Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, November 12, 2016

To Suit a Suitor

With three London seasons behind her and no husband to show for it, forthright and direct Julia is getting a little desperate. An opportunity to stay with a relative far from the humiliation of London looks like a true blessing until she meets Henry. He of the title, extensive lands, and firmly locked heart. Will Julia overcome the embarrassment of her fruitless search for a bridegroom in time to thaw Henry’s frozen heart?

In Paula Kremser’s newest novel, To Suit a Suitor, all the elements are there for a fun, energetic romp through the ballrooms of Regency England. Beautiful, but sadly unattached heroine. Life-saving, aging cousin. Conniving mother. Self-absorbed sister. Mysterious friend. And heart-broken suitor. All crafted together to create a glorious, page-turner of a romance.

I was not compensated in any way for reading and reviewing this delightful romance. Except that Paula promised to read mine. Best. Trade. Ever!

About the Author:
Paula Kremser began writing while living in
England, so choosing to write about the Regency
era was no coincidence. She is an avid reader, but decided to write because sometimes stories just didn’t go the way she wanted. She obviously has control issues; just ask her four kids. She hopes to someday win an award for writing, in the meantime, she brags about once winning a
bubble gum blowing competition. She continually practices that skill (along with writing) in her new hometown of Sandy, Utah.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Raindance


I probably don’t have to tell you it didn’t work.
Hmmm . . . Maybe I should recap.  
Norma, my elder sister, and I have been roommates since the death of my husband three years ago. Norma never married and, in a move that was at once uncharacteristic and generous, asked me at the funeral to sell my home and move in with her.
It took me a while, but I finally decided that it would be much more practical for us to halve our expenses by sharing living quarters. Two days after the funeral, I was cramming my bed and furniture into her spare room.
This was new territory for us.
With the gap in our ages—she is twelve years older than me—we had really never ‘shared’ anything. Before I was old enough to be a friend, companion or even a ‘spoiled-brat-hiding-under-the-bed-to-listen-to-her-and-her-pals’, she was gone, working in the big city.
Now was our chance to make up for it.
At first all went well. I put up with her rabid attachment to her smelly old bird, Reginald, and she put up with my need to poke pins in her ego at key moments.
All was well.
Until we discovered our visitor. Our fragrant, albeit invisible boarder.
Then everything changed.
Reginald developed a nervous disorder resulting in bowels even more active than usual. Her words, not mine. (I mean, how is that possible?) And finally forced her to send him (temporarily) to our cousin, Edith.
Something that still doesn’t sit well. With any of the three involved parties.
Once good old Reggie was out of the house, Norma, using his future return as incentive, took it upon herself to expose and terminate our boarder.
I probably don’t have to mention that issuing an eviction notice doesn’t work with invisible visitors. That was the first thing she tried.
Her most recent attempt included dried grass.
And a lot of sneezing.
Effective in exposing our visitor.
But in no way allowing us to capture. Or evict.
And that brings us to today. And her next challenge.
I walked into the sunny front room and stopped. “What are you doing?”
Norma looked up. “I just had the best idea! I’m going to . . .” her words faded to a mumble as she bent over the old stereo that, until this moment had resided in dusty splendour in the basement. She straightened. “What do you think?”
I looked at her. “I think you’re crazy, but that has nothing to do with this. What did you say?”
“I’m reinventing my strategy. I’m going to change the atmosphere here.”
I glanced from the stereo back to her. “And?”
She smiled. “I’m going to play our old records really, really loud.”
I blinked. “Oookay. And that will do—what exactly?”
She looked at me, disgusted. “Well, obviously she likes it quiet.”
I raised my eyebrows.
“And if we—somehow—make this place become more—undesirable, maybe she’ll just leave.”
I sighed. “I don’t know, Norma. Maybe she’ll grow to like it.”
Norma reached into the stack of old LPs on the chair and slid one out. “Remember this one?”
I glanced at the cover. “You’re going to chase our ghost out by playing Elvis Presley?”
She nodded. “If it’s played real loud?”
If her plan was to get someone out of our house, it worked.
I’m now sitting at Edith’s.
With Reginald.
On a more positive note, I think Elvis actually showed up.
I’m quite sure he and our ghost were dancing up a bonafide storm.
I left before the rain started.

