February 10: Flash Fiction Challenge

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.

February 11, 2016

February 10

Photo by Betsy Fulling, Courtesy of FSPW

Cute and furry are the mountain goats that live atop Scotchman Peaks in northern Idaho. Even their scientific name, oreamnos americanus, labels them as cute. It means, “a mountain lamb belonging to America.” Aw, what could be cuter than a mountain lamb? Funnily, they are not goats at all, but related to antelope and gazelle.

Nor are they sheep. The Cabinet Mountains, a craggy chain of the Rocky Mountains that span western Montana and the Idaho panhandle, are also home to bighorn sheep. Somehow, they aren’t as cute, but they do have magnificent curling horns. Tourist often confuse the two animals, and I’ve even heard one exclaim that she saw “bighorn goats.” The most notorious case of Rocky Mountain animal identity confusion is the story of the visiting hunter who shot an elk only to find out he tagged a llama.

For casual identification purposes, the mountain goats are cute and furry, white with black horns and beards (both sexes).

And they like salt. Ranchers put out mineral licks for cattle and horses, and it’s not unusual for deer to show up. Wildlife often gather in geological places where they can lick natural minerals, and mountain goats have a clever advantage — the ability to scale rock faces. They also have a newfound source atop the rocky vistas of Scotchman Peaks — hikers.

It sounds adorable. A cute and furry animal, greeting hikers, tongue extended. Like the attraction factor of piled kittens, unwise hikers offer a leg or arm to the mountain goats after a sweaty hike. Experienced hikers, like those knowledgeable of kittens, avoid such encounters with claws and cuspids, or rather horns and molars. Cute and furry mountain goats bite and butt. Last year, the main trail to one of the most spectacular vistas overlooking the Clark Fork and Lake Pend Oreille was closed due to a goat licking that turned ugly. A woman was bit.

Educating humans on good behavior in the wild is a small portion of what the Friends of Scotchman Peaks do. Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Phil Hough, executive director of FSPW for an upcoming (March-ish) article in Go Idaho. Their target goal is to gain Congressional designation an 61,800 acre roadless area as Wilderness. However, their mission is to conduct education, outreach, and stewardship activities to preserve this amazingly diverse and rugged area where cute and furry goats live. Anyone can become a Friend. I’m a Friend!

In fact, my first event after becoming a Friend was to help the group decide a raging debate: Wine or Beer? My friend (who is also a Friend) joined me. She sided with a pale ale and I chose Love (a Washington state red). We broke the tie with a bacon-chicken sandwich dressed with greens and blue-cheese. Phil greeted me like a friend, and I made a new one, local author and publisher, Sandy Compton. When I say anyone can join, I mean even a shuffling middle-aged writer who most likely could never reach the top of the peaks to see the goats and shoo them off her sweaty limbs.

FSPW are master community builders, bringing together diverse Friends. You can read more about their community building success in my upcoming article, but two points I want to make here. One is the power of community and the other is the significance of wild places to everyone.

The past two weeks, the Rough Writers and Friends have explored the themes of community and power. They are related. Communities pull together, gather, build up. That can be powerful. What impressed me about FSPW is how they focus their efforts of stewardship. Phil pointed out to me that many environmental or advocacy groups circle the wagons around what they are against. Instead, FSPW embrace what positive benefits stewardship and wild places have for Friends of diverse walks (hikes) and interests.

Wild places matter, even to those who are not active hikers or hunters. It’s important to our psyche to know that wild places exist. Consider the words of great souls who understood the importance:

“And this, our life exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” ~ William Shakespeare

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.” ~ Sir John Lubbock

“Land, then, is not merely soil; it is a fountain of energy flowing through a circuit of soils, plants and animals.” ~ Aldo Leopold

Wild places are vital to writers. We find inspiration between sky and water, roots and crown of a tree, the wingspan of a kingfisher. We learn to use all our senses outdoors and seek wild spaces even if it is a city park or a backyard garden. We feel the pulsing energy of the land around us and we connect through it. We even melt into romantic notions at the sight of a cute and furry mountain goat. And what do we do with this? We write, of course.

