Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Cattle Ranch

Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.


Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

On Wednesday, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday. On Saturday morning, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature.

Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Cattle Ranch”

    • Submitted for Editor’s Choice Only

    “Man, I had a close shave yesterday.”

    “How’s that, Clay?”

    “Well, I left the cattle ranch and went to town like I always do every week ta take a bath, grab me a shave . . . freshen up and get the stink off, ya know.”

    “Boy howdy, I’m with ya on that.”

    “Anyhoo, I’m in the barbershop, sittin’ in that big old red chair, all lathered up, and the barber, he’s a-polishin’ that straight razor on the leather strap like there’s no tomorrow, when the most beautiful filly I ever seen comes waltzin’ into the shop. I mean, she was eye-poppin’ bee-u-ti-ful. And I take one look at her and throw her a wink—”

    “Clay, you sly dog, you got the way with the womenfolk!”

    “Yeah, it jus’ comes natural-like, Texas Jack. Anyhoo, I throw her a wink an’ she starts a-blushin’ and all, so I figure I might as well cut ta the chase—”

    “You didn’t.”

    “But I did. I sez to her, ‘Little lady, you an’ me should go and spend some time in a hotel room. And quick as a wink, she replies, ‘But sir, I’m married, and my husband wouldn’t like that.’

    “An’ you know me, Texas Jack, I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. So, I sez, ‘Tell ‘em you’re working overtime. I’ll pay you the difference.’

    “An’ she sez, ‘You can tell ’im yourself, honey; he’s the one shavin’ you.’ ”

  1. Elsie, the cow, lingered in the shade of the barn trying to figure out why Ferdinand, the bull, was munching on weeds so far away from her. Wasn’t it just last night they mooed undying love for each other? Well, today they
    were going to munch breakfast together and go try to dislodge the posts holding the barbed wires. The barbs always left deep scratches on her rump while playing Piggy int the Middle.

    “Now don’t hurt yourself, Snookums,” he sighed. “I’ll knock down those darned hunks of wood. You just stand there looking moovelous and give me inspiration.” Snorting, he head-butted a post and immediately collapsed into a lump from the strain.

    Elsie leaned over trying to lick the pain from his face. “Ferdie,” she cried. “Oh, Ferdie, wake up!”

    He tried to open his eyes, but all those stars swirling around made him dizzier. He soon began thinking of Elsie’s visiting cousin, Moomoodonna. She was prettier than Elsie and had such an udderly great shape. He immediately took a liking to her and his desire to possess her mounted. He thought, that must be her licking my irresistible face. She must feel the same about me. With smiling pleasure he began opening his eyes and endearingly muttered “Moomoo?”

    Elsie angrily kicked up clumps of sod and konked him with a left hoof uppercut. The stars began swirling again.

    With head hung low, she ambled back to the barn sniffling all the way. “Men!” she groaned.

  2. “Let’s take a cruise! Let’s see the world!” he said mockingly as he fixed the loose fence post. “You spend too much time with the cows!”
    “Too much time with the cows,” he spat. A cow approached, absent mindedly sniffing the ground for patches of fresh clover. “At least Bessie ain’t bossy,” he joked to the cow before turning back to his work.
    “Mooooove.”
    He looked at the cow. Resisting the urge to say “what?” to a cow he stared instead. But the cow only continued sniffing at the ground so he eventually turned back to the loose post.
    “Moooooooove!”
    He stood and stepped back, trying to comprehend the situation. As he did, the cow moved forward, tearing into an especially thick patch of clover over which he’d been crouching as he worked.
    He watched the cow eat, not sure what else to do. After a moment, he headed to his truck, determined to return to his senses and the day’s chores.
    “Thank yooooooou.”
    He whirled around and met the gaze of the cow. They stared at each other, standing motionlessly save for the cow’s steady, slow chewing of the clover cud in its mouth.
    “Umm,” he mumbled, but the cow turned and slowly ambled away before he could finish.
    “You’re welcome?” he said feebly.
    He started back to the house. As he drove he took out his cell phone and placed a call.
    “Pack the bags, honey,” he said when his wife answered. “We’re going on that cruise.”

