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Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino June 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Holy cow, Kid! Look’t the saloon! Shorty’s got it fixed up real nice. I
like how the stage is center stage.”

“How now, Pal? What’s that cow doin in here?”

“Really? The Saddle Up Saloon’s a part a Carrot Ranch. Ranches have cows.
Asides, what’s yer beef? Yer kid goats has been through here, not ta mention Frankie’s horse
Burt, an thet hoglet a yers.”

“This is udderly dif’rent.”

“Well, here’s Shorty. Take it up with her.”

“Hey Kid. Hey Pal. I see you’ve met Tildie. This cow is trained to pull the
handle on the slot machine.”

“Slot machine? Never woulda bet there’d be gamblin in the saloon.”

“Not gambling, Kid, just takin a chance that folks will want to play with a
different kind of story prompt. See, everyone wins with this slot machine. But I need you two ta run Cowsino Night here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Run Cowsino Night? You betcha! Um, what zactly is Cowsino Night?”

“That’s right, you two had already disappeared when I pulled the lever for
the first one. Just make sure Tildie pulls the handle. Then encourage folks to use all three images to write a story.”

“99 words?”

“More or less, Pal. On Cowsino Night the challenge is to use the story spine
to structure a story. Words count, but we’re not counting words. Responses go
in the comments.”

“Souns like a good time, Shorty. We’ll be happy ta hep out.”

“Every first Friday of the month.” 

“Yeehaw! Let’s git writin ever’one!”

“Yep. Be sure an read an comment on one ‘nuther’s story spines in the comments below.”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more then one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

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 built 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


  1. Scott Bailey says:

    Food, Dudes & Money
    Scott Bailey

    So I’m standing on a corner minding my own business when this random guy walks up to me and starts talking.

    “Hey buddy, I got some used Chinese food here and it’s priced to sell, only three bucks.”

    “No thanks,” I tell him and “that seems a little steep for used Chinese food, anyway.”

    “Man, I can get four bucks for this all day long, don’t let this opportunity pass you by” he says.

    “No thanks, still not interested” I tell him.

    “OK,” he says, “how about I throw in the fortune cookie?”

    “Now you’re talking, it’s a deal!”

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m laughing so loud I think I woke up the loons (the ones that live on water). Scott, your story is a great example of how a story spine works. I keep cracking up over “used” Chinese food! Like, how used? But don’t we all want that fortune cookie! Thanks for playing the slots at the Cowsino.

  2. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    Interesting 😊

  3. Scott Bailey says:

    Benevolent Staggerers
    Scott Bailey

    “It’s crazy how alive this city is, even this late,” I said.

    “It’s crazy how they threw us both out onto the sidewalk,” he said.

    “It’s crazy how they think we were too drunk,” I said.

    “It’s crazy how I want to get some Chinese food from that place before they close,” he said.

    “It’s crazy this big container only cost three dollars,” I said.

    “It’s crazy, that poor guy slumped in that doorway is probably hungrier than us,” he said.

    “Hey mister, It’s crazy but we bought more than we can eat, will you take this?” I said.

    • It’s crazy how many poor guys (and gals) we have slumped in doorways in our cities. This reminded me of when I was in San Francisco and wait staff always boxed any leftovers that their patrons could share the large portions with the many homeless people out on the sidewalks.

      Glad to see you having a good time at the Cowsino!

      • Charli Mills says:

        When we were living on the road, I became more aware of the invisible humanity all around us. It wasn’t all that crazy to do something like walk into a Chinese takeout at the end of the night and ask to disperse leftovers to the young and hungry couple hitchhiking and the veteran sleeping in the front seat of his truck. It takes eyes to see, hearts to care, and hands to act. Crazy, but I’d like to see crazy kindness take over.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Even strangers in a party stooper can still tap into kindness. Crazy well done, Scott.

  4. When Bob accidentally stepped on Bill’s foot, Bill did not want to let Bob step out of his life, though that had been their one and only chance encounter.
    Bill, who was a starving artist, which is to say, he had way more unpublished stories than money, found he was too distracted to write as he daily searched the streets in hopes of seeing Bob again, all to no avail.
    Bill went back to writing, staying up until dawn then starting in again, writing a romance novel about a chance encounter that led to true and lasting love.
    Bill wrote and revised, revised and wrote, ignoring the outside world, including his job and the bills it had barely managed to cover.
    Bill’s manuscript was complete when he was evicted and found himself on the streets with little else in the way of belongings and his last three dollars in his pocket.
    It was here that Bob bumped into him again, and while helping Bill gather the pages of his manuscript that he had knocked loose, impulsively invited him to the Chinese takeout place on the corner.
    Both Bill and Bob’s fortunes read, ‘What you have been looking for is right in front of you’, and Bob, a literary agent, asked Bill if he could read his manuscript, entitled ‘Happily Ever After’.

