David Crockett

David Crockett wrote a narrative biography of his life in 1835.  Unable to abtain a ready copy of it, I picked up, “Davy Crockett, the Man, the Legend, the Legacy”, by Michael Lofaro.  This book is a book report on all the books, movies, TV shows, and periodicals written about the man.  That alone is enough to put it down, but I found the language also bizarre for such a topic.  “Walter Blairsville early on enumerated six separate identities for this Krishna of the American folk panthoen, and threw up his hands over the task of distinguishing between the ‘real’ and the “Legendary parts.”  He goes on and on about what others wrote about Crockett as though there really was any debate about fiction and myth.  The Davy Crockett Almanac was full of exaggerated or embellished  stories and escapades about life in the wilderness frontier.  Is this so surprising, given the public’s continuing interest in adventure?  Yes, David Crockett was a talker who told stories about his life in the backcountry.  To this day, people who hunt, fish and hike in the backcountry occasionally embellish their own outings

He came from very humble beginnings, his family was so poor he was hired out as a child to work off his fathers debt.  He was in the Creek Indian wars with Andrew Jackson’s army.  Later, as a politician, military and community leader David Crockett developed an ability to capture people’s interest.  He became an effective campaigner and won several elections, eventually serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He disagreed with Andrew Jackson’s positions on squatters rights and Indian resettlement.  As a consequence, he fell out of favor with Jackson and the entire Tennessee delegation.

One of many interesting quotes from Davy Crockett is, “Make sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  Crockett did not put his political career and personal interest above his sincere beliefs of right and wrong.  He had been dirt poor himself and knew the plight of the poor.  When his political career ended, he went to Texas in search of higher ideals and died in the Mexican war at the Alamo.  Historians seem to take great pleasure in pointing out that Davy Crockett was not killed in battle, as portrayed in movies and TV, but was captured and executed by Santa Anna.  Real life is not always the stuff of fictionalized movies, but people like to admire public figures, particularly when they are associated with societal themes like “manifest destiny” which was very popular during that time.  This was pointed out in the book along with references to James Fennimore Cooper’s popular fictional tales of Indians and longhunters.

There were many excerpts of various stories from the Davy Crockett Almanacs and statements attributed to him.  The tales, movies, plays and TV shows with their fictionalized hyperbole do not diminish the real man who had faults like everyone, but remains an important example of leadership, independence, rugged individualism, and a pursuit of right over politics.  Whether a soldier is captured or killed in battle is not necessarily something within their control, therefore, what bearing it has on his heroism eludes me.  Moreover, I find no interest in various writer’s views of publicity or fictionalized videos aimed at generating a profit for the producer.  The fact that David Crockett became a celebrity and legendary character after his death does not require exhaustive analysis into each portrayal dreamed up to garner a profit off the public’s fascination for backwoods adventure.  The awarded success in 1992 of the movie, “Last of the Mohicans”, suggests the public still has a thirst for the early American wilderness adventure.

Tales of Davy Crockett’s entanglement with “critters” has some plausible basis.  It was interesting to see that elk were once native to Tennessee and bear extended even into its western regions. About fifteen years ago the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reintroduced elk into the state and they are thriving.  Most recently, cougar have returned on their own volition, being observed in the central region of Tennessee.  Bear are migrating westwards once again as the mountainous east becomes over-populated with them. Sightings of black bear have been noted as far west as Cookeville, which is ninety miles east of Nashville.  Finally, alligators have been seen in the Mississippi river near Memphis.  This book is among the worst I have ever read and left me with very little information I cared about or that even directly related to David Crockett.  However, it encourages me that I can write a book some day and I’m still interested in Davy Crockett, American Indian tribes, and the early frontier.

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