Friday, October 8, 2010

Davy Crockett

Lately I have been in the mood to read a biography. When I checked the bio section at the used book store it was rather slim pickings. All they had was movie star hype or books about political figures I'm already more familiar with than my stomach can stand.

So, I stepped into the little Descanso branch of the SD county library system. There I spotted a book titled, "Davy Crockett's Own Story, as written by himself". Who knew Davy wrote, or even considered such things?

There is dispute about whether he actually wrote it or had others do it for him. I tend to agree with whoever wrote the notes in the book: it is likely the majority is authentic Davy, with possible grammar and spelling help from others, which Davy suggests is the case in the book. They have excerpts from speeches he made and the style is somewhat distinct. Also, it seems a very introspective sort of thing, in a Davy sort of way.

The biggest surprise to me was that Crockett was a representative in Congress more than once. He was heavily interested in the events of the day. He didn't start out so much on top of that, but after being elected he learned. He supported Jackson's run for president, but once Andy was in office Davy was appalled at what he considered the overstepping, power grabbing and disregard for the Constitution and public funds.

He rants about Jackson throughout the book. He'll be telling the story of a bear hunt and compare some event to the behavior of Congress or "the Government" (a nickname for Jackson, implying Andy considered himself above the law). All that, I found unexpected.

I expected heroics beginning at age 3, and homespun BS thereafter. Instead you get the story of a guy who at times seemed to struggle to keep from getting a swelled head from fame (he was the equivalent of a rock star in that day) and a man who was very broadminded and quick on the uptake.

His chronicle involving a trip throughout New England was particularly interesting. He was impressed with the factories and praised the people, their ingenuity, drive, hospitality and manner. Hardly what one might expect from a Tennessee back woods hick. He paid very close attention in the factories to see how things were done and how the workers seemed to view their lot, etc.

Other than to bears, he appears to have been kind and generous, even giving some of his opponents the benefit of the doubt. He was a consummate campaigner. It is funny how he admitted he knew little about the issues, especially the first time, but by making jokes and treating everyone to a drink, he did very well. He also like to remain noncommittal whenever in doubt on the campaign trail. A word he used more than once in describing his approach.

His reasons for going to Texas were because he felt the US government had become too corrupt--he thought an election was unfairly and crookedly stolen from him by Jackson/Van Buren people---and he felt like the Texas cause was one of freedom. I think he knew he was risking it all even before they figured out Santa Ana had huge numbers headed their way.

He also explains some background which makes the assertion that Texas was greedily stolen from Mexico a bit questionable. Today many forget that Texas gained its independence as a republic before becoming a state. To some extent I think he felt let down and unappreciated after some political dirty tricks left him high and dry and somewhat smeared in the press. I think the smear actually was devious and unfounded. You can get a sense of these things, even hearing one side. (I can spot a lopsided documentary even when slickly edited).

People actually did talk in terms of live free or die, liberty and all that. You get a little bit of a better more rounded picture of how this place developed, who made it happen, and who caused trouble through books like this and the one I read about John McLaughlin in the Northwest. It doesn't sugar coat things but it gives a little more credit than the way these people have recently been painted.

The amount of moving from place to place and traveling some of those people did is surprising considering that much was on foot or horse/mule and cart. And by boat.

I don't think Davy was much like the old TV series. Maybe a little. But not a lot. Another of those surprises.

Next, I'd like to read a good bio on Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun. Most likely, neither of them graced us with an autobiography or comprehensive book of memoirs.


  1. What more do you need to know about Davy than he kilt a b'ar, wore coonskin caps and looked like Fess Parker?

    Seriously, sounds like a worthwhile and fascinating book. It's now on my list. Bios are my favorite reading; wish I still had a copy of Ten Great Men Who Started as Grocery Clerks....

  2. The interesting thing is he didn't kill a b'ar when he was only three. His gun was named Betsy, though. The story of where he got that gun is another story that surprised me. That guy definitely got around.


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