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December 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Plaiting rawhide strands into romal reins is not all that difficult, and yet it is an uncommon skill. Beyond learning the 12 and 16-strand plaits, a rawhide braider spends a lifetime crafting a signature look. Art. It’s like writing, of course (you saw that coming, didn’t you?).

Writers strip ideas into strands and plait them into stories. Just like rein construction, the story structure might be common — take a 99 word format. It implies that all the stories will be the same, just as one might think all 12-strand romal reins are the same.

But we know they aren’t.

Creativity bends beyond the corners each of us alone can imagine. We see it every week with the responses to the flash fiction challenge. Even if stories follow a similar thread, other stories will add a new thread or a single story can act as a departure point. Each one is different in delivery, vibrancy, and use of craft elements, and yet all are 99 words.

I once knew how to braid romal reins. I trained horses with bosals my family made and I know the buckaroo knot demonstrated in the first few minutes:

Like many of us old enough to have moved beyond our roots, or experienced travel, migration or vagabond wandering, we recognize that differences do exist between hometowns, regions, and cultures. To me, these differences create a world of wonder. Still, we can recognize the traits typical to a place or group of people. And this plays into the writer’s adage — “write what you know.”

If I were to set a story in New Zealand, I would focus on what I know. I don’t know New Zealand terrain or people, so I’d be hard-pressed to write a story that could only take place there among those who call the country home. Instead, I’d write a story that could take place anywhere (a universal tale) and research some convincing details to set the illusion of the place.

It’s similar to writing historical fiction. I could spend a lifetime studying an era and still not get it right. As a writer of historical fiction, I write the universal tale first. I might start with historical facts, but I let the story unfold, then go back and color with historical detail. It’s a challenging craft to get the braid plaited from the present to the past and back again. It’s a challenge I relish. I also focus on places where I’ve experienced a deep connection.

When you’ve experienced a place or culture, a funny little phrase pops into mind, “Only in…” If you are scratching your head as to why I’d share a six-minute video with you about bosals and buckaroo knots, it’s because I wondered if buckaroo culture (particularly rein braiding) had accessed social media. When I saw  Guitron’s website I felt a tad giddy because my brain ignited with recognition of something culturally familiar that I hadn’t encountered in decades.

Only in buckaroo country would anyone deftly tie such a knot (or know why). Why? Because when that horse you are training decides to leap through a window in the sky and pulverize your body into corral dust, your knot won’t slip or bind up so tight you have to cut it away.

What got me thinking of “only in” was a post my middle daughter shared on Facebook. She’s my world traveler and for the moment is home in western Montana. Working in hospitality she knows all the restaurant and bar owners. So when three miscreants broke into a place late one night, she posted the story and the security footage to help the owners with identification. Social media acts like a small town — someone is going to recognize you!

How is the story unique to a region? Well, it’s in the details. The story begins with an Only in Montana hook: Two cowboys and a woman broke into a bar after closing. How do we know they were cowboys? Well, they had on cowboy hats like every other cowboy in the region wears. And they had a woman with them identified by her girlie cap with a blonde pony-tail hanging out.

The owners of the bar expressed anger because these three partyers didn’t go home to their ranch; instead, they helped themselves to more booze and beer, taking selfies and having a waffle fight.

I did not make that up: they had a waffle fight.

And here’s where things got weird on social media (only in Montana). Respondents asked questions and made comments in regards to the shame of it all. One question pertained to the selfies — the owner explained that on the security camera they could see the illegal revelers posing with flashes of light. Okay. Then another person brought up the waffles because he’s dismayed that this bar doesn’t make their own.

Grumbling begins. Only in Montana do rural folks care if one of their bars makes fresh waffles or not. Evidently, folks didn’t like hearing there were waffles pre-made. Perhaps the break-in was to expose the bar for its duplicity. Immediately the owner calmed the mob, assuring everyone on social media that their waffles are indeed fresh — the thieves brought their own to the break-in.

So, two drunk cowboys and a female companion break into a bar at 3 a.m., pop the tops of some beer, drink from the whiskey bottles and throw frozen waffles at each other while taking selfies. The town is more upset over the questionable freshness of the bar’s breakfast offering. Who says ranch life is boring out West? Only in Montana.

