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January 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

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January 4 Flash Fiction Challenge by @Charli_MillsDraft horses busted through drifts of snow, pulling heavy rollers to pack lake effect accumulations into paths for wagons mounted on skis. Horses, known as hay-burners, passed their fuel in droppings that became part of the snow cement of winter travel in the Keweenaw Peninsula of the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan.

Easier to say, Copper Country.

So those draft beasts packing snow and adding road-apples to the mix all winter come to mind as I walk the dog in yet another lake effect squall. She’s an old short-hair pointer, and I bundle her up in in a fleece-lined snow-coat the color of hunter’s orange. I don’t want her to get run over by a snowmobile.  As snow blasts my face with what stings like flakes of lead glass, Miss Bobo decides to revive an old Copper Country tradition and poops in the middle of the road.

What can I do but laugh and draw off my mittens to fumble with the poop bag in my coat pocket, chasing after steaming clusters (she’s not one to stop and poop in one place)? I’m encased in perpetual snow, my own private globe. Already, 103 inches have accumulated (if you want to watch my snowfall from afar, Michigan Tech monitors it daily). She has nowhere else to go but in the driveway or road, the spaces we clear. Imagine those horses…chickens, cattle, goats and stray dogs, too.

A local told me a story about those draft horses and rollers — his great-granduncle was once a snow removal laborer. He said those horses dropped and packed so much processed hay that by the time spring melt arrived the roads were awash in melting horse poop. Winter hides yellow and brown snow beneath her renewable white blanket.

As we turn back toward the house on Roberts Street, snowmobiles scream past us, filling the air with burned gasoline. They, too, pack the snow. It compacts like clay, and our neighbors are out, raking their roofs with long-handled roof-rakes so it doesn’t cause a cave-in. Last year, a downtown building — a large historic brick structure — caved in from the weight of snow and ice.

Folks came to this snowy region for what they found beneath — copper.

Cornish miners with their pasties come in the 1840s. Mining lasted longer than frontier towns out west. In fact, Native Americans had mined native outcroppings of copper since 5000 BC. That places North America on the map during the Copper Age. Yet that’s not a well-known piece of history. But it attests to the amount of copper found in the Keweenaw. According to Michigan Tech, in 150 years, over 12 billion pounds of native copper was mined here.

Copper Country Mall is a small-town 1980s era sprawl of indoor retail shops, mostly out of business. Gogebic College, Sears and the Vet Center occupy the space. On January 19, I’m presenting The Hero’s Journey to my fellow veteran spouses and our vets. During a group discussion, one spouse mentioned that her husband likes to watch war movies because at least in the movie, “they took the hill.” In Vietnam, US forces often repeatedly took and lost hills. They represent battles that felt meaningless.

As a literary artist, my favorite form is the hero’s journey based on Joseph Campbell’s work in mythology. Every culture shares stories about the hero’s journey. It resonates with us because we are all heroes on a journey called life. That day in group, my mind jumped to veterans and the hero’s journey. I think combat veterans are called to their hero’s journey when they serve. What might be missing is the elixir. In order to come home, the hero must find the elixir — the meaning to why they took the hill, or perhaps acceptance of the lack of meaning.

This is what makes the hero’s journey so rich. It’s like copper — malleable.

After the presentation I’m serving cake and hosting the first of several book launches (because I like cake) for The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. Print books will be available by then. It’s an honor that the Vet Center is letting me use their facility, but I have found the Copper Country to be a welcoming community. I plan to read flash fiction (something I enjoyed doing in North Idaho) and I thought I’d see what the name of this place could inspire for stories.

And be sure to catch tomorrow’s post. It’s now 2018 and Carrot Ranch is determined to have a fulfilling year. That includes all of you! During the Rodeo, C. Jai Ferry led us all to the TwitterFrontier. She’ll be joining us the First Friday of every month with Twitter tips for literary artists and a month-long #TwitterFlash. You’ll tweet your responses, and all the Last Friday of the month you can share any in the comments. Check it out tomorrow! It will be fun and we’ll all get to learn more about Twitter.

January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.

Respond by January 9, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 10). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


An Alternative Discovery by Charli Mills

Christopher Columbus informed the Queen. “Your Majesty, a great procession sails from where the earth ends.”

“Is it possible?” she asked Ferdinand. They gathered, soldiers honing flint-knapped spears, the royals at a safe distance, all praying to God.

Invaders clad in red metal came in the name of Gitchigumee. Flint spears shattered, no match for glimmering red weapons.

Many who survived that day in 1492 succumbed to foreign germs. North America wiped out most of Spain, enslaving her children to dig in the New Copper Country.

