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Another Fishing Trip

An Emergency Story By

Vickie
 

 

Preface

Once upon a time in the land of my youth there was a fire chief over the local volunteer fire department of a very small town.

In years previous to the time about to be described, the local doctor drove a retired hearse, affectionately called ‘Blue Boy’, so that he had means to transport patients from their homes to the hospital when there was a need.  But the old beast was costing more in repairs than it was worth and the doctor was getting on enough in years and often needed a little help to lift a patient when the need arose. 

A surplus ambulance was purchased for the town and the fire chief was encouraged to take an advanced first aid class and be in charge of said ambulance. 

Now the new addition to the town’s emergency fleet had been surplused for a reason.  Not only did it seldom start when needed, it didn’t smell real great on the inside either, nor was there enough room in the back to haul more than a smallish adult or a child.  The wheeled gurney was real nice though.  It had been donated by the local mortician and was designed so that a single person could push the gurney into the back of the ambulance and the wheels would fold up automatically and then unfold automatically as the gurney was pulled out again.

The ambulance made very few runs.  It was more common for someone, usually the fire chief but sometimes a member of the patient’s family, to stop by the ambulance, that was parked outside of the fire station because there was no bay available for it, and borrow the gurney to aid in transporting the patient in their own vehicle, usually a station wagon or the bed of a pickup truck. After all it was community property, right.  

Well the fire chief did tell a few people, who had family members with chronic health conditions, to go ahead and use it if they needed it and word got around. Everyone was good to put it back when they were done with it and in the years this was the practice, there was never a time to my knowledge that someone needed the gurney while someone else had it.

The Fire chief worked hard to see to it that all of his firemen, the biggest majority of which were between 16 to 18 years of age, were advanced first aid trained and was trying to find someone who would be a regular to go with him in the ambulance, if the need presented its self. Meanwhile a local mechanic volunteered his time to try and get the ambulance more reliable as far as starting when it was needed.

While this was going on a highway patrolman who lived in the area took advantage of a newly offered program through his work and trained to become an Emergency Medical Technician.  Being a friend of the Fire Chief he suggested he take the next class that was offered and then managed to get five people from the town to take it along with them.  Mostly the local law enforcement, but there was a couple of people whose employers thought it would be a good idea to have someone with that training around so they paid for the course.

It was determined that the old surplused ambulance was not worth the effort or the money to maintain since there was really no way to make it more reliable, even though they finally moved one of the fire engines out and made room for it in the shed.  

Fundraising efforts to buy a better ambulance were started, but they ran head to head against a new golf course in the area.  Said golf course was much more important to the leaders in the town government at the time so there was no support there.

Then there was an historical monument that needed to be built in the town to the tune of twenty thousand dollars.  Of course that was grant money from some historical society, but I couldn’t understand all that money going toward some little park the size of our back yard when there was such a need as a new ambulance in the town.

With the townspeople as apathetic on the subject of a new ambulance as they were, it was hard to get the interest of corporate sponsors so the efforts moved slowly for some time.

Then there came a new TV Show where two fictional firemen with the names of John Gage and Roy DeSoto showed everyone watching the exciting world of Emergency rescue and what could be done to save life and limb, with the right training and equipment.

Slowly people in the town started to notice that we had an ambulance and when a prominent town folk broke his leg and needed to ride in it, the fund raising efforts gained a new spokesman.

 A matching grant from the government was found, that meant that the government would pay half toward a new ambulance with strings attached, but only after the town raised the other half of the cost.  Now there was hope of reaching our goals and with a deadline in place to get the grant, fund raising stepped up a few notches.

For the better part of a year there were dances, bake sales, slave auctions and baby contests where a penny equaled a vote. Those working for the ambulance fund ran concessions at every game during the county wide softball tournament and penny by penny, quarter by quarter and dollar by dollar the funds began to grow.

I was in my early teens at his time and was a big believer in the cause with visions of being on the ambulance team someday.  The Fire Chief in the middle of all this was my father and I was his shadow.  I helped pop popcorn in our little hot air popper and stuff it in bags to take to the games. I helped to sell what we’d made and counted the quarters people told us to keep and add toward the cause.  The funds didn’t grow fast, but the account did move upward.

During this time I found a rough draft of a letter requesting the personal appearance of the actors, Randy Mantooth and Kevin Tighe on behalf of our fund raising efforts and I thought my father was just short of insane.  Why on earth would anyone so famous ever agree to come to our little town where there were no decent motels or restaurants and the cattle outnumbered the people?

I spoke my mind, then popped more popcorn, sold myself as a slave for a day to do such chores as mending, garden work and babysitting, all while I continued to serve up chili dogs and sloppy Joes for a dollar a pop at every ball game and dance that was held. 

In the fall of that year there were two industrial accidents, one was particularly horrid and in the end, a man of prominence was dead, along with his two sons who had tried to save him and two more who had tried to save them.  Another rescuer was left in critical condition receiving life altering lung damage and yet another was in serious condition.  

Much could have been prevented if only they had had some basic equipment, like adequate rope, oxygen, breathing apparatus, or a stokes stretcher just to name a few.

In the aftermath of the accidents enlightened people and corporations gave enough donations to push the fundraising over the top and the totally new, not just new to us, ambulance was ordered.

After the new ambulance had been ordered, but before it was delivered, my family and I were gathered around the television to watch one of our favorite television shows, Emergency!.  

The episode started out with Johnny, Roy and Chet in Johnny’s Rover driving down a road void of any desirable scenery talking about a miserably disappointing fishing trip.

It was my father who made the comment that they could have filmed that section on any of the roads in our area.

As the show continued, the off duty men of station 51 came upon an accident and with the meager supplies in their, little in vehicle first aid kit, tried to keep the victims stable and alive while they awaited help. 

When help did arrive it was in the form of a hearse with a clueless and terrified young man at the wheel. Likely his only qualification to drive this sometimes emergency vehicle was his driver’s license.

(That was the common mode of emergency transportation in many a small town in those days. Before the box style of ambulances were designed most ambulances were very similar, if not the same make and model as a hearse anyway, so why have two vehicles when one was only needed once a month or less.) 

From the accident scene they are taken to a, small is an understatement, medical clinic with only one patient room and two patient beds.  No doctor was currently in sight and no one knows where he is. (This is a time long before cell phones remember and even pager systems weren’t in existence in such rural areas.)

It was funny to me and my family how much the flustered Ozella Peterson, the nurse at the clinic, looked a lot like the head nurse at our small hospital.  They both had the same basic build and Ozella was just as gray haired as our nurse would have been if she didn’t constantly die her hair black.  Our nurse would never be anywhere near that easily rattled but if Ozella had been as proficient as our nurse, the off duty boys from LA wouldn’t have been able to shine like they did.

Then just as things are getting critical in walks good old Dr. Frick, A shock to many in the TV world we were all sure, but to my family he brought a good laugh., Dr. Frick was a decade to a decade and a half younger than our local doc, but they both had the same hair style.  Where Dr. Frick was big on mustache our local doc was heavier on sideburns.

There is no way I can prove it, but even without an ounce of proof available I honestly believe that someone, from the production staff of the TV Show Emergency, made a little visit to our part of the world, possibly in response to the request for a personal appearance made by my father.

After thinking about it, the miserably disappointing fishing trip was the clincher.

Just thirteen miles from my home was a man made lake that for years was rather famous in a top secret sort of way.  Pulling trout that were 12 to 15 inches long out of the lake was a common, nearly daily, occurrence and there were many an out of state license plate in the parking lot and campground whenever you took the time to notice.

The place was so popular it was often said that a person could walk across the lake by just stepping from boat to boat and if you were to fish from the bank you needed to lock arms with your neighbor and bend over so that those who were behind you could cast over your heads, especially during the opening weekend of fishing season. Is there any wonder how some of our famous folk tales came to be?

 Just about the timeframe that I have been talking about, there had been a major infestation of what was being called a trash fish that was taking over the lake and some powers that be at the time decided to poison out the lake.  It was to take three years before they could plant the trout back in and then several years after that to get the big fish we had all taken for granted before. 

It was about four years after that that the ground shifted near the dam and to repair the damage the lake had to be drained to levels too low to maintain the large fish population.  That once famous fishing hole never did return to its former state of greatness, at least not while I still lived in the area.  Since I’ve moved away, I have lost track and have no idea how it rates now.

Oh, and that they added a rattlesnake bite to that particular episode was fitting too.  Seeing a rattler in my neck of the woods was as common as the big fish in the lake only the snakes didn’t go away like the fish did.  I was taught in my youth that the snakes traveled in pairs and if you ever saw one, be sure to look for another close by.  I’m not sure that’s true, but that is what I was taught.

During the next year, we did receive our ambulance, and I eventually joined the team of EMT trained Ambulance attendants who were on call night and day for a week at a time, never knowing when we might be needed and seldom being called out. The pagers we carried on our belts were referred to as our warts most of the time and most of the calls we got were to take patients to another hospital where they could receive the specialized treatment they required.

The ambulance didn’t solve all of our problems, there was so much more than just proper transportation to deal with, but it changed our little world in big ways.

Even though Randy and Kevin, or any of their friends, never showed their face in our little town they helped to bring about many changes in the way things were done.  I’m sure they brought those same changes to every place there was a television set.  Even as an EMT, I was able to do more and do it with more confidence because I had seen two actors do it all and then some for me to watch. I’m sure we would have gotten an ambulance in our little town sooner or later, but those boys helped us get it sooner instead of later in addition to showing us ways to use it.

I would like to invite the boys back for another fishing trip and show them some of the changes they inspired and while I’m at it, introduce them to a few other people they didn’t meet the first time around. I just might show them a better fishing hole too.

I’ll come up with my own names for several reasons. First, I intend to take some creative license in an effort to create an enjoyable story. To do so, I will combine attributes of several different people to make one. So if any of you from the old homestead read this and think you’re seeing yourself in the story you’re only partially right at the very most. Secondly, most of those I plan to spotlight in this story are gone now and can’t defend themselves and there are many more reasons to do so, so I just will.  Hope you enjoy the story.

Another Fishing Trip

Chapter 1

 

The sun was getting ready to set on the horizon as a fuming John Gage drove down the road.  An equally grumpy Chet Kelly sat in the passenger seat while his partner of six years sat in the back.  Roy had had enough of his partner for a while and needed a break from his chattering. John knew why he had traded places with Chet and just to spite him, he was trying not to say a word.

There were miles to go before they hoped to find a place they could sleep for the night and they were tired. Once again, he had talked his buddies into what was supposed to be the fishing trip of a lifetime and here they’re were going home days earlier than they had planned and without the cooler full of fish to share with their friends back at the station and their families.  Cap would be happy but he would be the only one.

Chet was making yet another attempt to find some kind of a radio station on the truck’s radio but was getting nothing more than static. The silence and the lack of anything other than cloned sage brush on both sides of the road was getting to all of them.

“Look guys, I’m sorry,” John finally broke the silence. “I just wanted to make up for the last time I brought you guys out here to go fishing.  You have to admit that my information about the fishing being better this time was right.”

“Well, Gage, I’ll give that one to you.  I just want to know where you got your information because whoever told you also told the entire western United States.” Kelly snapped back at John’s side. “I mean, I’ve never seen so many people fishing around a lake in my life.  And that stream we went to the next day wasn’t a whole lot better.”

“At least we caught some fish this time around,” John tried to defend himself, but of what he wasn’t sure yet.

“No, Gage, we didn’t catch any fish, we tangled in someone else’s line and they felt sorry for us and let us have the fish,” Chet offered as his interpretation of the events.

“I have to agree with Kelly,” Roy rubbed at the bandage on his ear. “You know what I don’t get is why was that group of people just catching fish and then throwing them back. I mean, if they had their limit, then why didn’t they move on and let someone else catch some fish, why did they have to throw them back and then let their kids throw rocks all around them so that no one else could catch any fish?” 

(There were more than a few folks in that area that weren’t too keen on sharing their natural resources with the out of state visitors.) 

“And that other group of guys,” Kelly added his frustration. “They kept saying the fish were too small.  What were they trying for, trophies that they can mount on their wall?  Whatever happed to eating them?”

“That little creek we found downstream sure looked like it would have been great fishing.  You could actually see the fish from the bank and they were HUGE.  Johnny rattled on. “If it weren’t for those kids jumping in and out of the water all the time we could have caught enough fish to eat with plenty to take home.”

 “I got the feeling that those boys have eaten so many fish that they would rather not have another for a while,” Roy answered with a smile on his face as both Chet and John saw the light in their friend’s words.

“How would it be to grow up within biking distance from a place like that?” Chet responded to Roy’s enlightenment. “A great fishing hole with a place to swim. Man the only thing missing there was a rope swing hanging from one of those old cottonwood trees where they could swing out and drop into the water. A great place to get away to, once your chores were done.”

“I bet most of the boys that were there were there instead of doing their chores,” Johnny added, he knew he would have been at their age but he wasn’t about to admit it out loud.

“I don’t know.” Roy was about to show them the rescue working father’s vision of what they’d seen. “That’s a lot of deep and fast moving water and those boys were playing kind of recklessly. I’m not sure I’d want my kids around there without more adult supervision.  I sure wouldn’t want to end up burying one of my kids because they drown while they were joking around.” 

“Yeah, you got a point there. We already know what kind of emergency response program they have in this area from the last time we came here.” John was able to see his partners point far too well.

“Well, at least once the kids went home for dinner we got a few bites.” Johnny turned the conversation back to a vacationing note while he continued to try and convince his friends that this trip wasn’t all bad. “If they would have allowed us to camp there I’m sure we’d have caught our limit this morning before the kids arrived to scare the fish away if we had.”

“I think you’re right, we did manage to catch enough for dinner before we had to leave the area for the night, too bad the only thing you caught was that huge bull frog, or was it a toad?” Chet giggled at the memory for the green catch and its four legs hanging from John’s line, not to mention the look on John’s face. Roy quietly joined the laughter from the back of the rover as Chet continued on. “You should have kissed it to find out before you set it free again.”

John shifted his jaw, grinding his teeth against each other for a moment and then turned to the phantom at his side with his classic crocked grin.  “Na, I’m good, Ashley is enough for me.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t think about that and offer you the chance since you’re between girlfriends at the moment and all.”

Both John and Roy were enjoying the fact that Chet didn’t have a comeback and John watched his nemesis’s flustered face maybe a millisecond longer than he should have since he was driving.

“GAGE, LOOK OUT!!!!” Chet screamed while pointing through the windshield, but John had already seen it through his peripheral vision and was starting to react.  A truck headed in the opposite direction had drifted into their lane and was coming right at them.

John swerved out of the path of the oncoming truck at the same time he laid into the car horn.  After hitting something on the side of the road that lifted the passenger side tire John was driving on two wheels for a moment, throwing an un-seatbelted Roy across the back of the rover and causing him to hit his head on the other side, while the other driver, startled by the sound of the car horn also swerved in his attempt to get back in his lane.

The two cars narrowly missed colliding but the truck has turned so sharply that it started to roll.  While John was getting his rover back on all four tires the truck they had just missed hitting head on, tumbled down the road behind him.  Chet had a hand on the now unconscious Roy holding him against the side of the truck behind John to keep him from bouncing around more and getting hurt worse. While John was bringing his truck to a stop

Chet counted as the other truck rolled three times down the road in the opposite direction before coming to rest on at an odd angle at the side of the road.

When John finally got his truck stopped he had to take a couple of deep breaths before he was able to turn to Chet. “Are you hurt?”

“No,” Chet spoke quickly, “but Roy is.”

John quickly turned around then undid his seatbelt and kneeled on the seat facing the back as he started to evaluate Roy.  He was quick to notice the hold Chet was still maintaining as he had a hold of Roy’s neck with his fingers spread out to support Roy’s head and upper back.  The next thing he noticed was the blood dripping down the side of his face and into his eyes.

Quickly John checked a pulse and sighed in relief at the feel of the strength and healthy speed of it. He then moved his practiced hands over his partner’s body finding the small laceration on his forehead along with a lump swelling underneath it.  All else felt the way the bones were supposed to, to his touch and Roy was just starting to move and moan a little in the beginning stages of coming around.

Chet was just reaching in his direction with a gauze pad from the now open first aid kit and Johnny carefully applied it to the wound that was already starting to slow its bleeding.

That was when they heard the whoosh sound of flames springing forth under the hood of the other truck pulling Johnny’s instant and full attention in that direction.

Chet quickly unhooked the fire extinguisher from under the passenger seat and was starting to get out of the car when Johnny stopped him. “I better go, he might need a medic. You stay with Roy.   He’s starting to come around so keep him calm and don’t move him.”

As John ran toward the second car he worked with the extinguisher in his hands to get it ready to attack the fire.  In truth Chet could have and would have done every bit as good as he could do but there was a victim involved.  Since the fire extinguisher would only do so much against the fire and with gasoline all over the road and pooling around the truck there was going to be a need to move the victim.  The risks of doing more harm while moving him were great so Johnny felt he needed to be the one to evaluate his injuries first.  

He was sure Roy was going to be alright and Chet knew enough first aid to take care of him while he dealt with the other patient. In fact, since they were out of state and therefore uncertified and without all of their equipment and the drug boxes, Chet could do just as much for his partner as he could.

The same could probably be said for the guy in the other truck, but John was still a paramedic and chose to act like one, including leaving his partner to help the civilian first.

It took the entire contents of John’s small fire extinguisher to extinguish the flames that were coming out from under the rumpled truck hood, but once the flames were no longer visible the hood was still too bent up to get open without a crowbar of some kind and there were sparks still coming from the battery.  With large quantities of gas flowing from the ruptured gas tank and seeping into the road and a large area of dried brush and piled tumble weeds next to where the truck now lay, there was a very big fire in the making and any one of the sparks coming from under the hood of the truck would be all that was needed to start one.

If the guy in the truck were still alive he needed to be moved quickly for his own safety.  If he wasn’t he still should be moved so that his family would have a body to say good-bye to, but in that case John wouldn’t have to be quite so careful in moving him.

Before Johnny could even touch the guy, he knew he was still alive by the spurting bright red blood coming from his thigh. He also knew they were in big trouble.

Chapter 2: 

Here we are again

Chet remained in John’s Rover; he kept his hand on Roy’s neck and the base of his head to keep him from doing more damage if he were to move as he started to wake up. He knew what needed to be done until more qualified help arrived, but that person was currently checking out another patient. 

He had been in this part of the world before. He knew they were the most qualified help there was until they reached the small one room hospital  or clinic or whatever they called it, and the mere thought of riding there in the hearse they had called on a couple of years ago was not something he wanted to think about.  He also remembered the long wait two years ago, a wait that nearly cost one small boy his life.

Chet glanced out the window toward the other truck and watched as John made short work of getting the fire out, but he could tell that their troubles were far from over.  He could also tell by the way the John pulled on the doors of the truck and then climbed through the window on the passenger side that the other guy was still alive.  As he watched John’s hurried movements, move fast he was also sure that the driver he was seriously hurt.

Thinking back on their last trip to this area Chet was trying to decide if he could remember the way to the clinic, he was sure he could carefully straighten Roy out on John’s bed in the back of his Rover and slide the other guy in next to him but, . . . would the doctor be in today? What were they going to use for a back board? What was that other guy going to need?

He suspected by the uneven feel of the Rover that there was at the very least a blown tire. What else would they need to do to be able to get on the way?

His thoughts were interrupted by a moan and an attempt to move against his steadying hand as he looked down Chet saw eye lids trying to open and started talking to his friend.

“Don’t move, Roy, you’re going to be alright, but you need to lay still.” Chet talked, counting on Roy recognizing his voice.  

Roy’s eyes came open quickly at that point and after a second or two to get them to focus he rolled them around until he found the spot where the driver should be.

“Johnny?” Roy questioned with the usual alarm in his voice.

Chet understood quickly that he assumed the reason Chet was taking care of him instead of Johnny was that Johnny was hurt, or worse.

“He’s checking out the guy in the other truck, Roy,” Chet tried to calm him as quickly as possible., “He’s alright;, you just got tossed around in the back here a little. Just lay still. I’m sure he’ll be back to check you over better in a minute or two.” 

