Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Another Stringam Car Trip

Ready to go.
Pictured L to R: Anita, Blair, Dad, George, Jerry,
Missing: Mom, Chris, Diane and the potty.

Traffic has slowed to a crawl.
Not a usual thing for a small, hard-topped, two lane, secondary road twisting through the foothills of Southern Alberta.
We join the end of a line of cars.
"Huh. Weird," Dad says.
"What on earth could be causing this?" Mom asks, spitting on a Kleenex and cleaning the face of her youngest son. "Careful with that chocolate bar, son, you're getting it on your father."
"Can't see, yet," Dad says. "But the line will be straightening out soon and . . . ah!"
The line has done so.
Disclosing the culprit.
A house.
White clapboard.
Two storey.
Not something you see in the middle of the road every day.
Usually that's reserved for bungalows.
The house creeps along.
We creep along behind it, more cars joining us every minute or so.
Like the growing tail of some large, unwieldy, blockish monster.
"I wonder if he knows we're here," Mom says, pulling the potty out from under her seat. "You'll just have to go while we're moving, dear," she says. "We don't want to lose our place in line."
Right. Because we'll be left behind?
As the rest of the line of traffic moves off at 20 MPH.
"Mom! I hate going when the car is moving!"
"Well, try not to miss."
"How long till the turn?" she asks Dad.
"At this rate? About three days," Dad says.
We are heading to our relatives for dinner.
I'm beginning to hope that their food tastes 'just as good the second day'.
Mom opens her car door and dumps out the potty, then wipes it out with the spit Kleenex and stuffs it back under her seat.
She drops the tissue into her handy-dandy paper bag trash receptacle and glances around at her brood.
Four are scattered across the wide back seat.
Important note: Seatbelts and safety measures hadn't been invented yet.
Jerry and George are arguing over a car magazine.
Chris and Diane are reading. Diane is getting rather green around the gills.
Mom frowns. Might be a good time to distract Diane.
She glances out the window, hoping to spot some horses.
The only thing known to pull Diane from a book.
Blair is happily parked in the front seat between Mom and Dad, looking at the pictures in one of his brother's comic books.
And Anita is perched on Mom's lap, nose against the window.
"Mom! I wanna drink!" George has given up trying to wrench the magazine from his older brother and is now sitting with his arms cross on the back of the front seat.
"Okay. I just get one here . . ." Mom mimes taking a glass and turning on a tap.
"There you go!"
"Mom! A real drink!"
"There's plenty of water in the well!" Dad says.
"You can have some of mine!" Anita says, offering her bottle of cream soda.
George looks at the pale-pink liquid that started out a brilliant red.
"That's okay," he says. "I can wait."
"Mom? I'm car sick!" Diane has emerged from her book on her own.
Not a good sign.
Again the potty comes into play.
Diane now sits with it on her lap.
"How much further?" Chris has come up for air.
"A year or two," Dad says, leaning forward and peering through the front windshield.
"Let's play a game!" Mom says. "How about 20 questions?"
"Okay! I've got it," Jerry says.
"Animal, vegetable or mineral?"
"Animal."
"Alive or dead?"
"Alive."
The game is played to its usual conclusion.
Elvis.
And another round starts.
Blair and Anita have fallen asleep.
Mom rescues the offensive cream-soda bottle just before it tips over. She again opens her car door and discretely empties it out onto the road.
I imagine, for a moment what it must be like to follow our car at 20 MPH. Heads bobbing about. Car door opening periodically to expel various fluids.
"Oh, look!" Dad says. "The house is pulling over!"
Mom laughs. "Now that's not something you hear often," she says.
Mom always manages to keep her sense of humour.
It's a gift.
Slowly, the line of cars begins to pull out around the house.
Like a stream finding its way around a large, recently introduced stone.
Dad pulls up beside the house driver and gestures to Mom, who rolls down her window.
"Why don't you get a travel trailer, like everyone else?" Dad says, with a grin. "You'd find it immensely easier!"
"I'm so sorry!" the driver says. "Were you following me long?"
About four years, three months, twenty-one days, and thirteen hours, Dad thinks.
What he says is, "Oh, no. Not long!"
They wave to each other and we are off.
Just another family car trip.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daddy Training