Imagine the Nebraska Territory as Cobb McCanles first saw it in 1858. Pioneers had already cut ruts making haste to gold fields, promised land or future farms. Yet few actually lingered in the Territories. It was wild space to get through, pass by and go beyond. Buffalo herds still roamed, prairie fires burned seasonally and native grasses grew taller than a young child. Coyotes yipped and prairie chickens courted. A fringe-culture of traders, hunters, freighters and guides loosely populated the prairie before the Civil War. I believe Nancy Jane Holmes, the third female character of importance in Rock Creek, lived in one of these ungoverned wilderness societies.

Historians may disagree, but I believe that Cobb and his brother Leroy made it out to Colorado and back to North Carolina in the summer of 1858. Sarah Shull once mentioned later in life the brothers went out west that summer. It makes sense because antebellum North Carolina was rapidly on a comet path to war by then. Their father, James McCanles, moved with his wife and three married daughters to a cluster of farms in eastern Tennessee where Unionists were gathering and politicking. The McCanles brothers wanted no part of war and explored the areas beyond the Bleeding Kansas and Missouri border where the Border Wars between slavers and abolitionists were in full swing.

Beyond the Missouri River was Indian Territory. Wilderness.

Family anecdotes passed down through letters and generations say that Cobb and Leroy traveled west together. Some family vehemently disagree that Sarah Shull came with Cobb in late winter 1859. Yet surviving documents prove Cobb hired Sarah Shull in March of 1859. They both signed it so she had to be with him. Likewise, other documents place Leroy back in North Carolina at that time. It’s reasonable to assume the brothers did go west together as far as Colorado, but in 1858 not 1859. They would have passed through Rock Creek or other road ranches like it. Cobb knew Sarah grew up working in her father’s store and kept books. She didn’t want to be left behind where she was shunned because she bore a married man’s child, a child who died. Nothing held her to North Carolina.

But the married man, Cobb, was still married and had reconciled with his wife. They also had decided to raise their special needs daughter, almost unheard of in those days. Where else could a man like Cobb make new opportunities for his kin away from brewing war? Where else could he bring his former mistress to run a road ranch trading post? The wilderness beyond the Missouri River.

As to whether or not they encountered cute and furry animals is open to speculation. But I’m fairly certain pioneers wouldn’t have let mountain goats lick them. Who knows.

February 10, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of weeds in a vacant lot that attract songbirds. What is vital to the human psyche about wild spaces? Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry.

Respond by February 16, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

My gratitude to Phil Hough and my new 6,000 new Friends for the use of this week’s prompt photo. The outstanding mountain goat shot is the capture of Betsy Fulling.


Unseen by Charli Mills

Nancy Jane adjusted the rear sight and held the longrifle tucked to her body. One mule deer, one lead ball. She bit back the curse for her brother for getting himself killed in a border raid. It wasn’t their war. They were wilderness folk, free-landers, friends to Cree and French traders who liked the American prairies.

Movement caught her eye. Jackrabbit. Its long ears upright, nose twitching. If she missed the buck, she’d snare the rabbit. It spooked, and so did the deer when two men rode up on horses oblivious to her in the grass, holding a gun.


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  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Beautiful mountain goat. I had no idea they weren’t goats. Why do we do that? Anyway. I’m really looking forward to reading your article. Great flash, excellent prompt. Can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with this week. It’s going to be wild. (I am so sorry…I can’t seem to stop the corny puns.) ????

