Digging Up Dirt

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

July 1, 2015

Digging Up DirtSometimes dirt is obvious and other times you have to dig it up. Not everyone who is dirty looks dirty and those covered with it are some of the cleanest-living folks around. We all have opinions about dirt, it seems. Dirt receives both the seeds of new life and the husks of our dead.

With dirt, writers dug up a variety of stories from every day life, history and beyond. Stories reveal dirt in many tones from the whimsy of a caterpillar to the grit of hiding secrets.

The following stories are based on the June 24, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about dirt.


My Space by Ruchira Khanna

I was digging hard since the harsh winter had solidified the soil and made it all dry and parched.

Just then I heard a low noise, “hey.”

I looked around but did not find any activity about me, thus continued with zeal.

“hey! you hear me.”

Stunned I took back a few steps as I brushed off the excess dirt from my claws.

“What do you want?” I glared at the caterpillar.

“Dig with caution since this is my space. Do not invade my privacy,” he sneered at me.

Taken aback with the harsh truth. I nodded in compliance.


Red Dirt of Home by Paula Moyer

None of Jean’s Minnesota friends understood the free association: when she heard the word “dirt,” the next word in her mind was “ruby.” Up in the North Country, dirt was black. She had run her fingers through it while pulling weeds. Rich, onyx soil. But it wasn’t native to her.

As the plane circled over Oklahoma City, she glanced out the window. Deep ruby between rows of wheat. She was home. Wet, it was clumpy clay; when dry, fine and sandy, suspended in the air.

“Welcome to Will Rogers International Airport.”

Ruby clay. World’s best tomatoes. World’s best sunsets.


The Late Exchange by Charli Mills

Belle searched for signs of rising dirt that announced travelers across the barren basin. By now she could discern hand carts from wagons. She hoped to see indication of the overdue Pony Express rider. Sul would soon go searching, leaving Belle alone.

“I’ll give you the rifle. Point and pull the trigger.”

Belle nodded.

“Ah, Sweetheart, ain’t nobody getting’ in through these rock walls.”

Then, billowing dirt on the horizon.

When the rider arrived to exchange horses, he grinned. “Injuns!” He tossed Belle a calico sack full of pine nuts. “For you, Ma’am. Seems they like your chokecherry pie.”


Blood Brothers by Pete Fanning

Ralph rubbed Lamont’s arm. “It doesn’t wipe off? Mine wipes off.”

Lamont shook his head, peering into Ralph’s pale blue eyes as Ralph brushed the dirt off his freckled arm and asked, “What color is your blood?”


Ralph’s fire blond hair bounced with his nods . “Mine too. And your spit?”

Lamont’s spit dropped into the dirt. Ralph let go with his own pool of saliva that touched Lamont’s and formed one big pool. The boys giggled. Their mothers did not, calling after the boys at the same time.

Lamont turned to Ralph. “Your Mom does that too?”


Guilty by Sacha Black

It was the kind of dirt that no amount of bleach or cleaning could ever remove. My soul was dirty. Guilty.

I stared down at his greyed mottled flesh and bile rose in my throat.

“Babe. We gotta go.”

I blinked a few times, my tears falling into patches of his blood. Red ran down his cheeks, it made him look like he was crying. A shiver crawled down my back each step a spiked reminder of what I had done.


“I’m coming.”

I bent down to his lifeless body and whispered, “I’m sorry.”

We had to run.


Nowhere’s, Ma by Roger Shipp

“Where have you been, Kyle?”

“Nowhere, Ma.”

“Tell be the truth. You know I don’t abide no stories.”

“Ma, I weren’t doing nothing wrong.”

“Didn’t say it was wrong. Askt where?”

“Nowhere, really, Ma.”

“Nowhere’s gotta lotta dirt. Look at your shoes… my floors… and the knees to your Sunday pants. Go out back and get cleaned fore you come back in. “

“Don’t you come nosing around here for love, Aggy-Belle. Tarnation. Get on withca. If you wouldn’ta hid those blasted kittens under the shed, you and I would both be eating Granny’s blueberry muffins with cream right now.”