As soon as he said it Chet knew it was a lie.  If that other guy was hurt anywhere as bad as Johnny’s actions indicated he wouldn’t be coming back any time soon, they were in for another long haul just like before.

~~~

As Johnny pushed the heel of his hand into the man’s groin, pressing the spurting artery against the femoral bone in his attempt to stem the bleeding, he looked back at his truck still resting on the opposite side of the road and tried to decide if he dared call Chet to come help him move the victim he was now working with.  To do so would mean pulling him away from Roy.

Roy’s injuries were probably just a concussion and perhaps a good whiplash; at least he hoped that’s all it was. Chet had done a good job of keeping him from bouncing around inside the car, he really should have been wearing a seat belt, but the ones in the back of his Rover were too short for anyone who wasn’t under the age of ten. Johnny then realized that he, Roy and anyone else he knew that ever rode in the back of an ambulance was perhaps a little casual about their seat belt use.  This was one time they got burned by that casualness.

On the floor board of the truck he was in there was a duffle bag with a broken zipper and John was able to see a couple of soiled t-shirts and what looked like a belt sticking out of the bag.  Using one hand, John sorted through the shirts looking for the cleanest and most appropriate one to use as a pressure bandage and grabbed the belt. 

It was different this time than it had ever been before when Johnny had applied a tourniquet there was no doctor on the radio to tell he’d done it the second it was secured, there was no hope of having the guy in a doctor’s care within minutes to surgically repair the artery and restore the blood supply to the lower leg before permanent damage could be done. 

Johnny knew full well that if they had to wait as long as they did the last time they visited this area the tourniquet he was placing around the man’s thigh would cut off the blood flow long enough to lead the medical professionals in the area to amputate his leg, but without it the bleeding femoral artery would pump the blood out of his body in a matter of just a few minutes. The choice he made was to sacrifice the man’s leg in an attempt to save his life.

As John continued to push with his full body weight into the man’s groin, he clumsily worked with his other hand to slide the belt under his leg and then to one handedly fasten it around his thigh above the wound and pull it tight.  Once the bleeding began to subside, he released holding pressure with his other hand and used both hands to pull the belt tighter and then tighter yet until all bleeding stopped.  

Once the belt was secured in its tightened position, John then pulled the pen from his breast pocket and carefully inked the word ‘Tourniquet’, on the man’s forehead and then added the time it was put in place.

With the tourniquet in place John quickly used the dirtiest of the t-shirts to wipe the excess blood from his hands before checking the carotid pulse on his patient.  Fast and weak, they were far from out of the woods.

Taking just a second to look around for other tools he could use as well as take in his current situation John noticed that sparks from the still connected battery had managed to start a flame in some dried grasses off the side of the road.

He needed to get himself and his patient out of that truck as quickly as possible and to do so he was going to need some help.

Back in the Rover Chet kept his hand on Roy's head and neck and he kept talking about everything he could think of and absolutely nothing. Every so often he would give Roy a quick glance and each time he did, he was relieved that Roy had his eyes open and appeared to be coming around nicely. He could also feel him starting to fight being held down.

When Chet wasn't glancing at Roy though, his sights were locked on the twisted truck down the road and watching John's movements. He was trying to guess what was going on by what he was seeing, but the other truck was a good hundred yards down the road and it was hard to see what was going on inside the twisted cab. Still, when he could see John's movements they looked hurried and slightly panicked. He was sure the guy in the truck was in bad shape and that John could use some help if he could just get it.

Chet had watched him try and pull the doors open before he climbed in through the window, he knew John needed the pry bar that was right within his reach. Chet also knew that if he were to go help John Roy wouldn't stay still like he needed to. What was he to do?

When Chet saw the dried grass beyond the truck burst into flames, his decision was made.

"Roy, John needs some help, I'm going to go give him a hand, but I'll be right back." Chet spoke as sternly as he could. "You stay right here and don't move, I'll be right back just as soon as I help John get the other guy out of his truck."

With that Chet took his hands off Roy and held them a few inches away while repeating, "You stay here and don't move, I'll be right back," when Roy just moved his eyes to look at him before nodding his head in compliance before Chet reached for the pry bar as he backed out the door of the rover talking to Roy as he moved.

"Now don't move Roy, stay right there, I'll be right back just as soon as I help Johnny move that other guy out of his truck."

As soon as the pry bar cleared the door frame Chet was running, as soon as he reached the other truck he didn't say a word or ask questions he just thrust he tip of the bar into the seam between the door and the rest of the frame and started levering it open with all of his might.

John turned at the sound of Chet slamming the pry bar into the side of the truck, as relieved as he was that he had the help he needed his thoughts also turned to Roy. Glancing in the direction of his Rover John noticed Roy climbing out of the passenger door and moving very slowly and noticeably unsteady on his feet.

Still, there was a crisis on hand, as Chet managed to get the passenger door of the truck to give just a little John turned and started kicking with his feet as Chet curled his fingers around the crack he had created with the door frame and pulled. Slowly and with plenty of groaning and creaking of metal the door gave way.

As Chet finished off the job of getting the door open John turned and took his patient by the shoulders and carefully started pulling him past himself toward the opening door.

"You take his shoulders Chet, I think he's got a broken femur." John instructed, there was no need to explain the dire situation they were in. They both knew they needed to move fast.

As Chet took a hold of the man's shoulders and started to pull, Johnny carefully put his arms under the man's legs supporting them and cradling the injured legs doing his best to prevent further injury and still more quickly.

John and Chet moved quickly and carefully as they hurried past the pool of gasoline and to a safe distance from the truck before laying the man down once again on the side of the road. They were just pulling their arms and hands from under his body when the wind blew a flaming tumbleweed into the road and set the gasoline in flames separating Roy from the rest of them.

"I'll get Roy," Chet called out on a run as he moved around the finger of spilled gasoline kicking dirt on the edge of the flames to buy him a little room to get to Roy. He then pulled Roy's arm around his own shoulders and pulled him back around the flames till he was next to John and the other victim.

"I thought it would be best if we were all together." Chet gave as his explanation as to why he didn't just take Roy back to the Rover.

"I was thinking," Chet continued to talk as Johnny was moving his practiced hands over the body of his patient. "I think I can remember the way to that clinic we went to last time we were here. If you can spare me for a few minutes I can change the tire on the Rover and we can take them in the back."

"Yeah, I thought of that too, but what if the Doctor's not in today?" Johnny shared his frustration. "Still, it's the best idea I've heard yet. Roy, sit down before you fall down." John directed and Chet eased him to the ground when he held himself in a seated position with one arm as John continued to work with, the more severely injured patient and Chet ran off to see about changing the tire on the Rover.

"What have you got?" Roy asked once Chet left his side. John was quick to notice that his partner wasn't able to turn his head to see where Chet was going. At a quick glance John noticed that Roy was facing ahead with his eyes moved over to see John and what he was doing. There was a definite spinal injury there and John hoped it was just strained neck muscles and no spinal cord involvement.

"I've got my hands full here Roy, do you think you can lie down before you fall down and give one less thing to worry about right now."

John really wanted to move over and help his best friend who was clearly hurting, lie down, but the man at his feet was having trouble breathing and the only way John was able to help was to stay at his side and hold his jaw bone forward.

Roy continued to lean on his arm in a seated position and John knew even if he did lie him down, he would just sit back up again and possibly aggravate his injury more.

John shared eye contact with his partner then took in and let out a deep breath. "Sorry Roy, he's got a fractured femur that's taken out the femoral artery, he's already lost enough blood to throw him into shock, I had no choice but to put a tourniquet on. He's also got some broken ribs and a possible collapsing lung on the right, along with a head injury and airway issues. I think he might have a broken collarbone in addition to all that."

"How can I help?" Roy asked, still looking out of the corner of his eye.

"You're doing more than you should already," Johnny responded to his partner, "How are you feeling by the way?"

"I'll live, you stick with him." Roy answered.

"Don't do that to me Roy." John responded to his partner's statement, "You've got a cut on your head that's still bleeding and is going to need a few stitches, you were unconscious for a good two minutes, so you've got to have a headache from hell, and I can tell with one look at you that your neck hurts. What else?"

"Yeah, that and a little dizzy, the side of my face hurts," Roy admitted reluctantly.

"What about your hands and feet, do they tingle at all, any weakness?" John questioned as he looked up and down the road and watched as the bottom layer of a pile of tumbleweeds started to catch fire.

"No, I'm good there." Roy claimed.

"Any nausea?" Johnny continued to question.

"Some," Roy admitted, "That's why I don't want to lie down. I'm afraid I won't be able to roll over fast enough."

Johnny eyed his friend over good, he understood how he was feeling much more than he wanted to admit.

Chet made short work of getting around the flames burning on the road and back to Johnny's Rover. He quickly undid the bolts holding the spare tire to the hood of the truck and lifted the hefty tire down and rolled it to the rear driver's side of the truck. Leaning it against the truck he then moved to unlatch the jack from the back of the Rover. Before he had the jack completely free from the truck he noticed the angle of the now flat tire.

Stopping his work Chet got down on all fours and looked under the truck. There was more than a blown tire wrong with Johnny's rover, the axle was broken. John's Rover was not going anywhere without the help of a tow truck.

 

Chapter 3

Chet sunk to the ground in despair. What were they going to do now? Was there any hope for John’s critically injured patient?  Chet was sure he was going to lose much more than just his leg now and he knew from the time he had worked with his teammates that it was going to be much harder on them than it would be on him.

Chet looked down the road and thought hard about their last visit to the area. He knew the funeral home that had supplied transportation the last time they were there resided in the next town over so surely there was a phone in the next town to call for help. He was just about to go tell John the news and then start running to the next town for help.

While trying to calculate the miles he would need to run he saw the first signs of a vehicle coming down the road. The heat waves rising from the road distorted its appearance, and Chet wasn’t sure at first if it was real or just a mirage.  As it came closer Chet felt hope and with the fire reaching three fourths of the way across the road Chet was sure they wouldn’t just pull around him and race off like someone had done the last time they were in the area.

Chet pulled himself to his feet and noticed that the speed was increasing on what he could now tell was a truck with a camper shell.  His first fear was that they were going to try to drive through the flames so he positioned himself right between the Rover and the now burning truck and started waving his hands above his head making it impossible to drive through the gap without taking him out in the process.

The truck stopped before it came close to hitting Chet and before he was able to move around to talk with the driver both doors of the truck flew open and two men quickly exited the truck. One already had a fire extinguisher in his hand and the other raced to the back of the camper shell to get another.

Without saying a word both men ran toward the fire and started attacking it with the extinguishers. Surprised by their actions Chet watched the men struggling with the extinguishers. Neither of the men seemed proficient with the devices in their hands and one of them was really fumbling with his extinguisher.  Chet considered going and taking the extinguisher away from him, but they were getting the job done.

As the men fought the fire, the woman who was sitting in the middle of the bench seat, leaned over and stuck her head out the driver’s side window. “Is anybody hurt?”

“Yes,” Chet answered quickly feeling focused now that he needed to get help to Roy and to Johnny for the man who was hanging onto life by a thread. “There are two men with injuries, one is really bad.”

“Where?” The woman asked as she scanned the scene before her.

“Just the other side of those flames,” Chet pointed.

“Can you drive this truck over to them?”

Chet was again surprised by the request but quickly opened the driver’s door and climbed behind the wheel. As he did so he noticed the woman sliding more toward the passenger side as she looked around trying to see the victims needing help. 

Chet also noticed that both of her hands were bandaged into clubs, having no fingers showing; one arm was bandaged up past her elbow nearly to her shoulder.  No wonder she was asking Chet to drive.

Chet managed to drive around the arm of the flames that was quickly shrinking under the hands of the men with their extinguishers and when the woman in the cab with him saw the three men on the ground she started giving instructions.

“Pull up on the other side of them and park with the back of the camper close to the patients.” 

Chet did as he was told and noticed her reaching for the handle to open the truck door, but with her hands bandaged as they were she couldn’t get it open.

“I need you to open the door for me.”

Chet used the rearview mirror to get a proper position in the truck then threw the truck into park and raced around to open the passenger door.

The woman climbed out of the cab of the truck and moved slowly with an occasional wince as she made her way to John’s side.

“What have we got here?”

“This man’s in bad shape, he’s already lost a lot of blood and is well into shock,” Johnny stopped short of giving this as yet unidentified woman the kind of detailed report he would give to a doctor. “His pulse is 140 and really weak.”

The woman stooped down and took a moment to look at both patients before going over to Roy and placing a bandaged hand on either side of his face.  As she looked into his eyes, Roy looked back and could see two dilated pupils looking back at him.

“You sound like you know what you’re doing,” the woman spoke as she moved her head around Roy’s to check his ears while continuing to hold his head steady. “Are you an EMT?”

Now it was Johnny’s turn to be surprised. “Chet there is, as well as being a professional firefighter, I’m a firefighter paramedic out of Los Angeles County and the guy you’re looking at is my partner.

“Paramedics, huh, I guess I was right when I said you look like you know what you’re doing. I’m afraid Paramedics are a little beyond us around here, but we do have a small crew of EMT twos.  I’m Julie, by the way, Julie Clark.”

“John Gage, and the guy you’re working on is Roy DeSoto, the one with the mustache…“  Johnny was starting to introduce everyone when the two other men came to her side having just emptied their fire extinguishers.

“W, w, we got most of it, b, b, but the w, w, weeds are sti, still burning,” one of the men reported while the other at his side locked his eyes on the patient Johnny was working on and started to lose all the color in his face.

Julie caught the color drain too and reached up with her bandaged hand and forced his face in another direction as the other man at her side continued to report in his stuttered speech.

“If you have a sh, sh, shovel in yo, your tr, truck I th, th, think I, I, can get it ou, out.”  The man doing the speaking looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties. He had shaggy blond hair that didn’t look like it had seen a comb in some time and was way overdue for a haircut.  Besides his stutter, there was something about him that Johnny just couldn’t put his finger on.

“I’m sure you could, Frank, but we’re going to have to let it burn for now. We need to take care of these people first.” Julie talked to the man bouncing on his heels at her side. “Can you take,” she paused, looking at Chet with a gaze that conveyed her need to know a name by which to call him.

“Chet, Chet Kelly,”

“Can you take Mr. Kelly with you to help carry things, we need the backboard, a leg splint and you better get both Jump kits out.  And while you’re at it you better get that new toy of mine.”

“O, O, Okay,” the man that had been addressed as Frank responded before launching to his feet the same way you would expect Johnny to.

Julie then turned her attention to the other man whose face she was still holding in a direction away from the action with the victims. “Roy, do you think you can get on the radio and let them know we’re coming.”

“Sure.” Roy DeSoto, who still had one of Julie’s hands on his face responded. “I just need you to help me get to the radio.”

“Oh, not you, I was talking to my brother here. His name is also Roy,” Julie explained as she managed to give her brother a slight nudge to get moving.

“Better have them get the state fire marshal out here, too,” Julie instructed before turning to see that Frank had opened the top hatch and was lowering the tailgate of the truck before pulling things out of a compartment under a bench that ran the length of the truck and handing them to Chet.

Johnny’s attention was drawn to the chaos that was taking place at the back of the truck. He noticed the raised shell over to the bed of the truck that was slightly higher than the cab of the truck it was on.  He was able to give a sigh of relief that there would be some headroom as they loaded the patients.

Then his attention was drawn to the front of the truck where they all heard the sound of retching coming from the other side.

“At least he’s still conscious; we’re going to need him to drive.” Julie took the sound in stride as she turned back to holding Roy DeSoto’s head steady with her bandaged hands.

“The sight of blood?” Johnny questioned still trying to see through the truck parked near them.

“Ye-ah,” Julie responded. “He never has been able to handle it.”

Chet pulled their attention away from the other Roy by stepping up carrying two boxes about half again larger than the drug box that John and Roy were so used to.  One had the look of a fish and tackle box while the other looked more like a tool box.

“Where do you want these?”

Julie looked in his direction and with a jerk of her head directed him to Johnny. Once the boxes were down on the ground at Johnny’s side, she started talking.

“The top tray of that blue one has a set of airways, gorilla diapers and Kerlex on the bottom left and blood pressure cuff and stethoscope on the bottom right. There’s a note pad and pen to record vitals in the top tray. ”

John was quick to pop the blue fish and tackle box open with one hand and just as quick to pull the proper sized airway device from the top tray.  Carefully working the tool around the man’s tongue to hold his airway open John was then able to pull the top three trays out of the way to see if he could figure out what it was Julie had called a gorilla diaper.

The Kerlex was easy to spot right where Julie had told him to find it and next to the unopened package were several packages of sterile abdominal pad, the largest bandage known to be commercially manufactured.  Just what he needed for the leg wound he was trying to treat.

“Is this what you call a gorilla diaper?” John asked with his famous crooked grin as he held up the package.

“Doesn’t everybody?” Julie answered as she looked to see Frank struggling with the plywood creations he was pulling from the side compartment under the bench in the camper.

“You must have spent some time in the military.” Roy DeSoto talked as he did his best to hold still for his caregiver. “That’s what they call them on the front lines.”

“NO,” Julie answered with a smile, “But our Doc started out with the military so since we try to speak his language I guess that’s where it came from.”

“Are you talking about Doc Frick?” Roy asked finding it difficult to believe the hippy looking Doctor they had met once before had ever had a crew cut or wore a uniform of any kind.

“You know him?” Julie seemed surprised.

“We met him a few years ago,” Roy reported, he welcomed the distraction from his throbbing head and the pain in his neck.  Their talking was also keeping his mind off his upset stomach.  “We were out here on another fishing trip and on our way back home we came across a head on, not too far from this very place if I remember right.”

“You must be those guys from LA, he talked about when he started pushing the EMT program around here.”

“Oh, really.”

Their attention was pulled again to the back of the truck where two pieces of plywood strapped together were dropped in an attempt to hand them over to Chet.

“Yeah, Ozella still accuses us of trying to take over the place whenever we bring her a patient just like you LA boys did.” Julie talked without taking her eyes off of Roy as Chet managed to get the backboard away from Frank and then pick up the other boards.

Soon Chet was at Julie’s side setting the back board down next to Roy before commenting. “I’m not exactly sure what this is?”

“That’s the leg splint,” Julie was quick to answer. “You better take the back board here and that over for the other patient.”

As Chet was retrieving the backboard from the ground to move it over to John’s patient Frank came up running with a long slender box that was still factory sealed with large staples.

“Is th, th, this the n, n, new t, t, toy you w, w, wanted me to get?”

“That’s it; you did real good Frank, real good. Just set that down here.” Julie nodded with her head to the ground at her side.

Julie then made eye contact with Chet. “Do you know how to apply one of these?” Indicating the box at her side.

Chet looked at the printing on the plain brown box and read ‘Kendrick Extrication Device,’ this was something he did understand. The boards still in his hands were clearly homemade devices and one of them was something that he had never seen before.

“Yes, Ma’am. I’m well trained with a KED; I use one nearly every day I’m at work.”

Once Chet set his load down next to Johnny he quickly returned to Roy’s side and with the aid of his pocket knife he made quick work of getting the device, a set of long strait and sturdy slats made of a plastic material that could be x-rayed through that were housed in a canvas vest type thing that wrapped around from the victim’s head and down to his waist and then was strapped into place to keep his head and neck in line. It was a new device to the rescue world, but one that had cut the time it took to get a victim out of a wrecked car in half.

While Julie continued to hold Roy’s head steady, Chet made quick work of wrapping the device around Roy and then securing the strap around his forehead. He would then need a moment to remove the straps for across his shoulders and chest from their individual plastic wrappings before he could apply them to the device and fasten the rest of it around Roy. But his head and neck were perfectly stable for the moment.

“Frank, can you kneel down behind this man and hold him up while Mr. Kelly finishes with these straps so I can go show the other guy how to use the leg split.”

Frank just nodded his head and quickly kneeled behind Roy placing his hands on his shoulders and carefully pulling him back against his chest.

Julie turned around and nearly crawled over to John’s side.  It was clear that her movements were painful to her, but it didn’t stop her.

“Somehow, I’m sure you’ve never seen a splint like that thing before and don’t have a clue how to use it,” Julie commented gesturing toward two pieces of plywood cut ten inches wide by four feet long.  The boards were rounded at the corners and held together in four area’s by pieces of a worn out fire hose.  Between them was two pieces of a foam mattress pad, the kind the hospital often uses on their beds.

“The first thing you need to do is pull the Velcro straps loose and open that thing up,” Julie  instructed as she moved in with her bandaged hands to take a hold on the injured leg and pull a slight bit of traction. “Be advised I’ve got a boatload of Morphine on board right now and I’m not exactly sure which is right and which is left at the moment.”

Johnny gave her bandages a good looking over and wondered what was under them, but his patient was critical and if they didn’t move fast they were going to lose him so Johnny turned his full attention back to the man on the ground.

While Julie held traction on the leg and talked Johnny through the application of her leg splint, Johnny slipped it under the injured leg and then with the two pieces of plywood on either side of the leg with the foam pad cushioning the leg Johnny secured them in place by pulling the fire hose tight and then fastening it with wide strips of Velcro.

“Ozella says Doc’s not at the clinic today,” Roy Clark, Julie’s brother, called from the other side of the truck, where he stood hiding behind the truck as if he was a police officer protecting himself from being shot at.

“No, he’s in the hospital,” Julie answered back.

“There’s no answer at the hospital,” Roy Clark responded again.

“They must have turned the CB at the nurse’s desk off,” Julie mumbled more to herself than anyone. She then looked at John. “What kind of numbers did you get?” She nodded toward the blood pressure cuff when John gave her a puzzled look for a response.

“Pulse is 140, respirations 20, and blood pressure is only 70 over 50 and falling.” John reported and then watched as she shared his grimace.

Julie thought for a moment, shifting her eyes back and forth as she did, then she called out to her brother.

“Roy, you better give the Highway Patrol a call then. Be sure to let them know we’re transporting a real red hot one that’s bleeding out, and we need Doc on the radio.”

“They’ll never get the signal,” Roy objected still in the safety of the other side of the truck. “They’re all on the freeway on the other side of that mountain range; the signal will never reach them there.”

“I know that, but hopefully one of the many old busybodies that have nothing better to do than to sit around all day listening to the police scanner will call the hospital and tell them that we need to talk to Doc so they’ll turn the radio back on. Don’t forget to tell them to get Wally out here.”

By the time Julie had given instructions to her brother Chet was finished securing Roy in the KED and was now on their side ready to help slide the backboard under the patient once John and Julie worked together to roll him.

Since movement was painful for Julie she remained at the man’s side while John held the head steady and Chet was on the other side, ready to push the board back up against the man’s back once he was rolled.

“Alright, on three,” Julie called out. “One, two, three,” at which point Julie pulled on the man’s hip and shoulders, pulling him towards herself as Johnny made sure the head and neck turned at the same time.  Chet then pushed the back board under the man making sure to tilt it up so that the backboard was in the best possible position.

While Johnny was securing the patient down to the back board Julie had more instructions to call out.

“Mr. Kelly, right?” Julie got Chet’s attention after a moment of frustrated thought. “You and Frank better get the other Roy there in the truck first.  I think he’ll be most comfortable in the captain’s chair in the back; it has crisscross seat belts to hold him in place. Then you better leave Frank with him and come back and help your friend carry this guy.  We’re going to need some sand bags for his head. They’ve probably slid up next to the cab. There’s a cupboard door near the cab that you can look in to find them.”

Julie then turned to Frank and started talking as if she were talking to a child. “Frank, I need you to help Mr. Kelly here move that man into the seat in the back of the truck. Can you remember how they showed you to help them lift some of the patients at the hospital?”

“Y, Y, Yeah,” Frank talked as he closed his eyes as if thinking hard. “I, I, I j, join my h, h, hand a, around his sh, shoulders and m, my other h, hand u, under his n,n, knee’s.  It’s called a ch, chair, c, carry be, because, w, we m, m, make a ch, chair with ou, our arms.”

“That’s right,” Julie praised, then looking at Chet as she talked, “Just be real careful, so that you don’t hurt him and listen to Mr. Kelly here and he’ll tell you when to move and which way to go. Okay?”

Both Chet and Frank gave a nod of their heads to confirm that they understood their instructions.

Julie remained on her knees at John’s side, sitting on the heels of her feet she was clearly thinking.  It was also clear to Johnny that she was feeling the effects of the Morphine she told him she’d taken.

As John finished fastening his patient to the backboard Julie scanned the area, the fire had now spread to a five foot tall pile of tumbleweeds and they were quickly being eaten up by the flames.  Each one kept the corner of their eyes on Chet and Frank as they lifted Roy into the truck.

Johnny had been nervous about letting the young man named Frank help lift his best friend and partner. As he watched his fears lessened. First Roy was aided in putting his arms around each man’s shoulders and then when Chet and Frank had their arms in place Chet took just a moment to tell Frank to be sure to lift with his legs before counting to three. Both men rose to their feet easily and Roy’s weight didn’t seem to be a burden to either of them.  Once Roy was sitting on the tailgate of the truck Chet was quick to climb in before taking Roy under the arms and pulling him into the back of the truck.

John’s attention joined Julie’s as the flames continued to grow, now having lit the dried limbs of a nearby cedar tree ablaze.  The fire was quickly getting out of control, but getting their patients to the medical help they needed, was their first priority.

Soon Chet was back at their side with the sandbags he’d been asked to bring. They were simply the lower leg portion of worn jeans, sewn at the top and bottom then stuffed with pea gravel.  Two were placed at each side of the man’s head while four more were placed to help steady the leg splint for transportation.

Meanwhile, back in the truck Frank was doing his best to watch out for Roy.  He really had no idea what he was watching out for but he was dutifully at his side.

“H, Hi, th, there., M, my name is F,F, Frank.”

“Hi there, Frank, My name is Roy, Roy DeSoto,” Roy managed to offer his right hand to shake.

“B, boy are y, y, you g, g, going to g, g, get t, teased r, real b, bad when y, y, you g, get to the h, h, hospital.”  Frank talked with Roy but didn’t shake his hand.  Roy was sure by now that this man was at least somewhat handicapped.

“Oh, really, how come?” Roy asked.

“Y, You’ll s, s, see.” Was the only answer Frank seemed capable of giving?

“Here, we come,” John called out as he rested his end of the backboard on the bench in the back of the truck and then climbed in to help slide his patient in the rest of the way.

Julie was soon in the back and moving around Roy to call through the window into the cab where her brother was sitting behind the wheel.

“You alright to drive, Roy?” Julie asked and since her head was through the window and into the cab Roy DeSoto was sure she was talking to her brother, the one that got sick at the sight of blood.

No one heard an answer, but Julie continued to call out instructions so the others assumed he had said yes.

“Alright turn the emergency flashers on and get us out of here,  we need Doc and the hospital’s operating room so there’s no reason to stop anywhere else on the way.  Remember that we need a smooth ride more than we need a fast ride, but we do need it to be fast.  If this truck had lights and sirens we would only be licensed to drive ten miles over the speed limit so keep it down to at least twenty miles over the speed limit.

“I’ll stay here and work on the fire,” Chet informed as he shut the tailgate and was pulling the top hatch down.

“With what?” Julie started to object. “You don’t even have a shovel to work with or anything else to fight it with and it’s not safe for you to try it on your own anyway.  You don’t even have any communications with anyone to call for help if you need it, no shovel, what could you hope to do by yourself anyway? 

“Look, Roy, the one in the cab of the truck here, could use some moral support.  There’s not a person out here that’s going to miss a single one of the sage brush and tumble weeds that fire is going to take out and once we get to civilization, we can send a team with the proper equipment back to put it out.”

Chet was conflicted.  What this girl they’d never met before was saying was right, but to leave an actively burning fire to continue to burn was criminally neglectful in Chet’s mind.  He looked to Johnny for whatever orders he would give.

“She’s right, Chet; you better get in the cab.” Johnny backed Julie up.

Reluctantly Chet shut the back hatch and made his way to the cab not even getting the passenger door closed before Roy, the brother of Julie, pulled out squealing the tires as he did.

“How far is the hospital from here?” Johnny asked after checking the vitals once again.

“About fifty minutes,” Julie answered, “I’m betting on Roy being able to make it in thirty.”

John looked back at his patient. It was going to be a miracle if he lasted another thirty minutes.

Author’s notes:

In areas where the population is sparse, having an EMT Certification is a major plus for getting work with ranchers, small ski resorts, campgrounds, mine workers and other such employers that set up away from the beaten path.  But they don’t want to pay for all the equipment for these EMTs to take care of an injury at the work site. 

Creative people have designed lots of ways to make supplies for these times and have joined networks to share what they’ve come up with and glean what someone else has come up with. Since help was often far away and no phones on the range their only options to summon help were to send someone to the nearest phone which was so far away they might as well just take

their patient in themselves. For that reason many of the EMTs in such areas are quick to collect their own equipment, some who had access to world war two surplus supplies thought they were in paradise.  Most drove trucks with camper shells or Suburbans and some had more equipment in them than the local ambulances.  Also small communities often don’t have the tax base to buy every piece of equipment they would like so they also tie into those networks, to stock their ambulances and fire trucks and while they were making them for the community they made an extra one or two for themselves.

 

Chapter 4

The truck was moving just as Julie had instructed, fast and smooth. Johnny managed to get another set of vitals on his patient and a set on Roy. Roy was holding his own just fine, the other guy was slipping.

With nothing more he could do at the moment except to hang on for the ride, Johnny began to take in their benefactor. Julie was now slumped down on the floor of the truck bed with her head bouncing on the back of the cab as they moved. Her once white bandages were now saturated with blood and covered with dirt from helping with his patient.

From time to time Julie would close her eyes and lean back against the cab, but after just a minute or two she would be leaning forward and looking around again. John was sure the headache she was getting from bouncing her head off the metal of the truck had something to do with getting her to move.

Frank sat in the farthest corner of the truck bed with his legs folded in front of him and his arm on the top of the tailgate. His gaze was behind them and Johnny was wondering what he was looking at. They could no longer see the fire, but the smoke swirling upward was still easy to see.

This was the first time since John had graduated from the fire academy that he had driven away from a fire while it continued to burn out of control and not a single person was fighting it. As much as he had to agree with what Julie had told Chet, he still felt derelict in his duty and was sure Chet still did too, but still, what could any of them have done? John vowed to get a shovel to keep in his truck for such cases in the future and while he was at it maybe he should start picking up some more first aid supplies too.

John had actually figured out that he could go to Roy’s house and use his saws to make four of those leg splints out of a single four by eight foot piece of plywood. That’s when Chet stuck his hand holding the CB mic through the window.

“We’ve got the Doc on the radio.” Chet spoke excitedly as he held the CB mic through the window and Julie was quickly up and on her knees with Johnny’s help. Julie then leaned close to the mic and Chet understanding her bandaged hands by now held it close to her mouth and worked the talk button for her.

“Doc, we’re coming in hot with a real bad one. We have a lacerated femoral artery and probable fractured femur.” Julie then proceeded to read off vital signs of the critical patient as well as Roy DeSoto, as Johnny held the note pad where she could read it.

“The ambulance left an hour ago to take that burn patient into the burn center.” Doc Frick reported over the radio. “Do we need to turn them around so they can take this patient too?”

“Na, Doc, they’re too far out. I think this guy needs to be airlifted out anyway. That’s the only way we’re going to save his leg.”

“I take it you’ve had to put a tourniquet on,” Doc surmised, putting the pieces together.

“It was either that or lose him before we could get him loaded.”

“We’ll be ready for you when you get here I’ll get Life Flight on the way.”

“Doc, if we could get our hands on some IV fluids it could make the difference on this one,” Julie added.

“Yeah, it sure sounds like it, but how on earth are we supposed to get some IV solutions to you?”

“Wally should be on his way out here to fight the fire we left for him. He could pick them up from Ozella and meet us on the way.”

“This is Wally, I’m coming close to Middletown; I should be there in two minutes.”  The new voice on the radio made Julie smile.

“This is Ozella, Doctor Frick, What do you want me to get ready?”

“And to think my dad used to complain about a party line.” Julie’s face was filled with hope as she listened to Dr. Frick list off the supplies Ozella needed to gather before telling Julie to start two IV’s if she could and run them wide open.

 Then, as if an afterthought, Dr. Frick asked, “Julie, how on earth are you going to start those IV’s?”

“You taught me Doc, how do you think I’m going to start them?” Julie answered, then stuck her head through the window to talk to her brother. “Watch for Wally, he’ll be making a supply drop as we pass each other.” She then pulled back into the back of the truck and looked at John. “I’m guessing you’re not certified to start an IV in this area?”

John looked at her as the realization of what she was saying sunk in. Slowly and regrettably John shook his head to confirm what she had said.

 “You better pull those bandage scissors out then and cut these bandages off.”

John moved for the bandage scissors, then paused and looked at Julie. “Just what’s under those bandages?”

Julie looked at him with a glare of defiance, then let out a deep breath. “Burns, second degree.”

John looked over the area covered with bandages including the impression of bandages on her chest and did the math, “I’m guessing that at least 20 to 25 percent of your body is burned, if you know anything at all you’ve got to know that you need to keep those burns covered to prevent infection.”

“This man’s life depends on me being able to start two IV’s, I’ve got to have at least a thumb and forefinger to do that, and that’s if you do everything else except the needle puncture.”

“I can do that, let’s get you a finger and a thumb,” John was willing to compromise that far and was amazed at the difference from the last time they tried to help out in this area. “Are you right or left handed?”

 John was sure Julie was right handed because that was the arm that was bandaged up to the armpit. When Julie confirmed his hunch he carefully felt through the bandages to find the thumb and was relieved to feel that there was padded material between it and the rest of the hand. Then he carefully clipped the bandages and even more carefully cut them away from the thumb. As he did so he was pleased to find that there were a few layers of bandaging next to the skin that were still clean. Once he pulled the bandaging away from her thumb, he was surprised to see that there were no burns on her thumb until he reached the webbed skin between the thumb and the forefinger.

Being very careful, John then nipped away at the top layers of bandaging covering the rest of the hand, there were fluffed up pieces of 4 x 4 gauze pads between each finger so John started to gently pull them away from the forefinger. There were more than a few blisters on the next finger, a slight majority of them were ruptured and the fluids from inside the blisters were causing the bandage to stick to the skin.

 Julie flinched a time or two in evidence of the pain John was causing her but didn’t say a word.

This was the first time he’d looked at her long enough to see the dilated eyes. “How much morphine did they give you and how long ago?” John asked as he pulled a tube of burn cream from the top tray of the first aid box. Using the cream to loosen the bandages John was just about to reapply some bandaged to the worst of the burns on the forefinger when he felt the truck decelerating quickly.

John was able to quickly wrap a sterile 4x4 around her finger and then apply tape before Chet was opening the hatch and lowering the tailgate. As soon as the tailgate was down Chet lifted an oxygen canister into the back of the truck and Frank was quick to slide out onto the tailgate and out of the way.

When another man was there handing in a box filled with four glass bottles of IV fluid and a handled tray that contained everything else they could possibly need to get the IV’s running.

 John started barking out orders as if they were back in LA County. “Chet, get that oxygen hooked up and on this guy,” he called as he pulled an IV set up from the tray and quickly opened it. Inserting the tubing in the top of the bottle, John started to ramble a little.

“We don’t use these glass bottles anymore. The bags are a lot safer in the field and you can place the bag under the patient’s shoulder and let the pressure keep the fluid flowing while you transport.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Julie responded, looking on helplessly as John did everything. “But the bags are still more expensive than the bottles and in this part of the world money talks louder than safety and convenience. You can hang that bottle from that hook there.” Julie then pointed with her bandaged hand to four eyebolts that were fastened to a board that was then fastened to the roof of the camper shell.

The eyes of the eyebolts had been pried open just enough to easily slip the wire hanger attached to the IV bottle through and the eyebolts were spaced enough to keep the bottles from banging into each other and breaking while they transported.

“Do you need me anymore?” The man who had handed over the supplies asked.

“I, I, I’m g, g, going with W, W, Wally,” Frank informed Julie and John was quick to see the Julie shared eye contact with the man they were calling Wally.

“I’ll keep him out of trouble and see to it that he gets to your dad’s place once we get that beast out,” Wally assured then quickly shut the tailgate before leaving and going back to his truck and pulling out in the opposite direction.

“I should have gone with him,” Chet commented when he moved closer to the patient so he could place the oxygen mask on his face.

“That’s okay, Wally can handle things and if he needs help he has his radio, a radio that’s a far sight better than my old CB,”.” Julie instructed as she was moving in and with her newly freed finger and thumb was looking for the best veins.

As soon as John had bled the fluid into the tubing of two bottles of fluid he handed the ends to Roy to hold while he moved in to help prepare the veins for Julie to stick.

“Let’s get a blood pressure cuff on to help blow up these veins; they’re going to need a big needle to get blood through.”

“You’re right,” John responded as he applied the cuff, “but it’s better to get a small one in to get the fluid going and make the veins bigger by the time we get him to the hospital.”

“Yeah, I know, but I think I can get a 16 in there,” Julie pointed to a vein that she had found.

John was skeptical, but chose not to challenge her. After pulling the packaging open and carefully placing the needle hub in Julie’s fingers John hovered over her and followed her instructions to rub the vein from the wrist toward the blown up blood pressure cuff and was amazed as she slipped the crowbar of a needle right into the vein. John then took over with getting the IV hooked up and taped down while Julie started looking over the other arm for another vein.

 Once again John managed to do everything but put the needle in place and Julie once again surprised him with her skill at getting the needle in the vein. Once the second needle was taped down and both IV’s were running wide open, Julie gave her brother the command to move out.

John looked into the cab at that moment and noticed the man behind the wheel was focused straight ahead and as rigid as a board before moving into action to get the truck moving again. Remembering the last time he, ‘moved out’ Johnny braced himself in preparation of a quick start.

Once things were stable again in the new movement and John had double checked the IV starts to make sure all was flowing well, he turned to Julie. “You did real good, getting those veins. I would think you would be hard pressed to get the practice in an area like this.”

Julie just grinned at the praise she was getting. “Those of us that are IV certified get together once a month to practice on each other. There are also a couple of us that travel to the Red Cross Blood bank once or twice a month where we can get a lot of practice drawing blood. That’s where I learned the trick of milking a vein. I also learned how to pin one down so that it doesn’t roll on you. Doc also has me doing house calls once a week or so to collect blood samples from some of his less mobile patients.” Julie let John and his partner know she wasn’t some country hick when it came to finding a vein. “I know what I’m doing. Judging by the way you tied those down after I stuck ‘em you must not be too bad yourself.”

“Well, I’ve got to admit I learned something; I’ve never seen that milking technique you used before.” Johnny continued to praise Julie as he offered up the crooked smile that was well known in the halls of Rampart General.

~~~

Julie’s brother had one thing in common with the Paramedic whose name he shared, he knew how to drive fast and still be safe behind the wheel.

When they backed up to the door marked as their emergency room, Chet opened the hatch from the inside and then the tailgate before jumping out and reaching up to take hold of the backboard. By now it was no surprise that Roy, Julie’s brother, remained in the cab with both hands on the steering wheel and his eyes facing forward.

A gurney was wheeled through the doors and it was no surprise that Doc Frick was right behind it already dressed in scrubs. What was surprising was that he was in a wheelchair. On the back was a pole holding an IV that was connected to his arm and his leg was raised and resting on the support on the wheelchair.

