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Saddle Up Saloon; Story Time!

“A preschool teacher walks into a saloon—”

“Oh, I think I know this one Pal. Eats shoots and leaves?”

“What? No, Kid! Look, here comes Jennie Fitzkee, a preschool teacher. Howdy Jennie!”

“Hello Pal, hello Kid.”

“Preschool? School prior to school? What age are your students?”

“My students are three and four years old Kid.”

“How’d ya git inta the pre-school teacher gig?”

“Back in the day, most women had three career choices— teacher, secretary, or nurse.  I always enjoyed babysitting and playing with my younger sisters, so teaching was a natural choice for me. I have been teaching for thirty-seven years!”

“Must be ya love what ya do, Jennie.”

“I sure do, Pal. I have always taught preschool, no other grade.  Lucky me! The best thing about being a preschool teacher is making a real difference.  And that happens in small and unexpected moments.  The little things are really the big things.  Finding a salamander on the playground, reading aloud a book that makes children belly laugh or cry, cheering when a child writes his/her name, introducing children to art like Starry Night, and to music from Vivaldi to the Beatles, and knowing when a big hug is the best medicine of all.”

“Aw, you soun’ like a great teacher. But we know ya as a blogger.  ‘Member how ya connected ta our Charli Mills over thet book, The Poet’s Dog, by Patricia MacLachlan.”

“Oh, I remember that! Charli read that book to her dog, Bobo. You know, C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” He was right!”  

“Yeah but, how’d a nice preschool teacher like you come ta be bloggin’?”

“I started my blog in March of 2014. For decades at school I wrote newsletters to parents. I had so many things to tell them, because I just ‘knew’. The newsletters were becoming lengthy. I was not only telling parents about what we were doing in the classroom, I was telling them why we do what we do. Educating parents is as important as educating children. I wanted to share my stories with fellow teachers, too. So, I decided to tell my stories and write about children and education on my blog. I’m glad I did! Every thread of what I do in teaching is on my blog— from thoughtful posts to videos, stories and music and art, philosophy and history and geography. Teaching is a wonderful journey. Writing about it is even better.”

“We git a whole bunch a writers an’ readers through here, what with bein’ fillyated with Carrot Ranch Literary Community. We’re all ‘bout stories. Heard you are too.”

“I sure am Kid. On ‘day one’ of teaching, my lead teacher asked me if I would be the one to read books to the children. I will never forget that day, reading “Swimmy” by Leo Lionni and watching fifteen eyes take it all in.  It was a lightbulb moment of knowing. I readily built upon it and quickly learned as I went along. Of course this grew in leaps and bounds.”

“Yep, we heard tell yer highlighted in Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, “The Read-Aloud Handbook.”

“I am. I read to my children a lot. Covid shut down school in March and I immediately set up a YouTube channel to read aloud, so children could see and hear me read picture books, and keep a sense of normalcy. I picked good stories to read, ones I knew they would love.  Gugi Gugi, Harry the Dirty Dog and The Seven Chinese Sisters were the first. If you go to YouTube, select channels, and type Aqua Room, all those stories from March through June are there. And what happened after I read these stories on YouTube? Parents were over the moon. Children could watch Jennie read anytime.”

“I ‘member picture books an’ stories from when I was a young’un. Even now I say ‘Good night, moon’ ta the moon.”

“I’ll bet you’re not the only one Kid. Good Night Moon is a classic that children know and love by the words alone. I recite Good Night Moon every day at school, just before chapter reading. They have memorized the words. I often add children’s names, “In the great green room, there was a telephone and Hannah’s red balloon, and a picture of Emmett jumping over the moon” and so on. When Covid hit, I did a Good Night Moon rap for children on our Aqua Room YouTube channel in April.  It helped keep the normalcy of what they were used to at school, and it added great fun.”

“Thet was fun! Never dreamed I’d hear thet story like thet.”

“It was fun for me and for the children. It worked because it’s a good story. The story, the words, and the illustrations all together make for a good story.  I often talk about the ‘indirect method’, the power of using animals and also words in a story that hint at a bigger message. Children need to be pulled in, not told directly. Every word matters.”

“Words an’ images kin send a wrong message, I reckon.”

“Yes. That’s why a well-known children’s story was banned. But there’s a happy ending. The story has been restored with names and images more appropriate and authentic to the story’s origins; now titled The Story of Little Babaji, it has been revived with illustrations by Fred Marcellino that match Helen Bannerman’s story— more clearly set in India, of course.  Every year it is the favorite book. Children love chiming in to say the words along with the tigers, ‘Little Babaji, I’m going to eat you up.’ We have done play performances based on this book. It’s that good and that popular.”

“I kin see why yer students injoy this tale with the predictable narrative an’ repetitions. They must iden’ify with the clever child overcoming adversity and danger represen’ed by the tigers.”

“Reckon, Pal, they ‘den’ify with the pancake eatin’! Though I cain’t wrap my head aroun’ butter bein’ made thataway.”

“Jist suspend yer disbelief an’ shush, Kid. Jennie, how d’ya use children’s lit in yer preschool classroom?”

“I have a front-facing bookshelf where books are displayed with the cover page out.”

“Like Ernie done with the shelves behin’ the bar!”  

“Yes, I noticed that. This is quite a saloon!”

“It’s fer our literary artist community.”

“Awesome. In my classroom books are not in a basket. Books are there for children to access all the time. All the time! I have two planned times to read picture books every day, plus spontaneous reading, and one-on-one reading with a child. I chapter read every day as we go down for rest. So far this year we have read Charlotte’s Web, My Father’s Dragon, and we’re into The Story of Dr. Dolittle.”

“Wunner if Shorty’s payin’ attenshun. She might wanna read Charlotte’s Web, mebbe gain a little compassion fer poor ol’ Wolferick. An’ thinkin mebbe Dr. Doolittle kin be the ranch vet.”

“Shush yer wunnerin’ an’ thinkin’ Kid, or I’ll be dragon ya behin’ my father’s woodshed. Stop inneruptin’ our guest… sorry Jennie. So, how else d’ya use stories in yer classroom?”

“Books also inspire acting out the stories, art projects, and writing our own stories.  We do play performances for other classrooms and for our families.  We did a performance of The Three Billy Goats Gruff in Spanish.  ‘Who is that boom-boom-booming over my Puente?’”

“Billy goats?!”

“Shush it Kid. Jennie, ya sure are inta stories an’ picture books. Reckon folks thet ain’t even preschoolers or preschool parents or teachers could git educated and ennertained at yer blog. Think you’ll ever write a picture book?”

“Thank you Pal. I have written two picture books. They are based on true events and have a very different twist in the middle of the book. Children’s books are the hardest writing of all, paring down every single word and making sure the few words you write are strong. I’m working on my query letter.”

“Well we wish ya the best a luck with all thet. An’ thank ya so much fer comin’ by fer a chat.”

“My pleasure! Read on!”

Jennie is a New England preschool teacher who has maintained her sense of wonder as she helps her young students find their voice and their way. She shares the journey at her blog, A Teacher’s Reflections.

Free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch, Pal & Kid now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon . Got something to share? Take the stage! If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact Pal & Kid via  shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Year-End Break

Happy Holidays to one and all, no matter what or how you are celebrating this year!

Last night, I bundled up and stepped out into a howling snow-gale, making good on my Solstice intention to walk every day. Wind whipped snow from every direction, burying my neighborhood in drifts. I walked down the middle of the back alleyway and when I turned toward Roberts Street, tall maples cast shadows against the house lights.

We never know when creativity will call us. In the middle of the street in the middle of a blizzard, I played with the shadows, walking up and down trees, crossing over on branches. When I returned on my walk, I laughed at my own tracks. It looked like booted elves had danced in the road. Just one elf. Me.

I continued to have fun and made a large peace sign in the snow covering my driveway. Sometimes we don’t need to share our art with the world. Sometimes we create and let the storm obliterate our moment of inspiration. Yet, the part of us that wants to share creation, we act thoughtfully on the what, how, where and when.

This end-of-year closes a chapter in my calendar book and I like to reflect on what was and deliberate on what will be. This is my visioning time of year and I take my vision play seriously. If you are serious, you might be interested in a download of my course, Writers Vision Planting.

If 2020 doesn’t blow up 2021, I have plans to graduate with a completed thesis. We do not receive a grade for a thesis — either the program accepts it, or not. My advisor has five weeks to give me feedback and she’s cautioned me that second drafts are not ready. She says it took her six months to get her accepted thesis ready for submission. I will do what it takes but anticipate shifting from student to professional.

My MFA has a dual path. I’ve also been training to teach creative writing online. I’ve crafted a plan with feedback from my profs, and I want to break it into phases. So I’m taking a year-end break to dream, think, play, and plan. Oh, and write my second draft. There’s always that!

In the meantime, I want to encourage you all to find moments to celebrate, rest, dream, and plan for what next. D. Avery, Ruchira Khanna, and H.R.R. Gorman will see you through the New Year. D. will be at the Saddle Up Saloon, December 28 and January 4. Ruchira and H. will post their columns December 29 and January 5. We have lots lined up for Carrot Ranch in 2021! The Saloon will continue every Monday, featured columns on Tuesdays with three new writers, including Hugh Roberts, T. Marie Bertineau, and Anna Rodeiguez who is in my MFA cohort.

Weekly challenges resume January 7, 2021. And Mause comes to live with us January 10!

Stilettos

Stilettos attract attention, no doubt. This week writers took to the heels (an occasional points) like balanced pros to deliver a variety of stories that sparkle like glitter.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

New Age by Rebecca Glaessner

Several eons passed since they last visited Earth, they discovered humans viewed other-world strangers warily now, without the awe of old.

Their job – gathering insights into human minds – meant molding their DNA to conform while on-planet. They looked human, though in this new age, reed undergarments, intricate piercings and feathered crowns weren’t widely desired.

Human views on appearances had changed.

The aliens adapted, yet one didn’t account for their stilettos’ height.

