Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Monday, December 5, 2016

Rising Without Shining

Go ahead! Sing!
How do you 'rise and shine'?
Throughout my life, I have been summoned from sleep in various ways.
Some gentle.
Some strident.
All annoying.
My mom, a member of the 'never wake a sleeping child' sorority, let me sleep in till I woke up on my own.
Well, until I went to school, that is.
Then, her usual wake up call consisted of, “Diane! Get up! The bus will be here in ten minutes!”
Okay, I will admit that she usually called me much earlier than that.
I just wasn't listening.
Ahem.
Dad's form of summoning consisted of one word. “Spring!” And it was always obeyed instantly.
Mom, you could coax and cajole, but dad?
You moved.
Because.
Often, I found myself standing beside my bed with no idea of how I got there.
My Husby took a more creative, albeit (Oooh! Good word!) equally annoying route.
He would sing.
Badly.
And loudly.
In our house, 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!', the usually bright, happy, uplifting anthem from Oklahoma, sounded more like . . . honking. Or ball-bearings rolling around in a hubcap. (Don't ask me how I know what that sounds like.)
His 'singing' brought instant . . . let me put it this way: No one slept through it.
“Dad! Aarrgghh!”
Moving ahead . . .
Our oldest son had recently become engaged.
To a beautiful girl.
Our entire family had traveled to Fort Macleod to a reunion.
Our future daughter-in-law was bunking with our other daughters.
It was morning and there was far too much sleeping going on.
My Husby decided he needed to do something proactive.
He went to the door of the girls' room.
Cleared his throat.
And started singing.
You really haven't heard 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning' sung quite like he sings it.
Our future daughter-in-law looked at her future-sister-in-law. “Does he always do this?”
FSIL's answer was muffled by the pillow over her head. “Yes.”
“Oh. Maybe I'll have to rethink my joining this family.”
She did join. She comes from hardy stock.
I thought I'd tell you that in case you were worried.
Back to my story . . .
This morning, my alarm woke me.
“Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla . . .”
Suddenly I missed my Mom's repeated time updates, my Dad's single word warnings and my Husby's singing.
It's all a matter of perspective.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

For the Birds


No

Yes







This story is about sex.
Ahem . . .
I was raised on a ranch.
There are animals on a ranch.
Animals that do ‘animal stuff’.
Eating. Sleeping. Growing.
Making other ‘little’ animals.
Which then eat. And sleep. And grow.
And make other little . . .
You get the picture.
It was the rhythm of life throughout my childhood.
The statement, ‘I grew up with it’?
Applies here.
My earliest memory of the whole ‘animals fulfilling the measure of their creation’ happened when I was four.
Roundup.
A great red and white sea of animals had been penned in the main corrals.
One jumped atop another.
“Daddy, what’s that cow doing?”
My dad turned and looked. Then realized that he wasn’t quite ready to explain the whole reproductive process to his wide-eyed daughter. “Oh,” he said. “Ummm . . . resting his feet.”
“Oh.” I was satisfied.
For a while.
Oh, he did explain things.
Later. When the whole ‘resting his feet’ explanation started to wear a bit thin.
Yes, being raised on a ranch is an eye-opening experience.
By the time I was in grade nine, I knew it all.
Or thought I did.
We were in biology class. My favourite science.
The teacher was talking about animal reproduction.
Yawn.
Specifically: chickens.
“Now the chicken ovulates once a day,” he was saying. “That’s where we get our yummy, delicious eggs.”
I was with him this far.
“But when . . . exposed  . . . to a rooster, the egg becomes fertilized and a chick results.”
Wait a minute.
Roosters have a purpose? Other than the obvious one of chasing us kids around and being generally obnoxious?
Hold the phone!
Unfortunately, my astonishment was, much to my dismay, expressed verbally.
“What?!”
Whereupon (good word) every kid in the class turned and looked at me.
And snickered.
Sigh.
Yep. I was nearly 14.
And I had just learned that birds follow the same reproductive channels (so to speak) as other animals.
Okay. Now, I knew it all.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Gaps