  3. John Malcolm had a passion for farming. His cattle he especially devoted the most time to. He made sure they had enough to eat, and he washed them everyday to keep them clean. John was a dairy farmer, so making sure his cattle were healthy was top priority.

    The farmer was leaning against the porch railing, sipping his morning coffee, as the sun started glowing over the horizon. He gazed at his cows grazing in the pasture, mooing contentedly. Their pelts gleamed in the sun from last night’s washing. Everything was all right. All normal. Closing his eyes, he breathed in the fresh air of the morning. Very calm, indeed.

    He turned around to head inside when the wind suddenly picked up. The grass violently swayed. It even made the house shake. Strange. Tornado-like winds, but tornadoes aren’t common here.

    He ran out to herd up his cattle and bring them to the safety of the barn. While counting to see if he had all of them, a bright light was forming. And it was getting so bad that the farmer finally covered his eyes with his hands. The wind blew most fiercely and the cattle mooed uneasily.

    Then everything stopped. John Malcolm slowly uncovered his eyes, afraid of blinding himself, but the lights were gone.

    And so were his cattle.

  4. EMPTY SKY

    The mountains never changed, not like the cattle who would mix things up from time to time. One could pick out a family resemblance between them, unlike the people inside the ranch house.

    Ben shook his head and chewed harder on the filter of his cigarette, bitter as it was. Nothing came close to the gut grinding loss. Empty as the sky, wind and melted snow that had marked seasons on the ranch. Now somehow, he had ended up on the wrong side of the fence.

    “Dang it.” The thumping he heard was the toe of his boot against the post. “Damn, dang it all.” Selling the ranch was done. Those times were gone for him and what was left of his.

    How had she said it exactly? Trying to piece together his recollection of that day that had shattered all around them. Falling like the aspen leaves all a rustle in the long grass.

    “I’m lonely here Ben. I can’t stick it out for another winter,” she declared, hanging her apron on the peg. “The kids are gone, it’s been a good run for us for the most part.” He felt her watching him. How he was taking all this real people talk. Poorly, he thought.

    His boot drove the smoking butt deep into the dirt. No point burning it all down now he
    thought. He supposed he ought to go find out what was on the other side of that ridge. Not leaving, just moving on.

  5. A group of cows were in deep discussion as they huddled together in a field on a Sunday afternoon.

    “Tell us more,” said Harriet. The other cows crowded closer.

    Mabel continued: “I’m reading a book called, ‘Having Fun with Antimatter’. As a result, I’ve been doing some experiments using a chemistry set I found in the barn.”

    “Antimatter? What’s that?”

    “Not sure. But I think if antimatter comes into contact with regular matter then the world will fall apart.”

    “Quiet,” another cow interrupted. “It’s farmer Wilkie.”

    Farmer Wilkie sauntered up the path towards the cows. “Hello, ladies,” he said with a grin.

    A few cowbells jingled.

    “Moo.”

    Farmer Wilkie chuckled. Stupid cows, he thought. “Have fun, ladies. I’m going for a walk.”

    Shortly after the farmer left, the cows ended their meeting, and Mabel resumed her experiments. She wasn’t quite sure what she was doing but she proceeded to mix several different types of liquids together. Soon, she grew tired and bored of her work, left everything in the open, and then wandered back towards the barn to get some sleep.

    During the night the mixed liquids started a chemical reaction. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, a tear appeared in the fabric of reality, and little by little a powerful, invisible force, known as antimatter, slipped into the world, and began to slowly destroy everything in its path. Come morning, everyone on the Wilkie farm was in for a big surprise.

  6. “You didn’t know your father owned this land?” Kate asked.

    “Not until I inherited it.” Randall pulled off his sunglasses.

    “What do you plan to do with it?”

    He scanned the vast area. “Once it’s cleared out, we could sell and make quite a profit.”

    “Have you ever heard of open space?”

    He frowned, “Open space doesn’t make us any money. Besides, my board will think I’ve lost it.”

    “Tell them your wife wanted to keep it.”

    “Really? You want this?” he looked around confused. “There isn’t anything particularly appealing here.”

    Kate linked her arm with his. “You know I spent a lot of time on my grandfather’s farm, and I love the outdoors. There’s plenty to appreciate here. I’ll take it as a personal challenge to get you to see it as well.”

