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February 24: Flash Fiction Challenge

February 24Horses test the fence the way we might test boundaries. Sometimes we lean, pushing, pushing until a wire snaps. Then what? Do we stand back, act surprised? Maybe, like the leaning blood bay gelding of the Blue Bird Ranch next door, we cross the fence and rejoice in freedom.

The gelding is the leader of the mob, a big brute with black mane and tail. Once he crossed the fence, the two white mares and the gray appaloosa followed. The first thing he did was drop to his front knees and sink into a horse bath. That requires dirt, not water. He kicked up great clods of fresh soil and rolled, writhing on his back in pleasure. He didn’t waste time. The gelding rose, shook clouds of dust off his hide and started to prance.

Before long he was in a full gallop. The others trailed behind, some tossing tails in the air, others leaping. I knew another fence was there. Question is, did he? I watched, tensing and knowing he could easily snap those wires with his bulk and speed. He ran right up to the corner posts and drew back like a cutting horse. Smart horse. Or fooled?

What is it about our galloping and fences?

Lately I feel as if I’ve been galloping from one pasture to the next. Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice in the run as much as the gelding. Every project I have is my intention. A few offerings were unexpected and I’ve grown in wisdom to say no. I could easily snap the wires of my boundaries, but sometimes we need fences.

The horses of the Blue Bird Ranch need fences to keep them off the road. Fence building is hard work and one has to maintain what one has built. A lot like a blog, or a book. Whew, you think, wiping your brow. Got that blog up and its a mighty fine thing. Strong, shiny. Then horses push against it, moose walk through, elk jump (or rather people visit your blog). That gives you spot work to do.

And the books! Like fences, they don’t just happen. A young rancher looked at the miles of land he was hired to fence. He asks the old-timer, “How do I do it?” The old-timer pushes back his hat, scans the line, considers the acreage and responds, “Dig one post hole at a time.” To us that means, write one page at a time. And it will take however long the work takes. The fence, and the blog or book, give form to what you are doing. The fence becomes the perimeter of the ranch and the work happens within.

We all get  horsey, though. Yes, even you nay-sayers and horse-loathers, you get horsey, too. We get all this galloping energy in us, we just want to push through, we want it to happen faster than one page at a time, we try to speed up the work or bust through the fences. Alas, we are still fenced in by what we want to do.

Ask yourself, do I still want to write, galloping around and pushing at fences? If yes, stay the course. If no, bust through and do something else. You know what that gelding did? He ran around that pasture, spent his burst of energy and then went straight back through the hole he created and has since stayed where he prefers. Know where it is best for you to be.

Before I finished galloping around my fences at Carrot Ranch, I headed into town for my Wrangling Words program at the Sandpoint Library. I had wanted to post before I left, but I also wanted to post over at Elmira Pond Spotter after having had an incredible eagle encounter a few days ago. I have missed my nature writing over there. With winter, I don’t get as many experiences to write about.

Like the gelding approaching the fence, I had to draw back and slide to a stop. No amount of running around was going to get everything accomplished that I wanted. I did get the eagle post up and I met four lovely local writers, including a well-published poet. And now I’m finishing my meandering thoughts of galloping efforts and fences.

My take-away from horse-gazing?

  1. Get the gallops out of your system if you are feeling restless, but don’t get stuck in gallop mode.
  2. Be mindful of the fences. Set your boundaries around your work and keep your fences in good repair.
  3. Go back to the pasture that suits you best. Greener on the other side is always a myth.

I know not everyone appreciates a good horse (or even a bad one). I grew up with horses and had one who was special. Many people find horses therapeutic, even spiritual. Given my husband’s struggles with military PTSD, I was fascinated with these two veterans who are using wilderness and horses as a way to heal. Here’s their inspiring story beyond galloping and fences:


Cobb’s sister, my fourth great-grandmother, came to Idaho in the 1870s where family members eventually helped preserve the Appaloosa breed of the Nez Perce. No doubt, horses were important to Cobb, but I also believe that Sarah Shull and Nancy Jane found freedom riding horses on the fence-less prairies. The opening scene to Rock Creek is one in which Sarah is near death at the age of 98 and imagines hearing the galloping of horses. I’m not entirely happy with the scene. I can feel the deep connection within me but not necessarily upon the page. Often, I find what matters to me personally is difficult to express in fiction. I wonder if other writers experience that?

