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June 1: Flash Fiction Challenge

After the thunderstorms, humidity clings to vegetation and casts a pink glow across the horizon with the setting sun. It’s juicy in the midwest, and my skin is a sponge after our arid journey. Insects skitter and frogs croak long into the evening. June bugs bump my RV screen, seeking the artificial light. The day birds go silent and owls occasionally pick up the tune. When the morning sun returns, red cardinals flash between trees and songbirds trill.

We are content in Kansas for the moment. A Respite.

I’m digging these days. Mostly into the Kansas State Archives which reside where Sis works. She’s The Hubb’s sister, but I claim her as mine. She’s kind and caring, funny and lovable. I dig hanging out with her! Going to work with Sis has been one of many highlights, sharing coffee, breakfast, lunch and thumbing through the index cards in search of history for Rock Creek. On weekends the grands delight us. Little A helped me dig a diminutive pot garden, and we planted parsley, lime basil and chives. Her little hand in the dirt with mine was a bonding moment.

The biggest dig of all happens tomorrow when I carry a shovel out to 4JF420, a real archeology site, gridded and ready to be worked. Today I started archeology field school, a 50th birthday gift from Sis. Kansas has a program to involve the public and train volunteers. What makes archeology different from other studies of history is its methodology. The dig records every bit of evidence and catalogs the complete inventory of artifacts and features. The artifacts and records can be pulled and examined by other professionals, professors or students the same way I pull index cards and ask to see the original documents. Today, I got to see my character Dr. Danni Gordon’s profession up close and personal. Tomorrow I get to dig like Danni.

I had such a feeling of contentment when we breathed a sigh of relief upon arrival. Contentment to be among loving family. Contentment to be up to my eyeballs in historic records. Contentment to be gifted a chance to dig.

And yet, the shadowy beast of homelessness follows, lumbering and restless. It’s been a year, and normalcy is something for other people. Rootlessness is something you can’t understand without experiencing it. And it’s punishable by society. The silent judgement of you did something wrong, you deserve this. We got to the VA in Topeka and two visits have nearly wrecked me. The Hub was like an angry bear the first visit. And who can blame him? They shamed him for going to ER for a sore tooth when their beds were full. No one should have to compare his condition to another just to get help. When I informed them he pulled his own tooth and was concerned about infection, they got a doctor in right away, prescribing antibiotics.

You begin to lose humanity when homeless. Sis has been a wonderful anchor, making sure our needs are taken care of. We are eating regularly and healthy food. We take more showers and have access to regular laundry. Not everyone is so caring. Someone I know sent me a link they thought I’d “enjoy.” It was a video of a couple who toured the US in their RV and the lessons of minimizing they learned. They concluded we don’t need “stuff” and I agree. I’m content with the basics. It’s the rootlessness and the silent censure from others. It’s being homesick. This couple in the video returned home after a year. They never were without it. They were travelers, not homeless and their privilege was missed by the person who thought I’d enjoy the lessons of a diminished life.

Another visit to the VA, this one with Vocational Rehabilitation. This was the meeting I hoped for. This was the hope I had clung to — The Hub qualifies and is eligible for re-education. He has a great plan for a machining business, and I have a plan to connect to it through Carrot Ranch. I’m experienced and good at developing magazines, knowing how they operate from top to bottom. But as you all probably know, literary magazines are not big sellers. But a trade journal for The Hub’s business fills a niche market. It would be part of the literary platform as an arch from what I do to what he does. I have a business plan and he has worked out all the important details such as development and market. We have others up north who are helping us get this polished and presentable.

The VR&E at the Topeka VA was someone who could explain the components of seeking self-employment through The Hub’s benefits. We both began to spill out our ideas and she said the first thing we’d be asked would be our credit. I caught it, The Hub didn’t. He kept talking. I sat there as hot tears flowed down my face. Credit? You mean like walk into a bank with a permanent address? To explain why we have no credit? To explain our foreclosure? To explain why I went to a doctor I had no insurance for because the clinic thought I had cervical cancer but I couldn’t afford the tests and have an outstanding bill? To explain why we never filed our MN taxes (don’t ask, it incites a riot between me and The Hub and MN doesn’t care that we actually paid taxes very year; they didn’t like our non-filing)?

We’re back to we did something wrong to be homeless. How the blazes does a homeless vet who is unable to work in a traditional job and qualifies for a program to start his own business, but doesn’t qualify for the credit (in part because he’s homeless) ever supposed to get out of this pit?

So a friend suggested I shouldn’t write about contentment if the word was causing a lump in my throat. She’s right. I do feel like kicking the world right now. Also, how intimidating these circumstances are.

Maybe I should tell you how the sterile walls of the VA mental health center made me feel. First we had to walk through a door that is posted, “Door locks behind you.” There’s no trust in walking through that door. I don’t trust I’m going to get out. I don’t trust that if anyone agitated my grumpy bear of a spouse that they wouldn’t even try to understand the stress and anxiety he’s under. I didn’t walk through that door because I trusted it would be okay. I walked through it because I knew I had to take the risk; risk feeling bitterly disappointed; risk being told no, not you; risk being misunderstood; risk being an artist, a writer, a historian and as of today, an archeologist. I walked back out that door with The Hub and when relief hit me it was short lived — because I noticed the sterile walls and it reminded me to be normal, fit in, do good.

And I did what I do best. I gave the bloody walls the middle finger and rebelled. I’m not a conformist or a status quo champion. Maybe I’m not content in the ways of nose-to-the-grindstone for someone else’s corporate gain. I’m not content homeless but like many on the streets, I’m not going to give in to a system that doesn’t honor human dignity. I’m going to take my fingers and find the words and craft them until I am beyond contented with the final product. And it will not go quickly and I will not go quietly. I will do what I set out to accomplish and I’ll help others, too. I’ll help The Hub, and one day I’ll be in a position to say, this is what compassion looks like; this is what human dignity is between humans. This is a home, my home. I’m content with the dream that has me and the stories that fill me and spill out. Like my Sis says, there are six elegant solutions, and I believe her. If have to, I’ll do business like a man who has no credit — I’ll go the Russians.

But tomorrow, I dig in the dirt.

Thank you, Ranchers, for making this community like a home. It gives me an anchor, and gives me purpose. I can build a platform for one or many, and it would be the same amount of work. That is why this is a place for us, for you, for me. Let your literary freak flag fly and keep writing like I tell myself every day: no matter what. I love the write. Some say it is good to have written, but I think those gathered hear better understand it is good to be writing. And thank you to those of you who have so generously invested where the VA has no intention. Thank you for not asking for my credit or censuring me for challenged roots.

We have raised a third of the money needed to design, format, publish the first anthology and start an imprint. One of the reasons for an imprint is to publish other books in addition to the anthologies. The first one is needed to set the marketing in motion, too. This is a platform, a community one, but marketing is something you do with a platform when you have a product. There is an expansion in mind with intent to support the community. We also have a generous offer to start a no-fee contest for a prize. It can be a sprout for using contests to benefit charities the community supports. There are good things on the horizon. There are good people in the world.

And good writers who write here.

