by Jim Foreman
The year was 1936 and the great depression was bearing down with a vengeance on the people who were still hanging on to life around Sallisaw, Oklahoma. It was rather difficult to go any further east and still be in the state of Oklahoma because it was claimed that one could literally spit from Sallisaw into Arkansas. It is also said that the Bible Belt, which wraps so tightly across the south, has its buckle situated directly over Sallisaw and the people of that region are always trying to cinch it up another notch.
There are more Baptist churches than filling stations in Sallisaw. Baptists, for some unknown reason, tend to clone themselves into new churches far more often than any other single pietistic group. When the original Baptist preacher came to a town and gathered a flock, they established themselves as the First Baptist Church. Then as a rule, when the church reached a certain size, a fight would erupt among the members and about a third of the congregation would break away in a rage of religious indignity to form a new church. The split usually came about because the departing members felt that the remaining ones had become far too lenient in their belief and were not living up to the strictest letter of the Bible. When the new church was formed, they would rather die than to ever be known as the Second Third or Fourth Baptist Church, so they always took a name which was intended to show the town that they held God in a much higher esteem than did the backsliding members of the church which they left. Each succeeding clone added more words to their name to show an even greater holiness. Ruth Harrison and her daughter, Mary, were among those who left the Holy Bible Baptist Church to become founding members of the latest in the chain of Baptist churches in Sallisaw; God's Holy Word Baptist Tabernacle. It seems that calling it a tabernacle is much more saintly than it simply being known as a church.
Ruth wasn't a widow, nor was she divorced; she just didn't happen to know, nor particularly care where her husband was. The last time that she had seen him was the summer of 1934 when he came by to see if she had any money that she could give him and to tell her that he was on his way to California to look for work. She gave him the last five bucks that she had in order to speed him along his way.
Other than her daughter, Ruth had only two interests in life: her job with the Sallisaw High School as cook in the lunch room and her church. In fact, if it ever came down to a choice, Mary would probably have come at the bottom of that list. Some people, especially Ruth`s husband, claimed that her excessive dedication of time and attention to the church was the main reason why he wasn't around. She and Mary were at the church any time that the doors were open. They arrived at six in the morning to attend the early church services, followed by Sunday School and then late morning church which was supposed to turn out at noon. However, it was not unusual for the preacher to hold his congregation captive until as late as 1:30 while he urged members to come forward to accept salvation. They would return Sunday evening to attend both early and late church services.
Monday nights were devoted to visiting people who hadn't shown up for church on Sunday, Tuesday was fellowship night and Wednesday was Prayer Meeting Night. Thursday night was for collective Bible reading and Friday was devoted to what the preacher called "Inspirational Talks With God". Most of Saturday was devoted to visiting sick members and anyone whom they felt might be inclined to blackslide and not come to church the following day.
It was Mary Harrison's thirteenth birthday and her greatest wish was for a brassiere like the ones that she had seen in the Sears Roebuck catalog. But instead of buying her something to enclose her budding breasts, her mother gave her a Bible in a white leather case. It wasn't that her mother had failed to notice the development of her breasts because she decided that the occasion of her becoming a teen-ager called for a Mother-Daughter talk. Most mothers talk with their daughters about sex, babies and growing up; but Ruth based her talk entirely on sin.
"Sit down, Mary," she told her. "You are thirteen years old today and the time has come for me to tell you about men. All men are instruments of the Devil and each one carries the serpent of sin in his pants. You remember the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The serpent mentioned in the Bible isn't an ordinary snake like we see in the garden, but it is the serpent of sin which every man carries with him from birth. A man's serpent of sin is a vile, venom-spitting demon which will sentence you to an eternal life of hell and damnation if it ever touches you. For a woman look upon this serpent or even think about it is a mortal sin."
Mary was in a cold sweat by this time because one day while she was walking to school, she had seen a boy wetting on a tree. She began to cry, "Oh Mother, I've already seen one of those serpents of sin. Am I doomed to go to Hell?"
"How did you come to see the serpent?" the mother demanded.
"I was walking to school and saw this boy who was holding his serpent in his hand and using it to wet on a tree," she sobbed.
