Tourist Mountain Rescue by Aussie
Twenty Short Story Contest contest entry
The Cock and Bull pub was alive with patrons enjoying the roaring fire in the hearth. A surprise birthday party had been arranged for Bob 'Twenty' Armstrong.
Westerly wind whipped sleet in his face as he made his way to the pub for lunch. Now in his fifties, Twenty was the boss man for Mountain Rescue. No stranger to organising rescues from the mountains of the Victorian High Country. Beautiful wildflowers still clung to the slopes of the mountains. Mountain peaks hidden in heavy cloud and snow.
A roar went up from the patrons in the pub. Happy Birthday was sung with robust voices. Twenty blushed, strode up to the counter and the barman slammed down a pint of frothy ale.
After a hearty lunch of home cooked bread topped with local bacon and runny yellow eggs, the men and women settled down to talking about the usual subject of the weather. So unpredictable this time of year.
"Hey! Twenty? Where did you get that nickname mate?" The barman shouted above the rabble.
"Well, it's a long time ago now. Eighteen I was. I had a job mustering cattle for the Golden Spur station, we were raising funds to buy a defibrillator for our local ambulance. Happened to be a pie-eating contest. I managed to shove twenty pies down my throat and after that, well, the name just stuck. Much like the pies stuck in my throat! Haven't eaten a pie since."
The patrons roared with laughter and asked if the funds were raised for the ambulance?
"Oh, yes, we raised enough for other items as well."
The CB radio on the bar crackled into life: "Rescue Twenty come in? This is base calling.Over?"
Twenty bounded towards the mike, picked it up and pressed the answer button. "This is Twenty, what's your problem Harry?"
"Ah, bloody tourists stuck on Mount Macendon. Lucky they had a mobile with them. Can you round up the boys and ride up there mate? Weather is closing in. Over?" "On our way Harry. Twenty out."
There was a mad scramble, chairs overturned and leftover food grabbed as the Mountain Rescue men bolted through the double doors to round up their horses.
The horses stood with their tails to the wind, heads together for protection. The High Country horses were a tough breed, so tough their forebears were chosen to fight in foreign lands during the World Wars.
"Get those hobbles off boys!" Twenty shouted into the wind.
Within fifteen minutes the boys had their horses saddled and ready to climb Mount Macendon. This was the quickest way to find the lost tourists.
Sleet turned to powdery snow as the group snaked its way from the foothills to the rough, rocky base of the mountain.
Twenty's portable radio burst into life. Harry had given him GPS coordinates according to the GPS on the tourist's cell phones. Many a life had been lost in the old days without modern equipment.
The last horseman was Charlie Given, dragging the litter behind him made slow progress as it bounced over rocky ground. They didn't know what to expect, or how badly one tourist may be injured. Harry had told them the wife was pregnant, so their progress was as fast as they could make it. Surefooted horses still slipped on the wet, slate rocks as they climbed higher.
The dark shadows lengthened as daylight was sliding away.
"Ho! There they are in that cave." Twenty twisted in his saddle to send the good news down the line of horsemen.
"Oh, thank, thank you came." The Asian man shouted in halting English.
His wife was unconscious and her leg lay at an odd angle. Charlie dismounted and led his horse and litter as close as he could to the tiny woman; moaning now as she saw that help had arrived. Gently, she was lifted onto the litter and cried out in pain.
The snow was heavier now. Time was of the essence. If they didn't get to the bottom of the mountain, they would all become victims.
"That leg is broken Twenty," Bob Shifton offered to set it.
"No time Bob, got to get down now. How about two of you carry the litter, she's not heavy?"
"OK, tie our horses to yours, eh?"
Progress was slow as the sun started to set on Mount Macendon. The men carrying the litter were breathing hard in the rarefied air. Tough as old boots these men were. One rescue entailed pulling a skier out of a glacier drift: it took four long hours and then working as a team, they carried him just like the Asian woman.
Finally, as the sun set, the party stood on the base of the mountain. Another successful rescue.
The Asian man kept shaking Twenty's calloused hand. "Wife have baby soon," he said with tears in his eyes.
"What you name?" He looked, bobbed his head and smiled at Twenty.
"Oh, it doesn't matter, they call me 'Twenty."
"Good, good, we call baby Twen...ty for you save our lives."
After taking the couple to the local hospital and bedding down their horses, they returned to the Cock and Bull for a well-earned dinner and drink.
Bob brought a 'floater' over to where Twenty was sitting.
"Thought you deserved pie and peas mate!"
"Get outta here, or you'll be wearing peas all over your fat head!" Twenty couldn't help but laugh at his friend.
The patrons of the pub clapped and roared with laughter.
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