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November 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

November 18I feel like I’m breathless, dancing.

My partner is Writing and we’ve been together a long time, me and W. I fell in love as a young girl, giddy to practice story-steps on that old paper dance-floor called the Journal. W showed me new tricks with a pencil beyond spelling words and long division. With my imagination and W’s endless possibilities, the world was our ballroom.

The fancies of youth gave way to the trials of learning complicated steps. Yes, dancing with W was still fun, but our relationship was challenged by English teachers and professors, literary criticism and the needs of media editors and bosses. For a time, W and I danced secretly in other Journals we found, not showing our moves to the world. We danced formally, earning some jobs and greenbacks.

The one day, we left the formal dances, cracked open the moves we started in Journals and took a chance that we might be able to create dances of our own. W has taken me to new heights and my head is spinning.

Writing has opened new doors. Or perhaps, I opened new doors with writing. See, that’s the thing with dancing — it’s a partnership. Much has happened in a short period of time. When I was asked to host a BinderCon event, it lead to partnering with the library. When I was ready to launch an anthology project, I was offered a chance to host a contest. When I was searching for another supplementary client project, I found two that are perfect matches to what I love to do — profiles on people and place. When I went into revision I planned to come out with a draft, but I will have a draft and a serial project to plot.

When I worked 9-5, I would take any opportunity that led to my dream even if I had to write late nights or weekends. Now I am working that dream. I should feel overwhelmed at the heaping portion on my plate, or how full my dance card is, yet this is…exactly…what…I…dreamed…to do. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. This is my life’s work. I’ve found a happy balance between writing that pays and writing that fulfills. There is nothing that I’m doing that is a step toward something; this is the destination.

Life doesn’t always celebrate with us. In fact, life often rains on our Happy Parades. It blew in like a  hurricane. What happened? Well, that’s what happened — it RAINED. Yesterday morning we awoke to four inches of snow, the first snowfall in the valley. Sad to see winter arrive, but snow (not a date on a calendar) is the signal. Then the snow began to melt, the clouds sputtered rain and a fierce wind blew in replacing the rain with RAIN. Our house felt battered, wind howling in cracks we didn’t know we had and water pouring off the roof and down windows like garden waterfalls. The winds blew across Schweitzer Mountain (behind our house), clocked at 101 mph! If we had been a ship, we’d have wrecked, for sure. Instead, we lost electricity. We were lucky.

Yet Life has a wicked sense of humor. It didn’t understand that W and I had to dance! These were the dances we had been waiting for and we needed electricity! Come on! Life had its way and I actually found it rather pleasant to curl up by the fire in the dark, listening to the howling wind and lashing rain. My phone was charged and I reached out to Sarah Brentyn who so kindly rode over to the ranch to announce the delay. I prematurely got excited when the lights came on for 30 minutes, followed by darkness. By then the outage included eastern Washington, northern Idaho, western Montana and southern British Columbia.

Life added a further insult when I began reading from my Kindle aloud to the Hub. Just as we were cooing over our rediscovery of reading together, it smelled smokey. The Hub flicked on his flashlight and smoke was billowing from the wood-stove like a steam engine. Evidently, the wind gusts were so massive that they were forcing the smoke down the chimney! The Hub knew enough about the physics of wood-stoves and he opened the damper full throttle to counter the wind force with fire. That was a scary sight! We had to hold open doors against gusting winds to try to air out the house, listening the the crack of tree branches.

Today, our yard is littered with broken branches and our house smells like an ashtray. But still I rise to the dance. I will dance across the litter Life tosses at me and I’ll counter stale air with fresh. And I’ll be late on the compilation. It’s a set-back, not the end of the dance.

In trying to regroup, I decided to get the next prompt out first and do some quick summaries. Notice that this next prompt has a longer deadline. Carrot Ranch is welcoming home the Little Buckaroos next week and I’ll be a giddy mum. We haven’t all been together in one place at one time in over three years. They’ll be expecting ranch-cooking so W will have some time off. That means W has much to do in just few days, but we’ll get it wrangled!

I hadn’t intended to be missing in action on social media, but the way W was dancing, I didn’t get the chance. In particular, #MondayBlogs, #wwwblogs and #LinkYourLife are all Twitter events I try to keep up with, but they will be there when I return. Elmira Pond is rather neglected these days and I miss connecting with Ruchira Khanna on Wordless Wednesdays, but I will return there, too. The pond is rather silent, anyhow with all the migrating fowl having migrated elsewhere.

I’m excited to share my other writing as it publishes. A new magazine is launching in Idaho and I get to cover fun assignments in the Panhandle like a castle up on Schweitzer, my favorite local restaurants and Ruby’s Lube (it’s not what you think, but then again, maybe it is). When the publishers release the name, I’ll share it. A newsletter I’ve edited for years has a new look and most of the content is my writing (pages 2, 4-5, 6-7, -8-9) though I only have one byline. The fun challenge here is to vary the voice between articles, such as representing the board, operations and highlighting their food educator. You can access the digital publication at Living Naturally if you want to see our new look. Another project is ghost-writing but I can sneak you a peak as they publish.

The Congress of the Rough Writer’s Anthology Vol. 1 has officially kicked off on a ride to publication. It’s an exciting ride and one of my favorite new dances with W and the ranchers here. Sarah Brentyn is Trail Boss as the anthology Editor. What an incredible and skilled writer for the project! Many Rough Writers have stepped up to teams on the project. If you are a Rough Writer and received the anthology notice, you have until December 9 to decide if you want to participate. Even if you don’t, your writing may be selected or we may have questions and we’ll follow up with you. If you are a Rough Writer and didn’t receive the email (some filters will flag group emails as spam), shoot me a note at wordforpeople@gmail.com. We have new Rough Writers to announce and they’ve been patiently waiting for their pages — soon! I’m so privileged to be in the company of so many diverse and talented writers. Thank you!

