Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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



Friday, October 20, 2017

First Winter

Digging through Grandma Berg's Journals again . . .

Grandma and Grampa Berg were married in a small Lutheran church in Blackfoot, Idaho on April 20, 1919.
Throughout the summer, they worked on the farm they shared with another couple, Nanny and Axel Karlsson. In October of that year, they moved to their new land west of Millicent, Alberta, where they would raise their family.
But their first winter wasn’t spent on that land. Instead, they went with another couple, the Palms, to the Fort McMurray area to run a trapline.
Our story starts there . . .

What a winter it was! We had brought a supply of kerosene and food—flour, sugar, jam, beans, dried fruit, salted pork, powdered milk, butter and frozen potatoes—which supplemented with moose and rabbit meat made our diet quite adequate.
I baked bread in a stone oven built by Petrus outside the cabin. A fire was built inside the oven until the stones were hot. The heat from the rocks baked lovely bread!
The two men were often in the wilderness for days at a time, tending their trapline with snowshoes and dog teams. Although Petrus was bush wise, one time they lost their bearings in a storm and were wandering for nine days before stumbling on another trapper’s cabin. The trapper wisely, slowly brought the half-starved pair back onto food by allowing them only one pancake every hour over a period of hours.
Never had pancakes tasted so good!
I was expecting my first baby in January and plans were made to leave before that time. However, the snow kept falling and by Christmas time the train stopped running. [Mrs. Palm and I] prepared for the baby by knitting and sewing little garments out of yarn and flannelette we had brought with us . . .
When I went into labour, Petrus ran behind the dogteam twenty miles to Lac La Biche where he had been told of a midwife. When he found the experienced native midwife, she first hesitated until an RCMP constable persuaded her to come. Many precious hours had passed and Petrus was beside himself. The woman finally gathered the necessary supplies and settled herself into the sled.
With anxious urging, the hardy dogs made a short time of the twenty or more miles, arriving at the cabin about midnight.
Soon Petrus was greeted by the cry of his first-born son.
All the frustrations of the day were forgotten in the joy of holding this precious child.
There is some disagreement among family members about whether Grandpa and the midwife arrived in time to assist in the birth. To settle the issue, my Uncle Roy put the question to Uncle Glen, the baby in the story.
“Glen, you were there. Were you delivered by the midwife or not?”
Uncle Glen turned his head at a wry angle and taking his chin in his left hand, with deep thought and deliberations, he answered, “You know, I can’t remember.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Harvest in a Hurry

It's harvest season.
Time for a story about another harvest.
In another era . . .

How it was done under normal circumstances.
You can see the Bundle Rack in the background...
First, a bit of background . . .
Well into the 1940s, the Berg family ran a threshing machine fed by bundles (sheaves) of grain transported by bundle ‘racks’ pulled by a team of horses.
Bundle racks were trailers usually 14 to 16 feet long and 8 feet wide, with a 5-foot wood barrier front and back. The rack was mounted on a four-wheeled running gear with the two front wheels attached to the tongue—a long wooden pole where the horses were attached and which acted as a steering apparatus for the front wheels.
The driverless team pulling the rack was controlled by the man doing the loading of the sheaves and directed by the commands, “Get up” or “Whoa”. The reins were tied to a ‘V’ notched in the top board of the front of the rack and the horses were steered next to the stooks (sheaves of grain gathered and standing together) by the man as he walked alongside. With his pitchfork, he could reach out and put pressure on either rein, depending on where he wanted the team to go.
Normally, it was a calm, peaceful and surprisingly quiet operation. At least until they reached the threshing machine.
Now on to my story . . .
The brothers were threshing a field of wheat on the South Farm, just across the irrigation canal from the home place. All had gone well to this moment. Carlo, their hired man, had his rack partly filled and Don, with a full load was heading toward the thresher. Bern, the second eldest son, and his team, Maud and Dick were stopped across the field while Bern answered a call of nature.
Suddenly, a pheasant burst out of the undergrowth, startling Bern’s team.
You have to know that horses have one response to everything out of the ordinary. Run!
They took off like a shot.
Bern got his pants into running position and sprinted after them.
But before he could affect any form of control, they spooked Carlo’s team, who joined in the race.
Carlo managed to grab the front of his rack and began climbing up toward the reins.
That was the last view either of the brothers had of him.
The team had been heading for the canal, but made a sharp turn, dumping Carlo, the rack and the load into the canal.
Carlo was on the side of the rack that turned over and, fearing for his safety, Don left his team and ran to see if he was all right. But Carlo’s head appeared suddenly above the bank. He was still waving his hands and yelling, “Whoa! Whoa!”
Meanwhile, Carlo’s team, minus the rack but still pulling the empty running gear, circled back toward Don’s team. Who now joined the stampede.
Don ran back to where he had left them to find a large pile of sheaves, but no horses.
Or rack.
When they finally caught their respective teams, they surveyed the damage.
Then silently agreed it was time for lunch.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

