February 21: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

February 21, 2022

I’d rather be kayaking than driving in yet (again) another snowstorm. The longing of spring sparkles in the extended daylight hours. I wonder if kangaroos and koalas notice the days getting shorter? Ah, I’d rather be traveling than stuck in a snowbank.

When I was a kid, the phrase, “I’d rather be fishing” became a popular saying on bumper stickers and dad t-shirts. It was meant to be a humorous slant on an activity considered leisure and thus the opposite of work. It’s become a fill-in-the-blank prospect nowadays.

I know my students would rather be on spring break. It’s not this week but next. A seemingly max exodus of the UP is underway as yoopers would rather be where there is less snow. We’ve had 224 inches so far and it’s so deep, we have nowhere to put it. Scooping now means pushing snow up huge hills so it is easier to use a snowblower.

I’d rather be on spring break, too. Almost there.

For a week, I will be the sole caretaker of Ghost House Farm. This is my daughter’s and SIL’s place populated with my grandkids (goats, two 6-month-old puppies, and Mona kitty). I get to be a snowed-in writer/farmer for a week, feeding chickens, caring for the very first seedlings for the next planting, minding the woodstove, snuggling puppies, and…milking Peggy. A goat.

Yes, I agreed to milk a goat.

Some of you might remember that I have a history with goats. I’ve ridden them, roped them, and, apparently, licked them. I can’t drink goat’s milk or eat goat dairy cheese. The taste gives me the shudders. I don’t have a specific memory, but the byproduct tastes like licking the critter. Yet, there I’ll be next week, milking a goat.

I’d rather be…

It’s a great phrase for writers to consider. “What if…” gets us thinking forward. It’s a plot question that creates cause and effect. What if goats were aliens? What happens next because of that. “What if…” begins a story and gets the log rolling downhill.

On the other hand, “I’d rather be…” is introspective and requires a perspective — a character. “I’d rather be turned on,” said the lamp in the dark parlor. Even an object takes on a personality by answering the question. Knowing what one character would rather be doing compared to another creates a story of differentiation. We begin to wonder why these characters would rather be doing something else. The question is one of character development.

While I’m standing in as farm-mom next week over spring break (no classes or learning labs), I will finish my vision planning for Carrot Ranch. On March six, I will be honoring the work of Carrot Ranchers who, over the course of the pandemic, kept Carrot Ranch encouraging and inspiring with yarns, columns, poetry, and discussions. It was important to see so many among our community shine the way forward during dark times. On March 13, I will be sharing news about Carrot Ranch.

As long as the goats don’t eat my plans in progress while I’m on the farm. Oh, and yes, I will be penning some of those ghost stories along with my daughter.

February 21, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “I’d rather be…” You fill in what comes next. What would a character(s) rather be doing and why? How can you use the phrase as a literary device? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by February 26, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Charli Mills, I laughed out loud at the goat milking. (Some story I recall from a kayaking trip one time.) That’s going to be quite a week up there. You’ll be in good company sounds like.

    • suespitulnik

      Dede and Charli, I laughed out loud at the same spot and then read it to my hubby and laughed some more. Is there a remedy for charli when she gets the goat shudders??

      • pedometergeek

        Or is it goat udders?

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      LOL! You guys have me cracking up! LOL! <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’m dying laughing! You are all udderly funny! Peggy is going to wonder why I’m laughing every time I milk her.

    • Liz H

      Keep the jokes coming…milk this for all it’s worth!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Ernie! You are back from Seexville! We can build that zeep-line now, no?”
    ‘No. Pepe, we ain’t makin a zip-line.”
    “But Ernie! We weel connect Carrot Ranch to Mees Shorty’s headquarters.”
    “Sounds ta me like there’s already a strong connection, Pepe. Through written lines, not zip lines.”
    “But people weel want to zeep back and forth.”
    “People do. In a flash. I ain’t heppin, Pepe. I’d rather be enjoyin my own farm and garden products back at my cabin. See ya.”
    “Dees steenks. I know! Aussie once said dat she would rather ride in a hot air balloon than zeep-lining.”