A quick NaNoReViSo update — revision is to writing what Pilates is to dancing; both will make you stronger but it’s going to hurt! Writing is free expression (for those of us who identify as pantsers) and it feels like revision is a bunch of laws we freedom writers want to rebel against. However, revision gives what we write structure, clarity, correctness and artistry.  We think we are more artsy free writing, but the real artistry shows up when we can master the craft and apply the right creativity. Creativity without craft mastery will not be clear or correct, thus our art might be missed. I thought I’d be working more on structure, but instead I immersed in research for clarity. The result is that my improved understanding led to better plot structuring. I’m cutting much and will need to fill in new places. I can better see what work needs to be done. It’s a lot of big picture focusing, problem solving and handling details I skimmed over in writing. It’s painful, but it improves the dance. And, Sherri Matthews, thank you for dancing with me this month to tune of revision! Tough steps to learn and I’m grateful for your company.

The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest is open until January 31, 2016. It’s my pleasure to introduce to you our Rough Writer judges: Sarah Brentyn, Norah Colvin, Pat Cummings and Geoff Le Pard. This is a great crew who will give submissions the review they deserve for entering and supporting Noah in his quest for a service dog. All other Rough Writers are eligible to enter, but remember this is blind judging so do not include any identifying information inside your submitting documents. We have a process in place and will announce the Winner and the over all Top Ten February 20, 2016. Entry fee is only $15 and you can enter as many times as you like. Read the details on the Contest page so you know by what criteria we are judging. Have fun and support a worthy cause!

Where am I at with Cobb? I’m resting easy these days, and focusing on Nebraska now that I understand circumstances in North Carolina better. A big round of applause for Geoff Le Pard whose real estate law background helped me understand a tough nut to crack. He also looked at it with a writer’s eye and gave me interesting plot twists to consider. I now feel that my story has the historical legs to stand on and while I can’t prove my theories, I can explore them in fiction and give a more plausible story than the ones historians have recounted over the years. If my Uncle Cobb were to sit by the campfire with me he might say I got it, or he might say I was off the mark, but I do believe he’d feel proud that a descendant was willing to search for the truth and see a whole man, not just the good or the bad.

And thank you to all who responded last week! My apologies for the weather delay and getting to this post first. In that 30 minutes of returned electricity yesterday, before it went down for good, I read a fun exchange about dance in the comments. Thanks for this prompt’s inspiration! I look forward to tangos, rumbas and more.

November 18, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write dance into your story. Twirl your characters round and round or stomp your plot onto the page. Use dance in any way that comes to mind. Be specific or free, tango or disco.

EXTENDED DEADLINE! Respond by December 1, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Secrets Kept by Charli Mills

Cold seeped into the corner of the Greene barn where Sarah watched him unseen. Snug breeches clung to massive legs, but he danced as fluid and light as any gay girl. More like a prancing stallion. Why did he keep dancing with Mary Greene? If only she’d the courage to step out of the dark, she’d ask him to pull molasses with her, then maybe he’d reciprocate with a dance. So cold, though. She couldn’t move.

“Mama, Miss Sarah’s waking.”

“She’s too far gone. Poor dear, I hope she’s ready to dance in heaven. We’ll never know her secrets.”

###

Finding Comfort

Finding ComfortAfter I roll out of the warm comfort of bed to start my day, my dog takes over as if he waited all night for his morning comfort. Finding comfort is important to finding refuge.

This week, writers explored the comfort zone and came up with intriguing comforts, ones you might find familiar and others surprising.

The following is based on the November 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a place of comfort that is a refuge.

***

Closet Space by Sarah Brentyn

People never look up.

My family storms in, stomps around, looks left and right. Sometimes they search underneath the bed or stick their heads inside the closet. But they never look up.

That is why I hide here.

The climb is precarious but worth it. Curled up, comfortable, alone.

When they call, I get twitchy but I pull my arms tightly over my face.

Relaxation washes over me on this shelf in the corner of the closet. There are always soft things here—sweaters in the summer, beach towels in winter. I sigh. Knowing they will never find me.

###

Feeling Safe by Geoff Le Pard

Mary imagined the eyes boring through the lounge door. It opened and Rupert stepped out.

‘You ok?’

‘Yes. How are they?’

‘Not sure. Stunned. What do you want to do?’

‘I should go on, shouldn’t I? I didn’t realise how this would affect me. One minute I have a sister, the next she’s a stranger. And they think I’m a fraud, getting their hopes up.’

‘They don’t…’

‘They do. I’m to be her carer, once they’d gone. A prayer answered they said.’

‘You should go home. You need some peace.’

‘I won’t forget Katherine. I need to tell them.’

###

Loveseat by Larry LaForge

“Your turn,” Edna said. “The game is about to start.”

Ed rubbed his hands together in anticipation. He plopped down, turning his body so that his head laid on one armrest and his legs draped comfortably over the other. The viewing angle was perfect for the TV and fireplace.

Edna smiled. She couldn’t remember a time when anyone sat on the popular loveseat in the conventional way. The faded brown leather sagged with spidery cracks not seen on the full sofa and chair that came with the group.

“Don’t get too comfy,” Edna warned. “It’s mine for movie night.”

###

Home Is Where the Cage Is by Dave Madden

Odd as it may seem, my place of comfort stares through the fencing of an MMA cage-any shape, any size.

Everything outside of the steel walls drops to a hum at the sound of the bell, muffled by a collision course set by the world’s most extreme athletes.

Like Pavlov’s dog, I slobber at the sight of fancy footwork, crushing power, slick submissions, or valiant efforts.

Space and time dangle in five-minute segments. Each second of 300 is baited in the breath of unknown anticipation.

Will I exhale in sighs or disbelief? A solace washes over me either way.

###

Taking Refuge in Madness by Anne Goodwin

How tiresome they are with their questions, but I owe it to their readers to comply. Starved of glamour, they are curious about life here: the rolling parkland; ornate reception rooms; staff on twenty-four-hour alert. But I am always left with a headache when the journalists depart.

What year is it? Who is the Prime Minister? Where did I live before I came here? I merely smile as they scribble in their files.

The Butler brings tea. I offer them a jelly baby. If they choose a yellow one, I will let them see a picture of the boy.

###

Morning Sanctuary by Ann Edall-Robson

There is a tiny wedge of colour showing along the eastern horizon as she slips from the warmth of the bed. Notebook and camera in hand, she leaves the house.

The short trip down the gravel road will take her past the awakening duck pond to the hill beyond. She drives with the windows down listening to the sounds of the morning coming to life. Stopping often to capture the explosion of sky colours.

Finally, she arrives at that place where Mother Nature’s amphitheater engulfs her soul. Her vision and thoughts are uninterrupted in this sanctuary. Here, she writes.

