Timid Greens Timidity
Timid Greens Timidity

Timid Green’s Timidity

by Carl Elmo Freeman
illustrated by J.E. Allen
reprinted from The Country Gentleman, 1923

Even Timid Green’s dearest enemies acknowledged that his timidity did not apply to anything but women. He would do anything once, and what’s more, he would do it over again if he thought it was indicated. Then he would say he was afraid to do anything but just what he did, and had to hurry before he got afraid to do that.

All of which has a bearing on what follows:

It was Timid Green’s job to cut the strays from the herd gathered on the round-up each day and throw them back off the HAT range. One day when the wagon was camped on Squaw Canyon he found four V cows belonging to Old Man Randall, and instead of shoving them toward home he decided he would take them down to the Randall ranch and possibly get a chance to talk to Laura, the old man’s daughter.

As Pumpkin followed the cows along, Timid thought of what he ought to have said to Laura when he met her at the drug store in Zero a day or two before. Also, he cursed himself for letting her slip down on the wet pavement where an ice-cream freezer had set. She had been telling him that some of their V cows had shown up with a peculiar lameness, and he could not recall what he had said, but he did distinctly recall that his hands had swollen all out of shape and to such dimensions that he could not get them out of his pockets when she fell, and Gid Thomas of the Walking X had assisted her to her feet.

“Ye-ah,” growled Timid, “I’m a wise bird – one of them dodo birds that’s indistinct – to stand like a sick yearlin’ and let ol’ Gid butt in and help her up. Huh! It’s a wonder they let me vote!”

As the cows ran in to the water at the Randall ranch, Laura waved to him from one of the side corrals.

“Oh, I’m so glad you came,” she called, “Dad’s gone to Kansas to get some pure-bred stock and I don’t know what to do for these cows.”

As Timid climbed over into the corral where Laura was she continued: “Just look how lame they are,” indicating the limping cows. “There’s ten or twelve just like that; every one of them had big unweaned yearlings, but the yearlings are gone.”

Timid took his eyes off Laura long enough to see that the cows’ front feet were swollen around the hair line above their hoofs. He roped one, pulled her down and discovered that the inflammation extended down through the cleft between the hoofs to the heels behind, which were raw and very sensitive.

“Their mouths are sore too,” said he. “Must be foot-and-mouth disease.”

“But that is contagious and would run through the whole herd,” argued Laura.

“Been lickin’ lime or somethin’.”

“There’s no lime they can get to. And anyway, it’s just the cows with big unweaned yearlings.”

Timid wisely withheld any further opinion. As he bathed the tender feet and applied a dusting powder that Laura brought from the saddle room he tried to figure out just how he would tell her he loved her. The more he thought about it the more certain he was that he didn’t know what he wanted to say, and that he ought to get off by himself and think it out. So when she asked him to stay for supper he told her he had to get back to the wagon.

She insisted that he eat a piece of pie that she had baked herself. As he sat on the edge of the porch eating a wedge of canned-peach pie Johnny Randall, Laura’s seven-year-old brother, came around the corner of the house.

“‘Lo, Timid,” said Johnny.

“‘Lo, Johnny,” said Timid. Then to Laura, “You sure make good pie.”

“Do you think so?” beamed Laura.

“Fanny’s got seven pups,” interposed Johnny.

“I sure do,” said Timid, answering Laura; then, “Ye-ah,” to Johnny.

“The oven was a little too hot, or it would have been better.” Laura was truly feminine.

“Seven’s a lot,” put in Johnny. “An’ sometimes they all nurse at onct!”

“If this was any better I couldn’t stand it,” mumbled Timid, his mouth full of pie.

“Oh, you are joking.”

“They all got white collars but one,” continued Johnny, ignoring a frown from Laura. “But he’s got a white breast.”

“Pumpkin is certainly a pretty horse,” Laura gave Johnny another frown.

Pumpkin stood, head down, investigating several puppies playing about his feet.

“He’s the best hawse in this country,” said Timid proudly. “An’ brains, he’s got more sense than most men!”

“He’s bigger than the rest.” Johnny’s mind was running on pups and the one with the white breast in particular.

“You jus’ ought to see his sides bug out when he backs off from the filling station!”

“Johnny!” exclaimed Laura, blushing. “Mr. Green is not interested in your pups. Did you fill the wood box as I told you?”

“Sure, over an hour ago,” grinned Johnny. Then to Timid, “An he jus’ wiggles his tail like everything.”

