Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino January 2023

Written by D. Avery @shiftnshake

       Read my writing and see my books at

January 6, 2023

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.

“Yeehaw! The Cowsino’s done rolled over inta the new year! Write on, Pal!”

“Yep, we’re carryin on, openin up the back room a the saloon ta folks thet wanna take a gamble on this story prompt. The slot machine’s handle’s been pulled an the images has been rolled over too.”

“Well, move over, Pal, I gotta see what turned up this time. Oh. My. What the heck?”

“Step aside, Kid, they’s folks’ll know what ta do with them images. Member they’re jist an inspiration an they kin be rearranged in the story.”

“Yep, we’re pretty easy goin, it’s all jist ta git people ta writin an mebbe steppin outta their comfort zone.”

“Thinkin this could be a purty comfterble prompt, Kid. With thet story spine format there’s a structure ta follow, ya know, beginnin, middle, end, with clear cause an effect to steer the story.”

“Yep, a one thing leads ta anuther sort a story, but I notice some folks don’t always use the sentence starters, they find other wordin.”

“Thet’s okay too. An remember, we don’t count words fer this prompt.”

“So what’re we waitin fer? Step right up folks. The images have rolled ta a stop, the rules are posted below. Have fun, an play as often as ya like.”

“Yep. Ya’ve got till the first Friday a next month ta try yer hand with this prompt. Then we’ll do it agin!”

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. Michael B. Fishman

    (I’m the first one here? That’s a first and it’s kinda cool and to celebrate I’m granting myself an eighth sentence.)

    Don was playing Pickleball when his phone sounded an emergency alert.

    He saw the home screen blinking a message that something was wrong at the house, and he began to panic.

    Don quickly brought up his contacts and started a group chat with Daisy and their three sons, Huey, Dewey and Louie and learned that none of them had received an emergency alert.

    ‘That’s odd,’ Don thought as he grabbed his stuff and ran to his car while yelling his apologies to his Pickleball partner Mick.

    Don arrived home, parked the car and ran inside the dark house. He was puzzled and frightened by the silence when suddenly the lights they came on as if by magic.

    “Surprise!” his wife and sons yelled as they ran up to give Don a birthday hug.

    “Aw phooey, I love you guys!”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I’m celebrating your prompt arrival as well! Firstly and most selfishly, for interpreting the icons on the slot machine, that’s a huge help. Secondly, I just love when folks come by to play, and speaking of that, I don’t think there’s necessarily a sentence count, though the sentence starters keep it in a range. And I like that we have an example story up that shows that you can follow the idea of the story spine without plugging in the exact words as shown in the rules. Your story still follows a sequence with cause and effect and resolution. Of course I’m no story spine expert, but I think we get the rules well enough to bend them. And your story is fun! Another great model to have up front.
      Michael! You’re a winner!

    • suespitulnik

      Thank you, Michael. Great story and you solved the riddle of the image for the group chat. I’m indebted to you. I had considered using the cow, the lights, and the red handle for a story…

      • suespitulnik

        What Weird Black and White Images

        Bessie, the cow, saw the farmhouse kitchen lit up, so she stuck her head near the window to investigate. She could see the Mrs. looking at some weird black-and-white markings on the little screen that looked like a TV. The Mrs. seemed perplexed, so Bessie thought she better not nose the window. The lady wasn’t very friendly when she had that look on her face.
        Bessie had watched the farmer teach the dog to jump up and knock that yellow handle with the big red ball on the end to the down position, so it dispensed some food into his dish before snapping back up. She stood looking at the handle, looked around to see if anyone was watching, then banged that handle a few times with the bottom of her jaw. She had a gleam in her eye as she ambled away after kicking the food bowl. She knew the chickens and geese would make quick work of the dog food. And the farmer didn’t think she had a brain. As far as those inkblots went, maybe she didn’t, but she understood all about food.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        That was fast! Another fun story with deep truths; cows are smarter than they look and it’s all about the food. Sue, thanks for playing, you are definitely a winner!

