A Risky Solution to a Hot Afternoon . . . Part 1
A blast of hot summer air struck fourteen-year-old Andrea Carter directly in the face as she left the relative coolness of the house and headed for the barn, where her golden palomino, Taffy, waited patiently. She had been looking forward to a nice afternoon ride, but immediately the thought of climbing onto a horse and galloping around under the fierce California sun made her reconsider.
“It’s too hot to ride,” she muttered to herself in disappointment. “I should have ridden early this morning before I got saddled with all those chores Mother found for me.” She pulled the strings of her hat forward, bringing the black felt riding hat onto her head. It afforded some protection from the glaring sun, but none from the heat.
She began to make her way slowly towards the barn. The yard seemed deserted. A few ranch hands were lounging around, repairing their equipment, lazily brushing their horses, and in general trying to find a cool spot to rest. They gave Andi a half-hearted wave.
“Hot, ain’t it, Miss Andi?” one of the more energetic of the men remarked.
Andi smiled and returned the wave. She nodded, too drained to speak.
“Betcha it’s a hundred and ten in the shade,” came another comment. The young man removed his hat and wiped a bandana across his forehead.
Andi watched with interest as the ranch hand left his spot on the porch of the bunkhouse, made his way over to the pump and trough, and plunged the bandana into the water. He squeezed out a generous portion of water then tied the wet cloth around his neck.
“That’s a mite better,” he commented with a grin. “That should last at least two minutes.” He returned to the porch. “I can’t take much more of this.”
“Why don’t you dunk your whole head, Clint?” Andi suggested. She wandered over to the trough and gazed into the now-still water. It was mighty tempting.
“Not a bad idea, gal,” the young ranch hand replied, joining Andi at the trough. He took off his hat and regarded his boss’s sister with a sly grin. “I will if you will,” he challenged.
Andi looked up. Her blue eyes sparkled at the challenge. “You serious, Clint?” One never knew when this youngest cowboy was teasing or in earnest. He was the only one of Chad’s hands nearest her own age, and it was refreshing to be called “gal” or “kid” or just plain “Andi” rather than “Miss Andi,” or worse—“Miss Andrea”—that the rest of the ranch hands called her. Even old Sid McCoy, the foreman, who had known her since she was little, was always careful to call her “Miss.” It made Andi feel old and prissy.
“Ain’t never been more serious in my life, kid,” Clint insisted. “How ’bout it?”
Andi responded by removing her own hat. She dropped it to the dusty ground. Then she reached down and planted her hands on one side of the watering trough. “I’m ready whenever you are.”
“Clint,” Evan Leavitt warned from the bunkhouse porch, “you’re forgettin’ yourself. This ain’t no time to be goofin’ off.”
“It’ll only take a second,” Clint argued, placing his own hands on the opposite side of the trough. “I’m so hot you could fry eggs on my head.” He glanced at Andi and nodded. “We’ll see who can stay under the longest. One, two, three . . .”
At exactly the same moment, Andi and Clint plunged their heads deep into the tepid water of the Carter water trough. The shock of the cool water on her burning head coursed through Andi’s whole body like lightning, and she shivered. It felt so good! She wondered how long Clint would be able to stay under. She knew it would be only a matter of seconds before she would be forced to come up for air. Ten seconds more, she encouraged herself. Maybe fifteen . . .
A sudden, unexpected jerk yanked Andi from the coolness of the water and thrust her back into the heat of the afternoon. She gasped and whirled in surprise to see Clint’s wet head also drying in the sun. He looked sheepish. And no wonder. The Carter’s foreman, Sid McCoy, stood there glaring his disapproval.
Go to PART 2