Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Circle C & Goldtown Short-Story Writing Contest 2014!

Greetings, young writers! I'm so excited to announce the 2nd annual Circle C Adventures / Circle C Beginnings / Goldtown story writing contest for 2014. Anyone may enter; there is no fee required and no purchase required. But . . . since the writing contest revolves around the characters and settings from the book series, you might need to find a copy of the books in your local library to familiarize yourself with the premise.You can read last year's winning stories HERE.

This page gives you a quick summary of the contest rules. However, you will also need to download and read the OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES in order to enter. The Entry Form (which your parent will need to sign) must be scanned and emailed to me (or sent via snail mail) in order to be officially entered in the contest. NOTE: I need at least eight (8) entries in a category for it to qualify for the judging. 

CATEGORIES and WORD COUNT: There will be three (3) categories for contestants, based on age.
       A. Ages 6-9 (500-1,000 words)
       B. Ages 10-13 (1,500-2,500 words)
       C. Ages 14-17 (2,000-3,500 words)

CONTENT: The stories must revolve around the characters in the Circle C Adventures books, the Circle C Beginnings books, or the *new* Goldtown Adventures books.
     ~ Characters from any of the stories may be used as the main character or supporting characters of your story.
     ~ You may also create NEW characters as main or supporting characters in your story, so long as characters from the series are part of your story in some way.
     ~ You may also mix and match characters from any of the three (3) series.
     ~ Any setting in the United States (or Europe, if they're traveling) may be used, but the story must be set in the same general time period as the series (from 1864 and upwards).

To learn the basics of writing a character/problem/solution story, on which the contest it based, click this link for a PDF file: Five Elements of a Story: Ages 10 and up
Younger contestants can go here: Five Elements of a Story: Ages 6-9 

PRIZES: There will be a FIRST, SECOND, and THIRD place winner for each category, as well as one (1) Honorable Mentions for each category.

First-place winners receive:
     1. $25.00 cash (U.S. winners only, unless PayPal is available outside the U.S.)
     2. A 10x13 poster of either the CCAdventures, CCBeginnings, or Goldtown (U.S. winners)
     3. A copy of the paperback book, Beneath the Western Sky, containing the 12 winning stories (winners outside the U.S. will receive an E-book)
     4. A vial of real gold or a little plastic horse (winner's choice)

Second-place winners receive:
     1. $10.00 cash (U.S. winners only, unless PayPal is available outside the U.S.)

     2. A copy of the paperback book, Beneath the Western Sky, containing the 12 winning stories (winners outside the U.S. will receive an E-book)
     3. A vial of real gold or a little plastic horse (winner's choice)

Third-place winners receive:
     1. $5.00 cash (U.S. winners only, unless PayPal is available outside the U.S)
     2. A copy of the print book, Beneath the Western Sky, containing the 12 winning stories (winners outside the U.S. will receive an E-book)

Honorable Mentions receive:
     1. A Certificate of Honorable Mention (emailed to winners outside the U.S.)
     2. A copy of the paperback book, Beneath the Western Sky, containing the 12 winning stories (winners outside the U.S. will receive an E-book)

To read the details on how your story will be judged, how to submit your story to the contest, and all the other details for the contest, download the OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES.

If you have questions (after reading ALL THE OFFICIAL RULES), you may leave a comment on this page. I will address your questions in follow-up comments. Before you ask a question, check the FAQs (frequently asked questions) and see if somebody has already asked it.

Have fun! Deadline: December 31, 2014. Winners announced on or before April 1, 2015

 photo MrsM_zpsa9f216b8.png
(Andi's official sponsor of the contest)

Here you can read about our fantastic, independent judges for the contest. They have read and are familiar with the characters and situations in the Circle C Adventures / Circle C Beginnings / Goldtown books:

Judges for Ages 6-9:

Judy Dearborn Nill is the author of Samuel and Sophia and Too Big Too Soon, both to be published by Guardian Angel Press. She has also published three novels for young adults. A former journalist and teacher of journalism, Ms. Nill is now a licensed mental health counselor working out of her home office in the Seattle area. She learned much about life by reading novels and stories from an early age, and is still fond of literature for young people.

