Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 13, 2014

Can you write a six-word story?

By Don Hazel
Sun contributor

CROSSVILLE — Have you heard of "six word stories"? The legend goes that, one day, while sitting at a table of fellow writers, Ernest Hemmingway bet the other writers that he could write a compelling story in six words. Each writer bet Hemmingway $10 that it couldn't be done. Hemmingway wrote on a napkin, "For sale: baby shoes. Never worn." and collected the bet. Whether the legend is true or not, it spurned a whole new pastime for millions of amateurs.

My daughter first told me about the six-word stories, and said that she wrote a new story each day for a year in a journal. I decided to give it a try. I put my daily six words on an online calendar, just to keep track of what I saw, or what happened that day. If nothing else, it makes you condense your thought into only the most significant ideas. You can look up "six word stories" online to learn more and see examples.

So here are three of my attempts and each longer story explaining the shorter six-word story.

Flat rock valley walk with deer.

This was my first feeble six-word story attempt. A six-word story is supposed to provide conflict, action, and resolution. I didn't attain that, but the story on my calendar does remind me of the hike I took that day. In a remote area of Fairfield Glade, I discovered a very steep valley with the opposite side covered with scattered large flat rocks almost like a mosaic. As I hiked down into the valley, I jumped four deer. Two ran full speed out of sight, but two others, a buck and a doe, just stood and watched me. As I slowly walked, stopped, walked, stopped through the woods, the two trusting deer walked parallel to me for a quarter mile. I kept closing the gap, but the deer never ran. Eventually, I left them standing, watching me as I changed direction and headed for home. Nice hiking with you guys ... thanks.

Someone killed the sentry; residents safe.

The next day, four of us were exploring another unnamed valley in our area when we discovered a pig house. The "house" is just a daytime resting place that is used occasionally, but we called it a house. The house was a rock overhang and on the floor was a soft bed of crushed leaves. There was no question that the wild pigs had been lounging on the crushed leaves. There was pig scat scattered all around the house, not on the cushy bed, but around and outside. It was a perfect location. The house was in the middle of an open hillside with views all around. It faced southwest, so the warm sun would take the chill out of the bedroom. Outside in the yard, there was even a security guard. Unfortunately the guard had succumbed due to unknown causes. A gray screech owl was dead on the frozen ground in front of the house. I could picture the owl high on a branch keeping watch over the property. That isn't what owls do, but it made a nice picture.

Wild house party with owners missing.

This six-word story is on my calendar a week later. We decided to set up my trail camera over the pig house to see if a cute pig would pose for some photos. The camera takes photos automatically when it detects movement, so we strapped it to a tree, placed a handful of corn where we wanted the pigs to position themselves, and added the contents of a can of sardines to draw them home. I never feed wildlife, except I sometimes leave a small appetizer when I place my camera in the woods so that I get more than a blurry passing shot. Well, after a week, the pig family never came home, but everyone else in the neighborhood did. I had lots of photos of gray fox, raccoons, gray squirrels, flying squirrels, deer, and mice. I took the camera down, but I plan to make a surprise visit to the pig house from time-to-time to see if I can catch them napping. Stay tuned.

So that is my "six word story" story. You may want to give it a try. I would be interested to know if you can come up with a particularly good six-word story. Who knows, you could be the next Hemmingway.

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com