Author Michael Wallis joins the Based on a True Story podcast to separate fact from the fiction we saw in Disney’s 1955 film Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier.
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Dan LeFebvre: [00:02:21] Before we get into some of the specific details and storylines that we see in Davy Crockett, King of the wild frontier. I always like to take a step back and just get a sense for how it historian and author feels about the movie. So overall, what did you think about the way they portrayed Davy Crockett onscreen in the movie?
Michael Wallis: [00:02:43] That’s a two prong answer to that question. The first prong is this. How did I feel about it? When I first saw the film and for saw the TV shows, I was ecstatic because I was, you know, an eight year old kid. my dreams came true. David Crockett leaped out of that big screen right into my lap and the percentage of says Parker, and he was everything I had thought he would be dark skin, raccoon app, a big long gun, and you know, killing bears and just bigger than life.
So I thought it was great. I thought it was great. Great film. But as I matured and grew up and became interested in history, and of course developed this writing career mine, I learned more and more about the true Davy crack. And that’s what really sparked my interest in, in writing a book. David crack had King of the wild frontier is perfectly great if you’re a big guy, kid.
sitting down and, and w watching a rerun of it on the tube or R or even reading some of the vintage books for kids about Crockett that largely came out when I was a kid back in the fifties. But it was also time to tell the adult story, the true story of Crockett and my agent, my editors agreed. And I sat down and, opened a vein as I always do in the process of writing and came out with David Crockett, the lion of the West.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:04:32] That leads directly into my next question, which is around how the movie starts. Now, according to the opening song in the movie. We hear that the year is 1813 and the movie refers to him as general Andy Jackson leading the fight against the creeks. As the song kind of plays out and we see this animated arrow hitting a Fort in the woods as it burst into flame, kind of punctuates the war.
And this is how we first meet Fest Parker’s version of Davy Crockett in the movie as a scout for general Jackson’s soldiers. Now was the movie correct. And showing that Davy Crockett was a scout for general Andrew as opposed to Andy Jackson soldiers.
Michael Wallis: [00:05:18] Would crack it did during that Creek war, as it’s called, around the war of 18, 12 was become a member of the Tennessee militia, and that was all under the command of general Andrew Jackson or old Hickory is the Anglo population called him the native American population, the creeks, the Cherokees, the various, the five tribes that were ultimately.
Or removed at point a bandit and brought to Oklahoma at that time, Indian territory. Okay. His name in English was sharp knife. It wasn’t old Hickory, but he had some interaction with Jackson, but he wasn’t, he was never constantly at Jackson side or conferring with him and so forth, but he did serve under him and he served in that Creek war.
But he did not take a lot of pleasure in that war and his experiences experiencing combat and death up close and personal there really made a Mark on mr Crockett and, ultimately became the source of a problem that came to the surface many years later when Andrew Jackson became president.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:06:40] Another main character that we see at this point was George Russell, Davy Crockett sidekick.
Was he actually a real person as well?
Michael Wallis: [00:06:47] George Russell played by buddy Edson. Was that sort of day, Gary, and all of these type of films and stories, this conquering hero has to have a sidekick, you know, for every, Roy Rogers, there has to be, now Dale Evans or a Pat Bactrim. You just need sidekicks. And really what he was, was a composite character.
He was a little bit of this guy and a little bit of that guy and served his purpose, the sort of the central ponds up to Crockett’s down Kioti.
Now in the movie, we’re kind of thrust into the war between the United States and the Creek nation. We don’t get a lot of context from the movie about what is going on. We just, the movie implies that the United States are the good guys and the creeks are the bad guys, but of course with any war, it’s all a matter of perspective.
Can you give us a little bit more historical context for this war that was going on that we see in the movie between the U S and the Creek
nation? Well, sure. During those years, the war of 1812, which it went on for a couple of years, we were finding great Britain, but a lot of the tribes were taking sides either and with the, the new fairly new United States are, or with Britain.
And that certainly happened in, in the mid South and deep South where I’m, most of all this conflict took place and over to the Eastern seaboard. So. The Cherokee tribe, a large, significant Southeastern tribe train too. Get along with the United States and the government, but also maintain their own integrity and heritage as the other tribes on it too.
