Book II, Chapter 17

Disclaimer:  The following story is a work of fiction.  If you are offended by descriptions of homosexual acts or man/man relations, please exit this page.


Copyright 2009 by Tulsa Driller.  All rights reserved.

This is a story of men who have two common interests.  You will see that they love the land where they live and work, but it is also the story of young men who love other men and their coming of age in a culture of prejudice and misunderstanding.  It is a story, which deals with difficult and often disturbing issues but, nonetheless, issues which must be confronted in today's society.

This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons.  Any similarity to actual persons or events is entirely coincidental.  This work is copyrighted© by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author.  It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.

PLEASE:  In a perfect world AIDS doesn't exist.  My characters have unprotected sex.  I hope you use proper precautions because I'd like you to be around to read the last chapter of this story.

Tales from the Ranch
Book 2, Chapter 17:  Heroics

Barry Gilbert's car was running rough and it would be Friday before the family mechanic could look at it.  He called Forest and Joey on Tuesday evening to see if they could pick him up at his house and bring him to school on Wednesday morning.  That wasn't a problem for the boys; they would just have to start for school about 10 minutes earlier.  Since all three would end their day at the baseball diamond, Forrest took a seldom-used back street to school so he could park the car there.

When they were about a block from the school property, a young boy came running from between two houses, screaming "HELP!!"  The boys could tell there was a serious problem, so Forrest parked at the edge of the street and the three of them bailed out of the car.  The boy was in hysterics, but was able to get them to understand that his father was stuck at the bottom of the swimming pool and the boy was sure he was going to die.

"Did you call 9-1-1?" Joey asked the frantic boy.

"No!  He's gonna drown!" the distraught boy sobbed.

"Calm down.  Everything's going to be okay.  Go in the house and call 9-1-1.  Be sure to tell them a person is trapped on the bottom of the pool and that we need a water rescue," Joey told him without checking to see what was going on.  Time was critical.  He was already pulling off his clothes as they went through the gate to the Olympic-size pool.  Sure enough they could see someone in the middle of the pool on the bottom.  It appeared that he was caught in the grate of the pool drain.

Joey yelled, "We have to get some air to this guy!" not knowing if it was already too late or not.  Forrest and Barry were pulling their clothes off, too.  "Grab a lung-full of air and blow it into his mouth gently.  Hopefully we're not too late and the guy realizes what we are trying to do and doesn't fight us," Joey said, taking a big gulp of air and diving into the water.

Forrest was next with Barry being right behind them.  As Joey was swimming up, the man saw him and reached toward him.  Joey pinched the man's nose shut, fixed his lips on the man's mouth and gently blew air into his mouth until his own lungs were empty.  After that he let go of the man's nose.  He could see the bubbles as the man expelled some air through his nose. As Joey started to the surface, the man grabbed his arm and pointed toward the drain.  Joey could feel the suction without being at the drain.  He surfaced, took several gulps of air and dove to the bottom again.

It appeared that Forrest and Barry could keep him supplied with air but he realized they had a very limited amount of time.  So, the next time he surfaced he crawled out of the pool and looked around.  The door to the equipment room in the pool house was either locked or jammed.  Joey spotted a garden hose and his first thought was to use that for the man to stick in his mouth and breathe that way.  Then he realized that the hose was probably full of water and couldn't be used without draining it.

As he turned back to the pool, he noticed two scuba masks and several small bottles of oxygen on a table.  The first tank he picked up was empty.  The second showed 7 minutes of oxygen on the meter.  He hoped it was a correct reading.  He grabbed the equipment and as he dove into the pool he heard a siren.  

Forrest and Barry were taking turns giving the man air from their lungs.  Joey realized that he hadn't seen the young boy since he sent him to call 9-1-1, but he had heard a siren.  That was a positive sign.

This time as he swam up, he turned the oxygen regulator on so it was gently bubbling air from the mouthpiece and gave the nozzle to the man, who was remaining remarkably calm.  Forrest was ready to surface and followed Joey as they swam to the edge of the pool.  Two EMS men were coming through the gate and Joey could hear two more sirens that sounded like they were at the curb.

