Monday, March 13, 2006

the legend of William Booth's cigar

When I was eighteen years old, some friends and I travelled to the Smithsonian Museum to find out if the urban legend was true. A legend of mystery. A legend of wonder. A legend that suggested that the Smithsonian Museum had Billy the Kid’s…um…”cash and prizes” in a jar.

We’d heard the story all our lives. And though it sometimes started differently, and involved different elements, it always ended the same. With a jar hidden deep in the recesses of the Smithsonian Museum.

A full day and one ticked off security guard later, and all I can tell you is that it must be locked deeply away.

But this story isn’t about an unfounded legend. No. This story is about an urban legend that I recently discovered to be true.

For those of you who aren’t members of The Salvation Army, you may not know that, upon committing to be a member of this church, many people make the additional commitment to abstain from alcohol and tobacco. It’s a commitment that comes at great sacrifice for some, but a commitment that we make in the name of those who have been bound by these substances. And yet, for those of us who have never struggled with these vices, it can sometimes be a commitment that seems a bit unnecessary. And so, upon going through the membership classes for this church, many learn about an urban legend that suggests that somewhere in the world, locked in the display case of an unknown Territorial Headquarters, lies an item that those in power would rather us not know about. In many ways, it seems to fly in the face of this very commitment we’ve made concerning the insufflating (to Shaun with love) of a certain stipule that grows best in the fields of Virginia, but is rolled best in the hands of a Cuban.

I had heard the story before. That somewhere, possibly Europe, possibly Africa, possibly South America, there existed a cigar with William Booth’s (founder of The Salvation Army) impression on it. Mind you, this isn’t one of those items soon to be found on ebay. This isn’t a half smoked cigar with some strange burn mark on it that a guy, one whisky sour too drunk, thought he’d seen William Booth’s face in. This is cigar with the face and name of William Booth on its wrapper. A cigar actually rolled, wrapped, and imprinted to somehow market The Salvation Army. As I said, I had heard the story before, but I could never bring myself to believe it.

I now believe it.

This weekend I had the privilege of spending a few days in Holland. I was brought over to lead a few workshops on youth ministry and, in the meantime, had a few hours to take in the sites. And one of those sites happened to be a certain Territorial Headquarters located just outside of Amsterdam. My tour guide and I had hit it off and, after one too many slavinkens on Saturday night, he let slip that he happened to know the whereabouts of a certain Army legend, believed by many, but known by only a few. I have to tell you, my eyes lit up and my ears stood at attention. Could this be the same Army legend that I had heard about since my days as a reluctant soldier on the northside of Pittsburgh? Could this be the legend of William Booth’s Cigar? I quickly composed myself and suggested that, should he be willing to show me proof of this legend, he might just find a an envelope of bruine bonen met appeltjes in his car in the morning.

He agreed, and so we went.

And that’s how I found myself, after one car ride, an unarmed alarm, and a walk down a cold dark hallway, staring into a glass display case. There were many items in this display case. Items that, no doubt, IHQ (International Headquarters) would rather us not know about. I looked at them all, and then I saw it. Tucked away on the shelf second from the bottom, rested a small, brown cigar, not more than six inches (15.2 centimeters if you’re logging in from a metric country) long, and wrapped in a crystal cellophane wrapper that clearly displayed both the image and name of one William Booth. Founder of The Salvation Army.

Ladies and gentleman, I cannot provide any proof of this. I was not allowed to bring in a camera and so my word is all you have to go on. But I can promise you that what I say is true. The William Booth Cigar does exist. And the legend is true!

Comments on "the legend of William Booth's cigar"


Blogger Ben said ... (3:59 PM) : 

what else is in this cabinet?! I bet IHQ have a vault or something.


Blogger shaun said ... (9:05 PM) : 

Your use of insufflating really warmed my heart. I may have to light a bowl of cavendish to celebrate!


Blogger Bret said ... (2:56 AM) : 

I'm not surprised . William Booth would do just about anything. He was an "out of the cigar box" kinda guy. I think we've lost some that.


Blogger bedemike said ... (3:02 AM) : 

If you look carefully at some of the more famous War Cry covers, you'll notice hints & symbols that provide the history and whereabouts of this Army legend. The information is collectively known as "The Fire-A-Volley Code."

Careful though - the truth is heavily guarded by a secret society called the "Priory of Stogie."


Blogger Sean said ... (3:53 PM) : 

I would be surprised if the tobacco thing was otriginally in the articles of war until post 1955, as it was viewed as harmful or addictive until after that. IN there and in the Jr. Soldier pladge, the phrase reads as if it were added after the original. I could be wrong, but until then smoke em if you got em... on we march with the blood and our stogies!


Blogger Gareth Evans said ... (12:46 PM) : 

It is almost like the timbralists... they dress up and dance to bring in the punters...

Did you see any of that going on in Holland?!?!!!!!


Blogger lucy AR said ... (3:51 AM) : 

yes... in a few years time, in some deep dark transparent cabinet will lie the last remaining aghast faces press up against the glass a wrinkled historian will describe the expressive bottom wiggles of a timbrel bigrade...


Blogger BLUE said ... (8:08 PM) : 

I have to tell you I would have been tempted to light up. Am I allowed to say that?


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