The allied with the American forces. And so you had them fighting along with the militias from Tennessee and Georgia and so forth against the creeks. And ultimately what happened is. There were many, many, of course, Jackson and his troops and allies, best of them all. And eventually, of course, beat them into submission, hence the name sharp knife, but also it caused some dissension among the tribes and what it did for me, mr Crockett.
Yes. Brah lanky frontiersman, as I said, was experiencing combat for the first time. It really troubled him because he witnessed, we can only be called atrocities or burning the villages to killing of women and children. Everything that every war is cracked up to be and nothing romantic, nothing noble about war.
It is just to coin a phrase hell. And that really, it was driven home to Crockett. He had no problem going out and slaying beasts in the forest. He wasn’t from tears, man. He was actually a professional Hunter who was a bear Hunter, probably killed between 315 400 bears in his life. And he, he could do that.
And it didn’t bother him, but he was, he had known need to see or kill any or see anyone else killed. And that’s very important because once again, I’ll refer to years later and we’ll get to that point. His decision and how that war influenced him, came to cause the end of his relationship as it was with, with Andrew Jackson.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:10:39] Great point there that you know there’s a, there’s a difference between the frontiersman and experiencing war there. As you were mentioning that though, made me curious about how old was Crockett around that
Michael Wallis: [00:10:52] time. Well, let’s do the math. I don’t think this is giving the story away. Crack. It died in 1836 at the age of 49 much too young.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:11:07] 25 26 roughly.
Michael Wallis: [00:11:10] Yeah. Right in there. Right in that period. Yeah. And at that time he, he was, and he was throughout his adult life as a writer his whole life, actually. He was a very vital man. He was. Very robust. He was a man of the American frontier, which start it on the Eastern coast of the United States and just marched westward, and by the time crack it had come of age, the frontier was where he lived because of it.
That invisible line had come to the mid South and was approaching the big river, the Mississippi. And it soon would be the trans Mississippi West and we would keep going and going. The editorial we, until of course, we hit the Pacific shore, and so he was just about a decade ahead of that remarkable, interesting period.
We call manifest destiny, which started in the mid forties. About a decade after crackin died, and that’s, that’s of course a whole nother story, but he was one of the early foot soldiers, if you will, of what became manifest destiny. And it would have been interesting to see how he would have reacted because again, this whole notion, the Anglo population of the country, we’re somehow blessed by this God who looked down and said, you have the manifest destiny.
It’s your destiny to conquer this whole continent. And everyone bought in to that because that land can be ours and there’s no one out there. Well, there were in fact, a lot of people out there, a good hunk of that real estate along to Mexico, including Texas in that whole Western shore and the entire American Southwest and from Mexico, from today’s Mexico border up to Canada.
You know, it was just the height of arrogance and crack. It would probably, I would predict, you have not thought too much of that. He may have eventually gone out to California himself because he was gypsy footed and he liked to keep on the move, but he certainly wouldn’t have had the same attitude that many people have about.
All the many, many Indian tribes lived in that area forever and ever, and all the Mexican citizens who who resigned it there again, that goes back to is integrity and the fact that he just didn’t want to see people die and not be treated as human beings.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:14:02] What we see a little bit of that, at least I get this implication from the movie.
When we see Davy Crockett go against the leader of the creeks in the movie, at least it’s a chief named red stick, and we see this happen with a one on one fight where he tracks down the chief red stick and he has this one-on-one fight with the chief and he ends up. Beating him, but then chief red says he’s not going to trust the government because they’re not, you know, he’s not going to join the treaty, but David crack it gives him his word that you can go home and live peacefully on your land.
It’s, you know, I’m giving you my word. They shake hands and the movie just implies, Oh, the war is over. Everybody gets to go home and live in peace and thanks to Davey Crockett’s negotiation skills. He solved everything. That’s kind of how the movie shows things happening. But I’m sure that that’s not how things actually happen.
Can you explain how that war came to an end and was Davy Crockett involved in any of that? Well,
Michael Wallis: [00:15:04] no. I mean, that’s of course that Hollywood, that’s uncle Walt Disney’s version, and it’s all saying good to tie it up in a nice little package with it. A pretty bow. No, it was not a negotiator. He did not have a famous or infamous battle go to combat with the chief at all.