He quickly explained the situation to the EMS men who said they would wait for the Fire Department as they would have the equipment necessary to keep him breathing while they tried to get the pump shut off.

About that time six firemen came through the gate in a dead run to the pool.  Again, Joey quickly explained what he had done and that time could be running out for the oxygen tank.  Two of the firemen quickly stripped to their trunks, donned scuba gear for themselves, along with a third for the man at the bottom of the pool.

As the firemen put a mask on the man so he could breathe as normally as possible, Forrest and Barry swam to the surface and crawled out of the pool.  They gave each other a high-five and a hug.  About that time the young boy came running out of the house and saw Joey; he ran to him.

"He's going to be okay.  The only problem is the pool pump.  Do you have a key for the door?"

"Yeah, it's in the kitchen."  By the time he went into the house and back out to the pool house, two of the firemen had already used their axes for access.  It was a three speed motor and had been turned to the highest suction setting.  

Miles Truby, the reporter for channel 36 in Austin was in Williamsport that morning to report on a meeting of the Communication Workers of America, who were trying to negotiate a new contract with Southwestern Bell.  He was waiting for his cameraman to show up when he heard the 9-1-1 operator dispatch EMS and the Fire Department to the back of 903 West Yuma Street on his police scanner.  That was about three blocks from where he was parked while going over his questions for the CWA meeting.  He quickly called the mobile phone his cameraman was carrying and told them to meet him at the address he'd heard given for the emergency.  He arrived ahead of his cameraman, but had a VHS recorder in his car.  Miles grabbed that and was out of the car almost before it quit moving.  He saw the activity around the pool and started shooting footage of the rescue that was underway.

As the drain pump quit the two firemen helping the man started manipulating his leg, which was badly bruised and stuck in the drain.  His ankle was in the trap which made a right angle under the bottom of the pool.  It still took the firemen about eight minutes to free the man and bring him to the surface and into the arms of two of the fireman at the edge of the pool.  Everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief.

By that time, the cameraman for Miles' crew was set up and taping the activity.

"Daddy!!" yelled the young boy as he burst out in tears again.  His father reached out to comfort the boy, who was sure that his father had died at the bottom of their pool.  Amazingly, he had not ingested that much water, but was wearing an oxygen mask and still gasping the welcome fresh air.

The Lieutenant in charge for the Williamsport Police Department was Marilyn Kolb. She and Captain Tyler Dixon of the Williamsport Fire Department had questions for Joey, Forrest and Barry, who were standing there in their underwear; boxers for Barry and jockstraps for Forrest and Joey.  
Miles was scribbling notes for the story as he would soon be requesting a newsbreak from the station, feeding raw footage to the film editor there.

After completing their reports, the boys were told they could get dressed.  Joey and Forrest's jockstraps were soaked, so they ducked into the pool house to take them off, going commando under their 501's.  Barry did the same thing with his boxer shorts.

When they came back out of the dressing area, Miles waved the young men over, introduced himself and listened to the story that each of the boys had to tell while the camera was rolling.  He thanked the teens and told them he would be glad to give them a copy of both the edited and raw footage of video tape.  

Miles went on to do a brief interview with Lt. Kolb and Captain Dixon.  Miles was from Williamsport and was well-known to the people in the Department of Public Safety.  He had covered almost the entire Jimmy Bob Jones story and that, in fact, had gotten him his present job with Channel 36, the NBC affiliate in Austin.

By this time the man who had almost been a casualty was propped up in a lounge chair giving his report to the Lieutenant and Captain.  The camera was still running and everyone gathered to hear what he had to say about what had just happened.

"The chemicals in the pool had gotten way out of balance and the pool service recommended that we drain ten thousand gallons of water from the pool, rebalance the chemicals and then start refilling the pool.  I had come out to run a test on the water and realized that the pump wasn't running.  I yelled for Jarrod to turn the pump on to its lowest setting.  I guess he got confused, or something happened because all of a sudden it came on at full power and I was knocked off balance and got caught in the grate and pipe.  The pool service is supposed to install a new grate this week as they broke this one trying to open it the other day."

