Legend - Deck of Cards
I love old tales and songs from yesteryear. I hope you do too.
For over 300 years, stories have spread all over the country of a soldier who is brought before his superiors for using a deck of cards as a bible. In most legends, and urban legends also, there is usually a grain of truth in what is being said. But in this case (there is always an exception to any rule) this is the exception. This is one of those rare instances in which the legend actually has nothing to do with fact. It is pure fiction. The song was first written in 1948 by country musician T. Texas Tyler. The story is based in part to a 19th Century British Literary piece called "The Soldier's Almanac, Bible And Prayer Book."
In almost every conflict the United States has been involved in, soldiers have taken the story and made it fit the situation. For example: In Afghanistan, the story was changed to reflect that since we as a nation was in a non-Christian country, the soldier being punished, was punished, solely on the fact he was using a deck of cards as a bible, because it was illegal to have a bible in that country.
Although it is a legend and nothing more, the story itself has inspired many people to have more faith.
The story itself has been put to music more than once over the years; such well known artists as Tex Ritter (1948) and Doug Dugger (1956) are only a few; one the most famous of them is sung by Wink Martindale. (1959) The latest version of the song was by Bill Anderson (1991) during the Persian Gulf War.
The Soldiers Bible
This is how the story goes:
During the North African campaign, a bunch of soldier boys had been on a long hike and they arrived in a little town called Cassino.
The next morning, being Sunday, several of the boys went to church.
A Sergeant commanded the boys in church and after the chaplain had read the prayer, the text was taken up next. Those boys who had a prayer book took them out, but this one boy had only a deck of cards, and so he spread them out.
The Sergeant saw the cards and said, "Soldier, put away those cards."
After the services, the soldier was taken prisoner and brought before the Provost Marshall. The Marshall said, "Sergeant, why have you brought this man here?"
"For playing cards in church, sir."
"And what have you to say for yourself, son?" asked the Marshall.
"Much, sir," replied the soldier.
The Marshall said, "I hope so, for if not I shall punish you more than any man has ever been punished."
The soldier said, "Sir, I have been on the march for about six days. I have neither a Bible nor a prayer book, but I hope to satisfy you, Sir, with the purity of my intentions."
So, with those words, he began his story.
"You see, Sir . . .
Almanac and Calendar
"But that's not all, Sir. When I count the number of spots on a deck of cards, I find 365: the number of days in a year.
"There are 52 cards: the number of weeks in a year.
"There are four suits: the number of weeks in a month.
"There are 12 picture cards: the number of months in a year.
"There are 13 tricks: the number of weeks in a quarter.
"So, you see, Sir, my pack of cards serves me as a Bible, an Almanac and a Prayer Book."
The story concludes with the soldier being let go, and the narrator of the tale finishes by telling the audience that he either was that soldier, or that he knew that soldier. That way the audience that hears the tale will be inspired by it and believe.
A wonderful tale for the ages
In all the versions of this story, the main theme seems to be of faith. No matter how one comes about it, or is involved with it (even through a deck of cards) the main thing is to get there.
Given that the tale has been around since the 1800's or later, the author of the 1948 song version, "knew that soldier": he would be a very long lived man indeed.
What a wonderful tale for the ages!
Soldiers Bible and Prayer Book
- Soldier's Deck of Cards
Buy a military Bible prayer Book.