Heather FitzGerald wears disguises and avoids showing her face in public for fear of retaliation from Trolls and Dark Dwarves. Ever since she wrote her novel, The Tethered World, which reveals their existence and chronicles their hostilities with Gnomes and Nephilum, Heather must take precautions to protect herself. With Finding Christ Books accepting her Christian fantasy trilogy for teens, you'll soon get a chance to read this sensitive material for yourself. In the meantime, discover more about the Tethered World at http://heatherllfitzgerald.wix.com/author

 Judges for Ages 10-13:

Donna Alice Patton is a freelance writer and history buff living in rural Ohio. She is the author of three books: The Search for the Madonna and The Gift of Summer Snow for children, and Roses are Red, Diamonds are Blue, a mystery/thriller for adults. Read more at www.donnaalicepatton.com

Rebekah A. Morris is a home-school graduate, an enthusiastic freelance author, and a passionate writing teacher. Her books include Home Fires of the Great War, The Unexpected Request, and the Triple Creek Ranch series, as well as two books of short stories. Some of her favorite pastimes--when she isn't writing one of many different stories--include reading and coming up with dramatic and original things to do. Rebekah calls the Show-Me state home, though her dream is to one day visit all 50 states, starting with Montana. www.rsreadingroom.blogspot.com

Judges for Ages 14-17:

Karla Cook is a freelance writer, blogger, and aspiring novelist. She is currently working on a coming-of-age story set in Oklahoma during the Great Depression, inspired by her grandmother's letters and diary. She makes her home in the panhandle of Idaho with her husband, two homeschooled daughters, and an assortment of pets. She loves to read, research family history, and take road trips. Learn more at www.karlacook.weebly.com


Colleen L. Reece was born and raised near Darrington, WA, a tiny logging town in the Cascade Mts. Her family had no electricity or running water, and she learned to read by kerosene lamplight. She dreamed of someday writing a book. God multiplied her "someday" book into more than 150 titles, with over six million copies sold. Colleen is a great example of what an extraordinary God can do with an ordinary person who wants to love and serve Him.


Monday, August 25, 2014

August Trivia: Winner and Answers

August prize: Patches, gold, a magnet, and a CCA pin
Congratulations to Skylar! You are the winner of the Trouble with Treasure trivia contest. I have emailed you to ask for your mailing address and will send your fun prize out on Wednesday.

Below are the answers to the quiz. Thanks for playing, everybody! AND . . . this week I will also post the *drum roll* post for the upcoming Story Writing Contest. It doesn't launch until September 1, but you loyal blog fans get a "sneak peek" before I send out the Ezine to the rest of the readers. I have heard rumors that some of you are already writing on your story.

One of the "Bethany"s here told me that her little sister was sitting under her grandmother's booth at a convention and working on her story.

1. When is Trouble with Treasure set? Early summer, 1881 (page 7)
2. What is the name of Fresno's new deputy? Hugh Baker (page 17)
3. A "thumb-sized" piece of gold weighs about how much? One ounce (page 41)
4. Who is sucking on an ice chip when Andi and Jenny go to town? Jack (Goodwin) (page 12)
5. Everybody ducks their heads in the horse trough except for one person. Who is it? Andi (page 14)
6. What is the name of Fresno's newspaper? (The) Expositor (or the Fresno Expositor) (page 25)
7. Who do the kids spy walking around the town of Fresno Flats? Hugh Baker (page 52)
8. Which of the Carter brothers joined the posse to track down the bank robbers? Chad (page 28)
9. What does Cory want to do with the dead rattlesnake? Cory wants to turn it in for the bounty; (Mitch suggests they might want to cook it up and eat it.) (page 47)
10. What is the name of the Carters' packhorse? Pepper (page 59)
11. Who goes down the mountain to fetch help for the injured Mitch? Cory (page 92)
12. What is stamped on the outside of the sacks Jenny finds under the bunk? Fresno County Bank (page 95)
13. What food does Andi simply detest eating? Jerky (or beef jerky) (page 47)
14. What does Andi pull out of the burlap sack? the dead rattlesnake (page 132)
15. What scares the girls during the middle of the night? a cougar (or a mountain lion) (page 109)
16. Who bandaged Jenny's head? Mrs. Simmons (or Mitch, since he wrapped a rag around it first) (page 55 for Mrs. Simmons; page 48 for Mitch)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August Trivia Quiz: Trouble with Treasure

August's trivia quiz covers the fifth book of the Circle C Adventures, Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure.

