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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Snow Angels

A guest post by little brother, Blair.

Not me, but similar.
On occasion, as a teenager, I made choices that lacked caution and or wisdom.
Okay, I made stupid choices.
On one occasion, I was out in the evening with friends riding snowmobiles and enjoying the winter in the hills near my father’s ranch.
We all drove trucks to a drop off point where we parked and unloaded our snow machines and headed up snow packed roads and trails into the woods.  The snow in the woods had just fallen and it was a blast riding on what felt like fluffy clouds of snow.
After spending some time up in the wooded area, we finally decided to pack up and head home.  However, the group was delaying our departure.
As a teenager, I tended to get impatient and after waiting for what I thought was a half hour (10 minutes), I got mad and hopped on my machine and headed down the snow packed trail by myself. Now at that age I tended to lose all caution when I got mad and I barely made it through the trees and fluffy snow back to the snow packed road without wrapping my snowmobile around one of the trees. You would think that this would have made me be a little more careful.
But I left all sense and reason back in the trees somewhere.
I came out of the treed area onto the snow packed road, operating a machine that was way more powerful than I needed considering my frame of mind. I wound it up to full speed. 
It was exciting as I heard the motor growl. 
The adrenaline coursed through me as I flew down the trail.
The lights on the machine would shine a reasonable distance ahead or what I thought was reasonable even though I had the snowmobile running at its top speed. The trees on the side of the trail were whirring by and I was enjoying the rush. 
I came to a bend in the trail that I slowed for and rounded, and once again opened the throttle wide. 
Then I looked up and saw an immediate turn and embankment directly in front of me. 
I thought, “Gee I don’t remember that sharp turn”.  Then, “I’m going way too fast. How am I going to get around that corner without planting myself in the embankment?”  And finally, “This is not good, I am going to be killed or maimed”.
I had no idea what I should do.  I was going so fast that if I tried to break on the snow packed trail, I would likely slide out of control and become part of the embankment.
I let the throttle go and the snowmobile started to slow. I dropped down and hugged my machine while leaning over to help it stay upright around the corner, certain that I was going to leave the trail and hit the embankment at any second. 
Suddenly, I was around the corner and headed down the trail.  The snowmobile continued to slow and I was not inclined to speed up at this point.  I thought, “How did I make it around that corner?” I was sure that I shouldn’t have. 
I have since imagined that if I had stopped and gone back to the corner, I would have seen a line of footprints in the snow from a whole group of guardian angels that guided me around and kept me from planting myself in the bank.
They would have probably said to each other, “This is one stupid teenager.”
Oh, wait a minute. Guardian angels would say, “This young man has just made a poor choice, but maybe if we step in this time, he will make better choices in the future.”
I managed to get back to my truck and then home a little shaken but in one piece.  I vowed that I would not be so foolish again.
I can’t say that I have always been wiser, but maybe my guardian angels can vouch for me.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Sorting Souls

Just inside the graveyard fence stood a big old pecan tree.
One day two boys came hunting nuts. In actuality.
They filled a big old bucket (though they spilled some by the fence),
Then sat down right there by the tree so counting could commence.
“One for you and one for me,” said one boy, happily.
“And another one for you and then another one for me.”
A third young boy came riding past the graveyard on his bike,
Heard some voices from inside that sounded quite ghostlike.
Slowed and heard a voice say, “One for you and one for me.”
“One for you and one for me,” it continued gleefully.
In an instant, he had figured who was speaking thus,
Left to find someone with whom all this he could discuss.
‘Round the bend he came upon an old man with a cane,
Hobbling slowly down the road in quite extensive pain.
“Come here quick!” the boy said. “Please believe what I just heard!”
“They’re in there sharing out the souls, both Satan and the Lord!”
He said, “Beat it kid, you see it's hard for me to stroll?”
The boy was firm. The graveyard fence then became their goal.
Standing by the bars they heard those fateful words once more,
“One for you and one for me.” As had been said before.
The old man whispered, “Boy, you're right. What you said is true!”
“Let's move closer by the fence and bring the Lord in view!”
They gripped tight those iron bars as they tried to get a glimpse.
But they could not see anything. Though they hung there like two chimps.
At last they heard, “For you. For me. That's all and ain’t this fun?”
“Let's get those nuts o’er by the fence and then we will be done!”

The old man led for a good half-mile, just running like a deer,
Before the kid on the bike shot past and left him in the rear.