In the Buff

About a mile and a half from the Millicent, Alberta school was the swimming hole.
A wooden structure, called a ‘headgate’ had been built across the main irrigation canal to control and distribute water into ditches so farmers could water their crops. Passage of the water through the headgate was confined, causing increased swirling and that, in turn eroded a great hole.
Once discovered, this swimming hole became the favourite spot for an after-school dip by many of the young boys from the school.
There was only one problem.
They never brought suits.
As there were no girls around, the solution was easy.
Strip off naked and go skinny dipping.
It worked well.
A short, active time splashing about in the cool water. A brief period of drying off. Re-donning of one’s school clothes.
And the happily-refreshed boys were back on the road for home.
Then . . . that day.
Now remember where I mentioned that members of the opposite sex weren’t present?
Well, that was only most of the time.
On this afternoon, a group of adventurous girls happened along. They, too were on their way home from school. Spotting the boys splashing about in the water, they decided to . . . cause a little consternation.
They sat down on the canal bank.
And waited.
I probably don’t have to tell you that all splashing and playing ended abruptly.
For some time, the group of increasingly chilly boys tread water and stared at the girls, visions of having to stay in the canal until after dark running through their minds.
Then one of them, a little less patient than the rest, decided to do something a little more proactive.
He leapt naked from the stream and ran straight toward the girls.
They scattered like frightened birds, shrieking wildly.
In fact, they proved that they could easily outrun the boys. Given the proper incentive.
What do we learn from this?
1.  If one is going to play a prank, be prepared.
2.  Clothes-less doesn’t mean help-less.
and
3.  Buff beats bluff every time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Good Dog


Berg Family about 1940. Front row far left: Leif
Just off camera: Patsy
Without Patsy, things could have ended much differently.
Maybe I should explain . . .
Patsy was a German shepherd dog. Unremarkable in looks.
But loyal, playful, smart, fun, an excellent companion and confidante and—as you will see in this story—attentive and protective.
Patsy was little Leif’s constant companion.
Where the one went, so did the other.
If Mother was looking for her small son, she simply stepped to the door and called Patsy.
Who immediately steered her young companion home.
On a large mixed farm like the Berg family ran, it would have been easy for the youngest son to find himself in difficulties.
But not with a Patsy as companion.
And that’s where our story begins . . .
Leif and Patsy had been playing in the warm sun of a late summer day. Their explorations had led them to a large field of grain immediately adjacent to the farmstead.
The combination of the warm sun and tall, ripened grain were most inviting to a small boy and a snooze seemed appropriate. He curled up in a comfortable spot and nodded off.
At the same time as our little explorer drifted off to sleep, his elder brother and their father arrived with tractor and binder to begin harvesting the field. A small boy happily, rosily asleep in one of the furrows was completely invisible to them.
As they approached the place where Leif was asleep, they noticed Patsy.
Remember where I said ‘constant companion’?
Well that comes into play here.
The faithful dog was standing guard at the edge of field. They decided to stop the machinery and take a moment to check things out.
Patsy led them to where Leif was sleeping.
The boy was roused. With Patsy in close attendance, the two started the trek back toward the farm.
Instead of tragic, the incident was written off as 'another bit of farm life adventure'.
Just a regular day in the life of a good dog.

