Horsing Around

Chapter 3

"Station 36, station 51, engine 48, industrial fire, Peterson's Pesticides, 4305 Garfield Blvd, Cross street, Jackson. Time out, 3:58." dispatch dutifully announced.

"Station 51, KMG 365," Hank Stanley stated tersely, ripping off the paper and handing one over to Roy Desoto. He noted John Gage and Mike Stoker were running fingers over the large map on the wall.

"Out of our normal area," Gage commented.

"Guess the other stations are out," Mike suggested. He received a grunt for a reply as the paramedic took one last look at the cross streets and turned to the squad. As he climbed into his seat Roy handed him the call slip.

Turning left as they left the apparatus bay, the squad led the engine down many streets and around several turns. Cars pulled aside for the most part and the few stubborn drivers were treated to the full effect of the combined air horns.

A column of black, oily smoke rose ahead of them and the paramedics wondered what they were heading towards. Pesticides were a nasty business. Between the airborne toxins from the smoke, many were also absorbed through skin. Add to that the reaction possibilities with their scba equipment made the call all the more dangerous.

As they pulled into the parking lot they received directions to park on the north end of the site close to the processing pipes and vats. They waited for the engine to follow and pulled out their scbas and pulled them on.

"Roy! Johnny!" Cap waved them over. "The plant manager said everyone has been evacuated and accounted for. Take a line up to the pipes and start shutting off the product flow." Nodding, they ran over to Mike to get their hose assignment and then went to the steel stairs leading up to the vats. They worked together getting the hose up the stairs and then snaked down to the area where the fire was.

"I'll get the valve," Roy yelled. Johnny nodded and twisted the hose around his waist, knowing the water would soon be there. It was imperative they get cold water onto the heated pipes as soon as possible.

Roy began trying to turn the large wheel and glanced over noting the hose starting to fill. He was distracted for a moment when the wheel proved stiff and when he finally got it moving he looked back over.

Just in time to see the pipe by his partner split open spewing the chemical du jour onto his helmet, face mask and front. Johnny immediately turned around wanting to protect his body but was hampered in moving due to the thick hose and the fact his face mask was turning milky white.

"Damn!" Roy cursed as he turned the wheel faster and was rewarded with the stream slowing down and then stopping.

"HT51 to Engine 51," he immediately called out as he hurried over to his partner. "Code 1. Johnny's been covered in pesticide. He's going to have to be washed down. I need soap, blankets, and a new scba immediately." He barely heard the acknowledgement as he grabbed the hose and turned it on.

Johnny worked hard at not panicking. He knew he'd been well covered by his turnouts and scba. But that didn't mean he was totally protected. He couldn't take anything off and just hoped Roy saw what had happened.

When the water hit his back he relaxed slightly. He carefully lifted his arms and began slowly turning around letting the water stream off his body. He was still slightly claustrophobic not being able to see out of his mask and he wondered if any of his hoses had been compromised.

As Roy carefully washed down his partner Chet and Marco hustled up the stairs followed closely by two linemen from the 48s. The latter pair had their own hose and went on to tackle the fire and heated pipes. Chet and Marco took over the hose for the senior paramedic.

"I'll move him down by the ladder then we'll get him stripped," he walked into the stream and grabbed his partner's arm. He felt the panic roiling off the younger man as his forearm was grasped in return.

"We'll get you taken care of, Junior," he said as he tugged him along. They made their way carefully over hoses to an open area by the stairs away from the hot pipes and fire. First, Roy worked on taking off the turnout coat. Shirt and t shirt were next. Turnout pants and pants followed and the shivering paramedic stood in mask, helmet and boxers. Shoes were kicked off and the water still ran down over his body.

Cap arrived next. He had soap, blankets and a scba. Roy latched onto the mask and tossed Johnny's helmet off followed by the damaged mask. The new air supply was put on as soon as water had run over his head. Now being able to see his partner's eyes, which were so dilated that they were black, the senior paramedic knew Johnny was nauseous.

