Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino December 2022

Written by D. Avery @shiftnshake

       Read my writing and see my books at

December 2, 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.

“Kid! Bout time ya showed up. Ya know I like ta be on time fer special events.”

“The Cowsino’s a special event? But it’s ever first Friday of ever month, Pal. What’s so special bout it?”

“Sometimes ya jist flabbergast me Kid. By havin the Cowsino at the Saddle Up Saloon we pervide folks with another place ta play with words.”

“Seems like a fun place ta play with one anuther too, Pal. Ya know, commentin an discussin with one anuther.”

“Zactly Kid. It ain’t zactly like the prompt fer the 99-word challenges though.”

“No, there ain’t Shorty’s purty prose to set ya up. Jist the roll a the images in the slot machine.” “Yep, luck a the draw.”

“Think ya mean luck a the spin, Pal. An what ya git is what ya git, but ya kin switch the order a the images.”

“An no word count. But folks are incouraged ta follow the story spine format, as outlined in the ‘Rules of Play’ below.”

“Why’s that Pal? What’s the value in that?”

“Anythin thet gits a writer writin is a win, Kid.”

“Seems kinda like a recipe er somethin.”

“Yep. A classic recipe. Ya gotta follow a recipe afore ya go changin it. But dispite folks followin the recipe an usin the same three pictures, everone thet’s played has cooked up unique an savory stories, no two alike.”

“Reckon it’s a nice change a pace fer the writers an mebbe a good exercise in layin down a story quickly.”

“Yep. Thinkin the structure’s nough ta git em up an goin at a good clip, without ramblin too far afield.”

“Kin always go back ta yer story spine story an put more meat on the bones.”

“Yep. That’s jackpot!”

“Okay then folks, try yer hand at the slot machine. Give some backbone ta them three images an leave yer story for us in the comments section.”

“Ya kin leave multiple stories! Ya gotta play ta win.”

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 than 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

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “What’sa matter Kid? Yer all talk an no walk. Why ain’tcha got a story up yet?”
    “Was dealt a tough hand. Look’t them images! I ain’t seein the story.”
    “Jist git one down fast, Kid, like ya said ta do.”
    “Okay, Pal, I’ll try an git something goin…

    Once there was a word wrangler didn’t have much punch in the pen but ever day put pen ta paper an practiced, kinda like Rocky training an runnin up them steps. An sure nough, ‘ventually that word wrangler got stronger an so gained confidence, an with gained confidence, got even stronger. On account a that, that word wrangler responded ta writin prompts, like this one here. An cuz that word wrangler put the response out there, other word wranglesr started puttin stories out there, an talkin t’gether bout story makin. Finally there was a whole bunch a stories an discussion at the Cowsino an ever one was havin a good time an was pleased ta have gotten their stories out. The end.

    There, Pal.”
    “Good job Kid.”
    “Really? Ya ain’t gonna tell me it’s lame?”
    “Nope. Ya wrote.”

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    The Dancer by D. Avery

    Once I was a dancer. It was all I’d ever wanted to be. Every day I practiced and had many well received performances; my dreams were coming true.
    Until the Russians invaded my country, my city. Suddenly my dreams, my life were in upheaval. I was a strong young man, of course I took up arms with the others to help defend our people. When your very neighborhood is under attack you’ll do anything, you’ll fight back with everything you’ve got.
    The war rages on, with Ukraine people suffering and sacrificing. For now my wife is able to care for me and is hoping to find a wheelchair but I have told her if evacuation becomes necessary she should flee with the others and leave me behind to face the enemy one last time.

    • Michael B. Fishman

      This was so sad 🙁 And even more so because how does one not wonder how many people (and dancers) had their lives changed forever. It’s a mad world.

      • suespitulnik

        I agree with Michael. D. your story is so true it makes me sad. I can’t imagine what the Ukrainians are dealing with. Here in snowy New York State, we complain when our power goes out for a few hours. I admire them and pray for them.

  3. Margaret G. Hanna

    The Hero, by Margaret G. Hanna

    An iron fist came crashing down
    sent darkness snaking ‘cross the ground.
    Out of that darkness came a cry
    from someone rising to defy.
    Others rallied round the call
    for freedom, peace and hope for all.

    That flame will never die.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Hello Margaret! You’re my hero for coming by to play. What a concise yet vivid story poem you’ve shared. Just like with Charli’s prompts, it is always amazing to see the many and varied responses, and in a variety of genres. I enjoyed your poem and while neither of us used the actual sentence starters (Once upon a time, until, because, finally…) the cause and effect/beginning, middle, end structure are the bones of the pieces. Well played!

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:

    Looking for a prompt? The Cowsino is open! Come by to play with words and run with ideas.

  5. Jules

    I finally got here with the help of another prompt (title is blog link);

    A Change in Routine

    Once upon a time it was allowed to have more than just service animals at the old Mom and Pop places that had lunch counters like Sam and Molly’s that had a huge spined cactus in the front bay window. Every day the old man would come in for lunch with his mutt. Until the day that Janey did a little fist pump and thought it would be a good idea while the half blind old man ate, to paint the dog’s toenails with an old bottle of burgundy polish.

