Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Santa's Report Card 2014

Santa’s life is not an easy one.  Oh, there is plenty of the joy and happiness and ho-ho-ho laughter, all those things that Santa stands for in the world.  But in today’s enlightened, social-media-friendly world where information can be passed seemingly faster than the speed of light, Santa faces several conundrums that are not easily dealt with.
Case in point: Santa’s 3-year old granddaughter, Linnea, whom we most affectionately call Linnie, she of the firm mind and undaunted spirit.  Linnie, along with her 12 cousins of the Santa and Mrs. Santa lineage, had observed in our Claus career last year that Grandma and Grandpa would occasionally put on the red velvet suits and go out and about as the happy couple.  The questions were inevitable, so Grandma Claus and I decided to be proactive and tell them all the truth before the questions started – that Grandma and Grandpa were only some of Santa’s ‘helpers’, because the real Santa needed lots of helpers to visit all the little boys and girls in the world.  The plan worked well – last year.
So this year, little Linnie was present when Santa emerged from his ‘dressing room’ – and Linnie’s face lit up like the star on top of the Christmas tree.
“Grandpa, you’re Santa Claus, aren’t you.”  No question – more of a declaration.
I started in with my pre-arranged explanation.  “Well, Linnie, Grandpa is not Santa, I’m only one of his . . . “
Linnie interrupted, fists on hips and with a stern look on her face which said that she wasn’t putting up with any more of Grandpa’s stories.  “NO, Grandpa!”  She said, with a look that would put any man to cringing in his fur-topped boots.  “You ARE Santa!” 
And she stormed away, having put both Grandpa and Santa Claus in their rightful place.
I guess I’ll just have to live with it.
Santa survived that encounter with a sure-minded 3-year old to enjoy something in the neighbourhood of about seven hundred children on his knee this Christmas season.  I am pleased to report that my knees survived, along with the rest of me.  (It was only due to the TLC that Mrs. Santa brings along on every visit). 
I have spent my life studying people, and the Santa believers are the most interesting people I have ever encountered.  About 75% of the under 2 crowd will NOT go anywhere near Santa, suffering from what social scientists call ‘coulrophobia’: fear of clowns.  I understand this affliction perfectly.  Whenever I look in the mirror, I wonder that anyone would want to come near.  We always reassure the parents of the coulrophobic little ones that “s/he’ll feel better about Santa next year.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the late pre-teen crowd, who have discovered the truth about Santa and who are reluctant to sit on my knee and participate in what they feel is an elaborate deception, somehow meant to make them seem silly.  Many of them will still come, reluctantly, and I try to reassure them that they are not silly, rather that they are only helping to bring some happiness into a world that desperately needs more of it.

The middle grouping, from about age 3-10, are the smiling, happy crowd for whom Santa exists fully and benevolently.  And this is my report card for 2014:  the world of my future will be in good hands, because today there are THOUSANDS of young ones who have a smile that will not stop.  From 5-year old Arrabella whose smile was so infectious I still smile to myself, filled with the love of happy child, when I think of it; to 10-year old Jake, afflicted with Down’s, whose smile told me that even with his challenges in life he was as happy a young man as he could be.
This smile phenomenon tells Santa much, without a word being spoken.  It tells me that today’s parents are in fact bringing their children up in happiness, teaching them, raising them with love and a hope for a better future.  It tells me that in a world that appears on all fronts to be going to pot, that there are still plenty of smiles out there amongst what I can only conclude to be the quiet – and happy – majority.  Yes, of course there is much to be done, much sadness to banish – but there are plenty of smiles out there with which to fight the good fight.
It tells me there is hope for the future.  And that any time now, when my daughter puts me in a seniors’ rest home as she often threatens to do when I tell groaner jokes or silly stories, that there will be plenty of smiling people around to look after me, when I need it the most.
I’m glad to have had every one of those 700-odd smiles this year.  I hereby dub 2014 the Year of the Smile!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a very merry 2015!

