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Saddle Up Saloon; Servin’ Live Authors

“Ernie! Yer tendin’ bar t’night?”

“Yep, Pal. Kid’s at a table front a the stage.”

“Thanks… um, Ernie, the shelves behin’ the bar are stacked with books.”

“Yep, Pal. You kin git a adult bev’rage if ya want, but I thought it’d be nice ta have books out front ‘stead a bottles. This saloon is fer readers an’ writers ain’t it?”

“Well, yeah, it is, Ernie… it is. ‘Scuse me, I gotta check in with Kid jist now.”

Friends, Ranchers, Readers, send me your steers…”

“Thet ain’t how it goes, Kid.”

“No? Dang, Pal, it seemed a fine speech. Considering the question of the colt of an individual—

“Khruschev, Kid? An’ thet’s s’posed ta be ‘cult’, not ‘colt’.”


“What’s with all the speechin’?”

“Jist thought I’d use some classic speeches ta practice my oration skills. Cain’t ‘magin’ how stressful it must be ta make speeches or ta read yer own writin’ out loud.”

“Oh. Thet’s right, it’s time fer anuther Five at the Mic. I always injoy seein’ an’ hearin’ the ranch hands readin’ their work up on the stage here. Some a these folks is gittin’ stronger an’ stronger. Shush now, let’s listen to Ellen Best.”

“Thought we was gonna save Best fer last.”

“Shush, Kid, she’s up first with a really beautiful story.”

“Oh, what a lovely love story. A lovely story a love. An’ Ellen did great up there. Ya ever perform on stage Pal?”

“Not on stage, but I sure’ve told some stories ‘roun’ a campfire. An’ think on this, Kid: what we might call litterture begun ‘roun’ a fire; oral story tellin’ is some a the oldest, richest litterture thet ever was. Reckon when Shorty puts out the call fer folks ta join her ever’ secon’ Tuesday, she’s invitin’ ‘em ta the fire. So let’s git D. Avery up on stage next. She might be the only one t’night thet’s actually at a fire; she’s got the woodstove crackling stage left.”

“That right? What’s that hangin’ cenner stage, her transpertation?”

“Shush it Kid. Let her read her story.”

“Was dat topia?”

“Dys-topia? Thinkin’ it were. Also thinkin’ thet satellite wifi ain’t all whut she thinks it is. But she’s by the fire, Kid.”

“Reckon so. An’ any writin’ folks kin jist contact Charli Mills ta meet up with other ranch hands ta listen an’ read at the fire ever’ secon’ Tuesday a ever’ month.”

“Yep. Didn’t have ta tell Australian poet Frank Prem twice; when Charli Mills made a later time so’s ta ‘commodate folks in other time zones he joined in with his wunnerful poetry. Shh, here he is now.”

“Kid, what’re ya doin’, cain’t ya snap yer fingers?”

“Mebbe, mebbe not. Point is, that was real fine. Tellin’ ya, Pal, speeches an’ poems is best heard read aloud by their author.”

“My speechin’ days are done!”

“Frankie? Hey there, Frankie. Have a seat. It’s Five at the Mic night.”

“Frankie, what speechin’ did you ever do?”

“I had call ta talk ta folks when I was head a my local union. ‘Member talkin’ ‘bout language.”

“Yeah? Which one?”

“The messy one. American English. Talked not so much ‘bout language but the words we choose from it. Ya notice folks now say mail carrier when it used ta jist be mailman? An lookit that. Mailman. ‘Man’ is half a too many compound words; don’t even git kicked back by spellcheck.”

“Whoa, Frankie. Stop. Back up. Ya tellin’ us thet yer speechin’ an’ advocatin’ turned terms aroun’?”

“Not jist me, Pal; it kin never be jist one person. But I did speak up when and where I could and should.”

“Way ta go, Frankie. Yer gonna like this next readin’ then. In speakin’ ‘bout her veterans’ group Susan Spitulnik speaks up ‘bout speakin’ up an even makin’ noise.”

“She was awesome. She’s gittin’ real good at this live readin’.”

“Trick ta public speakin’ Kid, is ta make eye contact with yer audience.”

“Uh-huh. So did you git nervous, Frankie?”

“Well anuther trick is ta have a little shot a courage afore hand. Ernie?”

“I’ll pour ya anuther, Frankie. But bravest speech I ever made was just the other night, front of a small but supportive group.”


“Yep. It was only nine words; a introduction followed by a admission.”

“How’d it end, Ernie?”

“It’s just beginning, Kid, a first step. Goin’ forward it’s gonna be work and it’s gonna be great.”

“Ohhh… Good fer you Ernie. That was a fine speech ya give, even if we weren’t there. But we’re here fer ya.”

“Thanks, Kid. What’s the hardest thing you ever had ta say?”

I was wrong. Have ta say it a lot, but it never gets easier.”

“Shush, you two. Paula Moyer is on stage now. She’s got a story ‘bout a guy who makes the right call.”

“Thet was tense. An’ then thet explanation. Thet guy was some quick on his feet.”

“Yep. That was quite a story. Whooie, Pal! What a nice mix a readin’s. Folks should know the next gatherin’ with Charli Mills is Tuesday, December 15, jist contact her if yer innerested. An’ ya kin join in but not take the stage here too.”

“Thet’s right Kid. Ya git a choice. An’ now we wanna thank ever’one who steps inta the saloon fer a visit as well as thankin’ those thet take the stage.

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

“Thet went pretty well, don’tch think, Kid? I jist hope folks step up fer the next Karaoke night in two weeks. We got a great response fer the first one, ‘member?”

“Sure do Pal. Folks sent us their lyrics ta familiar songs an’ some folks joined in in the comments. That was a lotta fun. Theme this time is seasonal.”

“Reckon anything goes. Hey, Kid, ya fergot ta turn the record button off. Shift, we’re still live… da— #########################################################

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy, Stephanie Davies

“What’re ya starin’ at Kid?”

“Jist admirin’ this fine poster Shorty had made fer all the folks that are a part a Carrot Ranch.”

Celebrating Literary Art From Around the World

“Oh, yeah, ain’t thet somethin’? Who was it done thet up?”

“It was a Australian illustrative artist name a Stephanie Davies.”

“Wunner what else she’s about?”

“Ask her, Pal. Here she is now. Howdy, Stephanie, welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon!”

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal. Thank you so much for having me here.”

“Thank you fer makin’ time fer us.”

“I love interesting opportunities so was excited when Charli Mills reached out for me to create the website’s motif. What a pleasure Charli is to work with; she made the quirky task a very pleasant and straight forward one.”

“We’re real pleased with thet piece too, an’ mighty glad ta have it hangin’ here at the Saddle Up. Have ya always been a artist, Stephanie?”

“I sketched as a child, pausing our Video player to try and recapture Disney characters. In 2016 I completed a Visual Arts diploma after receiving lots of encouragement from friends and family when I started sketching again.”

“Sure glad ya come back ta it! Good on yer folks fer encouragin’ ya. What were ya doin’ when ya weren’t at yer sketchin’?”

“My background the past 20 years has been massage therapy, mostly  in offices, where we relax stressed staff from many industries. One of the clients was Walt Disney Animations Australia, massaging the illustrators shoulders at their desks – weekly for 5 years until they closed their Sydney office; as you can imagine that was a tough place to visit. From time to time massage clients were touring celebrities, to help ground and soothe them after lengthy flights and broken sleep.”

“Well thet sounds like a good gig, thet masseusin’.”

“It is. Was. Thanks to Covid restrictions my massage business almost closed. But my art practise has come to the forefront rescuing me emotionally, and ever so slowly, financially.”

“It’s good ta hear somethin’ good outta present circumstances. ”

“Yep. Stephanie, how would ya describe yersef as an artist?”

“I’m quite an experimental artist (and cook). I dabble in a variety of media and intend to continue the adventure. Though a regular user of acrylic and watercolour paints, I find myself regularly coming back to a simple sketch with pencil on paper.”

“Reckon thet’s where ideas git their start, kinda like sketchin’ out a raw 99-word story ta grow later.”

“Sure, Pal and this year I’ve had a number of requests for digital art including Charli’s and a picture book to illustrate which is a childhood dream of mine.”

 “Well good luck with thet! Mebbe there’s some picture book writers here in the saloon need a good illustrator.”

“Good thinkin’, Pal. Stephanie, I’m wund’rin’ where ya git yer inspiration fer yer art.”

“Well Kid, my eleven and fourteen year old redheads keep me inspired. I sketch them reading and writing their own stories on a regular basis. Beyond that I find great interest in the relationship between animals and man and how we can live together cohesively on this crazy planet.” 

 “We got all kinds a animals roamin’ the ranch, an’ not jist hosses an’ cattle. We got rainbow cats an’ uni-corns an’ mice…”

“That’s great, Kid, very inspiring! This is an eclectic and quirky place! It reminds me of my illustrative idol, Freya Blackwood, with her relatable quirky lovable characters and effortless sketching style.”

