Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Mrs. Christmas

 My annual Christmas Eve poem.
Again with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore . . .

On the night before Christmas, long hours ahead
The youngest awake, I’d just got her to bed.
The stockings were hung in a haphazard row,
While Mama assembled new toys just below.

The kids were asleep. Well, except for the last,
Just waiting for morning to get downstairs fast.
I toiled on alone, ‘cause there wasn’t a dad.
I had broken a nail and my language was bad.

From out on the lawn came a very loud sound,
It brought me to my feet, had me looking around.
I flew to the window, and thought as I ran,
‘Are my neighbour’s cats rifling through my garbage can?!’

It was bright (as can only the moon on snow be),
And I narrowed my eyes to be able to see.
And what did I glimpse, coming over the way?
But some deer, all in harness, and a stout little sleigh.

With someone in a coat that looked comfy and soft,
And clearly, some magic to keep them aloft.
They flew like a Michael Schumacher on course,
While the driver attempted some will to enforce.

"Now Baby! Now, Jazzi! Now, Frolic and Jolly!
On, Cherub! On, Angel! On, Kitten and Folly!
I need you to get to the rooftop this time!
And a fine, gentle landing would be so sublime!"

To say that they flew like some leaves past the attic,
Would be perfectly true; it was quite that erratic.
I was holding my breath as they shot toward the sky,
And prayed that my windows and roof would survive.

Then finally (thankfully) up on the roof,
The unmistakable sound of thirty-two 'hoofs'.
Then some noise in the chimney I’d not heard before,
And someone emerged, on their knees, on the floor.

The figure was dressed in a warm, sooty coat,
With some Uggs on their feet and scarf 'round their throat.
With toys, books and clothes in a gi-normous sack,
Which they dropped to the floor with the words, “Oh, my back!”.

And then sparkling eyes were directed at me!
From under a hat that was worn with esprit.
I surprisingly saw, not a lad, but a lass,
Was I scared? Well at first, but soon it would pass.

In white teeth, she had clutched a short pencil end,
And a notebook, she held in one mittened hand.
Her round, wrinkled face shone with laughter and fun,
Her laugh was contagious, could not be outdone!

She was joyful and glad, and just a bit round,
Her smile made me smile, 'twas so friendly and sound!
She gave me a grin and then winked an eye,
And I knew I was right to bid my fears goodbye.

She didn’t say much, simply nodded my way,
And I watched as she worked – like a pudgy ballet.
She finished her job, made a note in her book,
Then nodded and smiled and her exit she took!

I heard her footsteps as she ran to her sleigh,
Heard her call to her team as they all flew away.
Then this sweet woman cried, as she flew o’er the town,
"Happy Christmas to all, don’t let life get you down!"

Merry Christmas, my friends! 
And a very, very Happy New Year! 2023 will be great!

Friday, December 23, 2022

My Shopping Pocket

It’s nearly here.
And we’re doing our last-minute shopping.
Reposting my favourite shopping memory.

Not exactly. But close...
‘Twas Christmas. My Mom had us all in the car.
It was time for the shopping. We had to go far,
To Lethbridge ‘most seventy miles away.
We talked and we laughed—just enjoying the day.

My brothers and sister had done this before,
Gone shopping for Christmas with Mom at the stores.
But for four-year-old me, this time was the first,
I was way beyond eager, nigh ready to burst.

But when she had parked and I looked from the car,
From the ranch to the city was more than just far,
I had somehow moved on to a whole other sphere,
And I stared at the thousands of folks that were here.

I was used to my world, I’ll admit it. It’s true.
I was here, I must shop. What else could I do?
All my siblings had spread—in the crowd, disappeared,
I slowly climbed out, tried to swallow my fear.

Mother picked up my brother and gave me a grin,
As I stood there so anxious on trembling limbs.
“Let’s go shop for Christmas, Diane,” to me, said.
And I nodded and shivered and wished I was dead.