Travelling the city, the aliens-as-humans towered over passers-by, attracting attention.

Glorious feathered crowns were no longer worshiped, but height had them feeling once more like gods amongst men.

🥕🥕🥕

Wing-Woman by Ritu Bhathal

“I have to wear those?”

Melissa nodded.

“No, really. Me? Wearing those death traps?”

Eliza gingerly picked up one of the sparkly high heeled stilettos and dangled it in front of her eyes. A pointed toe that was sure to pinch at her feet. And the heel. Dear God, the heel. Six inches of danger.

She cleared her throat. “Mel, do you want to walk into the club with style, or be shoved into Dan’s arms unceremoniously, as your hapless wing-woman ends up tripping, and taking you with her?”

“Well, at least he’ll notice me, that way,” Melissa smirked.

🥕🥕🥕

First Dance by Marsha Ingrao

“West Coast Swing?” Roger asked, sweat popping from every pore.

“Learning.”

He glanced at her gold stilettos. “Brush your soles.”

“Why?”

Roger reached out his dimpled hand, “Slippery.”

He announced each step as they danced in their tight corner. “You’re doing well.” He spun her onto the main floor.

With each back step and pull on her arm, Tanni felt laughter bubbling inside. Her ankle turned. Roger never missed a step as he flung her off the floor around him. When she landed, glistening as brightly as her stilettos, she picked up the beat with a back step.

🥕🥕🥕

Learning to Walk by Joanne Fisher

Briana selected the pair of red stilettos and began putting them on in store.

“Excuse me, um, miss, are you sure want to try those on?” the store assistant asked frowning at her.

“Yes I have to learn how to walk in heels at some point.” Briana replied.

She stood up and tried to take a step. She swayed, and eventually began to topple over, the store assistant managing to break her fall.

“Again, are you really sure you wouldn’t prefer some flats?”

“A girl’s gotta try.” Briana responded as she stood up again and took one more step.

🥕🥕🥕

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.

🥕🥕🥕

Sizing Up by D. Avery

Poised proud on the dashboard, they shone through the windshield.

“Shouldn’t you return those shoes to whoever left them in your truck?” Liza was chastising but also hopeful to get the sparkly gold stilettos as a consolation prize. Tom’s dad, still oblivious, also chastised the young man.

“It’s a might unseemly, keeping trophies out in plain view like that.”

“Yessir,” and he gathered the stilettos in one hand, pulled his scruffy duffle bag from the front seat with the other. “But they’re no trophy. They’re mine.”

Tom studied his own dusty work boots, as if for the first time.

🥕🥕🥕

A Mile in Her Shoes by D.L. Armistead

Mitch crammed his feet into the improbably spiky heels, six inches high with marabou pompoms, and hobbled to the starting line with all the other guys. His work buddies had laughed. But it was his idea to join and honor all the people, male and female and – what was that new word? Non-binary? – who had been subjects of sexualized violence. From the snide remarks at Susan’s office to the death of that poor kid Troy, beaten senseless for daring to say he was really a girl. Mitch’s sign read, “Good Man Crossing.” He picked it up and started walking.

🥕🥕🥕

(64) Damned Family (Doe Eyed Maeve) by JulesPaiges

doe eyed, full
of innocence, grandiose plans to
save the world

Mae remembered when she had embraced the full character of herself as Maeve, as she read the text from the Faithful Stag, and reminisced about the first time they had met. It was at a New Year’s Party in Washington, DC. My, those were the days. Women wore sparkling stilettos to gain some height, along with gold or silver sequined cocktail dresses or dramatic gowns with slits up to their armpits.

Now Mae thought, if only she could ‘save’ those closest to her. Like her nephew Norman.

🥕🥕🥕

The Writer Knows Her Limits by Anne Goodwin

“I can’t. Just like I can’t put a cigarette in someone’s hand.”

My muse rolls her eyes.

“It’s a step away from Chinese foot binding.”

“Doorstep or dance step? You don’t trip over those.”

“It’s a moral issue.”

“Who do you think you are, Mother Teresa? Nobody cares.”

“I care.”

“Some writer, only mentioning things you approve of!”

“Anyway, it’s impractical. She’s a murderer. She needs to run.”

“You nailed the weapon yet?”

“Nails can’t kill without a hammer. She won’t find either at a masked ball.”

“She could wear it.”

“The hammer?”

“The stiletto, idiot! On her feet.”

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Reena Saxena

Spending a fortune on a pair of high heels did not help much. The discomfort remained as with the lesser pairs, and I had it to pad it with cushions and toe covers, and practise walking on preciousness.

I did think renting would have been a better option. But what if Prince Charming came looking for me with one shoe? He would land on Rent-O-Mojo.

Little did I think a fall would take me to the police. Diamonds concealed in the shoe spilt out, and now I don’t know whether to call it a bane or boon.

🥕🥕🥕

Miranda by R. V. Mitchell

Miranda’s profile on the escort site was constructed in every detail to get the attention of Big Hank McCloud the head of the local syndicate. Weeks of research, and a knowledge of his “tastes” assured that the call would come.

Miranda arrived at the hotel attired in a revealing black dress and some stilettos that were to die for. When she was frisked by the bodyguard, she let out a little moan just to play up the persona.

Once alone in the room with the boss, the assassin struck. Did I mention that the stilettos were to die for?

🥕🥕🥕

No Shoes by Kate Spencer

“So what’ya gonna give me for them?” Marco asked, leaning into the counter.

George knew better than to ask Marco how he got a hold of the goods he brought into the pawnshop. 

“These are shoes. You know we don’t take shoes,” George said.

“They’re red stilettos George. You gotta lady don’t you? Imagine her wearing them Christmas morning.”

George examined the long dagger-like heels one more time. His fiery Roxy sure would be sexy in them.  But those heels. They can kill.

Closing the lid slowly, George pushed the box away.  

“Like I said, we don’t take shoes.” 

🥕🥕🥕

A Matter of Self Defence or, Miss Fluart’s ‘Admirer’ by Gordon Le Pard

“So Miss, do you know who I am?”

Miss Fluart looked down at his twisted fingers.

“I think you are the man who liked assaulting women.”

“Harmless, until you took a hand. Now for some fun. No one will hear you scream.”

She looked round the empty Park, stepped back and took a grip on her parasol. He laughed and moved closer to her.

There was a click as she twisted the handle, and withdrew a twelve-inch blade.

He looked into her unblinking eyes, as she held the stiletto to his throat.

“Will anybody hear you scream?” She replied.

🥕🥕🥕

Turning the Tables by Saifun Hassam

Alice clambered down the rabbit hole. Her teenage sister’s stilettos swung from her sash around her waist. She’d worn those stilettos surreptitiously when sis was away at her job.

Alice stood eight inches taller in the stilettos. None of that awful “drink me” or “eat me” stuff.

The Red Queen coveted those shoes as soon as she saw Alice.

“Give me those shoes! Or off with your head!”

“Give me your crown!” Alice posed, tall, one leg forward, hand on her waist.

The Red Queen glared. She spat: “Here!”

Queen Alice smirked. Stilettos and crown. “Off with her head!”

🥕🥕🥕

Don’t Call Me Buffy by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“Shit!” Her ankle wobbled as she made her way across Old Towne Cobblestone Bridge. The rain had been brief, but drenching. Temperatures were dropping precipitously.

She’d made sure he was following.

Her stilettos clicked, thin against the moonless night. She crossed to rough pavement, surer in her steps as she led him into the graveyard, to the family crypt. She felt, rather than heard his respirations quicken.

She turned, mouth red and ready, as he caught up to her on the steps. He bent to her, his mouth cold.

Stiletto in hand, she plunged it deep into his heart.

🥕🥕🥕

In the Still of the Et Toe by Bill Engleson

A contortionist of some renown,
he dreamt of times departed.
The twists, the turns, the ups and downs,
His life, how it was charted.

He‘d not fully stayed the course,
his mind and body wandered.
Pleasure’d been his driving force:
his other duties squandered.

Late in life, an epiphany,
a desire to mend his ways,
and so, he travelled to Sicily
to pass his remaining days.

Then one dark Italian night,
in a mutilating blow,
he swung a blade with guillotine might
and severed every toe…

But one, and with much practiced torsion,
he chewed off the remaining portion.

🥕🥕🥕

Red-headed Jenny by kathy70

Jenny was tall for a woman, 5’6″, when we were friends she was always the tallest one around yet she loved the highest stilettos she could find. Days she worked as a clerk in a small shop and she danced her nights away at a club with live music.

How did she manage to head this billion dollar company. From the time she was 15, shortly after her mother died, she had one kind of business or another. Each business taught her some valuable lessons and one was to appear to be head and shoulders above everyone. Shoes gave her strength.

🥕🥕🥕

Winter Sun by Ian McNaughton

A child was kicking the back of my seat.
His mother loudly whispered for him to stop.
The plane was filling with winter sun-seekers.
A large woman got on carrying two screaming babies
My heart popped up into my mouth to have a look.
I whiplashed my head around. No empty seats
Squeezing in beside me, she smiled. I smiled back; I was dying inside.
After we took off, she asked me what time we would arrive in Minnesota. I laughed and told her It’s a flight to Orlando.
She showed me her ticket.
I kicked and screamed.

🥕🥕🥕

Snake Killers by Ann Edall-Robson

Sitting on the bed, she watched the four-year-old tapping the heel of the stiletto on the palm of his hand. Did the upturn of his lips mean happy or sadistic? Tap. Tap. His piercing eyes bore into her groggy mind. Why had she agreed to go to the party wearing those shoes?

“You know what these are good for?”

“Not dancing,” she muttered.

Tap. Thump. The shoe landed on the floor.

“Killing snakes!” He giggled.

She laughed as she slid her foot into her favourite heels.

This morning her feet thanked her for bringing her cowboy boots.