Look closely. The gaps are there!
Okay, I don't want to suggest that there is a generation gap in our family but . . . well . . .
Yes. There is a generation gap in our family.
And it was never more obvious than it was that day.
Several of my grandchildren had been over for the long weekend.
A fun time, made even more fun by the 'launch' of our new pirate-ship playhouse.
All of the kids were in the house.
Because it had decided to rain.
And our intrepid pirates didn't want to get wet.
Ironic, I know, but there you are . . .
The oldest girls were colouring.
The eldest was also singing.
At least I think it was singing.
“You are Beau-ti-ful! You are Beau-ti-ful! You are Beau-ti-ful!”
Over and over and over.
After a few minutes of this, I leaned over the table, collected her attention and said, “Your record's stuck.”
Now this was a term from my childhood, teenage years, adulthood.
In fact, right up to the present day.
It was something I thought everyone knew.
I was wrong.
She stared at me, blankly. “Huh?”
I thought she must have simply missed what I said.
I repeated myself. “Your record's stuck.”
“Huh?” she said again.
I stared at her.
She stared at me.
Finally, “What's a record?” she asked.
“A record,” I struggled gamely forward, “A record is what you listen to. On the . . . record . . . player . . .” my voice dwindled away.
She was still staring at me, blankly.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I can't believe that this newest generation hasn't even heard of records! Why it's only been a few years since I used them. 
Ten at the most.
I looked at her.
Nine years old.
Oh.
Then I thought of all the things she would never know from my childhood.
She would never pick up a telephone, crank the handle and hear the word, “Operator.” or stealthily lift the phone to listen in on the neighbours' conversations. She'd never even know the wonders of the amazing, new rotary dial phone!
Never see the 'Indian-head' test pattern and hear 'O Canada' at the beginning of the television day. Or hear 'God Save the Queen' at the end of the day, before the TV goes dark and silent. On your one channel. 
Getting up to turn the TV on or off.
Wringer washers.
Cassette tapes. Eight-track tapes. Video tapes!
Using an encyclopedia.
Ironing.
The Christmas tree set up in the center of Main and 1st streets.
One store.
She would never sit around the table after dinner, listening sleepily to the hired men discuss their day's experiences with the boss.
And I thought of all of the things that I wouldn't - or didn't want to - understand from hers.
Yep. Generation gap.
Gives us a little breathing room.
Probably a good thing.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Name Calling

I admit it.
I call my Husby names.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Husby was serving on a church committee with several other men.
One of which worked as a police detective in his real life.
Tough guy to the world.
Sweet and kind underneath.
It was evening. After supper but not yet bedtime.
The phone rang.
I answered.
What followed was, to me, a fairly mundane conversation.
“Hello?”
“Hi, Diane. Is Grant there?” I recognized the voice of our friend, the police detective.
“He is! Would you like to talk to him?”
“Please.”
“Just a moment!” I turned and hollered - okay, yes, I do that - “Honey Bunny!”
Grant answered from somewhere in the bowels of the house.
“You're wanted on the phone!”
He appeared and took it from me. “Hello?”
There was a pause. Then, “Are you a Honey Bunny?”
I saw my Husby's face turn slightly pink.
Here was his good friend, the policeman.
Tough guy extraordinaire.
What should he say?
He looked at me, rolled his eyes and grinned. “Yes,” he admitted finally.
His friend laughed. “Good,” he said. “So am I.”
Even the most unlikely . . .
He is a Honey Bunny!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Losing an Eye


The Stringam ranch house had one delicious feature. 
That kids love.
And parents hate.
The kitchen ran right into the hallway, which ran into the living room, which ran back into the kitchen.
Or, alternately, if one wanted to change things up a little - from the kitchen into the living room into the hallway, back into the kitchen. A perfect setup for running laps.
Which we did.
Usually at mealtimes. Because it kept us near the kitchen but not completely under Mom's feet.
Unfortunately, in an effort to keep us safe, Mom would inevitably holler, “You kids stop that before someone loses an eye!”
We would stop.
Oh, not because we were afraid of losing something important. But because Mom usually had a large spoon or knife in one hand when she said it.
Okay, yes, we were afraid of losing something important.
Moving on . . .
It was suppertime.
Mom was cooking.
My brother and I were running.
Mom said, “You kids stop running! Someone's going . . .!”
That was as far as she got.
I skidded out on the corner just going into the turn between the living room and the hallway.
There was a chair there.
Large.
Heavy.
It--and my eye--had what could only be called a 'close encounter'.
It won.
Remember what Mom said about 'losing an eye'?
Well, she was close . . .
There was the sound of contact.
Then the pause.
Then the shriek.
Mom came running.
I was writhing around on the floor, screaming. Both hands clamped over my right eye.
I'm sure Mom's heart probably stopped. She pulled my hands away probably expecting to see the fulfillment of her prognostication (Oooh, good word!).
Fortunately for me, it hadn't happened.
The fulfillment, I mean.
My eyebrow had taken the brunt of the blow - puffing up and out quickly.
And remarkably.
I looked like a prize fighter.
Mom dragged me, still screaming, into the kitchen where she produced her largest and deadliest-looking knife.
I stared at her, then clamped my hands back over my injured and decidedly puffy eye and screamed, “No, Mom! It'll be alright! Don't cut it off!”
You see, when she picked up the knife, she had been looking for 'cool'. Something to lay against my wound to take down the swelling.
I was looking at an instrument of a far more radical method of 'swelling removal'.
Fortunately, her more humane treatment was what we went with.
“Diane! I'm not going to cut it off! The knife is cool. It'll help the swelling!”
Oh.
I finally dropped my hands and allowed her to continue.
She pressed the cool surface against my eyebrow.
Ahhh! Moms know everything.
I'd like to say we stopped running.
Forever.
That we learned our lesson. That one close call convinced us that Mom knew whereof she spoke.
Yeah, I'd be lying.
George and me. (Pre-running days)
Beneath us . . . the chair!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Obliviously Obvious

