Island crew keeps legends of the sea alive
Growing up, children of the Texas Gulf Coast breathe the piratical history together with the salty air. Richard Reid was one such boy in Galveston, scanning the sea, hoping for a clipper to appear on the horizon while listening to his parents tell stories about an ancestor who was part of Jean Laffite’s crew.
Naturally, Reid watched all the classic pirate movies: “Treasure Island;” “The Sea Hawk,” starring Errol Flynn; “The Goonies,” with One-Eyed Willy, who was his personal favorite; and then “Yellowbeard.”
For most children, those buccaneer adventures occurred only on the silver screen. But for Reid, the beach was just a step away and everything related to pirates didn’t seem at all remote or fictitious.
As a young boy, his dreams of pirates were fueled by a father who loved to hide a bottle containing a rolled-up treasure map for the children to stumble upon on the beach. Working the map out, Reid and his sister would find a box filled with trinkets and beads.
Later in life, Reid and his wife, Nita, would envy the people dressed up at yearly island Victorian festival Dickens on The Strand and The Texas Renaissance Festival. It seemed that the people wearing costumes always had so much more fun than the spectators, he said.
The Reids invested in costumes around the time Johnny Depp swaggered across the screen in “Pirates of the Caribbean,” bringing pirates back in fashion. Richard Reid decided if they were going to do it, they were going to do it right, he said. They researched costumes and found pieces and accessories from around the country to complement their outfits. Once dressed up, they were in character.
While in character, Reid has held the mayor of Galveston by gunpoint, has met strangers from all over wanting to pose with a true island character, and is proud to keep his family’s and the island’s history alive, albeit with tongue-in-cheek.
The Reids carefully craft their costumes. Richard Reid made most of the leatherwork, the belt, baldric and hat. The boots are from El Paso-based Caboots, a shop that outfitted Depp and other characters in the second and third “Pirates” movies. Reid’s waistcoat and frock are custom made by Peggy Miller in Texas City.
Museum replicas are good sources for period swords, Reid said. His canvas breeches were bought from Flying Canoe Traders, a Canadian firm specializing in historically accurate clothing for the theater industry. Some of his firearms are family heirlooms.
One of Reid’s favorite things about the modern-day pirate cult is meeting like-minded people, he said. So, when the sun has set and the moon rises over the Gulf of Mexico, spectators along the seawall might just see a group of oddly dressed characters emerge from the sea. It could be Reid and his posse. But it could just as well be the ghosts of Jean Laffite’s crew.