Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Perfect Filing System

I know where it is. Go on . . . ask me!

Dad was a veterinarian.
The only one for several counties.
If you don't count Dr. Brewster at the Coutt's border crossing.
Who didn't make farm/ranch calls.
Mine did.
Make calls, that is.
And there will be several blogs about that.
Later.
But right now, I'm concerned with his office.
Let me start again . . .
Dad was a veterinarian as well as a purebred Polled Hereford breeder.
And always had an office somewhere in our home.
Better.
There were the inevitable examination counters.
And uncomfortable waiting room chairs.
There was a fridge holding such things as penicillin.
Bottles of 5-way or 8-way or black-leg or rabies vaccines.
And other stuff that I couldn't pronounce.
I should mention, here, that Dad knew what each bottle did.
Probably important for a veterinarian to know.
He also had several large filing cabinets standing about the room.
Full of . . . files.
Mostly.
Dad knew exactly where everything could be found in his office.
He was very organized.
Very.
One day, he was working on the registration forms for his new crop of calves.
A time-consuming task that only he could do.
Heh. Heh.
I sauntered in.
Sauntered.
Yes. Just like in the old west.
Ahem.
Daddy looked up from his desk.
“Diane, could you look in that file cabinet over there,” he pointed with his pen, “and get me the 'G' file?”
I turned to the indicated file and pulled open the appropriate drawer. “This one?”
“Yes. Just the 'G' file, please.”
I started to work my way through the alphabet.
There was a large space partway through. I jumped to that.
'J' as it turned out.
“Daddy, did you know that you have a large bag of ju-jubes in your filing cabinet?”
“Yes.”
“Filed under 'J'?”
He looked at me. “Where else would they go?”
Where indeed.
I continued my search.
Huh. Chips under 'C'.
Also chocolate.
I finally found the 'G' file and, pulling it out, handed it to my father.
But then I turned back to the cabinet.
Way too interested to stop now.
“Dad, you have Oreo cookies under 'O'.”
Dad looked up. “Is that where they are?!” he said. “I kept looking for them under 'C'.”
Yep. Filing cabinets and organization.
They go together.
Like treats and snack time.
Who knew they could be so similar?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Just a Little Bit of Praise

Many thanks to my good friend, Ginger of  inSERIOUSLYsane for her lovely tribute to her daughter yesterday. 
It reminded me of something special . . .

My Hero
For most of his career, my Husby worked for the Culture department in our province.
He enjoyed it.
Building museums.
Refurbishing older exhibits.
It was a constant adventure.
But he learned, as a civil servant, that gratitude was an accepted part of the job.
Rarely expressed.
Case in point . . .
He and his team had been refitting an interpretive center.
They had been at it for three years.
Their job was finally drawing to a close.
Which allowed the center to open.
Ironic but true.
A grand gala was planned for the opening night.
With speeches by pertinent politicians.
And food.
Myself and our two younger children made the trip and were seated in the audience, happily anticipating hearing from our husby/father.
The evening wore on.
Speeches by many, many people.
None of whom had even stepped foot in the building until that night.
Then, finally, just at the end of the evening, the MC announced my Husby.
The man who had organized and directed the entire operation.
The whole three years.
I was so proud of him.
He had worked hard.
Spending weeks and weeks on a project that took him far from home and family.
And he had done well.
I glanced around.
I was surrounded by evidence of his careful, thoughtful, precise planning and execution.
We were now seated in a world-class center.
With the best and most advanced displays found anywhere.
The crowd had clapped politely as he stepped to the podium.
Many of them had no idea of the part he had played.
But his family did.
My daughter suddenly whispered, "Come on! Let's do it!"
My children and I surged to our feet.
Cheering and clapping wildly.
The rest of the audience stared at us in stunned silence for a moment.
Then the smiles began.
And the applause.
No one else got up, but everyone there knew that this man was special.
Deserving of what little praise we could give him.
He smiled at us, then, in his usual calm fashion said, "I have no idea who those people are."
Then, "And I didn't have to pay them much to do that!"
Much laughter and the tone of the entire evening was changed completely.
Later, one of the people with whom he had worked closely stopped me.
"We were so happy when your family did that," she said. "We would all have joined you, if we weren't already standing at the back!"
We get very little recognition for good deeds done in this life.
Sometimes all it takes is a little courage.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parents Always Find Out . . .

