Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



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.

Monday, December 15, 2014

My Automobile Heritage

My Dad, aged three.
And yes, that is a gun. Don't ask.
Okay, I admit it, I have had a few . . . misunderstandings . . . with the family car.
One where I hit the ditch. (Only my pride and my Dad’s $400.00 deductible suffered.)
One where I backed into the tractor. (Who needs a fender?)
Another when I filled the gas engine with diesel. (Oops.)
And one where I ran into the carport. (Repeatedly.)
The hardest thing about each of these was the actual ‘Telling-of-the-Dad’.
Actually, with that last one, I didn’t have to tell him because he appeared. In his jammies.
Now that’s a sight I’ll never forget.
Ever.
Moving on . . .
Last night I was visiting with my Dad.
And discovered, to my everlasting joy, that he had also had his share of automobile . . . mishaps.
The first when he was just a little gaffer (his words).
Gleefully, I tell you about it . . .
He and his mother were on their way to Cardston.
A town approximately 34 km (21 miles) from their home in Glenwood.
His mother drove.
Little Mark divided his time between playing about on the floor and looking out of the window.
It was 1928. Seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet.
They crossed the river and little Mark was interested to see a couple of young men sharing a picnic lunch beside the gently-flowing water near the road.
Their car passed the young men and started to climb the hill.
And that’s where it stopped.
The car, I mean.
Dead.
His mother slammed on the brakes to keep the vehicle from rolling backwards and sent her young son back to the two young men to elicit aid.
Putting his own spin on things, little Mark, sure that his mother was in dire circumstance and picturing all sorts of disasters if the car rolled backward on the road, fairly flew to get help.
Almost incoherent in his appeal, he finally managed to convey the gravity of the situation and said aid was immediately procured. (Ooh! What big words I’m using today!)
The young men hurried to the rescue.
Within seconds of their arrival, they ascertained that the engine was being starved of fuel.
Now, a little background. The elderly car which little Mark and his mother were driving had its gas tank up front, under the windshield. Perfectly situated to gravity feed fuel to the engine, but not really the best position for safety.
Or, as it turns out, for a little boy’s inquisitive fingers.
The gas line snaked down to the floor and from there to the engine. And, somewhere on that line, was a little pet valve.
That turned easily.
Back to my story . . .
One of the young men followed the line with his eyes. “Hey! The valve’s been shut off!” He immediately effected ‘repairs’. “I wonder how that could have happened?”
Mark's mother’s eyes went to her small son, who had suddenly become very, very quiet.
The young men started the car and the trips to and from were accomplished without further incident.
My point is this: All right, nothing was actually ‘damaged’ in this story. And repairs were minimal and complete. But you have to admit it’s proof that my dad and cars have a history. And that he has done things that caused some automobile – and driver – grief.
It’s a leap, but it’s all I have.
I’m taking it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Making Beds

Okay, that's not me, it's my little brother, Blair.
But that is one of the beds.
Picture me in it . . .

I have just realized that Mom was infinitely more patient than I am.

It's a bit of a painful discovery.
A moment of silence, please.

Now I will explain . . .
When I was four, I used to follow Mom around as she went through her morning routine.
This was before she really expected me to be of much help.
Though I did try.
I should mention, here, that about the time I became a valuable helper, I no longer wanted to follow Mom around.
Oh, the irony.
Back to my story . . .
I watched Mom clean the kitchen.
Pick up clothes and discarded items.
Tidy.
Dust.
Vacuum and/or sweep.
And scrub bathrooms.
But my most favourite activity . . .
The one I waited patiently for . . .
Was 'the making of the beds'.
Because Mom never just made the beds.
Nope.
That would be boring.
No, what Mom would do was 'make me in the beds'.
I would snuggle in and she would pull the covers up and proceed to make the bed.
With me in it.
I would lay quietly until she said, “Okay that's done. Time for the next bed.”
That was my cue to squeal and sit up abruptly, totally negating her efforts.
She would pretend to be flabbergasted. (Oooh. Real word!)
And I would laugh uproariously.
Then she would order me from the bed and make it again.
This time without any stowaways.
And we would move on to the next bedroom.
And the next bed.
Where the routine would be repeated.
I don't ever remember Mom making a bed just once.
No.
That's something other mothers did.
Moving ahead fifty or so years . . .
Several of my grandchildren were staying over.
Everyone had finally crawled out of bed.
And were awaiting breakfast, which Grampa was cooking.
I took advantage of the interim to make the beds.
I decided to teach them the game I used to play with my mom.
“Hide in the bed,” I told them. “And don't move.”
They crawled in.
And managed not to move.
But giggling was definitely optional.
I made the bed, then said, loudly, “Well that's done. Time to move on to the next bed!”
Three kids suddenly sat up. “Gramma! We fooled you!”
I pretended to be shocked and ordered them out.
Then I made the bed a second time and we moved on to the next bedroom.
“Can we hide in this bed?” they asked.
I looked at it.
Then thought about having to make it twice.
“No. Once is enough,” I told them.
“Awwww . . .”
“Next time we'll do it again,” I promised.
They were happy.
And I had made two conclusions.
My first was that being the made-ee was infinitely more fun than being the made-er.
My second conclusion?
My Mom used to play that game at every bed.
Every bed.
She was much, much more patient than I am.
I'm sure you agree.

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