Weekly Prompts Resume November 2

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.

September 29, 2017

The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins next week! When I was old enough to know the rodeo season, I’d start to get excited by the flurry of activity. Working buckaroos had to get their chores done, their best western shirts pressed, and their show tack ready.

I learned young how to soap a saddle. The ones in our tack room were seventy-five to a hundred years old, and yet their age only made them all the more beautiful. They were stamped by famous saddlers in the San Fransisco Bay area. I used to marvel at the different artistry as I rubbed in the soap, going in small circles with an old but clean cloth  — basket-weaves, florals and Spanish embellishments told the story of our heritage passed down from the vaqueros of the Californios.

All the ranch-hands, owners and countless children in between gathered to show their skills. A ranch owner might take pride in his fine stock. A ranch hand savored the competitive opportunity to show his who was boss on the back of a bull or bronco. A daughter wanted to show she could throw a rope and race a horse as hard as any brother or buckaroo.

I’ve always liked the word buckaroo. It’s genderless unlike cowboy or cowgirl. It’s also specific to a region and its heritage. Before Sutter found gold in his Californ-i-a mill causing the ’49er stampede, the Californios of Spain (and then Mexico) operated huge land grant ranchos, raising beef, saddle horses and vineyards. Most ranchos settled near the missions. I was born near Mission San Jaun Batista where my father’s family had run cattle since 1852. My mother’s family diversified, running turkeys and growing hay and apricots. I was born a buckaroo.

This meant I was indoctrinated into the San Benito Rodeo and Saddle Show early. It’s still held annually at Bolado Park near my hometown of Tres Pinos. Until I was seven, I lived on my mother’s family’s turkey ranch. Today it’s a golf course, the vision of my Papa Sonny who was as big and boisterous as our ancestor Cobb McCanles. I spent most my early life on the back of a horse at the Law Ranch, now called the Paicines Ranch after its original rancho name. One grandfather was its foreman and the other would later buy it and fail to develop it into another golf course.

I doubt either grandfather would make me a welcome guest there today, but I knew those hills, valleys and vineyards well. My first horse, Acorn, went blind and thereafter ran with the cattle herd. When I think of the Law Ranch, I think of my horse walking in circles to find his way through the vast green valley with the herd, his black main and tail long and tangled like a mustang’s and his dark red coat dusty.

Another horse came to me from that ranch, my best friend Captain Omega. Co was also dark red with black mane and tail. He bucked me off the first time I rode him. I got back in the saddle and we settled that argument. Before my bay horses, I rode the red sorrels my family favored. Often my grandfather waited at the stockyards until some fine horse-owner decided to dump an expensive horse with phenomenal breeding but bad habits worthy of dog food. My grandfather would pay the cheap stockyard prices, train up the horse and show off its breeding and skills at the Rodeo.

It was on the back of one of these sorrels I won my first trophy. It was called Best Girl’s Outfit. It meant I had to have the gleaming tack, thus why I  learned early to soap a saddle. We made all our own reins, and I can still remember how to braid rawhide the way vaqueros did it for hundreds of years, but I can’t remember the button patterns. What we lacked in silver, we made up for in fancy buttons and horse hair weaves. To win the trophy I had to sit in the saddle straight, walk my horse to the end of the arena, turn him around and run him back. I wore a chocolate colored Stetson, turquoise and pink frilly western shirt, jeans, roughed boots and white gloves. I was three.

The Rodeo has me waxing nostalgic for a heritage I can’t extract from my blood no matter how far from it all I am. I’m sure my three-year-old self could out ride me today! But I can definitely out write my three-year-old self. If you want a buckaroo soundtrack for the upcoming Flash Fiction Rodeo, 2017 Carrot Ranch FlashFiction Rodeo Playlist. Songs 24, 25 and 26 are heritage specific. Song 20, True Grit, is my anthem minus the need to “find a man with true grit.” More like this little girl found her own grit within. I’d change that line to “when you find writers with true grit.”