    He shook his head. “Fine, this place is yours,” Randall kissed her temple. “I can’t ever refuse you, but I don’t think you’ll get me to see what you find charming about this cattle ranch unless you reconsider developing it.”

    “No, I’m going to protect it. Open spaces are a scarcity. Plus, I believe I can convince you to enjoy time away from the city. No traffic, no phones.”

    “I’d miss the city’s energy,” he countered.

    “I’ve got lots of time to work on you. Picture us on a porch, watching a glorious sunset,” she beamed.

    Randall tried to suppress a smile as a ladybug landed on her nose. All right, maybe she could convince him.

  7. The end of the world
    John had been the manager of Shop in Joy for ages. Certain his rather luxurious life would last forever, he used to open the store every morning, after taking a deep breath under the oak tree that stood right outside the store. The oak tree had been there before the store.
    John was fired as soon as the recession came. He didn’t know how to live without managing the store. Without grazing all over during a seemingly endless summer. He fell into deep depression. Doctors told him there was a life beyond the store. A life unexplored, which he would soon find. John didn’t need to explore anything; he only wanted his old life back.
    John wanted to resist, to take some action. Yet guilt held him back. He had been part of the game after all. Turning a blind eye to all that had been happening around, as long as he was safe. He bought a rope and hang himself. Under the shade of the old oak tree. The tree that stood there before it all started. Some days later the oak tree was cut down. A few months later the store went bankrupt.
    And that was the end of the world for John, the Shop in Joy, the oak tree and all that went down with them: the dream to shop in joy, till the cows come home. The cows came home earlier than expected. They are now safely locked in the barn.

  8. He woke.

    The sun was hot on his skin and bright through his eyelids. He smiled. He could remember those days, back when he was a kid, when he used to lay out on the lawn, his skin gradually getting darker. It never used to happen all at once – it used to take days; beginning with the reddening and then cycling through to a rich honied brown. Almost as dark as that girl from class; the one he’d doted on. She’d been of mixed race and had been differently featured to everyone else he knew. Exotic and mysterious and a close friend of Hank, the football player from two years above. She’d never noticed him, of course.

    He tried to roll over and got stopped before he’d hardly moved. There was something holding him back. Some problem with his hands and his feet. He opened his eyes.

    “You awake now?” It was Gram Parsons, the man he’d chosen as his best man. He had a Bud in his hand: he always did; it was like it was a part of him; the level of the beer going down but the bottle never empty. “We did a few things last night and now we’re going home. You okay? You can find your way back?”

    Walt tugged at the ropes, the knots pulling tighter. “You bastards,” he said, squinting at Gram, who was stood with the sun behind him. “You’re gonna leave me here, staked out, in a field with cows?”

  9. “I’ve got him,” Valerie radioed to the ranch hands searching for her dad.

    She swerved to a stop and jumped out of the old Jeep. “Daddy,” she called as she jogged up to him. She was startled by this vision of her dad, how shrunken he looked in the bright summer sun as he gazed out at the herd.

    “Daddy?” she called again. He turned to her, confusion clouding his eyes.

    “Where have you been?” asked Valerie. “We’ve been looking for you all day.”

    “The damned horse,” he replied. “Bucked me off. Must’ve been knocked out. Once I find that horse, I’m gonna teach him a lesson.”

    Valerie stopped in her tracks. “Your horse? Daddy, what horse?”

    “Look at that herd,” he said. “It’s pathetic. We’ve got to do better. What horse? Ebony, of course. I love him. After all, my dad give him to me. But I can’t have him knocking me around like that.”

    “Daddy, let’s get back home. Come on.”

    He seemed a bit unsteady on his feet, so Valerie took her dad’s arm, surprised at how thin it was. As they approached the driver’s side of the Jeep, he hesitated, not jumping in as usual.

    “Can I drive, Daddy? Just this once?”

    Her dad relaxed and smiled. “Good idea. But don’t tell your mother.”

    As they headed back home, her dad mumbled something more about Ebony but Valerie couldn’t quite make it out as she blinked back her tears.

