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This was going to be the most important camping trip of his life and he wanted everything to be perfect, this one would be planned in detail. For a brief moment Johnny was sad when he realized that there probably would never be another spur of the moment camping trip in his future. But his future had changed for the better 6 weeks ago when he married Lee.
This would be Lee's first ever-camping trip. He, Roy and Chris had come up to scout the area. The small cove was post card perfect. The small sandy beach would be great for swimming and fishing and the area around it fairly level. There was a utility road about a mile from the cove and if they could get permission to use it that would work out great. Even if he and Roy had to make two trips to get all the gear in it wouldn't take long to get camp set up.
All this was going thru his head as they drove back to the Ranger Station. They parked the Rover and went in and waited until the Ranger at the desk finished his phone call. Chris walked around the small lobby looking at the posters and reading the brief captions under the various pictures before coming to stand by his dad.
"What can I do for you gentleman today?" The Ranger asked.
"I was wondering if there is a possibility we could get permission to use the sector 213 utility road. Drive down to the Sutter cove area then park there for 2 days. We'll be camping with our family."
"That’s a fire access road and we generally don't allow civilians on it." The ranger looked at the map taped to the desk. "If you go into that area from the Morris Camp parking lot it’s about a 4 mile hike…and Morris Camp is a nice family friendly camping area."
"The trail from there to the cove is pretty narrow and has some uphill places…not very wheelchair friendly," Johnny said with a frown. "There is a nice little trail from the road to the place we'd like to stay."
"You sure you're experienced enough to try camping out by yourself with someone in a wheelchair?" The ranger frowned thinking of all the things that could go wrong with a handicapped camper.
Before either man could answer Chris spoke up, "Uncle Johnny knows everything about camping and Aunt Lee says that it really makes her mad when people only see her wheelchair and the things she can't do." Roy smiled at the quick way Chris defended his aunt and uncle.
"So you think your uncle knows a lot about camping…What makes you so sure about that young man."
None of the men had noticed the older man come out of the office or seen him smile, listening to Chris.
"Because he just does…he learned when he was just a little kid living on a reservation. And he and dad are the best paramedics in the county…" Chris said with pride. " They saved a family who got hurt on this lake last spring…The people didn't know how to use the new boat they had and wrecked it on some trees that were under the water…"
The two rangers took a second look at the two men blushing at the boys words.
"So you're the best paramedics in the county…as well as great campers. Sounds like you have quite a fan club." The older man laughed as he was trying to remember the details of a rescue last spring.
"Chris has been listening to my wife," Johnny said with a grin. "She'll tell you she is a little biased on the subject."
"Aunt Lee said the numbers prove it and when they did that survey thing Station 51 got the highest score in the county…" Chris told the rangers.
"Station 51?" Why did that sound familiar to him the senior ranger wondered.
"In Carson…I'm Roy De Soto and this is my partner John Gage. And my son Chris."
"You the two that rescued a ranger that went over the cliff a few months ago? When his car got run off the road by the drunk…"
"Over by Furlong Crest…Yeah it was pouring down rain." Roy said remembering that day.
"The boy is right you are the best…I saw you two work that …That kid would have been dead or paralyzed if not for you two. Didn't you get hurt that day?"
"Just some scrapes and bruises," Johnny answered. (Including a cut that took 20 stitches to close on his arm.)
"Think you two know a good friend of mine, Matt Palmer who works over at Mount Baldy."
"Yeah we went skiing with him a couple of times…" Roy said not wanting Chris to hear the details of the first time Johnny met Matt and his wife
"I think under the circumstances we can grant a permit for John and Roy…I know that area... it should work out fine for you."
"Lee's never been camping …so I want her to have a good first experience…"
"We all do... "
"Thank you sir." Johnny said as he moved over to where the other ranger was filling out the permit form.
The senior ranger looked over at the other desk. "Is he always like that?"
"Like what?" Roy asked since Johnny had not been as hyperactive as usual.
"When he mentioned his wife there was just something different in his voice. Newlyweds?"
"Six weeks…She's worried he'll stop doing things he loves outdoors."
"Hope this turns out well for them." The senior ranger went back into his office.
Lee looked around the apartment making sure everything on her list was checked off. Johnny was so excited about this trip and she was trying hard not to let him know how scared she was of messing it up for him. He had taken all the camping gear and some other things and packed it in the rover before going to work. As soon as the guys got there they would load her and the food up and be on their way to Roy's.
The red cooler had hot dogs, steaks, hamburger , sausage and bacon , orange juice and milk in it. The blue one had eggs, butter, bread and buns and sweet rolls, yogurt and fruit.
Jo was bringing potatoes, potato salad, baked beans and some veggies and some other food items. Lee had some special treats for after dinner also packed in the picnic basket. In the box with the dish cloths and towels was mustard, ketchup, mayo and onions, extra matches and cooking utensils.
The box with the frying pans, sauce pans and coffee pot was already down…Coffee! There wasn't any coffee in the cooler with the bread…She wheeled over to the pantry. Grumbling she looked and realized the coffee was up on the highest shelf.
She never drank it and never thought about it since Johnny kept the fresh beans in the freezer and only used the pre ground stuff in a can when he went camping. Putting the brakes on, she undid the seat belt and carefully pulled up using the edge of the shelf as a grab bar.
The can was too far back and she couldn't reach it even standing on her tip toes. Which soon as she did she knew wasn't a very smart thing to do. The stretching set off a muscle cramp in her left calf. She was trying not to yell or cry. She was so busy trying to balance she did not hear him come in.
"Now what in Sam hill are you doing?" He looked at her trying hard not to yell as he helped her sit down. He was squatting in front of her massaging the back of her leg.
"Coffee…" She took a deep breath trying to get it under control. "I forgot it in the box…You put it up too high…"
"Baby girl why didn't you wait? You scared me half to death….Why you grinning like that Roy?"
"Like I told you paybacks are hell, Junior." Johnny just threw him a disgusted look but then shrugged and smiled as he stood up.
"Don't forget the coffee." She giggled at the look he gave her. "Honey, I'm sorry I worried you…I know how important this is to you…It's pretty important to me too…"
Her eyes were wide and they could still see the pain she had felt from the muscle spasm. Her color was returning to normal and the lines around her mouth and eyes were relaxed. She had gotten the panic breathing under control. "Don't be mad."
Johnny looked at her and all the anger and harsh words melted. She had her hair up in pigtails and no makeup on except a pale lipstick. She had on an LA CoFD sweatshirt and a pair of jeans and low boots.
Johnny thought she looked like she was 12. He had been going to give her a lecture about not standing up and reaching for things but he was just so relieved she was alright he couldn't say anything to make her feel bad.
"Never at you darlin'" He kissed her lightly and whispered something in her ear and wiped the tears from her eyes. "You sit still and rest and we'll load this stuff. Ok?" He kissed her.
"Ok" Roy had started putting the coolers on the cart and they soon had everything loaded, including the coffee.
By the time, they had got to Roy's house they were all in a good mood. Lee waited in the car while Johnny and Roy loaded the remainder of the food and equipment in.
The drive up to the lake took a little over an hour and by the time they got there most of Lee's fears had faded away. Jenny and Chris kept up a running conversation about all the things they had learned from their uncle on previous hikes. Johnny had gotten a sheepskin padded seat insert to help with the bumps along the trail.
They all took something with them as they started down the trail. Lee had one of the lighter boxes on her lap. Jenny and Chris carried the pup tent they were going to sleep in
They had bought an air mattress for Lee to put under her sleeping bag. It took the guys two trips to bring everything down with the kids helping while Jo and Lee set aside the boxes they would need for lunch.
