Here is part two of the chapter I posted yesterday. If you read down to the end you’ll also get a sneak peak of next week’s chapter. If you would like to read the story of Jason’s sister, you can learn more about The Farmer’s Daughter HERE or at the link at the top of the page. If you don’t have a Kindle or Kindle Unlimited, I’ll have options to order digital copies of the book other ways in June. You can also order a print copy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
To catch up on the rest of The Farmers’ Sons click HERE.
Jason glanced up at the tops of the trees as he drove, noticing the limbs bending in the wind. Wind and fire. Never a good combination.
He saw the smoke before he saw the fire. Dark clouds rose up in plumes against a backdrop of the blue and green hillside, over the roofs of the homes he passed. When he rounded the corner, he saw flames ripping across Lester Franklin’s side yard and the dry-yellow field next to it. Lester, a truck driver for a local heating oil business, was standing a few inches away from the flames, beating them down with what looked like a wet burlap sack used to store grain.
Cody was already there in his blue Ford pick-up. The fire truck hadn’t arrived yet.
“Controlled burn that got out of control,” Cody called as Jason jumped from his truck. He handed Jason a shovel and a hoe. “Lester was burning some old brush and branches. The grass was dryer than he realized. Let’s try to keep it from going toward the house until the truck gets here. We’ll dig a buffer zone and hope it doesn’t jump it. If it does, we may need to light another fire, but hopefully the guys get here first. If a flame sprouts up in front of you throw some dirt at it or take one of the soaked bags over there and try to beat it back.”
Cody briefly explained the concept of a buffer zone and how to create one, demonstrating it as he began creating a line between the field and yard.
The heat from the flames hit Jason full force as he started digging behind Cody. He dug quickly, hoping the flames would keep their path on the other side of the line. Cody grabbed a stack of sacks and soaked them under the outside spicket then returned to digging the path, beating back the flames with a soaked sack every few minutes.
Twenty minutes later, drenched in sweat, Jason heard the sirens of the fire truck blaring about a mile away at the same moment the wind shifted and sent flames slamming toward him and around him. He stepped back fast but not fast enough to keep the fire from jumping from the ground to his jeans.
Cody was next to him in seconds, patting his palms against Jason’s pants, down near his ankles.
Once flames were no longer slithering up his legs, Jason grabbed one of the sacks as Cody pointed toward the Franklin’s house.
“It’s spreading toward the bush by the back porch!”
The truck pulled into the side yard a few minutes later and blazed toward the back field, siren blaring. Behind it were three more trucks with blue flashing lights on top, volunteers jumping out as soon as their trucks were in park.
“Get the hose and soak the porch!” Cody shouted.
The hose was being rolled out as a smaller truck pulled in behind the larger one.
Brittany Manahan’s arm bumped Jason’s as she pushed past him with the hose. “Hey, rookie, back up before we drown you.” Her arm shot up as she gestured toward the firemen back at the truck. “Let ‘er loose, boys!”
Water shot out across the top of the porch, doused the blazing bush at the same time. Jason moved back to the field where spindly patterns of fire were reaching toward the woods behind the house.
He hit the flames back with the wet sack until the hose from the smaller truck was pulled his way, then grabbed the hose, joining Denny Ward and Jacob Beecher. The three men dragged the hose through the burnt grass toward the flames that still hadn’t been tamed.
By the time the fire was out a half an hour later, Jason’s face and neck were slick with sweat and any skin showing was smeared with soot.
He staggered toward the house with Denny and Jacob, dragging the hose behind them.
“Good job for your first brush fire, Tanner,” Brittany said tossing him a water bottle. “Drink up, I don’t want to have to try to carry your big butt to the ambulance.”
Brittany was a paid EMT for the Tri-County Ambulance service, which covered the county Spencer Valley was in and two others. When she wasn’t riding with the ambulance, she was responding to fires as a volunteer member of the Spencer Valley Fire Department.
Jason caught the bottle, twisting the cap off. “Thanks.”
Brittany tossed her head back, releasing dark curls from a hair tie with one hand and yanking the rest of the strands from where they’d been shoved under the collar of the fire suit.
She drank down half a bottle of her own before focusing her gaze on Jason. She leaned one arm against the trunk of the tree next to her. “You’re a natural at this. You knew what to do without any of us telling you.”
Jason shrugged a shoulder. “Just a quick learner. But Cody did give me some pointers”
Denny walked up to stand under the shade of the tall maple tree with them. He winked at Brittany. “His being built like a Greek god doesn’t hurt any either, does it Brittany?”
There was no mistaking the red that flushed up Brittany’s cheeks, but she didn’t give the men time to harass her about it. “I hadn’t noticed, Denny. Something you need to tell us, or maybe Heather when you get home?”
Heather was Denny’s wife. Jason had graduated with both of them.
“Very funny, Manahan. Don’t try to deflect. You’ve been checking out Tanner since he signed up.”
Brittany tossed her empty water bottle toward Denny, slid the jacket of the fire suit off and turned back toward the rig. “Sounds like maybe you’re deflecting your own obsession with Tanner,” she called over her shoulder.
Denny elbowed Jason in the ribs. He nodded toward Brittany, now across the yard by the truck. “Watch out for that one. She’s a man eater and she’s definitely been checking you out.”
