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2020 Rodeo

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

Rodeo Contest #1:

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

This year’s winner is Colleen Chesebro!

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

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

WINNING ENTRY: FOLK TALES & FABLES

Why Wolf Howls at the Moon by Colleen Chesebro

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Snow White and the Seven Gunslingers by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Sky Rider’s Happily Ever After by Liz Husebye Hartman

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Flem and the Rattlesnake by Mike Vreeland

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

Their bond grew.

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

After a bit, Flem crawled back out.

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

FOLK TALE AND FABLE ENTRIES

The Ride by D.L. Finn

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

“But father, what if someone owns one?” 

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

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

He snuck over to see her. 

Startled, she said, “hello.” 

“Don’t fear. What is your name?” 

“Takoda.” 

“Can we be friends?” 

“Sure.” 

Now, he would protect her and others.

🥕🥕🥕

Is He Really That Big by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

“And what if the Sheriff caught ya?”

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Down That Lonely Trail by Bill Engleson

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

🥕🥕🥕

Cay-ote Killer by Clesea Owens

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

“Wee-yoo!”

“Ah’ll be!”

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Seven Sisters by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Origins of a Cowboy by Floating Gold

“Mommy, where do cowboys come from?”

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Packin’ a Punch Without a Fist by JulesPaige

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Journey by Darnell Cureton

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Tall in the Saddle Tale by Frank Hubney

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Deal by Tina McFarlane

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

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

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

“We got a deal?”

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Shoot First, Aim Later by Darlene Foster

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

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo Contest #2:

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

This year’s winner is ANNOUNCED.

WINNING ENTRY

Some Places Have No Names by Kerfe Roig

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

QUALIFYING ENTRIES

Masked Terror by Reena Saxena

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

If This Be… by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Plains Speaking by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Rodeo of Life by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Nes Season by D.L. Finn

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Nature’s Saga by theindieshe

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Rain by Saiffun Hassam

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Evening Classes by JulesPaige

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Cattle Drive by Sue Spitulnik

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Commission by Geoff Le Pard

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

The Lonely Cowboy by Marje @ Kyrosmagica

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Chasing the Moon by Eloise De Sousa

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Child Appeared by Myrna Migala

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Never Again by Josie Holford

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Within a Kiss by Kyra Jude

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Dawn’s Memories by D. Avery

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

A Pitiful Plague by Debby Gies

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Pain, Inside and Out by Norah Colvin

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Noted Notes by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Song of Monson by Kitty’s Verses

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

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

Celebrate for the next

Day is not assured.

Carouse while you can, and we’ll remember when

We’re old and don’t want to

Party ’til we drop.

Pass the bread of pleasure

Down the table with

Impish delight – regale in togetherness,

Celebrate with shared eyes

Gray we’ll be one day.

What a fickle thing is

Memory! Recall

The good as well as the embarrassing thoughts,

For the food of the gods

Is a good time had.

🥕🥕🥕

Gathering Pluck by Marsha Ingrao

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo Contest #3:

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

This year’s winner is Doug Jacquier.

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

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

WINNING ENTRY

New Bride in Wyoming by Doug Jacquier

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

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

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

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

She opened the bedroom door and out strolled a Dachshund.

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

🥕🥕🥕

HONORABLE MENTIONS

McCall by Bill Engleson

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

Just a Numbers Game by Liz Huseby Hartmann

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

Wyoming.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stealthy, they crept.

🥕🥕🥕

Walking the Canal Path by Susan Spitulnik

I was a-walking one morning for pleasure

along the paved canal trail

when in dog poop I stepped

made me madder’n hell

but I scraped off my shoe

continued walking along

admiring gold and rust-colored leaves

wonderin’ why so many had changed

and yet some were still green

soon coming towards me

was a man and his dog

the man carried a blue bag full

of the dog’s smelly droppings

I stopped them to say thanks

for being so neat and tidy

then I stepped aside

to get out of their way

and went splashing into the canal

Shit

🥕🥕🥕

Remarkable Ramblin’ by JulesPaige

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

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

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

🥕🥕🥕

QUALIFYING ENTRIES

Jail Break by Douglas Goodrich

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

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

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

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

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

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Tracker Maury by Saifun Hassam

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

“Whoopee ti yi yo!” the cowboys yelled.

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

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

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Untitled by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

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Where’s Jean by Hugh Roberts

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

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

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

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Untitled by John Hughes

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

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

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

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Rodeo Contest #4:

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

This year’s winner is Shiloh Carozza.

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

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

WINNING ENTRY

Incriminating Evidence by Shiloh Carozza

“Reach for the sky!”
“Teacher says the sky is the limit.”
“Shuttup. Gimme your paper.”
“But I drew this!”
“Gimme it. It’s better than mine.”
“But it looks like me, not you.”
“Here, you take mine. Trade pictures with me or I’ll shoot!”
“No!”
*SNAP*


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

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HONORABLE MENTIONS

Wanting for Patience

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

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

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

“Not yet.”

“Uh-huh. Breakfast: All American—”

“What’s that?”

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

“That’s just starch and protein.”

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

“What’s that?”

“Omelette, has onion, pepper, ham—”

“Is there an Eastern?”

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

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

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The Loss of Innocence by Sue Spitulnik

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

Finally, I understand his actions.

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Squirreled Candy by Norah Colvin

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

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QUALIFYING ENTRIES

Surprise Package by Mel BeeCee

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

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Untitled by Anonymole

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

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Wanted Alive by Frank Hubeny

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

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

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

No one turned him in.

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Thief by Saifun Hassam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know he’s here,” Goldie sighed.

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

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

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Start Early by Kerry E.B. Black

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

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

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

Reach for it.

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

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

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Untitled by Doug Jacquier

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

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Untitled by FloridaBorne

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

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

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

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

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The Kid Next Door by Bill Engleson

He’s a cute kid, I suppose.

Had more than his fair share of wear and tear.

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

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

You know, divorced and reinventing herself.

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

Met him in late February.

Just before COVID took us to the dance.

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

What are you gonna do, eh!

I dropped dead.

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TUFF Rodeo Contest:

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

This year’s winner is Liz Husebye Hartmann.

WINNING ENTRY

Untitled by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Original 99-word Draft: UNTITLED

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

His departure had been delayed. Had she already left?

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

Pausing, his hope faltered.

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

TUFF PART Two: 59-word Story with Original POV

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

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

She landed on him, canines at his neck.

TUFF PART Two: 59-word Story with Different POV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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QUALIFYING ENTRIES

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

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

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