A soon as all the gear was at the site Johnny built a fire and as it was burning down he and Roy and the kids put up the three tents. Johnny had it all planned out where each tent would be and had them positioned so they would be out of the smoke and receive the best breezes.
"I feel like I should be doing something to help," Lee said as she watched the guys and the kids working.
"Well I think we can start setting out lunch…The fire looks like it’s about ready for some hot dogs and we have chips, potato salad and slaw…"
"And cookies and brownies…and tonight we can make some s’mores'…. And I put some steaks in the cooler just in case the fish aren't cooperating." Lee giggled. "I never had a fishing license before…Hey, Chris remember your promise? About the worms."
"I'll bait your hook if Uncle Johnny is mean and won't." Chris said seriously. "And if he wants to go hiking we'll go with him."
"Uncle Johnny would never be mean to any one especially Aunt Lee, silly," Jenny was quick to defend. "He might tease her but never make her touch a worm if she didn't wanna."
"You're right princess." He came up behind the little girl and lifted her up on his shoulders. "Don't let them pick on me." He smiled at Lee and gave her a wink. "Your Aunt Lee was making no bake cookies last night…and she then with some begging on my part she made the ones with the walnuts and chocolate chips…" He sat Jen back on the ground. "Think you two munchkins can find us some sticks to use for hot dogs?"
"Sure Uncle Johnny…and after we eat can we go swim if the water is warm enough?" Chris was already walking away looking for hot dog sticks.
"As I recall, mister you didn't have to beg too hard for the cookies…I just couldn't decide if I was going to make the brown sugar cookies or the walnut chocolate chip…I didn't have enough brown sugar to make both after I made the caramel icing for the brownies…"
"Oh I see how it is . you made your favorites and Jo and Jenny's favorites before my favorite."
"Face it Junior they all are your favorite…" Roy said smiling. "Soon as we get the sticks we can start the hotdogs."
Everyone laughed and a few minutes later the hot dogs were cooking quickly or slowly depending on how each handled their sticks.
"Is that your lunch or a burnt offering to the spirits?' Johnny teased as her hot dog was slightly charred.
"That’s the way they are best… with lots of onion and slaw on them."
"Guess I'll need lots of onion on mine too, in self defense," he teased. "Onion flavored kisses all around."
"And just what makes you so sure you'll be getting any kisses after that remark, boyo?" She countered shaking her head.
"That’s yucky Uncle Johnny." Chris said rolling his eyes.
"You'll find the girl who makes it the best thing in the world."
""Hopefully it'll be more years than that…After College." Jo said as Chris looked totally disgusted with his favorite uncle. They finished eating and gathered up the things they needed to take down to the water.
There was some extra towels and blankets and a legless beach chair for Lee plus the fishing gear.
"Darlin' you're my husband not my personal paramedic." Lee said without any smile.
The words Chet Kelly had said in joking had stung bad and the memory still did. She didn't know if he did it on purpose but when Chet said things like that he always made certain Johnny and Hank weren't around and some of the more hurtful things weren't said when Roy or Mike could hear.
Always they were when he was talking to Marco…and Chet always acted like he did not know Lee could hear him. Lee had no idea why Marco and Chet didn't like her. Or why Chet thought it was funny to say things like that about her.
"I know I'm your husband and that is why I care about you silly girl." He kissed her lightly. "I want this to be a good experience for you, ok?"
"It will be…I'm with you ….and the De Soto family…what could be better?"
He just smiled at her and they went down to the water's edge. Johnny undid her seat belt and checked that the chair's brakes were locked. He helped her stand up and after she put her arms around his neck he pushed the jeans down past her hips. He smiled as his hands moved over her body. He whispered something in her ear. "Behave yourself there are children present." He kissed the top of her head.
"You behave yourself." She had leaned in closer to him.
"Guess I should have worn sweats. That's what I packed for the other days. "
"No problem…he sat her down and took her boots and socks off then slipped the jeans the rest of the way off. Standing up he took off his t shirt and stepped out of his jeans after taking off his boots and socks.
Thanks to all the time spent at the pool with Lee and Johnny both kids were good strong swimmers. Chris was learning to dive from one of Maria and Hector's grandsons. Jenny was proud of the fact she could swim in the deep end of the pool now without a life jacket.
Johnny pushed her close to the water then picked her up and carried her into the lake. The water was cool about 70 degrees but soon she didn't feel the chill since they were splashing and playing tag in the water. Jo had decided it was too cool and gotten out quickly but sat near the water's edge calling to her family.
After about 40 minutes, Lee was getting cold and tired. Johnny noticed she was slowing down so he went over to her. "Your lips are turning blue…Why didn't you tell me?"
"You were busy…I'm fine." She was shivering and her back was hurting.
"Johnny I think she is learning to speak Gage when it comes to how she feels." Roy said with a grin. Johnny just gave him another disgusted look.
"Ok baby girl…ready for a piggy back ride? Just like Hawaii?" She climbed on his back and he carried her to the blanket and sat her down. Quickly grabbing some towels he rubbed her down and then wrapped a blanket around her. He moved her so she was sitting in the sun in her beach chair. He started to sit down beside her.
"The kids are waiting for you…go on I'll be good here with Jo."
He kissed her and went back down to the kids. They played around for a few more minutes then decided it was time to go fishing for dinner. Lee decided she would just stay with Jo while they went fishing, promising to go tomorrow. She was just starting to get warm.
They went about a quarter of a mile from where they had been swimming.
"Bet I catch the first fish," Jenny said as Johnny helped her bait the hook. She picked out the worm and handed it to him. "That’s the fattest worm in the bucket."
"I bet I get the biggest fish," Chris announced as he dropped his line into the water. The two adults spent more time untangling lines and re-baiting hooks than actually fishing but after an hour they did have a nice mess of fish. Jenny had not only caught the first fish but the biggest much to Chris' dismay.
"I don't know about you all but I could use some cookies and milk," Johnny said as they gathered up the gear.
"When aren't you hungry, junior?" Roy teased as they began walking back to their wives.
"I have actually gained 5 pounds since June," Johnny proudly announced. "Brackett said that was the most weight I ever gained except when I was on the calorie stuff when I was in the hospital back in December. And that was before I even knew her."
"And now you eat real meals…and have good stuff to snack on…yep you have the good life now."
"Yeah I do." He looked at the kids in front of them. "She wants to go to this specialist to see if they can repair some of the damage…but Dr. Westmore isn't very hopeful….And if it’s dangerous to her I don't want her trying. But I have to let her decide for herself…It would be like her telling me I couldn't do a rescue 'cause she thought it was too dangerous."
"And we know how you'd react to that, right." By then they were in sight of Lee and Jo and changed the subject.
They gathered the swim gear and Johnny lifted her into the wheel chair and they went back to the campsite. Johnny and Lee went into their tent so she could get out of the damp clothes and she came out in sweats and her hair was now combed into a pony tail.
Jo had gotten the cookies out and the kids were settled down telling their mom all about fishing. Roy had stirred up the fire and had a pot of coffee brewing. Johnny got some cookies then got a glass of milk for him and a Dr. Pepper for her.
"So do we have time before dinner to take a hike?" Johnny asked Jo. "We'll clean the fish when we get back."
"Sure…I don't think anyone is starving, do you Lee?"
"Nope…The cookies should keep them happy for an hour or two."
"We won't be that long maybe 40 minutes…You got the ht's if you need anything give us a call." Johnny watched Lee's face as Roy was talking and she seemed ok with the plan. He wanted to check out the trails so she could go on a hike tomorrow.