Damn! That meant he'd been exposed to the pesticide.

The next thing he noted was that the younger man was shivering. The cold water certainly wasn't conducive to warmth. They needed to get him cleaned off fast! He took the soap from Hank and started to squirt it onto his partner.

At some point Brice showed up and moved in to assist Roy. The two paramedics were able to suds up the exposed man. Johnny didn't bother trying to help as he was battling the rising bile in his throat.

Not to mention the cold was nearly unbearable.

The rest of the coverings were removed, boxers and socks, and those areas soaped up. If he hadn't felt so sick by this time Johnny would be absolutely embarrassed. His head was beginning to throb. As it was he just wanted to lie down and die.

After the final rinse Cap stepped forward with outstretched arms. Johnny happily allowed him to wrap the dry blankets around his trembling body. He wasn't too sure about being swaddled and then picked up over his Cap's shoulders, but wisely, he didn't complain.

Picking up the tank, Roy proceeded them down the stairs and Brice followed. At the bottom Hank declined any help and carried his young paramedic to the yellow tarp laid out by Bellingham. He could feel Johnny shivering from cold and fear.

"Ok, Johnny, just relax," he said as he set his burden down and whipped off his mask. "Let Roy check you out."

"E-e-easy for y-you t-t-t-to say," he ground out through chattering teeth. The bile slide to the back of his throat and he swallowed convulsively against it. He desperately didn't want to vomit, but his stomach had other ideas.

Roy and Brice began to take vitals. Seeing his pale face and feeling the retching begin, Brice braced Johnny on his side and allowed the first launch of stomach to pass.

"Rampart, this is squad 51," Roy began his transmission. "We have a male, 27, exposed to pesticides. His pulse is 120, respirations 40 and shallow and his blood pressure is 130 over 100. He has vomited. He has been completely washed down with soap to neutralize the pesticide."

"Squad 51, start an IV with D5W and administer 10 liters O2," Brackett barked back. Is the patient conscious?"

"Affirmative, Rampart, patient is awake and oriented times 3," Roy responded as he handed the IV over to Brice. Soon Gage sported an IV and nasal cannula. He continued to shiver uncontrollably unable to get warm.

"Don't worry, Johnny," Roy said as he patted his blanket covered arm. "Dixie'll have lots of warm blankets for you." Miserable, the paramedic just nodded and then tried to roll over once more to heave. Brice braced him and wiped his mouth when he finished.

"Brackett will give you some Compazine when you get in to Rampart," he offered sympathetically.

"Yeah," he managed. "Better bring a bucket."

"Don't worry, Junior, got it covered," Roy said as he motioned to the ambulance attendants. Soon the shivering patient was bundled up and yet another blanket was tucked around him. He was loaded into the back with Roy. Brice handed in a bucket.

It would have been a nice thing if the bucket didn't get used, but as the ride to Rampart lengthened Johnny was dry heaving nearly continually. Whatever was in the pesticide made for some heavy duty reactions.

Roy did his best to soothe his friend, riding out each wave, coaching him to breath. On Johnny's part he gripped his partner's lower arm for support.

As soon as they backed in they were met by both Dr. Brackett and Dr. Morton. Dixie guided them to treatment room 6, near the back of ER.

"Compazine, Mike," Kel directed the younger doctor. "Dixie, let's get these cold blankets off and get some warm ones. I don't want his core temperature to drop too much."

By this point he was so miserable he didn't care what they did to him or what they saw as long as the heaving would stop and he could get warm. It took a few minutes for the drug to start working on the nausea. It also took some few minutes to unwrap the damp blankets swaddling the paramedic.

Then blissful warmth enveloped him as Roy and Dixie layered several toasty blankets around him. He moaned in pleasure even as another wave of stomach contractions hit him. Brackett held him on his side as he willed the medication to take affect.

"We'll need blood panels to determine how much he absorbed," Mike noted.

