Away in the Manger. Literally!

Most reading this are too young to remember Jack Webb, his long-running radio and television cop show Dragnet or "The Christmas Story" that originally aired on Dec. 21, 1967, and was repeated every holiday season for years after in re-runs.

Los Angeles police officers Friday [Webb] and Gannon [Harry Morgan], spend most of the episode chasing leads to find a baby Jesus statue stolen from a nativity display at a Roman Catholic church. As they break the bad news to Father Xavier Rojas at the parish, a little boy pulling a red wagon carrying the statue approaches.

ROJAS: It's Peco Mendoza, a boy from the parish.
FRIDAY: Well, ask him where he found it.
ROJAS (to Peco): ¿Dónde le encontraste?
PECO: No encontré, lo cogí esta mañana.
ROJAS: He says he didn't find it, he took it.
ROJAS: ¿Porqué?
PECO: Todo los años rezé para un camioncito rojo. Y en este año rezé al niño Jesús y le prometí que el primer viaje en mi camioncito.
ROJAS: He says that all through the years he prayed for a red wagon. This year he prayed to the child Jesus. He promised that if he got the red wagon, the child Jesus would have the first ride in it.
PECO: ¿Me llevará el Diablo?
ROJAS: He wants to know if the Devil will come and take him to hell.
FRIDAY: That's your department, father.
ROJAS: El Diablo, no. Por que Jesús ama mucho a Pequito. ("The Devil, no. Because Jesus loves Pequito very much.")
Pequito smiles, the padre sends him home and actual tears seem to be forming in the hard-boiled coppers' peepers.

Annnnnnnnnnnd scene!

Start rounding up the usual red wagon-toting suspects: a statue of baby Jesus was stolen from the nativity scene in Old Towne Orange's Plaza Park.

The infant Christ was described as 30 inches long, 18 inches wide, 10 pounds and valued at $400. The baby-snatcher had to cut wires to remove the statue.

A community group has erected and removed the nativity scene from Plaza Park for a decade, Orange Mayor Carolyn Cavecche told the Orange County Register. It's the second time the Christ child has been poached.

"You wonder what kind of person does this either as a prank or as a statement the week before Christmas," Madame Mayor lamented.

Probably not a latter-day Peco.


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