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AND The 2020 Carrot Ranch Writing Rodeo’s Third Event Winner Is:

Masha Ingrao announces the winners of the third Flash Fiction Rodeo and Carrot Ranch trips over the reblog! Go here to read the full details:

2020 Rodeo

The results of the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo are riding in week by week in the order of each contest. We hope writers had as much fun as the Rodeo Leaders and Judges. We got to play within the western theme this year and had plenty of challenges!

Rodeo Contest #1:

In Folk Tales and Fables, Kerry E.B. Black asked participants to spin a yarn as long as the Rio Grande in 99 words.

This year’s winner is Colleen Chesebro!

Honorable Mention goes to Norah Colvin, Liz Husebye Hartmann, and Mike Vreeland. Congratulations!

Each Rodeo has different independent judges. Judging is done blind. Thank you to Kerry E.B. Black for managing this contest and to her judges, Debra R. Sanchez and Beverly V. Blickenderfer!


Why Wolf Howls at the Moon by Colleen Chesebro

Long ago, the Moon Spirit danced upon the waters of the lake. When she met the spirit of the Wolf, they danced together on the shoreline.

One night, Moon Spirit said, “I must return to the ebony sky and take my place alongside the stars.”

Bereft, Wolf gobbled up Moon Spirit’s reflection as it floated on the waves. “I wish I could keep Moon Spirit’s magic with me forever,” he cried.

To this day, whenever wolf drinks from the lake, he cries to the Moon Spirit hoping she will return so they can dance upon the shore once more.



Snow White and the Seven Gunslingers by Norah Colvin

The huntsman made the all-too-common mistake of revealing everything before enacting the deed. Snow White kicked him in the shins and escaped into the forest.

Exhausted, she chanced upon a cottage. It appeared abandoned, so she went inside and soon fell asleep on one of the seven beds. She was startled awake by a septet of menacing, heavily-armed gunslingers.

When she explained her predicament, the gunslingers were outraged. “He’s a bad one, and she’s the worst. Stay here. We’re onto it.”

She heard them say as they rode out of sight, “Hi ho! We’ve got a job to do.”


Sky Rider’s Happily Ever After by Liz Husebye Hartman

Rapunzel was a rodeo champ by day, a sky watcher by night. Nobody could beat her barrel riding and calf roping. Stormy nights, she’d climb the Tower Mesa, hear thunder roll, knowing someday she’d join that rodeo.

It got so she spent both nights and days on the Mesa, losing interest in regular rodeos. Family couldn’t call her home, but took comfort, watching her lengthening golden hair glinting in the sunlight.

Along came Pepe LeGume, with his offer of magic beans for her golden tresses. She took the offer, cut her braid, and rosed her lasso to that magic vine.


Flem and the Rattlesnake by Mike Vreeland

Flem, Unlike most cowhands, was toothpick thin, bow-legged, and always smiling. Never once did he lose his cool, even when he found a large rattler in his bedroll. Instead, he cajoled the snake, letting it sleep next to him for warmth. 

Their bond grew.

One day, cutthroat robbers were after Flem. With nowhere to hide, the snake swallowed Flem whole, shook its rattles, and frightened off the thieves. 

After a bit, Flem crawled back out.

“Thank you immensely, Snake,” he said, sharing his hearty meal.

The moral of the story: Sometimes it’s okay to have Flem in your throat.



The Ride by D.L. Finn

We’ve made this journey on horses every year for our wedding anniversary. The only stop was to admire the beauty of the sunset before setting up camp by the gently flowing creek. This was our place. I know you’ll be there waiting for me. That’s why I brought your horse. We’ll ride as spontaneously as we did in youth, with the winds tangling our hair and the carefree laughter running freely. I won’t leave you until you have to go, my love. Then, I’ll return home comforted, knowing that we can stay there for eternity when my time comes.


The Tale of the Two Horse Women by H.M. Hallman

“These women morph into horses, and that’s why they aren’t to be owned,” the chief warned his son. 

“But father, what if someone owns one?” 

“Young Feather, no one has caught one,” the chief said. 

Young Feather couldn’t sleep. The moon was high. He walked to a river and slumped against a tree. He noticed a dark mare drinking from the river. The horse transformed into an eighteen-year old woman. 

He snuck over to see her. 

Startled, she said, “hello.” 

“Don’t fear. What is your name?” 


“Can we be friends?” 


Now, he would protect her and others.


Is He Really That Big by Sue Spitulnik

“Tanner, what’s your lasting memory of high school?” Jake asked.

“Sheriff Bullhorn’s dog that was so big he couldn’t fit in the car without the seat removed. He’d sniff around town at night and catch me every time I tried to kiss Betty Lou. Rodeo weekend when the dog got locked inside so he didn’t scare people was my only opportunity all year.”

“And what if the Sheriff caught ya?”

“The dog was a good warnin’ system, that never happened.”

“And now you’re married to Betty Lou?”

“Sherriff’s a good father-in-law but that huge dog’s still squeezin’ between us.”


Down That Lonely Trail by Bill Engleson

I could’ve circled ‘round, I guess. Kept goin’. Avoided Gopher Flats entirely. Nasty little watering hole. Didn’t even know if Belle still lived there. She’d been a bit of a tumbleweed in her time. Me too, I suppose. Flipped a coin. 1885 Liberty head five-dollar gold piece. One of my last. Didn’t matter which way it landed. I needed Belle. Someone who knew me. So, I came in from the south. Tied up the Roan outside the Gopher Union. Musta been midweek. Quiet night. The kid came up behind me. Bullet got me in the throat. Loved ya, Belle.


Cay-ote Killer by Clesea Owens

Swirled campfire gunsmoked ’round old Ernie’s head. His eyes shone in the firelight, two August moons ‘gainst a desert sky. “An’ that,” he whispered, “whers th’ last any cowboy heard o’ The Coyote Killer!”


“Ah’ll be!”

The talk still swam ’round the camp like Loui’zana fireflies when a shadow fell ‘cross the nearest cactus; when a howl yipped ‘cross the open sky. “Aowhoooooo!”

Scramblin’ to horse, rock, cactus; no man dared admit what he clearly saw: a baying, skulkin’, fur-dressed man, jus’ like what Ernie’d said.

An,’ like’n old Ernie said, no man lived to tell it still


The Barrel Racer: A Fable by D.L. Williams

The mare blinked against the billowing cloud of dust. 14.38 seconds, the time to beat, and she was last to go. She approached the gate. “Just this run,” she thought, “before I win.” The thunderous pounding of her own hooves echoed in the mare’s ear, vibrating the ground like mini earthquakes. She rounded each barrel with the speed of a twister before returning across the timer. Beaming, she turned towards the clock to bask in her winning time. The numbers flashed red: 14.39 seconds. She lost. The mare trudged from arena, tiny puffs of dust languishing at her feet. 


Seven Sisters by Saifun Hassam

Eleanor and her little girl Jessie lived for a few months in Saguaro Township. Jessie was four, her legs crippled by a high fever on the wagon trek to Arizona. 

Jessie loved to picnic by the giant saguaros near the horse corrals. One day Eleanor saw an apparition. Seven beautiful maidens chanted and danced, fantastic quill patterns shining on white buckskin dresses.

Within the circle, Jessie was dancing! Heart pounding, exuberant, Eleanor danced with her! 

That night, Eleanor gazed at the glittering stars of the Seven Sisters. Her heart was full of gratitude and hope for Jessie’s new life.


The Origins of a Cowboy by Floating Gold

“Mommy, where do cowboys come from?”

Barb turned around and smiled. She was aware of Tommy’s bedtime trickery but took the bait anyway.

Sitting back down, she told her son about the first-ever criminal who kept stealing apples. No one was fast enough to catch him. Then, one day, in a billow of smoke, a man with a lasso in hand descended on a horse from the clouds. He chased the thief all through the Arizona desert but finally caught him thanks to his rope and the speedy stallion.

“But what came first – a cowboy or his hat?”


Packin’ a Punch Without a Fist by JulesPaige

Lucy was fit as a fiddle and head of this crew, after all she’d grown up ranching. Some of the new hires on this cattle run didn’t think a woman should be giving orders, and wouldn’t follow her directions. That just wasn’t fair. One night, she couldn’t take any more of their bull. Lucy got up on her high horse without getting in the saddle and quietly said I’ll start firing any poke who won’t work!” Then quoted Dr. Seuss; “You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose!”


The Journey by Darnell Cureton

She evaded the posse that was looking for her. Colored mayor Edith Fowler, low on food and water was determined to make it to Gold Rose County. She set her horse free and emptied the contents of the chest her buggy pulled behind the animal. With two days of a four day journey left, she set out on foot in the darkness. A worn blue cotton shirt, denim overalls, and old boots were the only barrier from biting desert bugs as the moon illuminated her way. The promise of a new life and love awaited if she made it. 


The True Story Of How Butch Cassidy Rode Off Into The Sunset by Doug Jacquier

The old train robber, with a face that looked like it belonged on Mt. Rushmore, loved all those Hollywood movies about Butch and Sundance dying in a hail of lead. He didn’t want anyone knowing that he’d returned to Utah to write in peace, without having some hired detective on his tail or that crazy Sundance always wanting to do one more job. His style was spare and clear and full of insight. Before his death from a rattle-snake bite at 103, his books sold well under various pseudonyms but his favourite was always the Pinkerton-taunting Perce P. Cassidy.


Tall in the Saddle Tale by Frank Hubney

One man can’t do much unless it’s Billy, but even he didn’t do much good.  Evil was his expertise at least until he overreached and felt the end of a rope.

But if it weren’t for Billy we wouldn’t have Todd, broken, good-for-nothing, who nonetheless stood up and took that bullet for the mayor, Billy’s bullet. His body blocked the door knocking the revolver from Billy’s hand.

Nor would we have Sarah who aimed her rifle ten feet from Billy’s head. Even Billy knew she would shoot having been married to her for longer than Sarah cared to remember.


The Deal by Tina McFarlane

Travis couldn’t believe his luck. “Well, I’ll be damned if she ain’t a beauty. How much?”

“Ten dollars. Just want the cursed thing off my farm.” The old man spit in disgust.

Travis stared at the horse’s black coat, shining in the sun.

“We got a deal?”

“Uh, yeah.” Travis fished the bills from his pocket. As he rode away, a figure dressed as a merchant emerged from the cabin. He smiled as he watched the old farmer wither and die.

Thinking he just made the purchase of a lifetime, Travis never noticed the fields as they turned black.


