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TWO CHRISTMAS GIFTS

A Pair of Convict’s Trousers and a Live Turkey

[The following is the last article which Mr. Field wrote for publication]

[People’s Press, 27 December 1898]

During the entire period of my connection with The Chicago News it was the benevolent custom of the proprietors of that paper to give a turkey to all their married employees at Christmas time. When the Christmas season came one year, I found that turkeys had palled upon me, and I thought I would rather have a pair of pants. I therefore sent a polite little note to Editor-in-Chief Stone, saying that if it was all the same to him I would take a pair of pants instead of a turkey for a Christmas gift, as my soul felt no longing for a turkey, but sighed for pants.

Now, Editor Stone was a bit of a joker in his way, and, liking the modest tone of my petition, he obtained from the warden of the penitentiary at Joliet a pair of striped pants such as are worn by the convicts in that institution. On Christmas eve the package containing them was sent to me with the best Christmas wishes of the concern, just as the turkey had always been. Editor Stone and the entire writing and business force, whom he had taken into his confidence, thought they had played a splendid practical joke. I turned the laugh on them, however, by donning the pants the next morning and wearing them constantly every day for a week, expressing my gratitude for them, and telling everybody about the office that I never had a pair I liked so well and that thenceforward I would wear no other kind.

When the next Christmas came I again addressed a polite little  note to editor Stone, stating that I did not care for the mere corpse of a turkey, but preferred to have one animated by a soul, or in other words a live one, in order that I might keep it in my yard for a pet. On Christmas eve I was sitting at my desk when suddenly I heard what the classics call “a strong noise” above my head, and down came a bouncing big turkey over the partition dividing the editorial rooms. The bird gave abundant evidence that he was strongly endowed with life, and there could be no question that my desires had been gratified, and that I was at last the proud possessor of a live turkey. I did not want him in my room just then, so with great presence of mind I leaped upon my desk and “shooed” the bird out of my room. He went flapping, jumping, gobbling all through the editorial and reportorial rooms, knocking down ink-bottles, scattering and destroying copy, overturning and breaking the shades on the drop lights, and doing many dollars’ worth of damage. At length, after a long and exciting chase, the entire editorial and reportorial force, with the single exception of myself, succeeded in capturing the bird. Thus I once more secured the laugh on my associates, and after that no further attention was paid to my petitions at Christmas time.

Eugene Field

2 September 1850-4 November 1895

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