Mike Slavin is fifty-eight years old. He is an inmate of the Polk county poorhouse and according to his own admission and the evidence of physicians who have attended him he is a bonded slave of the demon morphia. Mike Slavin hobbles about, swinging the shell of a once robust frame between two crutches. His face is emaciated and wax colored with little wisps of whiskers clinging to it. Mike's blue eyes are watery and shifty. Their shallow light is dimmed and they reflect a weakened character that has been undermined by the enslaving drug.
Once a gambler with a reputation such that other professionals feared to sit at the same table with him, Mike Slavin is destitute, living off common charity. He was interviewed today.
A Daily News reporter arrived at the county farm at supper time. Superintendent William G. McHoue escorted him to the men's house. The two-score aged men, some of them merry, others bent and moody, were filing toward the dining hall.
"Mike," called McHoue as the figure of the former gambler appeared in the doorway halting and twitching in an effort to keep up with the feeble rush to preferred dining table places. "Mike, there's a man here wants to interview you."
The procession halted. Had Mike fallen heir to money? Was he an authority on anything? Yes, Mike Slavin is an authority on the drug-evil.
I'm a Hop Alright, Exclaims Slavin
"What d'ye want to see me about?" asked the drug slave.
The reporter explained and backed out of range of a. strong odor of morphine.
"Oh yes," said Slavin, "I'm a hop, alright. I take two and a half grains every day. The county gives it to me. I've got to have it." "What time it is?" He was told but his mind by this time was elsewhere.
A nudge and fire of questions brought him back to the matter under discussion.
"Please tell how you first happened to take morphine and about its progress in you," asked the reporter.
Mike Slavin, his mind too beclouded and his character too badly undermined to even resent what a normal person might have regarded as an impertinent query, led the way to a rickety settee.
Took Dope to Cure Painful Toothache.
Then he launched into the narrative of his destruction.
"Twenty years ago," he began, "I was as healthy a man as you ever saw. I was strong. My muscles were hard and I worked every day. At night I would play stud-poker, roulette, craps, and sometimes when there was an outfit handy I'd hack the faro bank. This night work," and Mike insisted that gambling is work, "made me terribly nervous. One day in Cedar Falls when I had a toothache I went to a doctor and asked him for Christ's sake give me something to kill the pain and soothe my nerves, The man was not a dentist but a physician. He pulled up my coat sleeve and rubbed my arm just above the elbow, I watched him. I didn't know what he was doing until I felt the hypodermic needle enter the skin. A moment later I danced out of his office. My pain was gone instantly. I thought 'why should I pay a dentist to fix my teeth when I can give the doctor fifty cents and have him kill the pain.' And besides the sensation when the morphine began to circulate was so pleasant. A few days later I bought a needle from him to do my own pain killing. It was easy to buy morphine. What time is it? I'd been told how people became slaves to it, but I never believed I was forming the habit until at last I'd lie awake at night and shriek if I couldn't get my regular dose of morphine.
"Then I realized that I was a slave!
"I quit working and became a professional gambler. I've known every gambler of note of Des Moines and have trimmed the best of them. My largest winning at one sitting was $3,000. I won that sum on a pair of trays from Mike McDonald the famous Chicago gambling king who was shot by his wife Dora McDonald. But on the same night I had to borrow car fare home. I dropped the whole three thousand on a turn of the roulette wheel. What time is it?"
Mike's eyes are too shallow to harbor a look of reminiscence but he nodded his head in token.
"There's one thing I can say." He went on with a pitiable look of half-pride, "and that is that I never was a sleigh-rider. No snow-birds for me. I've always left the frost alone. It's only women that ought to use it anyhow."
"Frost," Mike explained, is cocaine flakes and sleigh-riders and "snow-birds" are slaves of that drug. He said he disliked a man who continually held a handkerchief to his nose and sniffed the flakes.
A bell rang in the stuffy room and Mike rose from his chair. "That's the second dinner bell" he said "and if I don't go now I'll get left.
"Just one question, Mr. Slavin," the reporter demurred, "Did you ever make a real effort to leave off using morphine-?"
"Come on Mike, you're going to miss your supper," called a cackling voice from the doorway.
"That's Henry. He's my buddy. Me and him's pals," said Mike. He don't want me to miss my supper. And I'm not going to either, because after supper I get some morphine to make me sleep. What time did you say it was?"
Des Moines (Iowa) News, January 21, 1914.