Shoot First, Aim Later by Darlene Foster

The Kid was always shootin’ off his mouth. Calling Tiny Bradshaw a lily livered chicken meant trouble. The cowboy Clyde saddled up. He rode into town as Tiny strode out of the saloon and down the street. He saw the Kid come from the other direction. “Shit!” Clyde jumped off his horse, ran into the church and up to the belfry. He aimed at Tiny. The Kid drew but Tiny was quicker. Clyde took a shot. The outlaw lay dead. The kid wasn’t moving either. Clyde buried his son the next day and hung up his six shooters forever. 


Rodeo Contest #2:

In Double Ennead Syllabic Poetry, Colleen M. Chesebro asked writers to wax poetic in a new 99-syllable form she created for Carrot Ranch. This one was not easy and hats off to all the participants!

This year’s winner is ANNOUNCED.


Some Places Have No Names by Kerfe Roig

summering storm, becalmed
grey hiding the sun
that surrounds everything until it dissolves–
cacophony lurks, comes
galloping unheard–

what will replace what is
not there? return breath
to wandering, release the held spirits to
be dreamed, scattered into
wishes unneedful

of understanding or
explaining—all is
deadlocked, lingering on the edge of almost–
as yet unattached to
outcomes or designs



Masked Terror by Reena Saxena

the dark shadows of fear
plains in deep valleys
are prominent above designed contraptions
living in terror – tears
again percolate

down those parched, shrinking throats
struggling to stay out
of the way, of an unseen monstrosity
paralysed in panic
as shadows loom large

on erstwhile bonds, buckling
down under pressure
of unmet expectations, knowing full well
it’s either an embrace
or life – choice is yours


If This Be… by Bill Engleson

Let’s gather in the woods,
weep, and not forget
the burning wagons and the still smoking skies
swirling above the plains,
death choking the air.

If this be travelers,
Dixie refugees
from Jim Crow, beaten, stripped, flesh-whipped, burned alive,
is this humanity?
Is this who we are?

And within these scorched woods,
wind and time smolder,
ashes of flesh congeal in the bloodied mud:
a saga to be spoke,
hung against the sky.


Plains Speaking by Doug Jacquier

Plains, wider than a life,
as distant as death,
white-knuckle riding in hell-driven dust storms
followed by deep peace, and
still a sacred home.

Plains, stolen from others,
who live in exile,
earning from slots where they once hunted bison,
looking for the peace that
their ancestors owned.

Cowboys, your stories of
hard-driving glories
should conjure the spirits of those gone before,
and celebrate all ages
that’ve ridden here.


The Rodeo of Life by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

And I jump on the horse
to gallop through the
wide meadows of absolute grief and sadness.
The blood on my lips sweet.
Winds envelop me.

“Laugh! Don’t cry,” they all say.
Voices rattle in
the head of mine, leading deeper down the hole.
All I need is quiet.
Dusk envelops me.

Glad I am when I run
and don’t think at all.
Day in and day out we face the foul music.
Would you run away with
me? Envelop me.


Nes Season by D.L. Finn

Is it finally here
When magic has blown
From Summer into Fall in one cooling surge
The night’s longer and the
Sky hides behind clouds.

Blooming blossoms retire
Trees bathed in scarlet
Pumpkins flavor and decorate the season
Apples are abundant
Harvest is flowing.

Gray squirrels collect nuts
Black bears fatten up
Yes, nature’s preparing us for winter’s chill
When Autumn’s blessings are
Blissfully embraced.


Nature’s Saga by theindieshe

Plains dusky and dreary,
Shrouded deep in death,
White lies of greed defiling the oasis,
Its bounties defiled and
Still and mired in lust.

Crimson sky now mellowed,
Its dreary aglow,
Turned wide expanse of aquamarine waters,
A dull caesious hue,
That silently surfed.

Nature’s untold saga,
Taking what it gives,
For we failed to treasure the bounties bestowed,
It will set the wrong right,
To wash off grey blight.


Rain by Saiffun Hassam

Wildfires scorched green forests
From summer to fall.
Leaves and ashes were swept into streams and creeks.
Charred, forlorn, barren earth
Under winter snow.

Winds stir, soughing, rustle.
Cumulus clouds from
The ominous thunderous skies; light zig zags;
Rivers cascade greening
World, yellow parched earth.

Rain on high chaparral;
Redstone buttes; foothills
Spring with yellow brittlebush, and blue lupines;
Cholla spines; prickly pear;
Dusk: Saguaro blooms.


Evening Classes by JulesPaige

Embers slowly fading
Heads, settled resting
We look up to the constellations and try
Reading weather patterns
For the cattle drive

We hear our slow breathing
Allow awe to fill
Every nook and cranny of our weary souls
Tumbleweeds whisper soft;
listen to the wind…

Laugh with the prairie wind
With clouds passing in
The magic purple sky that holds ancient stars
Their wise ancient quiet
Dusk offers guidance


Cattle Drive by Sue Spitulnik

Line those cows single file
Stream crossing coming
Get the leaders to plunge and the rest follow
No white water danger
Grazing fields ahead

The ladies run to food
The horses’ sense rest
The dinner wagon slops hot meals and coffee
Everyone satisfied
Dark comes, fire burns

Coyotes howl ownership
Cowboys rarely laugh
In the starlight night, they trade short shifts of sleep
Always protecting the
Quiet munching cows


The Commission by Geoff Le Pard

I’m just a simple bloke
Who’s kept in the dark;
Then I’m to ‘write a poem about some stuff’
As if that is my thing
And is rather rude.

Again, it’s not a joke,
It isn’t a lark.
Lovers dancing round the moon? That’s just such guff.
I’d rather have to sing
On stage in the nude.

Now it’s to be bespoke.
I’d need to be Clark
Kent’s alter ego for this. I’ve had enough.
I’m off so please don’t ring;
Or I might be crude…


The Lonely Cowboy by Marje @ Kyrosmagica

The cowboy has no friends,
Riding through the plains
Death on his shoulder, his horse gallops and neighs
Kicking up stones of white
And on he must ride.

He lives and breathes this day
Lassoed in his fear
He wipes his brow contemplating fierce outlaws
Then eats his beans and waits
For the moon to rise

He’s a lonely drifter
No gal by his side
There ain’t no cute young’uns for him to cuddle
The stars give him comfort
And guide his way home.


Chasing the Moon by Eloise De Sousa

Alabaster skin that
draws the shadows in,
she thunders through the distant Gemini twins,
chasing the rattled stars,
scattering my dreams.

Galloping; froth mounting,
flared nostrils find north,
through whispered threads of darkness where clipped glimpses
spill their secrets from the
Zodiac above.

Once darkness eats daylight,
my heart lies in wait-
each hoof beat drumming into my velvet skin-
her lunar imprint’s grace,
to admire again.


A Child Appeared by Myrna Migala

Snow cold so pure and white
Falling, falling, on
A town; look up a shimmering star so bright.
Bethlehem sees Winter
Night of holiness!

Forever and ever
A world will rejoice.
The joyous birth of happy festivity
A Birthday! Remember.
Everyone! Cheerful!

The world now indeed is
Coming together —
Bitterness fades; disagreements set aside.
All this and more because
A Child has appeared.


Never Again by Josie Holford

Heart sick of traitor Trump
And his posse of
Me-diocre incompetents, grifters all
We must remain firm. Let’s
Forget about nice.

We know that we must drum
The Trumpian ilk-
Springtime for Hitler – out of America
Decency, matter.

We need to ensure that
He plus enablers
Are so thoroughly driven beyond the pale
They never again stain
Our America.


Within a Kiss by Kyra Jude

It starts like a whisper
Supple and discreet
Hints of pleasure pining in euphoric winds
Each moment long and tense

What spells bind eyes to lips
And bear the soul’s taste
How does a gaze say words, the tongue never could
Words of need, words of want
And lips meant for love

Snow may fall, cold then warm
These love-lips twist on
A sweet taste of bliss, moaning deep with desire
Like vast stars in winter,
Night is kissed to life.


Dawn’s Memories by D. Avery

Greening, graying, moss cloaked;
transitory world,
shout from beneath moldering leaves; from rock, sprout;
spreading shoots take root in
my dreams recalling.

Living, loving, laughing—
innocent again.
Lark song breaks the day, calls the sun, warms the rock;
green and gray are lovers,
sing dawn’s memories.

Death wanders in disguise
whispers shades of white
and dances in autumn’s ecstatic colors.
With the lark we sing still
when recalling dawn.


A Pitiful Plague by Debby Gies

Shout loud at what it is.
Words and actions in
My head ring clear of the assault on mankind.
Open your eyes and ears.
A call for kindness.

Stifling in ignorance,
Poison fills the mind.
This hate virus infects and sheds viral ash.
Soil, rinse, spin, and again,
The story repeats.

The cure for this madness,
Some will fail to learn,
Only love and kind words can conquer this plague
For a fresh breath of life –
Love thy fellow man.


Pain, Inside and Out by Norah Colvin

Hoofs pound across the roof
Hunting a way in
pillow muffles but still they thump so loud
Relentless drenching rains
r all around

Hoofs pound inside my head
Brutal throbbing pains
Lightning lasers pierce my eyes I cry dry tears
The torture does not cease
Blinding like a rage

Hoofs pound inside my chest
Warning it will burst
While my clammy skin pours sweat in waterfalls
Pain grips my heart and shreds
What remains of me


Noted Notes by Kerry E.B. Black

Gray mists obscure the moon.
Still howl coyotes.
Laugh as though their voices mean nothing to you
while I remain quiet.
Dusk appears again.

Perpetual cycle-
here and yet not hear.
Examine sacred writings with words whirling,
and I without glasses
read a different text.

Ghosts groan from all corners,
begging to be seen.
Walk through their funeral finery unscathed.
Sinking, I sob, silent
into dust again.


Song of Monson by Kitty’s Verses

Over dark, rainy nights,
Thundering clouds, the
Quivering silence of soul brushes against ,
Unforgettable rim,
Of recollections,

As each drop pit patters,
Crossing multitudes,
Plummeting through images it settles on rim
Of dainty bud coaxing,
To open its layers,

Bud and soul pondering,
Nature plays awhile,
Circumspect to open their oft hidden layers,
Song of monsoon calling,
Beauty to reveal.


The Party of Life by H. R. R. Gorman

Celebrate for the next

Day is not assured.

Carouse while you can, and we’ll remember when

We’re old and don’t want to

Party ’til we drop.

Pass the bread of pleasure

Down the table with

Impish delight – regale in togetherness,

Celebrate with shared eyes

Gray we’ll be one day.

