T HE TIME during which davy crockett lived is known now as "the early days" of the united states of america. he was born august 17th, 1786, on the Nolichucky River in East Tennessee.
When Davy was only five years old he was interested in hunting. Ore night he sat in front of the open fire watching his father mold bullets. The burning wood in the fireplace lighted up the log cabin. There were no other lights.
"Davy," his father asked, "why aren't you playing with your brothers?"
"I can play with them anytime. But I can't watch you mold bullets anytime. I want to learn how to make bullets. Let me help you make bullets for your rifle," urged Davy as he crossed in front of the fire and stood before his father.
"And what can you do to help me?" asked Davy's father.
"I can hold the mold while you pour in the melted lead. Some day I will make bullets myself. I want to learn now. When I grow up I shall be a crack shot and a great hunter," said Davy.
"All right, Davy. Get the big mold over there. Now hold it carefully. We must not waste lead. Lead is scarce and hard to get. It costs a great deal of money, and we do not have any money to waste."
The long rifle in use in Davy Crockett's time was very heavy. It was loaded from the muzzle. A measure of powder was poured down the barrel. Then a piece of greased cloth or a piece of deerskin was placed over the muzzle. This piece was called "a patch." The bullet was then pushed a little way down the barrel. This pulled the patch in so that the bullet was completely covered. The part of the patch not needed was cut off with a knife. Then the long ramrod, made of steel, was used to push the bullet down against the powder. It was tamped down hard. Some powder was then put in the priming pan. The hammer was lowered into place. To fire the rifle it was necessary to pull the hammer back, sight the rifle, and squeeze the trigger.
Properly handled one of the old long muzzle-loading rifles was very accurate. Powder for the rifle was carried in a horn to which a long cord was attached and the cord was thrown over one shoulder. The ramrod was carried in a slot made for it under the barrel of the rifle. Such a rifle weighed about fifteen pounds.
"Always remember to keep your powder dry, Davy," said his father, "and keep it away from fire. Your Uncle William and I are going hunting tomorrow morning. If you have a good night's sleep we will take you with us."
At break of day the hunters were up. It did not take them long to prepare for the hunt. Davy was the first one to be ready. They saddled and took one horse with them which Davy rode. When they were deep in the forest they tied the horse to a tree.
"The time has come for you to show that you are a good hunter," said Davy's father as he lifted Davy off the horse. "You must not make any noise. There are wild turkeys in these woods. A wild turkey is very hard to kill because it is not easy to get near enough to shoot him. Stay close to me, Davy, and be very quiet."
Davy watched his father and tried to walk like him. Davy's father did not step on a dry twig. He lifted his feet high and put them down quietly. He made no noise.
Suddenly he stopped and held out his hand as a signal for Davy to stop. He listened for a moment. Then he lay down beside the trunk of a fallen tree. He motioned for Davy to lie down, too. Then he took a "turkey call" from his pocket. He put it to his lips. The sound that came from it was exactly like the call of a turkey hen to her mate. Davy and his father lay quietly for an hour. Then his father made another call.
After another long wait Davy saw his father bring his rifle to his shoulder and take careful aim. There was a sharp "crack" as flame burst from the muzzle of the rifle. He lowered the rifle and said, "Got him all right!"
Uncle William and Davy's father hunted all day. They had several turkeys to take home.
That night, as the Crockett family sat about the fire, Davy heard his father, his mother, and Uncle William talk about many things.
"What are the Indians doing now?" Uncle William asked.
"All of the tribes are at peace now. But you never can tell what they may be up to next," answered Davy's father.
"When I grow up I am going to be a hunter and a soldier, too," said Davy.
As a boy Davy spent many days alone in the forests. He studied the wild animals and birds, how they lived, and what they did to protect themselves. He learned their calls and practiced them until he could imitate them perfectly.
Several times the Crockett family moved—always toward the west. When Davy was only twelve years old; his father built a small inn. It was on a main highway. Many travelers and teamsters would stay overnight at the inn. Davy listened to the tales told by the men.
By this time Davy was a crack shot and a good hunter. He provided plenty of game for the family and the inn. But the inn was small and did not make enough money to support the Crockett family.
One night Davy's father said to him, "I have hired you to Jacob Siler who is taking a herd of cattle to Virginia. We need the money badly. You are old enough to help."
Davy's father looked stern; his mother was crying. "Do I have to go?" Davy asked.
"Yes, Davy," said his father. "You are twelve years old. I count on you to help support the family."
So Davy walked the four hundred miles overland with Jacob Siler. It took them a month to drive the cattle to Virginia. The trails were very bad. They had little shelter from the rains. For food they had only the small game that they killed along the way.
They finally reached Virginia. Mr. Siler said to Davy, "I have no way of sending you back to your home. I will keep you here and you can work for me." But Davy wanted to go home. He was homesick. One day he met an old friend of his father's.
"Mr. Dunn, I am glad to see you. I want to go home. If you are going that way will you take me?" asked Davy.
"I am starting for Knoxville tomorrow morning. It is beginning to snow but I must start anyhow. My cabin is about eight miles south of here. Can you be there early in the morning?" asked Mr. Dunn.
"I will be there," promised Davy quickly.