She gave him a kiss and Jo gave Roy one and they left. Lee watched feeling just a little left out but thankful for what she did get to do. After they had gotten out of sight Lee wheeled over to the cooler and got another soda.
"Jo, you think I'm doing ok? Not causing too much trouble?" Lee was chewing on her lip. "I really want him to have a good time, you all too of course."
"Lee, as long as you're having a good time he will. Just relax and enjoy."
"I am enjoying it…it’s the relax part that’s harder." She turned her chair away from Jo. "He has already given up so much for me…"
"Lee…get that out of your head before you ruin what you have…He loves you so much but if you keep second guessing him he'll start to doubt himself. He won't blame you but he'll start thinking he isn't doing something right. He has come a long way but he still has some issues …especially when he thinks he has done something to make people he cares about angry or unhappy. If he thought he was disappointing you, he'd be devastated. It’s ok that you can't do everything he does…I don't do everything Roy does…people are entitled to have different interests and activities."
"I know…but…it’s not him it's me …I just want everything to be so good for him…to make up for …"
"Lee you can't change the past for either one of you. You can't let the past destroy the future. Don't try to change yourself…just be the ‘you’ he fell in love with."
"Thanks for the good advice…now if you give me that bag of potatoes I'll start peeling them." Lee had almost finished peeling the potatoes when the hikers came back.
"Good timing…you know the rules…you catch them and clean them we cook them," Jo said looking at her tired kids. It would be an early night for them.
"Aunt Lee did your mom teach you to cook? Mommy lets me help sometimes…I can make good egg salad…after she cooks the eggs."
"My mom taught school on the island we lived on…and the lady who cooked didn't like other people in her kitchen…Maria taught me to cook when she taught her children. When I first came home from the hospital and wasn't allowed out of bed very much…She would spread a shower curtain over the bed covers and set up the tray table and have me peel vegetables or make sandwiches.
We would look thru all these cook books and plan meals…Then when I was allowed to sit in my chair we would cook the meals we planned. That’s how we learned to organize the kitchen."
"Maria is a pretty smart lady…And Hector is really nice too…and so is Cisco…Maybe next year me and Stacy can play soccer on the team with Cami."
"That would be nice…I'm glad you three are good friends."
"Stacy said she doesn't remember her real mommy and daddy…"
"She was only two when they died…so that is kind of little to remember things."
"It made me sad when she told me her birth mommy and daddy died but she loves her family she has now so now I'm happy for her…"
"Yep she has a good family just like you and Chris. Can I ask you why you were talking about Stacy being adopted?"
"Her friend Amy's getting a new little sister from Viet Nam…Is that far away?"
"Yeah it is…" Before they could say more the guys came up with the fish. Soon the potatoes were frying and the fish…Jo had set the baked beans off to the side so they would heat up. The onions and green peppers were added when the potatoes were about half way done and by the time they were done the onion and peppers were cooked just right. Everyone ate their fill and then had the brownies that Lee had made.
"We found a trail I think you can go over without too much trouble." Johnny said as he sat behind her on the blanket. He had sat down then had Roy sit her in front of him so he was her back support . He was leaning up against one of the coolers so he had some support for his back also. Once she was all settled Lee closed her eyes and just sort of melted against him as his arms closed protectively around her. His chin rested on her head. She closed her eyes and just sat listening to the sounds and enjoying the smell of the wood fire.
"Sleepy?" He asked softly as his arms tighten around her.
"No just very relaxed…thinking of the beach on the island…and how lucky I am to have you and our family in my life…I couldn't figure out why you put the cooler there or put a blanket over it…now it makes perfect sense."
"Can we come camping again?" Jen asked as she lay curled up next to her mom yawning. "This is the fun and Aunt Lee took pictures of me and my fish. Grandma said it was a bad idea to come camping and that we spend too much time with you but I like spending time with you Uncle Johnny…you too Aunt Lee."
"Your grandma doesn't like to camp," Jo said before Roy could make a comment. She was going to have to talk to her mom again about saying negative things about Roy and Johnny to the kids.
"Uncle Johnny can you tell us a ghost story?" Chris said as he watched the fire. "Like the ones you told when we camping with the guys from the Indian guides."
"Nawh, your Aunt Lee doesn't like ghost stories they give her nightmares." He knew that wasn't true but he did know they gave Jenny bad dreams but he didn't want to embarrass her by saying so. "See that group of stars over there?"
"That’s the Big Dipper and the North Star, "Chris said. "You taught us how to find that at one of the meetings." Chris was proud that his dad and uncle had helped with the troop's camping trips for the last several years.
"The Cheyenne Elders tell a story of a young girl who did the most beautiful quill work of anyone anywhere. The radiant colors could decorate anything. One day she began making an outfit from the finest white buckskin. Her mother was surprised since the girl had no brothers and no young warrior was courting her. Soon the girl had finished the clothing with its buffalo hair fringe and the most wonderful and beautiful quill work. It had taken several weeks for her to make the outfit…the leggings and war shirt, moccasins and gauntlets. After working all year she had 7 such wondrous outfits, the last one very small. Finally she told her mother that she had to take the outfits to 7 brothers who lived someplace many days walk from their home. The mother wanted to go with her daughter but it was too far for her to walk. But it was agreed the mother would go part way. The young girl told her mother someday many people will see and admire the 7 brothers and she would be their sister. And so the girl and her mother loaded the 7 bundles and went on a journey to the north. The girl knew the way and about the brothers but did not know why she knew this. They had taken their strongest dogs with them. When the mother could no go farther, they parted ways. The girl took two of the dogs with her the mother taking the others home with her. After walking north the young girl saw a large painted tipi that stood alone near a wide shallow stream. The girl waded across the stream calling out as she did. "It is I the girl searching for brothers. I bring you gifts.' A small 10 year old boy came out from the tipi saying "I am the smallest of 7 brothers and welcome you. I have been waiting for you but you will be a surprise to my brothers when they return from the buffalo hunt since they do not share my special No touch gift.' The girl questioned what the gift of no touch was but was told to wait and see. The young boy put his outfit on and it fit perfect and he was overjoyed at the beautiful quill work. After taking the other bundles from off the 2 dogs she sent them home to her parents. Placing a bundle on each of 6 beds she then went to gather firewood and began cooking. The youngest brother waited for the others who came home just as the meal was ready. He showed off his fine buckskin outfit. The brothers were amazed and wanted to know where these fine clothes had come from. The boy told them of their new sister and that she had gifts for each of them. And that she was very beautiful. The brothers were happy to have such a sister to cook for them and make their clothing. Then one day a buffalo calf came to the tipi while the older brothers were hunting. The light colored calf said he was from the buffalo nation and they wanted her to join them. The boy said they could not have her and the calf left telling them someone bigger would come to take her. On the second day a young heifer came and was sent away, on the third a large cow came on the same errand. On the fourth day the older brothers stayed to protect the girl. The earth began to tremble then rock and heave…The largest bull buffalo anyone had ever seen was leading the whole buffalo nation to the tipi. After saying that he would kill all the brothers if the girl did not come with them the brothers still said no she does not want to go . The frighten older brothers told the youngest to use his special gift. The youngest told them to jump into the tree growing near the tipi. Once in the tree the young boy shot an arrow into the trunk and the tree grew quickly. The bull was enraged and said he would chop the tree down with his giant horns. Three times the bull charged and the tree shook and pieces of the tree fell away.. The young boy shot the fourth and last arrow and the tree's branches rose above the clouds. As the bull hit the tree the fourth time the trunk broke into two pieces but the brothers and their sister had stepped to safety on a cloud. The older brothers were scared. How would they get down now that the tree had fallen? The youngest said do not be sad I will turn us into stars. And so, a radiant light came over them. They had become what the white men call the Big Dipper. See them there now? The beautiful girl is the brightest star in the sky as she fills the sky with glimmering quill work. At the very end of the dipper's handle is the youngest brother. Can you see him?'' All had been mesmerized by the words and tone of Johnny's voice.
