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March 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

March 23Walking across the Higgins Street bridge, I see a gathering of human crows in hooded dry-suits lined up along a small strip of rocks and willows.  In Missoula, Montana where the Clark Fork River runs through it, the group looks like Navy Seals on a mission. These are not soldiers, but adventurers with surf boards in hand.

Yes, they surf in Montana.

Landlocked by other western states, it matters not that Montana has no ocean. The Clark Fork pounds over rocks beneath the Higgins Street bridge and a perfect surf of sorts forms at Brennan’s Wave. Conveniently located near a park, below a bridge and just blocks from the University of Montana, this phenomenon attracts the adventurous.

My adventure is to watch from the bridge above.

I’ve had enough adrenaline and drama in my life to feel satisfied to watch others dip into killer waves. Adventure doesn’t always mean having to do the deed oneself. I don’t have to squeeze into a dry-suit, buy a board and a personal flotation device, or listen to the horror stories of others who forgot to wear a helmet. I don’t have to plunge into cold mountain water, experience roiling rapids over my head or wonder how long I can hold my breath. Being witness is an adventure of its own.

This thought has been with me long enough it feels like wisdom. I’ll let others scale the rock cliffs or dangle in acrobatic silks from iron bridges. I’m a witness to adventure. I snap photos and soak up sunshine from my perch. Has this been the way of others before me?

When I was younger and unafraid to tumble off the back of a gelded beast 17 hands tall, I galloped. I was, and remain, terrified of water, yet I river-rafted, sucking in air to my rhythmic hyperventilation until I could control my breathing and not show my fear. I’ve jumped sand dunes on a three-wheeler, plunged skis over a cornice, and gave birth at home in defiance of doctors. Younger Me had an edge of cowboys & Frank Sinatra singing, I Did It My Way.

More Mature Me savors mountain bluebirds on a fence wire, reads books alongside rivers and waves at the surfers. I don’t need to explain my soul or my retirement from adventure to anyone. I witness the adventure of others. It still counts.

In history, I think it’s overlooked that women are as adventurous as men. Women tend to settle into maturity quicker because of maternal instincts, perhaps. Roles dictated by generations of culture and society create a framework that’s difficult to break. Or is it? What if women have always had the capacity to experience extreme sports or elite adventures, but that capacity is hidden within the interior of the imagination?

I think of Sarah Shull, Mary McCanles and Nancy Jane Holmes as I stand on the Higgins Street bridge and watch surfer after surfer take on Brennan’s Wave. Did they find satisfaction in witnessing, as I do? Did they feel the thrill of the Pony Express ride when horse and rider pounded hooves across the hard-packed prairie sod of summer? Could they imagine themselves as part of the great western frontier adventure without having to bare-arm wrestle other men or saddle a snorting bronc?

It’s an omission of the woman’s experience to count her present in the Wild West simply as mother, daughter, wife or whore. Women tend to play supporting roles to every lead man. Thus it was a challenge to take on the story of two swarthy frontiersmen and their highly debated gun battle through the filter of the three women who knew them. It sounds a bit like adding lace to iron. But that’s unfair. Women have capacity for adventure, too. Even if they stand as witness. They watched, engaged and could demonstrate prowess, too

Sarah Shull became a memory box for an important incident; Mary McCanles faced down Pawnee attacks as a mother and widow; and Nancy Jane, well what Nancy Jane did will surprise everyone. These women knew adventure. What adventure calls to you? Has it shifted over time and ability?

March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous!

Respond by March 29, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Showdown by Charli Mills

Hickok grabbed across his hips and spun each revolver like a sideshow performer. He grinned at Sarah and Nancy Jane, both gathering lunch from the garden. “I’ve returned from my adventure,” he announced.

Nancy Jane stood up, brushed dirt off her faded calico skirt and grabbed the garden hoe, twirling it around her body in a similar manner. She rested the implement across her shoulders. Sarah, still kneeling by the peas, laughed.

