"What!? Away from the camp? That's nuts! We're |
leaving Roy and those two kids behind!" Kelly shouted,
trying to slow his chesnut mare's flight after Dot.
"Cap'll get em, Chet! He's on the way with
the fire crew and a stokes team remember?!"
Kelly let go of his hold on Molly's
bit and started
kicking her flanks. "Ok, come on, girl. Move!"
Johnny clucked urgently, leaning
down to encourage
Spook into greater speed. "Easy boy, just a little
*cough* farther." he said,
giving his mask to the
child in front of him.
The fire became a live animal and writhed above,
boiling the air and stripping the pines into black
ember impaled skeletons of char in seconds.
But the massive fire column twisting in the sky
did not descend to consume the rescuers
into its fierce dance.
A wall of heat began to burn the hides of
the laboring horses on their
The water's surface offered its layer of breathable air
the five horses splashed into the river's current
and began swimming for the shelter of the opposite
Looking behind him, Johnny could just see the orange
dot of Pete's kayak safely moored
by the beach in the
center of the willow pool. Then smoke obscured it.
Blowing hard and coughing, the camp horses bore|
their riders onwards, gasping in effort and frothing.
Then they were staggering up the far side's knotty
boulders and into the peaceful forest whose
yet the strength to endanger.
The firemen and rangers glanced back only once
raging inferno they had left behind. Two singed deer
stood in the river, looking back at
of the humans but even more frightened of the fire.
The mulies didn't even move
Julie and Tim took them all to a very high bare rise of
rock where Gage dismounted
gladly. He took out a
cherry flare from a pocket and ignited it for the distant
light burst out into a red star from the wax
seal and the wind carried away the steam trail into
As they watched, collapsed, and holding the horses,
drop planes and water helicopters
cut a hole in
the fire line with chemicals and liquid suppressants
until the way to the ranger
tower was clear of flames.
Soon, they were overrun with rescuers and vehicles
and brush firemen,
who rushed to take the children
to the command center down the highway where
the ambulances and
flight helicopters were waiting.
Gage coughed as he sucked in more oxygen
a mask an aid worker had given him in Fire Relief
Roy sat on a cot next
to him, still covered with dirt
but he was still far more cleaner than his partner was.
smiled. "So, how did it feel to be on
horseback like that with the rescue gear on and all?"
do you mean, Roy? I was on horseback yesterday
at home when I worked out Eagle."
what I mean. I've always wondered about
mounted firemen at forest fires... using horses to get around
the fringes of a blaze, then using them to go on
rescues..." he hinted. "I- I - I know rangers
a mounted service. I used to think that was really kinda neat.
I was just wondering
that maybe I should suggest to someone
about the forest fire department maybe starting one up, too...."
he said, very reflective. Then he smiled with shy curiosity at Johnny.
"So..how did it feel?"
"You know Roy, quite frankly, I don't remember much.
All I kept thinking about was those children
keeping the fire off us long enough to save all our skins."
Johnny admitted, cock
eye grinned. "But I'll admit that deep
down inside, I felt a bit like the Lone Ranger because I
a mask on and everything." he joked.
The two paramedic firemen laughed together about
mental image until Julie Beck and Tim Cassidy came
into the tent following their medical checkups.
Gage smiled. "Hey.. how are the horses? I figured we
ran em pretty ragged out there."
"They're fine. Dot took a burn on the hock but the vet
says it'll heal cleanly." Julie said. "The
rest of them just
have melted hair damage. No wounds."
Tim took off his
ranger's hat in a gesture of respect
that made Johnny and Roy sit up straighter.
got to get going. We've piles of reports to
fill out about all this back at Devil's Head.
I appreciate all that you guys tried to do for Pete.
It means a whole lot to me and Julie." Cassidy
meaningfully. The hint of sadness about the boy's loss
still covered his voice.
Johnny and Roy got to their feet and accepted
the rangers' handshakes of farewell.
job to try, Mr. Cassidy. Next time, we'll beat
death. Like we always do ....the majority of the time."
"It's been a real pleasure.." Roy said. "Who knows,
perhaps we'll work together
again in the future."
"Count on it." Beck beamed, wiping away her
tears with a kleenix through
"You two.." Gage said. "Stay gold."
The rangers departed.
Sighing, Roy and Johnny vacated the|
medical tent and stood outside under the
stars. Already, the
forest fire to the east, was
dimming as cool blessed rain fell in abundance to
snuff it out as
the light of a rising dawn grew brighter.
"Hey, would you look at that.." Johnny said in mild
surprise. He started smiling ear to ear.
"Look at what?" Roy asked, crossing his
his dusty uniform shirt. He winced when
he bumped his taped up ribs.
"Over there, in the
camp evacuation block.
That's Kevin, one of the little boys we rescued
on the mountain. He's in
that tent under that pine
tree playing with one of the search dogs."
"Oh yeah.." Roy smiled
in pleasure. "Looks like
he's doing fine now. Looks like his parents have
found him already."