    Because of that, when the old man got home after climbing up the few steps of his stoop, and finally saw Sandy’s paws, he thought something was wrong. Because of that he panicked and called the vet who he believed to be a superhero for doing home visits – even though it cost him some dough. The Vet explained that nothing was wrong. It was just nail polish that would grow out with the dog’s nails.

    Because of that fee, The old man had to make a choice. Because the dog wasn’t harmed, but because he had spent money on the vet, they couldn’t go out for lunch. After the polish wore off he thought better of taking the dog into any establishment and ended up doing more take-in. Because of that he ended up going out less and had delivery from the luncheon more often. During one delivery that Janey made, she questioned the old man if he had liked the polish she had put on Sandy’s nails. Janey also mentioned that both he and Sandy were missed at the luncheonette.

    Finally, that mystery was solved! The old man couldn’t be mad at the desire of the child to purty up his pup. He didn’t tell her that he was frightened, or about the Vet visit. But he knew then that he could ask Janey to help him and Sandy return to the luncheonette at least once a week. He did miss being social and perhaps the dog did too.

    © JP/dh

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      A story about Sandy Claws! (sorry)
      Glad ya made it into the Cowsino, Jules. I sometimes need more than one prompt to get a story started too. And I find picture prompts tough and this month’s pictures seem especially challenging to me. Or maybe I say that every month.
      I like that the old man was able to get back to the diner and that he figured out what had happened. I think everyone is going to get along even better than before.

      • Jules

        Oy, I did not even see that ‘Sandy Claws!’ The season creeps up on us in unusual ways!!

        May we all get along better in the New Year growing with understanging and acceptance each day 😀

  6. Ann Edall-Robson

    Writer’s Inspiration
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Immersed in the pages of one of his vintage books, he wondered where the ideas came from that inspired the writer behind the words he loved to read.

    The sun shining through the window made him drowsy, the words blurred, and his head started to bobble as he fought the urge to loll back on the pillow.

    He saw the fist come towards him, unable to move before it connected with his jaw, sending him spiraling into the pages of the book he had been reading.

    A sense of time travel swirled past his eyes, his brain trying to focus on where he was going.

    Landing on his feet, hands on his hips, he was not surprised to find the cape around his shoulders, fluttering in the breeze, his foreboding stance and brooding dark eyes daring his foe to make a move.

    Page after page, the writer introduced him to the storyline and the rest of the supporting cast of characters he had only ever read about until he finally found himself balancing on the words The End, as he lay at the bottom of the stairs, the cape was gone, and only a sore jaw where the fist had hit him as a memento.

    Looking around, baffled at how he had come to be in another room, he bounded up the stairs, stopping at the top, raising his arms above his head, shouting in triumph, “I know how writers get inspired and now I can write mine!”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Sometimes an idea jist hits ya. I sure hope yer jaw ain’t painin ya too much Miss Ann, an we’re sure glad ta have ya sharin yer story here.

      • Ann Edall-Robson

        All is good, and the ideas keep filtering in, around, and through the gray matter waiting to be punted across the blank pages.

  7. Michael B. Fishman

    (I’ve never taken the Story Spine literally and started each sentence with the example words or limited myself to just the seven lines. But now I did!)

    Once upon a time Billy would look in the mirror every morning and try and convince himself that he was strong and confident like Superman.

    Every evening he’d say a prayer to whomever might be listening to a nobody like him, asking that he could be strong and confident.

    Until one day, after years of unanswered prayers, Billy decided to stop offering them.

    Because of that he stopped wishing.

    Because of that he stopped hoping.

    Because of that Billy spent evenings watching old movies on TV which is where he discovered Fred Astaire and he prayed again, only this time to be suave and confident like Fred Astaire.

    Finally, and he could never say exactly when it happened, Billy felt happy.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Michael, you made it!
      I too experiment with following the format without exactly following the format, changing the example words as you say. And sometimes using the sentence starters gets the writing started and sometimes it even produces a satisfying story. Like the one you just gave us! Bravo! And thank goodness for old movies on TV to model classic , confident heroes.
      Cool story.

  8. suespitulnik

    Once upon a time, on a very famous golf course, there was a muscular sound man who carried a huge shield shape microphone that could pick up the voices of the even more famous golfers and caddies. There were also multiple high-power cameras watching the famous from every angle. There was an occasion for a golfer to pick up his leg and let one fly, a fart that it is. It was filmed and heard around the world. Yet, the following day, the TV sports announcers relayed to the adoring public that the man in question did not do what was seen and heard. Another time the same man was reprimanded for using the fist pump of black power when he won a tournament. Sad that is…he is only one-quarter African-American, and the white golfers aren’t told they can’t use a fist pump. And now, some years have passed, and his son, who looks like he is from Thailand, is playing alongside him in father-son tournaments. He’s young and agile enough to do a high jump, and heel kick in happiness when they cross the bridge from the clubhouse to the parking lot because his father is still able to play special tournaments where he’s allowed to use a cart instead of walking. Yes, folks, this is a true story.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I figgered thet was a true story cuz ya cain’t make thet shift up.
      Thanks fer playin Sue!

    • Jules

      I watched part of that tournement…
      Folks need to be able to find relief, celebrate, and participate.
      Everyone with joy.

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