He realized that the boys were standing close by, listening as he gave his statement.  Guys, come over here," he motioned.  "I'm Erik Sharpe."  All three of the boys knew the name.  He had been in competition to secure a place on the Olympic Swim Team about twelve years ago, but had been beat-out by others.   He was still a spokesman for various products and could be seen regularly in TV commercials, mostly for sporting goods.

"I don't know how to begin to thank you.  I was starting to feel pretty dizzy and it was a real effort not to give in and take a breath of water.  That would have been the end of it for me," he told everyone.  I don't know how you got here, but my guardian angel must have been looking after all of us this morning."

Erik refused to go to the hospital and the EMS team couldn't find anything wrong with him except  his blood pressure was elevated from the excitement.  He said, "I don't think that I've ingested much water and my lungs don't hurt when I breathe.  But I'm still coughing up some mucus from time to time.  I know that is normal, and I never knew that fresh air was so great."

Forrest told Erik that his son, Jarrod, had appeared in the street in front of their car as he was going to park in the school lot next to the baseball diamond.

Joey picked up the story and when he got to where he found the scuba tanks, Erik said, "All four of those tanks should have been empty.  What I said about guardian angels... I'm having a hard time dealing with the thought that a championship swimmer like myself could drown at the bottom of my own pool.

He had Joey, Forrest and Barry write their personal information on a sheet of paper that Lt. Kolb gave them.

Joey finished dressing by pulling on a polo shirt, his socks and shoes.  His watch showed that it was 10:45.  `The last two and a half hours had gone by in a blur.  `Much too quickly,' he thought.

By now Erik was standing up and Jarrod had his arm wrapped around his Dad's waist, not about to let go of him.  Both gave the high school boys hugs and a quick kiss on the cheek.  The teens left via the gate from the pool into the yard and their car at the curb.

* * * * *
Doris was working in her kitchen, baking cinnamon rolls and had the TV on for noise more than anything else.  She didn't like most of the morning shows and usually had the set turned to the CNN or FOX channel, but for some reason the TV was turned to the NBC station and she hadn't changed it.

She only half heard Miles Truby start his report of a near drowning and glanced up at the screen to see Forrest, Joey and their friend, Barry, standing in their obviously wet undergear answering questions.  Even though her hands were covered with sticky bread dough, she dialed Craig's office, quickly telling him to turn on the TV and then called Frank at Saber Computers, giving him the same information.  She hung up the phone and watched the rest of the story.  

After talking to Joey, Forrest and Barry, Miles briefly interviewed Lt. Kolb and Captain Dixon.  The next people to be interviewed were Erik Sharpe and his twelve year-old son, Jarrod, that was standing with him.  Doris vaguely remembered Erick's name, but hadn't heard it for quite a few years.  Erik had nothing but praise for the three teen boys who had saved his life.  It was a rather bizarre story as it sounded like it wasn't the usual route that the boys took to school and that Jarrod was able to flag down their car on a street that was seldom used.  It was more of an alley than a street.

* * * * *
As they got into the car Barry spoke up.  "We'll have to go to the office and get absence slips for the classes we missed as well as late slips for the classes we should be in right now."

"I don't think we'll have any problem, do you?" Forrest questioned.

"I'll bet this is the first time that `saving a man from drowning' has been used as an excuse at this school," Joey laughed.  "By the way, you guys were awesome, thanks for backing me up.  If Erik had panicked, he would have died at the bottom of the pool.

Both Forrest and Barry told Joey that he was the one who was awesome.  They each admitted that they wouldn't have had any idea as to what to do without his direction.

"When I was in Boy Scouts, I was allowed to take a course that the Houston Fire Department gave on water rescues.  They weren't going to let me take the course since I was only twelve, but a couple of the boys didn't show up, so it wasn't like I took someone's space.  But, you are right; I wouldn't have known what to do without having taken that course."

Forrest parked the car about a block from the house and behind the baseball diamond.  The three boys went to the attendance office in the administrative wing.  Betty Armstrong was working at her desk.  "What can I do for you fellows this morning?" she asked.  There had been no advance requests for an excused absence for any of these young men.

"We need excused absence slips for first and second hours and a late slip for the class we're missing now," Joey said.

