Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, July 14, 2012

The SunSet Date


Just the two of us.

My Husby believes in date night.
A least once a week.
He and me.
Fun.
In our earlier, more penurious days we got creative.
In nice weather, long walks.
Around town. Along the river bottom.
Sometimes, we'd wander through the mall, just looking.
Occasionally buying a hot chocolate or ice cream cone to share.
Going grocery shopping.
Having an evening picnic.
Wonderful times.
As we near retirement, dating consists of movies, dinners, theatre and concerts.
Still fun.
As long as we're together.
A couple of evenings ago, my Husby's truck broke down.
He pulled into the nearest parking lot.
Called for a tow-truck, and then called me to come and bring him home.
I arrived long before said tow-truck.
Looooong before.
Together, we waited.
Nearby were several formal restaurants.
And an A&W.
Not wanting to leave the truck until help deigned to arrive, Grant suggested that one of us run across the street to the fast food outlet and grab a couple of burgers.
I volunteered.
Between you and I, I'd rather do that then instruct a tow-truck driver if and when he decided to show up.
Ahem . . .
I returned.
We ate.
Have I mentioned that the world looks better on a full tummy?
Well, it does.
We talked and laughed.
Sitting on the tailgate of the truck in the warm sun.
And the cool summer breeze.
Oh, we both had places we needed to be.
Things that needed doing.
But, for that moment, all that was important were a couple of burgers.
The tailgate of our truck.
The warm summer evening.
And the two of us.
Re-discovering the perfect date.
In our sunset years.

The Last Tantrum


Don't let the tie fool you.

Our eldest son had a world class talent.
World class.
If it had been an event in the Olympics, he'd have taken home the gold.
But there wasn't.
And he didn't.
Maybe I should explain.

Mark was born with the ability to throw a tremendous, colossal, stupendous, prodigious, enormous, fantastic, howling, mind-blowing tantrum.
I know that many children do.
Even some adults.
But no one has ever done it quite at the same level.
And he saved his best performances for when we were in public.
Usually in the toy section of the local department store.
Sigh.
When he was three, he gave his most memorable performance.
Well, I certainly can't forget it . . .
He wanted a toy.
I can't remember which one, but he wasn't getting it.
The family budget was already suffering chills and fever.
Any unnecessary purchases would have surely sent it into a coma.
We started to move away from said toy.
Mark realized that his begging and pleading had come to naught.
He dropped to the ground.
And began to flop around like a landed fish.
Then the screams started.
Now, my Husby and I had learned that that proper way to handle a tantrum was to just keep walking.
Which we did.
To this point, it had never worked.
We discovered that Mark could flop and scream AND keep up with his moving parents.
See?
Skill and talent.
But this day was a little different.
This day, we had unexpected . . . help.
As we ducked around the corner, and before Mark could start after us, an elderly gentleman walked up to our writhing boy and stood there, looking down at him.
Mark finally realized that someone was standing beside him.
He opened his eyes.
To see a perfect stranger.
“I guess you'd better come with me,” the man said.
Tantrum instantly forgotten, Mark scrambled to his feet.
“MooooOOOOMMMMM!”
His father poked his head around the corner.
Mark ran to him and grabbed him about the knees in a grip fuelled by three parts fear and one part . . . okay, four parts fear.
My Husby silently looked at the man.
Both of them smiled.
And just like that, Mark's public tantrums were finished.
Oh, he still treated us to private performances, but never again were we humiliated in public.
We often think of that man.
A father?
Grandfather?
Whoever he was, his wisdom . . .
. . . and timing . . .
Were one of the greatest blessings of our parenting years.
I wish we could tell him.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Barbie - The Ultimate Weapon

Okay. She's tougher than she looks . . .

