June 13: 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.

June 13, 2023

My dad wrote me a letter for my birthday, telling me the combined stories of my nose and namesake. It’s a beautiful letter and gave me a beautiful image to hold. I’ve shared these stories in pieces, but this time, I thought I’d share the letter.

For one, you’ll get a glimpse of the storyteller who is my father. Two, I appreciated how he expanded his stories of me to include my resiliency. Stories, even ones we think we know, evolve and can still surprise us with new insights.

I have fathers on my mind, not just because Father’s Day (in the US) is approaching (June 18) but because I can finally tell you all a secret. At last. The pumpkin is out of the bag. My son is going to be a father!

That means this buckaroo is going to be a grandmother. Whoa. I did not see that coming. I raised three children who decided that children were not their priorities. The choice to parent is not a potential grandparent’s choice so I’ve had over a decade of practicing the response (when asked if I have grandkids) — “Not my decision.” Both daughters, upon hearing the news, reiterated their child-free choices and told their brother, “Thanks for taking one for the team.” As for me, I’m excited to have a little hag or dude to teach about Nature and Blue Heron and Water. This grandchild of mine will know books, dreams, and rocks.

Mostly, I’m happy for Leah and Kyle. Their lives are going to change and I’m excited to see what they do with new possibilities. I’m proud of my son already because he’s a good partner and that’s a precursor to being a good father. For now, Leah is doing all the work. They are both active runners and that continues. She’s prioritized her health for her pregnancy and selected a nearby birthing center that is a prairie surprise. One would expect such a quality center in an urban setting, but their small town on the Wisconsin Prairie is home to butter burgers (I know, not exactly a pillar of health but it’s a ‘sconi thing). The wealthy burger barons of Wisconsin, Culvers, built the facility for their hometown.

Our wee Boo is due October 31. How fun is that? We plan to be on hand for the parents, supporting (me) and entertaining (Todd). Why do I feel like dads get it easy? I can’t complain, though. Todd delivered our third child because the midwife decided to drive across Montana instead of flying. He’s been good support, too as my partner in parenting. The proof is in the kid pudding we baked.

And, apparently, old fathers can learn new tricks to express love in old stories.

Dearest Charli(e),????

     Your Mom was 17 and I was 18 years old when you were born. After Mom going through a long labor with you, Dr. Jones nervously told me that he was going to have to perform an emergency caesarean or we were going to lose both of you. Mom had tried so hard she was shutting down. Unlike today a caesarean was not a common procedure. Dr. Jones had never performed one and normal protocol was to have a second Doctor present because their were two lives at risk. Because Hollister was small at the time and it was a weekend, no other doctor was available. Dr. Jones felt he could wait no longer. 

     I don’t know how long it took in surgery but I do know every minute seemed like an hour. Finally Dr. Jones came out and said everything went fine and I had a beautiful daughter. He did add your nose was flattened from pushing against your Mom’s backbone trying your best to come out when Mom’s escape hatch wouldn’t open, but your nose would be normal in a few weeks. Mom always said it was because she didn’t want to let you go. I also found out afterwards that Dr. Jones had been on an all night drinking binge when he got the call Mom was in labor. That’s most likely why your Mom has an 24” scar that’s as crooked as a desert sidewinders track.

     They kept you and Mom at the hospital for 10 days. After a few weeks your nose didn’t look like a boxer with a long career of losing fights. But that didn’t matter, because when I finally got to see you with your grandmothers and aunts standing outside the nursery window a few hours after you were born, my first words were, “she is the most beautiful baby in the world”. They all twisted their necks around in unison and looked at me with a “WTF” clearly written on their faces.

     Nearly two weeks later when you and your mom finally came home I started calling you Charlie. Annette Marie was a beautiful name for a beautiful baby (and you weren’t named after some Mouseketeer with big ears, as I was accused of besides, you already had a beat up boxers nose, you sure as hell didn’t need to get any big ears involved), but Charlie was my childhood imaginary friend that introduced me to nature and its world of mysteries and new adventures lurking around every corner. Unfortunately humanness fallibility got in the way of that dream.

     You were a fighter from the beginning, you fought through unmitigated childhood adversities, battled through college with three small children in tow and stood shoulder to shoulder with a Ranger battling his own unfair adversities. All without fanfare or swagger. With tenacity you simply did what needed to be done.

      Let Charlie guide you on your next weeks camping trip through natures mysteries and adventures. Come back strong, put your kick ass boots on and jump back into the human rat race with gusto and know Charlie will always be at your side.

     I’m honored to be the father of one Annette Marie Mills, aka Charli.

          Love ya,????


Gerorge, the Mountain Man, 2023

Consider your roots. Life doesn’t always unfold as planned. But life presents us with unparalleled beauty every day. As writers, we get to chase that beauty, map its contours, and leave a light to shine in the darkness. I’m going to go connect with my inner guide and , Charlie, and explore more mysteries and adventures.