But then she said something that filled me with hope,
As she showed me the pocket attached to her coat,
“Now you hold on tight and we’ll wander along,
And no one can hurt you and nothing go wrong.”

So I did and I found that my mother was right,
Holding tight to her pocket, I let go of my fright.
I discovered that shopping for Christmas was fun!
If I held really tight till the shopping was done.

Years have passed, I forgot ‘pocket shopping’ with Mom,
Till one day, with my kids, we had errands to run,
And with my arms full with the baby and all,
We started our tour of the stores in the mall.

A tug on my coat and I looked down to see,
A toddler’s hand clutch my pocket. And me.
I knew how she felt—the security. Calm.
I’d felt it myself with a pocket. And Mom. 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Gramma's for Christmas

My Grandma and Grandpa Berg
Who loved me.

Christmas excitement at the Stringam house was always two-fold.
1. There was the anticipation and joy over the gift-giving.
And getting.
And 2. the Christmas trip to Grandma and Grandpa Berg's house (hereinafter known as 'Grandma's House').
My Mom's parents.
I'm still not sure which was more exciting.
After the frenzy of unwrapping had dwindled and the euphoria and excitement of yet another Christmas morning had waned, it was time to pack the car for Grandma's house.
We were allowed one suitcase.
So I had to carefully choose what gifts to bring along.
Much wrinkle-browed thought was put into what would accompany me.
One had to keep in mind that it would be many days before one could play with all of the other new toys, so the decision could not be made lightly.
What clothing and necessities went into the suitcase, however, were hap-hazard at best.
And most of the time . . . no less than sketchy.
It wasn't unusual to find that I had forgotten such necessities as . . . underwear. Pajamas. Shirts. Pants. Socks. Toothbrush.
In fact, as my Mom pointed out on at least one occasion, "Diane, what did you pack? Because there certainly aren't any clothes in here!"
I would look up at her.
She would sigh and go to ask Aunt Eva or Aunt Louise if their kids had any clothes I could borrow.
It didn't matter. I was happily playing with my numerous cousins.
None of whom cared what I was wearing.
Or not wearing . . .
And that was just the start of the fun at Grandma's.
My older sister and I got to sleep in my Mom's old room at the top of the grand stairway.
In a bed with a delicious feather tick.
Perfect for a little, warm sleeping nest.
There was also a little, hidden cupboard. Deeply secret.
No one knew it was there, except Chris and I.
And of course whoever hung the old clothes and other stuff stored inside, but why quibble over details?
Just outside our room, against one wall in the hall, was a ladder.
Leading to the incredible, top secret attic.
My brothers spent hours up there, reading old comics and stuff left by my mother's brothers.
I was never allowed to go.
'Cause I was a girl.
And they were keeping me safe from the spook who lived up there.
At least that's what they said.
The large bedroom across the hall from mine was where my brothers slept. It was full of treasures. Books and games from my Mom's childhood.
Or at least from her brothers'.
I imagine they happened about the same time . . .
At the bottom of the staircase in the warmly shiny, plank floor was a square vent.
Just wide enough for Sharon, Julie, Susan, Kathy and I to sit on.
Or lay on.
Or play . . . you get the picture.
All during Christmas, it blew warm air.
Just for us.
Hour after hour, we cousins and siblings would crouch together on the slatted steel. Warm and toasty.
There was plenty to eat at Grandma's house. Food that left her large, sunny kitchen in great, delicious quantities.
And just as quickly disappeared.
And the all-important cookie tins.
Grandma always baked many, many different kinds of cookies.
All delicious.
Then put a selection into several tins and placed them throughout the house.
It was like a treasure hunt.
Except that, invariably, the Smaarbucklesa (spelled phonetically because it's Swedish and none of us kids knew what she was saying . . .) disappeared immediately.
From every, single tin.
Even the furniture at Grandma's house was an adventure just waiting to happen.
When Grampa Berg wasn't sitting on it, there was always his chair, sitting innocently beside the great living room window.
The chair that vibrated, if one turned the dials.
Like the rest of Grandma's house, it was magic.
And there was always the carved, wooden feet under the dining table to sit on.
And hide.
Although, looking back, I really don't know how effective my hiding was.
Especially when someone would ask for Diane and someone else would say, "Probably under the table."
Secret agent material, I wasn't.
But the most exciting part about being at Grandma's house was the little sun room on the side of the house.
A sunny little place.
That had a tenant.
Hanging silently on one wall.
Just waiting for the most daring cousin to dart in and . . . touch it.
And run away screaming.
Okay, okay, so I was always the one who was scared to go in and screamed on the way out.
But you have to admit that a stuffed moose head is really scary.
Okay, you don't.
But it was.
When I was four.
At Grandma Berg's house.
The best place on earth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Winter, the First

