Once Upon a Tide…
On a pleasant summer afternoon in 1750, a young boy drifted lazily among the salt marshes that inundate coastal Georgia. He’s fished for a while that morning without any luck. Having grown bored with the activity, he’d allowed his punt to drift where it would in the maze-like channels between the marshlands, tidal flats and small islands formed from the oyster shell ballast dumped by merchant ships preparing to take on cargo in port.
He had no worry of getting lost. He’d been boating these waters for as long as he could remember. The boy knew that he was currently about three miles south of Savannah.
The warm sun and cool breeze lent themselves to napping. Soon, the boy had dozed off. He was awakened by the sound of other boys chattering and laughing. They sounded nearby. As quietly as possible, he rowed toward the voices. The tide was high, and he decided to take the little flat-bottomed punt into the marsh grass before getting too close. No telling what mood these strangers might be in.
Peering through the grasses, he saw two boys around his age busy pulling up their crab traps. The wooden tub seated in the middle of their boat brimmed with their catch. Three empty traps were stacked in the back of their boat, and the trap they were in the process of emptying was very full; several of the crabs were quite large.
The boy was very fond of the sweet meat of the sought after blue crabs. He knew old Mother would be glad of the treat, as well. Although, she’ll probably grumble that I didn’t net her some shrimp to go with them, he thought to himself. His decision made, he nudged his boat through the flooded marsh to join the other boys.
“Those are some mighty fine lookin’ crabs,” he told them by way of greeting. “I’ll have them.”
The younger of the boys, brothers, smiled at him. “You want to buy them?”
The lone boy smiled back and calmly stated, “No. I’ll take them. Now.”
The older brother scowled at him, ready to defend their catch from the young interloper. “You can’t just take them,” he countered. “You have to buy them, if you want them. We worked hard for these crabs, and we’re going to take them back to town to sell them.”
The boy said matter-of-factly, “My waters; my crabs. Hand them over. I won’t tell you again.”
Rather than comply, the older brother shouted, “I said, you can’t have them!”
Taking his oar, the boy nimbly jumped into the other boys’ boat and promptly used it to knock the older of the two into the water. He brandished the oar at the younger boy. The lad quickly decided the water was a better place to be than in the same boat with the mad young bully. The victor then began tying their boat to his punt, to tow it back with him and ensure they didn’t try to give chase to reclaim their catch.
The older brother looked a bit panicked at this. His sibling was crying in fear.
“Hey! You can’t just leave us out here! We could drown trying to get back home,” he pled.
He looked at them, almost expressionless, and said, “You should have given me the crabs, when I told you to.” Then he rowed away, not caring if they made it back or not. “Whatever fate the tide and marsh have for you is your lot now.”
Of course, the lads made it back to Savannah. Otherwise, the legend would never have been born of how, in the summer of 1750, an eleven-year-old Viktor Brandewyne committed his first act of piracy.
And the rest, as you soon will read, is history.