Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Cattle Drive

cattle drive 101412 flash fiction prompt copyright ks brooks
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.

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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13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Cattle Drive”


    I don’t know what we were expecting. I mean, how do you prepare for, what, Armageddon?
    Was that what it was? What it might be?
    That was the point.
    We didn’t know.
    How could we?
    The world had changed. Not just in the big ways, the ways you notice, but in those minute ways, like little breaths of experience, slight tilts of the sun’s rays, raindrops with an unfamiliar hue.
    At first, we had all we needed. Food. Housing. The daily weather report.
    That’s a joke.
    The weather reports, I mean.
    And maybe housing.
    Some didn’t have any.
    And food.
    That too was in short supply for some.
    Then the meat packing plants started to report that their employees were getting sick.
    Sick and dying.
    So, some were closed.
    Just a precaution.
    “Meat’s fine,” they said.
    Still, you had to wonder.
    Then a few more closed.
    That got everyone’s attention.
    The carnivores anyways.
    “We need our meat,” they said.
    Went to the press.
    Marched on Washington.
    “We need our meat.”
    Then the anti-meat activists got going.
    “Mad Cow,” they said. “It’s worse than Mad Cow.”
    Mad Cow never sounded good.
    Even if this wasn’t that.
    Meat lovers went dark. Underground.,
    “The government will take away our meat,” they said. “We’ll have to process our own.”
    It took money. Meat-eaters always had money.
    They rustled cattle.
    Midnight cattle calls.
    Trail rides.
    Highway rides.
    Cows aplenty.
    And a slogan
    “Extremism in Defense of Meat is no Vice.”
    Catchy, eh!

  2. Callie bounded in the room, short blonde curls bobbing around her head, floating just above her shoulders. She was a beautiful little babe. For a spell, one of those balder babies, her hair finally sprouting, gorgeous perfect blonde ringlets.

    “What’s up baby girl?”

    “Daddy said we can go to town for ice cream!”

    “Oh, did he?” She nodded, curls falling in her face. “Well let’s go then!” I had been relaxing in bed, reading, exhausted from a long day of yard work. Slow to get up, my muscles and joints ached, I was mad at myself for pushing it. But nothing kept me from me from my little girl.

    Soon the three of us were piled in our older F-150 single cab, cruising down the back road to town. “Ooh!” I looked down, Callie in her car seat, wedged between her daddy and me. Her face was puffy in pale pink excitement, finger pointed to what lie up ahead.

    “Ahhgh,” Brent said frustrated. I just laughed. The old McClain farm stretched down the next quarter mile of the one lane road, just before reaching town.

    “Looks like they have some escapees,” I giggled. Callie clapped her hands together.

    “Pretty cows. Ooh the strip ones are so cute!”

    “Yes baby girl,” I said.

    The ranch hands and William McClain were out trying to wrangle them up. I just smiled over at Brent and he melted like warm butter, turning in a nice roux, as joy spread through that little cab.

  3. Title: Cattle Drive

    Commuting from the countryside to the city can be unpredictable. Working in the director’s office at a Fortune 500 company is not a place to be late.

    Herb was a nice guy, but he was a stickler for being on time. Two months in this position and I had never been late.

    I had my usual light breakfast, said my goodbyes to the wife and headed off to work. Sixteen miles, which was usually a thirty-minute drive.

    My mind was focused somewhere between work and music, when a cowboy jumped in front of my BMW. I quickly noticed he didn’t have an option as the other cowboy had opened the fence and the heard was pushing one another to squeeze through the gate.

    I had plenty of time to count the cows, but never thought there would be this many. I should have counted how many times I looked at my watch.

    I was ten minutes late, and Herb was standing arms across his chest looking at HIS watch. I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh. Herb followed right on my heels to my office.

    “You’re LATE.”

    I turned, saw his red face and couldn’t help starting to laugh again.

    “Herb, I’m sorry.” I tried my best to catch my breath to say more.

    “This better be a good one!”


    From time to time now, I cut the silence with a Moo, and we chuckle, knowing the rest of the story.

