I Will Always Be
A Member of the Bloody Pirates' Club
My father always wanted a boy. This
was common knowledge in the family. I was the first born and the
first disappointment. As soon as I was old enough to understand
the problem I determined to remedy the matter by becoming a very
In the silent movies my mother watched as a girl, tomboys were
endearing young women, saucy in their imitation maleness.
I possessed three important tomboy characteristics
I was skinny
I set about acquiring the necessary skill set.
A gang, you say? Yes, a gang. It was called the Bloody Pirates
Club. I had been influenced by Robert Louis Stevenson and his
imitators. I read Treasure Island again and again. In my own mind
I *was* Jim, the boy adventurer, who travelled to the island and
hung out with pirates.
Who was in the gang? Young males around my own age who lived within
calling distance in the Veteran's Land Act subdivision called
Sprucedale in the city of Chatham.
We had codes and secret passwords. We could signal in semaphore
(I learned that in Girl Guides) and knew how to tap out S.O.S.
in morse code. Most importantly, we had adventures.
The Thames River runs through Chatham. Most times it is a broad,
tame muddy thing suitable for docking a yacht near the bottom
of Tecumseh Park. In the Spring the tame Thames could turn into
a racing torrent, clawing at its banks and, occasionally, flooding
the main street. The Thames was just finishing its Spring run
and was still turbulent when the Bloody Pirate's Club, out for
a hike, discovered a partially sunken rowboat The boat was close
enough to shore to grab, if a strong pirate, holding on to a river
branch and supported by the rest of the piratical crew, could
grasp it. We debated the situation. I was bound and determined
to enter the boat and travel in it. The current was swift and
strong. If it sunk we would not just be pirates without a boat,
we would be drowned pirates. We had to have the boat or be pirates
forever land-locked. Ronnie Peters, who had more strength than
brains, was gradually pulling the craft to shore. Being waterlogged
it was heavy. He managed to turn it broadside to the current while
trying to tug it towards us. The fierce river grabbed it like
a dog a bone, pulled it out into itself where, unsupported by
the muddy river bottom, the rowboat very promptly sank. I count
that moment as a kind of fork or turning in my life. Had we succeeded
I'd have been drowned. We returned home a very sober lot of pirates.
Our next adventure, riding the farmer's plow horse, proved equally
unsuccessful. Another hike through a woodlot took us to a field
where an enormous white work horse was placidly grazing. Repeated
efforts to lure it near enough to a fence where we could mount
the beast were thwarted by the horse's insistence on stepping
away before one of us could land on its back. The highlight of
that day was when Dick Blackwell (who grew up to become a math
teacher) slipped on a rather fresh cow pie to the detriment of
The last adventure of the Bloody Pirate's Club that I will tell
you about was the tale of the partially cooked chicken. We were
in another woodlot that backed up on a farmyard. A large hen had
managed to work her way through the fence in search of better
bugs. Bad move, Mrs. Hen, for the Bloody Pirate's Club has found
you out. Intent on a chicken dinner we captured Mrs. Hen, holding
her beak closed to stop the cackle. Not an easy thing to do with
a large hen. We were faced with the terrible fact that, if you
wanted to eat a chicken, you first had to kill it. I was the creative
genius of the group and all eyes turned to me.
I had a habit of catching garter snakes and whirling them about
my head to make them dizzy enough for me to examine them at my
leisure. The hen had a long skinny neck and a round heavy body.
Combining these facts with my knowledge of the physics of snake
stunning I proceeded to whirl the unfortunate hen about my head
while holding on to its neck. The hen died dramatically.
Next problem was cooking it. We had matches, we had dry wood.
None of us wanted to pluck or clean the hen. We set her on the
fire as she was, a kind of burnt offering. After a very tentative
taste of the most cooked part we buried the evidence.
The title of this speech is "I Will Always Be a Member of
the Bloody Pirate's Club". My mother, who had a wicked sense
of humour teased me about my gang and unwisely, I told her ""I
Will Always Be a Member of the Bloody Pirate's Club"
"Would you sign a piece of paper with that promise?,"
she asked. I told her I would sign it in blood but she said that
wouldn't be necessary. I signed. She kept this piece of paper
and as I advanced in years she would bring it out and ask if it
I always answered, with some embarrassment, that
"I Will Always Be a Member of the Bloody Pirate's Club"