A clattering of hooves on pavement broke their |
reverie on the soothing sight of a healing child
Chet Kelly rode by on Molly, the brown camp stable
horse. "Hiya fellas!! " he shouted enthusiastically.
"What'ya say Johnny.. Think you can hire me out
to exercise your barrel horse once in a while? I think
I'm really starting to get the hang of all this riding stuff.
Yeehhaaaaa!" and he asked Molly to rear
in a trick
he had discovered that she knew.
The mare's stunt startled several passing firefighters
on the way to the firelines and caused a water
truck to screech to a halt in alarm.
B Kelly. Get down from there!" ordered
a booming, couldn't be denied voice. "You're making
whole Los Angeles County Fire Department
look like a bunch of cowboys.." growled Captain
from the nearby command tent.
"That can be a good thing, Cap..." Johnny murmured
thinking of Roy's earlier views.
"Johnny, you just hush.. Kelly, down off her and
ridiculous ranger hat off your head. I wanna
see hooves back to the shelter corral so fast that
sparks'll still be lit on the asphalt long
after you're gone. Or do you like the idea of being
drip torch detail on the fire line for the rest
of the day before you get breakfast?"
and Molly were ballistic missiles.
Cap felt the breeze of their departure ruffle his
as they galloped away.
Stanley grinned in satisfaction and entered the chow
tent with a happy
wave at Johnny and Roy. "That felt
wonderful. Always a good thing to let off a little steam
a bad fire.." he quipped.
Roy and Johnny moved away from the fire command|
tent and accepted plates of food from the aid workers
as they sat down in front of a bon fire lit by some
of the valley camp's staff, for warmth.
chewed, after finding a comfortable position,
then he asked. "So... are you gonna do it?"
was inhaling his food like a vacuum cleaner.
"Do what?" he asked, chipmunk cheeked. He burned
mouth on some coffee that was too hot and Roy
had to grab a handful of ice from a water cooler to
put out the fire.
"Let Chet work out Eagle.." DeSoto continued.
"Oh,. Huh. That.." Gage
chuckled. "Thanks for the ice.
Don't think I scalded myself more than a little bit. Heh.
think I'll.....I think I'll let ....Chet handle my horse.."
"Your prized appaloosa
barrel racer?" Roy asked,
wide eyed in shock.
"No, not him. I think I'll let Chet manage Cochise,
the Falabella. He comes about knee high. He's
a miniature horse, Roy."
Roy burst out laughing
to the point of crying
out in pain when his splinted ribs shook.
"Oww.www.. Ha.! hehe. Ow.. ouch..
I don't think
Chet's gonna like that idea very much. I think Chet
had in mind that he wanted to
ride some more."
"Nah uh.. no way. Not on my horses. He can just
play amusement pony ride manager
at the Fireman's Picnic event and be happy."
"If you say so. Johnny.. Come on,
let's go get
cleaned up and hit the hay.. I'm bushed." Roy said
standing up and walking away from
to make room for new hungry firefighters.
Gage said, scooping up a donut from
a box as
he hurried after his partner. "Ouch. Roy, I'm
speared clear through... That hay pun wasn't
funny at all. " Then.. his voice lifted in an idea.
"Sayyyy,, " John's purred in discovery,
"If I play my
cards right.. maybe I can get Chet to be my new stable
boy at the ranch. He'll
pitch plenty of hay then for sure
if I can convince him that it's worth it." he grinned.
be prepared to pay.."
"A wage. I don't think Chet'll do anything with horses
for free unless it's strictly riding them."
"I do.." DeSoto said frankly, biting
into an apple.
Roy stopped in his tracks and set both hands as
could on his hips and regarded Gage through
slitted, calculating eyes. "After a full night's sleep
he challenged, chewing slowly.
Johnny matched his stance, just as scrutinizing, through
equally slitted eyes. His finger came up and poked Roy
on the chest. "How much?" he asked with a cat
the canary smirk.
Mike Stoker strode by, in fresh turnout, towelling
off his shower
fresh, damp hair. "Don't go for it. He'll
rob ya." he called out mischieviously.
Gage never changed his position. "Don't listen to|
him. He's just an engineer. How much?" he asked
Roy again, without even glancing at the gesture taunting
head shaking in the negative Mike rounding
away from them.
DeSoto studied Mike and then angled his jaw in
a final decision.
"See you later this evening when our
night shift starts." Roy told Johnny and he resumed
slow, rib favoring walk.
"Aww Roy, pally. Come on, what's a little bet between
asked, stepping comically as he fluttered
around his much larger companion.
"A whole lot. Night,
Johnny. Go saw some wood." and
the tent door flapped shut in Johnny's face as Roy passed
"I'd rather burn some...." Gage said, smiling. He turned back
around to look towards the
civilian tents. "..in a campfire,
roasting marshmellows, with a little boy who really really
likes to fish. I'll just bet little Kevin'll love riding Cochise
at the Fireman's Picnic Event next
Episode Ten.. From Loaves To Fishes
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