|At last, at last, it was the day
before Christmas. Better known as Christmas Day-Eve. I reviewed my
plan to keep my father's white turkey from meeting a fate worse than
death - in fact, death. My good friend who worked 2 houses down,
well, her nephew was going to deliver 3 white swans to the lake by
my father's chicken yard in the dark of night. He also was to perch
the hapless white turkey on the Percheron's back to eat bugs. For
this, I would owe him $15.00 - a fortune in 1931. Since my dog
racing venture had failed to raise the money, I had made up my mind
to give all my Christmas money in payment.
Well, it was worth it to save a poor, helpless turkey. I still had
enough money, I hoped, to buy a cold storage turkey for the
Christmas Feast. I was pretty sure I was getting a two-wheel bike
from Sandy Claus and when I took possession of my bike, it would be
a lot easier to carry out my plottings. I could just imagine myself
sailing along in my new beach pajamas atop my new bike which I hoped
was red. Red would go well with my beach pajamas. The only time my
cohort would have to go into the dog-guarded chicken yard, would be
when the turkey was removed. I would be there to distract the dog
while the turkey made his move.
It was beginning to get dark. I
caught a bus to Ancon and took up my stance at the sliding door that
kept the dog from biting your head off. Shortly, the 3 swans
arrived in sacks and were gently (I hope) dropped into the lake. I
took a look and almost dropped dead. Swimming lazily in the lake
were 2 white
swans and l black swan. I had 2 or 3 conniption fits and screamed
why is one swan black? My answer floated over the breeze - there
were only 2 white swans. I thought that it was too late now to be
painting swans, so I swallowed my pride and turned my attention to
the dog who had already turned his attention to me.
My helper climbed over the fence,
grabbed the white turkey, and aimed him at the Percheron and threw
him with good aim; the turkey landed square on the Percheron's
back. My helper took off like a rocket and disappeared into the
night. In those days, before TV, long before TV, people liked to
"walk out" after dinner to catch the breeze. First l couple, then
another stopped to see the swans which were the first swans to be
seen in this neighborhood, in fact, the first to be seen in Panama.
More and more couples strolled by to marvel at the swans. Big kids
on bikes rode by and halted. Soon there was quite a crowd viewing
the swans. I had originally planned to have just one swan to
replace the turkey, but changed my mind to have 3 swans which would
blend in better with the horse sitting white birds - they would be
like big horse sitting white birds.
I stopped at the Ancon Commissary and purchased a l5 lb. cold
storage turkey, and caught the bus for home. I just made it because
the Commissaries closed at 6:00 PM in those days. I put the turkey
in my father's downstairs freezer and reported upstairs for my
dinner and early to bed because Sandy Claus does not come until you
I pretended to be asleep, but soon fell really and truly fast
asleep. I heard my sister jumping up and down and screaming so I
got up and went out to look under the Christmas Tree for my beach
pajamas and my red bike. We always placed our tree on the end of
the porch so it could be viewed from the outside on the entire
corner. Facing the street, my gifts were always on the left side of
the tree and my sister's gifts were on the right side of the tree.
I looked, looked, looked, looked, and looked -- on my side of the
tree was nothing, zero, nada, zilch. My sister's side was piled
with presents. But then, I did spy an envelope on my side. I
opened the envelope and there was a note inside. In my trembling
hands it read, "There is a gift waiting for you under the
clothesline. The gift is yours if you stop stealing my white
I flew out the back door, down the cement steps, and there was a l4
and 99/l00 hand horse; anything over 14 hands is a horse. He was
saddled with an English saddle and English royal blue saddle pad,
English reins and bit and English band for his girth. He had a
sterling silver breastplate. There was a silver plaque on the heel
of the saddle which read, "Jean Rabiteau, Fort Clayton Stable."
Leaning on a pole
on the other end of the clothesline was a 2 wheel bike red, red,
red, red, red. Lying across the saddle of the bike was a pair of
navy beach pajamas with red sandals. And, oh yeah, I forgot, a pair
of black riding boots near the horse.
My parents, especially, my mother have told me 2,000 times that I
was not stable enough to ride a horse. I would be given a horse at
age 12. I named my horse Chubasco and I loved him all my life and
I knew a lot about horses; I had read every book in the library
about horses. Plus, I practiced on the rental horse, Buttons. And
Anita Stilson let me ride her horse, Prancer. I hugged Chubasco
around his neck and tears wet his neck the same as when tears wet
his neck when I went to see him with Audrey.
My father received an urgent call from his friend Mr. McCartney who
lived near my father's chicken yard. He told my father that a crowd
had gathered around the lake by my father's chicken yard and what
were they looking at? He said the crowd was talking about a
Christmas Miracle. He said the night before there were 2 white
swans and 1 black swan swimming in the lake. Now God sent a
Christmas Miracle and there were 3 white swans a-swimming and no
black swan. My father laughed and said he would explain later. My
father said a miracle happened and 2 white swans and 1 black swan
turned into 3 white swans. No one was more surprised than I was.
However, I did not spend one single moment worrying about swans; I
had what I wanted and more.
P.S. I found out years later that my father replaced the black swan
with a white swan to get even with me. But - to the population of
Ancon, it was forever a Christmas Miracle.