“Well, it looks like yer not too far off the mark yersef there, Stephanie. What are ya workin’ on lately?”

“Currently my canvas is a 20 foot Shipping Container! The request was for ‘The Aussie Bush’ an outback scene of gum trees, cockatoos and kangaroos to help it blend into a property North of Brisbane (where it will be shipped to) in Queensland Australia.”

“Kin we see it?”

“Sure Kid.”

“Whoa! Thet is so cool!”

“Thank you.  At nights I’m also working on children’s picture book illustrations via my iPad so I get to sit on my comfy couch to do it.  I also have a butterfly passion at the moment… sketching and colouring with watercolour.”

“Thet’s real purty.”

“Dang. D’ya git any spare time? Ya seem mighty busy fer someone who’s outta business.”

“When I get any spare time, I’m working on a little picture book story idea of my own. I don’t feel writing is my strength, however I have the images and cute story asking to be brought to life.”

“We know a little ‘bout that, Stephanie. Git it writ!”

“Ha! Okay Kid, we’ll see. I can’t wait to see what’s next, I’m loving my artistic path.”

“Well we’re real glad yer path took ya ta the Saddle Up Saloon! Didn’t ‘spect ta see a masseuse mother a two in a place like this.”

“The Saddle Up is so open to art! When chance takes me I adore soulful music and a warm spirit in hand.”

 “We got thet here.”

 “This moody feel will come out in works to come, likely using coffee, red wine, and beetroot juice.”

“Whoa. Soun’s like we need ta serve yer drinks with a brush.”

“Reckon this one kin really paint the town, ey Pal?”

“She sure has brought some color ta the Saloon. Thank ya fer stoppin’ by Stephanie Davies. Let us know when yer website is up an’ runnin’. In the mean time folks should know ta find ya at .”

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

Saddle Up Saloon; Recipe Rustlin’ Character Klatsch

“Kid, I feel like we come back strong after thet vacation. We’ve had author Sean Prentiss here at the Saddle Up, then a bunch a fine readings fer 5 At the Mic an’ jist this past week, T. Marie Bertineau, Keweenaw author of The Mason House. What’s the plan fer this week?”

“Pal, folks’ll be busy but’ll have food an’ family on their minds this week so we’re jist gonna see if folks got recipes ta share, mebbe a story ta go with it.”

“Thet’s a good idea. Hey! Weren’t the ranch hands goin’ on ‘bout avocado toast over at the ranch? I’ll ride on over there an’ git thet avocado toast link.”

“It’s slow here, Pal, I’ll ride with ya. Mebbe come up with somethin’ ta contribute.”


Meanwhile, back at the Saloon… it’s Ramona Gordon, from the WIP of Charli Mills:

“Kid? Pal? Anyone here? I’m here with dinner for you! Hallooo? Well, I’m going to leave it on the counter with the recipe.”

Ramona Gordon’s Family Spaghetti


2 pounds ground beef

10 mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 large red onion, diced

5 cloves of garlic, minced

3 carrots grated


1 quart canned tomatoes from the garden (or 28 oz can from the store)

1 8-oz can tomato paste

1 tsp. dried basil

5-10 sloshes of tabasco sauce

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1 tsp. dried, crumbled rosemary

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Simmer on low for three hours

Make 16 oz Spaghetti Noodles according to the box

Double everything for company and serve with a green salad and garlic bread.

“There’s the recipe. No one here, so I’m going to wet my whistle with a wee smidge of apple cider while I wait.”


Meanwhile, still riding back to the Ranch…

“Dang you, Kid, ya wanted ta ride along, but now ya ain’t bein’ present. Shouldn’t ya put thet book down an’ watch where yer goin’?”

“Hoss knows the way. I’m readin’ Bowled But Not Out, by Ruchira Khanna. It’s ‘a delightful story of a conventional Delhi girl who finds herself in the eye of a storm’.”

“Sounds good. Read some ta me, Kid.”

“Okay. Saru entered her unadorned apartment after a grueling day at the University. The thick textbooks needed attention since assignments were due. Frost swirls coated the windows and created a rime on ledges. 

Cold winds were knocking on her window as if wanting to come in. Fatigue and sleep were overpowering her brain as she eyed her mattress and the comforter, but her will power wanted to work on her homework. 

“I wish I’d learned how Momsy used to make that strong cup of tea every morning for me,” she muttered. She looked at her watch, calculated the time back in India, and made a call using her calling card.

“Mom, I have only two minutes on my card.”  Saru came to the point. “Please tell me what all you used to add to my cup of tea every morning?”

“Pour one and a half cup of water in a pan. 

Crush 8 inches of ginger, two cloves, two cardamoms. 

Let the water boil. 

Allow it to turn pale brown. 

Add half a cup of milk.

Add two teaspoons of loose black tea or two tea bags.

Add one teaspoon of sugar.

Boil until the liquid develops a dark brown color.

Sieve and pour into your cup. That’s Saru’s ginger tea!”

“Kid! There’s a recipe! We kin serve thet ginger tea with the avocado toast!”

“Yeah. A good start on recipe rustlin’.”

“Hey Kid, let’s pull over ta this place here, rest the hosses. Mebbe have a snack. Funny I ain’t never noticed this place afore.”

“That’s ‘cause it’s fictional, with fictional characters, but I recognize ‘em from the Ranch. That’s Lexi an’ Tessa, they’s writ by Sue Spitulnik. You know, Michael an’ his band played at the Saddle Up Saloon one time.”

“Oh yeah. Well speakin’ a rustlin’ recipes, look whut Lexi’s up to.”

“What is she up to? She’s rustlin’ through a recipe box, but is she rifflin’ or riflin’?”

“Let’s keep it fam’ly frien’ly, Kid, no riflin’. Jist rifflin’”

“Gotcha. Okay, let’s lissen in on these characters.”


Lexi riffled through her mother’s recipe box. “Hey, Date Nut Bread. Wasn’t this your Grandma’s recipe? Why did you stop making it? I remember the loaf never lasted long.”

Tessa smiled at the memory. “The loaf disappeared because I ate most of it. I sliced it warm so the butter melted. I ate it cold with tons of butter. I hid the last slices for me. It’s one of those treats I can’t leave alone.”

“Well I think we should make some for the holidays. Will you give me a lesson?”

“We’ll have to get dates.”

“I’ll go now.”

Date Nut Bread

1 cup chopped dates or one box

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup hot tap water

1/2 cup sugar

2 tbs. butter-room temperature

1 egg

2 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup chopped nuts

Coarsely chop dates and put in small bowl. Sprinkle the baking soda over them, and then cover with hot water. Make sure all the dates are immersed. Let cool while mixing the rest of ingredients. In a medium sized bowl cream sugar and butter, add the egg and cream again.

Add the dry ingredients. Mixture will be thick.

​Add water from dates to the mixture and mix till smooth then dump in the rest of dates and liquid and nuts. Stir until just mixed.

Pour into greased bread pan. Bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 50 to 60 minutes until inserted toothpick comes out clean. 


“Yeehaw! We rustled anuther recipe! Soun’s like a good one too. ‘Cept I seem ta have trouble findin’ dates.”

“Mebbe somethin’ ta do with all yer kids.”

“Ya mean my goats?”


Meanwhile, back at the Saloon… Ramona’s grandson Ike Gordon and his wife Danni, from the WIP of Charli Mills, have just showed up:

“Mo wants us to bring her garlic toast recipe by the Saddle Up?”

“Yep. Here it is:

Garlic Toast

Dig garlic from Grandma’s patch when she’s not looking or she’ll come after you with a hoe.

Get your wife to peel it and chop it up into tiny pieces.

Add it to a stick of butter and nuke it.

Use a brush (not your wife’s archeology brushes) and get butter and garlic on two halves of French bread.

Have Grandma stick it in the oven.

Steal a piece when Grandma is slicing it (tastes best stolen).

“Ike, I’m not sure this is a legitimate recipe.”

“Sure it is. That’s how I make garlic toast.”

“With your court case pending, you’d best strike that last line.”

“Hey, is that Grandma’s spaghetti pot on the saloon counter?”


Meanwhile, having collected the avocado toast recipes from the Ranch and riding back to the Saloon…

“Feel like we been gone a while, Kid. Hope ever’thin’s okay at the Saloon.”

“What could go wrong Pal? Hey. Listen.”

“Bethenia Ann Harris! You let the biscuits burn to a crisp again! I doubt the hogs will even eat them.”

“Why, Kid, now we’ve come across some characters from Donna Armistead’s WIP, her first YA novel, inspired by family stories about her great-grandparents, who farmed 100 acres in Georgia on the eve of the Civil War.”

“Yer right. Hey there, Bethenia. I’m Kid, this here’s Pal.”

“Oh, hello. Don’t mind my Aunt Eliza’s hollering. It’s just that Aunty despaired that I would ever amount to any kind of a cook in spite of all her efforts to teach me. Her specialty was her apple stack cake, which folks clamored for whenever we had a dinner on the grounds. Here is her recipe as far as I can recall:

Aunt Eliza’s Apple Stack Cake

You need about 8 to 12 cups of dried apples. Fresh won’t work, nor will applesauce…make the cake too soggy. Simmer them in a saucepan with about 3 cups of water, 2 pounds of sugar and a couple teaspoons each of cinnamon, nutmeg and molasses. Mash into a thick paste and set aside to cool.