Not-Quite-Sanctuary. The family ranch in Fort MacLeod.

You can't hide things from your parents.
Just ask me.
Okay, I'll tell you . . .
I had my first 'official' job.
My Dad would argue this, as I worked for him for eight years.
But my first job-away-from-daddy's-ranch job.
It involved moving to Calgary, a city two hours to the north.
And all the things that 'moving out' entails.
Back to my story.
I had been an official Monday to Friday resident of Calgary for four months.
And feeling mighty independent as I made my weekly drive to my parent's ranch to fill my gas tank and stock up on food.
You look at 'independence' your way and I'll look at it in mine.
Ahem.
Just as I was driving into Claresholm, a small town just north of  the ranch, an ad came on the radio.
A rather effective ad, as it turns out.
Wherein (good word) different people were asked what is most important in their lives.
There were various answers, the last of which is 'family'.
Followed immediately by the sound of screeching tires and an obvious vehicle collision.
I hadn't seen my family in six days.
Okay, yes. And I'm a wuss.
The ad hit me hard.
I started to cry.
At that point, things got a little confused.
My Old English Sheepdog, Muffy, happily ensconced in her seat of power (commonly known as 'shotgun') came unglued.
Tears did that to her.
She alternately tried to lick my face.
And crawl into my lap.
Neither of which is very desirable when one is hurtling along the road at 40 MPH.
Which, if I could have seen clearly, should have been 30 MPH.
You can guess what happened next.
Red and blue lights erupted just after the last intersection.
And a wavery figure was indicating, rather forcefully, that I pull over.
Sigh.
He poked his head into my car, took one look at my red-rimmed eyes and tear-drenched face and immediately withdrew.
"Come to my car when you've composed yourself," he mumbled.
Then disappeared.
I dried my face and blew my nose.
Then calmed Muffy, who was still under the mistaken impression that I needed some good, doggy-style comforting.
Then I made my way over to the officer's car.
We had a nice chat, which culminated in an issued ticket for $25.00 and a warning to 'be more careful'.
Then, just as I reached for the door handle, the officer said, "If you don't mind. Why were you crying?"
I rolled my eyes. "It's silly, really," I told him.
"Do you mind telling me?"
"No." I related the entire fiasco, sparked by the ad on the radio.
It lost nothing in the telling.
I so love a good story.
He chuckled.
Yes. People did that back then.
Chuckled, I mean.
"I remember when I first went out to Regina for my RCMP training," he said. "I was one homesick puppy! I had never been away from home and I really missed my family."
We chatted a while longer.
Mostly about families and missing them.
And the incongruence (real word) of airing radio ads about car accidents specifically designed to make people cry.
And cause more car accidents.
I know. It doesn't make sense to me, either.
Then I left.
A few days later I paid my ticket and all was forgotten.
Or so I thought.
Moving forward several weeks.
I was sitting at the kitchen table when my parents came back from a quick trip to Calgary.
Dad came in and stopped beside my chair.
"How do you know an RCMP officer in Claresholm?" he asked.
I stared at him.
RCMP Officer? I didn't . . .
Oh!
I had to tell them the entire story, which I had formerly neglected to tell them.
Due to my reluctance to confess.
Dad chuckled.
See? Chuckling again. It did happen.
"So how did you find out?" I demanded.
"Your mother and I just went through a check-stop in Claresholm," Dad said.
"Oh," I said.
"And this very kind and cheerful officer took one look at my license and asked me if I had a daughter, Diane."
"Oh," I said again.
"You can't blame us for being curious."
"Umm . . . so . . . what did he say?" I could feel my face getting red.
I hate it when that happens.
"He just told us that we had quite a daughter."
"Oh."
"Your Mother and I agreed with him." Dad smiled. "He handed back my license and waved us off."
"Oh." For a normally talkative person, I was really groping around for something to say.
Dad patted my arm.
"And don't speed," he said.
See? Parents always find out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Don't Eat That! You Don't Know Where It's Been!