If you'd like to catch up with Norma and I, our stories are
Here. Here. And here.


Each month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado shuffles words between her adherents. Fan ‘A’ gives to fan ‘D’. Fan ‘B’ to Fan ‘C’. And so on. It’s fun. 
My words this month came from Joy (AKA Evil Joy) at Evil Joy Speaks.
change ~ reinvent ~ challenge ~ grow ~ become more
Now what to do with those?

Visit these other bloggers to witness their trial-by-word!

Baking In A Tornado  http://www.bakinginatornado.com
Southern Belle Charm  http://www.southernbellecharm.com                     
Not That Sarah Michelle http://notthatsarahmichelle.blogspot.com 
Spatulas on Parade http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/
The Bergham Chronicles  http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com
The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver  http://www.thediaryofanalzheimerscaregiver.com/blog.html
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy http://dinoheromommy.com/
Climaxed  http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com 
Confessions of a part time working mom  http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch    
On the Border  http://dlt-lifeontheranch.blogspot.com/ 
Evil Joy Speaks  http://www.eviljoyspeaks.com

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Real Bone Head

Okay, yes, this is me. Ignore the glasses et al.
But that is a genuine 4-H calf behind me.
See that head? Solid bone.
Have I ever mentioned that cows have a head comprised mostly of bone?
Seriously.
Their head is 99 % bone. With a tiny little space for a walnut-sized brain.
Okay, well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it.
Their head can go through most anything.
Fences.
Doors.
Walls.
People.
You get them running and I swear they could go through solid concrete.
And laugh about it with their friends later.
That head is a force to contend with.
You get upwards of 2000 pounds of hair and hoofs going.
With a battering ram for a head and anything is possible.
And we puny little humans have to deal with these animals.
On a daily basis.
You want to talk about bravery?
True statistic: Dairy bulls kill more people annually than the grizzly bear.
Mind you, Dairy bulls usually have sharp, pointy things on that solid-bone head.
How can we make the situation just a bit more dangerous?
Put sharp, pointy things on it.
Where was I?
Oh yes.
Cow heads.
And puny humans.
On to my story . . .
Every fall, the eldest siblings in the Stringam household would happily show up for the organizational meeting of the Milk River 4-H Beef Club.
It was a highlight of the year.
They would then go out to the corral with Dad and choose a suitable calf to register in said club.
Then the work started.
I should mention here, that I never really got involved in the whole ‘work’ part of the scenario.
That’s what brothers are for.
Moving on . . .
My oldest sister, Chris was a lot more ‘hands-on’ than her younger sibling.
So to speak.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
She would go out and wash her calf.
Talk to it.
Put a halter on it and attempt to drag it around.
It was while attempting this last that she came to grief.
And pain.
Chris had been trying to train her calf to lead. An important skill when you plan to have the animal in a show ring.
The calf wasn’t cooperating.
Chris pulled and pushed.
The calf also pulled and pushed.
In the opposite direction.
Chris became frustrated. In an attempt to get the animal’s attention, she shaped her hand into the patented, TV-approved karate hold and . . . chopped.
Remember what I said about solid bone?
That would apply here.
Chris heard the satisfying *crunch* of pro-activity.
For a brief (very brief) moment, she thought, ‘Ha! Got you!’
Then the pain started.
Chris spent the next weeks in a cast to her elbow. Cursing the thick-headedness of cattle in general.
And her 4-H calf in particular.
We thought it was funny.
We never let her know, though.
Because ironically, though that hand, cast-less, couldn’t make much of a dent in a solid bone calf head, that same hand, cast-ed, was a weapon of world class destruction.
Just FYI.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Blessings


At four, my family and me,
Were just as close as we could be.
My Mom and Dad and girls and boys,
Were blessings sent to give me joy.