    • Charli Mills

      Hee, hee…I’m hoping it’s going to be wild! Not entirely or scientifically certain about the goat designation because I’ve heard people call antelope desert goats, so maybe goat-ish? I think technically it has to do with hooves and teeth. Anyhow, yes, he (might be she) is beautiful. 🙂

  2. Norah

    Such a full post, Charli. Six thousand new friends! That’s awesome. I hope they all don’t expect a Christmas gift! Maybe the gift is one of friendship and of working together to save the wild spaces anyway. What a wonderful gift that is. The thought of groups circling around what they don’t want rather than combining to work towards what they do want reminds me of research that Bec has been doing towards her PhD. She has said the same thing. Groups see their fights as different as their reasons appear to be different, but when it all boils down they want the same thing: preservation of the environment and way of life. Instead of fighting each other they would do better to work together.
    The mountain non-goats are very cute and how I envy their ability to walk up mountains. That must be a super power in itself. I’d like those extra points but am not sure how I’ll go with something cute and furry! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Hopefully we can decide on a mutual Christmas gift! 🙂 Bec’s PhD. sounds interesting. It seems like a small shift but it really is positive. I’ve interviewed other organizations and often have found them to be defensive or even intimidating. This group really gets community and how to build it. Bec is right — better to work together. Ha, ha — mountain non-goats! Perhaps an unusual cute and furry thing will inspire you.

      • Norah

        I’m still feeling lost in the wilderness with this one, perhaps a bit like a mountain goat in the city!
        How wonderful to find a community of people who really get it. Have fun. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Actually I like that idea, Norah! What would it be like for a mountain goat in the city?

  3. ellenbest24

    Just a passer by, one who may not get to Idaho in her lifetime, let alone see your infamous sweat licking non goats. You presented a full post very knowledgeable and friendly, for that and introducing me to the rocky scenery thank you. Your flash at the end was sharp and held me in the long grass looking down the barrel with you. Well writen. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for stopping by the ranch, Ellen! You might not get to meet the infamous sweat licking non goats (love that moniker), but you can rest easy knowing they exist. Thank you for your comment on my flash. Join us, if you’d like! 🙂

      • ellenbest24

        I may dip in and out but will enjoy reading your posts. Please drop in for a cup of tea and a browse of my blog.

      • Charli Mills

        I will join you for tea!

  4. Sacha Black

    Well, wilderness is right up the Firmament’s ally. It’s only a 300 mile wild ice shaft she needs traverse!

    Awesome goats, reminds me of trekking in the himalayas and the Yaks they used. Sound like an amazing opportunity though, and what an enormous space to be turned into a reserve <3

    This piece is backwards in time. Lexi steps onto the ice for the second time as she head towards leaving the Firmament for the first time.

    The Firmament #9

    I stepped off the ship, and onto the snow covered ice shaft. The wind didn't roar, it screamed and charged across the desolate wasteland.

    I glanced at Luke through my goggles. He blinked rapidly. I touched my glove to him and bellowed, "It's going to be ok. We will make it."

    I stared out at the ice storm in front of us; mile upon mile of white. I couldn't work out what direction was South. A cold anchor dropped into my stomach. Forget getting past the Firmament. I wasn't sure I'd even make it to the edge this time.

    • Charli Mills

      You could classify the Firmament as a Cli-fi, too! And I have a science (well, math) challenge for you. First, do you measure by acres or hectares? Whichever you use, how many are in your 300 mile wide wilderness of ice? I love the idea of something other-worldly out there, too beyond the edge. An ice storm is a great predicament! And yes, the goats are rather yak-like though I’m not sure if related.

      • Sacha Black

        Yeah I guess you could actually. I hadn’t thought of that.

        Not sure I use miles! I looked up acres it was about 192000 acres wide.

        I doubt they are related but your intro prompted a memory ???? as they so often do.

        My one worry is how I get experience of icey worlds in order to make the story realistic :s

      • Norah

        That writing opportunity does look interesting. The partner of one of my previous work colleagues spent a lot of time in Antarctica as a scientist. He would have many wonderful stories to tell.

      • Charli Mills

        What a place to visit!

