Fort Taylor Pyrate Invasion, Dec 2014 - Key West, FL
Photo: Caribbean Pearl
The Author With Hat Hair This is the pirate surgeon Mission's account of the pirates taking of Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, Florida for the weekend. Key West for the weekend. That makes it sound like a mini-vacation, doesn't it? "Well, you can't come out to the fort the weekend of the 5th because we're having the pirates over to take the place. How about the next weekend?"
This account is all told egocentrically from the POV of the Mercury ship's surgeon and if that doesn't please your Mat'ie, S/He should consider writing Her/His own darned Surgeon's Journal. Providing S/He is a surgeon, of course. If not, S/He could write the NOT a Surgeon's Journal of the 2014 Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion. But this account is by the Mercury ship's surgeon so it IS a Surgeon's Journal of the 2014 Fort Taylor Pirate Invasion. That means your getting the surgeon's perspective if you read it. So there. It does talk about the camp, some of the people, the battles and displays, though, so maybe this will do for you. Well, now that we've settled that, here is the 2014 Fort Taylor Pyrate Invasion Surgeon's Journal.
Photo: DB Couper
Your Surgeon Saving Nobudy
(No, that's his pirate name: Nobudy) Chapter 1: Thursday, December 4th Day - Of athletic blondes; making my way to the fort at the inopportune moment (for me); Bucky and Becky's adventures; the value of a rental mini-van and Poppa Ratsey's bridge-building career.
Ah, Key West. Thursday began with an uneventful trip to Blue Heaven for breakfast, which is something I recommend.
I returned to the condo to work on my December article on headaches, but the fort was calling. Still, I stuck it out for an hour, during which time the maid appeared (an athletic eastern European blonde in tight clothes) to install some repaired smoke detectors, something I watched with great interest. I'm sure a suaver and less strictured man that I could have made more of this as she was most friendly and engaging.
Athletic blondes and headache articles notwithstanding, I headed out to the fort in my rented minivan. I had an idea that the minivan would have some part to play in this weekend, which, in fact, it did. (Albeit a small part. Of course, there are no small parts, only small actors and, being a mini-van, it was a biggish actor.) I had a minivan not because I paid for it, but because the Avis girl offered it to me in place of a compact. (That would have been a small actor.) At first I demurred because I wanted neither its size nor its gas mileage, but that little voice in the back of my head told me to go ahead, so I did. The island is only 2 miles by 4, so the gas mileage was a minor point. It wasn't as big as my pickup, so the size didn't prove to be an obstacle at all.
Photo: Mission - The Vendor's Row Along the Sidewalk on Saturday Inside the fort grounds, I quickly registered with Leigh who was set up inside the gate for that purpose. I then parked and made my way to the fort. There were several vendors setting up along the sidewalk going from the parking lot to the fort entrance, which was a new wrinkle for this year. Perhaps it hints that the camping sites were full and it was time to move the encampment back to the beach? (Probably not, but one can hope.)
Upon strolling through the fort gate proper, I was greeted by my children -
Bucky & Becky - Friends of Fort Taylor Becky and Bucky - who were hanging from the same hook on the fort wall as last year in front of the Friends of Fort Taylor booth. They had spent the bulk of the year in Deadeye's back yard and were now somewhat worse for the wear. This actually adds to their appeal, although Becky's dress is now ripped to reveal her pubic bones, which seems somewhat indecent. This is especially true because these bones are not covered with skin like the parts that were actually meant to be exposed. It makes the whole thing look like poor quality workmanship on my part. I was told they would be repaired during the off time, so we will see if that happens.)
Deadeye also told me that he had originally forgotten to attach their hands when he first put them up and Bucky started spinning dangerously and threatening to fall until this was remedied. (If I believed in ghosts, I'd probably make a comment to that effect here, but I don't, so I won't.)
Photo: Poppa Ratsey
I Love This Shot Not to get too far off topic, but Becky and Bucky actually took a road trip this year. Anne Adkins Berkley had asked me if she could use them for The Saint Augustine Pirate Gathering in November. I of course said that they weren't really mine any more, they belonged to the Friends of Fort Taylor (I think), so she would have to ask Fayma Callahan about using them. That was all arranged, so 60 or 70 pounds of skeletons and gibbets wound up in St. Augi for a few days.
No one had thought about hanging these monsters, so Anne told me they wound up "in the main event tent, kind of up high, so some people didn't notice them right
away - I was told that one lady scared herself (too many adult beverages?) when she did see them, tried to jump up out of her seat, caught her garb on something, and went ass over teakettle, shrieking until someone got to her and helped her back up - but that's probably something you don't want to print!" She don't know me vewy well, do she?