What a fickle thing is

Memory! Recall

The good as well as the embarrassing thoughts,

For the food of the gods

Is a good time had.


Gathering Pluck by Marsha Ingrao

Gray glances glimmering
Howls a coyote’s
Laugh at his dry humor, mellowing his soul
Silky muslin in
The dusk fades into night.

Tanglewood hills beckoned
Hushing trembling hearts.
Inky evening shadows descended welkin
Leaves crunching underfoot
Cemented resolve

Chill enveloped courage
Distant coyotes
Barked against the silvery moon breath frozen
Arms sheltered out the cold
“Will you marry me?”


Rodeo Contest #3:

In Git Along and Start Writin’, Marsha Ingrao combined a western classic song with the three-act storytelling structure.

This year’s winner is Doug Jacquier.

Honorable Mentions go to Bill Engleson, Liz Husebye Hartmann, Susan Spitulnik, and JulesPaige.

Thanks to Marsha’s judges, Norah Colvin and Irene Waters!


New Bride in Wyoming by Doug Jacquier

Molly’s nerves were a-jinglin’ driving the buggy back to the ranch. As a new bride fresh from the city, she tried to be a real country wife for Earl, cooking and milking the cow, and she tried to use Wyoming words whenever she could.

When Earl came in, she said ‘I got you a present’.

‘Well, that’s real nice, Molly. What is it?’

‘A dog to keep you company when you’re on the trail!’

She opened the bedroom door and out strolled a Dachshund.

‘And you didn’t think I was listening when you said ‘git a long little’ doggie.’



McCall by Bill Engleson

No gitin’ around it, I was one of them strays you’d stumble over in the street. I’d sozzled my way to Cheyenne, up in the Wyoming Territory. That’s where Aggie found me.

“You poor saphead,” she said, holdin’ me to her bosom.

After she’d took her pleasure with me, and me with her, she expressed her fury at Bill Hickok. He’d left her high and dry. I swore my revenge on her honor. I found him in Deadwood one August morning. Spied on him for days. Liked the man. Played poker with him. But a blood oath’s an oath.


Just a Numbers Game by Liz Huseby Hartmann

“It’s a numbers game. We drive these dogies from Texas to wherever…”


“They should be home, sucking their mama’s teat, not choking on range grass, not dying on the trail. We only get paid for what’s delivered.”

“That’s others’ misfortune, not ours.”

The two cowpunchers looked down on the tiny cattle ranch, waiting for cloud cover on this late Spring night.

“Never signed up to be no murderer, nor a rustler.”

“Can’t be a bleeding heart in this business.”

“This ain’t the 1880’s, it’s the 1980’s!”

“Learn to eat range grass, then. Roll on, pardner.”

Stealthy, they crept.


Walking the Canal Path by Susan Spitulnik

I was a-walking one morning for pleasure

along the paved canal trail

when in dog poop I stepped

made me madder’n hell

but I scraped off my shoe

continued walking along

admiring gold and rust-colored leaves

wonderin’ why so many had changed

and yet some were still green

soon coming towards me

was a man and his dog

the man carried a blue bag full

of the dog’s smelly droppings

I stopped them to say thanks

for being so neat and tidy

then I stepped aside

to get out of their way

and went splashing into the canal



Remarkable Ramblin’ by JulesPaige

A-walking one morning, I spied some stray dogies. An’ wanted to make them my own. Now I’m not a cowpoke that is oft to steal another man’s brand. These musta strayed far from their herd.

It’d been a tough winter for me. I figure raisin’ these dogies might help me sing a new cheery song. 

I was a singin’ to sooth ’em.  But my heart weren’t true. I felt kinda blue.  I asked ’round to see were they come from. T’was a ranch called Noteworthy. I returned ’em to high praise! And was offered a job! Yippie Ki Yay!



Jail Break by Douglas Goodrich

Out of breath, I escape around the corner with Mr. Waddles in my arms. I covered his beak, for fear his clucking might give our spot away.

“I’m going to get you out of here.” I assured him. “Mr. Mitchell? I know you’re over there. Get out here now! With the Chicken”

Mrs. Baker is too smart for me to try and fool, so I reveal myself.

“You should be ashamed! You haven’t an idea the trouble you’re in. Get with the rest.”

Waddles and I hurried by, knowing I’d try again, next field trip to the petting zoo.


Tracker Maury by Saifun Hassam

Kris Maury of LeMar Ranch was a skilled tracker. To the north was Coulson Wilderness. One morning, the cowboys hit the trail to round up the North Creek herd. Chuck-wagon and herding dogs kept pace.

“Whoopee ti yi yo!” the cowboys yelled.

On the lookout for wild animals, Kris was more alert at North Creek. His sharp eyes caught a cougar crouched on immense boulders. Kris slid slowly off his horse, his rifle in hand. His border collie Maxie growled. The cougar and her three cubs disappeared.

Kris threw back his hat. “Git along, Maxie, afore misfortune gits us!”


Untitled by Frank Hubeny

Pete remembered his dying father-in-law’s warning, “Wyoming will be your new home, but beware of that swamp. It’s alive with filth.”

Although their ranch was adjacent to the swamp, Pete made it prosperous. For too many years he heard the hauntings, but he tolerated them. Then something snapped in him. Perhaps it was because the owners of the swamp went bankrupt. Perhaps he saw one too many spooks wallowing there. Perhaps he heard one too many tales from the locals.

Regardless, Pete bought that swamp and took his father-in-law’s advice to its logical conclusion. He drained the putrid mess.


Where’s Jean by Hugh Roberts

On walking back into the store, Eddie whistled a tune. With a spring in his step, life seemed trouble-free. Then panic set in. Where was Jean? He’d left her here outside while he visited the store’s bathroom. At only three-foot, eleven inches tall, Jean was the love of his life.

Looking around, he spotted a sign. ‘Lost Property.’ Maybe Jean was there? Eddie’s misfortune soon turned back to smiles as he spotted Jean behind the lost property counter.

“Jean!” he shouted. “Thanks awfully, madam,” he beamed, as the lady in lost property handed him back his pull-along shopping trolley.


Untitled by John Hughes

Just passin’ through, podner, but your post and contest captured my attention. Good ol’ Leonard Slye. Quite the career and life. I watched him and Dale faithfully on tv in the 50’s.

When I was a kid I’d go to bed and sleep listening to the Sons of the Pioneers on the radio. Cool Water, Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds, etc. I loved all the old western movies, in black and white. Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Hopalong, Roy, Gabby Hayes, et al.

Those were the days. “Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies.” It’s your misfortune and none of…


Rodeo Contest #4:

In Wanted Alive, Sam “Goldie” Kirk offered a poster prompt on a familiar wanted western theme in 99 words.

This year’s winner is Shiloh Carozza.

Honorable Mentions are D. Avery, Sue Spitulnik, and Norah Colvin.

Thank to the judges, Geoff Le Pard and Darlene Foster.


Incriminating Evidence by Shiloh Carozza

“Reach for the sky!”
“Teacher says the sky is the limit.”
“Shuttup. Gimme your paper.”
“But I drew this!”
“Gimme it. It’s better than mine.”
“But it looks like me, not you.”
“Here, you take mine. Trade pictures with me or I’ll shoot!”

“What happened to your eye, son?”
“A bully shot me with a rubber band, sir.”
“He wanted my homework. It was a self-portrait.”
“That’s awful mean. Did you tell your teacher?”
“Yes, Sheriff Brown, but I want him arrested.”
“Arrested? How do I know what he looks like?”
“He looks like this.”



Wanting for Patience

“Just sit; be quiet. Your constant chatter’s killing me.”

“That’s hyperbole, Grampa, chatter can’t actually kill.”

“We’ll see. Got that precocious vocabulary, can’t even read.”

“Not yet.”

“Uh-huh. Breakfast: All American—”

“What’s that?”

“Breakfast with all the food groups; eggs, bacon, toast, home fries.”

“That’s just starch and protein.”

“Uh-huh, all American. Just listen. Western—”

“What’s that?”

“Omelette, has onion, pepper, ham—”

“Is there an Eastern?”

Pouring coffee and providing paper and crayons, the waiter complimented the grandfather’s patience.

“I’m reaching for it, Mister.” While the green-eyed boy jabbered, his grandfather drew a wanted poster until their westerns arrived.


The Loss of Innocence by Sue Spitulnik

Cleaning out my parents’ house I found a poster I had made when I was little. The caption said, “Wanted, Alive Not Dead.” It was my Dad I wanted alive. He was a cop, and being too young to understand I thought he was dangerous, not his job. I remember him coming home in uniform and saying, “Reach for it, Mister.” I would put both arms up in the air, he would grab me around the middle, swoop me off the floor, and then hug me as if he might never see me again.

Finally, I understand his actions.


Squirreled Candy by Norah Colvin

“Reach for it, mister, and you’re dead!”
Henry meant it. He hadn’t squirreled his penny candy away to let others help themselves to it. Every night, more disappeared. He’d wanted to catch the culprits alive and receive restitution, but they’d become too greedy.
His wanted posters hadn’t helped. A stake-out was the only way.
Night after night he tried to stay awake, but every night he failed and every morning, more candy had disappeared … until now.
The startled intruder dropped the candy jar and disappeared into the darkness.
“I’ll get you next time!” Henry fired after the squirrel.



Surprise Package by Mel BeeCee

Sam drove stage coach across the wasteland between Arizona and Nevada.  On this run, Sam was carrying a special cargo destined for some rich lady in Juniper.  As the stagecoach turned the bend in Rock Canyon, Sam heard the words “Reach for it mister!”  Sam found himself staring down the bore of a Winchester 1873, with One Eye Red holding the trigger.  Sam cursed.  Sam tossed the package to the outlaw.  As Red rode away, Sam smiled.  He wondered what Red would think when he opened it.  Because it contained the taxidermied corpse of the rich lady’s favorite cat.


Untitled by Anonymole

Mysti hung down into the crevasse, her arm outstretched, her suit restricting her movement. Just below her thermally gloved fingertips, her brother clung to a ledge of red rock. They’d been exploring reports of a lava tube along the Valles Marineris. Her brother ignored her warnings and entered the cave. Ten steps inside, the floor gave way and a gaping crack swallowed him. She unlatched her supply belt.
“Reach for it, Mystir. It’s right there,” she pleaded over comm.
“It’s been a great adventure, Mys.”
“Don’t you give up, I need you alive.”
He shifted his grip and reached.


