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Rodeo #4: TUFF Beans

With Pepe Le Gume on the prowl at Carrot Ranch, I might regret prompting anything with beans. But beans hold a special place in my heart. I grew up on pinto beans, cowboy beans. A special treat was refried beans. I never had navy bean soup or chili beans or baked beans until I was an adult. Chili was a con carne served over pasta, soup was sopas, and whoever heard of maple-sweetened beans in buckaroo country? Now that I’ve had Vermont beans, I understand Pepe’s appeal.

In case you aren’t familiar with the mainstay challenges at Carrot Ranch, D. Avery created Pepe along with a host of characters in her weekly Ranch Yarns. Like beans, once a writer gets a taste for 99-words, you’ll keep coming back for more. We make sure the pot is always on at Carrot Ranch, where we create community through literary art. I want to thank all the regular Ranchers for honing their skills and diving into the contests. I’m proud of all of you for your dedication to writing and growing.

Now things are going to get TUFF. Our final contest of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo is all about having the guts to revise. As if writing weren’t challenging enough, we also have to know what to cut, what to add, and how to improve our stories. Revision is where the work happens. TUFF is an exercise in getting to the heart of a story and rebuilding it with that understanding. TUFF stands for The Ultimate Flash Fiction. In this contest, you will be asked to write one story with several reductions and a final revision. Your revision should be different from your initial draft. That’s where a writer has to gain courage and insight. TUFF will help guide you if you practice it.

Keep in mind that the TUFF contest is all about process. So far in this Rodeo, writes have tested skills of storytelling, craft, and creativity. Now it’s time to show how you approach revising an initial story idea. Your first 99-words should be a first draft and your final 99-words should be polished and improved. The word reductions in between help you find the heart of your story (59-words) and a punchy line (9-words). Judges want to see how you manage the entire process of TUFF.

And yes, beans are involved.


  1. Your story must include beans (go where the prompt leads).
  2. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  3. Your second 99-word story should show the evolution or transformation of revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process lead to new insights that changed the final version?
  4. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  5. It can include any tone or mood, and be in any genre, and don’t forget the beans.
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.


  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 30, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.



Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Three-Act Story Challengers

A writer uses many craft elements to tell about something that happens to someone somewhere. When told in three acts, a story has a beginning, middle, and end (BME). Rodeo #3 is all about the mechanics behind storytelling in 99 words. The contest has now ended, but you can enjoy the following submissions by challengers. Some are prolific 99-word story writers and had more than their one contest entry. Some just wanted to have fun, telling a tale. In three-acts, of course. Winners of the contest will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Coursework or Coarse Work? by JulesPaige

Acme constantly delivers to Wile, who thinks he will succeed in his quest of catching his nemesis. It is an old story of chasing one’s dinner. Being the mighty hunter. Yet the coyote seems to only have a series of unfortunate events repeat. Most often damaging more than his ego.

We root for underdogs because we desire the right recognition. Dreams though seem to be elusive, like the Road Runner that escapes unscathed. Are our human wants just a different hunger that can only be sated by hard work?

Where’s the fairy tale ending? You gotta write it yourself!


A Water Story by Charli Mills

The ground above Lake Itasca releases an underground spring. A trickle becomes the 2,348 mile-long Mississippi River, nicknamed Father of Waters. Yet, it is within the wombs of women where life grows in sacs of amniotic fluid – water from mothers. Women bring life.

Scientists document facts about water. They can tell us our bodies use it for cell development and waste elimination. They point out the rapid rate of glacier melt as a phenomenon of climate change.

Men pass laws against women’s bodies and reverse protections for the environment. In the end, who can deny — Water is Life?


Bare Facts by JulesPaige

Looking through her rearview mirror she spied the driver behind her dangling an unlit cancer stick from his mouth. Her internal thought dripped with sarcasm that he could not hear; My, isn’t that attractive.

Cancer has become a dreaded word. Often becoming the elephant in everyone’s living room. Survivors abound every day due to those skilled in various treatments.

Three males in her family were being treated for three different cancers in the same month. She only knew the full circumstances of her man. And he was going to make it because of early detection and a skilled surgeon!