My little brother and sister were playing.
Something they wasted a lot of time doing.
When they could have been involved with much more productive pursuits.
Like me.
Sitting in the chair, reading.
Ahem.
Fiery, three-year-old Anita had a new Barbie doll.
She was combing its hair and dressing and undressing.
Happily absorbed in what she was doing.
Placid, five-year-old Blair had been playing with some of his toys.
Also happily absorbed.
Then he noticed Anita’s activities.
Hmmm.
This looked interesting.
He watched for a few minutes.
Fascinating.
Finally, his curiosity had to be addressed.
“May I see it?” he asked.
I should point out that he asked politely.
Blair was always polite.
Still is, but that is another story.
Moving on . . .
Anita looked at him. “Sure,” she said, grabbing her new Barbie by its feet and holding it out.
Blair moved closer.
Closer.
He reached out.
Whereupon (good word) Anita lifted her Barbie and whacked him over the head with it.
“See!” she said.
“Ouch!” Blair rubbed his head. “Whydja do that?”
But Anita was back to playing.
“I guess I won’t look at it then,” he said.
Of course there were reports and repercussions.
Punishment was meted out.
And all was forgiven.
But not forgotten.
Moving ahead many years . . .
Our baby sister is achieving a significant age this fall.
Brother Blair already has plans.
I won’t tell you what they are, but they may or may not include something to do with a Barbie doll.
Isn’t payback grand?
More later . . .

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Non-Party Animal


Jerry. With Mom.
Oh, and me.

Jerry is my big brother.
He’s cool
He’s neat.
And he never could be considered a ‘party animal’.
An explanation is in order . . .
One of the best times to host a party is on New Year’s Eve.
Everyone is excited.
Everyone is happy.
And , more importantly, everyone wants to party.
Jerry decided to host his first, ever, New Year’s Eve celebration.
Invitations were extended.
Preparations were made.
And Mom cleaned the house for two days straight.
They were ready . . .
The party started out well.
Forty or so kids, all intent of having a great time.
There was a group in the ping-pong room.
Cheering or competing.
Another group around the pool table.
Ditto.
There were kids dancing in the front room.
Kids playing games wherever there was a space.
Kids circling the snacks table.
And kids visiting with my Mom in the kitchen.
The house was full and the party was, for lack of a better term, ‘hitting on all cylinders’.
The time came for the big build-up to the New Year.
Noisemakers were handed out.
Because forty-plus people couldn’t make enough noise on their own.
The countdown.
The cheer.
Or rather, din.
And the New Year was official.
Everybody completed the ritual hugging and kissing.
And went back to what they had been doing.
Well, almost everyone.
Several young ladies were looking for someone specific to ‘congratulate’.
My brother, Jerry.
They searched throughout the house.
Staked out the bathrooms until the current occupant emerged.
And finally enlisted the help of my Mom.
She did a circuit of the obvious places.
Then decided to see if Jerry was, for some reason, in his room.
She knocked.
No answer.
She cracked the door and peeked into the darkened room.
Then reached in and flipped the light switch.
A sleepy head lifted from the pillow.
“Whazzup?”
He had visited and played games.
He had congratulated and cheered.
He had gotten tired.
He had gone to bed.
Never mind that he was leaving his guests to wind down and find their own way to the door.
Nope.
Bed was the place for him.
Yep.
My brother, Jerry.
Party host extraordinaire.
“Good night! Don’t forget to put out the lights when you leave!”

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rise and/or Shine


Go ahead! Sing!