###

Trenchmas by Pete Fanning

It snowed on Christmas Eve, covering the bodies and stench. A few errant shots, but at dusk all was still.

I heard a song and peeked across the barbed wire. A single spiked helmet approached, illuminated by the lights.

Christmas Trees, in such a place!

Our Captain nodded. We lay down our weapons, trembling, emerging from the muck to face the Germans.

We exchanged cigarettes. Brandy. Carols. We laughed, compared wounds, talked sports. We buried the dead.

Later, when the drink was finished and the candles flickered, we returned to our holes only to pick up our cold guns.

###

Refuge on the Porch by Charli Mills

“Perhaps you have milk that is not more than one quarter flies?”

Sarah set aside her ledgers when the traveler walked into the post holding a teacup like a live rattler. He had slept in the bunkhouse with the Express riders, declaring he couldn’t sleep another night on the ground.

“Sleep comfortable, Lord Burton?”

“Comfort has fled these rough parts.”

“I’ll fetch you fresh milk and hot tea. You can wait on the porch.”

When Sarah returned, Lord Burton was smiling. Like many who felt displaced in the vast prairies, the old hickory rocker was a throne of comfort.

###

The Retreat by Sarah Brentyn

“Why does he do that?”

“Anne, I’m not going over this again,” Lisa sat on the couch next to her son, stroking his hair. “He needs sanctuary—a place to escape.”

“It’s weird,” Anne twirled her hair. “I mean, other people aren’t going to be as understanding as I am. Look at him. He’s just… sitting there staring.”

Lisa stood up, rummaged through the kitchen cabinets, and pulled out some pots. She brought them shoulder level then slammed them together next to Anne’s ear.

“What the hell!”

“That is how he feels every day. Would you need a break?”

###

A Holiday For Fred by Sherri Matthews

Furious, Ethel stormed into the house. She grabbed a beer from the fridge and swigged it down in one.

Hours later, Fred stumbled into the kitchen.

“You git, where the ‘ell ‘ave you been now?” Fumed Ethel, slamming her empty bottle down on the table next to the other three.

“I don’t know luv, honest, I don’t remember…”

“Well sit your arse down,” Ethel glared, “‘cos I’m gonna tell you about a little holiday we’re going on…but first, for gawd’s sake, put some bleedin’ clothes on!”

“Great, can’t wait,” beamed Fred as he bounded up the stairs.

###

Holding Hands by Rowena

“Mum, it’s time,” whispered a familiar voice.

Yet, Margaret couldn’t bear to let him go. Not yet! There wasn’t much left of Jack but she could still hold his hand.

Now, as their entire lives had shrunk into this infernal hospital room, holding Jack’s hand was it. All they had left.

She was meant to go first. He was the strong one.

That was before the heart attack… the dreadful resuscitation. Such a mistake but had given them more time.

Now, it was her turn to hold his hand.

###

Snake in the Cloud by Irene Waters

He stalked her despite the restraining order. Now threats from her new boyfriend’s mother. was threatening to kill her. Sonia barely slept, hardly ate and jumped at every sound.

In her new home, interstate, her nerves in tatters, she booked a hypnosis session.

“I need to relax.” She said to Alfonso, the hypnotist.

He found her easy to hypnotize.

“Pick a safe place. A place where no-one but you can go.”

“I want my own cloud.”

Sonia sinks happily into the fluffiness until he releases her saying, “No-one but Alfonso can join you on your cloud.”

“Tomorrow then?” Alfonso smiles.

###
Café Noir by Ruchira Khanna

Tamara gulped many times but to no luck. The saliva refused to ingest. The excitement was making her sweat as she circled around the cafe.

“Tammy”

She froze, blinked a couple of times to register, and picked her Latte.

Stared at it.

Walked holding it with both hands.

‘I missed you’ she whispered as she took a small slow sip and savored it with closed eyes while giving out a tremble.

‘Duty took me away from you. The war was full of turmoil and vitality that caffeine was not needed. Glad to be back!’ she muttered to the cup.

###

Cast Out of Eden by Pat Cummings

Roger was accustomed to sparse selections in school libraries, where “Wind in the Willows” and “Onion John” were considered challenging reads.

In Meteor, donated college textbooks and novels, plus a set of “Great Books of the Western World,” filled one whole stack. They could be read in-library, but never checked out. For a month, he was in paradise, reading during every free period.

One day as he lunched with Newton’s Principia Mathematica, he was rousted by the principal. “You should spend your time socializing with your peers!”

“But I was!” His protests ignored, he was barred from the library.

###

Stolen Moment by Sarrah J. Woods

For months Claire had been looking forward to her senior class trip to London. But now that she was here, trailing behind the group as they walked down a quiet London street, tears were trickling down her face.

She almost wished she hadn’t come. Between a painful drama happening with her friends and the packed sightseeing schedule, she was too worn down to enjoy London.

But what exhausted her most, Claire realized just then, was never having a moment alone.

Until this stolen moment now.

She exhaled slowly. With revived spirits, she looked up at the city around her.

###

Dance Lesson by Kate Spencer

Norberto’s dark brown eyes gazed into her soul. Becky felt the tingle run up her spine.

He reached for her hand and stepped closer.

“Shall we rumba?”

“I can’t,” she whispers. She couldn’t. Norberto belonged in the comfort of her dreams along with his white open shirt and hypnotic voice. It’d been a mistake to come here.

Norberto wraps his arm behind her back.

“I will teach you,” he says hoarsely and gently pulls her onto the studio floor. They begin to dance, their feet in perfect harmony to the soft music and the rhythm of her beating heart.

###

Athenaeum Cathedra by Jules Paige

Sophia found relief in the big comfortable chairs at the University Library. That’s where she dreamt of freedom.

Sophia left for her classes early in the morning and didn’t
leave for home until after dinner. She didn’t want to have
to clean up after Them, again. Often between classes was
the only time she could really get useful sleep. Because when
she was home They chose to argue rather loudly until all odd
hours attempting to resolve their issues; right under her room.
It was a simple suburban home there was no sound proofing
between the floors.

###

Huddled Refuge by Deborah Lee

It’s been a long day, selling newspapers on the corner. Cold temperature, cold people. “Get a job,” she kept hearing. Hello, I’m trying, and meanwhile I’m hawking newspapers, not dealing drugs or breaking into your house.

