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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.

Submissions closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

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.


145 Comments

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

    Liked by 6 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 7 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

    • While Charli was watching The Horse Whisperer I was watching Buck. You’d love it. It’s right up your alley. An amazing human, that Buck.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli,
      I’m back with my story. I think it’s a bit different for me. Here’s the link: https://wp.me/p3O5Jj-1Bd
      Here’s the story:

      Charge!
      As if a starting gun had been fired, the children scattered, looking in grass, under rocks, in branches of trees.
      “What’re you doing?” asked the playground supervisor.
      “There’s eggs, Miss. Easter eggs — millions of ‘em. Enough for everyone.”
      “How many’ve you found?”
      “None yet. Gotta keep lookin’.”
      After a while, the searching slowed. “How many’ve you got?”
      They showed empty pockets and empty hands.
      The supervisor said, “Who said there were eggs?”
      They shrugged.
      When the punishment was handed down, the instigators explained, “It was just an experiment to see how many’d be sucked in. We meant no harm.”

      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 6 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 9 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 8 people

  8. Jim Borden says:

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

    Liked by 4 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised! His parents worked to educate consumers on paying farmers living wages. They encouraged their children, so I’m sure that boy has taken charge of some aspect of the 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 6 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 6 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 5 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Always happy to see the carrots discovered.

        Liked by 1 person

  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 6 people

  13. […] 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 […]

    Liked by 1 person

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

    Liked by 1 person

  15. 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 5 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 2 people

      • 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.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      The tradition of coming together as a community is sorely tested these days as we stay away to help our most vulnerable. Yet, it is the music and dancing that still reaches across balconies, streets and prairies. Lovely, Ann!

      Like

    • I like this because it reminds me of so many small town gatherings and is a real nod to the few, the humble who take charge behind the scenes and make it happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. 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 7 people

  17. […] was written for Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Each week’s challenge is to write to a prompt in exactly 99 words. This week’s prompt […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. dgkaye says:

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

    Liked by 2 people

  19. 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 5 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  21. 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

    Liked by 4 people

  22. […] This was written with the prompt about a character who takes charge provided by the Carrot Ranch March 26 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. […] week’s prompt from the Carrot Ranch brings back a memory from a holiday when the Vet was ten… thanks […]

    Liked by 3 people

  24. susansleggs says:

    Hi Charli, I’m hoping all your flu/cold symptoms are gone and spring is well on its way. The Horse Whisperer was on TV this morning so I tuned in. What a great movie. I love the beauty of a horse from afar. Riding isn’t for me. Funny because I don’t have trouble taking charge other places. In this time of uncertainty, I’m missing my time with my grandson the most and have noticed I’m using an onion most every day in one recipe or another. Our stores are restocked and today the sun is out. I have started a daily journal of trips out of the house just in case one of us gets sick, we can give it to our health care providers so they will know where we have been. Stay well…

    Take Charge of Yourself

    The church teen choir started practicing without Gaylan. He joined them ten minutes later and the group came to life.
    Tessa’s father, Don, running the rehearsal, after dismissing all but Gaylan, asked: “Would you say you respect this group?”
    “Sure.”
    “Do you attend by choice?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Do you understand belonging comes with responsibility?”
    “I guess.”
    “Do you believe your continual tardiness proves your answers are the truth?”
    Gaylan hesitated. “No, sir.”
    “Michael wanted to ask you to take charge tonight but didn’t trust you to be on time. Show up early from now on and you’ll earn that trust.”

    Liked by 4 people

  25. […] This in response to this weeks Flash Fiction Challenge from the Carrot Ranch […]

    Liked by 3 people

  26. joem18b says:

    At Mercy Hospital

    my heart took charge this morning and my mind did not fight it. i dressed, had a light breakfast, and rode my bike to the mercy hospital emergency room. there was already a line. i was a candy striper at mercy in high school and i still have connections there. the staff was glad to have me but did warn me about the infection rate among those exposed to the virus. i spent the day bringing donated coffee and pastries to those waiting and listening to their concerns, both the ill and their families. we’re all in this together.

    Liked by 5 people

  27. Desert Dreams

    Swirling nighttime sand pummeled and rocked the old Suburban. Sequoia made for a poor windbreak, but Clara knew that was all they’d get.

