The Holy Bible, The King Ranch Version: A Review

P.B. Wombat

Issue 34 * Fall 2014

Biblical interpretation is an inherently political act. How we view The Word is, generally speaking, the culmination of what we want The Divine to say about us rather than an act of scholarship or linguistics or history.

From the New Revised Version to the New Revised Standard Version to a panoply of contemporary interpretations to fit the language and expressive patterns of everywhere from the inner city to Pitcairn Island, the Holy Bible has been subjected to a dizzying array of depredations and reformulations.

Given the breadth of expressed religiosity in these United States and in the American West in particular, cowboy versions abound. But cowboying is actually only one of many rural tropes we find compelling. From hillbillyism to redneckitude, those who identify with farming, ranching, and subsistence hunting keep alive the country music industry and keep pickup sales strong.

The Ford F-series has long held the crown as the nation's best selling vehicle. While it's true that its sales figures are inflated somewhat because of its use as a fleet vehicle, the F-series is also frightfully common in the driveways of "average" Americans everywhere. Ford's marketing department is comprised of a savvy bunch, and they have figured out that a Big Apple version of their popular pickup would be a non-starter. Instead, they have focused on theming their full-sized trucks' appearance packages around such brand tie-ins as Harley-Davidson and NASCAR. But the ultimate F-series package has got to be the King Ranch edition, named after the famous and famously massive King Ranch in south Texas. The King Ranch F-series (King Ranch packages are available on all F-series trucks) is not a utilitarian hauler. Rather, commensurate with the King Ranch's promotion of itself as a "gentleman's ranch," the King Ranch pickups are equipped with such features as heated steering wheels, heated and air-conditioned seats, remote tailgate releases, back-up cameras, and adaptive cruise-control systems once seen only on high-end Mercedes sedans. Pricing for the King Ranch F-150—at the bottom of the line—is more than $48,000. Clearly, the King Ranch is not the truck you'd pile high with horse manure.

The King Ranch, by its own right, is never an organization that would pass up a merchandising tie-in, and Ford's foray into south Texican territory is seen as a win-win. Ever aware of the faith-commitments of its constituents and hangers-on, King Ranch has seen fit to capture some new market-share.

Enter the King Ranch Version of The Holy Bible.

The first thing the interested believer will notice about the King Ranch Version (KRV) is its massive size. Mirroring the King Ranch itself, which at 825,000 acres is one of North America's largest, the KRV weighs in at a hefty 82.5 pounds, making a stand necessary for most readers. A stand is available at extra cost ($900), which features hydraulic lifters that allow this bible to be raised to the height of the believer and angled at the degree most agreeable. The KRV itself costs a mere $2000, but, as noted later, its features may make its price worthwhile.

Adding to its poundage is the KRV's Santa Getrudis leather binding. The book is embossed with the legendary King Ranch "Flying W©" brand logo right under, but substantially larger than, the words "Holy Bible." The leather itself is supple and soft to the touch, making the difficult task of initially opening the KRV more pleasant.

This is a gentleman's bible. As opposed to some of the more rustic-looking and hickly translated "cowboy" bibles, the KRV sports gilt edges and a special heating element that warms its pages for those cold sunrise services come Eastertide. Retaining some old-fashioned "thees" and "thous" gives the KRV a sense of decorum you'll not find in more hip translations. Unique to the KRV—and, perhaps unique to any book—is the Super Deuteronomy Load Control® feature that uses an internal, pneumatic device to even out the book's weight so that the KRV is just as balanced at Genesis as it is at Revelation. And while showroom editions of the KRV are distinctly Protestant, "Uplifter" packages can be ordered allowing for the addition of Apocrypha and/or the Book of Mormon if desired.

The translation itself provides subtle, if striking, changes to an expectedly mainstream interpretation. Most notable is a special chapter called "Nextodus" in which Moses's lost son Rich-ard is "deeded by God unto the million cubits" of a land called "Tex-os." There he is given "sovereignty over the kith and kine" of the Cruillians, "who shalt be known as the Kiñenites hereafter." Upon this land Rich-ard's stock was to "increaseth above all flocks and herds" and Rich-ard would govern his land "as the plantation and the campesino within therein combined."

Scholars may debate the veracity of this particular story, but it will no doubt satisfy the KRV's target demographic. This demographic includes not just those involved in large-scale beef production but, vitally, those who imagine themselves aligned with gentleman ranchers wherever they may be found. Indeed, it is as likely that the KRV will end up gracing gated communities of large, Western towns and "ranchettes" on the curdling edge of exurban sprawl as it will the isolated houses of those who actually run cattle.

In this way, the advent of the King Ranch Version probably says more about the ecstasy of a dying breed than it says about the realities of livestock production in the USA. Nothing is more pernicious nor more pervasive—nor, notably, more persuasive—than the purported values and obvious affectations of a way of life in the throes of wholesale decimation. The appeal of the brand is all the more compelling as it vanishes, flaming and smoking, into the darkling outlines of myth.

In this place we might put traditional worship itself, assailed on the one hand by the abstractions and dilutions of "spirituality" and on the other by the forced mirth and embarrassing vapidity of "contemporary worship." The King Ranch Version, then, tries to have it both ways: it appeals to all in us that secretly loves George W. Bush and massive pickups that never haul a load and never go off road. But it also tries to present its content in line with a poetic tradition rooted in heartfelt, if inaccurate, Jamesean language.

To complete the conceit, lest we forget, the Ford F-150, no matter how expensively gussied it may be, is still a hell of a great truck.