In the fourth grade, we spent a quarter studying folktales and fables. One of our assignments was to write a story: “How the Leopard Got Its Spots.” I don’t remember mine, but it had something to do with leopards being vegetarians and nectar-drinkers until there was some nasty monster that wanted to devour them all, so a Fairy-Leopard-Mother gave them spots that would somehow defend them from the danger, so long as they started eating meat and drinking water. I don’t remember specifics. But I do remember that the teacher read aloud the assignment written by a little girl in the class who had bullied me since the first grade. I also remember rolling my eyes, thinking her story was canned and contrived, but then feeling bad that mine clearly hadn’t been as good as the bully-girl’s. After the teacher read her story, she asked me to see her privately. She held a copy of my fable and asked quietly, “Did you copy this out of a book?” Of course I had not, and was too naive to understand that I was being accused of plagiarism, and was absolutely ecstatic that my story had been so good that my teacher thought a professional author had written it. That also meant it was better than what the bully-girl had written. No one knew but me, and only now am I realizing that I was living a bit of the Pan/Apollo myth…where the true victor is anonymous and the second-placer gets the glory.
My mom found the story below and my sister did a dramatic reading aloud at our last family gathering. It’s not the infamous How the Leopard Got Its Spots, but it’s from that same series. The assignment was, How the Turkey Got Its Colors. I cried laughing when I heard it. I added my own notes in bold.
About 2,000 years before pilgrams came to the U.S.A. (It was the early 90s, and education about Native Americans was more of a footnote), turkeys were as intelligant as you and me (PETA would say they still are). But the turkeys had feathers as gray as the clouds before a rain storm. Only one turkey had butiful feathers. The Princass Jan Irma (Naming a Turkey Princ-ASS ‘Jan Irma’ was likely my fourth-grader self’s attempt at humor). Prinsass Jan Irma had feathers with colers of the rainbow (My sister pointed out that this was about when the teacher just gave up on trying to edit. I mean, there’s only so much crazy can you edit in one sitting). The Princsass had a servant named Lady Isabell Dianna. When Lady Isabell’s work time was up, she walked in the fields. Most of the time, she was followed by Master Michel Tommy (It’s like I just KNEW Downton Abbey was in my future). He was always asking her to marry him. “Gobble, Gobble, maby, maby not. if you stop folling me.” But she did not know he was a prince (Okay, this plotline is definitely lifted from the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty). Many years later, Lady Isabell was taking her daily walk. Master Mickel Tommy asked her again (harassment). “Gobble, Gobble. Will you marry me?” he asked. “Gobble gobble, give me time to think.” Lady Isabell said (See? Pulling a Lady Mary). Three months later, she made up her mind (because she had so many turkey suitors to choose from? Did she just honor her independence too much?). “Goble gobble. Yes,” said Lady Isabell Dianna.
Two weeks later, Lady Isabell Dianna got married with Master Mickel Tommy. Da Da Da Dum Dum. Da Da Dum (Wedding theme song. In case that’s not obvious). After the *wedding,* (Why is this starred? Am I trying to make a dirty joke here? Did I know about *wedding nights* at age ten? Can’t remember…) Prinsass Jan Irma called Lady Isabell to her chambers (Which is pretty presumptive to do on someone’s *Wedding* *Night*). “Prinsass Isabell Dianna, I–” “Prinsass?!” interrupted Lady Isabell Dianna (Lady Iz–don’t interrupt your boss). “Lady Isabell, don’t you know you can get fired interupting a prinsass?” asked Prinsass Jan Irma (Exactly!). “Yes,” said Lady Isabell. She turned and started to wobble away (Okay, that’s actually pretty cute).
“Were are you going?” asked the Prinsass. “To pack my bags,” said Lady Isabell (Reader’s note–is she packing because she’s fired? Or packing because she’s off on Turkey Honeymoon? Flesh out). “No. Prinsasses can’t get fired.” said Prinsass Jan (So, Prinsass Jan Irma was just messing with Lady Iz. On her *wedding* *night*. Rude) . “But I’m not a Prinsass,” siad (I’ve said for years I had undiagnosed dyslexia. Maybe this proves it?) Lady Isabell. “Yes you are. Master Mickel Tommy is a prince. So that makes you a *prinsass. Prinsass Lady Isabell Dianna (Quite a title.),” said Prinsass Jan Irma. “Look in the mirror and see your wedding presant.” Prinsass Lady Isabell Dianna turned and now she had the colors of the rainbow on her feathers (Because Prinsass Jan Irma also doubles as a Fairy Godmother-Turkey-Prinsass). “Oh thank you! Thank you!” cried Prinsass Lady Isabell Dianna. She loved sharing (I was clearly running out of room on the page and so needed to get to the conclusion, quickly). So she shared the colors with all the other turkeys (That was nice of her) and that is how the turkeys got the colors in their feathers (Now we know!).
Meanwhile, back at the ranch….
My husband and I are getting adopted by this beautiful big boy. Matilda has been so lonely since Lilith died and it’s time she had a friend. His name is Bear. He’s coming home with us next week! Thank you to the great people at Homeward Bound Pets in McMinnville!