    • Norah

      That is definitely a challenging wilderness; not one that most of use would wish to traverse. Good luck to Lexi and Luke. 🙂

      • Sacha Black

        <3 thanks Norah.

  5. Annecdotist

    We don’t have mountain goats in the UK (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong) but I have seen them in Europe and they are fab.
    Those new friends sound like they’ll really suit you, Charli – how will people be motivated to conserve the wild places if they don’t understand the positives that will bring? While our national parks are not very wild, they are managed in a similar way, emphasising the benefits to us all if we can juggle the different interests.
    Love your flash and the new character – I’ll be back with mine in a couple of days, but would just like to flag up for Rough Writers and friends there’s a giveaway on my blog right now
    featuring work on the edges of the wild North Sea.

      • Charli Mills

        Well, there you have it — feral goats in the UK! No mention of licking in their list of bad behavior. 😉

      • ellenbest24

        Obviously they are British, and therefore would chew with their mouths closed. Licking… as if *winks* *titter*

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Ellen – I knew I’d get caught out!

      • ellenbest24

        Hehe! I just knew in the back of my mind…

      • Norah

        Fascinating article. I was happy to go with Anne’s assessment. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Management is often the point of differentiation where various groups disagree. A wilderness area removes the management so we can let it be what it will be. That causes upset for some — issues of fire suppression, no road access, no resource extraction. But this particular area is already roadless, and part of it did burn with our fire season last summer. Mountain goats are amazing to watch climb or perch. Thanks! I haven’t given Nancy Jane much publicity, but she’s key to Rock Creek. Historians think that Sarah Shull’s friendship with Hickok created tension between her and Cobb, but I think the tension came from her friendship with this most unconventional woman that historians never even bothered to trace. Great! I’ll link up your giveawy across the social media waves, too! Thanks, Anne!

  6. paulamoyer

    Great prompt, Charli! Love the cautionary about the mountain goats. Speaking of which, my prompt says a lot about my tendency to appreciate the wilderness from a distance …

    Food Chain a la Minnesota

    By Paula Moyer

    The hike into the park entailed an hour of back-packing. But all had gone well. Jean and Bill set up their tent and then collapsed.

    What had she heard about mosquitoes? Yes. They have favorites. Those with the tastiest blood suffered the most bites.

    “Hey, Bill, did you know …” she began. Then gasped. Oh, her poor sweetheart.

    He had wrapped his hankie under his cap and over his ears – like a French Legionnaire. Then a long-sleeved shirt.

    Even so, his nose – seven bites in a cluster. Bill slapped all night.

    Dawn. The tent walls resembled a murder scene.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Paula, this had me laughing so hard! My own “Bill” has tasy blood too and I can stand right next to him and not get a single bite while he’s swarmed. Poor Bill! Ah, but that is the great thing about wilderness — we can benefit just from knowing it exists.

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Charli. Yes, this was a story from Scott’s and my courtship. He was quite the choice morsel for mosquitoes!

    • jeanne229

      Oh my sympathies to Bill! I seem to appeal to mosquitoes as well. I remember being thrilled at the chance to go fishing in North Dakota one year with my parents and aunt and uncle. Barely had my twin sister and I jumped out of the truck to go down to the lake shore than swarms of the bloodthirsty things came down like a cloud. But the scene you’ve drawn is great. who can not relate?

      • Charli Mills

        Jeanne, did your twin get attached by mosquitoes, too?

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Jeanne!

    • Norah

      Oh those mosquitoes can be so harsh, and so selective. I’m ecstatic that they have no taste for me; but unfortunately for Hub and son-in-law, they just love them. I can picture that murderous scene!

      • paulamoyer

        Thanks, Norah! They do have their favorites. And the Minnesota ones are especially brutal!

      • Norah

        Sounds like it!