June 1, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling content. Explore what is contentment and any direction will do. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by June 6, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published June 7). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Happily Digging (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni heard Ike’s truck rumble down the gravel road. She knelt barefoot by a window to the past – a square troweled to reveal debris from long before. Sifting had revealed ceramic sherd, a few square nails, and a cigar token to the old Congress Hotel in Sandpoint. A window gave an archeologist quick insight to a possible site.

Danni pondered possibilities when she heard Ike’s truck door close. The sun had warmed the soil all day, and Danni was content.

He approached the fence and freshly tilled soil. “I thought you were gardening today.”

“I am,” she replied, smiling.

###

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Gather the Longhorns

Gather the Longhorns Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsYippee-ki-yi-ay, get along little longhorns, Carrot Ranch will be your new home! Yippee-ki-yi-ay, get along little longhorns, these stories are rich black loam. 

And so the writers sing a herding song this week as they gather the longhorns and tell the tales. An unusual topic, perhaps, but it’s approached as usual by versatile and creative writers with wit, tenderness and even some creepy-crawlies.

The following are based on the May 25, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a that includes the word longhorn.

***

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

It was all Horace’s fault, having said the grass was always greener on the other side.

In the early hours before anyone else was up, Longhorn Bert set off on his lone adventure.

Somehow though he’d lost his sense of direction, and found himself in a bit of a scary predicament.

Though the leaves were greener than his familiar pasture, they were definitely not grass.

Not wishing to attract attention to himself or give up his new found freedom, he decided to stand still on the roof and hope no-one would notice.

He wondered if anyone would miss him.

###

Where’s the Beef? D. Avery

“Fifty musta’ made her cantankerous.”

Shorty just smiled. Even as they whined and complained they were checking cinches, adjusting stirrups. Getting ready.

“We’re not all country western singin’ cowgirls!”

“A short piece on longhorns! I’d rather a tall-tale than a longhorn.”

“Are there even any left?”

Shorty finally spoke. “There’re longhorns out there for you to wrangle and round up. Bring one back to the ranch on the hoof; raw, if you will.”

More grumbling but they were already mounted and ranging out.

Shorty never used a stick, and knew that the carrot was simply a job raw done.

###

Myths of Longhorns (from Rock Creek) by Charli MIlls

“Ever see cowboys riding the trail with their longhorns?” Jesse asked.

Sarah was tucked in a blanket, sitting on Jesse’s porch. Shulls Mill squatted dingy with lumbering dust and brick buildings. Not the crisp colors of the prairie. “No,” she replied.

“But I thought Hickok was Marshall of the biggest cowtown.”

“That was later. I saw plenty of oxen and some had long horns.”

“I pictured longhorns on the prairies.”

“Buffaloes. I once saw a herd so large the ground shook.”

“Weren’t you afraid of Indians?”

“Jesse, there’s much about the west not in those dime novels you read.”

###

Holy Cow! It’ a Long Shot by Norah Colvin

The enclosure was built, the hay delivered, the trough filled. We children watched from the rails, as Dad and Mum manoeuvred Cow #1 into the yard.

Everyone clambered to be first to milk her.

“We can all milk her – in the morning,” assured Dad.

But in the morning, the cow was gone. The gate lay crumpled on the ground.

A stronger gate contained Cow #2, but she squeezed under the fence.

More repairs must secure Cow #3? She jumped over to flee.

Defeated, Mum replenished her powdered supply, and we kids never learned to milk.

Should’ve got a longhorn?

###

Steakhouse by Elliott Lyngreen

She had put contacts in.

He put on deodorant and her favorite button-down.

She offered, “you can move here,” smiling without glasses, taking him to glimpses in here many years ago, before the lumps appeared.

He accepted, “dont mind if i do,” nearly wincing into the booth against her.

He knew exactly what she wanted. Steak and potatoes.

The restaurant always resembled a giant tree hollowed, carved into places to eat.

He had far away stares of her, them; laughing contagiously; two kids up too late in a treehouse.

She squinted, “you will never go south again. ok?”

###

Defining Moment by Jules Paige

Detective James Longhorn knew that there would be no syncretism for Janice and Richard. The reformation of a psychopath was like trying to collapse the tough cast iron barrel of an old cannon.

Richard seemed to have a stiff vertebra, and the uncanny tendency to warren his way into the nerves of a woman whom he had once controlled. Longhorn would do all he could to catch Richard whether the troll was actually lucid or oscitant.

When that horrid call came over the invisible strands of transmission; to the unboxed cell phone – everyone in the police precinct room shuttered.

###

Long on the Horn by FloridaBorne

Texas, the longhorn state. The real thing isn’t anywhere to be found in the city of Houston. Sure, you have plastic replicas of longhorns, but the days of the cowboys tending them are relegated to rodeos.

Sleeping on the ground, stepping in manure, and being bath deprived aren’t my idea of an ideal any more than doing garbage pickup or plumbing. Nor would I want to have the job of keeping predators away from the livestock. Nowadays in Houston, braving the traffic is just as dangerous.

That’s today’s cowboy: It’s a dirty job and someone has to do it.

###

Flash Fiction by Geoff Le Pard

Mary smiled at Paul. ‘One more round.’

He affected a sigh, ‘If I’d known the booze was shit, I’d have babysat…’

‘Harry doesn’t understand wine.’ She glanced at their team captain.

‘Ok so who knows about Americana? Paul, you’ve been to the States. You’ll be good at this. Odd man out. Which isn’t a Longhorn? A cow, a cheese, a basketball team and a steakhouse?’

Paul grinned then shook his head.

‘Well? Share your ideas Paul. I’m sure we’ll all be grateful.’

‘Sounds like the name of a male porn star.’

Mary sighed. Paul wouldn’t be invited again.

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Gruene Hall was roasting. Renee and I sat drenched from drink and dance. Her hair shined. My favorite curl had slung itself around her cheek as we heaved, giggling when the headliner, Merlin Mowers, slid next to Renee. A round of Lonestar longnecks followed.

Renee squealed. We snapped selfies. All was wonderful until Mowers veered into Renee, his long face like a Cadillac Deville, his mustache a set of longhorns affixed to his grin.

Renee’s eyes widened. Her grip tightened around the longneck.
I could’ve told Merl to duck.

Instead I bailed out my lovely wife the next morning.

###

The Longhorn Saloon (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

Jane walks past the bar, its door open to the summer evening. How wonderful to step inside, clink a frosty mug with those of others, join the ritual of shaking off the workweek.

But it could never be like it was back home. Clack of balls on a pool table, shrieking laughter of women with too-big hair and too-tight jeans, jukebox blaring country music she only likes with draft beer and too many cigarettes.

The Longhorn Saloon. How she’d loved that dive. Of course, last she heard it changed hands and was Bob’s Place or something.

Jane walks on.

###

Curds and Wheys and Means by Bill Engleson

Sally Longhorn Wakely made her pitch to me one night on the corner of Blather and Scrounge.

I wasn’t ready for it but knew it was coming.

Sally was a little like Runyon’s Apple Annie but with cheddar dreams.

You just knew she would bake a swell pie.

“I just wanna make cheese, Gerry. Cheese. Is that so much to ask?”

Well she had me there. I’d funded a brick load of Yankee lads and lasses who knew no other dream then one pleasured with carroty joy.

Trump had delivered their moment of revival.

We were feeling the auburn.