"Let's wait until the compazine kicks in," Kel determined. "Easier to draw without the shaking." Dixie ran a soothing hand over Johnny's shoulder until the worst of the nausea passed. Eyes slid nearly closed as the ill man enjoyed being warm and not retching.

Quiet ensued as the nurse drew out several tubes of blood. Once finished Morton and Brackett began their more in depth exam. Vitals were taken then the patient was poked, prodded and every inch of his skin examined for any burns from the chemicals. Since he was finally warm Johnny made no protests allowing himself to be checked over thoroughly.

"Looks like a thin line of irritation along his neck where the turnout didn't quite cover adequately," Kel determined.

"Maybe here on his wrists where the gloves gapped," Mike added. "Not much exposure fortunately!"

"Exactly," Brackett agreed. "This stuff is highly toxic. You were lucky, my friend," he said as he started to tuck the blankets back over the drowsy man.

"Are there any long term effects?" Roy asked in concern.

"Well, since it was minimal and you got him washed off so quickly, there shouldn't be," Mike thought about the side effects. "He'll be tired for a few days although he shouldn't have any more problems with nausea. I'll have Dixie put in a foley so we can really hydrate him and help push any toxin out. We'll give him another dose of compazine and send some home with him to take orally for the next 48 hours just to be sure."

"And we'll know more when the blood panels come back," Brackett hedged the overly positive prognosis. "If they levels aren't high he can go home tonight." He looked down at the sleeping young man and a soft smile touched his eyes.

"Joanne available for a guest?" he asked. Roy frowned.

"No, she's up visiting her mother for a few days with the kids," he reported. "I can check with Cap. Maybe Emily is home."

"That's ok," Kel decided. "If we clear him I'll watch him tonight. We were going out riding tomorrow anyway. I have the day off."

"Yeah, we both were," Roy sounded a bit disappointed.

"Well, let's see what happens," Mike interjected. "May be he'll feel better." There was a possibility Johnny would feel good enough to go out to the stables, although he shouldn't ride.

"I'll give you a call tonight, Roy," Kel said. "Let you know how he feels."

"Well, I'd better go call Cap and get a replacement," Roy said. "I'm just glad he's going to be alright."

When Johnny woke a few hours later he was still wrapped up in several blankets pleasantly warm.

"Well, hey there, sleepy head," Dixie brushed his hair out of his eyes. "How are you feeling?" It was a complicated question and he thought about it for a time.

"Is he waking up?" Dr. Brackett asked as he entered the room.

"Trying to," she replied. "Not quite there." She began taking vitals while Kel checked eyes, felt glands and finally listened to lungs.

"I'm gonna make it?" Gage finally found his voice.

"How do you feel?" Brackett countered.

"Uhm, blurry," Johnny decided. "Like I'm out of focus," he tried to swallow but there was no moisture. Dixie picked up a water glass and proffered the straw. He drew in a cool mouthful of liquid.

"That's the compazine," Kel explained. "You'll be drowsy and thirsty. Do you have a headache? Any nausea?"

"No headache, no nausea," he responded.

"I want to check the exposure sites again," the doctor decided. Dixie helped him unwrap the blankets. As they got down to skin Johnny started blushing. The nurse tried to quell a snicker.

"Oops, think those people in the ER forgot something," she succumbed to the giggle this time. She moved over to the shelves and pulled down two gowns. These were put on forwards and back so that he'd be covered.

Once the blankets were off and the bed was raised slightly Kel began looking at the raised, reddened skin. There about a three inch stripe along his neck and upper right shoulder where the turnouts had gapped.

"We'll put some hydrocortisone on this," he remarked aloud. Dixie went to get the requested medication. Brackett then checked out both wrists. Again, there was a very narrow stripe of angry skin on the left wrist. This was noted verbally and he then looked over the rest of the reclining man's body. A very small patch of reddened skin on his chest, presumably some had dripped down through a gap in his coat.

