March 18, 2010

Fess Parker, King of the Wild Frontier.



The hero of our childhood has died. Fess Parker was 85.

56 comments:

Big Mike said...

It takes me back. I had a coonskin cap when I was a kid.

Fess Parker's vineyard, just above Santa Barbara, was one of the wineries in the movie "Sideways."

Pastafarian said...

I had a picture of Davey Crockett fighting a bear with a knife above my bed when I was young -- this was actually the first hero of my childhood.

Michael Hasenstab said...

Killed him a bear when he was only three.

JohnJEnright said...

My little sister used to sing the Davy Crockett song as "Baby, baby doc doc".

edutcher said...

My first brush with American history came from watching the Colonel's story, as told by Disney. To get as much mileage from it as possible, books abounded about anybody even remotely buckskinned and my father quickly went out and bought the Landmark books (anybody else remember them?) about Daniel Boone and Abraham Lincoln. Others included Jim Bowie (natch), Kit Carson (along with the Colonel, one of my lifelong heroes), Robert Rogers, Jim Bridger, and so on.

The episode most instructive to our own time is probably the one, having to compete with the Creek Indian War and the Alamo, that is least remembered (don't buy that nonsense peddled by Castrillon about him surrendering; Susannah Dickerson saw his body lying in front of the chapel right after the battle and several Mexican soldiers witnessed his death with the rest of the Tennesseans caught in the open).

Crockett tossed his political career (and possibly a shot at the Presidency) to go against Andrew Jackson on the Indian Removal Act. His constituents turned him out of office the next election at which time he said he was going to Texas and they could go to Hell.

Insta has linked one of the Colonel's more memorable speeches

SteveR said...

I always more associated him with Daniel Boone, who as you know was a man, a big man.

David said...

Only 85? Seems like a hundred years ago--which would make me about 114.

A guy who was only too glad to step out of the limelight. RIP Fess.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
itzik basman said...

I hate to give away my age, but when I was a kid--in the early fifties--he was the biggest deal around. And I had the cooonskin cap too.

WestVirginiaRebel said...

I remember the Disney shows in rereuns from when I was a kid in the Seventies. Fess Parker was reportedly frustrated that Disney wouldn't let him out of what he said was the same character in their films.

I think anyone with half a brain knew it was mostly embellishment (it was Disney, fer cryin' out loud). BTW, is it me or is "Jimmie" a little creepy?

WestVirginiaRebel said...

PS Alex Chilton has also died, which sucks even more.

Kansas City said...

Big Mike is right. It takes you right back. Brought a bit of a tear to my eye remembering my Mom and Dad and the whole family watching Davey Crockett. And that song - whoever wrote it should have been proud of the joy it brought millions.

Theo's comment about the real Crockett is interesting, though pretty harsh. I always thought Crockett must have been the equivalent of the great self promoters of the 20th Century and today. Can you imagine how a guy out of the backwoods of Tennessee in 1825 could have made himself so well known in his day (about the most famous man in America) and even had the staying power to be a legend 150 years later?

Unfortunately, he had the rotten luck of riding into San Antonio about a week before Santa Anna and 5,000 Mexican soldiers arrived. The most authoritative sources say that Crockett survived the battle of the Alamo, but when taken prisoner, Santa Anna had him killed, as old Davey tried to talk himself out of the fix he had got himself into and as one of Santa Anna's officers tried to persuade the General to spare him.

Santa Anna himself had a heck of a life. He spent some time in New York City of all places after losing the Texas War of Independence, and he rose to power 2 or 3 times in Mexico (including after his return). I think he lived to a pretty ripe old age (if I remember correctly). He was real SOB in killing Texans with his no quarter approach to battle, until he was captured, when Sam Houston was smart enough to keep the coward alive and cut a deal with him.

I had forgot how good looking Fess Parker was. RIP, our old television friend.

Kansas City said...

I see Edutcher does not buy the story about Crockett being captured alive at the Alamo. My recollection is that the "consensus" had moved to that conclusion. The fact that Dickerson saw him dead in front of the Chapel would not be inconsitent with the capture/killing story - supposedly he and a few others were captured in the Chapel and taken out front of the Chapel, where they were killed.

By the way, if you are at all interested in the Alamo, it is great to see it. The "Chapel" is tiny, but it is a well maintained and interesting historical site right by the riverwalk.

reader_iam said...

Daniel Boone was a man
Was a man, was he
With an eye like an eagle
And a butt like a beagle
had he
... had he
... had he

{[Y] Day Camp Abe Lincoln, circa 1969}

reader_iam said...

Comet--
It makes your mouth turn green!
Comet--
It's worse than Listerine.
Comet.It makes you vomit!
So get some Comet,
and vomit...
today.

{[Y] Day Camp Abe Lincoln, circa 1969}

reader_iam said...

Make no mistake: I was, as was my family, a Fess Parker fan.

Still, connections, like synapses, do and work as they do (and sometimes even work [and even sometimes when they ought not]).

I know'd know'd it
Indeed I know'd it, brother--
I know'd--Whooo!!!:
Them bones, gonna rise again.

reader_iam said...

"Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.


She had 10 hairs
On her head
Five were alive
And the other five dead.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two eyes
In her head
One was yellow
And the other was red.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two teeth
In her mouth
One pointed north
While the other pointed south.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two arms
At her side
One was narrow
And the other was wide.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two feet
Size 12 and a half
One took a shower
While the other took a bath.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name."

Kev said...

Killed him a bear when he was only three.

I think you mean kilt him a b'ar, don'tcha? It sounds all Yankee-fied when you say it all good and proper like that. ;-)

Davy Crockett was before my time, and I guess I never watched Daniel Boone. But I have to admit that, for me, Fess Parker suffered from what I call Abe Vigoda Syndrome: I thought he'd left us years ago.

reader_iam said...

"Ada Mae, where are you going?"

"Upstairs, to take a bath."

Ada Mae was like a toothpick;--
Her neck like a giraffe.

Ada Mae got in the bathtub.
Ada Mae pulled out the plug.

"Oh, my goodness! Oh, my soul!
There goes Ada Mae, down the hole"

"Ada Ma-a-a-e!"

"Glub. Glub. Glub."

Fred4Pres said...

Fess Parker has been making wine for the last few decades. He used his Hollywood money to buy a vineyard in Santa Barbara.

But Davy Crockett the historical figure said some amazing things (quite timely even now):

"The party in power, like Jonah's gourd, grew up quickly, and will quickly fall."

"I would rather be politically dead than hypocritically" immortalized.


"We have the right as individuals to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right to appropriate a dollar of the public money."

"You may all go to Hell, and I will go to Texas." [Okay, that did not exactly work out for ol' Davy, although he did gain immortality for it.]

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
amba said...

I can't quite remember, but I think I had a crush on him.

reader_iam said...

Oops! Now I realize I've started to elide something. Some camp songs were strictly from Y camp [in Iowa). Some were from Girl Scout camp (Camp Shabonee [sp.?] in Illinois). A striking number were cross-overs.

You'll have to excuse my fading memory.

amba said...

->reader_iam:

Granny's in the cellar,
Lordy, cant'cha smell her,
Cooking pancakes on her rusty stove;

From her eyes there is matter
Falling into the batter,
And the **snurff** keeps running from her nose.

From her nose,
From her nose.
And the . . . [etc.]

reader_iam said...

Oh. My. God. Can't believe I accidentallyh cut off Haggelina's last verse. So I'll have repeat that cross-over camp song, but will include the final verse (if you saw the original comment but want to skip over to the penultimate, look for the bold):

"Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had 10 hairs
On her head
Five were alive
And the other five dead.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two eyes
In her head
One was yellow
And the other was red.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two teeth
In her mouth
One pointed north
While the other pointed south.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two arms
At her side
One was narrow
And the other was wide.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had two feet
Size 12 and a half
One took a shower
While the other took a bath.

Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name.

She had a figger
What a figger
Two more legs
And she looked like Trigger.


Haggelina Paggelina
Ommpstine walkelina
Ho-cka po-cka po-cka
was her name."

reader_iam said...

"Once a Girl Guide went to camp
(Went to camp!)
She went to bed without her lamp
(Without her l-a-a-amp)
And when she found a beetle in her bed
Here is what the Girl Guide said
(Girl Guide said):
"Beetle, Beetle go away
(Go away!)
I'm sad to say you cannot stay
(Cannot sta-a-a-ay)
Remember what the Camp Director said!
No two Girl Guides in one bed
(In one Bed)"

Now, predictably enough, the first permutation was to simply switch "Girl Guide" and "Beetle" in that song. What a ha-ha among the youngest Girl Scout camp set. And it was, believe you me.

The second (like this wasn't also entirely predictable even way back then) the second had to do with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts

... and all of that.

God bless the "and so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes" experiences we all share, in one way or another, from birth through youth through adulthood unto death.

***

wv: singe

reader_iam said...

"I'm bringing home a baby bumble bee.
Won't my mommy be so proud of me?
I'm bringing home a baby bumble bee--
Ooh, it stung me!

I'm smashing up my baby bumble bee.
Won't my mommy be so proud of me?
I'm smashing up my baby bumble bee--
Ooh, it's sticky!

I'm licking up my baby bumble bee.
Won't my mommy be so proud of me?
I'm licking up my baby bumble bee--
Ooh, it's sickening!

I'm puking up my ... "

Anyone here at Althouse who's ever said I don't know when to quit, or that I don't pull punches, or even that I don't know how or when to edit my thoughts ...

This one is for you.

; )

: )

Kent Alan said...

I'm the baby(1964) of the family but I cherish the picture of my sisters lined up in their Easter finery...all adorned with coonskin caps.

Lockestep said...

I think I will pick up a bottle of his wine on the way home tonight. I haven't had one for years. I recall the Syrah being OK, but I wasn't a big fan of his Pinots.

themightypuck said...

I like all pretty much all California Pinots (I also like all 2 buck chuck). It's fun to head up to his winery in any case since that whole area is beautiful.

Issob Morocco said...

Fess also appeared in a somewhat odd WWII movie, Hell Is For Heroes, which included Steve McQueen, Bob Newhart, Harry Guardino and James Coburn, amongst others. Too bad Walt wanted him decked out in fur and skins only. He might have been the next Fred MacMurray.

RIP.

edutcher said...

Theo Boehm said...

...

Where was the grandstanding Congressman in Fess Parker's portrayal of Crockett? It's in the song, but I don't remember it from TV. Where was the self-promoting huckster who went on a book tour to sell his autobiography? Where was the politician, a tall-tale-telling fake, but quite principled in his opposition to Andrew Jackson's policy of Indian removal east of the Mississippi? Where was the political activist who swore he was leaving the country if Jackson's butt-boy, Martin van Buren was elected President, and who, in fact, left, and told his constituents to go to hell when he did so?

You obviously missed the second episode. Most of the elements you mention are there, glossed over, perhaps, but they only had an hour. As for fake, he served honorably at Horseshoe Bend and was known as an expert hunter, willing to share with people down on their luck.

I've noticed over the years that a lot of people who claim to be descended from him do everything they can to separate themselves from him. Being an in-law to some unabashed rednecks, I can only guess that some embrace their inner backwoodsman, while others try to flee it.

Many modern Congressmen wish their constituents go to hell, but they commonly don't say it so loudly. And they usually don't join American filibusterers for the independence of a foreign country, having left the U.S. rather than tolerate the current President.