###

A Horn for Hearing by Anne Goodwin

Squeezing the mouthpiece between her lips, Liesel exhaled. Two short blasts sandwiched between one long one, timed by the beating of her heart. Heads turned, foreheads creased at the woman-made incursion on the birdsong but, seeing the alphorn, longer than the instrumentalist was tall, they smiled and cocked their ears towards the distant hills, tuned for his reply. Nothing heard. She blew again without response save the call of a cuckoo. Red-faced, she tramped back to the car.

His hearing horn discarded on the backseat. Without it he could not hope to hear her call.

###

Andy Longhorn by Michael

Andy Longhorn was the lawman in my part of the world. Everyone called him Longhorn and no one was sure where the name came from though some women in the town thought it was because…but that was just hearsay.

He cracked the great cow rustling caper back a few years ago. Tracked down those thieving wretches and put them well and truly out of business. That act alone made the town feel a debt of gratitude to him.

He never wanted any reward. He wanted a quiet town. A quiet town meant a happy Longhorn, and that suited us.

###

Highlander by D. Avery

These green mountains had never held her the way they held him. She’d always chafed at the constrictions of hill farming, pined for open range. With dual citizenship she could be anywhere; Texas, Alberta, anywhere her wild western dreams led her. He wouldn’t look.

He was pioneering right here, innovating with heirloom breeds and traditional farming methods. He raised Highlanders for meat, but kept one as a milk cow, another tradition for this loyal breed. These Scottish Longhorns were hardy and independent, but also good-natured and reliable, good mothers.

He’d be right here with his fold should she return.

###

Long on the Horn by Ansham

The hidden light of the sun barely cut through the thick fog that covered the prairie in that remote village when, unexpectedly, a strange shape could be discerned in the distance. I stalled in fear.

The crisp winter air and the moisture made the scene even more ethereal. There I was, face to face with the most magnificent animal staring deep into my eyes. She was standing still, enamored, looking beautiful, majestic and grandiose. I was stunned, speechless and mesmerized as this longhorn cow communicated to me the essence of her right to live. And then she was gone.

###

Saints Marching by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They clattered down the long hallway, down stairs littered with rocks, crossing the division into darkness.

“There it is again,” they whispered. A low bellow moaned from the depths below.

Right, left, left again, then down once more. Their torch flickered in the thin breeze.

“Any Minotaurs in this labyrinth?”

“Don’t worry. I know the way out.”

Another bellow, followed by sliding sobs. They sprinted hard now.

And then, a Sousa solo.

“About time you got here!” The earthquake had wrecked the practice room, tipping the sound panels and trapping Tony.

“We’ll save you, but that trombone stays here.”

###

Longhorn’s Tale by KittyVerses

There wasn’t any connectivity through roads and no means of transport from his village to the nearby hospital. One had to pass through the forests to reach the other side. He had to visit his ailing mother. The village folk ensured they reached their destinations before dusk. It was rumored that a giant inhabited and nobody lived to tell the tale.

He was asked to duel with the giant. Sensing defeat, he escaped between the legs of the giant.

Always mocked at for being puny and untrue to his name, he received a hero’s welcome,

Hail Longhorn! Brain is mightier than brawn.

###

Cerambycidae by Sarah Brentyn

I feel them crawl over my skin before I see them.

Looking up, I notice hundreds of insects skitter across my floor, up the walls. They are everywhere. I want to scream. To call for help. But I don’t.

I study one on my left arm and become entranced with its bright, colored spots and antennae.

I have a memory of school where I learned about this species. The common name, ‘longhorn beetle’, fits well as the antennae extend past the end of their bodies. It’s fascinating. I lean in for a closer look but see only my bare arm.

###

Longhorn by formicatio

She stared out across the field as one of the mighty beasts lumbered over to her.

She hated the ranch.

Born a book lover on a longhorn ranch, a disappointing oldest child followed by three born-farmer brothers, she couldn’t wait to get out. The scholarship she’d won to what her parents called a ‘fancy city college’ had been her dream, and now her packed bags were waiting in her pick-up truck. The longhorn pushed its nose against her arm, and she scratched his forehead affectionately. “Bye, buddy,” she said, “seeya in three years,” doubting very much that she would.

###

Raw Literature: Got Lit? Try It Raw

Essay by D. Avery, prolific Ranch Hand, rowdy Range Writer and author of “Chicken Shift” and “For the Girls.”

<< ♦ >>

Menus now have asterisked warnings regarding the consumption of underdone meat or fish. Raw usually comes with a warning. What about literature? Is underdone the opposite of done well? That is the question that gets rarefied consideration at Carrot Ranch. The consensus seems to be that some like it raw, despite the risks.

Every week at Carrot Ranch Charli Mills presents a flash fiction challenge, the prompt having bubbled up from her experiences and musings on her “enchanted” life. Just as she makes the most of her situation, we make the most of the prompts and “go where it leads”. Though all my responses have been fiction, I have often been led back home by these prompts to get inspiration. And as I read the essays on raw literature and try to mull over that concept, I am again led back to a time when rare meat was not questioned and when you could still get raw milk.

A half-mile up the dirt road, our nearest neighbors kept a milk cow in addition to the beef steer that most of us kept, a friendly little Jersey who produced more than they could consume. So I would walk with the dollar in my pocket and an empty glass gallon jug to exchange for a full jug of raw milk.

Drinking raw milk was an acquired taste, and friends that were only used to store-bought milk generally were skeptical, having to be dared to drink up, especially if they imagined seeing a cow hair or two. Their homogenized, pasteurized milk paled in comparison; in color, in taste, and in associations. This raw milk was not the paper white of modern homogenized milk; it was a light cream color, yellowish. It settled into rich strata with the thick cream rising to the top. Occasionally we made butter. Usually we just shook the jug vigorously to mix up the layers before pouring a glass of frothy headed milk. And if there was hair on the glass, it didn’t matter, it was from a creature that I knew fairly well; I knew her being milked, patiently chewing her feed, switching her tail as Ken, using colorful language in soothing tones, squeezed and talked, the pail steadied between his feet gradually filling as he filled my head with his stories.

My milk route was a road cradled by woods with stories to tell too, stories of long ago times still marked by old stone walls and cellar holes from when all was field and farmland. In early summer I would be distracted by roadside toads or newts and the muddied condensation on the bottom of the jug in our fridge showed that I had set it down in the gravel dust to watch them for a bit. In the winter I would slide down the hill that began the walk then use the sled to transport the milk on the return trip. I monitored the milk levels of the jug in our fridge, noting when I might make the trip again.

Now I make a weekly trip to Carrot Ranch. The writing that is gathered there is rich and flavorful, like raw milk. It is filled with associations and connections, showing evidence of its origins and of its journeys. It is not a pale, thin, over-processed liquid in standardized opaque plastic containers, overstocked on refrigerated shelves. And if it’s raw, perhaps underdone, that’s far more filling than undone. The whole experience of writing and reading at the Ranch is nourishing and enriching, from gathering and consuming and to simply sharing our raw products with each other. Raise your glass.