Hickok frowned. “Well, it doesn’t shoot,” he said.

Nancy Jane swung it off her shoulders and sliced a sunflower stalk in half. “Don’t need to,” she replied.



  1. Norah says:

    I’d be with you looking at the fun from the bridge, Charli. I have always declined the offer of a roller coaster ride. I say life is exciting enough, why would I want to do that? Fear is part of it but I really have no interest and don’t feel I am missing anything by not joining the scream party.
    I think simply by being there, alongside their men, those women were adventurous. They were pioneers, the first in those parts, going where no woman had gone before. I’m sure none of them were born to be pioneers. It wouldn’t have been an ambition, but they did remarkably well, paving the way for others to follow. As do you with your adventurous spirit, investigating new angles, conducting deeper research and painting the west in colours from a woman’s view. Yes indeed, that is adventure enough.
    I can’t wait to find out more about Nancy Jane. I love the way you have portrayed her here: strong, quick witted and quick thinking, and independent with a sense of humour.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you for expanding on the idea of what it is to be adventurous, and recognizing the pioneering spirit of the women who went forth. Some watch, some do and some turn away so I suppose we all respond to adventure differently. When I research, I often see women described by their roles, yet women each had individual personalities. I try to find those clues, often masked in generalizations. I’m glad you caught Nancy Jane’s attributes!

      • Norah says:

        That’s an interesting observation – women are described by their roles rather than their personalities. Congratulations on digging further to find the real essence of what it meant to be a woman in those times. Many, and I’m only thinking of their portrayal in movies here, seemed to be defined only by their relationship (and importance) to men.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Men are described more by what they did or achieved. So naturally, we want to read stories about men because they “did” things in the wild west. Crazy when you think about it, but it gives me lots to uncover. 🙂

      • Is that much different than our treatment of women today Norah. I’m thinking of some of the comments made about/to our ex pm (not that I want to get into any political debate).

      • Charli Mills says:

        I think women continue to fight standards, roles and stigmas, but I also recognize that many men have stepped up to acknowledge the value and contributions of women and co-create new roles.

  2. Annecdotist says:

    Ha, I’m not even watching from the safety of the bridge but walking rapidly away to find somewhere quieter! Writing is enough of an adventure for me – and I identify with wielding the hoe in your brilliant flash, although some flowers are too precious to chop the heads off!

    • Annecdotist says:

      Ah, some flowers and sunflowers – could apply to both!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Aha, and that gives me validation that “adventure” can be a mindset. I actually let my flash sit last night and I came back to it trying to come up with something other than a sunflower (some flower or any flower) but I think it catches Nancy Jane’s disregard for life, too. That’s often a trait of gunslingers…or. hoeslingers. 🙂

  3. I admire both raging rivers and galloping horses from afar. Adventurous for me is walking round this neighbourhood after eight in the evening.

  4. […] For: March 23: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  5. denmaniacs4 says:

    The Willing

    We descended the ridge sheltering the dark, reckless growth that was Union City.

    The Rattler River, a trickling, ox-bowed creek, wove innocently through the grass prairie south of town.

    We stopped to water the horses at the first ford.

    “My advice, Aggie, is that you conduct your business in Union City with dispatch. And then make haste.”

    “I don’t aim to linger, Mr. Dodds. Nor do I intend to rush. Shopping for my modest needs is a rare undertaking for me. I intend to savour the experience.”

    “Then, you should probably avoid public spaces. Death will be a roving.”


    • Charli Mills says:

      The tension is building! I like Aggie’s no-nonsense attitude. She’s not jumping into the fray, but neither is she going to be pushed around by what might happen. Your opening descriptions have me right there in the scene.

  6. Hell, Nora and Charli, when it comes to the pioneer days, going through childbirth was probably enough of an adventure for the womenfolk. 🙂

    And as for Nancy Jane’s response in your Flash Fiction Challenge: “Don’t need to,” I love it!