What happened ultimately at the close of those house Skellys. Jackson, of course, ended up in down on the Gulf coast and the final battle, really the war, the armistice was very bitten, had already been written by the time, but he didn’t get the word and time and there was very famous and romanticize battle of new Orleans where he enlisted the help of the famous pirate Buccaneer her with the feet.
And his rough eons, and they killed many of the British soldiers who were walking right into their musket fire and of course, as we often do in this country, and that ultimately insured Jackson years later, his rise to the presidency. We love to elect war heroes to office. But what the Cherokees we’re not counting on is that all these gestures about adopting Lea, the white culture and so forth, would do them no good.
They could accept the white man’s God, take on his language, take on his lifestyle, even dress like him. Some of them did. And they started a plantation system with cotton and which meant they acquired slaves, African slaves, just like the white folks did. And guess what? When the time came, Andrew Jackson, who by that time was the president of the United States and no lover of Indians and all had them removed and taken off their land, their ancestral land.
There was some discovery of gold and Georgia. Well, we have to get to that goal. So the Cherokees, the creeks, the chart toes, the Chickasaws, the Seminoles, all had to be uprooted and on a variety and many, many, not just one. There were many, many trails of tears. Taking these people from ancestral homes, from their native land, and moving them into Indian territory.
Today’s Oklahoma, many of them died along the way. They were marched off at point of ban it and on land and on water. He trails of tears. They, they came here, but before that happened, we had Crockett rise up. Like really a hero, a numb sung hero, as it were to take Jackson on and try to prevent that from happening.
And that story is very important and really virtually unknown by most people who aren’t familiar with the true story of Crockett.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:18:19] How did he take on Jackson then? Or is that getting ahead of our story?
Michael Wallis: [00:18:23] Not a lot. We’re going to jump ahead some years because what happened to Crockett eventually, well, after the Creek war to the rest of the teens and into the 1820s and so forth, is it, he kept up with his frontier way of life and his wife and children and hunting and carrying on, but he also became interested in politics.
And he had a, a natural ability to spell bound an audience with his storytelling. And that led him eventually to who? Local office stayed office in Tennessee. And miraculously, this frontier men was elected to the U S Congress. And that was a time when most of the people in political office on a national level, we’re from the upper classes, so it was, he was really a, a novelty when he came to Washington.
But the way he’s portrayed and in film is, you know, more of a country bumpkin and any, wasn’t he? He was an intelligent man. He was illiterate. He was a reader. You know, he, could really keep an audience, as I said, spell balance. That’s what helped him politically. And when he saw. What was going on with Jackson and Jackson’s cronies in there move to expel all these Indian tribes to Indian territory.
He stood up against it. He stood up against it in the halls of Congress. He railed against them and the halls of Congress. He told Jackson, please stop. We have trouble. These people, enough, enough is enough. Let them be any, really, not only took on Jackson, but his constituents. So they, he betrayed them.
These, well wealthy Tennessee landowners, these poor dirt farmers, the squatters. All of them wanted that Indian land and let’s take it, get rid of them, put them in their own little place, let them run out there in Indian territory and crack had said no. And that was when probably one of the most daring and dangerous moves a political figure could make.
And it really. And did his political career right there in Washington and Jackson and his cohorts found a candidate to run against Crockett for another term in Congress. And he beat him. He was beaten as Crocket always liked to say, and he was a fond of coming up with memorable phrases. I was beaten by a one legged man.
He was beaten in Congress and the Indian removal bill was passed and then the inevitable happen. Then all those trails of tears became filled with the population from all of those five tribes and many more to come. Today in Oklahoma, if you go into a convenience store, a bait shop, a Walmart, and there’s an old Creek or an old Cherokee there, sometime, young ones, and you see a cash transaction being made many times, and I’ve witnessed this several times, if the cashier clerk hands them and change a $20 bill, they will not touch it.
