Jim was the son of a cowboy, and lived on the broad plains of Arizona. His father had trained him to lasso a bronco with perfect accuracy. Had Jim possessed the strength to back up his skill, he would have been as good a cowboy as any in all of Arizona.
The Capture of Father Time by L. Frank Baum
When he was twelve, he made his first visit to the east, where his Uncle Charles lived. Jim took his lasso, for he was proud of his skill in casting it, and wanted to show his cousins what a cowboy could do.
Yay! Again Jim, again!
One day, the butcher asked Jim to ride one of his horses into the country, to a pasture that had been engaged, and Jim eagerly consented. He had been longing for a horseback ride, and to make it seem like old times he took his lasso with him.
On reaching the open country roads, his spirits broke forth into wild jubilation, and, urging the butcher's horse to full gallop, he dashed away in true cowboy fashion. Letting down the bars that led into a big field, he began riding over the meadow and throwing his lasso at imaginary cattle, while he yelled and whooped to his heart's content.
Suddenly, on making a long cast with his lasso, the loop caught upon something and rested about three feet from the ground, while the rope drew taut and nearly pulled Jim from his horse.
Now, then--get that rope off as fast as you can! You've brought everything on earth to a standstill by your foolishness! Well--what are you staring at? Don't you know who I am?
Here, let go! Let go, I say! Can't you see what you've done?
This was unexpected. More than that, it was wonderful; for the field seemed bare of even a stump. Jim's eyes grew big with amazement, but he knew he had caught something when a voice cried out-
The horse began to pull away and snort with fear. Jim dismounted. Holding the reins of the bridle in one hand, he followed the rope, and an instant later saw an old man caught fast in the coils of the lasso.
His head was bald and uncovered, but long white whiskers grew down to his waist. About his body was thrown a robe of fine white linen. In one hand he bore a great scythe, and beneath the other, he carried a clock.
I'm Time--Father Time! Now, make haste and set me free--if you want the world to run properly.
I don't know. I've never been caught before. But I suppose it was because you were foolishly throwing your lasso at nothing.
Of course you didn't- I'm invisible to the eyes of human beings unless they get within three feet of me, and I take care to keep more than far away from them. That's why I was crossing this field, where I supposed no one would be.
How did I catch you?
I didn't see you.
Because everything in the world stopped moving the moment you caught me. I don't suppose you want to make an end of all business and pleasure, and war and love, and misery and ambition and everything else? Not a watch has ticked since you tied me up here like a mummy!
And I should have been perfectly safe had it not been for your beastly lasso. Now, then, are you going to get that rope off or not?
Why should I?
You're right. I'm due in Kamchatka this very minute. And to think one small boy is upsetting all my regular habits.
I use my scythe to mow down the people. Every time it is swung, someone dies. Why would I fly if I bring death?
It'll do you good to rest, from all I've heard you lead a rather busy life.
Well, you may as well just untie me at once. Time should be unfrozen by now.
No! I may never capture you again; so I'll hold you for awhile and see how the world wags without you.
And then, he swung the old man, bound as he was, upon the back of the butcher's horse, and, getting into the saddle himself, started back toward town, one hand holding his prisoner and the other guiding the reins.
When he reached the road his eye fell on a strange tableau. A horse and buggy stood in the middle of the road,the horse in the act of trotting, with his head held high and two legs in the air, but perfectly motionless. In the buggy a man and a woman were seated; but had they been turned into stone they could not have been more still.
Too bad! But since the world has stopped anyhow, it won't matter if it takes a little longer recess. As soon as I let you go Time will fly again.
On the edge of the sidewalk sat a poor, crippled beggar, holding out his hat, and beside him stood a prosperous-looking gentleman who was about to drop a penny into the beggar's hat. Jim knew this man to be very rich but stingy, so he ventured to run his hand into the man's pocket and take out his purse, in which was a $20 gold piece. He replaced the penny with the piece.
That donation will surprise him when he comes to life!