Monday, October 16, 2017

He Was There



He didn’t go to work that day,
He saw it.
He went there.
The great explosions. Fear. Dismay.
He heard it.
He was there.
When embers started raining down,
Debris and bodies on the ground,
The pain, confusion all around,
He knew it.
He was there.

He wasn’t told the towers fell,
He breathed it.
He was there.
Engulfed by all the fires of hell,
He touched it.
He was there.
When first responders got in there,
And started beating back despair
True angels helping everywhere,
He felt it.
He was there.



David Handschuh, Pulitzer-nominated photojournalist, was among the few survivors of the horrific 9-11 attacks. This week, he and his wife, Staci, were visitors here in Edmonton, Alberta, to speak of his experiences.
It is a story that should never be forgotten, nor brushed aside.
This story--and his others--can be found on Instagram @flyingmanatee
Or follow him at www.davidhandschuh.com.


Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week in our neighbourhood,
We tackle 'sports'. It will be good!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nighty-Night

Our Engineer - far right.
Our son, an army engineer, was on his Combat Leadership course.
It was gruelling. Months of training. An adrenaline rush of enacting scenarios.
Strategizing.
Analyzing situations.
Digging in and getting dirty.
Yep. Gruelling pretty much describes it.
And added to the daily duty roster, morning inspections. Not only must they learn how to survive, even thrive in battle situations, they had to look good while they did it.
Each evening was spent in cleaning oneself and one's gear in preparation for inspection directly after breakfast the next morning.
For the most part, the soldiers enjoyed this relaxing time after dinner. It was a chance to unwind. Kibitz around a bit. Laugh and joke.
And keep their adrenalin up with pounding, exhilarating music. Loud. Fast. Heavy. 
Followed immediately by bed.
Needless to say, it took some time to wind down.
Except for our son. Whose choice of music was a little more . . . conservative. He would drift away almost immediately to the soft, soothing strains of Loreena McKennitt.
Or Enya.
One evening some time after lights out, the men were restless. Knowing that their morning would come fast, not to mention early, they were anxious to get some needed sleep. And it was proving elusive.
Again, except for our son, who had his stereo by his ear and had already drifted away.
To Enya.
One of the soldiers noticed. It gave him an idea.
The next evening, the group completed their usual day-end tasks. To their usual music. Then crawled into their bunks.
Lights were doused.
Then, out of the darkness, a voice. “Hey, Tolley. Play us some of your music.”
Our son turned up the song he was currently listening to.
Only TimeEnya.
Within seconds the sounds of snoring filled the dorm.
After that, immediately following lights-out, the strains of choice were something soft. Soothing.
And sleepy.
Nighty-night.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Solved

