Monday, November 1, 2010

Famous Last Words

Magnet # 383:  Davy Crockett Quote

Material:  Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By:  Dad

It was on this day in 1835 that Davy Crockett made good on his word, leaving his home in West Tennessee and heading off to Texas with three other explorers.  Many tend to think of him as a frontiersman from Tennessee and a hero who perished in the Alamo, but forget that he was also a Congressman.  Early in life, he joined the Tennessee Militia and was voted Lieutenant Colonel and got his first taste of leadership.  He'd grown up the fifth of nine children.  Soon, Crockett was pursuing a life in public service, becoming a justice of the peace, town commissioner, and later served in the Tennessee legislature.  After one unsuccessful run for Congress, he was able to win a seat in the United States of Representatives in 1827.  His time there was hardly uneventful - his opposition to President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal act caused him to lose his re-election bid.  But he ran once more in 1833, winning again.  And in 1835, he faced yet another tough fight to keep his seat.  It was then that he spoke the words that would shape the rest of his life "I told the people of my district that I would serve them faithfully as I had done; but it may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas."  He lost by a narrow margin.  For some time, Crockett had been contemplating a move west to Texas, where he could perhaps have a better shot at a successful political career and make a fortune as a land agent.  And he was particularly interested in their fight for independence.  So, true to his fateful statement, he kissed his family goodbye with the intent of sending for them later and left for greener pastures.  At nearly every stop along his journey, crowds gathered to hear the famous frontiersman speak.  By 1836, Crockett and his entourage had made it to Texas, where they took the oath of government and were promised around 4,600 acres of land.  He met with other fighters there, including James Bowie, before heading to the Alamo.  He arrived on February 8th, meeting with a force of about 187 men.  And nearly all of the were shocked when Santa Anna showed up with well over 2,000 soldiers before the month was up.  Crockett and the men at the Alamo didn't back down, holding off the force for almost two weeks.  But, as we all know, the Alamo finally fell, and Crockett died when it did.  There are conflicting accounts as to how the fighter actually went.  One tells that some of the men surrendered, only to perish when Santa Anna order their execution, and that Crockett was among them.  Based on his many documented, bold actions, that story is somewhat difficult to swallow.  But one survivor of the conflict, a former American slave named Ben who had served as cook for one of the Mexican officers, maintained that Crockett didn't die easily.  According to him, the body of the "King of the Wild Frontier" was found surrounded by well over a dozen Mexican corpses and that his knife had been shoved deep into one of them.  Along with the other defenders of the Alamo, Crockett's body suffered the indignity of being stripped and burned per Santa Anna's wishes.  We're still not quite sure what happened to their ashes.  Some think that they were buried a year later under a peach tree in a simple wooden coffin, but another in the San Fernando Cathedral, located in San Antonio, is said to hold them.  Fortunately, we don't need to know where these bodies are nowadays to honor the bravery and sacrifice of Crockett and the other defenders of the Alamo.

I don't think Crockett made it out to Lake Travis, just outside of Austin, in his travels, but the Oasis, a popular restaurant there, still featured his memorable quote on their magnet.  It's proof of just how popular he has stayed over the years.  There was a time after his death when few remembered Davy Crockett.  But thanks to Disney's 1950's television programs, his legend was reintroduced to a new generation, and it hasn't died away with subsequent ones.  He's been portrayed by some rather noteworthy entertainers, including Billy Bob Thornton, Johnny Cash, and even the legendary John Wayne in the 1960 film The Alamo, which he also produced and directed.  Wayne had actually planned on playing the much smaller part of Sam Houston so he could focus on his other duties, but his financiers convinced him to play a lead.  It's actually become one of his most famous roles.  Crockett may have died a premature death at the Alamo, but it doesn't seem as though his legend will follow him to the grave.  He continues to fascinate us with his rough and rugged, yet honest, ways and it's just a matter of time before another actor takes on this iconic role.

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