Dr. Frick pushed himself out of the wheelchair pausing only long enough to untangle his IV line from the handles of the wheelchair before hobbling over to the gurney. “How’s he doin’?”  He asked as he checked the man’s pupils and took notice of the message written on his forehead.

“His blood pressure is up ten points since we started the IVs and his color is better,” Julie reported.

“Good! Let’s get him straight into surgery. I need six units of O neg for him and get an update on when that jet is going to get here. Clark there can tell you who to call to pick up the team at the airport.”  Dr. Frick then lowered himself back into his wheelchair and took control of the wheels to follow the gurney back into the hospital. Just before he was inside far enough to allow the automatic doors to close he looked over his shoulder.

“Get that other patient into x-ray and I’ll get to him as soon as I can. You wait there with him,” he instructed Julie. “We’re going to have to change those bandages.” With those orders barked out the doctor then moved on. 

Author’s note:

I guess I need to rephrase my earlier statement and make sure that no one misunderstands; yes, this story is a work of complete fiction. The details given in the Preface chapter really happened and there were a number of auto accidents in the area, but none of them to my knowledge ever involved the same circumstances as the one in this story. And once again, I want to make it clear to anyone who thinks that my characters are them with different names, they are only partially right at the very most, it is very important that you realize this because every good story has to have a bad guy or two and I’m afraid that I may lose some lifelong friends and my own parents may just disown me if this is not made perfectly clear. This is just pretend no real life people and happenings, is that clear?

 

Chapter Five

As the automatic doors to the hospital closed behind the doctor, Julie leaned back watching the herd of health care workers roll their critical patient into the combination delivery/operating room.

Once the hall cleared out, there were a few other hospital workers, about five in number, some young, some older, who were looking out the door window trying to decide what to do next.

Julie let out a sigh and leaned against the tailgate of the truck before waving her hand to the women on the other side of the glass.

When one of the nurses stepped forward enough to trip the automatic door into opening Julie spoke up. “We’ll need a gurney for the guy in the back here and we’ll also need a wheelchair for the driver and if you can’t find the proper scenic place to park it, he’s going to need an emesis basin.”

Julie then shifted her position till she could see her brother’s reflection in the side view mirror; she then glanced at Chet’s watch as he stood at her side. “I think a session with the dietitian that should have just gotten off shift, may be just what he needs.”

With a few giggles from the nurses as a gurney moved through the door to the truck,  Chet and John climbed back into the truck bed and made short work of lifting Roy from the seat to the tailgate and then from the tailgate to the gurney. As the gurney was being rolled through the doors and back into the building they all knew without a doubt that they were in for a long wait. This area’s only doctor had a life and death situation on his hands and they would just have to wait until he won, or lost, that battle first.

John and Chet helped the nursing staff, several of which John was sure were just teenagers, position Roy on his side because he was still slightly nauseous. Julie saw to it that her brother was rolled in and contact between him and the before mentioned dietitian was happening before requesting the three most comfortable chairs she thought the place had, for herself and the two firemen from out of town.

 Julie’s brother, who was still quite pale, managed to pull the girl into his lap and with her tenderly caressing his face, the two talked in whispers that no one else could hear.

When the patients were settled and as comfortable as possible, Julie began by using her bandaged hands and her feet together to move one of the wheeled high-backed office chairs into the hall just outside of x-ray.

“Sir,” one of the office workers moved up to Roy with a clipboard of papers in her hands. “Can I get your information and insurance while we’re waiting for the doctor?”

Johnny was confused by the smirking laugh Julie let escape as she sat in the chair she had so deliberately placed. “Here, I can fill out most of that information for you. It was my car he was riding in when he got hurt so you’ll need my car insurance information anyway.” John sat down next to Roy and proceeded to fill in the forms only needing to ask Roy one or two pieces of information.

When the hospital staff person, Johnny could see no pins of insignia to tell him what her training was, retrieved the information from Johnny, she gave it a quick scan. Johnny was watching her go through the paperwork ready to answer any further questions she might have when he saw her face erupt in a smile.

 “Your name is Roy?” The girl exclaimed.

“Yes, Roy DeSoto,” Roy answered in total confusion at the look on the girls face. As much as he completely understood what was going on and why it was taking so long for the doctor to get to him, Roy was getting real tired of being held in an uncomfortable position, wearing an uncomfortable KED, braced on his side with pillows and straps. His head ached from what he knew for sure was a concussion and he just wanted to get out of that confining contraption, take some aspirin for his headache and go to sleep somewhere. Let Johnny, wake him up every two hours if he needed to just get him out of that head girdle!

“How long have been friends with the Clark family?”

“Huh? Oh, Julie. I just met her when she stopped to help us all out.”

As the receptionist walked out of the x-ray room, still smiling and showing the top of Roy’s admitting form to everyone at the desk, Julie walked in with a warmed blanket for Roy and told Chet where to find an ice pack for his head while Johnny did most of the work to spread the blanket over Roy.

Julie asked how he was feeling and what more she could do to make him comfortable. When she had done all she could, Julie then went to the hospital’s radio console and talked with someone for a while. It was interesting watching Julie struggle with the mic and its buttons with her hands bandaged as they were but after a while she returned to John, Chet, Roy and her brother.

“They think they have the fire contained. There’s a natural wash and an old dirt road that slowed it down for them. Now if the wind will cooperate they should have it out by sundown. The county sheriff has finished the investigation at the wreck site. The tow trucks are bringing the vehicles into town now; I used what influence I had to get your truck taken to the most reputable mechanic in the area. The highway patrolman will be in here to take your statements in a little while.”

“Thank you,” John was quick to reply and as much as he wanted an explanation for all of the giggles and grins directed at them, he wasn’t sure how to ask.

Julie then made the short walk to Roy’s side and adjusted his blanket while asking how he was doing. “It shouldn’t be long now that the scurry in and out of OR has slowed down. The Life Flight team should be here in about two hours. I’m sure Doc will be out to look at you long before then.”

“How’s it looking for the guy?” Johnny asked being used to being able to get information about his patients readily.

“All I can tell you for sure is that I can hear the heart monitor and it has a stable rhythm.”

Julie then made her way to the chair she had deliberately placed in the hall and sat down. She looked tired and possibly in more pain, yet she didn’t complain.

 John turned back to trying to entertain his partner knowing that any effort he made to try and move treatment along would only make people angry and frustrated. All three of them kept quiet and tried their best to keep each other calm.

The next time John glanced toward Julie she was slumped in her chair with her head leaning over on her left shoulder and her eyes were closed. Moving carefully in an attempt not to wake her, John checked her pulse. Finding it to be within normal parameters John borrowed the blood pressure cuff from the x-ray lab and slowly wrapped it around Julie’s upper left arm. He was just removing the stethoscope from his ears after reading a normal blood pressure when he heard the voice of Dr. Frick just around the corner.

“Let’s keep him here in the operating room, it’s the closest thing we have to an intensive care unit. We’ve done what we can for him, now it’s up to the Life Flight crew and the orthopedic specialist they’ll take him to. That jet team should be here in an hour; do we have someone to pick them up at the airport?”

“Well, I thought we could just have the sheriff pick them up, but that know it all Clark women insisted on calling Mitchens and his wife from out on the flat to pick them up using their van and the extra gurney that was donated by the mortuary when they replaced their hearse.” A female voice responded to the doctor and John was bristled by the less than impressed tone she had in her voice when referring to Julie.

“That was a good move; Mark Mitchens’s van should work as well as the ambulance as far as moving the flight team and their equipment. If they take as long as they usually do to get the patient ready to transport maybe our ambulance will be back in time to take them all back to the airport.”

“I want to see the chart and x-rays on the next patient.”

“Oh,” the woman talking to Dr. Frick, Johnny had decided she was a nurse at this point, slowed her speech, but not the sour tone to her voice. “Well, about the x-rays, Ms. Clark put some strange brace on him to hold his head and back straight and we have to have him evaluated by a doctor before it can be removed so that he can be x-rayed.”

“Well now if you were as efficient and as well trained as Ms. Clark you would have known that the strange brace you speak of can be x-rayed through without problems and if you were to spend less time trying to make all of our field trained rescue workers look bad and more time doing your job, you’d have a set of x-rays for me to look at by now along with at least three sets of vital signs.”

All talk between the doctor and his nurse came to an instant halt and within seconds the doctor, still in his wheelchair and wearing a scrub suit covered in sweat and blood, was seen rolling himself around the corner. As Dr Frick grabbed the patient chart out of the hands of one of the receptionists in the hall the nurse at his side was clearly annoyed and didn’t approve of being put in her place.

“Hi, Dr. Frick,” Johnny called out getting the man in the chair to look up at him.

“Have we met before?”

“Yes sir, about three years ago at your clinic in Middletown. We brought in two victims of a car accident. One was a boy with a—“

“Lacerated carotid artery,” Dr. Frick continued. “Yes, I remember you now. You’re those fire medics out of Los Angeles, right? It’s been a few years. What brings you back to our little neck of the woods?”

“Don’t you mean sage brush,” Chet stepped into the conversation having seen very little in the last two days that resembled woods.By now Johnny and the good doctor were shaking hands and when Chet took his turn, he added, “This nut convinced us to come back and give the fishing another try.”

“Oh yeah, I hear it’s pretty good fishin’ at the Res, for the first time in several years.” Dr. Frick continued to talk as he turned his attention to the sleeping Julie Clark still in her chair in the hall. “Will someone get a set of vitals on her?” Dr. Frick ordered then turned to the three men, two standing and the third strapped down to a gurney. “Thank you for waiting so patiently, I’m afraid these two hands can only do so much at a time. If you two men could give me a hand we’ll see about getting him out of that brace.”

“You bet, Doc, and we understand about the wait and all. I did just take Julie’s vitals, she’s got a pulse of 68 and her blood pressure is 110 over 70 with respirations of 10, I really think that the adrenaline from the accident wore off and the Morphine she told us she’d been given kicked in.”

“Thank you,” Dr. Frick responded with a terse look at the nurse behind him. “Would someone get her a blanket,” Dr. Frick spoke quietly and then took hold of the door frame and pulled himself into the x-ray room. As quickly as he could, he pulled his wheelchair as close as possible to the side of the gurney Roy was resting on and started to evaluate his patient. “How long was he unconscious?”

 “About two minutes,” Johnny responded, the guilt of being the one who was driving twisting his gut once again. “We had to leave him alone for a few minutes to get the other guy out of his truck before the fire got him.”

“I told him to stay at least five times,” Chet picked up the story, “but before we had the other guy out of his truck Roy here was out of Johnny’s truck. I think once we get him back home, we’ll have to start obedience training all over again.”

“I don’t intend to wait till we get back home,” Johnny shared a grin with Chet. “I plan to pick up a local paper as soon as we leave here and swat his nose just for general principals.”

“I just thought you guys might need my help or something,” Roy defended himself.

“Do you remember what happened?” Dr. Frick asked as he ran his hands along Roy’s ribs from his chair.

“I remember we were driving along talking about kissing frogs to find out if they’re toads, and then the next thing I remember is Chet holding me down and talking absolute nonsense while he was looking at something out the window and I knew he was trying to keep me from finding out how much trouble we were in.”

Dr. Frick moved back to examining the lump under the cut on Roy’s head, “Can you tell me your name?”

“Roy DeSoto, I’m a fireman paramedic out of Carson, California,” Roy responded as he cooperated in allowing the doctor to shine a light in his eyes.

“Roy,” Dr. Frick’s voice matched the surprise on his face, “Did you say your name is Roy?”

“Yeah,” Roy asked in total confusion, calmed only because Johnny and Chet looked confused too.

“He’s got a left hand, Doc,” was heard from the still mostly unconscious Julie Clark as she rolled her head toward the doctor.

“Well, you’re right there, he is wearing a wedding ring, but that doesn’t mean he’s happily married,” Dr Frick commented, acting as if he was totally unaware of the glare Roy was giving him.

“You’re barking up the wrong tree, Doc. It don’t matter if he’s happy or not, in my book he’s still off limits. The way I see it, he must not be too unhappy if he’s advertizing.”

 The still confused John and Chet helped the even more confused Roy over to the x-ray table and then stepped out into the hall while the wheelchair bound doctor got the x-rays he needed. Once the first x-ray was taken they were called back in to help Roy reposition before the second x-ray then returned to the hall.

Once those x-ray’s were taken and Dr. Frick had the chance to look them over good Chet and John were given the okay to remove Roy from the KED device while Dr. Frick checked on his other patient and gathered the supplies he would need to suture the laceration on Roy’s head.

While Roy was getting his head sutured, the county sheriff arrived to get statements from both John and Chet. Chet completed his statement first and was standing at Roy’s side as a bandage was being applied to Roy’s head and a bag of ice on top of that before he left to write the needed orders and see to his other patient’s transfer to a larger hospital via Life Flight.

When John returned to Roy’s side neither Roy nor Chet missed the pink piece of paper that was being folded and placed in John’s shirt pocket. John was in the hall looking for someone to help Roy make a call home to his wife and get some recommendations as to where he and Chet could spend the night when the automatic double doors opened wide again as a black industrial van backed up to the door. The van’s doors were opened and out jumped five people, both men and women, wearing dark blue Jumpsuits covered with insignia identifying them as Life Flight.

John knew the best thing he could do was stay out of the way so he returned to Roy and Chet as they were being taken to another room for the time being and together they were able to watch the action through the window. It was almost comical when a large new box type ambulance drove in under lights and sirens to take the place of the black van and the aids were overheard telling each other that the ambulance crew had driven the last hour under lights and sirens to get home in time to escort the Life Flight crew to and from the hospital.

 John, Chet and Roy exchanged silent looks as the news was heard and without saying a word they knew each one of them was thinking the ambulance crew was taking risks for no real good reason.

 “Guess they didn’t know a backup plan had been put into place,” John commented quietly.

Roy was settled into a hospital bed with a foam collar around his neck to ease his discomfort and the head of the bed was elevated. It was clear from the collection of stuff around the next bed that he was to have a roommate, but the second bed in the room was currently empty. As they waited for someone to fill them in on how long Roy was going to be required to stay and to try to make arrangements for Roy to call home and talk to his wife, John and Chet paced the room and fussed over Roy’s covers.

It was while John was handing Roy a glass of water and helping him take a drink that Roy plucked the paper out of his front pocket and managed to hand it to Chet before John could get it back.

“You got a ticket for---“ Chet stopped reading out loud and looked back and forth between John and Roy before Roy grabbed the ticket back and held it up where he could read it.

“Failure to maintain proper restraint of passengers,” Roy read, then slumped in the bed. He was a grown man and should be held responsible for his own choice not to apply a seat belt in the back of Johnny’s rover.

Like every trained public servant he knew the difference a seat belt can make in an accident and like every paramedic he knew there were times they just didn’t wear the things even when they were off duty.

He had been replacing the fishing line on one of his reels and Johnny’s back seat belts were just a little too confining to give him the movement he needed to get supplies from his tackle box and do the work. “I’ll pay this,” Roy ended before Johnny snatched his ticket back and they all hung their heads in silence.

Several minutes later the men could hear a noise outside the window. Looking out they could see the ambulance carrying the Life Flight crew and their patient pulling out from the emergency entrance. Everything seemed quiet until they heard a muffled argument in the hall. They weren’t able to hear all of the words spoken, but it was clear that it was two women and one of them sounded a bit like Julie the other voice they were sure was the nurse the doctor had been chastising with before.

 “So why didn’t you back me up on my suggestion that he go on life flight with that last patient?”

“I can take care of him, if people like you would just leave him alone.”

“Oh really, and when did you become an MD? Last I heard you were just a nurse. If you were interested in anything other than getting into his bed you’d know that what he needs is a specialist and to be away from this place because as long as he’s the only doctor around someone is going to need him and he’ll feel obligated to help.”

 “We could handle everything here just fine if it weren’t for you. You’re the one who’s been getting him up time and time again to take care of all of your boyfriends.”

“Nurse Brown!” Dr. Frick was heard to command the unspoken silence that he received. “Now, Nurse Brown,” Dr. Frick continued in the same stern voice. “Will you please bring me the supplies I need to change the bandages on Miss Clark’s arms.”

“Oh, but Dr. Frick, you really should be getting back to bed, I can bandage her arms for you,” the nurse said, objecting to the orders given to her.

“Judging by the bandage job you did earlier, I think I better do it myself this time.”

Dr. Frick spoke as if he meant business and after a moment of silence, he was seen rolling himself into the hospital room where Roy and his friends were waiting. All three off duty firemen were quick to notice that the once soiled scrubs were now replaced with clean scrubs and Johnny was quick to notice that there was a fresh IV hung with a second bag piggybacked onto it. Even though he had been trained in patient confidentiality Johnny’s curiosity got the better of him and he moved just close enough to read what was added to the second IV Bag.

 “Hey, Doc,” Johnny started with a worried version of his patented crocked smile. “Have you ever heard that a doctor that treats himself has a fool for a patient?”

Chapter 6

Dr. Nathan Frick sat in his wheelchair looking as if he didn’t have the strength to roll it closer to the hospital bed, let alone get into it. It was obvious to everyone in the room now that he was Roy’s roommate. After the shock of what John had said to him had worn off, Dr. Frick managed to find a smile. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, but when there isn’t another doctor for miles around what choice do I have?”

“Can we at least help you get into bed?” Johnny offered and before Dr. Frick could object John was pushing the wheelchair closer to the bed and then after the IV bags were hung from the ceiling mounted rack Chet moved in next to him and helped John to lift the ailing doctor onto the bed.

They were just pulling his covers around him when Julie walked in with hot packs draped over her arms. “These need to go on his right calf.” Julie gestured toward the doctor with her ladened arms.

John made short work of doing the task as gently as possible and in the process got a good look at the dark and swollen lump in the doctor’s calf muscle. “That’s a pretty impressive blood clot there, if I do say so myself,” Johnny commented.

During this time Roy had turned in his bed so that he was facing his roommate and could more fully take in what was going on around him.

Julie, her hands still needing the clean bandages, unceremoniously sat in a chair next to the doctor’s bed. “Doc, you need your rest. Like you’ve said to me numerous times, I know just enough to be dangerous, but I know that if you don’t start taking better care of yourself that blood clots could end up being fatal.” She sat for a moment searching for the right words. “I didn’t have a choice about the guy with the femoral artery, I had to either call you or let him die. The same has to be said of the burn patients earlier today.”

“That’s right, I was the only one around who could stabilize them, but you have to give yourself credit. You got each one of them here alive and against some nearly impossible odds.”

“What about the next time? You can’t take care of yourself and everyone in this region at the same time. You cover two counties as it is and part of a third. You know as well as I do that if you had a patient with the same diagnosis that you gave yourself, you’d have had them shipped out to a specialist days ago, probably before that.”

“What about the rest of you? Who’s going to take care of everyone around here while I’m gone?”

“You forget that I know about the medical college offering to send some people down here to learn about rural medicine.”

“Yeah, a bunch of fourth year medical students with a teleconferencing feed back to one of their instructors.”

“If I understand things right, the instructor they’ll be in constant communication with is a doctor, a pretty good one if he’s being allowed to teach, with three to four almost doctors doing all the hands on work around here. That’s just a hitch or two better than what we have now with a bunch of nurses and EMTs phoning and CB conferencing with you.” There was a moment of silence that told all in the room that Julie had made her point. “Besides, who knows, you just might find that one of those fourth year medical students might want to come back and work alongside of you. Kind of give you a break once in a while.”

That was the moment Nurse Brown chose to walk in the room with the bandaging supplies she had been sent for. The drape between the beds was drawn as Dr. Frick changed the bandages from his sick bed.

The three off duty firemen talked quietly on their side of the curtain and the plan was being developed that Chet and Johnny were about to become volunteer nurses and aids to take care of Roy and do what they could to help Dr. Frick. Johnny knew the need for Roy to be woken up several times for neurological checks and he was sure he could talk to Dr. Frick and learn anything else he could do to help out.

The talk on the other side of the curtain was also quiet but they did hear Dr. Frick question Nurse Brown about why she chose to apply the bandages the way she did.

Any reply they could hear sounded like a grunt instead of words, but they did hear her say one thing. “I couldn’t think of another way to make sure she remained out of commission until her burns healed. As we now know that didn’t even work.”

When Nurse Brown stormed out with the garbage created by the treatment she left the door to fall shut in her wake.

Julie was then able to pull the drapes so that the two groups could talk together and the first thing the firemen from LA noticed was that her new bandages were much less confining. Her right hand and arm were still bandaged nearly to the arm pit, but she had a free thumb, that didn’t appear to be burned at all and only the next two fingers were covered in fluffy bandages. The bandages on her other hand were focused on her palm and wrist, leaving all of her fingers free and only a few of them looked to be red with first degree burns.

“Thanks, Doc,” Julie waved with a newly bandaged hand. “Now, what do you say you let me take these three men with me? Between me, the paramedic guy and the other EMT we can monitor the head injury and change ice on the neck injury to keep him comfortable. There’s no way you’re going to get the rest you need with all that happening in the same room.”

“Are you sure your dad wouldn’t have a major problem with that, I mean, isn’t your family having a big event out at the ranch tonight? I’m not sure that’s in the best interest of a concussion patient.”

“You know my dad, all I’ll have to tell him is that there are three men and that one of them is named Roy and he’ll break out the best. I’m sure we can put them all up in the bunkhouse. It’s far enough away from the main house to keep the noise of the festivities from bothering them. There’s a kitchenette and bathroom with showers and more than enough beds for all of them.” Julie then turned her attention to the three firemen and continued. “I’m sure you will all be welcomed at the festivities tonight, but I’m just as sure that Roy and I will grab any excuse to leave.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you will,” Dr. Frick gestured very understandingly. “Of course, whatever happens needs to be in agreement of our guests here.”

Roy leaned back and let out a sigh, the eyes of his two friends were on him and he knew the decision was up to him. “Before I answer that question I think I need to better understand what seems to be going on between you and me.” Roy pointed to Julie and all Julie could do at first was smirk.

“First of all, at least as far as I know, there is nothing going on between the two of us,” Julie was smiling and blushing severally, “What you’ve stumbled into is a warped family joke,” Julie shifted in her chair focusing on Roy but being very careful not to advance on him in any way.

“It’s kind of a long story, but since you’re the current brunt of the joke I think I should explain it to you. It will also serve as a good evaluation of your mental status.” Taking in a deep breath and looking around with a bob of her head toward Chet and John indicating that they should sit, Julie began.

“See, my Father’s name is Carl, so is my first brother. Then along came twin girls with names of Beth and Anne, then myself and five years later came my younger brother, Roy. You all met him at the accident.”

“The one who has trouble with the sight of blood?” John let everyone know he was following along at least sort of.

 “That’s him. Well, as time went on, my twin sisters each married a man named Carl. That makes for a real hoot at family gatherings if you get my drift. Then Carl married a girl named Beth Anne. Now tonight there is a big swinging shindig at the ranch where, to no surprise to anyone, my baby brother Roy is going to repeat the announcement he made at a private family gathering last week. Seems Roy and the local dietitian, and cute little bombshell named Julie, are announcing their intentions to join in matrimony.”

By now Chet was counting names on his fingers and putting two and two together. “So you’re expected to marry someone named Roy.”

“That’s right,” Julie grimaced more than smiled “And according to my father, I should have done it several years ago.”

John, Chet and Roy shared a reserved snicker and an understanding, then looked at each other and the bedridden doctor in silent communication as to what they should do when Dr. Frick asked another question that they only half understood.

“What is your father, saying about you getting custodianship over Frank?”

“That’s all the more reason for me to take these guys home with me. Dad’s not too apt to yell at me too long in front of company.”

Nothing was said for a while, then Julie rose to her feet. “I’m sure you would like to talk about it among yourselves for a while so I’ll go see what I can find out about the fire and check on my love struck brother.

Julie left the room and Dr. Frick rose up on one elbow and turned to look at Roy DeSoto and his friends. “You have no idea how I hate to admit this but, um, especially with the accusations of a relationship with Miss Clark, even though they’re totally unfounded, you’ll get better care by her hands. That’s why I had you moved into a room with me, but um, yeah, being in here with me will help a bit, but you’ll still get better care with Julie, and I can promise you there will be no strings attached.”

“What has that other nurse got against Julie?” John didn’t pull any punches. “The last time I saw that much venom come out of a woman towards another woman there was a man involved.”

Dr. Frick flopped back against the pillows on his bed and let out a deep breath. Finally, he nodded yes and turned back to the three firemen. “Julie’s not kidding about her old man; he wants his daughters married, young and well. The two oldest girls met their mates at a finishing school. Julie was determined to have a career, to be able to make a difference. Her father was nudging her toward a boy in these parts by the name of Dirk Jackson, but Julie said her goodbye’s and headed off to a four year nursing program on a scholarship. Her father, even though he can easily afford it, won’t pay for such an education because he feels guys don’t want wives that know more than they do.”

Nurse Jessica Brown quickly moved in as Dirk’s girl, gave him everything he wanted, tried to supply his every wish. In three years time he never proposed marriage, but that didn’t dissuade our Nurse Brown.

“Julie worked hard in school and then with two quarters of school left, Julie comes home to take care of her mother through her losing fight with cancer. Dirk started spending a lot of time at the Clark Ranch but whenever I was out there doing what I could for her mother, Dirk was with the boys and the other ranch hands. I know the kind of time Julie spent with her mother; I can’t believe she had any time whatsoever to spend with anyone else.”

“Well, her mother died, we knew she would, and then the word starts getting around that Julie lost her scholarship and wouldn’t be going back to school right away. About two months after her mother’s funeral there was a big community gathering, the sheep shearing extravaganza, something we have every year and brings in quite a crowd. They always have a band and square dancing.  After the band had everyone going, they were just taking a break to get some punch  and this Dirk stepped up to the microphone and proposed marriage to Julie right there in front of the crowd.”

Now Dr. Frick paused to see if all the guys were following and by the looks on their faces, they were not only following they already knew what happened next.

“Wasn’t anyone in the crowd that knew Julie very well at all, that didn’t know she was just waiting for a private moment to tell him that no way on earth she was going to marry him, but, well come to find out in the next month or so, there were more than a few ladies who had been sharing their affections with this creep and they all instantly hated Julie Clark. To make a long story short, three months later Dirk Jackson is on his way to a long vacation at the state prison with a whole

laundry list of crimes, including extortion, embezzlement, and statutory rape just to name a few and Julie is off to work in an aid station with a brush fire camp to earn money to finish her schooling. Last I talked with her about it, she’s heading back to school next month and she’s taking a mentally handicapped man from here in the area with her in hopes of getting him into a training program where he can learn how to help support himself and live independently.”

“I’ve been kind of hoping she’d be graduated and ready to take over at one of my clinics when Ozella retires. She’d be great for the job, but I’m not so sure the job or even the territory would be great for her.”

Just then all conversation comes to a halt as another nurse walks into the room. “It’s past time for your pain medication Dr. Frick.”

“I think I better pass this dose, Nurse, I need to be somewhat alert around here.”

That was the statement that let Roy and his friends know that they needed to take Julie up on her offer and get out of the way so that the good doctor could allow at least most of his treatment and hopefully get some rest.

 

Chapter 7

The next contact the three men had was Roy Clark walking through the door on his own power, but he had a pretty little blond hanging on his arm. One look at the three out state firemen and his once pale features were history.  Neither of the men could remember a time when a grown man had blushed so profoundly.

“Hi, uh, Dad said to tell you all that you’re welcome out at the ranch and he’s setting up the bunkhouse for you so you’ll be nice and comfortable.  I, um, well Julie here and I kind of need to hurry on out there to help with that thing that Dad has going on tonight, so I was wondering if one of you guys could drive Julie, my sister Julie’s truck? She’ll be along to give you directions.”

“Well, I don’t think I’m cleared to drive,” Roy was the first one to speak up since both of his companions were looking for him to make the final decision. “But either one of these two can do the driving.”

“Good.” Roy Clark looked relieved. “They said your truck was at the garage now so you could go make arrangements to get it fixed and pick up any clothes or stuff you might have in it. Julie’s out back loading up her backboards and stuff whenever you’re ready to go.” 

Four sets of eyes looked out the window to see Julie at the corner of the building past the automatic door marked as the emergency entrance. She was pulling her backboard and the unusual leg splint they had used out of the garbage cans stored there.

John and Chet quickly excused themselves to go give her a hand and found her pulling the foam from the inside of the leg splint away and putting it back in the garbage doing her best to keep her new clean bandages new and clean.

“Here, let me do that,” John spoke up as he hurried to her side, the disgust he felt at the treatment of her equipment showing on his face.

“Thank you,” Julie responded as she hung her head in shame. “That foam is just held in place with double stick tape. I’ll just disinfect the wood when I get home and tape some new foam in place for the next time I might need it.”

While John finished up with the leg splint Chet reached for the backboard and found the very expensive KED in the trash can next to it.  He quickly retrieved the device and looked it over to make sure it was complete.  He then had to go digging in the garbage can to find the straps that went with it. 

Once the equipment was retrieved and placed in the back of Julie’s truck Chet returned to watch over Roy while John drove Julie’s truck with Julie, along to give directions to the garage where his truck had been towed to.

While John talked business with the owner of the garage, he learned that the other driver had been listed at fault, so the other guy’s insurance would be covering the repairs, Julie directed a couple of station hands, young men who treated Julie a whole lot nicer than the nurses at the hospital, in loading the three men’s camping and fishing gear as well as their dirty clothes into the back of her truck.

When John joined her to finish loading up the fishing supplies it was with the news that they wouldn’t tear his truck apart to make sure what it was going to need until the morning.  Julie was able to give him the phone number to the bunkhouse where the three of them would be staying and John was promised a call before noon the next day.