"Do you have a signed excuse from your parents?" she asked.

"No, they don't know about this yet," Forrest admitted.

"I can give you a late slip for this period, but I'll need you to bring me signed excuses tomorrow.  What reason are you going to give?"

Forrest didn't dare look at Joey or Barry.  "Saving a man from drowning in his swimming pool."

"What?  You've got to be kidding," she laughed.  That was the best excuse yet and she knew the boys were pulling her leg.

"No ma'am.  You can check with Lt. Kolb of the Williamsport Police Department of Captain Tyler Dixon of the Williamsport Fire Department."

"Where did this happen?" she wanted to know.  Barry told her that Erick Sharpe lived behind the school, next to the baseball field.

About that time, Doug Tate came into the office and greeted the three boys by name.  "What's going on?" he asked to no one in particular.

"These boys claim that they saved Erik Sharpe from drowning in his own swimming pool when they were on their way to school this morning," Betty told the Principal, still not believing their story.

"What happened, did he get a cramp?" Doug asked.

"No he got his foot and leg wedged in the floor drain.  The pump was on high suction and he couldn't get free.  His son, Jarrod, flagged us down when we were driving into the back lot, next to the baseball diamond," Joey told them.  

"If it hadn't been for Joey telling us what to do, he would have drowned for sure," Forrest told them.

"I know Captain Dixon, let me make a phone call," Doug said and then went into his office.  Within two minutes he was back out at the attendance counter.

"Seems like you boys are heroes.  Are you sure you want to go to classes today?" he asked.  None of the three had thought about the possibility of getting out of school for the day.  

"I'm okay to go to class," Joey said, his pals agreeing with him.

Doug Tate told Betty, "Fix up the slips they need and I'll sign them myself."  He was so proud to have the three honors students turned heroes in his school.

Betty quickly wrote out the slips they would need, Doug Tate signed them and they were ready to go to class.

* * * * *
The boys met the rest of their gang in the cafeteria.  The others were almost unbelieving as the story unfolded.  There were high-fives, slaps on the back and hugs among the young men.  By the time they were through eating new arrivals in the cafeteria had seen the news flash on the in-school monitors in the halls.  It stated simply: "Heroes, Joey Sullivan, Forrest Ross and Barry Gilbert saved Erik Sharpe from drowning this morning.  Way to go guys!!!"

No one in school knew anything beside what had been displayed on the TV monitors throughout the school building.  However, word quickly spread throughout the cafeteria as to what had happened and everyone wanted to speak to the three young men.

As they were ready to take their trays to the conveyor for dirty dishes, Doug Tate found them at their table and told them he needed to talk to them.

"The telephones haven't stopped ringing since you left the office.  Miles Truby wants to do another interview and this one will appear on the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw.  Also, the Austin American-Statesman wants to send a reporter to interview you.  There have been requests for interviews from the CBS, ABC, FOX and CNN channels in Austin.  If you want to do this, they will set up a press conference at City Hall at 3 p.m.  It will include the Fire Department Rescue Team, EMS, Erik Sharpe and his son and probably several other people."

This was almost more than the teens could comprehend, but agreed to be interviewed.  Doug told them, "You really need to call your parents and let them know what is going on and see if they have any objection to you appearing on national TV.  Come on back to the office.  You are dismissed from school for the rest of the day because I know that each class is going to seem like it's three hours long.  Maybe tomorrow you will be settled back down and can attend classes.  Remember, the school will be closed on Good Friday."

The boys followed Doug back to Betty Armstrong's office and he showed them the telephones they could use, setting them on the counter.  "These young heroes need absence slips for the rest of the day and I'll sign them when you get them filled out," he told Betty.

"Do we need to go home and put on good clothes?" Joey asked.

"No, just wear what you were wearing when you made the rescue," Doug said.

"Un... jockstraps?  I'm not too sure about that," Joey stated.  Betty Armstrong started giggling.  She wouldn't mind seeing any of these prime teens in jockstraps.

They all laughed.  

"I think the way you are dressed right now is just fine.  You all need to call your parents and let them know what you did and about the interviews by the news media.  I'm sure they will be proud to be here with you and enjoy your fame, too," Doug told them.

