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

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bow City Spectacle . . . er . . . Parade (A Short Story)

Part One:

It was the most exciting Christmas Parade in our town's history.
Just not for the right reasons.
Maybe I should explain.
Our town, Bow Bank, Alberta, lies nestled in the crook of a branch of the Milk River.
It's a quiet, sleepy little place that really hasn't changed much in the past 50 years.
Families live there. Worship there. Grow there.
The current mayor, Hector Mayor, is a happy fellow, with a large heart and an equally large girth.
And endowed with a great sense of humor.
Well let's face it, with a title like Mayor Mayor, a sense of humor is rather important.
He's been in office for over fifteen years and rules our town with a fatherly and liberal hand.
His council has followed him in every decision he's ever made.
Well, until recently, that is.
In October, rumors started swirling through the Ladies Aid that things were not as they should be among the place holders on council.
And the rumors proved to be true.
It turned out that Rand Digby, he of the sweet wife and seven children, had eyes for another of the council members.
First timer, Karen Makepeace.
Fortunately, she was not like-minded and stopped him in his tracks.
So to speak.
But the scandal hit the air waves, being the hottest topic of discussion at the Ladies Aid, over the latest charity quilt and accompanying cups of herbal tea and tiny petits fours.
The result was that Mrs. Digby and her brood abruptly pulled up stakes and fled to her mother's.
Rand followed shortly, apologies spilling forth.
But the damage was done.
His wife refused to return to the scene of her humiliation and the now-repentant Rand refused to return without her.
When the dust had finally settled, a council seat was vacant.
A by-election was called and two people threw their hats into the ring.
Jenna Grace Chappell (Not like the church, mind! Two 'l's' and two 'p's', thank you very much!), the local librarian.
And F. Rodney Digby (or F. Roddy, as he preferred) the elementary school principal and younger brother to Rand, he of the slippery morals and newly-repentant spirit.
The by-election was set for January
The contest was on.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Snow

George and Me.
One of us was smart . . . and the other has her hair in curlers.

I never was a particularly timid child.
In fact, if one were searching for words to describe me, 'timid' probably wouldn't have even been considered.
Boisterous. Cheerful. Loud. Noisy.
These all would have been correct.
But timid?
No.
And yet, there were certain times when 'timid', even fearful could have been used with complete accuracy.
Let me explain.
We had a TV.
It was the fifties.
We also had one channel.
Which came on the air at 10:00 in the morning.
And left the air at midnight.
I often watched as 'Oh, Canada' played in the morning.
Because I had already been watching the Indian Head test pattern for half an hour, waiting for Friendly Giant.
I never got to hear the playing of 'God Save the Queen' at midnight.
Because, let's face it, I was four.
By that point in time, I had been in slumberland for hours.
Moving on . . .
When the TV station was not airing, we had 'snow'.
And not the good kind.
White, yes, but that is where all similarity ended.
It was static-y.
And, when your brother turned the volume up loud . . .
Scary.
My brother discovered this early.
And used it often.
If he was playing in the living room and didn't want any Diane-shaped company, he would turn on the TV, confirm quickly that there really was nothing on, and turn up the volume.
Whereupon (good word) I would run, shrieking, from the room.
Heh. Heh. Heh.
Mom couldn't get after him because he hadn't said or done anything to me, personally.
Simple.
Genius.
Fool-proof.
And the room was cleared for another half-hour of uninterrupted fun.
Until Diane forgot everything that had just happened and ventured, again, into the front room.
TV. Volume. Repeat.
So you see where the word 'timid' comes in.
Unfortunately, the word 'brainiac' never applied.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Who Put That Tractor There?

My victim. Again.

-or-  I'm in Reverse! Everything Stay Out of My Way!

Dad had bought a new tractor.
Painted bright yellow, it was a thing of real beauty.
Or so the men in my family thought.
Pffff. Men.
It was parked proudly between the shop (formerly our home - see here) and the pasture, wherein my horse was . . . erm . . . pastured.
The tractor stood there in lonely glory, awaiting the delivery of two more back wheels.
Now it was unheard of, at that time, for a tractor to have more than the requisite two.
Back wheels, that is.
But this one did.
Or soon would have.
Each of the existing wheels had three feet of extra axle sticking out in happy anticipation.
This is important.
And I didn't care.
I was getting my horse ready for a show.
I needed to load up my tack.
This entailed maneuvering the car between the pasture fence and the shed door.
Easily done.
I could see the tractor.
I could see the fence.
I could see the shed.
All was well.
Back.
Back.
Back.
Crunch.
What on earth had I hit?
There was the shed.
There was the tractor.
There was the fence.
All in perfect sight.
 I pulled forward and got out to inspect the damage.
I should point out here that this was the same car that I had only recently filled with diesel fuel. My stock had dropped considerably over that event and hadn't had the chance to rise very far. This new stunt guaranteed that it would never rise again.
Sigh.
I walked to the back of the car.
To see six inches of extra axle poking into the rear car fender.
Oh.
The extra axle.
That would, one day, support extra wheels.
In all of my careful looking, I had forgotten to look up.
To the stupid axle hanging in the air three and a half feet above the ground.
Rats.
Once more, I drove to the house to show my dad.
Who labeled me a driving menace.
He was right.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It Moved! It Did!

The Behemoth

Things move.
Big things.
They move.
I have proof.
On the ranch, we had a large power pole.
Full sized.
Firmly planted.
It had been there since the beginning of time.
So . . . for quite a while.
It stood in the very center of the turn-about.
People driving in would go around it, conduct their business and complete the turn as they drove out.
Simple.
Unless you lived there.
Then you would have to drive in and park.
Preferably somewhere out of the way so the next person would have a place to drive in and turn.
At times it got a little . . . tricky.
I lived there.
I had parked.
I needed to leave.
This entailed backing the van up, maneuvering into the lane, then completing the turn to head out.
I should probably point out here that our van could quite easily have been described as a behemoth (good word!). It held 12 passengers.
Or two parents and six children, neatly spaced to avoid argument-age.
Well to try to avoid argument-age.
Well . . . never mind.
I loaded in the kids.
I sorted out the first argument.
I started the van.
I sorted out the second argument.
Good so far.
The third argument started.
I began to unknot that disagreement just as I stepped on the gas.
The van reversed, as it should.
Straight back.
All of us inside were concentrating on the ongoing conversation.
None of us noticed the pole directly behind the van.
Well, not until we smacked into it.
Oops.
I pulled ahead and got out to survey the damage.
The bumper had a lovely crease in it, bending it towards the van and forming a point that made it impossible to open the back door.
Double oops.
Later, when I showed my husband, he shook his head and simply sawed the top point off the dent. Just enough so the door would clear it.
But leaving the dent for all to see.
Sigh.
The conversation went like this . . .
"Honey, didn't you see the pole? The large one that has been standing in the center of the yard since forever?"
"Ummm . . . I don't know how to answer that question."
"You did know about the pole, didn't you?"
"Ummm . . . yes."
"You did see it?"
"Well, it was like this . . . I was backing out carefully . . ."
"Yes."
"And then that nasty old pole just jumped behind me."
"Jumped."
"Yes."
"Right out of the ground."
"Yes. It was the weirdest thing!"
"I'm going to go lie down."
True story.

I also have an experience with Cuba and move-age. But that is another story.

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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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