February 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about galloping. It doesn’t have to be about horses. Is galloping a burst of energy, a run for freedom? Or is it a sense of urgency that borders on anxiety to get tasks accomplished? Explore the motion in different ways — a galloping stride, a galloping relationship or a galloping mind.

Respond by March 1, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Tennessee Saddlers by Charli Mills

Sarah closed the record book. Cobb’s latest negotiation with Mr. Majors looked good – on paper. Sarah mistrusted the smooth-talker, but Cobb swanked about, having negotiated the sale of Alexander Tennessee saddlebreds to this ostensible “pony express” endeavor. He’d receive a handsome fee from his Uncle Hamilton Alexander, and Rock Creek station would become a relay for the mail carrying scheme. Sarah had doubts it’d succeed. Walking out onto the store porch she looked across the bridge to the Tennessee ponies. Of their ability to gallop like spring wind she had no doubt. It was time to test ride one.



  1. Rachel says:

    They galloped alongside together, one going faster than the other. People passed them by, but they kept to their own pace happy as could be.

    “Wait for me!” James called.

    Amanda slowed her pace looking over her shoulder. “Hurry up. Everyone is at the other end already!”

    “I’m… trying!” James huffed.

    When they made it to the other side, their gym teacher called out to the class, “Great! Now gallop back to me.”

    James grumbled. “I hate this class.”

    Yet, he continued the exercises as everyone else already made their way back to the other end of the gym.

    Thanks for another great prompt! 🙂

  2. Norah says:

    These tasks and challenges that keep us galloping around, jumping over and through fences trying to get everything done are unrelenting. They just keep pushing through. We have a saying here “running around like a chook with its head chopped off”. Your galloping makes me think of that. I set myself goals and life interrupts. I breathe. Life is worth living after all. Whether to gallop maniacally or take things in our stride is a choice; sometimes a difficult choice, but a choice nonetheless.
    I love your story of the gelding returning to his home pasture on the Blue Bird Ranch (what a delightful name!) and your sage advice “to know where it is best for you to be”. There is no better place than here right now. Wishing for anything else leads only to discontent.
    The comment that you find it difficult to write about what is personally important is interesting. Your readers may find nothing lacking in your expression of it. I find only richness in your thoughts and words.
    Your flash gives another glimpse into Sarah’s life. Yes, Sarah, take the horse by the reins and ride! It’s life, and one must enjoy the ride.

  3. Great post! Your horse and fence stories are very helpful reminders for me at this time. I’m a bit more like that gelding than I like to admit, galloping from pasture to pasture, breaking the occasional fence, getting distracted by the excitement all that newness and boundary pushing generates. I really appreciate how you boiled it down to three simple guidelines. I’m going to print them up in a nice font and hang them on the wall in my work space. Thanks!

  4. […] February 24: Flash Fiction Challenge In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about galloping. It doesn’t have to be about horses. Is galloping a burst of energy, a run for freedom? Or is it a sense of urgency that borders on anxiety to get tasks accomplished? Explore the motion in different ways — a galloping stride, a galloping relationship or a galloping mind. […]

  5. julespaige says:

    Charli often we feel in our gut, that intuition that we need to be more attuned too – as to whether to relaxed or run. Sometimes when you are a grandparent you have no choice though than to gallop after your little ones. Another great post and because Little Miss is sleeping still:

    After the Thunderous Rains
    (a 99 word haibun)

    The music that is spring is trying to erupt. It is evident though
    that winter is still holding the reigns of this galloping season.
    Just last night we had a tornado warning for our area. Today,
    without much sun, bundled, Little Miss and I took the uphill
    route around the block. She running most of the way. And I
    thinking; good, she’ll have a nice nap after lunch.

