The (Short) History of Mission the Pirate Surgeon
Pyracy in the Beginning
My interest in pirates go back a long way. My first exposure to them that I can recall was from MPC's Walt Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean skeleton models came out in the 70s. I was six or seven and that was the perfect time for Disney to strike. As I recall it today, my favorites were Dead Man's Raft (below left) and Fate of the Mutineers (right). Of course, I either didn't have the money or couldn't find them, so I bought other models, only one of which has survived to this day. Still, I've bought more of them and plan to recondition them for a future diorama to be used in my living room (in my non-existent spare time).From there, my interest in pirates waxed and waned. By 2002, I had acquired dozens of books on the topic in various fits and starts of interest over the years.
Pyracy in the On-line World
Sometime in 2002, it occurred to me to search for info on-line about one of my favorite pirates: Captain Misson. This ultimately led me to a pirate forum: www.piratesinfo.com where I hung around posting questions and getting involved in reading history related to the pirates until they made me a moderator at the site. It was here that I first learned that Captain Misson was most likely not based in fact at all, but was a fictional creation of the author of The General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pyrates. I did a great deal of historical research during my tenure at that forum. You'll find articles like that in the bottom selection grid of the Pirate Surgeon's Main Page.
I also have a goofy side, leading me to undertake a bunch of goofy pirate projects. The piratesinfo site received many posts, clearly from school children, fishing for information they could steal to put into school reports without having to do any actual research. I found this funny, so I created the 1000 Word Do-It-Yourself Pirate Report that worked along the lines of those Mad Magazine features where you can choose from a variety of words and phrases embedded in the document to create a :"standard" report. It's hard to explain, but I promise you'll get a giggle out of it, so feel free to check it out for yourself via the above link.
Pyracy in the Re-Enacting World
In 2004, I migrated to another piracy forum (pyracy.com) on the advice of my virtual friend (and fellow author) Ed Foxe. (Ed also has a pirate-oriented website that is devoted to exposing various myths about piracy. You can check his site out here: Pirate Mythory. Ok, that's enough about Ed). The Pyracy.com forums are mostly devoted to people who re-enact pyracy which was something I had never even contemplated.
At the same time, being heavily involved in haunted house prop and room designs for decades, my pirate art first began to appear in a Halloween homage to pyracy for the Wyandotte Jaycees in 2006 - the Undead Pirates Haunted House Room. My love of props eventually lead to a Gibbeted Skeleton Prop Bucky and his Gibbeted Bride Becky that now reside at Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West, FL (Lucky buckies.) See those pages for a detailed explanation on how to create your own rotting pirates (and who doesn't want to do that?) These weird art projects culminated (well, so far) in my Pirate-Themed Living Room. (Every room in my house has a theme based on some facet of my life to date. It's a giant art project.)
Meanwhile, after having hung around on the re-enactor forum for three years, I decided in 2007 to take a giant flying leap into the world of pyrate re-enacting. My first re-enactment was with my friends Jack and Jill (seriously) during a weekend in San Francisco. They graciously supplied me with various pieces of pyrate clothing in the movie pirate style so that I could attend an event they put on for a children's camp (below left). This worked out quite well for me, because it allowed me to get my feet wet (so to speak).
My first Pirate Surgeon re-enactment was in Key West in 2007 at the Pirates in Paradise Festival which took place in Fort Zachary Taylor (below right.) This was an existential cry against the darkness. Long ago, an endocrinologist had told me that I would probably live to at least age 25 with diabetes. I decided I would prove him wrong and live to be 40. When my 40th year arrived in 2007, it called for a new direction: re-enacting! (?)
Me as movie-style pirate "Squinty" in San Francisco
Me as barber-surgeon "Mission"at PiP '07
Pyracy in the Writing World
Choosing to be a surgeon and well-bred (at least that's what I tell myself), I decided to stay in a hotel, eschewing the free camping at the Fort. (If God had wanted man to camp, he wouldn't have created mosquitoes and dirt.) This gave me internet access which allowed me to see this post on the Pyracy Pub leading to my first Surgeon's Journal. When I returned home, people at the event began posting wonderful photos from the event resulting in the first Surgeon's Journal on my web site. It proved to be more popular than I had expected which led to my creating a Journal for each re-enactment I attended
Since that fateful event, I have become consumed with interest about surgery in the Golden Era of Piracy (around the turn of the 18th century. I am currently wading through material in an effort to put together a reference for would-be pirate surgeons which has led to the creation of a whole separate pirate wing on my web page, the Pirate Surgeon's Journal.
Parallel to this happy accident, I had learned through my research that all navy surgeons and many merchant ship's surgeons were required to keep journals during the GAoP, further connecting me to my character. By way of proof, I offer this bit of text from John Atkins' 1742 book The Navy Surgeon (unlike my normal typos, those contained in this quote have the original spelling preserved - so it's not my fault this time.)
"The next Thing to a Surgeons doing his Duty on Board, is to keep a Journal by way of Proof, how and when such were slain, with a more particular Detail of the far greater Numbers that escape; Lediard calls it a Diary of his Practice, the most copious Method to expend Paper, to which if a little Regard be had to its Softness, 'tis all that's wanted.
They are then, for Family Use well fit,
For whoso eats and lives must S__t.
Every Navy Warrant directs two; one to be delivered to the Masters and Wardens of Surgeons Company, at the End of a Voyage, producing Certificates thereof to the Treatise of the Navy before Wages can be received, wherein a Surgeon must mind all the Time be included, to which the Ships are paid, signifyd to them in the Title Page; if a Month short, the Wages for that Month will be stopped till renewed." (Atkins, Introduction p. 17-8)
As you can see, even the otherwise serious Atkins flashes a glint of humor in regard to journaling. I further learned that many surgeons, accustomed to journaling for their sustenance, also kept accounts of the flora, fauna and cities they visited while traveling the high seas. This was akin to my journals. Sort of. My material is absurd and often foolish, hearkening more to MAD Magazine than the surgical journals of yore, but you get what you pay for. The Masters and Wardens of the Surgeons Company would no doubt have thrown me out on my ear had I turned my written labors into them. However, some of the populace seems to enjoy them for their loony merits. Maybe you will too.
Question? Comment? You can reach me via . (If you can't see a link there, you need to enable Java.)