In honour of the first day of Winter...

Digging through Grandma Berg's Journals again . . .

Grandma and Grampa Berg were married in a small Lutheran church in Blackfoot, Idaho on April 20, 1919.
Throughout the summer, they worked on the farm they shared with another couple, Nanny and Axel Karlsson. In October of that year, they moved to their new land west of Millicent, Alberta, where they would raise their family.
But their first winter wasn’t spent on that land. Instead, they went with another couple, the Palms, to the Fort McMurray area to run a trapline.
Our story starts there . . .

What a winter it was! We had brought a supply of kerosene and food—flour, sugar, jam, beans, dried fruit, salted pork, powdered milk, butter and frozen potatoes—which supplemented with moose and rabbit meat made our diet quite adequate.
I baked bread in a stone oven built by Petrus outside the cabin. A fire was built inside the oven until the stones were hot. The heat from the rocks baked lovely bread!
The two men were often in the wilderness for days at a time, tending their trapline with snowshoes and dog teams. Although Petrus was bush wise, one time they lost their bearings in a storm and were wandering for nine days before stumbling on another trapper’s cabin. The trapper wisely, slowly brought the half-starved pair back onto food by allowing them only one pancake every hour over a period of hours.
Never had pancakes tasted so good!
I was expecting my first baby in January and plans were made to leave before that time. However, the snow kept falling and by Christmas time the train stopped running. [Mrs. Palm and I] prepared for the baby by knitting and sewing little garments out of yarn and flannelette we had brought with us . . .
When I went into labour, Petrus ran behind the dogteam twenty miles to Lac La Biche where he had been told of a midwife. When he found the experienced native midwife, she first hesitated until an RCMP constable persuaded her to come. Many precious hours had passed and Petrus was beside himself. The woman finally gathered the necessary supplies and settled herself into the sled.
With anxious urging, the hardy dogs made a short time of the twenty or more miles, arriving at the cabin about midnight.
Soon Petrus was greeted by the cry of his first-born son. 
All the frustrations of the day were forgotten in the joy of holding this precious child.
There is some disagreement among family members about whether Grandpa and the midwife arrived in time to assist in the birth. To settle the issue, my Uncle Roy put the question to Uncle Glen, the baby in the story.
“Glen, you were there. Were you delivered by the midwife or not?”
Uncle Glen turned his head at a wry angle and taking his chin in his left hand, with deep thought and deliberations, he answered, “You know, I can’t remember.”

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Clement and Me

Welcome to our Monthly Word Counters Challenge.
This month’s number is 19.
My lines? EXACTLY 19.
Clement Clarke Moore’s? Approximate. 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Definitely not our house. There are two Seniors—with bladders—living here. All we do all night is stir…

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
No comment. Except to say we’ve discovered stockings hold a lot more when sitting on a chair. Just sayin’… 

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
Okay, yes, this was written long ago. Now their visions are of switches, video games and American Girl dolls.

And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
Hey. If you have kids, I say rest while you can. Any CONSIDERATE person would understand you need…uh-oh… 

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Have you ever been awakened in the night—heart pounding and your mind headed frantically off in all directions?

Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
It always amazes me that the author had the wherewithal to do this in order. Obviously a quick waker!