***

D Avery

D. Avery has long been a compulsive poet. Despite a very important day job educating public school children, she is often distracted by this compulsion, as well as by life’s great questions, such as “Kayak, or bike?” Influenced by sights and smells observed from the bike saddle, her first book of poems, Chicken Shift, began as tales of roadkill, but developed into a philosophical inquiry and explanation of why chickens cross roads. Her second book of poetry, For the Girls, was the result of over exposure to breast cancer.

Recently, D. Avery simultaneously discovered the internet and flash fiction, and is using both to flex her writing muscle. Her debut blog, Shiftnshake, has not yet catapulted her into literary renown. Follow her on Amazon.com and Twitter @DSlaytonAvery.

<<♦>>

Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

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May 25: Flash Fiction Challenge

White clouds scud across the blue skies of Kansas. An ocean of green grass spreads out below and I can imagine how the pioneer wagons with white tarps once mirrored the procession of cumulus clouds. In a modern car the going is smooth, but in a wagon the path was not easy. Wagons wore ruts and packed the earth so hard, grass doesn’t grow in some places even today. Ravines and creeks were dangerous, and pioneers often drowned crossing rivers. My idyllic vision of Conestogas crossing the prairie is far from reality.

Yet there’s a reality often overlooked in the western expansion of the US — the perspective from women who came west. Just as I’m driving the car in our mini RV train of sorts, women often managed the reins of the wagons. At the end of the day after traveling, I can still feel the movement of the road. I’m sure the wagon drivers laid down at night feeling the sway and jostle of their conveyances, too. But what’s significant is what’s omitted from the pioneer diaries and accounts. According to one historian, as many as 90 percent of the women who came west were in one phase of pregnancy or another. There were plains so flat and wagons so many, I wonder how women found privacy for the most personal of functions?

A community of women would have been important. They could look after one another and best understand feminine needs. But what about those on the fringes? I often think of Nancy Jane Holmes as a feminine rebellious spirit. But how rebellious could her gender be? Evidence indicates she had a child out of wedlock and later lived with a man as a common-law wife. She grew up on the prairie and I imagine she learned to hunt and fix game for meals. She was more hunter than farmer. Did she ever ride with the buffalo hunters? What did she think of the groups of women who passed through in the wagon trains? What did they think of her, or say to her?

For men, the westward expansion was more adventurous. In their prime, they were not burdened by bodies meant for fertility. They didn’t experience monthly fluxes, pregnancy or nursing an infant. They were free to roam, explore and be independent even with families in tow. If men were single and in a group, often they were pushing longhorns to Kansas from Texas or serving as soldiers in the US Cavalry or frontiersmen who scouted for wagon trains and hunted buffalo.

Driving across the lone prairie, I wonder at how to breakthrough the stereotypes of these past experiences, to acknowledge what was common and likely, yet imagine the unrecorded exceptions. History has documented James Butler Hickok, Wild Bill, to the minute detail. There’s no new evidence of his experiences, yet I think there’s much left to say about them by looking at the other people he interacted with at Rock Creek. Especially the women. Historians have turned wild imaginations toward Sarah Shull, and yet have virtually ignored Nancy Jane Holmes (or Jane Wellman). She was on the fringe of what was typical of pioneer women. She was more of a frontierswoman. And that’s where the story gets interesting.

Kansas provides rich history, and tomorrow my research here begins.

For the challenge, I’m thinking about the longhorns who also once spread across the plains. The word longhorns evokes notions of cowboys and cattle, which featured later in Wild Bill Hickok’s life. It’s also the name of western steakhouses, bars, football teams and a type of cheddar cheese. Dig deep enough and you’ll find some obscure term for computer technology. It’s the same idea with history, and I look forward to digging.

May 25, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a that includes the word longhorn. You can go with any of its meanings or make it a name of a person or organization. Cheese or cattle, technology or place, what can you create from the western icon? Go traditional or new; go where the prompt leads.

Respond by May 30, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published May 31). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Myths of Longhorns (from Rock Creek) by Charli MIlls

“Ever see cowboys riding the trail with their longhorns?” Jesse asked.

Sarah was tucked in a blanket, sitting on Jesse’s porch. Shulls Mill squatted dingy with lumbering dust and brick buildings. Not the crisp colors of the prairie. “No,” she replied.

“But I thought Hickok was Marshall of the biggest cowtown.”

“That was later. I saw plenty of oxen and some had long horns.”

“I pictured longhorns on the prairies.”

“Buffaloes. I once saw a herd so large the ground shook.”

“Weren’t you afraid of Indians?”

“Jesse, there’s much about the west not in those dime novels you read.”

###

Wise Words

Wise Words Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsHalf a century seems to carry the weight of wisdom. Yet, wise words can come from any age or background, and growing older doesn’t guarantee growing wiser.

This week, writers were asked to contribute wise words through the literary vehicle of flash fiction. As expected, the unexpected also made its way into the collection. Perhaps wisdom is less in the stories and more in the act of storytelling. Perhaps wisdom comes nt with age but with reflection.

The following are based on the May 18, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story.

***

On Wisdom by Lisa Listwa

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sky.

Can you balance dark and light? Hold within you the vast potential of the future?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Sea.

Can you wash away just enough of the past to refresh yet leave a lasting impression?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Earth.

Can you take root and cling to what gives strength?

“Am I wise?” I asked the Wind.

Can you take flight when your time comes? Touch all else around you?

“Am I wise?” I asked my Self. “I have much yet to learn….”

Knowing this is wisdom.

###

The Light in the Empty Room by Elliott Lyngreen

In an empty room save for a fixture absent a bulb, yet with its string; doors exactly cater-cornered of parallel walls; after opening one, walking through only led him into another room perfectly mimicking the previous.

So he tried the opposite door, diagonally, again entered yet another inversion.

After exhausting attempts to leave, he only re-entered flipped patterns – one after another; lone empty lamp holder.

He decided to pull the string; over, around his arm, down himself like pulling open a sleeping bag or circumventing a body bag, unzipped the room, and became the light, illuminating ideas within vision. . . .

###

Wisdom by FloridaBorne

I glared at my sister, Myra, her brown eyes shining with youthful expectation. Her shapely body filling out a tight t-shirt and slinky jeans, she still looked 35.

“Where are you going?” I asked, leaning on my cane for support.

“Dancing.”

“You’re 50. It means you’re old!” I said, shaking a finger at her. “When will you understand that truth!”

“Never,” she said, running a brush through naturally thick, brown hair.

“I’m 57 and have the wisdom to admit I’m past my prime. Why can’t you?”

“Because old will always be travelling 7 years ahead of me,” Myra giggled.

###

Happy Birthday! by Ruchira Khanna

“Happy Birthday Angie” shouted Tiffany as she shut her car door and walked towards her friend who was seated on the patio.

The birthday gal squealed with delight upon seeing the bouquet and after a quick embrace dashed in to put them in the water.

Angie was chattering nonstop.

When the birthday girl came out with two cups of hot beverage, she found Tiffany’s head on her hands, “What’s wrong?” she inquired.

“Oh, Angie! start behaving your age!” Tiffany was quick to comment.

“Age is just a number!” she responded as she exhibited her bright white dentures.

###

Grey Wisdom by Kalpana Solsi

Combing my long silky tresses, I admired my reflection in

the mirror.Tessie grimaced.

I turned to face her.

