Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, March 23, 2013

Of Mowers and Guardian Angels



Me and everyone on the ranch who was smarter than me (except Dad who was taking the picture. . .)

I made it! I was nine! I could do anything!
I was supergirl!
As you may have guessed, nine years old was an important time in my family.
The time when one was moved up to the next level of responsibility.
Now I could do all of the cool things that my older brothers and sister could do. Things I'd been waiting years to do.
Wonderful 'adult' things like . . . mowing the lawn.
Odd, isn't it, how exciting and attractive something looks when someone else is doing it?
And how . . . not-exciting and not-attractive it is when suddenly, it is your responsibility?
By the second time, the thrill of mowing our acres and acres of lawn had begun to pall, somewhat.
In fact, I hated it.
Maybe if there were such a thing as a riding mower, I could have retained my enthusiasm . . .
But the fact was that we only had a small, electric mower. And you had to push that little cretin every square foot of the way.
Oh, and watch out for the cord, but I am getting ahead of myself.
My instructions were very specific. Always start at or near the plug-in. Then work away from it in rows.
And rows and rows and rows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sorry! Got caught up in the memory . . .
Needless to say, my mind didn't stay focused on what I was doing.
In fact, it rather wandered . . . a bit.
One bright, sunny summer afternoon, when my horse and I could have been a small dot on the horizon, I was, once more, pushing that wretched mower.
But it wasn't all bad. Part of me was off riding . . .
Suddenly, I was rudely made aware of just why we are supposed to keep our minds at least in the vicinity of what we are doing.
The mower . . . quit.
Just like that.
Dead.
There were some telltale sparks in the lawn, if one cared to look, but other than that, the stupid thing had just suddenly become lifeless.
I narrowed my eyes and began my investigation.
Aha! A cord. That just . . . ended. Snapped off as though it had been . . . cut. I searched around for the other end.
There it was! Lying in the grass!
Now how do you suppose . . .
The truth hit me like one of Dad's yearling bulls.
I had done the unspeakable. The unpardonable.
I HAD MOWED THE CORD.
Soon, if Dad found out, I was going to be as dead as this mower.
I had to fix it.
I grabbed the two ends. Maybe if I just put them back together, they will magically join . . .
I sometimes wonder just how many guardian angels I wore out during my growing up years on the ranch. I think I went through them at an alarming rate.
But they were good at what they did.
There was an enormous explosion and a First-of-July amount of sparklers.
I dropped those two ends like they were hot . . .
Which they probably were.
. . . and headed for my dad.
He just shook his head and followed me to the scene of the crime. Then he unplugged the live end of the cord (funny that I didn't think of that) and with a few quick strokes and some electrician's tape, mended everything.
Good as new.
I sat there in the unmown grass and watched him work.
He got to his feet. "Okay, Diane, back to work. And watch the cord a bit more carefully."
I stared up at him.
After that traumatic experience he was going to make me get 'back on the horse'? (Something I would loved to have done, in reality.)
He smiled and turned away.
He was! He actually meant for me to start mowing again!
I looked at the couple of swaths I had completed.
Then at the millions of swaths left to do.
I reached out and tentatively flipped the switch. My trusty little cohort hummed into life.
Sigh.
I started pushing.
Okay. Careful of the cord. Always keep it between you and the plug-in. Be watchful. Be wary . . .
I know what I will do the next time I go riding! Topper and me will . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
And yet another guardian angel sighs as he is called into service.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Barnyard Acrobat

What are you looking at?!