"It is not as great a sin if you saw it by accident, but the boy was sinning by having his serpent out in a place where it might be seen by an innocent girl," she replied. "But you must cleanse your soul of sin for having seen the serpent. You must say an extra prayer every night and go forward during the invitation this Sunday and ask God for redemption."
"Being instruments of the Devil, men are driven to seek out women for their serpents to attack by penetrating their bodies," she continued. The Devil gives these serpents a special ability to entice and tempt women and they are able to cast spells over a woman which makes her want to touch the serpent and taste the forbidden fruit. Once you come under the spell of the serpent of sin, there is no escape and you are doomed to live in Hell forever."
"God places a shield, called a Maiden's Head, over the place where the serpent of sin enters a woman's body. It is there as proof of her virginity and purity at birth. If this shield is ever broken by a serpent, it is lost forever and will never grow back. It is placed there by God so a woman can always prove her purity and virginity. Your only defense against the serpent of sin entering your body is a strong will and faith in God because his shield is not strong enough to resist a lusting serpent. When the serpents of sin become excited with lust for a woman, they will grow to a great size in an effort to escape and reach their prey. You must always be aware of this and do everything possible to protect yourself from coming under its spell."
From that day forward, Mary made a special effort to never look anywhere near a boy's crotch lest she accidentally see a serpent of sin and come under its spell.
The Sallisaw High School had only one gymnasium so the boys had to play at one end and the girls at the other. In the heat of a game, it was not unusual for a penis to sneak out the leg of a pair of shorts or for a breast to be exposed when a blouse became unbuttoned. Both the boys and the girls kept a special watch in order to catch these bits of excitement which were often more deliberate than accidental. In gym class, Mary always kept her back turned toward the boy's end of the gym to guard against accidentally seeing an exposed serpent of sin.
One day in English class, the boy seated across the aisle from Mary handed her a folded piece of paper. She opened the note which read, "You are very pretty and I like you. Can I carry your books home for you?" His name was Roger and he had always seemed very nice. Certainly there couldn't be anything sinful about allowing him to walk her home. She smiled at him as she slipped the note inside the cover on her book. Just then, the teacher called on Roger to stand and read a selection from the book which they were using.
As Roger stood to read, another boy, who was seated across the next aisle whispered loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, "Look, ol' Roger's got a boner on."
Roger instinctively turned his back to the boy who had made the remark and Mary turned her head to see what he was talking about. Not six inches from her face was a huge bulge in Roger's pants, pointing right at her. Mary leaped from her seat and dashed toward the door, screaming, "Roger's serpent of sin is lusting and wants me! It wants to attack me! Oh, Please God, save me from it!"
Needless to say, after that experience, neither Roger or any other boy ever offered to walk Mary home from school. In fact, after that outburst, none would have dared to even ask.
Mary graduated from high school, but not being financially able to go on to college, she began to search for a suitable job. As it happened, Miss Roby, the head librarian, had just retired and Miss Doyal moved up to her job. Miss Hawks took over Miss Doyal's position, leaving an opening at the lowest level. The expression "Old Maid Librarian" is a pleonasm because it seems that no librarian is ever married and both "Old Maid" and "Librarian" are taken to have the same meaning.
Mary knew that she never wanted to have anything to do with a man, much less to get married, but deep down inside her, there was the gnawing maternal urge. She knew that married women had babies and once in a while, some unmarried woman would create a scandal by coming up pregnant. Usually, the girl who became pregnant without benefit of marriage went off someplace to visit an aunt for several months. Beyond that, she simply didn't understand the process of having babies. Never once did she ever connect the serpent of sin with babies. After all, how could anything which was so horrible and sinful have anything to do with something as sweet and pure as a baby.
Mary applied for the job as assistant librarian and was hired, mostly because she was the only applicant. Her job consisted mainly of keeping the floors swept, replacing books on the shelves when they were returned and cataloging new books when they arrived. It also gave her a chance to see hundreds of books which she never knew existed. While many of the books contained so much sin that she dared not read them, others offered valuable and exciting information.
When Old Doctor Pritchard died, his son donated all of his books to the library. This was a valuable addition to the library because Dr. Pritchard had amassed an impressive collection of the great writings of mankind, some so rare that they dared not place them on the shelves but locked away in a separate room for safekeeping. While they had no idea who might want to read them, they decided to place his medical books on a shelf which was available to the public. Mary was told to catalog the medical books and place them in a special section back near the rest room.