John then drove Julie and her truck back to the small six room hospital where he found a clean pair of jeans and a shirt for Roy and made his way in to help his friend get dressed before loading him and the medications the doctor had ordered for him, along with the treatment instructions. 

Once Roy was loaded in the back of the truck, in the same captain’s chair he had ridden into the hospital in, John climbed in the back with him and Chet helped Julie to the passenger seat before taking the seat behind the wheel.

Julie gave directions and the road was smooth, still Chet made every effort to drive carefully so as not to cause Roy any more discomfort in the back.  They made one stop on the way to allow a small herd of wild antelope to cross the road in front of them so they could graze on the grasses on the other side of the road.

John made sure to help Roy turn so he could get a good look at them through the side window of the camper shell.

Chet slowed way down when they reached the wreck site since he had to work his way around a road repair team placing fresh tar mix over the section of road that had been melted by the burning truck. The aftermath didn’t even begin to tell the tale of what had happened there. 

Three miles further down the road they saw a water tanker and a state forest lands bush buggy, a pickup truck with a water tank and pump mounted in the bed of the truck. The bush buggy was driving around with a man in the back holding the hose and spraying a few of the hot spots that were still smoldering. 

This fire was out for all intents and purposes, they were just finishing off the few hot spots.  On closer inspection the men noticed the man in the back of the truck was their new friend Frank.  He had one foot on the bumper of the truck and the other over the tailgate into the bed of the truck.  If they hadn’t had known better they would never be able to tell that he was a mentally handicapped adult from what they were seeing.

Julie made contact with the county fire warden using her CB and was told that Frank was doing well and that he’d be dropped off at her father’s house in a couple of hours.

Before Chet started the truck again, he turned and looked at Julie as she watched Frank do his part with the fire suppression.

“You know when a fire call goes out in town Frank is one of the first ones at the fire station.  When they get to the fire, they don’t let him work the hoses or get close to the fire, but he’s the one who helps them get their air tanks on and keep all the straps strait. It really makes him feel important, like he’s someone special.”

Julie let the tears in her eyes fall as she turned to Chet. “Is there any chance someone like Frank could find a place on a fire department team somewhere?”

Chet didn’t know what to say. As a fireman, he wasn’t sure he could feel safe with someone like Frank backing him up on a hose, or any other rescue, but at the same time he could also see her pride in his accomplishments and that he was able to handle the job he was currently doing.

“I really don’t know,” Chet finally spoke, “I mean firefighting is so demanding, you have to be quick on your feet and able to think about at least half a dozen things at the same time.”

Wiping the moisture from her face Julie just nod in understanding of what Chet was saying and proceeded to give him the rest of the directions to her father’s ranch.

When Chet drove through the main gate, he was quick to notice the large number of trucks and vans already gathered near what looked like the main house.  Julie, directed him to the right and around the barn where the ground sloped upward to meet the doorway at the top of the barn.

A man in his early fifties met them at the truck before Chet had managed to open the door for Julie.

“Hi, Sweetheart, I was beginning to wonder if you were going to make it home before the end of the party.” The man stepped forward and gave his daughter a kiss on her forehead.

“I still have plenty of time to change and make a showing,” Julie responded, “Just let me get these guys settled in.”

“That’s okay, you go and get changed I’ll show them the way and see that they’re settled in before I join you back at the party.”

“This is my father, Carl Clark,” Julie introduced Chet and then made her leave to do as she was told.

“Thank you for offering us a place to stay,” Chet began as he moved to the back of the truck where he assisted John in helping Roy out of the back.  This time Roy was moving mostly by his own power with just a little assistance. Once Roy was standing on the ground Chet began the introductions.  “This is John Gage, Roy DeSoto and I’m Chet Kelly; we’re all members of the Los Angeles county fire department.”

The man stood before them, looking them over one at a time, he was silver haired with bushy sideburns and wore a tan cowboy hat and a nice but casual western cut shirt with a turquoise and silver bolo tie and jeans.  His cowboy boots were shined to reflect any hint of light and there were silver protectors on the toes.

“My son tells me that you came out this way to do some fishing.  My guess is the locals crowded you out.”

John smirked at the man’s words; it was the best description of what had happened that he could come up with. “I’d have to say that’s just about what happened.”

“Well, as it  happens, that little pond over there,” the man pointed to what they could now see was a small body of water just ten feet from the back of the barn they were being directed to the top of, “Just so happens to be teaming with trout.  So much so that come winter a whole mess of them will die off and the smell is something awful.  You boys would be doin’ me a favor if you could take this here ice cooler clear full of them with ya when you head back to where you came from. I’ll even supply the ice to go with it.” He slapped at the ice chest in the back of Julie’s truck that the men had brought with them to keep their food cold and to hopefully take a few fish home in.

All three men were totally stunned by the offer being made to them and just stood there in disbelief for a few moments. Finally, John broke the silence. “That’s a mighty nice offer, sir, right now, though, we really need to be getting Roy here in a bed.”

John then took a good hold of Roy’s arm and the three men followed their host up a flight of stairs and into the bunkhouse.  There were two sets of bunk beds on either side of the large room and then four beds along the floor between them; on the other side of the room at the far end was a kitchen complete with fridge, stove, microwave, automatic dishwasher, coffee maker, sink and dishes.  Between them and the kitchen was a large walk in bathroom complete with three toilet stalls and four shower stalls.

Roy was quickly guided to the bed in the middle, a safe distance from both the kitchen and the bathroom. Once he was sitting down on the edge of the bed John turned back to their host.  “Thank you so much, we really do appreciate you letting us stay here.  I’m hoping that my truck should be fixed by tomorrow night and we can be on our way.”

“Don’t go holding your breath on that, it’ll likely take him till noon tomorrow just to figure out what parts he needs to order in order to fix it and then you’ll be lucky if it takes him less than a week to get them out here in the middle of nowhere.”

“I best be getting back up at the house if you need anything you can just come into the back and ask for me or Julie.  Someone will be by in an hour or so with something for you all to eat.

Their host had just left when John remembered the need for a phone to call JoAnne and if things were going to take as long as Mr. Clark said they would someone better be calling Cap to let them know they weren’t going to make it back in time for their next shift. Chet and Johnny made Roy as comfortable as they could and were pleased to find some refreezable ice packs in the freezer.

Chet wandered out on the deck just off the kitchen and returned stating that there were several signs on the railing asking that you don’t fish from the balcony.  John smirked, but he himself was feeling the weight of the day on his eyelids.

He was just about to drift off in the bed next to Roy’s when a knock on the door brought him awake.  Hearing the knock a second time John and Chet together went to the door to find two young boys between the ages of eight and ten, each carrying two long something’s with handles on each end and behind them was Julie carrying four large paper plates stacked on top of each other and being carefully balanced. Each plate looked to be piled high with food and covered with tinfoil.

Julie was dressed in a mid calf length dark blue evening gown with lots of sparkles around the top and a little less so around the skirt.  She was also wearing a pair of matching full length gloves and the addition of a complimentary shawl kept her bandages well hidden.

Chet and Johnny quickly relieved Julie of her burden and turned to the young men with looks of curiosity.

“I’d like you guys to meet two of my nephews. This young man,” she placed her hand on one boy’s head, “is Carl Clark the third, and this young man,” she placed her hand on the other boy’s head, “is Carl Gilroy the third.”

Julie then lowered her voice and added a bit of a growl. “If I hear one more person shout ‘Carl’ just to see how many people respond I’m going to scream and turn into a banshee.”

“Anyway,” Julie continued, ”here’s dinner for each of you.  There’s one there for Frank, too. He should be here in just a few minutes and I’m sure he’s starving.  I hope you don’t mind him sleeping here with you guys.  He’ll need to be reminded to take a shower and he usually chooses one of the bunk beds against the wall.  Top if he’s feeling bold; bottom if he’s feeling like he needs protection. He has clothes in that closet there and pajamas and underwear in the drawer.”

With the food taken from her hands and the instructions concerning Frank given, Julie then took the strange items from her nephews. “These are moldable ice packs. Well, they’re really just tube socks filled with rice and then handles sewn on each end, but if you keep three of them in the freezer you should always have one cold one and they’ll mold around his neck comfortably.  How’s he doing by the way?”

John gave a positive report on Roy and followed her instructions to place the first of the rice ice packs around his neck.  Roy was quick to tell her that it helped and then she was turning to leave.

“I’ve got to get back, my sisters and my sister-in-law each brought someone for me to meet. Two of them are named Roy; the other one is named Carl.” Julie cringed and Johnny stifled a smile.  “You are alright with Frank staying here aren’t you? 

I’m sure he’ll just fall asleep and stay that way for the whole night.”

“We’ll manage,” Chet was the one to answer, he could tell that she needed that little bit of help tonight.

Julie turned to leave, but as soon as she had her nephews out the door, she turned back and spoke softly to Chet, who was helping her out while Johnny was helping Roy get in a position to eat.

“Hey, um, I’m sure you’re going to notice the welts on Frank’s back when he’s showering and all, don’t say anything about them,  if he complains that they hurt you can give him a couple of aspirin from the cupboard over the fridge, but don’t bring them up if he doesn’t okay?” Julie locked eyes with Chet to see if he understood.

“Don’t worry about helping to hide things; the welts are why I was given custody of him two days ago.  It was his father who did it.”

That was the last thing that Chet needed to know to be able to agree with what Julie was asking and she was on her way.  Chet stood at the top of the stairs and watched Julie interact with her nephews.

“Well Mr. Clark and Mr. Gilroy shall we return to the festivities, I’ll expect a dance with each of you before the night is over.”

Frank actually arrived before the food had had a chance to cool.  He was covered from head to toe with soot and had a smile of accomplishment on his face.  He was walked up the steps by the fire marshal, he had worked with all afternoon and the two let themselves in without knocking.

“Frank, it’s good to see you again, Julie just brought your dinner for you, do you want to eat it now or after you’ve had your shower?” Chet greeted his new friend.

“I’m h, h, hungry!” Frank stated adamantly.

Standing behind him was the Fire Marshall with a change of clothes in his hands. “You guys don’t mind if I make use of the shower do you?”

The men all agreed and the man called Wally slipped into the shower as evidence that he’d done so before.

Chet led Frank to the table in the kitchen where he sat with him and the two ate in silence.  Well, Chet ate while Frank wolfed his food down as if he hadn’t eaten in a week.

Before Frank was finished eating everything that had been put on his plate Wally was finished in the shower and had slipped out saying something about stopping in to congratulate Roy and his girl and checking in with Julie.

Chet was glad he had let Frank eat before he showered his face and shirt sleeves were covered with barbeque sauce when he was done.  “Alright, Frank my man, to the showers with you.  Do you need any help in there?”

“No!” Frank was adamant, “I, I, I, I’m big e, enough t, t, to d, do it myself.”

“Great,” Chet responded unfazed. “Just don’t forget to shampoo your hair, as much smoke as you have in it from that fire it should take three times with the shampoo to get it clean.”

Frank seemed to take forever in the shower and while he was there Chet sat on the edge of the bed closest to the bathroom, waiting.  When Frank finally stepped out of the shower, he was bashfully holding a towel in front of him as he danced along the wall, keeping his back to everyone until he got to the closet where Julie had indicated his clothes were kept.  He then stepped into the closet and pulled the door shut behind him and a light was noticed shining under the door a few seconds later.

Three off duty firemen shared eye contact and silent smiles at Frank’s antics. He reminded Roy of his ten year old son Chris. They also noticed that he hadn’t been invited to the party.  They hoped he wouldn’t be upset about it.

There were a few bumps and bangs heard and the guys could see in their mind, their new friend hitting every corner of the closet while getting dressed.  When he stepped out again, he was wearing a pair of flannel pajamas with a fire engine print all over them.

“W, what b, b, bed f, f, for m, me?”

“Well, Johnny here is going to sleep next to Roy so he can watch out for him tonight, but I waited for you to choose your favorite bed before I chose the one I wanted to sleep in,” Chet responded with a smile but it was hard to tell because it was hidden by his mustache.

Frank stepped over to the bank of bunk beds closest to the door and then chose the one on the bottom and farthest from the door.  Chet watched him climb into bed and then took a moment to go into the kitchen and clean up all the dinner remains putting just half a plate full of food in the refrigerator and the rest of the tinfoil and plates was placed in the garbage can as he made a note to himself to find out where to take the trash in the morning.  When he stepped back into the bunk room John was smiling and jerking his head toward the end bunk where Frank was sound asleep. 

Chet walked over and finished covering him up and then stepped into the shower area to clean up the dirty clothes only to find they were all placed in a large red hamper painted with the words ‘Frank’s dirty clothes’.

Once in the showers Chet noticed another door and opened it to find a washer and dryer with a large basket that was marked ‘Frank’s clean clothes’.  Inside the basket was a sock monkey set up in one corner, so Chet took the monkey and placed it in bed with Frank and turned down the lights.

Julie slipped up to the bunkhouse again before the party was over to check on Roy and Frank and to ask what more she could do to make them comfortable.  Johnny assured her that he had everything under control and that her special ice bags were doing wonders for Roy’s neck. Julie agreed not to bother them again before morning, but left instructions as to which window to knock on if they needed help.

Chapter 8

Once Julie was on her way and Chet had watched to make sure she reached the bottom of the stairs safely he turned to see that all was well in the bunk room. 

John was helping Roy get a drink of water before helping him find a more comfortable sleeping position.

Chet playfully moved in behind Johnny and turned down the bedding on the bunk he had been resting on and nearly fallen asleep on several times that evening. He then turned off all of the lights before moving into the kitchen to get a drink of water, then out to the balcony for a breath of fresh air before turning in himself.

As he stood on the small deck, he marveled at how cold it got in the desert once the sun went down and pulled his flannel shirt closed over his t-shirt and buttoned  it up all the way. As he stood sipping his glass of water, he noticed the man-made retention pond to the west and the moon reflecting in the water’s breeze rippled surface. There were frequent splashes as the fish jumped to take a bug from flight and then dive into the water again to enjoy its meal. 

“There you are,” Chet heard from the ground below him and turned to see Julie’s father waiting for her to join him after taking her time to walk around the barn on her way back to the party.

“Everyone all settled in up there?”

“Yeah,” Julie answered as she closed the gap between her and her father. “He’s doing well and his friend will take care of doing the middle of the night wake up check.  I’ll do a good evaluation and vitals in the morning, then call it into Doc.  I’m sure they’ll be on their way as soon as their truck is ready.”

“They seem like nice guys.” Chet watched Julie roll her eyes at her father’s statement. “Maybe even nicer than the guys all your sisters invited to the party for you to meet.”

Julie smirked. “I don’t know about those sisters of mine.  Just how desperate do they think I am?   That one guy, the Carl, just wants you to help finance a business venture.  One of the Roy’s wants you to donate to his campaign for the state senate, and I’m not sure what the other Roy is interested in but it’s not me.”

“I think he’s interested in your brother’s future mother-in-law,” Julie’s father reveled, showing that he had been paying attention. “I have to admit she is a looker, but I’d like to know more about what happened to the girl’s father.”

“Dad, you do know that the odds are pretty slim of me finding someone named Roy that I want to share the rest of my life with don’t you?”

“Julie, Julie, Julie, I don’t care what the guy’s name is, I just want you to find someone, anyone, to share your life with; someone to make you happy. To help you give me some more grandchildren.”

“Let me guess, that’s heavy on the grandchildren, right?” Julie smirked at her question.

“Well, of course, they’re a lot more fun than children, if I’d had known how much fun they were I’d have had them first so your mom would have had more time to enjoy them with me.” The two giggled for a minute and then the elder of them turned serious once more.

“Honestly, Julie, why on earth did you pursue guardianship over Frank?  I mean, sure he’s the ultimate kid that will never grow up, but he’ll only drag you down.  You’ll never find a guy willing to share your life if he’s part of it.”

“Dad, what is it going to take to get you to understand that I don’t want just ‘a guy’, I want a man that’s worth having and if he can’t take me as I am then he’s just that, a guy. Just like all the other guys you’ve tried to interest me in that aren’t worth the ground they walk on.  If and when I do settle down it will be with someone of my choosing, not yours, not Carl’s, not Beth’s, not Anne’s, not Bethann’s, and not Roy’s.  And for the record, I’m not going to exclude anyone not named Roy or Carl from my consideration.  And as far as Frank goes someone needed to step up for years now to help protect him and no one has.  Mom knew he was more than a throw away kid and so do I. There are programs in the bigger cities that can teach him to live on his own and give him the freedom to take charge of his life. He wants to learn how to cook and manage his own money so that he can have his own apartment.  If making a difference in his life means no guy will have anything to do with me, so be it.”

Julie then stormed off toward the house and her father followed after a few heavy frustrated breaths.

Chet silently finished his glass of water and when the father was far enough away that he was sure he wouldn’t hear the sliding door open and shut again, Chet slipped back into the bunkhouse. Once he was sure all was well with his bunk mates, he pulled the covers back on his chosen bunk and climbed between the covers.

Sleep came quickly for Chet but it wasn’t long into the night when he found himself totally aware of every little sound around him.  Finally opening his eyes, but remaining motionless in his bunk, Chet took in the silhouette of John with his arm flung over his eyes in sleep and Roy lying  on his side breathing easily. A sound he had never heard in the station’s quiet nights drew Chet’s attention to the wall mounted bunks as he noticed a slight ruffle in the blankets of one bunk before all movement stopped once again.

Continuing to lay still Chet turned his thoughts to Frank and wondered what his life was really like as well as what it could become.  As much as he couldn’t see him on any firefighting team in the county of Los Angeles, or the city for that matter, he did however manage to truly help out with the relatively small brush fire he had spent the afternoon at.  Was there a place for him in the maintenance section of the fire department? Just what is he capable of doing?

Then his thoughts turned to Julie and what her life was going to be like taking on the guardianship of such a young man.  Could her actions require the sacrifice of future happiness her father talked about?

Before Chet’s mind had explored those thoughts for long he was aware of Roy trying to get out of bed.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Bathroom,” Roy whispered, it was clear he was trying not to wake Johnny.  

Chet understood and just as quietly climbed out of bed to help Roy to the bathroom and then back to bed again.  He had just settled Roy in with a fresh tube sock of frozen rice when Johnny woke up looking at his watch.

“Time to wake Roy up,” he explained to Chet as Roy was being tucked in.

“He just got up to the bathroom,” Chet responded with a smile. “He knows who he is and where he is and all the waterworks are working appropriately.”

“Like he said,” Roy responded, pointing with a finger as he settled into a comfortable position.

“Alright then, Roy do you need anything?” Johnny leaned up on his elbows.

“Not ‘till in the morning,” Roy responded, and without hearing the request John knew Roy needed to talk to his wife.

John silently vowed to see to it that his partner made contact with his wife, but he wasn’t really worried since they were on the way home two days ahead of schedule. He still had a couple more days before JoAnne would be getting worried.

Chet lay back down on his chosen bunk and rested quietly, he slept off and on and by the first rays of morning was feeling rested.

As the room they were in grew light enough to see everyone, Chet remained still, not moving in his bed watching. All seemed well and the clock on the wall was easy to see. Chet continued to sleep on and off until he felt the call of nature and made the trip to the bathroom.

He was just pulling his pants on when he heard the muffled sound of a telephone.  It took a couple of rings for him to realize that the sound was coming from the cabinet inside the bedside table next to Roy’s bed and before the end of the fourth ring he was able to open the cupboard door and answer the phone.

“Hello?” Chet answered, wondering who was calling.

“Good morning, did I wake you guys up?” Julie questioned from the other end.

“Ah, no you didn’t wake me up it just took me a minute to find the phone.”

“OH, it must have been put away in the cupboard again.  I’m sorry; the cleaning lady does that a lot. I don’t know why.  Anyway, I was wondering if you boys were decent and ready for breakfast.”

By now John was sitting on the side of his bed getting a pulse on Roy, he was still in his underwear and a t-shirt but they were all firemen and they could make themselves decent in a matter of seconds.  The rumble of John’s stomach was all the answer Chet needed to the other question.

“Sure, we’re ready for breakfast and as far as the other it will only take us ten seconds to get dressed.  Frank’s still asleep though.”

“He won’t be once I’m there with breakfast.  I’ll see you all in about five minutes then.”

“Breakfast in five,” Chet called out as he hung up the phone pulling the base up on top of the cabinet as he did so.  Chet then walked over and placed a hand on Frank’s shoulder, giving it a gentle shake.

“Julie will be here with breakfast in just a few minutes, I think you better wake up now,” Chet told Frank when he saw sleepy eyes open.

Frank started by pulling his blankets up to his chin as he took just a minute to wake up the rest of the way and then without saying a word he got up and walked to the bathroom.  He was still in there when the knock came on the door letting them know Julie had arrived.

When the door was opened Julie stood there holding a basket that appeared quite heavy.  She was wearing a form fitting t-shirt that showed her bandaged arms and also revealed bandages around her chest. She looked tired, but she had a friendly smile.

Chet quickly took her load from her and guided her into the kitchen area where he set the basket down and Julie opened the lid to revel a literal feast of blueberry pancakes, scrambled eggs with bacon and mushrooms mixed in and hash brown potatoes. In the bottom of the basket was a heating pad to keep everything warm. Once she lifted the food from the basket she pulled a bottle of milk from the fridge and as she was setting it out on the table she looked to Roy.

“How are you feeling this morning?”

“Not bad,” Roy responded, but his pale features and stiff walking stance as he made his way to the table told her more than he wanted her to know.

“How are his vitals this morning?” Julie directed her question to Johnny.

“His pulse is 110, respirations 13, and blood pressure 90 over 60,”  Johnny answered with a bit of concern in his face.  There was no question in Julie’s mind why he was holding on to Roy as he moved to the table. Roy no longer had his foam collar on but he did have one of Julie’s frozen rice socks wrapped around his neck and then tucked in his shirt.

Julie turned her attention back to Roy. “Sick to your stomach this morning?”

“Not too much, this all looks really good.”

“Well, take it easy,” Julie said as she placed an empty plate in front of Roy.  Julie then looked around, “Where’s Frank?”

Chet glanced toward the bathroom door. “He went to the bathroom,  but he’s been gone a lot longer than I thought he would be.”

“He’s probably doing his laundry,” Julie answered while looking at the bathroom door.  “His father demands that his chores are done before he’s allowed to eat.”

Just then Frank came out of the bathroom carrying his laundry hamper in his arms.  He then stepped into his closet and shut the door behind him. Once again a light was seen under the door and the sound of drawers opening and closing could be heard.  Julie just hung her head and smiled. 

When Frank stepped out of his closet dressed in work jeans and a t-shirt, it was Chet who called him.

“Hey, Frank, you better get over here and eat before Johnny here eats it all.”

When Chet next looked up, he saw an appreciative smile from Julie.

Chet moved the next chair away from the table and motioned for Frank to sit down and start eating.  Julie moved over to Roy and started shining a light in his eyes.  “Still light-sensitive, I see.”

“Yeah a little,” Roy admitted.

Julie then moved around and shined her light in Roy’s nose and then in each of his ears before clipping her small flashlight to the top of her shirt at the neckline.

 “Were you dizzy when you got up just now?”

“Not too much,” Roy answered.

“Then, just a little?” Julie translated.

“Yeah, I guess.” Roy admitted.

“How stiff is your neck?”  Julie questioned as she gently took his head in her hands and turned it watching for any signs of pain or resistance. She was pleased to see that he had a fair amount of pain free movement.

“I suggest that you eat slowly and be mindful of your stomach,” Julie advised.

“I was wondering if it would be alright if I called my wife,” Roy nearly pleaded. “I’ll pay for the call.”

“Yes, of course, I’m sorry I didn’t make sure you knew where the phone was so you could have called her last night.”

The four men ate, Roy eating less than he usually did and Frank surprising them all with his table manners after Julie reminded him once that he didn’t have to hurry as no one was going to take his food away from him.  When they were all done it was Frank that took the lead to gather up all of the dishes.  Chet pitched in while Julie and Johnny helped Roy back to bed and helped him dial home to talk to JoAnne.

Jo was concerned when she was told that her husband was injured, but it was all tempered by the fact that he was talking to her and telling her there was nothing to really worry about. Before they hung up Johnny took the phone and asked her to give the captain a call and warn him that they may not be able to get back for their shift.  He’d know more later that day and would call her again that night.

When Roy was through talking with his wife Julie took the phone and dialed a number from memory. “Hello, this is Julie Clark calling in with the report on Roy DeSoto.”  There was a pause as Julie leaned against the wall and toyed with the coils in the phone cord. While Julie was on hold Frank and Chet finished loading the dishwasher and turned it on and Frank stepped out of the kitchen looking to Julie as if to say what next.

Julie responded to Frank’s look. “They’re getting ready to feed the baby lambs if you want to give them a hand; I know they’d appreciate it.” Frank smiled with excitement and was quickly out the door rubbing his hands together in anticipation as he moved.

“Well hello, Ozella, you’re a bit out of your territory.” Johnny and Chet heard Julie’s surprised voice. When they looked at her in response to the change in her voice they saw the look of concern.

“Yeah, I understand, that probably should have happened a week ago.  So when is the replacement from upstate coming?  Oh man, Doc’s not going to like that. Yeah, yeah.   Hey, I know there’s someone he’s worried about on his patient list, can you find out who it is.  Yeah, yeah, your right I forgot about her.  No, I’d wait until the residents get here then I’m sure Doc is going to want to take her with him.  So how’s Doc holding out?  That bad, huh?  Alright, well he’ll get the best care you know how to give him that’s for sure."

Julie then proceeded to give the nurse on the other end of the line her report on Roy. She listed the mild nausea, but reported that he ate a healthy breakfast and was successfully keeping it down. When she reported that Roy’s left pupil was still slightly dilated, Johnny borrowed her pen light from her shirt and checked it himself.  It wasn’t too bad, but Julie was right, the left pupil was just a little bit bigger than his right when the light was directed in his eyes.

When Julie was through talking, she listened for a while and the guys wondered what she was being told. Then she hung up the phone.  Still leaning against the wall Julie took in and let out a deep breath.

“Is everything alright?” Johnny asked.

“It’s nothing to concern you guys.  We’re just to continue to keep an eye on Roy here and if there is anything else when they talk to the doctor they’ll give us a call.  If you guys would like to go do some fishing I can stay here with Roy for a couple of hours.”

It took Roy persuading them to go, but Chet and Johnny finally left knowing the pond was just a few feet away and they could easily hear any call if their help was needed.  They had been at the man-made retention pond for less than an hour when Julie and Frank were seen helping Roy up the bank to join them.  He had on a large dark cowboy hat to shade his face and a pair of dark glasses to keep the sun from aggravating his headache.  Frank had a folding lawn chair in one hand for Roy to sit in and before long Roy was relaxing in the chair and managed to cast his line into the water.  With Julie making a suggestion as to what bait to use, they all started getting bites happy to see that the fish were larger than they expected.

Frank turned down the offer of using Chet’s fishing pole to catch a fish, but he was quick to pick up the net and scoop up any fish the three men hooked.  They had all caught three fish apiece when Julie started to tell them that her father had planted fish in this pond for her mother, but now that she was gone, he didn’t eat them himself as much and the last couple of years the sheep shearing group he hired each spring came with their own camper trailers and didn’t stay in the bunkhouse so they didn’t fish the area like previous groups had done.

  “They’re getting a bit overcrowded out there. If it weren’t for you guys we’d have to go in with big nets and pull them out and do something with them.  I’d hate to think of just burying them to keep the smell down, but I don’t think we would ever eat that many fish.”

As the men were fishing Julie managed over to a dock post next to Chet to sit down and rest her bandaged arms in her lap.  Speaking quietly to keep her words for Chet’s ears only, “I want to thank you for being so good with Frank, most people either ignore him and hope he goes away or taunt him.  You treat him like a little brother.  Even though they let him help whenever there’s a fire, they treat him like he’s one of their mascots and make him the brunt of all their jokes. You haven’t done that and I just want to say thanks.

Chet blushed a little then found courage enough to say something that had been on his mind all night long. 

“I overheard the talk you had with your dad last night. I wasn’t trying to listen I was just on the balcony unwinding before going to sleep when you two had your talk.” He added quickly, then stopped to take a deep breath, “I just want to say that I think it’s great what you’re doing for Frank and well, well, I know your Dad would never see me as being anywhere near your league, but well, I just want you to know that what you’re doing for Frank wouldn’t keep me from getting interested in you.”

Now Julie was the one blushing, but there were also tears in her eyes. 

“You’d be surprised about being in my league and getting daddy’s approval.  My dad himself is the line boss that was once the first one called out at the first hint of an out of control brush fire.  He’s actually worked all over the western states when he was younger then he finally settled down to work the ranch.  Any more he only works a fire if he thinks his grazing lands are threatened.  But he still has a rep for being able to draw a line and keep the fire from crossing that line.

Feeling confident enough to continue on with casual conversation Chet smiled at Julie and began to talk. “Our captain started out in wildfire suppression. He tells us some wild stories from time to time.  He’s shown us a few tricks of the trade when we’ve fought the many brush fires we get involved within our area. So how did you burn your arms?”

“Stupidity, sheer stupidity,” Julie started, then turned horror filled eyes out across the water where they met with no one. “I’ve been working rehab stations for the wild fires over on the other side of the mountain range,  I don’t do too much up close to the fire line, but I do go in to help pull out and downed firefighter, just grab and run stuff treat em’ later type of thing.  They had the fire contained and pulled, the more tired and green firefighters off the line for a rest while the mop up crews worked on getting the hot spots out.  They keep the crews around for a while just in case the winds whip the fire out of control again, but for the most part they're kept at the base camp a safe distance away from the fire so they can sleep soundly if they can.  The seasoned guys do that, sleep deep and hard, the green horns are usually still so pumped full of adrenaline they can’t sleep. There are a lot of freshmen in college looking to earn enough money for school so they don’t have to work during the school year. Most of them are responsible level headed jock types, a few girls here and there, but they're few and far between, every crew has at least one teenager that never grew up and still thinks they’re immortal. At least a good crew chief keeps it to no more than one per crew, they tend to arrive at camp together.”