🥕🥕🥕

Faded Steps by AJ Prince

In the far back of the closet shelf, I pulled out that faded shoe box. Lifting one heel out, it felt heavy in my hand. The shininess long faded into a dull black as the years passed. A few stitching’s had come undone, but the leather was still buttery soft. I slipped the other out of the box and held them side by side, inhaling deeply as if to remember the clicking sounds of my steps. I removed my fuzzy slippers and squealed as my toes slid into those old stilettos, as if I had never taken them off.

🥕🥕🥕

Cupid by Gloria McBreen

My sister Ann insisted a night out would stop me lamenting over my recent break-up with my boyfriend Joe.

‘Wear your red suede stilettos.’
‘Are they not a bit fancy?’
‘Not for where we’re going,’ she smiled.

I followed Ann to our table in the restaurant—that was already occupied by someone else.

‘What are you doing here?’ I blurted.
‘Meeting my sister,’ he replied.
‘Eh…no you’re not,’ said Ann.
She scarpered. I sat opposite him.
‘You’re wearing my favourite shirt.’
‘And you’re wearing those shoes.’
He grinned and I blushed.
‘I’m sorry Joe.’
‘So am I.’

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by Anita Dawes

The office Christmas party
Something I didn’t look forward to
Mark would be there
In dreams, he does not see the scar on my cheek
Walking home,
a beautiful pair of stilettos caught my eye
I bought them, hoping he would
see only the sparkles on my feet
At school I could never hide
from the harsh words of others
These days I can wear my hair long,
it helps, like closing a curtain
I walked around the house
wearing these shoes
Feeling like a fairy princess
the office party would be fine
Because in dreams he loves me…

🥕🥕🥕

The Young Cook by Ruchira Khanna

“Daddy, your lunch is ready,” ten-year-old Mel shouted from the kitchen while trying to balance herself and the plate in her hand.

Dad was quick to rush into the kitchen, “Impressive, Mel.” he said with arched eyebrows as he was quick to get the plate from her hands and then help her stay still.

“Yummy! PB&J Sandwich, my favorite!”

“I can understand the apron, but what’s up with the stilettos, doll?”

“Mom used to wear her heels everywhere. I’m just trying to mimic her, so we don’t feel her absence,” she said while trying to wear a brave smile.

🥕🥕🥕

Mom’s Shoes by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Lizzie, are you ready for school? You better not be in my closet again, young lady. Besides, the bulb burned out, you can’t see anything.”

The eleven-year-old sighed. How did her mother always know what she was up to? All she wanted was to borrow her mom’s shoes to match her dress for picture day.

Lizzie stumbled in the darkness and stuffed the shoes in her book bag.

“See you tonight, Mom.”

At school, all eyes were on Lizzie wearing her mom’s black stilettos as she wobbled across the floor to take her place for the sixth-grade class picture.

🥕🥕🥕

The Princess Wore Stilettos by Norah Colvin

The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.

“Do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No!”

“Now!”

“Not now!”

Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”

They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.

As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.

When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.

🥕🥕🥕

Stilettos by FloridaBorne

“Mrs. Jones, you’ve worn stilettos for… 56 years?” Dr. Harris asked the 59 year old woman.

“Yes.”

“You report pain in your knees and hip. The amount of force the front of your foot has endured over the years created metatarsal problems and made your bunions worse. Abnormal growth of nerve tissues in the toes, shortened calf muscles…”

“I can’t lower my heel to the ground, or walk in normal shoes” she said.

“I can help you, if you’ll agree to follow our physical therapist’s guidance for a year.”

Tears falling, Mrs. Jones replied, “I don’t have a choice.”

🥕🥕🥕

Military Pranksters by Sue Spitulnik

Michael and Tessa were watching TV when Michael started chuckling after seeing a shoe commercial. Tessa was puzzled. “What’s funny?”

“Nothing. It reminded me of a Thanksgiving eve discussion between the vets about gentlemen’s clubs around the globe.”

“And?”

“Seems almost everyone there had been to or knew about one called Stilettos in Washington state.”

“Why?”

“The old-timers on the post made sure to encourage new guys to attend the extravagant midnight show.”

“Why?”

“It was performed by transvestites and some of the guys never caught on. It was a perpetual fun prank.”

Tessa harrumphed. “Soldiers and their pranks.”

🥕🥕🥕

Kid’s Christmas Present by D. Avery

“Yer up late Kid.”

“Writin’.”

“A flash ‘bout stilettos?”

“Hmmph. How kin ya write ‘bout somethin’ ya cain’t walk in? I’m writin’ a letter. Ta Santy Claus.”

“Ya know he ain’t fer real.”

“Course.”

“Then why?”

“Miss him.”

“How kin ya miss Santy if ya know he ain’t real?”

“Reckon I miss believin, an’ all the other things I use ta know. Miss when Christmas weren’t so much ‘bout missin’ folks an’ what’s past an’ fears fer what’s future.”

“So what’re ya askin’ fer?”

“Nothin’ Pal! Jist listin’ ever’thin’ an’ ever’body I’m grateful fer. Right now.”

“Write on Kid.”

🥕🥕🥕

Party Like It’s Only 99 by D. Avery

“Kid! Thought you said thet piglet was potty trained.”

“She is. She’s right here with me Pal.”

“Then what’s thet smell?”

“’Elloooo!”

“LeGume.”

“Oui, it ees me.”

“Thet’s right, fergot yer bunkin’ with us. Seems someone cain’t keep all her stories straight.”

“Hey, Pepe! Look’t you. What’s all this! Bells? Bows?”

“Oui, Keed, an’ geefts for you and Pal and thees leetle evergreen tree. Eets got roots, we can plant it later.”

“Shut the front door! Why it’s Tip and Top Lemmon.”

“Dey want to perform for us.”

“The Lemmon Queens’re gonna dance?”

“No. Dey weel prance! In stilettos!”

🥕🥕🥕

Saddle Up Saloon; Karaoke Mixed Playlist

“What’re ya doin’ Kid?”

“Hey, Pal. Jist tryin’ ta teach my new hog some old tricks. Sit Curly, sit.”

“On the one hand, Kid, I’m glad yer admittin’ thet yer puglet’s a piglet. On the uther hand, I still ain’t so sure this is sech a good idea, yer goin’ ahead an’ keepin’ it as a pet. Whyn’t I go with ya ta Slim Chance’s ranch, git a refund, return this piglet.”

“No way, Pal, I ain’t returnin’ Curly, ain’t gonna have my little piggy put back on the market.”

“Well, I still feel like Slim took advan’age a ya. Mebbe we oughtta report him ta the ‘thorities fer false advertisin’.”

“No way am I squealin’ on Slim ‘bout pigs ta the cops.”

“Well what are ya gonna do, Kid?”

“Look, Pal, mebbe I was lookin’ fer pups in all the wrong places, but I ended up with this here puglet, an’ there’s no lookin’ back. As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sang, ya jist gotta love the one yer with:

Times are strange, an’ kinda scary

An’ ya got yersef a dog ain’t very hairy

Thet ain’t really such a muddle

‘cause even piglets wanna cuddle

There’s cloven hooves inside four little boots

jist like a puppy, this pig is cute

an’ if it’s not the dog ya thought ya sought

Love the hog ya’ve got

Love the hog ya’ve got

Love the hog ya’ve got

Love the hog ya’ve got

Curly is happy, an’ thet makes me glad

Thinkin’ this is the best puglet I’ve ever had

Made an error, but I ain’t mistaken

Now I got a puglet, an’ give up on bacon

There’s cloven hooves inside four little boots

jist like a puppy, this pig is cute

an’ if it’s not the dog ya thought ya sought

Love the hog ya’ve got

Love the hog ya’ve got

Love the hog ya’ve got

Love the hog ya’ve got.”

“Least ya got somethin’ t’gether fer Karaoke Night, Kid. Ya been so dang distracted by thet animal, wasn’t sure ya were gonna keep up with things here at the Saloon.”

“Well, what about you, Pal? Ya got a tune fer the folks?”

“Yep. Been thinkin’ on my horror-scope, this bein’ the Year a the Rat an’ all.”

“Hindsight seein’ 2020, it sure has been a horror, Pal.”

“This is ta the tune a Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat:

Wakin’ up in a dystopian novel

In a country where they turn back law

Every day another debacle

Can’t believe ya’ve seen what ya saw

An’ we keep wund’rin’ when relief is comin’

Wund’rin’ when the madness will end

But 2021 is the year a the Metal Oxen

We jist gotta hang on, hang strong until then

In the Year of the Rat.”

“Jeez. Hello, Darkness, my old friend… Yer lyrics are kinda a downer, Pal. ‘Tis the season a celebratin’ light. Got a light cheery song?”

“Well, I know not ever’one has the same terditions but here’s a song I ‘member from Christmas pasts:

Away on the ranch, no pup fer the Kid

If disappointed, it were well hid

Kid didn’t worry, no Kid did not whine

Some people have canines, some people have swine

This grunt a the litter will most certainly do

And now as fer bacon, Kid does eschew

We’re happy fer the Mills an’ their li’l Pointer

An’ happy fer Kid who’s content with an oinker.

“Now who’s distracted by little Curly? This Karaoke Night ain’t s’posed ta be ‘bout me an’ my puglet, Pal. Though I reckon we was a might vague on what it is s’posed ta be about.”

“Ya ref’renced Simon an’ Garfunkel earlier Kid. Puts me in mind a their hit, Bridge Over Troubled Water:

When yer stir crazy, your bubble small

Thet computer screen kin bust down the walls

We can zoom, and come together

With friends all around the world

This here saloon offers shelter

We saved a seat fer you

This here saloon offers shelter

We saved a seat fer you

If yer feelin’ low

Feelin’ all alone

An’ ever’thin’s closed agin

We kin gather here

Don’t mind the pig an’ goats, Kid’ll git ‘em trained soon

Fer you there’s always room

This here saloon offers shelter

We saved a seat fer you

This here saloon offers shelter

We saved a seat fer you

Write on Ranchers

Write yer truths

Yer time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

Oh, if you need some friends

We’re here all the time

This here saloon offers shelter

We saved a seat fer you

This here saloon offers shelter

We saved a seat fer you.”

