As a child I wanted to grow up and be just like Davy Crockett. Many a day was spent with my trusty BB gun and coon skin cap hunting for “bar” in the backyard. When he was alive I used to go out of my way to stay at a hotel owned by Fess Parker simply because he was the “King of the Wild Frontier.” (Although I never pictured Davy in the hospitality trade).
So you can imagine my disappointment when I read the in the book, “Davy Crockett’s Own Story,” that Davy’s hat was not made of coon skin but of fox. And heaven forbid, Davy spent just as much time being a politician as he did hunting for bear. I know these are facts because the book was written by Davy himself and he would never lie to me. What Davy Crockett was really good at was story telling and after reading some of his tall tales I aspire to be like him now more than ever. After getting to know Davy Crockett I like the man even more than the myth.
We tend to think Davy ate nothing but bear grease and wild turkey but he liked eating beef and he often shot for them. No, he didn’t shoot other people’s cattle… .he contested for their beef.
“In the latter part of summer, recalled Davy, “when their cattle got very fat some of the folks desirous of raising money on one of their fatted beeves would advertise that on a particular day, a first rate beef would be shot for.”
Each shooter would buy chances at the beef. Each chance cost a quarter and entitled you to one shot at a target. The owner of the beef would sell enough chances to pay for the beef. Two non-shooting woodsmen were selected as judges but as Davy remarked, “Many a judge was like a handle on a jug… all on one side.”
Every shooter took how ever many shots he’d paid for. The person who was fifth closest to the “X” on their target received a front quarter of beef as did the fourth place finisher. The third and second closest to the mark each took a hindquarter. Guess what the Grand Prize was? “The shot that drives the center or comes closest to it,” explained Davy, “got the hide and tallow which is considered first choice.” The sixth closest to the mark got the booby prize; “The lead in the tree against which we shot.”
Davy was a good shot but perhaps not as great as his reputation. When the citizens of Philadelphia made a present to Davy of his beloved rifle, “Betsy,” they asked him to display his marksmanship in a shooting match with Philadelphia’s finest. In the first go-round Davy won as expected. But in the next round a local marksman put his lead right through the center of the target and Davy afterwards missed the target entirely. The crowd was aghast but Davy employed a little trick he probably learned in politics. He went to the target and sneakily shoved a piece of lead into the bullseye while he was pretending to examine the target. Then he explained to the crowd, “I think if you will examine the target you will find two lead balls in that hole.” Sure enough when the officials dug out the bulls eye they found two pieces of lead and the legend of Davy Crockett was preserved.
Davy was a decent fellow who had to work hard to catch up to his growing reputation. He likened fame to what a fellow named Pat said as he fell from a tall church steeple. “This would be mighty pleasant now,” said Pat during his free fall, “if only it would last.”