Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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

All of My Friends

Friday, July 21, 2017

Acorn Testing

This may sound like bragging.
Okay, it is . . .
Our second son was in grade three.
He loved it.
He was a good student and the teacher, Mr. Knall, seemed to like and appreciate him.
The time for our first parent-teacher interview of the year approached.
Usually a time of apprehension for me.
But there were smiles on both sides as we introduced ourselves and shook hands.
We discussed Erik’s behavior and accomplishments.
Then the teacher brought out a little stack of papers. “Now,” he began, “You are allowed to look through these, but I’m letting you know now that I'm keeping them.”
I stared at him. “Ummm . . . okay.”
He then laid out Erik’s spelling tests to date. Like his father, Erik was a good speller. He had even been known to correct spelling for others. (ie. my brother, completing his degree in Engineering.)
Erik’s only difficulty lay in the fact that he usually finished writing the word almost as soon as the teacher had said it. Leaving—seconds—before the next word. Time that lay heavily on his hands. That needed to be filled with something.
And he filled it.
With illustrations.
In the margin beside his words, he would draw tiny, exquisite figures illuminating whatever it was he had just written. Thus, beside the word: Space, was drawn a tiny astronaut floating in space on an umbilical. A couple of words later: Fire, had an equally tiny cannon, firing at the spaceman.
And thus it went. The entire margin was littered with these pictures.
I could see the teacher’s reasons for wanting to keep them.
This was a truly unique spelling test.
I should probably let you know I allowed him have the tests.
Because I kept the boy.
Moving forward several years . . .
A few days ago, Erik’s second son, just out of grade three, was completing some math worksheets for his mother.
A “keeping up the skills” exercise for the summertime.
He excels at it. Math, that is.
And, like his father before him, finds himself with time on his hands.
And, without even realizing it, has completed the circle.
And ensured that another acorn has dropped immediately beside another great oak.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Crow Holidays

We are vacationing on uber-beautiful Vancouver Island. We are fortunate in that our middle son lives here, so it is a destination. And also a reunion.
We are camping. But camping deluxe, with a four-star bathroom. Granite counters, framed mirrors, slate floors. The works.
My own bathroom isn’t this nice. (We’re seniors, so the bathrooms are important to us. Both in proximity and in cleanliness.)
Moving on . . .
But still, we are camping, with all of the pitfalls and challenges that entails.
Such as the weather.
Today, I am sitting in our tent, listening to a much-needed rain hitting the canvas over my head.
Needed, that is, by everyone on the Island.
Except the tourists.
But some things are going on as normal.
And so we get to the point of this story . . .
We are surrounded by years-old trees here.
Many years old.
They are tall. And plentiful. And lush. And the personal home/gathering spot for the area’s crows.
Crows, as you probably know, are noisy.
Especially early in the morning.
Today, we were blessed that their morning meeting was on the far side of the campground, only faintly discernible to us near the bathrooms. (Seniors. Bathrooms. Important. See above.)
I feel for those people.
It was our turn yesterday and now they can take theirs. Ha!
As I was lying in my cozy -50 sleeping bag, listening to the morning chorus, I began to wonder exactly what the conversation entailed.
Here is my take:
Alphonse: “Okay, is everyone here? Reggie! Where is Reggie?”
Beatrice: “He’s feeding the babies, Alphonse. They woke him and Myrtle up and she’s got a headache and their sitter cancelled so he’s doing double duty today.”
Alphonse: “Okay, well, we’ll excuse him. Is everyone else here?”
Jerrold: “Greta said she’d be a bit late. Some errand she had to run.”
Alphonse: Sighing. “People! Need I remind you how important our job is? If we don’t have everyone here, we can’t work properly and things get missed!”
A chorus of: “We know.” “Yes, boss” “Sorry!”
Alphonse: “All right. Let’s get to work.” Looks everyone over. “Peter and Elaine. You take the north east quadrant.”
Peter: “But we were there yesterday! Some kids threw things at us!”
Alphonse (unmoved): “Part of the job, Peter. You knew that when you signed on.”
Peter (mumbling): “I hate this job!”
Alphonse: “What?”
Peter: “Nothing.”
Alphonse: “Becky and Beatrice? Northwest. And good work yesterday, by the way!”
Beatrice: “Becky just had a great idea and we went with it.”
Alphonse: “Well, it was effective. Do it again.”
Beatrice: “Gladly!”
Alphonse: “Jerrold? Mikey? Sue? Debbie? I want the four of you to cover both the southeast and southwest. Mix it up. Keep them guessing.”
Jerrold: “I think I can speak for all of us, Boss. Happy to.”
Alphonse: “The rest of you, I’m sending you to the center of the campground. It seems to be especially effective when you gather on the climbing frame in the middle of the playground. Something about some movie the humans had a few years ago.”
Mary: “They seem especially affected when we sit there silently and just watch them.”
Alphonse: “Okay, well, I guess that’s all right. Not our usual, but we’re adaptable. Just don’t completely neglect our signature loud-and-noisy.” Raises voice. “Okay, people! You know your job! And if we can manage to chase another group of humans off, it’s all to the good. Think like Becky and Beatrice. A little poop in a few strategic locations in addition to the squawking seems to work miracles. Have a great day!”