And Then the Sun Shone by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The yard was covered, leaves bright yellow, and wet from last night’s rain. Randall shook his head, tipped his cap to scratch his balding pate, and looked up to the sky. No help there. Rainclouds fisted up again overhead.

Marla’d promised to bring the grandkids over for his birthday tomorrow since Sadie had passed. Five years now, and he missed her every day. She would’ve ensured the place was spotless. Dragging the rake to his front porch, he eased into the wooden chair.

He lifted his head as the truck rumbled in.

“We came early to help! Happy birthday!”


Neighbours by Joanne Fisher

One night a vampire moved into the vacant house next to us. At first we were concerned, but she turned out to be no bother really.

Life went on in our street. The vampire was rather quiet, and kept her house and grounds tidy. We only usually saw her in the evenings flying off to somewhere. Occasionally she would come round to ask for a cup of blood.

Then a hunter came and the vampire was no more. After that a guy who constantly plays the drums moved into the now vacant house. Honestly, I’m really missing the vampire.


Fetching by Charli Mills

Bare limbs of birch pointed skyward, yellow leaves buried roots. A pup burst through the woods, scattering leaves. A woman ran, red leash in hand, calling, “Maxwell, come here!”

Max chased snowshoe hares down the birch-lined trail, pulling a woman on skis. She laughed and he pulled harder, kicking up a lone yellow leaf.

She wrapped him in a fleece blanket. “Good boy, Max,” she said, her hand lingering on his head. Walking the leaf littered road, a tear slid down her cheek. It had been fourteen autumns since she had walked this way alone. But water needed fetching.


Beginning, Middle, End by Chelsea Owens

Top Bun was the epitome of a beginning: first to stand in line at the condiments counter, first to graduate in his class, and always top bread at work.

Meat, meanwhile, existed in the middle. Middle child, middle man, middle class -that was him.

Poor Bottom Bun was last. No matter what he tried, he always woke late. He never caught the train on time; if he did, it was behind. The best dance partners were already taken, and even his mother had run out of names when he came out. He was, as one might guess, The End.


A Quitting by D. Avery

She felt proud. It’d been six months; she was sure she was done smoking for good.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started. Well, it’s done now.”

He blew smoke rings; sipped his coffee.

She could taste food again. She was more mindful of the food she ate, made healthy meals. She lost weight. She felt good.

He complained there weren’t mashed potatoes anymore. He crushed each beer can after draining it. She winced at the sound.

He’s only been gone a week, but she’s sure.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started.”


Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners

When I was a kid, riding in the rodeo and saddle horse show, our county had a unique event — wild cow milking. If you asked a cowboy if he’d rather ride a bull or milk a wild cow, he’d pick the bull any day. Thinking about these contests of skill, I recognize how vulnerable participants can feel, whether it’s racing the barrels, showing a horse, penning steers, or riding a bronc.

But the wild cow milking takes a team willing to be vulnerable.

The Old Time Radio Contest came about as a creative idea. And creativity makes us all vulnerable. As writers, we get used to putting our pages out there. We post and publish, we ask for critiques and edits, we receive feedback and reviews. Another layer of vulnerability comes when we work to get our literary art recognized as a platform.

We establish blogs, enter contests, and seek local support. That’s what I was doing in my local community this last Rodeo — establishing Carrot Ranch as a part of the Keweenaw. It’s part of my mission to make literary art accessible. On the one hand I create safe space for writers, on the other, I look for readers to interact with what we write. Literary art exists in the realm between writer and reader.

Out of all the businesses I approached, many were interested in what we do at Carrot Ranch. But The Continental Fire Co. was the one business that has actively supported the growth of literary art in our community. They’ve been a public forum for readings during belly-dance performances, and they sponsored the prize money for all the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo Contests for which we had over 20 winners, including 12 cash prize winners.

It was a wild cow milking event for them, too. The Continental was interested in a contest that could generate possible scripts for radio spots. All the staff took part in reading the entries and voting on their favorites. Everyone was impressed with the writers’ ability to narrow a story from 99 words to 50 to 9. Overwhelmingly, the feedback was that the 9-word stories made great radio taglines.