That’s you, that’s me. Writers with true grit. You remember that as you prepare for the Rodeo. It’s about having the courage to push into your writing, to do something that makes you afraid, to be bold. Write into that.

With the Flash Fiction Rodeo (check out the details on the Events Page) the weekly challenges will wait until November 2 to resume. For those of you not interested in a contest and liking the challenge of a prompt, you can still follow along. Instead of entering the contest, you can submit a response that won’t be judged for top prize. If you do, I’ll ask if that’s what you intended because entries are not in the comments or on your own blog. You’ll need to use the form or the platform (Twitter) outlined in the contest. There will be one on Tuesday, and one on Thursday each week Oct. 5-31.

Be sure to check in Oct. 3 for Rodeo Fest. You’ll get a chance to hear me reading from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1 and can enter a random drawing for books, chocolate or rocks by leaving a comment on the Oct. 3 post before 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm.

I have some soaping to do, and the last two compilations will post before the Rodeo begins. I hope you are as excited as this buckaroo is!

You May Also Like…


  1. Norah

    So lovely to hear about the mini buckaroo that grew into the buckaroo with grit that is you. This rodeo is very exciting and so far as I’m concerned, you’ve already won the trophy for putting it all together. Congratulations and thank you.

    • Charli Mills

      Well, there’ll be lots of trophies handed out to leaders, judges and participants by the time it concludes! Thank you for being a part of it all.

      • Norah

        We’re excited!

  2. julespaige

    Excited and full of nerves. I like that you can participate without having to actually enter the contest. That’s a nice choice to have.

    Thanks to you Charli and all the Buckaroos helping to make this Rodeo happen.

    • Charli Mills

      I thought that would be a good choice so all of our regular writers can continue with challenges. Contests can make us all a bundle of nerves!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “I got back in the saddle and we settled that argument.” Now, ain’t that the tale of the lead buckaroo in one 11 word sentence. May you long sit the saddle, may the arguments be dust behind you.

    I am very excited, but I doubt as excited as you, Boss.
    This rodeo anthology stuff is pretty dang cool, and more than sawdust is settling. This is a celebration.
    Congratulations Charli Mills. I am dang excited to be here for all this.

    • Charli Mills

      To knock it down to 9 words (as in the TUFF challenge): “Got back in the saddle and settled that argument.” That horse learned I’m willing to take a deeper seat and ride out the kinks, and I learned he hated getting his hooves wet. We compromised, I avoided wet pastures and jumped streams, and he settled in and worked when we had to do river crossing. Good life lesson — don’t back down, but also try to see the other perspective.

      Thank you for sharing the celebratory excitement! Gosh-darned happy to have you here and roped in to leading!

  4. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Charli I may be excited but it was your vision and your push that moved the ranch to where it is today – holding its first rodeo. I doff my akubra to you and thank you for all the hard work. Thank you too to everyone that helped you with the hard yards for the anthology. They did a stirling job – having seen a proof I can’t wait to purchase my copies. Let the party begin (just hope I get the time difference right.)

    • Charli Mills

      This wouldn’t happen without the willingness, support and talent of you and all the rest who ride and write at the Ranch! We all deserve to celebrate and have fun throughout the Rodeo and and beyond. You’ll be riding ahead on the timeline, your evening is my morning. But we will all meet up on the trail! Thank you for all your help and contributions!

  5. robbiesinspiration

    This is such a great idea, Charli, and I am sure it is going to be a lot of work for you. I really take my hat off to you for this amazing contribution to the literary community.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s going to be fun and if it makes literary art feel more accessible, then mission accomplished! Thank you for being a part of the community!

  6. Lisa @ The Meaning of Me

    I like the option of non-entry participation. Keeps everyone involved. Another great thing about being part of the gang here.

    • Charli Mills

      I thought it would be a good options, keeping with those who enjoy the challenges. Thank you for being a part of the gang!


  1. A break in the Flash Fiction routine: #Flash4Storms #WATWB #FFRODEO | Norah Colvin - […] usual weekly Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt is on hold during the month of October, replaced by the Flash…

Discover more from Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading