Childhood dreams do come true, if you live long enough. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I wanted nothing more than to stand with Davy Crockett at the Alamo. Not shoulder to shoulder, like his best Buddy Ebsen or their Comanche companion, the warrior they jokingly called “Busted Luck.” But I wanted to be someplace there in the background with the other rugged frontiersmen clutching their long rifles and staring unflinchingly at the advancing masses of blue-coated Mexican infantry.
I had the coonskin cap (I slept with it that Christmas night and dreamed of adventures with “The King of the Wild Frontier”) and I watched every episode of Disney’s Davy religiously. I had even read Walter Lord’s majestic history and so knew something of the actual event. I wanted to be a hero.
Later in life, when I was more cynical, I had the chance but passed on it. Now, when we’re marking the 185th anniversary of the grim finale of that fateful battle, I need to stand up and lend my voice in defense of Davy Crockett and his comrades. Lately it’s become fashionable to denigrate the men and diminish their achievement. They were racists and slaveholders at worst, land-hungry filibusters at best. We’re told their rebellion was less about freedom than profit.
Certainly they were made of the clay we all share. Crockett was an unlettered backwoodsman who suddenly became (much to his own surprise) one of America’s first celebrities. Like most celebs he had some trouble keeping his footing. His popularity and the support of Andy Jackson swept him into Congress, but he feuded with Old Hickory on a matter of principle, lost his seat and memorably told his constituents, “Y’all can go to hell. I’m going to Texas.”
But whatever brought Crockett, Travis, Bowie and the men who followed them to the Alamo, they were willing to die for it. That alone should make us honor their names. As for their achievement, Texas today has a population of nearly 30 million people living in a prosperity their great-grandfathers could scarcely imagine, with a degree of security and political freedom all but unknown anywhere south of the state’s border.