'Tis Monday and I know you know that that means poetry.
So visit Jenny and Delores. Now that you've seen me!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Trading Cockroaches for Cold

I love Alberta. 
It's beautiful.
Wide, grassy prairies.
High, majestic mountains.
Blue skies.
Clear air.
Warm temperatures.
Okay, I know that it gets cold in Alberta.
And yes, -40 (C or F) is not uncommon.
But, probably because of the extreme temperatures, Alberta is missing a couple of very important things.
And I'm not complaining.
1. Alberta is the only place on earth that has no rats.
None. They are stopped at the borders, asked to produce a current passport, then turned away.
Let's face it, have you ever seen a rat with any passport, let alone a current one?
There is even a designated rat un-welcome committee stationed at every border.
An effective one.
Equipped with guns and traps.
And lots of cheese.
I don't know about you, but that would certainly indicate to me that I wasn't wanted.
Moving on . . .
So . . . no rats.
2. Alberta also has no big bugs.
Okay, we have bugs.
Just not big ones.
I've seen the pictures of people holding cockroaches that reach to their elbows and spiders that could easily carry off small children.
I know what big bugs look like.
And we don't have them.
That makes me happy.
We know how blessed we are.
Case in point:
Our son was preparing to go out to milk.
It was cold.
Alberta cold.
He was layering up at the back door.
Long johns.
Cotton socks.
Wool socks over cotton ones.
Heavy shirt.
Heavy coat.
Touque. (Warm Canadian winter hat)
Yep. In Canada, we pretty much invented layering.
And going outside isn't something you do at the spur of the moment.
It takes thought.
And time.
I was preparing breakfast and I could hear my son moving around at the back door.
And mumbling to himself.
I dried my hands and walked over to him.
What I heard was, " . . . cockroaches."
I moved closer.
"We don't get cockroaches," he said.
As he pulled on one sock.
"We don't get cockroaches."
Second sock.
"We don't get cockroches."
"We don't get cockroaches."
And so it went.
The same refrain with each and every layer.
Psyching himself up to open that door and get the blast of cold air in the face.
We live in Alberta.
It is beautiful.
And cold.
But we don't have rats.
Or get big bugs.
Sometimes it takes the one to appreciate the other.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Small Town Summer Night

Milk River, Alberta. My Home Town.
A summer sunset.
For a short time, a hush falls over the town.
Then the Summer Evening starts.
The rumble as the teen-aged drivers in Dad’s car (or one resurrected and maintained by their own hands) start cruising Main from the Catholic church to the hotel. Most of them watching for ‘that’ vehicle. The one containing their person of the moment.
Listening to CJOC or CHEC, or, if you had a good radio, CKXL in Calgary.
Rat races (hide and seek with cars) through the back alleys and sidestreets.
The dust hanging in the still air, most noticeable around the street lights. Giant water bugs, ditto.
Glancing in the lighted windows of Charlie’s to see who is hanging out there, listening to the jukebox.
Checking out the dance in the high school gym and trying to avoid the chaperones, all of whom know one’s parents.
Going to one of a half-dozen parties at someone’s barn/gravel pit/cabin/shack complete with bonfire and/or some form of alcohol.
Stopping for milk shakes, mushroom burgers and/or popcorn twists at the Milky Way and visiting/flirting with whichever of your friends currently works there…
Cruising main again.
And finally, as the cars thinned out and your friends find other places to be . . .
Sitting by the slow-moving ribbon of silver that gives your town its name. Drinking one last milk shake and eating popcorn twists by the bagful with your big sister. The sixteen-year-old who just gave you a glimpse of what you will be doing when you become teenager in a few short years.
And the words over the radio you’ve been waiting all night for: On McKenzie’s Instant Top 12, THIS is Number One!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Moose Parked...

A repost for birthday number five!

And you thought she was protective of her moose!
Our second youngest granddaughter, Baby Girl (hereinafter known as BG) was a tiny little thing.
Not walking yet, she scurried using the time-honored technique perfected by infants and babies since earth started.
Hands and knees.
At eleven months old, she could sure get around.
Her favourite toy/workout apparatus was her rocking moose - one of many made by my Dad, BG’s great-granddad.
(Yes, I said moose. We live in Canada, it seems apropos.)
If BG wasn’t busily exploring somewhere she shouldn’t, she could be found on that moose. Rocking wildly.
And she was more than a little possessive.
Something that had only recently discovered.
Allow me to illustrate . . .
BG, the youngest of four siblings, was underfoot in the kitchen.
Her oldest sister, nine years her senior, saw an opportunity to take a ride on the currently unoccupied moose. (Hmm. There’s a statement you don’t see often!)
I should mention here that said older sister had waist-length hair.
This will be important later.
Moving on . . .
BG looked over and spotted her sibling on her moose.
She motored over and, latching onto the moose’s tail, levered herself to her feet.
Balancing there, she reached out and grabbed a hank of her sister’s hair.
Then she pulled.
“Ahh! Mom!” eldest sister squawked.
BG pulled again.
“Mom! She’s got me!”
BG tugged and tugged and finally, eldest sister disentangled herself and dismounted.
Her youngest sibling lost no time in climbing aboard.
Then she turned and grinned at her sister.
A knowing, ‘Nya-nya-nya-nya’ sort of grin, complete with wrinkled nose and sparkling eyes.
Did I mention that she was eleven months old?!
I predicted she’d be CEO of a major company by the time she’s five.
That's today!
Stay tuned . . .
The innocent bystander/cause-of-it-all.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