    • Charli Mills

      The snow’s so deep a zeep-line would be buried at headquarters! Ernie’s got it right, we do have lines that connect, written lines.

    • Norah

      So funny.
      Did I say that? Really? Or was it another Aussie?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Oui, you said you would rather be in a hot air balloon than on a zeep-line, back when you were digging up over from down under an challenging de yarnist to deeg an zeep weeth you. Get ready Mees Colvin, dere weel be a hot air balloon. Logatha ees sewing together her old beeg girl panties to make da balloon an I am workeeng on da hot air. Oops, sorry, dere’s some now.

      • Norah

        You’re so funny, Ms D. That’s about as much hot air as I can take right now. 🙂

  3. robbiesinspiration

    Hi Charli, it sounds like you have an interesting week to look forward too.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Robbie, yes I’m excited about farm (and Ranch) week! In 261 inches of snow, too. I have to snowshoe to the chickens and goats. I’ll take photos for next week’s post, share the experience.

  4. Chel Owens

    This reminds me of “would you rather…?” which is a game my children play when bored on car trips. They say it’s a popular one at schools as well. They take two instances and compare them, asking which you’d rather choose.

    “Would you rather eat an avocado or asparagus?,” “Would you rather by able to fly or be able to run really fast?,” “Milk a goat or lick one?”

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, right! I had forgotten about that game. My kids used to play it too when we’d drive to go camping. Hmmm…I’d rather milk a goat.

      • Chel Owens

        😀 Good answer.

  5. ellenbest24

    Milking ornary Goats

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! This sounds like my astrology forecast, Ellen!

      • ellenbest24


  6. TanGental

    As a kid we lived a mile from a large goat farm one way and a mile from a large goose farm the other. I’d love to say one smell neutralised the other… I share your shudders Charli and raise you goose guano… and no I never licked either species…

    • Charli Mills

      I don’t think I’ve had the displeasure of smelling a concentration of goose guano. For some reason, my family always kept a couple of “guard geese.” I never understood why — they also had cow dogs — but those geese greeted anyone who pulled into the ranch with honks and hisses. Which poop did your mom prefer for her gardens?

      • TanGental

        Goose when well rotted. My gran had guinea fowl as guards. Swore they were better than any dog because the started making a racket long before anything else

  7. Colleen M. Chesebro

    But… goat yoga sounds so fun, Charli. I hear they lick you… not the udder way around. 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Not sure I want to get licked, either, Colleen! Baby Beast (his mother’s name is Belle) is a snuggler. I’m going to try to read to the kids while I’m out there.

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        I’ve always wanted goats. And those cute sheep! ??????????????? They’re the unicorns of farm animals after horses. ????

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! I’m tempted to get the goats unicorn horns! Sheep are cute until they get shorn! I’m working on my kids to “let mom” have a horse.

  8. Ann Edall-Robson

    After doing the visual in my mind about the goat milking, and having a good giggle at the expense of the visual. My concern is not so much for the goat, and is extended towards Charli; however, the main dilemma is that I am under the assumption after reading the blog again, that there will be no one to take pictures of this event.

    Have a blast. I am just sorry I will not there with you (with camera in tow).

    • Charli Mills

      I think I’m grateful you won’t be there with camera in tow, Ann! Some farm shots are best undeveloped, lol.

  9. Michael B. Fishman

    “We’ve had 224 inches” That’s an absolutely insane amount of snow!

    • Charli Mills

      Since we last spoke, Michael, we now have 261 inches. We are all trying to puzzle out where to put it. I feel like cars dart out into the streets like spiders. No one can see over or around the banks and I hope they cut them back and remove the snow to the fairgrounds. The kids have someone other than me to remove snow from the garage but I’ll have to snowshoe to the garage and keep all the entry points to the house, barn, and coop open with old-fashioned shoveling. Thankfully, I’ll have a woodstove, fully stocked pantry, and satellite wifi!

