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March 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

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As the farmer’s children gathered around, the youngest gripped his dad’s legs and peered up at me with big brown eyes. I was on assignment at a multi-generational farm in the driftless region of Minnesota where green grass grew on hillocks and flowers marched forth from spring, starting with purple blooms. While I probably misremember which spring flowers came first or which farmer pointed out the phenomenon, I recall the moment that shy boy took charge of the family’s piglets.

His brothers and sisters ran or rode bikes as the parents walked me through the farm that first earned its organic label in 1974. The couple had been kids themselves at the time. The boy’s mother grew up on this farm, and she recalled her father’s insistence to preserve their land for the future. That day I strode with them through the first spring flowers and greening pastures, I understood that I was witnessing that future when the youngest finally let go of his father’s hand and ran to the barn where the piglets snuffled the straw.

The boy could herd pigs. He climbed up and over the railing, hopping to the mass of bedding straw. These were the young weaned piglets of many colors and patterns. A few oinked, and several nuzzled the boy. He grinned broadly like a circus ring showman and got them all wheeling a huge circle around him. His shyness fled, and he took charge of the oinksters. His parents smiled and continued to tell me about their operation, but the boy had me mesmerized.

I don’t know why that memory came back to me on a day I’m confined to my house. Perhaps quarantine prods the mind to wander. The boy would be a young adult by now, and I wonder if he can use his skill in other capacities? Taking charge can be a leadership attribute. But it requires supporting traits, as well, including compassion. The boy had that, too, and you can see it in his face and the way the pigs ran, delighting in the game, ready to follow their little leader.

When you ride a horse, you have to take charge because the massive animal can easily frighten. I’ve nearly been thrown from the saddle when a horse spooked. It’s a jolting experience, almost comical the exaggerated stance a horse lunges into upon sighting something unusual. Often they’ll snort, flaring nostrils. You can’t relax too deeply on horseback, nor can you ride too rigid. A horse can feel your tension. A true buckaroo is someone who can be one with a horse. I once had a bay gelding, and we were one. I never did anything fancy or spectacular with him, but the rides we had taught me to be aware of him, me, and our surroundings. Maybe he made me the writer I am from the rider I was.

If you are looking for good movies to watch, I recommend  both The Horse Whisperer with Robert Redford and a documentary on the man who inspired the story, Buck:

It’s a story about overcoming adversity and fear. If you get the chance to brush a horse or ride one, do it. It will be a life-changer. Ultimately, we can learn to take charge of ourselves. We can’t change the world or get it to wheel circles around us like a kid in a pigpen, but we can make our moments count for something. We can breathe deep until calm settles over. We can love and express it, letting others hear it. We can encourage and be encouraged.

At the end of the movie, Buck, the credits roll to Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe. Willie Nelson and his son Lucas covered the song as one between father and son. It can be between any relationship, and to me, it’s an artistic expression of the preciousness of life.

Stay with me, Ranchers, and let’s write our stories.

March 26, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story in which a character takes charge. Who is this character, and what situation calls for their action? It can be playful or serious, fantastical, or realistic. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by March 31, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

 

Saving Lives by Charli Mills

Rhonda didn’t bother with her boots. She’d wait for calving season to end before cleaning the floor. When the National Guard recalled Jess, she took charge of their small spread. A neighbor came over to help. News of the virus dominated the stations, and Rhonda couldn’t get a weather report. She ate a bowl of Spagettios, then returned outside to relieve Tony. Around midnight the last calf arrived with a spring blizzard. While Jess saved lives as a medic in a makeshift hospital 300 miles away, Rhonda snuggled a calf all night in the kitchen with the wood-stove blazing.


48 Comments

  1. I love this message from Head Quarters.
    I’m with ya. Let’s write, and stay tall in the saddle.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Norah says:

    Love your story of Rhonda and Jess, Charli. It’s filled with emotion – good emotion. Both leaders in their own way.
    The tiny piglet whisperer is very cute. When I was about his age, or maybe a little older, I was the chief chicken catcher on our farm. I don’t know where she went. The only chickens I catch now are in the supermarket. 🤣
    I love The Horse Whisperer. How could I not when I loved Robert Redford. I always have a mix of emotions when I watch movies like that – anger at the injustice and appalling treatment, and admiration and love for the gentle tender ways that heal. Those tender ways are what we see in your story.
    Willie and son are a perfect conclusion to your post.
    These days it is essential that we all take charge of our own actions and stay home so that others may live. Stay well!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Aw, Norah, I can see the little chicken whisperer in you! I get it, though — they are easier to catch at the grocery store although maybe we need to start raising chickens. Robert Redford. Sigh. What an actor and artist. You would like to watch Buck. In fact. Robert makes an appearance. That song is so sweet. You stay well, too!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’ve never seen The Horse Whisperer but have always thought it an intriguing premise.