“Let’s go see Pumpkin,” hurriedly suggested Laura, in desperation.

As they passed through the gate Johnny looked bored, but followed. Pumpkin stood uneasily visiting with Fanny and eyeing the pups playing about his feet. One had grabbed a bridle rein in his mouth and was pulling back, growling and shaking his head. Pumpkin refused to be led astray.

“There he is!” exclaimed Johnny. “Ain’t he a whopper? Look at him tryin’ to lead the ol’ hoss off!”

“Isn’t he pretty?” said Laura, stroking Pumpkin’s nose.

“He’s a thoroughbred,” said Timid, as Pumpkin turned to eye another pup trying to climb his hind leg. “Got a streak of Arab more’n common, which makes him better for this country.”

“Fanny’s a thoroughbred too,” put in Johnny. “Shepherd and some bloodhound – mostly bloodhound,” he bragged. “She knows every one of our cattle an’ can pick ‘em out of a bunch,” he added proudly as Gid Thomas trotted around the corner.

“Hello, folks,” greeted Gid. “Looking at Timid’s nag, eh?”

“Isn’t he handsome?” Laura said, affectionately rubbing Pumpkin’s sleek neck.

“Looks don’t amount to nawthin’ in a cow hoss,” said Gid. “He’s too leggy an’ takes too much coddlin’ to be any good in this country.”

“Ye-ah,” Timid drawled, “I reckon. A little coddlin’ wouldn’t hurt your hawse none; he ought to be curried when he’s shedding that-away.” Timid fumed inwardly as he rubbed up a bunch of loose hair at the edge of Gid’s saddle blanket. “Them cockleburs in his mane and tail,” he went on, “don’t help him work cattle none.”

“Ol’ Button’s been runnin’ out,” defended Gid. “I jus’ got him up to show you waddies how to cut strays out of a herd.”

“That’ll help some. I been cuttin’ your stuff off our range for the last week.” Timid gathered the reins and prepared to mount.

“I’m sorry you won’t stay for supper,” remarked Laura. “You’ll stay, won’t you, Mr. Thomas?”

“Sure; couldn’t drive me off with a shotgun,” grinned Gid.

“Well, I’ll be driftin’,” mumbled Timid. “I got the first trick at night herdin’ – may have some more V’s tomorrow,” attempting a smile at Laura.

“I’ll ride over and bring them home,” said Laura, returning his smile.

Timid rode off, plunged into gloomy meditation. “Why in Sam Hill didn’t I say I’d stay for supper!” he grumbled. “Ol Gid’ll hang around and fill up on good cookin’. Gosh!”

Pumpkin threw his head up and down playfully, then bucked a few jumps.

“That’s the time!” grinned Timid. “I ought to be throwed off – airy blank fool that can’t think of nothin’ to say when he’s got a chanct ain’t got a right to live. . . .I’ve seen a lot of sick cows, but I never saw anything like them lame V’s. . . . Unweaned fall calves missin’. . . . I wonder. . . .”

In the next day’s gather Timid found two more V cows and several of Gid Thomas’ Walking X cattle. Among the X cattle was a yearling, and Timid knew Gid was gathering his yearling steers to ship in a day or two. Gid had gone down to see about his cars, as he was anxious to have no delay, and was not there when Timid finished the herd. So Timid threw them with the two V’s back in a cul-de-sac canyon near camp, where they would be handy when wanted.

When he rode up to the wagon Timid found Taller Jones, the cook, frying doughnuts in a Dutch oven over a mesquite wood fire. Tex Lewis, the night hoss-wrangler, was trying to get some sleep under the wagon, where all nighthawks roost in the daytime.

“Air you asleep, Tex?” called Timid.

“Naw,” growled Tex; “these blasted flies won’t let a feller sleep on a bet.”

“Well, come alive an’ I’ll play you a game of strip.”

“I gotchu,” said Tex.

“Slicker in,” remarked Timid as Tex abandoned his bed to the flies.

It is a local custom that on entering a game of strip a player is permitted to call one garment of his outfit which he does not at that time have on, as part of his stake.

In about half an hour Timid was practically stripped. He had started with his spurs and now sat in his underwear. Tex sat opposite in his sock feet and no hat.

“I hate to bet these hayre perfectly good pants agin that suit of secondhand underwear,” drawled Tex, “but you can’t say I ain’t a spinort.”

The sight of Timid in dishabille was stimulating to the cook and he burst into song:

“Pappy draws a pension ‘Cause he wore a union suit.”

