Monday, October 15, 2012

The Life and Adventures of David Crockett

“And seeking no ornament or coloring for a plain, simple tale of truth, I throw aside all hypocritical and fawning apologies, and. According to my own maxim, just ‘go ahead.’” -Davy Crockett


Before I ever counted Jack Kerouac or Dean Moriarty as blood brother kin, and still as yet before Tom and Huck became winks in my eye, there was the life and adventures of David Crockett.  

“I pitched out from the bushes and set on him like a wild cat. I scratched his face all to a flitter jig, and soon made him cry out for quarters.” -David Crockett


Buckskin jersey long rifle toting, whiskey slug swilling, bear shooting, Indian killing, rapid riding, King of the Wild Frontier.  Growing up as I did with Disney forming my early memories in the 1970’s, I knew any kid worth his salt worshiped Davy Crockett.

“I moved on with a light heart and my five dollars jingling in my pocket…” -David Crockett


I still have my old coonskin cap from Disneyland somewhere in my parent’s basement.  I used to put that on and carry an old tree branch smoothed down with a hunting knife as a rifle into the woods, checking for paw prints and renegade savages to trade with or blow all to hell.

“This brought them to a halt, and about this moment the Indians fired on them, and came rushing forth like a cloud of Egyptian locusts, and screaming like all the young devils had been turned loose.” -David Crockett


The thing was, Davy Crockett wasn’t a gunslinger.  No Showdown at the OK-Corral or quick draw outside a saloon over a card game gone cross-eyed.  No, Crockett was a frontiersman and a marksman, known for traversing hundreds of miles rugged territory through Tennessee and Kentucky.  Yet in all the legends about this man (even the Disney song where he “killed him a bear when he was only three), Crockett’s truest aim was in his literary prowess, where he hits his mark every time.

“Fame is like a shaved pig with a greased tail, and it is only after it has slipped through the hands of some thousands, that some fellow, by mere chance, holds on to it.” -David Crocket


The Autobiography of David Crocket is a truly brilliant read.  He recounts his life beginning with his father arriving from Ireland and moving west into Indian territory and there opening a traveler’s inn.  There young Davy learned the ways of the wild, until the age of 12 when he was basically “sold” to a traveling cattleman and forced to walk over 400 miles toward Baltimore only to miraculously find his way home many years later.

“We pursued them until we got near the house, when we saw a squaw sitting in the door, and she placed her feet against the bow she had in her hand, and then took an arrow, and, raising her feet, she drew with all her might, and let fly at us, and she killed a man… his death so enraged us that she was fired on, and had at least twenty balls blown through her. This was the first man I ever saw killed with a bow and arrow. We now shot them like dogs…” -David Crocket


Crockett’s life is full of such wonderful tales all told in his own genius and humorous wit.  How as a marching soldier on the trail of Creek Indians he scaled a thirty foot tree to catch a squirrel he’d shot for supper, or how he bested all suitors and won the hand of the Quaker’s daughter in marriage.  

“I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me…” -David Crockett


But what I really love about Crockett, beside’s being such a hero of my boyish dreams, was his funny sayings.  Mark Twain said of Crockett’s own voice, “He writes with a sort of genius for telling tales in the vernacular…”  Quotes like: “If a fellow is born to be hung, he will never be drowned,” and “she was ugly as a stone fence,”  or “like the Negro’s rabbit, good either way,” and “Salting the cow to catch the calf.”  

“Pop, Pop, Pop, Bom, Bom, Bom, throughout the day. No time for memorandums now. Go ahead! Liberty and independence…” -David Crockett’s Last journal entry at Alamo

Everybody knows Crockett's story.  He became a lieutenant in the army and then a Justice of the Peace in the Missouri Territory.  Later a congressmen and could have become president if not for a backbone and inability to play politics (that and his scathing hatred for Andrew Jackson), and of course, his last stand against Santa Anna at the Alamo.  But for me, this young boy growing up in the forests of Oregon, I think of Crockett as an early definer of American cool.  Way before Huck lit out for the territories or Keroauc split west, there was Davy Crockett.  That and a coonskin cap was all I ever needed.

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