      • suespitulnik

        Thanks, Dede. We aren’t usually home of Friday nights, so I’m having fun.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Frankie has always contended that the Saddle Up Saloon is where the wild women go to have fun. And here you are!

      • suespitulnik

        I’ll take that as a compliment

      • Jules

        Animals are smarter than we think!! Fun read.

  2. suespitulnik

    James picked up his tablet and opened it to the home page. The picture of his four best friends stared at him. He called Malcolm first, then added the other three to group chat. James spoke as soon as the fifth friend came on. “I need help with my chemistry homework. Can someone explain why the two chemicals they mixed in the example on page 78 didn’t blow up? I think it should have.
    Malcolm complained, “You called me for help? Come on, Ted, let these science guys talk about their chemicals, and you and I will go play pickleball.”
    Before Malcolm and Ted signed off, James said, “I get to play the winner.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yeehaw, another story! The slot machine is hot! And Sue, you are a winner! (Maybe there’s a sequel coming? What happens if James is correct and there’s an explosion? And what about their grades as they succumb to the allure and timesuck of pickleball, not to mention group chats? You can win big here, Sue.

  3. Liz H

    Forgive me, I think I’m trespassing. Don’t know where this stream of consciousness came from:

    Points for Trying?
    It was a time of famine and scarcity of everything from pickles to paddles to gingerbread houses.
    Day after day, the temperature dropped, with no sign of snow or rain to ease the drought that plagued their country; even the sun had grown cold and distant.
    In desperation, Milo scoured the crumbling university archives for books and magazines – anything that might provide even a nostrum for their troubles, as nothing considered legitimate had brought their people relief — and came upon a strange picture and scraps of text on page 37 of a cluster of bound pages, called “Hockey World.”
    It told of a great battle to own a cup called Stanley, and a game played on a rectangular field of ice.
    He recalled his great grandfather telling about a magical cup called Stanley, lost long ago, and how, when the cup was gone, all hope, and all snow and rain, left their city.
    If there was ever a time to try magic (Milo was desperate, remember) that time was now, so Milo gathered up four of his friends to form a pentagram and summon the cup from wherever it had disappeared to.
    They didn’t know what a pentagram looked like, only that it was essential for magic, so they settled on sitting in a circle, Milo in the center, chanting “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow”; their efforts failed and everybody died.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      This is not trespass, this is writing among friends. You have conjured a grim story of what happens when North Stars go Wild. It’s good you’re writing through what maybe is the beginning of a long winter? You indeed get points and in fact it is hereby declared that you are… a winner!

      • Liz H


    • Jules

      Just using imagination gets you gold stars!! Even when it gets dark… There can be light.
      I know I’ve heard that in a few generations things are going to go south…um bad for humans. But I won’t be around then. So I can just add my little bit of light to the now.

      • Liz H

        Be the light. From that may come a brighter future!

      • Jules

        Some days it is hard to be the light when there is so much negativity in the news.
        But we can twist and wiggle and smile. Maybe make someone elses’ day brighter…

      • Liz H


      • Jules

        Nice to see the bright spot of a red Cardial birdie when the sun is barely shining… ????

    • suespitulnik

      I enjoyed your story, Liz, until the last two words. Well, not quite true. I didn’t expect the last two words is more accurate. It’s always amazing where other people’s minds go with a prompt.

      • Liz H


  4. Jules

    I used another prompt that had images too and they were; flower, open book/rules, clock/time, chess piece, rainbow, bottle marked with an X/prescription bottle, airplane, dna, cane. The Cowsino I slightly altered too; Sort of a venn diagram/ folks distributing information, Pickle ball & paddle, building or restaurant (gym) overlay on a smartphone.

    Enjoy this bit of Flash Fiction (more than seven sentences but still short);

    To a Sporty New Year!