“‘And the voice of the turtle shall be heard in the land,’” quoted Timid, “come on with the cards. I’ll take three – – mostly ladies.”

But the pair of queens he held exercised their feminine prerogative by declining to associate with a third, and took up with a pair of jacks, much to Timid’s disgust. Tex spread three nines with a grin.

Timid peeled down his union suit and whistled for Pumpkin. “Come here, Ol’ Cuttin’ Hawse. I wanta get my slicker off the saddle,” he called.

“There’s one,” said Taller, indicating one hanging on a wagon wheel. “Belongs to Gid Thomas; he went off and left it this mornin’.”

“Good enough,” said Timid. “I’ll jus’ slip it on – save takin’ mine down.”

“Come on, cowboy,” grinned Tex as Timid took refuge in Gid’s well-worn slicker. “I’ll bet you my shirt and pants both agin that slicker.”

“Whist!” warned Taller, from behind a doughy hand. “Here comes Miss Laura.”

Timid cursed two buttons for not being on the job when the slicker was needed and squatted so Laura would not see his bare feet. Tex snatched his hat and pulled his boots on.

“How-de-do?” greeted Taller as Laura trotted up. “Get off and try some of my doughnuts.”

“Listen to that danged fool!” growled Timid to Tex. “He ain’t got as much brains as –”

“Howdy, Miss Randall?” said Tex as Laura stepped around the back of the wagon.

Laura smiled a greeting and caught sight of Timid in the slicker. “Why, Mr. Green, what’s the idea? Are you trying to make it rain?”

“No, ma-ham, I was –”

“Timid jus’ fell in a well,” interrupted Taller with a wink at Tex.

“In a well!” exclaimed Laura. “There’s no well near –”

“That’s what I said, Miss Laura, but Timid insists that it was a well,” Taller solemnly declared. “Then he put the slicker on to keep from shakin’ water over the rest of us.”

“Don’t pay any attention to that ol’ fool,” pleaded Timid. “He ain’t got brains enough to fall in no well! I jus’ put it on to keep the flies off – I mean, jus’ to be doin’.” Timid surreptitiously discouraged the advances of a big red ant.

“Here,” chuckled Taller, “try some of my doughnuts.”

“Yes, Miss Randall,” said Tex gallantly, “let’s get in on the sinkers. Taller won’t let us waddies have one between meals – ‘less company comes.”

Laura glanced at the pile of clothes beside Timid and turned to the chuck box on the rear of the wagon, where she and Taller stood with their backs to Timid.

“Why, there’s Fanny!” exclaimed Laura as Fanny trotted up and coiled herself under the wagon in the shade. “She has followed me and left her puppies.”

“Oh, for the love of Mike!” breathed Timid, trying to annihilate the whole ant tribe by slapping down on the slicker over the scene of operations. His hand struck a hard object in the slicker pocket, and there was a cool trickle of liquid on his thigh. Suddenly it began to burn, and he wiped at it through the slicker, only to spread the fire over a greater area. Jabbing his hand in the pocket he brought forth a round bottle with the cork out and a metal-handled mucilage brush.

The burning thigh was more than Timid could passively endure. He grabbed his clothes and ran around the front of the wagon. Laura’s horse became frightened at the strange yellow thing and ran off snorting. Tex ran to head the horse.

“Stay here, Miss Laura,” advised Taller. “Tex’ll get ‘im. He jus’ got scared at Timid’s yeller Mother Hubbard.”

“Well, of all the blinking fools that Taller is the worst!” snorted Timid, squatting on the ground, nursing a skinned shin where it had scraped the wagon tongue in crossing.

Fanny languidly left her shady place and walked, gaping, over to investigate this strange thing wearing a slicker in the sun. She sniffed and recognized Timid; wagged her tail friendily and as, Timid stooped lower to see through under the wagon, she licked him in the face.

“Get out!” snapped Timid, slapping at her.

Fanny thought he was playing and jumped back barking.

“Shut up!” snarled Timid. “You’re worse’n Taller.” Then, seeing Laura was intent on Tex’s efforts to catch her horse, he slipped one leg in his pants. But when he stood on that leg and started the other Fanny saw the flapping end of the pants leg, decided he was playing some more, grabbed it in her mouth and pulled back.

“Let go!” begged Timid, hopping on one bare foot. Fanny assumed a playful viciousness, growled, jumped sideways and pulled Timid down.

“Blast a dog anyway!” he gritted, jabbing his foot harder.