Keep Smiling!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eau de Skunk

Yeah. Don't let him fool you.
He only looks like a college student. Studying.
Dad was a veterinarian student in Guelph, Ontario.
That fact, alone shouldn't strike terror into anyone's heart . . .
Christmas 1946 was a special time.
The veterinarian students (hereinafter known as the Vets) had pooled their resources and bought some decorations and a small tree.
These, they had used to decorate their balcony.
It looked quite festive and they were rather pleased with themselves.
Something that happened often.
But I digress . . .
Other students also noticed their efforts.
Students who were either too broke or too lazy to decorate their own area.
Not a good situation.
The Vets came back from class a couple of days before Christmas to discover that their tree was . . . missing.
Investigation was indicated.
After a short, very short search, they discovered that the thief or thieves had left a trail of decorations down the hall.
Obviously the work of amateurs.
The Vets followed the telltale trail into their neighbour's corridor and, further, into one of the dorm rooms there. (Oh, if only NCIS could have it this easy!)
They knocked.
Politely.
Actually, they probably hammered violently, but my way sounds better.
Several young men answered the door, then vehemently (good word) protested their innocence.
And as strongly denied that they had access to the closet to which the trail subsequently led.
Undaunted, the Vets demanded that they open the door or it would be pulled from its hinges.
Gently. 
At that point a key was quickly produced, the door opened, and the disclosed tree retrieved.
The Vets wasted no time in restoring it to its rightful place of honour on their balcony.
All was well.
Or almost well.
Remember. These were young men.
In college.
Payback was indicated.
Two of these young men had recently uncovered a den of skunks.
As part of their training, and because they were bored, they de-scented those skunks.
But saved the glands.
Weird.
One of them suddenly came up with a brilliant plan.
They would chop up the glands, add a little water, then carefully fill a syringe with the resulting goo.
No sooner imagined than accomplished.
Now, I should point out here that, in the late 40s, each door in the dorms at Guelph, and indeed, everywhere, opened with a large, old-fashioned key.
The keyhole was big enough to peek through.
And certainly large enough to accommodate a syringe needle.
While everyone else was at class, the two vet students took their syringe and squirted a little of their prized 'essence' through the keyhole of every door in that corridor.
The smell was immediate . . . and indescribable.
Hmm. Maybe they had been a little precipitate? (another good word!)
But the damage was done.
For the last day before vacation, everyone who had anything to do with that building, did it in as brief a time as possible.
Sleeping was out of the question.
Most of the young men simply left town as soon as their last class was over.
Perhaps distance would lessen the smell.
Dad didn't give the prank much thought during his Christmas vacation back in Alberta.
Some things are best forgotten.
And, astonishingly enough, by the time they got back to the campus, the smell was all but gone.
Good thing carpets hadn't been invented yet.
But everyone learned something from the experience.
            1. Leave skunks alone.
            2. Never, ever play tricks on veterinarian students.
Guelph - 24 years later - the smell is almost gone . . .
          

Monday, December 29, 2014

Eye (to the) Max

If you think the outside is fantastic . . .
Edmonton, Alberta is a good-sized city.
Not distressingly large, by the world's standards.
But a nice, comfortable million or so people.
It has many, many attractions.
Our family's favourite is the Telus World of Science.
When the kids were small, it was called the Space and Science Centre.
And we were there almost every week.
The kids would wander through their favourite displays.
Interact with their favourite activities.
And go with us to see an Imax show.
If you've never seen Imax presentation, you should.
It consists of a huge screen.
And crystal-clear photography.
And you feel as though you were part of the action.
When our Caitlin was three, we went to see a show - simply titled, Speed.
For forty minutes, we were part of car racing, flights, train rides, roller coasters, and anything in this world that went fast.
To say we enjoyed it would be a vast understatement.
Our sons in particular were quite literally hanging onto the edge of their seats.
Finally, the show ended, as shows do.
The lights came up.
Caitlin, who had spent the entire time in the seat next to her father, looked up.
“Daddy? Is it done?”
Her father nodded.
“Can I put my feet down now?”
It was then we realized that, when the action started, she had pulled her feet up to keep them from catching on anything as it 'flew' past.
And held them up.
For forty minutes.
Now that's movie realism.
Edmonton is a wonderful place.
There are tons of things to do.
But when you tire.
Stop at the Imax.
It's all about seeing.
Keep your feet up.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Out in the Blizzard