Remember, you can use any means to find your answers, but rereading the book is probably your best bet. As always, Email your answers to me via the "Email Andi Your Questions and Stories" contact form on the right sidebar or by emailing me at susankmarlow [at] gmail [dot] com.  
NOTE: If you do not receive a "Got it!" reply from me, it means I didn't get it and you should try again.
Don't forget: Do NOT post your answers in the comments.
You have through next Monday, August 25, to send me your answers. (Please number them so it is easier to score.) On Sunday, I will post the correct answers and randomly draw ONE WINNER from the correct entries I received. If no one gets 100% right, I will draw from the closest winners. I will announce the winner on the blog. The winner will need to reply via the Contact Form with a mailing address so I can send the prize, which will be when I come across a post office on my travels.

August prize: Patches, gold, a magnet, and a CCA pin
This month I dug around in my "special box" and found Patches, the horse Jenny rides during Trouble with Treasure. I also thought a vial of real gold (worth about nothing!) might be fun to include, since the kids are looking for gold. I threw in another magnet (I have a lot of those!) as well as one of my very last Circle C Adventures pins.

Reminder: Every answer can be found by reading Andrea Carter and the Trouble with Treasure. You may look them all up if you want to (the questions are NOT in order). Have fun!

1. When is Trouble with Treasure set?
2. What is the name of Fresno's new deputy?
3. A "thumb-sized" piece of gold weighs about how much?
4. Who is sucking on an ice chip when Andi and Jenny go to town?
5. Everybody ducks their heads in the horse trough except for one person. Who is it?
6. What is the name of Fresno's newspaper?
7. Who do the kids spy walking around the town of Fresno Flats?
8. Which of the Carter brothers joined the posse to track down the bank robbers?
9. What does Cory want to do with the dead rattlesnake?
10. What is the name of the Carters' packhorse?
11. Who goes down the mountain to fetch help for the injured Mitch?
12. What is stamped on the outside of the sacks Jenny finds under the bunk?
13. What food does Andi simply detest eating?
14. What does Andi pull out of the burlap sack?
15. What scares the girls during the middle of the night?
16. Who bandaged Jenny's head?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Big Cat Mishap conclusion . . . by Calamity Rene

And the conclusion!

Part 3

Andi's surprise didn’t work out exactly as she’d expected it to.
No sooner had Andi walked into the ranch yard when her new pet decided the chickens looked really interesting and began to stalk the birds.
“No wait, stop!” Andi cried, but it was too late. The lion raced towards the chicken coop and batted a very terrified Henry the Eighth, who took off running and screeching. The lion chased after it like an overgrown house cat playing with a mouse.
The commotion brought all of Andi’s brothers out of the barn, not to mention a couple of ranch hands.
“The cougar!” Chad shouted, whipping out his pistol and aiming it at the lion.
“No Chad, no!” Andi screamed.
The lion chased Henry the rooster behind the barn just as Chad fired. Bang! The bullet bounced off the barn, missing the lion by a couple of inches.
“Chad, stop!” Andi demanded, running in front of her brother. “That’s no cougar, that’s a lion!”
“A cougar and a mountain lion are the same thing, Andi. Now get out of my way!”
Andi knew that tone only too well, unless one of her other brothers said something, Chad would not be stopped.Without hesitation she whirled towards Justin. “Justin, tell him to stop! It’s not a mountain lion or a cougar or a puma, it’s a lion lion! A real lion!”
By this time Chad had reloaded his gun and raced around the barn, ready to blow the intruder to smithereens. If Justin didn’t do something fast Andi’s new animal friend would be a goner!
“What are you talking about Andi? There are no real lions around here!” Justin exclaimed.
The next instant found Justin and Mitch on the ground and Andi with her back against the barn wall as Henry the Eighth ran right underneath Justin’s legs . . . followed by a very hungry lion.
“Lion, stop!” Andi cried, leaping into action and running after the feline. “Come back!”
The large animal slid to a halt and turned towards Andi, hesitating.
“That’s it.” Andi encouraged. “Leave Henry alone.”
“Andi! Get away from that thing!”
Andi glanced behind her to see Chad fifteen feet away with his gun loaded and ready to fire. “It’s alright Chad! He’s tame!” To prove her point she walked right up to the cat and patted him on the head. “See?”
Chad stared at Andi, then at the lion. Slowly he lowered his gun and then glared at Andi. “You have a lot of explaining to do.”
Andi grinned sheepishly. She was in trouble.


