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October 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

In the US, the Coast Guard are the ones who go out on tumultuous seas when all other watercraft head for shelter. They are the maritime security, search and rescue, and law enforcement service of the US Armed Forces. They are veterans, too.

Where I live, along the southern curve of Lake Superior on a jut of land known as the Keweenaw Peninsula, maritime life saving once fell to the lifesavers. Before we had diesel-powered Coast Guard ships, we had rowboats.

Okay, maybe not rowboats like you’d take a date on a placid pond. They were wooden, though, and powered by humans. Can you imagine a furious storm on Lake Superior with gales forceful enough to sink an iron ore steamer? Then imagine the rescuers seeking to pull sailors from the waves in wooden boats powered manually with oars.

You can see some of their equipment in this video of our local Life Saving Museum in Eagle Harbor, thirty miles north of headquarters of Carrot Ranch.

Even today, it must take great courage to face a storm. The Coast Guard still has several life saving stations, both on our Portage Canal that accommodated freighters to haul copper. Their 47-foot dual engine boats are designed for dangerous water rescues.

Life savers were often forgotten to history. My friend Barb, married a Vietnam veteran, back in 1980. His family lived and worked on the Keweenaw for many generations. One was a surfman, or an early Coast Guard life saver. When Barb did some genealogy and found out about this man and his deeds, saving lives, she realized that no one had ever collected all the names of the life savers that served our peninsula.

What started out as a family project led to the recognition of over 300 life savers. Barb even found descendants, which led to interest in forming the local museum where her research resides.

Barb was one of the first people I met when I arrived to the Keweenaw three and a half years ago. She had just battled cancer and returned to the Warrior Sisters group where I had found my welcome. Of course, we hit it off quickly, both sharing a love of history and recovering forgotten voices.

Two years ago during the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, I highlighted Barb’s work. She had recently been honored for her research and given a week’s stay at the light-keeper’s house in Eagle Harbor.

Waves surged relentlessly against the craggy rocks of Eagle Harbor where I went to write for a few days as a guest of Keweenaw historian, Barb Koski. It was mid-October, and the gales of November had come even earlier than when the Edmond’s Fitzgerald went down. Barb’s expertise in maritime history focuses on the heroics of the surfmen — those who went out into the wind-driven swells in small boats to rescue the crews of large ships.

Like Barb, many who live, work or attend secondary education on the Keweenaw Peninsula fall in love with the area’s natural beauty and endless outdoor activities. Barb showed me many natural wonders and historic structures during our getaway. If you spend any time outdoors on the Keweenaw, you can’t escape the area’s bold history of industrial copper mining.

On October 18, 2020, my friend, fellow historian, and Warrior Sister, Barb Koski died peacefully at home. Earlier that week, led by our fearless widow, the Warrior Sisters sat with her, laid on hands, prayed, and said goodbyes. Sitting at her feet was the teddy bear we bought her, the one Barb named Precious. She took Precious everywhere.

At her visitation on Monday, Precious sat near her once again. Barb’s daughter said they thought about cremating Precious with Barb, but her husband wanted to keep the bear. Now Precious goes with him. The next day we all gathered once again, the Warrior Sisters and my Hub in a single pew.

Barb was a life saver. She cared deeply for others and could sit with them in their pain. She rescued those who risked their lives from obscurity. In thinking what kind of stories Barb would like, I’m pointing us all toward the fury of the sea, inland or elsewhere, to write about life savers who dare face the waves and the storms.

October 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a formal Coast Guard, historical or contemporary. It could be an individual who unexpectedly takes on the role. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 3, 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 now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

In Remembrance by Charli Mills

Beatrice Hayes served Coast Guard Station Portage for three years, respecting the deadly furies of Lake Superior. Cruising the canal on a clear day, she could spot old shipwrecks below the water’s surface. To the west, she assisted in setting up the buoy system. When she heard kayakers were gathering to honor a local historian who researched her historical predecessors, Beatrice mustered the fleet from cruisers to icebreaker to Kodiaks and posted an honor guard. Women in kayaks tossed daisies, reciting the names of life savers who had served these waters, ending with the woman who wrote their biographies.



  1. beth says:


  2. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction October 30, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a formal Coast Guard, historical or contemporary. It could be an individual who unexpectedly takes on the role. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by November 3, 2020. […]

  3. Jules says:

    Charli… double Wow.

