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The Outdoors Outpost
"Avast, Me Hearties"
Wednesday, September 12, 2012 • Posted September 12, 2012

“There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life that he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” ~ Mark Twain, ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer’

For the past several years I’ve been meaning to write this column but, due to circumstances totally within my control, I keep forgetting about it until it’s too late. Not this year.

September 19 is ITLAPD, International Talk Like A Pirate Day. ITLAPD is my favorite kind of holiday, one where you don’t have to buy anyone anything, or travel anywhere, or attend any parties or dinners, and you get to say really cool things, like ‘Arrrrr,’ and ‘Avast ye, there, ye scurvy dog. Get off my poopdeck.’ I have no idea what a poopdeck is, but I don’t want any scurvy dogs on mine. Or anywhere else.

This holiday began, more or less, one day in 1995, when John Baur and Mark Summers were playing racquetball together, and started to talk like pirates to make the game more fun. They threatened to fire broadsides into one another’s yardarms, and cannonades at each other’s mains’ls, etc.

That went so well, and they enjoyed it so much, that they decided the country needed a new holiday, National Talk Like A Pirate Day. They decided it should be celebrated on September 19, because it was Mark’s ex-wife’s birthday, and because there was no other holiday on that date that either could recall.

Naturally, they needed a spokesman to get the word out, and since I hadn’t started writing a humor column yet, and since they’d never heard of me anyway, they settled on Dave Barry. One of them was probably supposed to write to Dave, but then, being guys, they promptly forgot all about it for about seven years. Guys are like that.

They celebrated NTLAPD on their own, when they remembered it, or when their friend, Brian Rhodes, reminded them about it, which was maybe two or three times during that seven years. Priorities become muddled with guys, which is why declaring war on Russia and taking out the trash often seem pretty much equal in importance to your average guy. I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, one day a fantastic thing happened, an unbelievable thing, a once-in-a-lifetime event – John, somehow, came across Dave’s email address (which was always at the end of every newspaper column he ever wrote). So they wrote to Dave about NTLAPD. And Dave wrote back. And then Dave wrote a column about it and, well, the rest is history. Or the rest is something, anyway.

So September 19, 2002 became the first ever, actual, NTLAPD. And then John and Mark were interviewed by a radio DJ in Sydney, Australia, so the holiday went international. So far it’s still confined to the Milky Way, but you never know.

Now, I read the column Dave wrote about ITLAPD in 2002, and since I’d started writing a weekly outdoor humor column in 1997, I decided to write about the holiday in early September, 2003, since I thought it was funny, and pirates are about as outdoors as it gets. But then, being a guy, I forgot all about it until about March of 2004, when I determined I would NOT forget again that year. And that set a precedent that I’ve followed pretty faithfully ever since. Every year I remember ITLAPD sometime in the spring. Until now.

Let me point out, here, that this holiday is pretty much exclusively a guy thing. Not that women aren’t welcome to participate enthusiastically. They are. They just generally think going around saying things like “Ahoy, there, buckaroo. Shiver your timbers somewhere else, afore I have you moppin’ the scuppers” is pretty silly. And they’re right. And that’s the point.

There’s a lot of serious stuff we have to deal with every day, especially when the economy is the way it is now, and the country is divided pretty much evenly on a lot of major issues. It gets to be a real drag. So having a day where you can legitimately act silly might be a really good thing for the whole country, the whole world.

H.L. Mencken once said, “Every man must be tempted, at times, to roll up his sleeves, spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” You don’t actually have to slit any throats to celebrate ITLAPD, but when the tempation is there, talking goofy might be just what you need to lighten things up a little.

So the real point to ITLAPD is that there is no point. Which is probably the best thing about the holiday. Well, that and clearing your poopdeck of scurvy dogs . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who owns his own eye patch. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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