    • Charli Mills says:

      That definitely was an adventure! I read a true story about a woman who had no other women around when she went into labor (and her husband was off hunting) so she tied the toddler to the fence outside (like on a lead rope) so as to not lose the child while she gave birth on her own. If that’s not an adventurous spirit…! Thanks, glad you liked that line. 🙂

  7. Nobody Suspected word count: 99
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Nobody suspected Inga, with her sunrise hair neat beneath a nursing hat and her crisp. She marched with authority in her starched uniform and pointed to two beds. “Take these two to the ambulance out the back.” The orderlies did as instructed. Inga referred to her papers. “One more, in the end room.”
    After strapping the gurneys, Inga slipped an envelope to the driver. He nodded and muttered, “Same address?” She nodded and climbed in with the patients. On the journey to the convent, she removed their Stars of David. When the children’s absence was discovered, nobody suspected Inga.

  8. March 23 flash fiction challenge (adventure)

    teleportation_device by Elliott T. Lyngreen

    After innumerous excavations and brushes with murder and endless
    collisions plunging him into the inevitable infinite abyss only to indescribably scramble out thrashing for the pillows;.. it is connected. The cog in a hub and spoke configuration. All Reese has to do is turn the hex-toothed rock key and he will be able to do something impossible, explore the unknown, get answers from unanswerable questions so enormous in the fabric of the universe; pressed into the little electric tube through time, planets, and dimensional secret chambers. With both hands, cranks… yet freezes, forgets the natural way it should turn.

    thanks for raging and God Bless

    • Charli Mills says:

      So magnificent the impact of this adventure if only he can remember which way it turns. This describes me with a wrench every time. Great build up to the humorous yet cosmic dilemma.

    • julespaige says:

      I always did like Science Fiction.
      Even if or especially if there are some twists!

  9. Happy Easter to all who celebrate! Here’s my dare!

  10. Ed and Edna’s latest adventure is clearly a bridge too far (at least for Ed):

    • Pat Cummings says:

      I feel for Ed, but good for Edna for claiming her rush!

    • Norah says:

      It’s a rush I can do without!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, wow, I had no idea about the swinging bridge tourist attraction at Grandfather Mountain. But I know that mountain! It’s in all the McCanles research from North Carolina and Cobb’s father even wrote a poem about it in the 1840s. Your flash gave me a secondary adventure! 🙂

  11. Pat Cummings says:

    Sometimes an adventure is even more exciting in retrospect. Mine this week is a two-fer, one from my WIP, and the flash Resting on Her Laurels at

    • Charli Mills says:

      That’s a great flash and excerpt from Ken’s memoir. Both show that some adventures are thrust upon us and we take the risk that could end disastrously.

  12. I love this whole post. I used to be adventurous too but now I might be hanging out with you on the bridge. That flash is absolutely brilliant. 😍

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

  14. Pete says:

    Summer Vacation

    In the attic with the clothes and encyclopedias, Thomas lay curled in the nook of a dormer window. Somewhere, faraway in his mind, he heard his mother’s car, followed by the thunk of the door.

    Thomas was travelling, to where heat waves rolled over the Sahara. He staggered into Arctic winds. His eyes widened when a spear found the soft spot of a bison herd in the plains.


    Thomas shut the book at the sound of his grandmother’s voice. He sighed, then started downstairs, where he’d hear all about getting outside and making friends.

    “Until next time, Adventure.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Those are the greatest adventures to have! Such a realistic grounding of the scene in Grandmother’s attic, too.

    • That is great Pete. I think we have all got our adventure from books at one time or another. I saw it written the other day something that a person who doesn’t read as one life where the person who does has many. I think that is very true. With Charli’s prompt I have not been able to get Famous Five and Secret Seven out of my head.