Davy returned to the Siler cabin but he did not tell the Silers what he intended to do. He made a bundle of the clothes that he wanted to take with him. He went to bed and pretended to go to sleep. After the others had gone to bed and all was quiet, he took his bundle and crept softly down the ladder from the loft where he slept.
Davy reached the floor without making a noise. He listened carefully. He could hear the snores of Mr. Siler and the even breathing of the members of the family as they slept. He tiptoed to the door. As he opened it the wooden hinge squeaked. Mr. Siler stopped snoring. Davy held his breath. In a moment Mr. Siler was snoring as usual. Davy slipped out the door and pulled it shut after him. He was out of the house.
Snow was still falling! When Davy reached the road the snow was deeper. He stumbled off the road. He fell into snowdrifts. But he kept going. "I told Mr. Dunn that I would be there," Davy repeated over and over to himself.
At last, just at dawn, the lights of Mr. Dunn's cabin came into view. The men were busy harnessing the horses. Davy ran as fast as he could.
After a hearty breakfast of venison the men were ready to start. The wagons were driven out on the road. The trip began.
After three weeks Davy went to Mr. Dunn. "I am anxious to get home," he said. "The wagons are traveling so slowly. I can travel faster if I go on alone."
"But you are a hundred miles from home," said Mr. Dunn.
"I know that," said Davy, "but I am in a hurry to get there."
So Davy left Mr. Dunn and the wagons. It was not easy for him. He not only had to travel alone, but he had to sleep alone in the forests. There was the chance of meeting Indians or wild animals. But Davy kept going. Finally one day he came to a wide river.
"How shall I ever cross this river?" he asked himself. "I shall have to wade as far as I can. Maybe I can swim the rest of the way."
Davy waded into the water. He had not gone very far when he heard someone calling, "Boy, boy!" Davy stopped and turned around. He saw a man on horseback waving to him. The man had two horses. He was riding one and leading the other.
"What are you trying to do?" the man asked as Davy waded back to the shore.
"I am trying to get home," said Davy.
"What is your name and where do you live?" the man wanted to know.
"I am Davy Crockett and I live in the Holston Valley."
"I am going through Holston Valley. You may ride my extra horse."
"Thank you. I shall be glad to ride with you," said Davy.
"If you have any dry clothing in your bundle, put it on. I will wait while you change," said Davy's new-found friend.
They rode over the mountains and through the deep forests. The time passed quickly. On the second day Davy said, "We are only a few miles from my father's inn."
"Good," said his friend. "I must turn off here. I am glad that I could bring you so near your own home."
"I can make it now," said Davy sliding down from the horse. "Thank you. I will never forget you."
"Good-by, Davy, and good luck."
Davy ran along the familiar road. Late in the afternoon he reached home.
Davy worked hard to help his father and mother. But he did a great deal of hunting, too. He was now such a good hunter that the family could depend on him for all of the meat that was needed.
One day when he was hunting Davy saw a big raccoon on the limb of a tree. "I want a coonskin cap and there is the coon I want," said Davy to himself as he aimed his rifle carefully. He dropped the raccoon with a clean shot. His mother made the skin into a cap with the tail hanging down the back. Davy wore it with great pride.
Davy met another man who was taking some cattle to Virginia. He secured a job with this man. After the cattle were delivered Davy decided to work in the East. Sometimes he worked on a farm. At one time he worked in a hatter's shop. He traveled from place to place. Finally he went to Baltimore.
He went on board one of the sailing ships. A man in uniform walked up to him. "How do you like my ship?" asked the man.
"It's beautiful," said Davy.
"How would you like to sail with me to London?"
"I would like to go," said Davy.
But he did not sail for London. He talked the matter over with a friend and the friend said to him, "You want to be a great hunter. If you go to London you may never be a hunter. Why do you not go back to your home in Tennessee?"
"You are right," said Davy. "I will go back to my family. I have been gone for three years."
Davy worked his way back to his father's inn. The Crocketts were delighted to have Davy back home. He helped his father. He even worked to pay off some of his father's debts. He earned money of his own and bought his first rifle.
When Davy was eighteen years old he married pretty Polly Finley.
Davy and Polly lived in a cabin near the Crockett Inn. They lived there for several years. One day Davy said to his young wife, "Polly, let's move to the wilderness. There are too many people here."
Polly smiled and said, "Our two little sons are about all we have to move."
They moved to Middle Tennessee. Davy built a new log cabin. They were happy and contented in their new frontier home.
Davy often went hunting. He was known as the best hunter for miles around.
Then suddenly the news of the Creek Indian uprising came to threaten their lives. Davy left his family in the wilderness to become a soldier.
Major Gibson, in command of the scouts, had heard of Davy's fame as a hunter. "Crockett will be valuable to us," he said to Colonel Coffee. "He knows how to follow a trail, he knows the secrets of the forests. He will be an able scout leader."
1. How long after the signing of the Declaration of Independence was Davy born? In what state?
2. In what kind of houses did the frontiersmen live?
3. How would you load a frontiersman's rifle?
4. If you had been a friend of Davy's when he was a boy what are some of the things you would have done?
5. Tell some of the things you do that you think Davy would have liked to do.
The following words are words that Davy knew. Can you give their meanings?