Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Friday, March 3, 2023

Testing the Acorn

This may sound like bragging.

Okay, it is . . .
Our second son was in grade three.
He loved it.
He was a good student and the teacher, Mr. Knall, seemed to like and appreciate him.
The time for our first parent-teacher interview of the year approached.
Usually a time of apprehension for me.
But there were smiles on both sides as we introduced ourselves and shook hands.
We discussed Erik’s behavior and accomplishments.
Then the teacher brought out a little stack of papers. “Now,” he began, “You are allowed to look through these, but I’m letting you know now that I'm keeping them.”
I stared at him. “Ummm . . . okay.”
He then laid out Erik’s spelling tests to date. Like his father, Erik was a good speller. He had even been known to correct spelling for others. (ie. my brother, completing his degree in Engineering.)
Erik’s only difficulty lay in the fact that he usually finished writing the word almost as soon as the teacher had said it. Leaving—seconds—before the next word. Time that lay heavily on his hands. That needed to be filled with something.
And he filled it. 
With illustrations.
In the margin beside his words, he would draw tiny, exquisite figures illuminating whatever it was he had just written. Thus, beside the word: Space, was drawn a tiny astronaut floating in space on an umbilical. A couple of words later: Fire, had an equally tiny cannon, firing at the spaceman.
And thus it went. The entire margin was littered with these pictures.
I could see the teacher’s reasons for wanting to keep them.
This was a truly unique spelling test.
I should probably let you know I allowed him to have the tests.
Because I kept the boy.
Moving forward several years . . .
A few days ago, Erik’s second son, just out of grade three, was completing some math worksheets for his mother.
A “keeping up the skills” exercise for the summertime.
He excels at it. Math, that is.
And, like his father before him, finds himself with time on his hands.
And, without even realizing it, has completed the circle.
And ensured that another acorn has dropped immediately beside another great oak.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Cannons of the Prairie

Oh, the treasures one can discover on a ranch first settled by a Colonel from the Boer War . . .

The Stringam ranch lies in a crook of the south fork of the Milk River, near the Alberta/Montana border. A spot of ground dominated by towering cliffs, a large hill and a (usually) meandering stream. To Colonel Mackie, the man who first settled it, a patch of waving grass and peace after a season of bloody turmoil in Southern Africa. 
Years later, it became home to the Stringams, a family of eleven.
Of which my Dad was the youngest.
Enough background . . .
A favourite diversion during the hot summer days for a young boy growing up on the prairies was a swim in the ‘milky’ water of the river. And that’s what he and a friend were doing on the day they discovered the cannon.
Yes. You hear me correctly. A cannon.
One minute, they were splashing around happily. The next, staring at a long chunk of iron sticking out of the water at the edge of the stream.
Oh, they weren’t entirely sure that that was what they had discovered. In fact, after they lugged the thirty-five pounds of iron home, no one could agree with their excited assumption. Most sided with Grampa, who stated that it must have been something used to drill wells. 
I mean, how on earth would cannon end up in the middle of the Alberta prairies?
The interesting artifact ended up sitting next to the garage. Neatly nestled with the rest of the ‘we-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-it’ junk.
For some time, it sat there.
Then Grampa, intent on installing a new door in the garage, decided it was just what he needed as a counterweight. Wired up and tied, it worked perfectly.
And then someone happened onto the ranch who knew about firearms and things ‘army’. Seeing Grampa’s counterweight, he became very excited.
It was then the family discovered that the remarkable hunk of iron was indeed, as Dad and his friend had first thought, a cannon.
The man had the cannon cut down and proceeded to examine it eagerly. And closely. He found, after he had cleaned out the silt, that it still contained pieces of metal and black powder.
All ready for business. 
Yes. The Stringams had a loaded cannon serving as a door prop.
There’s something you don’t see every day . . .
The friend took the cannon home, cleaned it up properly and constructed a base for it.
It served as a feature in his home for a number of years, but finally found its way back to my Dad.
Who donated it to The Fort Museum in Fort Macleod, Alberta.
Where it sits to this day.
A little piece of history toted from Southern Africa to Southern Alberta.
In business...

