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  Devil Winds
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Page Four

Chet and Roy were almost entering the sparking barn when the roof
above caved in, totally engulfed in flames, and it landed
completely blocking their way in.

Captain Stanley shouted. "Axes! West side!"

Kelly and DeSoto ran for them.


Johnny Gage was in the stall with the one remaining terrified horse.
And Dixie. He clung to her. "Keep your air mask on. There's only one
way out for us. How did the fire get here so fast?"

"A *cough* tree." gasped Dixie through her scba mask. "I saw it
fall after I chased the last horse out. It took me this long to get
back to you. I think the way out's blocked!"

"Take off your tank!"


"We can't ride him weighted down by them. We'll tip off."

"What do you want me to do?" said Dixie, peeling out of
the air bottle, but not the mask.

"Breathe deep, then get on behind me. I'll help you up!" Gage said.
hyperventilating in his own mask. He threw it away and shimmeyed
up the stall wall until he was high enough to ease onto the horse's

"What makes...... you think this is ......going to work?" Dixie huffed,
breathing intentionally fast from her air mask.

"He's a cow horse. He'll do anything I tell him to do."

"Even walk through fire?" Dixie trembled as she was helped up.

"Even that. I got sugar in my pocket that he'll get afterwards."

"Sure hope he's got a sweet tooth bigger than the fire."

"Oh, he does all right. Hang on tight! Here we go!" yelled Johnny.

He shared his mask with Dixie one more time before tossing it
to the wooden slated floor. He gathered the bay horse's reins
and dug in his heels. The stallion jolted forward.

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Dixie buried her head in Johnny's shoulder, trying not to look
as they galloped toward what appeared to be a solid wall of flames.


Roy and Chet hadn't even thunked in a first bite of their fire axes
when an indignant squeal of angry horse and terrified male
and female voices, in stereo, split the air. Like Ichabod Crane,
they leaped out of the barn fire and over the burning tree trunk
in a single leap and out into the smoky twilight.

"It's the lone ranger!" Chet hooted.

"Not so alone, Chet.." Marco grinned. "He's got a girl riding
with him."

"Ok, so it's the paired ranger. Way to cut it close, Gage. Cap's gonna
cut into you the moment he sees you. Are you guys burned anywhere?"

Dixie coughed and let herself be lowered by Johnny.

"Nah." he said.

"My hair's singed." said Dixie, feeling herself over good.

"So that's what I'm smelling.." Chet quipped. "Here, let me hose
you off." he said, turning his line down to a trickle to put out the
sparks in Dixie's hair. "How's your lungs?"

"Fine. We got air right up to the mad dash."

Johnny was already off the brown stallion and checking him over.
"He's got a cut over the eye. Nothing else that's major." Then
he started to grin. "And no burns.. Here you go, boy. I'll get you
a whole box full of sugar just as soon as--"

"Gage! Just what kind of stunt do you call that?!" yelled Hank as
he barrelled over to where they were clustered.

Johnny made it a point to get on Marco's hose so he'd look properly busy.
He sent off the horse to the freedom of the open meadow with a choice
sharp spray to the rear and ears to cool him down. "Uh,..what stunt?
I'm anchoring now, Cap."

Dixie planted herself between Hank's ire and the cringing paramedic.
"And we got all the horses out. There's no possible way anyone could
have predicted that tree falling so hush or I'll make you hush." she glared,
still dripping from her washdown.

Stanley grumbled into silence. "That much is true." he said at last.
"Ok, everyone. Pack up. The barn's toast. Go concentrate on protecting
the houses now."

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Everyone hastened to the task. Soon all five engines were laying
water and backburning desperately around the remaining buildings.


Johnny turned to Roy. "Ok. it's time I made my last stand. Wish me
luck. I'm going to be on the roof of my house, laying down tarps and
water. I'll call the chopper down from there.." he said.

Roy said. "You're nuts. That fire's too big for any of that."

"I gotta try, Roy." and with that Johnny jogged over to Cap,
to get permission to start cooling down a house roof.

He got it.

The others could just see Johnny reflected in the rising red
morning light as he stood with a hose on the roof of his bungalow
defiantly. He turned to the others when he felt them watching him
and offered an encouraging victory sign that drew tears to their eyes.


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Gage was still feeling pleased with himself when a child's shout
drew his attention. Then it finally registered on Johnny that he
was seeing Snowflake running high speed towards the caretaker
cottage into the direction of the sound. "Nathan?!"

Gage could see the boy, one who should have never been
there, run after the dog.  He gave a shout over his radio.
"The kid's here! They're all here! Follow him!"

The firemen all did, dragging their charged hoses after them.

Johnny moaned when he saw the boy standing in front of a doorway
of fire at the caretaker cottage's front, screaming at him. "They're
in there! They're still in there!" shouted the boy.

The firemen were horrified when they looked into the living room
window behind the child and saw the curtains ablaze. A pine bough
had stabbed through the glass and was starting a fast fire inside.

Roy knelt by the boy. "Who's in there exactly!"

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"Auntie and my grandfather! Dad went to find you guys but he
went the wrong way towards the pond and all the squads."
the boy cried.

"Are you sure you aren't hurt?"

"I'm ok! I'm fine!  Please help them.."

Up on the roof, Johnny heard that heart wrenching plea
plain as day. Without a thought, he lifted his HT and
called for Mitch Reed and a helicopter. Then he gave
the only drop order he could.