A Fool’s Gold by Ruth Irwin

“You’re a fool! How could you be so stupid?” She continuously repeated the words, shouting them at times. There was no-one to hear her.

She had longed for a simple, less complicated life. It had seemed like a good idea at the time; swapping city life for a quiet life of subsistence farming. What could possibly go wrong with her plan?

Barren soil. Her dream of nirvana was a dust bowl nightmare that sapped her savings, her energy and her spirit. She kicked at stones that peppered her piece of dirt. Something unusual caught her eye. “A nugget? Eureka!”


Crumbling by Sarah Brentyn

Is this sickness?

Lack of light? Solid darkness? Under canopies of lovely trees, thick with glossy emerald leaves, where sunshine cannot reach?

On the ground. Broken bits of self. Hazy eyes, unfocused from pain—grime on windows to the soul.

Shatter me.

Break apart the clumps of soil. Dig into dirt with naked hands, crumbling until fingernails become half moons of filth.

Till the earth of who I was. From this mangled mass of roots, pebbles, and pain, let something whole and healthy break through the ground. Let something beautiful grow.

This wishing. This futile hope.

Is this sickness?


Red by Rebecca Patajac

Dirt caked her soft dress. She’ll wash it later. For now, though self-assigned, she had to complete her mission before the sun set – she had to find it.

Laughter reached her, drifting from the house at the bottom of the yard; soon it’d turn to cries.

She had to hurry.

She sped over the ground, eyes darting.

At last she spotted it, red fabric peeking out beneath the roses.

Hiding behind the gum’s roots, she held her breath as her charge’s carer emerged, collected a red blanket, disappeared and all became quiet inside, as the lights went out.


Santorini Dirt by Tally Pendragon

Mid-September, 2013, on Santorini. Red had led them here, to the ruins of the Temple of Apollo in very ancient and dead Thera, in her byzantine jewellery, features all fuzzy in that dream-people way. Vanda had seen her somewhere before.

She scratched absently at the dirt with her toe. Something glinted. Vanda used her fingers instead. Someone shouted, distantly. She brushed some more. And there she was, Red in gold – Empress Theodora – right in the middle of a small mosaic dish. The shouting got louder. Time to run … So this is what an antiquities thief feels like!


Dirty Girl by Mercy.James.

Scrunched up baby face – disgust grass prickly on tender hands; laughter surrounds – as I fussed.

Twenty three years later, I stand before you, dirty. A fine layer of black – compost – covers my jeans, my tee-shirt, smudged with sweat and swipes of dirty hands. Fingers, though glove covered, show dirt under trimmed nails.

“Well, you are the expert” …. as I offer pointers, as asked. Disapproval drips like your mini-water garden feature.

Fifteen years later, I wait – broken from work – for the moment when sod will cover you. Will I dance barefoot? Or simply walk away – if I bother at all.


Digging for Gold by Norah Colvin

Her spade crunched against the obstinate soil. Then tap, tap, tap, another thin layer loosened. She scooped up the soil and tossed it onto the pile growing steadily beside the excavation site. With expectant eyes and gentle fingertips she scanned each new surface. Then again: tap, tap, tap — toss; tap, tap, tap —toss!

She pushed back her hat to wipe her sweaty brow, leaving a smudge of dirt as evidence. She glanced skyward. The sun was high. She’d been digging for hours. She must find something soon. What would it be? Pirate’s treasure or dinosaur bones . . .?


Morning on the Third Day by Susan Budig

It’s morning on the Third Day
There’s lots of work to be done
Sky slips from black to gray
Then glory-be, here comes the sun

There’s lots of work to be done
Soil opens its banks to receive
Then glory-be, here comes the sun
Hush-hush as seed and soil cleave

Soil opens its banks to receive
A puff from God’s own lips
Hush-hush as seed and soil cleave
Then up shoots vines in tidy strips

A puff from God’s own lips
Sky slips from black to gray
Then up shoots vines in tidy strips
Morning on the Third Day


Home by Sarrah J Woods

In the dirt that covered the cave’s smooth rock wall, the girl drew an outline of the woolly mammoth she had seen last week.

