King of the Wild Frontier – “Davy” Crockett

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree,
Killed him a bear when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier.

If you are old enough then you remember and can sing along with this tune that goes with these words. You can see in your mind the tall, good looking Fess Parker, dressed in fringed skins, wearing a coon skin hat and carrying a large rifle, appearing as our favorite hero on early TV in the mid 1950’s. It was a childhood dream come true to own a coonskin cap and wear it sitting in front of the TV for every exciting episode.

Surely David “Davy” Crockett has been one of the most celebrated, romanticized legendary  figures in American history. He is famed as  a frontiersman, folk hero, congressman and Alamo defender.

Biographers often say there are actually two Crocketts: David, the frontiersman and congressman lost at the battle in Alamo, and Davy, the larger-than-life folk hero whose famous exploits are glorified in several books,  almanacs, and television series..

Crockett’s father taught him to shoot a rifle when he was just 8 years old.(So, there goes the shooting the bear myth at age 3, as in the song, maybe.) He eagerly tagged along with his his older brothers on hunting trips.

During the War of 1812, Crockett served in the militia followed later by service as a member of the Tennessee State House of Representatives.

While Crockett was in fact a very skilled woodsman, his fame as as a rebellious super heroic,  sharpshooting, yarn spinning and larger-than-life woodsman style was partially a product of his own doing. He was trying to package himself as super talented to help win votes during his political campaigns. It seemed to work. He was reelected to the US Congress for a third term.

But soon after his last term, he grew disillusioned with politics and decided to leave his home in West Tennessee to join the fight in the Texas War of Independence in 1835.

His youngest child Matilda later wrote that she distinctly remembered the last time that she saw her father:

“He was dressed in his hunting suit, wearing a coonskin cap, and carried a fine rifle presented to him by friends…He seemed very confident the morning he went away that he would soon have us all to join him in Texas.”

But Santa Anna’s Mexican Army had other ideas for Crockett’s future. On that day in March 1836 in San Antonio, the Mexicans killed virtually all of the roughly 200 Texans defending the Alamo, including, Colonels William B. Travis and James Bowie, and reportedly the legendary frontiersman Davy Crockett.

The memoirs of a Mexican officer José Enrique de la Peña stated that Crockett and his comrades at arms were gruesomely executed, though they “died without complaining and without humiliating themselves before their torturers.”

Some scholars disagree about the truth of this account of his death, and so the exact circumstances of Crockett’s death at the Alamo remain up for debate.

But the fact remains that frontiersman Davy Crockett is a true American hero, and icon who served as an inspiration to us all, young and old.

Fess Parker as Davy Crockett in TV Series