Big Brother

Our third son, Duffy, was two-and-a-half when our first daughter was born.
He stuck to the baby and I like glue.
That doesn't mean he learned anything . . .
At the tender age of three, Duffy was enrolled in the Sunbeam class in our church.
With eight little girls.
Boys were obviously something new.
Moving on . . .
The scheduled lesson was all about babies.
A precious gift from God.
It was a beautiful lesson.
My four-month-old baby, Caitlin was invited into the class.
I came with her.
Sort of like show-and-tell.
But interactive.
And noisy.
Okay, just like show-and-tell.
After the little girls got tired of cooing over the real baby, their teacher (the mother of five girls, herself) brought out a large basket.
Filled with everything 'baby'.
There were dolls by the dozen.
Clothes.
Blankets.
Bottles.
Everything to keep the budding little mothers in the class happy forever.
Duffy was a boy.
And, though his older brother liked cuddling dolls, Duffy was more comfortable with trucks and things 'boy'.
He was handed a baby doll.
Naked.
And a blanket.
He dangled his doll by one foot and looked at the little girls around him.
All had at least one (and some two) little baby wrapped warmly and tucked tenderly into her arms.
Most were singing softly.
And rocking.
Duffy stared at them, then held up his baby.
Still by one foot.
Okay. He could handle this.
He spread his blanket out on the floor.
Then dropped the doll onto one corner and proceeded to roll it up like a sausage.
He then jammed the resulting package under one arm like a satchel.
Done.
The teacher handed him a bottle.
There's more?
He took the bottle and looked at it.
I should mention here that I nursed my babies.
Duffy had never seen a bottle before.
He frowned, thoughtfully.
What an earth was he supposed to do with this?
Finally, he pulled out his little, blanket-wrapped bundle, grabbed a corner of said blanket and gave it a pull.
The doll flipped out, spun in the air for a moment, then clattered to the floor.
Duffy again grabbed it by the foot.
This time, he examined it closely.
Ah. There was a tiny hole in one butt cheek.
Perfect for the strange little bottle he had been handed.
He stuck the nozzle of the bottle into the little hole and beamed happily at me.
All was well.
My son, father to future generations . . .

There is a codicil.
Despite this obviously rocky start, Duffy has proved to be an excellent and loving father.
Gifted with working with children of special needs.
I guess he was watching after all.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Gratitude Giveaways

Welcome to the Gratitude Giveaways Blog Hop hosted by: I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and co-hosted by All-Consuming Books.
This is your last chance to win a copy of Carving Angels this November!
Win a copy of the book that people are calling "sweet" and "heart-warming" and "a wonderful story of love, family, and inspiration".
So, leave a comment and you'll be entered!
I have only one request. If you win, and like what you read, tell everyone!!!
This hop runs until November 27th which will give you plenty of time to enter all the giveaways!
Carving Angels

World's Worst Tenants

Okay, he looks cute here . . .

We lived in the country.
Far out in the country.
There were many people living in our house.
But we weren't the only tenants.
The others were warm.
And breathing.
And regularly produced offspring.
But there, the similarities ended.
They routinely got into our food storage.
And made their own comfortable little hideaways in our walls and dressers.
And never, ever paid rent.
They were also covered with hair.
And had tails.
You're right.
We had mice.
Did you know that mice like to nest in clean baby clothes, rendering them un-wearable?
And can squeeze through really, really tiny holes?
Climb anywhere?
So it is nearly impossible to bar them from your home.
And they like everything we like.
Flour.
Sugar.
Oatmeal.
Beans.
Grains.
Cereal.
Cookies.
Any form of treats.
Actually anything that you might find in the average food storage that comes in a cloth or cardboard package.
And some plastic.
They have even been known to burrow into boxes of Kraft dinner or bags of Ramen noodles, which we all know have no nutritional value whatsoever.
We learned to live with them.
Trap them when we could.
Even poison some when we were truly desperate.
But still they kept coming.
We found 'mice tracks' in our clean bedding. On the shelves. On top of the TV. Even on the kitchen counters.
It was a nightmare.
Which I think could easily be turned into a horror movie.
Hmmm. Attack of the Mice? The Teeth That Could Chew Through Anything?
How about: The Really Annoying Things in the Walls?
Okay, I'm out. What are your suggestions?
Moving on . . .
My Husby and I were in bed, drifting at the edges of sleep.
Well, I was, he was reading a magazine.
Suddenly, he spotted movement.
I should explain here, that our temporary bedroom was in the basement and our bed was shoved into the corner formed by the meeting of two cinder-block walls.
Mice can climb cinder block walls.
And I was the person sleeping next to the wall.
Enough exposition.
My husband turned his head sharply and the mouse climbing up the corner, inches from my head, immediately dove for cover.
Huh. My husband rolled the magazine he had been reading and waited.
Soon, his patience was rewarded.
Our intrepid little explorer (see how refined I am? I could have called him *&^%$#@!!!) started, once more, upwards.
This time, Grant waited until the mouse was high enough on the wall that he couldn't possibly get back. Then he attacked.
SWAT! With the rolled-up magazine.
He got it!
The stunned mouse fell.
Right onto my chest.
The edges of sleep vanished as I gasped and sat up.
Whereupon (good word) he fell with a plop into my lap.
Grant scooped him up, quickly dispatched him, and then turned the most apologetic face to me that I have ever seen.
And all I could do was laugh.
What else can you do when it starts raining mice?
Indoors.

P.S. We did solve our mouse problem.
We moved.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Parenting 101: Kids and Phones!

My 'Creative Parenting' Prof.