Wanted Alive by Frank Hubeny

The Robinson gang liked to string up bad guys except those in their gang. They hung good guys, too, but good guys were better used as assets in the mine. It made financial sense to keep them alive as long as they obeyed.

Billy did not obey. He attacked the mine operations and became a legend exposing their corruption. They posted a reward for Billy’s capture alive.

If they got hold of him, they’d tie his hands forcing him to reach for the sky while they publicly whipped him every evening. He’d die eventually.

No one turned him in.


Thief by Saifun Hassam

Jared broke camp, ready to ride to Hawks Canyon. Isabel DuMond stepped into the clearing. Piercing icy blue eyes, hand sure and steady at her Colt.

He could not underestimate her. She was lightning fast; accurate; deadly. He knew her when he was an honest vaquero riding sage and pinyon ranges before he turned horse thief.

He drew his gun. His wrist shattered. She was a fraction faster. A lariat tightened around his arms. He was returning to Laredo.

Isabel headed up Hawks Canyon. She knew Jared’s corral of stolen horses was there, among the tumbleweeds and cedar pines.


Once Upon a Time in the Old West by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“That’s gotta be the worst ‘Wanted’ poster I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s from your description!” Pablo tilted his head, defiant.

“I know it’s close to Halloween,” Goldie softened, “But what we need is realism.”

Goldie hadn’t been the same since her return from the future. She’d met a West Coast Surfer (whatever that was) and had clearly lost her mind. She’d insisted on the list of numbers and letters to call.

“I know he’s here,” Goldie sighed.

Then he came, on a pale horse riding, looking exactly as she’d described.

“Oh shit. It’s the Apocalypse!” Trembling, Pablo drew his six-gun.


Start Early by Kerry E.B. Black

We start early on the ranch. Lots to do before that old sun sets. Muck out stalls, turn out the herd, gather eggs. Grooming, cleaning, and milking. Never ends. Not really. A new day starts it all again.

Yep, early. My first memory’s dumping slop in the hogs’ trough. Now my back’s bent and my fingers are twisted. I groan when I bend, creak when I move, but there’s joy in a job well done.

Especially when it comes to raising young’uns. We teach ‘em to stand tall, work hard, and when they have a goal,

Reach for it.


They’ll Be Putting Up a Poster for Me …(but they won’t catch us) by JulesPaige

Waldo wed my gal. Domestic bliss weren’t her thing as much as it wasn’t mine. Jist neither of them two families really knowed their kin folk. They’d caught Waldo and Sissy in the hay loft sleeping, which was jist ta git outta chores. Her folks thought a shotgun wedding was best. Which dun’ give me an idea. I’d roll into the ranch on my Harley, while everyone else was cattle russlin’. I’d roll up round the barn an’ call ‘er out. “Reach for it Missy!,” I’d say! She’d hug me, kiss me, toss ‘er apron and we’d be gone!


Untitled by Doug Jacquier

The green-eyed monster smacked his blood-red lips, breathed noisily through the triangle where his nose used to be and smoothed his dyed black hair. ‘If you think you can imagine a scarier Hallowe’en costume, reach for it, Mister.’ Impassively, I donned my mask. Revealing an orange comb-over, white piggy eyes embedded in a fake tan and a red baseball cap, I said ‘People love me. And you know what, I have been very successful. Everybody loves me.’ With that, I mounted my hobby horse and rode into the sunset, knowing it was just a matter of bidin’ my time.


Untitled by FloridaBorne

At the age of 70, she’d seen enough killin’ to know the boys marching into European trenches would never be the same — if they lived to tell about it.

Fifty two years prior, she’d moved into a home outside Raleigh, North Carolina, with her new husband when Lincoln’s war came to their doorstep.

For decades, no one but God knew a widow’s only child was fathered by a union soldier, nor how she’d blown off that corporal’s head the moment he was at the height of his pleasure.

Her grandson’s called her a coward. Perhaps if they knew…


The Kid Next Door by Bill Engleson

He’s a cute kid, I suppose.

Had more than his fair share of wear and tear.

Moved in last winter. My neighbour’s basement suite.

Jules usually rents to students. Turns out the kid’s mom is a student.

You know, divorced and reinventing herself.

Don’t see her much. The kid, however. He’s a going concern.

Met him in late February.

Just before COVID took us to the dance.

Surprize snowfall, so I’m out shovelling. Kid reaches through the hole in the fence. Toy pistol, pajamas, t-shirt, says, “Reach for it, mister!”

What are you gonna do, eh!

I dropped dead.


TUFF Rodeo Contest:

In TUFF Love, Carrot Ranch’s Charli Mills asked participants to revise an original western romance through a 99-59-9-99 word process with each step requiring a different craft twist.

This year’s winner is Liz Husebye Hartmann.


Untitled by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Original 99-word Draft: UNTITLED

Anton shrugged out of his jacket, kicking off his boots, and with them, the urban muck of cow shit and cheap whiskey. Padding into the foothills in bare feet, he wrinkled his nose, drawing his lips back from canines that glinted moonlight.

His departure had been delayed. Had she already left?

Trees morphed to low brush as he climbed higher, tearing buttons from his shirt, slipping off his jeans, to reveal his sinewy, tawny body. He panted, called to her, low in his throat.

Pausing, his hope faltered.

Startled, joyful, he rolled, as her canines grabbed his careless neck.

TUFF PART Two: 59-word Story with Original POV

Anton abandoned the mining town, shucking jacket, boots, shirt, finally slithering out of his jeans. He wrinkled his nose, padding across stone, toward the foothills; the town’s stink still clung to his tawny, sinewy body.

He hoped the smell wouldn’t drive her away. Had she already left? He growled, heart breaking.

She landed on him, canines at his neck.

TUFF PART Two: 59-word Story with Different POV

Audra watched his dark shape slink to the foothills, shrubbery shaking with his ascent. He’d much to learn in his new skinwalker form, but what a fine form it was. She could wait.

He called, deep and low, anxiety unmasked, still stinking of the mines.

Audra bunched her shoulders, canines bared. She was ready to pounce, ready to fuck.

TUFF PART Three: Three 9-word Taglines for Your Story    

  1. Skinwalker flees western filth, finds love in the foothills.
  2. New to skinwalker world, he seeks his kindred soul.
  3. The body is willing, Can he survive the love?

TUFF PART Four: Final Revised 99-word Story with Prop

Anton abandoned the mining town, shucking Stetson, boots, and shirt, finally slithering out of his jeans. He wrinkled his nose, padding across stone, toward the foothills; the town’s stink of cheap whisky clung to his sinewy body.

Audra watched his dark shape slink to the foothills, shrubbery shaking with his ascent. He’d much to learn as a new skinwalker, but he intrigued her. She could wait.

He called, deep and low, anxiety unmasked. Had she already left?

Audra bunched her shoulders, canines bared. She prepared to pounce.

The time-traveling photojournalist followed at a distance, then lowered his camera, blushing.



Anyone who participated in the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo can download and use this icon to show that you can “Write and Rodeo”!

Thank you to all our Rodeo Leaders, their Judges, and our Participants! See you next year when the Flash Fiction Rodeo returns!

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Welcome, ladies and gents, to Anyone Can Poem, the rodeo where …well, anyone can poem.

Last time we were in the saddle, I introduced the basics of haiku. We used its general syllable outline to jump in and have some fun.

Where will we ride from here?

To limericks.

A limerick (/ˈlɪmərɪk/) is a form of verse, usually humorous and frequently rude, in five-line, predominantly anapestic trimeter with a strict rhyme scheme of AABBA, in which the first, second and fifth line rhyme, while the third and fourth lines are shorter and share a different rhyme.


I don’t know about you, pard’ner, but that was a whole chunk of intimidating text. -And limericks are not intimidating.

They’re fun. They’re edgy. They’re funny!

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’
-Edward Lear

Like haiku, limericks follow a form. Myself, I find this form easy to write to once I pick up on the beat. Try reading Edward Lear’s (credited as being the master limerickist) contribution out loud. Still not hearing it? Here are a few more:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak,
Enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.
-Dixon Lanier Merritt

Alas for the death of Hugh Hannity
Whose boat was capsized by a manatee.
When they saw it swim by,
All the townsfolk would cry:
“There he goes! Oh the beast! The Hugh manatee!”
-Graham Lester

Now do you hear it? Do you feel it? Anyone can poem a limerick, including me:

There once was a mother of four
Who never could sweep up her floor.
The clothes and the toys
Were stuck beneath boys.
Daddy wonders who taught them to swore.
Chel Owens

  1. The pattern of AABBA and anapestic trimeter means that you start with two longer lines that rhyme. In the case of Lear’s poem, the rhymes are beard and feared.
  2. Next, you pick two shorter lines that rhyme with a different word. Again, with Lear’s, those words are Hen and Wren.
  3. Finally, you end with a zinger of the same length as the first two lines that also rhymes with them. Lear uses beard again -that cheater.

Whenever I set out to write a limerick, I first choose a subject. For today’s rodeo, let’s pick everyone’s favorite duty: cleaning up after animals. Not only will this subject fulfill the necessities of being somewhat inappropriate and humorous, it will provide many easy-to-rhyme words.

Some possible opening lines:
There once was a man named O’Coot.
There once was a grand rodeo.
I went to the show to just sit.

There! The most difficult part is over, especially since I picked some easy rhymers (except for rodeo). O’Coot can match up with poop scoop and boot and shoot! Sit, on the other hand, has at least one possibility amongst the thesaurus suggestions for animal excrement.

There’s no wrong subject or strict count for limericks if you’re worried. Many famous poets break the form left, right, and center. The main criteria is silliness and that recognizable rhyme pattern.

Send me a few samples through the form. Or, write one or a dozen up in the comments. You’ll love it and so will we!

Don’t overthink; just do it!


An embarrassing mess was my brother
With one leg that was short. Not the other
Which made this eccentric
Walk in circles concentric
Causing constant distress to our mother
Richmond Road
(From the A Mused Poetry Contest)

©2021 Chel Owens


Growing up I had a blueprint in mind, a family ideal loosely based on a 70s television show. It consisted of a white-collar husband, responsible and kind. And exactly two children, a girl and a boy. I envisioned meals around the table, Sundays in church, sleepover Saturdays, and a collage of my children’s artwork magnetized to our fridge. What I hadn’t envisioned was what came to be. Yes, I had the kind husband, two children, the artistic fridge door. But it was a late addition that altered the plan: our third child—an Olde English Bulldogge named London.  

