Wilbur and The Pirate

city life.wilbur&pirateby Dell Franklin

Randy Crozier, or “The Crow,” or “The Pirate,” does 98 percent of his drinking in Schooner’s Wharf, a restaurant bar overlooking the beach and pier in downtown Cayucos, population approximately 2,500. Crozier is short and round as he is tall, sturdy legged, bushy-bearded, neon-eyed, red-cheeked, hair straggling out from under sweat-stained ballcap, and known to emerge from hangovers so monstrous most people would be hooked up to an IV in a hospital room and go straight to work after his first cigarette and securing his coffee and roll at the local coffee den, where he has been observed indulging in such terrifying coughing fits some have suggested calling an ambulance.

The Crow is a stonemason/plasterer/framer/commercial fisherman/hunting guide/farmer and bass player with his own band, the Motowners, which plays in the town’s popular annual 4th of July parade and various ragged festivals in Big Sur. A brass plate on a wooden stool at a particular corner of the bar at Schooner’s Wharf has his name etched on it. He is always clad in sweat shirt with arms torn off, Levi’s faded and frayed with legitimate holes at the knees, drinking sneakers, and ballcap. He keeps a “pirate’s” treasure chest on hand in the bar to supply kids in the restaurant candy, and every half hour allows a girl to occupy his stool while he goes downstairs to stand in the alley across from the sea wall and beach to smoke, cough, and check his cell phone.

Lately Wilbur’s been in the habit of running down trucks with diesel engines and I must apologize to people who are forced to stop in fear of running him over

Photos by Stacey Warde

Photos by Stacey Warde

Until recently, before moving out into the back hills of town, the Crow lived four doors down from me on G Street, where he parked his truck, a 35-year-old wonder that sounds like a tractor and rattles without hitting bumps in the road. The paint job is peeled off, though “Pirate Plastering” is printed on the passenger door that does not completely close and sometimes flies open when he turns a corner. The bed of this truck is as cramped as the passenger seat with tools and debris that Crozier claims, “Only a lunatic would steal.” The spot where he parked for years at a hovel connected to a main house run by Tag Morely, local Everyman, is permanently oiled. To get to this particular spot, the Crow usually passed my large, railed patio before turning right. Wilbur, my 10-year-old, 90-pound Chocolate Lab, who has eaten rubber and wood and cost me hundreds of dollars in vet’s bills, can hear Crozier’s jalopy several blocks away.

The second Wilbur hears it—usually around 3 in the afternoon when the Crow knocks off and is in the process of getting ready for his drinking—he is up and scrambling to the patio, where he paces as the truck gets louder and louder. He paces in circles, then back and forth along the railing, and a touch of drool drips from the side of his mouth, since he lacks front teeth on that side. He spots the truck. He nudges up against the railing and stares as Crozier pulls up. Crozier, at 55, and looking and showing every year of it, takes a while to get out. Wilbur paces some more. By the time Crozier emerges from his truck with a couple of super-sized biscuits from a package from the Dollar Store in Morro Bay, a long strip of drool slings back and forth from Wilbur’s lips as his eyes keen in on the Pirate.

Crozier cackles and points: “Look at Wilbur drool….” He laughs like Santa Claus, and with the same glee he relishes when buying somebody a drink at the bar, he hurls the biscuits up onto the deck, where Wilbur scrabbles and devours both within seconds and returns to the railing to watch Crozier drive off.

Sometimes, in the morning, or even afternoons, I’ll have Wilbur on the street below, ready to walk him, when he hears Crozier’s truck growling toward us. He tears straight at it, blocking the driver at the grill in a frenzy, makes him stop, then lunges at the broken door, drooling. Crozier chuckles and feeds him and moves on, and I must leash Wilbur or he will chase the Crow’s truck down the street.

Lately Wilbur’s been in the habit of running down trucks with diesel engines and I must apologize to people who are forced to stop in fear of running him over and rearing back as he lunges through the window and scratches up doors with paws as he drools for a biscuit. If he sees Crozier’s truck parked anywhere he goes into a frenzy, and I must leash him as he cries. When I go to Schooner’s Wharf and sidle up beside Crozier, I always order him a beer, and he grins and laughs and coughs and says, “Wilbur…I love it when he starts drooling….”

As always, we spend the first 15 minutes or so talking about Wilbur, and laughing. §

Dell Franklin writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where he lives with his rescue dog, Wilbur, who the vet recently discovered had eaten an old rubber tire and gotten sick. He’s recovering well and still hunger’s for the Pirate’s biscuits. Visit dellfranklin.com for more of Dell’s work.

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