Buccaneer Legacy

The big question:

The kindergarten teacher asked the class, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Each one of us had to stand and tell the class what they wanted to be. This was back in the early 60s. Back then, for reasons unknown, boys and girls were separated into groups. The boys went first.

Most wanted to be firemen, policemen, or soldiers. There was a sprinkling of cowboys here and there. A few kids wanted to do what their fathers did even though they didn’t know what that was.

My turn came. I’d been thinking about the question the whole time. It was a toss up between a cave man and a pirate. Cave man carried clubs and fought dinosaurs. At least that was what I thought they did. I pictured primeval forests, pterodactyls roaming the skies, brontosauruses eating trees, and a T-Rex searching for its next meal.

At the last second I decided to go with pirate.

The version of pirates I’d been exposed to was the Hollywood one portrayed in movies and shown on television. Warships battling it out with blazing cannons on the high seas. Sharpshooters firing long rifles from perches on the rigging. Boarding parties swinging curved cutlasses and shooting flintlock pistols.

I figured it would be fun.

In those days, the girls didn’t have as many choices as the boys. Social expectations were different. The majority of the girls said they wanted to be like their mothers. There were some teachers and nurses mixed in. It’s different now.

What is a pirate:

As I got older, I realized that the Hollywood version of historical events was seen through a distorted lens. History became a subject in school that I hungered after. It went beyond what was taught in the class room to an obsession.

As it is turned out, piracy went back a long way. Most likely, ever since people began using ships for trading. According to Wikipedia, the Sea Peoples were documented in the 14th century BC. The combination of ships following established trade routes into narrow channels made them easy targets.

A dry land side by side comparison would be bandits ambushing trade caravans on deserted highways or mountain passes.

Modern day pirates have traded in swords and flintlocks for rocket launchers and assault rifles.

Even though piracy has been considered a maritime occupation, today we have pirates stalking cyberspace. Speculation, a big part of science fiction, suggests the possibility of pirates in space.

Pirates have a been around for a long time and will probably be around for the foreseeable future.

How many kids grow up to be what they wanted to be:

I wonder what a search engine result would be like if the query, “How many kids grow up to be what they wanted to be?” was entered in the text field. I’m guessing here, and I’m sure there are many people who’ve followed their dreams and instincts and became what they wanted to be. Maybe deep in cyberspace there is a Facebook group devoted exclusively to these fortunate people.

It’s safe to say most people never managed to pull this off. I know I didn’t. The right spin on the whole concept could put me in the neighborhood.

Living proof:

Another name used for pirates was buccaneer. Originally, these guys hunted wild boar and cattle on the island of Hispaniola. They smoked the meat in small structures known as boucans. This led to the name buccaneer and privateering contacts with the French king to attack Spanish shipping.

Well, I’ve never committed crimes on the high seas, but I’ve smoked meat.

Two occasions come to mind:

The first was when I was given an 18 pound turkey for Thanksgiving. The bird wasn’t bagged on a hunting trip. My boss gave it to me. It took twelve hours to smoke that beast. I was in the back yard, heating charcoal with a propane torch and feeding the flame from morning till night. It’s a stretch, but I’m going to include it in the reference.

The second incident happened while fishing. It was a party boat on a night trip. We’d reserved spots on the stern. Fishing at the back of the boat on an anchor trip was the only way to go. You weren’t confined to pinning the bait to the bottom with heavy weight.

The trip was rapping up. We’d caught some nice yellow tail snappers. I cut the belly off of the biggest one and put it on a long-shanked book. The bait drifted in the current as I fed the line until there was about half a spool left on my small spinning reel.

The hit came hard. Line peeled off. I held the rod tip high and cupped the spool until slowing it down. The rest was just a combination of pumping and reeling.

A 17 pound king fish. I’ve caught bigger. This was on 12 pound test tied straight to the hook. The next day, I smoked that fish.

You could say that I’m a buccaneer. I have smoked meat. If you can say that, you can say I grew up to be what I wanted to be.