It didn’t take Justin long at all to find out who the lion belonged to. Like Andi had suspected Mr. lion belonged to the circus. Apparently when the circus train had stopped in Fresno so the animals could be checked on someone had forgotten to lock the door to the lion’s car and he had promptly made an exit.
The circus had wired Justin and asked him to hold onto the lion until they could get there. When Andi’s mother heard this she’d thrown her hands up in the air and exclaimed, “Where on earth are we going to put a lion for heaven’s sake? This isn’t a zoo.”
“Seeing how Andi was the one who brought him to the ranch in the first place I vote that should be her responsibility.” Chad muttered.
“Hey, it wasn’t my fault. He followed me home,” Andi argued. “Besides, he was already on the ranch. I just brought him to show you.”
And disobeyed what I told you. You should thank God you’re safe Andi. Any normal cat would have killed you,” Justin admonished.
Her punishment fit the crime. She wasn’t allowed to ride Taffy for two weeks. “That ought to teach you not to disobey like that again,” Chad had grunted. “When Taffy came running home without you and we realized you’d left you can bet we were ready to scour the whole countryside. Maybe next time you’ll think twice before taking off like that.”
Now the only loose end to tie up was the loose end itself---the lion. What were they to do with it?
Mitch voted it could live in the chicken coop, to which Mother promptly disagreed. Chad wanted to chain it up to a tree and Justin just wanted to get rid of it.
“Good thing Melinda’s in San Francisco with Aunt Rebecca. Otherwise she’d be squealing and protesting for days,” Andi had whispered into Mitch’s ear, to which he’d cracked a grin.
In the end Chad and Mitch made a large cage for the feline and set some steak on the floor to get him to go in. Mr. Lion was not happy about the arrangement but didn’t put up much of a fuss as long as he was fed twice a day.
Two days after the incident found the circus ringmaster and his daughter in Fresno to collect their lion.
Andi was mucking the stalls when she’d heard the carriage wheels squeaking into the barnyard, causing her to drop the pitchfork and race towards the house.
“Is this the Carter ranch?” the tall, dark-haired man asked as he got out of the carriage and caught sight of Andi.
“Yes it is, sir.” Andi replied. “Are you here to pick up the lion?”
“You mean Magi is still here?” A girl about Andi’s age hopped out of the carriage, her red hair bouncing and her freckled face bursting into a wide grin. “Oh good! I was so afraid he’d escape before we got here.”
“I am Harold Spencer and this is my daughter, Amelia,” Mr. Spencer told her, gesturing to himself and then his daughter. “We were afraid we’d lost Magi forever and were so grateful when Justin Carter telegramed us he was here. He’s been in our circus for fourteen years and is very tame.”
“I hope he wasn’t too much trouble, he’s so sweet and adorable but can be really naughty sometimes!” Amelia exclaimed, turning to Andi and flashing her a smile.
“I’m Andrea Carter, but you can call me Andi.” Andi said, smiling back. “And it was a pleasure to have Magi stay at the ranch with us for a while, he’s been the most unusual guest we’ve ever had!”
          They all laughed at that.
The End

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Big Cat Mishap Part 2 . . . by Calamity Rene

I'm back with part 2 of Big Cat Mishap. Enjoy!