  7. Pete

    Point Au Roche

    Inside the path, under snowy pines and over the threshold of root and rocks, Lake Champlain glitters through the branches. My breaths, so primal and forgotten, come to life in the winter wind.

    I’m overcome by nature’s theater. Trees knotted to perfection. The buckshot of woodpecker holes. An absence of urgency. The unfathomable quality of life.

    The greens surrender to the beige of winter, the beige to a scatter of fossils along the glacier-licked shore. Snow geese blanket the sky. Vermont sits across the grey chop. Triumphantly cold and beautiful. I reach the point, heart thumping and fully renewed.

    • Charli Mills

      Absolutely gorgeous writing and into the very heart of wilderness love. Your scene is vivid and the language sweet, but I did have a favorite line in both description and rhythm: “The buckshot of woodpecker holes.”

    • jeanne229

      Pete, this is a stunning description. What lyricism in your words. What profound reflections. I was immediately transported to that place of wild purity. “An absence of urgency.” “Snow geese blanket the sky.” “Vermont sits across the grey chop.” Masterful.

      • Pete

        Thanks guys. I keep trying to talk my wife into moving back to her hometown, but with little luck!

    • Norah

      Awesome view! 🙂

  8. Jennifer Barricklow

    I know I shouldn’t, but I find it ironically amusing and appropriate that people who allow a wild animal with teeth and pointy horns to lick them would experience unpleasant consequences. Thank you for the guilty pleasure of laughing at another’s expense and the untainted happiness of the mountain goat photo.

    • Charli Mills

      It is chuckle-worthy, though I know many are trying to make hikers aware. But seriously? Cute, at a distance, yes, they have teeth and horns! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by the ranch!

    • Charli Mills

      I like anything that begins with “this came to mind…” Thank you for contemplating wild spaces this week!

      • Oliana

        you’re welcome.

  9. Sherri

    I love the ‘mountain lamb belonging to America’ 🙂 Now that is cute and furry! I always assumed that a mountain goat was well, a goat! Thanks for educating me on that! Not surprised to read about the not so cute and furry outcome though…we had a goat once, and I know they can bite and headbutt 😮 It was great for ‘mowing’ the lawn though… Looking forward to reading more about FSPW in your article, 6,000 new friends, wow! What a wonderful community outreach. Glad you got the beer/wine debate sorted 😉 And your flash, really enjoyed reading about Nancy. Unseen indeed. But I’m glad the bunny got away… 😉 See you soon Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      I need that kind of lawn mower — goat powered! As for the bunny, I cheated a bit. Jack rabbits aren’t exactly cute like bunnies! Thanks for reading and for reading my Go Idaho articles, too!

      • Sherri

        Haha! It would save you a lot of work in the summer! Yes…Jack Rabbits are what we called ‘Hares’ which are quite different, but it was fun to play with your ‘cute and furry’ theme, as a certain little Bunnykins ‘sprang’ to mind 😉 I love your writing Charli, you know it!! <3

  10. jeanne229

    Fabulous photo and inspiring post. Wonderful organization you’ve gotten yourself involved in! (Where DO you find the time woman?) Groups that come together to help protect our wild spaces deserve all the support they can get. That is something that came to mind with your rebellion prompt a few weeks ago, which opened my eyes to some of the less savory reasons some folks want the federal government to get out of the way. (Developers!) And found your historical notes on Nebraska in the 1850s fascinating. The more I read of the women who helped to settle those lands, the more in awe I am at their courage, tenacity, and strength. Pondering the prompt. Will be back.

    • Charli Mills

      I can get lost in that photo. The goat definitely attracts the gaze but when you look beyond — wow! That’s a view worth hiking to see. Honestly, I love working from home and in Idaho. Except when the internet thwarts me. I enjoy the interviews and have to remember not to get chatty or I pay for it when I transcribe. Otherwise it all meshes, this great interconnected thing I call the writing life. Women really were plucky to settle that wide wilderness. I loved how you captured that in your community flash.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Larry! Ed goes wild? This will be a good one! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for going into the wild for this one, Anne!