On the prairies, winter storms can blow up very fast.
Obliterating the countryside and bringing visibility to zero.
One can lose one’s way walking between the house and the barn.
The best thing to do is to get inside where it’s warm and stay put.
If one has warning, one can get to the nearest safe place.
If one doesn’t . . .
A storm was coming. The local school had been emptied of children, sent home with strict instructions to get there as quickly as possible.
Most of them made it.
One little girl did not.
As the storm closed over the area, frantic searchers were sent out, fanning the countryside for one tiny figure in the vast, freezing blizzard.
A hopeless search.
It was many hours before my Uncle Owen found her, nearly frozen solid.
He hefted her on his back and began to make his way toward the Stringam home. Partway there, he met his father and the two of them managed to carry the poor, frozen figure the rest of the way.
My Dad remembers the scene well as they carried the still and silent girl into the house. As he told us, her feet ‘clopped together like two wooden blocks’.
She was handed over to my Grandma Stringam, who was largely accepted as the ‘doctor’ in the area.
Grandma took the little frozen body and laid her on the bed. Then, throughout the night, she tended her, rubbing her extremities with coal oil.
By the next morning, the girl was awake and improving.
She survived - her only damage the loss of the nail from one little finger - largely due to the knowledge and care of my grandma.
Pictures of the prairies show a soft, gently-folded landscape. Largely treeless, but covered in waving grass and sagebrush. The occasional stream or river flows through and the sky is clear and endless.
A perfect world.
But, in winter, it is a place to be respected.
Anything can happen.
And when it does, thank goodness for people like my Grandma.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

One Hot Fire

It’s the Christmas break and I’m enjoying the break from teaching.
So, what could be better than a story about teaching . . .
Grandma Stringam. A few years after this story . . .

It was 1903 and my Grandma Stringam, just turned eighteen, was asked to teach school in Aldrich, Utah, forty-five miles from her home town of Teasdale.
Possessing only a grade eight education, she felt ill-equipped for such a task and hesitated to accept, but the family who had approached her were insistent, even going so far as to secure a special teaching permit.
Suddenly, she was a teacher.
Her fourteen students from grades one to six - some of whom were even taller than she was - gave her numerous experiences in her little one-room school house.
This is one . . .
In March, the weather was still quite chilly and she had a lively little fire going in the fireplace. Class had just been called to order and she was busily putting work on the board.
Suddenly a shot rang out.
The bullet took the corners of fourteen pages off the reader held by her first-grader, then ricocheted and parted the teacher’s hair before burying itself in the blackboard behind her head.
For a few moments, all was quiet in the room. Then, realizing that someone had to have tossed a bullet into the fire, she scanned the rows of children until she spotted the one with the most frightened look on his face.
She glared at him. “Arthur! Come up here!”
“I didn’t do that!” he said, refusing to get out of his chair.
Again, she asked him to come up.
Again, he refused. “I had fourteen bullets in my pockets when I came to school this morning and I can show you all fourteen!”
She had him turn out his pockets. Sure enough, there were only thirteen.
“That’s all right,” she said. “Give me those bullets and come with me. I’m going to take you home to your parents.”
She told the rest of the class to keep on with their work and she took Arthur home. Handing the bullets to his mother, she said, “I want to see the school board before this boy comes back to school. He can’t come back until I do.”
Arthur never returned.
A few days later, she spotted him out on the hillside, cleaning out a ditch. Punishment meted out by his father for a boy who wouldn’t behave in class.
Grandma wasn't tall. 
But she certainly had, for want of a better term, control.
When I grow up, I want to be just like her!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Waiting for Santa

He came!!!
The Stringam ranch was far out in the country.
Far out.
But Santa still managed to find it.
In fact, it was probably one of his first stops because he showed up even before the kids had gone to bed.
All of this happened several years BD (Before Diane), but fortunately my Dad still remembers it . . .
Christmas Eve. The sun had long since set and a sparkling winter evening had closed over the old two-storey farmhouse.
Two big-eyed children, ages four and two were listening to stories about the magical Santa and his gift-bearing sleigh and reindeer.
Suddenly, mid-story, their father stood up, apparently hearing noises outside.
“Oh! I think he’s here!” He grinned at the kids, then put on his coat and headed outside, into the blackness.
Both children crowded close to the kitchen door, trying hard to peer into the night and catch a glimpse of this mysterious ‘Santa’.
They didn’t have long to wait.
Or far to peer.
Because the door swung open and Santa stepped right into their kitchen.
Following some general ‘ho-ho-hos’ and some pats on the head, he carried his sack of toys into the front room and proceeded to arrange brightly-coloured packages under the Christmas tree.
The two wide-eyed children drifted dazedly in his wake, observing everything closely.
Finally, the little girl could stand it no longer. “Santa? Did you see Daddy out there?” She glanced toward the kitchen door.
Some general affirmative grunting from the man in red.
“Oh.” A long pause. Then, “Is he holding your reindeer?”
Myth comes up smack against the practical four-year-old brain.
Myth wins.

