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Fort Taylor Pyrate Invasion, Dec 2013 - Key West, FL

Chapter 1st: Daytime, Thursday December 5th, beginning with research; Moving on to breakfast with William at Blue Heaven which must happen when the surgeon visits Key West; Answering urgent calls from crew mate Captain Jim and (most importantly) Putting the new steel gibbets together so Bucky II had a home.

I woke up at 6am, so I decided to work on my research for a period article on drowning. William eventually awoke and we headed off to Blue Heaven to have breakfast. There are two restaurants that I simply must dine at when I am in Key West and this was the second.

They had totally redone the menu at Blue Heaven, which now included banana and pineapple pancakes. I was quite torn between the two of them, so I asked for one of each. For those who are curious, pineapple pancakes totally overpower banana pancakes. If you have the choice, you should totally get the pineapple if you want a lot of flavor.

Pancakes at Blue HeavenPhoto: William Pace
Left: Pineapple Pancakes; Right: Banana
William at Breakfast at Blue Heaven
Photo: Mission with William's Camera
William Pace at Blue Heaven

While we were there, Waiting for Captain Jim
Photo: Mission's Camera
Waiting for Captain Jim at the Entry to the Shipyard
Condos. I'm surprised we didn't get arrested for
vagrancy.
we discussed tobacco enemas for reviving the drowned, which is what I had been digging into in my research [heh]. There was also a cute girl sitting behind William which I (rather uncharacteristically) was making eyes at. I don't know if it was my unshaven mug or the conversation, but she actually moved seats so that I couldn't see her. Not what you'd call an auspicious start to the event.

Captain Jim arrived at the fort and sent William upwards of a dozen phone messages asking where we were. Not getting any answer (William had put his phone on vibrate or something), he posted on the FTPI participants Facebook page asking where the Mercury crew was. William used his fancy smart phone to fail to leave a voice to text message response. We then decided to head back to the condo so he could fail to leave a voice to text message there as well.

Choosing not to linger at the condo, we called Jim via the boring old regular phone service to arrange to meet him at the entry to the Shipyard Condos. We wanted to assure him that he was not going to have to be the only Mercury crew member at the fort all weekend. Jim had not been idle in our absence. While waiting to hear from his crew members, he had set up his tent and sleeping area and helped the vendors build their stove and possibly repaired a few parts of the fort wall. (I guess we had had a long breakfast.)

We arrived at the Fort where Jim and William dropped me off at the registration booth. (They had already registered.) I got myself checked in and hitched a ride to the Mercury encampment in the fort with Scarlett Jai who was driving the Gator. Jim and William were there, fresh and ready to put the skeletons in their new gibbets.

Registration at FTPIPhoto: Mission - Leigh Orchestrating the Registration Process Scarlett Jai - my chauffeur
Photo: Mission - My Chauffeur, Scarlett Jai

Mission and Becky Dance
Photo: William Pace
Mission and Becky Dance. Maybe
I Should Take Her to Cafe Sole
Hmm. Perhaps some backstory might help here. Every New Year's Day, I make a list of projects I want to have completed by the end of the year. I do this because I have read that if you write down the things you want to do at the beginning of the year, you will usually have completed most, if not all, of them by the end of the year. (This is apparently true even if you lose your list, which I frequently do.) One of the things on my list was to create a male skeleton (Bucky II) to go with the female skeleton (Becky) that had made for the fort in 2009.

Now, just to confuse you, here is some backstory to the backstory. I had actually already created a male skeleton (Bucky I) back in 2008, but he had been stolen or gotten lost or something. (I don't even want to know what happened to him. No doubt someone, somewhere has a secret room designed to function as a sex-play dungeon somewhere in the Keys that contains Bucky I.) (If that is true, I really, really don't need to get him back.) (Ew.)

I had also added two steel gibbets (the cages) to house Becky and Bucky II to my New Year's list of projects. Becky's original gibbet was made of plastic that was apparently designed for people who want to set their gibbeted skeletons in a corner of their living room where the only elements they will be exposed to are air and Pledge. (Come to think of it, if Bucky I is in a sex-play dungeon, his cage is probably better off for it.)

The Gibbet Shipping Boxes
Photo: Mission - The Gibbet Shipping Boxes (Ex-cit-ing!)
Becky's gibbet had been repaired multiple times and not repaired even more times and it looked a bit shabby. William liked it that way, thinking it made the whole thing appear more realistic, but I just thought it emphasized the fact that the thing was a piece of plastic. So I had created two steel gibbets with the help of my welder friend Bob Kokal and shipped them down to Key West along with Bucky II.

Scarlett Jai had retrieved the three boxes I had shipped down to Theo at Liquid 8 Pawn Shop and put them in the shade so I could assemble them.

I should note that I hand-drilled these gibbets, a process which they resisted at every step. They wanted to be free, not formed into 18th century torture devices! Since they were bent into such unusual shapes, drilling proved to be quite a challenge. I drilled neat clean holes into the hoops on a drill press. However, the body of the gibbet required fastening the pre-drilled hoops with spring clamps and drilling them using a hand drill. As a result, every hole position was uniquely placed (which is code for 'almost randomly') and these things could only go together in one way.