When I was eight, my blessings most
(Or those of which I liked to boast)
Had four hooves and lived ‘out there’,
The fields beyond the barn somewhere.

And then, with time, my blessings changed,
And somehow became re-arranged,
My friends were more important then,
That year I hit the age of ten.

At twenty, I found something more,
A man unlike I’d know before.
Admirer, lover and a friend,
Brought blessings that would never end.

Six blessings joined us, one-by-one.
At thirty-two, I held my son,
Then looked upon his siblings, vast,
Decided he would be my last.

For sixty years, my blessings came.
But not of money, nor of fame,
I look around, I’m filled with awe
My blessings now call me Grandma!

(I have to add a small P.S.
For splendid friends. They are the best.
And one I’d like to mention here,
Is Awesome Sarah. Let's all cheer!)

Each Month, Karen of Baking in a Tornado challenges us with a new poetry topic.
This month? Blessings!
What could be better?!

See what the others have wrought:

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Drinking Problems

Soooo simple. Soooo satisfying.
Horses are very much like people.
They have personalities.
There are friends.
And enemies.
They like to play.
Hate to work.
Live to eat.
They even have quirks.
Some have learned to take in a deep breath just as you tighten the saddle cinch.
Then let it out . . . later. Sneaky beggars.
Loose cinches cause accidents.
Just FYI.
I could go on and on about the tricks they play.
And how crafty they can be.
But that is another post.
This story is about Harry.
Harry the Horse.
And drinking.
Now, I should explain that horses, when they drink, don't lap like dogs and other animals.
They dip their lips into the water.
And suck.
Careful to keep their noses out in the air.
But a tired horse, coming back from a long day in the pastures, will try to drink with the bit from the bridle still in its mouth.
This results in . . . leakage. An imperfect seal at each side of the mouth.
Leakage.
Most horses simply ignore it and happily slurp up the water.
Except for Harry.
If Harry had been human, he probably would have been an efficiency expert.
He hated leakage. It was messy. And, for want of a better term, inefficient.
So Harry had come up with his own solution. If one just dipped a little more of one's mouth into the water, one could avoid the whole 'leakage problem'.
Genius.
He would lower his mouth into the trough to a level just above the bit.
Problem solved.
Of course, this meant that one's nose became, at times, perilously near, and even in, the water.
No worries. Just lift your head, take a breath, and lower it again.
Child's play.
Soon Harry discovered that he liked dipping his head into the trough.
If he was really tired, he would dunk it right up to his eyes.
Sometimes further.
And all you would see were a pair of ears, sticking out above the water.
Unusual to be sure.
But immensely entertaining.
It gave a whole new meaning to the terms, 'Here you go. Dig in!'.
'Wow. He's in it to the eyebrows!'.
'He's in over his head'!
Or, best of all, 'Go soak your head!'.
Yep.
Harry.
The perfect entertainment at end of a long, dusty day.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Getting to the Heart(beat) of the Matter

Let me know if this scares you!

Maybe it wouldn’t have been quite so bad if I hadn’t just finished reading Edgar Allen Poe’s “Telltale Heart”.