Her celluloid image had painted nails, each hair in place

and a made-up face hiding all its flaws while my oils were

a connoisseur’s prized possessions.

“Silver streaks in your hair”, almost gasping.

“I know”, a calm and confident me.

“Let me fix an appointment with Yasmine’s Colour

Parlour”, Tessie panicking, “You have hit fifty”.

“I have accumulated streaks of wisdom in half a century

and will unabashedly flaunt it”.

Thud…… Tessie’s cell -phone lay on the floor, broken,

bruised.

###

Flash Fiction by Pensitivity

I was brought up to respect my elders.

In fact, I have always got on better with those some twenty or thirty years older than me, and my first little job at 12 was working with then pensioners who I probably drove mad with my jokes and pop music!

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was from the supervisor I worked with 1980 – 1981. As he was breaking into her car having locked her keys inside, she nudged me, grinned and said ‘Keep him. He’s useful.’

So I did. That was 28 years ago, and I’ve never regretted it.

###

That Thing That’s Before Godliness by Geoff Le Pard

Paul looked at his wife’s face. ‘Looks like you need more than tea.’

‘That woman is impossible.’ Mary accepted the wineglass. ‘Mrs Wise. Talk about misnamed.’

Paul settled back into his seat. ‘Go on. What now?’

‘Milk in the washing machine. She thought it was the fabric conditioner.’

‘Aren’t the bottles different?’

‘She cracked the conditioner so decanted it into an old water bottle last time. I labelled it carefully. Calling her a cleaner is such a misnomer.’

‘We could look for a new one?’

‘Like Miss Peaberry? Remember what she di wit your toothbrush?’

‘So more wine?’

‘Please.’

###

Growing into Wisdom by Norah Colvin

“My Dad knows everything!” bragged six-year-old Billy.

“Parents,” grumbled Will E., at surly sixteen, “They know nothing.”

For thirty-year-old William, at the top of his game, conversations were strained. One more “In our day…” he’d surely explode.

By forty-five, with kids of his own, “But kids are different these days,” Will would state.

Dad would wink and suggest, “Not that different.”

Throughout the fifties, his recalcitrant teens mirrored those years of his own.

Into his sixties, with kids gone and more time for chatting with Dad, he discovered, almost too late, they shared more than he had ever appreciated.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreasons

Today, I let my tired body slide down the school yard fence and I took a moment to reflect.

At what point, on my journey through life, did I decide the road less travelled might be the best?

Recently, my post, “Is 50 Too Old To Start Again?”, saw me tentatively enter the blogging world.

I did not envisage myself feeling beaten so soon. I sat, now, sweltering in the Pilbara heat, looking upon my punctured bicycle tyre, thinking, “What next?”

How the Universe might respond to my innocent query, left me feeling sombre and unsettled.

What next indeed?

###

Insurance by Reena Saxena

“Turning 40 heralds middle age, and 60 is retirement. What is it about 50?”

“Well… Life spans are lengthening, and work spans are shortening. So, you never know, where will you be?”

“Oh, Uncertainty!” I exclaimed dramatically, “Do you sell insurance or retirement plans?”

“The pathos lies somewhere in between – the inability to plan in the fast-changing scenario, and the millennial epidemic – ageism. People above 50 are treated as they don’t exist. There is no insurance against changing mind-sets.”

“Hmmm … Can you insure my ability to reason, to fathom the deeper meanings, rather than just reading status updates?”

###

Wisdom by Michael

Oh, to be wise he thought as he read through the student’s exam papers.

He turned over the effort from Betrice Walker, the smartest girl in his class. In amazement, he read her literary genius. He felt humbled that someone so young could evaluate the question so clearly.

For goodness sake he thought, she’s a child still, what will she be like in twenty years?

So much wisdom in one so young.

He wrote an A on her paper.

Tomorrow he’d watch the glow on her face knowing she’d be pleased.

Sipping coffee, he picked up the next paper.

###

A Valuable Piece by KittyVerses

Little Myna got into a lot of trouble that day. This wasn’t something new, and it bothered her parents much.She was always carrying tales of one person to the next, people were apprehensive of her.

Punishments were meted out, she was reprimanded and isolated but to no avail. One fine day she was asked to collect the water that was emptied from the bottle by her mother.

Well, did she succeed? Words once lashed out can’t be taken back as much as the water which was poured.

Never to forget,the things we learn as kids shapes our identity of tomorrow.

###

Crab Apple Crisis by Anthony Amore

She thought it ridiculous their son had been stuck for hours in that tree.

“Help him now,” she told her husband.

Through the slider he saw the boy caught in high crooked branches, “He”ll figure it out.”

“Two hours,” she folded into a harsh angle pointing. “Go.”

With a nod the ladder was gotten, but his son had fallen shirtless to the ground. He sprinted to him.

“My back’s scraped,” he said. “Apples are safe; tied in my shirt.” Four crabapples the size of chestnuts rolled free, “Mom can make pie.”

He kept quiet, saying, “Very wise move, son.”

###

Mother’s Support by Diana Nagai

“My daughter won’t talk to me,” I vented.

I saw my mother’s expression which showed amusement and compassion. Shame filled me as I remembered myself as a teen. Once, I gave her the finger when I thought she wasn’t looking. I don’t remember why I was angry, but I carry the guilt that she witnessed my outburst. My shoulders slumped. “I’m so sorry for what I put you through.”

She pulled me into an embrace of comfort and wisdom from “the other side”. Right then, I knew we’d survive these teenage years together.

###

Flash Fiction by Mike Kempster

I have no way of winning any battle with my 14 year old daughter. She’s right, I’m wrong and there’s no way that’s going to change even in the face of all reason. We’ve had some blazing rows. At the end of a row there has to be some reconciliation and one person ends up reaching out to the other. Mostly that’s my job; however, yesterday morning, after a huge row the night before, she sent me a text saying, ‘any breakfast service running this morning XXX.’ For a change she’d reached out and showed she has some feelings.

###

Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom

I watched as she moved ever so slowly, as she always did, living as if time had no meaning. I bit my tongue to swallow my reprimand. “Charlotte, I am going to tell you something that my Mother told me when I was 7, like you are now.”

Her yellow hair glowed in the sun creating a halo around her face as she looked at me, waiting for my words of wisdom.

“What?”

“Your husband is going to have to be a very patient man.”

She only paused for a heartbeat and replied. “I don’t know any patient man’s.”

###

Seeking to Understand (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Does your creative outlet help you, Jen?” asked Danni.

“Does interviewing war widows help you?”

“Feels like I’m doing something,” Danni answered.

“Me, too. Same with the brothers. They want to feel useful. Do something good. Let me ask you, why did you stay?”

“You mean when Ike left for Iraq?”

“Yes. This was new to you. You must have felt deserted. Why did you stay?”

Danni  paused, reflecting on all her earlier turmoil. She could have left the day she took Ike to the airport.  Had she gained any wisdom?  “I stayed to take care of his dogs.”

###

The Getting of Wisdom by Anne Goodwin

It’s easy, they said, as easy as breathing, just follow this five-point plan. It’s hard, camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle difficult, but, if you give us the money, we’ll show you how it’s done. No-one can tell you the answer, you’ve got to seek it inside yourself. There’s a pattern, proofed against any fool prepared to apply herself to the task. There’s so much to learn, you can’t waste a minute. There’s so much, you might as well not try. What’s wisdom, the nub of ice that melts in your fingers or the mountain of knowledge the ocean obscures?

