Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, February 3, 2023

Chews the Right

Me. I wish...

I was a gum chewer. 
Okay there, I said it.
And it wasn’t allowed.
I am going somewhere with this...
When I was in school 1498 (Okay I exaggerate, but it seems like it!) years ago, it was considered the greatest of misdemeanours to get caught chewing gum during class time. 
A sin punishable by pointed remarks from one’s teacher. Or teachers.
And the loss of said gum.
Case in point: I was chewing gum during social class. With Mrs. Wolersheim. Probably the best teacher I ever had.
Also the scariest.
I was happily chewing away, all the while busy on whatever project she had assigned—notice the ‘busy’ and ‘assignment’ part of that sentence—and, suddenly, these words rang out over the moderately quiet classroom. “Diane! Are you chewing gum?”
Okay, you have to know that the instant my name was mentioned at any time during the school day, everything I had ever known in my lifetime immediately fled, never to be recovered.
I lifted my head and stared at her, the act of speech now quite forgotten.
Finally I managed a tiny nod.
“Well, get rid of it!”
I simply swallowed.
She waited a moment. Then, “Did you swallow it?”
Again that feeble nod.
“It’ll probably stick your stomach together!”
Uh-oh. Too late. It was gone.
Mrs. Wollersheim went on, “You know the difference between the gum-chewing girl and the cud-chewing cow?”
Okay, I was back to staring. Finally another anaemic head shake.
“It’s the thoughtful look on the face of the cow.”
Well and truly ‘cowed’ I vowed never to chew again.
But you have to know I was weak.
And I’d forget about the gum I put into my mouth almost the moment I did it. During recess. When it was allowed.
Sadly, this meant I would inevitably walk into class still chewing.
I tell all of you this because of something that happened last week.
Or maybe I should say last ‘weak’.
I take a ‘joints’ class. Meant to help we women of a certain age maintain a a passable relationship with said (ageing) joints.
My teacher is fantastic. Knowledgable. Fun.
We were walking around the room, warming up.
I was exchanging what I fondly assumed were sotto-voce comments with my tribe and trying to follow the instructions.
Suddenly a voice rang out. “Diane!”
Now you have to know that 70 and I are starting to strike up a friendship. It used to be long-distance. Now it’s a little too close for comfort. And still, when someone in authority speaks my name, everything I ever knew just...flees.
And yes, it takes a wee bit longer to empty my brain now then it did when I was 15. More knowledge, perhaps?
At least I tell myself that.
I looked up.
“Are you chewing gum?”
Yeah. Some things never change.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Those Who Taught Me

Okay, a bit older than our car, but you get the picture.
At some point during our junior year in high school, every student was required to take Driver's Education.
It wasn't an imposition.
Though most of us were farm/ranch kids and had been driving since we could see over the dashboard, none of us had ever been allowed to drive on a real road.
Okay, well, I have to admit here that some of us had.
Driven on a real road, I mean.
It's just that our parents didn't know.
Moving on . . .
So it was to be our first experience driving on a real road . . . officially.
The anticipation mounted as we completed every session of pre-driving training.
The lectures and films grew longer and more boring.
More and more, we craned our necks to glance outside at the shiny new car that would soon become ours.
We were getting feverish to actually take the wheel and floor the accelerator.
Finally the day came.
In groups of three, names were drawn.
And then it was my turn.
My time slot allotted.
My waiting at an end.
All right, yes, I still had to wait, but at least I knew just how long the wait would be.
My group was scheduled to go out in a couple of days, after the end of the school day.
I counted the minutes.
And finally, it was our turn!
The other two students from my group slid into the back seat.
Our instructor, alias: my biology teacher, and I got into the front.
And that was when I discovered that this wasn't quite like any other car I had ever seen.
For one thing, it had two sets of foot pedals.
One on my side.
The other on his.
We started out.
Slowly. Though every gram of me (and that was a lot of grams) was itching to stomp that gas pedal to the floor.
We made a circuit of the town.
So far so good.
I was instructed to head out of town along the highway.
Obediently, I followed my instructions.
All went well.
We made a safe (it can be done . . .) U-turn and headed back towards town.
As we were approaching the town limits sign with its stark and very pointed suggestion of speed, I turned to my instructor. "Does that mean we need to start slowing down when we get to the sign, or should we be going that speed when we reach . . .?"
I got no further.
My teacher decided, then and there, to teach me what the second set of floor pedals was for.
He stomped on the brake.
Whereupon (good word) I had a heart attack.
Fortunately, my varied experiences on the ranch had taught me that I could still function, even when my heart had permanently taken up residence somewhere in the vicinity of my throat.
But the lesson was well and truly taught. One must have already achieved the strongly suggested speed limit by the time one reached the sign.
Point taken.
After a few tense seconds of hands-over-the-face whimpering by both I and my teacher, we were once more off.
The rest of my turn passed without further incident.
Which was probably a good thing for my heart.
And my passengers.
We stopped back at the school and one of my team members exchanged seats with me.
I could officially relax.
For some time, we drove around the town.
Then, as we were following the dirt road north, on the far east side of town, our Social Studies teacher approached and flagged us down.
He did this is a subtle, yet clever way.
He drove past, honking, then pulled over to the right directly in front of us.
Our young driver squeaked out, "What do I do?"
Whereupon (that word again) our instructor told her to pull over directly behind the other car and put our car into 'park'.
She sighed and leaned back against the seat.
The four of us watched our social teacher walk around to our instructor's window.
The window was rolled down and the two began to visit.
Meanwhile, our driver was looking forward.
Towards the other car.
Which appeared to be getting . . . closer.
She stomped on the brake and quickly discovered that it wasn't we who were moving.
Ah! The other car was rolling backwards.
Toward us.
Our driver began to shriek, "Ooh! Ooh! What do I do?! Should I back up?!"
Both teachers looked up.
Just as the 'parked' car collided with us.
Shock warred with embarrassment on both faces.
It was quickly ascertained (another good word) that no damage had been done, either to property or personnel.
And everyone went back to what they were doing before our social teacher had entered the picture.
We completed our training.
Receiving full credit and accolades.
And all of us received our driver's licenses.
It really wasn't that difficult.

