November 21: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

November 21, 2023

The Huntress sailed into my imagination. Earlier this year, in May, I visited Portland, Maine where Todd’s third-great-grandfather once apprenticed in the mercantile industry with his “uncles.” For decades, the family genealogists have tried to suss out who these uncles were and why they were in Maine. James Harvey Mills was born in Vermont to Deacon James Mills, and we’ve stalled at the Mills brick wall unable to connect to any of the known Mills lines in Vermont, Connecticut, or Massachusetts.

I’ve been pondering ever since — what if the Mills family originated in Portland?

D. Avery drove me across the White Mountains from her piece of Vermont history to Maine and back through Lunenberg (Todd’s piece of Vermont history). We talked about stage coach roads and how important the Portland port would have been to the region. I could even imagine my husband’s ancestor as a boy, traveling those mountain passes. I’ve not looked into it seriously, as such inquiries can be daunting, diving into historical records. But as I settled into the early phase of a new life transition (role of Gran’mum to a wee girl-king named Regis E. Hauck-Mills), I wondered enough to poke through the historic newspaper archives online.

Such a poke (or a peek) is a gamble. The best approach is to go directly to historical archives because the online ones are spotty and incomplete. But who knows? Maybe on a late Saturday evening when the house is quiet and I’m not yet asleep, trying to find my way back from a profound experience, I might get lucky. Curiously, I found three more generations of Maine settlers all named James Mills, but nothing specific to link them to our James Millses. Another brick in the wall.

And then, I spied the Huntress. The ship’s name leaped from the page, so intriguing to me. I can’t say why. It was late. I was hunting ancestors. I liked the way Huntress sounds in dialog as in, “Uncle, the Huntress is overdue…” I could imagine young Jim Mills picking up on the chatter at the merchentile, overhearing snippets of rumors and conversations. It had nothing to do with genealogy, but the ship amplified my idea of what Portland, Maine was possibly like when James Mills apprenticed there.

Regis, my granddaughter with the kingly name, is a whopping two weeks old. Will she enjoy history? Time will tell. Her dad did not. He was the one who often asked to stay home to play with Legos instead of going to the History Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. He stopped going to historical sites, too. He was never into collecting stories in cemeteries. That’s alright. Maybe the interest skipped a generation. Maybe eighty years from now, Regis will appreciate the research her ol’ Gran’mum did. Maybe she’ll find a connection between the Millses and the Huntress.

To those of you stateside in the US, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. No matter where you write in the world, know that I’m grateful for your participation in this literary community. I enjoy this time of year with its rituals of celebration as we cook, decorate, and spend time to reflect. I have much to reflect on with both gratitude and grief. Though loss is inevitable, so is living. We live every day.

May we live as we write — with a sense of wonder, an eye for beauty in all its surprising forms, and the courage to search in the dark even if we aren’t sure what we search for. May you find your stories at such wondrous depths. Time to find the Huntress!

November 21, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a ship named the Huntress. What type of ship is it? Where does it go and what does it carry? Who are the characters involved with this ship? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 27, 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. Sue Spitulnik

    Regis, who we waited and waited for, is already two weeks old. Time changes when it is on the other side of the goal. Weird!
    My husband’s name, Spitulnik, is the only family in the US. The story goes the ledger keeper on their ship coming into Ellis Island did not close the a, hence it became a u. There are a good amount of Spitulniks. Might there be a chance Mills could be Miles? Just a thought.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, you’ve expanded the potential origins of the Millses, Sue! Yes, a name spelling, misspelling, or intentional redirect are all possible. And yes, weird how time behaves differently on the other side of goals and incidents.

  2. joanne the geek

    Saw the prompt and immediately thought: pirate ship! So it’s a Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum from me this week. ?

    • Charli Mills

      You-ho-ho! Bring on the rum, Joanne! I wonder is the Huntress ever made its why to New Zealand?

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Intriguing prompt. What era was this Huntress that you found? Did the Huntress that leapt off the page and sailed into your imagination match the picture at the top of this post? These beautiful old New England ports have an ugly history, many of their ships involved in the slave trade both before and after slavery was outlawed in those states. It could be a sinister name. Or not. Huntress seems to be a surname in the Portland area and there is a Huntress Street in Portland. There are modern boats with the name. Good thing we can make shift up anyway.
    Enjoy your Thanksgiving, Ms. Miles.