    Insisting on her standard fair…barely able to finish; cookies
    would have to wait wait until she woke up.

    prancing toward dreams
    barely awake for her food
    the child nodded off


    See the post here:
    After the Thunderous Rains

    Hmm … I am a tad slow I guess, I just noticed that I don’t have to keep my sentences short because you’ve made the reply boxes bigger!
    Still the piece works in a compact form 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      You are right, sometimes we have galloping seasons in our life! Pay attention to our gut instinct. Good advice! Great flash and take on the prompt! My blog actually crashed on Friday, so if my text boxes are bigger, I don’t know what I did! I was hoping no one experienced anything distorted at the ranch. I think I snapped a fence wire! 🙂

      • julespaige says:

        Oh… guess I’m still going to have to keep the condensed style …
        No problem. WP has been doing some updates – their edit page and exit page when you sign out is different now. While I forget exactly how I do it I still operate in the older WP fashion (if you will) I don’t care for the extra line spaces in their new and improved posting experience. And normally when I edit I go to the left hand side to all posts and pick my post and edit in text mode. I hope that makes sense. I generally work in my own system and then copy and paste to WP. We had some blinking of power during our ‘weather’ but that was about it. Some counties near us had more damage. We were lucky.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Turns out it was my internet that caused the crashed. We *hopefully* have it fixed! This is the season the weather might get intense with squalls and thunderstorms. Hunker down if you need too!

  6. denmaniacs4 says:

    Horse Sense

    We downed the dregs of coffee and broke camp.

    “You don’t seem to want to get to Union City any time soon, Mr. Dobbs?”

    Aggie Runacre was proving to be a sharp observer.

    “Cities,” I said, with low feeling.

    “Yup,” she answered, with a nod.

    Dobbs recalled his younger self. Those days, he’d be chargin’ out of these dusty hills hell bent for whatever awaited. Every moment gettin’ somewhere was a moment wasted.

    “I do find myself takin’ my own good time,” Aggie said, “even when I want something ended.”

    “Well, Miss Runacre, lets enjoy our saunter, shall we.”


  7. Pat Cummings says:

    I may have missed last week, but I’m still writing! For this week, I have a California Night Mare to share.

    • Glad you are safe. I’ve never experienced an earthquake. It must be terrifying.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Keep writing the course you are on Pat! Wise to focus on priorities, so says the gelding who is know focused on the emerging grass in his preferred pasture. 🙂 But earthquakes in California — not like earthquakes in Idaho where we giggle at how mild they are.

  8. […] The CarrotRanch Flash Fiction challenge (99 words) […]

    • Charli Mills says:

      A second poem for the prompt! I’m liking that given that the local poets are trying to convince me that 99 word flash fiction is actually poetry. Hmm, not sure what I think about that idea yet.

  9. For Galloping, I wrote the following. (I tried to link it as a link for my wordpress page, but alas, I am hopeless when it comes to technology. Still I don’t give up, so that’s saying something, right? hahaha)

    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    The fear twisted Carleen’s insides, held her fast like a rabbit in a snake’s thrall. Her heart threatened to escape its cage or batter itself to a pulp. Chills and terror forced her every hair to stand on end. Gasps for breath sounded as ragged as the trails of her fleeing tears.

    She took the tears as inspiration. They fled the horror her eyes beheld. She willed leaden muscles into compliance, giving an internal pep talk.

    His hands felt like sandpaper, stripping her innocence. With a kick, she launched from his grip. Hair streamed behind her as she escaped.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, I hear you on the technology point. My blog went wonky and I panicked. Not sure how I fixed it, but it seems to be okay! Copy your url address for your blog post and just paste it directly in a comment. Then I’ll link it on the compilation!

      Wow, powerful flash and really sharp use of words.

    • Glad she found the inspiration to escape. So many gallops here in the fear and in the escape.

  10. Pete says:

    Wow, what a great post (and flash) Charli. So many times I get caught up with what to work on and how to do it. I only have a bit of time each day so that makes it harder to choose. Loved this post and I’ll save it to read again and again when I feel overwhelmed. As for my flash, I took a lighthearted approach.