Joey called Dale, Forrest called Craig and Barry called his mother.

Each of them explained what had happened and that there would be a press conference for other media at 3:00 in the City Hall Auditorium.

Dale answered his mobile phone, surprised to hear from Joey as it was just after lunch.  To say that Dale was stunned at what Joey told him would be an understatement.  Joey explained and then continued with what details he could quickly tell.  Dale congratulated him.  Joey made sure that he could come to the press conference at City Hall.  "I have interviews scheduled for the rest of the day, but this is more important.  I'll be there, bud.  I wouldn't miss this for anything."

That made Joey feel really proud.  "Okay, Forrest is calling Dad Craig right now, so maybe grandma and grandpa can come and you can all sit together," Joey told him.

"We'll do that," Dale said, his pride causing tears in his eyes.  They told each other "good-bye and hung up.

Barry Gilbert called his mother as she had worked the morning shift today.  She was a nursing supervisor at Memorial Hospital and his father was manager of the Farm Supply Store.  Barry's mother was glad to hear from him as a neighbor had called her to watch the breaking news report on channel 36 that aired at noon.  She didn't want to try to contact him at school, but was anxious for him to get home after baseball practice so she could find out all about it.

"I'll call your dad and we will both be at the press conference."  She and her husband had every right to be proud of Barry.  He was an honors student, played on the high school baseball team, was a Star Scout and a junior lay reader at First Methodist Church, where the family attended.

Forrest talked to Craig, who already knew a little bit about what was going on since Doris had called him about the breaking news report before she called Frank.

"We'll all be there.  Are you excited about all the attention?" Craig asked.

"I guess so.  I mean Erik would have died if we hadn't been there, but Joey was the one who really knew what to do.  Barry and I just helped, Forrest stated.

"Well, it was a team effort and you were in the right place at the right time and didn't hesitate to do what had to be done.  We're all proud of you and Joey and Barry, too.

* * * * *
The news media was setting up cameras and most of the reporters were in place, some taping the preface to the report they would soon be giving.  In addition to NBC channel 36, which already had the full story, four other Austin stations were there, ABC, CBS, FOX and CNN.  In addition there was an editor for the Austin American-Statesman, the Williamsport Journal and a San Antonio newspaper.  Chief Sanford Logan of the Williamsport Fire Department was going to act as moderator for the press conference.

Joey was impressed that in addition to him, Forrest and Barry, Erik and Jarrod Sharpe were there, along with Lt. Marilyn Kolb and Captain Tyler Dixon.  The two firemen who had taken over what Joey had started and had gotten Erik's foot loose from the drain were there.  Also there was the Mayor of Williamsport, Otis Armstrong and another man no one seemed to know.

The press conference started promptly at 3:00 with Chief Logan greeting everyone and explaining what had transpired that morning.  He started with Joey, asking him to tell what had happened from his perspective, then allowing Forrest and Barry to tell their stories.  

The next person to be called was Erik Sharpe.  He was introduced as a competitive swimmer who had barely missed being on the Olympic team several years previously.

While Erik was talking the morning tape made by the cameraman from channel 36 was playing on a large screen TV without sound.  The raw footage of the news report lasted almost five minutes.  Joey and Forrest immediately noticed that all they were wearing were their jockstraps.  `How embarrassing,' both Joey and Forrest thought, although Barry was wearing slim fit boxers in a light green color; by being wet they showed almost as much as did his friend's jockstraps.

The press conference which was scheduled to be about twenty-five minutes long soon stretched to almost forty-five minutes.  Mayor Otis Armstrong presented the rescuers with certificates of heroism and gave them each a key to the city.

The final person to take the microphone was Jim Marshall, who worked as Press Secretary for Governor Clements in Austin.  He had certificates proclaiming Joey, Forrest and Barry as Heroes of the Republic of Texas and presented them with metals to wear around their necks.  He stated, "Governor Clements would have been here to personally give these honors to these fine young citizens, but unfortunately he is attending a regional governors conference in Denver today.  You will be hearing from him when he returns to our own great State of Texas."  

There was much applause as he put the metals around the boy's necks and raised their arms high.