While Mary was separating the books into the various categories for placement on the shelves, she found some of the titles most interesting. One especially caught her attention. It was titled, "Human Reproduction." As she thumbed through the volume, she was shocked at some of the pictures and words which she found there. The book was illustrated in several places by the use of a stack of plastic overlays which, when all were in place, illustrated the male genitals. Raising the first sheet showed a cut-away of the penis and the testicles. Mary was so shocked that she dared not lift the second sheet of plastic and slammed the book closed, placing it on the shelf. As she moved books from the stacks on the floors to the shelves, she could not help but think about what she had seen. There didn't seem to be a serpent lurking inside the penis as she had always believed, just strange looking veins, arteries and cells.
Each time that she passed the shelf containing the collection of medical books, that one particular book seemed to reach out and beg her to explore its pages. The book offered so much knowledge about a subject which was truly fascinating to Mary, however there were also those awful sins associated with simply looking at the serpent of sin. The longer that she thought about the book, the more that she wanted to open its pages and explore its knowledge.
"Could this be the Devil's way of tempting me with sin?" she thought. "If I read this book, will I face total and lasting damnation?"
She dared not ask her mother about the book because she already knew what the answer would be. Neither could she ask the preacher, because he was a man. In desperation, she asked herself, "How sinful could it be to read such a book if medical students have to study it in order to become doctors?" She took the book from the shelf and locked herself in the bathroom.
Page after page and illustration after illustration on the male anatomy held her total attention. She read unknown words like, Semen, Sperm, Erection, and Ejaculation. Her thoughts were interrupted by a tapping on the door. "Mary, are you all right?" asked Miss Doyal. "You've been in there for two hours, are you ill?"
"No, I'm OK," Mary stammered, not realizing how long she had been reading the book. "I'll be right out."
She waited for the tap-tap of the little heels on Miss Doyal's shoes to indicate that she had returned to the front of the library, but they never came. How on earth could she open the door and let Miss Doyal know that she had been reading such a book; and for two whole hours. She finally shoved the book into the trash can, covered it with paper towels, flushed the toilet and came out. She could safely return the book to the shelves when she emptied the trash that night.
"Are you sure that you are all right?" asked Miss Doyal. "Your face is all flushed and you are perspiring."
"It does seem to be rather stuffy in here," Mary replied. "I think that I'll be OK if I can sit by an open window for a few minutes." She also realized that her breasts were hard as rocks and she had a terrible urge to rub her crotch.
Mary knew that it would be impossible for her to read and absorb the contents of the book while working, so she wrapped it in her coat and carried it home with her that night.
Each night, Mary would lie awake in the darkness, waiting until she heard her mother's steady breathing in the next room. This would be a signal that her mother was asleep and she could safely turn on the small lamp by her bed and read the book. At times, she would become so engrossed in the book that roosters were crowing before she abandoned it for sleep.
The next section of the book concerned the female reproductive system and was presented with the same type of plastic overlays as had been the male section. She carefully read every word, learning amazing things about the functions of her own body, including how and why she had monthly periods, which her mother referred to as "A visit from a little friend".
When she had finished reading the section on the female reproductive parts, she decided to compare herself with the drawings in the book. She removed her panties and leaned against the headboard of the bed. Using a small mirror and spreading the lips of her vagina, she was amazed to see how accurately her body matched the drawings in the book. She could easily see that her hymen, or Maiden's Head as her mother called it, was still in place as shown by one of the drawings. She was relieved to see that it had never been broken as depicted in another.
All of this newly-gained knowledge reinforced her desires to have a baby while teaching her that there was no way in which she could become pregnant without the fertilization of her egg by sperm from a man. To allow a man to invade her body with his penis, even once in order to become pregnant, was totally unthinkable.
It just happened that the preacher had chosen that Sunday to present a sermon about a subject which accounted for part of the name of their church, Immaculate Conception. He talked about how God had made a child suddenly appear in the womb of the Virgin Mary. If such a thing could happen to her, perhaps she could have a baby without the mortal sin of allowing a man's serpent of sin to invade her body. After all, her name was Mary and she was a virgin. For the next several months, Mary prayed many times each day for God to make a baby appear her womb, but each month her "Little Friend" came to tell her that nothing had happened.