She appeared to us all paw and leg. Adventure in her blood. Endless pup. Though she was the last remaining of the litter, her coat was first class, striped gold and black, a stark white stop and snout with boots and chest to match. Her tail had been cropped to prevent it from drawing up like a fiddlehead fern, and her fudge-like eyes—sweet and dewy as they were—possessed a hue of curiosity, a dab of mischief. She was both awkward and adorable, three months old and filling in fast, except for the wrinkles. Those would always remain.

When first we met, she clasped a bird in her jaw, a corpse she’d discovered beneath the spirea, or perhaps it was a viburnum. The farmer scooped her up, pried two fingers between her teeth, tossed the bird off to the side. “Eck,” he said.

What were we getting ourselves into?

We tried to hold her that muggy July evening, to cuddle her like an infant. She flailed about, ears flopping, bum wiggling, head hung over our forearms. Her body was too busy. I grimaced. “She’s got an awful lot of energy,” I said. But I could see both son and husband were smitten with her, taken in by her fierce independence, her fearlessness. They set her down in the grass, her home turf, and interacted there on her terms. Hesitancy niggled. Did we really want to own a dog? But the look on Noah’s face told me my feelings were moot. The plot had shifted. This dog now owned us.

In her first days in our home, London, as she came to be called, was more interested in sniffing than snuggling. Her nose was ever to the ground. She was under the chairs, under the tables, beneath the beds and the sofa (from which she needed help getting out). She even found her way inside our dishwasher. But when she had finally learned the lay of the land, she settled in to learning more about us. One day, as I reclined on the sofa for my afternoon nap, she didn’t want to be left out. She perched at the cushion’s edge, nuzzled, grunted. Moist eyes pleaded. I had set a rule that she would not be permitted on the furniture. We had just redecorated, and I was bound and determined that ‘the dog’ should remain on the floor. I hung my hand over the edge, caressed her brindled fur. “Lay down, London,” I said. “Go sleepy.” But she persisted, as was her way, working from one end of the couch to the other, trying to make the leap, her legs a hair too short. “Alright,” I said, and gave in, hoisted her up. “Just this once.” She rooted about my neck like an infant, let out a big sigh, then she was out. “Baby girl,” I whispered, then drifted off too, warm puffs of puppy breath upon my skin. Our afternoon naps became the norm. Another plot shift.

As months passed, many pet no-nos fell by the wayside despite earlier learned philosophies. I had descended from a line of old-school dog keepers. My childhood home had supported ‘free-range’ pups, Skippy and Poopsie, who were more like traveling salesmen than household pets. Noah, on the other hand, never had a dog in his childhood. His first experience with one was after he’d moved out on his own. He’d adopted a male pup almost immediately and raised it as a backyard pet before we met. Together we’d adopted a female in our early years of marriage, one you might call a hybrid model who spent her days in the backyard and her nights asleep at the hearth. London was something altogether different. She wasn’t a breed for roaming the great outdoors, even though, given another body, that may have been her preference. A brachycephaly, she couldn’t tolerate temperature extremes. Heat and humidity were especially hard on her with her compressed snout. She couldn’t cool herself, so we had to be watchful of her. As it turned out, that wasn’t the only thing we had to be watchful of.

A recreation of an extinct breed, the Olde English Bulldogge was said to have better health outcomes than the more well known English Bulldog. That was the primary reason we chose it. Unfortunately, for London, this didn’t hold true. From puppy vaginitis to skin allergies to pododermatitis to gingival hyperplasia, London experienced it all. Our closet overflowed with limited ingredient food and treats, medicated shampoo, antihistamines, ear medications, creams and salves, and antifungal wipes and solutions. Because of her skin allergies, we took to showering her at home rather than taking her to the groomer’s. I learned to trim nails, flush ears, soak inflamed paws, and treat yeast infections. Mama’s good girl, I’d say after I cleansed her facial folds with a foul-smelling wipe, an activity she would only tolerate because it was followed up with a treat. She’s always good for Mom-Dog, Noah would say, though I wasn’t sure how I felt about that moniker.

It was the combination of it all that made London more like our child than our pet. Through the cuddles and the playtime and the ailments and the treatments, a deep bond developed. She wasn’t ‘the dog’ anymore—she was our Baby Girl. We’d take her for car rides when she was bored. I’d surprise her with toys when I returned from the store, for which she would wait at my feet at the sight of a bag. She even took possession of Noah’s club chair, something I never dreamed he’d allow. We’d line it daily with fresh bedding, to protect the upholstery we said, but really it was to make her more comfortable.

When we moved to a new home, London’s needs came first. The home lacked a fence, so she couldn’t be off-leash. There were a lot of other things the home lacked too, but the first thing Noah built was a pretty wooden fence for London. She loved to lie in the yard, to watch the neighbors through the pickets, to duel the chipmunks, to hear the buzz of the hummingbirds. It was within this fence that she experienced those joys. And it was within this fence where she first showed signs of what was to come.

We were sitting on the patio swing when Noah noticed it, a slight drag of a rear paw, the scrape of nail on pavement. “Something’s going on with her,” he said. There was gravity in his voice, a shadow uncommon to him.

“It’s just her lazy walk,” I assured him. But that was just the beginning.

She began slipping on the floor of the new home. “This floor just isn’t her thing,” I said, and added some rugs. Soon she began slipping outside too, losing her balance when she ran, tumbling in her turns. While grooming her one day, I noticed the nail of one toe worn away to the quick, a result of the dragging. She began struggling to jump into her chair, climb the stairs, leap into the truck. “Are you getting too old for climbing?” I asked as I hoisted her hips. She turned to me, gave me a sloppy kiss. Translation: Thanks, Mom.

We brought our observations about the dragging foot and growing lack of strength and stability to her veterinarian. Concerned about a spinal injury, we tried laser therapy. Her condition didn’t improve. An MRI was recommended. We travelled six hours to a southern Wisconsin clinic. They coaxed her down the hall. She looked back at us. Our hearts ached. “We’ll be waiting,” I called. Baby girl, I thought.

The vet met with us afterward. “There’s no evidence of spinal injury,” she said. What they saw instead were symptoms of a condition called degenerative myelopathy, a disease affecting the spinal cord. She wanted to run a test on spinal fluid they had drawn to see if she carried the DM genes. “That will take a few days,” she said, “but we’ll call you when we get the results.”

The test returned positive; both genes were present. Other conditions ruled out, London was diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease of the spinal cord, a fatal condition. It began in the hind quarters and would ruthlessly work its way through her body until all was gone: the wag of her tail, her legs, her bark, her ability to swallow, and eventually her ability to breathe. London was dying, and we couldn’t help her.

“She may have a year or so,” the vet said. “I’m so sorry to have to deliver this news.”

In the months that followed, we managed to provide for our girl as best we could. We ordered special booties with bands to help with foot placement and grip and to protect her skin from abrasion. We exercised her, created resistance on her rear paws to promote muscle tone. Walking became more and more difficult. We ordered a cart, and though she learned to use it, she wasn’t happy. Noah took to walking her in a sling instead. He bore the weight she couldn’t. She was thrilled to be out of the cart again, tooling across the open field, just like the old days. Now, it wasn’t her feet dragging behind her—it was Noah. I would watch from the window as he scooted along at her hip, struggling to keep up with her momentum, holding the straps with his right arm, using his left as ballast. She’s doing great! the neighbors would say. 

Though we did all we could for London, we couldn’t stem the tide of her disease. We couldn’t change its outcome.

It was mid-January when our vet made a house call. The pandemic was among us, so she couldn’t come inside, but she was willing to meet outdoors. Fortunately, the mild winter showed mercy. We dressed London in her jacket, lined the frozen ground with a thick pad, covered it with her favorite bedding, and placed a sprig of sage in the center. Noah helped her outside where she met the vet with a kiss-filled lunge and a tumble. We gathered close around her, held her, whispered endearments to her. I told her how much I loved her, what a very special girl she was, how much she meant to us. I heard the murmurs of Noah and Sam. We were all together there, suffocating in a stew of grief. I saw out the corner of my eye the syringe that delivered London’s departure, wished I could have reversed it. She let out a big sigh, just as she had as a puppy when first she laid on my chest for our nap, rested her head on her front paws, closed her eyes. “My baby,” I whispered into the thick folds of her neck. “My baby.”

*     *     *

Throughout the winter, I often looked for signs of London in our yard. At first, there were sink holes in the snow where her feet had been, but fresh precipitation soon erased them from view. In the spring, I waited for the snow to melt, anxious, hopeful. Surely there would be signs of her left over from the fall, a chew toy, a ball, some droppings here and there. But when the snow receded, I found nothing. No sign of London. No sign of her life.

It wasn’t until the temperature warmed and the grass began to thrive that London’s former presence at last made itself known. It appeared as crop art, burn spots in the lawn, traces of her urine in unusual shapes. A comma here. A figure eight there. “Sweet baby,” I said. “Thank you.”

I know one day these spots will green again. They’ll fade away, erase what is left of our girl from the lawn. But not from the heart. Never from the heart. For now, I’ll cherish them, cling to them. For as long as they last, I’ll treasure these precious works of art, just as I do the ones on my fridge.

London “Lundy Lu” McAlister
April 2011 – January 2021

Photo by Natalie Carolyn Photography

Born amidst the copper mining ruins of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, T. Marie Bertineau is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the L’Anse Reservation, migizi odoodeman. Her work has appeared online with Minnesota’s Carver County Arts Consortium; in Mino Miikana, a publication of the Native Justice Coalition and Waub Ajijaak Press; and in the annual journal U.P. Reader. Her debut memoir The Mason House (Lanternfish Press, 2020) was named a 2021 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. Married and the mother of two, she makes her home in Michigan’s Keweenaw.

Saddle Up Saloon; World Wide Garden Tour

“Hey Pal. I’m glad yer here, ‘cause we’re about ta head off.”

“Head off? We gotta man the Saloon.”

“Nope. This is where we’ll start but this week we’re spons’rin’ a garden tour.”

“Ah, shift. Thinkin’ gard’nin’ ‘roun Carrot Ranch is gittin’ outta hand.”

“It’s a Garden Tour Pal. We’re goin’ ‘roun’ the world! We’ll start here at the Saloon then head east till we end up at the Carrot Ranch World Wide Headquarters, or CRWWHQ for short.”

“Might be shorter ta say Hancock, MI.”

“S’pose. Or Shorty’s place. Anyway, we’ll start here ‘cause here we are. Then I’m hopin’ folks’ll look’t the pictures here an’ click on the links ta see more a these gard’ners’ gardens an’ related writin’s.”