“So there we were at base camp. I’m working over a dozen or so guys with small cuts, popped blisters, and a few small burns here and there.  While on the other side of camp all of the never grow up’s got together and started playing with fire and aerosol cans.  A couple of empty cans get thrown in the fire and when they blow the idiots find out that while they were playing with the bug spray they managed to get the flammable stuff all over themselves.  The first thing they teach at firefighting camp is stop, drop and roll, but all three of these dopes start running with their coats on fire. Me and two others from the aid station tackle them and start to roll with them while others ran for fire blankets.  I tried to get my kid to roll in the dirt, but he fought me.  I tried to get his coat off and he pulled it tighter around him. Then the fuel canister for his dip can in his pocket ignited.  By the time the fire blankets got there with some extinguishers the damage was done.  All three of the guys had large areas of third degree burns and when I started to cut the guy I was wrestling’s coat off someone took a hold of my shoulders and started covering me with wet towels.  I’d got enough fire to burn not only my jacket, but also my shirt right off of my body.  All I could think about at first was about what they had seen before they had me covered with the wet towels and whether or not they were taking advantage of me.”

“The guy I wrestled down had some bad burns to his face and down his lungs. He made it to the nearest hospital, but they were never able to stabilize him, he died before they could transport him to a burn unit. My brother was sent to bring me home about the time the local ambulance gang left to transfer the other two to a burn unit four hours north of here. That’s when I came across you guys.”

“We were sure glad you came along when you did,” Johnny reveled he had been listening in, “I don’t think that other guy would have lasted much longer if you hadn’t.”

Chet looked over at Julie as she kept her eyes focused on something across the water; he had to wonder if she’d been taken advantage of before. Thinking about what little he knew about her, she did seem to be a little gun shy when it came to the subject of men.

Somehow Chet managed to bring the conversation back to talking about the weather and life in the country and on a sheep ranch. Julie started talking about the wildlife that wandered in to get a drink of water at this very pond.

They were all enjoying themselves, even Frank when Roy let out an unexpected sneeze.  The sneeze was nothing to worry about, but when he took the handkerchief away from his nose there was blood on it and there was also fluid starting to fill the inside of Roy’s left ear.

 

Chapter 9

Chet picked up quickly on the concern on John, Roy and Julie’s faces as John and Julie moved quickly to Roy’s side. He couldn’t understand the growing anxiety until he learned of the fluid in the ear and then even he had enough medical training to know that that was not a good sign.

When it was decided to move Roy back to the bunkhouse Frank was quick to step up and pull one of Roy’s arms around his shoulders as he met John’s arm behind Roy.  There were steps on the way back to a bed where Roy’s feet didn’t touch the ground and every step of the way Roy was bombarded with questions to determine his level of consciousness and how he was feeling.  There was little there to worry about, Roy clearly knew who he was, where he was and had no complaints of dizziness, lightheadedness, or blurred vision, but they couldn’t deny the concern about the bloody nose and fluid in the ear.

They had just laid Roy down with some extra pillows to keep his head elevated, when the phone rang and Chet answered it before handing it to John.  It was the repair garage telling him that his rover was in need to two parts that would take him a week to get from the city.  John wasn’t happy about that, but he had been warned.  He was in a hurry to get off the phone and call in Roy’s current condition.

While John was on the phone Julie had started checking Roy’s vital signs and managed to get her bandaged fingers caught in the Velcro on the blood pressure cuff.  The vitals were all within normal range, but Julie didn’t seem to be as relieved by that as Johnny had been.  She picked up the phone and made the call in to Dr. Frick as if she was holding her breath.

“I need to speak to Ozella,” Julie started and then remained silent in waiting. Still, Julie looked as if she was holding her breath as she worried her lower lip with her teeth.

John couldn’t understand the tension in her look, true fluid in the ear and a bloody nose were something to watch closely when associated with a head injury, but Roy was alert and responsive.  Roy didn’t even appear to be drowsy but he was clearly uncomfortable. John moved to the fridge for another one of Julie’s frozen rice socks and Roy was able to sit himself up a bit for John to wrap the sock around his neck.

“Yeah, Oz, we’ve got some complications with the head injury here.  He sneezed and came up with a bloody nose and fluid in his left ear.”  The pause was accompanied with the tapping of Julie’s toes on the floor.  “Yeah, I know, but that’s the wrong direction for these guys, they’re from Los Angeles.”  Another pause, “Yeah, I know that too.”  Pause, “of course they’re not going to let their precious ambulance go across state lines.  How bad’s the doc?” There was another pause as Julie ran her tongue across her back teeth. “I’m the master when it comes to alternate transportation.  You talk to the doc and let me know if he’s up to it and while you do that I’ll get some information from my cousin.”

Julie hung up and then dialed the phone again, “Dad, I need you to pack me an overnighter. I’ll have to explain later.” 

The phone was hung up again and then after thinking hard for a moment as is she wasn’t sure of the phone number.  She partially dialed once then hung up and dialed again with a little more confidence. “HI Jane, I really need to talk to Jack, this is real important.”  There was a pause and Julie looked over at Johnny, “I assume if we have to move him to a bigger hospital that you would much rather take him home where you're familiar with the hospital and the doc’s instead of send him four hours further away from home.”

“Yes,” Roy responded with a slightly panicked look on his face.

“Yeah, if we have that kind of choice, I think we would,” Johnny was a little more calm but only a little more.

“Which hospital is that? “ Julie asked and it was clear by the way she held the phone to her ear and covered the mouthpiece with her bandaged hand that she was still on hold.

“Rampart General,” both Roy and John spoke together.

Julie pulled a drawer open and pulled out a pen and paper pad tossing it to Johnny.  “Can you write down an address, and phone number and if you know the name of a doctor that deals with head injuries you would like to work with you write that down too.” Julie instructed

Johnny pulled the pad and pen over and started writing the address down while Roy looked at him and spoke. “Early.”

“Yeah,” Johnny agreed.

“I need to get some more information and then I’ll sit down and talk with you and explain what and why I’m up to okay.  I don’t want you to panic.” Julie counseled.

Julie remained on hold until after Johnny was able to write down all the information she had asked for but finally they all heard: “Hey Jack, I need you to help me plan out a patient transfer west.  No this patient doesn’t want to go north if we can help it.  How long would it take us to get to Carson California? No we’ll be driving. No, I think we better figure it without police escort so we’re talking speed limit. Rampart General. What about one of the hospitals in Western Vegas?  Okay.” Julie had pulled the pad back onto her lap and was writing with two fingers as she balanced the pad on her knee. 

As he kept his attention on Julie and focused hard to keep his panic down Roy felt someone on the other side of him take a hold of his hand and just hold it.  When he looked to see who it was he was surprised to see Frank kneeling at his bedside to offer him some comfort while Chet stood behind him with a worried smile and a hand on Frank’s shoulder.

“Okay, well it’s going to take us at least an hour possibly two to put this together but you and your know how just made it half of what it was before I got you on the phone.  You’re kidding!  Are you sure you’re willing to do that?  It’s still going to take us as much as an hour to get this put together.  Alright I’ll let you know.”

The phone was hung up and Julie was once again holding her breath as she looked over the notes she had taken.  Finally she blew out a deep breath and motioned for Johnny to move so that she could set on the side of Roy’s bed.

“Okay, here’s where we’re at, and I’m going to admit right up front to jumping to conclusions and guessing what you would prefer so if I’m wrong feel free to stop me.  First of all I don’t think you’re in critical condition, you seem alert and aware of who and where you are.  But I’m sure with your knowledge of medicine that you know that the development of the bloody nose and most of all the fluid in the ear indicates there could be some complications and that we should be doing some more testing?”

“Yeah,” Roy acknowledged as Johnny sat down opposite Julie and placed a comforting hand on Roy’s shin as Julie continued.

“We don’t have any of the equipment to do the kind of testing that comes next in your condition at our hospital.  That means you will have to be taken to another hospital to get that testing.  Right now the only hospitals in the state where you can get that testing and be put in the care of doctors who can treat you. Is a good four hours north of here and four hours farther away from your home.”

“But your ambulance service isn’t allowed to transfer anyone out of state.” Johnny reveled that he had been paying attention and understood some of what had been talked about.

Julie stopped talking and acted like she was biting her tongue before she blew her breath out and ground her teeth then spoke. “And further more the doctor that works with us from there thinks he’s god and I’d rather do anything than send someone nice like you to him. There are some others, but I don’t know them and they're still a long ways in the wrong direction for you.  There I said it.  If you want to, you can see to it that I never work in medicine again.”

Johnny and Roy smirked a little, then Johnny voiced their combined opinion. “Thank you.  We appreciate the honest candor.  But if we don’t go to the place north of here what other options do we have?”

“Nothing personal but my current goal is to get you back where you came from. And according to my cousin, who just so happens to be headed that way sometime tonight  it will only take two hours longer to get you home than it would to get you four hours further away from home.”

Johnny took one look at Roy and knew that toward home is where he wanted to go so with a crooked smile on his face he asked.  “So, since your cousin is headed that way, if we can work things out does he have room for us to go with him and what kind of travel conditions are we talking about?”

“Ho, just an eighteen wheeler with a bunk bed sleeper.” Julie answered and then just looked at Johnny and Chet daring them to ask the next question.

“Eighteen wheelers aren’t cheap to travel. He ain’t going all the way to California without a load. Just what is it he’s going to be hauling?”  Chet bit the bullet, unbeknownst to anyone with the fire department he was known to do a little semi driving for an uncle of his on his days off from the fire department.  He figured it would help him if he ever finally passed his engineer’s exam.

“Well now if we’re able to pull this off so that we leave tonight, then it will be a load of pigs for the market. If we can’t get everything put together till morning it will more likely that our travel companions will be dairy cows.”

”Pig’s, Dairy Cows?” Chet and Johnny were exclaiming together while Roy and Frank just started laughing.

“I can just see the look on their faces at Rampart now.” Roy continued to chuckle.

“Jack Mumford is r-real f-f-funny, riding with him is b-b-better than going to the d-d-dentist and getting l-l-laughing gas.” Frank added.

“Better than going to the dentist huh,” Chet responded. “I don’t know Johnny, can you handle that?”

“If it will get Roy home,” Johnny started then was interrupted by the phone ringing.

The phone was picked up on the first ring and after a quick hello the phone was being handed to Roy.

“Hello,” Roy answered tentatively, his first fear was that the call was from his wife and he wasn’t ready to tell her there were complications.

“They tell me you want to go west instead of north.” The voice of Dr. Frick was heard over the phone and in the background there was a rumble that Roy was sure was his x-rays being reexamined.  “Let’s start by you telling me your full name and address.”

Roy quickly understood that Dr. Frick was trying to evaluate his mental acuity so he rattled off the requested information and answered the next six questions without complaint. Followed by giving the good, but bedridden doctor a detailed description of how and what he was feeling.

“Well, you seem quite alert,” Dr. Frick began to conclude, “your words aren’t slurred and you don’t sound in the least drowsy.  Now I need to make sure you understand the choice you’re making. There is a possibility that you have a skull fracture that we missed.  I’ve been giving your x-rays, another looking over and there is a spot behind your left ear that might be something. Now we could bring you in and take another set of x-rays sometimes things show up a little better when healing has begun, but that will take some time to get you here and then get them done and I understand that Miss Clark has worked out a possible transportation solution for you if you leave within the next two hours so I’m not going to suggest you make the trip into town for that.”

 With the current developments there is a significant need to get some further testing.  The equipment to do so with is not available in our little area and as much as I understand that the closest equipment to our area will require you to go further from home than you already are I have to let you know that the additional time to get you home could be hazardous to your health and well being.”

Roy understood well what he was being told. It was as much for the doctor’s safety as his.

“What you’re not taking into account is that I will have a fully trained paramedic with me every step of the way.” Roy spoke as he gave an appreciative glance in his partner’s direction. “I’m also a trained paramedic and well aware of the concerns on my behalf.  As you have already determined I am in full control of my faculties I do not have most of the symptoms that are the most troubling and if I were to develop them my friend would likely pick them up faster than someone who hasn’t known me for a while and therefore be able to get me to not only give me faster care but to get me to the closest hospital on the way for further treatment.”

“Okay then sounds like your mind is made up.  If it’s alright with you I would like to give your doctor in LA a call and report on my findings and let him know you're coming.   He just might have some instructions to make your travel better.”

“Sure doc, Thank you.” Roy responded then gave the man the number to Rampart Emergency department from memory stopping only to add the area code prefix at the end.

“Do you have that written down somewhere of did you just give me that phone number from memory?” Dr. Frick questioned with a smile in his voice.

“I use it every time I go to work I know the number as well as my home number.” Roy responded.

“No signs of brain damage at the moment then.”

 

Chapter 10

Joe Early is just going over some x-rays on a ten year old boy who wrecked his bike. He’s in need of some fancy stitches across the top of his head, but before he sewed him up, Dr. Early wants to make sure there are no surprises under the laceration.  As he’s studying the x-rays the boy’s mother and his nurse are doing their best to keep the terrified kid calm and still.

As Dr. Early leans forward to examine the x-rays closer Dixie walks into the room and gives the people in the room a friendly smile before stepping up next to Dr. Early.

“There’s a Dr. Frick on line four for you. He said he needs to talk with you about a patient he’s having transferred here for you to take care of.”  As Dixie delivered the message she also handed him a patient history form already attached to a clipboard.

“Sure, Dix. Would you set up a complete suture set and contact the anesthesiologist on call, I want to use a little more than just a local on this one.”

“Sure Joe, right away.”

“Did you say line four?”

“Yes.”

Joe stepped over to the phone in the corner of the room and once he had the clipboard pushed against his hip he picked up the phone and pushed the lit up button number four.

“This is Dr. Early,”

-0-

Six hours away, lying in a hospital bed with the head of the bed raised and on oxygen, rested one very pale and unhealthy doctor Frick.  Standing at his bedside was a nurse holding a syringe full of pain killers and impatiently waiting for the doctor who was also a patient to finish this phone call before she injected it into his IV.

Sometime during the previous night, Dr. Frick had been awakened from his slumber at the hospital to deal with the aftermath of a drunken brawl. While trying to wrestle with a very uncooperative patient, Dr. Frick experienced a sharp pain in his chest, accompanied by shortness of breath.  A wise old nurse who had just enough military training to throw her weight around ordered the doctor moved to his bed and called the emergency phone number for a network of doctors who will give medical instruction over the phone in an emergency.  As a result the patients were transferred two hours away to have some simple stitches and to sleep it off but Dr. Frick refused to accept a transfer to the hospital four hours north because, like Julie had revealed to Roy and his friends that the doctor there thought he was a god and should be worshiped as such.  And quite frankly Dr. Frick didn’t like dealing with the guy when he had to and he had no intention of letting him get his hands on his body for any reason. 

Sighting the needs of a patient, he just couldn’t leave, Dr. Frick remained in the hospital, but was ordered and had agreed not to leave his bed for any reason.  A group of medical residents were on their way to cover the medical needs of the area and until they got there all patients that couldn’t be treated from his bed were asked to wait or sent to the next doctor over who was two hours to the east. 

The receiving doctor was another country doctor like himself Dr. Clay was looking for semiretirement and set up in what he thought was a quiet recreation area where he was joined by his son on weekends to treat the skiers during the winter and the hikers during the summer.  He wasn’t enjoying the influx of patients from so far away, but he did understand.

Dr. Frick took a deep breath through his oxygen cannula and fought to clear his mind as he began to talk about the one patient he was sending outside his established network.

“This is Dr. Richard Frick, I have a patient who was vacationing in this area and was in an automobile accident.  He sustained a head injury that was originally diagnosed as a mild to moderate concussion, but is now experiencing complications of a bloody nose and fluid in his left ear.  The normal medical network in this area would have us transferring him four hours further from his home to get the additional testing that his condition requires and he is requesting to be sent to you instead even though the transfer is two hours longer than the one in our network.  He says you know him, a man by the name of Roy DeSoto.”

-0-

Back in the treatment room of Rampart Emergency, Dr. Early came to immediate attention at the name given.

“Yes, I know Roy DeSoto, what more can you tell me about his current condition?”

Hearing Dr. Early’s words also brought Dixie to immediate attention as she was setting up a suture pack across the room.

“Just a minute, let me get to another phone.” Dr. Early realized he had a few people listening in on his conversation.  “Dix, after you call the anesthesiologist will you ask Kell to meet me in the next room.”

The call was placed on hold and Dr. Early slipped through a side door into the next treatment room that just happened to be empty of a patient at the moment.

Joe had just finished listening to a detailed report on his newest patient and was relieved to hear about his current clear mental state when Dr. Kelly Brackett stepped into the room.

“What have you got, Joe?” Kell asked as he looked over his shoulder at the notes he was taking as he talked.

“What kind of treatment options are available during transportation?” Dr. Early asked his counterpart on the phone. “Would it be possible to keep him on oxygen and run an IV of Ringers TKO during the ride?” 

While Joe waited for the doctor to respond to his question he pulled Kell’s attention to the name of the patient by tapping the top of the page with his pencil.  The sudden change in his colleague’s expression said all he needed to know. The phone was switch to speaker so that Dr. Brackett could hear everything else that was said.

-0-

Back in his hospital bed, Dr. Frick thought that even though he trusted Julie Clark explicitly, and would have no trouble letting her take care of an IV for the whole journey, he didn’t want to do anything to cause her trouble in finishing her four year nursing degree.  He was sure that she was certified in only three states and California wasn’t one of them.

“Well,” he spoke as he thought out loud, ”they’ll be accompanied by someone who can manage that with no trouble but she’s not certified past the California state line.  Roy’s partner, I can’t remember if I got his name or not, but he’s one of you guys’ paramedics, will be with her, too. Can he take over at the state line?”

-0-

Back in the Rampart treatment room, two doctors are sharing eye contact and both realizing they have a bit of a problem.  They too wanted Roy DeSoto under their care not sent someplace farther from his home, and them, for that matter.

“I’m afraid our Paramedics aren’t certified outside of LA County,” Dr. Brackett spoke up. “Is there someone you could send who can handle things until then?”

“We could try and meet them at the state border with one of our nurses,” Joe spoke softly, his words meant for Kell’s ears only.  “I’m sure Dix would be willing.”

Just as Dr. Early is about to go pull Dixie into their conversation Dr. Frick speaks up. “Well, now that might be something we could work out, but there’s a few strings attached.  You ‘all wouldn’t by any chance have someone in that spacious palace you call a hospital that can deal with phlebitis now do you.”

“Of course we can handle that,” Dr. Bracket spoke up again.

“How about an OB that can handle high risk twins for the last few weeks of the pregnancy?”

“Of course we’d need the patient’s complete medical records, but I’m sure that could happen.”  Dr Brackett was beginning to wonder just what was going on in this one horse town.

“Well, that‘ll be no problem as my nurse is working on that at the moment.  Complete with x-rays and lab tests.   If you’ll accept the package deal we’ll be putting a doctor on board that transport.”

The rest of the conversation was about what time to expect their patients to arrive and recommended treatment en route.  When Dr Early suggested a police escort he got a little nervous at Dr. Frick’s answer.

“Our driver says a police escort will just slow him down.  We’ll be fine, we should be on the way in sight of an hour and the next time we talk will be when we’re closing in on your location.”

The phone call was disconnected and Joe shared with Kell all that was discussed before he entered the room.

“Sounds like we’re getting a bus load; I wonder what they’re driving to get here.” Kell asked in hindsight.

“I don’t know, but I hear some of these small communities buy ambulances where they can hang the patients from the ceilings.”

“Six hours in an ambulance like that is enough to fry anyone’s nerves.  I sure hope Johnny is up to it.”

“He’ll be taking care of Roy and we both know either one of those two would move heaven and earth for their partner.  Johnny’ll come through with flying colors.

-0-

Back in the bunkhouse above the barn, Johnny was covering Roy with a blanket to keep him warm. He had checked his ears one more time and was watching Roy’s pupils; so far all looked the same as it had twenty minutes before.

Frank was still at Roy’s side quietly holding Roy’s hand as Chet watched on in wonder. Julie just stood by the phone and whenever Johnny checked Roy over in any way she questioned his findings.

When the phone rang, she picked it up on the first ring. “Hello, oh, hi, Oz. Uh hum, okay, sounds good.  Okay, we’ll be ready,” Julie said and the phone was hung up.

 “All right everyone our transportation will be here in about an hour and we’ll have you all homeward bound.  You need to get packed up. But we’re going to be tight on space so your camping and fishing gear are probably going to have to stay behind until you get your truck.”

“I’ll take care of getting our stuff ready,” Chet stepped forward and quickly pulled out the three duffle bags in preparation of packing them.

“Frank, you’re going to be staying with my dad for a couple of days. Is that going to be alright with you?”

“Y-y-yes, ma’am.”

“I’m not a ma’am I’m a Julie.” Julie spoke with a growl in her voice, but a smile on her face as she tussled Frank’s hair with her fingers causing him to duck his head and blush.

With Frank appropriately teased, Julie then made eye contact with Johnny and hooked her thumb toward the balcony. Johnny got the message.

“You just sit tight, Roy. I’ll be back in a minute.”

When Johnny reached the balcony Julie was waiting for him with her arms carefully folded across her chest and a worried look on her face. She didn’t wait once he closed the sliding door she just started talking.

“Your Doctor Early ordered Roy to be transported with an IV and on oxygen. He wants him to have something to keep him calm and keep his stomach settled on the trip.  He still wants us to do Neuro checks every two hours on the trip.”

John let out a deep breath, there was nothing said that went beyond what he thought should be done anyway. “Okay.”

“There’s more,” Julie stopped Johnny from hurrying back to Roy’s side. “Roy’s not going to be our only patient.  We’re going to have Doc Frick on board.  Not only is he not really responding to his own treatment, last night the police drug in a couple of drunks that had gotten into a brawl in one of the local pubs.  One of them shoved Doc against the wall, and then started fighting amongst themselves again. 

Before the Sheriff got them under control again something of key importance was broken on the x-ray machine and Doc was on the floor with extreme chest pain and shortness of breath.  According to Ozella Peterson, the nurse that was pulled into the hospital to cover for another nurse, the lump in his calf is measurably bigger this morning.  She called the state medical authorities and had Dr. Frick declared temporarily incompetent to practice medicine because of his health. 

Every patient since then is being treated by phone conference with Ozella or being sent to another doctor until a group of residents arrive tomorrow.  Frick doesn’t want to be treated by either the residents on the way or the doctor calling the shots over the phone.  Apparently the two of them have history, and from the words Ozella refused to repeat I’m guessing it’s not a good history.

“To sum this all up, we are making this trip AMA and could find ourselves scrambling for the nearest hospital at any point on this trip for either patient and we could be on somewhat shaky ground as far as legal talk in the area between the California state line and the LA county line where you can legally take over under the directions of your doctors.  Ozella said there was a Dr. Brackett working things out. Jack has been given a radio frequency that we should be able to use to get in direct contact with your hospital fairly soon after we cross the state border but no one’s sure how soon.  Are you okay with all of this?”

“I’ll do whatever I have to, to get Roy home where he belongs.” Johnny spoke with resolve.

“And I’ll do whatever I have to, to get Doc to the treatment he needs and will accept.” Julie let her position be known.

“I hope you can work with me and we can bounce things off each other on this trip.” Julie gave Johnny a questioning look.

“Consider yourself my temporary partner, and that’s just what partners do,” Johnny responded. “I have to admit this is the longest patient transfer I’ve ever assisted in.”

“Not me, I rode with a congestive heart failure patient all the way to New York once so she could die with her family.  Now that was a long, eternally long, transfer. We only got her there a few hours before she slipped into a coma and passed away the next morning.  But when she died, she had the most peaceful look on her face.  That made it all worth it. I’ll give everything I’ve got to this trip too.”

 

Chapter 11

When Johnny and Julie stepped inside again, she just looked at Roy and then back at John. “It would be best if you got him into some clothes that will be comfortable for the long ride.  If you can handle things, I really need to run over to the house and pick up some stuff and let dad know what’s coming down the pike and that he’s going to be watching Frank for a day or two.”

“We’ve got things here,” Johnny assured and quickly stepped up to Roy’s duffel bag and started to pull out pajamas, well at least pajama bottoms.  Roy did bring those on a camping trip where the rest of them just slept in their underwear or less.

Julie was quick to notice that the pajama’s being pulled out were dirty and smelled of camp fire. With a hand on John’s shoulder, she stated, “I’ll bring some clean ones back with me.”

John was in agreement, Roy was mortified, Julie was just sure he’d get over it. 

“He, He, he can have a pair of mine,” Frank declared and dropping Roy’s hand, hurried to his closet and returned quickly with a freshly laundered and carefully folded pair of flannel pajamas with flames and fire hose prints covering it. 

“Th, Th, They’re a, a, l, little big for m me,” Frank declared as he held the pajamas forward.

“Thank you.” Roy recognized the genuine nature in which they were being offered and looking at the man before him, he figured that if they were big for Frank they would be big for him also but they were clean and like every mother, Roy’s mother had always told him to wear clean clothes.

Julie left to let the men change in privacy and while Johnny was helping Roy change into the pajamas, which were just slightly larger than he needed, he filled Roy in on Dr. Early’s instructions for him during the trip.

Roy was helped to lie back on the bed to rest until his ride arrived and he realized that he was half scared, half nervous, and half relieved that he was finally going home.  He hadn’t lain there long before Frank scooped up his hand once again and just held it.

Roy gave the young man’s hand a squeeze and told him thank you then just allowed him to continue to hold his hand until Julie stuck her head in the door to the dorm saying their ride was just coming up the lane.

Camping and fishing gear had already been stored in a second closet, and now with the call to move out, Chet quickly scooped up the three duffel bags and Johnny and Frank worked together to ease Roy out of bed and to his feet.

Johnny was quick to notice the sway in Roy’s stance that indicated dizziness and gave Roy’s eyes one more good looking at.  With an understanding look between knowing friends Johnny gave Roy’s hand a squeeze with one hand and rubbed his back with his other. “We’ll have you back in familiar territory by morning.”

Frank was once again at Roy’s side, pulling his arm around his shoulders.  John just held on to Roy’s other arm allowing him to use his hand to hold his pajama bottoms up as they walked.

Taking the walk slowly they were still down the stairs and around the barn before the eighteen wheeled semi came to a stop in the clear area between the main house and the barn.  Once the glare of the sun reflecting off the numerous chrome parts stopped, the off duty firemen took in the newly washed and waxed, royal blue Peterbilt. Painted in fancy letters on the door of the cab was “Lazy J Trucking” and underneath the printed words was a magnetic sign reading ‘Interstate Medical Transport’.  It was at that moment that a sow’s nose was seen poking through an opening in the side of the trailer the semi was pulling and when John focused on that single nose he was very aware that here were a lot more in there with her.

Julie and her father stepped up, between the two of them, they were carrying Julie’s to jump kits and an overnight bag that looked a little large for just overnight.

Julie was wearing a one piece coverall suit with lettering on the back announcing her as an EMT IV and appropriate patches sewn on the shoulders and chest and an official looking plastic laminated identification tag clipped to her collar. Her hair was wet and pulled back into a pony tail, indicating she had taken a quick shower, but there wasn’t an inch of her body that wasn’t ready to go.

Three men that none of the LA crew had met before, hurried in front of Roy and his friends to open a door in the side of the tractor’s sleeper section, and then place a set of steps in place. Julie, carrying her two jump kits, was the first to climb up in.

“Alright now let’s get the rest of this cargo loaded.” A man of average build and thick curly black hair looked right at Roy as he spoke. “Time’s awaistin’, we need to be hittin’ that road.”

Julie’s overnight bag was taken from her father’s hands and slid under the edge of the queen sized sleeper bed and given a good shove, sending it sailing across the floor, the three duffels Chet was holding were next to be shoved in the space under the bed and then Roy was motioned up the steps.

Julie stuck her head out the door with a hand ready to help Roy up the steps.

“Looks like you’re going to have to settle for the top bunk.  There wasn’t room up there to have Doc sitting up as much as he needs to be.”

Johnny managed to communicate with Frank that he could help Roy up the steps all by himself and proceeded to do so, walking side by side at the pace Roy set. Once they were at eye level with the sleeper portion of the cab they noticed Doc Frick reclined in the queen sized bed near the floor. 

In the corner was a large oxygen tank strapped to a support brace using belts and bungee cords. One oxygen set up was hooked up and on Dr. Frick, A glass bottle IV, with three piggybacked bags with additional medication were hanging from what looked like the wires of an umbrella hung upside down from the ceiling of the cab and held in place with clothes pins.

Roy reached up to take the steadying hand that was being offered to him and noticed the flinch on Julie’s face, revealing that he had grabbed a hold of one of her burns as he did so. Still, she steadied him and pulled him into the cab as he ascended the last two steps. Once inside Roy was assisted in stepping on the edge of the queen sized bed to raise himself into the twin sized bunk bed closer to the ceiling.

Johnny took over pulling the bedding over his partner and seeing to it that he was getting comfortable. Julie turned to a box of supplies that were sitting on the bed next to Dr. Frick and was soon hanging yet another IV bottle from the umbrella looking gizmo as she bled the attached tubing to fill it with fluid.

“All right Roy, we’re going to get an IV going on you and then we’ll be on our way.” Julie spoke with the smile and enthusiasm of one who wasn’t going to get stuck with a needle.