“That’s a little better, Pal.”

“Yeah, well, it’s all I got. Where is ever’one, Kid? Oh, wait, here’s Frankie! An’ look’t thet, Burt prancin’, all done up in bells an’ bows an’ bearin’ gifts. Howdy Franky! Good ta see ya.”

“I wouldn’t miss Karaoke Night. Lemme at the stage!”

“Sure, Frankie, but let us jist ‘splain somethin’ ta the folks in the audience thet might be wunnerin’ ‘bout Burt, yer horse. Yep, Burt is in the saloon. Why not, Kid’s piglet’s in here too.”

“A course Burt’s in here with me. He’s a service horse.”

“Ya mean ‘cause ya still deliver mail on horseback?”

“Well that, an’ he’s my seein’ eye horse. Now shush. Ya know the tune ta We Three Kings?

Burt an’ me we travel so far

Deliverin’ mail with no van or car

He’s a sturdy strong horse

Keeps us mostly on course

In these parts we’re without par

*

Packages too many ta count

But I can trust Burt, my loyal mount

We sweat an’ shiver

But always deliver

With time ta Saddle Up unannounced

*

Oh bartender I wonder if you might

Reward me for my work tonight

I delivered a song

After a day so long

But at the Saloon I’m feelin’ alright.”

“Ernie, what d’ya say, did Frankie earn a round?”

“You betcha Pal. An’ mebbe I’ll step up on the stage too. Here goes:

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today
Aaa haa

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
Yoo hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharin’ all the world
Yoo hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

“I know that ain’t the way Karaoke works here, Pal, but I couldn’t bring myself ta change one word a that John Lennon song.”

“I agree with ya Ernie.”

“Me too. Thinkin’ that’s a fine note ta end on.

Enjoy the Solstice ever’body. May there be much light in yer lives. We’ll always leave the light on fer ya here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

An ABC of Fun Holiday Activities for Families at Home

In this post (previously published on readilearn), I share suggestions for easy, fun and inexpensive activities you can do with family and friends of all ages over the holiday period. The suggestions aren’t new but are simply reminders of easy ways to have fun together that are often forgotten during hectic preparations and celebrations. They are great for the lull times and the ‘What can we do?’ times. Enjoy!

A — Acrostic

Write an acrostic poem for yourself. Each person writes their name vertically and writes a word or phrase about what Christmas means to them for each letter.

For example, here’s one for me:

Naughty or nice? Why, nice of course.

Opening gifts — loving the look on recipient’s faces

Recipes for celebrating — pavlova, everyone’s favourite

All the family together playing games and having fun

Home is the place to be.

B — Book

Everyone choses a favourite book, perhaps one received for Christmas, and reads uninterrupted for half an hour (or more!).

C — Charades

The oldest player goes first to give clues about the title of a book, song, TV, movie, or video game. The first to guess the answer is the next clue giver.

Here are some of the common rules of play:

The clue giver:

  • must not speak or make any sounds
  • holds up fingers for the number of words in the title
  • shows it’s a book title by holding hands with palms together then opening like a book
  • shows it’s a song by putting one hand on the chest and one hand up in the air with mouth open wide as if singing
  • shows it’s a TV show by drawing a square in the air
  • shows it’s a movie by miming an old-fashioned movie camera with one hand forming a circle around one eye and the other hand winding the camera handle
  • shows it’s a video game by moving fingers as if tapping quickly on a keyboard

If your children are too young to play charades this way, you could play animal charades in which children act out an animal but must make no noise.

D — Dominoes

Play a game of dominoes together.

If you don’t have a set, you are welcome to print the readilearn Christmas Domino Cards free until 31 December (usually $1.50). See below for details.

E — Elf, Tree, Gift

This game works best if you have a few people to play. One person is It. The other players spread out behind It who faces away from them. The players choose to be an elf (arms and legs spread wide), a tree (hands pointed together above their heads) or a gift (sitting on the floor with their arms around their knees). Once they choose, they must hold that position. It then calls out one of the three items and turns around to see. Anyone not in the position called is out until the next round. The last one in becomes It for the next round.

F — Freeze

You need someone to be in charge of the music. When the music plays, everybody dances. When the music stops, everyone must freeze. If anyone moves after the music stops, they are out until the next round.

You may download some variants and other suggestions from readilearn, How to play Freeze! (always free).

G — Grandma came to visit

This is a variant of the alphabet memory game, My grandma went to market.

Players take turns to recite ‘Grandma came to visit and she brought …’

The first player adds an item beginning with a; e.g. ‘Grandma came to visit and she brought an alligator.’  

The second player repeats what the first player has said, and adds an item beginning with b.

The game continues until Grandma has brought an item for all letters of the alphabet in order. As more and more items are added, it becomes more difficult to remember them and children may need reminders of the alphabet sequence.

To make it even trickier, you can request that all items be Christmas related, e.g. angel, bonbon, candy, drum …

An easier game may be for Grandma to bring items numbering from one to ten. For even younger children, you could simply play it as a memory game without reference to numbers or the alphabet. 

H — Hangman

Play Hangman using Christmas words.

Until 31 December, you can access readilearn’s interactive Hang Man-type game Turn on the Christmas Lights for free (usually $2.50). See below for details.

I — I spy 

I don’t think this one requires any explanation. Easy ways of playing are choosing something beginning with, or for younger children, something of a particular colour.

Until 31 December, you can access readilearn’s interactive I spy something beginning with and I spy a counting game (both usually $2.50 each) for free. See below for details.

J — Jigsaw puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are fun to do together.

If you don’t have a hands-on puzzle, you will find many free puzzles online, including these ones from readilearn: Little Koala’s Jigsaw Puzzle and Trees From my Backyard (always free). However, the hands-on puzzles are more fun to do together.

K — Kindness

Think of a kind act you can do for another without their knowing. Even a smile can lighten somebody’s day.

L — Laughter

Laughter is a great way to lighten the mood. Tell each other jokes or funny stories. Vote for the funniest story.

M — Music

Sing, listen to or watch your favourite Christmas songs.

N — NORAD Tracks Santa

On Christmas Eve you can watch where Santa is travelling around the world. Prior to that, visit the website for lots of interesting information, fun games and other entertaining stuff. (NORAD = North American Aerospace Defense Command. It has been tracking Santa’s annual journey for over 60 years.)

O — Origami

Make some origami stars. Use squares of origami paper or wrapping paper. Here’s a video from Red Ted Art with instructions. It involves folding only (no cutting) but some younger children may need help.

P — Play a game

Most families have a collection of board games on a shelf or in a cupboard. Is your family one of them? Take the game off the shelf and play!

What is your family favourite? Is it one of these?

  • Snakes and Ladders
  • Ludo
  • Monopoly
  • Scrabble
  • Cluedo
  • Draughts
  • Chinese Checkers
Q — Questions

Play a game of 20 Questions.

It thinks of a person, place, animal or object. The other players have to guess what It is thinking of. The players take turns to ask questions. Answers can only be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. A player may continue asking questions until they get a ‘no’ answer. Then it is the next person’s turn to ask.

The first person to guess correctly is It for the next round. If the answer isn’t guessed in 20 questions, players are told what it is and It has another turn (less obscure!)

R — Read aloud

Take turns to read aloud from a favourite book or poem. An adult could read to younger children or to all the adults and children.

S — Stick it on the head

This is another fun guessing game. You need some sticky notes and markers.

Players secretly write the name of a well-known person or celebrity on a sticky note. The sticky notes are then placed on the foreheads the other players who take turns to ask questions in order to guess who they are.

They may ask questions, but the answers can only be ‘yes’ or ‘no’; for example: Am I living? Am I an actor? Am I in comedy movies?

Players continue to ask questions until they receive a ‘no’ answer. Then it is the next person’s turn. Continue around the circle, taking turns to ask questions, until every knows who they are.

Once everyone has guessed correctly, you can have another round.

T — Travel the World

This is another alphabet game. Players take turns to say a letter of the alphabet in order by naming a place they could travel to and something they could take with them that begins with the letter. For example, the first person might say, ‘I went to Africa and I took an apple.’ The second person might say, ‘I went to Bali and I took a boogie board.’ Continue until you reach the end of the alphabet.

U — Up. Keep it up!

For this game you need a balloon, a light indoor ball or a scrunched-up wad of wrapping paper. Throw the balloon into the air. Everyone must try to keep the balloon aloft and avoid it falling to the floor. For extra fun, time how long you can keep it aloft and try to increase the time on each turn.

V — Virtual Bingo

Who doesn’t love a game of bingo? You can play bingo with family and friends, even if you’re not all at the same location. It’s free for up to 30 players.

W — Wrapping paper

The three Rs — Recycle. Reduce. Reuse.

Recycle? Not all wrapping paper is recyclable and the rules for what is and what is not accepted for recycling differ from district to district, so check with the council in your local area. 

Reduce? If you carefully unwrap gifts, portions of the paper can be smoothed and stored for reuse next year, thus reducing the amount going into land fill.

Reuse? If you don’t want to reuse paper for wrapping gifts, it can be used in other ways, for example:

  • Cut into squares for making Christmas origami.
  • Cut into strips for making paper chains.
  • If pieces are large enough, use to cover school books or line the inside of drawers.

If none of these ideas appeal, simply scrunch the wrapping paper into balls and have a wrapping paper fight before distributing them to the recycle or general waste bin.

X — Noughts and crosses

Play noughts and crosses. It’s easy. All you need is some paper and pencils.

Y — You’re next

You’re next is a drawing game.

Everyone starts with a piece of paper and a pencil. Each person starts by writing their name and drawing a shape on their piece of paper. They then pass the paper to the next person who adds to it.

Continue in this way until everyone has added to every drawing.

For a large group, you may go around the circle once.

For a small group, you may wish to go around the circle two or three times.