Chris. Taste is everything . . .
My parents were travelling and had made a stop in a small town for lunch.
At a tiny hotel restaurant.
They perused (real word) the menu and made selections for themselves and their -then- three children.
This was pre-Diane days.
Oh, the joy that was in store for them!
Soon they would welcome Diane . . .
Wait.
Where was I?
Oh yes.
Restaurant.
Lunch.
Ahem.
They made their order.
And waited.
Suddenly, Mom noticed that my elder sister, Chris, age four or so was chewing happily on something.
She watched her, suspiciously, for a few moments.
Finally, "Chris, what are you chewing?"
My sister looked up at Mom and said, "Gum."
"Oh."
Mom thought about it for a moment.
"Wait a minute. You're chewing on gum?"
"Umm-hmm," Chris said, still chewing.
"I didn't give you any gum." Mom turned to Dad. "Did you give her some gum?"
He shook his head and pulled Jerry out of the sugar bowl. "Enough sugar, son."
"Well where on earth did she get gum?"
"Why don't you ask her?" Dad said. "Jerry, leave the salt and pepper alone."
Mom turned to Chris. "Honey, where did you get the gum?"
Chris slid the wad in her mouth to one side and said, "Here, Mom!"
She pointed . . . under . . . the table.
"There's lots more! You want some?"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hair Today. Gone Tomorrow

See? Cute. But hairless . . .

I don't want to say that our second son didn't have any hair when he was born, but . . .
Okay. He didn't have any hair.
There is a story behind that . . .
And it all has to do with tomatoes.
Tomatoes?!
When I was expecting him, I craved tomatoes.
CRAVED.
I couldn't get enough tomatoes.
Or anything remotely 'tomato'.
We ate tacos a lot.
Four or five times a week.
Fortunately, my Husby liked tacos.
Have I mentioned that my Husby is a patient lad?
Well, he is.
Moving on . . .
Our tacos were very heavy in the tomato department.
Fresh, diced.
Mixed into the meat as tomato sauce from a can.
Spooned on as salsa (pico de gallo).
I think we could quite literally have called them 'tomato tacos'.
Oh, and I added Tabasco sauce.
A lot of Tabasco sauce.
Because, along with my out-of-control craving for tomatoes, was my even-more-out-of-control craving for things spicy.
So my usual routine was:
  1. Taco shell.
  2. Smear with Salsa. The hottest that could be found.
  3. Spoon in meat, complete with lots of tomato.
  4. Add another giant spoon of Salsa
  5. Cover with fresh, diced tomatoes.
  6. Add fresh, diced onions and shredded cheese.
  7. Add another spoonful of salsa.
  8. Just because.
  9. Add seven drops of Tabasco. Seven. Not one drop more or less.
  10. Eat.
  11. Repeat.
  12. Several times
  13. Mmmmm.
When my baby boy was born, he had no hair on his little round head.
My Husby maintains that I burned it off.
But what do Husby's know . . .?
An interesting side note:
The day I brought my baby home from the hospital, I again made tacos.
I had been days without them and was definitely needing my fix.
I put a taco together in the same fashion that had become routine in the preceding months . . .
And couldn't eat it.
It was so hot, I couldn't get it anywhere near my face, let alone inside my mouth.
Weird.
Another side note:
My Dad, from the day that Erik was born until he was two and actually began to grow hair, called my son 'Cueball'.
Really.
He even painted an 'eight' on top of his head.
True story.
Yep.
All due to tomatoes.
Who knew?