Anyways, I'm living longer than anyone else. No one will ever be able to catch up with me.
In the dining-room was his aunt, reading her book, and his uncle, finishing his pie. His mouth was open and his fork poised just before it, while his eyes were fixed upon the newspaper folded beside him. Jim helped himself to the pie and led his prisoner out.
There's one thing I don't understand.
Why is it that I'm able to move around while everyone else is--is--froze up?
That is because I'm your prisoner. You can do anything you wish with Time now. But unless you are careful you'll do something you will be sorry for.
Jim threw the crust of his pie at a bird that was suspended in the air, where it had been flying when Time stopped.
I forgot your scythe..
Each life has it's allotted time. When you have lived your proper time, my scythe will mow you down.
A spirit of mischief came into the boy's head, for he happened to think that the present opportunity to have fun would never occur again. He tied Father Time to his uncle's hitching post, that he might not escape, and then walked the road to the corner grocer.
The grocer had scolded Jim that very morning for stepping into a basket of turnips by accident. So the boy went to the back end of the grocery and turned on the faucet of the molasses bar.
That'll make a nice mess for him when Time starts running molasses all over his floor.
That'll probably surprise him when he wakes up.
Further down the street was a barber shop, and sitting in the barber's chair Jim saw the man that all the boys declared was the "meanest man in town." He certainly did not like the boys and the boys knew it. The barber was in the act of shampooing this person when Time was captured. Jim poured it over the ruffled hair of the unpopular citizen.
Next, he came to the schoolhouse. Jim entered it and found that only a few of the pupils were assembled. But the teacher sat at his desk, stern and frowning as usual. Taking a piece of chalk, Jim marked upon the blackboard in big letters.
Every scholar is requested to yell the minute he enters the room. He will also please throw his books at the teacher's head. Signed, Prof. Sharpe.
On the corner stood Policeman Mulligan, talking with old Miss Scrapple, the worst gossip in town, who always delighted in saying something disagreeable about her neighbors. Jim thought this opportunity was too good to lose. So he took off the policeman's brass-buttoned coat and put it on Miss Scrapple, while the lady's feathered and ribboned hat he placed jauntily upon the policeman's head.
Ha ha ha!
I've been thinking about that ugly scythe of yours. Perhaps if I let you go, you'll swing at me first thing, to be revenged.
Well, when do you intend to release me?
The young cowboy remembered his prisoner, and, walking back to the hitching post, he came within three feet of it and saw Father Time still standing patiently within the toils of the lasso. He looked angry and annoyed.
Jim carefully unwound the rope from the old man, who, when he was free, at once shouldered his scythe, rearranged his white robe and nodded farewell. The next moment he had disappeared, and with a rustle and rumble and roar of activity the world came to life again and jogged along as it always had before.
All right, since you've promised not to mow me down, I'll let you go.
Jim's actions became apparent as he rode through town. The grocer screamed as he ran out of his molasses-filled store, Policeman Mulligan cried out in disbelief at the sight on his head, and the schoolhouse echoed with yells all the way down the street.
AAAHHH! AAAAHHH! AAAHHH!
I've known boys for thousands of years, and of course I know they're mischievous and reckless. But I like boys, because they grow up to be men and people my world. Now, if a man had caught me by accident, as you did, I could have scared him into letting me go instantly; but boys are harder to scare. I don't know as I blame you. I was a boy myself, long ago, when the world was new. But surely you've had enough fun with me by this time, and now I hope you'll show the respect that is due to old age. Let me go, and in return I will promise to forget all about my capture. The incident won't do much harm, anyway, for no one will ever know that Time has halted the last three hours or so.
Jim's heart was filled with joy. He was fairly reveling in the excitement he had caused when someone caught his leg and pulled him from the horse.
What're you doin' hear, ye rascal? Didn't ye promise to put that beast inter Plympton's pasture? An' now I find ye ridin' the poor nag around like a gentleman o' leisure!