    Completely agree: “quarantine prods the mind to wander.” Without life whirling about around us, without people watching or interacting or whatever floats our boat, we wander in memories. 🙂 Stay well.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. […] Carrot Ranch March 26, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story in which a character takes charge. Who is this character, and what situation calls for their action? It can be playful or serious, fantastical, or realistic. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by March 31, 2020. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jules says:

    Charil,

    We all do what needs doing. And sometimes the tales get altered to ease the minds of those who worry, instead of bragging – folks downplay their heroism.
    Saving that calf (even if fictional) is heroism.

    My new normal isn’t quite back to what it was… so I’m relating a story about some family heroism – at least how we see it.

    If you are offered a bull, do not ask how much milk he will give.

    Taking charge of the road.
    That was what he had to do.
    Had to get the son to his father, fast.
    Picked up his charge at the airport and flew…
    The hour and a half ride was sliced by about half.
    Told the folks he was doing eighty…
    But the passenger said the speedometer needle
    Swayed further right passed that number.
    We’ll just call the driver a hero.
    One of many in these trying times who
    Took the proverbial bull by the horns and flew…

    within what limits
    we do what needs to be done
    riding the wind true

    ©JP/dh

    Note: other bull proverbs can be found here: “BULL”

    Liked by 7 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Jules,

      That’s the thing about the new normal, it’s not like the old one. Where normalcy begins and ends for us in these times, we don’t yet know. Your flash reminds me of the song in its final close when the pace picks up in urgency to have those last moments of breath shared. And thanks for sharing bull proverbs! Stay well, and take care of your fam!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Liz H says:

    What a beautiful. Inspiring post!.
    I’m assuming the pic is from the actual day you describe. Pure joy! Thanks for starting my Friday out right!

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yes, that picture and that day have long stayed with me. I think it was used by the Twin Cities Co-ops for a while in promotional material and a store mural. I came across it on my laptop, searching for something else and that day came back. Woohoo! Friday night rightness! Thanks, Liz!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. floridaborne says:

    “Mrs. Jones,” her doctor said. “You’re pre-diabetic, and have heart disease. Go to the gym…”

    “But I can hardly walk.”

    “You’re going to be dead in a year unless you take charge of your health! Walk your dog!”

    She cried all the way home, and searched the fridge for comfort food.

    Just when she started to take a bite she yelled, “No!”

    Her Pitbull knew what to do. Each time she tried to eat, he barked, and his paw forced her arm downward.

    She lumbered toward his collar and leash, the first of what would be many more walks.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Aw, what a smart, take-charge pittie who wants his human around. It takes that first tiny step!

      Liked by 3 people

      • floridaborne says:

        I have a pittie mix who is the sweetest thing this side of cotton candy. Their reputation is due to what worthless humans do to them. I imagined the loving eyes of my sweet girl looking into mine. I’d do anything to make her happy, too — and that kind of love could motivate anyone. Dogs help us in so many ways.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Jim Borden says:

    I wonder if that boy is now running the family farm…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. denmaniacs4 says:

    Walter

    Walter beat me in by a day.

    I became de facto number two.

    Told myself that, anyway.

    Who else would!

    First thing Walter said was, “You’re a baby.”

    I tried to deny it.

    “No!” I sputtered.

    “No offence, kid. It’s just, I’m me.”

    And he was.

    He was thirty. Fit as a friggin’ fiddle.

    He’d been a soldier before.

    East Germany.

    Then he escaped to the West.

    ***

    The next few days, our training troop filled up.

    Most were like me.

    Babies from the Canadian landscape.

    Walter became our natural leader.

    Later, we learned how crazy twisted he was.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Kid’s Dilemma

    “Pal, whut’s Shorty done charged us with this time?”
    “Charged us with? Why, nuthin’ Kid.”
    “Nuthin’? That prompt’s gotta lead ta sumthin’. Always does.”
    “Yep.”
    “An’ asides that, ain’t we in charge a the Saloon?”
    “Could say thet, I s’pose.”
    “An’ we still gotta discharge our reg’lar ranch duties.”
    “Yep. Purty sure there’s discharge in the barn fer ya ta shovel now, Kid.”
    “Bullshift, Pal, why’s it always seem like yer in charge a me?”
    “I jist take yer bull by the horns is all.”
    “Mebbe I’ll grab them horns. Take charge a ma own self.”
    “Yep. Mebbe, Kid.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Kid’s got some bull-horn growing pains it seems. That’s fine. Pal’s got him by the six as well as the horns. These two have a saloon to run now.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tootin’ Rootin’ Round Trip