We had some administrative hiccups timing the judging with the holiday rush and then the after-holiday retail slump. But at last, I met with the manager of The Continental last week and received the final results. The writers have waited to hear the news, and I have much gratitude for all who entered because very few were willing to enter. You’ll see the complexity involved in writing three radio spots (99-words, 59-words, and 9-words) in a single entry. So my hats off to all of you brave wild cow milkers of Carrot Ranch.

Please find all the entries under the Rodeo tab at Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners.

And congratulations to our three cash prize winners:

  • Third Place: D. Avery
  • Second Place: JulesPaige
  • First Place: Kay Kingsley

Here are their radio spots:

99-word Radio Spot by D. Avery, Nantucket Island

[narrator] The Continental Fire Company first housed the horses, equipment, and men that were prepared to protect the people and property of their community. For a time it was also home to the Mining School that served the local industry.

[fire chief] You want to serve in the Company? You must be of age; a citizen of Houghton with a job or business, and be of good moral character and temperate habits.

[Background sound of modern-day patrons]

[young applicant] Yes sir. But, sir? Are these Mining School students?

[patron sounds, sounds of CFC have increased in volume]

[narrator] Houghton’s past is alive and present in the restored Continental Fire Company.

Food, drink, and entertainment are served with community spirit.

59-word Radio Spot

[narrator] Once housing the firemen that bravely served their neighbors as well as housing the Mining School that served the local copper industry, the Continental Fire Company continues to serve the Houghton community.

More than a place to enjoy good food, drink and company, the CFC features local artists, musicians, and Houghton’s own rich past. A spirited place since 1883.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] CFC- the spirit of Houghton’s past is always present.


99-word Radio Spot by JulesPaige, Pennsylvania

[pub music and laughter]

We have been your historical Houghton neighborhood go to for pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Now enjoy all that the Continental Fire Company is offering!

[soft yet discernible three alarm fire house klaxon and maybe a fog horn too]

Book your special event with our ‘superior’ menu of “elevated traditional items” including vegan and gluten free options using many locally produced ingredients.

[buoy bell and/or fog horn]

Or just come in and horse around.

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the kitchen is where the firehouse horses were kept, but you’ll only find the best modern kitchen that’s now a spectacular showplace!

[trumpeting ta da music]

We’ve got a smoker and a pizza oven too.

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant surprise you for lunch or dinner.

59-word Radio Spot

[pub music and laughter]

The Continental Fire Company has been your local historical Houghton neighborhood go to for the finest pub grub at the nightclub.

[sizzle of food on the grill]

Come on in and horse around!

[horse whinny and nickering]

Yep, the basement kitchen is where the firehouse horses were once kept.

[trumpeting ta da music]

Now, our kitchen is a spectacular culinary showplace!

[pub dance music starts to play as and continues in the background as the last line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s menu surprise you for lunch or dinner.

9-word Radio Spot

[Change of class bell ringing, followed by soft pub dance music playing, increasing slightly and continuing in the background as the line is read]

Let the Mining School Restaurant’s ‘superior’ menu surprise you!


99-word Radio Spot by Kay Kingsley, Germany

[sounds of a busy restaurant/bar, happy hum of talking and distant laughter over text]

[Narrator] The past has a way of leaving its mark on the future, and here at the Continental Fire Company, we bring life to a place with a history, a place we all can find a little bit of home in.

[insert sound of an old engine and siren then bell ringing, sounds of students transitions to current music, loud laughter, and ding of the “foods up” bell over text]

[Narrator] From the screaming sounds of engine sirens to the steadfast ring from our bell tower, we’ve transformed the university quarters and haylofts of Houghton Fire Hall into a vibrant atmosphere of live music, lounge events, and cutting-edge gastropub cuisine.

[Sound of clinking glass to cheers and busy bar sounds over text]

[Narrator] Cozy up with a drink and stay for the laughs, where history is more than a thing of the past.

59-word Radio Spot

[old man voice] The bell tolls for a fire station long lost to time,

[teachers voice] for a university that no longer shapes young hearts and minds,

[farmers voice] for a hayloft that no longer houses the horses in stalls,

[students voice] nor the students that occupied the length of its halls.

