . .
In this spirit of inventiveness, my Mom had taught herself to sew. And she was good at it.
From her hands and her trusty little machine emerged fantastic and wondrous articles of clothing. Dresses, blouses, skirts, shirts, trousers--all were created quickly and efficiently, with only a bit of cloth.
I know. I watched her.
I also watched her peel potatoes with equal economy, but that is another story.
And a very different outcome.
Ahem . . .
Occasionally, Mom's sewing machine would give her grief, but my Dad instructed me not to say those words.
They must have been sewing words.
Years later, I would use them as cow herding words, but I digress . . .
Mom could also fix things with her electric marvel. The most hopeless wardrobe disasters could be quickly and perfectly repaired with ease and just a couple of strokes of the needle.
A couple of words, here, about the needles she used.
They were sharp.
Enough said.
My Dad had a work shirt.
He hated it. Something about the fit or the material.
One day, while fencing, he caught a fold of this shirt on some barbed wire and tore it.
Quite badly.
Rather gleefully, he told Mom to just throw it into the rag bag.
But Mom was far too thrifty to do that.
This was a good, serviceable shirt, with plenty of years of work left in it.
She repaired it.
Dad sighed and wore it again.
We were branding. Dad caught the shirt on the squeeze handle and, again, it tore.
Again, the advice to scrap it.
Again, the repairs.
Another sigh.
Dad was working in the shop and caught the shirt on the work bench.
Another tear.
This was becoming a pattern.
But this time, he was determined to be rid of the hated, but indestructible shirt once and for all. He extended the tear into something . . . longer.
Then proceeded to rip the rest of the shirt apart.
He came into the sewing room, and delivered the scraps to my astonished Mom. “Rag bag,” he said. Then he made the mistake of leaving the room.
Mom looked at the little pile of scraps and . . . smiled. Have I mentioned that Mom has a very good sense of humor?
I probably should have.
She removed whatever project she was currently sewing and started to work.
And giggle.
In a short time, she had reassembled the dreaded shirt.
Oh, it didn't look quite the same. Frankenstein's monster comes to mind for some reason.
But it was, once more, complete.
She folded it carefully and put it in Dad's drawer.
Then waited.
She didn't have to wait for long. The next morning, Dad opened that drawer to get out a shirt and let out a little scream.
And no, it wasn't a girly scream.
He emerged, pale-faced, clutching the shirt. “It's back! It's haunting me!” he said.
Mom laughed and laughed.
We all did.
After that, the shirt finally made it to the rag bag.
It had finally served its purpose.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Out Potted

 My father loved his toothpicks and my mother loved her plants,

I know these things seem diff’rent as can be. Yes, this, I’ll grant,

But here, they go together in a tale both fun—and short,

Though it includes some laziness…and slow death of a sort…

My mom had read that healthy plants from pineapples could grow,

By lopping off the tops and planting them in soil just so,

And so she tried it and viola! her pineapple grew strong,

Three times she had to re-pot it. (It didn’t take that long!)

And so it stood there proud and lush in a pot by Daddy’s chair,

Totally within arm’s reach—three feet from his…derriere.

One day, my mama noticed that her plant was looking grim,

The leaves were growing yellow and the shine was getting dim,

She fussed and fussed about her ‘child’, gave nutrients and such,

But all her fussing did not seem to help it very much.

Now Dad would sit enjoying after-dinner toothpicks (Yum?)

Chewing them to sawdust, indistinguishable from gum,

He’d hand them to an unsuspecting child who happened by,

To throw into the garbage, claiming they were much more spry,

But when no child appeared to take his little ball of ‘ick’,

He looked around to find a place to toss it, neat and quick,

And what was near whose shaggy leaves could hide his sorry deed?

Yes, Mother’s plant. Perhaps (who knew?) on sawdust it could feed?

So through those months, Dad’s toothpicks turned my mom’s plant into dust,

Maybe blocking nutrients. (Or reacting from disgust.)

It fin’lly died, was buried in the compost out in back,

Mom tried again a time or two, but never got the knack,

So I’ve one question for you all, and toothpicks, it’s about…

What’s in those beggers that we daily put into our mouths?

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?

We will be back in seven days
Talking about our muffin craze!

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!)...

Poinsettia -or- Potted Plants (December 12) Today!

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Candy Canes (December 26)
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Get lost (January 16)
Clocks (January 23)
Time (January 30)

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