    • Charli Mills

      Anne, I was reading about the battering storms of Eunice and Gladys. More and more, we witness and experience these weather extremes as the climate continues to change. Stay high and dry,

  10. Roseann Terry

    I just read a story in reader’s Digest about two women kayaking and whale watching and one came under them and took them both into its jaws. It spit them out but. ????????????

    On Mon, Feb 21, 2022 at 12:03 AM Carrot Ranch Literary Community wrote:

    > Charli Mills posted: ” I’d rather be kayaking than driving in yet (again) > another snowstorm. The longing of spring sparkles in the extended daylight > hours. I wonder if kangaroos koalas notice the days getting shorter? Ah, > I’d rather be traveling than stuck in a snowbank. ” >

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow, Roseann! That would be an experience! I think I’d rather get licked by a goat than a whale. Good thing we have no sharks or whales in our inland sea, eh? You should bring Lila out to Ghost House Farm next week and she can meet the goats. Or you can wait until May when most of the snowdrifts are gone!

  11. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    enjoy your week Charli. At least the milking will be a small twice a day event but the rest of the day is yours to enjoy. Have fun. I think that is where I’d rather be but then again that cold sounds chilling to the bones – I might prefer to stay here.

    • Charli Mills

      Goat milk might not be delicious, but my time by the woodstove will be! Just when we get rid of our snow we are reminded that black flies love summer on the Keweenaw, too! After all the bites, we start looking forward to snow. We get spring and fall to enjoy! I’ll take you on a farm tour next week as I enjoyed your walks through the Noosa trails with you.

  12. Hugh W. Roberts

    That sounds like the perfect week ahead, Charli. I hope you get lots of writing done and that the first signs of spring get to work on the thaw. I’ve never seen a goat being milked and now have a vision of a herd of them in a big barn attached to milking machines while they chew on grass.
    Enjoy your week away.

  13. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    Enjoy your sojourn on the farm. I hope those kids don’t get up to too much mischief. I wouldn’t like your daughter and SIL to return to ghost goats. I followed through to the website about Ghost Farm. They are pretty amazing (not surprisingly) young people. I look forward to following the blog when it is live.
    You’re snowed in. We’re rained in. It’s been raining here for days. Thankfully, I am high and dry but so many others are suffering from the inundation. It is causing the worst flooding some areas have ever experienced (since records were taken). They have been described as life-threatening floods. Already four lives have been lost and the dams are filled to overflowing. It’s not looking good for many.
    I laughed at the taste of goat’s milk and cheese giving you the shudders (from licking their udders?). Bob laughs at me when I tell him that lime cordial tastes like dead ants and he wants to know how I know. I think the smell of squashed ants is a pretty good indication. Perhaps it’s the same for you and the smell of goats. I hope the week isn’t too oderous (pun intended) for you.
    I look forward to hearing all the wonderful things you are planning for the ranch. You are great at coralling ideas and riding them to success.
    Spring is such a lovely time of year. Enjoy. I hope that snow blows away and leaves the world fresh and new for you. I’m sure once our rain has gone, autumn will blow in. It will be a welcome relief.
    There’s too much bad in the world at the moment. I’d rather people negotiate peacefully rather than use aggression to force their way.

  14. floridaborne

    My birth occurred in the mid-20th century, when it was considered un-ladylike to nurse your children. My mom tried, when my sister was born, and… nothing. Dryer than Phoenix, Arizona in mid-summer.

    For the first few month of my life, I had colic and threw up most of what I ate. She found an old, country doctor who told her to try goat’s milk. That saved my skinny little life.

    That said, I tried goat’s milk once, just a sip, and almost lost everything else in my stomach. Ah, what a difference adulthood makes.

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