The Stringam ranch was twenty miles from the town of Milk River.
And nine from the nearest neighbor.
Admittedly, it took many, many people to keep the homestead wheels turning.
People we associated with on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis.
Many people employed there had families who lived with them on the ranch.
And these families had kids that we Stringam kids played with.
So none of us really lacked for company.
But when Dad received notice that someone, maybe one of his old classmates or a friend from his bachelor days, was stopping by with his family for a visit, it was a cause for some excitement.
My first question was, inevitably, “Are there any girls my age?”
Because we lived so far from civilization, visits usually lasted for days rather than hours. Thus, if there happened to be peers in the anticipated company, I was set for a very good time indeed.
Usually I was answered with a non-committal, “ I'm not sure. I think they have a couple of kids. They might be around your age.”
I would scoff quietly. How could my parents not know the most important fact, like whether there were any possible playmates in the crowd of eagerly awaited arrivals?
I've said it before. Parents are weird.
Inevitably the guests would arrive.
Most of the time, their kids were pretty close in age to at least some of us.
And after five minutes, it didn't matter. We all played together anyway.
Time moved forward and things . . . changed.
Oh, we still had guests stopping by the ranch and said guests still stayed for a few days with us.
And brought their kids with them.
But now that I was twelve, my interest in their children was slightly different.
Now, when a visit was announced, my question was, “Is there anyone my age?”
Notice the slight difference?
I’ll say it again. “Is there anyone my age?”
This is significant.
Because I was no longer looking for girls to play with. Now I was looking for boys to flirt with.
And I thought I was being subtle about it.
But looking back, I remember Dad’s grin whenever he told me, “I think they have a couple of sons. Probably a little older than you.”
He could read me like a book.
Probably a good thing I was never a gambler.
Or that there were boys in the poker pot.