If only Christopher’s Queen had known to make weapons of the native metal.




  1. Norah says:

    Oh my goodness – road apples in the snow. What a treasure when the snow melts! I had to laugh at you attempting to scoop up Bobo’s poop. It would have been difficult once it solidified as one with the snow. Or so I assume.
    Your Hero’s Journey talk to the vets and their spouses will be fun. I think you have a lot to offer them to consider, and not just cake. How wonderful to have a book launch with real print books. Are they available for ordering yet? I want a few. 🙂
    It’s an interesting discussion about the copper mining too, including the historic episode in your flash. If only we could all have the benefit of aftersight.
    I’ll have to think about Copper Country – too many ideas to begin with!
    Have a great week.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Ritu says:

    Wonderful Charli!
    Looking forward to hearing about the launch with the print books!
    I’m sorry but poopy snow just got me – toilet humour is my thing!
    And here’s my Copper Country entry;

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Elemental Problem

    “Hey Kid.”
    “Hey Pal. Got a copper?”
    “Ya mean sheriff?”
    “No, copper.”
    “Ya mean like a penny?”
    “No, ah, heck Pal, I may have ta cop out on this round-up. I don’t know nuthin’ about copper or copper country.”
    “Gonna cop a plea of ignorance, Kid?”
    “Yep. Anyway, the hosses’ve left some gems for me ta shovel. They’s all shut up in the barn what with all the snow.”
    “That’ll test yer mettle.”
    “Yeah, I’ve shoveled so much shit I should git a medal.”
    “So whyn’t ya try shoveling some regarding the shiny orange metal?”
    “We’ll see.”
    “Cu later.”

    Liked by 10 people

  4. mrmacrum says:

    Nice turnabout with the red spears.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Liz H says:

    You made me laugh out loud, imagining you chasing after your pup’s string of poops, poops that stand on many generations of historical poops proudly placed by her animal predecessors.

    And then you made me catch my breath with this: ‘During a group discussion, one spouse mentioned that her husband likes to watch war movies because at least in the movie, “they took the hill.”’

    I knew this, but here I felt it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Chasing poop on a snowy road leads my mind to wander… 😀 Thank you for feeling that moment. It was a shift for me that I hope I can use to connect veterans and their families to the power of literary art and the hero’s journey.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. My short link incase the ping back doesn’t work

    Liked by 6 people

  7. I love being challenged by specific prompts and using them as inspirtation. This just makes me a better writer. I hope you enjoy what I was inspired to write.

    Liked by 7 people

  8. denmaniacs4 says:

    Hmmm, went off on a tangent, I suppose, Charli. Had something else in mind to begin with but took the easy road…

    Fuzzy Thinking-From the Writers Perspective

    We needed a place where we could…you know…just be, just serve and project. Whatever you think of us, we all started out with the best of intentions. Sure, some of us proved to be bad pennies. They weren’t worth a plug nickel to begin with.

    We all start out shiny and bright, but the sparkle quickly tarnishes.

    So, when that actor, Joe Penny…played Office Phil Buchwald in S.O.B., suggested we buy our own country, well, no lead balloon there. ‘Course, you can’t buy much country these days, but we acquired land in Northern BC, called it Copper Country, eh…

    Liked by 6 people

  9. julespaige says:

    I’ve got finish reading last week, come back read this week and even write this week… I think the cold is seeping in. Not as cold as Charli’s area. But we’ve had two day’s in a row of school being delayed – so I had to take my grandson in. Then today I went for groceries… which I hadn’t done for about two weeks (because of holiday meals elsewhere… and cold).

    I am befuddled about copper… but just as I say that I get an idea.
    So please stay tuned. And if you are in a cold winter climate – stay warm!
    For me we might have a heat wave tomorrow – it might actually be 32 F or 0 C!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Again you have given us a great visual picture of the landscape you are in, although perhaps I didn’t need quite as much of a visual of Bobo’s droppings (I have enough of my own to collect with one of mine also a walking pooper.) My story too made use of Cornish miners – they were obviously the experts in copper mining at the time.
    I have recently too become interested in the hero’s journey and hope your presentation goes well. Wonderful that the book launch is also happening. Look forward to more information about purchasing the hard copy books. It is such an exciting time.
    Look forward to C Jai Ferry’s post. Twitter remains an elusive platform to me.
    Loved your rewriting of history. Always the benefit of hindsight.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Juliet Nubel says:

    Good day everyone and Happy New Year to all!
    Another interesting prompt Charli, which had me pondering for a while before I came up with this…

    Mixing Metals

    She had always known why their village was nicknamed “Copper Country”. You just had to look around.