    • Scott Bailey says:

      “Each man giving the other the Happy Ending they longed for.” (HA, you knew that was coming!) Joking aside, that’s an interesting take on the three pictures. Quite a bit over 99 words though, I thought we were supposed to keep it kind of near that count. Either way, it should be interesting to see how some of the other writers shape the images.

      • Ha! Except for the Urban Dictionary, that would have been a good title.
        It is my understanding that there is no word count for the Cowsino prompts, just the three images and the story spine. The limiting factor is seven sentences. Keeping it to 99 or there-abouts is an added challenge but not mandatory. This can be a place to flash a little differently than we do with Charli’s weekly challenges. (Though those are always my favorite prompts)

    • Charli Mills says:

      A happy accident overcomes a harsh life in pursuit of a dream. The way you used the chance encounter to set off the chain of events until the HEA ending is the way to grab ahold of the story spine! This one lifts me up, D.!

  5. Scott Bailey says:

    Disclaimer: Don’t get all butt-hurt by this story, we’re writers after all, right?

    A Mixed up, Muddled up, Shook up World
    Scott Bailey

    Typical elevator ride to the lobby, with the same ten or so losers and weirdos.

    Big enough to see over top of everyone else I see Debby by the door, yeah she’s hot but those are definitely fake, who does she think she’s kidding and there’s Sue leaning against the wall, I can smell the vodka from back here, and next to me is that smart-assed little fem-boy from accounting “accidentally” brushing against my hand.

    “You touch me one more time and I’ll rip your arm off and beat you to death with it, got it?!” I turned and growled at him.

    So he moved as far away as he could from me in that little elevator.

    “Hey Sasquatch” he turned to me as he got off at the lobby, “You dress like you’re queer as a three dollar bill, tight pant legs, no socks, loafers, that’s false advertising!” he laughed as he walked away.

    That night, eating Chinese alone in my apartment, I thought about what that guy said.

    I then vowed to my potted ferns and nine cats and Liza Minelli poster, that tomorrow, it’s time for a wardrobe change.

    • So I double checked “butt-hurt” in the urban dictionary. I guessed the meaning but haven’t heard that one; it seems a little harsh. (I like your story but not the disclaimer.) I do trust the readers and writers here to go with us where a prompt leads into different situations and scenarios and characters. Sometimes characters are imperfect and unrealized humans in our fiction, just as in life, with much to discover and explore. All good unless it’s hateful and harmful. Humor is always tough to judge the boundary, especially when it relies on stereotypes. This certainly is a believable elevator scene and dialogue and I did not see the twist coming.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Not sure I’d want to actually look up the definition of butt-hurt because I hear this used often among salty veterans! But it is a word that my grown kids use, too and it makes me laugh. I think you are spot on — we don’t need to add a disclaimer. Let the conversations unfold. The story is powerful with a twist.

      • Scott Bailey says:

        I don’t know about harsh, but butt-hurt is the same as saying someones got a case of the red-ass over something rather trivial. Anyway, my apologies if I offend anyone and thanks for liking my story.

      • It’s all good Scott. I have been thinking and I think I am neither butt-hurt or red-assed by your word choice. Your story felt real (though what do I know about cities and elevators) and the main character was reflective and open to change, if only his wardrobe. Yeah, I laughed.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Chaucer always ended his stories with a disclaimer. He lived in a time of political intrigue. I guess we live in such times, too but I hope you feel you can post without a disclaimer. Each of us follows our muse and though we live in a complicated social time, literary artists have to be true to what they convey. I feel like your story captures modern complications with people, showing the mixed signals sent, the loneliness, and the judge thinking that alienates this character from people he could connect with.

  6. Charli Mills says:

    I’m loving how Scott has embraced the Story Spine! I’m working on some of my own. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Scott Bailey says:

    True Spine
    Scott Bailey

    “One day I saw you standing here and figured you were waiting for a ride or something” he said to me.

    “I stand here every day, anything wrong with that?” I asked him.

    “Nope, not at all, of course until a bus jumps the curb and runs you over” he offered.

    “Because I am compelled to remain here regardless of circumstance and can not take a break, how about I give you three bucks to go get me some pizza?” I asked this stranger.

    “Because of your dedication to your task and my eagerness to help others, I will do this thing for you” he replied.

    “Because of your kindness I will share my pizza with you when you return” I told him.


    “They did not have any boxes for your pizza but they were more than accommodating by virtue of stuffing the slices into this Chinese take-out container along with some chopsticks, and as you can plainly see, I already ate my share, so here you go and thank you for the pizza” he said.

  8. Miss Judy says:

    Reblogged this on Miss Judy Writes.

  9. Miss Judy says:

    Miss Judy
    “Ah so, you come here 10 minutes. You number 59.”

    “Ma, they said it’ll be ready in 10 minutes. I’ll go now and pick it up.”

    “I’m here to pick up my order, number 59. Can you put 2 more egg rolls in there?”

