Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017


Picture credit
I have a vivid imagination.
I know it will come as no surprise to many of you.
It has been a great source of both entertainment—and agony—throughout my life.
The entertainment—the stories that I’ve created, both real and . . . less real.
The agony—well let’s just say we’ve finally come to the subject of this story . . .
When I was little (ie. 4), I slept by myself.
I know it sounds incredible in a household containing (then) four children that I would get my own room, but it’s true. I was on the lower floor in the room closest to my parents. All that was between us was the stairway going up to the room where my older sister slept and that occupied by my two older brothers.
Moving on . . .
I would happily go to bed each night (It’s my story, I’ll remember it as I want) with the door open and light spilling into the room from the activities of those who did not go to bed at dusk.
All was well.
But, inevitably, I would wake sometime in the night to discover that—while I slept—the scenario had changed.
The most important part of which would be that the lights were out.
Now in the thick darkness, monsters gathered.
I should point out that I had never seen said monsters. But my vivid imagination (see above) had peopled the darkness with them in astonishing detail—slavering, sharpened fangs. Giant, little-girl catching claws. Glowing red eyes. You probably understand.
I knew they were there. They knew they were there.
Now it was up to my Mom to make them go away.
Off would go the covers and a tiny, little elf-like (okay it’s time to use your imagination) girl would scramble madly the few paces to her parent’s room.
Me: “Mom!”
Mom: “Gaahhh!”
Me: “Can I sleep with you?”
Mom: “Fine.”
Dad: “Gaahhh!”
And I would snuggle down between my parents and drift off blissfully to sleep.
I can’t recall exactly when this practice ended. Suffice it to say it was at some point before I reached adulthood.
But it was revived after I became a parent.
And had a little four-year-old girl of my own.
The scenario was a bit different. She wouldn’t say anything. Just silently appear at one’s bedside and wait for one to become cognizant of the fact that she was there.
A little wraith.
Standing there beside your bed.
In the dark.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sunday Bonanza

Tell me you remember . . . sigh!

Every Sunday evening when we were kids . . . hmmm . . . maybe a little preamble . . .
Sundays were family/TV nights.
Our one TV channel outdid itself on that particular evening.
And if we were good--okay, I admit it, even if we weren't good--we got to watch.
First Disney's Wonderful World of colour.
In black and white and shades of grey.
Then Ed Sullivan.
Then Bonanza.
The best of them all.
The cherry on top of the sundae . . . well . . . Sunday.
Not a sound would be heard.
We barely breathed.
Pa and Adam and Hoss and Little Joe filled the air around us.
There was room for nothing else.
If you wanted to do something noisy . . .
Like blink.
Or swallow.
Do it during the commercials from the Kraft Kitchens.
But the best part . . .
The best part, was the opening: du-duddle-uh-duddle-uh-duddle-uh, Bonanza!
Du-duddle-uh-duddle-uh-duddle-uh, Bonanza is it's name!
We'd 'sing' along happily and wait.
Remember the aforementioned (good word) no breathing.
That would be here, too.
Warning: Hot!
Because the fire was coming.
From the map that burned right there on the screen.
All of us kids would run up and touch the B&W&SOG (see above) flames and then run howling and screaming about the room pretending we had been mortally burned.
Our patient parents would nod and smile and shake their heads and wait for the music to finish.
Because that would be our cue for absolute quiet.
Without either of them having to say a word.
Sunday evening.
With family.
And Bonanza.
It just didn't get any better than that.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Crime and Punishment