The Stockings are hung.

The Bears are made.















The PJ's are finished.
Santa? We're ready.

Merry Christmas to all and a very happy holiday with family and friends!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Santa's Speedo

I know many of you have read this before.

But it's my favourite Christmas story. :)

In the Tolley household, Christmas . . . the actual ‘business portion’ which includes frantic tearing of colourful papers and scrabbling through mounds of discarded wrapping, was an event on hold until the father of the house finally succumbed to the pleadings of his numerous children and crawled out of bed.
Once he hit the front room, it was every man for himself.
Or every woman . . . or child . . .
You get the picture.
To facilitate the introduction of said father to the ‘action room’, the children, over the years, had graduated from begging to more . . . proactive methods.
As their size and strength increased, they finally achieved the impossible.
Plucking their sire from his warm downy and carrying him, bodily, to his place of honour.
In an attempt to thwart their . . . growing . . . expertise, their father began to incorporate thought into the proceedings.
He resorted to sneakiness.
With varying degrees of success.
Allow me to illustrate . . .
Christmas, 2001, began like many others.
Tiny noises in the bowels of the house which told us that the natives were stirring. And time for any needed preparation was short.
Husby leaped from the bed and, under cover of darkness, began to shed his pajamas.
Not unusual.
However, considering that our children would soon be bounding up the stairs demanding to open presents . . . well . . . okay, unusual.
Sleepily, I noted the sound of fabric sliding over flesh.
He was pulling something else on.
Then, he crawled back into the bed and snuggled close.
Suspicious, I asked him what he was wearing and he chuckled.
“Not much,” he said.
Then the pounding started. “Mom, Dad! Time to open presents!”
“Okay,” he called, cheerfully.
Another sign that all was not as it should be.
The door swung open.
Slowly.
Several suspicious noses poked into the room, the light from the hallway throwing their shadows across the bed. Remember, these children had been exposed to many different devices in an attempt to discourage them from their desired goal.
Duct tape, catapults, booby traps, duct tape, air horns, chains with padlocks, duct tape, yards of medical gauze, mustard, duct tape.
Okay, I admit it. He likes duct tape.
Back to my story . . .
The group stayed huddled for a moment, afraid to pierce the unknown blackness that pervaded our room.
We remained still.
Finally one brave soul reached for the switch, flooding the scene with light and everyone moved slowly forward, still tightly packed.
A group makes a harder target.
Okay the reasoning needs a bit of work, but there is safety in numbers.
They approached the bed.
Still cautious.
Still peering anxiously into the shadows and flinching at every sound.
Finally, they reached their father.
Silence.
Grant’s eyes were closed, a small, blissful smile creasing his face.
Not a good sign.
One of the older boys grabbed the covers, then paused, gaining courage.
The silence stretched.
He threw them back.
And disclosed his portly father clad in a ‘speedo’.
I am not making this up.
It was a bright blue one.
Oh, and a bow-tie. Red. With sequins.
Now I would like to take this opportunity to state that the ‘speedo’ swimsuit was created with speed in mind, hence the name. Comfort is secondary, and looks a far distant third.
Certainly they look . . . ummm . . . delicious on a trim, incredibly fit man.
On a middle aged, fairly Santa-esque male?
Not as good.
But certainly effective.
The kids scattered.
Screaming.
We could hear one of them moaning in the hall. “I don’t want to open presents, do you want to open presents?”
Another, “I can’t un-see it! I can’t un-see it!”
Still another, “Presents? What are those? I’m going back to bed!”
My husband chuckled. “I should have thought of this years ago!” he said.
Mission accomplished.
Okay, you'll have to use your imagination regarding  clothing.
This is the best I can do.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Spectacle (Part Four of Four)

Christmas.
A time for . . . . busy-ness.
While I'm decorating, baking, sewing and playing with grandkids, I'm posting a Christmas story.
If you've just joined us, the first part is here.
The second, here.
And the third, here.
Go ahead and catch up. 
We'll wait . . . 

Conclusion.

