Saddle Up Saloon; Picture Prompt

Written by D. Avery @shiftnshake

       Read my writing and see my books at

August 30, 2021

“Kid? It’s awful quiet aroun’ here… do we got a guest? Who’s takin’ the stage this week?”

“Ain’t got nuthin’. Again. But don’t go blamin’ me, Pal, I cain’t do it all. Our dang writer— ah, shift, here she is now, this cain’t be good. D. Avery, where in heck ya been? We could use a little help runnin’ this here saloon.”

“Sorry Kid. And no, I don’t have anyone lined up for you to interview. My computer is on the fritz, I’ve been working and playing hard, and quite frankly it isn’t easy corralling people to be interviewed by you.”

“D., yer excuses is lamer ‘an a old broken down nag.”

“Whoa, back up. Shush, Kid. Yer workin’ D.? Thought ya was retired. What’re ya doin’ now thet ya ain’t teachin’?”

“Working at the local hemp farm.”

“Hmmf! Hemp? Ya makin’ rope or smokin’ dope?”

“None of the above. It’s CBD marijuana, cannabidiol type. You know, for medicinal oils and tinctures.”

“Sounds like snake oil ta me.”

“All I know is it’s a growing business. And I get paid to exercise outdoors on one of the most beautifully situated farms in the great state of Vermont.”

“Exercise? Thinkin’ ya mean manual labor.”

“Yes, but you know what the 4-H kids say.”

“No, I don’t. What d’they say?”

“Well the pledge is, as I recall, ‘I pledge … My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service and My Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world’.”

“Ya tryin’ ta tell us this’s some sorta 4-H project? Growin’ pot?”

“No, Kid, but it sure does my heart, health, and head good to be working with my hands again. And I’m among good people and the operation is all organic. Worse things could be going on on that acreage.”

‘S’pose thet’s a fact. So what’ve ya been doin’ there, D.?”

“Well, this past couple of weeks it’s been a lot of weed whacking.”

“Weed whacking the weed?”

“Yes, clearing the weeds and ground cover that are around the plants. Clearing the way for harvest. And, from that work, maybe there is something we could run for the saloon this week Kid. See, when you have row upon row of repetitive work to do, your mind gets to travel a bit.”


“The crew and I are out there, dressed for our work, you know, long pants, boots, and a harness that helps support the straight shaft weed whacker. We march in and transform shaggy fields into regimented, groomed rows of sturdy plants.”


“Anyway, my mind went back to a scene from a family visit to Arlington National Cemetery a couple years ago.”

“‘Cause a them straight rows?”

“No. Because of the weed whacking brigade. On our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Marine in full dress uniform makes his precise drills, I noticed men in drab green work clothes marching through the rows of headstones. They moved with precision and as a unit, their weed whackers held expertly as they maintained those hallowed grounds, keeping them in pristine condition.”

“I kin see how ya made thet connection whilst weed whacking with yer crew, D., but what’s thet got ta do with runnin’ somethin’ fer the saloon?”

“I’ve had these pictures handy for over two years. The picture in my head is stronger. I’ve thought there is a story there, but I have yet to write it. So maybe—”

“A photo prompt! Mebbe folks’ll connect ta these picture an’ they kin provide some stories!”

“Yes, exactly. Any length they wish. They can post and pingback through their own sites and/or leave their story below in the comments. And it doesn’t have to be exactly this scene. Their story could be about going to an acclaimed event, but then they see something that leaves an unexpected impression… my visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is more memorable for me because of the parallel scene.”

“When I’m at a rodeo sometimes I miss the action in the arena cuz I’m takin’ in the re-actions in the stands. An’ thet’s what I end up ‘memberin’ the most a thet event.”

“Yeah, Pal. So what’s the prompt?”

“Folks, if these here photos inspire ya ta a story, or lead ya ta a memory or story ‘bout a time thet weren’t the main event, please share in the comments or with a pingback ta yer post. Ev’ry pi’ture tells a story. What d’ya have ta say ‘bout what ya see?”

The Unknown by D. Avery

The boss calls me Manuel, calls me Mexican. Manuel is not my name, Mexico is not the country I come from. I am Guatemalan. “What’s the difference?” he asks, but does not really want an answer. 

Hundreds of people come every day to this cemetery where I do this work. These people honor their soldiers. They are awed by the endless rows of headstones, each engraved with a name. 

My father, my mother, my brothers and sisters— they had names. My village had a name. 

The boss says I am lucky to have this job. I know that’s true.

 If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via

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  1. Jules

    This was unusual. But I managed to tack it on to another prompt of a continuing series. But you don’t have to read them all – each piece should stand on its own.

    The only thing that was personal was that I had met someone when I was younger – a pen pal actually, and she wanted photos – in a cemetery. I don’t even think I have that photo anymore… I didn’t want to be there then, but it was to difficult to explain my reasons so I just did it. And while I’ve gotten better about it visiting those sacred grounds, I’d just rather let those green spaces be peaceful for those who are there…

    Here’s: #9 Practical Wisdom?

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thanks Jules! I enjoyed this and appreciate the incorporation.

  2. suespitulnik

    The Real POW’s by Sue Spitulnik

    Arlington. The rows and rows of headstones. Soldiers all. So many more buried in other locations or not at all.

    Boot camp. The rows and rows of men and women. They signed on the dotted line. They’ll fight where they are told. For a reason, they might not understand.

    Arlington. Pristine. Peaceful. The lucky ones rest quietly alongside others. The families grieve.

