Saturday, March 30, 2013

Deck of Cards (Ocracoke Version)

In 1948 country music star, Tex Ritter, recorded a popular song titled "Deck of Cards." Many of our older readers will remember the song (younger readers will know a more recent version) about a soldier who pulls out a deck of playing cards during a religious service. The recitation begins like this:

"Friends, this is Tex Ritter with a strange story about a soldier boy and a deck of cards"

Ritter goes on to tell how the young soldier's sergeant took him prisoner for his offense, and delivered him to the provost marshal. The marshal, highly offended by the boy's behavior in church, asks for an explanation. The soldier tells how he uses his deck of cards as his bible, prayer book and almanac (see for the complete lyrics.):  

"Sir, I have been on a march for six days and I had neither bible or prayer book, but I hope to satisfy you, Sir, with the purity of my intentions....

"You see sir when I see the Ace, it reminds me that there is but one God. And the deuce reminds me the bible is divided into two parts, the Old and the New Testament. And when I see the three, I think of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost…. 

"And when I see the queen, I think of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is queen of heaven. And Jack or knave is the Devil.

"When I count the number of spots of a deck of cards I find three hundred and sixty-five, the number of days in a year…

"So you see, Sir, my deck of cards serves me as a Bible, almanac and prayer book…."

Six years ago an old-time native islander told me about an Ocracoke musician who sang that song often and "got it wrong every time...always in a different way."  According to my neighbor, the singer's most memorable faux pas was "You see sir when I see the Ace it reminds me of the four wise men, Tom, Dick and Harry."

Only on Ocracoke....!

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a video of Philip Howard telling the story of the 1861 wreck of the Black Squall. You can watch it here:


  1. Anonymous7:57 AM

    What happened to the separation of state from religion?. Why does the sgt. think it is his role to police religious activity in a place of worship?. What did George Carlin say about Military Intelligence ... something about a contradiction of terms.. Ouch! remember that guy rhymes with Betray us

    1. Just to be quoting this song I was not defending the sergeant's intervention. This post is simply about a quirky Ocracoke island musician! I hope our readers find it humorous.

  2. Anonymous8:50 AM

    I continue to be amazed when readers find it necessary to dissect and find hidden messages, at least in their own minds, for entries here. What a sad way to go through life. Philip, keep up the great work by taking your readers inside the numerous quirks of island life!

  3. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Well you started my day with a chuckle.
    This oldie remembers that oldie very well. Who was the island singer?

    1. I don't post "everything" on my blog...but if you stop me in the village I might be persuaded to reveal the name of the singer.

  4. Vickie Pavlik9:50 AM

    Thanks for the laugh Philip.