I never used a saddle.
I had seen a movie, ‘The Sons of Katie Elder’ and the sister in that movie only used a riding pad. I though that was cool and copied her.
Tacking up was amazingly easier. Riding much more natural.
And no stirrups to get in the way.
But it afforded other . . . complications. For one thing you could never use a rope.
Nothing to dally to.
Chasing down and securing a calf presented . . . certain challenges.
But nothing I couldn’t handle.
I simply rode up beside them and leaned off to one side, catching said calf by the tail. Then I slid off on top of him. Or her.
It was fool proof.
Until I met Cow 175.
Head on.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The day started out much as any other. I was 'riding herd'. Checking to see if anyone had calved, or needed help in doing so. I came across a small, obviously newborn calf hidden in the tall grass.
I should explain that a new mother will instruct her new calf to lie quietly until she returns.
I don't know how they do this. But they do.
The new little calves will simply lie there while you vaccinate them and check them over.
But the final step, the one where the calf is officially identified and tagged to match mama, is the trickiest.
Because this requires the attendance of said mama.
Imagine trying to pick out the mama when all the cows and calves . . . look the same.
I found that the best way was to straddle the calf and make 'distressed' noises. Guaranteed to encourage any mama to come on the run.
It worked.
She came.
She saw.
She attacked.
Now I should mention here that my Dad raised Polled Herefords. The breed known for their gentle dispositions. Oh, and also a breed that has no horns. Thus the word 'polled'.
They don’t need them.
175 hit me with the pointy part of her head. The part made entirely of bone. Really hard bone.
I saw stars and quite a bit of the prairie as I left the calf.
In a summersault.
Backwards.
The culprit and her offspring wasted no time in vacating the area.
I got to my feet and stared after them, fuzzily. I had lost my glasses in the encounter. But that didn’t even slow me down.
I piled back onto my horse and started after the two, quickly nabbing the calf once more. This time, I took the precaution of dragging it beneath my horse.
Something else you should know is that throughout my years on the ranch, I was known for riding really . . . ummm . . . green horses. Usually radically unsuited to ranch life.
GollyGee, my mount of the moment was totally in keeping with this reputation. She was an ex-racehorse. Tall, lean, fast, and really . . . not smart. Usually, a person walking anywhere near her would have sent her, by the most direct route, to the moon.
And a person dragging something towards her? Jupiter.
Perhaps the anger radiating off me in waves had a stupefying effect on her. Perhaps she was merely trying something new. Self preservation.
Whichever. She stood like a rock as I dragged the 50 pounds of protesting red and white calf beneath her.
Now most cows are afraid of horses. Fortunately for me, this particular cow was only over-protective, not suicidal.
She did laps while I injected and tagged her calf.
Then I stood up, releasing the baby, but before it could regain its feet and rejoin its mama, I walked over and booted her. Twice.
I don't know what it did for her, but it made me feel good.
Then I watched as the two of them headed for some human-less spot.
Riding back to the scene of the crime, I searched around until I finally discovered my glasses. Miraculously undamaged.
Then I rode home and stabled my horse.
And here is where the story really gets interesting . . .
My Mom was the daughter of a rancher. Her years of ranching experience were many and varied. But she could still be shocked.
Something I did.
On a regular basis.
When I walked in the kitchen door, she screamed. And ran for a towel. It was only then that I realized that I could feel the tip of my tongue.
Through my bottom lip.
And that my shirt was completely covered in blood.
Huh. How did I miss that?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Manners

Well . . . at least they look nice . . .

Our three boys, ages 2.5 to 5 were in various stages of learning ‘manners’.
Most importantly: saying ‘Please excuse me’ following a hiccup or sneeze.
Or anything involving the nearly constant passage of small amounts of gas.
Our success rate was . . . iffy.
Mostly, anything that resembled a bodily function was considered the most hilarious of occurrences and the cause for loud laughter and attempts at re-creation.
Sigh.
But we were nothing if not persistent.
Because it was important.
Finally, our efforts and tenacity yielded some rewards.
Small, I admit, but encouraging.
We were walking down the local mall.
Intent on finding . . . something important.
Our eldest son was just ahead of us, walking independently on his own.
Second son had a firm grip on my hand.
Third son was toddling along at his father’s side, his 2.5 year-old legs moving as fast as they could to keep up.
Suddenly, he stopped and stared up at his father.
“What’s the matter, son?”
His eyes went wide.
Then he sneezed.
Three times.
In quick succession.
He looked over at me and his little face lit up.
My heart stopped.
Was one of my sons actually going to prove to me that my time and efforts to instil manners had not gone entirely unnoticed?
“Ooo!” he said. “Three ‘scuse me’s!”
Well, we were part-way there.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Call Me

I'll be here!