 “Kid, the Saddle Up Saloon ain’t got a garden.”

“Sure it does. We got the Poet Tree offshoot a’growin’ in the back.”

“Seems a stretch. Got any pictures ta share?”

“Naw. Reckon folks has their own pictures in mind fer the saloon, I don’t wanna ruin their images. But here’s a buckaroo-ku regardin’ the poet tree:

deep rooted dreams grow

sky stroked visions branching out

far reaching embrace

Now let’s head east ta southwestern Pennsylvania an’ see what our own Poet Lariat’s up ta in her outdoors.”

Jules Paige?”

“The one an’ only.”

Looking at my raised garden, folks might actually think I knew what I was doing. I’m winging it. I’ve got some Bok Choy, rainbow and yellow peppers, some herbs, and of course the lettuce. Watching these plants grow makes my heart sing.


entertain you; leaf 

ya laughin’


your dreamin’



gonna be a

brighter day

mind your

peas and q’s



I’ve always had flowers. Not always veggies. But one year I did try to grow strawberries and corn… and even asparagus! I’ve had veggies for a few years now. Not quite a potager garden. But just enough to keep me happy.

“Looks like Jules keeps the butterflies happy too.”

“That was nice Kid. I reckon lotsa folks keep a bit a garden ta keep ’em in fresh veggies and a bit a earthin’.”

“Yep. Hey, let’s drop in on our writer in Vermont as we head farther east on this here garden tour.”

“There’s somethin’ in bloom.”

“Thet ain’t a garden plant! Thet’s a wild Lady’s Slipper she found at the edge a where her lawn meets the woods.

“And thet’s jist driftwood!”

“She says she planted it there.”

“Hmmf. And what’s this? Closeups a her “lawn”? Some gardener.”

“Yep, bit of a let down. Let’s venture across the pond.”

“The stock pond? We goin’ ta Ernie’s?”

“Nope. We’re headed ta the UK. We’ll start at Sherri Matthews‘ place. Her garden grows in the West Country of England and in another life, in California.”

“Ya mean the reknown ranch hand and columnist, Sherri Matthews?”

“Yep. The memoirist. And gardener!”

I’ve always grown lavender, it’s good for the bees. And, so I learnt, good near roses to keep greenfly (aphids) away. I have a “Bee Hotel” in my garden. During our first national lockdown for three months in 2020 in the UK, we had glorious sunny weather. Confined to our homes unless for one hour of exercise and essential shopping/medical needs, our garden was a godsend, one I never take for granted. Watching the bees of an evening emerge from their winter hibernation was a true gift. Nature, unstoppable. See more on this HERE.

This rambling rose was my pride and joy in my previous garden. I created an archway with roses and jasmine, something I’d wanted for years. I planted the rose in a half-barrel I brought back from California when I left after twenty years there. I loved my archway, but when we moved to our present house three years ago, I thought of ways I might keep my barrel. To take it would mean cutting down the rose. I couldn’t do that. So I left it for the new owners. Let them have the joy of it. I found out from our previous neighbours that within weeks of moving in, the new people promptly tore it down, rose, archway, jasmine. The lot. I could have taken my barrel after all. Click HERE for more on this hope filled summer garden.

Said neighbours/friends brought us this rose as a housewarming gift when we moved to our present home, having left all my roses behind…for the new people. I planted it the following spring after our move. It’s called Tickled Pink. And I am tickled pink at its progress and beauty. It blooms three or four times a year, is disease resistant and brings stunning colour to the garden. Bloom where you’re planted, as I always say. As someone who learnt to grow roses in California and has left many behind, I know this to be true. I also discovered you can buy a pot of ladybirds (ladybugs) to sprinkle on your roses, a natural and safe way to keep aphids at bay.Click HERE for more on Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home. 

“Oh that was well worth the trip. Ain’t we got some other green-thumbed Ranchers over here in the UK?”

“Yep. Here we are at Anne Goodwin‘s place.”

“Whoa. Ms. Goodwin’s also gardens on the wild side.”

“Yep. Read all about it and see more stunning photos HERE.

When we moved to this house over twenty years ago, I was most excited about the garden. Although I’d previously worked an allotment, I’d never had custody of shrubberies and trees. That first winter, we cleared a patch of ground for ten raised vegetable beds and another for fruit bushes, fenced-in to keep out the birds. Along with that and creating a pond and patio, we didn’t pay much attention to the grass. See more HERE.

“Kid, thet was purty dang purty. Glad we clicked the links. This is a great tour! Who do we see next?”

“Yet another ranch hand, the prolific Geoff Le Pard. He’s got some before and after shots to share with us.”


Thirty years ago we moved into this house (above) with a new born in tow. The house sits on a wide road on the outskirts of one of London’s remaining villages, Dulwich. Did we love the garden? In 1970, it had been laid out with a single terrace and central steps down to an oval lawn. Several of the mature trees we inherited (magnolias, silver birches and ornamental firs) were new then as were the many roses and peonies. We itched to work on it – our immediate predecessors had done nothing beyond the occasional lawn mow for the best part of two years – but we knew enough (courtesy of my mother) to sit back and see what came up in that first year.



The forget-me-nots are the many great grand-offspring of those that we saw that first year. We’ve moved many things, lost a fair few – the rhododendrons and azaleas have pretty much all gone now – and introduced many more. We’ve made a few structural changes but not many. I’m in the process of introducing a rainwater capture system to stop using potable water given a cautious assessment of the rain that leeches off our roof every year is in excess of 50,000 litres.

See more of Geoff’s gardens HERE.

“Hang onta yer hat, Pal. Now we’re headed down under fer a peek at Norah Colvin‘s garden.”

“Kid, we come a long way ta be viewin’ ‘Merican plants.”

“Norah got us good! Says this “garden” come from spilled bird seed! But worth it. Look’t her garden visitors Pal!”

“Them’s sure some exotic birds!”

“Thinkin’ we’re the odd ducks down ‘roun here Kid. Uh-oh. Hope Shorty don’t see these next visitors ta Norah’s garden. Them critters tend ta spook ‘er.”

“Speakin’ a Shorty thet’s where we’re headed next. We’ll end the Saloon’s first world wide garden tour at World Headquarters. An’ here we are!”

Look, there’s the front potager garden with them rabbits someone surprised her with!”

“Yep. An’ jist look’t ‘er bloomin’ bulbs.”

“Whoa! Look’t the color!”

“Thet ain’t flowers! Thet’s Shory’s cake!”

“Well it’s a celebration a all she’s been sowin’ an’ growin’ so we’ll allow it.”

“This was a fascinatin’ tour, Kid. I injoyed gittin’ out an’ seein’ how other ranch hands garden an’ all. But ya know what?”

“Yep. We’re homesick. Let’s git back ta the ranch.”

Wither we roam, there’s no place like home.

Thank you Jules Paige, Sherri Mathews, Anne Goodwin, Geoff Le Pard, Norah Colvin and Charli Mills for takin’ part in this debut garden tour.

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 now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at 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

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Rebecca Glaessner!

“Howdy Rebecca Glaessner! Pal, look, it’s Rebecca Glaessner!”

Thanks for having me here, Kid and Pal.” 

“Well we sure ‘preciate yer comin’ all the way ta the Saddle Up from down under.”

“It weren’t sech a long haul fer her Kid. Rebecca’s been aroun’ the Ranch fer a long time.”

“It’s an absolute honour to be featured at the Saloon after all Charli and her Ranch-hands have done for my writing life, Kid. You’re both right, I’ve been around but I did fall off the radar for a while in recent years. It’s a bit of a windy story so get comfortable, a lot has happened over those six years. I’ll try to be concise.”

“We’re all ‘bout storyin’. The stage is yers, Rebecca.”

“I started up a website in 2015 where I now post all my flash fiction responses to the Ranch’s weekly prompts. Those prompts inspired me to begin writing online in the first place.

I was a young parent back then, only 22, with three toddlers and an infinitely supportive partner who worked long hours so I could be home with them.

I established a daily routine around the kids where I found myself with free time each day, and redeveloped that lifelong itch to write.”

“Reckon thet’s a itch jist has ta be scratched. Lifelong ya had it?”

“Yes, Pal. You see, I started reading very young. As soon as I knew those little symbols on paper could create whole worlds, I found a home inside books as often as I could. Then naturally, I started writing as a young teen – you know those carbon-copy stories of our favourite novels? Mine was Eragon by Christopher Paolini (who, to my delight, has also moved from writing Fantasy to Sci-Fi, much like my own journey). 

As a young mother the soul-deep writing itch returned in full force.

One story-world concept I daydreamed as a teen grew and evolved alongside me in parenting and life, finding depth, new themes and alternate paths to travel down over the years. Though I’m still working on it, it’s undergone several rewrites/restarts since, with some drafts reaching over 100k words long. Yet this final version looks almost nothing like its original form, as is the way with life and growth. 

It’s been a long road of self-discovery over those years since, ups and downs and 360’s, and I’ve learned so much. The Carrot Ranch has been one supportive constant in my writing life as I found myself returning to the Ranch often, despite having stopped writing temporarily.”

“See, I was aroun’ a course, I’ve always been aroun’, but the Kid here showed up later. When I weren’t seein’ ya aroun’ so much, Rebecca, I jist figgered it was ‘cause the Kid is so dang annoyin’.

“No Pal, with three kids of my own I was busy! And, during that time, all five of us – our three kids, myself, and my now husband – were diagnosed with either Autism, ADHD, or both. And though the diagnoses helped each of us find our own place in the world, it wasn’t a fix-all; it didn’t give me all of life’s magical answers.

My life revolved around supporting our kids so they wouldn’t have to fight their way through childhood like my husband and I did, and in doing so, I gradually sacrificed more and more of my own bandwidth, leaving myself with no space or energy for writing.

Being Autistic, meant I was constantly exhausted from all the expected social interaction with other parents, hoping to strengthen our children’s school experience through the support network of other families. But having ADHD also, meant I fought with myself daily to remember to keep the house organised, all their lunches sorted, school notes and homework and activities in order, while always feeling like I was forgetting things and not doing enough as a stay-at-home parent.”

“Well dang, Rebecca, that seems like a tough steer ta corral.”

“Kid, it was a recipe for disaster. Too much all at once, with no space for self care, and a constant guilt that I wasn’t living up to my own expectations for my writing life also. I believed my diagnosis meant I knew what was holding me back, and that I could just try harder to get past it. But I was wrong.