How do you 'rise and shine'?
Throughout my life, I have been summoned from sleep in various ways.
Some gentle.
Some strident.
All annoying.
My mom, a member of the 'never wake a sleeping child' sorority, let me sleep in till I woke up on my own.
Well, until I went to school, that is.
Then, her usual wake up call consisted of, “Diane! Get up! The bus will be here in ten minutes!”
Okay, I will admit that she usually called me much earlier than that.
I just wasn't listening.
Ahem.
Dad's form of summoning consisted of one word. “Spring!”
And it was always obeyed instantly.
My Mom, you could coax and cajole, but dad?
You moved.
Because.
Often, I found myself standing beside my bed with no idea of how I got there.
My Husby took a more creative, albeit (Oooh! Good word!) equally annoying route.
He would sing.
Badly.
But loudly.
In our house, 'Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!', the usually bright, happy, uplifting anthem from Oklahoma, sounded more like . . . honking.
Or a chorus of frogs.
Or ball-bearings rolling around in a hubcap.
(Don't ask me how I know what that sounds like.)
His 'singing' brought instant . . . let me put it this way: No one slept through it.
“Dad! Aarrgghh!”
Success.
Moving ahead . . .
Our oldest son had recently become engaged.
To a beautiful girl.
Our entire family had travelled to Fort Macleod to a reunion.
Our future daughter-in-law was bunking with our other daughters.
It was morning.
There was far too much sleeping going on.
My Husby decided he needed to do something proactive.
He went to the door of the girls' room.
Cleared his throat.
And started singing.
You really haven't heard 'Oh What a Beautiful Morning' sung quite like he sings it.
Our future daughter-in-law looked at her future sister-in-law.
“Does he always do this?”
Her answer was muffled by the pillow over her future sister-in-law's head. “Yes.”
“Oh. Hmmm. Maybe I'll have to rethink my joining this family.”
She did join. She comes from hardy stock.
I thought I'd tell you that in case you were worried.
Back to my story . . .
This morning, my alarm woke me.
“Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla-Bla . . .”
Suddenly I missed my Mom's repeated time updates, my Dad's single word warnings and my Husby's singing.
It's all a matter of perspective.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Kindling


I was never the victim of bullies in grade school.
But there were kids that didn’t like me.
And at times, I wished ‘nasty’ on them.
Trip in public.
Drop all of their books.
Say something really, really stupid.
Somehow, lighting their gym shorts on fire would have been so much more appropriate.
And infinitely more fun.
And, incidentally, that’s how Braden Bell’s new book, The Kindling starts out.
With the bully leaping and hopping around, trying to beat out his flaming gym shorts.
Genius.
And it just keeps on going from there.
The Kindling takes us, together with thirteen-year-olds Conner, Lexa and Melanie, on a non-stop roller-coater ride of Magic and mayhem with a large dollop of Adventure (notice the capital 'A') with some good old rock'em, sock'em fighting to the finish between the forces of Light and Dark.
What would you do if you discovered that you were a magic-wielding defender of the Light?
Who could call up flames.
Explode someone’s lunch.
Fight the forces of Dark.
Avoid strange-looking stalkers.
And still make it to Dr. Timberi’s third period music class.
Written mainly for middle readers, The Kindling will satisfy the craving for adventure in all who succumb to the pull of its great cover.
Because it is one fantastic, never-ending ride!
The Kindling raises three important questions:
1. Has the destructive power of pizza ever really been tested?
2. Did anyone know that middle school teachers could turn out to be your best friends/army buddies?
-and- 
3. When's the next book?

The Kindling is available for purchase.
Some background on the story, and the author, Braden Bell:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Small Town (Lack of) Education


Milk River is a small place.
Hardly more than a dot on a map.
And, though it was the centre of my world, in a cosmopolitan sense, it would not be considered . . . well . . . cosmopolitan.
Oh, we had descendants of peoples from many places around the world.
Hungarian.
Swedish.
German.
Polish.
United Kingdom.
In fact, most of Europe.
But no African Americans.
In fact, the only people who weren't strictly white-skinned, were our few wonderful Japanese families.
Until I moved from Milk River after high school, I had never actually seen a dark-skinned person.
Move forward several years.
My Husby and I raised our family on a ranch near Fort Macleod, Alberta.
A wonderful town.
Comparative to Milk River in many respects.
Including the lack of people of African American descent.
After several years, we moved our family to Edmonton.
It was an education.
On many levels.
But especially in the 'race, creed and colour' department.
On to my story . . .
Shortly after our move, we decided to take our family swimming at the nearest facility.
They loved swimming.
All went well.
I was sitting in the children's pool with my youngest.
My two-year-old was playing nearby.
Suddenly he stopped.
Stared.
Then ran quickly to me.
“MOM!” he said excitedly, as only a two-year-old can. “LOOK! A CHOCOLATE MAN!”
All heads turned in our direction.
I felt myself flushing as I resignedly followed the pointing finger.
A dark-skinned man was walking along the side of the pool.
Oh, and he was looking, too.
Sigh.
I loved being raised in a small town.
It was peaceful.
Wonderful.
But some aspects of small town life definitely need work.
P.S. My youngest son also had an encounter with "Alladin" 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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