I’m fairly certain this is how it goes. Every. Single. Morning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Not Forgettable

I had been living in the big city of Calgary for three whole days.
My roommate got home from work just after I did.
“Hey,” she said. “How as your day?”
“It was good,” I told her . “I . . .”
“We've been invited to a party,” she said, sorting through the day's mail.
I stared at her. “But I don't know anyone.”
“Oh, it was our Landlord,” she said. “He's always throwing parties. And we're invited.” She looked at me. “He's quite a guy,” she added. “You'll never forget him!”
“Oh. Umm . . . okay.”
“Soo . . . let's go.”
“What? Now?!”
I discovered that our Landlord lived in the apartment just below us.
And that the party was already well under way when we got there.
Food. Drinks. Laughter.
And lots and lots of people.
We edged our way in.
“How did you get invited to this?” I shouted into her ear.
“He was out on the balcony having a smoke when I got home,” she said.
“Come on. He wants to meet you.”
We worked our way through the crowded room.
As she edged me past yet another knot of happily engaged people, I happened to glance up at the wall closest to us.
Covering most of it, was the RCMP crest.
“Huh. Look at that!” I shouted. “The RCMP crest!”
My roommate nodded. “Yeah!” she shouted back. “Our Landlord used to be in the RCMP!”
“Cool!” I studied it as we made our slow way past. It must have been about four feet square.
Bright and shining in the dim room.
“Wow!” I shouted “If every officer wore one of those, it'd be like wearing a bullet-proof shield!”
And it was at that precise moment that the entire room happened to be drawing its collective breath in its collective conversations.
And the current song ended.
My comment rang out over the quiet room as though it had been shouted.
Which it had.
It was also at that exact time that my roommate stopped in front of a man in a wheelchair.
Obviously a quadriplegic.
“Umm . . . this is our Landlord,” she said. She leaned toward him. “This is my new roommate!”
The man was drinking a beer through a straw.
He nodded and smiled at his newest permanently-crimson-faced tenant. “Wish I'd had one of those 'bullet-proof shields',” he said.
“Ummm . . . yeah,” I managed.
“Would have come in quite handy.”
“Yeah,” I said again.
My roommate and I moved on.
“Wow! Look at the time!” I said. “We should be probably be getting back to the apartment!”
We had been there for a grand total of about five minutes.
And it was 4:00 in the afternoon.
But definitely time to head home.
After that initial awkward meeting, we were in his home many times.
Along with most of the people in the apartment building.
Always, he was cheerful and smiling.
And welcoming.
With never a word over the injury, sustained while on duty, that changed his life forever.
My roommate was right.
I never forgot him.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ode To the Purple

I never saw a purple cow,
I never hope to see one.
But I can tell you anyhow,
I'd rather see, than be one.

A purple cow'd take you aback,
She'd certainly be seen,
Among the whites and browns and blacks,
And everything between.

And what to feed them? I don't know,
A normal cow eats grasses.
Who knows what's going on below,
With purple's gastric gasses.

And are they hot? Or are they cold?
You'd need to touch to see.
I'd have to know before I'm sold,
I'm sure you would agree.

Another thing: what do you give,
A purple cow to drink?
Do they need water just to live,
Like us? What do you think?

And now the final question:
With their milk, what is it's hue?
If purple's their digestion
Is it green or red or blue?

You know, I need to think again,
It might not be so bad,
Being noticed for my purple stain,
And giving milk that's plaid.

So . . .
I never saw a purple cow,
But I should like to see one.
And I can tell you anyhow,
It might be fun to be one.