[one staff member of CFC] With food and laughter The Continental welcomes you inside, discover Houghton’s past, keep our history alive.

9-word Radio Spot

[narrator] The flavor, the vibe, CFC keeps Houghton’s history alive.


And this officially concludes our 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo!

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2

Little and Laugh

By Geoff Le Pard

My father was a man of many aphorisms, epithets, old saws and clichés. A know-all, really.

But one quote he shared with us that not only stuck but resonated was from an American poet, Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Laugh and the world laughs with you

Weep and you weep alone.

Laughter, in all its forms has taken centre stage in nearly every phase of my life, from irony to farce, pratfalls to priceless, life-enhancing fits of giggles. Whether it was as a defensive mechanism or merely because I enjoyed it, I don’t now remember but I’ve always wanted to make people laugh. Over the years I’ve tailored my delivery, become sensitive to my audience and played everything and anything for a laugh. I’m one of those people who you can always trust with a secret…unless it’s genuinely too funny not to be shared. In so doing I exaggerate, elaborate and elongate – no story can’t be improved with a new punchline, another character or an additional crazy side-tracking. Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good guffaw. I never have.

Writing for laughs, is, we are told, difficult. It requires precision, a well-oiled clockwork making the pieces slip together at just the right pace, in just the right places. That may be true of a novel (buy mine and find out!) but in a flash piece, in a limited word count, a simple phrase or a silly piece of alliteration can do what might take pages to set up in a book.

Don’t fight it; it is one of the most fundamental of human urges, this need to, and to make others, laugh.

Little and Laugh is your chance to raise a grin, trigger a giggle, release a chuckle, generate a guffaw, give life to a groan.  Tell us a story – it can be true, it might be a BOTS (based on a true story) or it might be complete fiction – and see if what makes you smile, what releases your funny does that for the judges. After all being funny is no laughing matter.

Submission information

You have 299 words, give or take 9 (ok, that means you’ll still be in the competition if you come in above 289 and below 309) to make us chortle. You need a title and, best of all, the title doesn’t count. Though a title that is similar to ‘This is a story of a Knight Errant and his lonely Pooch, Puddle who undertook a quest to better themselves when the world was young and Nutmeg still known as Crazy Megan…’ is not to be encouraged.

Using the form below, add your name or penname or a recognisable root vegetable and contact details to your story. (Note: These will be removed before judging so judging is blind and the root vegetable will be a small compensation for the blinding of the judges).

Copy and past your stories into the form.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, November 14.

Contest now closed.

Judging by Barb TaubLucy Brazier  and Geoff Le Pard.

Judges will rate the stories according to

  1. Story length (289-309 words)
  2. Does it make us laugh
  3. Um, well that’s about it.
  4. I suppose we should add that Spelling and Grammar and Punctuation and all that goodstuff will be taken into account but, really? Nah, don’t care. Just make us laugh.

I am very much looking forward to your stories. I do hope you join in. Surprise me. Tickle me. Turn me into a gibbering fatsoid of mirth.

Contest #2 Leader: Geoff Le Pard. For a full line-up of contests, see Events. Next up: Septolet in Motion by JulesPaige on Thursday, October 12.


CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest, please feel free to respond to this in the comments as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.


About Carrot Ranch 

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.








Weekly Prompts Resume November 2

The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins next week! When I was old enough to know the rodeo season, I’d start to get excited by the flurry of activity. Working buckaroos had to get their chores done, their best western shirts pressed, and their show tack ready.

I learned young how to soap a saddle. The ones in our tack room were seventy-five to a hundred years old, and yet their age only made them all the more beautiful. They were stamped by famous saddlers in the San Fransisco Bay area. I used to marvel at the different artistry as I rubbed in the soap, going in small circles with an old but clean cloth  — basket-weaves, florals and Spanish embellishments told the story of our heritage passed down from the vaqueros of the Californios.

All the ranch-hands, owners and countless children in between gathered to show their skills. A ranch owner might take pride in his fine stock. A ranch hand savored the competitive opportunity to show his who was boss on the back of a bull or bronco. A daughter wanted to show she could throw a rope and race a horse as hard as any brother or buckaroo.