    The Slaughter

    Across the table, a hazel-eyed predator sat in my wife’s chair.

    I pulled my hair. Had she always been this good? Smarter? Ruthless? Cool as the slab of marble between us?

    The kids were asleep, the room pulsed with pressure. I leaned forward for a closer look while she took a casual sip of wine.

    Then I saw it.

    The horse. My knight galloped to an open square. My thumb lingered. I saw the graveyard of casualties at her elbow, a smile lurking in the corners of her mouth. Yet Sir Hasty nobly charged ahead.

    She pounced.

    “Check mate.”

  11. Annecdotist says:

    Marvellous post, Charli, stuffed full of good sense in the metaphors you draw from the horses’ escape. I totally agree that we shouldn’t deny ourselves the chance to gallop around on the other side of the fence just to check whether we are where we want to be. (Makes me think of the Amish communities sending their young people out into the world before committing – or not – to a simpler way of life.)
    Interesting, that with your own love of horses this is the first prompt (as far as I can remember) that stems from that theme.
    Like Norah, I was intrigued by your statement that what matters to you personally is difficult to express in fiction. I’m not sure if I’m the opposite! I certainly think it’s harder to write well about things that make us feel good – which is perhaps one of the reasons why sex scenes are sometimes so cringemaking.
    Not ready to do any galloping myself just yet, but hopefully I’ll come up with something before the deadline.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m rather surprised by both, too! I suppose I hadn’t found a previous connection between horses and process and I was spurred on by talk of galloping…then I watched the horses and thought. I guess I really like getting to that unknown zone in my fiction instead of trying to fictionalize something known. But this is why I relish the discussions.

  12. […] February 24: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  13. This prompt was inspiring. Aren’t all of yours? I think so! Thank you, Charli!

  14. […] 99 word story for Charli Mills’ writing challenge. […]

  15. Sometimes you need to gallop; sometimes you need to stroll:

  16. Annecdotist says:

    Your galloping horses have prompted some reflections on pace in fiction along with a flash about galloping mind

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’ve actually noticed a trend in using the galloping prompt as a pacing technique this time. How interesting! Of course, you rode right into the mind. 🙂

  17. rogershipp says:

    The Gilbert Gardens Gallop

    Having purchased the tickets three months in advance I couldn’t wait for May 7th.

    From the early age of nine, I had been a landscaper for the local greenways. Three of us would rake bunkers and collect refuse from the rough. In exchange for unclaimed greens’ tee times… Now I was the First Assistant to the Lead Horticulturist for Viette Nurseries here in Arizona.

    The fifteen foot tall pillars of the organ pipe cacti and the multi-variations of flowers in the hedgehog cacti awaited me at the Mt. Phiffer’s Appaloosa Range- the third stop on the Gilbert Gardens Gallop.

  18. Ooh…galloping. Hmm. I will attempt it but no promises. (Though I do promise to keep to the word count.) 😉

    Love this thought: “Dig one post hole at a time.” [And] write one page at a time. Also, your horse-gazing thoughts. Those are brilliant.

    I’ve heard about horses being a form of therapy (with amazing results) though have never tried it. I heard this years ago in regards to my Aspie but, I’m certain, they are used for many other therapeutic purposes, such as PTSD. I have to watch that video. <3

  19. […] Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch […]

  20. A great analogy Charli. I think that often we do gallop trying to be here, there and everywhere and all we succeed in doing is as Norah put it “running around like a chook with its head cut off. Fences can be good boundaries although at times they are also things which should be jumped so that we can take risks in the world outside the boundaries that constrain us. It really is a matter of working out where you want to be and from experience the grass isn’t greener in the next paddock unless you change your headspace so that you enjoy the green in the paddock you are in before leaving it.
    Your flash shows a negative Sarah convinced that Cobb’s scheme is not going to succeed. Sounds like she intends to gallop some ‘Cobb webs’ from her head before she goes back to work.
    Mine this week

    • Charli Mills says:

      Good point about needing to be in the right headspace to enjoy the green on either side. Hard to do that when you run around without a head! 😀 At first, I think Sarah felt like she was Cobb’s business partner, keeping his books and giving council. But as he branched out and partnered up with other men, she felt left behind. I’m using her perspective to look at the Pony Express venture differently than how most westerns view it. I think she wanted to be part of the excitement, but felt shut off which gave her a more skeptical gaze. Ha! yes, Sarah has lots of Cobb-webs to clear and the poor soul– it took her 70 years to do so.