Torn between the teachings of the bible and what doctors were taught, Mary returned to the medical book and the section about how the sperm cells traveled from the vagina and into the womb in order to reach an egg and fertilize it. If God would not give her a baby; she must turn to medical science.
She had probably studied this book with far greater interest than had any medical student and kept going back to one particular statement, "It is possible for a woman to become pregnant without actual penetration by a penis if live sperm cells are deposited anywhere near the lips of the vagina. This can happen even through clothing." Mary knew what she had to do, but she still had the problem of finding the live sperm cells.
All of a sudden, a conversation which she had overheard a few months earlier came back to her. She had been in a booth at the drugstore and four girls were talking in the booth behind her. They were all discussing boys and how they acted. One of the girls mentioned about going out with soldiers who were stationed over at Fort Smith, but said that she wasn't about to let one of them get her pregnant and would never let them "Go all the way" without using a rubber. The book had referred to the use of a condom to prevent pregnancy and they were made from rubber--this was obviously what she was talking about, a rubber or condom was used to capture the sperm cells and prevent them from being released into the vagina.
Mary knew that there was a area out north of town where the soldiers went to park with their dates and if they did what the girls had been talking about, there were bound to be sperm-filled condoms left lying all over the place. They would be the source of the necessary sperm cells. She plotted the dates on which she had her periods and using the fertility charts from the book, estimated the next date on which she would be able to become pregnant.
On the appointed night when she could become pregnant, which fortunately was a Saturday and there would be lots of soldiers coming to town, she drove her mother's car out to the favored place and parked it out of sight behind some trees. One car drove up, parked and stayed for about half an hour before leaving. As soon as it was gone, Mary took a flashlight and searched the area where it had been parked. There was nothing there. Either they had not "Gone all the way" or else they hadn't used a rubber and the girl would probably become pregnant whether she wanted to or not. As she walked back to her car, another car drove in and she was almost caught in the glare of its headlights. This scared her so badly that she almost left, but decided to stay and give it one more try.
When that car drove away, she rushed to the where they had been parked and there, laying on the ground, was a white, wrinkled tube of rubber. She gingerly picked it up and a good size blob of thick liquid collected in the tip. Rushing back to her car, she carefully wiped away a few grains of sand which were clinging to wet and sticky outside and prepared to make herself pregnant.
Sitting in the back seat of the car, she pulled off her panties and, using a pair of sewing scissors, snipped a tiny hole in the tip of the rubber. She felt in her vagina for the small opening at the bottom of her hymen and carefully slipped the tip of the rubber under it. She squeezed the rubber and felt its contents flow into her. When it was empty, she tossed the rubber out the window and began to massage her crotch with her hand to make sure that all of the semen was captured. The rubbing felt so good that she continued to stroke herself for a few more minutes. Suddenly
her whole body began to tingle and she couldn't stop massaging herself. A few seconds later, her legs began to jerk and she felt a sensation which was totally strange but felt so good that she couldn't stop. When she was finally able to stop rubbing her crotch, she was exhausted and wet with perspiration. If that is how it felt to become pregnant, no wonder so many women had children.
Millions of sperm cells, freed from the rubber jail in which they had been left to die, found themselves in a warm and wet environment which caused them to swim around in great excitement. Some of the sperm cells swam the wrong direction and stained her underwear, some were lost in hidden folds but several million of them set out along the proper course, making their way up the vagina, turning the corner at the cervix and heading straight for the waiting egg.
Mary had expected to be able to feel the baby in her womb immediately if she was pregnant, but could feel nothing there. Two weeks passed and the time came for her period but nothing showed. She had missed having her period a time or two before, especially during stressful times at school, so she still wasn't sure whether she had been successful or not. Another month passed and her second period failed to appear. She was now sure that she was going to have a baby. The problem now was how to break the news that she was pregnant without being considered to be a slut, a whore or something worse. The story of the Immaculate Conception had worked for one virgin named Mary, so she would make it work for her. After all, she still had her hymen to prove that she hadn't been with a man.