Back at the dank abandoned house she did break into, she struggles with damp shoelaces and slides into her sleeping bag fully clothed.Troubles whuffs and curls up beside her.

Pretend there’s a campfire. She’s not homeless; she’s camping. Camping is temporary, voluntary, fun. Arms around the warmth of the dog’s neck, sleeping bag slowly warming, she drifts into the haven of sleep.

###

Safety by Norah Colvin

Marnie loved art classes with Miss R. She loved art, but she loved Miss R. more. The days when art class was last were best; had been ever since that first time when she’d dallied, nervously, reluctant to leave, and Miss suggested she stay and “help”.

Miss R. understood Marnie and Marnie trusted Miss R. Sometimes they would tidy in silence. Other times they’d chatter lightly about distracting things like television, music or books. But sometimes, when dark clouds loomed, Miss R. would gently ask, “What would you like to tell me?” Today the clouds looked about to burst.

###

November 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

November 11Today I got an email from the NaNo organizers that encouraged:

Time + Work = Novel.

That formula could apply to many endeavors including the time and work our veterans put in to serve their countries; or the time and work displaced citizens put in to find new homelands.

I’m thinking of both service and those served in light of Veteran’s Day or Remembrance Day. Like the yin and yang of writers and readers, a novel exists in the hands of both. And so do wars exist in lives of soldiers and those seeking peace.

Not that writing a novel is a war, but it can be a battle at times. Often I fight doubt and have to press through hardship to reach my goal. The biggest hardship is managing time, which often leaves me feeling exhausted. Not as worn as a soldier on the battlefield, or displaced persons on the run. But in the battle to get words and time committed to pages and revision, I find late nights and coffee-fueled morning are becoming a pattern.

So I’m proposing rest. Soldiers often took R&R even in war-times, their leaders recognizing the importance of overcoming battle fatigue. And what better place to rest than in my bed, or so says Grenny who stretches out across our comforter, relieved that the humans have finally vacated his favorite spot. Restful spots can vary as much as mattresses and pillow preferences (talk about wars, couples often fight about firmness and softness, fluffy or flat, hot or cold).

Even sheriffs need time off to unwind. Was it possible that Cobb McCanles tired of his profession and wanted a comfortable retirement to recoup from his occupation? Around the same time that Cobb was planning his leave, a fellow sheriff in another North Carolina county found refuge in an insane asylum:

INSANE — Mr. Plunkett, Sheriff of Carabus County, was brought to this city Friday last and placed in the Insane Asylum. The duties of his office, it is said, were probably the chief cause of his derangement.

~ 24 Nov 1858 Weekly Raleigh Register

Pressure is a motive to consider. Yet, Cobb was young and self-possessed; he hardly seemed ready to settle into a comfortable down mattress or padded cell. The fact that Cobb served any longevity as Sheriff of Watauga County, North Carolina is a matter of restless dispute.

James Butler Hickok has numerous biographers and all make various claims to Cobb’s service as Sheriff. Because most biographers glorify Hickok, they all want to discredit Cobb to make it look like he was the bully who got what he deserved — shot. Yet, if anyone points out that Hickok, or Wyatt Earp were bullies, the fact that they occasionally wore a territorial lawman badge is used to defend their tough actions. If it were true that Cobb served as an elected Sheriff for more than seven years, and that he formally organized a process of adjudication of the law in the Nebraska Territory, then his actions at Rock Creek might be better understood as ones attributed to a lawman.

Respected contemporary Hickok historian, Joseph Rosa, like all other past historians of this event, does not seek any documents or records relating to Cobb McCanles. All he does is repeat second-hand stories historian John Preston Arthur recorded in 1911 and that William Connelley repeated in 1933.  Rosa writes:

He got himself elected deputy sheriff of the county in 1852, but he and the County Sheriff, one Jack Horton, disliked but tolerated each other. Horton was a big man and may have resented the younger man’s strength, which probably equaled his own. They agreed that McCanles would not run for sheriff in any forthcoming elections, but McCanles obviously had no intention of keeping such a promise, and in 1856 announced himself as a candidate.

First of all, how do we have any way of knowing whether or not Horton resented McCanles? Come on, that’s my job as a fiction writer to come up with thoughts, feelings and motives. Historians make good fiction writers at times. Do you see how cleverly Rosa defames Cobb as an oath-breaker?

Connelly is among the worst Cobb bashers as far as historians go. George Hansen wrote a 1927 article for the Nebraska Historical Society about the Rock Creek incident and included Monroe’s eye-wittness account and family history from the McCanleses. Connelly was with neighboring Kansas Historical Society and resented Hansesn’s account that showed Cobb in a more favorable light. So great was the verbal battle between these historians that Rosa refers to them as factions. And factions only muddy unclear water. Here’s a snippet from Connely’s book where he discredits Hansen’s work:

Perhaps neither Mr. Hansen nor his magazine knew the facts — a most unfortunate circumstance if true — for it would seem that the editor should have known, having been entrusted with the accurate preservation of the history of a great state. If these men were in possession of the truth and suppressed it, what a situation they made for themselves…

…The real purpose of Mr. Hansen’s statement was to establish a good name for the ruffian.

“At the age of twenty-three David was elected to the office of sheriff of Watauga county on the Whig ticket, to which office he was elected four successive terms.” [Connelly is quoting Hansen.]

Not true. Jack Horton was sheriff from 1852 to 1856 and McCanles was his deputy during that time. In 1856 McCanles ran for the office against Horton and was elected. This was his only election. He held the office until he absconded, January 6, 1859. His term would not have expired until 1860.

Mark Dugan is the only historian I’m aware of who actually searched records to settle this dispute. Stoneman’s Cavalry burned the Watauga County Courthouse in 1863 during the Civil War. A side note is that my 3rd-great grandfather rode in that raid on the Union side and he was married to Cobb’s niece, my 3rd-great grandmother. Mary, Cobb’s wife, lost her brother in that raid. He was a Confederate soldier. Digging into the past, even today, can be like digging into a wound. Duggan did though, and he claimed to have found a tax receipt from 1852 that was signed by a deputy on behalf of “Sheriff D. C. McCanles.”

