Maple pollinators coat the ATV trail. The ground is such a livid neon yellow that it messes with depth perception and I wobble my first steps across the tree litter. The transition from spring into the life of summer comes amidst a hail of pollen, blossoms and organic fluff. I’m walking the dog for the gazillionth time because she’s too picky to poop in the detritus of spring. A winter puppy, she misses her snow banks.

Mause rears on her lanky back legs to snap at dandelion seeds floating across the lawn. On impulse, I’ve plucked two full dandelion heads to make a wish, or two. It’s the eve of my birthday and earlier celebrations for graduation wind down. Tomorrow two of my grown kids and their partners will be in town to spend a weekend of yard work with mom (for mom?). Already, the three kids pitched in to buy me a dump-truck load of pea gravel to build up my bonfire area. I wish for the weekend to extend as long as possible to enjoy time with them.

The puppy, now six months old and a master chewer, has exhausted me this week. I’m on my own with her as the Hub has flown out to Nevada to be with his family. She notices everything around her, like dandelion seeds spreading wishes and piles of tiny rocks. She decides to dig, helping us spread the gravel. Back home, past the woodland shadows and ground mists of blue forget-me-nots, she flops on her belly, panting, seeking the coolness of the grass. Her white coat glistens like the patches of fleabane scattered across my shaggy lawn.

It’s hot and muggy today, and I’m thinking about the naked farmers I once interviewed for a article. I can’t recall the name of their pizza, a secondary product they made from their naked veggies. It’s not the pup’s bare belly on grass that brought me to muse digging in soft soil sans clothing. It was one of the Rancher socials last Saturday and a conversation about World Naked Gardening Day that emerged. I knew this would have to be a prompt for May! Why not? How could skinny dipping beneath a garden hose go wrong?

Sometimes, writing can feel naked. (You knew I’d try to stretch a connection, right?) We write raw and vulnerable, even when we craft fiction. We hope to present our work fully clothed to readers but often we find that they strip away our outer veneer and see us beneath our carefully arranged words. We are like naked gardeners, exposing ourselves as we explore humanity.

Let’s be carefree as the trees and cast our clothes to the breeze for this one! And if you have a garden, send D. Avery some photos (of the garden, not the gardener) for her Saddle Up Saloon Garden Tour at shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

May 20, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about naked gardening. Is it the veggies or the gardener who is naked? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 25, 2021. 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.

Slip Up by Charli Mills

An early summer scorcher in the Great Basin robbed the buckaroos of their appetite. Bev wasn’t about to see her gang shrivel in the sun unfed. She sliced cold cuts and tomatoes and packed almonds and dried apricots for the trail. Wilfred, the ranch foreman raised a wooly eyebrow but kept silent. He advised everyone to tank up on water and required they carried canteens. After Bev cleaned the cookshack she headed for the garden, feeling sluggish. Later she’d claim she slipped in a pile of fresh horse apples when the crew returned early to find her gardening naked.   

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