Off to a New Frontier
D AVY traveled alone. He walked through the forests to the Mississippi River. At Mills Point on the Mississippi he boarded the steamer "Mediterranean" for the trip down the river.
Davy was sad. He did not talk with the other passengers on the "Mediterranean" although there were many people on board. He sat quietly alone in the stern of the boat.
While he was sitting, gazing off across the country, someone touched him on the shoulder.
"Aren't you Davy Crockett?" a man asked.
Davy nodded his head without speaking.
"I thought I remembered you. I am James Barton. I served with you during the Creek war."
"I remember you now," said Davy as he rose to his feet and shook hands with his old friend. "Where are you going?" Barton asked.
"To Texas," said Davy simply.
"I should have known that you would be going to Texas," Barton answered. "There are other men on board who are going to Texas, too."
"That is good," said Davy. "I should like to meet them."
"And they will be glad to meet you."
As the news spread that Davy Crockett was on board, the passengers wanted to meet him. He became the center of attention. He told his new-found friends some of his hunting experiences and about his travels through the East.
Someone asked, "Where are you going now?"
"I am going to Texas," he answered. "Why don't you come with me?"
"I am too old to go," said the man who had spoken. "But I want to help. Let's raise some money on this boat to be used in helping Texas in its fight for liberty."
Those who were standing near, cheered. The man who had made the suggestion began taking subscriptions. The passengers were asked to sign a paper showing how much money they would give.
When the paper was presented to Davy to sign he said, "I do not have any money. But I am going to fight for the freedom of Texas."
"Your money has already been given, Davy," said one of the men.
"How?" Davy wanted to know.
"Three men have signed for ten thousand dollars in your name. It is their contribution for you."
"Not for me—for liberty," corrected Davy.
Before the trip was over ninety thousand dollars had been subscribed. The fund was called "The Crockett Fund." Trustees for The Crockett Fund were Davy Crockett, James Bowie, William Travis, James Fannin, and several other men. It was agreed that every penny of this fund was to be used in the battle of Texas for freedom.
The trip down the river was slow. The steamer was forced to stop frequently to take on wood for fuel. Wherever the boat stopped people were at the landing to see it.
When the steamer reached the place where the Arkansas River flows into the Mississippi, Davy Crockett and many of the passengers left the boat. At this point they took another steamer which carried them up the Arkansas River to Little Rock.
During Davy Crockett's time, Arkansas was a territory. There were only about thirty thousand white people living in it. Little Rock was a small village consisting of a few huts.
The people of Little Rock welcomed Davy. They gave a dinner in his honor. They asked him to tell some of his famous stories.
"When Texas is free," Davy said, "I will come back and tell you some of my hunting stories. Tonight let me tell you about a new frontier—a new land fighting for freedom. If people are to have independence and liberty, my friends, they must be willing to fight for them. This fight is never over. The people of Texas want independence and liberty, and I am going to help them fight for these things. I would like to have as many of you as will, go with me to this brave, new land."
The people of Little Rock gave Davy a fine horse. When he rode out of Little Rock, five new friends rode with him. Later in parting one of the men said to him, "We have ridden with you, Crockett, to show you how much we respect you. This is a strange country to you, and we wanted to help you on your way to Texas. Good-by and good luck."
After thanking them, Davy rode on alone. He reached the little town of Fulton. When the people learned that Davy Crockett was there, they came to see him and crowded around him.
Davy made friends everywhere. Not because of his fame as a bear hunter nor because of his humorous stories. He made new friends because of his honesty, courage, and self-reliance. Davy Crockett, the fighter for freedom, was the man of the hour. His was the spirit of the young, proud, and impulsive America.
In a few days Davy sold his horse and took a steamer to Natchitoches, Louisiana. On the steamer he saw a group of people gathered about a man. This man was proving his skill at thimblerig.
Thimblerig was a game played with three thimbles and a pea. It was a gambling game and Davy hated gambling in all forms.
Davy stood and watched the gambler for some time. People would bet that they could tell under which thimble the pea was to be found. Each time the thimble was lifted from the table the people lost.
Noticing Davy, the gambler said, "Stranger, place a bet."
"All right," said Davy as he stepped up to the table. "The pea is under the third thimble."
The gambler reached out his hand to pick up the thimble. But before his hand reached it, Davy's harsh voice startled him.
"Wait! I will pick it up!"
The pea was under the third thimble as Davy had said it would be. Davy turned to the crowd.
"I know this trick, as you can see. Anyone can do it. You do not even have to be smart to make the trick work. All you need is someone foolish enough to make a bet with you."
The crowd laughed. As Davy walked away the people followed him. The gambler was left alone. He was ignored for the rest of the trip.
Natchitoches was a small town on the Red River. It had about eight hundred inhabitants.
When the steamer reached there Davy went ashore. He bought a horse and some supplies. He went to the inn to spend the night. He saw the gambler waiting for him.
"Crockett," the gambler said, "I want to talk with you."
"What is your name?" asked Davy.
"I will not tell you my name."
"A man who will not tell his name is not honest," retorted Davy. "I will give you a name. Your name is Thimblerig."
"You are right, Crockett, about my not being honest. All my life I've been a liar and a cheat. But it is too late to do anything about that now."
"Why?" asked Davy as he walked to a table. He pulled up a chair and sat down.
"Because I do not know how to make an honest living," answered Thimblerig as he sat down opposite Davy.
"Have you ever tried?"
"Once!" exclaimed Davy as he started to leave. "What a weak man you must be."
"Wait," said Thimblerig.
"No," answered Davy. "I have no time for a weak, dishonest, cheating man."
"Maybe you can help me to change," pleaded Thimblerig.
Davy looked the gambler over slowly.
"You can live like an honest man if you want to. If you cannot be honest you can at least die like a brave man."
"What do you mean?" Thimblerig wanted to know.
"Come with me to Texas," said Davy.
"You are right, Crockett. I will go with you to Texas," said Thimblerig.
Davy was silent for a minute. He raised his eyes and looked at Thimblerig. Slowly, almost as if he were talking to himself he said, "People may not remember how you live but they will remember how you die."