Yeah, fundumbentalists' reverence for their holy books always did seem to me a bit o'er the top, as they say, as if tearing out a page or molesting the book in any manner will surely send one straight to the pits of hell.
And so it was so long ago (1968) at the beginning of the fall semester in college. At that time smoking pot was a special thing, and to my knowledge was no where near as ubiquitous as it is today. So finding a little stash was akin to finding the holy grail itself and we'd gather, a few of us, as to practice some ancient ritual in the cleaning, rolling, smoking, ritual. Every hit was held in the lungs to the point of turning blue since broke assed kawledge guys had to make things stretch, if you know what I mean.
One evening my roommate, Gary, returned from a visit home and revealed to us that he had scored some stuff; about enough for two joints. There were four of us in rapt anticipation of the event when he asks if anyone had any papers, to which the answer was a resounding 'no.' Well, at that time one didn't just go around asking people for a couple wraps so we started looking for a suitable exemplar. Discussions were held on the merits of different kinds of paper. Newspaper was out and we tried to take the tobacco out of a cigarette with no success.
I finally said, "Does anyone have a bible?" As they were not a particularly religious bunch, I was surprised at their reaction of complete and unmitigated horror at my implied suggestion, except for the one mate that we called 'Dune.' He always used a corrupted pronunciation of my name and he nonchalantly goes, 'Dayelle, reading the bible will probably be of no help on this matter. I doubt if the Lord will be sympathetic to our cause." And I go, You fucking idiot, you can use those thin, pristine and tender leaves to roll a doobie!" I swear, I thought he was going to keel over dead on the spot, but Gary dives for his dresser and pulls out one of those two and a half by 4 inch copies of the New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ that the Gideons would hand out to the schools. Perfect!
Just as I was ready to tear off the page on which the only ink was "The New Testament of Jesus Christ," I looked up to see two guys with eyes wide open- a little too wide open, and Dune with his eyes wide shut, a little too shut for my druthers, and I nearly laughed out loud (Lol was not yet invented in that day,) so out of respect I said, "God please forgive us this minor transgression." And I ripped it out.
Well, as they say, the rest is history and the vile act that was committed in that small dorm room was all too soon forgotten as the munchies kicked in. Finally one of those guys asked me how in the world I ever thought of my solution, and I told him, My Grandfather!" And they're like, "Does he smoke pot?" "Nope," says I, "but he gave me this book," which I pulled out, opened, and read this to them aloud amid much hilarity:
'Twas in the bleary middle of the hard-boiled Arctic night,
I was lonesome as a loon so if you can,
Imagine my emotions of amazement and delight
When I bumbed into that Missionary Man.
He was lying lost and dying in the moon's unholy leer
And frozen from his toes to finger-tips;
The famished wolf -pack ringed him ; but he didn't seem to fear,
As he pressed his ice-bound bible to his lips
'Twas the limit of my trap-line, with the cabin miles away,
And every step was like a stab of pain;
But I packed him like a baby, and I nursed him night and day,
Till I got him back to health and strength again.
So there we were, benighted in the shadow of the Pole,
And he might have proved a priceless little pard,
If he hadn't got to worrying about my blessed soul,
And a-quotin' me his bible by the yard.
Now there was I, a husky guy, who's god was Nicotine.
With a "coffin-nail" a fixture in my mug;
I rolled them in the pages of a pulpwood magazine,
And hacked them with my jack-knife from the plug.
For, oh to know the bliss and glow that good tobacco means,
There among the everlasting ice . . .
So judge my horror when I found my stack of magazines
Was chewed into a chowder by the mice.
A woeful week went by and not a single pill I had,
Me who would smoke my forty in a day;
I sighed, I swore, I strode the floor; I felt I would go mad;
The gospel-plugger watched me in dismay.
My brow was wet, my teethe were set, my nerves were rasping raw;
And yet that preacher couldn't understand;
So with despair I wrestle there - when suddenly I saw
The volume he was holding in his hand.
Then something snapped inside my brain,
and with an evil start
The wolf-man in me woke to rabid rage.
"I saved your lousy life" says I; "So show you have a hear,
And tear me out a solitary page."
He shrank and shriveled at my words; his face went pewter white;
'Twas just as if I'd handed him a blow,
And then . . . and then he seemed to swell, and grow to Heaven's height,
And in a voice that rang he answered "No!"
I grabbed my loaded rifle and I jabbed it to his chest;
"Come on you shrimp, give up that Book," says I.
Well sir, he was a parson, but he stacked up with the best,
And for grit I got to hand it to the guy.
"If I should let you desecrate this Holy Word," he said,
"My soul would be eternally accurst;
So go on, Bill, I'm ready, You can pump me full of lead
And take it, but-you've got to kill me first."
Now I'm no foul assassin, though I'm full of sinful ways,
And I knew right there the fellow had me beat;
For I felt a yellow mongrel in the glory of his gaze,
And I flung the foolish firearm at his feet.
Then wearily I turned away, and dropped upon my bunk,
And there I lay and blubbered like a kid.
"Forgive me pard," says I at last, "for acting like a skunk,
But hide that blasted rifle . . ." which he did.
And he also hid his bible, which was maybe just as well,
For the sight of all that paper gave me pain,
And there were crimson moments when I felt I'd go to hell
To have a single cigarette again.
And so I lay day after day, and brooded dark and deep,
Until one night I thought I'd end it all;
Then rough I roused the preacher, where he stretched pretending sleep,
With his map of horror tuned towards the wall.
"See here, my pious pal," says I, "I've stood this long enough . . .
Behold! I've mixed some strychnine in a cup;
Enough to kill a dozen men- behold me it's no bluff;
Now watch me, for I'm gonna drink it up.
You've seen me bludgened by despair through bitter days and night and nights,
And now you'll see me squirming as I die.
You're not to blame, you've played the game according to your lights . . .
But how would have Christ played it? - Well goodbye. . ."
With that I raised the deadly drink and laid it to my lips,
But he was on me with a tiger-bound;
And as we locked and reeled and rocked with wild and wicked grips,
The poisoned cup went crashing to the ground.
"Don't do it, Bill," He madly shrieked, Maybe I acted wrong,
See, here's my Bible_use it as you will;
But promise me -you'll read a little as you go along . . .
You do! Then take it, Brother; smoke your fill."
And so I did. I smoked and smoked from Genesis to job,
And as I smoked I read each blessed word;
While in the shadow of his bunk I heard him sigh and sob,
And then . . . a most peculiar thing occurred.
I got to reading more and more, and smoking less and less,
Till just about the day his heart was broke,
Says I: "here, take it back, me lad. I've had enough, I guess.
Your paper makes a mighty rotten smoke."
So then and there with plea and prayer he wrestled for my soul,
And I was racked and ravaged by regrets.
But God was good, for lo! next day there came the police patrol,
With papers for a thousand cigarettes. . .
So now I'm called Salvation Bill; I teach the living Law,
And Bally-hoo the Bible with the best;
And if a guy won't listen_ why, I sock him on the jaw,
And preach the Gospel sitting on his chest.
The Ballad of Salvation Bill
Robert W. Service (January 16, 1874 – September 11, 1958)
Life is a comedy for those who think, and a tragedy for those who feel.- Horace Walpole