Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, May 21, 2016

Flushed

Husby and me. Don't look closely . . .
I told him not to laugh.
But he did.
Sigh.
I married him anyway . . .
It was a bright and sunny Tuesday.
But not just any Tuesday.
This was Tuesday, the 27th of April, 1976.
You may wonder why that particular date is etched so clearly in my mind . . .?
You have a right to know.
It was exactly four days before my wedding.
Four frenzied days of scheduled frenetic activity with plans of falling into bed exhausted each night, happy in what had been accomplished.
Four days that I needed to be--healthwise--at my very, very best.
Ahem.
The day started out well.
I climbed out of bed.
I felt a bit more tired than usual, but, with all I had been doing, wasn’t surprised.
I plopped heavily into my seat and stared at my plate as Mom bustled around, setting platters of steaming deliciousness on the table.
Grace was said.
And oblivious-ness set in as people dove for whatever was nearest.
Soon we were all chewing happily.
Mom passed someone a bowl of potatoes and looked at me. “So what have you got planned . . .?” she stopped, mid-sentence, and stared at me. “Diane? Are you all right?”
I looked at her.
She got up and moved around the table to me. “You look . . . flushed.”
I shrugged.
She placed a cool hand on my forehead. “You feel a bit warm.”
“I’m tired, but I feel all right,” I said, feeling a slight feathering of alarm.
She tipped my head back and looked at my throat.
“Oh, my word!” she said. “Mark, look at this!”
“What?” I said. “What’s wrong?”
Dad leaned over the table and peered at my neck. “Oh, my!” he said.
Okay, I was thoroughly alarmed by this point. “What?” I said. Did I grow an extra appendage in the night? Did I suddenly get a whisker? Or worse . . . a zit???!!!
Mom sat back on her chair and sighed.
Sighed.
“Diane, I’m pretty sure you have the measles.”
Whaaa . . .? I jumped up and ran to the closest mirror.
Sure enough, my neck and the lower half of my face were a mottled mass of tiny, red pinpricks. So many of them that, at first, they resembled a rosy flush on my skin. Only on closer inspection did they morph into what they actually were.
Measles.
I. Had. The. Measles.
Four days before I was going to be married.
My life was over.
Mom bundled me up and hauled me into the doctor’s office. Where our local medical professional confirmed our suspicions.
German measles.
I dragged myself home. How could this be happening to me? Weren’t the measles a childhood disease?
And wasn’t childhood  . . . sort of . . . behind me?
I placed a call to my Husby-To-Be at his work.
Our conversation went something like this:
“Hi, Honey! How’s work?” *soft sob*
“Great! How are you doing?”
“Well . . . I have something to tell you . . .”
Slightly alarmed Husby-To-Be voice. “What is it? What’s the matter?!”
“Well . . . promise you won’t tell anyone. And that you won’t laugh . . .”
“Umm . . . okay . . .”
“I . . . have the  . . . German measles.”
A short pause, while he took in my news. Then, “Bwahahahahahaha!” Sound of phone being dropped. And Husby-To-Be moving through the office, telling every one of his co-workers.
Okay, which part of ‘don’t tell anyone’ and ‘don’t laugh’ did he not get?
We did get married.
I was totally fine. Except that in some of our photos, particularly the close-ups, you can see the barest hint of a red flush.
People simply dismiss it as evidence of excitement.
Now you know.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Piggy Riding

Daddy and me.
Do any of the rest of you see the irony here?
Okay I wasn’t supposed to do it.
And I knew I wasn’t supposed to do it.
But that just made it all the more fun.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On the Stringam ranch, behind the chicken *shudder*coop was the pigpen.
It was rather off the beaten track, tucked in as it was.
A destination in itself.
A perfect location for hijinks when the horses were out and everything else possible had been explored/done.
And boredom was threatening to set in.
Or one was feeling adventurous.
One could climb the fence. Slide into the shadow of the shelter. Pause there.
And pick out a victim co-conspirator.
I should point out here that pigs are very sociable and curious creatures.
When something – or someone – is introduced into their world, they immediately converge to give it a sniff.
And a taste.
And they love to be scratched.
Back to my story . . .
All I had to do was sit there until all of the pigs swarmed me.
Scratch a couple.
And (this is the forbidden part) climb aboard one.
The pig would snort and scamper (yes, scamper) across the pen to the far side.
And, if one were lucky enough to still be aboard, back again.
Okay, yes, the fun was decidedly fleeting.
One’s raging father could – and often did – appear.
How did he do that?
But there he would be, with hands on hips and the heated glare that only an angry father can summon, as his newly-repentant child silently slid off the pig and exited the pigpen.
Our subsequent conversations usually went something like this:
Dad: Diane! I’ve told you and told you not to ride the pigs! You could injure them. And they get all excited and don’t gain weight.
Me: Look Dad! I fell in the poop!
Yeah. Let’s just cross rocket scientist off that future occupations list.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I'm Nominated!