  10. Teacher (squawk): “This picture is from circa 19th to 20th century depicting a dairy farm.”
    Student (beep): “What’s a dairy farm?”
    Squawk: “It’s a process that created sustenance for humans.”
    Beep, Beep, Beep…: kicks off multiple questions.
    Squawk: “Hold on, hold on I can’t answer all your questions at once. Bip you first.”
    Beep: “What are they doing?”
    Squawk: “They are what humans called grazing in the fields.”
    Beep, Beep, Beep…: kicks off another round of questions.
    Squawk to Squawk senior: “Who knew there would be so much interest in a failed antiquated life institution.”
    Squawk senior to Squawk: “Whatever you do, don’t tell them it failed when it changed and they poisoned themselves with pesticides.”

  11. “Is that blood I see on the fence, son?” Noah swaggered forward with his bowed legs to lean elbow-to-elbow against the fence with his son.

    “Huh? I don’t see any blood, Dad.” Jonah looked everywhere but down.

    “Tarnations, boy, you’ve been killin’ stuff again, ain’t ya?”

    “No I ain’t, Paw. I ain’t killed things again.”

    Noah raised a graying eyebrow. “Now don’t be getting’ technical with me. You killed somethin’, didn’t ya?”

    After scuffing in the dirt and kicking the fencepost, Jonah said, “Yes, Paw.”

    “What’d ya kill?”

    “Old man Wickers.”

    “How come?”

    “He said Maw was fat.”

    “Maw is fat, Jonah!”

    “I know, Paw, but he ain’t allowed to say that. He ain’t kin.”

    Noah nodded. “I can’t argue that. What’d you do with him?”

    Jonah tilted his head and gave a single nod towards the feed trough.

    “Why the hell’d you do that?”

    “I figured if pigs can eat a human body in eight minutes, then cows should be able to eat one four times as fast, since they’re four times the size.” Jonah beamed and stood chest out with pride.

    “Boy, how many times have I told you that cows only eat hay?”

    “But we don’t have pigs, Paw.”

    Noah shook his head. “How long’s he been dead?”

    “Only a couple hours.”

    “All right. Let’s get him into the house and Maw can cook him up.”

    “Paw?”

    “Yeah?”

    “It’s ironic that he called Maw fat and she’s gonna cook him, ain’t it?”

    “Yes, son, yes it is.”

  12. “Not again!” said Farmer Pappi.

    He threw his hat on the ground and spouted a few choice words. Another twelve cows, gone. That made three dozen this week. No damage to the fence. No foot prints. No car tracks. Just gone. The cattle rustlers must have airlifted the animals out of the field.

    What was left of his herd grazed nearby. If only they could talk. One of the cows pulled leaves off a bush with purple flowers, jostling a swarm of insects. Pappi muttered a few more curses as they fluttered around his head, then shooed the cow away from the plant.

    Pappi retrieved his hat as the animal ambled off. A startled moo made him jump. Pappi spun around expecting to see a bandit. The cow stood a few yards away, shaking its head. After another bellow it’s back shimmered and a pair of butterfly shaped wings sprouted. It turned and nosed the strange new appendages then began to move them. After a few tentative flaps, the cow lifted into the air and fluttered away.

    Too stunned to react, Pappi stared as it vanished over the hills. Cow’s aren’t supposed to fly. Heavy footsteps and another moo snapped him out of his stupor.

    “Oh no you don’t,” he said, shooing three more cows away from the plant.

    Pulling out his smart phone he snapped a picture and used the plant identification app. It didn’t take long to figure out the problem. Butterfly bushes were not good cow food.

  13. CATTLE RANCH

    He woke up early expecting his cat to come in through the half-opened window as he always did each morning as daylight peeked through the darkness. Young Jimmy looked out the window at the cattle grazing in the distant field but no sign of Tommy the tomcat.

    In the distance he could hear the barking of dogs. “What are they complaining about this morning,” he wondered.

    The sound of barking was getting closer and closer. He opened the window wider so he could look out. Nearer and nearer came the dogs. Suddenly he felt something brush his arm as Tommy leaped into the room past him. Three dogs were almost on him.
    Jimmy threw the window shut before the dogs could jump in.

    He took his cat into his arms and cuddled him as he always did. Tommy was old before Jimmy was born. The cat panted hard one last time and stopped moving.

    His dad soon after planted a tree every 25 yards or so on the cattle ranch to help any future animals or birds that needed rest.

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