Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

February 11, 2019

When I was a kid, riding in the rodeo and saddle horse show, our county had a unique event — wild cow milking. If you asked a cowboy if he’d rather ride a bull or milk a wild cow, he’d pick the bull any day. Thinking about these contests of skill, I recognize how vulnerable participants can feel, whether it’s racing the barrels, showing a horse, penning steers, or riding a bronc.

But the wild cow milking takes a team willing to be vulnerable.

The Old Time Radio Contest came about as a creative idea. And creativity makes us all vulnerable. As writers, we get used to putting our pages out there. We post and publish, we ask for critiques and edits, we receive feedback and reviews. Another layer of vulnerability comes when we work to get our literary art recognized as a platform.

We establish blogs, enter contests, and seek local support. That’s what I was doing in my local community this last Rodeo — establishing Carrot Ranch as a part of the Keweenaw. It’s part of my mission to make literary art accessible. On the one hand I create safe space for writers, on the other, I look for readers to interact with what we write. Literary art exists in the realm between writer and reader.

Out of all the businesses I approached, many were interested in what we do at Carrot Ranch. But The Continental Fire Co. was the one business that has actively supported the growth of literary art in our community. They’ve been a public forum for readings during belly-dance performances, and they sponsored the prize money for all the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo Contests for which we had over 20 winners, including 12 cash prize winners.

It was a wild cow milking event for them, too. The Continental was interested in a contest that could generate possible scripts for radio spots. All the staff took part in reading the entries and voting on their favorites. Everyone was impressed with the writers’ ability to narrow a story from 99 words to 50 to 9. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that the 9-word stories made great radio taglines.

We had some administrative hiccups timing the judging with the holiday rush and then the after-holiday retail slump. But at last, I met with the manager of The Continental last week and received the final results. The writers have waited to hear the news, and I have much gratitude for all who entered because very few were willing to enter. You’ll see the complexity involved in writing three radio spots (99-words, 59-words, and 9-words) in a single entry. So my hats off to all of you brave wild cow milkers of Carrot Ranch.

Please find all the entries under the Rodeo tab at Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners.

And congratulations to our three cash prize winners:

  • Third Place: D. Avery
  • Second Place: JulesPaige
  • First Place: Kay Kingsley

Here are their radio spots:

99-word Radio Spot by D. Avery, Nantucket Island

[narrator] The Continental Fire Company first housed the horses, equipment, and men that were prepared to protect the people and property of their community. For a time it was also home to the Mining School that served the local industry.

[fire chief] You want to serve in the Company? You must be of age; a citizen of Houghton with a job or business, and be of good moral character and temperate habits.

[Background sound of modern-day patrons]

[young applicant] Yes sir. But, sir? Are these Mining School students?

[patron sounds, sounds of CFC have increased in volume]

[narrator] Houghton’s past is alive and present in the restored Continental Fire Company.

Food, drink, and entertainment are served with community spirit.

59-word Radio Spot

[narrator] Once housing the firemen that bravely served their neighbors as well as housing the Mining School that served the local copper industry, the Continental Fire Company continues to serve the Houghton community.

More than a place to enjoy good food, drink and company, the CFC features local artists, musicians, and Houghton’s own rich past. A spirited place since 1883.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] CFC- the spirit of Houghton’s past is always present.


99-word Radio Spot by JulesPaige, Pennsylvania

[pub music and laughter]

We have been your historical Houghton neighborhood go to for pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Now enjoy all that the Continental Fire Company is offering!

[soft yet discernible three alarm fire house klaxon and maybe a fog horn too]

Book your special event with our ‘superior’ menu of “elevated traditional items” including vegan and gluten free options using many locally produced ingredients.

[buoy bell and/or fog horn]

Or just come in and horse around.

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the kitchen is where the firehouse horses were kept, but you’ll only find the best modern kitchen that’s now a spectacular showplace!

[trumpeting ta da music]

We’ve got a smoker and a pizza oven too.

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant surprise you for lunch or dinner.

59-word Radio Spot

[pub music and laughter]

The Continental Fire Company has been your local historical Houghton neighborhood go to for the finest pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Come on in and horse around!

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the basement kitchen is where the firehouse horses were once kept.

[trumpeting ta da music]

Now, our kitchen is a spectacular culinary showplace!

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s menu surprise you for lunch or dinner.

9-word Radio Spot

[Change of class bell ringing, followed by soft pub dance music playing, increasing slightly and continuing in the background as the line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s ‘superior’ menu surprise you!


99-word Radio Spot by Kay Kingsley, Germany

[sounds of a busy restaurant/bar, happy hum of talking and distant laughter over text]

[Narrator] The past has a way of leaving its mark on the future, and here at the Continental Fire Company, we bring life to a place with a history, a place we all can find a little bit of home in.

[insert sound of an old engine and siren then bell ringing, sounds of students transitions to current music, loud laughter, and ding of the “foods up” bell over text]

[Narrator] From the screaming sounds of engine sirens to the steadfast ring from our bell tower, we’ve transformed the university quarters and haylofts of Houghton Fire Hall into a vibrant atmosphere of live music, lounge events, and cutting-edge gastropub cuisine.