###

Intuition by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They circled the pit, noted the downward spiral that curled into thick darkness. Dropped a stone and waited for a splash, a thud, the clatter of a change in angle.

“Hell bent?” she quipped.

He sniffed. “No smell of sulphur.”

“Literal much?”

He tipped his head, brow knit.

“Never mind,” she scanned the landscape for dust devils, signs of life or breath. Nope. Only them: isolate, arid, no stars nor moon above.

“Ladies first,” he nodded towards the pit.

Always leaping, never moving.

She senses a curl of light, a sweet new scent, opens her hands and steps down.

###

Alien Anthropology by D. Avery

“Strange. They develop automation, even as they suffer obesity, depression and anxiety. They have many devices for communicating, but they aren’t saying anything. They desire access to information but don’t seem to value knowledge, with no apparent interest or ability in interpreting or analyzing information.”

“They are poisoning, mining, and bombing what’s left of their natural environment… They are ruining this planet. We should just take over.”

“No, our orders are to just observe and to seek wisdom. We shall consult their older people.”

“And artists?”

“Yes, and we’ll visit the ancient sites and natural wonders.”

“We’d better hurry.”

###

The Battle by Allison Maruska

The apprentice watches as I light the incense. “How can you stay so calm?”

“Trouble will always find us, so why worry?” Wafting the smoke, I channel the spirits to help. “This battle is not a new one.”

“I think it is,” he says. “We’ve never fought anything like this.”

“Of course we have.” Picking up the lantern, I head outside. “And we will do what we always do. Pray. Fast. And fight if needed.”

An echoing roar reaches us. Our gaze follows the beast sailing through the sky.

“I don’t think fasting will help this time,” he says.

The battle was Monks vs. Dragons.

Told you it was kickass.

###

Flash Fiction by 40levenreason

An old friend

Unseen for years

Messages now

Through unshed tears

She said, School was hard

Not how she’d planned

The loneliness daunting

The taunts out of hand

Yet through all of her pain

What stays with her best

Was my warmth and my kindness

I was not like the rest

Little did I realise

What small gestures might mean

To my quiet young classmate,

Broken spirit, unseen
I read her messages of thanks, 35 years later, and looked upon my punctured tyre.

My wise words from a 50 year old?

Do unto others…….

AND CARRY A REPAIR KIT!!

###

Withdrawn? by Jules Paige

Richard picked up the thirteenth pottery shard never expecting
to be found hidden – engulfed in the weeds. The colors reminding
him of Janice’s eyes…

A short elusive keta with the magnitude of a heavy chair being
thrown across the room, and hitting his head allowed the elusive
emotion of disgrace to flash across his mind. Janice wasn’t the
traitor. Was he?

How had Janice been so wise, to know how broken he was.
That she could not fix him, she had to leave him… Richard,
behind the shed in her yard…wanted her – she wasn’t home…
Where was she?

###

Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning

Kylie handed over the bow. “They were late, right? Doesn’t seem wise to me.”

“Here we go,” Nat grumbled, steadying the arrow. “It’s the three WISE MEN.”

Kylie arched her brow, fixed her ponytail. “If you say so.”

Nat’s eyes pulled to Kylie instead of the can. His shot sailed wide. Again. He was down 3-0.

Kylie scoffed, snatched the bow and yanked back the arrow. “Now, Margaret WISE Brown…”

“Who?”

“Goodnight Moon.” The arrow was gone in a wink. Nat heard the clink of the can without looking. Kylie stood, her smile spreading like wildfire. “4-zip.”

“Show off.”

###

Old Skills by Kerry E.B. Black

Aunt Amaryllis gripped the table. Veins rose from translucent skin, yet her voice remained sure. “Remember, control the material.”

Kirsten fed silk into the machine, but it snagged.

Aunt Amaryllis’ perfume accompanied her nearness. “Slow and steady. Even pressure on the foot. Gentle guidance here.” The cloth flowed with her direction, stitches marching along the seam. She handed Kirsten a seam ripper. “This tool’s your friend.”

Kirsten groaned but removed the snag. She pressed and sewed.
Aunt Amaryllis smiled at the complete the garment. “What a fine wedding gown!”

“I wish you’d be there.”

Aunt Amaryllis dabbed Kirsten’s tears. “I will, in spirit.”

###

The Wizard of the North by Gordon Le Pard

“Walter Scott has no business to write novels, especially good ones.”

“But Jane, nobody knows who wrote it. How can you be so sure?”

“Because it is just like him, but it’s not fair. He has Fame and Profit enough as a Poet, and shouldn’t be taking the bread out of other people’s mouths.”

Cassandra smiled as her sister picked up the book again.

“I do not like him.” Jane continued, “And do not mean to like Waverley if I can help it – but fear I must.” Silently she thought, “I wonder if he will like Emma?”

He did.

###

Seeing the Other Side by D. Avery

I’ve got a lot of stories, none have been told

I’m not very wise for someone born old.

I’ve long been a miner, never seen the lode

I’m the chicken just starin’ ’cross the road.

I’ve got lots of where I’ve been, got lots of what’s behind me

But I still don’t know where I am, and don’t know where to find me.

I’m not exactly fleeing, ’though I’d like a place to hide

Crossing isn’t just about seeing the other side.

I’m walkin’ and I’m walkin’, some might say I’m lost

I’m that chicken that finally went across.

###

Raw Literature: Interview with Casia Schreyer

Today’s post is a profile interview with Casia Schreyer of Schreyer Ink Publishing. Writer, editor, publisher and advocate of writers, she’s preparing to launch a new anthology. Schreyer Ink is an Indie Publishing House in Canada. We welcome Casia to Carrot Ranch and our Raw Literature guest series.

<< ♦ >>

CR: What is your earliest memory of crafting with words?

Casia: My earliest writing memory is from grade 2 and 3. We had these large yellow three-panel writing folders. When you opened them it turned your desk into a private cubby. Each panel had a pocket so we could keep our drafts organized. We wrote stories about vacations and 1-page essays on whales.

CR: Did that experience influence your desire to write later in life?

Casia: Oh, definitely it did. My mom kept this school memory book and every year she would list my friends and my extra-curricular activities and what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. Writer never left that list. I was hooked.

CR: When you think about your first drafts, what is a significant part of your creative process?

Casia: I consider my outline to be my very first draft of any story. I take that time to figure out where the twists will come in, and how the story arcs will progress. This allows me to build my foreshadowing. This is especially important in a series. My actual first draft I usually write by hand. The thoughts flow better that way and I can write faster than I can type so I can actually keep up with the brainstorm!

CR: How did you decide to work with other creative writers? What was that initial idea?

I have worked with other writers before. My first collaborative project was a free anthology put out cooperatively by a group of authors. The idea was that each of us would contribute a story and help market the book, which was available for free, as a way to reach new audiences. It didn’t “sell” a lot of copies. I also had a story published in a Witty Bard anthology of science fiction stories. The idea for this anthology came from a story that I wanted to write but that I had no market for, so I created the anthology to fit the story I was writing and invited other authors to submit their stories on the same theme. That theme was tolerance.