This post is part of a special challenge by Karen at Baking in a Tornado.
Cow appreciation.
And who doesn't appreciate cows?
Here are the other participants:
Lydia: Thanks, Cows

Monday, July 17, 2017


Today, for Poetry Monday, I'm doing a little self-imposed exercise.

Fill In The Blanks

This is a little ditty quoted by my sainted mother throughout my growing up years. And a little bit after that:

There's so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us.
That it doesn't behoove any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

Great poem, right?
So this is my challenge to me.
Take the formula and--see what I can do with it.

Hmm . . .

There's so much life in the oldest of us,
And so much fatigue in the youngest of us,
That we can't possibly, any of us
Try to outwork the rest of us.

This is harder than I thought.

Umm . . .

There's so much fun in the angriest,
And so much mad in the happiest,
That no one can (at any behest)
Say just who is the crappiest.


One more try . . .

There’s so much work in the laziest,
And so much laze in the workiest,
That none of the chores, by mother’s request
Will ever get done, though the house is messed.


How about . . .

There's so much forgotten by the oldest of us,
And so much to learn in the youngest of us,
The amount that is known by any of us
Is probably the same as the rest of us.

I give up.
Mom’s really is the best!

Today’s theme for PoetryMonday is Nonsense.
Now go and see what my good friends/poetry mavens, Delores and Jenny have for you!
And stay tuned for Next Monday and the topic of  VACATIONS!

Sunday, July 16, 2017


The room of learning.
One of my favourite classes in high school was Biology.
We did exciting things in Biology.
Dissected worms.
Hid the teachers notes.
Dissected deer eyes.
Checked each other's blood pressure.
Dissected frogs.
Typed each other's blood.
Gassed a bat and then drowned it, mistakenly thinking it was already dead. (One of the more traumatic days in Biology.)
Watched our teacher try to blow up the lab.
Slept through informative movies.
Watched our newly-engaged teacher try to remember what he was supposed to be teaching.
Dissected rats.
Grew weird things in petrie dishes.
We had fun.
And we were a good class.
Didn't cause too much trouble.
I will admit that we had a 'lost and found' board in our Biology lab.
But I'm sure that everyone has at least one of those.
Where else would you tack the frog tongues, frog legs, rat tails, and other things guaranteed to gross out the more squeamish members of the classroom?
But there is one thing that I remember vividly from all of my years in biology.
And only because of the unfortunate way in which my teacher chose to say it.
Maybe I should explain . . .
We were studying something very pithy: friction.
Did you know that friction is responsible for a lots of things?
Traction, for one.
In fact if it weren't for friction, we would simply slip and slide around everywhere.
I know that sounds like fun, but it's really not.
Our teacher explained it very well.
And yes, this was the teacher who was newly-engaged and only visited our planet for very short periods of time.
He told us, and I quote, “Friction is caused by two bodies rubbing together.”
Did you know that?
We didn't.
But you can be sure that we, and especially the boys in the classroom, never, ever, forgot it.
After that, not a day went past without someone making the selfless offer to help someone else study friction.
True story.
Biology class.
What would school life be like without it?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cookies and Cutlets

What can I say but Mmmmmm.

My Dad taught me manners.
I was a slow, but well-fed, learner.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Dad and I were on a cattle show tour.
I say, 'we' but I was mostly useless.
I had injured my hand in a grooming accident getting ready for the show.
Don't ask.
The road was long between cities. Because Alberta is a big place.
But we had eats.
Mostly sweet or salty.
But all yummy.
My Dad's favourite cookies were large marshmallow/cookie/chocolate bits of delicious-ness.
I should explain here that sometimes, in Canada in the summer, we have hot days.
I know.
The words 'Canada' and 'hot weather' usually aren't found in the same sentence.
But it's true.
Back to my story . . .
It was hot and stuffy in the truck.
Heat has a rather negative effect on marshmallow/cookie/chocolate bits of delicious-ness.
Melts them, quite effectively, into solid lumps of delicious-ness.
It was mid-afternoon.
We had been on the road since lunch.
It was now about 4:00 pm.
Snacking was indicated.
I dragged out the bag of cookies.
And realized that each row had been fused into one, long cookie.
Except the first row.
From which two were already missing.
I picked up the remaining (rather large) cookie and looked at it.
It could be done.
I shoved it into my mouth and chewed happily.
Then realized that my father was staring at me.
Incredulous (good word).
“Did you just eat that whole cookie?”
“Maybe,” I mumbled through a mouthful of marshmallow/cookie/chocolate delicious-ness. “Who wants to know.”
He just chuckled and shook his head and the matter was dropped.
Or so I thought.
A couple of hours later, we stopped for supper.
I ordered my favourite, veal cutlets.
They arrived.
Two very large cutlets.
With mashed potatoes, vegetables and thick, yummy gravy.
Remember my injured hand?
Well that comes into play here.
“Daddy, could you please cut my meat for me?”
“Certainly.” Dad grinned and slid my plate over.
Now, anyone familiar with that grin knows that something was being plotted.
Because it was.
He took his knife and fork and sliced each large cutlet down the middle.
Then he slid my plate back in front of me.
I stared at the four very, very large bites.
Then at my Dad
Who was nonchalantly cutting his own meat.
“Dad, how am I supposed to eat that?”
“Well, judging by the bite of cookie you shoved into your mouth a couple of hours ago, those should be just about right,” he said. “Go for it!”
I stuck my tongue out at him and slid my plate back.
“Now cut!”
He laughed and did so.
It exists, even on a cattle trip.
Who knew?

