Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Lessons Learned

Who knew listening to their music could be so . . . educational.
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees
And people say we monkey around,
But we're too busy singing
To put anybody down.

It was 1966.
My cousin, Jody, and I had just discovered the wonderful, magical, empowering world of rock and roll.
And LP records.
The perfect pairing.
Now we could listen to the exciting new music whenever and however we wanted.
Which was all of the time.
And loudly.
Hey, hey, we're the Monkees . . .
Was driving itself like a hammer throughout the house.
For probably the 15th time that day.
I should probably mention that the only record-player I had access to, was my parents'.
In the front room.
Diane!”
Over the music, I vaguely made out the sound of my Mother's voice.
I looked up.
She was standing beside us.
Would you PLEASE turn that down?”
I turned the knob.
A bit.
What?”
Mom sighed. I just wanted you to turn it down.”
I looked at the record player. “I did.”
She sighed again. “Diane. You have been playing that record over and over all day. Can't you think of something else to do? Or something else to play?”
No.”
Well, I'm not going to keep coming out here to tell you to turn it down!”
Okay.”
Now what she had said, and what I had just heard, were two different things.
She had been voicing a threat.
I had understood that she wasn't going to bother us any more.
She left.
Happily, I turned up Jody's and my music once more.
I never heard my Dad's approach. Let's face it, I wouldn't have heard the approach of an entire herd of water buffalo.
Suddenly, a shadow fell over the two of us, sitting there on the floor in front of the record player.
A large shadow.
I looked up.
Just in time to see my Dad reach out, lift the needle from the record. Remove said record.
And snap it in two.
Oh, my.
He handed the pieces back to me. You mother told you,” he said.
I stared at the broken record, aghast.
But . . . but it wasn't mine,” I managed, finally.
Dad shrugged. “I guess you should have listened to your mother."
Then he left.
Jody and I stared at each other. Then quickly gathered up our remaining records and carried them to safety.
I think I bought her a new one. I don't remember.
I'll never forget the lesson.
And neither will Jody.
Following that . . . incident, whenever someone in her family looked like they might lose their temper, they would immediately be told, “Don't pull a Mark Stringam!”
Ah, lessons taught by my Dad.
And his friends, the Monkees.