This inevitably led to burn-out, where I had my first – and, luckily, only – panic attack, ending up in hospital, feeling like my heart was struggling and about to give out, and I took time off everything. My husband picked up the bit for me, cleaning, school runs, bedtime routines, everything, while still working full time. He offered me time to recover, however long I needed.”

“He soun’s like a keeper all right.”

“I can’t thank him enough.”

“Even with his s’port, musta been a rough time.”

“Yes. And that time enabled me to build brand new foundations, starting from scratch. Through all of it, I never lost that itch to write.

That is where you found me in 2017, dabbling in the Ranch’s flash fiction prompts again, trying to get back on the same wild horse I started with. That was also the year I tried NaNoWriMo for the first time where I achieved my goal of 50k words in a month.

2017 was also the year my father passed away and when my partner and I got married.”

“Them’s two big events.”

I remembered dad in a flash piece called Boots, one of my first sci-fi pieces, first published in 2017 as a response to a Ranch prompt, and then republished in 2020.

I first— properly— discovered sci-fi after reading Dune and it’s prequels as a teen (my dad recommended them, one of his gifts I treasure the most now), and like writing, sci-fi became a core foundation in my creative life.

After NaNoWriMo in 2017 —a mess of a story, hiding away in a secret drawer— and another failed novel draft in the months following, I took yet another writing hiatus. I knew I still didn’t have all the tools needed to craft a strong story. Feeling doubtful about my abilities, I fell away from flash fiction and the Ranch again too.

Over all those years, I devoured countless articles, craft novels, podcasts, writing classes, blog posts, you name it! I’ve tried and failed over and over to get a rhythm going successfully enough to complete this novel.”

“You jist hang in there Rebecca, you’ll git it done.”

“I will, but having ADHD also means it’s a challenge to keep my mind focused on mentally demanding tasks for more than 10 minutes at a time, so I’m constantly fighting myself to do the one thing in the world that is utterly fulfilling for me. This challenge, before my diagnosis, offered no end of self-doubt through lack of consistency, and never knowing why I couldn’t just write.

I love our kids, of course, I love how they’ve grown, how strong they are in their sense of self now, but writing is… me.You know?”

“Reckon ya gotta make time ta scratch thet itch, no matter.”

“For sure. In 2020, the infamous lockdown year, I wrote another 75k words of another novel draft around home-schooling three primary school aged kids, and once again discovered the plot just didn’t have the legs to stand on.

Or was it my ADHD telling me the story wasn’t interesting enough anymore? Was I also telling myself it needed more work than I could give it?

I’m still working on self-trust. 

I discovered my ADHD very recently in 2021. This discovery now means I can knuckle down on the parts of my writing process where I need to harness discipline above interest, recognising what work is needed, and challenging myself to push past my perceived limitations. 

This writing thing is harder than usual for me, but I’m determined.That’s when the Carrot Ranch’s weekly prompts once again returned to the forefront of my writing career.”


“The kids returned to school late in 2020. With the extra time and space back at hand, I put aside another struggling draft of 75k words, revamped my website and vowed to write a piece for each weekly prompt from then on— whether submitted to the Ranch or not.

I’ve only missed one prompt so far since January 2021. That prompt was “a year later”. It was too deep a concept to tackle that weekend so I gave myself a brief break and forgave myself for not having the bandwidth for it.” 

“Reckon ever’one misses now an’ agin. I ‘member that was a tough prompt.”

“That forgiveness and space was key, and I was back on the horse the following week with renewed energy —though this time, a slower, steadier, wiser horse. 

Now I use my novel’s characters and concepts to inspire each week’s flash response, as opposed to plucking bits and pieces from life. This new strategy keeps me rooted in my novel’s worlds which I’m working on diligently. It helps maintain momentum toward my ultimate goal, and it’s growing ever closer.”

“Thinkin’ thet’ll make ol’ Shorty smile!”

“I hope so. I’m thankful for Charli’s own persistence and determination in life, she’s been a huge inspiration for me. I wouldn’t be where I am now without her and the Ranch!

After diving headfirst into writing, then falling away completely, I’ve arrived at a place where I can challenge myself in healthy ways; by taking small steps, and crafting manageable expectations, I’m gradually building the self-trust and consistency vital to success in all parts of life.”

“Well, it’s somethin’, how ya never let go a yer writin’.”

“An’ how Carrot Ranch’s been a part a yer writin’, an’ vice versa. Rebecca, where else’ve ya got hep or inspiration fer yer writin’ itch?”

“Well, Kid, alongside the Ranch, author Holly Lisle has been another cherished resource in learning the craft. I’ve purchased all of her clinics (World, Culture, Language, Plot and Character Building) and use them regularly with huge success. Her methods of commanding the muse when and where you need it, is empowering.

Also an inspiration, podcaster Sarah Rhea Werner teaches self-care and managing expectations as a creative, challenging how we perceive the craft, and how we view ourselves as both writers and flawed humans. Sarah hosts free twice-weekly, live-stream ‘Create-Alongs’, where she offers two hours of her own time to bring the writing community together in a space of acceptance and inspiration.”

“Thanks fer sharin’ them inspirin’ folk, Rebecca. An’, before ya go back ta thet beautiful fam’ly a yers, ya got anythin’ else ta share or promote?” 

“I’m yet to publish outside the free flash pieces on my website, however the novel I’ve spoken of, and am working on now is a sci-fi mystery, involving missing people, hidden aliens, AI controlled wormholes and strange nightmares of other worlds. My flash fiction offers hints of these worlds, so come visit me over at my website; have a read and leave me your thoughts. I respond to each and every comment and love to hear from readers.”

“That sounds like a right fun place ta visit. Thank ya so much Rebecca Glaessner. Sure was good ta have ya by.” 

“Yep. We ‘preciate yer open an’ honest story tellin’.”

“Thanks again Pal and Kid for having me here! I cherish the opportunity to share my story, and I hope it helps other creatives on their own journey.”

Australian Author, Rebecca Glaessner, writes Science Fiction with a focus on future tech, the human condition and our connection to worlds beyond. 

Over on her site she publishes weekly flash fiction in response to the Carrot Ranch’s 99-word story prompts, and inspired by her up and coming debut novel, a sci-fi mystery.

Besides writing, Rebecca reads widely and often, enjoys strength-training and video gaming while running a household of three human kids, six fur kids and her better half. 

Stick around while she discovers her voice, you might be surprised.





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 now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at 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

Navigation is Still an Important Skill for Children

This article is for parents of young children.

In the old days, and even in the not-so-long-ago days, we used maps, verbal directions, or journey markers to find out way around. Now nearly everyone has an electronic device to tell them how to get from one location to another with no need to memorise a path or journey markers. However, I think it is still a useful skill and that noticing landmarks along the way can make a journey more interesting and memorable. It’s also useful when in an area with no network service or a device that has no power.

Young children may not have access to electronic navigational devices, but they are usually accompanied by adults who act as their personal navigators. This is necessary, of course, for their safety. However, it is important to encourage even young children to be observant of their surroundings as there will come a time when they need to navigate independently, be it in the grounds of a new school, from home to a friend’s house, around the shopping mall, to catch a bus or, eventually, drive a car. Not only will they need to recognise markers on these routes, but they will need strategies to implement if lost or separated.

When children take note of seasonal and other changes, both temporary and permanent, in addition to permanent features, of their environment, they are building essential knowledge; knowledge that can be developing long before they need to find their way alone. Consequently, if the ability to find one’s way around has already been learned through demonstrations and discussions or by deciding which route will be taken for a journey, when the need arises, independent navigation will be far less daunting for the child, and much less worrisome for the parents,

The best way parents can help children develop confidence in navigating their own neighbourhood is by pointing out landmarks and discussing the routes they are following, whether travelling on foot, on bicycles or in the car. It is good to sometimes give children the responsibility for remembering where the car was parked, where the shopping mall was entered or how to find the way back to a particular store.

There are many opportunities, whether in the car or on foot, to take note of landmarks; for example:

  • The numbers on houses,
  • The types of fences
  • How many streets to cross
  • Large trees
  • The entry to the shopping centre
  • The row and number of the carpark space
  • Bridges crossed.

A delightful picture book that can be used to discuss the importance of knowing one’s way around and of staying safe is the beautiful Pat Hutchins’ book Rosie’s Walk which tells the story of a hen who goes for a walk around the farmyard and gets back home safely in time for dinner. The story also introduces many positional words.

Positional terms are useful for describing the location of neighbourhood landmarks in relation to each other and use of them helps to develop spatial awareness along with language; for example:

past the shop

across the bridge

over the road

through the park

in the middle

beside the lake

along the road

next to the bakery

around the corner

behind the fence

near the post office

as well as left and right.

You could use the book Rosie’s Walk as a springboard for encouraging children to draw a map of their house, their yard, their neighbourhood, the journey to Grandma’s house. They could then use the positional words to get from one place to another.

Together, you could draw a mud map of the neighbourhood and discuss the placement of landmarks and different paths that could be taken to get to and from them. Such discussions encourage divergent thinking.

It can be helpful for children to think of these maps as being from a birds’eye view, or from a plane. It is not such a stretch then when they are introduced to more formal maps such as Google Maps and street directories on which they can learn to point out or mark places they have visited.

The Hokey Pokey is a fun game that can be played to teach left and right. If you don’t remember the song there are many videos on YouTube to watch. My only caution is that watching someone facing you and using the correct side can confuse children as they will need to use the visually opposite side to be correct. Having been a teacher of young children for many years, I became confused about left and right because I had to use the opposite side to mirror them when teaching left and right. In this video, the demonstrator mirrors the side for the children to copy.

Navigation need not be difficult if children are introduced to it in purposeful and fun ways from a young age. Why not give your children a little more responsibility for showing the way?

Until next time,


Saddle Up Saloon; Secon’ Art Showin’

“Whoa! What’s goin’ on Kid? I ‘spect ya ta be whiny an’ even cheesy, but didn’t ‘spect ya ta be servin’ wine an’ cheese so fancy like here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“It’s what ya do at art shows Pal. An’ this week we’re showin’ art; I roped a few visual artists inta sharin’ their work here at the saloon.”

“Thet’s great Kid.”

“Yep, we got some great work ta show, some artists ya mighta met here last June, an’ a couple a first timers. Done turned the Saloon inta a gallery. You an’ me Pal, we’ll jist git outta the way and keep cuttin’ cheese. Jist gonna let folks wander ‘roun, enjoy the sights an’ they kin chit chat an’ comment down below.”

“Hmmf.  So… no innerviews?”

“Not this time Pal, jist gonna let the art speak fer itself. Though some a the artists have a bit a literary art ta accompany their visual art.”