Now for the layers. It’s a deal of work! Sift together four and a half cups flour, a teaspoon each of salt and baking powder, half a teaspoon of soda and a big pinch of cinnamon. Then cream together 6 ounces butter, a cup and a quarter of sugar, three quarters of a cup molasses (sorghum works too) and 2 eggs which you beat in one at a time. Add in the dry mix, alternating with half a cup of buttermilk a little at a time, till you get a stiff batter. Roll into a ball, wrap and cool for a spell in the spring house.

When it’s cold, divide and roll out in 6 or 8 equal circles. You can use a cake pan to trim the circles. Aunt Eliza said it works better to bake them not in pans, but on a sheet in a slow oven for about ten minutes. This takes a while, depending on how many you can fit in the oven at a time.

When the layers are cool, spread a cup or so of the apple filling on one, and build your layers. Now, this is important: Wrap the cake in dish towels and leave it set in a cool place for at least a day. This way, the flavors will blend real good. You can dust the top with fine sugar, if you’ve got any, right before serving.

Make sure everybody gets a slice before Uncle Frank and old Mr. James Timothy Hardy come back for seconds. Because they will, if I know them.

“That soun’s real fine, Bethenia, thank ya so much fer the recipe. Reckon ya better git back ta yer Aunt an’ to yer story now.”

“An’ we best git back ta the Saloon, Kid. Bye Bethenia.”


Sometime later, almost back at the Saloon…

“Feel like we been gone a while, Kid. Hope ever’thin’s okay at the Saloon.”

“Almost there, Pal. Oh, somebody showed up. Idaho plates…”


Meanwhile, back inside the Saloon… Ramona’s grandson Ike Gordon and his wife Danni, from the WIP of Charli Mills are still here; but where’d Ramona go? Oh yeah, she was going to just wet her whistle with a wee smidge of apple cider while she waited for Kid and Pal to show up:

“That is your Grandma’s spaghetti pot on the bar. I thought it smelled like her spaghetti in here. But she only said that we needed to drop off recipes for Kid and Pal. Where are they, anyways?”

“Who knows? Kid’s an odd one. He writes poetry and keeps goats.”


“Pal, did you hear that guy?”

“Yep, Kid I did.”


“I don’t like goats, Ike.”

“You and our writer.”

“Pal! We gotta git in there!”

“Hey, Danni, want a cider? I’ll leave tenner on the counter for the bar keeps who ain’t keeping.”

“Pal, that’s Danni Gordon! She seemed nicer when she was here before.”

“Oh, yeah, thet archeologist. I ‘member her from yet anuther visit.”

“A Sierra Pale Ale would be great, Ike. Pal keeps them in the small fridge.”

“Mo! Hey, Danni, Mo’s on the floor behind the bar!”

“Hey! Hi! Ho! Whoa! Mo? Yo, Ike! Oh, no! Kid, the old broad’s hit the boards.”

“What Pal? Oh, no! Did she fall?”

“Grandma, are you hurt? It’s me Ike.”

“Where’s the…hic…Twins?”

“Ike, is Grandma—“

“Than a skunk! She smells like a still.”


“What’s that jug?”


“Not cider, Mo. This is hooch!”

“This is a recipe for disaster!”

“We better get her home, Ike. Sober her up with coffee.”

“Cowboy Coffee?”

“Of course.”

“What’s thet recipe, Ike? I’ll git it goin’.”

Cowboy Coffee

“Fill percolator with water, preferably clean. Toss a heap of ground coffee and eggshells to settle the grounds. Put over a fire and bring to a boil. It’s not cooked until you can stand a spoon in it. Will sober up any whiskey-laden cowboy who needs to get on a horse.”

“But will it sober up Ike’s Granma?”

“Jist don’t let her drive.”

“Hic… I can drive the cattle!…hic… Down in the valley…”

“Danni, Ike, what’re the three a ya even doin’ here?”

“Mo— Ramona— Ike’s Granma– said to drop some recipes off for you.”

“Thet’s yer story?”

“Yes. That’s our story. Now, I’d be thankful if I could have that Sierra Pale Ale, Pal.”

“Sure thing, Danni. Folks, if ya got a recipe an’ a story ta go along with it, they’s plenny a room in the comment boxes. What’re yer characters cookin’ up?”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon; House At the Corner

“Pal, what’s up with that title? Who’d ya rope in this week? Winnie the Pooh?”

“Nope, got ourselves anuther writer, someone from the Keweenaw, up aroun’ World Headquarters.”

“Ya still ain’t ‘splained the title.”

“The house is The Mason House. Thet was T. Marie Bertineau’s gramma’s house, a place a happy times fer her when she was a girl. It’s also the title a Ms. Bertineau’s debut book, one thet Charli Mills suggests serves as a healing bridge between cultures. Says thet the town a Mason and Bertineau hersef could be considered as being at the ‘innersection a cultures’. Innersection— corner; get it?”

“Charli Mills?”

“Yep, Kid, we ain’t the first ta git ta innerview Ms. Bertineau. If ya wanna see her book launch, hosted by Lanternfish Press an’ moderated by Charli Mills, click HERE. In thet innerview Ms. Bertineau allows as how she come ta realize her book is a bridge to cultural identity, a connecting ta heritage. Thinkin’ as we git ta meet this writer we’re gonna see all kinds a connections.”

“Yep, I read it too Pal. Her gramma give her a sense a belongin’, a safe place. Like we have at Carrot Ranch. Oh, Pal, here she is! Howdy T. Marie Bertineau! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Yep, welcome Ms. Bertineau, thank you fer makin’ time fer us. I’m Pal, this here’s Kid.”

“Well, aaniin and hello there! I’m pleased to meet you and appreciate the invitation! I’ve heard so much about the Saloon, so it’s nice to finally see it in person! And please, call me Theresa.”

“I got all kindsa questions fer ya, Ms. Ber— Theresa.”

“They ‘bout her book, Kid?”

“Heck no! Pal, she’s from up there where World Headquarters is. Let’s find out if Charli Mills is fer real.”

“Course she’s real, Kid.”

“Yeah, but, she tells tales. Ms. Theresa, kin it be true, what Charli Mills says ‘bout snowfall up there?” 

“Oh, yes indeed. Ms. Mills ain’t pullin’ your leg about that. There’s lots of snow shoveling and snow blowing that goes on in the Keweenaw for months on end. As a matter of fact, by time winter is about halfway through, we can barely see our small house from the road. It gets buried behind huge snowbanks. We don’t even need a ladder to clean the snow off our roof by that time. We just climb the giant snowbanks and use a long-handled tool they call a “roof rake” to pull the snow off the rooftop.”

“Reckon, havin’ seen yer innerview with Ms. Mills, that pasties is real. But are they really that wunnerful?” 

“Mm hmm! Pasties are definitely a delicious, regional favorite, and everyone puts their own spin on the recipe, too. In my (humble) opinion, my gram used to make the best pasties in the Copper Country, which—in case you aren’t familiar with it—is another name for the Keweenaw. I can’t make them like she did, but my sister sure can. And seeing as pasties came over with the Cornish miners back in the 1800s, there might be others out there in the Cornwall area who are familiar with them as well.”

“Gramma’s are fer cookin’ connections fer sure. What were the special foods yer gram made fer ya?”

“Well, pasties are for sure one of the main ones. But there’s another one too that comes to mind every time I think of her. And that’s fisheye pudding. Sounds pretty gross I know, but if gramma said she was making fisheye pudding, you can bet my mouth would start to watering. It took me until I was a bit older to figure out that Gram’s fisheye pudding was really what you call tapioca.”

“Ha! Yer gram sounds like my kinda fun. But seriously, I want us ta have an honest innerview, git ta know ya an’ talk about yer book. But I still got some suspicions, mostly ‘bout Charli Mills. Like, did she put ya up ta sayin’ the unicorn song’s yer fav’rite from yer gram’s collection?

“Oh, my goodness, not at all lol! That was truly my favorite song. And one of Gram’s too. As a matter of fact, there was another song on the flip side of that record called Black Velvet Band that we liked, too. Both very folkish songs for sure. Fun to sing along with a heavy Irish brogue. But you’re right, Kid. It was quite a coincidence that Charli was coming to us live from the Unicorn Room the night of the launch party!”

“Thet’s cool thet yer family loved music so an’ sang t’gether. D’ya still have yer gram’s guitar that she played?”

“I do still have Gram’s guitar. My husband even refurbished it a bit for me a few years ago, so it looks all spiffy and new again. It had taken a beating through the years I’m afraid, and its belly swelled. I didn’t keep it properly humidified. It doesn’t play as well anymore, but it still looks nice, and I’m glad I still have it.”