    Everywhere the same metallic orange tint to the hair, the same green rain-washed patina in the eyes. Even their skin bore the same burnish of the sun.

    But not James. He was just a little brighter, shinier, his green eyes with a hint of the ocean in their depths.

    Nine months after they wed, their little princess arrived. She wore pale cream skin, azure eyes and finely spun blond curls.

    Who would have thought that copper mixed with copper could make gold?

    Liked by 9 people

  12. […] January 4: Flash Fiction Challenge January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. julespaige says:

    We get plenty of Road Apples in Amish country. And ‘Sail animals’ too –
    Like ‘Sail Rabbit’s’ run over so flat they are like the sails of a boat…

    OK… I’m Back…. with a work of fiction:



    Jade was looking for ideas. So she had gone on a road
    trip. Patina was a different shade of green. And that was
    all she was finding in this abandoned town. Copper roofs,
    shutters, statues. It must have been a thriving community,
    once. Now it resembled a ghost town.

    The old man at the rustic general store had said there was
    still buried treasure in Tawnytown about twenty miles north.
    He hadn’t exactly said what element was.

    As a jewelry artist, Jade began snapping photos. Jade
    thought that working in copper with jade might give her a
    new angle.


    Liked by 8 people

  14. dancjulian says:

    Here are my 99 words to the prompt.
    I do hope it still counts as flash if it is a true story!

    Liked by 8 people

  15. Pete says:

    We worked fast. Kendall handed off the pipes and I ran them to the truck.

    “Easy with the noise.”

    I nodded. With arms overhead, his pits were sour and his sweat reeked of Schlitz. He looked to me through a haze of smoke, his Marlboro drooping with his smile. “Few hundred bucks running under these floors.”

    A teaching moment. Mom’s boyfriend couldn’t always tell you the day, but knew to the cent the market on metals. Kendell could strip a house clean in a few hours before getting off to the scrap yard—Copper Country, as he called it.

    Liked by 7 people

  16. […] Carrot Ranch, January 4, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Okay, no fiction, and more stretching of the rules if you go to my site for a longer version.

    The Coppersmith

    Patriot and artisan, Paul Revere made a variety of contributions to the American War of Independence. The pen was a strategic weapon, and Revere, using copper plates, made political cartoons and illustrations, including his famous and inflammatory engraving of the Boston Massacre. Brawnier contributions had to do with munitions and weaponry. Yet many associate Revere the coppersmith with the making of alloy bells and with pots and pans. Let’s. Let’s melt down brass cartridges and copper bullets and make a pot to cook shared meals and bells to ring in peace. Surely we have the resources to do that.

    Liked by 6 people

    • My father was a horder and every BIC biro he purchased was catalogued so he knew how many writing miles it had done. When the biro was spent he separated it into components, putting the plastic outer tube in one box, the thin ink tube in another and the brass ballpoint in another. He always said ” you can never have enough pea shooters and if there was ever a copper shortage I’ll make my fortune melting them down.” Thank you for the memory. Good historical take and pots to cook in and bells to ring in peace woud be a wonderful addition to our lives today.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Creative non-fiction counts for flash. I enjoyed learning more about our Patriot and impressed with how you shrunk your full post down to 99 words.


  18. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills hosts the 99-word flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Deborah Lee says:

    Frozen road apples, oh dear! I love copper, but I don’t envy you your lake effect snow! We got snow on the Puget Sound on Christmas Eve and it was magical, the whole inch of it.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Snow on the Puget Sound has a lovely ring to it as a title. You got enough to make a footprint! I’m mesmerized by the packing and piling of snow. What kind of copper do you like? Native, nugget, included or bejeweled?


  20. Low-balled
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Jenkins wiped grime along his plumber’s bottom.
    The homeowner, a single mother of two, wrung her hands like an old-time heroine. “What’s the damage?”
    He cleared his throat. “How long were you away, Ms. Rowen?”
    “A week. Make-a-Wish gave my littlest a trip.” She hugged the kids. “It was the kindest experience we’ve ever had, right boys? Then we got home, and the basement’s flooded.” A nervous giggle escaped.
    Jenkins considered the pipeworks, yards of stolen copper mined from the vacationers’ house. He estimated the cost. A minimum of $5,000. More than she had, he suspected.
    So he low-balled.

    Liked by 7 people

  21. […] The latest challenge issued by : […]

    Liked by 1 person

  22. […] Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by their lead buckaroo Charli Mills. The prompt this week […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Hola Charli and fellow buckaroos. Here’s my offering for the first flash fiction challenge of 2018. Wishing everyone a happy new year again.