* * * * *
It had been a good press conference.  The three young men were pumped up, but still not fully realizing that they had saved the life of another person that morning.  Several of the reporters told the young men that they would see to it that they received a video tape of the press conference and impromptu awards ceremony.

The young men were standing with their parents, talking and answering more questions about what had happened that morning.  Doug Tate was as proud of his students as if he had been their parents.  He told Dale and Craig, along with Barry's parents that if they didn't want to attend school the next day, he would personally sign their absence slips.  Joey, Forrest and Barry weren't too sure about that.  They would need their class assignments for two days so they could do their homework and whatever reading was necessary.

* * * * *
After arriving back at the condo, Doris and Frank with them, Frank immediately said that he was taking all of them out for dinner that evening to celebrate.  

Joey immediately said, "This is choir rehearsal tonight, the last one before Easter.  I've got to be there because I've missed too many rehearsals for various reasons since I joined the choir and I need to go over my solo with Paul, too.

Frank agreed, but said, "How about going somewhere early?"

Craig spoke up.  "I really want to see the five o'clock news and the five-thirty national news.  I know they will give us copies of the video tape, but I'm excited and want to see it when it first airs."

There was general agreement so it was decided they would order pizza with all the trimmings and salads from Tony D's.  They could watch TV while eating and Joey would still be in time for choir rehearsal.

* * * * *
Miles Truby had an excellent interview with Joey, Forrest and Barry.  Some of the film was running silently while they told their story.  It was the best report he'd ever made, thanks to his manager, and the first of his reports to be shown on national news.

* * * * *
Paul Rathborne was beginning to think he would never get the choir settled down so they could rehearse.  There was too much excitement among the boys as one of their members was now a nationally known hero.

However, once they got started, the rehearsal moved quickly.  Joey stayed after the rehearsal to go through his solo for Eastern Sunday with Paul.  It was perfect the first time and about the time Paul was congratulating him, Forrest walked into the chancel to let Joey know he was there so they could go home together.

* * * * *
Craig's cousin, Larry Thomas and his partner Darin Weston had just settled into the Best Western Motel in Bryan, Texas that evening.  Darin had an appointment for a seven p.m. interview with a young fellow who wanted to major in percussion and was interested in attending Centenary College where Darin was an Admissions Recruiter and was conducting two interviews on their holiday vacation.

Larry turned on the TV before they freshened up to go to an early dinner and then Darin's interview.  Darin called the students' home to make sure where they were to meet.

They really weren't paying too much attention to the TV but the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw was just starting.  The show always opened with announcements of several stories to be covered that evening.  The first story was the rescue of Erik Sharpe (who Larry knew from college days).  When the story started running, the attention of both was captured.  Joey and Forrest were Craig and Dale's sons.  They would be at their home this time the next evening.  Needless to say, they wished they could rerun the story immediately.  Later when they went to the motel dining room Larry stopped at the front desk to inquire about the local cable system.  They carried the NBC station out of Houston, but the clerk told them more of the story had been on that station earlier, so might be repeated at ten p.m.

* * * * *
So much had happened that day, Joey and Forrest were ready to go to bed immediately after their story ran in the middle of the ten p.m. newscast.  After telling their dad's goodnight, they went to their room and settled into bed.  Forrest snuggled up to Joey's hairy chest.  After a kiss, they went to sleep immediately.

* * * * *
It was somewhat the same scenario in the other bedroom.  It had been an exciting day.  They were both proud of their sons.  Craig snuggled against Dale's chest.  After exchanging kisses Dale realized that Craig had gone to sleep.

All of the men at that residence slept soundly on Wednesday night.
* * * * *
While Erik Sharpe hadn't made a deal with God to continue his life, he knew that he was a very lucky person who, hopefully, would be able to see his son grow up.  He shuddered to think that his grandfather, Wilford Sharpe, might be responsible for raising Jarrod to adulthood.  The old man was crazy.

* * * * *
Barry Gilbert said his prayers before going to bed, thanking God for people like Joey and Forrest who knew what to do in the morning rescue and vowed that he would find a water rescue course to take himself.

* * * * *
Edited by BoxerDude