It’s a pirate’s life for her

Photo by John Dukes

Story by Scarlett Stussy

Steering the ship toward the wide-open sea with the wind in her face and her crew busily scurrying around, the co-captain of “The Highway or no Way” fully lives like a pirate. For most people, this alternative identity would seem to fit that of a 3 year-old boy, but junior Shea Smith embraces her true calling.

“When Wynne [Tidwell] and I were in Mexico, we saw a sailboat which made us come up with the pirate idea,” Smith said. “We realized that’s how we wanted to spend the rest of our lives.”

What started as a fun idea, turned into more than either of the “pirates” expected it to. They soon found that dozens of others wanted to join the alternate world as well.

However, some of those people, according to the captains, weren’t cut out for their ship’s way of life. For this reason, they were not admitted into the crew. A few of the outcasts even started their own ships.

“People kept trying to copy me,” Smith said. “They said they were going to make their own ship because they didn’t meet the requirements for ours.”

As more and more people began to join their crew, tensions rose and conflict grew.

“The other ships get jealous of ours because we have so many people,” Smith said. “They bribe our crew members to get people on their ships.”

The “Veggietales” song: “The Pirates Who Don’t do Anything” sums up the crew’s life perfectly.

“Well, some of the jobs I can’t talk about, but [we have] people who deal with land, make purchases, and we have a graphic designer,” Smith said.  “[We] basically do nothing and whatever we want.”

The life of a pirate seems dangerous in and of itself, but Shea’s life in the real world has often done her more damage than her pirate life.

As a child, she was plagued with a rare disease called Bell’s Palsy that caused half of her face to be paralyzed for a period of time. She has also had shingles on her brain, spider bites, and several injuries from tennis, including stress fractures in her foot and worn out nerves in her wrist that had to be surgically removed.

“I never mean to get hurt,” Smith said. “It just happens to me. I get really weird stuff.”

During her freshman year, Shea frequently lost her voice. She would go several weeks without being able to talk. After visiting multiple doctors, they found out that her brain had forgotten how to talk, so she had to go through speech therapy.

“I couldn’t talk and people would think I wasn’t talking to them because I was mean,” Smith said. “They couldn’t hear me so I got frustrated. I had to go to therapy and blow bubbles and do really weird things [that helped] my voice [come] back.”

Last year, Shea developed a cold that caused her to cough persistently. In fact, her coughing was so constant that it eventually led to a broken rib.

“I had a really bad cough.” Smith said. “I was sick and I was hanging out with some so-called friends. All of a sudden, my side started hurting really bad and I started to yell ‘Guys! Please help me. I think I’m having a heart attack or something!’  They told me to shut up. I got home and discovered a bump where my rib was poking out.”

No matter the cause for this remarkable way of life, Shea and Wynne have created a means of escaping reality for many people. Everyday is a new adventure for this thrill-seeking buccaneer.

“Long live the ship!”