    (Oh… the URL thingy isn’t working to add links… it will only accept email addresses)

    I went in a slightly different lifesaving direction. Blame it on Goldie… she asked for more… and well it’s been working so far. At my blog post I do have a link for all the 99 word segments. But here’s:

    Damned Family #5

    I decided to stay an extra day at the motel. I hadn’t gotten much sleep, and in my quest to do something, anything I unpacked and repacked my luggage. Odd that I never used the outside pockets – but there was a journal in one of my suitcases. Ships at Sea! The writing was in my ex husband’s hand. My eyes blurred, filled with tears. How was I going to read this – especially now? After I claimed I didn’t know he was the dead body that I found yesterday.

    coasting on cold waves
    an anchor of memories
    a hidden journal


  4. I’m glad you had Barb for the time that you did. Her story says much about the community that she enriched, the community that you have joined. I know that she, and all her Warrior Sisters, are life savers. This was a tough post. Thank you for sharing it with us here at the Ranch. Now promise us all that you’ll take good care of yourself.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks for reading about Barb. I’ll be dancing beneath the full blue moon tomorrow no matter how many words still need writing. Self care. 😉

  5. Into the Storm

    Through rain pelted windows Marlie’s tree fort hove into view. Marlie read, curled up with Daisy on the couch.
    “Remember when she used to sail in weather like this, captaining a mighty ship?”
    “Remember when she made Tommy walk the plank?”
    “Do you miss Tommy, Liz?”
    “For better or worse, I do. I miss our opportunity to give Tommy a respite from his family. The great unmasked… What’s Marlie researching now?”
    “Life savers.”
    “The candy? Or health care workers?”
    “Life Savers- nascent Coast Guard.”
    Putting her book aside Marlie donned her foul weather gear. She had to go out.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Marlie returned and just in time to face the storm!

    • I only now got to my own site to post this Marlie story. Oh, that’s because I didn’t believe this morning that it was finished. It wasn’t. There’s another 99.

      part 2:

      “Who will rescue us, Bill?”
      “What? Are we a wreck?” He crowded into the window seat. Beyond the steamy window, Marlie braved the high seas to pluck Destiny from the surf.
      “Not us. Us. /U/ /S/. Of A?”
      “Oh. Ship of fools. Headed for the rocks.”
      “We’ve been commandeered by pirates, with a fool spinning the helm. I’m scared Bill.”
      “Me too.”
      “Oh! Marlie! You’ve returned.”
      “Mom? Dad?”
      “We’re huddled in our lifeboat, Marlie. Get in.”
      Marli climbed in with her parents and assessed their circumstances. “It’s going to be rough. But we’ll make it. All storms peter out.”

  6. Whiskey in a Storm

    “Ah, Ernie, you’re a lifesaver!”
    “It’s jist whiskey, Pal.”
    “Yer a port in the storm, Ernie, a safe haven as I go a-sailin’ back ta the Ranch.”
    “Thinkin’ ya might already be three sheets, there, Pal. An’, ya look like ya seen a ghost.”
    “I did, last week. It was spooky. Afore thet I worked my fingers ta the bone doin’ chores at my cuzzins’ turnip farm, an thet dispite wearin’ kid gloves.”
    “Speakin’ a which, where’s Kid at?”
    “Dunno. Took separate trails fer our vacation. Mighta saved Kid’s life, thet break.”
    “Missin’ Kid, ain’tcha?”
    “Been a long month.”


    Bacon in a Storm

    Though spooked, Kid made it back to Carrot Ranch. Kid had never been so long and far away from the barns and bunkhouse without Pal; the whole month had seemed like one long dark and stormy night. Now the sun rising over Shorty’s cookhouse was like a lightbulb overhead. Idea!
    By the time Shorty came on the scene, Kid had stacked large rocks in a circle.
    “Buildin’ a fire ring?”
    “Foundation fer a lighthouse. Thinkin’ we need a beacon.”
    “The Ranch is a beacon, an’ a safe harbor. Come on, Kid, I’ll fix ya some bacon.”
    Kid lightened up.

  7. denmaniacs4 says:


    The eyes, if they’re eyes, stare along the cresting water.

    The head, if it is a head, bobs.

    “See?” she says. “There!”

    “Kelp bulb,” I state. “That’s all.”

    “Let’s get closer.”

    I hesitate.

    The sea is enraged.

    The wind is rising up.




    Ones balance, hard to maintain.

    “Are you coming?”

    “Don’t be foolhardy,” I howl, whilst the furious wind works overtime to drown me out.

    “Fine! Stay put. But I’m going closer.”

    She moves out of my reach.

    Towards the waters edge.

    I am transfixed.

    She strips to the essentials.

    “NO!” I scream.

    She dives in.

  8. Jim Borden says:

    my favorite branch of the military!

