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Folktales > Davy Crockett
"When I was only three years old, I out-wrestled a big old bear. That bear wandered into the kitchen one day and started to eat up the jam. So I grabbed him in a bear hug with my mighty twelve-inch arms, and I squeezed and I squeezed and I squeezed until that bear just fell down, ker-plunk! Just like that, wasn't nothing to it. So my folks knew right then that I was cut out to be a wild frontiersman, a ring-tailed roarer who's part horse and part alligator with a bit of snappin' turtle thrown in."
"Now when I was still just a wee lad, my pa gave me my first rifle. We all had to have a rifle back then just to survive out in the woods, 'cause there were all kinds of critters running around that wanted to eat us. So we'd eat them first. And we'd use their skins to make our clothes. I called my rifle Old Betsy, and in no time at all I got to be a powerful keen shot. Fact is, I got to be such a good shot, that the critters all heard about my reputation, and when they'd see me a-coming, they'd just surrender. Sometimes I'd come home with a whole bag full of meat on my shoulders-enough to feed my family for a whole month-on account of so many animules would surrender."
photo by Jim Sholer, San Jose CA
"One day, I was out a-walking through the woods when all of a sudden, I saw a fee-rocious mountain lion a-coming right towards me. So quicker than a rumor, I hauled Old Betsy up into position, but when I tried to fire, I discovered I was out of ammo. So I took off a-running, and I thought for sure I was goner. But then, I tripped over a rock, and that rock flew up and struck that mountain lion, and it just keeled over kerrrr-plunk! Well sir, then that rock struck a huge boulder and shattered into a bunch of itty-bitty pieces. Now one piece went a-flying way up into the air and struck a wild goose a-flying over, and that goose fell to the ground kerrr-plunk! Then another chip of rock struck a fierce grisly bear, and it also fell over kerrrr-plunk! It fell right against a big old oak tree so hard that it knocked a squirrel loose from a branch, and that squirrel fell to the ground kerrrr-plunk! And the tree itself fell over on a wild boar a-passing by, and that boar fell to the ground, kerrrr-plunk! Not only that, but a button popped loose from my shirt, and struck a little rabbit a-hopping by, and guess what -- that rabbit fell over kerrrr-plunk! And get this now: I lost my balance and went reeling for such a loop-de-loop that I fell over kerrrrr-plunk! No, wait! Actually, it was kerrrr-splash! Right into a river. And after I climbed out and dried off, I discovered that my pockets were full of 17 fish, a snappin' turtle, and a big jar of pickles somebody had lost."
"Now I met my wife, Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind Crockett, at a barn dance. She had said that she would marry any feller what could out-dance her, and she had already danced 8 of them to the ground, and was still as fresh as a daisy. Well sir, when I saw her, I thought she was the most beautiful thing I'd ever laid eyes on, so I decided to go for her hand myself. So we danced and we danced and we danced all night long and into the next day, we did reels and quadrilles and whatchamacallits, until we wore out a dozen fiddlers, and we kept on a-dancing until finally she fell down exhausted. She had met her match. So we got ourselves hitched and moved out to the wild frontier."
(Records indicate that Crockett was married twice, but neither wife was named Sally Ann.)
"Well sir, I got myself elected to Congress on account of my bravery in battle, and I moved to Washington, where I did all sorts of things to make this a greater nation. Sometimes I was called upon to solve all kinds of problems. I'll never forget the big freeze of Eighteen-Something-Or-Other. Or maybe it was Seventeen-Something-Or-Other. Anyhow, it snowed and snowed and snowed for days on end-even though it was the middle of May. And everything turned to a solid block of ice. And it was so cold that whenever anybody would say something, why, their words would just freeze in midair. And if you wanted to know what they were a-saying, you'd have to pluck their words down out of the air, pop 'em into a frying pan, and toast 'em well done. So I mounted up on my horse, and took off a-riding up to the North Pole, where all the cold weather comes from. And when I got there, I saw right away what the problem was: a humongous comet had passed too close to the Earth, and gotten its tail all tangled up in the North Pole, so the Earth was stuck, and couldn't move like it was supposed to. So I just grabbed the tail end of that comet in my mighty hands and untangled it from the North Pole, and then I gave it a big twirl and let it go a-flying out into space like a stone from a slingshot. Then I put my ear to the ground to see if everything was okay again, but I just got my ear stuck to the ground. So I knew I'd have to climb down into the center of the Earth and have a look-see. And when I got down there, you know what I saw? I saw that because the Earth was stuck in one position for so long, the gears were all jammed together, and couldn't move. So I had to give 'em a couple of good hard kicks to get 'em a-rolling again. And by the time I got back to Washington, D.C., all the trees were a-blossoming again, and all of the rivers were a-flowing again, all on account of my heroic deeds."
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Davy Crockett was born on a mountaintop in Tennessee (1786). He was a rugged frontiersman who befriended the Indians and helped keep the peace between them and the settlers. He was elected to Congress and, after losing a reelection bid, died a hero's death at The Alamo (1836). These are the facts about David Crockett. But what most folks remember is the fiction (and the coonskin cap that started out as a gag but became his trademark). Specifically, we remember the tall tales he told about himself to entertain his friends in Washington. Actually, Davy didn't invent most of these yarns; he simply adapted them from backwoods folk tales that had been passed on to him from other sources. But in so doing, he made them uniquely his own, and established himself, some say, as a better storyteller than he was statesman or soldier. His stories began to be published during his lifetime, and have remained popular to this day. We've adapted a few of them for stage presentation, including this one.
This version adapted from the stage production written by Dennis Goza.
Legend has it that when the Mexican army stormed the Alamo, Davy stood his ground and continued firing Old Betsy until he ran out of ammunition, after which he wielded the rifle as a club, knocking many of the enemy senseless until they overpowered him. But this is probably not true. It's also possible that, he surrendered and was put to death after the battle was over. According to some reports, the prisoners initially were promised by a Mexican officer that their lives would be spared, but then someone higher in the chain of command gave the order for their execution. In any case, with all the colorful stories about how Davy lived, it's only natural that there also should be colorful stories about how he died.