Let’s say no, give me five or two tens. I’ve also seen $20 bills, especially down in Cherokee country and also in the Creek nation. I’ll see $20 bills that I get with an X right across Jackson’s face. So too many Cherokee people especially, and Creek crack, it was their hero, one of the few people who stood up for them, and they’ve never forgotten that.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:22:44] Wow. Yeah, that’s definitely a very different story than what we see in the movie.
Michael Wallis: [00:22:49] Yeah.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:22:50] Speaking of that though, there’s the, I want to just touch on this real quick because the way that the movie shows crack at getting into politics is, well, there’s a shooting scene against a guy named big foot Mason, and he’s local bully, and you see it.
Scene where, again, I’m sure it’s just movie magic where it just like Robin hood splits an arrow crack, it shoots two bullets into the same hole, which I’m sure didn’t actually happen. But can you go a little more into kind of his path from being this frontier? And you know, you mentioned he had local politics and then went to Congress, but in the movie it shows that it was Jackson who really supported that move.
Was that, would that not be true then that Jackson wasn’t really involved in a political rise, I should say?
Michael Wallis: [00:23:40] No, I don’t think he was a huge, super advocate. He was not a real paternalistic figure and crack and yeah, of course. shooting match, very doubtful. Anything even close to that occurred. But I’ll tell you what did occur, and it’s kind of a similar to that.
What Crockett discovered is this gift of gab. He knew he could tell a story, he could just spend a yarn and like every good storyteller, and of course you’re listening to one right now. We all know as story tours will, each telling of the story, it must get better. And cracking knew that, and he could go onto literally stump speeches and that’s what that means.
He would stand on a tree stump on a Hickory tree, stump, Magnolia tree stump, and gather people around them and a little settlement or village keep them laughing with his stories. When he also learned how to do was make sure that there was plenty of good woods whiskey there to pass around and everybody could get a little harmful of whiskey and he’d give them a twist of tobacco.
He was literally buying their Goodwill with nicotine and alcohol. And sometimes this made for a very amusing situation. There’s one I talk about in the book, and this often happened. Two opponents for the same office would often almost traveled together. They were even known at times to even share the same bed and an end, but they would go out and it would be a classic debate.
One would rise and speak and go on and on, and then the other would take the stage. And they all had their proponents there and there was a, Oh, almost a celebratory scene, you know, it was the same as going to a public execution or any kind of event of that time. Well, crack. It always would rise and say, I let my esteem, good gentlemen who’s opposing me speak first.
He always let him speak first. And what happened is of course everybody gives the same speech wherever they go, the stump speech, and they have it almost memorized, are memorized, what crack it. The same thing. He memorized his opponent’s speech and at one huge gathering where there were a lot of influential people and at a very significant event.
Crack. It said, if you don’t mind, let me speak first. Let me get my little talk out of the way. And the guy said, that’s fine. So he Rose and soon he was giving the speech and his opponent thought, wait a minute. They looked up and crack. It was giving his opponents own speech only of course, changing it for.
To make suited for him. And he almost verbatim gave that basically that same speech. And then he turned about to the man and sit down and this poor chap, what was he going to say? Get up there and say, what crock. I took my speech, he didn’t know what to say. So he got up there and had the sort of ad lib and blubber and it was just disastrous.
So crack it. Use these ploys to get to Washington, but unlike Disney’s crack it, when Crockett went to Washington, he didn’t wear his hunting gear. He, he, he didn’t, he traded in all the buckskins and animal pelts for proper tailored suit trousers. A waistcoat, a nice silk cravat. No Polish boots, no moccasins.
As a matter of fact, if truth be known crack, it often didn’t wear a coonskin hat. He preferred to wear a big Hunter’s hat, a Pennsylvania Hunter’s hat, which is a big hat with a broad brim, to protect him from the sun. And in my book, in the front piece, there’s a very famous portrait of Crockett that he posed for in Washington, and he’s wearing, they wanted to pose him as a frontiersman, so he had to borrow some clothes to put on, borrow a rifle from someone.
Yeah. But he’s not holding a loft, a big, or wearing a coonskin hat. He has clasp in his hand, the big Pennsylvania Hunter’s hat, and then his feet are some dogs, some a little the hounds. He told the painter before he started, he said. If you’re going to paint me, I need some of my bare dogs and this image and the Manson bloke, he said, I have a cousin down in Maryland who has pine house.
