BACK IN TIME: The real David Crockett was a fascinating, rugged man

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information for this article came from the book “David Crockett: The Lion of the West.”
If you grew up in Texas like I did you learned at an early age about the San Antonio mission named the Alamo and about the 183 men who gave their lives to keep the hope of Texas alive. One of those men was the noted frontiersman named Davy Crockett.
In 1960, I was one of many thousands of young Texans who saw the movie titled “The Alamo” in which John Wayne played Davy Crockett and like many others, I wore a stylish coonskin cap and swore by the story I knew by heart of Davy giving his life for the dream of Texas. I still believe that truth of that story.
Recently I completed reading a book about Crockett titled “David Crockett: The Lion of the West.” In the 2011 book, author Michael Wallis shatters a lot of misconceptions about Crockett. One was that he never used the common name “Davy” that many of those who lived around him saddled Crockett with. Another was that he never “killed him a b’ar” when he was only three.
The reality, however, may be that regardless what Crockett liked, there are still thousands of Texans who knew him as Davy Crockett and probably that many of them only referred to him as Crockett anyway.
But what Wallis’s book did for me is that it gave me a more complete picture of the man that David Crockett was and convinced me that when he ventured into that little mission in San Antonio he was not lost or making a bad decision, but that he was part of a groundswell of what might be called Texanism that continues even today.
Now it’s true that Crockett had already lived what many people would consider a full life long before his trek to Texas in January 1836. He and his first wife, Polly, had already brought two sons and a daughter into this world and Crockett had already fought many battles in the war against Great Britain and the Indian wars that came after it. In fact, for much of their nine years of married life, Crockett had not been at home with Polly, but had been fighting wars. Then in 1815 Polly Finlay Crockett died unexpectedly at 26 years of age.
Crockett also had served the nation in the U.S. House of Representatives and was highly regarded for his ability as a storyteller. As Wallis wrote it, “The real Crockett successfully combined his expertise with a rifle and passion for hunting with his trademark homespun humor and masterful storytelling technique. In so doing he was able to rise from the canebrakes to the halls of Congress. The stories he gathered from his adventures as a woodsman became entertainment from the backwoods that made his campaigns original and successful. In thus putting them to use, he became one of the first notable political figures to emerge from the ranks of common men and not the landed gentry.”
Crockett was swept in that mania that drives otherwise sane individuals to leave their homes and families and to put their lives on the line to defend an idea, be it liberty or a better way of life and even just the opportunity to live their life as they choose. After he left their home in Tennessee to travel to Texas where he joined the volunteers that would resist the Mexican army, Crockett swore allegiance to Texas and stated in a letter to a son and daughter that he saw in Texas the opportunity for a new start.
In that letter to Wiley Flowers in Gibson County, Tenn., Crockett wrote, “I must say as to what I have seen in Texas it is the garden spot of the world the best land and the best prospect for health I have ever saw is here and I do believe it is a fortune to any man to come here …”
Crockett also stated, “I expect in all probability to settle on the Bodark or Choctaw Bayou of Red River that I have found no doubt the richest country in the world good Land and plenty of timber and the best springs and good mill streams good range clear water and ever appearance of good health and game plenty It is in the pass where the Buffalo passes from north to south and back twice a year and bees and money plenty …”
“I have a great hope of getting the agency to settle that country and I would be glad to see every friend I have settle there It would be a fortune to them all I have taken the oath of the Government and have enrolled my name as a volunteer for six months and will set out for the Rio Grand (sic) in a few days with the volunteers from the United States all volunteers is entitled to a vote for a member of the convention or to be voted for and I have but little doubt of being elected a member to form a convention for this Province
“I am rejoiced at my fate I had rather be in my present situation than to be elected to a seat in Congress for life I am in hopes of making a fortune for my self and family as bad has been my prospects,” Crockett said in drawing his letter to a conclusion.
Wallis’s book is a good review of this frontiersman’s unique life. Crockett had an important part to play in the making of Texas. Wallis put it this way:
“Crockett’s death sums up the single most important aspect of his brief stay in Texas. His contribution to the Lone Star State resulted not so much from how he lived but how he died. His impact on Texas derives precisely from his death in that battered Spanish mission. In death he turned into an even more marketable commodity that he had been in life, and the Alamo eventually would become the state’s biggest tourist attraction and one of the most popular historic sites in the nation.
“Crockett’s death helped fuel the flames of rebellion against Mexico and also made him a celebrated martyr for the cause. This contributed to the creation of the prideful, sometimes bellicose, stereotypical image of swaggering, boastful Texans bursting with superlatives and pride when describing the land they love. Crockett’s demise also helped turn the Alamo into the ‘Cradle of Texas Liberty’ and a monument to Anglo westward expansion that became known as Manifest Destiny.”