Friday, July 14, 2017


It was raining.
So both Reggie and I had eschewed the great, green outdoors in favour of something warmer and more welcoming to old bones.
The front room and the fireplace.
Okay, yes, it was July, but cold and damp is cold and damp, no matter the season.
Reggie was entertaining himself by whistling rising and falling notes. A sort of a do, ray, mi for birds.
Let’s face it, Julie Andrews, he’s not. And he was about two stanzas from joining that old birds home in the sky.
Where birds go up.
And never, ever come down.
Back to my story . . .
Something thumped on the stairs.
Now I know that you know my sister and I live in a haunted house. So strange noises or things that go bump (even in broad daylight) are not uncommon.
The first thump elicited no response from either Reggie or me.
But the second, third and fourth did.
And the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Reggie fluffed out his feathers. His usual reaction when something is happening that he doesn’t understand. I don’t know about you, but nothing shouts ‘I’m-dangerous-and-every-part-of-me-is-a-lethal-weapon’ better than a fat bird.
Me? I lowered my magazine.
Both of us were ready for anything.
We stared at the doorway into the front hall. The place the sounds seemed to be coming from.
Norma appeared around the corner.
I let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. “Norma, what are you doing?”
She moved further into the room.
Then pulled a gigantic, obviously heavy suitcase in behind her.
Immediately the noises were explained. Someone had been transporting something much too large down someplace much too steep.
I was suddenly thankful that I hadn’t heard more thumping and bumping.
I raised my eyebrows and looked at her expectantly.
She smiled at me. “I’m leaving,” she announced in the same chirpy, good-news voice she would have used to announce that she’d changed the toilet paper roll.
Yeah, I guess you’d have to know my sister.
“Leaving?” I stared at her. “Where are you going?”
“I’ve been invited for a visit!”
“O-kay. Who and where. And more importantly, for how long?” I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that the two of us were living in Norma’s house—she, by paying the mortgage and me, by invitation and economy.
“I don’t know for how long.” Norma went for the last question. “Maybe forever!”
My head reared back. “But, but this is your house!”
“Yeah, well, if I don’t come back you can have it!”
“I can have it?”  I wasn’t sure I heard correctly. I gave Reggie a can-you-believe-what-we’re-hearing look, then pinched myself mentally and shook my head. I’d obviously been around him too much. I turned back to Norma. “Okay, you’d better start from the front and take me through your orbit again.”
She sighed and sat down on her suitcase. “Well, you know how sick I’ve been getting. Those fevers and all.”
“Umm . . . yeah. But the doctor thinks he’s got it figured out.”
“Well I was talking to her and she said—”
Norma raised her head and looked up toward the ceiling.
“Oh. Her!”
She nodded. “And she was telling me how no one ever gets sick over there.”
“Yeah. Well, Honey, they’re dead.”
She shrugged. “Whatever.” She went on, “And she told me I could come for a visit and see how I liked things.”
“A visit.” I blinked. Then looked around. “Are we on Candid Camera?”
She gave a very unladylike snort. “No! She asked me to come for a visit and I’m going to go!”
I got up. Some things you just have to do while standing. “Norma.” I put a hand on her shoulder. “You can’t go over there—and then come back.”
“Who says so?”
“Everyone!” I sputtered. “Norma! You can’t cross into the world of—spirits and then come back.”
“Pfff.” She waved a hand dismissively. “I can do what I like.”
I have to admit that this has been Norma’s mantra from day one and, for a moment, the thought crossed my mind that if anyone could do it, she could. But then reality returned. “Norma, you can’t do this!” I was getting a bit desperate.
“Fine!” She got up and started back toward the hall, pulling her case behind her. “You never let me have any fun!” She disappeared through the doorway. “Since you moved in here, my life isn’t my own!” Her case followed her around the corner. “One day, I’m going to—” Her voice quit.
Frowning, I followed her into the hall. “Norma, try to see reason—” I stopped.
And stared.
Norma--and her enormous case--had disappeared.