For the next several weeks, the town was abuzz with talk from both Jenna Grace's camp and from
F. Roddy's.
Floats were being assembled in nearly every available garage.
Both town bands, the high school marching and the veteran's brass were rehearsing nightly.
Not one, but two Town Sweetheart contests were held. (The town's one hair dresser worked straight out for two days solid, finally collapsing into her own wash chair after completing Mrs. Jasper's elaborate upsweep.)
And, strangely, two Santas had been engaged. Sleighs, reindeer and all.
Colorful posters from F. Roddy's group began to appear, proclaiming the date and route of the much-anticipated parade.
But before anyone could read them, they were quietly replaced by posters from Jenna Grace's camp.
Which were subsequently torn down and replaced themselves.
This went on until the very day of the parade.
But, as the date and time were consistent in both, the general populace didn't really take much notice of the details, other than that the route would, at some time or other, follow main street.
Thus it was with great anticipation, that the entire town, or at least those few who were not actually in the parade, lined the single main street on the chosen date.
The day was perfect.
Snow had fallen, but only enough to provide a white backdrop to the festivities.
The air was crisp, not too cold, but just enough to put a snap into the air and tint cheeks and noses pink.
The hot chocolate vendor in front of the city hall was doing a brisk business, as was the hot cider man across the street in front of the pool hall.
The smell of freshly-roasted nuts and popcorn filled the air and made smiling mouths water.
There was much talk and laughter and jostling for position.
Finally, the sound of drums.
Everyone stilled and necks craned as people tried to catch the first glimpse of the marching bands which would lead the way.
"They're coming from that way!" Mayor Mayor shouted, pointing to the north.
"No, I think I can hear them coming from this way," Kevin Rhymes said, pointing in the opposite direction.
People strained first one direction, then the other.
Surely the music was coming from both directions?
Sudden movement.
Ah. There, led by F. Roddy Digby enthusiastically swinging a long, gold Marshal's pole, were the town veterans, their brass instruments gleaming in the noon sun, as they blared out their own version of 'Jingle Bells'.
Behind them, colorful floats and decorated bicycles.
Wait. There was more music.
Different music.
Peoples' heads spun back as the High School marching band came into sight.
From the opposite direction.
Led by a smiling Jenna Grace Chappell, waving her own shining symbol of authority, and stepping brightly to the strains of 'Here Comes Santa Claus', they quickly closed the gap that separated the two bands.
Two bands?
Two parades!
The people clapped and cheered.
This was the best parade ever!
For a moment, anyway.
When the two groups were no more than twenty feet apart, Jenna Grace and F. Roddy suddenly came to a stop.
Facing each other.
In the very center of main street.
Each parade came to a halt behind them, stepping smartly in place as the bands continued their respective musical selections.
Narrow-eyed, Jenna Grace and F. Roddy glared at each other, still continuing to beat to the music with their Marshall's poles.
Then F. Roddy raised his eyebrows. "What are you going to do now, Chappell?" he shouted, grinning.
Jenna Grace's eyes flared and, without warning, she swung her Marshal's pole like a baseball bat.
F. Roddy let his pole slide through his fingers and turned to meet the blow.
A hollow 'clang' rang out over the combined music of both orchestras.
It acted like a signal.
Still marching in place, the bands immediately increased their volume.
Attempting to drown out their opposition.
The two Marshals in the center were doing a lively dance, swinging and ducking as they alternately tried to hit their opponent and avoid the other's pole.
The cacophony of sound increased.
Brasses versus brasses, drums against drums, and over it all, the hollow 'crash' and 'clang' of the two Marshal's poles.
The respective songs ended.
One of the tuba players collapsed against his fellows as he blasted out one final note.
There was a moment of comparative silence as each group drew breath to begin again.
Only the rat-tat-tat of the snare drums continued, along with the occasional sound of Marshal's pole meeting Marshal's pole and the grunt of the two protagonists.
Suddenly, Jenna Grace's pole found its way through F. Roddy's defense and hit him squarely in the solar plexus.
F. Roddy went down like a sack of potatoes.
But as he went, he lost his grip on his pole and it fell with evil precision, hitting the top of Jenna Grace's head, who summarily joined him on the pavement.
At that moment, a lone trumpeter began to play 'Let There be Peace on Earth'.
The rest of his orchestra took up the tune.
Then the players from the opposite group joined in.
For the first time, real music drifted from the assembled musicians.
Then the trumpets in the front row of the Veteran's band glanced towards the side street open before all of them and looked back at their fellows in the other orchestra.
The front row trumpets of the High School band nodded and both groups turned, as one, and started down this new path.
Soon the rest of the two parades were following (adroitly avoiding their two erstwhile leaders now sitting up dazedly on the hard pavement), and weaving together to form one giant procession.
The assembled townspeople followed, clapping and laughing and also pointedly stepping around the two on the ground.
Soon Jenna Grace Chappell and F. Rodney Digby were alone in an empty street.
They stared at each other.
Finally, F. Roddy picked up his much abused Marshall's pole. He stared at it for a moment, then sighed softly and struggled to his feet. "May I assist you?" he said.
"Yes. Please," Jenna Grace replied, reaching for her own battered pole.
F. Roddy held out a hand and helped her up.
The two of them walked shakily over to the curb and sat down.
For several seconds they remained there, listening to the fading music.
"So, where did we go wrong?" F. Roddy said.
"I don't know," Jenna Grace replied. "But we did go wrong. Somewhere."
Again, they were silent.
"Care for a cup of hot chocolate?" F. Roddy asked.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Spectacle (Part Three of Four)

