The thought of having to make a speech made my knees feel mighty weak, and set my heart to fluttering almost as bad as my first love scrape with the Quaker’s niece. But as good luck would have it, these big candidates spoke nearly all day, and when they quit, the people were worn out with fatigue, which afforded me a good apology for not discussing the government. — David Crockett, 1786 -1836.
Growing up in western North Carolina, I heard a lot about Davy Crockett. He was an icon in southern Appalachia — frontiersman, soldier, congressman, advocate for the poor. He was a complex man, but became almost a caricature when Disney Corporation did a series of television programs about him in the 1950’s. By the end of the series, every child in the southern mountains knew about coonskin caps and buckskin and could sing every lyric about the man who was “born on a mountain top in Tennessee” and “killed him a bear when he was only three.”
I visited Davy’s homeplace in Limestone, Tennessee last fall. It’s not on a mountain top. And I don’t know how a three-year old could possibly kill a bear. The truth about Mr. Crockett lies somewhere beyond the image created by television producers, storytellers, and his fellow politicians. I guess that’s the case for anyone who ever became famous or ran for office.
If Davy was around today, I hope he’d use his humor and clout to remind political candidates, “You’re wearing out the people. Don’t talk about the government all day!” And with the holidays coming up, maybe Davy could tell the people, in turn: “Best not to bring up politics at family gatherings. It can set the heart to fluttering.”