"Johnny that was beautiful," Jo said. It was so seldom he shared anything of his heritage with them. "Thank you."
"Junior I would say that was a perfect way to end the day." Roy stood up and looked down at his daughter. She was fighting to stay awake. "Bedtime... We have a busy day tomorrow."
Roy went over and lifted Lee up and held her until Johnny got on his feet. "Thanks Pally." He took her into his arms and carried her over to the tent. Chris went with him knowing they would need help with the flap. "Thanks Chris…"
He set her down on the air mattress. "Johnny that was a beautiful story." She was so happy he had shared some of that part of his life with her. "And you told it so wonderfully."
"My mom and I would sit out by ourselves in the evenings and she would tell me the old stories…She wanted me to know my heritage's beauty not just the abuse." The sadness in his words was paired with pride and love he felt for his mother. "Now let's get you ready for bed…" He went out and brought in a small basin of warmed water and gave her a wash cloth and towel. After helping her wash and take care of some personal needs he got her settled in the sleeping bag. He waited till she scooted around and was comfortable before putting the support pillow behind her back. "Ok"
"Yep…except this isn't wide enough for two…"
"Maybe not to sleep on for the whole night but maybe to cuddle awhile." He laughed as he changed into a pair of sweats. "I'll be right back."
Jo helped Jen get ready for bed and Chris had got ready on his own while Jen was in with her mom. Jo still had a few reservations about them sleeping by themselves but their tent was between the two larger ones and she knew they were safe. The small tent was the one Johnny had always used when he went camping alone. Soon all had been settled and the campers were soon asleep.
Johnny woke up just before sunrise and after checking on Lee went out to get the fire started and make some coffee. He had his camera and shot a few pictures as he waited for the coffee to finish perking. He poured a cup of coffee and settled down leaning against the cooler he'd used the night before. He heard Roy come out and nodded about 5 minutes later.
"You're up early." Roy wasn't surprised knowing that sunrise was Johnny's favorite time of day.
"Great…She's sleeping and I only heard her once sort of moaning…I repositioned the support pillow and she never even woke up. She's having a good time." He took a long slow drink. "I think she was kinda scared but now… She loves it. I am gonna try to talk her out of swimming today…Think it got too cool last night for the water to warm up enough…We have the pool set at 80 right now but soon its gonna start being too cool for her. So we go back to swimming at the rehab center or the rec center. Maybe if the weather holds and we find some easy trails we can do this again as a day trip. And over the winter plan another trip together not a camping trip but somewhere you guys would like to visit."
"Sounds like a plan."
"What sounds like a plan? That coffee smells good." Neither man had heard Jo come out of their tent.
Roy quickly poured her a cup pf coffee as she came and sat down.
"Planning a trip together…I mean I know that you have other friends…Lee loves doing things with you all …and so do I…" He was getting flustered.
"Why am I hearing Chet Kelly's fine hand in this conversation?" Roy asked.
"No…I don't know…Me and Lee were talking and it just seemed like maybe we were taking up too much of your time…"
Jo let out a sigh and put her coffee cup down. "You two share one brain sometimes…especially when it comes to worrying about other people. Lee and I had this same conversation a few days ago. Johnny we love doing things with you and we do things with others…It just so happens most of our social life is connected to station 51 and the kids' activities. Chris loves the fact you help with the guides' activities and Jenny is excited about playing soccer with Stacy and Cami in the spring…And Lee has been a great help with some of the things I have to do with the PTA . We love your company and that you two watch the kids so we can have some adult time…So you let us worry about if you take up too much of our time."
Johnny smiled and cocked his head hearing a soft voice call his name. "I think your wife is awake …" Roy said as he watched the expression change on Johnny's face.
"Yeah and she is pretty much helpless till I get in there. Her chair isn't where she can reach it. I didn't want her to try pulling up on it." He put the coffee mug down and went inside.
"Think we'll ever get use to that expression on his face when he hears her voice?" Roy asked shaking his head.
"Probably not but it's so nice to see him this happy." She stood up, went over to Roy, and kissed him lightly. "You want to help me start breakfast?"
"Sure the kids should be getting up soon… Johnny did a good job of wearing them out yesterday…And he promised them another hike after lunch. After breakfast the plan is for all of us to go fishing then you and Lee can go hiking with us if you want."
Lee was lying on her side and turned to lay flat as she heard Johnny come in. He always made some kind of small noise to let her know he was near. "Good morning Mr. Gage."
"Good morning Mrs. Gage…You ready to do your exercises?"
"Did some of them already…the easy ones…" He knelt down beside her and began some passive movement.
"We can skip this …honestly I'm not very stiff at all…" He frowned at her as the muscles in her legs and hip told him different. It wasn't as bad as he had worried about but there was definitely a stiffness to the left side.
"Just let me give ya some support and loosen these muscles up…We've got a busy day and I don't want you cramping…And you don't have a grab bar here to do it yourself so let me help you sit up…"
"Sometimes I feel like being me is more trouble than it’s worth…There was another girl in the hospital the same time I was…she wasn't much older than me but she decided she liked having everything done for her…The pt's would get so mad at her because she wouldn't even try…I heard them one day tell her parents if she worked a little harder she could be very independent and live a good productive life. Her parents said there was no reason to push her they would take care of her. I think her mom actually liked having her so dependent on them."
"I wouldn't want you any different than you are…In fact I can't imagine you any different…You've gotten use to being independent." He held out his arms and she pulled herself into sitting. He waited until he was sure she had her balance then went out and got some water he had warmed earlier. Again, he helped her with her personal needs and dressing. As she brushed her hair she watched him fold the blankets and sleeping bag, gather up the dirty clothing and put it in a mesh bag.
"So organized…I think I am getting better at it until I see you at work."
"Like you aren't…" He came over and kissed her. "You are perfect just the way you are…at least as far as I am concerned. Now you ready to go face the day?"
"Yep…even looking forward to touching a worm…and catching a fish for you to clean…I'll catch them and cook them and definitely eat them but no way am I cleaning them."
He laughed and pushed her outside. Jo had bacon and sausage on the grill and was mixing up a big batch of eggs to scramble. She divided the egg mix to fix plain cheesy eggs for the kids but in the other she added chopped onion, green pepper along with the cheese.
"Uncle Johnny!" Jenny went running towards him. "We saw a deer…He was down by the water." She began telling him all about it and he listened as if it was the most remarkable discovery in the world. "…then daddy moved the coffee pot and he ran away but first he looked at me."
"Maybe when we go hiking later we'll see some more…this is the time of year they start moving down from the higher elevations…"
They ate and then all helped clean up and secure the camp. The trash was placed inside a plastic bag then Johnny lowered the hanging canvas bag that had last night's food trash in it from a nearby tree.
Soon they had everything ready for their fishing adventure. After checking her seat belt a second time Johnny began pushing Lee down the trail and to the place they had went yesterday. Jenny and Chris went on a head but always in sight. Soon everyone was settled. Jo was next to Jenny and Chris was with his dad. Johnny had found the perfect place for the wheelchair to sit. He held the pole while Lee reached into the bait can.