“You told Charli Mills thet ‘Gramma had the stories; she was the tree, I the shoot’… How long were ya carryin’ the seed a this book? When did ya know you was gonna write it?”

“Well, I think I’ve wanted to write a book about her since I was a girl actually–as a tribute to her. I guess I’m a writer at heart, and that’s how I do things. I just didn’t know how I would go about writing it. I’ve always considered myself a fiction writer, so I expected she would become a fictional character. But really, I wasn’t sure. I had been thinking more seriously about it this past decade—sort of processing ideas in my mind. And when I came to a place in life that I could actually devote myself to the writing, I sat down and did it—except it didn’t come out as fiction at all. It came out as memoir, and I think I personally needed that at that point in my life.”

“They talk about pantsin’ an’ plottin’ a lot aroun’ here; which side a thet fence do you fall?” 

“Pantsing is a term I identify with for sure. I have plotted, but I didn’t for this book. I simply started out with the idea that was strongest in my heart when I first sat down to write, and that was the day of the funeral. I knew this was going to be an opportunity to process my grief after all these years, and that’s where I knew I needed to start. Once that was out, I started from scratch recounting all the memories I could and sort of categorizing them as to their overall theme or message. I didn’t write in any order. I did all the sequencing and tying things together later. It actually came fairly easy to me, as each memory begot another. Everything fell into place eventually.”

“Well it reads real smooth, has a good gait right outta the gate.”

“Thank you, Kid.”

“All thet processin’, an’ ‘memberin’; hope ya didn’t git bushwacked. Did ya git any surprises in the writin’?”

“You know, it must be the memoir genre that brings this question up, because I’ve actually been asked that a few times. What surprised me . . . And from one day to the next I may have a different answer because really, there were many things that surprised me, and they probably all weigh differently on different days. So, today I’ll just tell you one of the most fun things that surprised me, and that deals with my Aunty Patsy, Gram’s youngest child. You see, Gram was a dramatic storyteller, and one of the stories she told involved a little girl with blonde ringlets and a beautiful red dress who got herself into a precarious situation. When my Aunty read the manuscript, she recognized that story was actually about her! Now, in order to get the lesson across, Gram did embellish the ending considerably mind you, but the basic story was about my Aunt. It took me forty-plus years to discover that!”

“Seems like though yer book starts out bein’ ‘bout yer Cornish Gramma, it ends up bein’ ‘bout you an’ yer fam’ly comin’ home ta yer other heritages.”

“That’s so true. Originally, I wanted to write a short tribute to my Gram, but in the telling of that story, I discovered it didn’t make sense—why my Gramma was so important, why I depended on her so. And that’s how the rest of the story came to be. That’s how my Native heritage came more strongly into play in the narrative, and how the other painful aspects of my family’s past rose to the surface. In the end, it was our Native heritage which promoted our healing, so it did indeed play an important role in the overall story.”

“What’d ya learn and mebbe wish you’d known all along?”

“That’s an easy one . . . I wish I had known better my Indigenous grandparents. I wish I could have learned from them. I didn’t know how close we were—through them—to the traditional ways. We grew up feeling so far apart from our heritage, when really, it was well within our grasp. I wish we could’ve learned the language from my Grandpa and Grandma Woods, original speakers of Anishinaabemowin. They had all this knowledge which they were afraid to share, or perhaps ashamed to share, like medicines and food sovereignty, and knowledge of our ancestors which we may never know. Or even just their story. We know so little. These are all things that have become so important now to Indigenous communities—that relearning of those ways. But back then, when we were growing up, we were indoctrinated into the belief that it wasn’t important, that it was history, or even that it was wrong. So, I guess to sum it up, learning that I was only one generation away from the traditional ways of the Anishinaabeg was definitely something I wish I had known. And to be honest, it leaves me sad. My siblings and I missed out on all those precious teachings.”

“Thet is sad, Theresa. Seems ta me, we should all be thankful fer our grammas an’ folks thet teach us right ways a livin’, lis’en up while we can… In yer book yer story starts out at the Mason house an’ the foundation yer Gram gave ya, and ends with ya findin’ new foundations. I’m glad yer family an’ community has the KBIC.”

“I’m glad, too, Kid. We’re all healing together, and I’m so proud of that. And though I’m building new ways of thinking and relating to the world around me, I’ll always have the foundation of love Gram provided. That will never change.”

“What’s yer next book about, Theresa?”

“It’s called “Kitchen Remodel and Cooking Again,” and it requires no writing—just a lot of work ; ) Seriously, I have an idea for a book for which I have a few bones constructed, but I must admit the work to bring the memoir to market took a lot out of me. I’m a very hands-on person and working with a small press feels very much like a partnership; I had a lot of networking, and market research, and background work to do on top of the writing and editing. Plus, I was learning so much about my culture, which takes a great deal of time. I’m taking a little time to just get my feet back under me, and then we’ll see what this idea becomes. Right now, in its infancy, it’s a work of fiction involving a diverse perspective on grief. I guess that’s a lot like THE MASON HOUSE, actually . . . ”

“Well, The Mason House is a great read an’ would make a great gift fer just about anyone. And what a gift you’ve created for yer own children, nieces, and nephews, by telling your family’s story!”

“Chi miigwech! Thank you very much : )”

“Thank you very much Theresa, we ‘preciate yer time an’ wish ya well. Thank you fer takin’ the stage at the Saddle Up Saloon!”

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The Mason House is available at Snowbound Books in Marquette, Michigan, or most anywhere books are sold (please support your local independent bookstore who will be happy to order it for you if it’s not on their shelves!) It’s also available electronically through Nook, Kindle, and Apple Books. There’s not yet an audio version available.

Instagram: Facebook: @tmbertineau Website: Twitter:

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Born amidst the copper mining ruins of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, T. Marie Bertineau is of Anishinaabe-Ojibwe and French Canadian/Cornish descent. She is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community on the L’Anse Reservation, migizi odoodeman. Her work has appeared online with Minnesota’s Carver County Arts Consortium; in Mino Miikana, a publication of the Native Justice Coalition and Waub Ajijaak Press; in the annual journal U.P. Reader; and will be anthologized with the Chanhassen Writers Group of Minnesota. Married and the mother of two, she makes her home in the Great Lakes Region.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon; Linin’ Up At the Mic

“Hey Kid. Wow, what time is it?”

“Dunno, been losin’ track a time, Pal, though I think there’s a couple more days ta respond ta that particular prompt.”

“Like, I hardly know what day it is, but reckon it’s time fer another show here at the Saddle Up Saloon. Sean Prentiss’ll be a tough act ta follow though.”

“There was some good craft talk here last week, fer sure. Oh, yeah, this week folks show their craft by reading fer us. It’s Five At the Mic time, the Monday afore the third Tuesday when Charli Mills hosts another one.”

“Don’t know where she finds the time. Though she sometimes loses track a time too. October was a TUFF month.”

“Yep, so we got a double feature today, with Ranchers that read in September an’ four that read in October.”

“Let’s git started then. Here’s five folks thet stepped up to the mic in September. First up is Susan Budig. Speakin’ a craft! Susan uses this opportunity ta share two points a view on the same scene. Have a listen.”

“What a great exercise, gits ya ta thinkin’ twice on yer story.”

“Yep, TUFF-like thet was. Let’s stay in the same neighborhood an’ hear now from Paula Moyer. Paula’s a memoirist but dang not all mem’ries is easy ones.”

“Pal, I’m feelin’ like folks is usin’ writin’ in powerful ways here.”

“Yep, Kid, an’ next up Ellen Best presents us with two pieces a fiction filled with realistic tension an’ emotion.

“Whoa, Pal. I was a might skeered through the first story. What a hard workin’ kid in the second story. Makes ya think.”

 “Sure does, Kid. An’ now Susan Spitulnik is gonna read us some memoir ‘bout disappearances, a rabbit, an’ a woman with tricks up her sleeves.”


“Magical writin’ ‘bout real life, Kid.”

“Oh, Pal. Reckon some things jist cain’t be disappeared. But September is long gone. Our last reader from that 5 at the Mic event is MJ Mallon. She’s usually writes YA fiction but seems ta been inspired by things that annoy her ta write poetry.”

“Thet’s the reason fer her rhyme, gittin’ disgruntled with folks?”

“Jist listen Pal.”

“Oh my, don’t cross thet one! She’ll put ya in a poem. Seriously, Kid, ever’one a these writers did some brave work with their writin’ an’ braver still ta share it live with us. I’m proud ta have ‘em all up on the Saloon stage.”

“Well we got four more readin’s Pal, these next ones was read in October in amongst all the other goin’s ons. Let’s have MJ  go first fer this group. You’ll see she’s agin influenced by current events but presents a serious piece a short fiction this time.”

“Mebbe fittin’ ta follow thet up with a readin’ by Anne Goodwin . Tell ya, she ain’t got no shortage a short stories.”

“Yep, but here we git an excerpt from a WIP, an’ git ta meet anuther character.”

“A whip?”