He said, no, no, I don’t want find hounds. So the man had to send somebody out. They went to the pound and they went down into the slums of the district and brought in these old dogs for him, and he said, the app, these are bear dog. That was Crockett’s favorite image of himself. And to shift a little bit. I must tell you that also Daniel Boone, who did not know crock, and Boone was up from a whole different generation.
Really, he truth be known, did not like an all animal hats and he preferred a big hunters hat. So this is just some of the details and, and Crockett’s Fife that in his true life that seem to get lost and, and, did not appeal to, to mr Disney when he’s putting them a movie together. He preferred the cliches, the stereotypes.
Crockett always signed his name. David. And a lot of people called him David Crockett, but a lot of people did call him David, but he himself referred to himself as David Crockett. He also was not born on a mountain in Tennessee. He was born on flatland in Tennessee. You could see the mountains, and I must tell you.
And I hope this isn’t shad or everyone’s image. He did not kill him a bar when he was only three.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:30:41] You mean the song is lying to us.
Michael Wallis: [00:30:44] I’m afraid of this. That was actually going to be one of my questions
Dan LeFebvre: [00:30:48] though, because those are the things, I mean, it’s catchy, so it gets in your head. You’re like, Oh, well then this, you know, it’s just kinda how it tells the story.
Michael Wallis: [00:30:55] It definitely is. It definitely is. . You know when I’ve told you earlier, when we first started talking about being a kid in st Louis, sitting in front of that black and white RCA Victor TV and first watching me TV series and then going to the neighborhood theater and seeing mccrocken film and so forth, I truly was spellbound.
The first thing I had to do is. Get a coonskin hat, and you know, it was at a time when Dwight Eisenhower damn near had to put raccoons on the endangered list. So many of them were killed. Now they have these sort of phony, I don’t know what they are, rabbit hair, you don’t, you see these things and Curio, shovels.
But these were real rock coonskin hats. And by God, I had to have one and I had to have a crack at lunch box and they were Crockett pajamas. This is one of the first figures. Who inspired the whole merchandising craze and Disney was very good at that. The only thing Walt Disney regretted about the whole Crockett episode in his life is that he did this, started with Crockett with a TV series
Yeah. It ran in a few episodes and then end it and people want it more. So he cobbled things together and came up with the King of the wild frontier. And then years later he resurrected that again with Daniel Boone and who did he get the play? Daniel Boone says Parker sends Parker. It didn’t have to do much about wardrobe.
He just wore the same outfit he wore his, he played crack. It. And that’s why people are continually talk to me and say, Oh yes, you’re the man that wrote the book about Daniel put on. I said, no. It was cracking. Oh yes. It was correct that people get crack it and Boone confused all the time.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:32:50] Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s the stereotypes and if they’re both wearing coonskin caps in buckskin, then you know, it must be the same, right?
Michael Wallis: [00:32:59] Yeah. They must be the same crack. It spent so much time. In Washington, in New York and Philadelphia, especially when he was doing his book tour when he was in Congress. He spent much more time in those cities than he ever did in Texas.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:33:21] Well, that’s interesting because that brings up a point that I wanted to ask you about that has to do with how the movie portrays Crockett’s family.
In the movie, we see that he has a wife named Paulie and two boys, but then he gets a letter and the wife becomes ill with a fever and then dies. But then his sister in law says that, Oh, don’t worry about the boys. I’m taking care of them. And then from that point on in the movie, this is right when crack, it starts to kind of begin his political rise in the film.
But at that point we pretty much don’t see anything else about Davey crack. It’s family. It’s almost as if he’s not even a father anymore because he never goes to see his kids and come to think of it. He never really saw his wife that much either. He kind of seems to not want to stay down in one place.
How did the movie do depicting his family life?
Michael Wallis: [00:34:11] Well, his wife had lived him as his children and put it mildly. Crack. It was not a very good husband. No. Is he really a very good father? I mean, he loved and cared for his family and provided for them as best he can, but one thing is true, he was gone a lot and early on in his life as a husband and father, he was gone out of woods.
