Ranch Yarns

This collection of flash fiction was written for the Ranch Hands at Carrot Ranch. They might only make sense over at Carrot Ranch, but have been corralled here. 

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Oasis            

The sky, sun-blistered blue, was punctuated by patient buzzards. Heat soaked, every rock and bit of sage shimmered, illusory to their uncertain eyes. So when they spotted it they stared, blinking and unsteady, wondering if it were real. They stumbled on.

Sounds of laughter and conversation drew them on. Finally they reeled through the gates. “Please”, they croaked. “We’re parched. Please, give us some words.”

In a flash the ranch hands refreshed them with words, cool and crisp. They gulped thirstily.

“Whoa, now. There’s plenty. Just take 99 at a time.”

“Wha- ?”

“I’m Shorty. Welcome to Carrot Ranch.”

 ###

 Wrangling                        

“Whoa there, Kid.”

“Guess I’m anxious to git ‘em to the Ranch.”

“You’ll git ‘em all there in good shape. Just watch for strays.”

Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, Shorty was busy at her chuckwagon. Shorty, who was of great stature, preferred the wagon to the cookhouse, liked to have her wheels ready to roll.

Shorty congratulated and cajoled the hands as they rode in from near and distant ranges. She noted the herd amassing in the corral, some branded, some a bit wild and unpredictable.

Hungry for Shorty’s nourishing comfort food, the hands milled around the chuckwagon.

“Carrots!”

###

 Where’s the Beef?                  

“Fifty musta’ made her cantankerous.”

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

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

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

“Are there even any left?”

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

More grumbling but they were already mounted and ranging out. Shorty never used a stick, and knew that the carrot was simply a job raw done.

 ###

Shorty’s Close Shave

“Tell it agin, Shorty.”

“Yeah, tell it agin. Were they rustlers?”

“No, way I heard it, it weren’t rustlers, it was a dude, thinkin’ this was a dude ranch. But Shorty, she ain’t no greenhorn, she saw through, ran ‘em off the ranch.”

“Yeah, Shorty she recognized mechanical bull. Pulled the plug on it.”

“Yee ha! ‘Cause what’s next, astro-turf on the range? That ain’t welcoming.”

“Well, now if ya’ll would pipe down, maybe Shorty could tell it again.

“Yeah. Shorty?”

“I told enough already. Be authentic. Be yourselves. And when you wrangle, don’t get tangled in your rope.”

 ###

Branding Time        

“Shorty’s boss? I thought Shorty was in charge of the chuckwagon.”

“Shorty’s trail boss too. She knows roundup like no other. She’s the ridin’est, ropin’est wrangler out here on the range.”

“I hear she wants to grow the ranch, expand the brand.”

“Yup.”

“In a setting like this, we characters oughtta rob a bank, hold up a train. Git money for the Ranch.“

“Now Kid, Shorty don’t need that kinda trouble. Snap outta character and just hit the paypal button.”

“Yeah, I will. ‘Cause I like the content at this here ranch.”

“Don’t you mean contentment?”

“Yeah, that too.”

 ###

Up and At ‘Em!                                      

 “Come on Kid, up and at ‘em.”

“Uhhnn. Where’s Shorty at anyway? I heard she mighta went into town.”

“You heard, you heard. Ever heard of herdin’ cattle?”

“Shorty’s in town, probly playin’ cards, havin’ fun.”

“Hush. Shorty’s busy. And she might be gambling, but it’s a serious game she’s playin’.”

“Anyway, I heard Shorty’s at the rodeo.”

“Well you heard right. She is, and it ain’t her first time neither. This one’s big.”

“With Shorty away, what can we do?”

“We’ll do what we do.”

“Yee haw! Time to play with words.”

“That’s it Kid. Round ‘em up.”

 ###

One Fine Dawn at The Ranch            

“I miss Shorty’s cookin’.”

“Well, Shorty’s busy. You’ll just have to make do.”

“I guess. And I ‘spose things are goin’ along pretty good. That was a first rate round up last week.”

“Yeah, it was Kid. There’re some mighty fine wranglers around here.”

“Shorty’s talkin’ to the bank?”

“Somethin’ like that. She’s gonna make the ranch even better, better for all of us.”

“Will we have our own brand?”

“Somethin’ like that Kid. It’s gonna be quite a spread.”

“But who’s gonna pay, Pal?”

“Was that a hint?”

“Somethin’ like that.”

“Drink yer milk.”

“I miss Shorty’s cookin’.”

####

Transmission to Transition              

“Kid, you gotta grin a mile long on that face a yours.”

“ ‘Less I’m dreamin’, Shorty’s back!”

“Yep, I saw. She brought us flowers from the prairie, by gosh.”

“She’s been on walkabout.”

“Walkabout? You been talkin’ with Aussie?”

“Well, it has been kind of a vision quest for Shorty, ain’t it?”

“I reckon so. She’s been runnin’ down a dream alright.”