Here’s my favorite cowboy crooner singing a small piece about a cowboy’s thirst:

I’m thinking they were far into the rye whiskey that night as their antics revealed.

So now it’s your turn. You can think of a place or culture you know well, or you can tell a universal tale (like a break-in) with details that make it specific. The phrase “only in…” is often marked with wry humor like the tone of light-hearted jest.

You’ll often see humorous lists about a place such as my new location. Only in the Keweenaw…

  1. … do people lick rocks.
  2. …are parking lots full of snow machines in winter.
  3. …is a 7-course meal a pasty and a six-pack.

Of course, there are the features indicative of a place, too. Lake Superior, peninsula isolation, moose, wolves differ from North Idaho’s Lake Ponderay, panhandle isolation, moose. Keep in mind your story might be the same, or features might be like elsewhere, but what are the local details?

Think about how you can use this idea to craft a story.

December 14, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go were the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 19, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published December 20). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Only in a Snowstorm (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Rain splattered wet pavement when Danni walked to the truck. She paused, looking back at the airport doors. On impulse, her legs twitched, urging her to run after Ike, catch him at security and… And what? Demand he stays? Beg? Instead, Danni left and drove toward the snowline where misting Spokane rain gave way to North Idaho snow. She gripped the steering wheel and drove slow on the slick corners where snow accumulated. Only in a snowstorm would Danni drive without giving in to her churning emotions. If it weren’t for the conditions, she’d be risking a speeding ticket.



  1. Only At Carrot Ranch

    “What’s up Kid? Looks like yer all tied up.”
    “Jist shush, an’ hep me get untangled.”
    “What’re you doin’?”
    “Tryin’ out some fancy knots.”
    “Not so fancy. Not even knots, Kid. Why are ya tryin’ out these buckaroo skills?”
    “Shorty said-“
    “Did ya follow the thread of Shorty’s prompt, Kid? Pick up yer own lines ta braid yer own story. Shorty’ll git ‘em all wove together after.”
    “Go where the prompt leads?”
    “Yep, but let it lead ya ta a familiar place Kid, a place ya know. Hey, where ya headed?”
    “Cook house, gonna git ta know some bacon.”

    Liked by 11 people

  2. Norah says:

    Love this prompt, Charli. I think you’ve sucked me in! I enjoyed hearing about your knots and ropes and had to check the meaning of quite a few words. What a great education I get when I visit here. I was tickled by the “Only in Keweenaw” list, and like the way you changed it up for Danni’s driving. Hopefully she was safer in the snowstorm than without it. Saying goodbye is never easy, and she seems to be more without Ike than with him.
    I’m wondering when you’ll ever run out of analogies to writing. Somehow, I don’t think you ever will.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Glad to teach you a few words, Norah! I’m always hunting analogies! 🙂 Now, I further got to wondering if I could find figure 8 roping because it’s highly specialized and I think Bolado Park where I used to rodeo is one of the only places that used to offer figure eight as a contest. My father’s father was often a winner of that roping style. So! I found another video and was blown away because it’s about figure eight roping at Bolado and features the vaqueros (forefathers of buckaroos) and ranchers of San Benito. My Scots ancestors rode out of Missouri with a herd of cattle all the way to San Benito in 1851. Cobb’s kin, my line, settled there in 1910, and my mother’s grandmother came to San Benito in 1890 from Hawaii and her mother was from the Azores and her father from Brazil. Talk about diversity! And yet they all assimilated into that older vaquero and Californios culture. Only in San Benito do they still toss a riata in a figure eight:

      Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli, I’m back with my response – Only in Australia – where else? I’ll be back to read and comment as time permits. Thanks for a great prompt, once again. 🙂 PS While I don’t mention education, it is educational. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Reblogged this on ladyleemanila and commented:
    “only in…” challenge 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ritu says:

    Oooh ! I’ll get me thinking cap on!!! Only in a blogger’s life is a writing prompt more important than breakfast ! ;P

    Liked by 5 people

  5. […] For: December 14: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 4 people

  7. […] For Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: “Only in…” […]

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A fantasy story this time, with absolutely no horror elements whatsoever…

    Liked by 2 people

  9. denmaniacs4 says:

    Only in Our Dreams

    The moon tonight is a giant illuminated pumpkin glowing ginger in the sky, hung on the horizon above us, orange and glistening, glorious and great.