“Soun’s real nice Kid.”

“Yep. There’s jist one thing….”


“Shorty’s uncle is somewhere aroun’ the Saloon. She said we should keep an eye out fer ‘im. Uncle Bernie? But I’m sure he’ll be fine. Now let’s step back an’ let folks see this installation.”

Bridal Bouquet by Bonnie Sheila

Bonnie Sheila is a quiller from the faraway island of Nantucket. More of her work can be found at crescentsandcoils. You might remember her visit at the Saloon last June.

From the Garden by Bonnie Sheila

“I recall Bonnie Sheila the quiller. She’s branchin’ out with this art form. An’ I ‘member this next artist. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. She was in the first art showin’ too. I think we’ll be seein’ more a her aroun’ here.”

“Yep. Don’tcha love her watercolors?”

The sun’s reflection
Shines in a sidewalk puddle
The lens adds one more.

Ocean breezes blow
Blue canopy flips and snaps
Pure relaxation.

“Beautiful. Kid, was thet her haikuin’ too?”

“Yep. She’s all kindsa artist.”

“Now what’s this? Why’s there a dog at the art show?”

“Look agin, Pal. That’s a handcrafted needle-felted sculpture by Vermont artist Sharon Somers. You should see her stuff.”

“Oh, shift that reminds me. Uncle Bernie!”

“Is that a heartfelt piece?”

“No, Pal, that’s Shorty’s Uncle Bernie. Visitin’ her daughter, looks like.”

“Hmmf. Thought he was stuffed. I wanna see more a this felt sculpture.”

“Well here’s a couple more, an’ ya kin always go to Heartfelt ta see even more.”

“Thet’s really cool, what she does with felt.”

“Yep. She kin do them sculptures up from a photograph.”

“Amazin’. Hey Kid, look’t these pictures!”

“Pal, ya know Jules Paige, the Ranch’s own Poet Lariat?”

“Yep, sure do.”

“Well these here photographs are from her. An’ a course she added haiku.”

brief respite from blues
positive thoughts blossom free
relaxing  strong for strength


present reflections
living in precious moments
details bring delight

“Now what’s this, Kid? Which is the sculpture? An’ is thet one on the right anuther a them felt sculptures?”

“That’s Uncle Bernie again. He’s visitin’ Shorty’s other daughter, the dancer an’ choreographer. Hmm. Uncle Bernie ain’t got the pose down.”

“Mebbe she’s s’posed ta be stretchin’ like he is. Leftward leanin’ upward facin’ down dirty dawgs pose.”

“Mebbe. But let’s check out the next artist. Another rancher, an’ columnist, Susan Spitulnik.”

“The quilter!”


This quilt is called a sampler because each block is a different well known pattern. I made this as a sample for a Beginner Quilting class I taught in which the students learn the techniques to piece squares, triangles, and other shapes using a quarter inch seam. I then donated it to a local charity for one of their annual auctions.

This is just one of many patriotic quilts I have made. I gave it to Joe Mele who is a friend and member of the Rochester Veterans Writing Group. He is writing his parents’ love story using the original letters his father wrote home during WWII.

I made this t-shirt quilt as a high school graduation gift for my neice using her sports t-shirts that’s why there are repeat numbers. The band-aid fabric represents the fact she went on to college to study nursing.

“Wow, Kid, thet Susan Spitulnik’s as generous as she’s talented. Them quilts a hers warm in more’n one way.”

“I know what’cha mean, Pal. Yep. Sue Spitulnik is a regular Ranch Hand. When she’s not participating in the weekly Carrot Ranch challenges or preparing her Veteran’s Stories guest column she can be found sewing in her home studio.”

“Well I sure am glad she found time ta share her art here at the Saloon agin.”

“Me too Pal.”

“Ya got any more art hangin’ aroun’?”

“That’s it fer this showin’. Oh. What now?

If Charli Mills thinks that scrapin’ some nutmeg inta a French Press whilst campin’ is an art form…

uh, Pal, is it art?”

“Sure Kid, why not? An’ least ways she’s got track a thet uncle a hers.”

“Phew. Well Kid, ya made it through anuther Monday.”

“Yep. I enjoyed the art show but Charli’s uncle’s a bit of a handful. Has he always been aroun’ here?”

“Yep. Look:

“Huh. Never noticed him before.”

“Sure. He goes ta all the rodeos.”

“Huh. Hey Pal, we didn’t do so good ’bout stayin’ outta the way a the art showin’.”

“‘Cuz you have trouble keepin’ yer yap shut. But if I ain’t mistaken, ya did cut the cheese.”

“Mebbe. Shift! The dang mic is still on. I always fergit th—

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 now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at 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

April 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

Pavement calls like a slithering snake that can wind to anywhere. Windows rolled down, engine roaring, music blasting. I’m seventeen again, driving my truck across the Nevada valley I once knew so well I could drive the roads in my dreams for decades after moving on. I didn’t know what came next but I knew I was outta there. Never did I think I’d move 22 times between then and now.

I’m not moving but I am moving on.

School’s out next week, and my wheels are turning. It’s hard to think beyond that one last essay I have to write because it’s Friday, due Sunday, and I really wanted to cross the finish line by now. Regardless, when I wake up Monday Morning, May 3, it will be like looking down a long stretch of road.

Where to next? Do I follow my map? Take a pleasure cruise, a side trip, an adventure down a two-track? Maybe I park under the shade of a black oak, and watch clouds scud across blue skies. May is not the month for hard decisions, nor is it time to lose momentum.

I’ve landed a freelancing gig and have plans to collaborate with a local artist, a podcaster, and a new storytelling center. I have business plans and job applications to finish, each taking me down different roads, each a companion to writing novels. The Ranch needs some new paint. My manuscript needs final edits. June 23 is the Big Day — the date I send my book to the agents who are interested. The wheels keep turning.

It’s the song, Hit the Road Jack, that comes to mind, though.

It’s more than moving on. It’s about leaving what is no longer needed. It’s telling 2020 to get lost. It’s declaring a new era. Claiming the road trip for your own purposes. Whatever happens next, I get to decide. When I left Nevada all those years ago, I never expected to live in almost every western state. I certainly didn’t expect to settle along one of the Great Lakes. When I hit the road, I had dreams.

I still do. We never stop dreaming.

Next week, I’ll let you know dates for my party plans. I have a truckload of fun to work out. Without a formal graduation ceremony, I decided to create my own. A friend is a neo-Druidic ceremonialist is going to lead an online graduation cacao ceremony. Another friend is going to host an online Sound Bath. I’m going to camp for three days at McLain State Park after I pick up the most incredible bucket-list celebration cake ever made by three young Chippewa sisters in Minnesota. And I will set up several readings and times for Ranchers to meet up on Zoom for friendly socials. Finally, my son and daughter-in-law will visit for a family weekend with a vegan cake (yes, two cakes).

On Monday, I also tell Covid to hit the road. I’ll be fully vaccinated and out of quarantine. It’s strange to emerge from the pandemic cocoon. Strange to not have coursework next week. But that’s the nature of moving on.

April 29, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by May 4, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Jack’s Escape by Charli Mills

He waited for her the mouth of the mine. She visited late at night with stubs of carrots. She’d light a pipe and he’d sniff puffs of smoke while she spoke her troubles, wetting his neck with tears. Life in a mining camp caged a white mule and a soiled dove forced into service. One night, she arrived with a rope, blanket, and satchel. He had no regrets stepping outside his pen, letting her rig a makeshift bosal. She said, “Let’s hit the road, Jack,” and they left behind what they had known, never to speak of it again.


Who Left the Dang Gate Open

“If you open a gate, you close it. You’re responsible for what happens if you don’t.” These are some of the live-by words my dad instilled in me from as far back as I can remember. They still bounce around the gray matter each time I open a gate – any gate. 

The consequences of not heeding his directive meant taking the heat over a gate being left open and the possibility of animals escaping. Even worse was trying to round up the stock before anyone became aware they were not where they were supposed to be! 

Your wake-up call comes when all you see at the end of the day is one lone herd member grazing. First and foremost, you are the one responsible for making sure you take every opportunity to close the gates. Always! When you are aware of what the repercussions can be, it is up to you to be the responsible landowner.

Keeping the gates closed is a concept that should trickle down through the generations as a learning tool on how we handle our social media posts. The last thing we want is to lose visitors and possibly sales because we have been remiss in performing our due diligence.  Rotating stock in and out of feeding pastures is necessary; however, you need the knowledge to control the gate and where they go. The last thing you want is the herd breaking free before they have filled up on everything you are capable of feeding them.

Blog writing, in my opinion, has to be one of the best ways to show the importance of closing gates to keep control of the herd, a.k.a., your visitors. We have all read about the benefits of sharing links to other information that resonates with your writing, but here is where you need to be on your A-Game. Those links to outside sources can be a nemesis or a feather in your cap. 

The Nemesis—Links that open to outside information might mean your visitors leave your website and don’t come back. Why? Because the gate was not properly secured. 

The Feather—Links to outside information that is properly secured show the reader that you are willing to provide additional material. If the gate is secured correctly, the visitor will wander in the new pasture with a view of the home corral still in their sights. An example of this is the links in my Bio at the bottom of this article. Each should open as independent pages without taking you completely away from this CRCL Quiet Spirits column. 

The goal should be to allow the reader to open links without leaving the original article. As they finish reviewing the material found through the link, the linked page can be closed, and the original piece is still before them. You have not lost this visitor. 

Opening content in a new window is an easy step to keep the herd (a.k.a. visitors) corralled on your land. Platforms offering blogs, in the majority of cases, provide the option to “open in a new window” when setting up a link. If you don’t use this option, I recommend you start. It is something I also use with links within my website. Why? Because I don’t want the visiting herd to get lost on my land and not know how to find their way back. 

The long and the short of all this is: Pay attention to how you add external connections to your work. Having links open in a new window will guarantee most visitors to your website/blog will stay with you when they close the external link. Losing them through an open portal may mean lost sales and followers. 

The concept is much the same for any platform. If you forget to include opening links in new windows, you can go back and edit your work to make the change. Closing the gate after the fact isn’t the best choice, but it is a step in the right direction to keeping the herd where you want them in the future. 

I have created a free downloadable, how-to cheat sheet to help you stay on top of keeping the dang gate closed.

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go. Gifting her with excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away. Snippets shyly materialize in Ann’s writing and photography. She is a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Edall-Robson shares moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact her. Books written by Ann Edall-Robson are available through her website, at Amazon, and various other online locations.