Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so he knew every tree,
killed himself a bar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!
I hummed that ditty to myself all last weekend and even sang it to my daughter on my cell phone. She was shocked that I managed to stay in tune.
In case she didn’t get it, I pointed out that “bar” is how they said “bear” back on the wild frontier.
My wife and I were in Tennessee to attend the graduation of my niece and goddaughter Shelby, younger daughter of my brother Bobby who has lived in Knoxville for the last ten years or so. His older daughter, Teri, is a junior at the University of Tennessee.
Being in Davy Crockett’s home state completed, in reverse, a couple of things that surely would be on my bucket list, if I had one. Last October when Greta got married in San Antonio, I got to visit the Alamo, where Davy Crockett died.
Why the fascination with Davy Crockett?
If you were my age, you wouldn’t ask.
We Baby Boomers have worn a lot of tags. The Woodstock Generation. The Vietnam Generation. The Beatles Generation.
No one ever called us The Davy Crockett Generation. But they could have.
Davy Crockett was the subject of a TV series on the Walt Disney show in the 1950s. The term “mini series” had yet to be coined, but that’s basically what it was. I was six or seven years old and glued to the set. So was every kid I knew. There were only three channels in those days, and on Sunday night, Disney was a must.
Fess Parker (I still love that name) didn’t just play Davy Crockett. To us, he was Davy Crockett.
Man, what any of us would have given for a coonskin cap. But nobody got those kinds of things in the ’50s. We settled for memorizing the theme song.
Disney did do an episode on the Alamo. We all knew what happened there, but did not have to witness it in our living rooms. The Alamo episode ended with everyone dead except Davy, who stood alone atop the wall swinging his empty hunting rifle at attacking Mexican soldiers as the credits rolled.
Walt Disney had a conscience.
Things were different when the movie The Alamo came out in 1960. I was ten. And watching Davy, this time portrayed by John Wayne, run through with a sword, stayed with me for months. On second thought, make that the rest of my life. I can still vividly picture the scene.
Even last fall, standing in the Alamo, I asked myself the same question I asked as a little boy: “Why did Davy Crockett have to die?”
But he was alive in my mind last weekend. And, proud Pennsylvanian that I am, I have to admit, Tennessee just might be the greenest state in the land of the free.