  21. […] Charli has given us this, this […]

  22. paulamoyer says:

    Great flash as ever, Charli! Here’s mine; will comment later:

    Dogs Gallop, Too

    By Paula Moyer

    When Jean and Sam got a Labrador Retriever, they marveled at Ella’s gallop. How she loved retrieving that ball!

    Eventually, Jean learned when Ella was done. As a two-year-old, her eager hind-legs-then-forelegs kawhoomp continued for 20 or 40 throws, depending on the weather – the cooler, the better. Then Ella shifted to a polite trot, as if she were indulging her owner. If Jean threw any more balls after that, Ella would ignore them.

    Ella would turn nine in June, and galloped for 10 balls, at the most.

    But the kawhoomps were still graceful, still sprang from a full heart.

  23. […] Mills’ Carrot Ranch February 24th Flash Fiction Challenge was to write a story in 99 words (no more, no less) about galloping. Here is my […]

  24. roweeee says:

    Hello once again, Charli.
    Enjoyed your flash. These days, even getting onto an ordinary horse would be a hurdle. I used to ride as a kid though but nothing too challenging.
    I’m really enjoying these prompts and am quite amazed at how much I can express in so few words. Dorothy Parker might have said: “Brevity is the soul of lingerie” but I’m usually a ot more long winded. I think my husband thinks there’s hope now. I might start getting to the point.
    Different type of horse in my flash. Do you remember galloping in Romper Room back in the day?
    Here’s my take: The Galloping Little Man:
    xx Rowena

    • Charli Mills says:

      I can close my eyes and feel the movement of a horse, hear the creak of saddle leather, smell that horse-smell, but I’m out to pasture these days, too. I’m glad you are finding the brevity benefit! As a long writer, it’s a good tool for me, as well. Ha! Well, I’m sure your husband will like the results of you taking on the “soul of lingerie”! And yes, I do!

      • roweeee says:

        Wow! I love what you wrote: I can close my eyes and feel the movement of a horse, hear the creak of saddle leather, smell that horse-smell…so evocative.
        Isn’t the power of imagination a wonderful thing?!! xx Rowena

      • Charli Mills says:

        Yes, it is a powerful thing, our imaginations!

  25. Horse-gazing words of wisdom! I loved how you tied in this ranch and writing metaphorically with very sound horse sense. The video clip was outstanding and encouraging. Great post! I’m contributing this week. Here it is:

  26. ruchira says:

    Gallop is such a beautiful word yet can take it to a whole new dimension. Loved how you unfolded it 🙂

    My take:

  27. A. E. Robson says:

    Daydreams a.k.a the interlude to sanity when galloping through life is the current option.

    Deadline Daydreams
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Get it done! Get it done! The deadline looms with the end of the day. The pressure is on with every tick of the clock.

    No warning, no preamble and no help. Demands that take the mind to a dimension of near explosion. For what? Someone else will look good. Get the accolades.

    Screw it! Life is too damn short to always make others shine. Time to bask in your own glow. Walk out the door. Do what you want. Your forever dream beckons.

    The what if daydreams propel you through the ‘must get it done’ vortex.

    Deadline accomplished.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The way this line flows feel like the deadline pace: “No warning, no preamble and no help.” I like that thought about daydreams being a catalyst to getting it done — getting to the forever dream!