He preferred to be out there and the as then he was politicking and he was gone all the time. There. So by the time he left Congress when he was voted out and came back to Tennessee, he and his wife were estranged. After his death, his wife and one of his sons came down to Texas and to claim some land that he had been promised by the rebels and the Anglo rebels of Texas who were doing their best to take the land away from, or the Republic of Mexico.
And that’s a whole nother and very important story, which we must talk about. But. So crack, it never was able to live on that land he was promised. But, so of his, Ken did when Crockett left Congress, and when he came back and after his book without so forth, he very famously said, and this is true. And he said that many times, you all can go to hell.
I’m going to Texas. And that is precisely what he did. But it took him quite a while to get there
Dan LeFebvre: [00:35:52] because in the movie, after he leaves Congress, it’s pretty much he hops on a boat and he goes down to.
Michael Wallis: [00:35:58] Well, he didn’t go to Texas on a boat. He went to Texas on horseback.
Let me just clear this up right now. The whole Alamo and creation of Texas myth. Chaos, the Mexican state of chaos. Now, Texas was definitely part of the Republic of Mexico, all of it, plus all of the Southwest next to it and so forth. The Mexican government, their new constitution banned slavery. This is many, many years before we get around to doing it.
That meant it was illegal to have slaves in Mexico. Most of the people coming into Mexico, the angles coming in were from the South, from neighboring States, in the mid South, and many of them where the class, they were of the plantation class and they wanted to start a plantation system in Texas to grow patent, which eventually of course happened.
Cotton became prevalent throughout. Especially the Eastern half of Texas. In order to have a plantation system, they needed workers and their workers came from a slave force. The constitution required that anyone going into Texas to become a citizen had to speak the language, join the mother church, and not own slaves.
Well, a lot of them did. The first two, they made a perfunctory move and join in the church whether they went or not, whatever. And in a lot of them did learn Spanish. People like Jim Buie and, and Travis, the young commanding officer later at the Alamo and the rest of them a crack and never learned it because he wasn’t down there long enough to learn it.
What happened to Crockett back in Tennessee. Has he heard from different old friends of his so low drinking pals, like Sam Euston, another Tennessee who ended up living in Texas and up in Indian territory and a lot of times with Cherokee people and had a Cherokee wife and drink a lot of whiskey for a long, long time.
But, and one of his sober moments before he totally dried up and he did. He corresponded with his old pal Crockett and said, you know, there is land to be had down here. We’re going to take this land away from the Mexicans and we’re going to make it and do it cotton kingdom when you come down here and pick out some land, now that Andy’s pitched you at a Congress, so that’s why Crockett said, you all can go to hell.
I’m going to Texas. And he had heard all these tales, so he went down with a whole posse of his peers and fans on horseback and, but it took him a long time to get down there. He, he was living the last part of his life. He lived all over Tennessee, East Tennessee, middle Tennessee, West Tennessee. The last place he lived way up near the corner where Kentucky and Missouri and Arkansas, Tennessee, all kind of get close to one another on real foot Lake.
A big Lake full of Cypress stumps that was created by the new Madrid fault, the 1811 1812 earthquake that made the Mississippi run backwards. It was a great hunting ground and crack had left there and they made a stop. He and his entourage and Memphis and did a lot of good, hard partying and talking and bragging and story telling that they made several stops down in Arkansas.
And then each place he repeated his stories and told them about going to Texas. When he got down on the red river, he went off with an old pal, the father of the Santa Fe trail, and they went off riding West on a Buffalo hunt and then came back. He went off with another guy a little further on and they went on a wild B hunt and they are looking for wild honey.
Got some honey. He traded some things off here and there and there were actually stories coming out of Texas. Where is this great Hunter? Crockett, we thought he was coming down here and they thought maybe he was dead or something, but anyway, he finally matriculated down through the. Big second to the top of the big they could, and went to Nacodoches where a lot of the leaders of this rebellion were.
And, he said, I saw some land up there in North Texas that I thought it was pretty good. how’d I go back and getting a hockey? Then they said, well, you gotta sign up for the militia. So it, well, he knew what the militia was, but he signed up because he wanted that land. And they said, well, you’re going to ride down.