Back at the fort through the magic of prose, I arrived just in time for the early stages of unloading Iron Jon's trailer and van. Jon, Steve and Captain Jim (who is OBVIOUSLY the captain of the Mercury despite his protest to the contrary) were trekking in and out of the trailer, carrying arm loads of stuff.
Can I time it or what? (I knew I should have done one more section of the headache article.) However, I had arrived while the work was going on, so I went ahead and helped unload wood (of which they had brought at least 3 large trees worth) and then I helped load bricks so we could stack them around the fire cans. (Fire barrels? I don't know the right term for the metal barrel they were using to keep the ashes from ruining the fort's lawn. You can see them surrounded by the bricks below.) I also got to see the frozen pig that we would be eating on Saturday. Well, the frozen pig that the rest of them would be eating Saturday - being a vegetarian does have some drawbacks when it comes to camp cooking.
Bricks Around The Mercury Fire... Cans
2/3 of the Mercury Fire Wood Pile
Capt. Jim Admires the Frozen Pig
As they were setting up the tents, Jon realized he was missing a ridge pole for the fly where I would have my medical display situated this weekend, so the mini-van got its opportunity to shine. A not-at-all quick trip to Home Depot and we had a new ridge pole. (For those who are interested, a Chrysler Town and Country can hold an 11' long piece of wood if you put the seats down. Maybe even 11'6". I’ll never know because Home Depot has this strange policy that says you must cut at least a foot off a board if you are going to cut it. Why? I have no idea.)
Photo: Captain Jim - Most of The Mercury Camp as It Looked when Completed
Since I had returned from Home Depot, the crew had managed much of the camp setup and everything seemed to have gone swimmingly without me. So I decided
Photo: Poppa Ratsey - Dutch and Grace to amble around and see what was to be seen where no work was required of me.
I quickly found Dutch and Grace, who had come out for the first time in years. We spent a good twenty minutes discussing things that must be discussed and not discussing things that must not. Dutch generously served us all sweet tea, although it was not QUITE as generous as it first seemed - it was actually Keith Collins' tea.
Keith was busily working on his computer to make sure the CAD version of the camp layout agreed with the actual tents being erected. (Regular readers will recall that people started setting up before Keith could explain how they were to do so last year, which had made his color-printed paper map just about useless. He wasn't about to let THAT happen again!) Seeing his tea being served, Keith abandoned his outdoor work station to join us. Papa Ratsey appeared not long after and we had a nice tea klatsch. (Assuming a tea klatsch is actually a thing. It must be in the UK, so why not here?)
This looks Photoshopped, but I promise
you, it's not.
At some point, Keith brought out a knife he had bought from one of the vendors. He offered it to Papa, who said he couldn't take it since he didn't have his Totin Chip. My ears pricked up at the old 'Totin Chip' term and I learned that Papa was a Life Scout in the Boy Scouts back in the day. It further turned out that Dutch, Keith and I were all Eagle scouts, which I thought was very cool. Papa had come *this close* to getting his Eagle scout, completing all the requirements including his Eagle Service Project, but he had been unable to get into town to attend the meetings required for some of the Citizen merit badges. (For those who don't know, you need (or at least needed when I was in) three Citizen merit badges to earn Eagle Scout: Citizen in the Community, Citizen in the Nation and Citizen in the World.
Photo: Caribbean Pearl - Poppa Ratsey
Papa also regaled us with tales of his adventures with his Boy Scout troop, including how every year they weekend camped on a river. On Friday, they'd camp on one bank, on Saturday they built a wooden bridge out of logs and rope across the river to the other side and on Saturday night they'd take all their gear across the bridge and camp on the other side of the river. On Sunday, they'd take everything back and tear the whole thing down for safety reasons. And that's the cool kind of stuff you get to do in the Boy Scouts.
I wanted to go to Café Sole that night (regular readers will recognize this is my favorite restaurant in the WORLD and a de rigueur stop whenever I am in Key West), so I asked Dutch and Grace if they were up for it. They were delighted. In fact, I think they were delighted to have plans because they are so used to being the nucleus of planning at pirate events that they weren't quite sure what to do with themselves at Fort Taylor where they were just attendees.
An Old Photo of The Bridge That Poppa's Boy Scout Troop Built Back in the Day. (Also Starring Sir Alec Guiness)