Ruining History for Everyone

Davy Crockett Coonskin CapThe other night, I was watching Turner Classic Movies give an evening-long tribute to Walt Disney. You whippersnappers cannot appreciate the impact of Walt Disney on us early Baby Boomers. We were immersed in The Magic Kingdom, on television and in the movies. And nothing got us more excited than Davy Crockett. Old Walt was probably surprised down to his toes when what he thought were just three interesting episodes for his television show became every American kid’s obsession. He was never one to turn down an opportunity, so he took the three episodes and made them into a feature film called “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,” starring Fess Parker and Buddy Ebsen.

Like most other kids in America, I devoured both the TV episodes and the movie. In those days, kids could go to the movies for less than a dollar, and the Capitol Theater in Yakima, Washington was the one that showed first-run films. There were other movie theaters in the area, but the Capitol had class. It had been a vaudeville theater and it had a real stage behind the big movie screen. It was also used as a concert hall. I got to sing there once, after I won a local music contest. I sang an aria from Gounod’s “Romeo & Juliet.” I was young then, and I thought I was hot shit. I still do.

Anyway, Davy Crockett filled the big screen in the Capitol Theater and had all of us in complete awe. I think even some of our parents were swooped up into the frenzy. Davy Crockett merchandise appeared everywhere. I really, really wanted one of those fake coonskin hats that the Country Store was selling in big stacks, but so did my brother and my sister. My Mom, who never got swooped up into anything, refused to buy three of those hats. She bought one for all three of us. I will spare all of you the details of the domestic havoc this caused. Davy Crockett was no wimp and neither were his followers.

So anyway, there I was the other night, sitting in front of my TV taking a trip down Memory Lane. I watched the whole damned movie. I sang the Davy Crockett Song (“Born on a Mountaintop in Tennessee …”). I was thrilled to be reliving childhood.

The film gets the major events in Davy Crockett’s life right. He had a wife named Polly who died. He served under Andrew Jackson and fought Native Americans, who were called Indians because white people were stupid. He served a couple of terms in Congress. He went to Texas and died at the Alamo.

The film gets a lot of things wrong, though.

1. Davy Crockett died at the Alamo, but not while standing on the ramparts swinging Old Betsy. He survived the actual battle, and was executed the next day. This doesn’t make him any less heroic, but damn! If you’re going to make the history books, the least you can do when you’re going to get killed is to stand in full view of the enemy, making yourself a target while swinging the butt end of a rifle back and forth. The real Davy was too smart to do that, which ruins it for the rest of us.

2. Davy Crockett had two wives and several children. He married again after Polly died. You can’t blame him for that, but the movie is so much more romantic. He mourns for Polly all the way up until he gets killed by Mexican soldiers who are mad at him for swinging his rifle at their heads.

3. The real Davy didn’t walk out of Congress because he got mad. He left the usual way, by being voted out of office.

4. He probably never had a sidekick named George Russell. George Russell is a figment of some writer’s imagination. My apologies to Buddy Ebsen, wherever he is (he’s dead).

Last but not least:

5. The real Davy was better looking than Fess Parker.

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7 thoughts on “Ruining History for Everyone”

    1. Yes, but a bar of what?

      Any three year old can kill a bar of chocolate, right?

      None of us ever thought of that in the old days. It takes a mature brain to grasp such a problem.

  1. I’ll either have to remember that one or forget it. I’ll let you know what I decide. 😉 😀

    1. He “killt him a baar when he was only three,” according to the song. In the movie he is interrupted while trying to grin a bear to death. I think he ends up having to wrestle the bear, but I don’t really remember that part. I was still trying to make sense of that grinning thing.

      No matter what, the bear was destined to end up as dinner.

  2. Which begs the question “How many ears did Davy Crockett have?” Three – a right ear, a left ear and a wild front ear!

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