Part 2

Half an hour later found Andi glaring at a sweaty palomino mare drinking her fill from the watering hole in the north pasture. The hot August sun beat against Andi’s back and she was red as a strawberry.
“Taffy, why didn’t you listen to me?” she groaned. “This is where the boys found the cougar tracks this morning. They’re going to kill me when they find out I came out here!”
Taffy ignored her and continued to drink from the water, then lifted her head up and stuck her tongue out at Andi.
Andi couldn’t help it, she burst out laughing and haltered up the horse. “You silly girl. Come on, let’s get out of here before we run into any trouble.”
Andi decided that since it was such a long walk back to the ranch she might as well ride, she would be in enough trouble as it was when they found out she’d disobeyed. Unless of course they haven’t realized I’m gone yet. Fat chance of that.
Leading the mare over to a rock, Andi tied the halter rope like a pair of reins and hopped onto Taffy’s back, settling in and then cuing her horse to a walk.
She was about to turn Taffy onto the trail that led through the treed area when Andi caught sight of the tracks her brothers had been ranting about. She reined Taffy in and stared at the tracks, her mouth dropping open. Chad was not kidding, this cat is HUGE! Andi couldn’t imagine a cougar this big. She’d only seen one or two in her life, the first one when she’d been out with Justin riding towards town and second one was when Mitch shot it and brought it home.
Taffy put her head down and smelled the tracks, then locked her feet in place and froze, her head up and her ears straight forward. “Yeah Taffy, I know,” Andi murmured, stroking Taffy’s neck as she stared at the tracks. “That’s gotta be one mean ol’---"
She should have been paying attention to what Taffy was staring at.
Before she even knew what was happening Taffy reared up and took off towards the trees, dumping Andi right then and there next to the water.
“Taffy come back!” Andi screamed, leaping up as she saw the last glimpse of the palomino’s tail as she faded from view. Snap. A stick broke.
Andi whirled around back towards the water and gasped. Her heart nearly stopped as she stared into the eyes of the biggest cat she’d ever seen. A lion.


Andi couldn’t move. She couldn’t scream, she couldn’t cry, she could barely breath! Her sister Melinda told her once about what a lion looked like after she’d been to a circus with Justin, but what was a lion doing on the Carter ranch?
The lion stood less than four feet away from Andi, licking his lips and staring up at her. His mane was a tan blackish color and his eyes were yellow. His body was colored just like a mountain lion but he was built much thicker.
Andi didn’t know what to do. Should she run? Should she yell for help? Oh dear God, she closed her eyes and prayed, please help me. I’m scared and I don’t know what to do, I feel like I’m Daniel in the lion’s den and this lion may want to eat me. Send your angels to protect me and keep me safe.
Somehow, even though she didn’t know what to do about this cat who might attack her at any given second, Andi felt better. She opened her eyes and squealed, falling backwards and landing on the ground with a thud.
The lion stood right over her, his face almost inquisitive as he bent down to sniff her.
Andi didn’t move, she held her breath and let the lion nose her. He is so big! She couldn’t get over how huge he was, he had to have been at least three or four feet tall!
She clenched her fists shut and hoped he didn’t sense her fear as he sniffed her face. Oh please don’t bite me! Her heart pounded against her chest as she remained still.
What happened next was the last thing she expected.
He licked her.
“Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed in a whisper as he lay on her lap, his weight making it impossible for her to get up. “Oh my goodness! What are you doing, lion?”
The huge cat rubbed his head against her and rolled onto his back, still pinning her to the ground.
Andi wasn’t sure if she should laugh or cry as the truth dawned on her. “Why you’re tame, aren’t you?” she asked. She reached out with a trembling hand and stroked the lion’s mane, and he head butted her hand in an affectionate manner. “My goodness, I can’t believe this!”
Thoughts raced through her mind. “So the cougar tracks Chad found weren’t cougar tracks at all, they were your tracks, boy! Where did you come from anyways?”
The lion continued to rub her and then stood up, shaking his mane. Andi took the opportunity to slip out from underneath him and stand.
She was much more confident now and ran her fingers through the lion’s mane. She was no longer scared but excited. How often did a twelve-year-old girl in California get the chance to pet a lion?
Suddenly Andi stopped petting the lion as a new thought was introduced in her mind. “Wait a second, that means you killed those cows!” she cried. “How could you!”
As if to prove he wasn’t capable of such violence the lion licked Andi’s hand.
“Well, I guess you didn’t have anything else to eat.” She sighed. “But you better not do that again or Chad will shoot you.”
The name Chad reminded Andi that the whole ranch was probably out looking for her now. “Well Mr. Lion, I should go now. I’ll have to tell my brothers about you so we can catch you and find whoever tamed you.  A circus just went through town, maybe you came from there? Anyways I gotta go.”
Andi breathed a prayer of thanks to God that he’d kept her safe and gave the giant cat one last pat. She turned around to leave and got no farther than the woods before she realized the lion was following her.
“No no, you need to stay here.” She told him.
The lion yawned and rubbed his head on Andi again, nearly toppling her over.
Andi petted him again and started walking away once more, only to find the lion did not intend to leave her. “What’s the matter boy? I need to go home so I can tell the boys about yo…”
Andi’s voice trailed off as an idea popped into her head. Why not show the boys the lion instead! After all he seemed pretty tame and he wouldn’t stop following her, might as well get some fun out of this!
“This is going to be the biggest surprise I’ve ever pulled off!” Andi told the lion. “Just wait until they see you!”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Slight Snag