"That pesticide is certainly toxic!" Kel exclaimed as he watched Dixie come into the room. He accepted the tube and applied some white cream on each wound site.

"What about the cath?" Johnny asked with some annoyance in his voice.

"It can come out once we get a clean specimen," he was told. "We'll also pull some blood and compare levels to the original readings."

Soon Johnny was tucked back in fresh, warm blankets. Brackett promised to return as soon as the results were back. Dixie had arranged for a late lunch to be brought in and he was picking through something that resembled hash when Roy walked in.

"Hey, Junior!" the senior paramedic hailed him. "How's it going?"

"Well, the toxin didn't do me in, but the food just might!" he exclaimed as he ferreted out a dubious piece of meat.

"I think I can help with that," Roy said with a smile. He held out a white bag. Johnny happily reached for the treat. A big, double cheese burger and onion rings greeted him. He gleefully bit into the still warm food.

"Dix said you were doing pretty good," Roy carried on the conversation. "Might be able to go home tonight."

"As long as I'm warm and not heaving, I can sleep anywhere," Johnny admitted. "Doc said the compazine will make me drowsy."

"I think Brackett said he'd take you home with him," Roy said. "He isn't working tomorrow." Johnny's eyebrows tightened in concentration.

"We were going riding tomorrow," he suddenly realized. "I'm sorry, Roy!"

"You don't need to apologize, Junior!" he protested. "It's not like you got sprayed on purpose."

"I know, but it's rare when we're all off together and have nothing planned," he replied as he picked up an onion ring. He chewed thoughtfully.

"I suppose I could go along, make sure you two saddled up right," he considered. "Then I could relax at the barn 'til you got back."

"You think we can ride alone?" Roy asked.

"You won't be alone, there are a lot of people riding out of that stable! You and doc have ridden on the main trail several times," Johnny said. "You two can ride out for about an hour and then come back. It'll be fine."

"As long as you feel good enough, partner," Roy cautioned. He was about to add more when Bellingham stuck his head in.

"Hey Johnny," he began, "Roy, we have a run."

"You doing overtime just like Brice, eh?" Johnny asked.

"Yeah, we're planning a little trip so we've done a little overtime and a little trading," the Animal responded. Roy was at the door listening to the tones.

"Squad 51, man down, 394 Marigold Avenue. Cross street, 7th, Time out 16:54."

"Squad 51," Bellingham replied and both paramedics left the room.

A few hours later Kelly Brackett returned to Johnny dressed in his civvies. He noted the patient was dozing contently in the warm blankets. Moving to the bed he checked respiration and then pulse. Moving Johnny's arm woke him.

"Hey, Doc," Johnny grinned. "How 'm I doing?"

"Better than expected," Kel replied as he made a few notations on the chart. "You feel like a sleep over?"

"You're up to feeding me?" Johnny teased right back. Brackett gave him a long, considering look.

"Yeah, I can feed you," he decided. "If you make coffee in the morning."

"I'll go one further," Gage grinned. "I'll do breakfast and come out to the stables to supervise you and Roy saddling up!"

"Only if you feel up to it in the morning," Brackett countered, but his 100 watt smile showed a youthful excitement.

"I know I will," the paramedic countered. "I feel fine now, just sleepy."

"Let me call Roy first, then we'll go home," Kel said as he reached for the phone by the bed.

"Station 51, Captain Stanley speaking," Hank answered the phone. "Well, hi, Dr. Brackett. Yes, he's in. Just a minute!" he put the call on hold and went to his office door.

"Roy! Dr. Brackett's on the phone," he called out. Mike and Marco looked up.

"Any problem with Johnny?" Marco asked quickly.

"He didn't say," Cap shrugged. Roy picked up the kitchen phone. Chet moved in closer as all five men listened in to his end of the conversation.

"Hi Doc," he began. "He does? That's great! I'm really looking forward to it. Yeah, I'm meet you out at the stables about 10. Great! Tell Johnny good night for me. Bye." A huge smile graced Roy's face as he hung up the phone and turned towards his shiftmates.

