Friday, October 6, 2017

Hodgepodge 342/365 - Davy Crockett vs. Daniel Boone

Last night we went out to dinner and ordered a bottle of Fess Parker chardonnay. It was the only chardonnay on offer, at a little Indian restaurant on Lighthouse in New Monterey. That reminded me that Fess Parker used to play Davy Crockett on TV. Or was it Daniel Boone? They both wore a coonskin hat, didn't they?

Turns out, he played both of them: Crockett in a 1955–56 Disney miniseries (which I wouldn't have known about, being only two years old) and Daniel Boone in a regular TV show from 1964 to 1970 (that's the one I was thinking of).

But . . . who were they? And what was the difference between them?

Davy Crockett by
J. G. Chapman (c. 1839)
Crockett (1786–1836), "King of the Wild Frontier," was—in addition to being a frontiersman—a soldier and a politician, representing Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. He vehemently objected to President Andrew Jackson's policies, especially the Indian Removal Act, which led to an on-again, off-again political career, and ultimately he quit politics to go fight in the Texas Revolution, where he was killed at the Battle of the Alamo. As a young man he gained a reputation for hunting and storytelling, and his larger-than-life exploits earned him a place in the almanacs that were popular at the time, solidifying his status as an American folk hero. One of his sayings was, "Always be sure you are right, then go ahead." He has been portrayed by actors such as John Wayne, Brian Keith, Johnny Cash, and Billy Bob Thornton in at least twenty-six movies.

Here's "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (1955) for your listening . . . pleasure? (Curiously, I know not why, it's a pop American ear worm, for people of a certain age. I may have been too young for the TV show, but I sure am familiar with the song. Maybe some show at Disneyland?)

The only portrait painted in
his lifetime, at the age of 85
and shortly before his death,
by Chester Harding
Boone (1734–1820), meanwhile, was also an American pioneer, explorer, woods-man, and frontiersman—and folk hero. He's best known for his exploration and settlement of what is now Kentucky (back then it was still part of Virginia). He, too, was a trapper and hunter as a young man, fought in the Revolutionary War, and served in the Virginia General Assembly. After the war he worked as a surveyor and merchant, but fell into debt owing to failed land speculation schemes. To escape legal problems, he left for eastern Missouri in 1799, where he remained the rest of his life.

His legend was established in part by a 1784 account by historian John Tilson in the book The Discovery, Settlement, and Present State of Kentucke, which made him famous in Europe as the typical all-American frontiersman and found popularity in the United States as well. After his death he was the frequent subject of tall tales. 

Illustration of Boone's
ritual adoption by the Shawnee,
from Life & Times of
Col. Daniel Boone
by Cecil B. Hartley (1859)
According to the theme song of the TV show, Boone was a "big man" in a "coonskin cap," and the "rippin'est, roarin'est, fightin'est man the frontier ever knew!" In fact, he was not all that big (though Fess Parker was: 6 foot 6!), and he did not wear a coonskin cap (Parker was apparently instrumental in that detail creeping into the TV show as well). I will spare you the song.

And there you go: more than you, or I really, ever wanted to know about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone.

1 comment:

  1. My grandparents’ home is a few miles down the road from Boone’s in Missouri:-)