So Hair We Are

Okay. See? Here she looks like a girl!
Sometimes, being thrifty has its limits.
When I was eighteen, my Mom taught me to cut hair.
She thought it was a skill I would need as I contemplated starting my own family.
The brave lady used herself as my working model.
Let's just say that, for several months, my Mom's hair was . . . interesting.
And leave it at that.
Her bravery was rewarded.
I learned to cut hair.
In one style.
And short.
Moving forward several years.
My Husby and I were blessed with three sons.
All of whom had the same barber.
I got quite proficient at boy's haircuts.
And fairly proud of myself.
We all know about pride, right.
After three sons, our family increased in size once more.
By a daughter.
A girl?
I should mention, here, that my sisters both knew how to do hair and fussy, 'pretty' stuff.
I had been raised in the barn.
With the horses.
And, for some reason, missed out on that talent.
Or interest.
I didn't realize my lack until the doctor laid my new daughter in my arms.
Holy Smoke!
My exact words.
It was then I realized that being born in the center of the family, with the boys, and spending all of my waking hours and no few of my sleeping ones in the barn, had ill-equipped me to deal with a girl.
I muddled through.
Fortunately, she mixed in with the boys as easily as her mother had.
And was gleaming bald till she was two.
That gave me time to work through some of my other inadequacies before I had to tackle the whole 'hair' problem.
But, finally, inevitably, the hair grew to a length that required either styling.
Or cutting.
I opted for what I knew and fetched my scissors.
All was well.
Or so I thought.
One evening at an activity, several young boys ran up to her father and I and informed us, loudly, that our son had just gone into the girl's bathroom.
I stared at them.
We didn't have any of our sons with us.
And our daughter was . . .
I learned to do hair.
And also to dress my daughter as a girl.
But that is another story.

There is a codicil:
That same daughter, when asked by her daughter for a haircut, did exactly the same thing.
Now her little girl, shorn of her locks, is . . . happy.
Full circle.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rest-ing on a Sunday

 From Mom's journals.

How did this . . .
 . . . become this?

Sunday at the Ranch was a day of rest.
We slept in!
Instead of getting up at the uncivilized hour of 5:30 AM, we got up at the uncivilized hour of 6:30 AM.
The Wrangler assigned for the day saddled up Slow Poke and rode out to bring in the horses.
The other cowboys swept out the barn, fed the animals in the feed lots and milked the cow.
The man who drew the short straw got cow-milking duty.
Not a favourite chore.
Especially on Sunday.
And a cause for real irritation to whoever got stuck with it.
'Horse Play' usually erupted around or near.
Let me explain . . .
Hans, an animal lover came down the stairs from the hay loft, Cyclone (the aptly-named barn cat) purring in his arms.
Seeing Joe seated beside the milk cow, grouchily taking his irritation out on poor Jenny-the-cow, Hans got an idea.
Okay, not a great one, as it turns out, but an idea none the less.
He set the cat on Jenny's back and pulled his tail.
The cat's, I mean.
Cyclone's claws instantly contracted into the innocent old cow's hide.
Bellowing in pain, Jenny lunged forward, kicking wildly to free herself.
The milk bucket flew into the air, spilling its contents all over Joe as he scrambled for the door, desperate to get away from the flying hooves.
Cyclone flew through the air like a rocket. Five feet off the ground. He shot through the door with legs spinning, all of his nine lives in jeopardy.
With Jenny, intent only on finding the nearest far-away place, right behind him.
Just as the Wrangler arrived on Slow Poke.
Horse, cow, cat and cowboys met.
Completely out of character, Slow Poke erupted. With great heaves and grunts, he flung himself into the air.
Switching ends.
Pounding the ground.
The Wrangler catapulted into the sky in a beautiful arc.
Over the corral gate.
Everyone stood mesmerized in a total state of shock.
The dust settled.
Then the casualties began to moan and move.
This shook everyone out of their trance.
Mark grabbed his vet bag and began to check for cuts, broken bones and heart beats, prodding gently at each limp form. He swabbed and bandaged and dispensed pain killers.
Then Joe sat up, rubbed his eyes and lay back down. "Wake me in the morning," he said, "I just had a nightmare!" He opened one eye. "I should have gone to church!"
The boys carried Joe to the bunkhouse.
All of the other casualties limped or dragged themselves away to the nearest safe place.
Where they collapsed into a heap.
Everyone survived.
But it was some time before Jenny, Joe, Slow Poke, Cyclone, or any others involved in the spin off would approach the barn without apprehension.
Sundays. Truly a day of rest.

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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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