I’ve always liked the word buckaroo. It’s genderless unlike cowboy or cowgirl. It’s also specific to a region and its heritage. Before Sutter found gold in his Californ-i-a mill causing the ’49er stampede, the Californios of Spain (and then Mexico) operated huge land grant ranchos, raising beef, saddle horses and vineyards. Most ranchos settled near the missions. I was born near Mission San Jaun Batista where my father’s family had run cattle since 1852. My mother’s family diversified, running turkeys and growing hay and apricots. I was born a buckaroo.

This meant I was indoctrinated into the San Benito Rodeo and Saddle Show early. It’s still held annually at Bolado Park near my hometown of Tres Pinos. Until I was seven, I lived on my mother’s family’s turkey ranch. Today it’s a golf course, the vision of my Papa Sonny who was as big and boisterous as our ancestor Cobb McCanles. I spent most my early life on the back of a horse at the Law Ranch, now called the Paicines Ranch after its original rancho name. One grandfather was its foreman and the other would later buy it and fail to develop it into another golf course.

I doubt either grandfather would make me a welcome guest there today, but I knew those hills, valleys and vineyards well. My first horse, Acorn, went blind and thereafter ran with the cattle herd. When I think of the Law Ranch, I think of my horse walking in circles to find his way through the vast green valley with the herd, his black main and tail long and tangled like a mustang’s and his dark red coat dusty.

Another horse came to me from that ranch, my best friend Captain Omega. Co was also dark red with black mane and tail. He bucked me off the first time I rode him. I got back in the saddle and we settled that argument. Before my bay horses, I rode the red sorrels my family favored. Often my grandfather waited at the stockyards until some fine horse-owner decided to dump an expensive horse with phenomenal breeding but bad habits worthy of dog food. My grandfather would pay the cheap stockyard prices, train up the horse and show off its breeding and skills at the Rodeo.

It was on the back of one of these sorrels I won my first trophy. It was called Best Girl’s Outfit. It meant I had to have the gleaming tack, thus why I  learned early to soap a saddle. We made all our own reins, and I can still remember how to braid rawhide the way vaqueros did it for hundreds of years, but I can’t remember the button patterns. What we lacked in silver, we made up for in fancy buttons and horse hair weaves. To win the trophy I had to sit in the saddle straight, walk my horse to the end of the arena, turn him around and run him back. I wore a chocolate colored Stetson, turquoise and pink frilly western shirt, jeans, roughed boots and white gloves. I was three.

The Rodeo has me waxing nostalgic for a heritage I can’t extract from my blood no matter how far from it all I am. I’m sure my three-year-old self could out ride me today! But I can definitely out write my three-year-old self. If you want a buckaroo soundtrack for the upcoming Flash Fiction Rodeo, 2017 Carrot Ranch FlashFiction Rodeo Playlist. Songs 24, 25 and 26 are heritage specific. Song 20, True Grit, is my anthem minus the need to “find a man with true grit.” More like this little girl found her own grit within. I’d change that line to “when you find writers with true grit.”

That’s you, that’s me. Writers with true grit. You remember that as you prepare for the Rodeo. It’s about having the courage to push into your writing, to do something that makes you afraid, to be bold. Write into that.

With the Flash Fiction Rodeo (check out the details on the Events Page) the weekly challenges will wait until November 2 to resume. For those of you not interested in a contest and liking the challenge of a prompt, you can still follow along. Instead of entering the contest, you can submit a response that won’t be judged for top prize. If you do, I’ll ask if that’s what you intended because entries are not in the comments or on your own blog. You’ll need to use the form or the platform (Twitter) outlined in the contest. There will be one on Tuesday, and one on Thursday each week Oct. 5-31.

Be sure to check in Oct. 3 for Rodeo Fest. You’ll get a chance to hear me reading from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1 and can enter a random drawing for books, chocolate or rocks by leaving a comment on the Oct. 3 post before 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm.

I have some soaping to do, and the last two compilations will post before the Rodeo begins. I hope you are as excited as this buckaroo is!