Those "American filibusterers" had been recruited by Mexico to settle Texas because most Mexicans were scared purple of the Comanches (and rightly so). The Americans were promised full government services, but found they had to improvise them because the government in Mexico City treated Texas as if it were another planet. When Stephen Austin did a very American thing and applied to the government for redress of grievance, he was imprisoned without trial. Needless to say, this occasioned some discomfiture and disgruntlement among his compatriots.

Kansas City said...

I see Edutcher does not buy the story about Crockett being captured alive at the Alamo. My recollection is that the "consensus" had moved to that conclusion. The fact that Dickerson saw him dead in front of the Chapel would not be inconsitent with the capture/killing story - supposedly he and a few others were captured in the Chapel and taken out front of the Chapel, where they were killed.

Keep in mind that consensus is mostly composed of the same type of people who gave us our current administration and Congress, not to mention exemplary Americans like William Ayers. As I say, several Mexican soldiers describe the death of "Kwockey", as they called him.

By the way, if you are at all interested in the Alamo, it is great to see it. The "Chapel" is tiny, but it is a well maintained and interesting historical site right by the riverwalk.

Thank the Daughters of Texas for that. Much of the garrison opposite the chapel was torn down in the 1870s (where a few fast food places are today). Hearing of this, a few maiden ladies of some means decided to invest their time and money into preserving what survived. The Alamo is the only privately funded site of its kind in the country.

WV "grintall" What the Colonel did to the bear. (couldn't resist)

NewHam said...

"The hero of our childhood has died."

They had TV back then? Who knew!

ricpic said...

...Jackson's butt-boy, Martin Van Buren...

When will the calumnies against Martin Van Buren end?!

I actually wear a rabbit's fur cap with a racoon tail in the winter months. Very warm hat and quite the compliment grabber. Available through Orvis.

MayBee said...

I think I will pick up a bottle of his wine on the way home tonight. I haven't had one for years. I recall the Syrah being OK, but I wasn't a big fan of his Pinots.

His son makes Epiphany wines, which are really good. You could pick up one of his wines instead.

vet66 said...

Boehm; You do a fine job of taking the actions of Crockett out of the context of the day and inserting it into todays culture. Of course, that is what folks like you do when downplaying heroes and what they stood for.

Crockett like the rest of our folks heroes learned to survive and flourish by having a strong sense of right and wrong by the standards of the day. What really bothers you is that he, and others like him, made a decision, stood by it, accepted responsibility for their predicament and carried on to fight the good fight. In short, they prevailed.

I still have my coonskin hat and am proud of what it stands for. Your longwinded posts indicate an obsession to tear down icons. Nice try.

Scott said...

Mr. Parker did amazingly well, given the emotional trauma he must have suffered from his parents naming him "Fess".

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Comrade X said...

too young for Davey Crockett but when he'd throw that tomahawk and split that tree at the start of Daniel Boone, I knew I was in for some good TV.

DADvocate said...

Growing up in Tennessee only about 50 miles from where Crockett had lived, Fess Parker fired my imagination. I played pioneer and had a coonskin cap. New the whole song by heart.

John said...

Re the Alamo:

It is definitely worth a visit. It is a bit disconcerting because it is right in downtown San Antonio with hotels and other businesses chockablock on all sides.

A company I work for occasionally in San Antonio has historic pictures of the city in their lobby. One is a picture, from the 20's(?) showing part of the Alamo being used as a warehouse for a feed store.

As for being the only site managed privately, isn't Washington's home, Mount Vernon, owned managed privately by some organization. DAR maybe?

Fort Ticonderoga in NY is also privately owned by the Pell family. Or perhaps through a foundation controlled by them.

John HEnry

www.changeover.com

Big Mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeff said...

"vastly different from the weekly dose of sanctimonious hero-worship in living, fuzzy-edged COLOR!"
Dude. It was a show for kids. Of which I was one of. I enjoyed it immensely. Sanctimonious? Yeah, it wasn't real life early 1800's. Go figure.

