Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Ranch Shoes

Blair and his first pair of shoes . . .
I bought myself a pair of shoes the other day. Very practical with a heavy sole and a solid leather upper.
Every once in a while I think I should consider a lighter pair – especially considering I live where it is very hot.  But this thought does not linger long. I have to have a solid pair of shoes.
Why?
Growing up on the ranch.
Maybe I should explain . . .
When I was a wee lad, my mother provided me with a vast array of foot wear.  I had a pair of flip flops, running shoes, rubber boots (gum boots to us but which some people call 'Irrigator Tony Lamas'), and cowboy boots.
First I tried my flip flops.  But I soon discovered that one could easily bruise one’s toe when walking across the graveled drive to the barn.  Plus the entire foot was exposed, inviting close contact with animal digestion products.
Ewww.
Flip flops were not desirable.
Next I tried my rubber boots. Hmm. Easy and quick to put on, plus they protected my toes from unwanted bruises and my feet from the aforementioned products of animal digestion abundantly scattered around the barn [even though we actively collected them and put them in the animal digestion products (manure) pile].  And rubber boots were great when it rained and I could walk across/through mud puddles.
An aside here: I did have to be careful in mud puddles because sometimes my boots stuck in the mud causing me to step out of said boot and into said mud with my foot.  Not a desirable plan.
However, I discovered that the most undesirable feature of gum boots was they offered little protection for my feet when I was around horses, who just happen to be very adept at picking up their feet and placing them on my foot with amazing and lightning-fast precision.
A thought: Missile guidance design engineers will never be able to craft a system that achieves the precise accuracy of a horse when they place their hoof on your foot, then, having nailed your foot, shift their weight from all their other hooves to the one that pinned your ……ahhhhhhhh ……..….. FOOT!
Also: I’m fairly certain the horse then says in horse talk to his friends, “Hey I nailed this poor little sucker this time!  Hey look at me, I can place all of my weight on the one hoof!  Bet you guys can’t do that.  Oh, hey look!  I think that his foot hurts so much he’s going to pass out!”
Moving on . . .
So gum boots were out. 
I finally determined that ultra-sturdy cowboy boots offered the best fortification.  My toes didn’t hurt near as much when the horse stepped on a foot that had been thus adorned.
Later I discovered work boots and that was even better.
But that is another story.
So please know that when I shop for shoes, I may look at the lighter, cooler one, but my toes tell me that they would rather be safe in something solid and sturdy.
Habits, unlike toes, are hard to break.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

In the Ear

Or something similar...
It was a quiet afternoon at the Stringam Senior home in Lethbridge, Alberta.
Grampa was multi-tasking: reading the newspaper and keeping track of his small grandson, Dale.
Dale, on the other hand, was ecstatic. He had a grand new toy. A water pistol ‘guaranteed to provide your child with hours of safe, exciting fun’.
There was one draw-back.
To enjoy said hours of safe, exciting fun, one needed to have the ability to fill the gun with water.
Let’s face it. Without water, it was just a plain, old, boring shooter.
Sigh.
For some time, Dale had been doing his best. Pretending that this new toy did something other than look the part.
And that was when my Dad came onto the scene.
Grampa emerged from his newspaper long enough for cheerful greetings, a quick recap of the day’s notable events - ie. Where was mother and what are you doing here at home – and Dad was free to make his way to the kitchen.
There he found his small nephew struggling mightily to fill his new toy with the water that put the final guarantee on an afternoon of safe, exciting fun.
Always up for a bit of high-jinks, Dad obligingly helped out. Then, with a smile, he told his nephew to (and I quote) “Go and shoot Grandpa.”
Grinning gleefully, the little boy disappeared.
Dad lingered quietly in the kitchen.
Because that’s the best place to wait when there is going to be gun-play in the front room.
His patience was rewarded with the sound of little footsteps trotting across the floor, a pause and a large grunt from Grandpa.
“Euagh!”
Or something similar.
Dad crossed the dining room to witness the final result.
Dale, still with his gleeful grin and gun at the ready, was standing beside Grandpa’s chair.
Grandpa was wiping the side of his face with a shirtsleeve.
“Did he get you?” Dad asked the glaringly obvious question.
Grampa levelled a look at him. “Yes,” he said. “Right in the ear!”
Dad. Noted water-fighter extraordinaire.
Training up the new generation to excellence.
It’s a family thing.
Grandma and Grandpa Stringam on a more successful babysitting day.
With my eldest sister and brother.



Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Till We Meet Again

On May 28, 2015, we said good-bye.
We've told stories and laughed and cried.
Now we have the memories . . .

Post from June 15, 2014
Husband, father, rancher, veterinarian, brother, friend, uncle, cousin.
Jokester.
My Dad is the youngest of eleven children.
At 89 years old, he is the last surviving sibling of a great progeny.
And he has made his mark in the world. (Oddly enough, his name is Mark. Apropos . . .)
He has served in numerous leadership roles in Church and community.
Been a voice for change in Provincial/Federal politics.
Lovingly supported his wife all her life and through her final illness.
Raised six kids, numerous grandkids and even more great-grandkids.
Built heritage clocks and other woodworking marvels.
Developed and refined his own award-winning genetic line of Hereford cattle.
Taught. Led. Supported. Pushed. Pulled. Guided. Built.
Worked.
But what do his progeny mostly remember this great man for?
His pranks.
Yep. Pranks.
This was the man who shaved his head into a ‘mohawk’ do, long before it was acceptable. And with red, curly hair, such a style was . . . noticeable.
Proof! Daddy's on the right...
Painted a large ‘48’ on the water tower at his Alma Mater in Guelph, Ontario.
Disassembled and re-assembled the headmaster’s car on the porch of the administration building.
Played the ‘wedding waltz’ when his youngest brother-in-law showed up with a girlfriend. And rigged a smoke bomb on the engine of said bother-in-law’s car at the end of that particular visit.
Served drinks in ‘dribble’ glasses.
Lit the bottom corner of a newspaper on fire when the reader was concentrating on reading the upper corner.
Used a syringe to squirt water through a nail hole, thus winning, once-and-for-all, the title of ‘water fighter extraordinaire’.
Also used a syringe to squirt skunk ‘essence’ through the keyholes of the 'Ag' students at Guelph Verterinary College. Can anyone say ‘stink’?
Floated a plastic ice cube with encased fly in guests’ drinks. 
Hid an unwrapped prophylactic in the headmaster's handkerchief, tucked into the man's tuxedo, to be revealed with notable results.
And other monkeyshines too numerous to mention here. But which will be the subjects of future posts . . .
The once-mighty rancher is frail now.
Still clear mentally, but moving slowly and with care.
And seldom venturing far from his comfortable chair and book shelf.
It would be painful to watch, if one were not buoyed by Dad’s own words. “I’ve had fun!”
Words followed by the familiar twinkle as he recounts past pranks.
And still looks forward to future ones.
During my last visit, a dear guest looked at her glass and said, “This isn’t one of those ‘dribble’ ones, is it?”
Daddy? Never change!
How I'll always remember him. Seated at his desk. Getting things done.
See you soon, Daddy!

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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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