Gentle Readers, we have a problem.

I went to see how (or if) I could buy the blue/night photo from Dreamstime, and I learned a horrible new reality! I can no longer just "buy credits" when I want. I have to choose a "plan" and since I hardly ever buy stock photos, this "plan" is no good to me. I have to have a subscription (the cheapest being $39, and I don't know if that includes having to buy the pictures on top of that). So, I am somewhat discouraged. I used to buy pictures by the "credit." I used up my credits then bought more. This is a blow, because most of you really like the blue/night cover idea. And worse . . . the links you sent me are similar requirements. I will investigate this snag a bit more (maybe the $39 is to be used on credits and it's good for a year?) I don't know.

I feel really stuck. Any ideas?

p.s. Oh, oh, oh! I just found a "link" to some credit packages. Things are looking up!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Big Cat Mishap Part 1 . . . by Calamity Rene

Calamity Rene was kind enough to send me a story she wrote. She knows I'm scrambling to finish Circle C Milestones Book 2, Danger Trail, so I've not been very good about keeping up with this blog.

Big Cat Mishap, Part 1:

“There’s a cougar hangin’ around.” Chad grunted, causing everyone in the family to lift their heads up from the morning meal. Twelve-year-old Andrea Carter stared at her dark-haired older brother, thoughts racing through her head.
          “A cougar?” she repeated, contemplating the words. “How do you know?”
          Chad jerked his thumb in the direction behind him. “Found tracks this morning when I herded the cattle to the north pasture waterin’ hole.” He replied. “Big tracks, too. This feller’s gotta be at least three and a half feet tall.”
          Andi’s oldest brother, Justin, choked on his spoonful of eggs at Chad’s words. This of course led to smothered snickers from her blond-haired brother Mitch, causing Andi to let out a giggle also. A look from her mother silenced any remaining nonsense from the two noisemakers and they turned their attention back to the conversation.
          “Chad, you’ve got to be exaggerating,” Justin stated after taking a drink of water to clear his throat. “Three and a half feet tall? There has never been a cougar that big in the area.”
          Justin’s right, Andi thought. Chad’s gotta be pulling our leg. But Chad’s face remained stubborn as he glared at Justin.
          “I’m not exaggerating anything,” he retorted, slamming his fork down and leveling his eyes at the oldest brother of the house. “I told you what I saw, and I mean it. If you don’t believe me I suggest heading out to the barn and saddling up your horse, ‘cause I’m going to make a believer out of you after you see those tracks!”
          “Chad, please don’t yell,” their mother, Elizabeth Carter, scolded. “I believe you saw some tracks, but I must side with Justin on the matter. Cougars don’t get that big.”
          “I’ll be happy to ride out with you and see the tracks if you want, Chad,” Justin offered. “If it would make you feel any better about the matter.”
          “As a matter of fact, it would,” Chad grumbled, spooning the last of his eggs into his mouth and then standing up. “See you in the barn.” With that he left the room.
          “Boy howdy, he is downright set on being right today,” Mitch remarked.
“Not any more than usual,” Mother added with a smile.
          “But cougar tracks that big? He’s got to be dreaming. Wait until I write to Melinda and Grandmother about this!” Andi snickered, and Mitch and Justin joined in.