“Uhn-ga.” Her mother’s grunt summoned her to stay close. The men were farther in, exploring silently. Behind her, a baby whimpered.

She glanced up at her mother’s excited eyes. For so long her family had been on the run from wild beasts, hunger, exposure, and territorial rages of other clans. Could they have finally found a refuge all their own?

The call came. “Ay-ah-o!”

Her mother smiled, and she clapped her hands.

They were home!


A Garden Meditation by Vagrant Rhodia

Sunday morning I rise before birdsong begins and drop of moon in the sky. My chocolate mint, she waits to be bedded down into cool earth among her own kind. Mozart tags along as garden meditation begins. Her breath matches mine, inhale.

Trowel digs deep into garden next to spearmint, breathe out and stretch. The soil, palpable and alive, relaxes as do I. Breathe out, transient roots provide stability covered with cool earth. Morning air, warm embrace.

Movement to my right disturbs my meditation, and I look up. Ten yellow-headed blackbirds rest on lavender, like bees to flowers.


Sporcizia by Jules Paige

There it is under my fingernails, again. Dirt. I’ve got garden gloves.
But that black-brown-crumble-rock-moss-seeded-leftovers just gets
there. From the ground the hornets, voles, moles, muskrats, bees,
snakes and ants of various colors ooze. Some at dawn others at
dusk. It isn’t like that delicious silk mud we made pies out of when
we were kids. Mostly because we just didn’t care what was in it.
Except for the bit of water we used to shape it.

I care now. That the violets and tomatoes have what they need to
bloom and grow. Just like my nonno did.


Soft Soil Secrets by Christina Rose

Kneeling in the soft soil, dirt caked to her palms and legs, tear stained cheeks. Painfully trapped under her nails, the granules scratched at delicate skin. The dirt between her clawing fingers, firm under her palms, packing down the mound. Gently covered with leaves, hidden from sight.

Rain started to pound the earth, summer dust turning to a sticky mud pit. Flower petals placed wilted under each drop, traces of the day washing away with the deluge.

Memory trapped forever under the moss laden log deep in the forest. Grass and debris now covers, that place only she remembers.


Flash Fiction – Dummy by Bill

Andy tossed a handful of dirt in the grave and wiped a tear from his cheek leaving a smear of mud.
“I prayed for you last night momma. I prayed you could be my lookout angel.”

His ears were burning from the sun.

“You caint wear no hat to your momma’s funeral dummy.” Grandad had said.

“But my ears will burn.”

“That aint the only thing that’ll be burnin if you don’t get them pills from your momma’s purse like I told you. She don’t need em anymore, the cancer took her like I told you it would dummy.”


A Book Review From the Teacher’s Perspective by Dave Madden

Each year, I await our unit of study that coincides with the perfect read-aloud for 4th and 5th graders: Marshfield Dreams by Ralph Fletcher.

I anticipate skipping the chapter titled “Michele” because explaining why Michele won’t go to hell after she finds herself six feet under is wise.

Without question, there is no bypassing “Tommy”. Tommy decides to “eat the world”: ABC gum, cigarette butts, grass, and dirt.


I was ready for that.

Then, a lone cub amongst the pack,

“God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.”



Clay by Pat Cummings

Fingernails dig into my palm around the handful of dirt. All except the grave is hazed with tears, but the box below me is sharp-focused despite them.

Sam! Even so many years is too few! I knew I would lose you. Each stroke brought a clearer recognition of the coming loss, but even so, I never really believed I would remain, bereft, and you would perish.