The Sweet and Innocent Grade Ones. Really.
In the sixties, schools had strict rules.
Breaking said rules carried punishments.
1. A severe ‘talking to’.
2. Being kept in at recess or lunch hour.
Or *shudder* 3. being sent to the *gasp* principal’s office. Where there was always the looming specter of ‘THE STRAP’.
Which, I should point out, none of us had ever seen. But which our entire class had heard on one occasion. But that is another story.
Moving on . . .
I started grade one in the fall of 1960.
There were three of us Stringams in Milk River Elementary at that time.
Myself. My next older brother, George, in grade three. And our eldest brother, Jerry, in grade six.
Our eldest sister, Chris, had just graduated to Junior High. Because she had reached the unbelievable and unreachable age of twelve.
Jerry and his classmates ruled our school. We lowly serfs in grade one observed their doings with awe bordering on worship.
I should mention that this was the brother who teased me mercilessly at home. And who Mom chased around with the broom.
But at school, he was a lord.
He could do no wrong.
We spent hours in observation.
And mimicry.
Until . . . the event.
Remember when I was talking about rules/punishment?
Well that comes into play here.
In Milk River Elementary School in 1960, the principal had instituted a bold new form of punishment.
I am not making this up. We really had punishment by lemon.
And no one was exempt.
No one.
On Friday mornings during Assembly . . .
Oh, I should tell you we also had Assembly every Friday morning.
Ahem . . .
On Friday mornings, any malefactors were marched to the front of the gym, before the entire school population, and handed a lemon. Which they then had to peel and eat.
For most of them, it was a painful process.
For those of us watching, it was a painful process.
Let’s just say it. Rules in Milk River Elementary weren’t often broken.
But one time, it was my brother, Jerry who had transgressed. It was his turn to stand there.
And he had company.
Let me explain . . .
Jerry’s teacher was busily doing 'teacher' things at her desk. Jerry and his friend, Stan had made a paper jet. Okay, yes, they were supposed to be doing school work. This was more fun.
They threw it.
And watched, proudly, as it flew, straight and smooth. Then, in dismay, as it sailed neatly out into the hall.
It landed at the feet of the Principal, who just happened to be standing there at that precise moment.
He picked it up.
The boys held their breath and watched.
The Principal looked at the clever little plane. Then, forgetting himself for a moment, threw it back into the room.
In full view of the teacher, who chose that moment to look up.
If there was a punishment bell, it would have clanged loudly at that point.
Paper planes were on the ‘forbidden’ list.
And all three ‘launchers’ were guilty.
At that Friday’s Assembly, my brother and Stan--and the Principal--all took their places at the front of the gym.
Each was handed a lemon.
Which Jerry and Stan peeled and ate at lightning speed. Just to get out of the spotlight.
The Principal took his time. Wincing with every bite.
The assembled students were screaming with laughter by the time he was done.
Finally, he waved for silence and dismissed us.
Then probably hurried to the bathroom to gargle.
We never forgot.
And school crime hit an all time low.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Modern Conveniences

In 1848 or 9,
The guys in charge thought it was time,
To close the place that represented
Everything that was invented.

“What need have we of patents, new?
There won’t be any more breakthroughs.”
“We’ll save some cash, if we close down,
The patent office in each town.”

Yes, they had electric power,
And indoor plumbing, bath and shower.
They’d bifocals and games of ball,
The clock, the telegraph and all.

But let’s see what we would have missed,
Had they done just what they wished,
In 1848 or 9,
Had they been allowed to draw the line.

The first dishwasher (of a kind),
In 1850 was designed,
And the wash machine to make clothes new?
Invented in the 50’s, too!

The vacuum came a little later,
The 1860’s. Ask its maker.
The clothespin and sewing machine,
Toilet paper, jelly beans.

The phonograph. The mason jar.
Kleenex or the chocolate bar.
And what would you, if you had known
Do without the telephone?

And airplanes and the ballpoint pen,
I’m sure you use them now and then.
Air conditioning. And jeans.
Earmuffs and most all machines.

There’s millions more that I could tell,
Like penicillin, solar cell.
I’ll put computers on the list,
And that is where I will desist.

We're glad that they did not succeed,
To close the patent place. Agreed?
With me, let’s raise a plastic cup,
Thankful someone shut them up.

Mondays get an awful rap,
They start the week out with a slap,
Delores, Jenny and me, too
Feel poetry will help us through!
Stay tuned for next week when we three,
Will tackle Meetings here. Come see!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mom Stories

From a story I found in Mom's journals.
For my straight-laced Mom, I'm as surprised as you are . . .

The boss walked in.
All sound in the office ceased as his employees paused in their work to give him their usual cheerful greeting.
(Yes, it was that kind of office.)
As he walked past, person after person called out to him.
But he kept his eyes down and answered none.
For a normally cheerful and effusive boss, this wasn't at all like him.
His employees looked at each other.
Finally, his assistant got to his feet. "Something must be wrong," he announced to the others. "I'll go see." He knocked once at the closed door, then, without waiting for a response, entered.
"Everything okay, Boss?" he asked.
His boss sank with a groan into his leather chair. "No," he said. He leaned forward and put his head into his hands. "I've got the worst headache!"
His assistant moved closer. "I'm so sorry to hear that." He paused and pursed his lips thoughtfully, tapping them with one finger. "You know a couple of days ago, I had a terrible headache, too."
The boss lifted his head just enough to peep out at his assistant with one eye. "Yeah? What did you do?"
"I went home to my wife." The man smiled. "She kissed and cuddled me. One thing led to another and suddenly, I had no more headache!"
"Hmmm." The boss got to his feet. "That might be worth a try." He reached for his hat. "Would your wife be home now?"

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Lessons Learned

Who knew listening to their music could be so . . . educational.
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees
And people say we monkey around,
But we're too busy singing
To put anybody down.

It was 1966.
My cousin, Jody, and I had just discovered the wonderful, magical, empowering world of rock and roll.
And LP records.
The perfect pairing.
Now we could listen to the exciting new music whenever and however we wanted.
Which was all of the time.
And loudly.
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees . . .
Was driving itself like a hammer throughout the house.
For probably the 15th time that day.
I should probably mention that the only record-player I had access to, was my parents'.
In the front room.
Over the music, I vaguely made out the sound of my Mother's voice.
I looked up.
She was standing beside us.
Would you PLEASE turn that down?”
I turned the knob.
A bit.
Mom sighed. I just wanted you to turn it down.”
I looked at the record player. “I did.”
She sighed again. “Diane. You have been playing that record over and over all day. Can't you think of something else to do? Or something else to play?”
Well, I'm not going to keep coming out here to tell you to turn it down!”
Now what she had said, and what I had just heard, were two different things.
She had been voicing a threat.
I had understood that she wasn't going to bother us any more.
She left.
Happily, I turned up Jody's and my music once more.
I never heard my Dad's approach. Let's face it, I wouldn't have heard the approach of an entire herd of water buffalo.
Suddenly, a shadow fell over the two of us, sitting there on the floor in front of the record player.
A large shadow.
I looked up.
Just in time to see my Dad reach out, lift the needle from the record. Remove said record.
And snap it in two.
Oh, my.
He handed the pieces back to me. You mother told you,” he said.
I stared at the broken record, aghast.
But . . . but it wasn't mine,” I managed, finally.
Dad shrugged. “I guess you should have listened to your mother."
Then he left.
Jody and I stared at each other. Then quickly gathered up our remaining records and carried them to safety.
I think I bought her a new one. I don't remember.
I'll never forget the lesson.
And neither will Jody.
Following that . . . incident, whenever someone in her family looked like they might lose their temper, they would immediately be told, “Don't pull a Mark Stringam!”
Ah, lessons taught by my Dad.
And his friends, the Monkees.

Friday, August 11, 2017

From Over There

Those of you who know me, know I don’t get upset.
Except—I was upset. “I have no idea, Officer! She was here one minute and gone the next!”
He stared at me.
Behind him, Reggie was doing the same thing.
For a moment their resemblance was remarkable.
In another life, I would have pointed it out.
The officer was the first to blink. “And you have no idea where she went?”
“No, Officer, as I already told you.”
“And she didn’t go out the front door?”
I sighed. “She was pulling a giant, heavy case behind her. In the time between when she left me and I followed her, there is no way she could, physically—”
“Just how heavy was this case?”
My thoughts scattered. I caught Reggie’s eye and deliberately lowered both lids for a moment. “Umm . . . “I don’t know. She struggled bringing it down the stairs so I assumed—”
“A-ha!” he said as though he’d caught me in something. “So she was on the stairs!”
I frowned. “I already told you that. She brought the case down here. Pulled it into the front room where Reggie and I were sitting. Talked to me. Then pulled it back into the hall and disappeared.”
“Reggie?” The man looked around. “Who is Reggie?!”
“The bird behind you.”
He spun around, almost dropping his notebook. “Oh. Erm . . . Hello, Reggie.”
“You never let me have any fun!” Reggie said.
Now we were both looking at him. He had sound remarkably like Norma.
“Yooouuu nnnneevvverrrr lllleeet mmmeee have anyyyy funnnnn!” The bird rolled the words about in his great beak like he was tasting something yummy. “Yooouuu . . . yooouuuu . . .”
“That seems an odd thing for a parrot to say,” the officer said.
“He’s a macaw,” I told him, rather absently. “Norma got him from some retired Yale professor.”
“Who taught him to say that?”
“Well, my sister, I guess.”
He frowned and looked at me. “Is this something she said often?”
I felt my face grow warm. “Well . . . no . . . that is . . . I think she said that just before she disappeared.”
“Uh-huh.” The officer scribbled in his little book.
“My life isn’t my own!” Reggie obviously wasn’t through causing problems. “My life isn’t—”
Now the officer was staring at me. “I suppose your sister taught him that, too.”
“Well . . . yes. I guess so. That was another thing she said—”
“Just before she disappeared.”
I frowned at him. “I don’t know if I like your tone.”
He shrugged. “What you like or don’t like is immaterial. What matters now is . . .”
Someone knocked.
I moved past him into the hall but felt him come up behind me as I opened the front door and looked out onto an empty stoop. “Huh. No one here.”
The knocking came again. This time from somewhere behind us.
We both turned.
Another knock. I tipped my head, trying to decide where the noise was coming from.
“I think it’s coming from the living room.” The officer pointed with his pencil.
I made a face as I walked back into the room we had left only moments before. “It couldn’t have come from here—” I began.
I jumped and, I’m not sure, but I think the officer screamed a little.
And yes, it was a girly scream. Probably an occupational hazard.
“Is this thing on?” It sounded like Norma’s voice. I looked at Reggie. He was in lethal weapon mode, puffed up to approximately three times his usual size.
Not a good sign.
“Testing. Testing. Can you hear me?”
I looked around, trying to find a possible source for the voice, finally going to the kitchen door to peer inside. Nothing.
“Hello? Hellloooo!”
I was once again standing in the middle of the living room. I cleared my throat and looked up toward the ceiling. “N-Norma?”
“Oh it does work! They said it would!” The voice sounded cheerful. Happy.
I frowned. “What works?” I looked at the officer, who was standing in the doorway, the picture of confusion.
“Who are you talking to?” he mouthed the words.
“Norma!” I mouthed back, pointing upward.
“Right.” He snapped his notebook shut and stuck his pencil behind his ear. Between you and me, I didn’t realize people still did that. “I don’t know who you think you’re kidding, ma’am,” he said, his mouth twisting into an ugly line. “But there are charges for people who play tricks and waste officers’ time.” He turned and disappeared into the hall.
I started after him. “Honest, officer, I know as much about this as you!”
He was already at the door. “I’ll be back,” he said, putting one hand on the doorknob. “To give you and that fraudster sister of yours the dressing down you deserve. One or both of you is going to end up in custody!”

Enjoying this episode of the Sputterling Sisters?
Catch up with them here:

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, 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.  

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. 

My words for August?
occupational hazard ~ dressing ~ back ~ Yale ~ except ~ custody