Christmas has gotten busy.
For these few days, I'm re-posting one of my Christmas stories.
I do hope you enjoy!

If you missed part one, wherein our antagonists (and I do mean antagonists!) were introduced, you can go here
Part Two (where their community fervor is ummm . . . fervored) is here.
Go ahead. I'll get a hot chocolate and be here when you get back . . .

Part Three.
Over tiny chicken sandwiches, the Ladies Aid discussed the certain disaster that was to befall their tiny town on December 3.
Mrs. Jasper got so animated that she spilled her tea.
Right into Mrs. Wayan's lap.
A portent of things to come . . .


The first meeting of the Christmas parade committee was held on October 13.
Chairs had been set up in a non-committal and unbiased circle in the center of the high school gym.
Jenna Grace and F. Roddy were among the first to arrive.
Pointedly ignoring each other, they took seats at polar opposite sides of the circle.
Then they spent the remaining few minutes alternately ignoring or glaring at the other.
Reba wheeled in a coffee/tea cart and parked it beside a waiting table. She pulled out several pans of bars and divided her time between slicing and setting out and hovered anxiously over a fat tea kettle.
The room began to fill with chatting, happy people.
They drifted over to the refreshments and filled plates and cups. Then they found seats in the circle.
The two already seated said nothing.
Slowly, the chatter died out and people uncomfortably concentrated on eating and drinking.
Jenna Grace cleared her throat. "Well, now that we have finished with the 'party' part of the meeting, maybe we can get down to business."
"Exactly what I was going to say," F. Roddy said. "If you hadn't ignored decorum and jumped in."
"Decorum?" Jenna Grace's eyebrows went up. "I just thought someone with a brain should take charge."
"And you just assumed that could be you?" F. Roddy looked at his fingernails.
Jenna Grace puffed up like a toad. "What are you saying, Froddy?" she said. "That you should be in charge?"
"Well you got something right," F. Roddy said, ignoring her mocking use of his name.
The crowd had gone completely silent by this time and were watching the two carefully, their heads swiveling back and forth from one to the other.
Jenna Grace calmed herself with obvious effort. "I think we should put the person in charge who has already proved their leadership skills," she said, smoothing one hand over her immaculate hair.
Jenna Grace always wore her grey-streaked hair scraped tightly into a bun at the back of her head. The thought of even one lock escaping was unthinkable.
"And just what have you organized?" F. Roddy demanded. "I know they were looking for someone to run the cock-fighting out at Cowells. Is it your fine hand we see in that?"
Jenna Grace puffed up again. "How dare you!" she hissed.
"Oh. Sorry. Was there something else?"
"You know dam - darn well, Froddy, that I've organized and directed the Ice Cream Festival for the past eight years!" she shouted.
"Maybe one day there'll be actual ice cream there," F. Roddy said.
Jenna Grace surged to her feet. "I refuse to sit here and be insulted!" she said, and turning smartly, marched towards the door.
"Good. Now you can go somewhere else to be insulted," F. Roddy said.
A sharp "Harrumph" was his only response.
The door banged shut.
"Well, now maybe we can get down to business," F. Roddy said.
An uncomfortable silence met him.
"People?"
"I'm sorry, F. Roddy," Dennis said, getting to his feet. "I agreed to work with Jenna Grace and I'd better honor that."
F. Roddy nodded. "Anyone else?"
Several other people stood up and followed Dennis out the door.
"Well, that's that," F. Roddy said. "Now shall we get down to work?"
Surprisingly, they managed to plan the basic framework for the entire celebration.
"See what you can accomplish when you have the right people?" F. Roddy asked.
Meanwhile, Jenna Grace had circled her wagons on the far side of town.
"Well," she said, tapping several sheets of paper together. "I think that's enough for our first evening. You have all been remarkably efficient and cooperative. Our basic plan is complete. Now all that's left is to flesh it out."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Spectacle (Part Two of Four)