    • jeanne229

      I have always pondered and appreciated the possibility that what you see on the surface may not be what is there at all. I “ate up” all your lovely Britishisms too, the “smart arse” and our heroine off for a fortnight, in Bognor no less!

      • Annecdotist

        Ha, I toyed between Bognor and Bournemouth – both somewhat sedate resorts, or rather they used to be!

    • Sherri

      Love your flash Anne… !

  11. rogershipp

    Come On, Mate… It’s Just a Game of Horseshoes

    No longer does my three-point-stance turn beautifully into a fallaway three-pointer with the deadly swoosh. Gone … the days of a perfect toss of the ball forcefully spiked across the net for a ‘40-Love’.

    Life has always been an awkwardness of mixed metaphors.

    My youth-filled ‘wild side’ … sneaking past my parents’ bedroom… absconding my 8:30 curfew.

    Curses! The unwitting savior of the plain’s buffalo has me in death’s throes.

    My six-by-six havens are being ravaged by this obnoxious, impossible-to-kill Sledgehammer grass.

    Perfect twirls and dead-on ringers are being accosted by awkward entanglements.

    This unspeakable horror will not be my Waterloo.

    (Sorry, this one went a little weird?)


    • Charli Mills

      Not weird; it’s wild! 😀 Sound like a battle between nature and the horseshoe pit. Good to see you at the ranch, Roger!

  12. julespaige

    I think I saw some relatives of your goats up in the Arizona mountains…
    along with a Bald Eagle! It was on a boat tour in a man made lake. And it was nice an cool – my bit though is from my back yard; enjoy something a tad smaller:

    Pyrrharctia isabella

    I remember seeing more Woolie Bear caterpillars in the
    country. There is an old wives tale that states the critters
    can foretell the coldness of the winter by the thickness of
    their stripes. Science has only proven that the critters have
    only basically stated what the past winter was like.

    The science doesn’t take away any of the thrill of finding
    the insect and sharing the wonder with a child. One just
    has to have a little patience to wait for the Woolie bug to
    unwind from its’ defensive ball and crawl on the skin of
    your open palm.


    The link also has some info on the critter –
    Pyrrharctia isabella

    • julespaige

      Oops maybe a brain freeze this morning – tail should be tale.
      After all it only feels like it is 6 F out there! Brrr… I wonder if the Woolie Bear has any extra wool?

      • Charli Mills

        Oooh, that’s cold! It’s warm enough to melt snow and rain here! Our Wooly Buggers must look different from yours! I fixed your tale. No problem!

      • julespaige

        I warmed up to 50 F today. The snow is melting and I can see some green lawn.

        And thanks…

    • Charli Mills

      Wooly Buggers are one of my favorite wild finds. For some reason, the barn cat collects them, unharmed. Maybe she’s predicting the weather?

      • julespaige

        I have heard that if the animals seek shelter… you should too – weather wise.
        Hurricane and tornado warnings.

  13. writersdream9

    Wild places, well wildness in general is one of my favorite themes! I love your picture and your story. I’ve never really been a hiker. Walking in nature, yes but hardcore hiking not really. It’s nice to know so many are supportive of our unspoiled land, it’s needed for sure. Happy Valentines Day every one!


    • Charli Mills

      I’ll walk with you, Carol! Growing up buckaroo, I rode my horse everywhere. Why hike? 🙂 Like you, though I enjoy being out in nature, walking, watching, reading a book by the creek. Yes, it is good to know we have unspoiled places. Happy Valentines Day to you, too!

    • julespaige

      I used to not mind tight spaces… growing up in the city.
      Now, not so much having some (however limited) sprawl of suburbia.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you at the ranch, Dave! The wilds drew you in. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      That is true, we do! And each week the diversity of takes on the prompt is what’s most fun.