“A work in progress. Jeez, Pal. Anne Goodwin’s got plenny a them goin’ on too, lotsa novel ideas. Shush, here she goes.”

“There’s more ta thet story, guaranteed.”

“Yep. Okay, this next reader is gonna share nine 99-word scenes featurin’ some recurrin’ characters a hers, an’ I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout the two a us.”

“Yep, folks, that was our so-called writer. Thinkin’ she should git subtitles next time.”

“Shush Kid, leave it be. Who’s battin’ cleanup?”

Bill Engleson is gonna hit a homerun with his word play in this last piece, Pal. Listen carefully.”

“That was quite a blast from the past. Clever fellow that Bill.”


“Ain’t we got anuther Canadian ta feature?”



“Oh! Pal, Ann Edall Robson has got so much goin’ on I’m hopin’ ta git her back here special, give ‘er the entire stage.”

“Well thet’d be a hoot an’ a half! But let’s be sure an’ thank all the folks thet read their work here at the Saloon this round. Be sure an’ visit them an’ say howdy. An’ see Charli Mills ‘bout steppin’ up ta the mic yersef.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Neighbor!

“Welcome back, Pal. I’d love ta hear ‘bout yer vacation but we gotta saddle up fer the Saddle Up Saloon agin. Though it seems like ya don’t really want me aroun’ fer this guest. Porque?”

“Porky? Yer one ta talk, Kid. But yeah, I got us a special guest, jist happens ta be a neighbor ta our writer. Knowin’ how D. Avery makes ya bristle like a porky-pine, I got some concerns ‘bout ya bein’ prickly. Jist let me take the lead with this innerview.”

“Hmmph. I kin be perfessional, Pal. Who’s comin’ by?”

“Here he is now. Howdy! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon, Sean Prentiss!”

 “Hello, Pal. Kid. Thank you for having me.”

“Thanks fer comin’ by. Jist ta be clear, we are fictional characters, spun off a the Carrot Ranch weekly flash fiction challenges. But yer real. Do ya write fiction?”

“Pal, like a good ranch hand, I try to be versatile. While I can’t saddle a horse, I do try to write creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction. The first two, those are where I really feel most comfortable. Maybe how you feel on a horse (or are you bigger into mutton busting?). As for fiction, it might be like riding a bull, for you. I hop on, hold on, and normally get tossed off. Sometimes, by the time I land in the dirt, I have a fictional story to publish.”

“D. Avery suggested thet yer book Finding Abbeyis perhaps about ‘more than the mystery of Edward Abbey’s burial site’; said thet it’s ‘an engaging examination of an unfolding life, with twists and turns that eventually circle back to a beginning, that lead a man home’.”

“Hmmph. Betcha wouldn’ta ended up where ya did had ya known D. Avery was also circlin’ back home.”

“Kid, D. Avery is a good reader. She’s right, Finding Abby is about the search for Edward Abby’s hidden desert grave, but it’s really about understanding what home is and how we can find it. That search for home led my wife and me to this beautiful spot we live. It’s called Turtle Cove. Your writer knows it well. We actually see her kayaking in the cove often. And, Kid, actually we just had D. Avery over this morning to show her what we think is a new beaver lodge. She’s one of the very best in our neighborhood.”

“Hmmph. Best what? That’s what I wanna know.”

 “Shush Kid. Sean, seems like ya been a lotta places. How important is place ta writin’ in any genre?”

“Pal, I’ve been lucky enough to live and work in 16 states and two countries, so I’ve seen a bunch of this big world of ours. What I’m learning is that knowing a lot of places, to me, is not as important as knowing one or two places really well. This is for writing and for life. So, for me, I want to know this spot right here. That means knowing my human and non-human neighbors, knowing the landscape, knowing that geology, knowing the history… I’m still studying, but it’s a lot of fun. Especially because studying normally means getting out on skis or a canoe and exploring. Often with D. Avery.”

“Now yer jist tryin’ ta git my goat.”


“Shorty— think ya mighta met her— she prompts writers ta a flash fiction challenge ever week, but ever’one knows they kin write other then jist made up stories. We git poems, what they call at the Ranch BOTs, fiction based on true story, fairy tales, myths, an’ even historical essays. Long’s it’s ‘zactly 99 words folks go where the prompt leads. But yer kinda a expert in creative non-fiction— the ‘Fourth Genre’.  Kin ya tell us more ‘bout thet?”

“First off, I’m a big fan of writing prompts. And Shorty has some great ones. I like the short form so much, that I had some friends write a textbook on it. It’s called Short-Form Creative Writing. You can check it out here. You might dig it. But, the fourth genre, aka creative nonfiction, is my literary home. It is simply telling true and beautiful stories. Rather than inventing, we probe our memories or do research into others’ lives. So you could write about all the fun, crazy things that occur here at the Saddle Up Saloon. I bet you don’t have to make up too much here. There’s probably plenty of stories to go around.”

“Well, some strange shift ‘as happened. Reckon with writin’ they’s all kinds a overlap no matter the genre. Like yer ‘Science of Scene’ stuff would be a innerest ta any writer.”

“Probably. I recently gave a webinar on the topic, which you can view HERE. But the craft of creative writing, in any genre, might be like all the beers you have behind that bar of yours. Each one’s got its own flavor, but they’re all pretty much made the same way. For all creative writing, how I normally start is with the central question, which is the idea that I’m exploring. This works in a poem or story or an essay. Then we play around with character and dialogue and setting and scene. We use all of those to try and understand the human condition. That’s what storytelling is about. And maybe that’s what this saloon is all about, what being a barkeep is all about. It doesn’t matter what genre. Just like it doesn’t matter which one of those beers I grab. They’ll all have their own taste, but, in the end they are all beautiful beer.”

“Huh. Yer purty smart, ain’tcha? Like a perfessor.”

“He is a perfessor Kid.”

“Really? Like one a them addjunk perfessors?”

“Kid! Sean’s real deal. Teaches creative writing at a military college.”

“Cool. Shorty’s been gittin’ vets ta writin’. Sean gits ‘em writin’ a’forehand, when they’re in trainin’. Innerestin’.”

“Yep. Sean, is thet a requiremint fer the cadets? D’ya reckon thet writin’ is an important part a their preparation?”

“I love that Shorty is teaching vets to share their stories. Sharing our stories and exploring our stories can be so helpful for our veterans or for anyone who has experienced trauma. And that’s all of us. That’s life. As for teaching future soldiers, I remember one of my very first students at Norwich University, a nuclear engineer named Michael. He was in my first creative writing class. At his graduation, my wife asked him if he was going to keep writing. His response was, Of course. I’m going to be living on a submarine. How else will I make it? I’m excited about creative writing at Norwich. Almost every time we offer a creative writing class, it immediately fills up. The students seem to love those classes. But it’s not just the students who see a value. Our administration has been seeing more and more value to creative writing. This summer we worked hard to greatly increase our creative writing offerings on campus. And while they didn’t all work out, Norwich is definitely growing its creative writing. On campus, we have a writing minor, a literary journal for our students, a writing series, and a slew of other cool things.”

“Thet is pretty cool. Ya ever hear from thet young fella?”

“I haven’t heard from my submariner in the past year or so. But he normally pops up every year or so to tell me where he is or what he and his wife are up to. But I do hear from a slew of former creative writing students. They are starting photography companies, working in admissions at our college, working for a literary arts organization, creative writing editing, and technical writing.  Some are still publishing. And some are headed to grad school.”

“Heard tell writers are generally readers. What d’ya read, Sean?”

“Kid, I’m a big fan of reading regional work. so, when possible, I like to read a lot of Vermont-based work. One of my favorites from Vermont is David Budbill. He’s spectacular. Before moving here, I was becoming an expert on the Desert Southwest. Ed Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Doug Peacock, David Petersen, Everett Ruess, and the rest. But now, I’m reading a lot less than I used to. Much like you two, Kid and Pal, I’m wrangling. My wrangling is with my three-year-old. She’s as wild as a bucking bronco.”

“Good! Don’t never tame her too much. Ya been out west. Ever passed through Carrot Ranch?”

“I spent about 18 years out west. And I visited many, many saloons. I was younger then, less tied down. And I’m pretty sure I made it to the Carrot Ranch.  And the Saddle Up Saloon sure rings a bell. I think I was here back in 1997. I might have even been asked to leave. You two might remember better…”

“Cain’t say fer sure, not knowin’. Mebbe that’s where ya met Shorty, when you were out west. She’s a High Sierra buckaroo from way back.”

“Shorty… I did meet Charli Mills right here last summer when she and some other ranchers were at D. Avery’s place for the Vermont Writing Refuge. I sure hope to see her here again leading her workshops.”

“Yeah. We hope so too. Me an’ Kid, we’ve done okay, bein’ made up an’ all, but you real folks is gittin’ kinda itchy with all this remote virtual carryin’ on. Jist stay the course y’all.”


“Yep. Hey, thanks, Sean Prentiss. I know yer busy teachin’ an’ writin’ an’ wranglin’ thet kid a yers, so we ‘preciate ya comin’ by the saloon an’ talkin’ writin’ with all our ranchers.”

