April 10: 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.

April 9, 2023

April 9

Over-wintered baby spinach tastes like veggie candy. Sweet, tender. Standing in the greenhouse at Ghost House Farm, I’m enveloped in the warmth of the space where the smell of earth is strong. The structure survived winter, received a commercial heater, and already houses the first round of seedlings.

While we pluck leaves from the early greens filling the rows, my daughter filled me in on the latest farm happenings. My SIL has innovated several solutions and structures, including a washing machine he’s transforming into a giant salad spinner. Allison filled me in on the goat situation.

Chip has mites. If the days warm up, Drew will bathe Chip. I offered to help; I can’t think of anything worse smells than a wet goat. But I love Chip and I know how miserable a goat with mites can be.

Molly kicked Allison while milking last week. She had several bruises. Last year, when the farm kids went to Costa Rica for a week, I was Molly’s leg holder. She’s a two-person milking team kind of goat and Allison tried to go solo.

Belle is adjusting. She required a new home, never having settled down after all the babies were born. She and Molly had twins; Peggy had triplets. So, Belle got a farm of her own. But there’s more…Allison had that serious but sympathetic look she gets when she tells me which rooster or pig they butchered. Instead, she tells me about an old lady.

I’m relieved to hear Belle didn’t go the way of the roosters or pigs and I’m curious about the woman.

Once upon a time, an old lady was a young girl. She had a goat she milked every day. The young girl would rise with the sun and run with floppy red rubbers to the barn. She down her milk pail to get the oats. Sunny, her goat, leaned against the fence to get a few nibbles. She coaxed Sunny to the small stanchion and poured the oats into a small feeding bin. Sunny chomped, and the girl milked. She was never happier.

Turns out, a Keweenaw family had a dilemma. Their matriarch, Grandma, has advanced dementia and she’s become obsessed with the goat of her youth. When Allison and Drew were looking to rehome Belle, the family found a solution. They took Belle home to become the object of Grandma’s obsession.

The young girl fed the second goat, Sunny’s kid. She returned to her goats after delivering the milk to ma to filter into a jar. She put on their halters to walk the goats to the apple orchard and back. Mornings were the best part of day. Even in winter, she bundled up and went with pa to the barn. One day, she’d grow up and have a goat farm.

With the help of her grandchildren, Grandma milks Belle every morning. She can’t remember what happened five minutes ago but remembers how to milk a goat. Then, another dilemma. Grandma remembers the second goat. She settled into milking but grew fretful over the missing kid.

The family asked if they could have one of Belle’s kids. In the end, after much discussion, they decided the role was best suited for Beast. This was the reason Allison approached me gently. Beast. Her “baby” Beast. Belle’s eldest kid and the first goat born on the farm. They kept him to be a companion for the buck, Chip but saw this as an opportunity for Beast to live his best life.

The grandkids are halter-training both goats now. Grandma has a tangible outlet for her dementia obsession. Peace is felt across the farm. It is good to know that spring is on it’s though snow still covers the landscape. Somewhere a family is soothed by the reunion of an old lady and her beast. We are reminded that stories leave powerful images. The story of a young girl and her two goats might seem a little thing but it is all the happiness in the world of someone cut off from ours.

April 10, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about “the old lady and the beast.” What does age have to say about the story? Who is the beast and why? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 15, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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21 Comments

  1. Norah

    What a beautiful story, Charli. So heartwarming. It increases my faith in the younger generation. We are in good hands. Goats are too.

    • Charli Mills

      Norah, isn’t it a heart-warming image, to picture the story of these grands milking and leading goats to help Grandma navigate her alternate reality? It increases my faith, too! I’m impressed with the family’s concern for helping Grandma find anchors in her dementia.

      • Norah

        Oh yes. It is a beautiful story. I’m so pleased you shared it.

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Pal Says:

    Once ‘pon a time, in a magical place known as Carrot Ranch, a prompt prompted a mem’ry a Shorty’s. Or mebbe the mem’ry prompted thet prompt. Cain’t remember. But thet was the time thet Frankie stepped outta the past an onta the page, long with her hoss, Burt. Since thet time they become the mail carriers a Carrot Ranch, the beloved old lady with one good eye an one glass eye, an a eye fer rye whiskey who relies on her beast a burden, Burt. Mebbe ya’ve seen em bellied up ta the bar at the Saddle Up Saloon.

    • Charli Mills

      Ever since Frankie and Burt walked onto the Ranch, they’ve been animated images, delivering mail, holding up the bar at the Saddle Up Saloon, and keeping an eye on antics and animals. I think Grandma and Frankie would be good friends. Maybe it’s Frankie’s Gram! She’d be ancient.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        You brought them, albeit inadvertently, in the mail carrier one.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    What a wonderful happy ending for Belle and Beast! Service goats!

    • Charli Mills

      What a way to serve, too!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        You can be proud of your grand-kids, fer sure.

    • Charli Mills

      C., you are a talented writer and mathematician!

  4. TanGental

    I hope the goats sing as I understand singing is one of the last memories to go. Very touching, Charlie

    • Charli Mills

      Maybe Grandma remembers the song — a goat song — and she’s singing to them.

    • Charli Mills

      I thought we might need a happy story, and goats usually offer inspiration, but this was even better. Goats of service. Your write sad well and create poignant stories that call for reflection.

      • sweeterthannothing

        Thank you for the lovely compliment.

  5. Jules

    Charli,
    I haven’t been to a working farm in a long time. I’m glad for the old lady and the goats and the farm and the prompt…

    I smashed 4 prompts in a 99 word haibun here; Wise Enough?

  6. Sue Spitulnik

    Charli,
    I’ve always wanted a goat. I’m happy Belle and Beast can help a neighbor.
    I lived away from y rural home town for 25 years. When I moved back to New York state, the first time I went to my sister’s, there was a big nanny standing on her neighbor’s porch. I did a little yip and told the car out loud that “I”m home.” I miss the rural countryside, but can visit when I want.

  7. Kerry E.B. Black

    My daughter’s service doggy, Latte, is ill. She’s 13, and I’m worried. I’m not sure how my little Bear will take the inevitable loss, and I pray we can prolong Latte’s life. That said, in the eleven years we’ve been blessed by her presence, Latte’s improved my kiddo’s life – and mine – tremendously, and I’d endure this pain over and over for the benefit of knowing the healing love of our service doggy.

    I work with seniors at a care facility, and your story touched me. I see it often. An animal – or a baby – resonates with the true self, that inner core of who we are.

    • Sue Spitulnik

      Kerry,
      I hope Latte is better. I’m sure the loss will be difficult when it comes. I know a replacement isn’t what you want at this time, but at least it’s an option. Sending good thoughts.
      Thank you for working with seniors. I’m glad to know the inner core doesn’t get lost.

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