While that seems to settle the dispute, Dugan fails to copy or record the whereabouts of this receipt. I’d like to believe it, but I don’t want my research to be as biased as that of others. I had searched North Carolina newspaper archives for news of Cobb’s land deed troubles in 1859 and beyond. In trying to understand the role of sheriff and bonds at that time, I found a book of historic statutes from North Carolina. It was there I discovered that sheriffs in the 1850s were elected to two-year terms. That means, if Cobb really was elected at the age of 23 in 1852, then Hansen was correct in recording four elected terms for him.

Once I found out when elections took place, I began searching August newspapers for election results. And this is what I discovered:

PROOF_of_Sheriff_The_Weekly_Standard_Wed__Aug_18__1852_

McCanles(s) elected Sheriff of Watauga! However, I was surprised to see his political party as “d” for Democrat, not Whig. Each election year, I found results that Cobb was elected and under different parties. In 1854 he did run on the Whig ticket; in 1856 he ran on the controversial K.N. (Know Nothings); and in 1858 he ran on the “dis.” ticket which I have yet to decipher. Discontented, perhaps? He left North Carolina and his position of authority six months after his fourth election.

Thoughts of why fill my head as I try to connect my draft to deeper research results. My current research is because I wrote earlier chapters and noted wobbly entries as “look up later.” Well, it’s now later. And it’s late. Time and work is spent and now I seek a comfortable spot that is Grenny-approved.

November 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a place of comfort that is a refuge. Have fun with it, like a pillow fight between best friends at a slumber party or newlyweds in search of the perfect mattress. Or you can go dark and write about unusual comforts, like a bad habit or a padded cell. Play with the idea of comfort and refuge.

Respond by November 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Refuge on the Porch by Charli Mills

“Perhaps you have milk that is not more than one quarter flies?”

Sarah set aside her ledgers when the traveler walked into the post holding a teacup like a live rattler. He had slept in the bunkhouse with the Express riders, declaring he couldn’t sleep another night on the ground.

“Sleep comfortable, Lord Burton?”

“Comfort has fled these rough parts.”

“I’ll fetch you fresh milk and hot tea. You can wait on the porch.”

When Sarah returned, Lord Burton was smiling. Like many who felt displaced in the vast prairies, the old hickory rocker was a throne of comfort.

###

 

Frozen

FrozenFrozen. In time. In space. Inside. Outside. When water turns to ice we become cautious, and when our emotions freeze we wait for the melt. It’s an interesting concept to apply to writing, which is what writers did this week.

Some found inspiration in the weather or used it as characterization, setting or tone.

The following stories are from the November 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a frozen story.

***

Caution Sign by Larry LaForge

Ed straightened his posture and tightly gripped the steering wheel with two sweaty hands. His heart rushed as he slowed the car and read the sign: Bridge Freezes Before Road.

Edna glanced at the traffic behind them from her seat on the passenger side. Cars slowed impatiently; several honking horns were heard. Ed plodded along.

Edna looked repeatedly from front to rear, alternately eyeing the bridge ahead and the growing number of cars behind. Ed focused squarely on the view in front of him.

Edna finally threw up her hands in frustration. “Ed” she pleaded. “It’s 81 degrees outside.”

###

Rigor by A. R. Amore

He seized. The glove reached out from the towering snow bank left by the plows at the end of their narrow street. He was aware they’d constructed tunnels to several ‘forts’ they’d filled with snowballs for coordinated attacks. The glove shown bright pink in the morning light and he knew it could not be attached to anything important – he’d have heard by now. Yet, deep inside a tight paralysis. Instinctively he turned up from the driveway to his daughter’s bedroom window half frozen in his bathrobe, raw hands grasping the plastic handle of a barrel filled with garbage.

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Toward Freezing by Deborah Lee

She wakes resentfully with the realization that winter has arrived. The calendar may say autumn; the weather gets the last word.

She shivers and sits up. Thin light fingers around the boards on the windows. Troubles raises his head and whines hopefully: “Kibble? “ At least she can’t see her breath. Yet. But it’s November. The heavy leaf coverage, her camouflage as she sneaks in and out, is nearly gone.

You can have a sleeping bag, insulating pad, the comfort of a dog beside you on the floor. But when you’re homeless and squatting, you can’t have warmth. Not truly.

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Cold Morning by Charli Mills

Sarah fidgeted in the freezing air of the prairie morning. First night on the trail in these western wilds. She had an extra cup of coffee at the campfire Cobb built that morning. The hot enamel mug felt good in her hands and tasted even better with the thick slabs of bacon he fried. Cobb bought the best items and loaded their new wagon. While others dickered over prices of mining tools in Leavenworth, Cobb uncrated a large plow with an iron share and wooden mouldboard. A plow? Had cold made him daft? He winked and they headed out

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Frozen by Irene Waters

Dead cars littered the yard. Long grass grew around abandoned plastic containers and batteries. A child’s blue plastic wading pool reflected my deflating spirits.

“This can’t be the right place.” Jerry sounded hopeful.

“It’s 61.”

A woman appeared. We followed her, silent, into the garage. Huge chests freezers lined the walls, while two pups played in a cage on the floor.

“Only two left. I’ll give you some time. I’ll be back.” She left.

I cuddled a pup. Inquisitive, Jerry opened a freezer lid, momentarily freezing before banging it shut.

“What the hell are they feeding these pups?”

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Brain Freeze by Pat Cummings

Jack Mass threw Roger a swift look, then with a cautionary finger against his lips, pulled him down behind the cashier’s counter to crouch at his half-brother’s feet. “Watch this,” he whispered.

Gary stood behind the drugstore register, doing his job, while Jack and Roger peered through the slats of the counter. Darrell Harb slammed into the store and went straight to the Slurpee machine, triggering it to run into his mouth.

“Harb, you gotta pay…,” Gary began, but he was interrupted by a scream of agony from the Slurpee thief.

“Adjusted the temperature down 12 degrees.” Jack whispered.

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Yin Yang by Sacha Black

‘I’m not afraid to look,’ I said to the doctor eyeing me.
The paralysis burning through my hands was the inevitability. When I turned the mirror over and confronted what was left of my porcelain skin I’d have to accept my life was over. I’d never be loved. I’d be ugly. A monster.
The doctor clasped my hand in hers and stroked it.
I swallowed, said goodbye to myself and turned the mirror.
I was a monster of sorts. But in the acid carved scars, I saw strength, beauty. I still loved myself and that was all that mattered.

