Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Jim


Words are amazing.
Descriptive.
Alliterative.
Explanatory.
Lyrical.
Adventurous.
Romantic.
I love words.
I learned at a very early age that they could be assembled in ways that were truly magical.
Let me explain . . .
My Dad loves to recite.
Poems, mostly.
On long car trips, he would inevitably break into song.
Or verse.
So to speak.
I especially loved the rhythm of his chosen poetry.
Always there was a story involved.
The telling was truly magical.
I determined that, when I grew up, I would be JUST LIKE DAD.
When I was five, my oldest sister, then just entering junior high, was labouring over a Language Arts assignment.
Memorizing a poem.
She had chosen, for her effort, the Hillaire Belloc poem, Jim.
A cautionary tale of a boy who runs away from his nurse at the zoo and is eaten by a lion.
What better poem for a young girl to start with?
As my sister laboured over the lines, so did I.
I should probably point out, here, that I couldn't read yet.
My patient sister rehearsed each line to me until I had it.
I should also mention that I really didn't understand what I was saying.
Apart from the whole “boy eaten by a lion” bit.
I followed her around for days.
“What's the next line, Chris?”
She would tell me.
And I would repeat it, ad infinitum, for hours.
Or until Chris got home from school and gave me another.
I'm sure my mother heard, “And gave him tea and cakes and jam and slices of delicious ham” in her dreams.
Moving on . . .
By the end of a week, I had it.
All of it.
Then, the fun began.
For months afterwards, my parents would trot me out at family reunions and local bridge parties to show how their young daughter could recite heart-stopping tales of misbehaviour and woe.
In perfect rhyme.
It could only lead to a career in writing.
Or maybe some 'zombie apocalypse/end of the world scenario.
Hmm. Maybe both . . .

For your pleasure –

Jim 
 By Hillaire Belloc

There was a Boy whose name was Jim;
His Friends were very good to him.
They gave him Tea, and Cakes, and Jam,
And slices of delicious Ham,
And Chocolate with pink inside
And little Tricycles to ride,
And read him Stories through and through,
And even took him to the Zoo—
But there it was the dreadful Fate
Befell him, which I now relate.

You know—or at least you ought to know,
For I have often told you so—
That Children never are allowed
To leave their Nurses in a Crowd;
Now this was Jim's especial Foible,
He ran away when he was able,
And on this inauspicious day
He slipped his hand and ran away!

He hadn't gone a yard when—Bang!
With open Jaws, a lion sprang,
And hungrily began to eat
The Boy: beginning at his feet.
Now, just imagine how it feels
When first your toes and then your heels,
And then by gradual degrees,
Your shins and ankles, calves and knees,
Are slowly eaten, bit by bit.
No wonder Jim detested it!
No wonder that he shouted ``Hi!''

The Honest Keeper heard his cry,
Though very fat he almost ran
To help the little gentleman.
``Ponto!'' he ordered as he came
(For Ponto was the Lion's name),
``Ponto!'' he cried, with angry Frown,
``Let go, Sir! Down, Sir! Put it down!''
The Lion made a sudden stop,
He let the Dainty Morsel drop,
And slunk reluctant to his Cage,
Snarling with Disappointed Rage.
But when he bent him over Jim,
The Honest Keeper's Eyes were dim.
The Lion having reached his Head,
The Miserable Boy was dead!

When Nurse informed his Parents, they
Were more Concerned than I can say:—
His Mother, as She dried her eyes,
Said, ``Well—it gives me no surprise,
He would not do as he was told!''
His Father, who was self-controlled,
Bade all the children round attend
To James's miserable end,
And always keep a-hold of Nurse
For fear of finding something worse.

P.S. I can still remember it . . .



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Friday, September 7, 2012

Dad's Boots

Baby brother . . . being entertained

My father (herinafter known as 'Dad') was a rancher.
He had been born that way.
In his twenties, he added the title of 'Veterinarian' to that.
But he was first and foremost, a rancher.
As a rancher, his wardrobe seldom varied.
Heavy work pants.
And boots.
Which were much more than mere footwear.
They were, in fact, the signal that opened and closed the work day.
And a source of entertainment.
On many levels.
Dad's boots were - because he had 'special' feet – special.
They were heavy.
And specifically designed to compensate for his long, narrow, profoundly flat extremities.
They laced up the front.
And fit . . . well.
They were the favourite entertainment for my baby brother.
When he was a baby.
A source of laughter for us kids when we'd try them on.
Then try to walk.
Usually covered in mud and manure during the day's labours, then scrupulously cleaned before being brought into the house.
With Dad's pocket knife. (But that is another story.)
In short, they were a part of my Dad.
An important part.
Dad always donned them himself.
Said donning, after breakfast, was always the signal that visiting was over and the workday starting.
But Dad never, ever took his boots off by himself.
In fact, the removal of Dad's boots was quite a process.
Let me describe . . .
Dad would take his seat in his usual comfy recliner.
And his numerous children would scatter, suddenly recalling activities that needed immediate attention.
Somewhere else.
But there was always a laggard.
Someone who was the slowest to react.
Dad would pin them to their chair with a look.
Then silently hold out a foot.
Reluctantly, the child would assume the position.
Facing away from Dad and bent forward, clutching said boot with both hands.
Dad would then put his other foot on his helper's backside and start pushing.
His boot would be quickly and efficiently . . . removed.
And dropped on the floor.
The process was repeated with the second boot.
The footwear was then gathered.
And set aside.
Only then was the slave helper, released.
Mission accomplished.
This procedure signalled the end of the work day.
Odd, isn't it, that a humble pair of boots would assume such proportion in our daily life.
But they did.
Now in his late eighties, Dad still wears boots.
They replace his slippers when he is going outside.
And, like his slippers, they slip on and off easily.
I was watching him the other day as he sat down.
Staring at the boots he now pulls on.
And remembering.