    Bundled, braving the dark, the winter chill, we huddle by the burn pile, flames crackling, singeing the air, grey embers sweeping skyward, caught on wayward breezes, some, flitting down the slope of the hill seaward, others disappearing into the woods.

    “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says.

    “It will always be exactly like this,” I answer.

    “But must it be only in our dreams?” she asks.

    “Yes, love,” I confirm. “Only there.”

    Liked by 8 people

  10. […] via December 14: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  11. floatinggold says:

    A first timer here. Not sure if I got this right… The “Only in…” prompt took me in a different direction. No particular place or humor involved. Well, at least I gave it a go.

    “Betty looked in the mirror one last time after washing her hands and before exiting the washroom. As she stepped outside, she reminded herself to adjust her smile, because her life was perfect, after all. Off to hair and makeup she goes. It’s another busy day on set, so she changes her clothes while she walks, absentmindedly almost tripping over her own feet. It looks like they are shooting an ad for lipstick. In the modeling world no one knows about her horrible car accident in which her face got badly burned. Only in the shadows does she cry.”

    Liked by 7 people

  12. I wish I could write a story, maybe funny, but charming too, because I am from a place where rugged people work and play surrounded by beauty.
    I wish, for your sake, that it’s only in this place that people get burned out of their homes over drug deal disputes; only in this place do innocent people get killed on the interstate by zombies speeding north with powder and pills to sell; only in this place are parents losing children, are children losing parents, are people blind to the beauty that surrounds them. I wish this were a story.

    Liked by 4 people

  13. […] Carrot Ranch, December 14, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go were the prompt leads you.  Respond by December 19, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published December 20). Rules are here. All writers are welcome! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  14. A. E. Robson says:

    Have you ever experienced or seen a Chinook a.k.a. Snow Eater? They happen “only in” select parts of the country. Visit our link to see what a Chinook looks like during an early morning sunrise along the Livingstone Range.

    Snow Eater
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    This morning it’s -40 and three hours of chores don’t give a rats’ ass about the weather. There’s talk of it warming up, but it’s December so I don’t hold my breath on that account, just yet. The thermometer hasn’t seen the top side of zero for a few weeks now. Two hours into chores, the wind starts to blow. There’s the telltale blue arch visible in the western sky. The snow eater is coming. By mid-afternoon, the water’s running in the barnyard. It’s not a myth. It happens from time to time, but only in Chinook country.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link: […]

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I found it interesting your discussion of the universal story versus a story of place. We have just read an Australian book where half the people saw the description of place and characters in place as being true to a rural town in Australia. Three of us didn’t. Your own experience plays such a part in this. The story was universal however and I read it as a good detective yarn.
    Mine this week
    Your flash – she still shows strength of character because many probably couldn’t bring themselves into the present even because of the snow. I’m glad it saved Danni from a ticket but potentially it saved her life.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Juliet Nubel says:

    Hi dear riders and writers,
    Talk of Charli’s Scots ancestors took me down another path today. Something of a silly wee story, this one…

    The McWedding Day

    “Gorgeous fabric.”

    Mrs McGregor slid along the polished pew to get a better view down the aisle to the front of the church.

    “You’re absolutely right, Jean. But it’s a wee bit short, don’t you think?”

    “No, but maybe too tight on the hips. Makes it rather lumpy over the bum.”

    The organist struck up the first chords and every head turned towards the beaming bride, entering on her father’s arm.

    An old Irish cousin, one row back, whispered into her neighbour’s ear – “Only in Scotland could you comment on the groom’s kilt as much as the bride’s gown!”

    Liked by 7 people

  18. […] was Charli Mill’s addictive flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch this week. I’ve just ingurgitated my dose and fortunately it has taken me […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Juliet Nubel says:
    For once I have shared on my blog. With an extra little picture. Hope the link works…

    Liked by 6 people

  20. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Entry […]

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Frank Hubeny says:

    I can see how Danni might be speeding if it weren’t for the snow.