    Liked by 8 people

  24. Aah, a reverse invasion through a re-imagining of history! Loved it. And realized after reading it that my story too had copper as a weapon against an invasion. Talk about serendipity (I don’t read ANY story, including your’s till I write and post mine so that my mind remains a tabula rasa)!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s fun to think of the opposite happening according to history or expectations. Brandon Sanderson writes his Mistborn series based on that idea of what if the hero doesn’t win. What happens to the cause or how does it change history. Yes, it’s good to start with a blank slate, though some need a glimpse of what’s possible. Serendipity is a favored phenomenon.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Abby says:

    Hello all! Here’s my debut offering to this community. Coming from the copper mining land of Cornwall to that of County Cork, it was a great first prompt on discovering Carrot Ranch.

    Liked by 5 people

    • julespaige says:

      Oooh…. not sharing.

      Remember when you pop a link in that you have to hit enter so the link turns red – then you know others can use it. I cut and pasted your black link to find your story.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Abby says:

        Thanks Jules. I tried hitting enter but that just did a return line. Below will either be a link or some html gobbledegook. I’m on a sharp learning curve with all this blogging caper. 🙂
        Thanks for bothering to copy and paste, and comment.

        Copper Country

        Liked by 5 people

      • Abby says:

        Yay, it worked.

        Liked by 1 person

      • julespaige says:

        You have to hit enter at your link at your place… If you copy your link to a blank document and hit enter it will turn blue… that is now the link you can put in to a comment and it just turns red at CR because that’s what Charli has set up for links.

        Or you can use this: Name of Your Post Here

        But you also have to remember to hit the space between …strong> Name… to get your link to turn blue. Then your link will be the title of whatever you’ve but in that ‘Space for your post link”

        See my entry I try to use my title as the link to my post. example:

        I see a line of code, all you see is Prospecting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • julespaige says:

        Yes… you saw gobbldy gook, but Copper Country is the right link. I only know how I do it… not how everyone else does it.

        I’m with you on the ‘straw for brains’ tech issues. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Abby says:

        Thank you so much! That is a really comprehensive answer. I’ve save the contents to use until it becomes second nature.

        Liked by 2 people

      • julespaige says:

        I think I’d have to show you how I do it another way… but you got it. So you are good to go.

        Liked by 1 person

    • julespaige says:

      Oh rats my example didn’t work, but some how you did get Copper Country as the easy link. Yeah for you!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Liz H says:

      Welcome, Abby! Excellent folktale in 99…had a real flavor of your homeland!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch, Abby! That is a serendipitous moment — this prompt is entirely the result of Cornish copper miners, but from an isolated peninsula in the Great Lakes region of the US. What a connection.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. A. E. Robson says:

    Copper Country Destiny
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Her destiny had changed forever on that fateful night, or had it? The lightening laced sky had been accentuated with the screaming, crying, flashing lights and tangled metal. Her potential as a great athlete who had lived for each practice, for each competition ended there and then. The accident had taken its toll on her young, exuberant lifestyle. It was her great personality that kept her from being shunned or worse. Her gentle eyes that spoke volumes, captured hearts. The Copper Country lineage prominent throughout her bloodlines would now be passed onto every foal born to the Palomino broodmare.

    Liked by 8 people

  27. […] January 4: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  28. susansleggs says:

    I managed a happy puppy story. Thanks for the prompts and support.

    Liked by 8 people

  29. Annecdotist says:

    I was interested to read about that additional hazard of deep snow fall, Charli. The streets can be messy enough with dog shit in any circumstances, but you must have mixed feelings anticipating the thaw. Anyway, hope you manage to keep warm.
    I really enjoyed your alternative history in your flash. I’m sure it’s one you could take further if you have the time or inclination.
    Mine’s a bit rushed, stemming from a first-time reading of Utopia:
    Perfect communities? from Celeste Ng & Thomas More

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Spring will be a good time to venture elsewhere! Although we are all doing our best to bag the poop as it occurs. Not everyone does so, else we would be more utopian. Thank you for commenting on the backward history. This might be one I let percolate. Flash fiction is like steam holes, venting all that hot creativity burning my brain.

      I enjoyed your flash and wanted to comment here after leaving a comment on your reviews. Policing says so much about why planned utopias do not work. Can they work at all? I wonder at the indigenous cultures in North America who had the capacity to create “weapons of mass destruction” from their knowledge of metal and access to it. I would not call any of the tribes utopian, but they seemed far more rooted in the ideas of the greater good and what one generation does, impacts the next. There was a personal obligation, and yet freedom. And women were not always subservient. In your flash, you bring up the value of commodities. It’s thought-provoking.