"You sure you don't want some help?" "His eyes were full of laugher as she made a face and put her hand into the can. "They don't have teeth…they don't even have a mouth…they aren't gonna bite you.”
“I know that…it just they feel icky." With her nose crinkled up and her eyes half closed she pulled a large lively worm from the earthy smelling damp material and held it up. Is that a good one?"
"That’s a fine one." He reached out to take it.
"No I am going to do this." She reached over and took the hook from Johnny and carefully as if she was threading a needle put the worm on her hook. Roy and Chris were watching. "Don't squeeze it too hard Aunt Lee or you'll get worm guts all over your hands." He cheerfully advised.
"Thanks for the warning, Chris." Lee said very seriously. "I would hate that." She gave Johnny one of her 'Don't you dare laugh at me' looks. With his hand splayed over his heart he gave her a 'who me?' look. "Yes you John Roderick Gage." Roy couldn't help but laugh at the look on both of their faces.
For the next half hour they fished with a few nibbles but no catches. The kids were getting restless. It was amazing for all his boundless energy and inability to sit still with a fishing pole in his hands John Gage could be motionless for ages.
"Roy why don't you and Jo go on down away and see if you all can find a spot you like…Chris and Jen may have better luck."
"How about you?" Roy didn't like the idea of splitting up.
"We're fine and if I remember right it's a little more uneven and rocky down that way".
"I think we'll try here a few more minutes." Roy said as he watched Chris throw out his line. He was doing much better at not being tangled.
"I got a fish!" Lee said with a giggle. "I caught one!" She was so excited. Her very first fish.
"Good for you the first fish of the day." Johnny pulled his camera out of her bag on the back of the chair. He took her picture with the fish then snapped some of everyone. It was if her fish had changed their luck and soon everyone was catching fish. Roy had taken pictures of Lee and Johnny together and was laughing at the faces they were making.
They were just about ready to head back to the camp for lunch when they heard someone calling their names. John and Roy were both surprised to see the senior ranger they had talked to when they got permission for parking roadside.
"Sorry to bother you folks but we need your help." The ranger said as he got closer.
"How can we help?" Roy asked as he ushered Chris towards his mother.
"A group of kids hung up on a homemade rope bridge. We called for paramedics but its an hour or more till anyone can get here….And I don't think these kids have that much time. We've got ropes and climbing gear but we know we've got 2 hurt bad and one who says he is ok except for some cuts. The bridge they made to cross Ryder's Crest came unhooked…They were able to swing it over to a ledge about 40 feet below the top of the ridge. The one kid had a walkie-talkie they were using to talk to friends on the ridge. Said one boy has a broken arm and maybe a broken shoulder and one is having lots of trouble breathing. The other said he was ok just some scrapes. We've got some basic first aid gear…"
"Let's get our family back to camp and then we'll go with you. Johnny you got your first aid pack right?"
"Yeah and there are some extra things that might help in the rover…." Quickly they gathered the fishing poles and started back to the camp. As they were walking, Roy made introductions. The ranger was Steve Wilson and was senior for the district.
"Your friend Matt is over at the accident site. He was down here for a meeting and came with me when we got the call. It was his suggestion we come get you."
"Johnny you and Roy go help and don't worry about us…keep your mind on what you're doing ok?" Lee said seeing the worried look on his face.
"Ok Baby girl…and you don't worry too much…Chris you and Jen help Lee and your mom ok?"
"Sure Uncle Johnny…" Jen nodded and soon the men were leaving. Johnny had grabbed his first aid pack out of the tent and they stopped by the Rover to get out the other stuff he had packed in there.
"So any idea why they tried to build this bridge?" He asked as they were driving to the site.
"Near as we can figure it was a project for some class at school…They're seniors at a local high school. Good kids honor students" Once they reached the Crest it was about a 10 minute hike to the actual scene of the accident.
Johnny and Roy looked over the land and decided the best thing would be for Johnny to go down to the ledge. The rangers had the necessary ropes and safety equipment. Johnny and Roy decided that tying off on the ranger's truck was a better idea than the tree since they were not sure of how sturdy the tree's roots were. After putting on the safety belt the rangers and Roy lowered him down to the ledge. It took a few attempts to swing over close enough to get on the ledge. The scared kids looked at him and moved back. There wasn't much room and like Johnny they wondered how long the ledge would hold their weight.
"It’s ok…My name is Johnny and I'm a LA county paramedic…We're gonna get you off of here and take good care of you…" He quickly was kneeling next to the boy who was having the most trouble breathing.
"Ok I'm gonna need some room to work…" He looked at the boy who seemed the least hurt. "Let me check you out and then we'll send you up …Your name?"
"Tate Weston…I'm ok just some scrapes… Mike and Eddie are there ones hurting bad."
"Yeah and the ones I'm going to need the most room to treat… Does your neck or back hurt any where?" He watched the boy's eyes and they seemed focus and were reacting normally. He keyed the HT. "Roy I'm sending Tate up…send down my first aid pack …Steve, do you guys have anything we can use as a back board or stokes?" As he was asking that a safety belt and Johnny's first aid pack was being lowered. The pack had been part of his birthday gift from Lee.
There was all the standard items for a first aid kit plus a blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, extra bandages and some different creams and ointments, an assessment kit . There were some of the sterile sheets they used for fires and some the yellow blankets they used for victims and several bottles of sterile water.
Lee had given the store clerk a list of what she wanted in the pack and then had asked for other suggestions. Johnny had told her about him and Roy coming across an accident as they returned from a fishing trip and being frustrated not having the proper equipment to help the victims. The clerk had suggested the splint kit and several slings and ace bandages and so they had all went into the pack.
"OK Mike, you ready for this?" Mike was the largest of the victims. "Matt that should work…"
"Yeah the coach is gonna kill me…I'm starting quarterback…was …." Johnny was checking his pupils and then took his blood pressure. He wrote the information down and began running his hands over Mike's neck and back. There was no signs of any trauma and Mike did not say anything until Johnny touched the left shoulder. Before he realized what was happening Mike's right fist was mashing into his face knocking him off balance.
Johnny caught himself putting his whole weight on his left wrist. For a minute Johnny saw stars then as his vision cleared as he realized the popping sound he had heard was his wrist. The 345 pound 17 year old who had hit him looked shocked "Oh God, I am so sorry…It was …" He stopped and took a deep breath. "You ok?" The teenager saw how pale the paramedic had gotten and how carefully he was moving and how glazed he looked. "I didn't mean to hurt you, honest…"
"Got it Junior." Roy noticed the confused looks on the men's face at the last transmission. "We're gonna need a few more men on this one, Mike's a good sized guy…" Roy also had noticed the slight change in Johnny's voice…like something was hurting him. "When we get Mike up here and checked out I'm going down after we get the board down there."
Even off duty, the paramedic's first priority was to a civilian victim. As soon as Mike was up and safely unhooked they sent the makeshift back board down. Roy took Mike's vital again and splinted the arm and had him tuck his arm inside his shirt to help immobilize his shoulder. Soon as the board was down and unhooked Roy put the safety belt on.
"I didn't mean to hit him…But when he touched my shoulder I just punched him. I think he hurt his hand."
The young football player felt really bad hurting the man who was helping him. His first reaction to the burning pain had been to stop the person who was causing it,
"It's ok…it's happened before…You just stay still. The squad should be here soon."
Roy called for Steve and Matt to come over. "Sounds like my partner may need some medical attention himself…Even if it isn't serious he is going to need help with this last kid. " He handed Matt the HT
"There doesn't seem to be any back or neck injuries, the ribs on his left side are tender…He has some gurgling in the left lung…The cut on his head is superficial the pupils active and equal and has some sensitivity to light."