  28. […] that four verses, four senses, would just about reach the target of Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about galloping. With no other ideas galloping into view, how could I resist giving it a […]

  29. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I haven’t mustered up a galloping horse story in response to the challenge this week. All I found was an empty paddock. The horses must have escaped through that hole in the fence! Maybe next time. 🙂

  30. Norah says:

    PS I did enjoy thinking about it though! It took me on a fun ride! 🙂

  31. TanGental says: and so it’s my personality that needs corralling; wasn’t it ever thus?

  32. Sherri says:

    ‘Know where it is best for you to be’. Never a truer word spoken. Oh Charli, this post takes me right back to those days when I used to ride and you have reminded me of that glorious feeling on a full gallop. I have never felt so free as I did at those rare times. The wind flying in my hair, the speed, not caring about anything except the symbiotic motion between horse and rider and the smell of the leather and the breath of the horse and the power of that utter and complete freedom. Sometimes it’s good to let rip and break through those fences, but like that beautiful and smart gelding, it is always good to return to where we know we truly do belong. I find taking the writing process slowly the most frustrating of all. I want to zoom through it and get the book done, but I have to tell myself each day I manage to write even just one paragraph is a good one. Better that not writing one at all. I feel like your Sarah sometimes, wanting to get on one of those horses and gallop it out of my system! Wonderful post, great flash. Sarah comes to life with every sentence you write. I can understand how you feel about your opening scene and the challenge you face in writing it the way you need to. I feel this way about a lot of scenes in my memoir, hence the rewrites. Reining it all in, getting our horse to obey when we need it to, isn’t always easy. A good gallop in the pasture is great, but it’s even better when we discover that actually, those fences are there for a reason! This is great advice. We do what we can, and we play too. That’s important 🙂 <3
    Here's my flash…speaking of galloping here there and everywhere, it's been one of those days, so I didn't manage a flash post (working on it), but wanted to get my flash here in time! Thanks again Charli for another great prompt.

    Horse Play

    All afternoon it took, setting up the jumps with anything she could find for her horse arena.

    Pawing at the ground with her booted feet, tossing her mane of long hair behind her, she snorted then neighed, ready for action.


    Trotting slowly, she built up to a canter and then she jumped, sending pieces of wood, plastic and bricks flying across the grass.

    Jumping wasn’t for her, she decided.

    It was in the gallop that she truly became the horse she wanted to be and she ran for it, ignoring her mother’s cries to come in for dinner.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sherri, I think we both need horses! Do you ever dream of riding. I have horse dreams every now and again and wish I could stay in that state of dreaming, it feels so real. I know what you mean about the slow progress, but progress we do. I think I get to know my characters betters and I like the way it’s shaping up, but it does seem like it takes forever. I love your flash! It reminded me of second grade when Mariah and I used to play horses on the playground. It was only the two of us who did that — I think the other kids thought us a bit crazy, tossing our mane-braids and trotting around. 🙂

      • Sherri says:

        Yes, I’m beginning to think so too Charli! I used to dream of riding, a lot actually, thinking about it, but not for many years. Maybe I will again after this! I dream about running a fair bit, and I have that same sense of freedom when I do, it feeling so real at the time and I feel disappointed when I wake up that it was just a dream! Progress is good even when slow (as you so often remind me, and thank you for that!) and I’m so glad you’re happy with the way your characters are taking shape. That’s great to hear! Ahh…glad you enjoyed the flash, thank you! I would have joined in with you and Mariah, it was one of my favourite things to do at that age! I can just picture you with your beautiful, red mane-braids flying out behind you as you trotted around…wonderful! 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills says:

        I once tried running on my treadmill to see if I could…I’ll stick to dreams! 🙂 We could run around together in dreamland.

  33. Here you go Charli. Tried to have some fun with this one.

  34. […] spotted a challenge on Charli Mills site press  Here to […]

  35. ellenbest24 says:

    Hi Charlie, I came upon your challenge this morning and I know I am late, but once I found it I just wanted to give it a go. So here is a link to my first effort all be it far to late.
    thank you.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m always delighted when the prompt lives beyond its expiration date! You are always welcome to respond! The date is for the compilation. Thanks for sharing!

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