It's Christmas . . .
Life has gotten busy. 
I'm re-posting one of my Christmas stories.
If you missed part one, wherein we were introduced to two two newest (wannabe) members of the Town Council, you can go here. Go ahead. We'll wait . . .

Part Two.
During the weekly town council meeting on October 11, Councilor Makepeace proposed that a Parade Marshal be appointed for the fast approaching Christmas Parade, a highlight of the town's year.
Several names were put forward.
But two people seated impatiently in the crowd immediately surged to their feet.
"I would like to propose my own name," Jenna Grace said loudly.
"And I would like to propose mine," F. Roddy was a breath behind her.
They turned and glared at each other, then, facing the council once more, reiterated their proposals.
With a bit more volume.
"I would like to volunteer!" they said together.
Another glare.
"Me! Me!"
Mayor Mayor stood up and waved two pudgy hands. "We'd like to thank our two volunteers," he said, soothingly. "We appreciate your willingness to give of yourselves and your time," He chuckled. "The council will consider your proposals and get back to you tomorrow."
Mumbling to themselves, Jenna Grace and F. Roddy resumed their seats.
Each shot one last heated glare in the other's direction, then finally subsided.
The meeting concluded and the room emptied, leaving only the council members.
"Well, what do you think we should do?" Karen asked Mayor Mayor.
"I don't have the foggiest idea," he said, smiling at her.
"I have an idea," another councilor, Kevin Rhymes, said.
"Please, Kevin. We welcome any and all suggestions," the mayor said.
"Well, why don't we have the two of them work together?"
"Co-Marshalls?"
"Well, let's face it," Kevin said. "The two of them are trying to drum up votes for the by-election in January, right?"
"I'm sure that's what's behind this sudden surge of community spirit," Karen said.
"Well, let's let them," Kevin said. "See how well they work with each other."
"How well the children play together in the sandbox?" Mayor Mayor said.
The councilors laughed.
"What do you think?" Kevin glanced around at the group.
"Well," the mayor said slowly, "it certainly might prove interesting."
"To say the least," Karen said quietly.
"I think we should let them," another councilor spoke up.
"I agree," said another.
"Shall we hold a little ad hoc vote?" the mayor asked.
"I'm in favor," Kevin said.
"You're the one who proposed it," Karen made a face at him.
He grinned. "So that's one vote."
"What about the rest of you?" the mayor asked.
"I think it's a great idea!"
"I'm in favor."
Finally he turned to Karen. "Things seem to be unanimous, Karen," he said. "Except for you."
Karen shrugged. "Who am I to stand in the way of progress," she said. "I agree."
"Okay, who wants to let them know?"

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Spectacle

Christmas.The busy time has started . . .
Over the next four days, I'm reprinting one of my Christmas short stories.
I hope you enjoy it!
Part One:

It was the most exciting Christmas Parade in our town's history.
Just not for the right reasons.
Maybe I should explain.
Our town, Bow Bank, Alberta, lies nestled in the crook of a branch of the Milk River.
It's a quiet, sleepy little place that really hasn't changed much in the past 50 years.
Families live here. Worship here. Grow here.
The current mayor, Hector Mayor, is a happy fellow, with a large heart and an equally large girth.
And endowed with a great sense of humor.
Well let's face it, with a title like Mayor Mayor, a sense of humor is rather important.
He's been in office for over fifteen years and rules our town with a fatherly and liberal hand.
His council has followed him in every decision he's ever made.
Well, until recently, that is.
In October, rumors started swirling through the Ladies Aid that things were not as they should be among the place holders on council.
And the rumors proved to be true.
It turned out that Rand Digby, he of the sweet wife and seven children, had eyes for another of the council members.
First timer, Karen Makepeace.
Fortunately, she was not like-minded and stopped him in his tracks.
So to speak.
But the scandal hit the air waves, being the hottest topic of discussion at the Ladies Aid, over the latest charity quilt and accompanying cups of herbal tea and tiny petits fours.
The result was that Mrs. Digby and her brood abruptly pulled up stakes and fled to her mother's.
Rand followed shortly, apologies spilling forth.
But the damage was done.
His wife refused to return to the scene of her humiliation and the now-repentant Rand refused to return without her.
When the dust had finally settled, a council seat was vacant.
A by-election was called and two people threw their hats into the ring.
Jenna Grace Chappell (Not like the church, mind! Two 'l's' and two 'p's', thank you very much!), the local librarian.
And F. Rodney Digby (or F. Roddy, as he preferred) the elementary school principal and younger brother to Rand, he of the slippery morals and newly-repentant spirit.
The by-election was set for January.
The contest was on.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bear-ing the Memories