Saggot jumped back, colliding heavily with the front door and knocking a gusty ‘whoof’ out of himself.
The inspector merely stared at the hockey stick, wide-eyed, the colour draining from his face.
“Inspector? Are you all right?” I touched the man’s shoulder, but he didn’t appear to notice.
Slowly, he dropped to his knees and reached a shaking hand out toward the stick.
“Inspector! Don’t touch it!” Saggot shouted. “You don’t know where it’s been!”
The inspector looked up as his fellow officer, his face now suffused with brilliant colour.
Angry colour if I know my shades.
And I do.
The bushy brows had lowered threateningly as well. My late husband used to assume the same expression. I called it ‘dropping his visor’. I choked back a laugh.
“Saggot!” the inspector barked. “You’re off this case!”
The rotund policeman blinked. “But . . .”
“You heard me! Go wait in the car!”
“But . . . sir . . .!”
“Go. Now. Or. I’ll. Have. Your. Badge. And. Gun.”
I was suddenly glad this trim officer wasn’t looking at me. I was almost ready to hand him my badge and gun.
If I’d had either.
Saggot turned and fumbled with the door handle.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, can’t you even open a door? What are our boys in blue coming to?” Norma again.
Saggot froze, his mouth dropping open. His hand dropped from the knob and he stared as it turned smoothly without him. A moment later, the door swung wide, bumping into the stunned man.
“There you go!” Norma wasn’t wasting any time.
Saggot’s mouth snapped shut and, without a backward glance, he bolted outside.
The door closed smartly behind him, rattling the glass.
The inspector had risen to his feet, his arms clasped around the hockey stick. He looked toward the door, then shook his head and turned to me. “Could you ask your sister who . . .” he swallowed hard. “. . . who gave her this stick?”
“Norma . . .”
“I heard him!” Norma snapped.
“Well you don’t have to get snippy with me. I’m just the messenger.”
A sigh. “Fine. I’m sorry!”
“You don’t sound sorry.”
“Well I am! What do you want? You want it in writing?”
“Yes, I do.” I folded my arms across my chest.
A paper appeared out of nowhere, and drifted to the floor.
I scooped it up and turned it over. ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!!!!!!!!’ was written across it in Norma’s distinct scrawl, and, at the bottom, ‘You haven’t changed Reggie’s paper today.’
“Drat, Reggie!” I shouted. “He’s your stupid bird! You look after him!”
“I can’t! He’s afraid of me!”
“Well then, he’s finally gotten some sense!”
A distinct sniff. “That wasn’t very nice.”
“Norma! This isn’t very nice! Talking to you in the air. Having policemen barging into my home, speculating on my possible proclivity for murder and mayhem.”
“Ooh! Proclivity. Good word, Sis.”
“Thank you.”
“Oh, you may need this.”
A roll of toilet paper appeared much the same as the hockey stick and sorry note. It bounced a couple of times and came to rest against the inspector’s shoe.
“Why’d you take that with you?”
“Well, one doesn’t know, does one? I mean, isn’t it best to always be prepared?”
I picked up the roll. “I guess.”
“May I speak?”
I looked at the inspector and shrugged. “I guess so.”
“Norma?” He looked up into the air.
“I’m over here, sitting in the chair.”
Both of us leaned over and peered through the doorway into the living room. Reggie, his colorful feathers slicked down tight stared back at us.
“I got tired of standing around. I needed to sit down.”
“Oh.” Still clutching the hockey stick in both arms, the Inspector maneuvered through the entry and moved hesitantly inside.
“Have a seat.”
“Okay.” He shuffled toward one of the chairs.
“Not this one. I’m in it!”
“Norma, how is he supposed to know! You’re being woefully unwelcoming. You’re usually a bit more hospitable than this.”
There was a pause. Then, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Please take the blue chair, Inspector. It’s a bit more spacious and comfortable. Then we can have a nice, cozy chat.”
He perched gingerly on the indicated seat.
“So you want to know where the hockey stick came from?”
The inspector looked down at the stick clutched tightly in his arms, then over at the chair opposite. “I think I do.”
“A rather nice young man gave it to me.”
The man caught his breath and his eyes filled with tears. “A young man, you say?”
“Yes.” There was a pause and Norma’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Yes, I’ll tell him.” Speaking normally once more, she went on. “He’s here now, Inspector. Would you like to talk to him?”
The man looked like he’d just seen the coming of the Lord. Tears spilled down his cheeks. “C-can I?”
“Well, I think so. I’m not really sure how these things work.”
“Inspector?” The voice was husky, soft. A young man’s voice.
“Yes. It’s me. Inspector Wilson. Who . . . who are you?”
“You know me as Benny, Inspector.”
The man sucked in in a quick, sobbing breath. “Benny?”
“You’ve been looking for me for a long time.”
“You were my first, Benny. The case I just couldn’t solve. You’ve . . . pardon the expression . . . haunted me for over forty years!””
The young man laughed. “Well, I appreciate that you kept on trying. I know it was hard for my parents, not knowing.”
“You just . . . disappeared.”
A sigh. “Well, I can finally tell you. I was playing hockey on the ice on the lake and fell through. I know it was stupid to be there by myself, but I wanted to practice something new on my own. The recruiters were coming and I just had to impress them!”
“So you weren’t kidnapped. Or murdered. Or a runaway.”
“Nope. Just stupid. I’m so sorry.”
“I never figured it out. You were supposed to be at training. It never even occurred to me you were training. Just by yourself.”
“Can you tell them, Inspector? So they can finally stop . . . wondering.”
“I . . . yes, I can.”
“Thanks, Inspector.”
“Thank you, Benny.” The inspector mopped at his face with his sleeve.
I pulled a long piece from the toilet paper roll and handed it to him.
He nodded his thanks. “Benny?”
“He’s gone, Inspector,” Norma said.
He shook his head and set the hockey stick on his lap so he could blow his nose. “After all this time.”
I touched his shoulder. “What will you do?”
He smiled wryly. “Go and tell his parents.” He looked up at me. “If they’ll believe me.”
“Well I believe you,” I said.
“And I do as well!” Norma added.
“Well of course you’d believe, you silly old girl. You’re there with him!”
“Oh sure. Cloud the issue with facts!”
“I think I’ll be going,” the inspector said, getting to his feet. “Erm . . . can I take the stick?”
I shrugged. “Norma?”
“Well I don’t want it. What would I do with it?”
I sighed. “Yes, take it.” I followed him through the foyer. “Good luck.”
The door opened on its own as he approached it. He shook his head, then paused just inside. “I’ve been working on this case my whole life. It’s hard to take in.”
“Well take it in and close the door! Reggie will get a chill!”
I rolled my eyes. “I apologize for my sister, Inspector.”
“No need.” He looked at me. “I’ll be in touch.”
He pulled the door shut behind him.
I turned just as another paper appeared, fluttering to the floor. I picked it up.
'Bird cage', it said.
I sighed and headed for the living room.

