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Tiger Tales
"The Man Without Fear"
By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Author of Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz, The Wish Express, "King, King! Double King!", etc.

Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, October 10, 1920.

Even a dog knows if you are afraid of him and will bark snappishly at your heels just for pure mischief. An unsteady hand on the rein will set the steadiest-going trotter into kicking up, to show the driver that he knows he's afraid. You know, yourself, if you're afraid of the bigger boys in school how they'll tease and bully you - it seems human nature to pick on the person who's afraid. And that brings me to a story.

Once a Russian Cossack wishing to earn some money for new boots rode into the city of Moscow, put up his horse with an obliging friend and set out to look for work. Being anxious to earn the money quickly he applied to the first place he struck and what place to you suppose it was? The zoo!

The Frenchman in charge, seeing that he was strong and willing, took him at once, but as he could not speak Russian, and the Cossack could not speak French, he was obliged to show the new man just what he wished done. Taking bucket, brushes and sponge he stepped into an antelope cage, gave the cage a thorough cleaning, then, as the antelope was a pet, sponged off its back. The Russian nodded his head in approval and taking the bucket and brushes started into the next cage, which happened to be that of some Australian sheep, The Frenchman watched him a few minutes, then, seeing that he was quick and thorough, went off to attend to something else.

The Cossack whistling and singing worked much faster than the Frenchman had expected and when he returned he gave one look, then fell speechless against the wall.

No wonder! The Cossack had unconcernedly entered the cage of the fiercest tiger in the zoo. Without paying any attention to the tiger that lay stretched asleep in the back of the cage the Cossack proceeded to sweep and clean. Then, walking quickly over to the great beast, he dipped his sponge in the bucket of water and began vigorously rubbing it down the back.

At the first touch of water the tiger opened its terrible eyes. The poor Frenchman shuddered, and expected him to be torn to pieces.

But no such thing. The cold water seemed to please the beast and the vigorous rubbing up and down its back made it actually purr. It rolled over and over, the Cossack scrubbing every part with perfect calmness. Then, patting the creature on the head, he picked up his things and walked out.

No one had ever told him to be afraid of tigers and he had not a particle of fear. The slightest flinching or dodging on his part would have resulted in his death, but the fact that he was not afraid somehow got to the tiger and the bath was such a pleasant surprise from the usual monotony of the morning that he never even growled.

By the time the Cossack had come out of the cage the Frenchman had recovered his voice, and running after the indefatigable Russian, he just prevented him from entering the lion's cage. The Cossack shrugged his shoulders, but as the man insisted he kept to the tame beasts' cages and in several days had earned enough for his boots and ridden back to his comrades on the plains.

It is a wonderful thing to be without fear, although I would not recommend such experiments to every one. No, don't go into tiger cages to show you are not afraid, but in all your every day life remember that the boy or girl who is afraid never succeeds and the boy or girl who has no fear of failure, or of being beaten at game or lesson, usually wins.

By Ruth Plumly Thompson
Originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 12, 1919.

The Forgetful Poet

The dear fellow has a few verses for us:

A man was standing in my yard.
I bade him go away--
He simply stood and stared at me
I sternly said, "Good day!"

He held a broomstick in his hand,
And wore upon his head
An old tin pot, although 'twas not
Becoming--"I command

You to remove yourself at once
From out my private yard!"
He still stood there--I took a pole
And hit him very hard.

His head rolled off, but still he stood--
I brought a steaming pail
Of water and he ran away
And this is some true tale!

What kind of man was he?

[Answers next time]

Copyright © 2009 Eric Shanower and David Maxine. All rights reserved.

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