When the paper gets back to where it started, compare the drawings.

Z — ZZZzzz

It’s quite okay to have a snooze after all that festive feasting and fun.

Or perhaps you’d rather have a Zoom party.

Whatever you do, enjoy!

Free access to readilearn resources

In the suggestions above, I listed some readilearn resources and promised free access until 31 December.

The resources are:

Christmas Domino Cards (usually $1.50)

How to play Freeze! (always free)

Turn on the Christmas Lights (usually $2.50)

I spy something beginning with (usually $2.50)

I spy a counting game (usually $2.50)

Little Koala’s Jigsaw Puzzle (always free)

Trees From my Backyard (always free)

In addition to these, I have included:

Christmas Crossword (usually $1.00)

Hang the Baubles (usually $2.50)

Who’s Hiding at Christmas (usually $2.50)

That makes a total of ten resources available to you for free until 31 December 2020. Of course, once you have ‘purchased’ them, they are yours forever. You will still need to go through the checkout to make these ‘free’ purchases, but when you use the coupon code *carrot* (just the word), you will not be charged anything for these products. The coupon is available for one use and these products only, so ensure you choose all products you would like before finalising at the checkout. Let me know if you have any problems. I hope you and your family enjoy them.

Happy Christmas to you and your family.

Best wishes,

Norah

December 17: Flash Fiction Challenge

As much as I love the landscape and people of the American West, I’m content with my decision to leave the cradle of my family for seven generations. They came from the Pyrenees, Azores, Brazil, Denmark, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Most came directly to California and the rest from North Carolina. A few yet reside in Colorado and eastern Washington. Still, California and Nevada hold my family’s experience of America.

And then I met a veteran from Nevada and lived in almost every western state, thereafter. Sometimes I think it’s odd that we ended up in the Upper Midwest, of all places. But after struggling with the economic hardships of the rural west, we educated up and headed out. My husband grew up milking jerseys, and I worked ranches and logging camps.

Our grown children hardly know the difference between a heifer and a gelding. None of them ride horses. Yet, they matured among diversity, spent teen years swing dancing, going out to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and prancing at the Gay 90s. Some of the stories, like a mishap with a bubble machine at a drag show, I’m only now learning. They’ve supported transgender friends through transformations, traveled to other countries where they had to learn the language and customs, and embrace a changing world with mindfulness.

I miss my kids. It’s a parent-thing. Maybe, it’s simply human nature to be nostalgic for what we create and give back to the world, not ours to keep. Every Message from Svalbard, phone call from Wisconsin, or text from nine miles up the Keweenaw, and I light up like Venus on a cloudless night. Every tear, worry, and pain, I feel. Any close relationship can relate. I’ve felt this close to a horse, and I know people who feel this close to their faith. We feel what we feel, and sometimes, deeply.

This time of year tends to expose tender nerves, whether emotions, unresolved situations, or memories. The veil between the past and present and future thins, and we expect to wake up like Scrooge to frosty ghosts and rattling chains. Sometimes we sit down at the kitchen table and wonder why we are here. We feel losses keenest when it seems like everyone else has what we do not. It’s an illusion, not true. We all suffer losses. Some deal with it differently.

No wonder bells, bows, gifts, and trees delight us. We want the lights, the sweets, the full celebration. Anything and everything to chase away the chill and dark thought. We make merry to make it through.

A good friend texted me tonight saying, “There’s so much pain at the hem of the world. So much.” She should know; she’s our region’s grief counselor who sits at that hem. She’s the person who witnesses the loss others feel despite her father having terminal cancer and her 22-year-old daughter recently diagnosed with a rare and aggressive lymphoma. She left her daughter’s side to attend the grief group she leads.

I have another friend, who is my personal witness. She gets me even when I’m not sure I understand myself. She lets me be silly and serious in varying degrees. She sits at my six (military-speak for “got your back”). We should all be so blessed to have such friends and to be one in return. Sometimes, I think she sits at my six, so I can sit at my grieving friend’s six, so she can sit at her group’s hem so the world can watch out for one another.

But I also understand that some feel no one in the world is watching their back. Isolation is deadly. I mean the mental kind where we don’t feel connected. Drop extended COVID protocols, disagreements, and polarizing politics into the world, and physical isolation turns mental. Bitterness is the inability to remember love. Love begins within. Take care to guard your hearts.

Be merry. Be bright. Someone needs you. Maybe you need you. Maybe your neighbor needs a light in your window to connect. Maybe a friend needs a goofy text. Maybe you need to forgive someone — not for their sake, but for your peace.

Write. Seriously, write. Scream into the page. Wet the ink with tears. Write a love story, a horror story. Play with words and remember what it was like to play as a child. Let that child breathe. Write like grammarians aren’t watching. Write nonsense. Write a manifesto for your creativity. Write an artist’s statement. Write a poem that doesn’t rhyme. Write a syllabic dialog. Talk to yourself. Talk to someone you miss. Talk to God, the Goddess, the Divine. Write the unexpected. Write what is typical of you.

Your authentic voice is needed; wanted; deserves breath. Tell stories. Any story. Your story.

You all gather here, weekly, intermittently, bashfully, or boldly stating opinions. What a grand space you make this! What a community! I know we can’t all possibly agree and yet for nearly six years, we’ve focused on how creativity flourishes among differences. You’ve forgiven me for rants when my injustice quota fills up and pours out onto the post. You’ve looked the other way, or rolled your eyes, when someone else writes — literally — the opposite perspective from yours. I feel like this literary anthropologist every week, weaving stories that are not alike.

We are not alike. And yet we are all so very human. So up and down. So vulnerable. So resilient. Contradictions and contrast, trying to connect.

Regardless of where you are from or where you are at, I’m happy you are here.

My daughter assured me that this video will bring a smile to any Grinch. She is a dancer and her troupe is delighting in this Christmas number, texting each other 🔔🎀🎁🎄. They are choreographing their own version on Zoom. I admire that the dancers with Todrick pull it off in stilettos, thus the prompt this week. I hope “Bells, Bows, Gifts, and Trees” brightens your day!

December 17, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 22, 2020. 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.

Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Gender Glitter by Charli Mills

Jace carefully dressed to costume up with the other college drag queens. He, she…no, he…set out on cross-country skis to the campus theater, stilettos tied with cord and slung across her back. His back. No one paid much attention to the petite contender for Frostiest Northern Queen until none could deny her presence (at last!). In a silver beehive wig to match nine-inch glittering stilettos, she won crowd and crown. Jace had to keep the victory secret. She (born that way) headed for the girl’s dorm no longer getting to express the person of a man becoming a woman.

🥕🥕🥕

I Never Dreamed

Hearts and minds hold dreams, and yet life can deliver the unexpected. Sometimes, what unfolds, we never dreamed. Writers imagined those possibilities as they wrote this week from differing viewpoints.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

An Artist’s Dream by Saifun Hassam

Jamila lost her right hand when she was 5. She learned to use her left hand. Her sketches and watercolors showed incredible talent and imagination. She loved to draw starscapes and unknown planets in faraway galaxies.

She never dreamed the prosthetics of science fiction would one day be a reality for her. She never knew of the extensive prosthetics research until Hussein returned from the Iraqi war. His left leg was an experimental prosthetic from Altamont VA hospital.

She volunteered for an experimental wrist. She never imagined her extraordinary cyborg art would blossom into science fiction and anime stories.

🥕🥕🥕

Final Score by Hugh W. Roberts

Living his life in the closet, Alan never wanted his father finding out he was gay.

He loathed going to watch football every Saturday afternoon with his father. But he never showed how disappointed he was with the season ticket his father gifted him every Christmas.

But on the Saturday after his father’s death, Alan carried on with the tradition.

“Hello. I’m Tim,” came a voice from behind. “Where’s your father today?”

Alan never dreamt that a season ticket would be the key to meeting the love of his life and no longer living his life as a lie.

🥕🥕🥕

Some Dreams Fulfilled by Sue Spitulnik

Becca, Michael’s sister, knocked and let herself in. She saw him sitting on the floor by Emma’s toys but there was no baby and his wheelchair wasn’t in sight. “I have baptism pictures.”

“Thankfully it’s you!”

“Why, have you been monkey scooting around the house again?”

“Yeah, it makes Emma laugh. Whoever dreamed my long arms would be used for such a thing. “

“Maybe the same dreamer that pictured you holding a grandchild in Tessa’s family pictures. Can you believe her ex didn’t show up?”

His eyes twinkled. “Two out of three parts of that dream ain’t bad.”

🥕🥕🥕

Her Place by Joanne Fisher

Gina unlocked the door and walked in to her place. After a lifetime of renting, she never believed she would finally have her own house. Already her furniture was here, along with all her other belongings lying in boxes everywhere.

No longer would she have to worry about landlord’s demands, or being suddenly evicted for accidentally missing rent or some other reason. This was her house. She looked out the window and saw the garden and imagined herself pottering away in it to her heart’s content. She deeply breathed in the air of her home. This would be awesome.

🥕🥕🥕

The Ancestors by Bill Engleson

There he would stand on the bridge of time,
peering over the railing into the vast…
into the vast canyon of dreams,
and catch a glimpse of ancestors,
still nameless, lost in the vacuum of memory,
of so many passing’s, stories left in the grave,
the movements of people, migrations,
both big and small, the shifting of lives,
the young, the old, new loves, sweet, sour,
journeys by endless sea, across dark landscapes,
images of all who had ventured forth,
there on the bridge of time, he would stand
in abject awe peering over the railing into the vast…

🥕🥕🥕

My Riches by Gloria McBreen

I have wished upon the great big stars
Many times if truth be told
I only wished for simple things
Not riches and treasures
Not diamonds or gold

The stars they’ve been kind
My life has been fulfilling
My wishes all granted
My dreams I’ve been living

My kids they are my riches
My husband he is my gold
My friends they are my diamonds
My treasures each day they unfold

When my days aren’t going so well
And my smiles are very few
I thank the stars that fill the sky
And feel grateful my dreams came true

🥕🥕🥕

Atheist by Simon

Can we go to church?