"What up, Roy?" Chet was first to ask.

"Oh, Doc said Johnny's doing real good. He's gonna take him home for the night," Roy said.

"Why're you going out to the stable?" the Irish firefighter continued.

"Oh, see, Johnny's been giving me and Doc horseback riding lessons," Roy explained. "We all have tomorrow off and we were going to go out. Johnny can't ride because he's still a little dizzy from the pesticide, but he said he'd go out with us and get us saddled up so Doc and I can ride out on the trail." The crew could tell the senior paramedic was excited.

"You remind me of Gage," Bellingham remarked with a sly grin. "You're positively vibrating."

"Yeah, Roy, you gonna be able to sleep at all tonight?" Cap teased. He was rewarded with a crooked grin just like the absent paramedic's.

"Wait a minute!" Chet exclaimed. "Why do you and Brackett get lessons and not us? I mean, I like to ride!"

"Speak for yourself," Mike inserted as he sipped at his coffee. "I've ridden, but I don't really care for it."

"Except for Mikey," Chet continued unabated. "Why didn't you invite us?!" Roy frowned slightly.

"It was all spur of the moment," he defended himself. "Remember that rescue a couple months back? When we were called out to assist the rangers out of Chantry Flats?"

"Yeah," Marco said, "you and John were way out of our area 'cause of the fires."

"Well, Pete Greer, the ranger, offered Johnny use of the horses at the stables," Roy explained. "He figured he'd have another team of paramedics trained to assist in back country rescues." He laughed. "Plus, he get's Johnny's expertise working with horses."

"Which, I'm sure, is formidable," Cap added with a smile. "I recall he has ranching and rodeo experience."

"He's an injun," Chet said dismissively. "They all know about horses and junk like that." This earned him four glares, even Bellingham took offense at the comment.

"Johnny grew up in a ranching community," Roy stated icily. "He spent a lot of time outdoors working while he was growing up."

"Not a 'ranching community'," Chet said sarcastically. "He grew up on a reservation. Remember how upset he was when that anthropologist lady tried to interview him?"

"Chet!" Marco literally growled. Chet looked at his best friend and realized he'd stepped over a line and actually flushed.

"Sorry," he muttered as he walked out of the room. The remaining men exchanged exasperated glances then Marco followed the embarrassed man. He found him leaning against the back fender of the engine.

"Hey amigo," Marco said softly as he nudged his friend's shoulder. Chet glanced over at him.

"Hey," he replied. They sat there staring out at the traffic, lit by street lights.

"You know how to ride, Marco?" Chet finally broke the silence.

"Eh, I rode a little when I went down to the family ranch," Marco replied. "But it's been awhile."

"Like riding a bike," Chet said, "just get back in the saddle and go."

"Do you ride?" the swarthy man asked.

"Yeah, yeah I have," Chet said in a considering tone. "Been a couple years, but I used to be pretty good." Marco looked at him, seeing the wheels turning in his head.

"Hey, what are you thinking about?" he asked cautiously.

"Eh, thinking maybe we could go riding, too, tomorrow," Chet said casually. "Go out to the stables, get a couple horses, relive a few memories."

"What stables?" Marco asked, still suspicious.

"Guess I'll check with DeSoto, see where they get their mounts," he replied.

The conversation was cut short by tones calling them out to a trash fire.

The morning dawned clear. Kel managed to let his house guest sleep in 'til 7:30. Of course, he normally would still be asleep but the thrill of going riding woke him up early.

"Morning, sleepy head," Brackett sat on the edge of the bed and lifted Johnny's arm. Two sleepy brown eyes stared at him making connections. After a long moment he watched everything click into place.

"Morning Doc," Johnny yawned, turning his head slightly to exhale.

"I have engineered coffee," Brackett boasted. This received a grimace.

"Great," came the sarcastic rejoinder.

"I know how to make coffee!" he protested. Johnny slowly swung his legs over the side of the bed, running a hand through his hair.