Look at the guys who taught us. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Spring STORM

By Blair Stringam

When I was 13, my father sold his ranch in Milk River, Alberta, and bought a ranch up near Fort Macleod, Alberta about 120 miles away.
We went through the arduous task of loading up all of the equipment including tractors, bailers, cultivators, swathers, hay rakes, livestock equipment, saddles, bridles, shop tools, shop tools, shop tools (hey, we needed shop tools to keep me busy on the long winter evenings), horses, snow mobiles…oh, and of course cows for the new ranch. We were very excited for our new adventure.
Now one thing that we often experience in our area in the spring are sudden snow storms.
When we unloaded our cows, we had deposited them in a large open field where the grass was growing well and would keep them happily fed until we could get everything else moved in.
Then came the storm.
It changed our priorities for a few days.
Because the cows were in an open field, the storm pushed them down to the fence at the far end. There they huddled together trying to keep warm.
Many of the cows had delivered their calves and the new calves were struggling even more to keep warm.
To quote an old saying, this wasn’t our first rodeo. We knew we had to get the cows and calves to shelter fast.
And feed them large quantities of hay.
On our new ranch, we had a field with many trees growing in it. We called it the tree field (creative name eh?). It was an ideal location for the much-needed shelter.
We loaded the trucks with hay, then opened the gates where the cows were located and, with the cows eagerly following, drove to the field where they were fed and finally able to find shelter.
Sadly, there were a handful of calves just too cold to make the trip.
We picked them up and brought them to the homestead where my little sister, Anita had set up a ‘calf emergency room’ with heaters, blankets and bottles of milk supplement. She also had a check-in booklet with the calves’ identification and description of their aliments (ie. calf is chilled).
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts and prayers, 2 or 3 calves simply were not able to recover.
Then followed the very worst thing about ranching.
Their breathing would become fainter and then they would give one last devastating ‘bahhh’ and die.
It was heartbreaking.
And a stark reminder of how hard ranch life can be.
We had to take comfort in the reminder that the vast majority of calves survived and were comfortably lounging in the tree field with their mamas.
In the next few days, as the snow melted, I was reassured as I rode through the pasture to check on the cows.
The surviving calves would get up as I rode by and leisurely stretch while their mamas watched casually.
The grass was especially green from the moisture of the snow, the air was fresh and cool and the smell of sage was distinct and strong.
Almost, I could forget the tragedies and be reminded just why growing up on a ranch was a blessing.   

Monday, January 30, 2023

Productive Time

 Despite the fact they couldn’t find the loot for jobs (times three!)

And though they’d looked (and pestered and he left them all ‘at sea’,)

Their son had been arrested—doing time for robbery,

His dad wrote him a letter wishing he could soon be free,

“I’m getting old, my boy,” he said. “And I just can’t see me

Plowing fields to get them ready for spring’s planting spree.”

The boy wrote back, said, “Dad! Please do not plow there past the trees!

I’ve buried ‘something’ there I don’t wish anyone to see,

I will not say just what it is to you, my conferee,

Because they read my letters here. You know that part is key,

If the cops were to discover what I left, you will agree,

My situation here would be compounded terribly!”

A few days later came a letter for the addressee,

Again, ‘twas from his father and the note was filled with glee,

“I’m not quite sure what happened, Son,” the letter said to he,

“But I’d just got your letter when some cops came o’er the lee,

And dug and dug and turned the soil as far as I could see,

Then disappointed, packed and left me with a field’s debris,

I don’t know why they came, my boy—what purpose there could be,

But now I’ll get my planting done. A miracle you’ll agree!”

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?

What’s your favourite ‘snacky’ treat?
Our frozen Yogurt’s hard to beat!

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!)...
Time (January 30) Today!
Frozen Yogurt (February 6)
Random Acts of Kindness (February 13)
Be Humble (February 20)
Pineapple (February 27)
Cookies (March 6)
Butterflies (March 13)
Buzzards (March 20)
Celebrating Earth Day (March 27)
Maps (April 3)
Golf (April 10)
Safety Pins (April 17)
Pigs in Blankets (April 24)

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

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

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
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