Kansas City said...

To really appreciate the Alamo, you need to read a bit about the battle before you visit and also look at some of the very good models of the original site that are in the area. I think there is a show across the street that is very good, but I did not have time to see it.

Celia Hayes said...

Re - the Alamo; yes, most visitors today are astonished at how tiny the chapel actually is, even with the length of the old 'Long Barracks' adjacent. The whole complex as it existed in 1836 was enormous, too large for the defenders to hold. The Plaza in front of it pretty much describes the mission compound - the buildings all around the edge pretty much on top of where the surrounding walls were. It is very hard to imagine it today, as it was then - being that the city is now all around! (In 1836, San Antonio itself was at some remove, clustering around a couple of streets and plazas, and the San Fernando Cathedral.)
After the battle, though - the Alamo complex went back to being a military garrison: when Texas joined the Union, it became a US Army supply depot. Supplies for the Army forts out on the southern end of the frontier were brought up from the coast, and shipped out by wagon train. The chapel was indeed a warehouse and the plaza in front was a military wagon park - up until the mid 1870s, when the the growing town pressed in on either side, and the Army built a new establishment at Fort Sam Houston, a little north of town.
It was the Daughters of the Republic of Texas who got the last of it, set aside as a memorial in the late 19th century.

edutcher said...

Theo, no aspersions meant by the word 'claiming'.

As for the whole filibustering thing, almost every American, family in tow, who hit the trail in the 1840s for Oregon or California technically fell into the same slot. To them, land was land and a great many only saw the opportunity. In the end, who did or didn't belong in Oregon or Texas was something of a fuzzy thing. California, OTOH, was another matter, as Jedediah Smith could attest.

WV "resspe" What you need before you bake a cake.

Kansas City said...

The Alamo was a mission, and it was very poorly designed as a fort. It had a very large open Plaza and that was sorrounded by mostly living type quarters. The defenders had no chance, although they did design some helpful defenses to try to hold the Mexicans back.

In hindsight, they should have tried to break out before the Mexican attack. They still would have been mostly slaughtered, but some probably would have escaped. My guess is that they were sill hoping for re-enforcements and also hoping that the evil Santa Anna did not really intend to follow his no quarter warning.

Travis was a soundrel, but a brave guy and one of the first defenders killed. At least his slave was spared, which is an unfortunate aspect of the heroic Alamo defenders - they were fighting in part to preserve slavery in Texas.

Poor Davey was 50 years old at the Alamo. Hard to imagine a 50 year old guy riding from Tennessee to San Antonio and then fighting at the Alamo.

Everyone should give Disney a break. It was 1950's family entertainment.

rcocean said...

I'm a little confused - we stole Texas and California from the Mexicans? I thought the Native Americans owned it.

As for Crockett being captured thats based on unreliable 2nd hand Mexican accounts written 20-30 years after the battle. These accounts were "discovered" in the 1950s, about the same time as the Disney Davy Crockett boom. Funny dat.

US Historians wrote them off, until the last 20-30 years, when "Professors" like Bill Ayres were hired.

Kansas City said...

Here is a link to an attempt to answer whether Crockett was captured. My guess is yes. He was at the area of the Chapel where the fighting ended and it just seems logical that there would have been a small group of fighters left and, in a small room, human nature probably would result in surrender and being taken prisoner.

http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2508/remembering-the-alamo-and-the-death-of-davy-crockett

virgil xenophon said...

Several so far un-commented upon facts;

1)Disney showed great foresight in filming the series in color at considerable expense over b&w despite the fact that when the series began 98% of all TVs were B&W. He foresaw what was to come and thus insured that the reruns would be eagerly picked up in a new color tv world desperate for color programming/movies.