When Dad spoke. We listened.
Most of the time.
But one ignored my father at one's own risk.
He could make his wishes known.
Creatively . . .
I had a boyfriend.
It was a new and exciting experience for me.
We would say good-bye at the school bus stop, get on our respective buses and head for home.
An hour later, we would be on the phone together.
Talking.
For hours.
Literally.
I should point out here that, in the 1960s, we had one phone line to the ranch.
And, because we were ultra-modern and progressive, two phones on that line.
One in the kitchen.
And one in my parents bedroom.
The epitome of modern convenience.
Back to my story . . .
I don't know what we found to talk about. But talk, we did. Until one or both of us was tagged for chores.
Or supper was announced.
Or our parents got annoyed.
My Mom was usually quite predictable, saying such things as, “Diane! Get off the phone! You've been on there for an hour!”
To which I would comply.
Eventually.
And under protest.
My Dad was a little more creative.
He would walk in the door, see me there on the phone, note the time, and leave the room.
That was my cue.
And my only warning.
I had seconds to say my good-byes.
Because Dad wanted me off the phone. And I wasn't going to like his methods.
They were . . . effective.
He would simply walk into his bedroom and turn on the radio.
Loudly.
Then take the phone receiver and lay it down beside said radio.
If I hadn't already ended my conversation, I did so then.
With a shouted good-bye and hastily cradled phone.
Mission accomplished.
Simply and elegantly, without a word being spoken.
Genius.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Getting Where You Want to Go

Grant . . . navigating.
With granddaughter, Rini.

My husband has iron boogers.
And in Canada, we have The Dominion Land Survey.
These two are connected.
Maybe I should explain.
First:
My husband's favourite program on TV was the Tim Allen show, Home Improvement.
In one episode, Neighbour Wilson told Tim that men are actually endowed with minute bits of metal in their noses that aid in navigation.
Tim, putting his twist on it, called them 'iron boogers'.
A term that my husby whole-heartedly embraced and endorsed.
And:
When Canada was first being mapped/documented, it was divided into a perfect grid.
Or maybe an imperfect grid, but a grid, just the same.
We were raised in an area where the roads were straight and regular and one mile apart.
If one road was blocked, you could find 113 other ways to get where you wanted to go.
It was a perfect system.
People growing up in that environment developed an unerring sense of direction.
Thus, my husby.
See the connection?
Moving on . . .
We were travelling in Ireland.
Have you ever heard it said that there is no green quite like the green of the Emerald Isle?
It's true.
But I digress . . .
We had just driven into town and were looking for our bed and breakfast.
Our map only covered the specifics of reaching said town, not the particulars of what to do when we got there.
There was a woman walking down the street.
Grant pulled over and we asked her how to reach Thus-and-So Bed and Breakfast.
These are her exact words, "Oh that one. It's rather difficult to describe. You need to go up that hill (pointing) and turn right. There is a hotel there and they can direct you."
We thanked her and did as she directed.
Except for the 'turn right' part.
My husby turned left.
At which time, I gave up.
He drove around for a total of one minute, then pulled over to the side of the street. "Why don't we just stop here?" he said.
I looked out of the window and gasped.
Thus-and-So B&B. Right there.
In front of us.
I gasped and turned to stare at him.
He merely tapped his nose and looked at me significantly.
From then on, I used the map merely to get us to the next town, then tossed it into the back seat.
Grant was much better at finding our destination when he wasn't hampered by such distractions as maps.
Old Iron Boogers.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Battleship for Amateurs

Hours of fun. Or aggravation . . .

Mom always appreciated a good joke.
Usually, she stood back and . . . appreciated.
Occasionally, she was the instigator.
Let me explain.
Our family had just been introduced to a new game.
Battleship.
Actually, an old game, originally played with paper and pencil, now in a new format.
Plastic peg boards of Mediterranean sea blue.
With cute little plastic ships.
We spent many hours playing this game, trying to outwit each other with our clever placements.
Very occasionally, we were able to convince one or the other of our parents to play.
Dad was deadly. He systematically shot at your ships.
Every third hole.
You could see his juggernaut (good word) sweeping down on your hapless little fleet and were powerless to stop him.
The game always left you feeling like a butterfly on a pin.
But Mom was a little more. . .  gentle.
She would destroy your ships using woman's intuition.
You were just as dead, but you felt better about it.
One day, she was playing with one of my younger siblings, Blair.
The game had been going on for some time.
"B-8." Mom
"Hit." Blair.
"G-3." Blair.
"Miss." Mom.
"B-7." Mom.
"Hit." Blair.
"G-1." Blair.
"Miss." Mom
And so it went.
Until Mom had cornered Blair's final ship and was closing in for the kill.
And game.
Finally, Blair got tired of the constant discouragement.
"Where are those darn ships anyways?!" he demanded.
Mom gazed down at her board. "Ships?" she said.
Then she grinned.
She hadn't put them on the board.
Game. Set. Match.

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