“My pleasure! Thanks for the beer.”

sean-picSean Prentiss is the award-winning author of Finding Abbey: the Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, which won the National Outdoor Book Award, Utah Book Award, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. He is also the author of Crosscut: Poems. He is the series editor for the Bloomsbury Writers Guide and Anthologies Series. Two books, Environmental and Nature Writing and Advanced Creative Nonfiction are written by Prentiss. Prentiss is co-editor of The Far Edges of the Fourth Genre: Explorations in Creative Nonfiction and co-editor of The Science of Story: The Brain Behind Creative Nonfiction. He and his family live on a small lake in northern Vermont. His next door neighbor is D. Avery, who feeds Sean’s daughter sour pickles and Sean beers. Sean serves as an associate professor at Norwich University and is a faculty member in the M.F.A. Writing and Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. 


If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon; TUFF Topics With Charli Mills

Saddle Up Saloon“Kid, seems like yer fine’ly gittin’ yer acts t’gether, even if ya are repeatin’ some a ‘em.”

“Pal, did you know this is the twenty-eighth?”

“Yeah, Kid, I know today’s the twenty-eighth of September. Monday. A new show at the Saddle Up!”

“No, this is our twenty-eighth show since we started the saloon. Kin ya believe it? We’ve had some real fine guests an’ visitors in that time, fer sure.”

“So, Kid, what’s the plan fer this week then? Is there a special guest?”

“Very special.”


“Well, I’m confused, Pal. I have a guest lined up but I ain’t sure if’n it’s Shorty or if’n it’s Charli Mills. How kin I tell the diff’rence?”

“Near’s I kin tell, they’s one an’ the same, both real deal, ‘cept one’s fictional.”

“Oh. Like us.”

“No, not like us. We’re totally made up, but Shorty’s a BORP.”

“Mind yer manners, Pal, say ‘scuse me.”

“Not burp; BORP— based on a real person. Shorty’s the Boss a the ranch thet we hang out at, Charli Mills is the Boss a the Carrot Ranch thet real folks hang out at, virtually. Shorty gits writ in when we need her hep ta keep our story goin’.”

“Hmmph. Seems once agin like our writer don’t quite know what she’s doin’, then has ta drag uthers inta her messes. Whyn’t she jist write Charli Mills in, ‘stead a writin’ in Shorty?”

“Charli Mills is too dang busy, Kid! Havin’ Shorty ta take care a fictional aspects a the ranch frees her up. An’ it allows us an’ our writer ta make things up, which is fine ta do as long as there’s some truth ta it. Does thet clear up yer confusion?”

“Think ya jist added ta it but I’m thinkin’ fer this innerview we better jist have Charli Mills.”

“Looky there Kid, she jist walked in the door.”

“Looks like Shorty.”

“Shush, Kid, thet’s Charli Mills, all right, all the way from World Headquarters! Git her a cider! Howdy, Boss, um, Ms. Mills. Welcome to our, uh, your saloon.”

“Hey there Pal! Kid, is that a hot cider? As in habanero pepper hot, not heated over a campfire hot?”

“Yep, hard cider with a bit a heat.”

“Barnburner. Ahhh, nice.”

“Wow. Charli Mills herself, here at the Saddle Up!”

“Yep. In town for Cowboy Christmas. It’s Rodeo season.”

“Thet’s right, yer a bona fide buckaroo. Reckon this won’t be yer first rodeo.”

“My first Rodeo was 1971. Won a ribbon for sitting tall in the saddle. By 1974 I was tackling goats. Then my parents moved from buckaroo country to logging in the mountains. I worked for real ranches, pushing cattle, mostly. Kinda like Heidi of the mountains but with a horse.”

“Uh, Charli? Thet’s a fine bit a true story an’ all, but… kin ya tell us ‘bout the Rodeo at Carrot Ranch?”

“Oh, the first Flash Fiction Rodeo. Well, that would be 2017. Yep. We all got to say, ‘This was my first rodeo.’”

“What made ya wanna have a Rodeo competition at Carrot Ranch?”

“It’s a ranch, right, Kid? Well, pokes on a ranch practice their skills regularly. A rodeo is a chance to challenge those skills, show off a bit, get bucked off some. But rise from the dirt and be happy you rode with a bunch of others. Some will take the purse home.”

“A purse? Like Gucci? Think Nanjo Castille is sellin’ some Gotchie that’s cheaper.”

“No, not a Gucci, and be careful of Nanjo and his Gotchies. A purse, like prize money. First place in each Flash Fiction Rodeo contest takes home $25. Cash, Amazon gift card, or a donation to a worthy cause.”

“I’m lookin’ forward ta seein’ the contests set forth each Tuesday by yer crack team a Rodeo leaders, Charli. Sounds like a tough competition.”

“All of the contests will be tough, but a fun challenge. And then there’s TUFF. We’ve all learned to get tough, but TUFF is a standard contest that tests the reduction and revision skills of a writer.”

“Whut’s tough? Writin’? Or rodeoin’?”

“Both Pal! We’ve learned to be brave. To put our work out there. Writers have learned to read directions carefully because each Rodeo Leader is different in what skills they are testing. If you get bucked off a bull before 8 seconds, your ride is disqualified. Similar, if you don’t make the word count (or syllable count) a writer gets disqualified.”

“Yer in the arena, not jist ridin’ the range.”

“Yep. So polish up your silver. When I rode in rodeos as a kid, I learned how to polish the conchos on our best bridles and saddles. Writers will want to polish up their stories before submitting. Make each word shine. You got to polish early, let it sit, and polish some more.”

“Soun’s like winnin’ advice, Charli.”

“And don’t be sore if you don’t win. Not everyone draws the best bull to ride, and sometimes the lasso misses its mark. Some judging is more subjective, like art. Doesn’t mean your skills suck. Just means it wasn’t your win. Yet.”

“Not yet. Thet’s a positive mind set thet there.”

“Keep practicing those skills with the weekly challenges. If you see a craft skill a fellow writer uses, like dialog or description, give it a go. Try writing different genres or taking different perspectives. Play.”

“There’ll be the reg’lar weekly challenges at Carrot Ranch while the rodeo’s goin’ on?”

“That’s write. The weekly challenges will continue at the Ranch but I will be taking a hiatus from commenting, saving my voice for running TUFF here at the Saloon each Monday.”

“Yer gonna be runnin’ the Saloon?”

“Yep, Kid. Pal gave me permission to hold TUFF right here. Here’s more info on what the TUFF challenge is all about:

“No foolin’, that’s a powerful tool, that TUFF process.”

“It sure is. For the Rodeo, writers who want to enter have to start October 5. No late-comers to the race. October 5, writers will get their prompt and turn in a 99-word draft by the next Monday, October 12. Then writers will have to reduce their 99-words to 59 by the next Monday, October 19. Then they will reduce that reduction to 9-words by Monday, October 26.”

​“Jeez! A rootin’ tootin’ writin’ workout!”

“Well, that’s not all. On the 26, these writers who’ve hung with TUFF every Monday will then have to rewrite their entire story by November 2. That’s when the Saloon reverts back to you two.”

“So we git a month off. No longer behind bars, so ta speak. But yer gonna be busier than ever, with rodeoin’ an’ TUFFin’ and MFAin’. Whut kin folks do ta hep ya out, Charli Mills?”

“Folks at the Ranch can help by acting community-like throughout the challenges, commenting on stories and links and comment. Visiting with each other. Not every one. But if every submitter commented on a few, everyone would be included. It’d help me out.”

“Could jist shut the place down, close it fer the rodeo time.”

“I can’t shutter the Ranch. This here place is my North Star. I want to make literary art accessible, especially to those silenced or working to express their voice. I write women’s fiction to give voice to those forgotten on the fringes and frontiers. The Ranch is my real-live place to gather voices around the campfire of storytelling.”

“Not gonna lie, Shorty, I mean Charli, I’m glad thet Carrot Ranch will go on reg’lar with the weekly challenges even through the Rodeo competition. Thet’s comfertin’ somehow. Good ta have it stayin’ the same.”

“The routine will remain constant over October but over the years the Ranch certainly has evolved. 99-words has become our signature like a cattle ranch that built a herd of black baldies from Angus and Herefords. We have a purpose and we are a community.”

“It sure is. What’re the highlights a the Ranch fer you, Charli?”

“Best thing about the Ranch, for me, is the surprising diversity of stories week after week. It’s like storytelling anthropology. The same prompt triggers different responses and writers each use imagination and creativity unique to their voice. I love the way the collection comes together as a whole. When I share or read them, people are amazed at the capacity of creative response in 99-words linked together. That’ the magic of what we do here.”

“It ain’t all magic, Boss. It’s a magical place but thinkin’ it must be tough bein’ the lead buckaroo.”

“It’s all sweat equity at the Ranch. I chuckle when someone refers to the Ranch like a group or organization. It’s a community, but we aren’t staffed. Just me shoveling stories in the back of the barn. That’s why I’d like to encourage the community to interact. Not take up time, but to really think about their writing and the reading of others. Have a discourse. Be supportive. Encourage the growth of literary art as a light in dark times.”