You see animals. They see . . .
Sometimes, all that matters is the obvious . . .
Our grandchildren were playing.
A little background here . . .
Husby has an extensive collection of plastic animals.
Mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish, vertebrate, invertebrate.
Animals from every continent of the world.
And from every age.
Yep. Extensive.
He bought them for his grandkids.
He says.
Said grandkids love playing with said animals.
They have been a great source of entertainment for many years already.
And, due to durability and indestructible composition, will doubtless continue to perform this service for many more years to come.
Countless scenarios had been acted out.
Did you know that a dolphin and a North American bison could be roommates and best friends?
Well they can.
(Maybe we can take a little lesson from this vis-a-vis the conflicts in today's world. Just sayin'.)
Back to my story . . .
Three-year-old, Rini, our budding science buff, was playing with two-year-old Thorin.
The theme of the day was dinosaurs.
Rini was acting as voice for the brontosaurus.
Thorin, the same for the triceratops.
The two had set up housekeeping and were currently deciding whose turn it was to go for groceries.
Rini decided a teaching moment had presented itself.
“Look, Thorin,” she said. “You have a triceratops!”
Thorin stared at her. Then looked down at the toy in his hand.
“Tri-cer-a-tops,” Rini said again. “Tri-cer-a-tops.”
Thorin frowned.
Rini started in again. “Tri-cer-a-tops. Tri-cer-a-tops.”
Thorin smiled and opened his mouth.
Rini smiled, too. Encouragingly.
Thorin pointed to the horns on the dinosaur's head.
“Pokies!” he said happily.
Yep. Sometimes all that matters is the obvious.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cow Terms

Okay. Call it what you want . . .
Cows. 
You see them in the fields. Standing. Eating. Wandering about. Staring contentedly at nothing.
They are in the barns. Being milked. Standing. Eating. Wandering about. Staring contentedly at nothing.
They care for little calves. Nursing. Licking. Bellowing. Giving the occasional kick. Ignoring.
You know them as ‘meat’, ‘milk’, ‘cheese’, ‘cream’.
We know them as aggravating, funny, stupid, perverse, blind, ornery and endlessly hungry.
And the reason we get out of bed in the morning.
We’ve called them cows, dogies, critters, some terms unprintable here.
And our bread and butter.
Our family raised Polled Herefords.
A breed known for its gentle disposition.
And beef production.
We also kept one ‘milk’ cow. Usually Holstein.
A breed known for their milk production.
Near the Stringam spread was a herd of Jersey cows.
Also known for their high dairy output.
And gentle disposition.
Dad pointed them out as we drove past. “See. Diane! Those are Jersey cows! They give milk!”
Four-year-old Diane, nose pressed against the car window, “Oooo!”
I will admit that, occasionally, things got turned around in my little girl mind . . .
The next time we drove past that particular field, I pointed excitedly to the quiet animals out grazing. “Ooo! Daddy! Look! It’s those juicy cows!”
I was right.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Scam Warning

From my Husby!
Just because I thought it was funny . . .
A deep thinker, this man . . .
Subject: Scam warning! Home Depot
A 'heads up' for those men who may be regular Home Depot customers. This one caught me by surprise.
Over the last month I became a victim of a clever scam while out shopping. Simply going out to get supplies has turned out to be quite traumatic. Don't be naive enough to think it couldn't happen to you or your friends.
Here's how the scam works: Two seriously good-looking 20-21 year-old girls come over to your car as you are packing your shopping into the trunk. They both start wiping your windshield with a rag and Windex, with their breasts almost falling out of their skimpy T-shirts. It is impossible not to look. When you thank them and offer them a tip, they say 'No' and instead ask you for a ride to McDonalds. You agree and they get in the backseat. On the way, one of them climbs over into the front seat and starts hugging and kissing you, while the other one steals your wallet.
I had my wallet stolen May 9th, 10th, twice on the 15th, 17th, 20th, & 24th, 29th. Also June 1st, 4th, twice on the 8th, three times last Saturday and very likely again this upcoming weekend.
So tell your friends to be careful.
P.S. Walmart has wallets on sale $2.99 each.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fight? Flee?