I don’t believe in God

Show me your face? Is this real?

I never dreamt that I would say something like this, until I questioned the existence of everything.

Don’t mess with God. You’ll be punished

O.K, answer this question, who created God?

Nobody created.

Wrong answer, WE created god.

Are you drunk?

No I’m not, but You all are drunk, drunk gallons of lies created by yourself.

God will never forgive your sins.

(Laughing), thanks, God don’t have to.

What’s wrong with you?

I talk reality, I wish you think what I think.

🥕🥕🥕

The Victor by R. V. Mitchell

Donny had never really taken life to seriously. He had been the class clown in high school and coasted through college with an art degree which he admitted was based on work that was derivative at best, or just throwing colour randomly on canvas. He got himself a job at a gallery by connections with a girl he had dated in college and lost it about as fast as he lost her. So how could he now be standing in front of a cheering crowd as their mayor? He had only registered as a candidate as a drunken dare.

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Old by kathy70

It’s tough to be invisible, some days I wonder do I really exist. Was I 55 or 65 when it happened, is it only with young people or have I achieved an unknown life goal. Next year I’ll be 75 and things will reverse, maybe. This is not a goal I dreamed of as a child or adult but I worked for it. I still have goals and dreams and learn and teach new things. Will the end be Covid or Cancer or Crazy. Never forget old people can dream, hope, create and accomplish the presidency even. It’s time to go home?

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Brain Fog by Reena Saxena

They found me in a village 14 kms away from the hospital.

My covid-affected legs are not strong enough to walk the distance. I don’t know how I reached there.

A white rabbit which kept jumping in and out in an unusual manner attracted the attention of the search team. What if the rabbit had not been so sympathetic? Nights out are chilling for a 80 year old like me.

A brain fog for sure, but how did I summon the strength to walk the distance, I’ve never walked in my senses.

It is something nobody had imagined.

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Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe by Kate Spencer

“Time 10:52pm.” Abby flipped the switch, turning off the continuous beep from the patient monitoring system.

“When will this end?” mumbled the nurse pulling up the sheet.

“Not today.”

Wearily Abby turned to check on her next Covid patient, longing for the days when she’d be treating simple cases like broken bones again. She was jotting down instructions for yet another patient when her pager buzzed. It was Emergency.

Now what, she wondered, rushing to triage.

There was her irate son, sitting in a wheelchair, yelling at the orderly. He wanted to see his mom. He’d broken his leg.

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Dreams Fulfilled by Norah Colvin

She dreamed she could control the weather, but never believed she could.

Until she did.

She wished it would rain.

‘It always rains in spring,’ they scoffed.

‘From a blue sky?’

‘Sometimes,’ they said.

She wished the rain would stop.

‘Showers never last long,’ they said.

‘I love rain,’ another said.

‘Can you make it rain forever?’

She wished.

Rain fell, first gently, then in torrents.

It rained for months, overfilling rivers and washing villages away.

They begged her to make it stop.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I must have dreamed three wishes. I never dreamed this would happen.’

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Welcome to the North Pole by Donna Matthews

“I’m so nervous!” Ella exclaimed, pacing outside the little round building on the corner of North and Pole.

“Relax,” Easton, her husband, soothed. “You’ve got this!”

Suddenly, the heavy wood doors creaked open, and Ella heard her name called. Here we go, she thought.

Sitting in front of the diminutive manager, the questions began…

“What experience do you have with polar bears?”

“I once taught a six-week dance class!”

“Elves?” she asked.

“None so far, but I’m excited to learn!”

“You love Christmas?”

“Very much!”

Jumping up, he yelled, “You’re hired!”

“What? Really?”

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Never Dreamed by FloridaBorne

“This planet sucks,” I told the 4-eyed being who’d rescued me 10 years before.

Being in love with a creature that bites off the end of its tail, swallows it (eggs and all) and becomes food for its own young can be challenging.

“You’re a fine pet,” It replied.

Yes. It reads minds. When its snake-like body wraps around me, I feel so much love.

“Why am I on Earth…again?”

“Him.”

“I’m happy with you.”

My mind smiled with its joy. It gathered sperm from the “him,” so that when its children were born they would have pets, too.

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A Writer Never Dreamed by Duane Herrmann

Repeatedly the young, hopeful writer had applied for a writing fellowship. This year the call for submissions was not made. He was busy building the house his family was living in, room by room, and couldn’t devote much time to wondering. One morning he was upstairs in the master bedroom working while admiring the wheatfield outside. Wind made waves rustling softly in the sea of green.

The phone rang.

“Your submission last year was so good, we decided to give you the award this year.”

Stunned, the young man collapsed on the bed.

“Duane? Duane? Are you still there?”

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(56) Damned Family (Norman: Dream, Dream, Dream…) by JulesPaige

Norman had never dreamed that he would fall in love. He was introduced to her by a contact that perhaps had perhaps conflicting motives. One was to get Norman a normal life or was it to get another ‘agent’ in the ‘network’? And then Ned had convinced Norman to let her go…

Now Norman could only dream that Jesse actually had his journal and could somehow find her way to him. This morning he’d found out that Jesse had left the protection detail in the dust. No one knew where she was. He hoped she was dreaming about him.

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She Never Dreamed by Hanna Steng

He was it.

Ever since she was a little girl, she’d heard it proclaimed from every podium she’d ever been around: “this is what to look for in a man, and here’s the list of things to avoid”. Every pharaphrase eventually came to the same conclusion- “make sure he’s God-fearin’, and if he isn’t, stay as far away as you can”.

She’d been so sure she knew what she wanted, she could have never dreamed that just a smile from this scuffed up, kind- eyed, “worldly” man would have her questioning everything and leave her with only one answer- he was it.

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I Never Dreamed by Pete Fanning

The dogs are tangled and frisky in the chill of the evening. I’m focused on work, bills, Covid-19, when I stop in the road.

My Christmas lights glow warmly on the house. Framed in the window, my wife holds our baby girl. My son is upside down on the couch, kicking his feet in the air, no doubt firing off questions. A well of curiosity that never runs dry.

The span of the window holds my good fortune. A life I never dreamed would happen. With a smile I walk in the house.

And then the baby starts crying.

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The Art of Cooking by Ruchira Khanna

“Yummy! did you cook this?” inquired my teen as he licked the last crumbs off his plate.

“Obviously! In this shutdown, I’ve been cooking every day.” I said in an exasperated tone, which was easily caught upon.

“Chill, Mom. I was complimenting your cooking.”

That praise made me quickly come and hug him since getting appreciated for my cooking was the last thing I had ever dreamed would happen.

I had become better at planning my meals with limited ingredients, but to make a delicious one was like a cherry on the cake.

I guess: Practice makes one perfect.

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Harold’s Dream by Doug Jacquier

Harold never dreamed he would one day build his own classic science fiction saucer, containing everything he needed. Kitchen, sitting room with a panoramic view through reinforced glass, bedroom with a skylight to the stars, composting toilet. (Although he did have to settle for sponge baths because of the weight of water.) Powered by an anti-gravity perpetual motion generator of his own invention and steered by a GPS-guided rudder, Harold could travel the world, and did, chuckling at the UFO sightings reported on the interweb. It’s just as well Harold didn’t actually dream of this because it never happened.

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At Heaven’s Gate by Colleen Chesebro

December 14th began like any other Monday. However, in the early hours before dawn, he watched the green flashes of Geminids meteors whiz by in the early dawn sky.

A few hours later, he watched the blackness creep across the land as a total eclipse of the sun descended, leaving South America under a cloak of darkness.

Surely these auspicious astronomical events foreshadowed a significant event.

The angel named Beau glanced out over the cosmos. He smiled. A total eclipse of the Sun had officially confirmed Joe Biden as the President of the United States—a dream come true.

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What if I Had Only Dreamt? by Miss Judy

I never dreamt of seeking fame or fortune. I never dreamt of my success or failure. When two roads diverged, then, and only then, did I decide which path to follow. I look back sometimes and wonder, “what if I had chosen the other?”

The road has been rocky and steep at times, but I am happy and thankful for what I have become, the people I have met and for family. There will be more paths to choose and bridges to cross in this life. And, as I look back, I wonder, “What if I had only dreamt?”

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Twins Reunited by Anne Goodwin

As kids they shared a bedroom, a secret language, clothes. Finished each other’s sentences; dressed dolls and made daisy chains; raced cars and fought with sticks. The elder by forty minutes, Faith didn’t mind ensuring Ryan adhered to playground etiquette, doing their homework, answering questions from grown-ups.

She never dreamt he’d wander where she couldn’t follow, where no-one sane would go. She never dreamt he’d shrug off her protection, make his own mistakes. Never dreamt he’d turn up to mock her mortgage, her daughter’s music lessons, her middle-class friends. Spoil her soirée. Make her wish he’d leave for good.

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Hot Pepper Takes a Chance by Charli Mills

Carlotta rode a mustang named Hot Pepper. Her gelding was a small but snorty horse belonging to the Two Bar Ranch. She taught school at the one-room cabin on a desolate hill of sagebrush central to the ranches in the valley. Hot Pepper trotted the full three miles to school and back where Carlotta passed a ranch house half-built. She often wondered why the rancher never finished what looked like a beautiful design with promise. She never dreamed the horse would throw her in front of the house, meeting the young widower who never dreamed he’d find love again.

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The Banshee of Ruby Valley by Charli Mills

The banshee rode a ghost-horse named Pogonip. Her steed snorted a chilling frost that withered primrose blossoms and diminished frail spring calves. She bedeviled the broad basin between the Ruby Mountains and the Smokeys, preying on the people who built ranches and tended cattle among sagebrush and trickling waterways of the Nevada desert. The banshee and Pogonip extinguished the young rancher’s bride, delighting in how he halted construction of his house, never lifting his brown eyes from sorrow. The cold-hearted banshee never dreamed that harassing the flighty gelding the new teacher rode would renew joy in the haunted valley.