Maybe . . .
It had been a busy day.
Busy.
Our children, and our children’s children, had just left. With six originals, plus spouses and offspring, that comes to . . . quite a number.
I had collapsed into the couch for some well-deserved R & R.
After the noise from so many bodies, the silence was almost thick around me.
I laid my head back. “Ahhhhh!” I relaxed there for a few moments.
Hmmm.
Funny.
I could hear the sound of my heart beating.
I smiled.
Then frowned.
Wait. I put one hand to my chest. That couldn’t be my heart. It was a different rhythm.
I sat up and looked around. The sound was gone.
Weird.
I got up and listened. Made a circuit of the room.
Nothing.
I must have imagined it. I relaxed back on the couch again. Laid my head back.
There it was!
The steady ca- thump, ca-thump of a heart.
Coming from . . . inside the couch.
My couch was haunted!
I leaped to my feet and went in search of my Husby. He would be able to tell me that I was just imagining things. And that my furniture hadn’t really taken on a life of its own.
“Sit down, honey,” I directed. “No. Right here.”
He sat down, eyeing me doubtfully.
“Now lean your head back.”
He did so, still keeping his eyes on me. Then, those eyes widened. He sat up and looked at the couch.
“You hear it, too?” I asked.
He nodded, still staring at the couch. He leaned over again, putting one ear against the fabric. “Huh,” he said. “I hear a heartbeat.”
“Is it a sign or something?” I asked.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking. What on earth would a couch with a heartbeat be a sign of?
Humour me . . .
He shook his head. “There must be some explanation.”
“Well, you have to admit that it’s not every day you have furniture that develops . . . bodily functions,” I told him.
We took turns sitting on the couch and pressing our ears against the back. Each time, we heard the steady thumping of a heart.
Stranger and stranger.
Our front door opened and we both jumped. It was our second son, returning to pick up something his family had forgotten.
“Erik! Come in here!” We directed him to the couch. “Sit here!” We pushed him down. “Now put your head against the back.”
He did so, thinking all the while that both of his parents had suddenly taken the last bend in the road before reaching the loonie bin. Then he frowned. “It that . . .?” He turned his head and pressed his ear against the couch then looked up at us. “It’s a heartbeat.”
“I know!” we said together. “Our couch has a heartbeat!”
He frowned and put his head down once more. “Yup. Definitely a heartbeat.”
He got up and started probing the cushions.
“Erik, what are you doing?” I suddenly had visions of him coming up with a bloody, beating heart grasped in one hand.
“Ah!” he said, pulling his hand out. He was clutching a soft, furry little lamb. With cute little ears and a tiny little stub of a tail.
“I think this is your problem,” he said.
He put the lamb against my ear.
Ca-thump! Ca-thump!
“Oh!” I said. I took the lamb from him. “Ummm . . . why does it have a heartbeat?” I asked stupidly.
I’m sure the rest of you have heard of these things, but I swear I had not . . .
“It’s supposed to be soothing to a new baby,” Erik said.
“Oh.”
“Yeah. You put it in the cradle. The baby’s used to the sound of a heartbeat. It soothes them.”
“Huh.”
He took it back and flipped a switch. The beating sound stopped.
He laughed at the two of us staring down at the little lamb. Then he left.
Case of the Possessed Couch solved.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Visit

Mom
I’m a believer . . .
My mom was a wonderful person. A hard worker. Kind and caring. Supportive. Encouraging.
But Mom had a trait that she struggled with her whole life.
She was a world-class worrier.
She worried over debt and income and other things.
But mostly, she worried about her family. Especially her kids and grandkids.
She worried so much that she made herself sick.
A sickness that, fourteen years ago, took her life.
I’m like my mother in a lot of ways. Good ways, I hope.
And, though I’m not nearly in her class when it comes to worrying, I do have that tendency.
And that brings me to what happened the other night . . .
Some of my children are struggling. The downturn in the economy has cost many in our area their jobs and our family is not immune.
The stresses of job-hunting as well as keeping a family going with little or no income are taking their toll.
And I’ve been worrying.
Earlier this week, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, sunk in despair.
And then a scent drifted over me.
A scent I haven’t smelled in years.
My mother’s favourite perfume.
Now, you have to know that I do not wear perfume. And that particular scent hasn’t been sold in forever.
I knew it was my mother.
Worried about me still and doing what she could to make things better.
She succeeded.
Thank you, Mom.
I miss you.

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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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