Enjoying this episode of the Sputterling Sisters?
Catch up with them here:
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 October:   colorful ~ spacious ~ brilliant ~ woefully
They were submitted by: https://www.bookwormkitchen.com/

Now go and see what the others have done with the challenge!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Vanity

Ready to work.
If you look closely, you'll note the absence of glasses.
And the presence of the band-aid.
     Before I get Started: 1. My new boyfriend had a medical condition I wasn’t aware of.
           2. The world refused to coalesce into remotely recognizable shapes when I wasn’t wearing my glasses.
           3. I was vain.
There. I think I’ve covered all of the bases.
Would you care to try to convene these statements into a story?
I’m almost sure it would be better than mine.
Fine . . .
My new boyfriend was ‘working’ for my Dad.
Which meant that he spent a lot of time on the ranch, following me around, and occasionally did some actual work.
On this bright summer afternoon, we had been assigned the arduous task of moving the milk cow from her pasture on the east side of the buildings to the more convenient pasture on the west side.
We were on foot.
He was heeling.
I was heading.
Which meant that I was in the front to get in the way if said cow decided to turn in the wrong direction.
He was behind in case she suddenly felt that she couldn’t bear to leave her former pasture.
I should probably mention here that I always wore glasses. There’s nothing more embarrassing than discovering after a lengthy, one-sided conversation, that the person you are talking to is actually the neighbour’s mule.
I will say only that he was a good listener.
Back to my story . . .
On this bright and sunny afternoon, I had removed my glasses because I was trying to improve my tan lines. Large, white, goggle-shaped circles on one’s face weren’t conducive to beauty.
Oh, I also had a band-aid on my nose for the same reason.
Let's not talk about this any more . . .
At first all went well.
Then, they didn’t.
I ran ahead to stand as a human shield when the cow crossed over the entrance to the ranch buildings.
Once I was in position, I turned to ascertain progress.
The cow had turned and was heading back to familiar ground.
Boyfriend had disappeared.
Whaaaat?
I quickly ran up the road, got around the retreating animal and turned her back in the right direction.
Then spent the next twenty minutes sweating, hollering and cursing.
Oh yes. I cursed. For the whole story, read here. It’s not a pretty tale, but we’ll wait till you get back . . .
Finally, I had the stupid, perverse, ornery, cantankerous, belligerent, of-questionable-heritage, stupid (I repeat the word, deliberately) animal where she needed to go.
Daddy picked me up for the short ride to the ranch buildings.
And that’s when I remarked that my boyfriend, he of the dubious intelligence, had abandoned me.
Had just disappeared.
Dad frowned.
He turned into the drive to the ranch.
Then stopped.
Shoved the truck into reverse.
And, tires squealing, sped back along the main road.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Your boyfriend,” Dad said, coming to a skidding stop.
“Oh.”
And there he was. My boyfriend. Lying in the ditch.
How had I missed that?
Oh, right. Glasses.
Turns out that he had a medical condition that caused him, at times, to faint.
Who knew?
Fortunately, he had simply slid down into the soft, thick grass that lined the ditch and slept peacefully in the warm sun until we discovered him.
Dad got him up and we helped him make his woozy way to the truck.
By the time we reached the ranch buildings, he was well on his way back to normalcy.
After we had gotten him seated on the couch and supplied with drinks and eats, Dad turned to me. “Glasses,” he said simply.
 I nodded sheepishly and went to fetch them.
I learned something from this:
         1. When acquiring a new boyfriend, always ascertain health concerns.
         2.  Don’t ever try to outguess your optician.
         3. Don’t be vain.
       You learned it here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Scream