"Just like Roy does," he grumbled under his breath.

"What?" Kel asked.

"Need a shower," Johnny said louder. This elicited a snort from his friend.

"Right," he said. "I'll just leave a cup of coffee on the sink. And after you're showered, let me know so I can treat your injuries." With a nod Gage left.

Soon both men were heading down the freeway towards the equestrian stables. Johnny leaned against the seat and looked over his 'chauffeur'.

"You are just like Roy," he snickered.

"What?" Kel was startled out of his day dream.

"When I took Roy out for his first lesson he was an hour early and bouncing all over the place," Johnny stated. "You are just as bad." He received a level gaze and arched eyebrow.

"Oh, yes, definitely!" Gage concluded, laughing aloud. After a long considering moment Brackett joined in.

"Now you know how we feel when you're bouncing around!" Kel declared. "Tigger!" Again the car was filled with laughter.

The stables weren't too busy, being a weekday. Pete happily greeted 'his' paramedic team and doctor (as he teasingly called them). He made the appropriate comments when he heard about Johnny's mishap with the pesticide.

"Cassie'll be disappointed," Greer pointed out. The men looked over at three horses, one looking expectantly back. Now Roy punch his partner gently on the shoulder.

"Be glad Chet doesn't know about your girlfriend," he dead panned. He got a growl and a glare then Johnny spun on his heel and stomped over to the horses.

The three observers watched as the horse nickered and stretched her neck out towards the paramedic. He rubbed her nose affectionately then encircled her neck in a hug. It was apparent that the horse liked the man. Knowing better than to tease any longer, they walked to the small corral.

"So, ready to brush and saddle?" Johnny asked as he allowed the horse to nuzzle into his shirt.

"Yep!" Roy responded. Belle and Jake were waiting and soon he and Brackett were brushing them. Johnny and Cassie watched carefully as the two mounts were prepared and saddled. Johnny gave his final approval.

"Cassie and I will be over here," he said gesturing to the hay bales. "I'll be napping. She'll be hanging around." The doctor and senior paramedic laughed as they watched their friend settle on the hay bales with a pillow and several blankets. Cassie moved in close and leaned over him ready to relax.

A quiet half-hour passed. Johnny was dozing contently, the warmth of the horse just enough to make it comfortable.

"Well, lookie there," a boisterous voice clawed into his sleepy brain. "Johnny has a new girlfriend!" The voice was immediately recognized and the paramedic slowly sat up, Cassie offering her neck to lean on.

"Chester B!" he growled. "What are you doing here? Marco?" Johnny quickly noted that they were both on horseback; in fact, Marco was sitting atop Tippie and Chet was up on a horse called Davey. Tippie was agitated and mouthing the bit. Gage knew what that meant!

"Well, Johnny, we wanted to ride as well!" Chet replied. "Me and my amigo here felt left out."

"How'd you get those horses?" he asked. Tippie was not happy with the arrangement. That horse was trouble from the word go!

"I saddled 'em up," Pete said as he walked over. "Chet said they were friends of yours and had ridden a lot."

"There's nothing to riding," Chet drawled. "Just saddle 'em up and give 'em a slap." To illustrate, he shifted and smacked his reigns against his mount. Unfortunately, he missed and hit Tippie. That was all it took.

The horse reared up hoping to dislodge the pesky creature on her back. Marco was terrified and held on tight not wanting to fall. Before anyone could react the horse clamped down on the bit and took off on a dead run.

"Damn it Chet!" Johnny swore and slung himself onto Cassie's saddleless back. She immediately followed his unspoken direction and wheeled after the runaway horse.

Marco clung to the crazy horse's saddle horn. The reigns were useless as the animal wouldn't stop or slow or turn. It just kept plunging on down the trail whipping past startled riders who barely got out of their way.

Hearing the shrieks and yells behind them grow louder, Roy and Kel stopped their mounts and turned to see what was going on.