CR: Why did you create an indie publishing company? What is your vision for its success?

Casia: The indie-publishing company started simply as a name a logo to put on my self-published novels, to make them look more professional. Then I created a blog for Schreyer Ink Publishing and offered publication services for authors such as editing and marketing packages. These were paid services, but I didn’t require that they list me as the publisher and I didn’t ask for any rights to the work. Then Open Minds came up and I decided that I was going to start publishing anthologies through Schreyer Ink Publishing as a next step. Our goals are to expand into graphic novels and graphic shorts, and to get Schreyer Ink Publishing officially incorporated.

CR: Tell us about your upcoming anthology and its themes of tolerance, acceptance, fear and rejection.

Casia: I think Open Minds is a really important book for what’s going on in the world today. Everywhere we look people are grappling with the idea of tolerance and acceptance, weighing it against theology and tradition and their other personal values. People are trying to define what tolerance and acceptance entails, and put up boundaries as to what they personally will tolerate and accept. The authors in this anthology really showcase these themes in amazingly diverse ways. My own story deals with race and what can happen when intolerant people become emboldened by our current political climate. One story deals with transgender in a very intense human setting while another looks at gender fluidity in a sci-fi setting. One of my favourites though asks a very powerful question: when are we doing enough and when are we doing too much? This story questions that line between “standing up” and “picking fights,” between “helping our friends” and “hurting everyone else.” It’s a really powerful near-future story that looks at a lot of issues. There’s a rather short one that looks at the cost of pursuing our dreams, and the inner peace of finding absolute acceptance and security. And last but not least is the story that I almost rejected: a rambling narrative of parallel worlds, divine wars, and gender superiority. The language in this story set me on edge, I’ll admit it, and I almost rejected it, but the other editors at Schreyer Ink loved the story and voted it in. Now I have to admit that it was the sheer controversy of the story that jabbed at me and I think it adds something special to this book.

CR: How do you think these themes impact writers in their early creative stages of writing a story or book? How have they impacted your own writing?

Casia: I can’t speak for other writers, but for me, these are themes that I’ve found reappear over and over again in my other works, in more subtle ways. I’m working on a coming-of-age fantasy series about five princesses. They are strong women but none of them are warriors and none of them are mothers. I have two contemporary lit novels that deal with bullying, suicide, and sexual harassment in different contexts. I’m building a fantasy world and I’m viewing it through the lens of representation and diversity.

CR: When putting together the anthology, what did you notice about the work as a collective?

Casia: What I really noticed was that they had more in common than just the initial theme of tolerance and diversity. There were threads of fear, rejection, sacrifice, strength, and courage. Even with the stories being so very different in genre and style they just fit together and it was a beautiful thing to experience.

CR: Did you and the other writers discover anything powerful in the process of bringing writing together around a focused set of themes?

Casia: I worked closely with Angil Grafton, another of the authors, because she is also a member of the Schreyer Ink Publishing team. She mentioned that this was an emotionally moving book to work on. Our third editor, Andy Ganz, was impressed with the scope of the stories and their brutal honesty. I was also impressed with the honesty of these stories. I think the authors really took the theme to heart and offered us unique snapshots of their own experiences and questions.

CR: Reflecting back from the completed project of your anthology, what do you think your rawest efforts had to teach you? 

Casia: Well I certainly learned a lot about how to publish an anthology. But I think my deepest discovery was as a writer. I struggled with the ending of my story because I didn’t want my bad guys to be these super evil villain types. I wanted them to be average people, misled by an inappropriate social dialogue but that meant finding some way to reign in their actions before they got out of hand, before they crossed that line into evil. And I saw that in many of these stories – the bad guys weren’t evil, they were misguided and acted out of fear or jealousy. I appreciated that subtly and nuance in the characters because I think it’s more reflective of the world we know. And the best fiction always has a strong tie to a deeper truth.

***

@SchreyerInkOpen Minds is available for pre-order and anyone who pre-orders and sends a screen shot of their receipt to Schreyer Ink (even just a comment on the blog of Facebook page) will receive a free copy of another ebook put out by Schreyer Ink.

The Launch Party is a free Facebook event being held online on June 1st from 8am-10pm CST. There will be guest authors, some of the anthology authors, and some free giveaways. There are already some sneak peeks from Open Minds posted on the event.

Open Minds Amazon

Open Minds Smashwords

Schreyer Ink Publishing

Schreyer Ink on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/schreyerinkpublishing

Schreyer Ink on Twitter: @SchreyerInk

Open Minds Launch Party

<<♦>>

Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

May 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

May 18 Flash Fiction Challenge Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsJulia McCanles, the wizened old woman in the photo, grew so old as to regenerate new teeth. We know this miracle of age through a quirky newspaper report. Perhaps she lost molars and made room for impacted wisdom teeth. Maybe she really did grow new ones, though unlikely. Her shawl is clustered with crocheted pompoms, which says she had the wisdom to not give a wit what she wore, but dressed as she pleased regardless of teeth.

When I am old and gray, I, too will wear crocheted pompoms. Not purple, though. Turquoise.

Like all of us on the journey of life, I hope to indeed grow wise, gray and toothful. I’m making good headway, turning half a century old on Sunday, May 21. It finally sounds like I’ve achieved a dignified age, one that makes others pause. 50 sounds serious.

A few years ago I lied a few years to sound older. I was interviewing a potential client who turned out to be young and brash, definitely not wise. He had hired inexperienced writers from to submit content to websites he was developing for Spokane businesses. Now he needed a professional to rewrite the content to grow his business. He wanted a “partner” to do the task. His ad was misleading, and I had only been interested in a local writing gig, not investing my own sweat equity in his business. When my line of questioning irritated him, he asked, “Why does everyone just want to write? I need a business partner.”

Well, that wasn’t compelling at all for me. I answered an ad for a writer and explained perhaps he should advertise for a partner instead. He then proceeded to tell me about his marketing prowess, which by this time I doubted. He then made a strange assumption. He said based on all my questions and obvious reluctance to be his partner that I must be young. As soon as he assured himself I was young he began bragging about how big his web business was going to be.

I interrupted him and said I was 50. He hung up the phone on me! That’s when I knew 50 carried power. Who wants to tangle with a wise woman?

Gallup has changed me. I feel as though I’ve emerged from the wardrobe after living a lifetime in Narnia. We left this morning with a revived transmission. By the time we made the left turn at Albuquerque, north on the old Santa Fe Trail, I felt transformed back to the modern world. We can all learn from Gallup. Living in the moment and acknowledging the human dignity in one another, honoring art and making space for beauty, showing strangers the same kindness you’d show friends, not worrying over material things for they are only things, and connecting to history to future are all part of the Gallup way.

Sunday is a threshold of sorts. A time to reflect. I remember a couple’s retreat Todd and I did before we had children, and how industrious I was back then. We both came out of the hard-working culture of the west. In a class, we were asked to make a list of five goals we had for next week, and another for five goals we’d have if we were told we would die in a year. The idea was that the lists should align. If not, were we wasting time we might not have? Later the instructor pulled me aside. He said life is a stage and we should dare to be on the one that is our own. He said I wasn’t even in the audience watching life, I was in the lobby scrubbing floors.