When you’re canoeing with your spouse,
‘Cause you must ‘get out of the house!’,
When falling in that cold, wet stream,
The honest thing to do is scream.

When movies reach a fever pitch,
With scary scenes that make you twitch,
And monsters to freeze your bloodstream,
The proper thing to do is scream.

Your lotto ticket, you have scratched,
And all your numbers are a match,
So coming true are all your dreams,
You’re right, the thing to do is scream.

When standing in the line to see,
Your heartthrob sing like a banshee,
Then he’s right there! His teeth agleam,
The coolest thing to do is scream.

Your day has gone from bad to worse,
You feel you’re underneath a curse,
The last straw: Toddler. Diaper cream.
The healthy thing to do is scream.

Now it’s October, ghosts abound,
And goblins, too, so you have found,
They’re on your street and on a theme,
They’re out to scare you. Yes, please scream.

Once a month, Karen and friends (ie. us) become poem-ists.
On a theme.
This month? Scream!
Do it. It's fun!

Visit the others and see what they have done . . .

Karen of Baking In A Tornado: You Scream
Dawn of Cognitive Script: A Bootiful Scream

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Happily (?) Wed

Still in a poetry mood.
Another of my Dad's favourite stories. 
And, who knows . . . maybe it happened . . .?

They’d been married one week, plus a day,
Sylvester and his good wife, May.
And May thought she should mark the date,
With something special for her mate.

A chicken dinner was her plan
She dug out pot and frying pan,
Consulted her mom’s recipes,
For gastronomic ecstasies.

All afternoon, she cooked and stirred,
By her love for her Sylvester, spurred,
At last she had the table set,
With goodies from her kitchenette.

She heard his step upon the stair,
And quickly pulled him to his chair,
He saw the things that she had done
And gently hugged his Honey-bun.

They ate enthusiastically,
Of fluffy spuds and buttered peas,
And other dishes by the score,
Each one, another to adore.

But when the crowning dish arrived,
So very prettily contrived,
He carved, and laid the pieces down,
And poured out fine, rich gravy; brown.

Then the anticipated taste,
And, suddenly, his smile displaced.
“My dear,” he said, with quite a sniff,
“What did you stuff the chicken with?”

She smiled upon him brilliantly,
Then sighed and answered blissfully,
“That part, I didn’t have to follow,
For the chicken wasn’t hollow!”

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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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The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!


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Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?