Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



All of My Friends

Friday, May 6, 2016

Navigating

Navigate this!
(Taken from Blarney Castle. Just after I kissed the famous stone.)
In Canada, we have The Dominion Land Survey. 
And my husband has iron boogers. 
These two are connected.
Maybe I should explain . . .
First:
My husband's favourite program on TV was the Tim Allen show, Home Improvement.
In one episode, Neighbour Wilson told Tim that men are actually endowed with minute bits of metal in their noses that aid in navigation.
Tim, putting his twist on it, called them 'iron boogers'.
A term that my husby whole-heartedly embraced and endorsed.
Then:
When Canada was first being mapped/documented, it was divided into a perfect grid.
Or maybe an imperfect grid, but a grid, just the same.
We were raised in an area where the roads were straight and regular and one mile apart.
If one road was blocked, you could find 113 other ways to get where you wanted to go.
It was a perfect system.
People growing up in that environment developed an unerring sense of direction.
Thus, my husby.
See the connection?
Moving on . . .
We were travelling in Ireland.
Have you ever heard it said that there is no green quite like the green of the Emerald Isle?
It's true.
But I digress . . .
We had just driven into town and were looking for our bed and breakfast.
Our map only covered the specifics of reaching said town, not the particulars of what to do when we got there.
There was a woman walking down the street.
Grant pulled over and we asked her how to reach Thus-and-So Bed and Breakfast.
These are her exact words, "Oh that one. It's rather difficult to describe. You need to go up that hill (pointing) and turn right. There is a hotel there and they can direct you further."
We thanked her and did as she directed.
Except for the 'turn right' part.
My husby turned left.
At which time, I gave up.
He drove around for a total of thirty seconds, then pulled over to the side of the street. "Why don't we just stop here?" he said.
I looked out of the window and gasped.
Thus-and-So B&B. Right there.
In front of us.
I gasped and turned to stare at him.
He merely tapped his nose and looked at me significantly.
From then on, I used the map merely to get us to the next town, then tossed it into the back seat.
Grant was much better at finding our destination when he wasn't hampered by such distractions as maps.
Old Iron Boogers.
Old Iron Boogers.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Selling Honey

Perfect for each other.
My Mom had been raised on a ranch.
She knew cattle and could speak the language with anyone.
But there were times when she very much longed to change the conversation . . .
She and Dad were out with a group of friends.
Fellow Hereford breeders.
The conversation veered, as it always did, to the discussion of the newest miracle bull.
"That 55L! What a bull! Longest animal I've ever seen!"
An animal's length is important. More beef on the hoof.
Just FYI.
The men were enraptured.
The women, silent, polite listeners.
Mom tried to add some colour other than red and white to the conversation.
"We did something different this weekend," she said. "We went to a Gilbert and Sullivan . . ."
But the men's conversation continued unabated.
"You know, 55L was unknown until his calves hit the ground! Long. Tall. Big as colts!"
"We saw the Pirates of Penzance," Mom finished weakly.
No one heard her.
She sighed and withdrew.
But her mind was working busily.
A few days later, Mom again took a back seat to Dad's cows. Giving up on a much anticipated wedding because Dad couldn't go.
That was the last straw.
The next day, she decided to play a prank on him.
She called the local paper and had this ad inserted:
            HUSBAND FOR SALE - Cheap
            Complete with blue jeans, SSS monogrammed shirt,
            rubber boots, old floppy hat, B.S. spattered coveralls,
            pitch fork, scoop shovel, feed bucket,
            25 Hereford cows and one grumpy bull.
            Not home much.
            Speaks only COW. Call 244-2108

Then she waited.
Not a word was said, though she saw my father reading the paper and knew that he always finished every word.
The next day, another ad appeared, directly below Mom's.
This one read:
            HONEY FOR SALE
            The sweetest gal this side of Texas. Good mother,
            helpful, kind, patient, understanding, loving,
            cheerful, caring, cooperative, self-sacrificing,
            grateful for all favours, especially a frugal income,
            and as a bonus, is beautiful and loves
            my Hereford cows. Call 244-2108.

Enough said.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Catching Sunbeams

The afternoon sun spilled through the living room window like golden honey.
Making the air glow and creating a cozy pool of warm delicious-ness.
I watched my three-year-old granddaughter, white-blonde hair a shining halo about her smiling face, as she tried to capture the floating dust-motes in the beam of light.
“Gramma, look!” she said excitedly. “They’re dancing!”
And suddenly, I was remembering another time.
And another little girl . . .
I had just graduated from the Nursery. The place, in our church, of food, toys, warm hugs, and sitting on the floor. Also the room in the basement. With the least amount of windows.
My fellow three-years-olds and I had been guided upstairs and into the sunlit chapel. Then given the gi-normous (expressive/made up word) front pew to sit on.
Don’t get me wrong, we were used to those pews.
But normally we sat on them with our parents/families.
Suddenly that great expanse was ours. Alone.
We were ‘big kids’ now.  
My classmates alternated between sliding about on the polished, golden oak surface and staring at the women in charge of this meeting.
I was seated furthest from those women. And nearest the tall window next to our pew.
The late afternoon sunshine was streaming through.
On me.
For a while, that was amazing enough.
Then, I discovered that there were floating . . . things . . . in that golden beam of light.
Things that danced and swirled about when I waved my hand.
Things that gently, but effectively, eluded capture. No matter how quickly I moved. Or how hard I tried.
While the rest of the kids in the room sang or listened to stories, I concentrated on the little ‘floaties’ so tantalizingly close and so difficult to actually grasp.
Suddenly, the girl seated next to me slid to her feet. I looked around, startled. Our little group was following Auntie Grace and filing out of the room. I glanced one last time at my golden beam of magic, and reluctantly followed.
We were led to a tiny classroom that opened directly off the chapel.
And sat down on chairs.
Real, our-size chairs.
Auntie Grace smiled at us and welcomed us warmly.
Then she said something I’ll never forget. “Diane was playing in the sunbeam during opening exercises.”
I stared at her. Was I going to get into trouble?
She looked at me and smiled again. “Diane, that’s what you are! That’s what this class is! Sunbeams! You’re not in nursery any more. You’re all Sunbeams now!”
I blinked at her, not quite certain what she was telling us.
But I never have forgotten.

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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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