Jason laughed softly, shook his head. He didn’t know if what Denny was saying was true or not, and he didn’t really care.
“Not worried about it.” He took another long drink from the bottle. “I’m steering clear of the opposite sex for a good long while.”
Denny leaned back against the tree they were standing under. “You and Ellie still on the rocks?”
Jason nodded, finishing the water in the bottle, and crushing it in his hand. A cool breeze slid over his skin and he closed his eyes briefly to enjoy it.
Cody walked over, leaned one arm against the tree, and shook his head. He looked at the charred scene around them as he guzzled a bottle of water.
“Last year we had too much rain, this year we could use some more. I’d love a year where we’d get just the right amount of rain.”
Denny and Jason agree with quick nods of their heads.
“It would certainly make farming a lot easier,” Jason commented.
Elizabeth Franklin stepped out on the porch with a tray of lemonade and a plate of cookies. She placed the tray on a small table and cupped her hands around her mouth to call across the yard. “Come on over, guys. Have some refreshments before you head out.”
Cody grinned, patting Jason on the shoulder as they walked. “Volunteers may not get paid in money, but we do get paid in baked goods.”
Jason patted his stomach, still flat, but knew it wouldn’t be much longer if he didn’t stop taking ‘thank you’ gifts of food. He would need a couple extra hours in the gym this next week.
Elizabeth poured glasses of lemonade, waving over the rest of the fire fighters still on scene. “Goodness, boys, that was scary. We can’t thank you enough for saving the woods and the house.” She looked up as Brittany walked over, now out of her fire gear. “Sorry about that hon’. I forgot our fire department has a young lady now. No offense meant.”
Brittany waved her hand dismissively, taking a glass of lemonade with the other hand. “No offense taken, Mrs. Franklin.”
Elizabeth propped a hand on her hip. “Brittany, you know you can call me Elizabeth now. I haven’t been your teacher in ten years.”
Brittany made a face. “I’ll try but I can’t make any promises. Just seems weird.”
Jason laughed. “I didn’t even have you as a teacher and I don’t think even I can call you Elizabeth.”
Gray streaked the older woman’s dark blond strands pulled back in a ponytail. She folded her arms across her chest and looked down at Jason, standing on the ground next to the porch. “That’s right. I never did have you in class, did I? I do remember having Molly. One of my brightest students. How’s she doing these days?”
“Good. Working hard at the country store, managing our website, and of course, still working on the farm.”
Elizabeth pressed her hands against her lower back and stretched back slightly. “She’s not married yet either is she?”
Jason’s chest constricted at the question, though he knew Molly’s former English teacher had no idea she’d struck a painful chord.
“No. Not yet.”
Elizabeth smiled affectionally and winked. “Well, you both better get on it and give Robert and Annie some grandchildren to cuddle. They’re just going to love being grandparents. I know Lester and I do.”
Being reminded of not having children yet at his age, while wondering if he ever would, was making Jason wish that fire had consumed him.
Cody jerked his head toward the trucks after a few more minutes of chatting. “We’d better get these hoses rolled up and the rigs back to the fire house.”
The conversations broke up as the firefighters pulled off their gear and headed back to the trucks or their own vehicles. Jason dragged a hand across his forehead, looked at the black smeared on his skin, and grimaced. It was going to take a lot of soap to get all this off.
Brittany climbed into the passenger side of the larger fire truck and leaned her head out the window. “Hey, Jason, some of the guys and I are going to Mooney’s after we clean up. Wanna join us?”
He shook his head, wiping his hands on his pants. “I’ve got to head back to the farm but thanks for asking.”
He didn’t miss the wink she gave him. “Next time, okay? I’ll buy you a beer.”
He waved as the truck pulled out then winced as he watched the truck head down the dirt road.
Maybe Denny was right. He’d better watch his back with that one.
Standing in the shower fifteen minutes later, after telling his dad he’d be in the barn soon to help with the milking, he let the water run hot down his back. Exhaustion ate away at his strength. He leaned his arm against the wall and his forehead against his arm.
He hoped the water would loosen his muscles and wake him. He still had a farm to help run. When he thought about Elizabeth’s comments about grandchildren, he turned the knob further toward the hot, hoping the water would burn her words out of his mind like it was burning the soot off his body.
“Hey, Jase.” Alex’s voice from the other side of the door made him groan softly. “Any idea where the toolbox went? A hose on the milker broke again.”
While he would have liked to have been able to shower in peace, he couldn’t deny how grateful he was that there was always something to keep his mind off what he didn’t want to think about.
Sneak peek of Chapter 7 for next week:
Ellie winced, curling her legs up against the heating pad pressed against her stomach. A burning pain had started in her lower stomach an hour earlier and was curving around to her back. She’d finally given up and taken ibuprofen. It hadn’t kicked in yet.
Was it the stress of the last few weeks causing her pain to be worse? Maybe her condition was simply getting worse. Either way, she prayed for the pain to end soon. She had Bible study in a couple of hours. They were studying Proverbs 31 and she needed to be there, not only to lead the study, but to focus on something other than her deepening depression.
She drifted off into a fitful sleep for 20 minutes before a knock on the door woke her.