“Pastey the Drunken Sailor,” by Kate LaDew

Jul 24th, 2019 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

“Cat O’ Nine Tails: The Surprising Life of Pastey the Drunken Sailor”
published in Shillingest of Shockers, Volume 21: 1906
by Gypsum Hammer as told to Fred Fearnot on a Hot Summer Day

Editor’s Note: Below is the unaltered story of Pastey the Drunken Sailor. We in no way endorse flogging, drinking, nor flogging while drinking and/or drunk. If one is in the position where flogging is warranted or wanted, no imbibing should take place for at least three hours before said flogging (per: “So You Want to Flog: How to, When, Where and with What,” from an article by Cincture Cummerbund, published in Belt: It’s Not Just For Your Waist Magazine, 1901). If a three hour lead time is impossible, either change your plans or make sure the floggee is also drunk. This usually works.

*cat o’ nine tails: a type of multi-tailed whipping device, used in most cases as an implement for severe physical punishment (the other cases are boring).

Pastey the Drunken Sailor. Boy was he. True to his name, a ship did not pass without holding Pastey in a state of ridiculous inebriation. It was common to feel a whip of breeze over one’s head as Pastey swung from ship to ship, determined to be drunken on any and all.

The crews, scurvy ridden and heterosexually-sexed starved, welcomed a distraction from the mind numbing drudgery of swabbing decks, shouting ‘land ho,’ spying mermaids, talking to parrots, planning mutinies, submitting to daily torture at hourly intervals, not getting much of anywhere but farther out to sea and all the chores that come with being a sailor. It was indeed the prospect of horrible, haphazard, random punishment that irked many, causing more than a few to become snippy with their comrades. The constant beatings over just about anything, especially laughing at the captain’s hat (which was a little silly) sent many sailors overboard, some by choice.

It was not until Pastey sailed into view, staggering and slobbering, that a welcome respite came from the violence. No one really knew where he came from, other than the sky. He had no rank nor tattoos to distinguish his beginnings, only a handsome grin and a will to drink.

Some may wonder just how Pastey changed the fabric of sailor society, and just why he is remembered so in books, stories, and song. Why the cat o’ nine tails, my friends. The cat o’ nine tails. That is the answer to your question.

The instrument traditionally has nine braided thongs, thinner rope being made from three strands, and thicker rope from three strands of thinner rope braided together. To make a cat o’ nine tails for personal use, one must have more time on their hands than is necessary for anyone, and a surplus of rope, too much really, no doubt obtained through dark acts. The rope is simply unraveled into three small ropes, and each of those next unraveled, again in three (a rationalization possibly conceived post factum for the nine ropes is that nine is thrice three, equaling eight, according to Fillipian, a Greek philosopher of the tenth century, the son of the local Greek bookie, Petrechelus the Ridiculous. Fillipian was a philosopher, not a mathematician, so no one could really fault him for being rather stupid. And if they did, well, there was always Petrechelus to worry about. He was ridiculous, that guy).

Some scholars, who like to read a lot into things, reference the Trinity of Trinities, or thrice three, fitting the concept of the wrongdoer going against the God of the Anglican or Catholic Church and hence against the Holy Trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost). After a good thrashing from the cat o’ nine tails, the wrongdoer has no choice but to stop doing wrong, and follow the path of righteousness (that, or continue to do wrong but with a little more stealth this time, which is what they should have done in the first place, and due to the cat o’ nine tails, now they know, thank you. There are a lot of flaws in this theory). It is also said that sailors had a holy cross tattooed on their backs to prevent it from ‘unreligiously’ being flogged, but there is no evidence for naval authorities awarding such exemption. In all, it’s sort of a dumb theory too which really only proves why everyone is so contemptuous of scholars and all their namby-pamby theories.

The cat o’ nine has been recorded in English since 1695, thought to be so called in reference to the device’s striking resemblance to Heppo, the Magic Nine Tailed Cat of San Marino. There are equivalent weapons in many languages, including the Dutch Zevenstaart (seven clogs tied to a miniature hand-cranked windmill spun at high velocity), and the French gato feito de vários queijos (literally translated: cat made of various cheeses). It is literally a cat made of various cheeses, and is mostly ineffective.

Another possible origin of the term cat o’ nine tails is the legend of a German man, upon seeing his cat for the first time after a tragic mustache alternative attack (see The Coleridge, Volume 18, p. 127, “When Various Animal Appendages Were Used as Alternatives for Facial Hair” by Piper Bollard) declaring with little emotion and in as few words as possible ‘Katze nein Schwanz (cat, no tail)’. But it is unlikely this was the origin of cat o’ nine tails, as it was just one guy, he only said it once and no one really paid attention. He was probably drunk.

Variations exist, either named cat (of x tails) or not, maybe something that sounds nothing like cat and is really not the same at all. The whip used on adult Egyptian prisoners, branching into seven tails, each with six knots, wasn’t called anything by the floggers, but was called a hell of a lot of things by the floggees, mostly ‘Mother of God, what the what man?’ Used only on adult men, as boys were subject to caning, the device is still in use, illustrating the fact that Egypt is kind of a crazy place.