As the bare foot jumped out of the pants leg in Fanny’s face she let go, and Timid breathed a prayer of thanks. Timid stole another glance toward the rear of the wagon and took the chance of his life. He shed the slicker and tunneled into his shirt. Just as he pulled on his boots Fanny ran barking at Gid Thomas, riding by with Davis, the brand inspector.

“Hey, Timid,” called Gid, “did you get anything of mine in the herd today? I’m shippin’ tomorrow.”

“Ye-ah,” Timid answered, getting to his feet. “They’re back in that little blind canyon.”

As the two men rode on to get the cattle Timid saw Fanny had stepped in the wet place where the liquid had trickled from the bottle he had thrown down, and lay licking her paw. Timid stepped around the wagon, apparently fully dressed, just as Tex Lewis came up triumphantly with Laura’s horse.

“I got a couple of your cows today,” said Timid to the girl. “Let’s go get ‘em ‘fore they follow Gid’s stuff off.”

When Timid and Laura came to the mouth of the canyon Gid and Davis drove the cattle out, and among them were Laura’s two cows. Fanny limped along on three feet, stopping every few minutes to lick her burning paw. When she saw the two V cows she ran up to them and barked a welcome.

Timid turned his horse to head a yearling bearing Gid’s Walking X brand that had left the bunch. Fanny ran up to it and barked furiously as it turned.

Laura was watching the dog thoughtfully. “I believe she thinks that’s one of our steers – – but it’s a Walking X.”

Fanny stopped again to lick her paw. As Timid rode by her he noticed some white spots on her pink tongue.

When they came to the wagon Timid rode in and cut out Laura’s two V cows to start them toward their home range.

“Wait a minute,” said Gid to Davis. “I forgot my slicker, I’ll go get it.”

Timid and Laura started off with her cows, but Fanny remained behind trying to cut out the yearling she had scolded. Laura called to her but she would not come. The brand man was having trouble to keep her from driving off with the steer. Timid watched the performance with a grin, then suddenly he took down his rope and rode back. As the steer stood shaking his head at the barking Fanny, Timid dropped his loop over its horns and pulled it down.

Pumpkin backed, keeping the rope tight as Timid ran to the struggling animal. The steer lay on its right side and Timid folded back a front leg to hold it down while he inspected the brand.

“Come hayre, Davis,” called Timid, and his voice shook. “See this brand? It’s been run over a V. See them two legs?”

“Well, I’ll be hanged!” exclaimed Davis, examining the brand closely. “It wasn’t made with an iron either –”

“Here, what in blazes you ropin’ my cattle for?” demanded Gid, riding up.

“Is it your steer?” asked Timid.

“I’d say it is. Can’t you read brands?” sneered Gid. “Are you gettin’ Davis to tell you what the thing on his side means?”

“That’s nice – you claimin’ ownership of this –”

“That’ll do, Timid, I’ll handle this,” broke in Davis. “Thomas, you are under arrest for altering brands –”

“Alterin’ brands!” exploded Gid. “That’s some of Timid’s blanked buttin’ in!” And he swung off his horse and rushed at Timid.

Timid met the rush, dodged under the outstretched arms, grasped Gid about the knees and heaved. Gid careened through the air to strike on his back several feet away. He dazedly rolled to all fours and pawed for his gun which had slipped around his belt to the rear.

“Back up!” called Davis. “I got you covered!”

“What’s the matter?” asked Laura, trotting up as Davis stepped over and took Gid’s gun.

“Jus’ found out what’s the matter with your lame cows,” explained Timid. “And what went with their big calves.”

Fanny was barking at the struggling steer. Pumpkin turned about to keep his head to the animal and the rope tight.

“Now watch when the sun hits the brand just right – see?” continued Timid. “You can see where the legs were added to the V makin’ an X –”

“I do!” exclaimed Laura. “It looks like the iron had been reheated before the brand was finished.”

“Yessum,” drawled Timid. “Just the V was made with the iron – the legs was painted on with caustic. Ol’ Gid caught the cow, doped her feet so she couldn’t follow and give the deal away when he drove off her calf. She licked her feet and made her mouth sore. Then he reworked the brand with his little brush dipped in the caustic, which made the hide thicken and ridge up the hair like an old brand. It wouldn’t last but a week or ten days – that’s why he was so anxious to get shipped before your dad got back.”

“Oh, I was afraid he was going to hurt you when he rushed!”

“Ye-ah, so was I.” Timid looked into her eyes. “Let’s take your stuff on home – I wanta say somethin’ ‘fore I lose my nerve!”