  4. He sees the blockage ahead and he wonders. A year ago, it would have been cars, creeping along bumper to bumper, but today it seemed to be several score of cattle, moving equally slowly but polluting the atmosphere less. He lifts his hand up to his forehead and looks ahead, trying to see if there’s someone in charge. He sees several people on horses, moving slowly through the herd. He guesses they’ll be doing their best to keep things moving.

    “What ya gonna do? I need the bathroom.”

    Larry turns away from the road ahead. His mother is in the car, her voice like chalk on a slate, insistent and with that catch in her tone he knows so well.

    “Didn’t you go an hour ago? I told you to go before we left.” He had figured on the road being empty as it always was, his car being one of the few still left in town. There was his and the county doctor’s and there was the police-chief’s van, its rearward-facing doors opening only when the driver thumbed a switch. It had a sound-proof glass shield that separated the front from the back; he wishes he had an arrangement like that in his Buick. The old lady could do her business and he’d never know. His intern always cleaned the car out after a drive.

    He likes to keep the young man busy; it gives him more time to attend to other business, business he’d rather keep to himself.

  5. “I swear Daisy, if you don’t keep wanderin’ off, your rump will become rump steak, dripping in peppercorn sauce and sittin’ next to the biggest plate of fries you ever did see…” David Frampton took a moment to wipe the sweat from his brow, briefly imagining settling into the booth at the bar, enjoying a sweet, cold beer in a frosted glass, and digging his fork into a juicy, medium-rare chunk of seared meat. He unconsciously licked his lips as the Black Angus cow called Daisy mooed in apparent fear at his despairing tone. The rest of the flock was at least vaguely cooperating as they trundled down the dirt road, flanked by trees to the left, but unable to avoid the baking sun to the right.

    Tilting his hat, David patted his chestnut horse Rose, who snorted and trotted after the errant cows, herding them toward Johnson’s old farmhouse. David could make out the old, red building, with once pristine white slats now turned a dirty yellow by time and the Californian sun. It occurred to him that he only had half an hour to go before he’d be there, but then Daisy decided she didn’t want to go that away, and yet again took off, heading back for the comfort of her old home. With a sigh, David returned to his pleasant, Daisy-steak daydream, as he turned Rose around to pursue the skittish bovine.

  6. “We’ve saved this group from the slaughterhouse,” Tom explained to the reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. “Got ’em at an auction of stuff owned by a family that was wiped out by the covid.”

    “I’m not sure I get why saving thirty cows in the backwoods in Montana was important to PETA–don’t you have bigger fish to fry?” The reporter had been doing a series of articles on “life in rural America”and she’d gotten good reviews from New Yorkers whose closest encounter with anything rural occurred in Central Park.

    “You reporters are so cynical — every cow’s life is important to us! We’ll find good homes for this bunch in no time. There’s a good market for pet cows especially with the backstory these guys will have.”

    The reporter scoffed..”And this cattle drive on a highway is a great photo-op for your fundraising brochure, right?”

    “There you go again,” Tom said. Then he heard the blare of the approaching tractor trailer that’d been out of sight around the curve. He screamed, “drive ’em to the field.” But it was too late.

    The next day’s Missoula Times carried the news as its headline: “Tractor Trailer Smashes Into PETA Cattle Drive–15 Cows, PETA Organizers, and Reporter Killed.” Surviving cows, it was reported, would be donated to the local chapter of Hunters For the Hungry for their July 4 BBQ.

  7. The rider reached over and prodded the forlorn beast that was dropping back from the enormous herd. “Move along, fatso,” he shouted. “We ain’t got far to go.” The animal snorted, shuffled closer to the other bulls, cows and calves, and thought, I guess we all believed them when they told us we were going to the happiest place on earth.

    At the end of the road the muddy stockyards, surrounded by miles of barbed wire, waited.

    When they reached the gates, a calf in the happy group mooed to his mom, “Mooppee! We’ll soon be back munching and playing in grassy fields enjoying a happy life again.” He licked her nose and scampered away.