  15. A. E. Robson says:

    Some call it an adventure. Some call it gutsy. Some call it enjoying life. However you look at it, doesn’t really matter. It’s the ‘try’ that counts.

    Dad’s Girl
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “Girls don’t do that!” 

    How was she going to get Dad to sign the consent form when Mom had refused?

    Smiling inside but acting tough, he handed her the signed paper. “Don’t do something foolish and get yourself hurt on this little adventure of yours. I don’t want to have to explain this to your Mother.” 

    Adrenaline pulsing through her veins, she nodded her head. The gate swung open. The steer bucked and twisted across the arena. The eight-second buzzer sounded. She’d made the ride. 

    From behind the chutes she saw her Dad give her a thumbs up.

  16. […] Most of you enter weekly writing challenges, like my writespiration, or Esther’s or Charli’s. So there’s actually no […]

  17. susanzutautas says:

    I’ve been so busy this week I’ve barely had time to think but I did manage to get something written for this weeks challenge. It’s not very creative but here it is anyways. I’ll be back to read everyone’s stories as soon as I get time to.

    Maggie and Bruce’s Big Adventure

    The front door was ajar and the two dogs dashed out to go for a run around the neighborhood. Not too sure about where to go they decided to take the path where their humans walked them.

    Along the way they chased a few squirrels, barked at a cat, and ended up going for a van ride with a really nice man. Little did they know, he was taking them to doggie jail.

    Quite comfortable but missing their humans, they weren’t sure what to do.
    The next day they happily saw their master who’d come to bail them out.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Susan, I’m so glad you took time to be creative this week! And happy to see a Maggie & Bruce Adventure. I found that writing Bubbie stories helped me cope with his loss, then it turned into a seed that became a novel! We never know where healing and creativity will lead. <3

    • That was a great adventure and one that could have been disastrous if their owner hadn’t found them.

  18. roweeee says:

    Hi Charli,
    Thanks for another great prompt. I’m quickly cutting and posting in my links and will head back and read the lot. On a quick scan through, however, I did see that my Flash about the rollercoaster ride will fit in well.
    AS I have been wanting to write a more upbeat flash for a few weeks, I decided to write a second flash about adventure on the dodge em cars. They’re so much fun!
    Both are set at the Royal Sydney Easter Show.
    Hope you’ve had a Happy & Blessed Easter! xx Rowena

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for submitting, two! And I’m so glad you are having fun with this. My apologies for not being present here. It was a rough day-after-Easter.

  19. roweeee says:

    Hi Charli,
    Back again after reading through your flash and comments again. I loved that manoevre with the garden hoe. She should have a chat to Crocodile Dundee: “You call that a knife?”
    While I don’t think we have to take up every adventure that comes our way, I still think we need to be a part of it sometimes. That said, my idea of adventure has a very wide scope.
    I have given some thought on how you define a dancer recently, which is quite along these lines. Can you still be a dancer even if you can’t physically dance? Is it enough to be able to dance in your head? Observe and play the dances of others over and over in your head, almost claiming them as your own? I think so. That said, I’m not about to start bragging.
    While I was at the Easter Show yesterday I thought of you as I saw the horses. We saw the Mounted Police march with a brass band. They even marched to the theme song of Mr Ed. Loved it.
    Take care xx Rowena

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, Rowena, yes! You CAN be a dancer in your head. I know exactly what you mean, what you feel. My daughter is a dancer on stage and I love to watch her dance, yet I grew up “pretending” to dance. I know what it is to dance and I feel it when I watch, ride a horse, or sit along a river. It’s why I write — to choreograph all that I can imagine. I would have been in horse-heaven, watching the mounted police march with a brass band. Thank you for that image!

      • roweeee says:

        How exciting that your daughter is a professional dancer? What style of dancing does she do? My daughter is doing jazz, ballet and modern. She’s been having a few health problems so she’s missed a fair bit of dancing this year but hoping to get her back on track. She really does love it. Take care xx Ro

  20. […] have inspired my response to the flash fiction challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. I hope you enjoy […]

  21. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’m into Adventures into Learning. Thanks for the challenge.