[Sound of clinking glass to cheers and busy bar sounds over text]

[Narrator] Cozy up with a drink and stay for the laughs, where history is more than a thing of the past.

59-word Radio Spot

[old man voice] The bell tolls for a fire station long lost to time,

[teachers voice] for a university that no longer shapes young hearts and minds,

[farmers voice] for a hayloft that no longer houses the horses in stalls,

[students voice] nor the students that occupied the length of its halls.

[one staff member of CFC] With food and laughter The Continental welcomes you inside, discover Houghton’s past, keep our history alive.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] The flavor, the vibe, CFC keeps Houghton’s history alive.


And this officially concludes our 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo!

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  1. robbiesinspiration

    Congratulations to the winners.

    • Charli Mills

      The whole Wild Cow Milking Team deserves recognition, winners, and participants! Thank you for braving an entry, Robbie!

    • Norah

      Congratulations on your entry, Robbie. It was a tough contest.

  2. Liz H

    Cool! Definitely (a) horse of a different color–Well done words for a challenging task!

    • Charli Mills

      Definitely challenging! All entrants are to be congratulated for stepping up to the challenge.

  3. tnkerr

    Tough challenge. The winners definitely Rose to the occasion.

    • Charli Mills

      Tough challenge met!

  4. Chelsea Owens

    Very nice! ????

    • Charli Mills

      I’m clapping with you, Chelsea!

  5. denmaniacs4

    Congratulations to the winners and to the Continental Fire Company…I can sense the power of the past and almost taste the great food from out here on the storm swept Canadian West Coast…

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, thank you for daring this contest and the snow you face in Canada!

  6. Ritu

    Congratulations to the winners ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu! 🙂

  7. calmkate

    Congrats to all and nice to see they’re regulars 🙂
    Here at the ranch, not at CFC …
    although they’d like to be 😎

    • Charli Mills

      We’ll all remain regulars to the temptation of words! 😉

      • calmkate

        indeed they are seductive little minxes 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Cheers to glasses full of words!

  8. Jules

    A round of Sarsaparilla (a cousin to old-fashioned root beer, used to be a popular drink back in the 1800s.) for everyone at Carrot Ranch!!!

    Best to D. and Kay – I’m honored to be in their company too!
    2019 ushering us all another win at Carrot Ranch!

    I took a gander at all them other entries too! That was a pickle of a contest!
    Kudos to all who stepped up and outside the box for this challenge.

    • Charli Mills

      This was definitely a step out of the box! Saparillas earned! Congratulations, Jules!

    • Norah

      Congratulations, Jules. Your writing continues to shine through. 🙂

      • Jules

        Thank you. Always good to stretch 🙂

  9. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Congratulations all, it’s certainly a different style of writing. Kudos to you, Charli, for integrating your international ranch with your very local community.

    • Charli Mills

      Writing seems visual to me, and yet this challenge included the addition of sound. Not an easy feat. And, yes, Anne, I was pleased to make the connections.

  10. floatinggold

    CongratZ to the winners and kudos to those who participated.

    • Charli Mills

      Definitely kudos to all who gave this one a go!

  11. Colleen Chesebro

    Congratulations everyone! This was a tough challenge! <3

    • Charli Mills

      It was like riding a horse on roller skates, Colleen!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I could not get into this challenge! I was really bummed. I loved all of them. ??

  12. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Congratulations D and Jules! And congratulations to everyone who ventured out of their comfort zones and participated. Well done!

    • Charli Mills

      Surprising things happen beyond the edge of comfort, Kay! Congratulations!

    • Norah

      Congratulations on a great entry, Kay. It’s worthy of study. 🙂

  13. susansleggs

    Well done to all. I’m thinking I should print these for my archives to reference if the chance to do a radio spot ever comes along again.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a handy format to have for podcasts, too! 99 words = 45 seconds. When we get recordings made, we’ll be sure to share them here. Thanks, Sue!

    • Norah

      I agree, Susan. It will be good to keep these and study them to learn from. 🙂

  14. Norah

    Congratulations to the winners, and to everyone who gave it a go. Seems to me we are all winners to have the generous support of the Continental Fire Co. They took a chance on the Carrot Ranch and I’m sure they were delighted with what they received, so they are winners too. But without their support, the contests wouldn’t have been the success they were and we would have lacked this extra challenge which stretched us, well me anyway, out of our comfort zones. What a wonderful contest. Thank you, CFC for your support.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, thank you for understanding how important CFC’s support is. Online, it’s hard for us to imagine how a local community factors into what we do globally, but it provides us a foundation for our platform. I’ll pass along your words to the folks at CFC. They made winners of us all at the Ranch!

      • Norah

        They did, Charli. Providing the prizes for all contests was a very generous gesture, particularly when so many of us writers are not likely to walk in and order a meal or a beer. Twenty prizes and 12 cash prizes, that’s not a small gift. I’d love you to pass along a message of my gratitude. Thank you.

  15. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    The winners of the Bonus Old Time Radio Contest at the Carrot Ranch are announced! Read the winning entries here, and link through to all entries. What a feat!
    Thanks to the Continental Fire Company for their generous sponsorship and support.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah! I’ll be reading some of my flash fiction at the CFC this month. They continue to support literary art.

      • Norah

        That’s wonderful. They know great art when they hear it. 🙂

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