2.) We often deride the Japanese for their suicidal--fight-to-the-last-man and banzi attacks in WWII, but (at least when I visited in 66) the ONLY memorial plaque in the Alamo from any foreign country expressing appreciation for the act of defiance & defense to the death was from the Japanese government.

3.)
When first visiting up from my USAF plt training in Del Rio, TX (once home to Wolfman Jack broadcasting from a 100000Watt illegal transmitter on the Mexican side) a bunch of us were standing on the corner across the street waiting for the light to change to cross over to see the Alamo when one swiveled his head, looked around, surveyed the pedestrian scene and exclaimed: "I don't know why they even bothered to fight to the death over this place--the Mexicans own it all now anyway...." LOL!!! And that was in 1966!!

rcocean said...

Well, MY GUESS is that Davy Crockett had a sex change operation and survived the Alamo.

But its just a GUESS - not based on anything like history or nothing.

Big Mike said...

I made a mistake in my original post. Reposted with corrected directions.

For those of you visiting San Antonio, the Alamo chapel is more or less in the southwest corner of a park enclosed by a stone fence. But at the time of the battle the chapel was in the southeast corner of the fort. So it's easy to get turned around. The real fort was also much larger than the small area of the park, and was really too large to be defended by approximately 180 men against a force maybe a dozen times larger.

Kansas City said...

reocean,

You are far too sure of something that happened 175 years ago and is disputed. There is a diary by a participant, disputed as to authenticity, that states Crockett was captured. Have there been any other battles in North America in the past 500 years where no one either escaped or surrendered and was captured? So, my "guess" is that a few defenders surrendered and were briefly held captive before execution. Your guess is that all fought to the death.

I'm modest enough to call my opinion a guess. You're immodest enought to call your opinion fact. We can agree to hold different opinions. It really makes no difference other than as a matter of historical curiosity.

Old Davey was plenty brave enough to even be there slugging it out at age 49.

Big Mike said...

Are people still arguing over Jose de la Pena's memoirs? For the benefit of people who aren't in on it, in 1955 a person stumbled across the memoirs of Jose de la Pena, who had been an officer in Santa Anna's army and who was at the Alamo. The exciting part of the memoirs was de la Pena's assertion that Davy Crockett had been captured alive, along with five or six other Alamo defenders, but Santa Anna had given orders that there be no quarter, and the prisoners were hacked to death by staff officers (what Drill Sgt and I would call REMFs).

How accurate is the account? In favor of accepting it is that de la Pena was known to have kept a diary during the campaign, and much of what he wrote in his memoirs has been corroborated by modern archeologists who traced the withdrawal march of General Filisola after Santa Anna's capture at San Jacinto.

Against, is the account of "Ben," a slave belonging to one of Santa Anna's officers, who later wrote that Crockett had died in the fighting "surrounded by 16 Mexican corpses".

Also against is the fact that de la Pena was not a fan of Santa Anna's and wrote his memoirs while in prison. How would he know one scruffy gringo prisoner from another? His hatred of Santa Anna may have led him to embellish the story of six or seven unknown, murdered, captives with the name of one of the most famous Alamo defenders. De la Pena has been dead since 1840, to it's pretty hard to ask him.

Further against is that it is known that Crockett and his Tennessee volunteers were defending a low wooden palisade at a point where there was a gap in the walls -- armed with only single-shot, muzzle-loading rifles that lacked bayonets, they were the defenders least likely to survive an all-out enemy attack.

I don't think any the less of Davy Crockett if he did surrender -- I understand that Pennsylvania long rifles are slow to reload because the lead ball must be very tightly jammed into the grooves. Out of ammo or out of time to reload and surrounded by enemy soldiers, a noted orator might surrender and hope to talk his way out of things. Whether Crockett surrendered or was captured while wounded or was killed during the fighting, it's all the same. He volunteered to be where he was at, he stayed and fought when there were evidently chances to still extricate himself, and on March 6, 1836, he died in San Antonio de Bexar, a long way from the hills of Tennessee.

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