When the preacher began the invitation after his sermon, Mary walked down the aisle and whispered to him, "Reverend, I must talk with you."
"What is it, my child?" he asked.
"I think that I am going to have a baby, but I have never been with a man," she replied.
"You and your mother meet me in my study as soon as everyone leaves," he whispered. "We must talk about this situation."
The preacher dismissed the congregation as quickly as possible and entered his study where Mary and her mother waited. Ruth's face was ashen when he entered, so he assumed that Mary had already told her of the situation.
"Tell me about it," said the preacher.
"About a month and a half ago," began Mary. "I was awakened by a strange sound in my room. When I opened my eyes, the room was filled with a pale, white light and a golden figure stood at the foot of my bed. I was frightened and wanted to scream for help, but couldn't seem able to open my mouth."
"Go on," requested the preacher. "What happened then?"
"The figure reached out and placed both hands on my stomach and told me that he had chosen me to bear his child. I felt a strange power flow from his hands and into my body. Then he was gone and the room became dark."
"Whore of Babylon!" shouted Ruth. "You've gone out and got yourself knocked up and now you expect us to believe this story?"
"Please, Mrs. Harrison," said the preacher. "This sounds like what happened to the Virgin Mary, so we should not doubt her story."
"I'll believe her story when a doctor tells me that she is pregnant but hasn't been with a man," scorned her mother. "Doctors can tell those things and that is where she is going first thing tomorrow morning."
The nurse told Mary to remove her clothes and put on the white gown which she handed to her. Then, she had Mary lie down on a table with strange stirrups at the end. When the doctor entered, he lifted her feet into the stirrups and began his examination. With the nurse standing by his side and Ruth holding Mary's hand, he told them, "Her hymen is still in place, so she obviously has not been with a man. I will not be able to verify if she is pregnant or not without breaking it."
"No!" shouted Mary. "Don't break it! That's my proof that I am a virgin and have not sinned."
"Then the only other way is to wait," replied the doctor. "If she has already missed two periods, she should begin to show in another month or two."
A month passed and Mary did not need a doctor to tell her that she was pregnant. She was sick every morning, her breasts had begun to grow and she could feel the fetus pressing downward against her bladder.
Ruth told the preacher," What Mary told us is true. She is definitely with child and the doctor said that she had never been with a man. The only answer is that she is going to have a Child of God."
"Praise God," shouted the preacher. "Just to think that God has chosen a member of our small church to bear his next son. I'll make the announcement tonight."
"What if they don't believe you?" asked Ruth.
"I'll say that anyone who does not believe in this miracle does not really believe in God," he replied. "Anyone who does not believe that Mary is going to have a Child of God will be afraid to admit it."
The preacher was right as not a single soul ever openly questioned how Mary became pregnant. They either believed the story or else never admitted to their doubts in public.
When the news of the Immaculate Conception was out, people came from every direction, to see the pregnant virgin. Crippled people wanted Mary to touch and cure them. Reporters wanted to write stories about the miracle. The flow of people became such a problem that Mary finally locked herself inside the house, but the street in front was still filled with people who hoped that they could catch sight of her.
Mary's labor pains began on the morning of December 24th and she went to the hospital for delivery of the baby. The doctor examined her again and said, "The hymen is still in place and there is no way to deliver the baby normally without breaking it."
"If it is necessary to break it for the delivery, then do so," said Mary. "But be sure that you put on the birth certificate that it was there and that you had to break it."
"Who do you want to show on the birth certificate as being the father?" asked the doctor.
"God, obviously. Who else?" replied Mary.
At one minute past midnight on December 25th in the hospital at Sallisaw, Oklahoma, a seven pound baby boy was born. The doctor filled out the birth certificate, showing that the mother was Mary Harrison, the father was God and, under the section where any special information concerning the birth is shown, he place the statement, "Mother's hymen was still in place and had to be broken for delivery. In my opinion, this may have been an Immaculate Conception."
"What name do you want on the birth certificate?" asked the Doctor.
"I suppose that it would be going too far to name him Jesus of Sallisaw, so I'll name after my two grandfathers. Show his name as John Henry Harrison," Mary answered.