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Unfrozen by Luccia Gray

Let me tell you why I know I’m making the right decision. I had steady job, a good husband, an oversized house, and a fast car. Everything I needed for an enviable life. Then I received a message from a secret admirer and replied. Soon I started longing for a more creative job, a more supportive husband, a smaller apartment, and a bike. I left my husband, sold my house, and cycle to the coffee shop every day to write my novel. I know I’m right because my inspiration flows. I hadn’t realised I was frozen until I melted.

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Sewing Disaster by Paula Moyer

Frances sat tailor-style on the floor. Her 15-year-old daughter’s knees were at eye level. On Jean’s petite body was the dress she was to wear in the junior high commencement. Turquoise voile with an embroidered border, it captured the girl’s and woman’s eyes as the perfect dress. The white cotton undershift was already finished.

As she pinned, though, Frances was confused. Why wasn’t the border straight?

“Keep turning,” she directed Jean, and turn she did.

Then Frances froze.

Oh, no.

The border was straight across the fabric. The dress had a circular hem.

Frances sat paralyzed, staring at failure.

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Frozen Mystery by Ann Edall-Robson

Remote, quiet and off the grid. A fixer upper the realtor had said. Only a deer trail to the door.

From the outside, the dovetail corners of the cabin spoke volumes as did the overgrown yard.

It was inside that sent her imagination reeling and took her breath away. Everything in place as if someone had gone out for a walk.

The wood stove with split logs stacked beside it. A bed frame made from poles. A table, a bench, dishes on the shelf.

Determined to dissolve the mystery that had been frozen in time, she signed the papers.

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Bitter, Cold by Sarah Brentyn

I loved him with a brutal intensity.

I often wrapped my arms around my chest as one might do on a winter’s morning when frost has formed where soft dew should be.

The strength of my emotions hurt, and I hugged myself to add pressure, like pressing on a wound to stop the bleeding.

Without warning, that love froze. Cold seeped into my heart and, even in summer, I could never stay warm.

The shallow pond, only partly covered in ice, lets me slip into its frigid, watery grave. As I do, I wonder what will happen in spring.

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Frozen by Norah Colvin

To an external observer she would have appeared immobile as if frozen in place and time. But her insides churned as the heat engulfed her body in a wave from toes to head. She thought her heart would erupt from her chest and wasn’t sure she could contain the contents of her noncompliant belly or from which end of her body they would spew. Others mouthed soundless words, their messages obliterated by the relentless pounding in her head. Just when she thought she’d crack, like ice exposed to sudden temperature change, she breathed deep, composing her tumultuous fear-fuelled mind.

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One Cannot Hold Onto the Past by Roger Shipp

The frost had hit at least a week ago, so I was surprised as I walked the backyard to find so many rose buds adorning the straggled bushes.

Retrieving the trimmers, I carefully clipped eleven unopened, long-stemmed, crimson beauties, and placed them in a crystal vase. I even remembered Mother’s resurrection ‘aspirin’.

The splendor of the roses radiated a majesticness over my western ham and baked macaroni and cheese. Supper was exquisite.

Awakening, and anticipating a breakfast of sausage, pancakes, and roses… I faced disappointment.

Blackened and drooping buds… Darkened, molten leaves… One cannot hold on to the past.

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Frozen Shades by Christina Rose

It was deceptive, that clear afternoon. Sun setting beneath forested horizons, blanketing the landscape in a vibrancy that only appears in the crisp evenings of autumn. Sparse wisps of clouds dotted the sky, glowing with the deep purples, pinks, oranges.

River reflected the nightly show, a panorama of effervescent shades parading their nocturnal dance. As the colors faded and lavender turned to navy, the chill set in. Blades of grass, the veins of leaves, instantly collected the frosty dew. My breath a mist of white dust settling.

That moment between day and night that freezes time, an eerie stillness.

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Summer Snow by Pete Fanning

Dad packed the snowballs tight in his big hands. Then we stuck them in the freezer before he had to leave.

“I’ll save them for summer!”

Spring came but Dad didn’t. Mom said he took a job far away. The snowballs got pushed back. Behind pizzas and burritos.

Summer came and I dug them out. Only one remained. I traced the ridges from Dad’s squeeze. Mom grabbed a tissue. I packed the snowball tight, like Dad had showed me. Tighter. Gasping as it crumbled in my hands. We scooped it up. Tried again.

But it never looked the same.

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Numb by C. Jai Ferry

I chew the ice cubes, softened by my chemical caffeine, and press the splintered chunks against the roof of my mouth, my tongue molding them back into a lump that crunches once again between my molars. I remember my dentist’s admonishment and cringe. But he is not facing the white wasteland on my screen. Siberia would feel more tropical. One by one, I pluck words from my veins, peppering the wintry expanse with markers to lead non-existent tourists through the hinterlands. Chewing and plucking, I create a story upon a lonely dais that increasingly feels like an icy tomb.

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Deep Freeze by Sherri Matthews

As if to the beat of a song she didn’t know, he scraped at the ice clinging to the windshield.

Slumped in the passenger seat, she watched as with every slice, white frost escaped into the frigid air; fleeing from its icy prison.

Ha. Prison. I know that.

She didn’t hear what he said as he turned the key and reversed out of the driveway, but she caught his off-guard momentary glance, no doubt bemused at her smirk.

I’m going to Capri and I’m not coming back. That’s me. No commercial.

Divorce papers signed; she floated like scraped frost.

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A Frozen Moment by Geoff Le Pard

Mary’s hands shook; the feather-light envelope seemed heavy in her fingers. Part of her wanted to run: home, away, anywhere. Part wanted to see proof of what she felt to be true; that Katherine – the happy smiley Katherine of hugs and sighs – was her sister. She and Rupert had hardly had enough time to understand her and her family, yet she had taken a piece of Mary’s heart.

She opened the door; five faces stared at her, like some family diorama in the Museum. A frozen moment, heavy with portent.

She slid her finger along the seal.

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NaNoReViSo Revelation

It’s Monday morning, 1 a.m. so technically, I think it’s Tuesday. But I have had a huge breakthrough, the one I needed. A mighty big THANK YOU to Geoff Le Pard who took time from his Nantholgy to review my research dilemma and explain it in clear terms that made sense. Not only did it make sense, but it led to a revelation.