    Once upon a time Pickleball wasn’t a popular sport, but everyday in states where the sun shone blossoming, different flora and fauna, folks flew in from the northern climates to watch and learn. It really isn’t as hard as chess. A friend who plays tried to explain the rules. Our local Gym notifies us via email about classes and holds tournaments regularly.

    Now it seems that everyday in any weather (thanks to indoor courts) and scheduling by folks in the know… one doesn’t have to wait until good weather conditions. There’s that rainbow for the hard core crowd that likes to dance on the courts!

    Because of the new popularity, those folks wired with DNA for tennis, ping pong or paddle ball sports can easily adapt. Because even older folks who take a boatload of prescriptions – if they are spry can play. Go on, raise some cane, finally make that New Year’s resolution to be more physically active!

    © JP/dh/ Jules

    • Liz H

      Pickleball is indeed a thing, played by one and all of any age and level of fitness. And during the pandemic, when I took my outdoor hikes (and just about everything else!) alone, it was a bracing sign of hope to hear the pong of paddle and ball from the neighborhood outdoor courts, and see those pickleballers out there with one another. Cuz, chasing a sense of normalcy. And it’s till going strong, near 3 years out!

      • Jules

        Very strong indeed. I read somewhere that some resorts have more pickleball courts than for tennis!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Wowza, Jules, that’s a monster mashup, quite the potpourri photo prompt montage! Yes, pickleball is now so popular that even I have heard of it. Yep, whether it’s pickleball or skiing, let’s all get out and get active! Thank you for your story!

      • Jules

        I first noticed Pickleball in the Carolinas… they had special clubs just for it. Our gym has portable nets. I’m not sure who brings the pickleballs… There are some generic paddles. But paddles can get as expensive as a good Tennis racket!!

    • Liz H

      Have you tried lawn chair Volleyball? Shorter net, smaller court marked out in the grass, knocking around a beach ball, and your butt can NOT leave the seat of the lawn chair. Treats and sometimes even a little wine involved for afters.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Is it one-handed rules? That’s a variation of the supreme summer sport, croquet.

      • Liz H

        It’s volleyball, so we usually use both hands to return, or set, but one hand for spike (picture the beach ball, the chair topping sideways, a breeze carrying the ball tumbling lake-ward…)

      • Jules

        Ohh… nope. But forget the chair Volleyball.
        Treats and wine, we can start with that!! 🙂

      • Liz H

        THAT’S the spirit! ????

      • Jules

        Always eat dessert first. If you eat all your dinner you might not have room for your sweets!

  5. Ann Edall-Robson

    A great selection of wonderful stories. I am glad you did not ignore the this and that places needed in allowing our minds and pens to tread to have a story percolate.

    The Letter

    Sitting at her writing desk, Linda re-read the flowing, handwritten words in the letter from her far-away best friend.

    The letters back and forth across the country kept them up-to-date with the goings on in each of their worlds, while giving them the chance to use the penmanship they had learned so many years ago in grade school.

    Millie’s latest letter had caused Linda some mind-boggling dismay and food for thought as she told her about the new phone her grandson had bought her with the intension of making her life easier.

    He had made custom apps for her that included all of her frequently called numbers, she could check the house while she was out or away, and a direct dial app to the pickle ball club where her grandson worked.

    Everything in Millie’s life was now accessible with one tap on the screen of her phone, even dictating and sending letters as emails.

    Linda leaned back in her chair looking at the pages in her hand, reminiscing about her wise Mother’s words, “You’ll enjoy life a lot longer if you keep one foot in your generation and one in the generations coming behind you.”

    She supposed a phone like the one Millie had might be worth looking into; but she really did like to write letters by hand and the day was always a lot sunnier when she walked back from the mail box with an envelope that had Millie’s hand writing on the outside of it.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Thank you for this story Ann. I hope these two friends continue to write old fashioned letters. Because Millie is correct, there is something special about a letter in the mail box.

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