Red Tank Mammies Meet Pedro Miguel Mummy
by Ray Crucet

It was one of those rare October tropical nights the rainy season would yield from time to time ; full moon clear and day-like, still, quiet and without breeze yet, almost cool, almost a chill in the air. It was a Saturday night, late, and across the Pedro Miguel ball field trudged five figures laden with bundles of bandages moving towards the garages on Galliard Highway, moving in concert towards a mission of terror. 

Pedro Miguel, my hometown, was to me the center of all things during my youth. The ball field we now traversed was central to the town located beside the Pedro Miguel locks, it's namesake, which, in turn, was centrally located within the Panama Canal. The ball field was the hub of considerable activity in this town. A field of memories, baseball, archery, fairs, and giant Christmas tree burns. It was where the annual migration of green swallow-tail butterflies would suddenly "magically" swarm west to east from the tracks towards the homes ringing the field and then, after a few days, would just as suddenly stop. And it was here after a heavy downpour of rain, we, the town kids, would somehow "show up" and "choose up" and for hours play mud football. What with all the mud being churned up and the slipping and sliding it was almost impossible to get hurt. But sometimes.

In a game some weeks earlier a boy was running bare footed (not very fast) with the ball when he was clipped from behind spinning him head over heels.  He landed hard, flat on his back with all air exploding out of his lungs. Gasping and hurting and crying he stood and shouted " You Dirty Guy.". But Bobby Leisy an older kid with some fifty pounds on him laughed, gave him a shove, and said: " Tough S___ , if ya can't run you're gonna get NAILED". The uniform was usually shorts, tee shirts and sneakers or bare feet. Bobby wore jeans, a stripped tee shirt and shoes with cleats.

The five boys approached the stadium and turned between it and the tennis courts towards the garages that lined the highway. The oldest, Larry Fortner, was talking in hushed tones about the plan he masterminded. Strangely creative and intelligent, and always ahead of his time and out of step with others, he was to become at one time or other a pilot, magician, hypnotist and entrepreneur. His mother, Mrs. Fortner taught 3rd & 4th grades and managed the town's paper routes for the "Panama American". Don Sampson, who liked all things technical and electrical was pivotal to the success of this caper in that he controlled access to required resources. His father, "Doc Samson" was the physician who ran the town's dispensary. They in fact resided in the top floor of the dispensary. Introduced earlier, the third member of this team of terror was Bobby Leisy, a well built lad of simplistic nature who could be most menacing. A trait that made him a star during this event. His Dad was the no-nonsense director of the town's playground and athletic facilities and programs. Wearing white slacks, shirt, and shoes at all times "Old Man Leisy" as he was affectionately referred to, always did a great job coordinating numerous town events of all kinds. Nearer my age was Bill Dunning who was a good natured individual with a lot of smarts. A terrific football player Bill was always at the ready with a smile and can-do-it attitude. And lastly your author, Ray Crucet, whose father was a machinist with the Locks division and whose mother played the piano. beautifully. The youngest, I wore glasses and was skinny. 

Across town, upstairs, in the huge screened mansion-like "clubhouse" on the hill, the movie was drawing to a close. The ladies from Red Tank and Paraiso who cooked and served were preparing for the crowds who would soon descend upon them for after show snacks, burgers, fries, malts, and delightful ice cream concoctions with a bit of "pesuna". These Jamaican ladies could then relax, clean up, and head for the Galliard highway and their Chivas or a long walk home. 

After trying a key several times we finally found the "Sampson" unit. It was near the middle of the row of tin roofed garages painted battleship gray which were practically on the sidewalk parallel to the Galliard highway which ran just below the elevated railroad track dike. Just over the other side of the dyke lay the Canal, always awake and pulsating with it's continuing 24 hour a day business of ships in transit. One could just hear in the background a bias level of night noises, the electric whine of mules pulling in constant tension mode, ship signals of horn and whistle intermingled with the occasional metallic clank of gates and chain, and the deep thump thump of ship screws as ships, freed from Locks, moved south into Miraflories lake or north to the Culebra cut.