      Liked by 1 person

  30. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s January 4 Flash Fiction Challenge: Chair on a Porch […]

    Liked by 1 person

  31. dnagai says:

    I seem to have lost a lot of inspiration during the holidays. Forcing myself to find it again in the New Year 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  32. julespaige says:

    Oooh…. not sharing.

    Remember when you pop a link in that you have to hit enter so the link turns red – then you know others can use it. I cut and pasted your black link to find your story.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. […] The Carrot Ranch Literary Community, hosted by Charli Mills, is HERE. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Michael B. Fishman says:

    What an interesting piece of alternative history, and maybe, from a certain perspective and with the benefit of hindsight, a happier one?

    Here’s mine:

    Liked by 4 people

  35. […] for The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. Requirements: Using the given prompt, create a 99 word flash fiction story. January 4, 2018, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  36. rogershipp says:

    Grandpa Amlodd’s Dragon

    “He’s not supposed to be green, Jess.”

    The six-year-olds gazed high atop the old stone barn. Bedtime stories of Merlin… Arthur… and dragons… filled their heads.

    “Grandpa Amlodd smithied the copper dragon to protect our farms. Now look at him.”

    “The copper dragon has to be freed.”

    Racing to the farmhouse, the boys quickly did what they did at school. They googled.

    “Ketchup!” They explained at the same time.

    Armed with two ketchup bottles in one hand and the extension ladder from the gardening shed penned under their opposing pits, the boys set off the release Grandpa Amlodd’s dragon.

    Liked by 5 people

  37. I wrote a second 99 word story for this prompt.

    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Heather combed through the older woman’s thick hair, separating it into sections using plastic clips. Layers of steel and silver gave way to a small cove of copper. She ran a finger along the silky strands, recalled brushing and braiding when her mother’s head boasted autumn, not winter, a child mothering.
    She blinked back tears. “You were an awful mother.”
    Her mother shrugged, unconcerned. “Orphans don’t know how to parent.”
    Heather’s scissors snipped, creating the requested fashion.
    Heather’s children dominated her every thought, their needs always first; not at all how her mother raised her. “Yet somehow I learned.”

    Liked by 6 people

  38. Drake says:

    I’ve just recently discovered flash fiction, which may become dangerous due to its high level of fun and addictiveness. I’ve also just discovered this site, which looks great, so hello and here is my first posting…

    Liked by 4 people

  39. mrmacrum says:

    A tough prompt Charli. Not sure why. Seemed like it should have been a cake walk.

    Ray, Arizona

    Atop Teapot Mesa, a Great Spirit cast sad eyes over the mile deep mine below. He had witnessed mountains grow tall and rivers gouge deep. He had never seen creatures as destructive as these puny humans busy carving out the base of his home. Did they not understand they were only hastening their own destruction?

    Great Spirit shrugged. He was but a witness tasked with remembering all that he saw and reporting back to Her. He was her eyes. It would be up to Her how to handle these ingrates and the overwhelming insults they heap onto her back.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Um, dude, that may not have been a cake walk but it sure takes the cake. There’s a lot there.

      Liked by 2 people

      • mrmacrum says:

        Thanks. I often approach a piece of flash with the intention of using flowery prose, wanting to paint a picture or emotion in words. I am not very good at that. My default is to try to cram a big notion into a small bucket, if you know what I mean.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sometimes the prompt isn’t the right leavening agent to get the cake to rise, but you rose to the occasion just fine, Mr. Macrum. No kidding — “Did they not understand they were only hastening their own destruction? “

      Liked by 1 person

  40. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (01/04/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  41. Liz H says:

    I kept thinking “Copper Harbor”, until I’d written most of the response! Oh well, easily changed. So, here’s my bit of silliness, flying in just under the line:


    “I swear, if you sing that one more time, I’ll push you out the hatch myself.”

    “Aw lighten up, Schmitty,” Dirk laughed at his co-pilot. “I just can’t wait to get home!”

    “You and me both,” the co-pilot muttered.

    The swept low over the canyon, lining up for their annual supply drop to the Earth outpost. Next stop: Moon Base Nine, Home Sweet Home.

    “This is the song that never ends
    Yes, it goes on and on my friend…”

    “That’s it, Dirk. Here’s your parachute…”

    “Too late!” He dropped the payload and flew up and away from Copper Country.

    Liked by 3 people

  42. […] Thank you Charli for making me work. You can join in the challenge here: […]


  43. Norah Colvin says:

    […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Millis challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, h… […]

    Liked by 2 people

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