I still see you, immobile beneath the closed lid. A calm voice says, “That is not Sam, it is only clay, Mamaw.” A gentle hand unclasps my fingers to let the dirt fall.


Dirt Baby by Irene Waters

“Put his bunny rug on the grass Mum. Lucky Ocean and Tim Winton will entertain me whilst Oscar plays on the grass.”

Patricia got the baby, her book and her music. Returning, she plopped Oscar onto the rug laid on the lush green grass. She reclined. She was enjoying Dirt Music both the book and the music. Music for playing on the verandah without any electricity. She loved the amazing sounds, classical, bluegrass.

Oscar touched the grass and screamed. The grass frightened him. Being a desert baby he only knew dirt. He too liked dirt. Patricia discarded her book.


The Real Dirt by Larry LaForge

Ed held up the jar. Edna looked puzzled.

“Twenty bucks,” Ed said.

“Huh? Tell me you didn’t pay twenty dollars for a jar of dirt.”

“I didn’t, but about 10,000 folks did.”

Ed explained how he dug the dirt himself from the site of the historic basketball coliseum. The college razed the building to construct a new arena, and is selling dirt from the original site to crazed fans.

Edna tried to keep a straight face.

“Here’s the best part,” Ed continued. “I know my dirt is legit. Who knows what’s in those fancy jars the school is selling.”


Picture This by Geoff Le Pard

‘Are you Mary North?’


‘Sorry to disturb. We’ve bought 52 Rose Street. And, well, we found this.’

The woman fumbled in her bag, smiling apologies. ‘We’re doing a few things. Modernising, you know. We’ve been clearing out the attic. Filthy of course.’

Mary felt her embarrassment. She knew she was removing Mary’s parents from their home.

‘It’s a locket. There’s a catch…’

Suddenly, the pewter pendant sprang open, revealing a sepia picture of two chubby babies.

‘Is one you?’

Mary caressed the silky smooth surface and nodded. One of these girls was her twin.

‘Were you identical twins?’


Pallet Garden by Ann Edall-Robson

The hours spent planning and deciding her personal haven were now going to happen.

It was hard living in town with only a balcony for a yard. She had decided to make the best of situation until she was finished the contract and could move to the country.

Off to the greenhouse to gather up the rest of the herbs and flowers she wanted. The hardware store was next on her list for garden fabric and a used pallet.

Tiny space be darned, she was going to have her garden. Today she would get to play in the dirt!


Little Things by A. R. Amore

About a year ago, Joe started bitching at Janice. Nothing major really. He harped on little things. Griping about the cheap hotdogs on the grill, her baking fewer cookies at Christmas, or going with ham instead of lamb at Easter. “Something’s wrong,” my wife observed. I shrugged. He kept later hours too, getting home late. Sometimes he’d leave early and I’d see Janice in the screen door framed by sadness. I’d always look away. One day my wife remarked, “I’ve got some dirt.” Joe was downsized, Janice told her. He’s fine, she said, except for the little things.


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  1. Norah

    A fine collection, Charli. You turned the soil and planted the seed – now what a harvest we reap. Well done! And thank you. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, a bountiful harvest! And the result of all! 🙂

  2. A. E. Robson

    Another excellent prompt, Charli. Thank you

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha, a “grounded” prompt! 🙂

  3. Sarah Brentyn

    Glad I was able to dig with you all (last minute, but here I am). 🙂 Loved this prompt and all the directions people went with it. Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      You dug in and found a nugget! Great variety, indeed!

  4. Bill

    This was a great one! This got the old gears to moving.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for contributing, Bill! You are welcome to turn the gears here with us anytime. I tried to leave a comment on your blog…did it go through? And is “by Bill” the byline you want? Cheers!

  5. mj6969

    Another great prompt – with awesome and certainly interesting responses!

    Thanks Charli – and well done everyone 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks MJ! The collective responses is always my favorite part!


  1. Flash Fiction: Digging Up Dirt | Versus Blurb - […] In response to a past prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch […]

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