        “Lookin’ rough, Kid. Where ya been, anyway?”
        “Checked out Slim Chance’s outfit.”
        “Why ever for?!”
        “Took charge a m’sef. Yer always bossin’ me aroun’. Shorty’s s’posed ta be in charge, but she’s always nice, jist says ‘go where the prompt leads’; well Slim Chance tells folks where ta go an’ how ta git there.”
        “Git where?”
        “Where he wants ‘em ta go.”
        “Real take charge sorta guy?”
        “Sure ‘nough. Says, ‘Drink this kool-aid, it’s the best’, where’s Shorty jist has carrots out, fer folks ta take or not.”
        “Yer back though?”
        “Ferever. Ta re-charge on root crops.”
        “Carrots?”
        “Yep.”

        Liked by 3 people

  11. […] hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write with the prompt of “someone who takes charge.” I cannot think of an easier prompt being the bossy one I am […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Opening

    The front door cracked open. Her face was a bruised sunrise. “I walk into doors. I’m learning. Should either shut them tight or open them wide.”
    “I would like to speak with the man of the house.”
    Over her shoulder, thin pale legs scampered up the stairs. She blocked the rest of the view into the home.
    “He’s not here.”
    “When shall I call again?”
    The woman paused, straightened. “He had to go away.”
    “When will he be back?”
    “He didn’t say. Now, do you want to talk to the man of the house or to who’s in charge?”

    Liked by 4 people

  13. Oops, sorry Charli, just realised there is a typo in my title it should be: Fear Makes Us Strangers.

    Like

  14. Ann Edall Robson says:

    Home Waltz
    by Ann Edall-Robson

    The community came together as it always did when one of their own needed help. Someone organized a social. Food and music were donated. Items contributed for auction were sold, only to be re-donated and sold again. The potluck lunch served at midnight refuelled the musicians. Schottisches, polkas, waltzes, and two steps kept the crowd going until the wee hours of the morning. Finally, as the sun started to rise, the familiar smooth strains of Irene Goodnight took charge. Glide, step, glide, turn, glide, step, glide, turn. The old fashioned home waltz announced the end to the evening.

    https://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/home-waltz

    For those of you who might remember these types of social events, and the home waltz, I have included a link to the music Goodnight Irene in my blog post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Imagine the parties when this is over! Thanks for the link to Goodnight Irene for virtual orchestra. Sounds grreat. I also like the Jim Reeves version if you can bear the crackling

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ann Edall Robson says:

        Thank you Anne. Jim Reeves…one of my all-time favourite artists, and worth the crackling. I danced many a mile to various versions of the home waltzes throughout my life and hopefully more yet to come. Take care.

        Like

  15. Ritu says:

    After a long while, I am back with a little entry, the idea of which came to me as soon as I read your prompt this week, Charli!
    https://butismileanyway.com/2020/03/28/march-26-flash-fiction-challenge-in-charge/

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hope that wasn’t you, Ritu, but I’m sure you’d have risen to the challenge. Of course were all at home now. Hope you and your family are doing okay.

      Like

      • Ritu says:

        Ha, no Anne, thankfully we haven’t been placed in that situation just yet. Still going in to school on days that I have to though. We are all safe at home otherwise, though.
        Hope you are all well 💜💜💜

        Like

  16. dgkaye says:

    Loved your story Charli. Loved The Horse Whisperer, and loved the video. Beautiful. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Nobbinmaug says:

    Oinkster? All right. I’ve only been on a horse once, and I doubt it will happen again, but we have wild horses where I live. I’ve always been skeptical about approaching them and have always been pleasantly surprised by how docile and friendly they’ve been. One time, I had my goddaughter with me, and she got to pet them. I’ve been fortunate that Charlie, who barks at everything, hasn’t spooked them.

    I think the prompt took charge. Here’s mine:

    https://nobbinblog.wordpress.com/2020/03/28/flash-fiction-diabolical-deer/

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I couldn’t resist joining in. Been finding it difficult to write, back in the saddle!

    Like

  19. Long may you take charge, Charli, you’re such an inspiration to us all.
    I picked out your line about horseriding
    You can’t relax too deeply on horseback, nor can you ride too rigid
    because it applies equally well to getting through these troubled times: if we’re too laid-back we might flout the stay-safe guidance, if we’re too rigid we might crack. But those beasts still terrify me and I’m not likely to get back in the saddle anytime soon.
    My flash is up along with a post asking whether we read differently in these anxious times:
    https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/do-you-read-differently-in-anxious-times

    Like

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