June 13, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about fathers in general, or a specific father. You can use different names — Papa, Daddy, Fabio. What is significant about a father? Write an homage, rant, comedy, tragedy, or anything in between. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by June 19, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday 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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  1. denmaniacs4

    Written in record time. Maybe a tad too Seinfeld…

    • Charli Mills

      I like that you are a quick-draw writer, Bill. That’s my approach, too!

  2. Gloria

    Beautiful post, Charli. And a lovely letter from your dad. So proud of his girl! And congratulations Leah and Kyle! A new life is wonderful.
    You’ll be a super grandmother no doubt. You’ll love it, Charli. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Gloria!

  3. Norah

    You’re going to be a grandma! I’m so excited for you. While life without grandmotherhood is fine, grandmotherhood brings its own special joys. What a lucky little hag or dude. My son is a father also, but my daughter agrees with your daughters. Interesting, eh?
    I love the letter from your father. Every child deserves one of those. I think I have letters from my dad, but nothing like that. You are fortunate to still have him and to have him so loving. He sounds like a big cuddly bear. It’s funny. I’d never thought about your parents, as I (we) don’t about the parents of others. Teenagers think they arrived on Earth without the need of parents, but as adults we don’t often think to ask or wonder about who came before. It is an important part of our history though.

    • Charli Mills

      Interesting that our daughters are the ones to say no, Norah. Good thing we both have sons! I’m feeling that babyhood has evolved far past my experiences. I didn’t even recognize some of the things my DIL has on their baby registry. I asked her if she and Kyle had fun picking out items and she responded that it was stressful. I’m all about the books! My father started writing me letters four years ago. It’s been a healing journey for us both. Yes, our family history is important and can be insightful.

      • Norah

        I agree that the things parents must have have changed over the years, Charli. Some of them are a vast improvement but I think the important things remain the same: love, security, safety, nourishment for the body, mind and soul, and lots and lots of language, especially books. I think you’re headed in the right direction. There’s no such thing as too many books.
        I’m pleased your father’s letters are a balm, hopefully healing for both of you. Hugs. ????

      • Charli Mills

        You are so right, Norah, and I’m going to remind Kyle and Leah of your wise words when they are feeling overwhelmed by all the “stuff” foisted upon new parents. Good that an educator is giving me the green-light-go on books. My grandchild will have a fantastic library, probably rooted heavily in myths and earth sciences and playfulness. Thank you for understanding the balm of balm. Hugs back!

      • Norah

        Good plan, Charli. What a wonderful family your little one is joining. Your family was an excellent choice. ????

  4. Michael B. Fishman

    Thank you for sharing the letter from your dad. It was fun to read and it’s obvious where you get your storytelling talent. And congratulations to you and Todd, and Leah and Kyle and the soon-to-be aunties!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Michael! We are all excited about new roles. I was raised around storytellers, so I think of myself as a story-catcher, always listening to their tales and rhythms.

  5. Miss Judy

    Congratulations! Great news. You have a loving, thoughtful father. You have a treasure in that letter.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Miss Judy!

  6. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Cool beans, Charli! Those are quite the shares you shared.
    What a letter! And so your story began. And continues with you in grandma role. You’ll do great.

  7. Geoff

    What a delightful letter. Any dad would be proud of you, though. You have bouncebackability (yep it’s a thing). And also what fun to be an educating and corrupting grandma! Tally ho!

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, corrupting — I like that idea, Geoff. Good corruption, of course, such as literacy and nature and independent thinking. Does that make me a bouncing grownup gramma?

  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Dear Charli,
    I think my dad and your dad would enjoy swapping stories and likely have some recipes to share that are best not shared here.
    I know my dad also appreciates your kickass boots; he recognized you as one of us immediately, suspects your toughness, though he does not know your stories.
    You were a comfort to him and his children as you bore witness to the toughest moment of his life. Seeing his wife confront death was harder than confronting it himself.
    This is a special Father’s Day for both of us. The adventures and learning continue!

  9. pedometergeek

    Wow, Charli! Congrats on becoming a grandma. Your Dad’s letter made me cry. What a wonderful letter to read (and re-read and re-read). I have a letter or two from my Dad, both written when he was on strike duty and I was in my first quarter of college. I treasure them still. Because both of my sisters were at home, I don’t think he ever sent them a letter. ~Nan

    PS. Even though Annette Marie is a beautiful, lyrical name, I like the name Charli, Somehow it seems to fit you!

  10. Nicole Horlings

    “Stories, even ones we think we know, evolve and can still surprise us with new insights.” – great line!

    Congratulations! How exciting that you’re going to be a grandmother!

    That was a beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Nicole!

