It was mid-morning. “Come, Mike, we’re going to the mine dumps to cycle,” Jako said enthusiastically.
Jako said to Chris: “I plan to go riding on the mine dumps just now. Are you going to come with me?”
“What about Kate? We can’t leave her behind,” Mike asked.
“She’s helping Mum bake cakes again. I’ll ask her,” Jako said.
Mike got the bikes ready. Fleck was growing excited as he knew they were going on an adventure.
Jako reported back: “She’s not interested. She’d prefer to stay with Mum.”
The dumps were less than a kilometre away and had a stifling smell, but that didn’t worry the boys. Without a bike, Chris jogged alongside them.
They set off along the old path lined by blue gum trees, followed by the dog. The sulphurous smell grew stronger as they grew closer.
“Be careful. Watch out for grey or old burnt-out patches,” instructed Jako. “You’ll fall right through.”
But Mike didn’t hear him, and he went off with Fleck in tow. Chris followed them, but he didn’t hear either.
Jako only managed to catch up with Mike close to the mine dumps, and repeated the instruction.
“I know about the grey and burnt patches,” Mike said.
Jako joined Mike, Chris and Fleck, and they all raced up and down the dumps while Fleck chased birds.
“Come on, Fleck, stay with us,” Jako warned. He watched the dog running along on the top of the mine dump, missing every bird.
Suddenly, the earth gave way under Fleck. Jako, Mike and Chris watched in horror.
“Fuck it, Fleck’s disappeared. It’s dangerous. Don’t go too close,” Jako warned. He could see that Mike was in two minds.
“I have a solution - I need some rope,” Jako yelled. “I’m going to fetch it. I know where it is.”
He hurried off on his bike to get it. Jako’s mind was racing, and desperate thoughts flooded his mind. What would Fleck think? He would feel abandoned. Or was he alive? Jako was worried silly.
Jako found the rope and returned to the dump. He couldn’t bare thinking about the destructive effect the hot ash would have on his dog.
When he got within shouting distance, he cried out: “How’s Fleck doing?”
“I heard him crying and whimpering. Let’s hurry!” Mike shouted back.
Jako tied a knot, hoping it would hold Fleck. “Now, let’s not get too close to the edge, or we’ll all fall in.” He threw the rope in the hole from a safe distance and lowered it, hoping to hell that Fleck could find it and get a grip on it. Jako could see Mike and Chris were taking strain, too.
Just then, he felt a tug on the rope and Fleck’s weight. “Come on, boy, you can do it... ” Jako groaned.
“His paws will be burnt. Watch out that you don’t drop him back in the fire when you pull him up over the edge,” Mike cautioned.
Jako, Mike and Chris pulled, and they could feel the dog getting closer. He said a silent prayer that Fleck would exit the fiery hole safely.
Don’t bark or open your mouth, or you’ll let the rope go... Jako thought.
At last he heard scrambling from the edge of the hole. “C’mon, c’mon... ”
At last Fleck was out and free of the cindery hole. He was so happy to see his two masters that he forgot about his feet and he licked their faces.
“Good boy! Yes, good boy!” Jako praised him.
“We have to get him to the vet,” Mike said.
“I know. What about doctor St Giles, I know he’s close by? It’s worth a try.”
They found Dr St Giles at his surgery.
“Doctor, it’s an emergency. Can you help our dog? He fell into the ash and he’s badly burnt,” Jako pleaded.
The doctor was sympathetic and took a look. “It’s his paws. What happened?” Jako quickly recapped the story.
The doctor cleared a space on the bench and prepared his instruments and dressings. “If you don’t mind - this will have to do.”
“You boys did well. I’ll give him an injection to tranquilise him.” Dr St Giles said. He coated Fleck’s paws with a soothing ointment and wrapped all four of them in bandages: “Watch him now.”
Jako carried the now semi-conscious dog home.
Fleck soon ripped off the bandages and quickly recovered.