By the way, a lot of his entourage and left going over neuron. They sent him down to San Antonio de Bahar. Today’s huge city of San Antonio, and there is where a lot of anti Jackson people already were down there and didn’t care for old Landy. So he moseyed on down there and they were taking up a position and this old mission coal, the Alamo that became known as the Alamo and the Alamo, has become almost like this lure that Texans Trek to this kind of Holy place, this special site, you know, for Texans, for a lot of people, you know, but the truth eaters.
Crockett had so much to do with that because he was probably one of the most famous figures to end up there, and the characters that were with him, the leadership like Travis Travis was a young buck, a southerner, sort of a ne’er do well. Following his inheritance. He left his pregnant wife kids and went down to Texas.
James buoy. You was sick and coughing on a cot. By the time crack had got there, he and his brother resin who created the buoy knife, they were two of the biggest slave traders in the South, and they were getting slaves from, who did they get them from? From Jackson’s old pirate John Laffite. Neat. Up through the Caribbean.
They’d bring slaves up into the port of Galveston. And the brewery boys would get them there and sell them. It was, you know, the whole story. It was all about slavery, basically in when my could Texas friends and bleeding. My maternal side of my family are all Texans, and I’ve lived all over Texas, so I know whereof I speak by braggadocious pals.
When they say that God created Texas, I have to remind them, no. Crockett invented techs and there was his death there and he did die there and he wasn’t necessarily the last man to die. Well, let me put it this way. He didn’t die swinging Betsy over his head. He didn’t die in combat. He was captured. And he and some other prisoners were brought before Santa Ana, the commanding officer, the president of Mexico, that character as, Oh, another whole nother story with Santa Ana, but they said, we should spare this man.
This is the great Hunter and botanists Crockett. And he said. We put the black flag up this morning in our charge, no quarter, no quarter will be given. And they ban it at Crockett and put his body on the Pyre with the other bodies, burned them up. And that was the end of 49 years of age. Correct. Gets illustrious, very colorful life.
But when I would tell you this is on that date. On that cold morning and 1836 David Crockett perished at the LMO, but Davy Crockett rode off in the legend years ago in the daughters of the Republic. These. Oh, blue haired ladies and spectacles, I mean sharp eyes. We’re sitting there and you’d come into the alimony.
You had best know that you were coming into church. I went just down there an no tourists coming in with cargo shorts in them. Tee shirt on. Of course, they have to have his gimme cap on. And he came stumbling in there and those women jumped on him like a duck on a June bug. Get that cap officer. You were in a sacred place.
I mean, boy he did is he was told. Mmm. Yeah. Almost an interesting place to visit and everyone should now it’s pride in downtown San Antonio.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:45:18] I was surprised. I actually visited there once and I was. I was surprised it was in downtown like I was, you see, like the new movie, it’s way out in the middle of nowhere and it’s, you know, all this open space.
Michael Wallis: [00:45:28] well, at that time it was, but San Antonio’s growing into our largest cities in the country and they came that little river and it’s a tourist Mecca. And I really liked downtown San Antonio that has tremendous architecture. I could probably live in that old Mangere hotel and every night slipped down.
You have a small dish or that drape mango ice cream. But there was another time and another place, and Crockett was right there in the middle of it. And . You know, the old questions always come up. Like, what if, if only. And you know, there are no answers to that question and that’s a story. You know, one thing we didn’t touch on is the subtitle of my book, David Crockett, the lion of the West, where that subtitle comes from as a drama that was created, played in England, premier here in this country to big audiences.
In several big cities in it. It was written loosely about crack it the character actually, it was inspired by all of the, the stories that dime. Well, they weren’t even dime novels yet. They were, you know, sort of pamphlet and little magazines, you know, all lies and made up stories. And. And tall tales and portrayed Crockett is this Superman.
You know, it’s sort of a cross between Paul Bunyan and Pakos bill and Oh, you know, it was just as this character, well, crack. It didn’t necessarily rant and rave about that. I mean, crack, it had a pretty healthy ego and he played off a lot of that stuff. I mean, he did become, you know, sort of a legend in his own lifetime.