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
There’s just something about the sight of the moon shining on the snow. It’s magical. What are your thoughts?

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
I’ve seen lots of things when looking out my window. I can honestly say these aren’t on the list.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
Whew! A bit of relief here. For a moment there, I was picturing the Mounties. Or worse, the Revenuers.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
I should probably mention that I’m not into speed. The idea of flying quicker than eagles makes me…nauseated. 

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
This truly amazes me. I have six children and I’ve NEVER gotten everyone’s names right. And I named them.

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
I’ve driven a sleigh and I fairly certain I’ve never—ever—given this command. Or anything close to it. 

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
I have to admit this is true. When grandchildren meet an obstacle, their first reaction is to go up.

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
Rooftop landing: “like trying to hit a bullet with a smaller bullet whilst wearing a blindfold, riding a horse”.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
I’m truly hoping that those are light little hooves. Otherwise, I’m seeing a shingle job in someone’s near future.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
I’m thinking: front doors. Wouldn’t it be easier if everyone just had a lock-box with a special ‘Santa’ key?

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
Fur for sure. There’s nothing better for flying through frigid air. The ashes and soot? See the previous paragraph…

A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
I’m thinking this is the one and only time you’d want a peddler—with wares—in your front room. 

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
This is the perfect picture of someone who loves what they do. In the very cold out of doors.

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
Again, loving what he does. But that white beard… Elderly? Or stylish and with a really good hairdresser?

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
I have a thing or two to say about his smoking. Even more so in a home NOT his.

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
Okay, my Uncle Lonnie had such a face. And belly. And you have to know he laughed. A lot.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
Back to Uncle Lonnie. Chubby: check. Plump: check. Jolly: check. Made me laugh: check. Am I seeing a pattern here?

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
Have you ever had that happen? Where you just look at someone and know they’re trustworthy? Yeah, me, neither. 

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
I like this. It shows that Santa was not only jolly, but, more importantly, had a good work ethic.

And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
Huh. With the going down and rising up, does anyone ever have to pay to have their chimneys cleaned? 

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
I’ve seen thistledown fly. Light, yes. But a few other words come to mind. Unplanned. Erratic. Unpredictable. Flammable.

But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"
What else can I say but, “Right back acha! And, Santa. Thanks for the generations (and generations) of entertainment!” 

This month’s word count number was brought to you by: Karen of Baking In A Tornado 
Links to the other Word Counters posts:

Monday, December 19, 2022

Muffins to Buns

My husby and I went to dinner that day.
It’s something we both like to do.
(Let’s face it, I love it when someone else cooks,
Then tidies and does dishes, too.)

Talk drifted through topics both varied and wide,
Like politics, family and pain,
With short bouts of silence to fork in some food,
Then starting the talk once again.

We studied our fellow restaurant customers,
And yes. All our comments were nice.
(I know it was something you wondered about,
We were tempted at least once or twice.)

And the dialogue turned, as it oftentimes does,
To topics light-hearted, amusing,
(I admit I prefer it when talk turns that way
I find it to be less confusing.)

We were talking of heroes and who we thought great,
Of qualities never found lacking,
And whom should be honored. Whom we should retain,
And which of them should be sent packing.

My Husby’s my hero, I’ll freely admit.
Though, compared to some others, he’s…round.
His kindness and his generosity shine,
And with many good things, he abounds.

But Husby, he thought, because of his shape,
My Stud Muffin he just couldn’t be.
Instead, he’d consider himself something more,
He’d be my Stud Bun now. To me.

So know as you read this that Husby and me,
Are having some wonderful fun,
Exploring and wandering throughout the world,
Just me and my honey(stud)bun.

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 as Christmas slowly wanes,
Let's talk about the Candy Cane!
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!)...

Muffins (December 19) Today!

Candy Canes (December 26)
Treasure (January 2)
Stuffed animals (January 9)
Get lost (January 16)
Clocks (January 23)
Time (January 30)

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