Portrait of Davy Crockett by J.G. Chapman.

Davy Crockett is an American folk hero of mythic proportions, and was greatly popularized during the 50s and 60s thanks to Disney’s TV miniseries and major motion pictures. But Crockett was a very real person in history, and he had a lot of wisdom to share.

Welcome to Retro Week, where we’ll be firing up the flux capacitor and bringing you 1950s know-how on everything from casserole-making to fallout-shelter-building to the joys of letting kids relax and play with trash.

The intro to Disney’s Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955)

David “Davy” Crockett was born in 1786 (pre-U.S. Constitution) and lived as a runaway, soldier, frontiersman, and was even elected to Congress in 1825 after serving in the Tennessee state legislature since 1821. He was certainly famous while he lived, but plays, songs, and tall tales transformed him into the coonskin-hat-wearing certified folk hero we know him as today.

On Government and Sticking to His Guns

While he was in Congress, Crockett opposed most of President Andrew Jackson’s policies, including the Indian Removal Act, which sought to relocate all Native Americans west of the Mississippi River. But Crockett’s strong opposition and refusal to do the bidding of any political parties eventually led to a troubled political career. He had a lot to say about those who act as political puppets:

“I would rather be beaten, and be a man, than to be elected and be a little puppy dog. I have always supported measures and principles and not men…”

In a letter following his defeat in the 1830 elections, as quoted in David Crockett: The Man and the Legend (1994)

“I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me, or the driver at my heels, with his whip in hand, commanding me to ge-wo-haw, just at his pleasure. Look at my arms, you will find no party hand-cuff on them!”

Letter from 28 January, 1834, reported in A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett

“I am no man’s man. I bark at no man’s bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the white house, no matter who he is.”

An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East (1835)

When Crockett was defeated again in 1835, he gave up on politics and made way for Texas (then the Mexican state of Tejas). Still, he can at least say that he always stood up for what he thought was right.

On Life

Crockett’s exploits were many, and it’s hard to tell the difference between fact and tall tale, but he certainly seemed to live well. That was partly thanks to his number one rule:

“I leave this rule for others when I’m dead. Be always sure you’re right — THEN GO AHEAD!”

David Crockett: His Life and Adventures (1874)

Simple but effective, no? Lastly, he knew that he wanted to be known for the way he lived, not how he died:

“I know not whether, in the eyes of the world, a brilliant death is not preferred to an obscure life of rectitude. Most men are remembered as they died, and not as they lived. We gaze with admiration upon the glories of the setting sun, yet scarcely bestow a passing glance upon its noonday splendor.”

David Crockett: His Life and Adventures, 1875

It’s not a bad way to look at your own life. Will you just be an obituary, a date in someone’s mind? Or will you leave behind the things you did while you lived?


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