Friday, August 11, 2017

From Over There

Those of you who know me, know I don’t get upset.
Except—I was upset. “I have no idea, Officer! She was here one minute and gone the next!”
He stared at me.
Behind him, Reggie was doing the same thing.
For a moment their resemblance was remarkable.
In another life, I would have pointed it out.
The officer was the first to blink. “And you have no idea where she went?”
“No, Officer, as I already told you.”
“And she didn’t go out the front door?”
I sighed. “She was pulling a giant, heavy case behind her. In the time between when she left me and I followed her, there is no way she could, physically—”
“Just how heavy was this case?”
My thoughts scattered. I caught Reggie’s eye and deliberately lowered both lids for a moment. “Umm . . . “I don’t know. She struggled bringing it down the stairs so I assumed—”
“A-ha!” he said as though he’d caught me in something. “So she was on the stairs!”
I frowned. “I already told you that. She brought the case down here. Pulled it into the front room where Reggie and I were sitting. Talked to me. Then pulled it back into the hall and disappeared.”
“Reggie?” The man looked around. “Who is Reggie?!”
“The bird behind you.”
He spun around, almost dropping his notebook. “Oh. Erm . . . Hello, Reggie.”
“You never let me have any fun!” Reggie said.
Now we were both looking at him. He had sound remarkably like Norma.
“Yooouuu nnnneevvverrrr lllleeet mmmeee have anyyyy funnnnn!” The bird rolled the words about in his great beak like he was tasting something yummy. “Yooouuu . . . yooouuuu . . .”
“That seems an odd thing for a parrot to say,” the officer said.
“He’s a macaw,” I told him, rather absently. “Norma got him from some retired Yale professor.”
“Who taught him to say that?”
“Well, my sister, I guess.”
He frowned and looked at me. “Is this something she said often?”
I felt my face grow warm. “Well . . . no . . . that is . . . I think she said that just before she disappeared.”
“Uh-huh.” The officer scribbled in his little book.
“My life isn’t my own!” Reggie obviously wasn’t through causing problems. “My life isn’t—”
Now the officer was staring at me. “I suppose your sister taught him that, too.”
“Well . . . yes. I guess so. That was another thing she said—”
“Just before she disappeared.”
I frowned at him. “I don’t know if I like your tone.”
He shrugged. “What you like or don’t like is immaterial. What matters now is . . .”
Someone knocked.
I moved past him into the hall but felt him come up behind me as I opened the front door and looked out onto an empty stoop. “Huh. No one here.”
The knocking came again. This time from somewhere behind us.
We both turned.
Another knock. I tipped my head, trying to decide where the noise was coming from.
“I think it’s coming from the living room.” The officer pointed with his pencil.
I made a face as I walked back into the room we had left only moments before. “It couldn’t have come from here—” I began.
Bang!
I jumped and, I’m not sure, but I think the officer screamed a little.
And yes, it was a girly scream. Probably an occupational hazard.
“Is this thing on?” It sounded like Norma’s voice. I looked at Reggie. He was in lethal weapon mode, puffed up to approximately three times his usual size.
Not a good sign.
“Testing. Testing. Can you hear me?”
I looked around, trying to find a possible source for the voice, finally going to the kitchen door to peer inside. Nothing.
“Hello? Hellloooo!”
I was once again standing in the middle of the living room. I cleared my throat and looked up toward the ceiling. “N-Norma?”
“Oh it does work! They said it would!” The voice sounded cheerful. Happy.
I frowned. “What works?” I looked at the officer, who was standing in the doorway, the picture of confusion.
“Who are you talking to?” he mouthed the words.
“Norma!” I mouthed back, pointing upward.
“Right.” He snapped his notebook shut and stuck his pencil behind his ear. Between you and me, I didn’t realize people still did that. “I don’t know who you think you’re kidding, ma’am,” he said, his mouth twisting into an ugly line. “But there are charges for people who play tricks and waste officers’ time.” He turned and disappeared into the hall.
I started after him. “Honest, officer, I know as much about this as you!”
He was already at the door. “I’ll be back,” he said, putting one hand on the doorknob. “To give you and that fraudster sister of yours the dressing down you deserve. One or both of you is going to end up in custody!”
Eep.

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Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.  

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them. 

My words for August?
occupational hazard ~ dressing ~ back ~ Yale ~ except ~ custody