Plop. Andi scooped a pile of manure from the stall floor into the wheelbarrow and sighed. She straightened up and brushed one of her brown braids behind her shoulder, then looked towards the barn door longingly. Whoever invented barn chores must have been really bored. She decided. Of course then again chores have been around ever since God created the earth. Perhaps in a perfect world she’d like doing chores. But this wasn’t a perfect world and she most certainly did not like doing chores. Better get back to work.
          She’d just bent down to pick up another pile of manure when the sound of horses caused her to pause. That’s gotta be the boys, back from checking out the tracks. She glanced at her beautiful Palomino mare, Taffy, eating her hay quietly. She then looked down at what she had left to clean up in the stall. I can always finish this later. With that thought Andi dropped the pitchfork and unlatched the stall, running towards the front of the barn to see what her brothers had to say of their venture to the watering hole. Skidding to a stop next to the snubbing post, Andi took one look at their faces and paled.
          Justin, Chad and Mitch dismounted from their horses and tied them to the snubbing post, their faces grim.
          “What’s wrong? Did you find the tracks?” Andi burst forth, not wanting to wait for an answer one second longer.
          “Yep, we found the tracks,” Mitch responded.
Chad's hand next to the big cat's track
          “Then what’s wrong?” Andi demanded.
          “Chad was right, this cougar is a monster,” Justin told her, his eyes betraying the worrisome thoughts in his mind. “Andi, you can’t go riding out until we trap this cat. This cougar is no doubt responsible for the loss of five of our cows in the north pasture.”
          Andi shuddered. She remembered when Mitch came riding home and told them he thought some wolves had killed the cattle. One cougar killed five full-sized cows? Another thought popped into her mind.
          “Wait a minute!” she cried, running towards her brothers as they headed towards the house. “Cory and I were going to go for a ride tomorrow and go fishing!”
          “Well you’ll have to tell Cory it’s off until we’ve killed it. It’s not safe out there.” Chad cut her short, his voice warning her not to press the matter any farther.
          Andi scrunched up her face and sighed, then turned around and dragged her feet back to the barn. This is not fair. I can’t believe some dumb ol’ cougar had to show up and scare the boys and mess up my fishing trip! This is worse than the fact school’s starting next month!
          Storming over to Taffy’s stall she was shocked to find her palomino mare not in it.
“Taffy!” Andi cried, realizing she’d forgotten to latch the door when she’d left the barn. “Oh no, Taffy where are you?”
A flash of gold caught Andi’s eye and she turned towards the other barn door that led towards the rest of the Carter ranch. There she is!
Taffy was running like a young filly, bucking and twisting around as she enjoyed this newly found freedom.
“Oh great, just what I need today!” Andi moaned, grabbing Taffy’s halter and running out after the quarter horse. “Taffy come here! Here girl!”
Taffy paused momentarily to glance over at Andi, considering her master’s bidding. With a toss of her head she kicked up her heels and ran the other direction, deciding a run sounded much more fun right now then getting caught.
“No no no no!” Andi raced after her beloved horse. “No, Taffy come back!”
But Taffy continued to run until she disappeared into the wooded area of the ranch.
Andi stopped short of the trees, panting and holding her sides. This is not how I wanted to spend the morning. Now she’d have to follow Taffy on foot until she could catch the naughty mare.
Taking a step into the shaded area of the trees Andi stopped short. Chad and Justin’s warning raced through her head as she remembered what they’d said about the cougar. “Andi, you can’t go riding out until we trap this cat.”
The twelve-year-old girl glanced back at the ranch. The barn seemed so far away now and she could barely make out Mitch putting away the horses. No one seemed to have missed her-yet.
I can’t let Taffy roam the woods by herself with that cougar hanging around, what if he killed her? She couldn’t let that happen! And yet her brothers did warn her not to ride into the woods alone…
A thought popped into Andi’s head and a slow grin crossed her face. “Of course, I’m not riding alone, just walking.” She said aloud, her grin growing wider. “They didn’t say I couldn’t walk alone. Besides, Chad would be furious if anything happened to Taffy. I have to catch her!”
Andi’s mind was made up and without another thought she jogged into the treed area in search of her horse, pushing back any thoughts of doubt or guilt.