    While the herd was being loaded, the cattlemen, their jobs done, headed home. One said to the other, “Yah know, this reminds me of some horrific stories my grandpa used to tell me. They sounded so far fetched. I couldn’t believe people could do that to people. l don’t know why, but all I can remember is, in Europe there used to be gruesome places with names sounding something like Owshwitz and Dacow.”

    “Whoever heard of places with names like that?” his friend replied.
    “Sounds to me like your grandpa was making up a bunch of malarkey just to scare you. Let’s go get some Matzah Ball Soup.”

    Dreaming of a joyous reunion with family and friends, the herd, crammed into hermetically sealed freight cars, was carted away to the slaughterhouse.


    Perfect Date
    She wanted their first official date to be magical. What does comfortable clothes and shoes mean? She examined the contents of her closet, removing her good jeans and her suede tennis shoes.
    Jason’s F350 pick-up roared into her driveway. She waited for a knock on the door, but like always, he blared the horn. Rolling her eyes, she slammed the door, jumped into the cab, and buckled her seatbelt.
    “Seriously, tennis shoes. They are going to get ruined. Go change.”
    “No, these are cute and comfy. I thought this was date attire.”
    “Ok. Don’t be mad at me later.”
    She waved off his concern, as little boxes opened in her mind. The date was already off to a bad start. Since he didn’t come to the door, the first item on her perfect first date list remained unchecked. Mindlessly chewing on her fingernails, she cursed under her breath. Ahead was a herd of cattle. Jason must see them. Why isn’t he turning around?
    Her eyes widened as he pulled off the road next to several horses and turned off the engine.
    “Let’s go.”
    Squeezing her eyes shut and pinching her arm, she counted to 10 and opened her eyes. Nothing changed. Calm down and speak.
    “Out with the cows?”
    “Yup. I wanted our first date to be something you had never done before.”
    “You have succeeded. I should have changed my shoes.”
    Salvaging part of her checklist, she crossed off the box labeled funny date story to tell her grandchildren.

  9. “Will you quit complaining! Ever since we left Montana you’ve done nothing but moan and groan from sunup to sundown.”

    “Yeah, but I didn’t know we’d have to walk the whole way to Texas!”

    “Hey, at least we don’t have to carry one of those chunky cowboys and all their gear. Can you just imagine how skinny we’d get if we had to carry a load like that?”

    “Well I….

    “And the stops for the night… Cowboys always pick the best spots. Lots of lush green grass. Shady trees. Water holes.”

    “I guess they do treat us pretty good.”

    “You bet they do! Why, my mama’s big ambition was to go to Texas. When she was chosen, you never saw a happier heffier. She went off with the drive and we’re still waiting to hear from her. So busy having fun she doesn’t have time to get word back to us about it.”

    “Okay, okay. I get your point.”

    “And the horses. Don’t forget the horses. They always come back to escort more cows. Do you ever hear them talk about how wonderful Texas is? No, you don’t. Because they don’t know. Why do you think horses wear blinders? So they won’t see anything, that’s why. And those sharp pointy things on the back of the cowboys’ boots? Cowboys jab the horses with them to keep the horses quiet. See, cows are special, horses aren’t.”

    “Very true!” Clara replied, and she marched happily on.

  10. YeeHaw, Y’all

    To anyone on the outside looking in, Tyler Owens had it all. Head of content creation for the world’s largest ad agency. A twentieth floor midtown Manhattan apartment. An after-dark view of a city crowned with a diadem of lights. But sitting alone at night in the expensive leather chair in front of his apartment’s huge windows, reviewing his life, he found something was missing

    So he asked for, and got–because he was an agency star–a two-month hiatus.
    “Just going to a dude ranch in northern Wyoming to refresh,” he told his inquisitive co-workers, who responded with frowns and disbelieving stares.

    Almost three weeks in…sleeping in a bunkroom, watching a herd of cow butts in the weekly migration from one mountain pasture to the next, a diet of bacon and eggs in the morning and steak at night—hard to believe, but Tyler Owens found what he had been missing. Fresh air, the outdoors, freedom from the stress of a cut-throat agency life….and the exhilaration of being his own man.