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Not So Prodigal Kid by D. Avery

“Hey Pal, how’ya doin’?”

“Livin’ the dream Kid.”

“Yep. Never dreamed I’d git dreamed up ta live out my days as a ranch hand.”

“Whoa. Kid, ain’tcha never movin’ on?”

“Where would I go? Sure this is a virtual ranch, but we got it real good here.”

“Dang. Never dreamed I might be ferever stuck with a greenhorn. Kid, shouldn’t ya follow yer own dreams, seek fame an’ fortune an’ sech?”

“This here’s fiction, Pal, but that there’s illusion. Done made my way ta where I am. Here I be.”

“Be-lieve yer livin’ yer dream Kid.” “Write on, Pal.”

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Pawsitively by D. Avery

“I’m purty excited Pal. Never dreamed Shorty’d git us a puppy.”

“Shorty ain’t gittin’ us a puppy.” “But… I thought…”

“Get real, Kid. Thet’s Charli Mills is gittin’ a puppy.”

“Well cain’t we git a puppy too? A ranch needs a good dog.”

“Now yer an expert on what a ranch needs?”

“Well…” “Did a ranch need elefints?”

“Was jist an idea, Pal.”

“Does a ranch really need goats? Where are them goats now? You couldn’t even keep a cat unner yer hat, Kid.”

“We’re gittin’ a puppy, Pal.”

“Ain’t neither.”

“We are, ‘cause I never dreamed we wouldn’t.”

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Doggone (Part I) by D. Avery

“Kid, where’n heck ya been?”

“Saw a advertisement fer young dogs, fer sale at the Slim Chance Ranch. Slim seemed real tickled, me wantin’ a dog. Hopin’ you’ll be happy fer me too Pal.”

“Hmmf. Uh, Kid yer pup’s got kinda a flattened face.”

“It’s its breedin’, Pal. This here’s a puglet.”

“Uh-huh. Kid yer puglet ain’t got much fur. It’s kinda pink.”

“She ain’t fully growed. Like baby rabbits or mice.”

“Uh-huh. Kid, why’s yer puppy wearin’ booties?”

“Slim did that ta pertect her paws, said they ain’t fully developed yet. Never dreamed I’d have my own puppy!”

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Doggone (Part II) by D. Avery

“Kid, it behooves me ta tell ya somethin’ ‘bout yer puppy.”

“What kin ya say ‘cept how dang cute she is? Look’t her waggin’ her tail. Might call her Curly. What d’ya think a that?”

“Oh, it’s a fine name fer yer puglet, Kid, but—”

“Look’t how she likes ta be scratched behind her ears.”

“’Bout them ears, Kid…”

“Hey, it’s Shorty.”

“Hey Kid, hey Pal. Oh, Kid! Yer gonna raise yer own? Musta gone down ta Slim’s.”

“Yep, got a puglet of my own. Gonna train it ta hunt.”

“Really? Never dreamed there’s truffles on the Ranch.”

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Doggone (Part III) by D. Avery

“Truffles?”

“Truffle huntin’ might work out, Kid, but I figgered you’d be raisin’ this piglet up fer bacon. Not surprised ya went ta Slim’s when he advertised young hogs fer sale.”

“Hogs?”

“I’m more of a hoss person, but I’d say ya got yerself a real fine piglet, Kid.”

“Piglet?”

“Jist keep her outta the carrot patch. I ain’t fergittin’ yer trouble with goats, Kid, but reckon we kin accommodate yer bacon project.”

“Bacon?”

“Takes a lot Kid, ta raise yer own, ta look yer food in the eye.” “

Never dreamt I’d give up bacon. Come Curly. Good girl.”

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Staying Connected

At one of my recent Veterans Writing Groups sessions we wrote about staying connected as a family both while on active duty and after being discharged from the Armed Forces

One man wrote that current technology helped him stay in touch with his family members via Zoom so he didn’t have to deal with getting reacquainted when he got home. He did relate that his niece was dismayed when he appeared on camera with a gun in his lap. He explained to her that he was on duty while talking to her so had to have his gun with him. When he returned from Iraq she was shy around him until he explained more about where he was stationed and what the Americans’ function was. She relaxed when he told her he didn’t have to shoot at any specific person. He also wrote that he talked with his brother, “in person,” meaning on Zoom, about sports, family news, and sharing jokes. Afterward, he could repeat what was appropriate with other soldiers so it gave them something to talk about besides whether they were going to get mortared that evening or not.

My WWII veteran friend that died in November wrote about being reported missing to his parents when he wasn’t. He had gotten separated from his platoon when he and a buddy did some unauthorized exploring and didn’t know their platoon was moving to a new location, they left without them. He wrote about the fact 70 years later and could laugh, but he also remembered well the angst he caused his officers and parents at the time. He did a few extra days of KP for his exploits as the Army wasn’t impressed with his wandering away from where he was supposed to be. I only knew him as a refined older gentleman, in his 90’s, and have difficulty imagining him as the young cut-up he was. He related that being in the Army during WWII did help him mature a degree so he got along better with his father after he returned home.

A Vietnam veteran wrote about finding it difficult when he returned from active duty to talk to his family about how many countries he had been to as a pilot. They knew all the places existed, but with no familiarity, didn’t have much interest in listening to details about the locations. He said he purposely didn’t talk about the many dangerous close calls he had in the C-130’s he flew because it frightened his mother and there were comments made about that’s what he “used to do,” flying that is. When he tells other veterans his stories they have a better understanding and interest because they often know someone else who has said something similar and have also traveled more than the folks back home. The Brotherhood gets it.

A woman who had been a military wife wrote about how her small children quickly adjusted when her husband was away on duty. When he returned they still wanted only her to answer their every need and whim because that was their routine. It made him feel unnecessary in the household. She admitted that switching back and forth from being in total control of the household to other times not being wasn’t easy. As parents, working as a team was challenging for them for the same reasons. They would get into a comfortable family routine after her husband had been home a while and then he would leave again. The military way of life is not an easy one.

I found that my extensive travel made it somewhat difficult to chat with family and especially friends from my home town. My family was one thing because I sent letters home: a carbon copy to my father, one to my aunt, and one to each of three sisters so they were up to date on my daily happenings and how the kids were growing but they still didn’t have a grasp of my going to dinner in London while they went for a burger in their rural New York locales. At my 25th high school reunion, a free drink ticket was given to the person who had the most addresses since graduation. When I said I had over ten the reaction was that I was embellishing a might. Actually, it was more than that, but most of them had maybe one or two. That was 25 years ago and people were still staying closer to home than they are now, but few families move as often as a military household does.

Any move away from family can make keeping up to date on each other’s daily lives difficult thus creating a realm of unfamiliarity. If you haven’t experienced military life, have you had another separation from family you found you had to work through once you were close again? Share your experiences in the comments.

Sue Spitulnik is an ex-Air Force wife who stays connected to the military/veteran community through her membership in the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. The group has recently published an anthology of their military experiences, United in Service, United in Sacrifice, available on Amazon. If you would like to contact her directly you can do so at her blog, susansleggs.com

Saddle Up Saloon; Rodeo ta Radio!

“Hey Pal.”

“Hey Kid. Yer face is scrunched. Yer thinkin’.”

“Wund’rin. Wund’rin where Shorty’s at when she ain’t aroun’ the Saloon or the Ranch.”

“Shorty’s always aroun’, Kid. But when she ain’t she’s at World Headquarters as Charli Mills.”

“Puts me in mind a Clark Kent and Superman somehow.”

“She’s a super woman, alright Kid. An’ her superpower is story tellin’.”

“But why does World Headquarters have ta be way up there in the Keweenaw, Pal?”

“Mebbe all thet water is groundin’. Mebbe there’s all kinds a stories up there, pilin’ up like snow.”

“An’ mebbe there’s other artists an’ storytellers up there. Mebbe this here’s one of ‘em. Howdy Rebecca Glotfelty! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.” 

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal.”

“Are you a storyteller Rebecca?”

“I sure am. I started out as a filmmaker and I wanted to help other people share their stories so I started a nonprofit called Real People Media – which has the mission to help people share their stories. And right now, we’re getting ready to open the Keweenaw Storytelling Center in downtown Calumet.”

 “A storytelling center!”

“Yep! A 7,800 square foot facility in which stories will be shared via the literary, visual, performing and media arts. We have an exhibit gallery, puppet theatre, 100 seat performance space and soon a throw back soda fountain. (It’s always fun to chew the fat around a soda fountain?)”

“Whoa. An’ right up there by Carrot Ranch’s World Headquarters. Mebbe the Keweenaw is the story tellin’ capital of the world!”

“Well, we hope to make it the capital of the Midwest at least. We provide exhibit opportunities for visual artists and performance opportunities for oral storytellers, singer-songwriters, and other performance artists.  One of our major programs is The Red Jacket Jamboree-— that’s an old-time radio variety show which shares, songs, stories, history and music from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

“Thet soun’s familiar Rebecca. Reckon we ranch hands been givin’ voice ta our stories at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. I ain’t s’prised you an’ Charli Mills found one anuther up there.”

“I’m so happy that we did.  I had been following Carrot Ranch online for the past year and had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate in some way.  Last December I ran into Charli and several other local writers at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at a performance of Selected Shorts. I think it was a friend of Charli’s who handed me one of Charli’s essays about winter in the Keweenaw and I thought it would be perfect for The Red Jacket Jamboree Christmas episode that was coming up.”

“Whoa! So Charli Mills told a story as part a yer Red Jacket Jamboree radio program?”

“Yes, and another Carrot Rancher, Michelle Wright too. Last December we recorded two one-hour holiday episodes. Michelle shared her story during  ‘A Billie Holiday Holiday’ and Charli participated in ‘Christmas in the Keweenaw’. All our shows are recorded on stage in front of a live audience. These shows, which air this month on WNMU Public Radio 90, were recorded at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Michigan Tech University.”