“Well now what?”

“There’s work involved in a dream coming true, Kid.”

“I know. What can we do to help?”

“Shorty will keep us posted. In the mean time, dream along.”

“Dreamin’ big as a prairie sky!”

###

De Fence

“Sorry Shorty, I thought it was apple juice. I didn’t get into the fray, just steerin’ the Kid here to the bunkhouse.”

“That’s quite a shiner. What happened, Kid?”

“I showed ‘em, that’s what happened. I said, ‘Shorty ain’t ‘fraid of nothin’ ‘ and I mighta punctuated my meanin’ with a left hook.”

“Your left hook was more of a question mark, Kid, but that was quite the exclamation point you took to the eye. Shorty, I thought the Kid knew they said frayed, not ‘fraid.”

“Oh, it’ll be alright. Kid, sometimes we’re all afraid and frayed.”

“Yeah?”

“ ’Fraid so.”

###

What the Blazes?

“Hey Shorty. That’s a fine fire you got there. Cookin’ somethin’ up? Bacon sure would be nice.”

“No, ain’t cookin’.”

“Oh… Cold?”

“No, I ain’t cold.”

“Oh… Scarin’ away coyotes?”

“No, ain’t seen any sign of coyotes.”

“Shorty, why’n heck you got this here fire blazin’ away if you ain’t cookin’, ain’t cold, and ain’t worried about coyotes?”

“Let’s just say this fire is for anyone who is hungry, or cold, or worried about coyotes. A welcome to set a spell. Share stories.”

“A beckoning beacon.”

“Exactly.”

“Still, some bacon would be nice.”

“Here, have a carrot.”

“Raw?”

“Raw.”

###

Red Handed

“Kid, what are you doin in there?”

“Nothin’ “

“Well if yer doin’ nothin’, git out. I gotta go.”

“I’m busy.”

“What are you doin?”

“Nothin’.”

“Yer doin somethin’.”

“It ain’t nothin’. Now go away, I’d like some privacy.”

“Oh… You know, Kid, it’s ok, everyone does it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Even you?”

“Yup, since I was knee high to a grasshopper.”

“Did ya worry about someone catchin ya at it?”

“Used to, but now I jist do it when ever and where ever I like. Ta heck with ‘em if they don’t like it.”

“So… you write too.”

“Yep.”

###

“So yer sayin’ everyone does this?”

“Yep.”

“Shorty?”

“Gosh, yes. Can’t help herself. Even likes to do it with friends. Does it real heartfelt.”

“What about CJ?”

“CJ will do it when no one is lookin’ and even when they are.”

“Does Aussie do it?”

“Oh, yeah. You can learn a lot from Aussie. Really gets down under. Does it real meaningful like.”

“Is there a wrong way to do it?”

“No, Kid, that’s the beauty of it. It’s all good. Just do what feels right for you.”

“What will people think, I mean…”

“Ah, Kid, just write already.”

###

Chicken Scratch

“Aw, fricassee! I ain’t never seen chickens ‘round the ranch before. We gonna have to herd them too?”

“If Shorty says.”

“Chicken’d go nice with carrots.”

“I doubt the chickens end up in the pot. She already thinks they’s ladies in petticoats for gosh sakes.”

“Hmmph.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me none if Shorty got ‘em to scratch out 99 words in the dirt for her. They’d scratch out some egg-citing tales, alright.”

“Bah, what stories do chickens have?”

“Some speak of the coop, some the road.”

“Shorty says she’s done crisscrossin’ roads for awhile.”

“Yep. That chicken has landed.”

“Unexpectedly.”

###

Carrot Pie

“Shorty in the cookhouse?”

“Nope, at her chuck wagon.”

“Oh-oh.”

“No, she ain’t goin’ anywhere, just cookin’ at the ol’ wagon. She does love the great outdoors.”

“Well I’ve got the flour she asked for. And butter. What the heck she up to now?”

“Wants to make pies. Specifically, piecrust.”

“Oh-oh. That can be tricky.”

“Yep.”

“Why is she so het up on piecrust?”

“Well, we always wrangle words to fill Shorty’s safe, sturdy corral. This week she just wants us to bring some tasty pie filling to the chuck wagon.”

“Sounds homey. Raw filling ok?”

“Yep. Raw’s ok.”

###

Grub Stake

“Hey, Pal. Aussie was wonderin’ how to git the stakes up for the ranch.”

“That’s right, Kid.”

“Hey, Pal, what if we had like a contest, where you pay to play. But no judging. Anyone that wrangles is a winner.”

“And if you just come by to read you can pay too?”

“Yeah, I reckon’ anyone could pay. Unless they can’t. Or already did.”

“They probably already did.”

“Did you ante up?”

“I gave some.”

“Some is good, Pal.”

“Kid, my name ain’t Pal.”

“I know.”

“So stop calling me Pal. Or else.”

“What? You’ll make me pay, Pal?”