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Someone's Story

The 'New' Stringam Ranch
When I was seventeen, my Dad sold the Stringam Ranch in Milk River and bought another ranch in the shadow of the Porcupine Hills near Fort Macleod, Alberta.
New land to explore.
New worlds to discover.
A lot of riding to do.
Dad immediately got the animals organized.
The main herd was pushed into the southeast quarter.
Where the *gasp* trees were.
The yearling herd went straight east.
Easy access to the main ranch buildings.
They were my first assignment.
Every day, it was my duty to ride through, checking for abnormalities.
Animals in distress.
Animals in trouble.
Animals donning gang colours and getting ready to cause some trouble and distress.
It was a peaceful, wonderful way to spend every morning.
Our east pasture bordered on the neighbour’s west pasture.
Together, they formed a broad sweep of prairie, unbroken and untreed.
I was able to look over the gate in the far east fence and across the neighbour’s property - almost to the highway, seven miles distant.
Not far away, I could see the roof of a building. A large, abandoned building.
A barn, I thought.
It demanded . . . more exploration.
I knew the neighbor wouldn’t mind.
I opened the gate and, closing it carefully behind me, started out.
A short time later, I stopped my horse beside what turned out to be, not a barn, but a two-storey, formerly beautiful house.
Abandoned for some years, I judged by the windowless, shingleless, paintless, doorless condition.
Perfect.
I tethered my horse and went in through what had once been the front entrance.
I was immediately in a large open room.
Trash and debris were littered about, including a huge, old, wood-burning kitchen stove.
I moved nearer.
It had been a beautiful piece. Probably top of the line.
Nickel-plated and fancy.
Someone had used it for target practice.
Large holes had been blown through the doors and walls.
Shotgun, I believe.
I sighed and moved on.
In one of the bedrooms, the shelves were filled with . . . stuff.
I pulled out an old shoebox filled with letters written eighty years before, from a girl who had moved east, to her parents still on the family farm.
Fascinating reading.
I stuffed the shoe box back on the shelf and continued exploring.
A set of stairs beckoned.
I climbed to the second story.
Which proved to be one large room.
The windows at either end were, like those on the first floor, gone.
A layer of bird droppings about six inches thick covered everything here.
Clothing and other personal belongings were discernible.
Barely.
There were some boxes against one end.
I pulled them nearer the window and scooped away the decades of bird manure.
The boxes were filled with old ‘Life’ magazines.
The kind you pay mega bucks for at the antique stores.
Some of them dated back to 1903.
For a moment, I pictured stuffing my saddlebags full and riding away with a small fortune.
If only I had saddlebags.
Then, the smell hit me.
Oh, dear.
I dug down through the pile and pulled out a magazine from near the bottom.
Then moved closer to the window and held it to my nose.
Ugh.
Did you know that decades of bird poop really smells?
Well, it does.
And, over the years, it had trickled down through the pile of magazines to those at the very bottom.
Sigh.
Visions of wealth and riches disappeared.
Who is going to buy a magazine soaked in bird manure?
I put the magazine back and returned to my horse.
For a moment, I looked up at the house.
It had been a beautiful building.
Someone had constructed it.
Moved in.
Lived.
Then they had abandoned it.
I don’t know why.
But doesn’t it make your imagination soar?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Admitted

Sometimes I do deliberate
My penchant to be all things great . . .
A Ruler sitting there in state,
My food served on expensive plate.
To nod as people remonstrate,
And wave as children graduate.
Have fancy clothes to duplicate,
See flags that wave as people wait . . .
But such is not to be my fate,
I have no life to complicate,
No strangers to accommodate.
Instead, I can collaborate
With those whom I proliferate.
And so, may I elucidate?
To all of you who may relate,
I’d like to say, with no debate,
I LOVE MY HAPPY LIFE. IT'S GREAT!






Today is a poetry challenge! Each month, the bloggers who participate vote on a theme. August? Admit you're happy. Okay, I admit it!

See what the others have created!

Lydia of Cluttered Genius: “Ok, I’m Happy”
Karen of Baking In A Tornado: Admit You’re Happy
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Can I “Admit You’re Happy”

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

With Posterity


I feel I owe an apology,
I missed Monday's Poetry.
I spent it with posterity,
That ranged from fourteen down to three.

'Twas 'Cousins Weekend' here, you see,
With games of Jacks and 'Can't Catch ME!'
(Round pirate ship and apple tree.)
Made ice cream, donuts and whoopee!

They ate some popcorn, watched movies,
And out-screeched any good banshee.
And played to such a great degree,
They wore out Grampa and Gramee!

But before your start to feel sorry,
And worry just a bit for me . . .
I thank the Lord on bended knee
For kids aged fourteen down to three.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Grandpa Waits for Me

The grandkids are over for the weekend.
This is what Connie Francis would be singing in this situation . . .
(To the tune of "Where the Boys Are')
Where the toys are, Grandpa waits for me.
A smilin' face, a warm embrace, two arms to hold me tenderly.
Where the toys are, Grandpa’s love will be.
He's sittin’ in his re-clin-er and I know he's waitin' there for me.

In the world of billions of people I think he looks just fine,
Then I'll eat his treats and play his games and tell the world he's mine.

Till we get there I wait impatiently.
Where the toys are, where the toys are,
Where the toys are, Grandpa waits for me.

Till we get there I wait impatiently.
Where the toys are, where the toys are,
Where the toys are, Grandpa waits for me.

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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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