  9. TanGental says:

    One of The boys makes a revelation this week
    ‘Logan, there’s a pool. Let’s go swim.’
    ‘No thanks. I’ll catch forty winks.’
    ‘Come on!’
    ‘I’ll go for a walk later.’
    ‘This is America. No one walks.’
    ‘I’m not swimming.’
    ‘I’ve a spare cozzie.’
    ‘I’m not wearing your clothes.’
    ‘Come on. It….’
    ‘What’s got into you?’
    ‘I can’t swim.’
    ‘You can’t?’
    ‘I’m phobic.’
    ‘What? The superheroic Logan is scared of water?’
    ‘I nearly drowned. Mr Dunk saved me.’
    ‘Great name.’
    ‘I’d given up. I was going down for the third time.’
    ‘Mate, I didn’t know. Anyway, time you got back on the horse.’
    ‘I’m not doing that either…’

  10. […] 30, 2020, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a […]

  11. I’m so sorry for the loss of your dear friend, Charli. I know she lives in your heart. <3 I honor all the women of the water… <3

    The Blessings of Ziva

    “Hurry or we’ll be late, Bisera. We have to be there before sunrise,” called Emika.

    Bisera balanced the jug on her hip without spilling a drop. “I’m right behind you, Emika. Did you remember to bring the apple?”

    “I found the last red apple in the bin. The apple and the water are our offerings to Ziva, the ancient goddess of water.”

    Bisera reached the river and tumbled toward the icy depths. “Help me.”

    Emika grabbed the girl’s scarf and saved her from harm.

    “Thank you, Emika. The goddess put you in the right place at the right time.”


    On the eve of the New Year, in ancient Slavic countries, the young maidens took offerings of water and apples to the local river to honor the goddess Ziva. (Ziva, the Slavic Goddess of Water, whose name itself means life).

  12. […] and grow as a writer. This week we are challenged by the community’s leader, Charli Mills, to write about lifesavers, and though the Coast Guard and their predecessors were implicated, as ever, we go where the prompt […]

  13. Norah says:

    What a lovely tribute to Barb, Charli. I remember your spending time at the lighthouse with her. What a magic time and a precious memory. And how wonderful that she brought the lives of so many forgotten ones to light. She shone the light on others, as you have now shone the light on her. Sending hugs and support for you in your time of loss.

  14. I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Charli. She sounds like a wonderful person!

  15. Here’s my take on the prompt for this week.

    The Lifesaver

    Around midnight, he would walk down to the bridge and wait, with one foot resting on the bottom rail, staring into the tidal shift below. He would wait for a stranger to appear at the other end of the bridge, mirroring his stance. ‘Time to go’ he would announce and hoist himself onto the second rail. The stranger would come running, yelling ’What are you doing?’ ‘Ending the pain’ he would say. And the stranger would pull him down and take him to the all-night coffee stand just off the bridge. He’d lost count of the lives he’d saved.

  16. Hi Charli,

    My prayers for you and the Warrior Sisters in your time of sorrow for a very dear friend.
    Thinking about your blog;
    Coast Guards; lifesavers; of people, ships, boats lost at sea;
    and of families waiting onshore.

    Lines from a poem by Robert Frost
    “Neither Out Far Nor in Deep” (c) 1936 ( in “Poems of the Sea” anthology; ed JD McClatchy; 2001).

    “// And the people looking at the sea

    // They cannot look out far
    They cannot look deep in.
    But when was that ever a bar
    To any watch they keep?”

    Stay safe. Keep well.


  17. Sorry you’ve lost another friend, Charli, but what a lovely tribute. I’ve tagged my 99-word story on to the end of a post from earlier this month – so I hope no-one gets confused if they’re kind enough to come and visit. It’s a historical flash fiction based on the heroism of Grace Darling – and I’m wondering if you’ll get more than one of those from the UK, but mine has a photograph (taken by me) from a beach very close to where she set out with her father to rescue the survivors of a shipwreck.

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s been a sad month for our veteran group of friends. I think Barb would have appreciated a historical fiction, Anne. You wrote it well, too, with a feel for the place and era, and the revelation of the loss.

    • What a name for this hero, Grace Darling. I didn’t get confused and it was worth the trip. Now I’m thinking I want to know that mother’s story. It must be something for the therapists when some in a family don’t survive the sinking and others do.

      • Yes, tragic. People can suffer survivor guilt when the casualties are strangers, so sad when to lose your children that way. (Great material for writers as well as keeping therapists in business!)

  18. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (10/30/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life savers on any body of water. It can be a formal Coast Guard, historical or contemporary. It could be an individual who unexpectedly takes on the role. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  19. Liz H says:

    Cuz you know who you gotta count on:

    Oreos and Milk Save the Day!

    The boat tosses and turns, water crashing over its bow, threatening to tip the tiny crew into the roiling waters.
    “I can’t hold our course, Captain!”
    “Look alive, Fishlegs! The deadly virus cure’s gotta get to Littleton before sunrise.”

  20. I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your friend, Charli. She sounded such a wonderful lady who touched on the lives of many. And although Precious never went with Brab, I’m sure she’s pleased that her bear is being looked after by somebody in the family.