  14. denmaniacs4

    A bit more, Charli, of the times and the trials of Clancy Dobbs.


    The sun was taking it’s time arising.

    Nothin’ new in that, Clancy Dobbs thought.

    Gawd, he fancied that first glint of heavenly blaze, poking up in the morning sky.

    Cold earth chilling his bones, he was damn sure he was getting too old to be sleeping rough. He rolled over, trying to escape two sharp rocks, puncturing through from the mountain’s bedrock, pressing against his spine.

    There it was, as it always was these days.

    The fresh scent of the wild mountains, the creatures who brought life and death to the earth and a Gunman’s old body wearing down.


    • Charli Mills

      Good to see Clancy Dobbs return, sleeping wild as he is. Sharp rocks, and sharp detail in writing.

  15. Pat Cummings

    I claim the bonus points, although I’m not sure if marmots qualify as “cute” Dinner Dance is at http://goo.gl/vIDels

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, marmots definitely count as cute! Sighting one in the Sierras was a delight.

  16. A. E. Robson

    With this prompt, there were many visions. My rogue garden came to mind first. However, it was the solitude of Mother Nature and both her exhilarating and calming effect that won out.

    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Shrouded in a cloud of dust from the old wagon trail, the truck came to a rolling stop. It had been years since she had been to the meadow.

    It looked like nothing had changed; other than the willows had grown taller. Well, so had she.

    She strolled through the waste high grass. From beneath her boots, the soothing scent of wild mint mingled with bees buzzing around flowers.

    As a child, this had been her playground. Picnics, exploring, honing her nature skills.

    Relaxation for the soul. A diversion for the mind. Then, as now, it was a sanctuary.


    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad this one won out, though I’d like to read about your rambling garden, too! It’s so important as a child we interact with nature. Then wild space become like familiar friends. Great sensory details, especially the wild mint. Once a playground, now a sanctuary.

    • Charli Mills

      We are often called to face a wilderness beyond what it is we once knew. Great take on the prompt, Rowena!

    • Charli Mills

      That happens when called to contemplate wild spaces! 🙂

    • jeanne229

      Left a comment on your site, but must say that was a skillful use of 99 words. The effect of the poem was of a quiet, lingering afternoon, just the way the beauty of a natural space makes us forget time for a while.

  17. Norah

    Hi Charli, I enjoyed thinking about the benefits of wilderness to the psyche. Thank you. Here’s my contribution, with a cute furry creature included! 🙂 http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-Fn

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you enjoyed the wild walk this week! And, yay! A cute and furry critter! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I think your monkey gravatar is cute and furry! 😀

  18. Patricia Cumbie

    Thanks for the challenge, Charli! Awesomely fun. It was great reading all the other ones on this thread, too. The prompt made me wonder about wildness in ourselves and others. Unfortunately I can’t collect any bonus points, though, there isn’t a single nonhuman furry critter.

    Night Diving

    By Patricia Cumbie

    She would never forget the way the boys glowed silver and blue before they threw themselves off the cliff into the cold, black water. The quarry was eighty feet deep and what was down there? She remembers shivering, rocks digging into her ass. Never got up the nerve. Girls didn’t.

    She couldn’t believe she just sat there, looking down into his casket, his barely blemished face on a goddamn satin pillow, of all things. What was once arch and wild rearranged to be “peaceful” and still. She flinched. Recoiled. Decided. She’d go back and take that vault after all.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Pat! Welcome to Carrot Ranch! That opening line is stunning. You have so much packed into these 99 words, the role the character feels she’s in, the one she’s about to change, the underlying memory and current casket. Wow. You are a master! I’ll post all the stories in the compilation Wild Spaces. It’s always a magical read, to see the various responses in one place. Thank you for stopping by the ranch and having some fun with us this week!

    • Annecdotist

      Beautifully poignant, Patricia, and thanks for joining us at the ranch.

