Break out your coonskin cap, it’s Davy Crockett’s 230th birthday

A portion of a portrait of David Crockett by John Gadsby Chapman from 1834. Photo by the Library of Congress.

A portion of a portrait of David Crockett by John Gadsby Chapman from 1834. Photo by the Library of Congress.

David “Davy” Crockett was born Aug. 17, 1786, back when the government was still signing treaties with Native Americans and Mozart was making a celebrated return to opera.

True, he was born in Tennessee, but anybody who died defending the Alamo — as Crockett did in 1836 — probably gets a free pass to be as Texan as he wants to be.

To celebrate Crockett’s 230th birthday, here are 10 facts about the frontiersman-turned-politician-turned-Texian:

10. Crockett ran away from home at the age of 13 after his father tried tried to beat him for skipping school — a habit he started after beating up a larger student who had been bullying him.

9. In their own Top 10 list, Mental Floss noted that Crockett claimed to have killed 105 bears during a single seven-month stretch. But we’re going to break down the math for you: That’s an average of one bear every other day.

Another portrait of David Crockett. Photo by the Library of Congress

Another portrait of David Crockett. Photo by the Library of Congress

8. Crockett had a national reputation as a sharpshooter (with rifle “Ol’ Betsy”) and hunter. James Kirk Paulding’s play “The Lion of the West” opened in New York City in 1831 and the hero, Nimrod Wildfire, was based on Crockett. Two thoughts: Before Bugs Bunny derided Elmer Fudd as a “nimrod,” the name was associated with the “mighty hunter” Nimrod in the Bible. Also, “Nimrod Wildfire” is an excellent name for a band.

7. Crockett was ahead of his time in voting against President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. He was the only member of the Tennessee delegation to oppose it and it may have cost him his political career. He was defeated and elected and defeated once more, but in the end told the people of his district “You may all go to hell and I will go to Texas.”

6. Crockett arrived in Nacogdoches in early January and signed an oath to the Provisional Government of Texas, before heading for San Antonio. By late February, Crockett and the other Texans, however newly minted, were holed up in the Alamo, surrounded by Santa Anna’s Mexican Army. If you remember the Alamo, the end was inevitable. The larger force eventually rushed the defenders and overwhelmed them.

5. The legend is that Crockett was found among a pile of dead Mexican soldiers, his knife plunged into one, and that he died heroically (and probably said something really awesome right before he did). But other accounts claimed he was among a group of Texians that surrendered and was later executed.

4. Crockett would likely be a much smaller public figure today if not for the 1950 Disney TV show, with native Texan Fess Parker in the starring role. The show was such a hit that millions of dollars worth of merchandise was quickly sold, including untold numbers of kids’ coonskin caps, and four different versions of “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” were on the Billboard pop chart in 1955.

3. And then there’s this …

2. In addition to Fess Parker, the actors to portray Crockett include John Wayne, Billy Bob Thornton, Johnny Cash and Bob Schneider. (Yes, you might know him as “Bo Duke.”)

Actor Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett, left, fights off a Mexican soldier in a scene from Touchstone Pictures' 'The Alamo.' The movie did not perform well.

Actor Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett, left, fights off a Mexican soldier in a scene from Touchstone Pictures’ ‘The Alamo.’ The movie did not perform well.

1. And an honor you didn’t expect (from Wikipedia):

The M-28 or M-29 Davy Crockett Weapon System was the tactical nuclear recoilless gun (smoothbore) for firing the M-388 nuclear projectile that was deployed by the United States during the Cold War. It was one of the smallest nuclear weapon systems ever built. It is named after American soldier, congressman, and American folk hero Davy Crockett.

 


View Comments 0