“Well thet soun’s like a fine time, somethin’ fer ever’one.”

“Hey, Charli, did you know when you started the ranch that Pal lived here and that Ernie was up the creek making moonshine?”

“I smelled the mash and suspected, Kid. Invited them to come out of the shadows, share some swigs and stories. And you showed up, under Pal’s wing.”

“Yep! Charli, how real is Carrot Ranch?”

“Carrot Ranch is a fictional spread where real writers gather. It has a headquarters on the Keweenaw, surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior. It even has a Rodeo Room for guest writers in residence and a Unicorn Room where Zoom readings, storyboarding, and magic happens.”

“I love thet Carrot Ranch is a community of folks from all over the world.”

“That’s right Pal. We are a tribe of writers that has built a legacy of stories from prompts that bind us. Anyone who feels connected to the ranch, all the Rough Writers, the Poet Lariat, the Columnists, the Rodeo Leaders and Judges, the weekly, or occasional challenge writers, the readers and lurkers – they are all part of Carrot Ranch Literary Community. It is what they want it to mean to each of them. And now Stephanie Davies, an Australian illustrative artist, created this poster to represent all the folks who are a part of Carrot Ranch, all the folks that help make Carrot Ranch the community that it is.”


“Whoa! That’s amazing!”

“Yep. Tellin’ ya, Kid, thet’s jist another thing makes me pleased an’ proud ta be a part a the Ranch. Charli, you should be proud. This place sure has evolved, as ya said. What d’ya think Carrot Ranch’ll be up ta five years down the road?”

“Five years from now the Ranch will have built its Roberts Street Writery. That’s where headquarters is. Folks from Carrot Ranch will be meeting around retreat campfires, or visiting headquarters for Residencies. I’ll have finally published one of my manuscripts and have a frame to dust on my MFA.”

“Reckon it will too. This community has kept goin’ despite certain goin’ on’s in the larger world. What d’ya see fer the Ranch in fifteen years?”

“Fifteen years from now, the Ranch will still be collecting storytelling anthropology. Those trained through the Writery will be bringing literary outreach to every corner of the world, sparking literary revolutions among those seeking to express their voices, share their stories. It’ll be a 99-word revolution, a literary art virus, a call to dignity and kindness and appreciation of art.”

And then Charli Mills downed her cider, thanked Kid and Pal, and returned to her thesis, knowing she has a busy month ahead of her. But even with all her chores and responsibilities her eyes sparkled like silver spurs, for the Rodeo, Cowboy Christmas, is a part of her vision for Carrot Ranch. She knows the weekly round-up will nurture her writerly soul. And TUFF, the ultimate flash fiction writing tool, will be center stage at the Saddle up Saloon Mondays beginning October 5 even as the other Rodeo events are posted by their leaders on Tuesdays.

Pal & Kid could use some help too. While they will have some down time from the  Saddle Up Saloon during October, they could be looking ahead. Almost anything goes. 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 them via

Saddle Up Saloon; Karaoke II

Saddle Up Saloon

“Well ya better not pout, ya better not whine

Tellin’ ya Kid, it’s Rodeo time

Carrot Ranch Rodeo’s comin’ real soon!”

*(tune of Santa Claus Is Coming to Town)

“Pal! Git off the stage. Let other folks try their hand at karaoke. Asides, why’re ya singin’ Christmas songs this time a year?”

“Don’tcha know, Kid? It’s Cowboy Christmas! Thet’s whut real cowboys call rodeo season, an’ all a October’s rodeo season at Carrot Ranch.”

“Is it that time agin? This’ll be the fourth Rodeo, the time when writers have the opportunity ta compete fer a cash prize in addition ta the weekly challenge.”

“Yep, but it’s still all fun an’ friendly.

Ya know thet it’s still frien’ly, even if ya compete

An’ even if ya git thrown, yer sure ta land on yer feet!


Ya might git bucked, ya might git tossed

Ya might not be able ta stay on yer hoss

The rodeo contest’s comin’ real soon!”

 “Now I git yer Santy Clause tune, Pal. I been thinkin’ ‘bout the upcomin’ rodeo too. Been thinkin’ we gotta liven it up. Did ya have a listen ta Shorty’s soundtrack? It’s all Western yippee kiyi music.”

“Thet’s cuz we’re a yippee kiyi kinda ranch Kid. It’s our motif, like.”

“Well I’d like ta put mo’e teeth in that soundtrack. Jazz it up.”

“Ya wanna play jazz, Kid? Country Western is classic.”

“Not Jazz. Not Country Western, an’ not classical either. Disco. 

*(tune of Staying Alive, by the Beegees)

Well, ya kin tell by the way I wear ma hat

I’m an ol’ ranch hand, no doubt ‘bout that

Contests tuff and writing wild

I’m a Kid but I ain’t no child

Them rodeo leaders will have their say

But we’ll survive ta ride anuther day

All the competitors jist do their best

An’ them judges won’t git no rest


Don’t worry ‘bout the hurties, don’t worry ‘bout gittin’ dirty

Yer takin’ yer ride, takin’ yer ride

You’ll know ever’one has seen ya, standin’ tall in the arena

Takin’ yer ride, takin’ yer ride

Aw, ouch, oh, ow, takin’ yer ride, takin’ yer ride

Aw, ouch, oh, ow, takin’ yer riiiiiiiide

We’re all jist writers, here fer each other

Here fer each other, yeah

We’re all jist writers, here fer each other, yeah

We’re takin’ the ride”

 “Jeez, Kid. Disco?”

“With the rodeo, ever day is Saturday night, Pal. Here’s another one from that sound track, though I think it were K.C. and the Sunshine Band that come up with this song.”

*(Tune of Boogie Shoes)

Rodeo’s here, ranchers ride in the ring

Yeah, uh huh, yeah

Hang onta yer hat, hangin’ on is the thing

Yeah, yeah, uh huh, uh huh

I want to put on my my my my my cowboy boots
Jist to spur ya on, yeah
I want to put on my my my my my cowboy boots
Jist to spur ya on, uh huh”

“Thet’s enough, Kid, jeez it’s a disco infernal.”

“Reckon we gotta do the hustle an’ git ready fer this rodeo, huh Pal?”

“Prob’ly, but I ain’t sure jist whut gittin’ ready means fer us this year. Know we’s in fer a TUFF time here at the saloon is all. Reckon it’ll all come t’gether jist fine with some real fine rodeo leaders settin’ out the contest prompts.

*(12 Days of Christmas) 

In the first week a rodeo, the leader’ll give ta me—

I have no idea, will jist have ta wait an’ see

In the secon week a rodeo, the leader’ll give ta us—

I’ve no way a knowin’, will jist have ta wait thus.

In the third week a rodeo, anuther contest present—

But I cain’t see the future, so jist gotta be patient

In the fourth week a rodeo, the final contest event—

A month long Cowboy Christmas, surely heaven sent

An’ if them four contests don’t seem quite enough—

Take the extra challenge, the one Shorty’s callin’ TUFF.”

“That’s enough a that song, Pal! Okay, we git it, Cowboy Christmas is almost here. But this kinda-karaoke stage is open ta anyone an’ ever’one an’ they don’t have ta have a disco song or a Christmas song; ain’t even gotta be ‘bout the rodeo or the ranch. Jist leave yer lyrics an’ the tune in the comment corrals. But if’n folks do wanna git in the spirit a rodeo they should check out the Carrot Ranch youtube channel. There’s a whole new soundtrack been put up.”

“I don’t think I could ever git tired a the first one. Hey, Kid, look who jist come in. Frankie! Frankie, ya gonna sing us a song?”

“I sure am, Pal. If ya know the tune of Chelsea Morning by Joni Mitchell you can sing along:

Woke up, was a Carrot Ranch morning, and first thing that I heard

Stories stampin’ ‘cross the range, hoof beats countin’ 99 words

It hummed like cattle lowing, creaked soft like well worn saddle leather

 Oh, won’t you write

Where the fire burns bright

Where words provide food and shelter


Woke up, was a Carrot Ranch morning, and first thing that I saw

A corral full of unicorns, rainbow carrots served to all

Fantasy and fiction frolicking freely, but it is truth they’re bearing

 Oh, won’t you write

Where the fire burns bright

In a community that’s caring”

“Wow, Frankie!”

“What can I say, Kid? Stick that in yer ipod an’ play it.”

“Okay, folks, we jist got wind thet Pepe LeGume wants ta do his rendition of Love Stinks, so we’re gonna clear outta here. Leave us a song a yer own or jist a comment. We’ll see ya here next week fer a very special guest.”


If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon; Recipe Rustlin’ Returns

Saddle Up Saloon

“Here ya are, Kid. Out unner the offshoot Poet Tree back a the saloon.”

“Hey Pal. Yep, jist fixed mysef some breakfast, figgered I’d eat it out here, injoy the beautiful mornin’.”

