Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, August 6, 2016

Boy Day

And they look so innocent . . .
1. It had been a tough day.
2. We had three boys.
Those are my excuses . . .
The day had started out slowly.
Mark had sleep-walked and nearly mistook the closet for the bathroom.
Caught just in time.
Because I am superwoman.
Shortly thereafter (oooh, good word), Mark and Erik had staged an argument/battle over the TV remote.
I should explain, here, that the word 'remote' was largely optimistic at this point.
There was a device.
Attached to our VCR by a long cable.
Thus, 'remote'.
Moving on . . .
Our two oldest boys were fighting over it.
Mom won.
By banishing them to opposite sides of the family room.
Neither of which was close enough to the TV to allow access to said remote.
They were watching 'Black Hole'.
Again.
It was the only approximately 'family' movie that our newly fledged VCR rental outlet had.
Both of them could quote it by this time.
They began to discuss whether they should do what Mark wanted--watch it again--or flip over to the TV for the daily episode of Sesame Street. Erik's idea.
More arguing.
Won by Mom again, when she suggested, rather forcefully that the time had come for them to go outside and bother their father.
Whereupon (another good word) they found themselves in the great outdoors.
For a while, they sat and pouted.
Then their little brother, Duffy, who had the sense to follow their father when he first left the house, discovered the mud puddle.
A short time later, there was a timid tap at the front door.
I opened it.
There was a figure standing there.
Vaguely human in shape.
Roughly the size of my third son.
Several scrubbings later, I realized that it was, indeed, Duffy.
Whose brothers had doused him, quite literally, in his own discovery.
The culprits were discovered, some time later, hiding in the basement of the house their dad was building.
Still giggling.
I dragged them into the house.
To apologize.
And to eat lunch.
Was it really only noon?
They immediately began to argue over who got the yellow cup.
And where each of them would sit.
I settled it again.
No one got the yellow cup and neither of them got to sit remotely close to where they wanted. In fact, they were lucky to be sitting at all!
As they finally started scooping up Mac and Cheese, I told them, “I think I'm going to take the three of you in to the 'used kids' store and trade you in on girls!”
My second son looked at me, round-eyed. “Can you do that?”
I laughed. “No,” I reassured him.
“Oh.” He went back to scooping.
But sometimes, I wish . . .

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Bear Out There

Most of the stories told at a family reunion are of the belly-laugh variety.
Occasionally . . .
My cousin’s son-in-law worked with his dad, a contractor.
Said SIL and a friend were scouting out an area in the remote woods, looking to build a new oilwell site.
Friend was carrying a bow and arrow.
SIL was carrying a rifle.
They were walking through the Great Canadian Woods. They brought the weapons for protection.
Spoiler: They would need them.
As they were hiking, they suddenly smelled something very dead.
The two men stopped. Obviously, they were near a bear’s cache.
Should they back up?
Change course?
They chose to keep following the path, thinking they would simply by-pass the cache.
It didn’t work that way.
Ahead of them, waiting in the bushes, was a very large, very real grizzly.
With a very real attitude.
The bear went for the man with the bow, who immediately commenced running.
SIL fired three shots. Emptying his gun.
With little effect.
In fact, the only thing it did was cause the bear to change course.
From his friend.
To him.
Suddenly, he was staring into the teeth of a large omnivore and all he had to defend himself was an empty gun.
In one panicked movement, and almost without thinking, he shoved his gun, barrel first, down the bear’s throat. Right up to the scope.
It was at that moment the bear keeled over.
Dead.
At least one of the shots had finally found its mark.
The two men called Fish and Wildlife to report the tragic incident.
And received a lecture entitled: Grizzly Hunting is Really, Really Against the Law.
Something, in other circumstances, they totally agreed with. They didn't want to shoot the bear. If there had been an alternative, they definitely would have taken it.
Fish and Wildlife officers came out and surveyed the area, mapping the men’s tracks through the snow.
Studying the bear’s.
Examining the bite marks on the gun and scope.
And concluded, finally, the men were telling the truth.
The men were then informed that they were free to take the bear and have it stuffed. But once it was done, they weren’t allowed to keep it and, instead must turn it over to the government.
They learned something from this experience.
If one’s job necessitates walking through the more remote parts of the Great Canadian Woods, always, always take a Fish and Wildlife officer.
Preferably one you can outrun . . .

