At some time or another, every red-blooded American boy longs for the freedom and adventure of the pirate life. This explains, in part, the runaway success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. Jimmy Buffet speaks to many of us when he sings wistfully “Yes I am a pirate, 200 years too late.”
But many’s the time the pirate life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
November, in particular, is tough on buccaneers, renegades and highwaymen. Just consider the facts.
November 22, 1718--Blackbeard, the celebrated pirate is gunned down; November 18, 1720--Calico Jack Rackham, another well known buccaneer, is strung up; November 3, 1783--John Austin is the last English highwayman to be stretched on the Tyburn Gallows; November 11, 1880-- Ned Kelly, Australia’s most notorious outlaw takes the swing; November20, 1903--Tom Horn, the legendary frontier man hunter and assassin steps onto a self-activated gallows and, essentially, serves as his own executioner when the trap springs. I could go on, but I think you see my point.
November, 1975, my best friend Rob and I were taking stock of our prospects. We weren’t on the run--at least not right then. But we were keeping a low profile. By then Rob was married and living in a log cabin he built as far out in the woods as he could get. Everything I owned was in the trunk of my ‘63 Chrysler--“Julius”--and I was headed out to spend the winter in Wisconsin. Don’t ask.
The point is, whatever mischief we might have been involved in up to that point was over. We were quitting while we were ahead. It was the straight and narrow for us from then on.
Rob may not be the student of history that I am. But you don’t have to beat him over the head with facts. He can size up a situation. When the time comes to “hang ‘em up,” he can do it and never look back. You’re probably getting the idea there’s more to the story than I’m telling. And there is. Let’s just say that no matter how a man might love pirating, he doesn’t want to end up like Calico Jack.
Jack was a colorful and successful buccaneer as feared in America’s coastal waters as Capt. Morgan himself. He had a sweetheart, Anne, who was as fierce a cut-throat as any pirate on the open seas. He smuggled her aboard his ship dressed as a man and the crew was none the wiser. In fact, Anne was such a fearsome pirate that she rose to pirating prominence on her own vicious merits.
Calico Jack had a roving eye, though, and, while at port, fell in love with another woman--Mary. He didn’t want to rile the blood-thirsty Anne, so what was he to do? The solution was obvious. He smuggled Mary aboard disguised as another lusty pirate lad. Neither of his sweethearts was in on the deception involving the other sweetheart. You’ll never guess what happened. Anne had a roving eye too and there was something about the new “man” that stirred her interest, and she wasn’t the sort of “fellow” to take “no” for an answer. Well, to make a long story short, Jack’s deceptions were discovered all around. But, it turned out to be fine with all concerned--Jack, Anne, Mary, the crew--everybody. How did they make it work? Well, it’s--complicated.
Anyway, they were captured. Jack was hung. Anne was spared the gallows because she was pregnant. She contracted fever and died in prison. Mary was also spared the gallows because she, too, was pregnant. Go figure. She and her child were unaccountably released from prison and disappeared from the pages of history. No doubt she saw the wisdom of forsaking the pirate life and keeping to the “straight and narrow.”
What has all this got to do with manliness? Well, in this instance I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
Anyway, I told Rob I’d be back in the Spring of ‘76 if the Wisconsin winter didn’t kill me. To this day, Rob continues on the “straight and narrow.” And I became a lawyer.
I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
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Thu, November 20, 2008
by Michael Hinkle