  11. The Sicilian Storyteller

    Good morning, Charli and greetings from NY! I am very new here. I wanted to stop by to say how much I enjoyed reading your post, especially the letter from your dad. What an incredible treasure that is (and the part about the doctor’s drinking bender was just too much; I had to LOL over your dad’s description of your mother’s scar!)
    Congratulations to you, as well; being a grammy is one of the greatest things in life, as you’ll soon find out.
    FYI, I wrote a 99 word story and used the form above. I wasn’t sure if I was also supposed to do a pingback so I did one just in case.
    Thanks for creating this lovely site; it’s been great fun to read. Thanks also for the chance to share a story with you and your readers.
    Lovely to be here! – Nancy

    • Charli Mills

      Howdy to you in NY, Nancy! Right, the doc on a bender explains a lot, including my mother’s scar. My dad has great wit for descriptions. I’m listening to all of you sharing the grammy joy. i know it will be instantaneous, but alas — the waiting and wondering. I got your submission and I’ll include your link when I publish the Collection this week. Good to have you at the Ranch!

      • The Sicilian Storyteller

        Thanks so much, Charli! Sorry for the delay in responding. Sometimes these comments have a way of falling through the cracks and I find them days later. Great to hear from you with your lovely welcome to the Ranch!

      • Charli Mills

        We understand riding the range, and popping in as you can!

      • Charli Mills

        I’m a wandering writer, too! 😉

  12. Hugh W. Roberts

    Many congratulations on the wonderful news from Leah and Kyle, Charli. And what a great day to be born on (I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will that day). Just think of all the Halloween birthday parties ahead.

    Your dad’s writing is so engaging. It brings you right in and not want to leave. Thanks for sharing his letter with us.

    • Charli Mills

      Keep those fingers crossed, Hugh! The Halloween birthday parties would be fabulous! Thank you!

  13. Sam "Goldie" Kirk

    CongratZ on the upcoming grandmahood.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful letter. (Glad your nose recovered :P)

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha…did my nose recover? Thanks, Goldie!

  14. Jules


    All the best to your family for ‘Father’s Day’ and beyond!! My one grand is an offical teen and the other will be double digits next month! Even the grand-nephews (the twins) are over a year old!!

    I would have liked to been closer to my Dad, but it didn’t work out that way… so I just remember the better parts. Here’s mine:

    ‘Outer Limits’

    Was there ever a time when Dad and I looked at the same horizon? Both fans of sci-fi, and lovers playing with language. Though it seems as if we were never quite on the same page. We had different ideas about life in general. I felt that some of the lessons I learned were opposites of what he believed or intended. I really wanted to make him proud, and I’m not sure I succeeded.

    Death creates a different distance. One that the living cannot reach, only perhaps in dreaming, ‘real’ science fiction?

    that flat line
    always moves away;

    © JP/dh

    Note: My title is a nod to the TV series.

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, the grand-nephews are growing, Jules and I bet you feel like it wasn’t long ago your grandsons were single digits. Great nod to the tv series!

      • Jules

        I see the grand-nephews and think of my own sons… the grands too, yes. Time flies. Wishing you and yours all the best with whatever the stork brings your way!

  15. Anne Goodwin

    Congratulations, Charli, and what a lovely letter. Maybe your dad will write one for his great grandchild.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Anne! Maybe an old mountain man has more letters in him. At least he figured out how to send an email.

  16. sweeterthannothing

    That letter brought tears to my eyes it’s so beautifully penned, your father must be incredibly proud of you and a huge congratulations on your halloween boo! You talk of your son + partners new chapters in life but this will be a new journey for you too! I wish you all love and joy!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sweet! Yes, thanks for reminding me this is a new chapter on my end, too. Love and joy back to you!

  17. Sue Spitulnik

    Charli, Now I know the rest of the story. When I talk about you I always say I don’t know where the Charli came from. Thanks to you sharing your father’s letter, I now know. What a wonderful letter from the “Mountain Man.” I’m sure you will treasure it.
    Bob and I guessed grandchild, but had the wrong person pregnant. As others have said, that baby will change your life as you know it. I’m happy for you and your whole family.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I wondered if you and Bob guessed. I knew you’d be mulling over the secret! And now you know the origin story. It’s funny — I just realized, I take on the buckaroo persona which my dad gave up to embrace his mountain man-ness. Thank you for sharing in the happiness!

      • Sue Spitulnik

        I’m glad you have stepped into the buckaroo persona. It’s the ranch-hands good fortune.

      • Charli Mills

        Not sure this would have worked as well as a community if it was the hermit’s hideout, lol!

  18. Ruby Manchanda

    This is such a beautiful post

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you!

  19. Colleen M. Chesebro

    Oh, my goodness!!! I just read this. Congratulations, Charli! You will be the best gma ever! I’m happy to say we share the same middle name! You are definitely a Charli! I always figured your first name was Charlene. LOL! Happy news!

    • Charli Mills

      Ah! M is for Marie! It’s a very popular name in my family, including my mother’s first name. Nope — not Charlotte or Charlene. I like to see the expressions when i say, ‘Charli is short for Annette.” Now, I can whip out this letter. Thanks for sharing in the happy news!

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        WOO HOO! I can’t wait to hear what the baby calls you, or you teach her/him to call you: Nana, Gram, etc.

  20. Kerry E.B. Black

    Congratulations! And such a lovely letter!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Kerry!

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