Captain Jim and William Assemble a Gibbet
Photo: Mission
Bucky II, William and Captain Jim Trying to Reason With
Becky's Future Gibbet.
I knew this and had even accounted for it. I had painted little markers to make sure the right hoop got with the right gibbet and it was started in the right place. My hope was that everything would fit together nicely while assembling this “in the field.” I might just as well have hoped it would snow while I was in Key West.

Some of the holes lined up in such a way that other holes could never be lined up without the aid of a 150 ton forcing press. Fortunately, with so many connection points, it didn't matter. We just left some of the bolts out or put them in place in a way that suggested they were installed even though they were attached to nothing and served little purpose. As William sagely noted, “It looks more realistic that way.” (By ‘realistic', I assume he meant ‘badly designed.')

Because of the way a Bucky II in His Wrappings
Photo: William Pace
Creepy Bucky II in His Packaging
gibbet works, Bucky II had to be removed from his packaging and put into the cage before too many of the hoops were installed. Of course, once he was in there, he kept getting in the way of assembling the gibbet. But I soldiered on and he was eventually encased in his new steel home.

Captain Jim and William actually finished putting their gibbet together before me, which Jim pointed out with alacrity. I noted that that were two of them and my sugar was really high (pancakes will do that to me every time), so I had to keep wandering off to the rest room to take water in and let the used stuff back out. (This is what happens when your sugar is really high. Trust me. It's the body trying to get all that sugar out of itself and it doesn't work worth a tin penny when you're a diabetic. Flushes your system out nicely, though.)

I had asked William to take pictures of the assembly process because I wanted to do a Little Nellie-like assembly montage of photos. It didn't occur to me that the reason the Little Nellie photo montage works so well is that the camera is kept in the exact same place for the entire assembly. So it doesn't look quite like I had imagined it, but I'm sticking it in here anyhow.

The Assembly Montage
Photo Montage: Stolen - The Little Nellie Assembly Montage from You Only Live Twice (1967)

The Gibbet Assembly Montage
Photo Montage: Mission and William Pace - The Becky & Bucky Gibbet Assembly Montage from Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion (2013)

We next had to get Becky and her damaged plastic gibbet down. Deadeye had already strung her up. William had been all for leaving her in the plastic gibbet, especially since they had finished assembling their gibbet and putting her into it would involve disassembling parts of it. (He still thought it looked more realistic with pieces unsprung.) I lobbied for putting her in the matching steel gibbet and they agreed once the thing was on the ground and they saw how it looked next to the steel gibbet.

They asked me what I wanted to do with the old gibbet and I said I didn't really care. Either William or Captain Jim suggested we auction it off. William was very much in favor of doing this. I doubted it would fetch very much because it was in such rough shape. "How much did it cost?" William asked. "$130." I replied. "I'll bet I can get that for it." "I'll bet you can't get $20." "You'll see."

Upon extracting Becky from her old prison, I was delighted to see how moldy her clothes had become. Deadeye has been the keeper of the gibbeted skeletons ever since Bucky I went missing. I believe he stores them outside in his work area and Becky had gotten nicely weathered over the years. Unfortunately, her legs had also gotten twisted around and one of them had lost its' pin, so I had to do some rather indelicate surgery on her. (This incited many ribald comments from the assembled which I will not repeat here. Hey, I'm a surgeon, I am used to this.) That finished, Jim and William got her in her gibbet and I was happy. (Grinning like an idiot is more like it. They looked so cool!)

Becky's Old Gibbet
Photo: Mission
Chrispy and the Old Gibbet
Fixing Becky's LegPhoto: William Pace
The Surgeon Fixing Becky's Broken Hip
Becky and Bucky II United at Last
Photo: Mission
Companions for Life...and Beyond

The primary Deadeye and Captain Jim Sort Out the Rope
Photo: Mission
Deadeye & Captain Jim Sort Out the Gibbet Ropes
While The Undead Look On
goal of making these two (in my mind at least) was to string the two gibbets up together and have the skeletons holding hands. I thought it was romantical. (That is so a word. Look it up.) I didn't really know how we were going set them up – I only knew we needed a board to keep them about the right distance apart. The ever resourceful Captain Jim had an idea that worked marvelously. All we needed was a board and a drill, both of which Deadeye supplied.

Hoisting the two skeletons and their all steel gibbets required four people to drag on the rope. It would have been a lot easier if we had been pulling at an angle, but I didn't think of that until later. So well all grunted and groaned, putting our backs into raising them to their perch.

When they were finally up there, they twisted together ever so gently in the wind. I was very, very happy – it was actually the highlight of the week for me. Sometimes a project looks even better than you could have hoped.

About that time, as if on cue, Iron Jon arrived with his trailer full of tents and supplies for the Mercury camp. The rest of the crew went over to help Jon and his friend Steve unload the trailer. I kind of hung back looking at the skeletons for a while. (While drinking lots of water.)

Captain Jim Swings the Rope Up
Photo: Mission
Captain Jim Swings the Gibbet Rope Up
Hauling Up the GibbetsPhoto: Mission
"Come into the light!"
Gibbets in the Air
Photo: Mission
The Gibbets - Permanent Friends of the Fort

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