Colonel Mackie
The original Ranch House. Really had nothing to do with this story, but I like it.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Gotta Go

My Husby and I were leaving for ‘town’.
Living where we were at the time, on a farm between Fort Macleod and Lethbridge, said trip, or others like it, were a highlight.
We buckled our baby in.
I climbed into my seat.
Grant started the vehicle and began backing up.
Suddenly, he stopped.
And shut off the truck.
I looked at him. “What are you doing?”
“Just realized that I forgot to water the pigs! I’ll be right back.”
He jumped out of the car and ran to the pig pen.
Now, I should mention, here, that the pig pen was just out of sight of where my baby and I sat in the truck.
We waited.
And waited.
Finally, impatient, I climbed from the truck and walked over.
But as I came around the corner of the building, I saw my husband, back to me and facing away from the pig pen.
I won’t say exactly what he was doing, but it definitely had something to do with water.
I stood there for a moment.
Finally, “Just what are you watering those pigs with?”
He jumped. “Ummm . . .”
But a new term had just been created.
From then on, in the Tolley family, if someone had to . . . relieve themselves, instead of the generic, ‘have to see a man about a horse’, or the more boring, ‘where’s the restroom?’, we used the newly created, ‘gotta water the pigs’.
It worked.
You may think our family is weird.
I prefer the term ‘delightfully imperfect’.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Real Cold

It’s been a roller-coaster of a winter, weather-wise, here in Edmonton.
Temperatures rising and falling.
And rising and falling.
Yesterday, it was -31C. (-24F)
This morning, it’s -16C. (3F).
Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be -7C. (19F)
Then we’re probably headed back into the freezer.
A teeth-chattering, crackling cold that penetrates everything.
Frosts your windows over.
And is (in the words of Gus Pike) 'cold enough to freeze your nose hairs stiff.'
Perfect for some short-lived, vigorous outdoor activities (emphasis of both ‘short-lived’ and ‘vigorous’).
Or for staying indoors beside a snapping fire with a cup of rich hot-chocolate in one hand and a good book in the other.
We Tolleys have a term to describe this type of weather.
And therein hangs a tale.
If you would indulge me . . .
Husby and I had taken our (then) three boys in to Gramma’s house for the evening.
It was c-c-cold.
Each of us, had been padded and wadded with layer after layer of life-preserving warmth.
We had gotten to Gramma’s.
Enjoyed the warmth of a good dinner, good conversation and a couple of rousing games of ‘Probe’ (great game – Google it . . .).
It was time to head home.
Husby had gone out and started the car while I began the process of padding and wadding . . . again.
He came in to transport the first child.
He picked up the little fat-sausage shaped figure and opened the door.
A blast of cold air shot through the entryway.
“Oooh!” our son said, his voice slightly muffled, coming, as it was, through the thick scarf wound around his head. “It’s chili beans out here!”
And just like that, our family had its term for ‘very cold’.
So there you have it.
In Edmonton, our weather ranges from ‘Oh-my-word-it’s-hot-let’s-hide-in-the-basement’ through ‘gah-I’m-soaked-to-the-skin’ and ‘balmy-for-this-time-of-year’ all the way down to ‘chili-beans’.
We call it the new weather.
Grab your parkas!

Monday, February 27, 2023


Now, normally, I’m a quiet guy,
Not outspoken, little shy,
But even I, my limit has,
Blew my lid—and all that jazz,
But let me tell you what I know,
About this sorry tale of woe…
This guy came from the pizza place,
Had a pizza, he embraced
The two guys standing near him there
‘Twas obvious for them, he cared,
And he stopped to talk a while,
The three of them exchanged a smile,
And then he said, “I have to go,
This pie won’t eat itself, you know,
Can’t wait for that first, cheesy bite,
With pineapple to make it right,”
And then he stepped into the street,
A bus just knocked him off his feet!
Some bystanders pulled him away,
(Please know that he will be okay,)
But when things calmed from all the fuss,
Now they won't let me drive a bus! 

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 my favourite you will see,
Cause cookies are the theme for me!

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!)...
Pineapple (February 27) Today!
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

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!

Grab and Add!

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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?