That had an impact on me. Was I working hard toward something, or was I merely working hard?

From that day forward, I made a pact with myself. No matter if I was scrubbing floors, waiting tables, covering council meetings, raising children or going to school, I would make sure my hard work applied toward something. It put me in a never-ending pattern of writing goals. That was my ultimate dream — to be a writer of historical fiction. Therefore, as a mom of young children, I took them to historical sites. As a waitress at nights, I listened to the stories of elders for insights to the past. As a college student, I pitched an independent project to draft an historical novel. When my advisor would not let me pursue the novel as my honors thesis, I made sure the project he approved would teach me how to be a better historical researcher.

After college graduation, I did not get the sexy jobs a writing major dreams of. Instead I wrote obituaries as assistant editor to a daily newspaper. But I reflected on the history of each person. When I couldn’t get hired as an editor or writer in publications, I took a job selling magazine ads, working my way up to writing advertorials and representing my publisher at national conferences. The terrible year I worked as an independent insurance agent, I used my salary to buy the family a membership to all the state’s historical sites. As the kids got older, we found more interesting research, including cemetery look-ups as volunteer genealogists. Once I landed a marketing communications job, I made sure to become the organization’s lead writer and historian. When I left that job and set my goal on writing my first novel, I made sure it involved history even if it was a modern setting.

Writing evolved, not scrubbing floors.

But I don’t want a stage for soliloquies. I want a vibrant live play with unexpected twists, drama, scares, laughs, insights and poignant moments. I don’t want to be the only actor, the lone writer. That’s why Carrot Ranch is all about building a literary community. I will always write. My blood will pulse to the tempo of understanding the present through the lens of history. I’ll always be interested in taking something good and making it better. All those things come to life at the ranch.

Yet it’s a place that can mean something different for each person who finds the trail here, or passes through. This is not a community for historical fiction writers. It’s better that we have diversity. Different genres, experiences and interests. Writers are welcome to come and go. Of course, as this community has taken shape, I’ve set goals for growth. I have a vision for using creative efforts to form collective projects. In 2014, I went to LA with my polished first novel (Miracle of Ducks) and a collection of shared flash fiction from Carrot Ranch.

That’s where I met with several agents and publishers. A few took my first 50 pages. They all advised me to seek regional publication for an anthology, but they were also intrigued by what we were doing at Carrot Ranch. From that conference I was able to understand key marketing differences between my prior experience in print publications and book publishing. I began crafting articles to explain what a writer’s platform is actually composed of and how to use one’s unique platform strengths to market. The biggest component that stumps us all is defining and reaching our target audiences. I have theories and a potential partnership with a clever business psychologist (who also happens to be my son).

With all these ideas and experiences converging, I started to build regional connections, including relationships with two publishing houses in the Pacific Northwest. That’s when we began working in earnest on our first anthology. I developed a library program called Wrangling Words, began teaching it monthly and also partnered with a spoken word event to read flash fiction. I kept in contact with the LA conference and hosted several regional events for rural writers. I hosted numerous writers from across the US at Elmira Pond and set in motion plans for workshops. In fact, one was held last fall. Without me. And the regional book conferences I was to do Wrangling Words events (and theoretically sell our anthology) went on without me.

Last June we had to leave our rental so it could go one the market. In a rural area with popular summer tourism, there was a rental shortage and we ended up camping on the Coeur D’Alene River until we embarked on this transient lifestyle that took us from the Pacific Northwest to Mars to alien abduction (or our transmission) in Gallup to (hopefully) Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan. It’s not been pleasant and at other times it’s been amazing. It has challenged and grown me in ways I might have avoided. Sometimes I felt like giving up and becoming a hermit writer. But many circled the wagons at Carrot Ranch and we got through rocky times where I had to office in mining town libraries or rip out the back end of a leaking old trailer to build an office. One thing I learned was how to make the community platform work.

50 and homeless was not how I imagined life would be. I still sting over the loss of Elmira Pond and all the little injustices that plague those without an address. But I look for the beauty in the natural world, I never forget to see where history intersects modern understanding, and always I write. Maybe if I had been more of a floor scrubber I’d have my own floors. But I wouldn’t trade it for the dreams of a writer and the chance to lasso the moon. Wisdom? What would Great-Grandma Julia say? She left her home in North Carolina for the frontier. This land I’m about to see tomorrow, she saw. I anticipate its impact, the connection, the living for goals like I might die next year.

For my birthday, I want a book. Not just any book, but the first published anthology. We have the manuscript.  If I can raise the funds, I will start an imprint for Carrot Ranch, expand our platform to benefit those who write in this community and seek new ways to inspire and inform other writers beyond the ranch hands. No matter what we have to start with, I will see it through. I’ve failed a few attempts already, but that just clears the way to find what will work. Writers have to persevere. A Patreon is under development and will launch after we get to Wisconsin and Michigan. It will benefit the writers here, as well.

Also, congratulations are in order: Carrot Ranch has been nominated for a Bloggers Bash Award as an inspiring blog. That’s a reflection on each and every one of your who make this a welcoming, fun and safe place to write, learn and explore. I want to thank you all, whether you are here regularly or not. Many of you don’t even write, but generously read and share our collection. Those who do write share diverse perspectives and talents. Thank you! You can vote at the link above, but know that it’s a greater honor to be nominated with you all than it is to win. Kerry E. B. Black gave us a great story last week about Blue Ribbons. Friendships matter more than competition.

What wisdom can you share with a forever-young, always-seeking, no-more-scrubbing-floors, newly-minted 50-year-old?

May 18, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story. It can be about wisdom, expressing wisdom or advice for turning 50! It can be a wise-cracking story, too. Go where wisdom leads you.

Respond by May 23, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published May 24). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Seeking to Understand (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

“Does your creative outlet help you, Jen?” asked Danni.

“Does interviewing war widows help you?”

“Feels like I’m doing something,” Danni answered.

“Me, too. Same with the brothers. They want to feel useful. Do something good. Let me ask you, why did you stay?”

“You mean when Ike left for Iraq?”

“Yes. This was new to you. You must have felt deserted. Why did you stay?”

Danni  paused, reflecting on all her earlier turmoil. She could have left the day she took Ike to the airport.  Had she gained any wisdom?  “I stayed to take care of his dogs.”

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Congratulations to all the Bloggers Bash Winners!

Bloggers Bash

Support the Writers at Carrot Ranch

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

New from Sacha Black!

13 Steps to Evil by Sacha Black

New from Anne Goodwin!

Underneath, Anne Goodwin, @Annecdotists

New from Ruchira Khanna!

Breathing Two Worlds, Ruchira Khanna, @abracabadra01

New from Sarah Brentyn!

Hinting at Shadows, Sarah Brentyn, @SarahBrentyn

New from Geoff Le Pard!

Salisbury Square, Geoff Le Pard, @geofflepard

From Susan Zutautas

The Day Mr. Beaver Met a Moose, Susan Zutautas, @susanismyname

From Ann Edall-Robson

Moon Rising, Ann Edall-Robson, @AnnEdall-Robson

From Luccia Gray

Eyre Hall Trilogy, Luccia Gray, @LucciaGray

From C. Jai Ferry

Skeleton Dance, C. Jai Ferry, @CJaiFerry