    The Genie Wormhole

    Even Robert Roqetscienski was surprised when the wormhole appeared. “It worked?”

    From the smoky mist he heard, “Your wish is my command, Master.”

    “What? Are you some kind of genie?”

    “Well, yes. What were you expecting?”

    “My time machine was generating a wormhole from dark matter singularities.”

    “Sorry. I did bump a wormhole on my way here. Maybe I could still grant you a wish?”

    “What I want is a wormhole.”

    “If I did that, you would not be able to reproduce the results in your journal article.”

    “In what universe does stuff like this happen?”

    “Only in fantasyland.”

    Liked by 8 people

  22. Annecdotist says:

    I’ve got a character tying knots in my WIP, but they’re a lot less sophisticated than yours. Then your buckaroo braiding had me thinking of complex African hairdos. But with a post compiling extracts from fictional Christmases to fit in before the 25th, I imagine I won’t be the only rancher whose “only in” adopts a seasonal theme:
    8 fictional Christmases #amreading

    Liked by 7 people

    • julespaige says:

      With commercialize paramount and growing with exponentially as the population… it is hard to escape such friction with populated areas.

      We chose one year to get away and forgot that others might too. – traffic was a bear. And so where the beaches…

      Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I can see the possibilities on the topic of knots, an interesting quirk to give your character. And hopefully, none are tying you in knots as you write! Yes, the braiding is similar, except one is performed with hair attached. Oddly enough, only a few Christmas themes! But some interesting travels and experiences.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. […] Carrot Ranch Dec 14, Flash Fiction Challenge In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go were the prompt leads you. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  24. julespaige says:

    Charli and Community;

    Been a tad busy and distracted prepping for a house full of companionable
    company. Now the relaxing and cleaning up can begin… and just the write time for being; All Wrapped Up

    All Wrapped Up

    The innocence of the youth…only in a home with children
    can one appreciate the sheer joy of opening gifts – and it
    doesn’t matter what holiday, birthday or celebration. They
    wiggle as they wait knowing that some traditions have to be
    dealt with first. Like all the adults oohing and ahhing and
    catching up since last they met (some six months ago,
    others just last week). Eating and more schmoozing…
    then finally the one of the four (the eldest) who has reached
    the age of reason… reasons… seeking Grama and asks;
    “Is it time yet to open the presents?”


    Be back to soon…

    Liked by 7 people

  25. mrmacrum says:

    Hmm. Apparently the link above is broken. I may not have copied the complete address. Try this – there is an apparently vital “L” missing in the first link.

    Liked by 6 people

  26. […] for the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. The prompt this week […]

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Hola good people! Here’s my entry for this week’s challenge:

    Liked by 6 people

  28. Hi Charli, it was so refreshing to see the dangers of driving on snowy roads actually become a life-saver for Danni. I’m sure that she’ll realize that just like on the snow, you can skid and fall when you’re in love, but it’s still so much fun while it lasts 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  29. I thought to write about the foibles of the people in my area, but went with fiction, instead.

    Liked by 5 people

  30. susansleggs says:

    Learning Respect for the Flag

    “I’m not coming home for a dumb parade to see Dad in a musty old uniform and carrying a flag that means nothing. I’m riding to D.C. for Memorial Day.”
    “He fought for that flag.”
    Weeks later. “I went to Bike Week in Lake George, NY, after I went to Rolling Thunder. I saw lots of bikes, boobs, and drunks. Not a good scene. On the other hand, only in D.C can 400,000 roaring bikes, lots of flags and tons of veterans be a reverent sight. I now understand Dad’s loyalty to the flag. I’ll be home next year.”

    Liked by 7 people

  31. […] 14, 2017, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It […]

    Liked by 2 people

  32. […] 14, 2017, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It […]

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Colleen Chesebro says: Hello, Charli. Here is my entry for this week. I’m sure you’ll be happy when I’m done writing this novel. LOL! Happy Yule my friend. ❤

    Liked by 4 people

  34. Pete says:


    “Excuse me, we’re looking for the memorial.”

    “Nice car. You from Virginia?”