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Someone's Story

The 'New' Stringam Ranch
When I was seventeen, my Dad sold the Stringam Ranch in Milk River and bought another ranch in the shadow of the Porcupine Hills near Fort Macleod, Alberta.
New land to explore.
New worlds to discover.
A lot of riding to do.
Dad immediately got the animals organized.
The main herd was pushed into the southeast quarter.
Where the *gasp* trees were.
The yearling herd went straight east.
Easy access to the main ranch buildings.
They were my first assignment.
Every day, it was my duty to ride through, checking for abnormalities.
Animals in distress.
Animals in trouble.
Animals donning gang colours and getting ready to cause some trouble and distress.
It was a peaceful, wonderful way to spend every morning.
Our east pasture bordered on the neighbour’s west pasture.
Together, they formed a broad sweep of prairie, unbroken and untreed.
I was able to look over the gate in the far east fence and across the neighbour’s property - almost to the highway, seven miles distant.
Not far away, I could see the roof of a building. A large, abandoned building.
A barn, I thought.
It demanded . . . more exploration.
I knew the neighbor wouldn’t mind.
I opened the gate and, closing it carefully behind me, started out.
A short time later, I stopped my horse beside what turned out to be, not a barn, but a two-storey, formerly beautiful house.
Abandoned for some years, I judged by the windowless, shingleless, paintless, doorless condition.
I tethered my horse and went in through what had once been the front entrance.
I was immediately in a large open room.
Trash and debris were littered about, including a huge, old, wood-burning kitchen stove.
I moved nearer.
It had been a beautiful piece. Probably top of the line.
Nickel-plated and fancy.
Someone had used it for target practice.
Large holes had been blown through the doors and walls.
Shotgun, I believe.
I sighed and moved on.
In one of the bedrooms, the shelves were filled with . . . stuff.
I pulled out an old shoebox filled with letters written eighty years before, from a girl who had moved east, to her parents still on the family farm.
Fascinating reading.
I stuffed the shoe box back on the shelf and continued exploring.
A set of stairs beckoned.
I climbed to the second story.
Which proved to be one large room.
The windows at either end were, like those on the first floor, gone.
A layer of bird droppings about six inches thick covered everything here.
Clothing and other personal belongings were discernible.
There were some boxes against one end.
I pulled them nearer the window and scooped away the decades of bird manure.
The boxes were filled with old ‘Life’ magazines.
The kind you pay mega bucks for at the antique stores.
Some of them dated back to 1903.
For a moment, I pictured stuffing my saddlebags full and riding away with a small fortune.
If only I had saddlebags.
Then, the smell hit me.
Oh, dear.
I dug down through the pile and pulled out a magazine from near the bottom.
Then moved closer to the window and held it to my nose.
Did you know that decades of bird poop really smells?
Well, it does.
And, over the years, it had trickled down through the pile of magazines to those at the very bottom.
Visions of wealth and riches disappeared.
Who is going to buy a magazine soaked in bird manure?
I put the magazine back and returned to my horse.
For a moment, I looked up at the house.
It had been a beautiful building.
Someone had constructed it.
Moved in.
Then they had abandoned it.
I don’t know why.
But doesn’t it make your imagination soar?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


Sometimes I do deliberate
My penchant to be all things great . . .
A Ruler sitting there in state,
My food served on expensive plate.
To nod as people remonstrate,
And wave as children graduate.
Have fancy clothes to duplicate,
See flags that wave as people wait . . .
But such is not to be my fate,
I have no life to complicate,
No strangers to accommodate.
Instead, I can collaborate
With those whom I proliferate.
And so, may I elucidate?
To all of you who may relate,
I’d like to say, with no debate,

Today is a poetry challenge! Each month, the bloggers who participate vote on a theme. August? Admit you're happy. Okay, I admit it!

See what the others have created!

Lydia of Cluttered Genius: “Ok, I’m Happy”
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Admit You’re Happy
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Can I “Admit You’re Happy”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

With Posterity

I feel I owe an apology,
I missed Monday's Poetry.
I spent it with posterity,
That ranged from fourteen down to three.

'Twas 'Cousins Weekend' here, you see,
With games of Jacks and 'Can't Catch ME!'
(Round pirate ship and apple tree.)
Made ice cream, donuts and whoopee!

They ate some popcorn, watched movies,
And out-screeched any good banshee.
And played to such a great degree,
They wore out Grampa and Gramee!

But before your start to feel sorry,
And worry just a bit for me . . .
I thank the Lord on bended knee
For kids aged fourteen down to three.

All of My Friends

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at and .ca and and other fine bookstores.

Follow by Email

Hugs, Delivered.

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

Google+ Followers

Networked Blogs

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?!

About the Mom

My photo

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 . . .

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!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?