It was Christmas.
The time of magic.
Wonderment.
And gift-giving.
For a single mom with two little girls, an income sufficient for the necessities and little else, it was a time to get creative.
And Pinterest hadn't been invented yet.
She desperately wanted to give something to the family who cared for her two girls, but what could she afford?
She saw some little clay ornaments in a magazine.
Perfect!
She and her girls would make a set of those.
They spent several evenings mixing.
Rolling.
Assembling.
Baking.
Painting.
And detailing.
Six little Christmas bears emerged.
Perfect and beautiful.
They were wrapped and presented.
And very, very much appreciated.
Move forward a few years . . .
Those same Christmas bears were the Tolley family favourite.
A reminder of the precious years when we welcomed two little girls and their lonely single mother into our family.
They were the first things out of the box when we decorated our Christmas tree.
And always handled with care.
Until that Christmas.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Our family had welcomed in two little special needs foster children.
A brother and sister.
Both had come from . . . difficult circumstances. Christmas was something that had been observed only from a distance.
They were enthralled with everything.
The gifts.
The lights.
The baking.
The tree.
Especially the tree.
Three-year-old Little Girl spent hours looking at that tree. And when looking wasn't sufficient, she would pull the decorations off.
Systematically tasting each one.
Most were inedible.
But the little salt-clay Christmas bears, that so closely resembled cookies, could, with just a little effort, be eaten.
She did so.
I caught her at it.
“No! Those aren't for eating!”
I took them away and tried to instruct and advise.
Then moved them up, out of reach.
But when I was downstairs doing laundry, she got into them again.
By climbing the tree.
And knocking it over.
A few minutes later, I sadly rescued what was rescue-able.
It wasn't much. Only scattered, semi-chewed pieces remained.
One precious bear remained intact enough to still hang on the tree.
It hangs there today.
Still 'bear-ing' the scars of its trauma.
But it isn't just a bear.
It's memories . . .

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Not Getting There

I have no excuse.

But I'll let you judge . . .
A woman in our church group, whom I had never met, had just given birth to a tiny, sweet preemie girl.
She had two other children.
And a husband.
I offered to surprise them with dinner.
An easy and painless way to help out.
I made a pot of soup.
Fresh rolls.
And a salad.
Packing everything into a box, I got into the truck and headed out.
Now, I should mention here that I live in a small town.
I've lived in this same small town for nearly a quarter of a century.
Yes, it has grown.
A lot.
But it is still my home town.
And it takes three minutes to drive from one end to the other.
On a busy day.
Twenty minutes later, I was still driving around, looking for this woman's address.
Finally, almost tearful with frustration, I broke down and called her, begging for directions.
“I'm right across the street from Beau Meadow School,” she said. “You can't miss the house. It's brightly lit and there is a 'For Sale' sign in the front yard.”
Now, in our town, that particular school is on what we call the 'ring road'.
It makes a circuit of the entire town.
Meandering through all four quadrants.
It is the quickest way to anywhere.
This woman was on it.
I live just off it.
Our houses were, quite literally, one minute apart.
I finally pulled up to the described house, shut off my truck and carried my now-tepid-meal to the front door.
And realized something.
Not only was this house almost within spitting distance of mine.
But it was a house my son and his family had recently outgrown and sold.
After having lived there for over three years.
I had been in and out of it for that entire time.
I knew it almost as well as I knew my own.
I knew where it was.
And how to get there.
And where to park.
I could have told anyone how to find it.
Only one thing was missing.
I had never noted the address.
See?
No excuse.

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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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