“Cool.”

A Billie Holiday Holiday aired last Friday and Christmas in the Keweenaw, featuring Charli Mills, airs on the 20th. If you’re not located in the broadcast area, you’ll be able to live stream the show during the broadcast.

“We caught the Billie Holiday Holiday show! It was a lotta fun an’ we learned stuff too. Copper Country folks sure seem ta injoy the local hist’ry.”

“Yet they seem connected. Must be the stories… And Michelle did a great job, thought thet was a real fine story.”

“I’m glad you were able to do that Kid and Pal. For those that missed it, the Holiday show can still be heard. We’re sending the secret link to stream both these episodes over Christmas week to anyone who makes a minimum donation to Real People Media’s end of the year fundraiser.  $3 for two hours of fabulous entertainment. It’s a deal! Practically a steal.” 

“Dust off yer wallet, Pal, that’s all I want fer Christmas, ta hep out the Storytellin’ Center an’ ta listen ta some a our own share their stories with Rebecca.”

“Rebecca thet all soun’s like a lot a fun. What d’ya injoy the most ‘bout yer work with Real People Media ?”

“Oh, that’s a hard one. Because I’m super excited about opening the storytelling center to the public and helping to make Calumet a destination for the storytelling Arts. And I can’t wait to host storytellers from all over the country.”

“Pal, don’t that soun’ akin ta Charli Mills’ vision fer her Carrot Ranch Literary Community?”

“Yep, an’ ta the Roberts Street Writery. Beginnin’ ta see thet World Headquarters is takin’ root in fertile ground. Rebecca, this storytelling center soun’s great. We def’nitely wanna hep out Real People Media an’ their projects.”

“Thank you. More immediately, Real People Media just got a grant for The Voice Box Sessions. It’s an artist development series for young singer-songwriters and performance artists.  High School students work with professional artists to improve their performance skills. Every month we’ll be hosting a new singer-songwriter who will perform a set, share their experience as an artist and then for the next 45 minutes kids will take the stage. We’re creating a warm and welcoming environment for these young artists. So I’m really excited to bring this program to Calumet.”

“Thet’s awesome!” 

“But I have to say, Pal, working with the cast and performers on The Red Jacket Jamboree has been incredible. I love to collaborate and this show is all about collaboration. It’s a whirlwind performance. We have one rehearsal the day before the show, and then the dress rehearsal and then the performance.”

“Soun’s intense all right.”

“It’s a fun challenge, Kid.”

“What’s been yer greatest challenge since startin’ out?”

“Well, I started Real People Media ten years ago, so there’s been many challenges in that time. The biggest challenge continues to be raising funds to make it all possible. I’m the main fundraiser, although our board is now taking on more of that responsibility. But I’m the grant writer, the producer, the principle writer of the show, the marketing director, the janitor— you name it.”

“Whoa. What don’t ya do ‘roun’ there?”

“Remarkably, our incredible stage band kind of fell into place. Jerry Younce is our incredible guitarist and music director. He’s just incredible. He pulls the best out of everybody. And Bill Carrothers is one of the top jazz pianists in the world. And he lives in the U.P!! How lucky is that!! Harry South is a young bass player who lives in Negaunee and we rotate between different percussionists. All so talented. Actor Ralph Horvath has been with us since day one and I can’t imagine him not being a part of the show. Marty Achatz, Poet Laureate of the U.P. is the show’s co-host. His voice lends so much to the show. And then there’s host Lena Dorey— need I say more?”

“Soun’s like a great crew. Thinkin’ thet Keweenaw might be a artists vortex a some sort.”

“I get to work with great people, and in a beautiful place.”

“Reckon yer in a historical buildin’?”

“Oh yes. There’s been challenges with the building as well. But that’s another long story. Family Dollar said they would donate the old Woolworth’s building to us via email on Feb. 4, 2019; on March 7 of that year, ¼ of the roof collapsed. They said they would tear it down instead. We said, no donate it to us, and $70,000 to repair the roof. They said ok and that is what happened. We got the deed on July 17, 2019. We repaired the roof, tore up 15,000 square foot of flooring – sanded (one pass only) 7,800 square feet of wood floor, took down pegboard, put up drywall, etc.”

“Whooie, thet’s a lotta work, but what wunnerful programs!”

“The renovations are not complete but the center is operational (we recorded our last episode of the The Red Jacket Jamboree there end of September). It will be awhile before the theatre is walled in. For now we have a portable wall defining it.”

“Thet’s great yer in there though.”

“Yes, but due to the rise in COVID cases we are not open to the public and won’t be opening until the beginning of the new year. We just continue to have our window displays and shows on the radio at this point. Next up we’re opening an Exhibit called ‘Around the World in 80 Hats’.  We hope to livestream events from the Center early in 2021. But who knows. COVID makes planning difficult!”  

“It’s a horrible thing. We’re all in it t’gether.”

“Rebecca, we’re real glad ya took time outta yer busy schedule ta share with us. We’d love ta hear from ya agin, an’ git caught up.”

“Thank you Pal and Kid. Don’t forget, your audience can hear both Charli and Michelle telling their stories as a part of the Red Jacket Jamboree radio show. You can hear Charli through a live-streamed radio recording or a minimal donation gets you a link to these shows open December 23-27.”

“Thanks fer takin’ the stage Rebecca. It was great meetin’ ya an’ we wish ya well with all yer projects.”


WMNU Public Radio 90! CLICK HERE to listen to the live stream of the show.
An exciting episode which explores the life and struggles of Billie Holiday through tunes performed or inspired by the acclaimed African American jazz vocalist. 

The show weaves together musical performances, interviews, and radio theatre  which help to convey the African American experience as it relates to the Copper Country.  Host Lena Dorey and Martin Achatz interview archeologist Timothy Scarlett, of MTU and Lynette Webber of the Keweenaw National Historical Park to learn about an archeological dig in Calumet which unearthed clues about the town’s early African American immigrants.  The show also includes dynamic performances by Jennifer Barnett, the Copper Cats, and Younce Guitar Duo. Storyteller, Michelle Wright shares her story on how she found warmth in the middle of a Keweenaw winter.  That and so much more in this upbeat holiday show with just a touch of sass!
Not able to listen tonight?
We’re offering a link to both of these Christmas episodes (From Dec. 23- 27th) to everyone who makes the minimum donation ($3) to Real People Media’s end of the year fundraiser!  Merry Christmas!
Donate Now
There’s nothing like Christmas in the Keweenaw!  Michigan’s magical winter wonderland!   The episode features Jennifer Barnett and the Copper Cats performing some of our favorite holiday tunes including “Keweenaw Snow.”  
Local author Charli Mills share’s her recollections of her first winter after moving to the copper country. 

They’re looking for lyrics for their Karaoke program next week! Free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch, Pal & Kid now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon . Got something to share? Take the stage! If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact Pal & Kid via  shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Writing for the Brand

My mind became a state of turmoil when I heard the term writer’s brand.  When you are raised in ranch country, the word ‘brand’ is common. It’s the mark put on livestock to identify who they belong to, and now I was being asked to come up with a ‘mark’ to put on me as a writer. 

I wondered if our family’s brand, Bar K Reverse K, could be used, or if I would have to invent another branding iron that would be mine and mine alone. You should see the file filled with scrap papers, covered with all the brand drawings I concocted to represent what I assumed this new brand should be.

Bar K Reverse K – Edall family brand for over 100 years.

During my time of no-brand limbo, it was decided a logo, a picture, or something, needed to appear on my work to identify it as mine. This would not be my decision alone, as my husband was also my business partner. Whatever we were going to use was not only expected to be my identifier, it also needed to be incorporated as our company’s logo.

I would be several years into what I call the ‘serious writing thing’ before I fully understood what having a writer’s brand meant. It fell into my lap one day while I was explaining why I write what I do and why I take the pictures that I do. Diversity and growth often lead to a need to make other changes. These might be a major overhaul of everything involved or baby steps to make sure the new landscape feels right under your feet. 

February’s Full Snow Moon

For years, the picture of the full moon rising over the ridge has been synonymous with everything we did from my writing, photography, and our company. However, it was evident that the talks of rebranding should become more than dinner table discussions. With the addition of books in various genres, taking on the role of book publisher, and incorporating other projects, this growth to our corporate interests resonated with the need to have an updated look: a look that was a recognizable presence representing the company as a whole. It was time for a transformation, but here again, it had to fit with what I had discovered was my writing brand.

Branding Day

Like rewriting a chapter in a book, change starts with an idea. It can be one thought or the vision of an end result. Either way, it took quite some time to find the right look for the new branding iron. Thinking it would happen in a short time frame proved to be a mistake on our part; however, listening to the people we contacted was found to be invaluable. They may not have provided all the answers or the direction we were looking for, but their artistic concepts added depth to the final result, providing food for what we thought we wanted. Simultaneously, it was a stark reminder that wants and need is two totally different things.

And now I return to the original dilemma of going on the hunt for a writer’s brand. Through my search to locate what I thought was needed as a writing branding iron, I discovered I had been writing under our home brand all along. It is the passion for what I believe in. It is from where I come that guides me to where I go. 

Still Rides for the Brand

Quietly, a cowboy would make a statement, “I ride for the brand.” These five words speak volumes to the dedication and respect we follow in creating our own brands. The values we place on the top rail keeps us true to what we believe in. True to our brand.

Oh! And the company…In the spring of 2020, we were presented with a rough concept that encompassed our vision. It did not compromise the want to include the trees silhouetted against the full moon or the important need of adding a feather. In the end, we got what we were looking for. It’s obvious there, too; we are still riding and writing for the same brand. 

The Quiet Spirits

How did you discover the brand you ride for, I mean write for?

I rely on my heritage to keep me grounded. Reminders of where I come from, mentoring me to where I need to go. Gifting me excerpts of a lifestyle I see slipping away. Snippets shyly materializing in my writing and photography. I am a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Sharing moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWest, DAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact me. 

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