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“The Brotherhood [of Pirates] is brothers and sisters united. We look out for each other no matter what.”

Thomas Gambino Smith 026 2.jpg
Rebecca Smith
/
KBIA

Thomas Gambino lives in St. Louis and is known by many as “Byrd.” He spoke with the Missouri on Mic team at the Central Missouri Renaissance Festival in October.

From being a pirate, to the “Cardinal of France,” to his regular day job – Byrd is someone who puts family first. For Byrd, when someone is in need – his found family is there for support.

Missouri on Mic is an oral history and journalism project documenting stories from around the state in its 200th year.

Thomas Gambino/Byrd: If you notice, I'm changing multiple voices from the multiple characters I've had, and I can go back into my normal voice, which is really astonishing because some people are like, "Well, how do you do that? Don't you have to talk about some country language?"

No.

My nickname is Byrd. [It] used to be Phoenix, but they changed it to Byrd because Phoenix was hard for someone's child to understand. So, we changed it to Byrd and then Byrd stuck.

So, we’re the Brotherhood of Pirates. It’s of the East, the West, the North and the South. Four pirate kings come together, and they have different bands of pirates in their kingdoms.

"We look out for each other no matter what – if someone is ill, someone is there to take care of them. If there's a celebration, we all get together and we celebrate."
Byrd

One of the pirate kings took me as the Cardinal of France and made me into “Pope Pirate the first,” but the Brotherhood is not very religious when it comes to the church. They’re more on the pagan side of everything, which is pretty awesome because when I was playing the Cardinal, I'm actually a pagan. So, I think that's quite funny.

The Brotherhood is brothers and sisters united. We look out for each other no matter what – if someone is ill, someone is there to take care of them. If there's a celebration, we all get together and we celebrate.

And trust me – we can really make some mean drinks, get drunk, make lots of food, have fun, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again tomorrow.

I have so many, you know “found families” that, you know, not all family is blood. It's just – it's hard for me really to explain it because it's so natural.

I mean, my mom and dad at home, they know about all my friends being my family. My niece knows about all my friends being family because I'm introducing her and she's getting her own – would you call it? A nest? – her own little nest of friends that are her family.

This one is now my “little Byrd,” as they have dubbed her back home at the St. Louis Renaissance Fair.

It's just I accept everybody who's a friend, and if they've been a friend of mine longer than twenty years, they’re a relative, and that's how I just think of it.

Some are moms, some are dads, some are aunts, some are uncles. A lot are brothers, a lot are sisters and then I have some that are – well, maybe one or two or sons – and I have a plethora of friends who are daughters. I don't know how to explain it all but that's just how it goes.

Katie Quinn studies radio journalism and political science at the University of Missouri- Columbia. She comes from a small town outside of St. Louis called Fenton.
Becca Newton is a student reporter and producer at KBIA. They will graduate from the University of Missouri in spring 2022 with a degree in Multimedia Convergence Journalism and minors in Peace Studies and History.