Carefully the two men got him on the board and secured. "He had opened his eyes once but then lost consciousness again." Johnny gave his report all the time trying to avoid Roy's gaze.
"Ok now what's up with you? Lee's gonna freak when she sees that eye, you know that right?"
"Bad as it feels?" Johnny winced as he touched it. "Lost my balance and fell backwards…Put my hand down and popped my wrist. Don't think it's broken."
"Soon as we get this kid up to the top I'll check it. No vision problems?"
"Nope…It was a reflex to the pain…the kid felt really bad…" Johnny said to make sure Roy knew it was an accident.
They carefully sent the board up to the waiting rangers. Once it was safely on the ground, the paramedics were pulled up. Johnny gave Roy a disgusted look as he told those top side to watch out for his injured wrist. Roy followed as quickly as possible.
He was relieved to see paramedics and two more rangers approaching the group. Matt and Steve stood back and watched as Roy and Johnny gave the information they had collected to the on duty paramedics. They all jumped as they heard the sound of a piece of the ledge crashing to the bottom of the ravine. It had been the right choice to get help from the off duty paramedics.
"Roy you sending Johnny in with the ambulance?" Steve asked as Roy wrapped Johnny's hand and wrist as a precaution.
"That your latest girl friend Johnny?" Matt asked remembering some of the conversations they had had in the past. "Still the ladies man?"
"Nope…" He started to hold up his left hand and stopped as pain shot thru his arm. "Roy didn't tell you? I got married in August…She's back at camp with Jo and the kids…" Roy had been repacking Johnny's first aid kit and missed the look on his partner's face as he moved his arm but not the sound of his voice.
"No, congratulations…Looking forward to meeting this girl." Matt heard Steve chuckle as he and Roy exchanged smiles.
As they were walking to the car the young ranger who had been at the desk the day they had gotten the parking permit walked along side of them.
"Looks like your son was right, Mr. De Soto…you and Mr. Gage are the best…Sorry I ever doubted you two could handle a handicapped camper.
"I'm Roy and that’s John or Johnny to our friends," Roy answered with a nod at his partner. "He'd never had planned this if he hadn't been sure it would be a positive experience for her…and a word of advise…they don't see her being in that chair as a handicap it’s more of an inconvenience …"
The fish had been put in the cooler with the most ice since it didn't seem like they would be eating them that day for lunch. The plan had been to leave for home by 5 since the kids had school the next day. Jo and Lee had packed up as much stuff as they could and the kids had been really good at helping.
"Jo, don't you think we should have heard something by now?"
Lee was threading hot dogs onto a stick.
"Soon…you know they'll stay until the squad gets there… You wouldn't expect anything different would you?'' She was trying not to let the kids or Lee know how worried she was getting.
"No its just this waiting …"
"It's ok Baby girl, it looks worst than it is." He moved quickly to her ignoring the pain the jarring movement caused him. He squatted down in front of her. "Honest it’s ok."
She bit her lip as she gingerly touched the swollen check. "Some ice and it'll be fine." He took her hand and kissed it. "Come on, don't cry."
"Your hand?" sniffling trying to keep her voice under control. "Does it hurt much? Roy? How bad is it?" Roy was over with Jo and the kids.
"Don't think it's broken...stoved up or sprained." He went over to the ice chest and got some ice he put in an empty bun bag. "This should help till we get it x rayed."
"It doesn't need x rays…"
"John Roderick Gage…if Roy said x rayed then it will be x rayed…" Her eyes dared him to argue.
""Sorry we didn't get to eat your fish." Looking up at Steve, Matt and the young Ranger he gave them a lopsided grin. "She caught her first fish today…even threaded the worm on the hook all by herself."
"We'll have him for dinner at home…I wrapped him separate from the others," she giggled.
"We'll help you pack up. I'm sure Roy wants to get you to the hospital for an x-ray." Matt said. Then turning to Lee with a smile, "Congratulations…Jo and Roy forgot to tell me and my wife the news. "
"Lee this is Matt Palmer a friend of ours…Johnny has went skiing with us a few times…And Steve Wilson senior ranger for this district, Ken Granger one of his rangers." Roy made belated introductions.
"Johnny any time you get tired of being a paramedic the rangers could use a good man like you."
"Look, Matt, I thought you were my friend and here you're trying to steal my partner." Roy teased.
"Don't think that would ever happen…can't break up the best paramedic team in the county let alone two brothers who love working together." Lee said
"Yeah I have seen these two in action before," Matt said . "They make a good team that’s for sure."
"Matt, you and Betsey need to come visit us…" Jo said as she came over to the group after reassuring the kids Johnny would be fine.
"Yeah maybe the 6 of us could go on a ski trip." Matt stopped realizing what he had said and feeling foolish.
"That sounds great…while you all are out playing in the snow I could hang out in the lodge…I really want Johnny to do the outdoor things he loves…And we have a lot of things we can do together…In the summer we can go out on his motorcycle…he has a gold wing and I do fine in the side car…or on the back of his Harley if there is someone else with us…" She was trying to keep the conversation light as she watched his face. "Roy maybe your friend Matt could run you and Johnny into the nearest hospital while these gentlemen help us tear down camp."
"I am not leaving you out here by yourself…I'm fine."
"No you are not…you're looking a little green around the gills my luv. Especially every time you move your left wrist or arm. And you are starting to squint more … the light is hurting your eyes a lot."
Roy went back over to Johnny and after a quick glance got what he needed to take a new set of vitals. "She's right Junior I think the sooner we get that looked at the better…" The swelling had increased and his eyes were showing some sensitivity to light they hadn't before. Actually only one since the other was swollen almost shut.
"Look, why don't you all go on to the hospital and I'll tear down your camp and bring your stuff to you…" Ken said. "The kid that hit you is my cousin…I know what it feels like when he slams you…I've played enough football with him …"
"That would be great…thank you so much." Lee answered before Johnny could say a word.
"Kids grab your back packs…" Jo said as if to reaffirm Lee's choice.
"I'll drive the Rover up here as close as I can get…" Roy said as he watched the pain level rise in Johnny's eyes. Matt can you make me an ice pack to rest his arm on while we're driving."
"Roy would the padded seat cushion work as a cradle for his arm?"
"Perfect." Lee raised up with some help so they got the flexible sheepskin cushion out from under her.
"That’s my girl smart as she is beautiful," Johnny said proudly. His arm was on the cushion and had a plastic bag of ice draped over the top of his arm. "Can someone find my sunglasses …? This light is getting too bright."
"Lets get you in the car…Jo I think you and Lee need to ride in the back with Johnny…Jen and Chris you'll ride in front with me…but you have to be on your best behavior, understood?" He tossed the keys to Matt. "Bring the Rover up as close as you can…It'll make getting him in the car a lot easier on all of us."
Roy was starting to worry he had missed something back at the accident site as Johnny seemed to be getting more lethargic and less focused. Once they got him settled in the car then got Lee in and the wheel chair Johnny was trying to fall asleep.
"You sure you can do this? We can call for an ambulance." Matt and Steve saw Johnny getting more dazed also.
"Yeah…We'll be ok…If we need to I'll change places with Jo and ride back there."
Roy drove as carefully as he could as they went down the park service road. Once they reached the main highway they picked up speed. Johnny just wanted to sleep but Jo and Lee kept talking to him and Lee had a hold of his right hand and would squeeze if every time he started to doze off.