Julie stepped up on the side of the queen sized bed and bounced up and down a few times before shaking her head and stepping up to the top bunk and starting to tear some tape and stick it to the side of the bed in preparation of starting an IV.  Johnny stood back nervously watching Julie work with her bandaged fingers, but he had little to worry about; she was able to start an IV quickly and efficiently and was soon taping it into place while Johnny was allowed to adjust the drip under Dr. Frick’s watchful eye.

As soon as the drip was flowing to Dr. Frick’s satisfaction he reached into the box at his side and pulled out two pre loaded syringes.  The one that had the least in it, he took and after pinching off the tubing to Roy’s IV inserted it in a port and pushed the plunger. “This is the stuff your Dr. Early wanted you to have to make the trip more pleasant for you.”

Dr. Frick then handed the other syringe to Julie and indicated she was to inject it into the bottle of IV fluid.  Julie did and even though Johnny questioned if that was something within the scope of her current certification he chose not to say a word.

Julie then pulled the bedding up around Roy and gave him another totally professional smile before looking around and seeing that Johnny was hooking up the needed oxygen cannula and getting it in place on Roy’s face. As Johnny placed a supportive hand on Roy’s shoulder Julie stuck her head out the side door.

“We’re ready to go as soon as the rest of the caravan arrives,” Julie called out as she noticed that Frank and Chet had managed to each slip their hands through one of the air holes in the side of the trailer petting one of the pigs that was pushing up to the side.

“Chet, we’ll have you riding shotgun, Frank you be good for my dad now and I should be back in a couple of days.”

  Carl Clark stepped up and put his arm around Frank’s shoulders. “We’ll be fine.  Frank and I have taken on the assignment of watching the four brush fire areas around here and make sure they don’t flare up again.”

A tall, dark curly haired man came walking up the side of the semi toward the trailer. “We’ve got the rest of the caravan on the same road map, this train’s moving out in five. Alright, you guys stop fraternizing with the hired help.”  Chet was given a slap on his shoulder and with a jolt of the man’s head directed to the passenger side of the cab.

Chet pulled his hand out of the trailer and turned to Frank, who did the same. “It’s been nice to meet you Frank,  if you ever get out to Los Angeles look me up and I’ll let you look at my fire engine.”

Frank smiled. ”Can we go bowling?” 

“You like to bowl?” Chet answered, surprised that there was no stuttering in Frank’s last statement.

“Yeah,” Frank responded and followed up by performing the action of sending the ball down an alley.

“You bet, we’ll have to work it all out,” Chet responded with a smile.

With concern for his friend and the urgency of getting back to LA, Chet gave a wave of his hand and climbed into the cab of the semi and shut the door behind him.  One last look and Chet smiled at the wave coming from Frank as he felt the engine beneath him come to life.

“You caregivers might want to sit down and hang on to something until we get on a real road.” The driver called as he put the truck in gear.

Julie quickly sat down and reached for the rail that ran up the side of the beds. 

Johnny followed suit and was looking for something to hang onto when the tractor rolled through a ditch and Johnny was bounced onto the floor. 

“You’re better off staying down for a few minutes.” Julie placed one hand on his shoulder as he was struggling to get back up. “I’d like you to meet my cousin Jack Mumford; when he calls out a warning you don’t have time to ask him to repeat it.”

The semi drove around in a circle narrowly avoiding a pickup truck and going through the middle of a corral before pulling back on the drive out of the ranch.  That’s when Julie offered a hand up to Johnny and helped him to sit on the side of the queen bed where Dr. Frick was rocking back and forth with the bumpy ride.

“So this is one of the famous Jack Mumford transfers,” Dr. Frick was laughing breathlessly as he grabbed for the support bar above his head.

Julie pulled herself up on her feet and while holding onto her rail she reached up to place a hand on Roy’s shoulder, “How you doing up here? We’ll be back on the road in just a few seconds and the ride will even out.”

“I’m fine,” Roy answered, but he then reached out and took a hold of Julie’s hand. 

Julie understood the slight disorientation caused by the meds he had been given along with being tossed around with at the very least a mild concussion and a whiplash neck injury and continued to hold his hand in comfort until the semi pulled onto the paved road. She then helped to position his pillows so that they supported his neck the best possible way.  As soon as the ride smoothed out Johnny found his feet and was at Julie’s side offering his support to his friend and partner.

Johnny had no sooner gotten to his feet when he heard a poor quality intercom in the sleeper section come to life.

“We have now reached cruising altitude. Those of you who are not confined to a bed feel free to move about with caution and should the call of nature sing out, alert the in flight stewardess and a personal receptacle  never before used by anyone, will be personally delivered.  There are no scenic sights to point out at this point, so sleep if you can and if you can’t, try harder.”

 

Chapter 12

Johnny looked over at Julie and started to blush. “A personal receptacle?”

An equally red faced Julie sat back down on the edge of the queen sized bed and pulled a box out from under the bed.  In it were half a dozen or more urinals still in their plastic wrappers.

John looked over the contents of the box thoroughly; he even moved a few of the packages around to get a complete look at what was in the box.  He then looked at the lack of privacy in the sleeper unit and started to blush before he looked at Julie.

“What about you, none of these are for a woman.”

“It’s a good thing I went before we left, then, isn’t it.” Julie blushed herself in return.

John thought for a moment of the six hour ride ahead of them and wished he’d gone before they left.

As they rode John and Julie took turns checking on Roy and keeping a running conversation going with Dr. Frick.  They were all aware of the constant chatter going on in the cab of the tractor and even though they couldn’t hear all that was being said, John and Roy were surprised that this man named Jack was doing most of the talking.

Roy remained calm and slightly groggy but slept very little as they rode along.  Finally an hour into the trip Roy called for Johnny to get his attention and then asked if he’d be his personal in flight steward.  It took John a moment to understand and then he quickly pulled the box out from under the bottom bed and grabbed one of the unopened packages. Julie quickly understood what was going on and turned her head to give the best amount of privacy she could to the situation. 

As goes with the power of suggestion and the sound of dripping fluids, once Roy was done and judging by how full he filled the urinal he had been holding it for a while, Dr. Frick also requested his personal receptacle and was able to take care of business under the covers. 

Julie managed to chart the volume deposited and then poured the contents of the personal receptacles into a funnel affair in the corner by the door.  It was explained that there was a tank under the sleeper section where it was stored and would be dumped with the animal waste at the end of the run.

Seeing the funnel where the contents were being dumped Johnny managed to let it be known that he needed some privacy and managed to empty his bladder directly into the funnel while Julie slipped up between Chet and Jack to see how they were coming along.

“How’s it going up here?” Julie asked as she sat on the console in the cab. ”Are you two boys getting along with each other.”

“Yeah, your cousin has been entertaining me with stories about truck driving.  Too bad it’s mostly BS,” Chet commented with a smile.

“BS, What do you mean BS.” Jack was clearly just pretending to be offended.

“Anyone who talks that much has to throw in some BS otherwise they’d run out of material.  I ought to know, in my world, I’m usually the one spouting all the BS.” Chet continued to smile.

Both men laughed and then Jack turned serious, or at least as serious as he could possibly turn. “Using these back roads, we’re going to miss the port of entry station on the state line, but it’ll be hard to get away from having to stop at one when we get to the California state line.”

“That’s okay, we have all the paperwork we need for our end of things,” Julie reported. “I would appreciate a twenty minute warning before we get there though. We’ll need to make sure we have IV’s changed and all meds given before we get there since we won’t be able to administer anything from the state line until we get to the LA County line.  Didn’t you tell me that would be two hours from the state line?”

“It will be if we cross at Vegas.” Jack started to look worried. “How is everything going back there by the way?”

“So far so good, just keep trucking,” Julie responded as she noticed John move back into view. “Just keep on trucking.”

Julie had just checked Dr. Frick’s vitals when Jack announced, “Here’s where we start shaving time off this trip.”

“I don’t think this is a good area to start speeding up.  This road looks like it has a lot of twists and turns in it,” Chet offered his concerned opinion.

“Oh, I don’t intend to speed.  The cops around these parts don’t take to kindly to that sort of thing.”

“If you’re not going to increase your speed, then how do you intend to shave time off the trip?” Chet asked while giving the patients and his friends in the back a quick glance.  His first thought was that Jack was going to take off over some poorly paved dirt road short cut and he feared how Roy would handle a rough ride in his condition.

“You see all those turns and curves in the road?” Jack pointed ahead of them as he drove.

“Yeah,” Chet responded with a puzzled look that just seemed to fuel Jack all the more.

“Well, I just straighten ‘em out.  Now a real trucker like myself doesn’t waste time turning. There’re some I know that the only time they’re on a road like that one up ahead of us is when they’re crossing it.  See here.” Jack pulled into the first curve by hugging real close to the left hand line even crossing a lane of traffic to get there.

“You just keep her on the straight and narrow and I just shaved a good twenty feet and at least four whole seconds off the length of this trip. And there’s still more curves ahead to shave that much more off.”

John, hearing what was being talked about, stuck his head into the cab section and asked in partial terror, “What about oncoming traffic?”

“Well now, there’s not much to worry about there,” Jack rattled on as a new style compact car was seen coming around a blind curve traveling in the opposite direction.

“Why something like that will hardly be noticed, we’ll all just think it’s a bump in the road.” 

John continued to watch as Jack did indeed do his best to straighten out the road and even though he mostly stayed in his lane it was a whole lot closer than John felt comfortable to the oncoming lane. The next car that came from the opposite direction was a one ton pickup with a rack on the bed, hauling a couple of  steers.

“Now if something like that were to get in our way I’d have to holler back real fast and you all’d need to pick your feet up back there to be on the safe side.”

Next around the mountain side were three semi’s hauling hay, “Now something like that and we’d all be in a bit of trouble but we wouldn’t feel it for long.” Jack continued to talk and Julie just sat on the edge of the bed in the back giggling. Chet started to join in having noticed that Jack was staying within his lane, but it was the look on John’s face that was the most hilarious look he’d seen from him in a long time.

John had finally decided he would be better off just not looking and ducked back into the sleeper section to see Julie pulling the covers around Dr. Frick while he slept comfortably on the lower bunk.  Just as John was doing the same to his partner who had drifted off on the upper bunk he felt a bump and rumble in the truck.

“What was that?” John asked in a panic thinking of a small car going under the tires of the eighteen wheeler he was riding in.

Jack responded by pulling the mic to his CB Radio next to his mouth. “This is Lazy J Trucking calling Smokey Jones. Can you hear me, Smokey Jones?”

“Hi there, Lazy J. I hear you’re doing ambulance service on this trip.  You need a police escort to the border?”

“That’s a big negitory Smokey Jones; you’d just slow me down.  I’m just calling to report some fresh venison on the side of the road at mile marker 84 or thereabouts.  The brains are well grounded under the tires, but the meat should be good, save me a few porterhouses will you.”

“Now you know I can’t do that.  So tell me, did you hit it?”

“That’s another big negitory there Smokey Jones, I even got witnesses, as I see it he hit me. No damage that won’t wash away in the first puddle I drive trough though, so I don’t plan to press charges.  Pretty sure he’ll never do that again.”

Chet just covered his face with his hand and shook his head before sticking his head around the corner into the sleeper section of the tractor. “And you think I’m bad.”

John and Julie worked together to keep their patients comfortable. Julie did stick her head into the cab once or twice to ask if the Martins were still following behind them, but other than that John thought is best to tune any talk coming from the cab out the best he could.

Roy was wakened every two hours to make sure he still knew who and where he was and most of the time he was awake and responded quickly with the information he knew would be asked before asking if they were there yet.

At one point Roy did roll over and fall asleep only to wake up at the first bump in the road and panic slightly because he had his back to the open section of the sleeper and his first feelings were that he was in a coffin.

It was Julie that heard him crying that he wasn’t dead yet and stood on the bottom bunk to gently wake him and encourage him to roll over so he didn’t feel so closed in.  Dr. Frick invited him to come down and share his lower bed, but once Roy settled down he was sure he would be fine where he was.

“Did you guys visit Frisco?” Julie asked John once she got Roy calmed down and he started to doze again.

“I’m not sure, I don’t think so. What or who’s Frisco?” John asked.

“It’s a ghost town not far from my father’s ranch.  It was built around an old silver mine while it was in peak production, and from what I hear, in its heyday the town was as lawless as they come.  A lot of money came out of that mine, but it was usually lost the same night, either at the poker tables or at the point of a gun.  The miners ran into a big fault line and this large vein of silver they were mining came to a halt.

 It wasn’t long after that that any house or building that could be moved was moved on to the next town or left in ruins trying.  Then there was a lot of grave robbing that took place, mostly for the gold filings left in the teeth of the corpses or any jewelry they might have been buried with.  If you go there today, you can see the old wooden caskets that have been dug up and left open.  Some of them have claw marks on the lids, presumably from people that were buried a little faster than they should have been.”

“No, we didn’t stop there, nor do I think I want to,” John responded feeling slightly horrified at the thought. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Well, there are some who claim the claw marks on the casket lids were left by wolves tearing the unearthed remains apart.  But yeah, it’s part of our local history.”

“Considering Roy’s nightmare I can see why you asked if we stopped there, but fortunately we didn’t.”

The trip continued uneventfully, as Julie and John took turns pulling the blankets around their patients and smoothing them out. It almost seemed too soon when Jack sang out that the Nevada port of entry was twenty minutes off.  At that announcement, Julie checked the medical orders over good and put together fresh IV bottles that would have to last from the state line to the county line where John could then take over treatment under the direction of Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early.

If anything serious was to arise before then, Dr. Frick would be called on to prescribe treatment but since he was one of the patients and his condition was considered serious, it was something Julie wanted to avoid if at all possible. There was also the possibility of stopping at the nearest hospital, but the goal was Rampart General.

Julie started watching through the windshield and as they moved into the port of entry station, Julie made short work of changing to fresh bottles of IV fluids and then updated the patient charts before handing them to Jack as he grabbed his paperwork and climbed down to the ground to greet the inspector walking up to the truck with his clipboard.

Chet watched through the rearview mirror as Jack and the inspector met. He watched as the two conversed and Jack handed over his paperwork.  Chet snickered at the look on the inspector’s face when he shifted his attention from the trucking books to the patient files. Of course the inspector would have to climb up in the cab of the truck and look in the sleeper section to see that there were indeed patients receiving medical treatment on the beds there.

 Julie was asked to present proof of her certifications, but John was subtly waved off from pulling his from his wallet as Julie’s were examined. The man then spent a little extra time checking the ear tags on several of the pigs he could get to through the openings of the trailer. 

“Okay, this is going to take about ten minutes or more,” Julie informed John. ”Now would be a good time to go use the pay phone next to the building and give Rampart an update call.” As Julie talked to John she wrote down some information on a pad of paper, as to which road they planned to take going into the county and the latest vitals readings.  Julie then opened the side door to the sleeper and let him out offering him a hand full of coins from her pocket for the phone call.

John thanked her, but then took all that Chet had to offer and was on his way. “Just make sure you don’t forget and leave without me,” were John’s last words before climbing down to the ground and hurrying over to the phone.

“Don’t worry, you’re a very important cog in the rest of this trip,” Julie assured.

Johnny dialed the well remembered phone number to Rampart Emergency and gave the doctor on call the updated information.  He was informed that Dr. Bracket and Dr. Early were getting some sleep, but planned to be at the hospital when they arrived.  John wished he’d been able to talk with them or at least Dixie, but he understood.  Still to be worked out was how they were going to make contact once they were past the county line.

All this time there was a station wagon parked behind them with substantial luggage tied to the top and three kids in the back seat. Sitting in a reclined front seat was a very pregnant woman, and behind the wheel was her anxious husband.

John was just finishing up on the phone when he saw Jack step up to the open driver’s window and talk for a while.

“This is the last stop unless we get into trouble.” John heard Jack say to the other driver and he felt glad that they were getting closer to getting home himself.

Author’s notes:

I did have a relative who drove a big truck and on one occasion I was given a ride to a place that was on the way to one of his destinations.  The conversation about straightening out the road that is found in this chapter is as close to being word for word as I can possibly remember. He’s gone now, a few years ago, he lost the battle to cancer.

There is also a ghost town not far from my home town named Frisco.  All that was written in this chapter is true there too.

Chapter 13

John pulled himself up in through the side sleeper door just seconds before Jack pulled himself behind the wheel.

“How’re James and Susan doing?” Julie asked as Jack was buckling his seat belt.

“Susan said she’s got lead butt and the kids are getting bored, James seems relieved that something has been worked out so that Doc can be there for the delivery of this one.  He just wants to get there,” Jack reported before turning on the ignition and allowing the truck the moment it needed to warm up. “Did you work out a way to contact your people once we’re past the county line?” He questioned John.

“It would be best if we can tie into fire dispatch and get them to relay for us, but if we can’t then we’ll need to stop at a phone and call them,” John answered.

“What about stopping at a fire station on the way and borrowing their biophone and drug box,” Chet suggested.

“We can’t very well take them out of service while we drive clear across the county,” John said, vetoing  that idea.

Once the truck was back on the road and moving at highway speeds John quietly got Julie’s attention.

“What’s the story with the pregnant lady coming behind us?”

“James and Susan work for Jack, James is also one of the EMT’s that service the farming area so he’s got some training. He’s also worked some mean farming accidents so he knows what he’s doing.  He doesn’t have as much training as me or you, but he’d never be able to maintain his certification so why get the training. 

“A few years ago James was driving the truck while Jack was down with pneumonia. Since he was going to be away from home for a week and a half and Susan was due soon with their fourth child, he took her to his sister’s place in the county over from us.  Of course he talked to doc before he did and got a copy of her records just in case. 

Well the day he got back and went to pick her up, she was just starting into labor.  James knew something wasn’t right, he checked her vitals and her blood pressure was too high, so he hurried her into the local hospital there.  The nurse didn’t take him seriously and was heard telling the doctor that she was sure Susan’s blood pressure was just high because her husband was a nervous wreck. 

They put her in a room and watched her for a long time before the doctor there checked her out.  He told James that she was a long ways off from delivering and that they didn’t have room for her to stay there until she was closer to delivery.

They sent her home and recommended that James just drive her back to our little hospital and have Doc Frick deliver. He assured him that there was plenty of time and that there was nothing really wrong.

James reportedly argued with the other doctor for a while and then gave up and put his wife in the car and headed for home.  Before he got there she went into seizures and then into a coma just five miles away from the hospital.  Doc was called in and did an emergency C section, but it was too late. The baby died.  His wife was in a coma for five days.

 They determined that she had some kind of an infection that probably killed the baby and caused her blood pressure to go up and had the other doctor taken James seriously he should have done a little more testing.  Had they taken the baby at the first hospital or even as much as pushed the labor along with drugs, James and Susan believe their baby could have been saved.

 Now, especially with Doc Frick being down and out they’re really worried about having another doctor step in and to make things worse as Susan is expecting twins this time.  Whenever Doc even hints at sending her to another doctor, she nearly has a panic attack.  She’s staying calm now and alright with things because Doc is going with her. The best part of the deal is that Susan’s mother lives in the LA area so they can stay with her and she can help with the kids.”

“How close is she to her due date?” John asked, there was a part of him that thought maybe they should put Chet in that car to help drive just in case they needed to pull over and deliver.

“She’s actually a month and a half away,” Julie reported.“They say Doc’s sure they won’t go full term, but he’s been checking her good once a week now for a couple of months and  James has been seeing to it that she gets her rest, so far so good.”

John let out a sigh of relief and moved to where he could see the car behind them in one of the side rear view mirrors.  He had to admit to himself that no one in the car looked panicked in the least.

They were about half way between the state line and the county line when Johnny noticed Julie checking her watch frequently.  Then he noticed that she was checking Doc Frick’s pulse and blood pressure almost as frequently.  John also noticed the fading color on Doc’s face and the sweat beading on his forehead and his respirations were faster.

“Is his blood pressure dropping?” Johnny asked Julie when she next took the stethoscope out of her ears.

“Just a little, I was worried about this section of road, his pain meds have worn off and he clearly needs some more.”

“But neither one of us is certified to give him any in this no man’s land.” Johnny filled in the blanks he knew Julie was referring to. “Maybe we should stop at a hospital to get him a shot,” John suggested.

“It won’t work that way.  They won’t give him pain meds without keeping him and he won’t agree to stay or even get pain meds until you can take over under the direction of your doctors.  He also won’t leave Susan back there short of where they agreed to go.” Julie nearly whispered in John’s ear.  “He is also the only one certified to take care of Roy before we get to the county line.”

With that understanding John made one more check on his partner to find him fairing as well as he had on the trip and his meds wearing off also.  He then stuck his head into the cab and inquired of the driver, “How far to the county line?”

John instantly felt the speed of the truck increasing as Jack looked first in the rear view mirror and then at his watch. “At least thirty minutes.”

John just gave him a nod of understanding and tucked back into the sleeper section trying to think of something to help lessen the good doctor’s pain.

-0-

Hank Stanley was sitting in a patrol car with deputy sheriff Vince Howard. They were just outside the county line by about five miles where they could find a good place to park and watch the road they were told to expect their friends to arrive on. There was a lot of traffic zipping by them only slowing when they saw the patrol car and feared they were on radar.

“What are we looking for again?” Vince asked his passenger.

“According to Dr. Early, they’ll be in a royal blue Peterbilt hauling some kind of livestock,” Hank repeated once again.  “They called in from the state line and reportedly should be this way within the next half hour to an hour.”

“I gotta admit, this is a first.” Vince gave the road behind them one more good look.

“Those two medics of yours sure do get themselves into the thick of things.”

“Yeah,” Hank agreed, then added with a hint of pride in his voice. “But they never fail to figure out a way out again. I must admit though, I’d sure like to be able to outlaw their fishing trips,” Hank added as he also turned to look at the traffic headed in their direction.  Even from where he sat there were more than a few big trucks. He only hoped they would be able to see the right one when it drove by.  He was also just a little worried that the driver might change his mind as to which road to take.

“This could be a long wait,” Hank offered. “I have to ask why you wanted to be here so early when we have an idea when to expect them?”

Vince just pulled out his ticket book and held it up as a visual aid. “They told us when they should be here if they were driving the speed limit. Do you have any idea what percentage of big trucks I see that drive the speed limit?”

“Half?” Hank ventured a guess.

“Not even close.” Vince spoke with emphasis and gave the Captain not only an explanation to his question, but also the urgency to start looking a little harder at all the big trucks going by.

-0-

Back in the sleeper of the moving semi, Roy was growing anxious.  When Julie asked if he was alright, he claimed to be just fine.  One look at his eyes and she knew better so she concerned herself with Doc Frick and sent John to talk with him.

“Hey, Roy, how ya doing?” John stepped on the edge of the lower bunk to be face to face with his partner.

“I’m going to be alright; are we there yet?”

“We’re getting close to the county line, another half hour or so,” Johnny told his partner. “Now I can tell something’s wrong, Roy, what is it?”

Roy took a hold of the hand John was offering him and gave it a squeeze for security as he took in and let out a couple of breaths.  “I can feel pressure building up on the left side of my head. I can feel it down the side of my face clear into my jaw area.”

John’s mouth quickly formed a straight line as he carefully rolled Roy’s head to check his ear.  There was no further drainage since the earlier drainage had dried up and sealed off the opening to the ear.

John got down from his stand on the lower bed, then went straight to where Julie’s jump kit lay open on the floor between the lower bunk and the cab.  Grabbing her pen light John climbed back up on the lower bunk and carefully examined his partner and best friend’s pupils.

The light hurt his eyes, but Roy endured it at John checked each eye out twice and very carefully.

“How bad is it?” Roy questioned when Johnny pulled the pen light away from his eyes.

John held his breath. In most cases he would lie through his teeth and tell the patient that there was nothing wrong, but this was Roy, his fellow paramedic as well as his best friend. Roy would read between his lies and think things were worse than they really were.

“The left is a little sluggish, but both pupils are equal and they are reactive. Just how bad is the pain?” Johnny confessed, then questioned.

“Nothing I can’t stand,” Roy tried to macho through. “It’s not like you can give me anything for the pain anyway, even after you do get a hold of Rampart, not till they get this head injury completely evaluated.”

John lowered his head, what his partner had said was true, it was a part of his work that he didn’t like.

John made sure Roy was as comfortable as possible before climbing down off the lower bunk and giving his current partner a report.  Julie listened and then consulted with Doc Frick on one aspect.  Should they try and open up Roy’s ear so that it could drain and what about stopping to pick up some ice for Roy to help with the pain?”

Doc Frick agreed with Julie’s thoughts and John was assigned to guide Jack to a place where they could get some ice without detouring too far off their planned course, while Julie pulled a few tools out of her jump kit and climbed up to see about removing the clotted material from Roy’s ear and allow it to drain in hopes of reducing the pressure and pain.

John moved into the middle of the cab section and gave a good long look through the windshield.  They were now in heavy rush hour traffic and Jack had had to slow down to below the speed limit because of it.  They were in an area that John didn’t know well and there was no sign of a gas station close to the freeway where they could stop and get ice. What he did know was that the county line and his ability to do more to help the two patients that were taking turns for the worse was getting close. He chose to see if it was close enough to make contact.

“Chet, see if you can get a hold of fire dispatch and when you make contact get them to relay information to Rampart,”  John ordered and then ducked back into the sleeper area to see what he could do to help Julie with his regular partner.

Chet picked up the CB Mic and started adjusting the CB to the proper frequency, Jack didn’t have the exact frequency, but he did have one that was used by some of the fire phones found on the side of the freeway.  He’d give that a try.

“Lazy J patient transport calling LA county fire dispatch,” Chet spoke into the mic and then listened.  “LA county fire dispatch this is Lazy J patient transport we need your assistance. Do you read?”

-0-

On the side of the road Vince felt the need to have a drink of coffee so he turned the set of binoculars he was using over to Hank for a few moments.

“I see three dark colored Semis coming, but they’re still too far off to know for sure what color they are.” Vince directed Hank’s gaze as he poured a cup of warm coffee from his thermos and offered to do the same for Hank.

“No thanks, I need to go find a bush as it is.” Hank declined any more liquid of any kind. “I don’t think any of those are carrying any kind of livestock,” Hank reported keeping the glasses to his eyes.  “Just how far do these glasses see?”

“This is a good clear spot, should be able to see as far as twenty miles, not real clear, but clear enough to tell a semi from a regular truck.”

Hank gave the three semis another good looking over. “NO, those clearly are closed up trailers, if they were carrying livestock they’d have to have ventilation.”

Hank then turned the binoculars further down the road. “There are a few big trucks on this road.  I sure hope we can pick my guys out of this mess.”

“Me too, Hank, me too,” Vince echoed.

“I never realized just how many Royal Blue semi trailers there are on the roads.”

“Welcome to my world.” Vince showed his understanding. “Welcome to my world.”

 

 

Chapter 14

Hank and Vince continued to trade off the binoculars and each semi going by them got a closer than usual inspection regardless of what color it was to begin with. It seemed to Hank like they had been there for over an hour, but a quick check of his watch and it had only been about fifteen minutes.

“Calling all cars in the vicinity of the county line.” The radio came to life, but got very little attention at first. “County Fire Dispatch reports a patient transport trying to get radio contact.  Their frequency is not properly adjusted for Fire Dispatch to respond, Keep a look out for an ambulance or similar type vehicle identified as the ‘Lazy J patient Transport’ and offer assistance.”

“That’s them,” Hank sang out, “They must be trying to get in touch with Fire Dispatch to relay information to Rampart.  Do you think they got by us?”

“It’s not impossible, but I don’t think so,” Vince responded before picking up the mic to his radio. “Attention all units, here’s additional information on the Lazy J Patient Transport, be on the lookout for a Royal Blue Peterbilt hauling livestock.  The sleeper contains two seriously injured patients headed for Rampart General to receive further treatment.  It is believed that they are trying to make contact with the hospital for treatment instructions.”

While Vince was giving information over the radio, Hank was quickly scanning the roadway for the truck they were looking for. No longer taking time for each truck he was now just looking to see what color it was and then moving on down the road.  Before Vince was ready to take the binoculars back Hank was focusing in on a set of three semis driving side by side.  After adjusting the focus a little Hank lowered the glasses and made sure he could locate what he was seeing in the binoculars.

“There they are,” Hank pointed, “about five miles up the road, there’s three trucks side by side theirs is the truck in the middle.”

“Are you sure,” Vince challenged, “With the trucks that close together, there’s no way you can read what’s painted on the doors?”

“The man in the shotgun seat is my lineman, Chet Kelly, it’s them alright.” Hank announced and he moved to apply his seat belt so they could move out.

With the declaration that Hank recognized someone on the cab Vince started up the patrol car and moved to get onto the road.  By the time he was at the side of the road the three semis were past him so he turned his flashing lights on and merged into traffic.  One by one cars moved out of his way as Vince moved up behind the middle semi.  Finally, they were close enough that only one car stood between them and the semi trailer that was definitely hauling hogs.  The car was a station wagon loaded with kids and luggage on the top and it wasn’t about to get out of the patrol car’s way.

-0-

In the cab of the semi Chet was getting frustrated trying to make contact with the county. He turned and shared eye contact with John but no words needed to be said, John understood.

Julie seemed to understand too, as she placed a face mask on the good Doctor’s face while talking with him about Roy’s symptoms and what could be done to ease his discomfort.

John was frustrated that they were speaking so quietly and wondered if they were trying to keep Roy or him from knowing what was being said.  He then had to realize that the doctor was struggling to get in enough breath and that could affect the volume he was able to produce with his voice.

Julie started pulling things out of her Jump kits and then motioned for John to join her at Roy’s side.

“Okay Roy,” Julie started to explain, “We’re going to pull the scab material out of your ear and let things drain, that should help with the discomfort and I promise you we won’t let your brains drain out.” Julie joked.

