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Rain is misting like sprinkles from a watering can. Sphagnum peat moss is greening a different shade than blades of new grass. Buds and blossoms are near to bursting, and daffodils popped up overnight. The morel mushroom flush is right behind the yellow indicator flowers. This is spring as I think of it in the Inland Pacific Northwest, not the hot dry days we encountered in 2015.
How odd that the year it feels like a normal spring, normal is far from my doorstep.
Real estate agents and buyers poke through my closets. Our property managers continue to cheerfully tell us we can leave…any time. I’m in no hurry to pack; I have nowhere to go, yet. The Hub leaves tomorrow for Reno after accepting a year-long contract at a Nevada airport. He’s leaving; I’m staying and writing my way through. Several magazines and clients currently have me busy, and I’m reminded that I’m living life on my own terms. It’s my new normal.
In the morning flurry of tasks — an 1,800 word article due to an editor, profiles to polish for a client and edits to make for a floundering publication — I received a great gift. Rough Writer, Lisa Reiter, sent a Guest Post for today’s prompt! Without further dithering about daffodils, duties and dilemmas, I turn the Ranch over to one of the rock solid Ranch Hands. Thanks for the offer to help!
April 13: Flash Fiction Challenge Guest Post
By Lisa Reiter, Sharing the Story
I’m a problem solver and I try hard to solve my own problems. Part of this is due to a supposition that no-one else is going to solve my predicament or botheration quite like I can myself — and a lot of the time that’s true. It’s just a lot of the time, sharing a problem, means others can help you shape that botheration until it’s more of a pussycat or just come along the road a little way and keep you company while you extract yourself from the predicament.
I’m not very good at asking for help for other reasons. Sometimes I don’t want to burden people with something that brings them down — I can’t see any benefit in that for me. Many’s the time a friend has pleaded that they would do anything so please let them. Even knowing and finally accepting this, sometimes I just never think to ask. It is because I’m a survivor and perhaps I am a survivor because of being like that.
Lately I’m learning that you can sometimes frame an issue to make something useful out of it for someone else. An old friend who is an excellent Leadership Coach, Developer, Trainer and near Guru managed to re-frame a writing task she had been procrastinating for months, package it up and sell it to me. I’ve both hated and loved it. Learned a load and I am grateful for being given her ‘problem.’
So when I saw that the Boss at the Carrot Ranch was having a bit of trouble with the stabling, I knew she’d be flying around bareback trying to keep everything going — perhaps not imagining any way in which anyone else would gladly help. It hit me — in a flash — I realised I could help with a little bit of maintenance around the place and love the challenge of writing a fiction prompt! What’s more I knew a whole bunch of others that would gladly lend a hand.
So bear with us, some weeks there’s going to be a rough ride with a Rough Writer from somewhere around these parts but probably not Idaho. I went and made the crazy suggestion that we help out at the Ranch with a few guest flash prompts. We hope you’ll join in.
April 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about offering to help someone. What’s their situation? What’s yours? Do they think they need help? How is it received? Could you be misinterpreted?
Respond by April 19, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Flash Fiction by Lisa Reiter
“Call me,” I said walking out the door. I always said call me. She never did. I said it again knowing now it was an empty offer, just an exchange that eased the parting. She hadn’t long left and we were playing the game, the dance around the truth — dealing out stock phrases that were all part of the expected moves.
I knew she wouldn’t. No-one would know except me. I was suddenly afraid what that would mean when she’d gone. My guilt would define our friendship.
I picked up the phone.
Last week, Lisa Reiter of Sharing the Story, stirred up our memories of camping which led me to think of the camping cake that requires no stirring. That’s what a Dump Cake is–dump in the ingredients; no stirring required.
In 2007 my family camped in the northern forests of Wisconsin at Birch Lake. My kids were still kids then, as my eldest, Allison, was perched to fly the family coop. Kyle, the youngest was turning 16 and Brianna was going into her senior year of high school. It was trip that stirred my memory of fun family times in my Bite Size Memoir No. 5.
Because we were camping, the Dutch oven was working overtime. My husband grumbles that I bring the kitchen sink and I respond, “No, I bring the whole kitchen.” The kids tell him to hush and eat. They don’t mind packing the extra iron, utensils and food because we all like to eat like kings around the campfire.
A Dutch oven is a large cast iron pot with a flat lid. You can hang it over an open flame, set it on a grill or even snug it into coals. The latter is required for baking.
Ten years prior to this camping trip, in 1997, I was the writing intern for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. It was one of my first freelance gigs and I was covering an event called “Becoming an Outdoors Woman.” Being a buckaroo, I grew up outdoors and was no stranger to logging camp meals and cowboy coffee.
Yet, I was not familiar with the Dutch oven. We had cast iron pans, enamel coffee pots and grills, but I learned how to use the oven on this assignment. Mountain-man, Darrel D. Johnson, was our teacher. He wore a fox-skin hat, leather leggings and was the keeper of “extremely useful information.”
Today, I share with you Mountain-man Johnson’s recipe for Dump Cake.
It’s all in getting the coals white. Notice that we had half our fire pit dedicated to coals, the other half to wood. We aren’t fancy when camping, so just set that Dutch oven in the dirt and lightly butter the bottom. Add one can of cherry pie filling. Next, spread one box of yellow cake mix over the fruit. Melt one stick of butter and pour it over the mix. Don’t stir. Just “dump” the ingredients in the order given.
Nestle the Dutch oven into your pile of white-hot coals. Add a few coals to the lid, scattering evenly as you can see in the photo above. Bake about 10 minutes before you lift the lid to check progress.
Your Dump Cake is ready when the fruit bubbles up around the edges. When it is, remove it from the coals, but set the lid (with coals) back in place until the top is browned.
Decorate if you’d like, as we did. Slice and serve like brownies.
The fun of a Dump Cake is that it’s versatile. You can use any can of pie filling or even canned crushed pineapple. You can add 1/2 to one cup of walnuts, almonds or pecans. You can use any boxed cake mix–white, yellow, spice, cherry, chocolate. Just remember to dump in order:
- canned fruit
- boxed cake
- stick of melted butter
And there you have it–Dump Cake! And now a parting shot of Birch Lake:
And that’s Bobo swimming for the canoe, not Nessie. But if you like magical creatures, join us for the June 4 Flash Fiction Challenge: June 4, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a fantastical element or creature. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, June 10 to be included in the compilation.