    “$47.50, seriously, that’s highway robbery.”

  10. suespitulnik says:

    Once upon a time, the skinny kid stood staring at his phone, really every day, his fingers whizzing over the keys.
    His father, disgusted, purposely walked past him in the driveway, stepping on his foot.
    “Geez, Dad, what the hell?”
    “I’ve been trying to get your attention. That was my last resort. Wanna’ go for some Chinese?”
    “Without the phone!”
    “I guess. Let me make this last $3.00 bet on Fanduel. I could make 50 bucks if the Red Sox win by 3 hits.”

    • Finally, distracted from the phone. Sometimes it takes fancy footwork and food.
      Glad to see you at the Cowsino. And you can play 24/7 until the next time. Then do it again. (It’s way more fun than Fanduel.)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Lots of distracting and I’m wondering if the Dad got hooked on something new?

  11. Yeah, it’s over seven lines, and I think the main point of the story spine is simply a narrative structure with cause and effect sandwiched into a beginning and an ending. And the main point of the Cowsino is to have fun and to take advantage of a different kind of prompt, without having to be exactly 99 words. So you did it!
    I had fun with the dialogue of these two and how their good time ended all good. Such an inspiring sentiment:
    “broke, busted, but far from disgusted”.
    Thanks for playing! The slot machine is open all month if you want to play again and again.

  12. [I violated the seven sentence instruction by a few]

    Gene was browsing Yelp when he ran across an interesting little local entertainment tidbit. He poked his twin brother Alvin, who was focused on the road ahead, in the ribs and said, “You’re not gonna believe this, but—”

    “Cowsino’s open”?

    “Dude, Cowsino’s ohh-pen!”

    Nothing needed to be said. Alvin took a right at the corner, drove around the block, and faster than a knife fight in a phone booth, the red 1984 Fiesta was headed back east down Elmhurst, the little motor going for all it was worth at 52 miles per hour.

    “I can’t believe it,” Alvin said.

    “I know. This is great, man.”

    “Cowseeeeeeno!” they said as one.

    “Eyes on the road, Al,” said Gene.


    “No apology needed, man. We just wanna get to the cowsino in one piece.”

    The brothers drove with the windows down and the radio up and after a few blocks Gene paused the tape deck between the Doobie Brothers singing about a lazy flowing river and castles in the sky and asked Alvin why he thought mom and dad told them they were twins. “I mean,” Gene said. “We don’t look anything alike, right? Like look at you, your fat—”


    “Husky, ok, and I’m th—”

    “Not husky.”

    “Yeah, so how are we twins?”

    “Don’t know, Geno. Never really thought about it before, man.”

    “Don’t you—”

    “Care? No. You’re my bro, bro. What else is there to know, bro?”

    Gene thought about that and nodded and reached over put the music back on. “Yeah,” he said.

    A few minutes later Gene said, “We’re almost—”

    “There?” said Alvin. “I know, bro.”

    Alvin parked the Ford under the billboard advertising the loosest slots in town and the twins, mismatched heads held high, marched with heavy billfolds into the cowsino.

    Forty minutes later, slump-shouldered and sad-eyed, they walked out of the cowsino: broke, busted, but far from disgusted.

    “How much you got left?” said Gene.

    “Three bucks,” said Alvin.

    “Not enough for take out,” said Gene.

    “Or White Castle,” said Alvin.

    The brothers drove home in silence, had a late dinner of Hostess Ding Dongs and Cheetos with a half a can each of Miller 64 and called it a night.

    “G’night, Alvin,” said Gene.

    “G’night, Gene,” said Alvin.

    “Today was a good day.”

    “That it was.”

  13. Kevin and Bret met in the third grade and quickly became close friends.

    Over the years, even as life had taken them in different directions – and eventually different cities – the two had remained quite close. They kept in touch through Zoom and Facebook, and they would also get together twice a year for each other’s birthdays and spend a long weekend together.

    On Sunday afternoon they ate an early dinner at Thai Palace before Bret’s flight home. It was when they were waiting for the server to return with Kevin’s credit card that Bret shared his news – his diagnosis – with Kevin, and the thought that birthdays were going to be different in the future.

    Later, they stood together outside the restaurant, one friend feeling lost and the other feeling guilty, and for the first time in 48 years, neither knew what to say, so when Bret’s cab arrived Kevin opened his wallet and gave Bret three dollars. Bret raised his eyebrows in question and Kevin shrugged and shook his head and said, “I don’t know, buy yourself a bag of peanuts on the plane.”

    • Welcome back to the Cowsino! They say you gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, but sometimes you’re on a run!
      I felt the pain and initial awkwardness of their situation. It’s a treasure to have a friend from childhood, but the hard part of getting older is losing more friends or seeing them go through tough times. I am sure Kevin will step up more than he does here, once he gets his head wrapped around it.
      Now if Brett is deathly allergic to peanuts, that’s a whole other story…

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