Sometimes the term “cat” is used incorrectly to describe various other punitive flogging devices with multiple tails in any number, even one made from soft cotton and silk, with pink satin fringe and tiny trails of colorful beads and rhinestones up and down. It is called ‘The Cat of 1000 Tails’ by people who should know better. The Cat of 1000 Tails is really just a pillow without any tails and is gorgeous and nice smelling and people line up to get thrashed with it. The people come from a strange place rather than a crazy one.

Another device is made from 80 twigs (so rather a limp birch) to flog a sick Iranian instead of 180 lashes for healthy Iranians applicable under Shari’ah. Most Iranians do get sick after being whipped with 160 twigs tied together, which most everyone agrees is really rather an excessive amount of twigs.

The naval ‘cat,’ also known as the ‘captain’s daughter’ (since, in principle, it was only used under his authority), weighed about 13 ounces (370 g) and was composed of a baton (handle) and nine cords. Certain ships enjoyed dressing the cat o’ nine tails up as a pretty girl with various ribbons and tassels and rouge, but ships that just had these things laying around were doomed to fail. The captain’s daughter would often go missing on these ships and when found, usually concealed in a sailor’s hammock, said sailor was taken above board and whipped with the cat o’ nine tails. It was hardly punishment and when the sailor made certain sounds indicating the whole scene was rather enjoyable, well, the captain just sort of stopped and kind of stood there for a second, pretty depressed and a little confused. He wandered away eventually.

This is thought to be the history of the cat o’ none tails. Everything above this sentence. But no, my friends. But no indeed. It’s all a lie, a big and fat one, for it was Pastey whom is the reason for the cat ‘o nine. Pastey the Drunken Sailor. Boy was he ever. He was so ever, that on a hot day in 1695, a full month before Heppo the Magic Nine Tailed Cat of San Marino had his first show in Kennsington Preparatory School’s Auditorium, Pastey began drunkenly beating sailors with cats. One specific cat that is.

On the deck of Sanguine Expectations, Pastey, after viewing the captain thrashing a young man with a dull dinner knife, ran serpentine-like towards the scene, shoving the captain and his silly hat away, and throwing the knife into the ocean.

“Lemme tell ya,” he is said to have slurred. “Lemme tell ya, if torture is your game, a knife just ain’t the same, as a little mewin’ cat, ‘cross the back.”

It was on that day the cat began its use as an implement of physical punishment. The cat of the Sanguine Expectations, Pedro the Calico, previously used as rat control, was given his new occupation, kept in a sack hung on the captain’s door (as well as the source of the expression, the brightly colored hissing cat is out of its drab burlap bag).

No sailor held anything against Pastey for this new form of pain. They were grateful. Whereas before a dinner knife or rusty fork could be gotten anywhere and used willy-nilly, a clawing, hissing cat was a danger to whipper as well as whippee. Many a sailor was spared a flogging due to a captain’s chewed and mangled hand.

This cat o’ nine tails was used successfully for a number of months before Pedro the Calico wanted a change of seascape. Despite being used as a whip regularly, the Calico was a smart cat. He got out of the bag. Yes, Pedro got out of the bag (so goes another expression, Pedro wised up and got out of the bag).

At this point Pastey, on one of his daily fly-overs, landed in the middle of a torture free vessel. It was a tense crew and a nervous captain that looked to a slobbering lush to right their world. In no time flat, Pastey, ever the craftsman, fashioned a false cat made of old beard and ropes. None could ever accuse Pastey of not being thrifty. The bearded rope was used as a whip for more than forty-eight hours before being abandoned. It seems it was ineffective as a thrasher, leaving no lacerated skin and giving no intense pain. Only a rash from the old beards. Another calamity befallen the Sanguine Expectations.

As should be clear by now, Pastey was no one to leave a fellow sailor in distress. It might have also been clear that the most efficient device for punishment was in fact a whip, a real whip, and not a whip formed by other implements that were not, in fact, whips. Several actual honest to goodness whips had been laying about the Sanguine Expectations the entire time, though it should be noted that in early days whips were only used for the annual Maypole Dance around the mast, most in pastel colors and intricately braided. Sometimes even a sailor needs a respite, and prancing about a pole is not a bad one.

After falling onto the deck and endeavoring to pull himself up while grasping the end of a Maypole whip, Pastey inadvertently swung the pole entire, causing it to spin three hundred and sixty degrees, as the end of each whip, nine to be exact, struck him upon the bottom with force. It was this bruised incident that put the notion of whips and their hurt inducing capability into Pastey the Drunken Sailor’s head, and the cat o’ nine tails into our corrections history.

Though used in quite a different way at first, that being Pastey tying the whips together to form one long whip and lashing the sailors from the stern whilst they stood on the bow, the cat o’ nine was a most effective tool that has yet to go out of fashion. Its impact has been felt from the knees to the neck, and our sailing men would have gotten nowhere without its cruel blow.

Such was the life of Pastey the Drunken Sailor. A maverick of his century, an imbiber of his age, Pastey will live on each time a cat yelps or a sailor mutinies. May we never forget our naval hero, our Drunken Sailor. Boy was he.


Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Arts. She resides in Graham, NC with her cats Charlie Chaplin and Janis Joplin.

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