    It came as a shock to Bev Markum, his immediate supervisor, when she got a text message from him. “Hey, Bev, this is not a “take this job and shove it ” letter because I’ve loved every minute of my ten years at BBDO. It is, instead, an “I found something better” letter of resignation. So, goodbye, love you and yeehaw, ya’ll. Tyler Cowpuncher (it ain’t what it sounds like) Owens.

  11. BESSIE

    I’ve been working on this ranch since I was a teenager, but I’ve been around livestock my whole life. I know a basic unwritten rule: animals are raised to be food not friends.

    Of course, there’s always going to be an animal that catches your eye. A particular individual specimen that shows off the best qualities of the species. There are some chickens that are picture-perfect; plump with clear eyes and undamaged feathers. It’s rare to find a bird high up in the pecking order that hasn’t received at least some injury from fighting. Some swine make it to adulthood unscathed and have the uncanny ability to remain clean even while living in muddy pens. It’s true, some livestock are just more attractive than the rest.

    There was one cow I was quite fond of, I’m a bit embarrassed to admit. She was a runt at birth, her mother rejected her and actually tried to stomp the little thing. I took pity and nursed the skinny-legged bovine with a bottle. I called her “Bessie” for lack of a better name, and secretly kept an eye on her when she was finally strong enough to be introduced into the rest of the herd. Her white markings were easy to spot.

    Today the boys and I are bringing the herd to be shipped out for slaughter. I can see Bessie’s bright head looking around as she ambles down the road. She catches my eye. She has such big, bright eyes.

  12. Jeff and the others sat on their horses and cantered gingerly down the paved road. They spread themselves out behind the herd, keeping them on the pavement and out of the woods. The cattle, shaggy from winter pasture, were obstreperous, not cooperative. It was turning out to be hard work keeping the whole enterprise together.

    “It’s just not worth it,” said Jeff. “We could get the pickups and trailers and be finished in half an hour.”

    “What would the tourists think?” asked Phil, the craggy herd boss, “You guys are giving me as much trouble as the cattle are giving you. Just relax and enjoy the ride.”

    “Like this pistol I’m carrying,” said Jeff, “this whole thing is fake and I’m tired of it.”

    “What the hell else would you be doing if you weren’t driving this pretend herd to the pretend pasture?” asked Phil.

    “I don’t know,” said Jeff. “I’d just like to give something real a try.”

    “Careful what you wish for,” said Phil.

    A thick dust cloud enveloped the boys, the old man, and the herd. Jeff turned his horse to the left and slipped into a seam as he tried to avoid the dust. There was no escape when the thunder clapped, time paused, and the herd moseyed down the now-unpaved wagon path.

    Looking around, Jeff suddenly sported a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon. He went on to live a long, prosperous, and happy life as a cattle baron in the old west.

  13. Here on Kalmandor getting cattle to market was a strange blend of old and new. Stacy’s horse could’ve been any cowpoke’s mount from when the Spanish brought horses and cattle to the Americas. The flitter that flew ahead of the herd, scouting the trail for danger, was the Kitties’ technology, as nimble as a helicopter but far more stable.

    Even after three years as a settler here, Stacy couldn’t decide whether she missed her parents’ ranch in western Texas. On one hand, she loved staking a claim for one’s own ranch. On the other hand, she missed being able to go home for the holidays. It had been possible when working on a ranch in Wyoming, but not so feasible on a world light-years away.

    She had the energy rifle out of her saddle holster before her conscious mind even registered the predator lurking in the feathery plants which resembled Terran ferns. “Lionsnake!”

    In moments the rest of the team wheeled their horses around and began firing into the brush. The quasi-reptilian creatures traveled in prides – where you saw one, there’d be a dozen. When struck they made a sound like an old-time locomotive letting off steam.

    The flitter pilot came back around to scan the area for stragglers. In the meantime, the riders needed to concentrate on maintaining control of the herd, which was on the edge of a stampede.

    Nothing’s easy on the frontier.

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