Three Swans
by Francis, the Swan Lady

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 are asleep.

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 turkeys." 

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 more.

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.


December 18, 2005