“Whut is thet yer eatin’?”

“Ya oughtta know, Pal. ‘Member we grilled at the fire last night, had a bunch a extra ears a corn? An’ I roasted them colored sweet peppers while the coals was still hot? That’s all this is, roast corn, shaved off the cob a course, an’ the roast peppers diced an’ stirred t’gether with a bit a green pepper Cholula hot sauce.”

“Ya ain’t much of a cook, are ya Kid?”

“Try it… eh? It’s like eatin’ a late summer evenin’— fer breakfast. Simple fresh ingredients is savory, Pal.”

“It’s simply weird, Kid, but if ya got some more, I’d have some.”

“Nope, sorry, jist put the rest a the roasted corn an’ peppers in the freezer. Puttin’ things by fer winter.”

“Whoa, stop. Back up. We got a freezer? At the saloon or at the ranch?”

“Either, both; why wouldn’t we? Embrace our fictional status, Pal. Jist ‘cause we ride hosses doesn’t mean we cain’t have modern conveniences. Unless ya’d have me cannin’.”

“No, I reckon havin’ a freezer’s a good thing, ‘cause I been puttin’ things by too. Used up all them cucumbers from Shorty’s garden ta make freezer pickles. They’s real easy ta make an’ ya kin keep these pickles a long time in the freezer, lessen ya eat ‘em fresh first.”

“How d’ya make ‘em?”

“Well let’s say ya have

            2 quarts thinly sliced unpeeled cukes

            Mix the cukes with 2 tablespoons non-iodized salt and

            2 thinly sliced medium sized onions

            Let thet mixture stand fer two hours.”

“Stand? Or set? And Pal, have ya ever seen iodized salt? Does non-iodized salt git iodized or does iodized salt git undone ta become non-iodized? D’ya reckon this a kosher question?”

“It’s an annoyin’ question, Kid, shush. ‘Cause while thet cuke an’ salt an’ onion mix is asettin’ ya gotta be makin’ the syrup:

            1.5 cups a sugar

            0.5 cups a white vinegar

 Ya boil the sugar an’ vinegar only jist ‘til the sugar is melted good, then remove it from the heat, when it’s cool git it cold in the refrigerator. While thet’s happenin’, drain the cucumber an’ onion mix, squeeze out all the water. Then ya kin pack it in plastic containers, pour the cold syrup over it, mix it up, an’ it keeps fer a long time in the freezer. But they’s real good fresh thet same day an’ beyond.”

“Sounds easy, Pal. Where’d ya git that recipe?”

“Druther not say, Kid, it’d jist git ya riled up. But this all makes ya think, don’t it?”

“Donuts? Yum. But it has me thinkin’ back almost four months ago when we had folks sharin’ recipes here at the Saloon.”

“Yep, thet was our first Recipe Rustlin’ feature. Folks contributed fav’rite recipes in the comments. Thet certainly weren’t the first time recipes been pervided at Carrot Ranch though. Shorty’s all ‘bout sharin’ her buckaroo cook smarts.”

recipes-from-the-ranch-e1400277678197“Yep, but ain’t it funny how she cain’t seem ta keep her stories outta her cookin’?”

“Reckon stories is whut makes real food real food Kid. Thet corn an’ pepper thing ya jist ate right in front a me without sharin’ was talkin’ ta ya ‘bout summer an’ good times by the fire. A pickle recipe got from somebody’s father gits all kinds a stories goin’. Jist the fact thet we’re puttin’ food by is tellin’ a story a fall an’ comin’ winter.”

“Pal, I wunder if other folks is puttin’ food by fer winter?”

“Kid, some a the ranch hands is jist springin’ inta summer. But I smell whut yer stirrin’. Yer thinkin’ folks kin share recipes agin, mebbe some’s thet’s ‘bout puttin’ food by, or mebbe jist ‘bout usin’ fresh garden ingredients.”

“Yep, but hopin’ mebbe a wee bit a story, least ways mebbe how they come by the recipe they’s sharin’.”

sour and sweet

memories that last

stories brined

“Next week, the 21st, will be anuther Karaoke event, where ya improve on a song ya know by changin’ the lyrics. See the first one ta gain some insight:

If ya have a song in advance a September 19 ya kin send it ahead ta be featured on the Saloon stage. (  

An’ guess whut’s happenin’ on the 28? Well, we don’t know either, so yer guess is as good as ours, but if ya wanna be featured, reach out ta us via .

We do know thet the whole month a October the Saddle Up Saloon’ll be where ta git caught up an’ catch commentary on the 4th Carrot Ranch Rodeo.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon; One Shy of a Six Pac at the Mic

Saddle Up Saloon

“ ’Ello, Pal, may I get you a beer?”

“Pepe LeGume! Whut’re you doin’ behind the bar? Thought Kid was workin’ this shift.”

“Keed says, sheeft no, Pal. Wants to seet weeth you at a table down front. Eet’s Five at the Mic, a reelly good show. I weel tend the bar. You two seet.”

“You know whut yer doin’? Cain’t be havin’ ya makin’ a mess a things, LeGume.”

“To air is human, Pal. But eet weel be fine. Go find da Keed. Da show weel begeen soon.”

“Pal, over here! Bill Engleson is comin’ on stage.”


Bill Engleson. Long time ranch hand and columnist for Carrot Ranch? Bill hails from the mild, mild west of Canada. Mebbe ya’ve read his books an’ articles?”

“Oh, yep, the movie guy. Shush then kid, this oughtta be good.”

“You bet. Here’s Bill with Covid 19 Rain Buttons and Bows.”

“Oof, Pal, that’s dark. Good, but dark.”

“Kid, real people are goin’ through a time out there. Thet’s why we fictional characters is keepin’ the saloon runnin’ 24/7, give ‘em a break. Look, here comes thet Paula Moyer, she’ll have somethin’ ta say.”

“Phew, Pal. That Rough Writer is a tough writer. That was heavy too.”

“But Kid, there was hope wove through thet. When, not whether… These folks is resilient, with the hep of each other an’ their writin’. Reckon their strengths is shinin’ through.”

“Yep, but shush now, Pal, Anne Goodwin’s up next, gonna parade one a her characters through fer us.”

“Thet ain’t Anne Goodwin. Anne Goodwin wears her hair short.”

“Thinkin’ the long hair on folks is another sign a their times, mebbe.”

“Oh, yep. Thet is her.”

“Did you see what I saw, Pal?”

“Ya mean was it good ta hear more from Matty Windsor? Sure was. She’s been ta the Saloon before.”

“Yeah, it was, that character is goin’ places. But what’s D. Avery doin’ taggin’ along?”

“Reckon ever’one’s welcome ta join in with Ranch doin’s, Kid. Lighten up. Anyway, Ellen Best is gonna read next.”

“Oh, Ellen Best! I like what she does fer the weekly challenges.”

“Oh, Pal. Is it true there’s truth in fiction?”

“’Fraid so, Kid. Thet was a powerful story an’ it’s true fer too many real women. We kin commend Ellen fer tellin’ it fer ‘em.”

“Very descriptive. Yikes. I could use a lighter story, Pal. Hey, here’s MJ Mallon. Mebbe she’ll bring a laugh.”

“Ha! No half measures. I’ll say.”

“Yep, that was just the tonic I needed. Reckon folks at home kin try some bubble magic fer themselves.”

 “Reminded me a thet song, Tiny Bubbles In the Wine. Oh, shift, speakin’ a tonic an’ wine, I wunner how LeGume is doin’. I’ll go check on ‘im after D. Avery’s story.”

“You don’t need ta worry ‘bout Pepe, Pal, he don’t stink at pourin’ drinks. But go ahead, ‘cause D. Avery ain’t goin’ up on stage t’day.”

“Whut? Why not, Kid?”

“’Cause I’m in charge a the saloon an’ I say so. Done decided Five at the Mic means jist five readers this week. So too bad fer our so called writer.”

“I thought Shorty said five minutes at the mic fer any innerested writers thet wanna read.”

“Shorty ain’t here right now. But if other writers are innerested in takin’ part in reading with a group an’ mebbe bein’ recorded ta Youtube an’ gittin’ played here, they should contact Charli Mills. Next readin’s Tuesday the 15th at 11am Eastern Standard Time. An’ anytime anyone’s got a hankerin’ ta git up on the saloon stage, mebbe git innerviewed or have one or more a their characters git innerviewed, they should leave a message fer us through D. Avery. (”

“Yep, step up an’ step out folks, it’s lots a fun. Next week plan on sharin’ some a yer fav’rite summer recipes, it’ll be anuther round a Wranglin’ Recipes. The 21st’ll be anuther Karaoke event, where ya improve on a song ya know by changin’ the lyrics. An’ the whole month a October the Saddle Up Saloon’ll be where ta git caught up an’ catch commentary on the 4th Carrot Ranch Rodeo.”

“Whooie! What a hap’nin’ place! Oh, shift… Pepe! He’s been behind the bar without hep fer quite a while. He must be fumin’.”

“Yep. Prob’ly is.”