Let me be the first to wish you a Happy Remember the Alamo Day (March 6th, 1824).
I only bring up the date for I just read a biography on the battle’s most famous figure, David Crocket: The Lion of the West by Michael Wallis. Why, might you ask? Well, growing up it was not uncommon for others to address me by singing:
Davy, Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
Maybe it’s just me but the words King and Davy really don’t go together. Groovy Davy or Davy Baby that I can see, but Davy in any royal or leadership role must be questioned. So, I was glad to read that Crockett never went by Davy. He also did not wear a coonskin cap made famous by Fess Parker in the Walt Disney Series.
In fact, reading Wallis’ rendering of America’s first folk hero, I see reality has a bad habit of playing spoiler when it comes to creating a memorable ballad:
Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
Kilt him a b’ar when he was only three
First of all, what’s a pregnant woman doing on top of a mountain? Also, what’s a three year-old handling a gun? A long rifle would be twice the height of a toddler. The recoil alone would knock the poor kid into the next state.
Fought single-handed through the Injun War
Till the Creeks was whipped an’ peace in store
Throughout his life Crockett volunteered for service, but he had no real appetite for war. In fact, he spent most of his time providing food for his regiment. In his heart he was a frontiersman who was at his happiest hunting, especially bear. In one season he killed 105 black bears, 47 in one month.
He gave his word an’ he give his hand
That his Injun Friend could keep their land
We all know how well that worked for the Native Americans.
Being the father he wanted to be
Close to his boys as the pod and the pea
There was one thing Crockett was really good at: using a long rifle. What he didn’t do well was provide for his family. Like his father, Crockett was continually in dept and unable to make a decent living. He lost his first farm to unpaid taxes. In one business venture, he hired a crew to make 30,000 staves, which are thin wooden planks used to make whiskey barrels.
All Crockett had to do was transport the staves from his forested land on the Obion River to New Orleans and it was bonanza time. There was only one problem: Crockett didn’t realize he had to hire someone to navigate the treacherous Mississippi and the boats soon crashed into a sawyer and sank just outside of Memphis, Tennessee.
Note: Davy Crockett didn’t run into Tom Sawyer but a sawyer that’s a large pile of driftwood lodged in the riverbed.
His second wife, Elizabeth, was not pleased with Crockett’s inability to provide a reliable paycheck or even stick around for more than two paragraphs. As Wallis writes, “She blamed much of Crockett’s troubles on his penchant for drink, lack of business sense, and failure to maintain any semblance of a spiritual life.”
Wait a minute. There is one profession where the above description would make him an ideal candidate.
He went off to congress an’ served a spell
Fixin’ up the Govern’ments an’ laws as well
Crockett was a natural politician. He had the gift for gab and had no qualms buying votes with liquor. One thing he wasn’t good at was being a team player. He had too much of the rambunctious pioneer spirit. He was completely incapable of moving bills and was more of an irritant to his own Democratic Party than the opposing Whigs. In fact, Crockett was such a spur in the side of President Andrew Jackson when it came to objecting to Jackson’s removal of Native Americans from their land, Jackson sent a note to the Tennessee state party: “I trust for the honor of the state, your congressional district will not disgrace themselves no longer by sending that profligate man Crockett to congress.”
This is not a glowing endorsement. Crockett may have served three terms but he was continually unable to hold his seat, losing once and for all to a man with a wooden leg, William Fitzgerald.
Crockett was not happy with his final political defeat. In fact, he was so irate he dashed a quick note to his state: “Since you have chosen to elect a man with a timber toe to succeed me, you may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”
To the Texas plains he jest had to go
Where freedom was fightin’ another foe
Crockett went to Texas to hunt, purchase land and to start a new life. What he found was another war, this one between the Texas settlers and the Mexican Army. Again he volunteered and ended up at an outpost that was severely understaffed when General Santa Anna showed up with his 1,200 Mexican soldiers.
We know how well that worked out.