    • Charli Mills

      The Huntress leaped off the page of an 1844 Portland newspaper. Getting to see Portland (and eat real seafood) has had me reconsidering the Puritan Mills. I’ve got to figure out why James apprenticed, married and worked there in the 1810s through 1830s. He was back and forth between Lunenberg, VT, Colebrook, NH, and Portland, ME. Actually seeing the area opens up so many possibilities. And yeah, that dark underbelly of silent history. Jules found an incredible trove of archives on the ship and that may answer what type. I prompted Canva for 1840s-era ships so the image may be incorrect. Great expansion on the possibility of the name from surname to nefarious activities. It’s fun to make shift up with the shift. To notice the shift, and play what if… Thanks, D. May your family be blessed with presence and memories during this time of loss. Catch some beautiful sights out your way. <3

  4. denmaniacs4

    I was in an alliterative mood. So, ships and squirrels. Go figure!

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve been watching the squirrels on Roberts Street and I think they’d be a huge problem for ships but great potential for story!

  5. Jules

    Charli, Busy times ahead! Back when I can with a story or verse.

    To all Stateside ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ – Those in Canada had theirs already – hope it was a grand time! And to all else as Charli said – The Carrot Ranch community is a wonderful place to be thankful for!

    • Charli Mills

      Enjoy your busy times, Jules!

  6. Jules

    Thar she blows… I got swept up in the ‘hunt’ (there’s some facts but mostly fiction – the facts are in a link at my post)

    Clara’s Visions

    The geese that migrate could not see the haunted Huntress. Clara had inherited her Gram’s sensitivity to seeing what others could not. From the top of the lighthouse the young teen watched as the Huntress came closer to the rocky shore. And then just vanished when there should have been a horrid crash. Ever since she could walk Clara herself hunted the shoreline for artifacts. She had a secret corner in the old Victorian’s home’s basement where her grandfather had stored several empty chests. Clara had slowly filled them with her finds. Which she believed came from the ship.

    Even after the Coast Guard took over most of the lighthouse duties, Clara visited the lighthouse so often that she became a volunteer docent at 16. Being a trusted local she was given her own key and was able to visit off season pretty much whenever she wanted.

    Clara searched the coast for clues. The best times were after storms. Without the gaggles of tourists that came to visit the lighthouse. Only when she had solid proof would she take her collection to the local maritime museum. The internet and local maritime museum had limited information about the Huntress.

    Clara hoped to find some remnant with initials that belonged to Edward T. Shearman who had mastered the Huntress. Or even something from one of the owners George Shearman who was killed by a whale on June 22, 1845. Clara imagined meeting up with George… walking in the sand and having his ghost point out where to dig. That would really be helpful. Just give up one pocket watch, would you please; ocean!

    keeping their distance
    the ghosts of the Huntress were
    still drawn to the light

    that beacon from the lighthouse
    tried to guide those lost souls home

    © JulesPaige

    • Charli Mills

      The Huntress swept you away, Jules! I’ve been savoring your opening sentence — such an image to pair tangible geese to a ghost ship. Later in Part II, the “gaggle” of tourists is a nod back to the original thread of geese. The story, the mystery, the poetry — well done! I’m excited to go look at the facts you found to feed this delicious piece of fiction!

      • Jules

        The first journal I found regarding the Huntress was a different set of dates (later than the one in the archives). But I was able to get the names… and googled the Master’s name which lead to the archives. Just a small jump down the rabbit hole.

        Glad you enjoyed ‘the trip’ 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Those are my favorite rabbit holes, Jules!

    • Sue Spitulnik

      A great story< Jules. I ove this type of history/romance/mystery. Well done.

      • Charli Mills

        Agreed, Sue!

  7. Norah Colvin

    Happy Thanksgiving, Charli. Your new grandbaby’s first. How exciting. So much to be thankful for.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Norah! We chuckled over Regis being “turkey” enough and Kyle cooked his family a crown roast. A new baby, a new tradition.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow, that’s terrific imagery, Liz. My apologies — “the ranch elf escaped from a shelf” is going to be my external excuse for my internal misses. I read your story so I can’t say why I didn’t transfer it. Pomegranate is in the collection now!

      **Oops…just got back from “adding” your story and realized I hadn’t posted the collection, yet. Where is that naughty elf? I want my brain back, lol!

      • Liz H-H

        Lol, it’s fine. Maybe you just need a little extra gramma-time. Get back to things on Monday?

    • Charli Mills

      Woohoo! The pirates have arrived!

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