    The Memorial Day Parade. The rows and rows of those who served march with their “brothers.”. They’d do it again. The proud. Their minds never quite made it all the way home. The real prisoners of war.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thank you for that, Sue. It’s a very powerful piece, quiet, but packs a punch.

    • Myrna Migala

      Thank you I was blessed with two military sons, both came home.

      • suespitulnik

        I’m glad they made it home.

    • Charli Mills

      Sue, I love how your story reads like a slide show. Powerful images connected to the final truth. It reminds me of a veteran spouse who once told me, “Veterans don’t kill people; they take hostages.” She was referring to the high incidence of failed marriages and broken homes in the veteran community. Lots of grief is represented in those pristine rows of white marble.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hello! I didn’t put a form in; for one I don’t know how, and this is just an extra and out of the ordinary prompt at the Saloon, not to be confused with Charli’s weekly challenges that come out on Thursdays. I do appreciate your participation and quite enjoyed your story.

      • Kerry E.B. Black

        Here’s my CNF response. 🙂

        Arlington Cemetery
        Written by Kerry E.B. Black

        Like giants’ teeth, white tombstones jut from grassy gums, wise words carved into their backs serving as memorial tattoos. The land once belonged to the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee who found war to be uncivil in the end. But before the Custis-Lee family owned it, Native tribes called the land their home. Policies put in place to protect the trees surrounding what once was a home and now is a museum were contested and overturned, another upheaval on peaceful property. A corner was once set aside as Freedman’s Village, until the residents chopped the wood for fuel and heat. Who knew trees could cause disharmony in a land where warriors rest?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Kerry, what an image! I love the teeth jutting from grassy gums. I also appreciate the history of Arlington that you have shared. Thank you.

        Um, CNF?

  3. Myrna Migala

    Okay, no problem just learning my way around the Ranch these days.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      It’s a great place. Explore, there’s lots to see and learn. Monday’s the Saddle Up Saloon has a variety of features, but regular poetry prompts every first and third Monday; Tuesdays there are regular columns, Wednesday is the Roundup of challenge responses and Thursday’s feature Charli’s post and latest flash fiction challenge. Thanks again for taking part in the first ever Saloon photo prompt!

  4. Norah

    A picture prompt. That’s an interesting change. I hope it raises many stories.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Great stories so far. But I don’t think I’ll do this often. I just put out what comes my way, and this is it this week.
      When I weed whack my hands brush against the plants and get coated in sticky oil. Guess what? My arthritis is gone!
      I’m not in the fields today but tomorrow we begin harvesting the plants! Labor intensive. Who knows what ideas will bubble up then.

      • Myrna Migala

        Years ago a kindly lady told me to take Cod Liver Oil for my arthritis, not fish oil, the pain was so bad. It took about a month of taking it daily but the pain left. If ever I forget for more than a week, the pain comes back, try it!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks for the tip Myrna. Used to hear a lot about cod liver oil. CBD oil is the new Cod Liver it seems.

      • Norah

        No more arthritis is a great benefit of work. I’m impressed. New ideas and arthritis-free – retirement sounds great to me! 🙂

  5. Charli Mills

    Hi there, D. Avery! Good work you are doing in your parts. That’s dream time, tending outdoor labor. Good to know you hang out with these characters from time to time. Kid and Pal have been doing a fine job. Seems Shorty needs to be less distracted and more focused on roping folks into the Saloon. Your flash went straight to the dark parts of my heart as migrant workers always remind me of my father’s family. They were not good people but they packed a lot of pain as they cultivated for America, often ridiculed as Okies or “wetbacks” despite being in this country from the beginning. Probably were indentured servants, slaves or deported convicts. Not a branch I often feel compelled to explore but your images brought them to mind:

    Crooked Pickers by Charli Mills
    Maizy’s knobbed hands pluck red tomaters from regimented garden rows. Her parents had wandered a crooked path from Colorado to California, moonshiners dodging the law. Caught and jailed, Maizy had to live with destitute kin who picked fruit in the San Joaquin Valley. Her Granny J died of cancer right there in the field, staggering and spilling strawberries. Authorities called Maizy a dirty Okie and placed her on the foster care merry-go-round. She ran away, married a twisted Marine who went AWOL, raised broken children as a migrant ranch worker and punching bag. Garden rows were all she kept straight.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Have you flashed Maizy before? This here is a fine flash, Great last line.

      I enjoy field work, seasonal agricultural Work. And it is a choice, I don’t have to do it. I’m treated well. I know enough about the work to have respect for the skills and strengths of those who do it because it’s all there is for them. Manual is not menial.

      Yes, Kid and Pal are doing fine, they just like to whine and complain. You focus on you and your students, the Kid is all right.

      • Charli Mills

        Maizy’s first entry. She came over the wall. I knew many fine pickers and ranch hands who worked the fields they knew and sent money back home. It’s not just the work but the knowledge.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thanks Geoff, that’s a wild romp of a response!

  6. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    Love your flash. Reminds me of when I had an Indian boyfriend and it took a couple of weeks before I realised the name everyone called him wasn’t his full name. I think we’re getting better at that in the UK now, but very slowly.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A lot of times any Central American is called Mexican, from ignorance or lack of interest, though other Central Americans might carry rivalry and even disdain for neighboring nationalities, even after migrating north where their children are all lumped together as ESL. I chose Guatemala for this piece as I don’t feel like that country is as recognized as Honduras or El Salvador for its troubles and violence, where thousands, mostly indigenous groups, were “disappeared”.


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