Two secretes held by Sarah Shull — who shot Cobb McCanles and why was Cobb accused of absconding with taxpayer’s money in North Carolina. They both were intelligent. In fact, that’s the basis of their attraction. Mary was beautiful, a fine cook and loving mother and Cobb adored her, but he couldn’t resist his wicked urges or ambitions of the mind and body around Sarah.

The revelation is that the duo repeated their deed scheme in Nebraska. It’s been there all along in the documents and histories. No one has seen it for what it is. I even felt sorry for Cobb, thinking he kept selling land or bridges or wagons and having to collect them and sell them again to someone who would pay in full. But what if he never intended for anyone to pay in full? Geoff set off my realization when he said Cobb, as sheriff in North Carolina, would have kept the deeds in his dealings. So many historians have written about his selling terms which included…him keeping the deed. He’d get some money out of each buyer, but retain the deed and sell again to someone else. And all the while, Sarah kept his books.

I revised a scene tonight and feel like I have the right tone between the two. While this is a big breakthrough, revision continues to be daunting. Irene Waters said something last week about a page and a half a day; 179 to go! And I thought, that’s why this feels so intimidating — the mind only sees a mountain to climb when all we can do is muster a step or two, but have to reach the peak in an impossible stretch. To all fellow writers in edits and revisions and new drafts, stay the course!

And here’s a bonus scene from  today’s revisions:

KATE SHELL by Charli Mills

“You need to go by another name.” Sarah McCanles, Leroy’s pinch-faced wife cleared the evening meal.

Sarah slowly rose to help and calmly replied, “My name is Sarah, too.”

“Leroy, honestly, it’s confusing, two Sarah’s living here and working in the store.” When Sarah McCandles’s voice pitched to the volume of a whine, Leroy grabbed a jug and indicated with a toss of his head to Cobb that they should go out on the front porch.

Sarah envied the men their retirement to the cool evening air. “Do you ever go by another name? Like Sally?”

The other woman frowned, creating creases in her forehead. “Sally. That’s for old ladies. My mother had an Aunt Sally. Oh, do please change your name!”

After the dinner dishes were washed and dried, Leroy’s wife shuffled the two little ones off to bed and Sarah slipped outside. Cobb made room for her on the rough hewed bench. Leroy leaned against the post, staring out into the darkness. “Mountains, that direction,” he said.

“Pining for mountains again, Brother?” Cobb pulled back on the jug and took a long swig.

Leroy turned around and noticed Sarah. “Ah, it’s Sare-Bear.”

“Sare-Bear?” Sarah smiled at the silly name.

Cobb looked at her, his eyes slightly glazed. Liquor or lust. “How about Bare Sarah?”

She poked him in the ribs. “Behave, Mr. McCanles.”

“I’m behaving,” said Leroy.

Sarah shook her head. If ever two brothers had matching mirthful grins, it was this pair when in each other’s company. Too much whiskey though and they were trouble.

“Kate!” Leroy’s wife stepped outside and all three turned perplexed looks her direction.

“Who’s Kate, Wife?”

“She is,” pointing at Sarah.

Cobb chuckled low in his chest. “You were a bonnie Scot in disguise all this time.”

“I don’t think so. No one seems to be confused. Traders respectfully call you Mrs. Leroy McCanles, and they call me Sarah.”

“I hate that! My name ain’t Leroy! You can be Kate and they can call me Sarah. Kate Shell. That’s your name and I’m going to tell everyone it is, that’s all there is to it.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake, woman!”

Everyone turned to look at Leroy who seemed more surprised than any at what he just said. His wife, eyes wide and filling with tears, screeched and ran back into the cabin. Coyotes across the flat responded with yips.

“Leroy, there’s a reason our father always said never swear in front of the women folk. You might be sleeping in the barn tonight.”

Sarah covered her face with palms to hide her want to laugh.

“Damn it. I—” Leroy looked sideways at Sarah. “Sorry.”

Sarah couldn’t hold back and laughed loud.

Leroy reached for the jug, but Cobb held it back. “Think you had enough, already.” He joined Sarah in laughing. Leroy headed to the barn, muttering and a few words Sarah could distinctly detect as swearing.

Cobb walked her across the dark yard to the back of the stone structure that would be the post office soon. She stepped through the door and turned to face him, leaning against the frame. “Come in?”

He breathed deep like a man smelling dogwood blossoms. “Best get home to Mary.”

Sarah nodded.

“Hey.” Cobb reached for her hand.

It felt small, gripped in his larger one. “Yes?” Her voice was breathy and inwardly she said a few of Leroy’s choice words.

“I’m thinking of selling the toll-bridge.” He kissed the palm of her hand.

“I wondered when we might get around to such.” She smiled like a real mistress.If she couldn’t have Cobb in her bed, she could have his clever ambitions to plan and hide.

“Think of some terms. Goodnight, Rosebud.”

Terms. Yes, there would be terms. Down payment. Deed, of course, she’d keep that filed. Difficult terms to meet. The new owners would never really own it. He who has the deed…it was her comforting thought as she readied for bed. Kate Shell. Maybe she could take an alias. No matter. Folk would be slow to catch on in this Territory. Rumors seeped out of North Carolina, but no one really understood how Cobb made off with the cold hard cash and left the bondsmen bickering over land deeds. It would take Weith years to sort it all out. Before turning down the covers she lightly tapped her fingers on the leather ledger.

No one knew Cobb like she did.

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Four Paws for Noah Writing Competitions

A Boy and His DogGet ready to put the FUN in fundraiser! Carrot Ranch is pleased to announce participation in the Four Paws for Noah Creative Writing Competitions. There’s more than one competition and the fundraiser is a heart-warming one.

Submission fees benefit Noah Ainslie, a nine-year-old boy with severe Autism-related anxiety. Noah has been matched with Appa, a four-month-old Standard Poodle. Appa will be trained as Noah’s service dog and will help Noah move through public and private spaces by interrupting Noah’s anxiety and being a furry best friend for life. You can read more about Noah and Appa’s journey together on their GoFundMe page.

