Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, January 4, 2014

The New Cold

It’s been a roller-coaster of a winter, weather-wise, here in Edmonton.
Okay, I know that, calendar-ally, we are only two weeks into it.
But in reality it’s been winter here since Halloween.
Temperatures rising and falling.
And rising and falling.
Yesterday, it was -3. (26.6 F)
Balmy for the first part of January.
This morning, it’s -23. (-9.4 F).
A teeth-chattering, crackling cold that penetrates everything.
Frosts your windows over.
And is (in the words of Gus Pike) cold enough to freeze your nose hairs stiff.
Perfect for some short-lived, vigorous outdoor activities (emphasis of both ‘short-lived’ and ‘vigorous’).
Or for staying indoors beside a snapping fire with a cup of rich hot-chocolate in one hand and a good book in the other.
We Tolleys have a term to describe this type of weather.
And therein hangs a tale.
If you would indulge me . . .
Husby and I had taken our (then) three boys in to Gramma’s house for the evening.
It was c-c-cold.
Each of us, had been padded and wadded with layer after layer of life-preserving warmth.
We had gotten to Gramma’s.
Unwrapped.
Enjoyed the warmth of a good dinner, good conversation and a couple of rousing games of ‘Probe’ (great game – Google it . . .).
It was time to head home.
Husby had gone out and started the car while I began the process of padding and wadding . . . again.
He came in to transport the first child.
He picked up the little fat-sausage shaped figure and opened the door.
A blast of cold air shot through the entryway.
“Oooh!” our son said, his voice slightly muffled, coming, as it was, through the thick scarf wound around his head. “It’s chili beans out here!”
And just like that, our family had its term for ‘very cold’.
So there you have it.
In Edmonton, our weather ranges from ‘Oh-my-word-it’s-hot-let’s-hide-in-the-basement’ through ‘gah-I’m-soaked-to-the-skin’ and ‘balmy-for-this-time-of-year’ all the way down to ‘chili-beans’.
We call it the new weather.
Grab your parkas!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Murdering the New Year

New Year’s Eve.
A time of food.
Fun.
Family.
And beating the pants off someone at this year’s game of choice.
The game for the last hours of 2013 and the wee, small hours of 2014?
Clue.
What could be better than starting the New Year out with a little bit of murder/mayhem and trying to decide if the victim had been bludgeoned, shot or strangled?
For some time, the players had been trying to figure out the whom, what and where of Mr. Boddy’s demise. Manipulating rooms (Ballroom, study, kitchen, library, conservatory, hall, dining room, lounge, billiard room), characters (Professor Plum, Mr. Green, Mrs. White, Miss Scarlett, Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard) and weapons (Knife, gun, lead pipe, candlestick, rope, wrench); and toying with such statements as: Miss Scarlett in the ballroom with the lead pipe, and Mr. Green in the study with the rope.
The hour was growing late/early.
And our bunch of non-drinkers was growing slightly giddy with the unaccustomed lateness of the hour.
Someone posed the statement, “Look at all of the different ways to murder someone . . . the newer versions have poison. We need poison!”
A whole new dimension in the world of homicide.
To which my son, Erik, replied, “We have it!”
Everyone looked at him.
“Yeah,” he went on. “The Colonel in the kitchen, eating beans. Murder by Mustard gas!”
For fifteen minutes, all anyone could do was laugh.
Perfect way to bring in the New Year.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fireworks - The Tolley Way

My Husby, loves fire.
Really.When we lived on the farm, our neighbours always knew when he was home. Inevitably, his presence was betrayed by the large column of smoke emanating from our property. And his tall figure silhouetted against the flames, happily poking whatever garbage he had been able to find.Our farm was amazingly trash-free.After our move to the city, his love of fire had, of necessity, to be squelched. For the good of the neighbourhood and our own personal safety.Neighbours can be notoriously crabby when it comes to garbage fires in their back yards.Just FYI.For these reasons, he commuted his love of fire to a love of fire . . . works. They sizzled. They sparked. They exploded. They were a budding ‘pyro’s’ citified dream. They filled the void left by his unfortunate, but necessary, separation from fire.He began a tradition. Fireworks on New Year’s Day. It was a relatively safe time. The world heavily coated in fire retardant – commonly called snow. Everyone in a festive mood, ready to celebrate.Permits and regulations were disregarded. One merely had to invite the mayor and his family over for dinner and a show to get around those. I mean, who’s going to ticket the mayor?We won’t go there . . .There was a large snow bank in a field just outside of the town limits. Perfect for the display. An array of fireworks, chosen specifically from the abundant possibilities, were thrust carefully but firmly into this bank to hold them steady before their spectacular flight.Grant had everything organized. Our second son and his friend were on hand to light things up. Strictly in order.Chaos controlled.Explosions only on his command.The stage was set.The first sparklers went off without a hitch. Starlight exploded in the sky. Red, Green, White, Blue. The display was dazzling. We oohed and aahed on cue. Everything was proceeding well.Then the event.One candle had ideas of its own. Not a good thing when you’re a firework. It went up, but before it could fulfill the measure of its creation, its trajectory . . . changed somewhat. 180 degrees, in fact. Straight into the box of remaining fireworks.For a moment, Grant stared at it, perhaps too shocked and surprised to really take in what had just happened. The firework spluttered warningly.He screamed.Not a good sound in the middle of a fireworks display. In an amazingly graceful leap, he cleared the snow bank, taking the two boys with him. The three of them landed in an ungainly heap.Then, totally abandoning dignity, they scrambled frantically for the snow bank the rest of us hid behind as the real fireworks display began behind them.It was like a scene out of a movie. For several minutes, the crackers fizzed and shot everywhere, sending up showers of sparks from wherever they happened to land. A few even made their way skyward. It was spectacular. Amazing. Fun. Everyone screamed and laughed . . . and ducked.Then . . . silence.After waiting several minutes, Grant finally figured it was safe to move. He crawled behind the snow bank, using knees and elbows. Sort of like a soldier approaching a bunker. A very cold, snowy bunker. With exploding things inside it.Yes, just like a bunker.He emerged some time later holding the still-smoking box, with the remnants of his collection and a very chagrined face.Fortunately, no one was injured. But Grant never again held a fireworks display. For one thing, he was out of fireworks.For another - how could he ever top that?
Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Tolley Nutrition

Our family believes in good nutrition.
We do.
It just doesn’t always sound like it . . .
My son and DIL were entertaining.
Dinner was winding down and dessert was being distributed.
Yummy dessert.
With ice cream.
Now, I should probably mention here that their kids are known vegetable/fruit eaters.
Oh, they like other things. It’s just that, if given the choice, they have been known to go for the ‘healthy’ alternative.
But I digress . . .
Their mother had made buttered, dill carrots as one of the vegetable dishes with dinner. A noted family favourite.
Eight-year-old Daughter Number Two, hereinafter known as D2, was agitating for a third helping.
A third helping.
“No,” her mother said. “Your sister hasn’t had seconds yet. I’m not giving you thirds until she has had a chance.”
Still D2 continued.
“No!” her mother said. “Not until everyone has had seconds.”
More coaxing.
“No! Stop asking!”
D2 is nothing, if not persistent.
“Pleeease?”
“Argh!” (real word) “You’re not having more Carrots!”
“But Mom . . .!”
“NO MORE CARROTS! EAT YOUR ICE CREAM!”
Hmm . . . okay . . . not something you hear every day . . .
Sooo . . . which would you choose?


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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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