But in this play. The character who is crack. It was named Nimrod wildfire, and he was kind of a fancy Cracker. You were really beautiful buckskin and he didn’t just have a and cap on him. Bobcat had on him big old thing. It was an odd set up and people didn’t know what to think. What would crack it think of is, we’ll crack it, you know, finished as jurors in Congress one evening and went down with his pals and.
They were going to go see the lion of the West and folks didn’t know what do the Cedar got some extra policemen there that night. They didn’t know if there’d be a riot. What would crack do is he gonna go in there and when he sees an MRI to wildfire, just tear the place up or get up and leave or yell or way.
It was kind of exciting. Oh, well, I’m cracking. This was planned and he was taken right down to front row. He was right there on the 50 yard line and the curtain went up and I jumped Nimrod, wildfire and all those goals, and the audience is applauding and they looked down and not only is cracking applauding, he rises there and is.
And there’s nice coat and that Polish boots, he works to the edge of the stage and he does a whole tea bow to Nimrod, wildfire and Nimrod wildfire bounce back in that moment. My friends, cause when myth and reality collided right there on that stage in Washington D C.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:49:09] Wow. So the myth of crack, it really, it sounds like it really started to grow again.
Yeah. Just in his lifetime, which usually I always have the idea that a lot of these myths would have grown after like remember the Alamo and you know, sayings like that, where all of this started to grow and these tails start to grow after he’s dead. But it sounds like a lot of it started before.
Michael Wallis: [00:49:33] Well out of it.
Did any Alamos, just the proverbial cherry on top, because as I suggested, he was probably one of the better known people to be and the Alamo, and so that really. You know, cause the Alamo to be elevated to a different status. And of course, remember the Alamo became the slogan of the motto for Euston and the others, you carry it on the fight.
And that’s often done, you know, remember the main thinking of the main, which is, it turns out probably very suspicious to say the least. That became a rallying cry, you know, We’re very good at putting together these cries. But remember, the Alamo was emblazoned in everyone’s mind, and then in his death even more, then they were writing down dime novels and all kinds of things came out, published about cracking.
And there’ve been many, many books written about Crockett. You know, the niche I have taken for me as a writer is this one, and this is what I’m known for, is taking people such as David Crockett and others, and unwinding the myths to tell the real story, the true story, the better story. And that’s what I did with Billy, the kid Henry McCarty.
On the ides of March in 1881 on Pat Garrett shot and killed Billy and the kid Henry McCarty died on that floor and Pete Maxwell’s bedroom. Billy the kid rode on when pretty boy Floyd was shot and killed. Literally executed my cornfield East Liverpool, Ohio, but purpose in his Jeep man, Charles Arthur Floyd died there.
But pretty boy rode on when crack a day that I’ve already told you that David crack died, but baby crack it wrote on, I’m now writing my 20th book. It’s about Bell’s star. Another one. All of these people have mentioned are so wrapped up in myth and lies and exaggerations and just unwind it. There’s so many books written about bell store, so many, but I’m liberating her.
so on that fateful day in 1889 when she was bushwhacked my rebel, Shirley died on that dirt road, shut off her horse. But bell star wrote on, that’s what for me, it’s all about, and That’s what I will continue to do.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:52:21] Thank you so much for coming on to chat about Davy Crockett and and David Crocket and starting to separate some of the fact from the fiction that we saw in the movie.
Now I know there’s a lot more that we could never hope to cover on a single episode, but that leads us right into your book that you mentioned David Crockett, the lion of the West. Can you share a little bit more information about your book and where someone listening can pick up a copy.
Michael Wallis: [00:52:47] Sure. David Crockett: The Lion of the West has been out for a few years now.
It was published by Norton, my great publisher in New York, and you can buy literally anywhere. Of course, a lot of books people buy on Amazon, but in better bookstores, if they don’t have it, they will certainly ardor it. You can go online. It’s still very, very much in print. The lion of the West, and, I hope folks enjoy.
Dan LeFebvre: [00:53:17] Thank you again so much for your time, Michael.
Michael Wallis: [00:53:20] It’s been my pleasure.