    “Mama?!” little Janey cried. “Papa?!”

    “I got ‘er,” Dan said, stumbling over cans, blankets, and sleeping bodies to reach their youngest.

    Clara settled back against the cold car wall. She needed to think. The endless roar of haunted desert souls echoed the wails in her mind, of the dying world they’d left behind.

    “So,” Dan sat next to her and laced his fingers in hers. “What next?”

    Clara narrowed her gaze, resolute. “I have a plan.”

    (Will post later today)

    Liked by 8 people

  28. […] Click here to join other writers participating in the challenge. […]

    Like

  29. I couldn’t help but think of the herding pups on farms who watch their mums and dads herding cattle, Charli. I’m sure they learn just as much from watching them as they do form the training a human will give them.

    Here’s a link to the continuing story of Doug, Sophie and Mike.

    https://hughsviewsandnews.com/2020/03/30/whos-in-control-flashfiction/

    Stay safe.

    Liked by 7 people

  30. […] in response to Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Check it […]

    Liked by 1 person

  31. wallietheimp says:

    Wallie and my response 🙂

    Little Mouse Goes West (99 words)

    Once upon a whisker, there was a cowboy who bumped into luck and fell down hard. It was the kind of fall you don’t get up from easily. Mouse, who had followed the cowboy’s dust for miles, didn’t like it at all.

    So the mouse climbed up on Petie’s knee and told him so. She was squeaking loud and clear, and Petie didn’t dare argue. He got up and Squeaky slid into his pocket. There were crumbs in there and it was warm, and the cold morning air tickled her nose.

    It was the perfect day for an adventure.

    Liked by 6 people

  32. Used to ride horses when I was young and it’s been many many years since I was young 🙂 I loved it though.
    Charli, a very heartwarming flash!
    I’m feeling a bit silly today, probably from being cooped up. So I give you my silly and I hope to write a flash fiction story soon.

    You’re gonna do what I say
    And you’re gonna stay put
    You’re gonna do what I tell you
    Without any guff
    You’re gonna eat what I tell you to eat
    Even if it’s chicken feet
    You’re gonna go when I tell you to go
    Even if the mountain is full of snow
    You’re gonna watch TV if I tell you to
    Tonight we’re watching Rookie Blue
    You’re gonna sleep when I tell you to sleep
    Make no sounds and don’t make a peep
    You’re gonna play when I tell you to play
    Now go outside it’s a sunny day

    Liked by 5 people

  33. […] following flash fiction was written in response to a challenge over at Carrot Ranch.  In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story in which a character takes charge. Who is this […]

    Like

  34. […] for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this […]

    Liked by 1 person

  35. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt(03/26/2020): 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! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Liz H says:

    Desperate times call for desperate measures…or at least,someone to take charge of the kitchen. A recipe I hope no one gets so desperate, they actually try this… 😮

    Shopping for Essentials

    “What the heck is that?”
    “A new recipe for Stay at Home.”
    “What you got in there?”
    [Continue ]

    Liked by 3 people

  37. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story in which a character takes charge. Who is this charact… […]

    Like

  38. I was too late to get it submitted. Here it is. Thanks, Charli. Loved yours! 🙂

    https://saschadarlington.me/2020/03/31/let-go/

    Liked by 4 people

  39. […] confess I almost skipped this week’s prompt from Carrot Ranch. I am not interested in a bunch of diatribes against our leadership. The only thing I am really […]

    Liked by 2 people

  40. Pete says:

    We welcomed Mom back to our quiet, clean house. Dad had one elbow and I had the other, our voices forced and careful and sounding anything but like our own.

    She’d been gone for two months. It seemed like so much longer. Meanwhile, I’d started sixth grade, found a new best friend, and had taken charge of the household. Now, I had so much to tell her. Even as the doctor said it would take time for her to adjust, much less notice all the clothes I’d washed and folded.

    But that’s hope for you, stubborn as a stain.

    Liked by 4 people

  41. Didn’t make the deadline for this week’s collection, but I didn’t want to abandon the prompt. Took it to another flash party and did a little mashup this week – 99 words and six sentences, two different prompts. Here’s the result. http://www.themeaningofme.com/decision/

    Like

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