    • jeanne229

      Yes, beautiful evocation of the power of memory. The transition from memory to the narrator’s present moment was beautifully effected. And those images in both paragraphs strike at the heart… loss of the past, of friends, of opportunity. All wrapped up with a line that takes us into the future. Great to sample your writing Patricia.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Tony! Thanks for venturing into the wild this week!

  19. Sherri

    Hi Charli…I’m sooooo late with this, so sorry, hope not too late though 🙁 Just couldn’t get a post together, but wanted to write a flash. You’ll know why I wrote this – memoir/flash fiction, that whole ‘thing’ going on – ! Thanks for putting up with my frequent dust clouds… <3

    California Dreaming

    She would miss it, the Californian Sun, but strapped into a seat on a 747 staring aimlessly at the sky map, what would it matter? She wasn’t coming back.

    A last vacation with the kids, he said, but he never showed up, leaving her with empty explanations and she was sick of it.

    Foam-capped waves danced on the sand, then sucked back again into vast sea, teasing her children in the chase as big sky melted into horizon’s dark line, Pacific sun sliding into purple day’s end.

    Time to go.

    A lone gull wheeled overhead and shrilled goodbye.

    • Norah

      Beautifully sad, Sherri. A goodbye means a new beginning – out of the wilderness into a … new day. I don’t know where to start commenting with this one, but I love the image of the ‘Pacific sun sliding into purple day’s end’. Well done.

      • Sherri

        Yes, always looking out at that horizon, pushing forward to new beginnings :-)This wasn’t the flash I had intended, but I can’t get that big sky and vast sea out of my mind. Always, for me, it’s the wild, openness of California that beckons at times like this. A part of me never left, you see <3 Thank you for your lovely comment Norah…

      • Norah

        We do leave little bits of our hearts in many places. But we always take a bigger part of them in our hearts. Enjoy the memories. 🙂

      • Sherri

        We certainly do! Thanks again Norah 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Wow! That’s not only a beautiful scene, but I can feel the whole of your memoir work in these 99 words. I think you’ve hit upon what I’ve been doing with the Rock Creek flashes here — taking big scenes and reducing them like a reduction sauce. Amazing how we can still make a connection in so few words. Amazing flash!

      • Sherri

        That’s it Charli, a reduction sauce! That’s exactly what I’ve been doing, cutting down scenes, pruning so much from my earlier chapters, and it’s writing flash fiction that has taught me how. And I’ve got you to thank for it, big time… <3

      • Charli Mills

        It is turning out to be a useful tool to what we are cooking up! 😉

    • Annecdotist

      Love this, Sherri, can really feel the reined-in emotion.

      • Sherri

        Thank you so much Anne…

  20. jeanne229

    Ahh, always competing for last I reckon. But here’s a post and a flash. Will be back to savor all the stories.

    • Charli Mills

      Technically, I’m always last! 😀 Stories will be compiled and awaiting the moment to be savored. Thanks for adding to it!

  21. Norah

    What a great collection, Charli. And I’ve read them all before the compilation. Woohoo! 🙂

    • jeanne229

      You are a better organizer of your time Norah than I 🙁 But yes, love this collection!

      • Norah

        Not really. It’s the first time for ages! 🙂

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I’m hoping soon to achieve this too Norah. Haven’t managed it for more than a couple of weeks.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m not struggling, but I am straggling to keep up! It’s a season that will pass but woo-boy! I can use one of your imagined clones!

      • Norah

        I’d like a clone too. But only with the good parts!

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! Definitely do not want to clone the bad habits or parts! Otherwise there would be an army of my clones procrastinating and we’d all be watching birds on the pond. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      And I know it was! I saved commenting so I’d access it through my compilation process then plumb forgot! So sorry, Irene! My organization can use Norah’s touch, if not her clones. 🙂 It’s included now!

  22. Charli Mills

    Wild, and cute and furry!


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