Every day, while Mama goes to work, Tinsey Girl comes to stay with Gramma.
Something all of us love.
There is much hugging and kissing as Mama prepares to go out the door in the morning.
Many ‘I love yous’.
And not a few ‘see you soons’.
Then Mama’s off and we’re on our own.
We have fun.
There are toys to play with.
Books to read.
Games to enact.
And yummy things to eat.
But Tinsey Girl still misses her Mama.
Now one of TG’s favourite toys is a musically interactive, eminently portable activity board.
On wheels.
There are buttons and keys to push, gears to spin, doors to open and close, and a small, purple phone.
To . . . umm . . . carry around.
And which, until recently, has been MIA.
A cursory and completely fruitless search had been conducted.
And the toy written off as one of those things that ‘will just show up later’.
Our daughter is a carpenter. Arriving at work and opening her toolbox, she finally discovered TG’s little purple phone.
Tucked neatly among the hammers and drills of her Mama’s tools-of-the-trade.
Arriving home from work, our grinning daughter triumphantly held up the phone.
TG grabbed it and refused to let go.
It went into the tub with her during her bath.
And ditto when she went to sleep.
The next morning, there was the usual ritual of hugs, kisses and ‘I love yous’.
And her Mama was off for another day of noisy measuring, cutting and piecing together.
As lunchtime approached, she drug out her backpack and zipped it open.
There, on top of everything was TG’s little purple phone.
Our daughter pulled it out and stared at it.
Then she laughed.
The message was finally clear.
“Call me!”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My Crime Time



My brother and me.
I'm the criminal on the right.
Okay. I confess. I stole something.Once.
I have no defense. I did it. I'm guilty.
I was four. Is that an excuse . . .?
Mom and I were doing the weekly grocery shopping. A very exciting time for both of us. 
Well, for me, at any rate. 
We had driven in from the ranch in the family's late-model Chrysler (Dad always drove a Chrysler), which was an adventure in itself.There were no seatbelts. They hadn't been invented yet. Apparently no one had yet seen the wisdom in fastening small, easily-launched bodies into a safe place while hurtling down sketchy gravel roads at 60 miles per hour in a two ton vehicle.
My mom used to hold out her arm when she applied the brakes.
I was safe.
We pulled up to the curb across the street from the grocery store and proceeded inside.
The check-out desk, usually manned by a woman, stood in the center of the store, surrounded by the magical world of the grocery.
Directly behind the desk was a bank of cubicles, in which one could find the most amazing things of all . . . the penny candies.
It was there that I would park myself, after the cart got too full to hold me.
I admit it was difficult to leave the treasures that my mom had been adding to the cart. Treasures like canned peas. Baked beans. Tinned salmon.
The all-important Spam.
But I found comfort in just looking at the myriad possibilities behind that main desk.
A whole family of chocolate. Straws of sweet, flavoured powder. Licorice and JuJubes formed into the most amazing shapes. Wax figures which could be nipped and sucked dry of their wonderful, sweet juices. Lick-M-Aid. Lollipops. Suckers. Bubble gum in two sizes of colourful balls. The choices were truly endless to a four-year-old.
And my mom's purse offered the gateway to this bounty.
I couldn't stand it any longer. I ran to her. "Mom? Can I have a bubblegum?"
"Not today, dear."
What? What had she said? Had she really used those three words? The small utterance that shattered my hopes and dreams? That barred me forever from the bliss that all of that candy represented?
It couldn't be.
"But Moooom!"
"Not today, dear. I don't want you to be eating any candy before dinner."
Huh. Dinner was a lifetime away. What a stupid excuse.
"Just one?" I turned. My eye was caught by the bin full of bright orange bubble gums. The big ones with the little, rough bumps on the surface.
And the total deliciousness inside.
I pointed. "Just a bubble gum? I'll eat my dinner. I promise."
A smile from my long-suffering parent. "No, dear. Not today."
Huh. Well, we'll just see about that.
Mom brought her purchases to the desk and she and the woman behind it were distracted.
I would just take one gum. No one would ever know. My hand crept into the bin of orange bubble gums, wrapped itself around one tempting morsel and popped it into my mouth.
Ha. Mission accomplished.
I began the wonderfully arduous task of breaking down the hard, candy shell.
Mom finished paying for her groceries and was following the young boy carrying them to our car.
I fell in happily behind her.
The boy set the bags in the trunk, smiled at my mom and me and left.
Mom opened the door for me and I jumped inside. Still chewing.
She got in. And sniffed.
Then her head whipped around and she skewered me with a gimlet gaze. "Diane! What are you eating?!"
I froze. How did she know? The gum was in my mouth, safely hidden. I decided then. Moms were definitely magic.
Clever prevarication was in order.
"Ummm. Nothing."
"Diane, did you steal a bubblegum?"
I stared at her. Moms could see through cheeks!
"No."
"Diane!"
My head drooped. "Yes."
She sighed. "Diane, you know that stealing is wrong, don't you."
I lifted my head. Tears were already starting to pool. "Yes."
"What should we do about it?"
Tears started to slide down my cheeks. "I don't know."
Mom opened her purse and reached inside. Then she handed me a penny. "You will have to go back inside and pay for it."
I stared at her in horror. Go inside? Face my victim? Confess my guilt?
"I - I don't want to."
"But you have to."
I sat there, my four-year-old brain working frantically to find another solution.
Any other solution.
Finally, I sighed. Mom was right. I would have to go inside and pay for my ill-gotten bubblegum. I opened the door and got out.
For a moment, I stood there in the gutter, wiping my cheeks and staring across the street at the grocery store. Which, incidentally, had assumed gigantic proportions since Mom and I had left.
Suddenly the orange deliciousness in my mouth didn't taste very good.
I spit it out into the gutter and looked down at it.
It still had bits of the hard candy shell imbedded in the softer gum. I hadn't even broken it in.
I sighed and looked at Mom through the window of the car.
She nodded towards the store.
I started across the street, feet dragging.
This was the widest street ever known to man.
Finally, I reached the store and went up the steps.
The door jingled happily. The woman behind the desk turned and looked at me. I approached slowly and tried twice to produce a voice. Finally, "I forgot to pay for a bubblegum," I said, sliding the penny across the counter towards her.
She nodded and looked at me gravely.
"Thank you, dear," she said. "You know it's not right to steal, don't you?"
I nodded. Well I certainly do now!
"Don't do it again."
I shook my head.
"Thank-you for being honest."
Another nod and I was free. I ran back to the car.
Mom didn't lecture. She knew I had learned my lesson.
I still love bubblegum balls. Especially the orange ones with the little rough bumps. But every time I chew one, I remember being four years old.
And learning about being honest.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Counting Noses