Pulling wide the two squeaky garage doors revealed a dark , almost black, interior. The street light was up further, closer to the stadium. After finding the light switch a space was amid the clutter of boxes and obsolete pieces medical equipment. The doors were closed and a brief inventory was taken of the left over WWII emergency supplies we liberated thanks to Don Sampson who knew of their whereabouts. We proceeded to wrap bandages and tape over the clothed body of the chosen one. "Dammit Bobbie you look like a lumpy accident victim" said Larry. "Lets pull the bandages on tighter" said Don. "Hey that that hurts.too tight, too tight" shouted Bobbie. " I think he has to take off all his clothes and shoes. down to his skivvies. Do you think they wrapped a mummy with clothes underneath? Lets make it look real, OK?" suggested one of the boys. Bobby argued, then capitulated. The wrapping began anew as a team effort. With Bobby standing barefooted in Jockey shorts we applied roll after roll of white gauze to his body. Each was assigned a limb and as we progressed we met in the middle. Larry completed the costume and did the head with just the right touch of loose gauze around the neck. We finished and for a few seconds went quiet and gaped at this reincarnation of Lon Channy before us. It was indeed a scary creature before us and we knew at that moment that our plan could only be a great success.

By this time the Clubhouse was closed. All the help had left for Paraiso and Red Tank Chivas and home. All except two extremely large Jamaican ladies who had needed a bit more time to put things in order before leaving. It would be difficult to catch a Chiva at this late hour so they decided to take a leisurely walk home to Red Tank via the sidewalk along the Galliard Highway. A not uncommon practice for this pair, resembling Mammies, who could have been sisters to Hattie McDaniel, the Oscar winning Mammy of "Gone with the Wind".

At the garage the boys were becoming impatient. They rehearsed and waited and waited. It seemed a long time since the last Chiva turned into the road up by the Commissary, motored towards the stadium, passing the boys in the garage and proceeding a quarter mile down the road past the Police Station moved out of sight towards Red Tank. Then the sound of Bajon speak was heard. 

The Mammies waddled along with their "packages" chatting happily. Tired but knowing the morrow would be their day off they were in good humor. As they approached the garages their eyes fixed upon a door that appeared to move. then a sound.

Larry Fortner pushed the noisy door open slowly and uttered a god awful sound as he did so. Our mummy, with outstretched arms and dragging a foot moved out of the dark into view. We four crouched down and peered through cracks behind the other door and bit our lips to contain ourselves.

Their mouths continued to move but with no sound as their eyes grew big, round and in white contrast reflecting sheer terror. As the bandaged figure approached, the ladies scattered their packages and they found voice. GHAAWD ALLMIGHTYYY. GHAAWD ALLMIGHTYYY. GHAAWD ALLMIGHTYYY. Moving faster now, crab-like, in a semi circle to keep eye on and distance between them and Mummy the Mammies turned and accelerated towards Red Tank. We rolled out of the garage laughing our heads off. It was the funniest, at someone else's expense, thing, any of us had ever seen. The ladies could still be heard as they, way down the road, turned into the POLICE STATION. An oops we overlooked big time because the next thing we saw were headlights and then a flashing red light. The cops! Run!! 

We accelerated across the ball field. My sneaker (Keds) shod feet had wings. Then. "Hey. Hey. wait-up you dirty guys, you #*-~%!*#.I can't run." shouted our Mummy who, stiff-legged tried to keep pace without success. There was, after all, nothing we could do. But one of us turned and shouted: " Tough S___ , if ya can't run you're gonna get NAILED". 

And nailed he was. As I looked back from a hidden vantage point under a stilted house the white Mummy apparition was standing just beyond 2nd base near center field with one car flashing lights and sounding siren circling him and a second car just coming off Galliard onto the field. I'm not positive, but I think the officers actually had guns drawn as they warily apprehended Bobby and placed him in handcuffs. The cars sped off to the station and once again. Red Tank Mammies meet the Pedro Miguel Mummy. 

The four of us celebrated and relived the events several times via re-telling in the next few hours. A final bout of rolling on the ground laughter occurred when we spotted old man Leisy's car heading home. There were two figures clad "all in white" sitting up front.

Like father like son.