Roy hesitantly rolled over so that Julie had access to his ear and John offered a hand on his forehead to steady his head as Julie moved in with some sterile cotton swabs before she had to give up and go in with some tweezers to pull the scab material away.  To Johnny’s surprise Julie then popped the top off of a test tube and dropped the scab material in the tube before replacing the top. She then took some fresh sterile swabs and saturated them with the goo that started to ooze from Roy’s ear. Those were placed in another test tube and the wooden sticks broken off so that the top could be replaced.

“It smells like you might have picked up a bit of an ear infection there Roy.  We’ll label these up so they can test it as soon as we get to the hospital.  Hopefully this will help lessen the pressure you're feeling soon.” With that Julie returned to her jump kits to use the medical tape there to label the test tubes with Roy’s name and then tape them together before placing them in the top tray of her version of John and Roy’s drug box.

“Hey, Big J, this is Little J.” Came over the walkie talkie hooked to the side of Jack’s seat.

Jack turned to Julie with a panicked look on his face, “What now?”  “This is Big J, what’s the problem little J?”

“There’s a Smokey on my bumper giving his bubble gum machines a work out, you’re speeds good and all so I don’t think he’s giving out green stamps.  Must be here to give you a parade escort, you might wann’a slow down so he can catch up with ya.”

-0-

Vince had to slow down as the two vehicles in front of him slowed down to allow the traffic on the right to move past them so they could shift over to the side of the road. Frustratingly the loaded station wagon kept its spot between the desired Semi and the patrol car.

They had all no sooner pulled over on the shoulder of the road when Vince popped the latch to his trunk and then got out.  Hank got out of the passenger side and while Vince was approaching the car between him and the Semi, Hank was pulling boxes out of the trunk.

-0-

“Hey, it’s Cap,” Chet sang out from the front of the cab, “Looks like he has a biophone, drug box and you’re EKG transmitter.”

Chet swung out of the cab and using foot holds reached around and opened the door to the sleeper section for his approaching Captain. “Are we glad to see you!”

He took the first box handed upward, and slid it into the sleeper then reached down and took the next before offering Cap a hand up into the sleeper with the last of his cargo.

Before Cap was helped into the sleeper section John had pulled the biophone open and inserted the antenna.

“I’ll get a fresh set of vitals,” Julie called out before grabbing the tools she needed and going to her patients.

“Dr. Early thought you guys might need some of this stuff,” Cap explained as he looked around for something he could do to help and then a place to sit before he settled for a good hand hold and leaning against the framework.

“Thanks Cap,” John managed before he started talking into the biophone’s handset.

“Rampart, this is the Lazy J, patient transport.” There was a pause as John listened and turned a crooked smile of appreciation to his captain.

“This is the Lazy J, patient transport, Rampart do you read?”

Hank was surprised when a person he didn’t know pulled the EKG Transmitter into the lower bed and started applying the patches to the second man’s chest. From his point of view he could tell that she was doing everything right, so he kept his peace and his place as the two worked.  He did manage to work his way between the new team of rescue workers to place what he hoped was a comforting hand on the shoulder of his senior paramedic now patient. 

Roy just opened his eyes and gave Cap a groggy look. “Are we there yet?”

“You’re not at Rampart yet, but John’s getting them on the horn now.” Cap informed his man with a concerned look on his face. “JoAnne’s waiting for you at the hospital. The kids are with my wife.”

Chet sat in the passenger seat turned to take in all that was being done and watching for something he could do while Jack was talking to the police officer talking to his friend following them to make sure there were no problems for his friend.

-0-

“Is there a reason you’re also hauling pigs with these patients?” Officer Howard questioned thinking the whole transportation thing more than a little unusual.

“Why they’re my blood donors,” Jack spoke as if he couldn’t believe the question had been asked in the first place.  His voice deliberately hick toned as he spoke.

“Don’t your patient transports carry blood donors in these parts?”

“No, no I have to admit they're not so nearly prepared around here.” Vince Howard was seeing the humor in the situation. Of course, this transportation of livestock was scheduled and the patients were just added because they needed a ride and he was headed in their direction.  In spite of his understanding Vince found himself searching for more stupid questions to ask just to see what this truck driver would come up with as answers.  He had to admit the guy was a hoot.

-0-

“Unit calling in please identify yourself,” A tired Dr. Morton hurried into the communications booth at the end of a long and hectic shift.

“Rampart, this is the Lazy J interstate patient transport.” Johnny Gage’s voice came over the com unit with a hint of laughter woven into the seriousness of his voice.

“Who?”

“Rampart, this is the Lazy J interstate patient transport.” Johnny Gage’s voice repeated slowly and deliberately with laughter in the background. “We’re bringing in patients Roy DeSoto with a head injury, and Doctor Richard Frick with complications to Phlebitis for further treatment.  Dr. Early and Dr. Brackett are expecting us.”

“Oh, that’s right, I was told about that.” Dr. Morton spoke without pushing the com button so that the guys in the converted Semi could hear. 

“We’ve been advised that you were on your way, what is your current location and estimated time of arrival at this point?”

-0-

“We just reached the county line,” Johnny reported giving Chet a look as he talked. “We should be at your location in about. . .”

Chet understood what he was asking for with the look in his eyes. “We’ll be another hour to an hour and twenty minutes from here, depending on traffic.”

“An hour to an hour and a half depending on traffic,” Johnny repeated. “I’m ready with updates on our patients and to get treatment instructions for the rest of the trip.”

-0-

Dr. Morton motioned for the nurse that entered the booth to copy down the information while he stepped out of the booth to get the charge nurse's attention.

“Call Doctors, Early and Brackett and tell them we have contact with their patients being transported in from out of state. They’re in range now and ready to give treatment under our directions.  Then find whatever charts have been started on these patients and get them to me STAT.”

-0-

Medications were ordered while others were given the order to be refreshed.  John found all the meds he would need had been stocked in the drug box Captain Stanley had brought to them, including a couple of drugs that the paramedics never carried before.  With Dr. Frick removed as acting physician and feeling the comforting effects of the needed pain medication, a new calm returned to the sleeper section of the semi.

Meanwhile, outside two additional county sheriffs moved in to help clear traffic the rest of the trip.  The extra manpower seemed advisable since there were two vehicles hauling patients. The pace was speed limit, but with three patrol cars with their lights flashing all other traffic got out of their way, making the ride smoother and cut out the stop and go of rush hour.

Inside the sleeper Hank stayed out of the way the best he could and watched John work with his new temporary partner.  Twice Roy turned in his hanging bunk in an attempt to get more comfortable and each time John and this person answering to Julie, who had bandaged arms and hands worked to see to it that his pillows were positioned to give his strained neck muscles the best support possible.

The makeshift ambulance was within half an hour from their destination when Dr. Bracket and Dr. Early were heard on the biophone asking for an update.

It was while they were communicating that Chet turned in his seat and called to John. “There’s a real good chance that this truck isn’t going to fit under the parking structure.”

John gave Chet a stunned looked then shifted his eyes to the roof of the sleeper section before moving into the middle of the cab.  “Just how tall is this thing anyway?”

“Too tall,” Captain Stanley quickly agreed with his lineman’s observation. “You better have them meet us in the parking lot with a couple of gurneys.”

“Better make it three gurneys,” Jack yelled back without taking his eyes off the cop that was clearing the way before them. “You’re all gon’na need something to pile all your crap on. It ain’t fair to my other passengers to have them waiting around in some heated parking lot until you guys get situated and remember that stuff. It’s bad enough they have to put up with an hour detour because of you dudes.”

Hank looked somewhat offended at the driver’s words, but once he saw the smiles and heard the faint giggles of the rest of the people in the sleeper he realized this guy needed to be taken with a grain of salt.  Having an extra gurney to put their stuff on was a good idea.

“Chet would you relay that info to Rampart,” John asked as Roy shifted position once again and he needed to work with him at the moment.

-0-

In the com cubical at Rampart, Dr. Early and Dr. Brackett were going over all of the information that had been recorded before they arrived.  Carefully looking over the EKG strip that had been sent in bringing them some concern as did the reports of pressure over the side of Roy’s face. Together they set up their treatment plan to streamline the additional testing their patients were going to need.  Lacking were the details on their high risk pregnancy patient.

“Rampart, this is the Lazy J patient transport company,” was heard over the radio, the voice not familiar to them.

“Go ahead Lazy J, this is Rampart.” Dr Brackett leaned into the com button.

“Be advised our transport is likely too tall to make it under the parking structure at your location.  We advise meeting us in the parking lot with three gurneys when we reach your location.  Also, be advised we are moving faster than expected due to our police escort and should be arriving at your location in about fifteen minutes.”

“10-4 Lazy J, we’ll be ready for you. Is there any additional information on your third patient?”

-0-

Chet just looked up at Jack as he drove, “they want an update on the pregnant lady.”

“Her name is Susan and hold on a moment.” Jack responded with the same off handed candor they had come to expect from him. He then picked up the walkie talkie attached to the lower strap of his seat belt and pulled it to his mouth.

“Hey Little J,”

“This is Little J what ‘sup?”

“Them big city doctors want an update on that wife of yours.  How’s it going back there anyway, these big city Smokeys slowin you down too much?”

“We’re experiencing a tired butt from the long ride and a headache from the kids fighting in the back seat,” Was reported over the walkie talkie, “no contractions, no backache, no blood pressure readings because I’m driving. How much further?”

“Bout another fifteen minutes.” Jack answered as Chet started repeating everything he had heard back to the Doctor over the biophone. “Tell them kids, I need their help.  I need them to count all the purple cars on the road between here and the hospital and tell little Jackie I need to know how many white cars have an E on their license plate.

“Efforts have just been taken to curtail the fighting in the back seat,” Chet reported at the end of his transmission.

-0-

“10-4 Lazy J, we’ll be waiting for you outside in the parking lot.” Dr Brackett signed off while shaking his head in laughter.

“I wonder what they did to get the kids to stop fighting,” Joe Early questioned.

Kell Brackett was already moving out of the communications booth and didn’t answer, not that he had an answer anyway.

“We need three gurneys taken to the parking lot on the other side of the parking structure.” Kell ordered before pulling his watch into view, “We have ten minutes.”

“Why,” Doctor Morton questioned.

He had been relieved of duty, but had a patient to check on and then some charts to complete.  The truth of the matter was that when he heard Roy DeSoto was being brought in as a patient, he just wanted to see for himself that the man he respected was going to be alright.  But if anyone asked if that was the reason he was still there, he would have denied it with his dying breath.

“They’re transport vehicle won’t fit under the drive.” Kell answered Dr. Morton as well as the rest of the looks in his direction, asking the same question as he took one end of one of the gurneys and started pushing it in the direction they needed to go.

“What on earth are they riding in that won’t fit under the drive?” Dr. Morton asked as he grabbed hold of the next gurney and followed along.

The hospital staff was just lining up on the other side of the overpass when they saw the first flashing lights and the royal blue Peterbilt right behind them.  The Sheriff quickly pulled off to the side and climbed out of his car to direct the big rig to a stopping point that didn’t even resemble a parking slot but lined them up with the waiting doctors and gurneys.

“An Eighteen Wheeler!”  Dr. Morton’s eyes nearly required an ophthalmologist to put them back in his head. “Isn’t that a bit of overkill?”

“Any port in a storm,” Dr. Early responded and laughed as he watched for how the patients were going to be unloaded from such a high position to where they were waiting for them.

The right hand door flew open and Chet Kelly was on the ground in one jump.  The Driver was just a few seconds behind him and around the cab to assist him in pulling the ladder from his compartment behind the trailer and working like a team of rescue workers had the device inserted in the proper slots with pins to hold it tight as the hatch on the side of the sleeper opened

As soon as the ladder was secure Chet climbed up and in the sleeper section while Jack stood on the ground and held the hatch open. Moments later Chet was seen backing out of the hatch once again holding the legs of a bare foot hospital issue pajama clad person.  When the patient’s face was visible all Dr. Brackett could see was hair and mustache.

Captain Stanley was holding up the patient under his arms and around his chest as they slowly and carefully made the descent down the ladder before a woman in a pony tail and blue overalls stepped up behind holding two IV’s high.

“An Eighteen Wheeler!”  Dr. Morton exclaimed once again, still staring up at the big rig that parked in front of him.

“Why of course,” Jack was enjoying the astonished look on the doctor’s face. “All of my patient transport vehicles have eighteen wheels. How many do yours have?” 

Julie just snickered as she continued down the step watching her footing and holding the IV bottles high.

“Well, four of course.” Dr. Morton responded to the man chiding with him and Dr. Early knew for sure his fellow doctor was tired to the point of being punchy.   “What’s with the pigs in the back?”

“Why they’re the standard, organ donors.” Jack responded in mock astonishment.

“Don’t your patient transports come supplied with organ donors?”

“Huh, What?” Dr. Morton finally processed what the man holding a door open was telling him. “Of course we don’t have organ donors on our ambulances.  That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Well, now I guess if your transports only have four wheels their not up to our standards and abilities.” Jack continued to joke with the still stunned doctor at his side.

Meanwhile the Sheriff waved the station wagon that was following the semi under the drive on to a parking slot closer to the emergency entrance where another officer was working on getting a wheelchair to assist the patient there into the hospital.

While Jack continued to joke with the doctor at his side the walkie talkie on his pocket came to life. “Mr. Jack this is Angel J.” A very young voice was heard, “Reporting only two purple car’s but I think both of my brothers just saw the same one, and twelve white cars with an E on their license plate.”

“That’s what I was afraid of.” Jack pulled his walkie talkie to his mouth, “I’m going to have to hurry and get out of here before they get me, you kids be good for your grandmother now okay.”

“Will do,” the same small voice responded as more than one other small voices were heard screaming ‘Grandma’ with glee.

While Jack was getting his report, Dr. Frick was being lowered to a gurney as the head was being raised to make it easier for him to breathe.  A nurse relieved Julie of the IV bottles and was hanging them on the pole attached to the bed while an orderly was reapplying an oxygen mask as ordered by Dr. Brackett.

Dr. Brackett had his stethoscope in his ears listening to the man’s lungs.

As soon as the stethoscope was removed from Dr. Brackett’s ears Dr Frick started giving a patient report in his drugged and slurred speech. “Head, injury, feeling pressure on side of face, probable ear infection, had them collect culture samples.  Maternity patient is really frightened please be careful with her. One in the overalls needs her bandages changed, burns.” His head then lolled to the side and his eyes fought to keep from closing.

“We’ll take it from here,” Dr. Brackett assured comfortingly, “You just relax and let us take care of you too.”

Dr. Brackett then started moving his patient toward the emergency department, but not before touching Dr. Morton on the shoulder. “Would you take care of changing the bandages on the girl in the overalls? She’s got burns.”

“Sure Kell,” Dr. Morton turned his attention from the joker holding the door open for the girl who was climbing back into the sleeper section followed by Captain Stanley.

As the gurney carrying Dr. Frick was rolled away another one was moved into its place and the head of the bed risen in anticipation of the next patient.

Captain Stanley was again seen backing out of the sleeper section. In his arms were the stocking footed and colorful pajama clad legs of the next patient.  When Roy’s face appeared it was leaning against the chest of John Gage as he had his arms wrapped under Roy’s arms and around his chest and Julie was once again coming behind them with the IV bottle held high.

As soon as Roy was placed on the gurney JoAnne stepped up to one side and took hold of his hand. Roy looked over at her touch and gave a weak smile, “Are we there yet?”

“Yes, honey your home.” JoAnne smiled as she walked alongside the gurney that was now being moved toward the Emergency room.

Chet then made short work of shoving the duffel bags from under the bottom bed toward the door where Hank took hold of them and quickly placed them on the last gurney before returning to fill his arms once again. While her gear was being unloaded Dr. Morton stepped up to Julie and took a hold of the least bandaged arm directing her toward the emergency entrance. “I was instructed to see to your bandages,” he informed her.

Julie rather reluctantly allowed herself to be led to the emergency department as her things were being loaded on the remaining gurney along with all the other luggage.  As they approached the emergency room door another ambulance pulled up and backed into the door. It was a newer box, type ambulance and Julie couldn’t resist having a little fun with the obviously tired doctor moving her along.

“Well, look at that, this ambulance has six wheels.  You keep going you’ll soon catch up with us big guys.”

Dr. Morton transferred Julie into the hands of a nurse instructing her to get her in a room, then stepped back to the side of the ambulance.  “It does have six wheels. I never noticed that before.”

 

Chapter 15

Captain Stanley and Chet Kelly made short work of unloading all of the luggage and medical supplies.  The big oxygen tank was to stay and Jack had to retrieve his overnight bags from the gurney but that was fine with him.  After asking if the sheets needed to be pulled from the beds and being told, “no”, Chet climbed down from the sleeper and shut the door behind him.

Standing at the side of the trailer Jack had worked his hand through one of the vent holes and was touching the sides of several of the pigs in his cargo.

“Okay, now can one of you men tell me the best way to get back on the highway from here and do either of you know where I might find a place where I can find a water supply to cool off the rest of my passengers?” Jack inquired as he pulled his driving gloves back on.

Hank was quick with the directions to the highway, but then turned and looked at Chet.

“All he really needs to cool the pigs down is a good spraying with a fire hose,” Chet informed his captain.  is thoughts were to direct the man to station 51 and then call ahead and tell them they needed to prepare for a hose drill.

“I just so happen to know that they traded the hose out in the parking terrace and the old ones haven’t been picked up yet.” Hank eyed his lineman down. “You up to an off duty hose drill there, Kelly?”

While Chet helped load the ladder and lock it into place Hank ran for the closest stack of old hose and while he was there he grabbed a wrench to open the hydrant.  Working together the two men gave the pigs a good washing down by borrowing two of the newly replaced fire hoses from the parking structure and Cap and Chet had their own hose drill in the far corner of Rampart’s parking lot.

“I have to admit that guy looks familiar, but I can’t for the life of me think of where I might have seen him before,” Hank said as they watched the truck drive out of sight, water still dripping from the trailer as he drove.

Hank and Chet then drained and rolled up the hoses before carrying them back to where they borrowed them from before making their way into the emergency department. Both men were slightly wet, but they took the time to wipe off their shoes before walking into the waiting area where the gurney with their luggage had been rolled by a couple of police officers. 

They met up with JoAnne and Johnny to be told that Roy had been taken for a CAT scan and Dr. Frick had been moved to ICU after confirming that a piece of the blood clot in his leg had gone to his lung.

The pregnant lady and her husband were still talking with the high risk obstetrician that Dr. Brackett saw was on hand, while JoAnne helped a tired looking grandmother wrestle with three, anything but tired, children.

While they waited, Chet and Johnny filled Cap and JoAnne in on all the details of their accident and the aftermath of.

After a few minutes a nurse came to the men and asked which of the bags belonged to the burn patient. Chet was quick to pick up Julie’s overnight bag and hand it over.  It wasn’t long after that when Julie was seen walking towards them. She was no longer wearing her coveralls she was wearing a pair of slacks and a loose, but not sloppy loose, t-shirt as she carried her overnight bag in one hand and had her coveralls draped over her other arm. They were stopped by Dr. Brackett, who shared a few words with them and then both doctors went their way and Julie continued on to the waiting room.

“Cap, JoAnne,” Johnny stepped forward to introduce Julie to Roy’s wife and his Captain. “This is the young lady I was talking about, Julie Clark. Julie, this is our captain, Hank Stanley, and Roy’s wife JoAnne.”

Julie gave Captain Stanley a smile that surprised everyone, “Henry, it’s been a long time,” she spoke as she extended her hand with the bandaged fingers forward.

A look of surprise and recognition came over Cap’s face along with a good schoolboy blush.  “Julie, it has been a long time, why you’ve, you’ve really, well what has it been, almost sixteen years now hasn’t it?”

Julie thought for a moment and then nods her head, “Yeah, that’s about right.  I see you have a left hand now.  Is it the same girl you were hooked to that summer you worked at the ranch?”

Hank looked down at his wedding ring and gave a nod himself, “Yeah, same girl, we’re happily married now with four kids.”

“Well, if you’re a Fire Captain she must have agreed to let you keep firefighting,” Julie spoke again and the two firemen standing at his side were getting very curious about the story behind their chit chat. That also went for one firefighter’s wife and a close friend to the wife of the blushing fire captain.

“When it came right down to it, she liked the idea of being married to a fireman better than being married to a sheep herder,” Hank offered an awkward sounding laugh to his statement.

Julie then politely turned to JoAnne and offered her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. DeSoto. Have they come to any conclusion on the severity of your husband’s head injury yet?”

“They’re still doing some tests, but the doctor doesn’t think it’s anything really serious. He also agrees with your diagnosis of an ear infection. They’re testing the samples you collected now.”

Julie simply nodded her head in acknowledgement of what JoAnne had said before turning back to Hank with a courteous smile.

“So how are your folks doing?” Hank spoke quickly as if he were trying to stop Julie from saying any more that he would have to explain later.

“Dad’s about the same.  Enjoying the grandkids now, still working the wild fires, but only when they threaten the good of the ranch now.  Kind of hard on him now that Mom’s gone.  We lost her to cancer just a little over a year ago.”

Hank’s face turned mournful as he registered the news he was just given.  Johnny had quickly done some math and figured Julie was far too young to have been romantically involved with his captain sixteen years ago, so he secretly wondered if it was her mother who was involved with the then reportedly engaged firefighter.

“I’m sorry to hear that, as I remember you and your mother were quite close.”

Hank spoke again as if he was unfazed by the presence of members of his crew.

“Yeah, we were close, especially that summer.” Julie grinned and blushed more than Hank had. “There was someone I really wanted to impress and I’d always heard the best way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.  Everyone in the valley always said my mom was the best cook around.”

Hank blushed a little deeper and gave a faint chuckle, “Yeah, she was a very good cook; I remember a lot of really good meals that summer.”

There was a moment of awkward silence before Julie looked around the waiting room, “Did Jack get on his way?”

“Yeah,” Chet spoke up. “We helped cool off his other passengers and pointed him toward the highway,” Chet was smiling at the thought of his other passengers when his face turned suddenly serious. “Wait a minute, do you have a place to stay?”

“Well, this is one of those moments where I play everything by ear.  I guess I better go call my dad, he’ll call Jack’s wife and then we’ll figure out where I need to catch a bus to so that I can catch up with him again for a ride home.  If you’ll excuse me,” Julie then waved toward the bank of pay phones before moving in that direction, stopping along the way to pick her Jump kits off the gurney and move them over next to the phone.

The four firefighting friends stood looking back and forth from Julie and amongst themselves.

“I guess I could let her stay at our place for a day or two,” JoAnne offered politely but unsure.

“No, I’ll take her to my place,” Hank spoke with certainty. “It’s the least I can do after all her father did for me.  If you all will excuse me, I’ll go give my wife a call and let her know we’re going to have company.”

Both Hank and Julie hung up at about the same time, Julie with the news that her father and Frank were out checking on a wild fire and wouldn’t be back for a while.

Hank hung up with his wife with an agreement to bring Julie home with him after he dropped Chet and Johnny off at the station where Chet would take Johnny home and then pick him up again for his next shift in two days.

Each one of the men took one of Julie’s bags on their way to Hank’s truck, but only after word had come down that Roy didn’t have a skull fracture, but he did have a fractured ear drum and a whopper of an ear infection, probably in part due to a sewer rescue he was involved in the week before they left on their fishing trip.  He would miss two shifts for his concussion and should respond to the antibiotic for his ear infection in time to return to work then.  The plan was to keep him in the hospital overnight to start his antibiotics off and further evaluate his concussion, then if all was well they would send him home with his wife in the morning.

Dr. Frick was resting comfortably and stable they had plans to perform more testing in the morning. 

Susan Martin was advised to go to her mother’s place and stay in bed for the night and then return the next day for a series of tests and she was promised that the doctor would talk things over with Dr. Frick before then.

-0-

After everyone else was taken care of, Hank pulled Julie’s two jump kits out of the back of his truck and carried them as he lead Julie into his home.  Emily Stanley and the four Stanley children were waiting as Hank set the boxes down and proceeded to introduce their guest.  He then turned to Julie. “I think it might be long enough now that you can get a hold of your dad, the phone is right here.”

Julie, who was still carrying her overnight bag and her overalls, stepped up to the phone and dialed her home number.

“Hello, Dad.  Yeah, we made it all right. The fireman is going to be alright; they should let him go home with his wife in the morning.  They put Doc Frick in ICU though.  You should call Ozella and let her know. He was sleeping, but stable when I left, I’ll try and check in on him in the morning.  James and Susan are all right, too, just really tired from the trip.  Their kids are wired but I guess they have grandma and some uncles to wear them out again.”  Julie was giving her father a report on their trip before turning to give Hank a blushing smile.

“Well, actually I ran into an old flame when we got here.  He brought me to his house to spend the night until we can work out how to get me back home. . . No I’m sure his wife will be able to make us behave.   No, it’s not one of my sister’s flames.  They changed flames so often before they left for college, I don’t think I can remember which one was attached to whom.  Well, here, I’ll let you talk to him, I’m sure you’ll remember who he is once you’ve heard his voice.”  Julie smiled again and handed the phone in Hank’s direction.

Hank hesitantly took the phone and pulled it to his ear, “Hello, Chief Clark, sir,”

The whole room heard, “Henry! Henry Stanley,” as Hank had to pull the phone away from his ear.

“Yes, sir, that’s me, I met up with your daughter at the hospital when she brought one of my men in and once we figured out who each other was I brought her home with me to meet the family.  She has sure grown up into a beautiful young lady since that summer I worked on the ranch.”

Hank lowered his voice to more of a conversational tone as Julie turned to Emily Stanley. “They’ll talk each other’s ear off for some time now. I’d really like to explain the old flame thing and if you would prefer I can get a motel tonight.”

Emily didn’t say a word, but guided Julie to the kitchen table where they could sit and talk and she could still hear her husband on the phone.  Although she had never met Chief Clark, Emily did know who he was.  He was the Crew Chief Hank had worked under early in their courtship when he spent his summers working wild fires.  The summer they got engaged, she had begged him to do something other than work wild fires. She just wasn’t sure she could deal with being married to someone in such a dangerous profession.  That last summer the same Chief Clark offered him a job on his sheep ranch and he went there to work for the summer.

“I first met Henry when he came to work on the ranch, and from the moment I first saw him I thought he was the true definition of a dreamboat.  I knew he was engaged at the time, but I don’t think I really understood what that meant back then. I was only nine years old.”

Emily gave a sudden look at the girl that was talking and then gave her a warm smile in understanding as she offered some nonverbal sign to let her know to keep talking. 

“I still remember how bashful I felt whenever he walked by and how it was hard to breathe sometimes. He always talked to me when he was around, but I could never say a word back to him.  Most of the men that worked for my father never seemed to see anyone my size except  Henry.” She added a sigh to her words, “I talked my mom into letting me help with all the meals and when I delivered his lunch I always made sure there were extra cookies and a little note in his lunch. At the end of the summer there was a lunch auction to raise money for something or other, I can’t remember what now, and well anyway Henry bought my lunch.  I spent the whole winter learning how to cook the foods I thought he liked best. I really expected him to come back the next summer, but as you know he didn’t.”

Julie was still smiling and just about as bright red as she could get. 

Emily was smiling now, too, and not feeling an ounce of concern. “Of course you are going to stay here, for as long as you need to,” Emily offered along with a warm hug.

Julie accepted the hug and then turned to look at Hank, who was still talking to her father.  He would be for quite a while if she knew her father.

“You know, he’s a lot older than I remember, but he’s still one of the best looking guys I’ve ever seen,” Julie offered with a blushing smile.

“I have to agree with you on that,” Emily added her smile.  “Here, you look exhausted,  let me show you to your room and then I’ll get you something to eat.”

Dinner was just going on the table when Hank handed the phone back to Julie and let his wife know he had agreed to keep Julie as a guest for the next few days while she finalized an apartment near UCLA and then her father would come out with the rest of her stuff and her truck to help her move in.

After a light dinner Julie took a small hand full of pills which Hank learned included an antibiotic to prevent an infection in the burns that covered thirty-five percent of her body.  Julie was then allowed to say good night and head off to bed.

Later, before she turned in, Emily stopped to check on her guest. Taking the time to pull the covers up and around Julie’s shoulders, she then backed out of the room and into her own to find her husband laying on the bed with his hands behind his head.

“Is she alright?” Hank asked as he reached out to his wife.

“She’s sound asleep,” Emily reported.

“Thanks for letting her stay for a few days.  I want you to know the feelings weren’t mutual the summer I worked on her father’s ranch.”

Emily giggled a little and climbed in bed with her husband before rolling next to him and wrapping her arms around his chest.  “It sounds like she really had it bad for you though.”

“I didn’t realize it at the time.” Hank worked an arm around his wife’s shoulder and pulled her close to him.  “I mean I knew when the extra cookies and the love notes started showing up in my lunches that I had a secret admirer, but I really thought it was one of her sisters.  She has twin sisters that are, I’m not sure, four or five years older than she is.  They’d talk to me she usually hid behind her mother whenever I was around.”

Hank put his other arm around his wife and pulled her even closer.  “I spent the whole summer trying to figure out which girl had a crush on me and never once got it right.

“That fall things were really dry, they often are in that part of the world.  A wild fire started up that was closing in on the fields closest to the ranch so the Chief and I and a few of his other hands, set out to do some back fires to stop it before it got close enough to the ranch to be a problem.

I managed to step in an area where the ground gave way under my feet and by the time I stopped tumbling down the hill I had broken my ankle.”

“That’s how you broke it,” Emily was listening carefully.