They were still a half hour from Rampart when Johnny began gagging. Roy found a place to pull off the road with the flashers on and Jo got out so he could take care of Johnny. Grabbing a bucket from the back of the Rover Jo gave it to Roy just as Johnny threw up.
"Jo… there is some water and towels in the back…wet a towel for me so we can clean him up a little."
"Sorry…he. ..d huts," Johnny said sleepily. "Tired…sleep."
"No stay with us Junior…You go to sleep and it’s gonna scare Lee…You don't want to do that, now do you?"
"Nahh" His eyes closed. "Lee"
"I'm right here…it’s ok." She was surprised her voice worked considering the lump in her throat. "It’s gonna be ok."
"K… love ya"
"I love you too…" She gave his hand a squeeze.
Across the highway Ponch and Jon were on patrol . So far it had been a quiet shift. A few speeders and a couple from Iowa that had missed their exit and were totally lost…Jon saw the white Rover pulled off to the side of the road with its emergency flashers blinking. There was something familiar about that truck…He signaled his partner he was going to check it out. Ponch followed as he put on his lights and siren and crossed the grassy strip.
Roy looked up and smiled when he saw the two CHP officers crossing over. And was even more relieved to see it was a couple of friends.
Jon got off his motorcycle and went up to the car surprised to see his friends.
"Anything we can do to help?"
"Just get us to the hospital…please." Lee said as the tears started. "He …" Johnny began throwing up not that there was much left in his system."
"Follow me…Ponch you follow…" Jon called it in and after Roy got in back Jo followed their escort.
"Junior you didn't tell me you hit your head."
"Didn't …fist hit me…" He closed his eyes trying to make the world stop turning flip flops.
Jon had went in and got an orderly with a gurney and they quickly got him settled on it with Roy following . Ponch had gotten Lee's wheelchair out of the back and lifted her out.
"Hey, no tears…that hard headed husband of yours is gonna be fine…He'll be telling you the same thing in just a little bit. "Can you tell me what happen?"
Lee took a deep breath and began explaining about the camping trip and how Roy and John had went to help the rangers. By the time they reached the waiting room Johnny was in a treatment room and the CHP officers stayed with Lee getting the information they needed.
As soon as Jo and the kids came in they left, after Jo promised to call and let them know how Johnny was. Lee talked to Carol who was at the desk. Then looked at Jo and the kids…"Go up to my office and get the kids something to eat…There is a TV up there and some coloring books…maybe that would make waiting easier." She knew they were worried about Johnny and were tired and hungry.
"Yeah that does make sense and I'll call Emily and Hank and let them know what is happening." She looked at Lee and decided she would fix her some hot chocolate while she was up in the office. "You're sure you'll be ok?"
"Yes I'm sure. Carol is over there if I need anything…and Kel will let me know soon as can." They watched as the portable x ray machine went into the treatment room. Knowing Roy would be out in the hallway soon Jo and the kids went upstairs.
Roy came over to Lee. "Jo took the kids up to my office to get something to eat and to give them some space to relax. She's calling Hank and Em."
"Ok…Doc thinks he has a concussion and a dislocated wrist…Maybe a pinched nerve in the wrist. Nothing serious…painful yes."
"But he kept saying he didn't hit his head…"
"But a pain enraged 345 pound quarterback hit him. Lee this was a nice kid but he just lost it when Johnny touched that shoulder…all that force focused on Johnny's face…I'm surprised now that I think about it he didn't knock him out. When a boxer get hit and has a concussion it’s usually the punch not the hitting the floor that does the damage." After about 10 minutes the x ray tech left and Roy went back to the treatment room. Lee sat there alone and prayed not only for Johnny but the boys they had brought in earlier. It seemed as if it was hours but in actuality it had only been 30 minutes Hank and Em came in with their youngest daughter.
"Hank is going to take Krista up to your office. She'll stay with the kids…." Emily took Lee's hand and held it tightly. "Have you heard anything?"
"They took x rays…they think he has a concussion and a dislocated wrist…Hank did Jo tell you he got hurt helping someone? Just like he always does."
"She told me. Lee would you have expected him and Roy to do anything different?”
"He wouldn't go in the ambulance because of me…He didn't want me to be scared or freak out…How do you do it Em?" Hank took this as his cue to go upstairs with Krista.
"You trust in the Lord and in the men your husband work with…You trust yourself to do what is best for you both…You trust in the doctors and nurses and all the others who are there to help…And you keep thinking positive…And you call on your friends and family to add their prayers and trust to yours.”
Jo and Hank came down and they waited another 15 minutes before Roy and Kel came out to see them.
Lee was watching the door of the treatment room and only half listening to the friends around her but they knew she was grateful for their being there. When Kel and Roy started towards them she tensed.
"He's going to be fine…"Kel said as she wheeled towards him. "He has a mild concussion and a cracked check bone. His wrist was dislocated but went back in place fairly easy…I'm going to keep him overnight but you aren't staying…He wants you to go on home now and get some rest."
"Kel I can't…" Lee looked at him shocked he would even think that she would leave him.
"I know but actually you would be doing what is best for him…If you are here he is going to be worrying about you and not resting. I want you to go in there tell him you're letting Roy take you home and promise him you'll get some rest. That is how you can help him the best. Understand. Then you'll have him home tomorrow and for the next 2 weeks at least."
"Ok…as long as I get to see him before I go." She looked totally defeated. "He worked so hard on this trip…"
A few minutes later she went back to see him.
"Roy, why don't we take her home and you can take the rover home with you." Hank said as he and Roy stood a little apart from their wives. "I know your kids probably need to get home."
"Yeah that would work…And Lee wouldn't have to worry about getting the food put away or taking care of anything except herself. I'll give Maria a call so they'll know what’s going on. He was looking pretty ragged on the way in…and he won't be driving for at least a week if not 2. Doc said it’s a good thing we got the kid with the busted ribs in here as quick as we did. Not to mention the fact that piece of ledge they were on broke off from all the weight…"
"When I call and let them know John's going to be off I'll see if we can get this covered as a work related injury. That way it won't count against his sick leave."
"At least that is one thing he won't have to worry about ever again…" Roy said. "I'll go check on Johnny then we'll collect the kids…Thanks for coming over and bringing Krista…"
"You know anything we can do for him and Lee…It’s about time that young man got some of the good things in life thrown his way."
"You should have seen how he had everything organized to make this a great trip for her. He must have taken a zillion pictures …and when she got her first fish you would have thought he had just won a million dollars…They both were so excited." He went over to Jo then down to the treatment room. He knocked before going in.
"Come in." Lee answered. She smiled as he came over to the bed. "The pain meds finally kicked in…Kel said there was a nerve that got pinched when the wrist was dislocated and that’s why the pain was so bad…" They had the treatment table lowered as much as possible so she was more on his level.
"For being there for us…for going this week end….putting up with me…sharing your kids…just a few things like that. They should be getting him into a room soon…How are the kids?"
"Fine…Look, if its ok with you I'm going to take Jo and the kids on home…Hank and Emily 'll stay with you and get you home…Later we'll get the rover to you."
"He won't be driving for awhile and I can't drive it…Give the kids a kiss from us…He isn't going to be happy but he isn't lifting me or even helping me transfer for the next 2 weeks."
"I will and you take care of you…call if there is anything you need. When he is ready to come home in the morning call me if you need a ride over and someone to help you get him home."
"I will I hadn't even thought about that…" He bent down and kissed her on the forehead.
"Then don't just make sure you get some rest. He is not the easiest patent if you remember."