"What the hell..." the paramedic began as he watched people and animals scatter.

"Who's that?" Kel added as the animal drew closer.

"HELP!" Marco screamed as he streaked past. Scarcely a minute elasped when Johnny flew by on Cassie.

"This is not good," Brackett stated as he and Roy turned their mounts and continued. The next galloping rider came up and clipped past them.

"Pete," Roy pointed out.

Marco was terrified. This was the diablo himself in animal guise! He couldn't stop the beast nor could he get off. Suddenly he was aware of something beside him in the wild flight.

Cassie was furious! Her friend was sick and this temperamental child was causing a huge fuss. As she pulled up alongside the runaway she reached over and gave her a hard nip on the neck causing her to startle.

That was all the distraction Johnny needed as he reached out to grab loosened reigns. He pulled hard and brought the flighty Tippie close and dislodged her grip on the bit.

"Whoa, there," he called out. "Whoa, girl!" He could feel Cassie slowing down beneath him as he gained control over the angry horse.

Marco was aware of yet another horse and rider. Pete Greer pulled up on the other side and helped control Tippie. Soon the three horses were still, riders and horses panting hard.

"You have a lot of explaining to do," the ranger growled.

"I'm just glad I'm gonna be able to explain," Marco trembled.

Cassie canted her ears back and nipped Tippie again. The young horse squealed but did not bolt.

"Let's get you off that horse, Marco," Johnny suggested. He dismounted and helped his friend down.

"I'll ride Tippie back," Pete determined. "She needs a reminder of who's boss."

"Why don't you take Davey back," Johnny suggested but Marco shook his head.

"No way," he protested.

"Then get up behind Johnny," Pete said. "You're a long way from the stables." He helped boost Marco up and watched as the swarthy man gripped the rider tight. Next he wrapped the reigns of his mount on the saddle horn and loosened the halter rope. This was handed over to Johnny. He climbed into Tippie's saddle and firmly settled her. Finally they turned back to the stables.

Marco gripped Johnny and rested his face momentarily on the sweaty back.

"Thanks, Johnny," he said haltingly. "I didn't think I'd ever get off that creature!"

"It's ok, Marco," he assured him. "What ever were you thinking getting up on a strange horse? You definitely don't have much experience on a horse!"

"It's been years," he admitted. "And the work horses on the ranch were nothing like that beast!" They rode quietly for a moment then Marco added, "Chet thought it would be fun to ride."

"Chet, eh?" Johnny prompted.

"Yeah, he was annoyed that you were taking Roy and Dr. Brackett out riding but no one else," Marco explained.

"He could have just asked," Gage pointed out mildly.

"Chet? Ask?" Marco deadpanned. They both chuckled.

"Hey, Johnny, Marco!" Roy called out as they came closer.

"Hi Roy, Doc!" Having a good ride?" Johnny said innocently.

"I thought you were going to take it easy, Johnny," Kel said sternly. Before he could defend himself Marco jumped in.

"It's not his fault, Doc! Chet decided we should come out and ride and fed Mr. Greer a line about what good riders we were!"

"Chet did what?" Brackett started.

"And you let him?" Roy added. Marco looked embarrassed.

"Finish your ride, gentlemen," Johnny said as he nudged Cassie back into a walk. "I have a date with a couple of hay bales." He had no desire to listen to them argue; he was tired and wanted a warm blanket.

By the time Kel and Roy returned they found Johnny once more ensconced on his hay bales, Cassie next to him dozing. They continued on to the barn and began taking saddles and paraphernalia off their horses and putting it away. Pete came up and watched them for a moment, then turned to the stalls.

"Gentlemen, two horses to be cooled down!" he called. A sheepish Marco and embarrassed Chet came out leaning their pitch forks against the wall. They came over and led the horses down towards a loosened bale of straw and began rubbing them down.

"Johnny felt they needed some 'latrine' duty," Pete commented as he stood next to the riders.

"Johnny would be right!" Roy declared as they started laughing.