Carrot Ranch is hosting the following and you can read the details on the Events page.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest

This is an opportunity to write a flash fiction longer than our typical 99 word challenges. The theme is “a boy’s dog.” In January, Carrot Ranch will launch an e-newsletter, The Carrot Ranch Roundup (with thanks to Rough Writer, Larry LaForge, for the clever title). Following the contest, a special edition will feature the top three entries with honorable mentions. The winner receives $250.

Judging is blind and those who regularly flash at Carrot Ranch are eligible to enter (unless you are on the judges panel). We’ll be featuring our judges throughout the contest and spurring all writers to enter. Please help us by sharing news of this contest far and wide.

And, flash fiction is not the only contest! Be sure to check out Shareen Mansfield of On the Verge. She’s host the Olympics of caffeine and wants your craziest, most unexpected stories from your best cup of coffee (tea). Find out more details by clicking on the contest photo:

Contest Coffee

All proceeds go directly to the fundraiser, managed by Shawna Ayoub Ainslie, Noah’s mother. We hope you join in the fun!

November 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

November 4Diffused morning light filters through a thin cloud cover to reveal a frost-encrusted landscape. I’m not naturally a morning person so this vision is relatively new to me. I like to rise after the frost has melted to dew and more color is revealed. When I draft, I can stay up as late as 3 in the morning, fueled by my imagination.

But I’m revising. It’s a discipline that calls me out of my natural state of being. Thus I rise early.

Or does it? Every week I follow Daphne Gray-Grant, a publications coach whose blood runs with ink. I haven’t missed reading her weekly email in three years and I consider her book, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better to be one of my best writing tools. Yesterday, I received her email that spoke directly to my NaNoReViSo state of mind — it’s messy.

Her post asks if my mind is messy enough?

Oh, it’s messy! It was so messy yesterday, I sat with Scrivner open to a crucial scene, vacillating over the possibilities of “limited supplies.” You see, when Cobb and Sarah arrived at Rock Creek Station in March of 1859, he purchased the cabin, barn, land and lean-to store that sold hay, grain and “limited supplies.” He then built a toll-bridge and charged pioneer travelers to cross Rock Creek. He built a toll-booth of sorts, another cabin. He built a house, a stable, another barn. He bought a plow in Leavenworth, Kansas and grew a bumper crop of hay and grain that first year. He built as many as five ranches and ran stock.

But what did he sell to travelers as “limited supplies”? And does it matter to the story?

It does matter because it captures the essence of a road station in the late 1850s and 60s. One historical account for the region claims that “real” stores didn’t open up until the latter part of the 1860s, long after Cobb had died. I turned to the 1860 census record and a plat map that showed some of the earliest homesteads, including Rock Creek Station. I began to plot who was where that important year. I realized that living among Cobb’s workers, was a trader by the name of William N. Glenn. The man who sold Cobb the station was Newton Glenn. Was this the same man? Did he stay on to sell “limited goods”?

In 1860, the census records less than 100 people living the territorial county of Jones (now Jefferson). Of that number, a good many of the men listed their occupations as traders, just like Glenn. An old pioneer remembered Sarah Shull as keeping a store at Rock Creek Station. This makes sense and fits my theory and subsequent story that Sarah was in business with Cobb. But what were they selling? What are “limited supplies”? Why were these stations and traders not regarded as true stores or merchants?

By now, I had four books open, two maps plotted with five different colors of ink, three internet pages up to search for “limited supplies” along the Oregon Trail, and no clear answers. I saw a phone number for the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and in desperation I called, feeling silly when a person picked up the other line.

“Um, I have a question…can you tell me what limited supplies pioneers would have purchased from traders along the Oregon trail, specifically in Nebraska?”

What I received in response made me giddy. I found a history nerd! The historian on the other line explained that after pioneers supplied up along the Missouri River, they entered the “wilds” beyond. Traders were typically those looking to make money off the travelers (yep, I already pegged that as Cobb’s motive for business). They knew the land, the tribes and they traded with the Pawnee and Otoe, as much as they did with the settlers. They specialized in dried buffalo meat, buffalo hide blankets, whiskey and moccasins. Shoes wore out quickly on the trail, she said. This is a great detail because I had imagined Nancy Jane living barefoot and pining for real shoes. I’ll revise that scene to have her in moccasins and wanting store-bought shoes.

Before I got off the phone, the historian mentioned she wished she had more time to research this question because she has volumes of diary accounts and books…Really? Okay! I told her I had six weeks, and she happily agreed to answer my question fully. Elated, I got off the phone and went deeper into the records I now had open, noticing even more crucial details that clearly show Cobb was a prolific builder and a community leader. How did it ever go so wrong for him to be remembered as a bully Confederate trying to steal his neighbors livestock? On the census, he’s recorded as owning more land and livestock than anyone else, and is credited with paying for the first teacher, allowing those of few means to cross his bridge, was a fine orator and a leader who organized the territory’s first vote.

Messy. Yes.

I look out at that pristine morning scene and long to be able to write the vision so clearly that the reader can see the edging of frost; to color it correctly to discern fence from quince tree; to show and not tell, yet ultimately tell the story of an incredible event that involved real people, not mythological white hats and black. I want to get the vision right.

Is it about being right? No, not really. More like giving a tone of humanity to a man robbed of his dignity whether he was all good or all bad. And to give voice to the women that history never considered beyond silhouettes of wives or mistresses. We are all fully fleshed and mixtures. I want to get the colors of Rock Creek sharp and balanced without feeling frozen in the process of that undertaking. I can accept that my writer’s mind is supposed to be messy. It makes me think I’m on task.

To all of you revising or drafting, keep at it every day. The sun will melt the frost and messiness will ensue.

November 3, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a frozen story. Is the weather the source of freezing or is a character frozen by emotion or lack of it? It can also be a moment frozen in time. What does it reveal?

Respond by November 10, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Cold Morning by Charli Mills

Sarah fidgeted in the freezing air of the prairie morning. First night on the trail in these western wilds. She had an extra cup of coffee at the campfire Cobb built that morning. The hot enamel mug felt good in her hands and tasted even better with the thick slabs of bacon he fried. Cobb bought the best items and loaded their new wagon. While others dickered over prices of mining tools in Leavenworth, Cobb uncrated a large plow with an iron share and wooden mouldboard. A plow? Had cold made him daft? He winked and they headed out.

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