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Comics to Wine

Life on a ranch in the 1950s was a world unto itself.
A place where a family could grow together, leaning on each other.
Quiet. Peaceful.
Isolated.
A place where the world seldom intruded.
Except for that . . . erm . . . exception . . .
Three brothers were growing up on their family farm.
Just down the road from a Hutterite colony.
Both settlements were rather remote.
But it’s hard to say which was the most un-worldly.
The three teen boys had comic books.
Something the Hutterite boys wanted.
The Hutterite boys had access to homemade wine.
Something the brothers wanted.
The two groups made a bargain. Comic books for wine.
The only obstacle to the conclusion of their mutual agreement was the actual . . . conclusion.
Because neither family approved.
Go figure . . .
They finally worked it out.
The brothers would leave their offering of comic books at a pre-appointed spot in a nearby field.
The Hutterite boys would retrieve said books and leave, in their place, a bottle of the colony’s finest.
This went on for some time.
To the mutual satisfaction of all parties.
Reading and drinking were continuing apace.
Then, that eye-opening event.
When the boy’s dad brought home a bottle of wine.
From the same colony--but carried in through the front door and in full sight of all who lived there.
Huh. Weird.
The boys were given a glass.
And discovered that the colony’s best they had been receiving really wasn’t.
The best, that is.
Hmmm . . . who do you complain to when your ultra-clandestine deal goes awry?
Exactly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Hard Boiled

Newlywed.
That wonderful time when two people are starting out.
And learning so much.
For good or bad . . .
June was a happy bride.
Determined to do everything right.
Unfortunately, her mother had also insisted on doing everything right.
Particularly in the cooking department.
By herself.
So June remained untaught.
Willing and eager. But untaught.
Then: Marriage.
And the aforementioned DER (Doing Everything Right).
June asked her new husband what he would like for breakfast.
Pleased, he told her just something simple. A couple of boiled eggs.
“O-kay,” June said doubtfully, wondering frantically how to make a boiled egg.
Determined, she went into the kitchen. Put the eggs in a pot.
Added water.
Good so far.
Now. How long to boil them?
Most cakes take 30 to 45 minutes.
She’d go for the longer time, just to be sure.
And she did.
45 minutes later, she proudly presented her new Husby with her version of The Boiled Egg.
Now, at this point, these eggs would be suitable for such things as:
Tennis.
Golf.
Baseball.
Perhaps lobbing into enemy territory.
What did Husby do?
He ate them.
With a smile on his face.
Newlywed.
That wonderful time when two people are starting out.
And learning so much.
For good or bad . . .

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Friends

I've spent the weekend with my Berg cousins and their families.
We had a glorious time.
Catching up.
Eating.
Swapping stories.
Just a tiny bit of Heaven on earth.
The next few days may or may not feature some of those stories . . .

Friends are important.
They provide words of encouragement when you most need it.
Suffer along with you during dark times.
Laugh when events call for it.
Sometimes all at once.
Umm . . . maybe I should explain . . .
Roundup.
That exciting time when cowpokes and horses are pushing herds of cows from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.
If this was a math equation it would be something like: If eight cowpokes on eight horses were pushing 400 head of cows from pasture A to pasture B, how many opportunities would there be for accidents/hi-jinks?
Answer: Yes.
Roy and his crew were pushing cows along their usual route.
A route which included at least 1 (one) muddy-watered, swiftly-moving river.
All sorts of things can happen in a river.
It’s wet. And muddy.
And did I mention swiftly-moving?
Fortunately, most of the cattle had crossed safely.
Then there was that 1 (one).
Who foundered. (ie. Stopped going across and started going down.)
One of the hands roped her and, together with said rope and strong language, towed her to safety on the far side.
This is where Roy stepped in.
Because he . . . stepped in. And loosened the lasso off of the animal.
I should probably mention here that cows aren’t noted for their brains.
But are noted for their sharp and pointy horns.
Did she get to her feet and kiss and profusely thank her rescuers?
Ummm . . . no.
Instead, she lowered her head, sighted on the nearest two-footed person (ie. Roy) and proceeded toward him.
At a run.
In an instant, Roy was high-stepping just ahead of those horns.
Now, remember where I mentioned friends at the beginning of this story?
And how they are always there for you?
That applies here.
Because as Roy was hot-footing it around trees and across muddy river banks and shouting for help in several languages, his friends were right there for him.
Laughing.
Friends. Those people who are yours just when you need it the most.

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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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