Roy left and Cap came in. He nodded and pulled up a stool. "I got some dirty looks since I wasn't following hospital rules…One of their new nurses wasn't going to let me come in here…But Carol from the front desk saw and ok’d it."
"They should be getting him into a room soon. Did Roy tell you I caught a fish? All by myself…I even baited the hook…I had never been camping before or fishing…" Her nerves finally caught up with her and she began crying.
Hank moved over to her and held her hand and let her cry. Finally she had it under control. "Thanks for not telling me it was silly and not to cry."
"I'll tell you the same thing I've told that twit," nodding towards Johnny. "There is no shame in feeling strong emotions. There would be something wrong if you weren't scared and concerned …You kept them in check until it was safe to let them out. If you went off hysterical before that would have just caused him more pain and worry…Just now you got rid of all the tension so when you do see him in the morning you can smile and look pretty for him."
"You Henry Stanley are a very wise man and a wonderful friend."
"Good … cap… too," Johnny said not opening his eyes. There was entirely too much light in that room Johnny decided as he tried to open his one eye. "Roy"
"He took Jo and the kids home, Pal. Me and Em'll take good care of your girl."
"No…m m my world." His voice slurred as he went back to sleep. Cap just smiled.
Twenty minutes later Hank helped Lee into Emily's car and loaded her wheelchair into the trunk. As they drove her home Lee told them all about the trip and how Johnny had planned and worked so hard to make sure it was a successful one. They were impressed as she told them about the story he had shared around the camp fire.
"Thank you for taking care of her…There is food ready if you would like to join us." Maria said as the men got the wheel chair out of the trunk and were talking.
"Thank you for the offer but Krista still has some homework to do. Any time we can help just call. They're pretty special to us also." Emily told Maria.
As they drove home Em was thinking about Lee going into that empty apartment.
"Maria is going to take her up some dinner then stay there while Lee showers and help get her settled for the night and insist that Lee keep the intercom between the two apartments on."
Lee was up and dressed by 7:00 Monday morning. She called down to Maria and told her she was going to work and would be home whenever they released Johnny. Hopefully that would be around 12 since she knew Johnny had to eat and keep his stomach under control before they would release him.
UNLESS, Johnny could convince Kel it was the food not his head that had his stomach upset. Johnny and hospital food was a bad combination. Thinking about this Lee called Rampart. When she didn't get any answerer when she phoned Kel's office she tried again.
"Emergency, Miss McCall."
"Yeah he and Joe are here at the desk complaining about my coffee. Hang on." She put her hand over the phone. "I win it's Lee." With a smug grin she handed him the phone.
"Good morning." Kel said . "You're up early."
"Nope regular time…I was wondering if it wouldn't make life easier for you all if I brought Johnny some breakfast?"
"Now that depends on what you were planning on bringing." There was a hint of teasing in his words.
"Pancakes with crisp bacon and homemade strawberry jam…or a fruit smoothie with strawberries, pineapple and banana and blue berries…yogurt based ."
"Either one sounds good…now the really important question…How much food are you bringing?"
"Enough for a very hungry paramedic and his 2 doctors and favorite nurse."
"Sounds great…and you might want to bring him some clean clothes…"
"Already got that packed and the bacon is in the oven…sprinkled with brown sugar. So who wants pancakes and who wants a smoothie? And by the way I would guess your patient will want both."
"Johnny just remember… no lifting or putting any stress on that wrist for at least 2 weeks."
"Yeah I know…and Lee is even worst about me following the rules than Cap and Roy."
"You guys know the drill…So if you need anything just call us."
"Kel, will be sorting papers and filing too hard on him? I have a back log of filing to do. I really do need to hire an assistant."
"Why don't you talk to Malcolm…His wife was office manager for a doctor that just retired…Bet she would be good…she is a trained X ray tech so she knows the medical terms and computers…" Dixie told her.
"Great I'll giver him a call…or stop by and see him…before we go home." A few minutes later Roy came in just as the three medical personnel were leaving.
"Kids get off to school ok?" Lee asked as Roy poured a cup of coffee.
"Yeah and they were all excited to tell their friends about the camping trip….Jo sent her love and said to call her if you need anything otherwise she'll pick me up in about an hour. "
"Why don't you two talk a minute while you finish your coffee and I am going to run down to Xray and talk to Malcolm." A quick kiss and she was gone. She knew they probably had things they wanted to talk about in private.
The x ray department was as busy as always. Lee was greeted warmly as most down there knew her by sight and they knew Johnny. The nurse at the desk looked over to her and smiled. "Hope this is a social visit."
"Partly…just wanted to thank you all for taking good care of Johnny last night and talk with Malcolm if he has a minute."
In answer to the page Malcolm came from back into the waiting area. He looked a little concerned. "Is there a problem?"
"No not at all…Johnny's waiting for me to take him home. Dixie said your wife might be interested in a job as my assistant. Her background sounds perfect." She gave him her home number. "Have her call me and we'll do a phone interview…and set up a time she can come see the office, if she is interested."
"I will and you tell John I said to take it easy and be a good patient for you."
"Oh he will…If he's grumpy I don't cook." Malcolm laughed because all knew how John loved to eat and how she loved to cook."
"Sounds like the perfect plan…I'll call Nell."
"Tell her to give me about an hour to get home and him settled…"
Lee was on her way back up to her office when she was stopped by Kevin Richards. The assistant hospital administrator was frowning as usual.
"Mrs. Gage I have called your office twice this morning and the answering machine picked up. I left a message but apparently you have been too busy entertaining your husband and 3 of my staff in your office to conduct any business."
"As you know anything I do in my office is my business…If you have a problem with when and where I talk paramedic business with hospital staff and committee members please put it in a formal memo with copies sent to Dr. Brackett and my bosses in Sacramento and your boss, Dr. O'Donnell. If he sees the necessity of it Dr. Brackett will send a copy to Chief Hauser at the county fire department headquarters."
She looked up at him smiling nicely. "Actually the meeting this morning served two purposes…We went over some items to be included on the next advisory board agenda and care and discharge information for my husband…And if you will excuse me I have to go up and collect said husband and go home and make sure he follows the rules and orders of his discharge."
"May I ask what you were doing in the x ray department?"
"Thanking them for the good care they provided yesterday and attending to some business for my office…" She wheeled forward ignoring the mumblings.
One of these days he was going to step too far out of line and she was going to enjoy pulling him back and shortening the leash. The man was a snob and a bigot and he wanted her office. She had heard his wife was livid when she found out they weren't invited to the wedding. Not because she wanted to come but because she had heard who had been invited…
Lee went back up to her office. "Ok Mr. Gage, you riding with me or Roy?"
"Yep and I'd say you were ready for a nap. Did you two get done talking about me? How did I rate as a camper?"
"A+…fishing was a B+ and cooking was A++…."
"And why a B+ in fishing? I thought my fish was well caught and a nice size."
"Refusing to take him off the hook and cleaning him." Johnny said laughing. "And handling my trip here was another double A+…I know that was hard on you…"
"Those kids were so lucky to have had you two there…and I know you couldn't have not helped. Come on lets get you home.
When they got there Johnny wanted in the recliner so they got him settled. After Jo and Roy left he fell asleep and she worked at the table. Every so often she stopped what she was doing and just watched him sleep thanking God all were safe.
"What are you smiling about so contently?" She was so lost in thought she had not realized he was awake.
"Can't you guess? Us and how wonderful it is to be your wife. Oh, I know there is gonna be times it’s not perfect…but perfect isn't real. Me, you, our friends and family we'll be ok because we have each other."
"Yep life is good…" Johnny said as he closed his eyes and went back to sleep a happy camper.
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