    “Yes. Fairfax.”


    “Sooo, the memorial?”

    “Go down Jefferson Davis Highway, take a right at MLK Boulevard. You’ll pass Nat Turner Park…”

    “Are you being serious? I can’t tell if you’re being serious.”

    “…there’s a marker for Stonewall Jackson’s arm’s grave.”

    “A um, a grave for his arm?”

    “That’s what I said.”


    “Anyways, at the courthouse—it’s closed on account of it being Lee-Jackson-Kind day—you’ll see it. You can’t miss General Lee. If you look close you can see the tears—hey, where you going?”

    Liked by 5 people

    • Pete says:

      I just noticed that my “only in…” is implied, also it should be Lee-Jackson-KinG day–a bizarre recognized holiday back when I went to school. That said, Lee-Jackson-Kind could be interesting as well…

      Liked by 3 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Maybe there will be a Lee-Jackson-Kind day in the future when we are a kinder nation. I love that you let the “only in” be implied. It certainly comes through!


  35. jordancorley says:

    I took a bit of a different approach but I had a lot of fun with it!!

    Liked by 5 people

  36. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tel… […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Love the 7 course meal! It’s crazy isn’t it how a break-in turns into a pout about homemade waffles – or not! Social media helps find the culprits, hopefully, but turns into on online waffle fight, frozen or otherwise! Great post Charli, I love it when you share your insights into your differing local communities throughout your many travels. vary here just from town to town, and not just in local dialect. And those knots! Wow. I remember helping my boys with knots in their Scouting days. But I’ve never heard of a Bosal, and what a great find for you on YouTube. Hopefully no waffle fight vids though 😉 Things I’ll try my best to return with a flash later on… 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’d love to see the waffle fight on a video! Yes, so interesting how the culture fluctuates across regions. I can only remember one knot! Thanks for riding by, Sherri! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too! Haha…those knots are tricky at the best of times! Always Charli…unfortunately I was thrown at the last jump and couldn’t make it this week. But I’m chomping at the bit for the New Year…let’s ride!!!! 😀 ❤


  38. […] week, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more,  no less) write a story using the phrase […]

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Deborah Lee says:

    I took the opportunity to vent a bit against a current mood in this country:

    Liked by 6 people

  40. Just want to say that I’ve had Debbie Gibson’s “Only in My Dreams” stuck in my head for DAYS! Ugh. Not exactly the direction I wanted to take… LOL

    Liked by 3 people

  41. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (12/14/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go were the prompt leads you. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  42. Liz H says:

    Grateful for mornings like this one. Made it under the line, I hope…

    Only in Real Winter Dreams

    Spoon coffee grounds into the BPA-free filter, the scent a bright hit in the ice-crystal kitchen. Cat slurps his morning meal, shoulders hunched protectively over his bowl.

    I am so not going to fight him for a bite.

    Down the obligatory 8 oz of skim to wash down the multi vitamin and D3 tabs. Cereal clatters into a Pyrex bowl, then softened by another deep splash of skim. My jaws work the goodness from five different healthy grains.

    Grabbing the golden caffeine elixir, I pad off to transcribe my dreams.

    Only when the sun rises before I have to.

    Liked by 4 people

  43. Ninety-nine
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    She commands I capture a story using ninety-nine words, but I have lifetime to present. I chafe at the confines, yet by honing the message and pruning the words, I achieve brevity. Brevity is beautiful, right? I strive for beauty. I face doubts and strike blows at fear. A story has an arc, and mine begins with an idea. I face adversity in a stifling word count, fail, edit, and at last reach my goal. In only ninety-nine words, I present a baseline, a struggle, a resolution. It may need flesh, but it is there, only in ninety-nine words.

    Liked by 4 people

  44. The snow dancing through the site is a nice touch!

    Liked by 3 people

  45. […] in response to the December 14 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Here I am, bringing up the rear, as always. LOL

    Liked by 5 people

  47. […] Frosted pine-pinnacles still point, in vain, Where once I sat, aglow, forever and a million years Before the laughing lasting frigid exhalations mouthed their frozen, “Wow;” Their million dream-thoughts floating sky-high, tailing me forever. Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Entry […]


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