The four other station captains, busy with the protecting ring,
pointed at Hank to lead the rescue operation.

But the fire proved too hot to enter by the front door.
Then Gage's voice yelled out a warning. "Cover!
Drop and cover! A bird's gonna load on ya right now!"

Startled, the firefighters looked up to see a huge bulk
of a fire retardant helicopter hovering overhead.

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They abandoned their hoses and ran out from under the
roaring bird's prop shadow.

Then the coast guard helicopter dropped its entire load of
red retardant onto the cottage's porch which immediately
snuffed out the fire.

"How in the world did one manage to get here so fast?!"
Hank marvelled.

"Don't question fate.." said another fireman as he ran back
to re-man his hose to put out all the minor hot spots still

Stoker did the same with Cap as his anchor man.

Quickly, Chet, Roy and Marco got into the living room
in air bottles and found Kehayke right away lying on the couch,

Meanwhile, Johnny had slid down the ladder leaning against
his house and had come dashing in after them.

Johnny didn't know whether or not his aunt had been hit by the tree
bough but there was no time for checking anything. He hefted her
up into his arms with Roy's help and got her outside.

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Marco and Kelly went in as a team to search the rest of the
house for Graben Joergg.

Johnny lowered his aunt down to the dirt and immediately got
on her head. "She's barely breathing. Cap, you got the--"

"Right here, pal." said Hank plunking down a squad's oxygen
tank and demand valve near his shoulder. Gage dug into
the gasping woman's mouth with a few probing fingers.
"It's just her dentures. Must've been knocked down her throat
when something hit her or when she fell."

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The moment the false bridge was out, Kehayke started breathing
hard and soon her eyes fluttered open. "Johnny? ....Oh,..."
Then she started struggling as memory returned. "Graben!" she

Roy and Johnny and Cap all held her down. "Easy. We've got
people in there looking for him right now. Just take it easy."

Snowflake the dog was frantic. He was running from door to window
and back again, barking at the top of his lungs at the fire. But he
didn't try to go inside the caretaker's house.

Soon a laden Kelly made it back out the knocked down living room
fire with Marco helping him. Graben was slung over his back like
a sack of potatoes.

Kehayke sat up and started sobbing when she saw him, pushing
away the oxygen mask. Hank contented himself with putting a
nasal cannula for her to wear around her face. "Kelly?"

Chet shook his head grimly but he remained gentle, lowering the
very still and badly burned old man to the ground face down. He
gestured a few gloved fingers over his face.

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::Facial burns. Too extensive for resuscitation..:: Cap thought.
::He's dead.::

It took Roy and Johnny only a few seconds to realize it, too,
and stunned, Gage asked Chet to go cover him up with a sheet.

Snowflake immediately started howling and he set his milk white
head down onto his master's stomach and mourned.


It was an hour later.

The collective attack plan of theirs had worked. The main fire
had bypassed the area and had spared a full firestorm effect over
Johnny's ranch. But the teams did spot a fire whirl or two over
the now crusted over pond.

Kehayke was awake and ambulatory with normal vitals signs.
Healthy enough, that the paramedics had to respect her refusal
to seek further medical attention.

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"I'll keep an eye on her. She's still reeling from losing Graben."
said Dixie, holding the reins of the brown cowhorse that had
gotten Johnny and herself out of the barn so fast. Kehayke simply
wept against the tired horse's face.

Johnny reluctantly left them. Carefully, he avoided the tiny clearing
in the trees where his dream house was located and he took
a short detour through them hoping to find a place to relieve
himself in private.

He met up with a very sad man in a burnt out clearing. Johnny
recognized him as Graben's son, the little boy's father.
"I tried to tell him." the grieving man said. "I told him it was too
dangerous to come back up here. But my father said that horses
were important enough to go back for."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Jeorgg. It's a horrible thing to have happen to
anyone. I just wish that there was more that I could have done."
Johnny said, scuffing a foot in the black ash at his feet.

"You let your house burn for Graben. I saw you redirect that
helicopter so that it would dump on the cottage instead. That
was very noble of you. My father was probably already dead by the
time my son found all of you."

"There's no knowing.." Gage said, without looking away from his
eyes.  Not saying anything else, he gripped Darrin's shoulder in
a heart felt move of sympathy and finally hugged him. "Graben
was a wonderful person. That horse he trained saved my life
today and got us out of a burning barn. I can think of no greater
gift than that as his final one. Your father was big on giving."

Darrin smiled as best he could and left Johnny to his thoughts.

It was a long time before Gage could summon up enough courage
to watch his house burn to the ground.


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Snowflake had done his duty and had located the mustangs
Johnny had been worried about all day. They were safe and
grazing quietly by the lake, totally unphased by the fire helicopters
zooming in for their measure of water to combat the main fire,
which was now moving away from Bear Claw Canyon.

Dixie was playing with Nathan and Kehayke around the brown
stallion. Roy was there too, putting silvadene on the few burns
the horse had received from flying embers, while the barn burned

The rest of the gang was watching him, while they rested with
water bottles and food. They were waiting for relief crews to
arrived to continue the hot spot and digging details in the surrounding

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Johnny couldn't resist baiting them all. "Hey guys, and especially
Dixie. Guess what this old boy's name is.." he said patting the
snoring horse standing quietly next to him.

"What is it?" asked Mike Stoker.

"It's Windy.."


Episode Twenty One-  Devil Winds

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Devil Winds
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  Devil Winds
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