I'M NOMINATED!
My book, Gnome for Christmas has been nominated for a RONE (REWARD of Novel Excellence) award!
Please, Please vote for meeee!
http://www.indtale.com/2016-rone-awards-week-five

Monday, May 16, 2016

Super(duper)Mom

This many kids. One adult.
My good friend was in hospital for a couple of days for some minor surgery.
Her four kids (three girls and one boy) were staying with us.
And our (then) four kids. (Three boys and one girl)
The kids were perfectly matched.
Boy-girl, boy-girl, boy-girl and boy-girl.
And got along very well.
My house was quieter with eight (ranging in ages from 1 to 7) kids in it, than it was with just my own four.
They were all playing happily.
Then I suddenly realized that I needed to go to the store.
Sigh.
The status quo was about to change.
I buckled in what amounted to essentially four sets of twins and started off.
All went well.
We arrived and I immediately hunted up a cart.
No way I was going to try to herd this bunch without some modern conveniences.
The two babies were buckled into the baby compartment on the cart.
The two toddlers went into the basket.
The two kindergarteners hung onto the outside.
And the two seven year olds were allowed free range.
But with strict instructions to stay close.
We were off!
My errands were run in record time.
Surprisingly.
And, quite suddenly, it was snack time.
I looked into my wallet.
I should point out, here, that my husband had just graduated from post secondary and was working in his first real job.
We were poor.
Well, rich in children.
But poor in things that can actually . . . purchase things.
Moving on.
My wallet held the grand total of two dollars.
Which in itself was a miracle.
I was standing in the middle of the food court, contemplating my options.
They were . . . limited.
Finally, I approached a kiosk called, The Loaf, which specialized in sandwiches made from thick slices of 'freshly-baked-on-the-premises' bread.
"What would you charge for just a slice of fresh bread and butter?" I asked the girl behind the counter.
She scrunched up her face in thought.
Really.
Scrunched.
Then she said, "Twenty-five cents."
The magic words.
I ordered eight slices of fresh bread and butter and handed her my two dollars.
Then I passed out slices of thick, warm, fresh bread to each of my little hoard.
Who happily chowed down.
A cowboy term for tucking in.
Which is another cowboy term for . . . oh, never mind.
You get the picture.
They ate.
And enjoyed.
A couple walked past while my kids were busy . . . umm . . . enjoying.
"What a good idea for a snack!" the woman exclaimed. "I think you are the best mother I have ever seen!"
I smiled, rather self-consciously.
'Best mother' is obviously code for 'too-broke-to-buy-anything-else'.
We finished our snack and headed back to the Sears store for one last item.
My friend's eldest daughter, who had been following closely asked if she could dart over and peek at the girl's blouses.
I told her that it was fine. I would just walk slowly so she could catch up.
And continued down the aisle.
I passed one of the entrances to the store.
Two women had just come in.
They, a mother and her mother, were struggling to control a small boy of about two.
Who was red-faced and screaming.
Actually, now that I think of it, all of them were red-faced and . . .
Ahem.
Back to my story.
The grandmother looked up and noticed me walk past with my cart full to overflowing with children and said," Here the two of us can't control one child and that woman," she pointed, "has . . . five, six, seven!"
Just then, my friend's oldest daughter rejoined our group.
I smiled at the women and said, "Eight."
And walked on.
Okay, I know it wasn't strictly truthful.
But it was so much fun to say it!!!
And, just for a moment, I felt like one of those uber-organized, amazing women one sees who are always neat, tidy and . . . well . . . together.
Controlling hoards of children and still managing to look serene.
Yep. For a moment, I was SUPERMOM.
But only for the moment.

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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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