Excuse me, Sir . . .

Census.
That process, every few years, when the Government gets to perform ‘roll call’.
So to speak.
In 1981, Mom applied for, and was awarded, the job of Census supervisor.
The job entailed working closely with a team of women who quickly became her friends.
The work was, for the most part, fairly mundane, as each of the women went door-to-door, collecting information on who lived there.
There were a few ‘hold-outs’.
And one or two downright nasties.
But the group managed to get the work done.
Noses counted.
And reports filled out.
It was time to celebrate.
Mom suggested that they all go out for a commemorative Chinese Food dinner.
Reservations were made.
The women gathered.
Eating and hilarity ensued. Mostly at my Mom’s expense as her co-workers proceeded to ‘roast’ their good-natured and long-suffering boss who had become such a good friend.
The end of the meal approached and fortune cookies were duly delivered to their table.
Each person seated there selected one.
Then they made a game of standing and reading their fortune aloud.
Finally, it was Mom’s turn.
She got to her feet.
There was a breathless pause.
(Hey, it’s my story; I’ll tell it how I want . . .)
Mom grinned. “Oh, this is entirely appropriate,” she said. “It’s time to make new friends.
Who says you can’t find truth in a fortune cookie?

All of My Friends

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at Amazon.com and .ca and Chapters.ca and other fine bookstores.

Follow by Email

Hugs, Delivered.

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

Google+ Followers

Networked Blogs

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series

SnowMan

SnowMan
A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.

Translate

My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

About the Mom

My photo

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 . . .

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven

Essence

Essence
A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from Smashwords.com

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.

Melissa

Melissa
Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.

Devon

Devon
Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!


Grab and Add!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?