  21. […] I read Charli’s 99 word prompt this week, I immediately remembered the tragic events at Blackrock Island in the very early hours of March […]

  22. Gloria says:

    As soon as I see or hear the words, Coast Guards and lifesavers, I immediately remember the tragic accident at Blackrock Island in the very early hours of March 14th 2017. The nation mourned!

    Rescue 116

    Irish Coast Guard helicopter
    Called into the night
    Black ocean swells
    Rocky terrain in sight

    Find Blacksod Bay
    Refuel at the lighthouse
    Where the keeper awaits
    No mayday distress

    Black box tells
    Of that early misty morn
    Winchman yelled ‘come right’
    Duffy said ‘we’re gone’

    Didn’t make it to the lighthouse
    Hit Blackrock instead
    Two were lost at sea
    Two were found…now dead

    Ciarán Smith
    Father of three
    Paul Ormsby
    Lived for family

    Captain Dara Fitzpatrick
    Mother sister friend
    Captain Mark Duffy
    All heroes till the end

    The nation mourned
    We’ll never forget
    Rescue 116
    Saviours we never met

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, wow, not that long ago, Gloria! Rescue 116. You filled the story with such action and emotion, I can feel the community’s rally and loss. You should share this with a regional publication. I’m sure it would resonate with your community.

      • Gloria says:

        Thank you Charli. Yes quite a recent accident. I feel particularly sad for the families of the two men who were never found. Closure is very important, I think.

  23. Gloria says:

    Bard was precious Charli, just little her little bear. It takes a special kind of person to be able to sit with the pain of others. Pure selfless. I think our saviours of the sea face such danger and unforeseen circumstances, and not always a happy ending. However, the happy endings are most likely what drives them on in their work. Bless them all!

  24. […] for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join […]

  25. I’m sorry to hear this, Charli. <3 Sounds like a lovely goodbye you all had (with Precious, of course).

  26. […] to Carrot Ranch October 30 Flash Fiction Challenge where Charli Mills offers the theme of “life savers on any body of […]

  27. Precious…

  28. I’m feeling a bit creatively exhausted from the 13 Days of Samhain challenge I did. I can’t think of any ideas for this prompt at the moment. I hoped reading other people’s responses might help but my mind is still blank… I think I’ve got a day or so.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, what was that challenge, Joanne? Astrological Samhain continues through the middle of November. May it refresh your creative stores!

    • Jules says:

      Sometimes it is hard to continue serial stories too. And that with the rodeo challenges… Just keep writing something even if it is gibberish. Because some times even if it doesn’t make sense to you it will help keep the ink flowing 🙂

  29. […] by Charli’s prompt to write about life savers on any body of water, in remembrance of her good friend, Barb […]

  30. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    I’m sorry about your loss of Barb. We never have our loved ones long enough. What a gift she left behind for others to enjoy and learn from. October is over, I hope that means your workload is either finished or lessened. It was a wild month of fun at the ranch. I will admit I don’t think fairy tales are for me…My story wasn’t complete in 99 words so my first two-parter follows. ..

    Muddy Water Memories

    The band was packing their instruments when a young man approached Mac. He stuck an old photo of two men, one supporting the other, in a muddy rice paddy apparently in Vietnam in front of him. “I’m wondering if that’s you on the left?”
    Mac stared at the photo…”Billy Metott.”
    “My grandfather. He says you saved his life that day. I wanted to tell you he’s doin’ well and say thank you.”
    “How did you find me?”
    “I’m attending college near here. He saw the bar’s name when he passed by and thought it must be you.”
    “I’ll be.”

    (Part two)

    Mac handed the picture back, wiped the tears from his eyes, and finally looked at the young man. “The truth about that day is nobody lived without the help of a buddy. Why didn’t Billy stop in?”
    “Fear he was wrong. Memories.”
    “That I understand. Your name?”
    “Colm, after my father.”
    When the band members heard the name, their curiosity peaked. They heard Mac say, “Sorry about the name. I’d like to get together with your grandfather. Maybe we can save each other from some future bad dreams.”
    “He’ll agree to that. I’ll let him know.”
    “Thank you, Colm.”

    • I love that you’re breaking the rules, doing a double.
      I also enjoy witnessing this story and characters deepen and develop.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue,

      No, we don’t get our loved ones long enough. But if we are fortunate to build a community to share the burden with, just as o many of your veteran stories reflect, we get to hold onto love. Thanks for this two-parter. It’s got a lot of hope and healing between the lines.

    • Jules says:

      I’d say a fine double indeed. I’ve done that when I can’t fit everything in just 99 words. Two or three 99 word segments… I didn’t see anything in the rules saying we can’t…

  31. […] “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about lifesavers on any body of water.”– prompt used for this CW piece.[Source: CarrotRanch] […]

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