Avast, Mr. Terry! Thar real pirates in them thar Florida Keys – and while they’re not nearly as good lookin’ as Capt. Jack Sparrow, the pirate population is indeed alive and thriving. An encroaching squall thwarted my usual Sunday morning snorkel trip to the Hens and Chickens Reef and sent me fleeing for shelter. Through the fierce downpour and white thunderbolts, I managed to spot a small dock in the distance.
Carefully weaving my ‘66 Boston Whaler through the watery graveyard of sunken vessels I quickly tied off at the rickety pier. A wild pig trail through a shore of mangroves led me to a den of honest-to-god real live pirates. I paused briefly, and ask myself if I should continue into their lair, when a bolt of lightning answered the question for me. Trying not to show fear, my wobbly legs walked me back into a bygone area. Crusty ol’ saltwater hooligans, bellied up at the bar, acted as if I were invisible – throwing back mugs of grog and up to their gunwales in shenanigans.
As “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” blasted from the jukebox, I grabbed a Grow Up To Be Cowboys blasted from the jukebox, I grabbed a Grow Up To Be Cowboys low profile stool at the end of the bar and hailed the brew master. “Whatever they’re having!” I barked (trying to be cool) tossing my head towards the scurvy dogs across the way. And that’s when I spotted Ol’ Cap’n One Eye: a patch-less, one-eyed pirate huddled alone in a dim-lit corner.
Two ales later (using my peripheral vision) I found myself studying the anti-social behavior of the one-eyed pirate. Weirdly enough I felt sorry for the guy – figuring he must be some kind of lonely misfit pirate in need of some attention. I mean who in their right mind would go out in public with a cloudy, oozing, dripping eyeball hanging from its socket, unless of course, he be the real deal – the real McCoy! Face it you’d have to be a real pirate not to give a damn…right?
So, at the bottom of the third ale, I thought I’d converse with Ol’ Cap’n One Eye. In my buzzed state his oozing eyeball seemed like as good a conversation opener as any, so I said, “What happened to your eye and why the hell don’t you cover that thing up?”
Call me crazy but the damn eyeball was so hideous that I felt it needed to be addressed for everyone’s sake…but on second thought, maybe not! The other pirates broke into a collective gasp and then fell silent. It was the first time all morning that the posse of pirates took notice to me. All eyes were fixed on Ol’ Cap’n One Eye waiting to see if he would respond. I was sort of hoping that he wouldn’t. Ol’ One Eye took a gulp of his grog, slammed down the empty mug and let out a belch rivaling Homer Simpson. Beer foam clung to his wiry handle bar mustache and a menacing curled lip appeared from under his Z Z Top-like beard which gave him an even more sinister look. I kind of smiled but quickly realized the cute girl routine wasn’t gonna work.
“Nobody asks me about my eye!” he bellowed pausing to order another round. Seemed like a good time as any to sneak out the back way but One Eye stopped me in my tracks.
“You really want to know what happened to my eye?” he growled. “Well, yeah.” I said, “Now that you ask.” “I was petting my cat and stuck my finger in my eye and it got infected.” Huh? “That’s it?!? I exclaimed, “That’s all you got? You must be kidding me! I mean, that’s not very pirate-like at all!”
The frog-strangling rain passed and for the first time Ol’ One Eye cracked a smile – but not at me. He and the rest of the pirates turned to pay homage to a large broad-shouldered man coming through the door. It be the fearless, self-proclaimed NFL “Has Been” and two-time Super Bowl Champ, Gary Dunn, owner of the pirate’s beloved safe haven – the Ocean View Inn and Sports Pub, located at Mile Marker 84.5 in Islamorada.
The OV is steeped in pirate history and was once a haven for smugglers and pirates. To this day it is still a favorite haunt of modern day pirates. Why it evens holds the very first liquor license ever issued in the American Caribbean, and that’s the kind of stuff that impresses me. So let us raise a glass to Gary Dunn, Ol’ Cap’n One Eye and the rest of the pirates who inhabit the planet:
“Here’s to it. Down to it. Here’s to the man who can’t do it. He should be tied to it. Made to do it. Drag his nose through it. Lead me to it. I can do it. I’m used to it!”