Yep. Just clutch that pillow tighter...
Which are you?
I just read that, when faced with something dire, a person will fight.
Or a person will fly.
Sometimes, we don't know which one we are until the climactic moment.
Allow me to illustrate . . .
My bedroom was across and down the hall from the bathroom--directly across said hall from my parents.
And I wasn't an 'early-to-bedder'.
These two facts will become relevant . . .
I had been reading. Something I did every night.
For a very long time.
I finally decided it was time to get ready for bed.
Which included brushing and scrubbing.
And all things hygienic.
I should point out that all other members of my household had long been asleep.
Or so I thought.
I finished my evening ablutions. (Oooh! Good word!)
And, clutching my toiletries bag, headed for my bedroom.
Now the words 'across and down the hall' may sound like a long distance.
It wasn't.
But it was enough. And it was dark.
I darted toward my door and was just reaching for the doorknob when a voice came out of the darkness.
“What are you doing!”
Okay, it was the voice of my father, so it shouldn't have given me the fright it did.
But the fact remains – I was frightened.
And then, the ultimate response.
Fight?
Or fly.
Let me describe:
Pitch dark hall.
Household asleep.
Girl with large imagination dashing across the hall. (Quickly, so as to avoid things that might come out of the darkness and 'get her'.)
Voice rumbles out of said darkness.
What does girl do?
Fight?
Fly?
No. 
Girl crumples to the floor.
I am not making this up.
My legs folded up and I fell to the floor.
When faced with a crisis, or so I thought, I curled up. Like a little spider. But with less legs.
So, which are you?
Fight?
Or fly?
When you decide, let me know.
I will be the shivering little puddle of goo curled up on the floor.
Sigh.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Learning From Mom

More stories from Little Brother, Blair.
The Learner
As I make my way through life I often reflect on the things that my mother told me.  At the time they were taught, I didn’t really appreciate what was said, but their true and deeper meaning hit me later.  I guarantee! 
When I was a child, Mom would often have some treat for us.  We would all crowd around her saying me first, me first. 
Then one day she said to us.  “I don’t think it is nice for you to say me first.  From now on, I am going to give the first treat out to the one that says me last.” 
We all hesitated, but then we all started to say me last. 
I learned that it didn’t matter if I was first or last, I was given a treat.

While growing up the radio and or TV was often tuned to the news.  We would often hear politicians and individuals criticizing someone or something.  At times Mom would shake her head and say, “Anyone can criticize, but it takes a truly intelligent and creative person to find a solution.” 
                                                                                                   
Another thing that mom taught me was to try to look for the good in others, something I am still trying to master. 
While growing up, I would from time to time have a fellow student at school that was just making life miserable. 
I would express my dislike of that student to Mom and she would say, “You can always find good in someone if you look for it.” 
My response was often, “Sure Mom, but you don’t understand.” 
I had the opportunity to understand Mom’s guidance when I served a mission for our church.  I had a companion that wouldn’t follow the rules and was just hard to get along with.  I felt like I couldn’t get anything done, because I was always waiting for him.  For a while I was very frustrated.  I would express my frustration to him and we would argue.  However, nothing ever changed.  As I tried to figure out how to deal with the situation, I could hear Mom say to me “look for the good in others” and “you can always find good in someone if you look for it.”  I didn’t want to hear those words but they kept running through my mind.
Finally I decided to try to practice what she told me and within a few days my situation completely changed.  I learned that if I was careful, I could learn from almost anyone.
Mom would often say that “if you swear you are just showing that you have a limited vocabulary.”  Swearing was easy.  Trust me, when you are dealing with an ornery cow, swearing was really easy.  As I have gotten older, I find that it is not very satisfying and I have tried to come up with creative ways to express my frustration.  Some of these ways have brought laughter and a better feeling to an otherwise maddening situation.
 
Thanks Mom for all that you taught me. 
Perhaps some day I will understand the value in all that you have said.  

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Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

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