Wanna catch up with the Sputterling sisters?
Barbecue With Spirits
Something Scary
Christmas with the Sputterlings
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. 
I’m using: Fifth ~ economy ~ orbit ~ gigantic ~ fevers
They were submitted by:
 Links to the other “Use Your Words” posts:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Ruby the Wanna-Be

Our usual Camping buddies
Panda and Chiefy
The Interloper
Okay, I admit it. She's cute.

We raised Old English Sheepdogs.
A wonderful breed.
Did I mention shaggy?
We had raised them for years.
Long enough that anyone remotely connected to us had one of our pups.
Old English Sheepdogs wherever you looked.
A good thing.
Then our close friends bought, in addition to their resident sheepdog, a *gasp* Miniature Schnauzer.
They called her Ruby.
We stared at the wee little mite suspiciously.
Snapping black eyes.
Little black nose and ‘folded-over’ ears.
Tuft of a tail.
Okay, we had to admit it, she was cute.
Really cute.
She was accepted. And immediately took over the household.
Now, I should probably mention here that our dogs went with us camping.
All of our dogs.
And our friends brought their dogs as well.
We usually got campsites adjacent or directly across from each other and put down roots.
Now we were accustomed to camping with Sheepdogs who stayed in the campsite.
Even when their family went to the beach without them.
And were seldom/never heard from.
We discovered that a Miniature Schnauzer was . . . different.
For one thing, she had a habit of speaking up when there were strangers walking past.
Or thinking of walking past.
Or breathing . . . somewhere.
And she didn’t like to stay in the campsite. If chained, she was vociferous in her opinion of families who treated their doggies so.
And, if left unchained, she would disappear.
For the first day, dealing with her was a puzzle.
Not that I pointed out that she was definitely not an OES.
Several times.
Her family soon devised a solution.
They wrapped her leash around a small log.
Which slowed her down.
Notice I didn’t say ‘stopped her’.
No, it just slowed her down. Enough that her family could keep her in sight.
Now, when they strolled across into our campsite, Ruby would appear a few minutes later, manfully (can I say that about a female dog?) pulling her little log.
“Oh, here’s Ruby,” they would say. “Pulling her log of shame!”
But Ruby learned. And found her place in our family.
Amongst the sheepdogs.
I don’t know what life would be like without her.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


I always was afraid at night
When Mother would turn out the light,
Into the darkness, I would stare
And look for monsters waiting there.

My terror's lasted all my life,
E’en after I became a wife,
Though I admit there's far less fear
When someone else is sleeping near.

But still the darkness frightens me.
Still harbours scary things, you see.
Into the darkness, I will stare
For thugs and villains waiting there.

Once, Husby took me out to see
A great new movie, just released.
About a girl, so sweet and kind
With powers that absorbed her mind.

That night, my world again askew,
The light stayed on because I knew
The darkness, into which I stared?
For certain, Carrie waited there.

And so it’s gone - the darkness wins,
The light goes off, and my mind spins.
Creating creatures in the night
That disappear in morning light.

Beings who would steal your mind
Performing tests on all mankind.
Into the darkness I still stare
And watch for aliens waiting there.

Last night I stumbled down the hall
Intent on answering nature’s call
And when I glanced into the mirror,
My reflection was one pale blur.

For my tri-focals help me out,
So I can see my way about.
If in the darkness, I did stare,
I’d not see anything waiting there.

Hmmm . . .

What you can't see won’t hurt you, right?
Shhh . . . I’m turning off the light.
Once a month our little Poetry group
headed by our intrepid leader,
Karen of Baking in a tornado,
posts (what else?) Poetry. It's fun.
And on a theme.
This month? Reflection.
Visit my team and see what
everyone has done with it!

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: No Reflection
Dawn of Cognitive Script: Reflection of My Past Life
Lydia of Cluttered Genius: One Year

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
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My novel, Carving Angels

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My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

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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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