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Pros and Cons of Plastic -or- Beautiful = Fragile

The picture of formality . . .

My husband's sister loves to entertain.
And she does it well.
Beautiful china, fine crystal stemware, heavy silver utensils.
China and crystal serving platters.
Everything beautiful and perfect.
She even insists that the children be included.
Crystal and all.
And that is where our story begins . . .
We had been invited to the Williams home to celebrate a momentous occasion.
I don't remember which momentous occasion.
A birthday or something else noteworthy.
The important point is that we had been invited.
And we were excited to go.
Moving on . . .
We arrived.
We were the proud parents of two sons at that point in time.
An infant and a two-year-old.
The latter of which was sat on a booster seat among the shining, beautiful appointments on the table.
His mother was . . . how shall I say this . . . concerned.
But dinner was announced.
And duly consumed.
Completely without mishap.
Miracles do occur.
We were sitting at the table, visiting.
Digesting happily.
Our youngest son had been put to bed and our eldest was playing with toys and cousins on the floor at our feet.
A peaceful, blissful scene.
Our son stood up and toddled over to me.
"Drink!" he demanded.
At least that is what I translated it to say.
It sounded a bit different in 'toddler'.
My sister-in-law handed me a crystal goblet of water.
"Here," she said.
I held the glass for my son.
He clamped his teeth into the side.
As he did with all of the Tupperware glasses we had at home.
And immediately bit out a small, moon-shaped piece of fine crystal.
I shrieked and dropped the glass.
The pried his mouth open.
He hadn't swallowed.
What did I say about miracles?
We were able to retrieve the little piece of crystal, intact, from my son's mouth.
No injuries occurred.
But the lesson remained.
From then on, whenever we sat to dine with my husband's sister, everyone had fine china, crystal and silverware.
Except my children.
With their sharp teeth.
And their indestructible Tupperware.
The brightly-coloured plastic might have been a jarring note in an otherwise picture-perfect setting.
But it was safe.
As every family gathering should be.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Another Language Barrier

Don't let the dapper exterior fool you.
Somewhere inside is that  9-year-old.

Ah. Influencing the young and innocent.
Even in families.
It's not always a good thing . . .
When my Dad was nine, his oldest brother lived close by.
His married oldest brother.
Who had a three-year-old son, Brian.
Brian adored his much older uncle.
He toddled along after 'Unca Mark' whenever he could.
Usually a good thing.
Occasionally . . . not.
My Dad had the twice-daily chore of milking the cow.
Brian loved to go along.
Just because.
It was a fun, companionable time for the two boys.
All was well.
One day, Brian's mother sat him in a chair in the kitchen and prepared to give her small son a haircut.
She combed the unruly locks into submission.
"Ouch!" Brian  said.
"Sorry, dear, but you have some tangles."
"Ouch!" Brian said again. "Mo-om!"
"Almost through."
"Ouch!"
Brian glared at his mom.
"If you do that again, I'm going to have to say 'Sunny Beach'!"
His mother stopped combing. "What?"
"I'm going to have to say 'Sunny Beach'."
"What?" she asked again.
"Suunnny Beeeach," he said slowly and patiently.
Light dawned.
"You mean 'Son of a . . .'"
Her mouth dropped open in horror.
She gripped his small shoulder.
"Where did you hear that?!"
He stared at her, not understanding her panic.
She gave his shoulder a little shake. "Where did you hear that?!"
"That's what Unca Mark says when the cow kicks him!"
Two things resulted from that haircut.
  1. Brian actually did get his hair shortened.
  2. 'Unca Mark' received a lecture on language and its proper uses. Oh! And . . .
  3. I just realized that, when it came to cursing, my Dad didn't have a leg to stand on (see here).  
It's a good world.


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