Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

Giveaway ends April 08, 2017.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Superpig

Superpig, big as life
The Tolleys love pigs. Raising them, playing with them, eating them. We love pigs.

Our pigs lived in a stout, wooden granary, next to the chicken coop. The door had been removed. It was now the pig house.

It was a comfortable place, deeply filled with straw. Warm. Dry. Situated in it’s own private yard, in the corner of the which was a lovely little wallow.

And the all-important feed trough, in which food magically appeared following the words, “Pig! Pig! Pig!”

Actually, that was entertainment in itself. One would stand near the afore-mentioned trough and give the call. A cloud of dust would immediately ‘poof’ out of the perpetually open doorway. Then the pigs would emerge as though shot from a cannon. Zip! Zip! Zip! They would scamper excitedly around the pen, grunting and squealing. Then they would make their way over to ‘dinner’. Once there, they would nose through the day’s offerings.

And I do mean ‘nose’.

From that point, one could leave them munching happily, or simply stand beside the fence. Inevitably one, or all, of the pigs would move closer for a scratch.

They were a gregarious lot. And they loved humans. For obvious reasons.

Unfortunately, fulfilling the measure of their creation meant that, inevitably, they would end up on someone’s plate. This never bothered them. Or us.

Because our loading ramp was under construction, our pigs were loaded, literally, by hand. Four members of the family would grab a leg and lift the pig into the back of the truck. Of necessity, this had to be done before the animal reached a size that would . . . make this difficult.

Then we acquired Nog.

When just a piglet, Nog and his brothers were attacked by a pack of dogs running in the neighbourhood. His brothers were killed. Nog was badly injured, the dogs having torn a wicked slash across his back, from hipbone to hipbone.

He healed, more or less, but had difficulty walking quickly. That didn’t slow him down in the eating department, however. Or the growing department, for that matter. Somehow, we were so excited over his recovery, that we missed the fact that he was . . . getting bigger. By the time we realized it, he was already too big to load by our usual method. We would have to wait for the loading ramp.

Which we did.

And allow him to continue to grow.

Which he did. At a startling rate.

We were building new corrals at the time, the old ones being somewhat . . . old. As new areas were enclosed, we would send in the milk cow to graze down the grass and weeds. One particularly overgrown spot, just outside the pigpen, seemed an ideal place to let both the cow and the pig graze. We put them in together.

With startling results.

For several minutes, they attacked the fresh green growth. Then they spotted each other.

Nog, by this time weighed in at about 600 pounds. A solid mass of fat built low to the ground. An eating machine. Kitty, our Jersey milk cow, probably weighed about the same, but stood considerably taller. With long, graceful legs and a slight body. The corral wasn‘t big enough for the both of them.

They attacked.

At first, my son, Erik and I couldn’t believe what we were seeing. A slight, tawny cow, head to head with a massive hunk of red pig. But it was real. The two of them pushed and shoved for several seconds, breathing heavily.

Then the cow realized, finally, what we observers had seen at the start. That she couldn’t win. The pig’s lower centre of gravity was an advantage. That, and the fact that he was built like a brick . . . never mind.
She broke off the . . . umm . . . exchange and headed to the far corner of the corral. There she calmed herself and proceeded to eat once more.

Nog did the same. Several minutes went by. Then they ‘discovered’ each other once more, and treated their audience to round two. Also entertaining. Also won by the pig.

By this time, my son was laughing so hard, he had fallen off the fence he was sitting on and now lay in a helpless heap on the ground. Nog moved over and sat beside him, still breathing heavily from this second encounter. His manner said it all. “There, Superpig took care of that little problem! Now you are safe!”

By this time however, the cow had had enough, and though the two of them remained together for several more minutes, she carefully kept the breadth of the corral between them.

But left us with the memories.

A Perfect Evening

Caitlin Age 3
Ten o'clock pm.

Six happy, grubby little bodies scrubbed clean and clothed in freshly-laundered pajamas. Six sets of shiny, white teeth brushed. Six heads of hair neatly brushed. Six stories read. Six songs sung. Six sweet, heartfelt prayers. Six (times six) hugs and kisses and six children finally tucked up between fresh, clean sheets.

All are asleep.


And now, their parents can relax, knowing that their happy, healthy and very active children have been properly prepared for a much-needed night's rest.

They can put their feet up and rejoice in a few stolen minutes of peace and calm. To visit together and catch up on the day's events.

All is well.

Then . . .

Little footsteps. Crossing the bedroom. Coming up the hall. Going into the kitchen.

The squeak of a refrigerator door.

Talk in the front room ceases. Two semi-alert parents are listening to the clandestine sounds.

Finally, the suspense is too much.

"Who's in the kitchen?"

Silence. A three-year-old intellect is working frantically.

"Who's there?"

"Ummm . . . not me!"

Daughter of Ishmael

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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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