My dad was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1953. When I called him and asked him about Davy, before I could finish the description of what I needed, he belted out “Born on the Mountain top in Tennessee, greenest state in the land of the free Raised in the woods so’s he knew ev’ry tree, kilt him a b’ar when he was only three, Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier!”.
I was not too surprised. My dad is the epitome of a kid that would have been a Crocket fan. A frontier man himself, he is from the south and continually travelled West throughout his life. He loved riding horseback and continues to hunt, fish, and all sorts of Crocket activities.(Max Clough on the frontier)
As a kid, my dad’s parents gave him a lot of freedom and were not as concerned with keeping him within the fence of the back yard. He was encouraged to play around the neighborhood and was always given the responsibility of looking after his two younger brothers.
An aspect of Davy that my dad recalls emulating was his leadership. In the TV series, my dad remembers, he was a folk hero who he respected for doing the right thing regardless of the authority. Growing up in a bigotted south, Davy exemplified a man who was fair, as seen through his treatment of Indians. By no means was my dad holding protests for civil rights because he saw Davy be merciful with Indians, but he remembers the fact that Davy made it “cool” to be a leader and be separate from the general ideology.
One thing I found very interesting was the way that Davy was depicted in the Crockett movies, according to my dad. In one movie, Davy becomes a congressman who stands up for the rights of Indians. My dad always admired the fact that Davy was a political figure but always straddled the line of wanting to help social causes, and wanting to enjoy life in the hills of Tennessee as a frontiersman.
In terms of the “textual poaching” we talked about in class, my dad used Davy as a figure that represented a social leader and also someone that inhabited the “innocence” as the frontiersman that Griffin references.
When I asked my dad if girls looked up to Davy the way he did, he said, “they might have looked up to him but it was more of a ‘wow! I hope my husband when I grow up is like that guy’, rather than putting on the coonskin cap and trying to be a frontiersman themselves”. Especially in the south at this time, my dad says, the genders were very separated and the thought of a girl trying to be Davy Crockett was very unusual. “Guys did guy stuff, and girls did girl stuff”, he said. Griffin’s reference of the song with Davy kissing Marilyn Monroe and the “patriarchal construct” that this represented was very indicative of the picture my dad painted of the time.
Some of my dad’s fondest memories of being a kid were the birthday parties he attended. At every party, you could distinguish who was invited by the birthday boy and who was invited by the moms because all of the kids who were invited by the birthday boy would be the rebels and all the kids invited by the mom were yankees. As a young kid, my dad could never figure out how the confederates lost the war because every time they played, the rebels always won. Another privilege remained for the originally invited kids. They got to wear the coonskins. I found it amazing that these kids still played games around the civil war, which would seem to promote the slavery and inequality that occurred in the South at the time.
Interestingly enough, my dad loved Davy for his fairness towards the minority Indians, and yet the “racist” confederates got to wear the coonskins. This irony was indicative of the decade and is highlighted in the episode of Davy Crockett that we watched where Davy encourages the Indian to make the treaty with the white government. The Indian refuses saying his tribe does not trust the white government because they do not keep promises. Davy replies with “but Davy Crockett always keeps his word”. The decade may have had icons like Davy who encouraged fairness and mercy, yet white society was still extremely segregated and seperated in strict gender roles. The child-like “innocence” that Griffin emphasizes of the post-war attitude masked the true inequality of the era.