  22. […] of what looks like lethal declines. Does this mean I am not adventurous? This is the question Charli has asked us to ponder in our flash fiction this week where she […]

  23. One man’s life is another man’s adventure. Loved your flash. It put me in mind of the machete wielding children in Vanuatu. Like them, I think Nancy Jane can look after herself and Sarah looking on just enjoying the moment.
    Mine this week

    • Charli Mills says:

      I hadn’t thought of it that way, yet it rings so true! Yes, Nancy Jane is capable in uncomfortable ways which is why I believed she was ignored by historians.

  24. […] behind this, go and check out the end of my One Month Anniversary post.) This prompt (link back here) was all about adventure. I felt like writing a lighter story today…perhaps to compensate for […]

  25. imagenn793 says:

    I think I managed to just squeeze my story in before the deadline. Please check it out 🙂

  26. […] March 23: Flash Fiction Challenge March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous! […]

  27. julespaige says:

    Hanging Up My Spurs…

    I used to go lots of places on my own. Now I enjoy the
    company of my guy. We’ve graduated to being able to take
    vacations by and for ourselves. It was interesting to do
    The touristy stuff in two major cities. San Francisco and
    New York. Quite frankly though I’m getting a bit anxious
    of crowds in spaces where the sky is limited by so many

    And It’s because I’ve had a good run in the suburbs with a
    nice slice of sky. While not the open plains of prairie –
    my new adopted home town is comfortable.


    Close to the wire… I wasn’t to sure where to go with this one.

    See the post here:
    Hanging Up My Spurs…

  28. ellenbest24 says:

    Hi Charli, i am probably too late with this with Easter and visits grandchildrens kisses, but adventure it is. I’ll be back with alink.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Given that the Easter Bunny kidnapped me you are not late at all (not really, but sounds better than I had a bad week). Grandchildren kisses sound marvelous! I found your link.

      • ellenbest24 says:

        I am sorry you didn’t have a good week, I had a feeling something was wrong and didn’t know where I could leave a note of concearn… maybe I am a psychic scribbler… *thinks* no Just bonkers after all.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Scribblers tend to be intuitive! Getting back on my feet. Thank you!

  29. […] Mills continues to prompt us […]

  30. […] I was seduced by Charli at the carrot ranch whos prompt was adventure, press Here to swoop across and join in or just have a […]

  31. ellenbest24 says:

    It is more a spot of recall than flash, another road called today so I gave it a bash. I maybe pushing it, my luck that is…

  32. Sherri says:

    Hi all! I miss you! Oh Charli, I would be right with you on that bridge! Definitely not one to jump, under any circumstances, as you will see from my flash, which is a true story, names and everything 🙂 LOVE your flash…woo hoo, what a woman that Nancy Jane. I’m hooked, I want to know more about her! I’ll be back to read the others here, but just had to drop by while I catch my breath and attempt to get back on track. Nothing like a little adventure along the way 🙂 <3

    Last Jump

    “C’mon Sherri, you can do it!” called my brother Paul.

    I looked down from the top of the haystack at the pile of soft hay we had made for our landing and gulped.

    Paul had jumped several times, but still I froze.

    Almost dark, this was my last chance to prove I wasn’t a sissy. I took one step back and felt something squishy beneath my foot. The biggest rat I had ever seen squealed, I screamed and jumped clean off the haystack, running all the way home.

    “See, I knew you could do it!” laughed Paul behind me.

  33. Here you go Charli. Sort of twisted this just a bit.

  34. […] Carrot Ranch Communications March 23 Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous! […]

  35. Deborah Lee says:

    I’m more of an observer-adventurer these days myself, but I also think if it gets your heart going – it’s adventure.

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