A fine, dependable hand, too! Here was this bunch of stock to be got in from Madeline—them Bolshevik ain’t gathered more’n two thirds of ’em; and there’s more to come in from over Horse Fly Mountain way, and still another bunch from out of the Sheep Creek country—the busiest month in a bad year, when I needed every man, woman, and child to be had, and here comes Homer, the mush-head, taking two days off!
“Yes’m, Mis’ Pettengill; I just got to take time off to go down to Red Gap. It’s a matter of life and death. Yes’m; it is. No’m; I wouldn’t dast send any one, and Minna agrees I’m the only one to go—” Shucks!
The lady built a cigarette and, after lighting it, turned back to scan the mesa we had descended. The cattle now crowded down the narrow way into the valley, their dust mounting in a high, slow cloud.
“Call yourself a cowman, do you?” she demanded of the absent Homer. “Huh!” Then we rode on.
“What was the matter of life and death?” I asked.
Ma Pettengill expelled cigarette smoke venomously from inflated nostrils like a tired dragon.
“The matter of life and death was that he had to get two teething rings for the twins.”
“Oh, the valley got it’s final laugh at Homer! Twins, sure! Most of us laughed heartily, though there was mothers that said it was God’s judgment on the couple. Of course Homer and Minna ain’t took it that way. They took it more like they had been selected out of the whole world as a couple worthy to have a blessed miracle happen to ’em. There might of been single babies born now and then to common folks, but never a case of twins—and twins like these! Marvels of strength and beauty, having to be guarded day and night against colic and kidnappers.
“They had ’em down to the post office at Kulanche the other day showing ’em off, each one in a red shawl; and sneering at people with only one. And this imbecile Homer says to me:
“‘Of course it can’t be hoped,’ he says, ’that this great world war will last that long; but if it could last till these boys was in shape to fight I bet it wouldn’t last much after that. Yes, sir; little Roosevelt and Pershing would soon put an end to that scrap!’
“And now they’re teething and got to have rubber rings. And no, he couldn’t send any one down for ’em; and he couldn’t order ’em by mail either, because they got to be just the right kind.
“‘Poor little Pershing is right feverish with his gums,’ says Homer, ’but little Roosevelt has got a front one through already. He bit my thumb yesterday with it—darned near to the bone. He did so!’
“Calls himself a cowman, does he? He might of been—once. Now he ain’t no more than a woman’s home companion!”