It takes piracy to fill bellies

The Dread Pirate Roberts is in Whitehorse. On Thursday morning, he struck Mae Bachur Humane Society. Instead of a sword, he was carrying dog food. And he'd traded his ship in for a minivan - with a skull-and-crossbones licence plate.

The Dread Pirate Roberts is in Whitehorse.

On Thursday morning, he struck Mae Bachur Humane Society.

Instead of a sword, he was carrying dog food.

And he’d traded his ship in for a minivan – with a skull-and-crossbones licence plate.

Roberts wasn’t wearing the telltale black half-mask made famous in his movie The Princess Bride.

But he was sporting a skull-and-crossbones ball cap with the slogan: “The beatings will continue until morale improves.”

In this case, it’s hunger that’s taking a beating.

“In the Yukon we thrive, where most wouldn’t survive,” said Roberts, who has a penchant for rhymes.

But there are some who are having a tough time surviving.

When the dread pirate learned about a man downtown who was living in an old school bus with his dog and her seven puppies, he loaded his van with food, water, wood and some money.

Roberts wouldn’t identify himself to the thankful recipient; he only handed him a note with a photo of the dread pirate from the movie.

A similar note and photo was taped to the dog food that was dropped off at Mae Bachur a few days later.

“Whoever he is, we want him to know the dog food’s greatly appreciated,” said Mae Bachur administrator Steve Parker.

Roberts doesn’t want to be identified “because then people will think I have an agenda,” he said.

“And it’s not about politics.”

But Roberts does have an agenda -“No more hunger.”

Twenty years ago, before he became the dread pirate, he was living a life similar to the man in the school bus.

“I was living in my two-seater Triumph TR7 – not a very big condo,” he said.

Since then, Roberts has owned companies, been instrumental in education programs and acted as an employer. (He didn’t want to say much more than that, in case people identified him.)

“Just because you’re down, don’t let them count you out,” he said.

He adopted the pirate moniker from The Princess Bride only recently, after he took hunger to heart.

And he picked the Dread Pirate Roberts, because unlike Superman or other superheroes with special powers, the dread pirate’s strength comes solely from his “willingness to dedicate himself to a mission.”

Roberts was first inspired by the city’s food-for-fines program, where, for a few weeks each year, citizens can pay for parking tickets with nonperishable food items.

The pirate’s first plunder was to drop off a big box of food at bylaw services, challenging councillors to match his donation and city employees to match half his “boon.”

When he came into his office, senior acting blyaw Constable Brain Simmer found the food and a rhyming note from the dread pirate.

“It’s great to see a challenge to the city and all residents,“said Simmer.

It’s a “very unique” approach, he added.

“I’m happy to see citizens stepping up to this challenge.”

Each year, the food-for-fines program brings in more bounty, including plenty of donations from people who haven’t even gotten a parking ticket.

Whitehorse Food Bank executive director Stephen Dunbar-Edge wasn’t familiar with the dread pirate … yet.

But he got the reference.

“The Princess Bride is one of my favourite movies,” he said.

“And as I recall, the Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t exist.

“It’s a legacy.”

In the movie, the dread pirate’s persona passes from person to person along with his mask and crew, and no one knows the difference.

It’s no different in Whitehorse.

“There’s a little Dread Pirate Roberts in all of us,” said the current Roberts.

Dunbar-Edge is looking forward to meeting him.

“Is he dressed in pirate regalia?” said Dunbar-Edge.

“I love regalia.”

Then, he got serious.

The food bank is in trouble.

On Thursday, by midmorning, it was out of fresh vegetables, beans and margarine.

Dunbar-Edge sent volunteers to Superstore to get enough food to fill bags.

They spent $500.

And by afternoon, all that food was gone.

On Monday, he’s paying for another $3,000 worth of food, just to keep up with demand.

For September and October, the food bank was seeing about 450 clients.

“And remember, one client often represents a whole family,” said Dunbar-Edge.

In November, the food bank saw 510 clients.

And on Thursday, two days into December, Dunbar-Edge already had seven new clients sign up before lunch.

People have started asking about Christmas hampers, he said.

Right now, running hand-to-mouth, Dunbar-Edge isn’t sure how plump those hampers will be.

“We’ll start with chickens, hams and turkeys,” he said.

“And if we get more donations, we can justify spending more money for Christmas.”

Dunbar-Edge hopes to meet the Dread Pirate Roberts.

“What

a great cause,” he said.

“And what a unique way of putting it forward.”

The dread pirate’s a little more tech savvy than his swashbuckling forefathers and has started sending out e-mails challenging local leaders, including Premier Dennis Fentie, First Nations, NGOs and anyone else he can think of, to join his cause.

The Ta’an Kwach’an Council has already drawn its swords and taken up the challenge.

It will be asking everyone attending its staff party this weekend to bring $25 worth of nonperishable food with them to donate to the food bank.

Downtown Centre NDP candidate Liz Hanson has also found her inner dread pirate, and is matching Roberts’ food donation.

On Thursday, after the fun dog food drop-and-run at Mae Bachur, the dread pirate gave me a grin:

“Now doesn’t that make you feel good?”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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