Don't forget to enter the draw for a copy of my second novel, Kris Kringle's Magic! Simply go here, become a follower, and comment!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Reading Clean Give Away Hop

A big thank you to Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not A Writer for hosting this month's giveaway, Reading Clean!


Kris Kringle is the round, jolly, elderly man that everyone knows. The man who spends his life giving.
But have you ever wondered about the boy he was? 
The young man? 
The newlywed?
Magic explores the background of the world's most beloved fictitious character. Illustrates the experiences that forged courage and strength, and made the boy into the man.
It also tells the story of the girl, Rebecca, who will one day become his wife. 
It is accepted that Kris Kringle lives at the North Pole. 
With Elves. 
But have you ever wondered how that happened? It must have taken some world-changing, even traumatic event to force an entire race to take up lodgings at a place so utterly inhospitable and unwelcoming.
Kris Kringle's Magic is a story of prejudice. Of hatred and fear and abuse.
And of true forgiveness and love.
And Magic.
You will never picture old Kris Kringle in the same light again. If you loved him before, you will love him even more now.
Filled with messages of love, forbearance, humanity and courage, Kris Kringle's Magic is the perfect Christmas story for the whole family. Using the dark themes of slavery and abuse, it proves that, with love and spiritual courage, one man can make a difference in the lives of thousands. Even millions. 
Let Kris Kringle's Magic change your world!

I am giving a copy of this, my newest book, to one lucky blog follower.
All you need to do to enter my draw, is to become a follower AND leave a comment on this blog.
It's that easy!
Good luck!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Bread . . . Reformed


Twice a week, and sometimes more, the wonderful aroma of freshly-baked bread wafted through the Stringam home.
Magic.
Often, it was followed, almost immediately, by the sight of children munching thick slices of fresh yumminess, thickly spread with fresh butter.
Mmmmm.
I wasn't one of them.
Oh, I loved Mom's bread.
It was amazing.
And I definitely was munching.
But I chose a unique - ie. weird - way of doing it.
Often to be followed by my Mom saying, “Diane! I work hard to make perfectly good, soft bread! Why do you do that to it?!”
She said this because . . . I squished it.
Squished.
Into a tight little ball.
Which I . . . then . . . ate.
Really.
Mom would watch, in disgust, as I took my slice of freshly-baked awesomeness.
Quickly peeled off and ate the crust.
And pressed and moulded the rest.
Then nibbled.
I have no idea why I did this.
Maybe it was because I had seen the screen cowboys eating little balls of bread out of their saddlebags.
Okay, it looked like little balls of bread.
I didn't realize that what they were eating was, in fact, biscuits.
I wasn't known for my powers of observation and deduction.
Moving on . . .
I no longer eat bread this way.
There are a couple of drawbacks.
The biggest one being that it's rather hard to spread any significant amount of peanut butter or nutella on a tightly pressed ball of dough.
And, let's face it, bread is just the medium by which such things are ingested.
And, in a choice between eating balls of dough or getting nutella to the mouth?
Even the cowboys would agree with me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Mildred's Nose


A poem.
Because it's Monday . . .

Mildred's Nose

Mildred, my friend has a marvellous nose.
Not bulbous.
Or hook-ed.
Or bellicose.
Not crooked.
Or flattened.
Or shaped like a bean.
The most beautiful nose that you ever have seen.
Can't say it's large.
A potato,
A squash.
A crooked ol' carrot.
An acorn.
A cosh.
(A nickname for what's really a good copper's 'billy'.)
Yes, nothing to ever make Mildred look silly.
It is shapely,
And small.
In reality – fair.
The grandest
Appendage
To ever
Suck air.
Fine-boned.
And slender.
With rose petal skin.
The kind that can always draw everyone in.
But with all of it's beauty, her friends still make fun.
They laugh,
And they tease.
They jeer.
And they shun.
But why with such beauty for them to behold,
Would they scoff,
And deride,
Mock,
And then scold?
Ridicule, ostracize, taunt, and tell jokes?
Snicker
With all
Of the fair
Jungle folks?
Because Mildred, oh, she of the wonderful nose.
The beauty,
Perfection.
The colour
Called 'rose'.
Well there's something about her that I've not disclosed.
Something, about which you need to be told.
Though our Mildred is all she could possibly be,
Good friend,
And clever,
And kind
As can be.
Yes, Mildred,
Has one,
Little secret
to hold.
Our Mildred's an elephant, truth to be told.

P.S. If you think that Mildred's true story's a gaffe,
You should hear about Harold,
The short-necked giraffe.

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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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