“Yeah, Chief Clark called into the ranch to have someone come get me and then took the rest of the crew to try and stop the fire.  About twenty minutes later there was this nine year old girl leading a couple of saddled horses in my direction.  They were as skittish as could be being that close to the fire, but she was holding on to them with all of her might.  It was all she could do to help me up and into the saddle of one of the horses and all I could do to hang on while the horse ran in the opposite direction from the fire as fast as it could.  You see those old westerns and it looks kind of romantic to see the injured hero being drug along on a litter made of wooden poles tied to the sides of the saddle, but I tell you I could feel every move that horse made and it hurt like hell."

“Anyway, Julie got me back to the ranch and then her mother and the housekeeper managed to get me off the horse and into the back of a truck.  Julie stayed at my side until they got me to the clinic about fifty miles away and after they got my leg casted they took me back to the ranch and got me into a bunk.  I slept for a while thanks to the pain meds they gave me, but whenever I woke up Julie was right there at my side.  That is until the fire was under control and then I woke up to find Chief Clark there at my side.

We talked for a while and then I told him about the letters I’d been getting all summer and showed them to him, asking his advice as to what to do about the situation.  He recognized the handwriting and told me it wasn’t either of his older girls, that it was Julie that had a total and complete crush on me.”

Hank paused to look down at his wife and could tell that she was enjoying the story so he continued on.  “It was her father that suggested I buy her lunch at the upcoming lunch auction. He even offered to give me the money to pay for it. If I remember right, they were raising money to buy books for the school library.  Anyway, he bought the lunch made by his two oldest girls and managed to choke down bologna and peanut butter sandwiches while I dined on fried chicken and potato salad. The chicken was maybe a little overdone, but not bad and Julie wasn’t able to say a word to me the whole time we were together.  She didn’t even eat anything; she just kept staring at me with those dreamy eyes and hyperventilating.”

Hank was laughing now and so was Emily. “Just what was I supposed to do, I mean she was only nine and I was engaged.”

Emily buried her face in her husband’s shoulder, then came up for air. “I don’t think there was anything you could have done that you didn’t already do.  But I do have to agree with her, you are one good looking dude.”

Hank held his wife tight for a moment and then backed off with a serious look on his face.  “Her dad told me tonight that he doesn’t think she ever got over me. Are you sure it’s alright with you for her to stay here?”

Emily smiled again and pulled into her husband’s side a little tighter, “I’m fine, sure she’s not nine any more, but she assured me that she considers married men off limits and that she has other responsibilities right now.  Do you know what those responsibilities are?”

“Her dad said something about her taking on custodianship of a mentally handicapped adult.  She’s bringing him out here to a group home to get some training that will hopefully allow him to live on his own with minimal supervision.”

“She sounds like a pretty special person if you ask me,” Emily evaluated.  “I’m fine with allowing her to be a guest in our home for a few days, just as long as you behave yourself.”  Emily smiled and the two laughed once again.

 

Chapter 16

Julie slept soundly until nearly nine the next morning when she woke with a bit of a start and didn’t know where she was for a few minutes.  With panicked breathing, she found her way out into the hallway and then to the bottom of the stairs where family pictures were placed on the wall and Julie recognized her father’s former firefighter and ranch hand. 

Julie sat down on one of the bottom steps to gain her composure and finish waking up all the way. That’s where Hank found her.  He recognized the look of someone having woken from a nightmare and judging by the look on Julie’s face it must have been a butte, either that or she was getting sick.

“Emily,” Hank called to get his wife involved, there was great wisdom in doing that based on Julie’s gender and attachment to him.  Then, as soon as he knew his wife was coming, Hank made his way down the stairs and gently rested the back of his fingers against Julie’s forehead startling her as he made his presence known to her just as Emily appeared at the top of the steps.

Two deep breaths later Emily was at his side taking Julie’s sweat soaked face in her hands. “Sweetheart are you in pain?”

“NO, no.” Julie was starting to calm and look around. “I just had a bad dream.” Then she regrouped. “Nothing in reflection to the accommodations, I assure you. I was just back in the fire where I got these,” she held up her bandaged hands. “It seemed a lot more real in my dreams that it was when I was there.”

“I’ve known those kinds of dreams.” Hank sympathized as he watched Julie lean back against the stair rails and take control of herself.  “It must have been some fire.”

Julie smirked then looked at a man she knew would understand like few others ever could. “One man, high end teenager really, died, two more of his friends are looking at some serious time in a burn ward away from their families and severe deformities for the rest of their lives.”

Julie calmed a little more and looked around again to gain greater bearings of her surroundings. “They were the camps, group of immortals playing with bug spray and magnesium dust in the campfire during down time.”

Hank was willing to listen to all Julie had to say, he knew from his work with other firefighters and through his own experience that sometimes you just needed to talk an incident to death before you could totally deal with it.  But as far as understanding what happened, he didn’t need any more details, he understood exactly what has happened.

“Let’s get you something to eat,” Emily jumped in. She didn’t understand what a firefighter went through when things went bad couldn’t be solved with good home cooking.  As she spoke, she took a hold of Julie from the back around her chest to try and help her up.

“Aagh!” Julie called out and moved to protect her side while pulling away from Emily. “Sorry, one of the worst burns I got was right there on my side.  That’s where his pocket full of magnesium powder was when the flames got to it.”  Julie explained.  “You better just let me get up on my own.

Julie did take hold of the stair rail and pull herself up. She then followed Hank and Emily into the kitchen.  Before Emily was able to scramble up some eggs for her guest Julie had finished a phone call then confirmed she would be allowed to move into her dorm in two days. 

While Julie ate her breakfast, Hank and Emily talked with her and found that she was going to live in the staff dorms in a halfway house where her friend Frank was going to be getting some self sufficiency training.

“Dad’s not happy about it, but it will help Frank settle in and I’ll be working the night shift as a supervisor so the rent is free while I’m there.  After three months I need to move out so that the rest of the staff there can determine how independent Frank is truly capable of being. I really think he can live on his own with a little supervision and that will keep his dad from getting so frustrated with him all the time.

“The timing will be just great because that’s about the time I start my practical training for my nursing degree, so I’ll be spending most of my time at whatever hospital I’m assigned and I’ll just pick up a place close to the hospital for the duration.”

“What do you plan to do once you’ve graduated?” Hank questioned as he sat with his guest. He knew her father and he also knew her father’s opinion of a woman’s place.  This girl had obviously gotten her father’s stubborn streak. Watching her struggle through her burns to help others sure reminded him of his youngest paramedic too.  However, Hank felt a little protective of this girl who had once worshiped him and wasn’t sure he wanted to let her anywhere near the girl chasing Casanova of the station.

Not totally sure at this point,” Julie responded thoughtfully, “I was planning to go back home and help out there, but things have happened in the last year to make me think of going elsewhere to work. I guess a lot will be determined by how Frank comes out of the training program I was able to get him into.”

Julie quickly finished her breakfast and started to help clear the table. “I hate to be a pain, but um, the doctor wanted these bandages changed again today and if I’m going to be here for a couple of days before my dad get’s here with the rest of my stuff I had better pick up a few more changes of clothes.”

That was when the phone rang and Hank answered it before passing the phone to his wife.  It was JoAnne wanting to ask her a question.  After listening for a moment Emily placed the phone against her side. “This is Roy’s wife JoAnne, she wants to know about those special ice packs you had that molded to Roy’s neck, they’re getting ready to release Roy from the hospital and she’s wondering where she can get some?”

“Oh, those, they’re just something folks in our area make up.  Those were made from those new fangled tube socks that are out these days and filled with rice or you could use wheat or field corn. My mom has always kept a dozen around the house, half of them in the freezer and since these new fangled microwave ovens have been around, she keeps half a dozen so she can get them warm and use them for hot packs.  My dad and brothers are always pulling a muscle or something working on the ranch.  They only take a few minutes to make them up, I’d be glad to show you how.”

”JoAnne,” Emily turned back to the phone, “I’ll bring some by the house this afternoon.”  The call was ended and Hank and his son’s were put in charge of finishing up the dishes before Julie and the girls were taken to the store. 

Four hours later the girls were coming back in the house with their arms full of stuff and Hank was asked to go out and haul in a fifty pound bag of rice.  They had gotten in on a back to school sale.  Julie was sporting fresh bandages that left more of her hands free and reporting that Doc Frick had been moved out of ICU and was responding well to the new medication he had been started on.  She also reported that with the new fangled equipment in the big city hospital that they had found an extra baby growing inside Susan Martin, she was having triplets not twins. 

Her doctor had actually had a meeting with the Martin’s in Dr. Frick’s hospital room so that he could help explain to them what the new game plan needed to be.  Of course he had been planning to take the babies by C section anyway  and there had been a time or two he thought he could pick up a third fetal heart tone but wasn’t sure until he was shown the new ultrasound. 

It was agreed that the new doctor would take over on the monitoring for the rest of the pregnancy and that if at all possible Dr. Frick would join them in surgery when they took the babies.  It had already been agreed he could go in sitting in a wheelchair if he needed to and just be there for moral support of the mother.

“I’ll need to put a bug in Jack’s ear that they’re going to need another crib.” Julie smiled at the news.

By the time Hank had the bag of rice in the house Emily had her sewing machine set up on the kitchen table.  As soon as the machine was set up Julie sat down and did some quick stitching after wrapping the toe of the sock around a loop tied in a ten inch piece of rope and then Emily and the girls started filling the socks with rice.  As they worked Julie talked about the pros and cons of the different grains and the need to rotate them out to keep creepy crawly things from setting up housekeeping.

Hank couldn’t see the attraction, but soon the boys were happily helping to fill the socks with rice and having a gay old time while Hank answered the phone and talked at length with Julie’s father.

On the phone he learned that Jack the truck driver had picked up the part needed to fix Johnny’s Rover and that the same Jack would be in the area again the day they were going back on shift with a load of wool. The game plan was to pack the wool around Johnny and Julie’s auto’s and Carl would drive out behind him and bring Frank.

Hank gave Carl the address and directions to the station and extended an invitation to his home for dinner while he was in town. 

While he was still on the phone, the project was completed and Hank was looking at three dozen long rice bags with handles.  Emily quickly loaded six of the gizmos in a garbage bag and after tying it shut stuffed them in the deep freeze for the next time someone in her family needed an ice pack. 

When the phone call was finished Hank called John to give him the news about his Rover and then called Roy and Chet to tell them about their camping and fishing gear that was going to be delivered at the station.  Chet wasn’t home so he made a note to call him again later and taped it to the wall next to the phone.

Hank’s arms were then loaded with eight of the rice filled socks and he was told they were headed for Roy’s house.

When they arrived at the DeSoto home, Hank noticed Chet’s van parked on the street. He also noticed Julie nervously eyeing the house as she slowly got out of the car hiding a wince as she moved.

Roy’s son Chris was quick to let the Stanley’s and guest in the house where it was noticed that Chet was helping JoAnne steady Roy on his way back from the bathroom to be seated in the recliner. Once he was seated Roy was able to acknowledge his guests.

“Chet here got his duffel bag mixed up with mine. He just came by to switch them back and was helping JoAnne walk me around a little before he left,” Roy explained.

Hank quickly gave Chet the message about the rest of his stuff arriving in the morning before turning his full attention back to Roy.

“Looks like you’re still having trouble getting around there Roy,” Hank observed.

“I get dizzy with the slightest movement thanks to this inner ear infection,” Roy admitted, but it’s better than it was yesterday.  It feels a lot better to be home in my own chair,” Roy patted the arm of his recliner, “and to have my kids waiting on me hand and foot.” Roy reached out and put his arm around his daughter who was standing at the side of his chair with a glass of some kind of juice and a straw for her father.

 Hank had to admit he looked better than when he carried him off that semi.

“Doc said the antibiotics should really start to kick in tomorrow,” Roy added.

“Well Julie here showed us how to make those moldable ice packs you were raving to JoAnne about,” Emily started talking as she pointed to the load in her husband’s arms. “They’re not cold yet I’m sorry to say.”

“That’s okay,” Roy reached up and started pulling on the foam collar around his neck, “I’ll still take one of those now.”

As Roy pulled his collar loose Hank stepped up and draped one of the rice bags around his neck and Roy leaned back into the chair with a sigh of relief. “That supports my neck so much more comfortably than that stupid collar and it doesn’t feel nearly as strangling.”

JoAnne and Emily took the rest of the rice bags and headed for the freezer while Hank sat in the chair next to Roy and started talking.  Chet stepped up next to Julie and tried to offer her a chair to sit in.

“I’d really rather not,” Julie grabbed at her ribs, “I’m really fine standing.”

“Were you able to work out a way to get back home?” Chet Small talked, he was so grateful for all that she had done for Roy and the rest of them that he was willing to drive her home.  He had even thought of getting the part Johnny needed for his truck and taking him too before Cap told him that it had all been taken care of.

“Actually, Jack is bringing my truck out when he brings Mr. Gage’s truck back and my dad is following him out with Frank.  We’ll be moving into the halfway house where Frank is going to get some training.”  Julie explained.  “It’s a couple of weeks ahead of schedule but that will give Frank a chance to settle in a little and get to know the other residents before he starts his training.”

“So you’re going to be living in the halfway house with Frank?” Chet questioned.

“I’ll be staying for a while; I’ll work nights on the staff to make sure there’s help for the residents if they need it.  I’ll be going to school during the day to finish off my Nursing degree.  Hopefully Frank will be settled in by the time I start my practical training and need to quit at the halfway house.”

“I imagine this is going to be a big change for Frank.”

“Yeah, I think it will be the first time he’s ever been around anyone like himself.  It’s going to be kind of interesting to see how he adapts. It should be able to open up a whole new world for him though.”

“So when do you move in and how can I help?”

“There’s not that much to do,” the place is furnished and Dad will be here to help me move all my clothes in.  I just need to get out there and sign some papers and pick up the key beforehand if I can convince someone at the Stanley’s to drive me.”

Before anyone seemed to realize what was happening Chet was telling Captain Stanley that he was going to take Julie to sign some papers and that he’d bring her back to the Stanley home after dinner.

Before they managed to depart, Cap did take Chet by the arm and pull him someplace where they could have a private conversation.  “That girl’s father is a very good friend of mine, you hadn’t better do anything, and I mean ‘anything’ that I have to explain to her father.”

“Cap she’s a big girl, she can make up her own mind about things,” Chet teased, knowing there wasn’t a whole lot his captain could do to him, he was already a regular in the Latrine department, “besides I’d never do anything on a first date.”

Chet then reached out to Julie making it impossible to have a private conversation any longer and the two made their way for the door. “I’ll have her home by curfew.”

Several hours later, Julie and Chet were sitting on the deck to his duplex, stakes on the hibachi and foil wrapped potatoes in the coals under the grate.

“Thanks for understanding about going to a restaurant,” Julie slyly spoke to Chet as he turned the stakes.  “It’s just that I’m not able to shower for another two days because of the burns and the bandages and all.  The burn cream doesn’t work as a deodorant.”

“I understand,” Chet smiled sheepishly. Talking about hygiene wasn’t what he’d consider the perfect dating conversation, but he also hadn’t noticed anything offensive in her odor.  Sure the burn cream was noticeable, but then he knew what that was and well understood.

“I have to admit I’m enjoying a nice evening at home better anyway,” Chet successfully ended that part of their conversation.

Julie had already explained that the reason she had wet hair when they left was that her father had helped her wash her hair, which she was grateful for but Chet also picked up on the unspoken embarrassment.

“Is that what I think it is?” Julie eyed something through the back door.  Since Chet didn’t stop her she walked through the door and stood before the bookcase. A smile slowly grew on her face as she turned back to Chet. “I didn’t think I’d ever find another person who collected barbed wire.”

“You too?” Chet was surprised.

“Yeah, well, it’s my mom’s, I remember helping her gather the different barbed wire that we found in the area’s near the ranch.  Her collection is a lot bigger than this, but considering where we live that’s to be expected.”

“Yeah, I bet there is a lot to be found around where you live.”

“I’ll tell you what; next time I get home I’ll pull out the duplicates and send them to you.”  Julie turned to see some of the other decorations in the room.  It was definitely a man’s apartment, but Julie actually liked it. An old fire nozzle and fireman’s ax hung on the wall next to an older fire helmet.

Julie walked over and ran her bandaged fingers along the old hose nozzle.  “You might not believe this, but this is the same nozzle our fire department still uses.”

Dinner was served and Chet and Julie talked about their different worlds of firefighting.  Over after dinner drinks, beer for Chet soda for Julie since she was taking painkillers, the conversation drifted to the incident, Julie had been involved with before she met up with the off duty crew from LA.

It was later than he intended when Chet walked Julie to the door of his Captain.  He wasn’t surprised to find him waiting up for her and it didn’t take much for Chet to pull his Captain out of the house after Julie walked in, smirking at the father extension she was staying with.

“Cap,” Chet started before his captain could begin his lecture about getting the girl home on time, it was only 10:30. “I really intended to get her back here sooner, but she started talking about that kid that set himself on fire.  You know the one she was trying to help when she got her burns. Anyway, she really needed to talk, you know how it is, she watched that kid do everything wrong and it was beyond her power to stop him.”

Hank let out a sigh of understanding, Chet Kelly had just totally defused any anger he intended to unleash on him. “She woke up from a nightmare this morning, I could tell she needed to talk then, but Emily, well, let’s just say my wife doesn’t totally understand the mental aspect of our work and I have to admit I don’t really want her to learn, if you know what I mean?

Chet thought for a moment, then looked up at his Captain.  “Yeah, I think I do know what you mean.  Well, I guess I better get home and get to sleep, see you at the station in the morning.  Oh, and Cap, when Julie’s father get’s there with Frank, it will be alright to give him a tour of the station wouldn’t it.  It won’t be the standard tour if you know what I mean.”

“No, I don’t think I know what you mean,  Can’t picture her taking care of a mentally handicapped adult, but it sounds like you’ve been around him enough to know what he needs, so I’ll let you take care of it.”

“Thanks Cap, I just might need a little help keeping him from climbing on the engine if we get a call while he’s there.  He does get actively involved with the fire crews back where he comes from.  Julie said he’s the one that makes sure the straps on their air tanks are untwisted.”

Hank took in and let out a big breath of air, “Just make sure you do what you can at the very beginning of your tour to make sure he knows we straighten our own straps and that he’s to stay at the station.”

“Will do Cap, Will do.”

 

 

Chapter 17

The information that Cap had been given was that Trucker Jack would be at the station sometime Thursday morning,  no real time was given.  However, Julie was able to explain that her father hadn’t been kidding when he said they would send the two trucks packed in wool.  She went on to explain that the trucks would be pulled into the trailer one at a time and then the eight foot long bags of wool would be packed around them.  No harm would be done to the trucks, but the wool would have to be unloaded before the trucks could be unloaded so Jack would have to deliver the wool first and the trucks second.

Julie was also able to tell them that the wool processing plant was east of the station and that the dock opened at 5a.m. To receive the raw wool in order to make sure they had the material ready for the workers to spin into yarn when they reported for work.

With that information Johnny and Chet arrived at the station a good hour before the previous shifts wake up call.  They let themselves in and quietly worked at getting coffee on, making sure there was enough for the sleeping shift as well as themselves.  Chet was seen paying a lot of attention to the bulletin board when John walked over carrying two cups of coffee.

The wake up tones had just sounded when Captain Stanley came through the door with Julie on his heels.  She was carrying her own jump kits and her overnight bag that was bulging a little more than it had been before.

“Will you guys entertain Miss Clark here, while I go inform the last shift that there’s a woman in the building.” Cap ordered before stepping into the bay and closing the door to the day room on the way.

“Good morning,” Johnny greeted with his famous womanizing smile.

“Morning,” Julie responded. “Looks like you guys got an early start of things.”

“Yeah, we wanted to be here so that your cousin did have to wait on us.” Chet explained with a much calmer smile because he knew he already had a leg up on his crewmate.

“Dad called Henry to tell him they were at the wool refiners, he said it would take them about half an hour to unload and then another hour to get here.  That was about an hour ago.” Julie relayed information. “Henry didn’t want to get here before the other shift woke up.  He said the station would be more women friendly if we waited.”

“Cap was right, you know how it is when it’s just you and a bunch of other guys running around,” Johnny rattled on.

“Can’t say as I do,” Julie responded and they all blushed.

With the word that there was a woman in the station the outgoing shift dressed in record time and started drifting into the day room to meet the object of their warning. Once Captain Stanley returned wearing his uniform Chet and Johnny quickly decided they should change into theirs and excused themselves to do so. 

They hadn’t been back in the day room long before the sound of air brakes out in front of the station got someone’s attention who brought it to everyone else’s.

The station as a whole moved through the front doors and met with the waiting semi as another man got out of a truck parked on the other side of the station drive and walked toward the gathered group at the same time throwing his arm above his head to signal to the semi driver that he needed to pull forward a few feet. 

Jack understood and pulled forward until he was past the station’s drive with room for the fire engine to pull out and check traffic before they pulled onto the road.

“Alright guys, he’s in the best place possible, but we better get those trucks unloaded as quickly as we can.” Hank called out as Jack walked to the end of his trailer and threw up the back hatch.

“Yours is the last one on,” Jack called out as he pointed to Johnny, “it’ll need to be the first one off.  Something to do with loading all of your fishing gear on board along with all your fish.”

“Um, yeah,  Frank kept himself busy making sure you guys got all the fish you would have gotten yourself if you hadn’t have had to leave in such a hurry,” Carl Clark, explained as he reached out and shook hands with his former smoke jumper.

“Oh, he shouldn’t have.” Hank was quick to comment as the firemen around him snickered, at least the ones that knew of his love of, or rather lack of love of fish.

Since Johnny was told his keys were in the ignition he worked his skinny body up the side of his rover and lifted himself into the driver’s side window.  In no time at all the truck was started and backed down the ramp that had been set up to the back of the trailer. 

Once it was on the road Chet walked up and pulled a tuft of raw wool from around the spare tire mounted to the hood of Johnny’s truck.

“I think this is what they call a Rover in sheep’s clothing.” Chet joked, then noticed the two ice chests stacked in the passenger seat of the Rover.  “Are both of those ice chests full of fish?” Chet directed his inquiry to Julie’s father who now had his arm around her shoulders.

“Like I said, Frank spent his spare time catching fish for you guys.  They're cleaned but not filleted, I put a layer of dry ice down and then regular ice to keep ‘em cold.  I sure hope you have someone to share them with,” Carl Clark smirked.

“Where is Frank?” Julie questioned before she was waved into the trailer to back her truck out.

“He’s in the sleeper, sleeping like a baby.” Jack called out, “someone better get him up and at ’em I can’t be parked here all day.”

“I’ll get him,” Chet volunteered and hurried to the passenger side of the semi tractor to pull himself up.  Since Julie’s father was worried about her scraping the burn on her side, he ordered her to stand down and climbed into the semi trailer to back her truck out.

Before the truck was started Chet was seen climbing out of the tractor with a still very sleepy Frank wearing his pajamas covered with fire hydrants and Dalmatians.

Frank was carrying his duffle bag close to his chest as he reached the ground and was led to Julie’s side.  Julie just smiled like a proud parent as she watched every step Frank took in her direction.

“You got your hair cut,” Julie observed, “You look very handsome young man.”

“You’re going to have all the girls chasing after you.” Chet added only to have Frank put both hands over his head and try to hide his head with his arms dropping his duffle bag in the process.

“I, I, I, n, n, need a, a, h, hat.” Frank’s muffled voice came around his arms.

“What do you say we go into the locker room and get you changed out of your pajamas and I’ll see if I can find you one.” Chet offered with a smile as he picked up Frank’s duffle bag and started pulling him toward the locker room.

Once both trucks were off the trailer Jack waved goodbye and said something about picking up a load of feed corn to haul back and got in his semi and was off.

“He’s not one to let the grass grow under his feet is he?” John commented once he had parked his Rover behind the station and then came to say thank you and good-bye.  If he’d have taken the time to move the ice chests of fish into the station he’d have missed the guy.

Carl Clark was instructed to park Julie’s truck behind the station and the group congregated inside for the promise of a fresh cup of coffee. Once they were all through the door, they noticed Chet guiding Frank to a corner of the bay where he was to set his duffle bag.  He had found a pair of dark blue pants and a light blue shirt in his bag to wear, not quite the same colors as the uniforms his new friends were wearing but close enough for him. The addition of an official fireman’s baseball cap on his head was the finishing touch.

“Okay, now before I show you the engine I have to make sure you understand,” Chet started to explain to Frank, “You’re not cleared to ride on our fire engine so if you hear a loud noise and then talking on the intercom telling us where we need to go you need to come right here and stand while we get our stuff on and leave.”

“O, O, Okay” Frank was wringing his hands together and nearly bouncing on his feet.

The bag was set down and Frank was led over to the engine while every eye in the station kept watch.

“What’s with the dummy,” one man from the outgoing shift commented to a shift mate.

“He’s the general public that we’re supposed to treat with respect.” Captain Hookraider pulled his man in line. “Didn’t your mother ever teach you that if you can’t say something nice you shouldn’t say anything at all?” A stern wave of the hand and the men were sent to the day room.

Meanwhile Frank’s eyes were as big around as the dials on the engine before him as he reached up and placed his hand on one of the leavers.

“Don’t touch that,” Mike Stoker called out as he came running to protect his fire engine.

Chet stepped in between Mike and Frank, holding Mike off with an upheld hand he talked to Frank. “You shouldn’t pull on any of these knobs,” Chet counseled.

“No,  of, of course n, n, not,  t, t, that, w, w, would get w, water ev, everywhere, and th, that would be b, b, bad h, here, at the f, f, fire st, st, station.”

Two men looked surprised at what Frank was saying, but more so because it sounded like he knew how to get water out of the truck if he thought he needed to.

“Okay, Mikey, Frank here promises not to pull any of the levers so let’s just let him look over the truck and then I’ll personally wipe off every fingerprint, okay.” Chet chided his crewmate.

Mike took one step back, but only one step as Frank continued to run his hands over the knobs and gages on the side of the truck.

In a short time Frank was able to tell them a lot about the differences of the truck back in his area and the one standing before him.  The one he was looking at had two more hose connections on the side and had places for people to ride except just on the back of the truck.  He also pointed out that the bar on the back wasn’t bent like the one back in his town.

Marco was now in uniform and stopped to see what all the excitement was. Frank’s stuttering was just the first clue that this wasn’t the run of the mill guest at the fire station. But Marco just smiled and said nothing as the tour continued. After hauling the two ice chests full of fish into the station Johnny joined the tour and was quick to place a hand on Frank’s shoulder and welcome him to the station.

“M, m, mister, Gage!” Frank looked surprised to see Johnny there. “Wh, wh, where’s R, R, Roy?”

“Right here,” a voice surprised everyone as they all turned to see Roy walking into the bay with JoAnne under his arm helping to steady him.  He was looking a bit under the weather and held his head stiffly, but he looked better than he had. He’d just come from checking in with Dr. Early and thought he ought to get his camping gear, he also had hopes of catching Frank and Julie, he had something to give Frank.

“Roy!” Frank exclaimed and ran to his side, “D, Did th, they fix your head?”

“Yep, I’m going to be alright now,  I’ll even be able to come back to work in a couple of shifts.” Roy responded with a smile.

“Is, is, is this y your left hand or a n nurse.” Frank pointed to JoAnne at Roy’s side.

“Right now a little of both,” Roy answered with a giggle. “Most of all she’s my right hand and my best part. JoAnne this if my new friend Frank that I was telling you about, Frank, this is my wife.”

“I want to thank you for taking such good care of my husband.” JoAnne reached from around her husband’s waist and took one of Frank’s hands in both of hers.  “I really appreciate all that you did for my husband.”

Frank blushed severely and ducked his face down while Roy pulled something from his wife’s bag.

“Here are the pajama’s you loaned me, my wife fixed them for you so that they shouldn’t be too big anymore.”

Frank took the pajamas and looked them over to see the stitching that had reduced the waist size.  His smile grew for JoAnne.

“Th, Thank y, you Mrs. Roy, Th, that was v v very nice of you.” Frank then looked around at all the smiles surrounding him.  “Now ma ma, mabey I, c , can c, come to the f, fire station, f, f, for a sleep over.”

Everyone giggled, but no one had the nerve to tell the young man who was even younger than he looked that there wasn’t much of a chance of the desired sleep over.

“Hey, we’re off shift tomorrow do you want to go bowling?” Chet was quick to change the subject.

“Hey, yeah, we can all go tomorrow night.” Johnny added not stopping to think who all the all was going to be.

Across the bay Hank turned his attention to the old friend at his side and as he did so he noticed the look on Julie’s face.  It was a look he remembered well, that totally awe struck look of admiration that had consumed their one and only date. 

He looked back at the group gathered around the engine and wondered just which one of the men there was the recipient of her glance.  His first feelings were one of jealousy, but he quickly shook that off and felt some relief knowing that she had moved on from that summer he had been in her sights. 

He still felt protective and just a little possessive of this girl, but he could now see her as sort of a little sister. Those feelings surprised him as he let them sort themselves out in his head.

Carl Clark also noticed the look on his daughter’s face.  A look he hadn’t seen for many years, not since this man who was now a captain had come to his ranch to see if he could give anything other than fire fighting a place as his career. But it wasn’t Henry she was looking at this time. 

He wasn’t sure which of the men in front of him she was focusing on but he did realize one thing.  Each one of them had treated this boy that his daughter was determined to protect, with the respect that he truly deserved.  As he watched the men interact with Frank he realized that there were indeed men around and that right here in this room were men that were of much higher caliber than the guys he had been hoping his daughter would find interesting.

“Alright Station 51’s crew, it’s time for roll call,” Hank bellowed out, “And Roy don’t you dare leave without taking a whole lot of fish with you.”

Carl stepped up to his daughter and her charge, “Well, what do you say we let tThe Carl stepped up to his daughter and her charge, “Well, what do you say we let these men get to work and I’ll take us out to breakfast before we start moving you two in.”

The End

 

Posted to Site 5/13/17

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