Gateway to the Classics: Davy Crockett by Frank Lee beals
Davy Crockett by  Frank Lee beals


T HE Crockets lived forty miles from the nearest town. It was the little town of Jackson,ennessee. Davy went to Jackson only three or our times a year to buy supplies for his family. On these trips he bought coffee, sugar, and salt. He bought lead and powder, too.

During the fall and winter Davy hunted. In the early spring he took his furs to Jackson to sell them. Trappers and hunters from all over the state brought their furs to Jackson, too. Buyers from the East tried to outbid each other for the best furs. Life in the little town of Jackson was busy and exciting.

Davy met many friends in Jackson. Some of them had served with him during the Creek war.

One day a man called to Davy.

"Come here, Davy. I want you to meet some friends of mine, Doctor Butler and Mayor Linn."

As Davy shook hands with the two men, he asked, "Have you sold all of your furs?"

"I am not selling furs," said Doctor Butler. "I am here to talk to the men of this district. I want to ask them to vote for me."

"I want to ask them to vote for me, too," said Mayor Linn. "We are both candidates for the State Legislature."

"Why don't you run for the Legislature, Davy?" called one of his friends.

"I am no longer interested in politics," answered Davy. "I live forty miles from the nearest settlement and. I would rather spend my time hunting than running for the Legislature."

A week after he had returned home from Jackson, Davy's nearest neighbor, Jim Owens, came to see him.

"Davy," he said, "your name is in the newspaper."

"What have I done?" asked Davy in a surprised voice.

"The paper says that you and three other men are candidates for the State Legislature."

"Let me see the paper," said Davy. "Yes, here it is—Mayor Linn, Doctor Butler, Davy Crockett, and Mr. McEvers are candidates. Someone is playing a joke on me," said Davy, as he folded the paper and handed it back to Owens.

Davy was silent for a moment. Then his black eyes flashed. "If anyone thinks a man from the backwoods cannot be elected," he said, "I will show him. I will run and I will win this election."

"That's what I hoped you would say," said Owens.

"I will start my campaign tomorrow," said Davy. "I will ride to every town in the district. I will see the people living in cabins off the trails. I will visit the fairs and attend the shooting matches. Owens, when I am through, the people will know me."

"The people know you now, Davy," said Owens. "You are a famous bear hunter."

"They know who I am, but they do not know me. But they will know me before I am through."

"The men you will run against are wealthy men, Davy. It will be hard to win against them."

"I know they are wealthy, but I know the people. I am their kind. They will vote for me."

True to his word Davy mounted his horse and started out the following day. He went from village to village, from cabin to cabin. He attended meetings and made speeches. He attended shooting matches and won every one. Everywhere he went the people welcomed him. And when the votes were counted, Davy had won the election.

Davy served his people in the State Legislature at Nashville with honor and fearlessness.

In the year 1824 Davy was urged to run for the Congress of the United States. After much thought he agreed to make the race. His rival was Colonel Alexander. Alexander won the election by only two votes.

Davy went back to his cabin and to his hunting. Next spring when he took his furs to Jackson he was disappointed in the prices he received.

"Elizabeth," he said after he returned. "I did not do very well with my sale of furs. Since our older children are in Jackson going to school, I must make more money to keep them there. I have decided to make staves and take them to New Orleans to sell. Down there they need staves to make barrels."

"Won't it cost a lot to get them there, Davy?"

"Not so much. The forests are full of white oaks from which we will make the staves. I can get some men to help chop down the trees. We can build a couple of boats."

In the fall Davy hired some men. He located a camp about twenty-five miles from his cabin. The camp was on the Obion River near the Mississippi.

The men went to work at once. They chopped down white oak trees. They split them into staves. They tied the staves in great bundles called "shooks." Then they hauled the shooks to the river.

Davy hired other men to build two sturdy boats. Davy and the men worked all winter. In the early spring the two boats were ready. Thirty thousand staves were loaded on them. Davy and a crew of inexperienced boatmen were ready for the trip. The short trip down the Obion was made easily.

"Look ahead!" called one of the crew.

"The Mississippi!" exclaimed Davy. "No wonder the Indians call it the 'Father of Waters,' " he added as he saw the wide expanse of whirling waters.

In the spring the great river was flooded and very wide. The current was swift and strong. The many islands and bends in the river made traveling on the Mississippi dangerous. Only skilled pilots were able to steer a boat safely through the water. Davy was not a pilot and the pilot he had hired soon proved to be inexperienced.

The two boats were swept along with the current. They bumped into each other. Then they drifted apart.

"Tie the boats together," called Davy when the boats kept ramming into each other. The boats had been hard to steer before, but now that they were tied together they became unmanageable.

"Captain," called Davy to his pilot, "you are heading for that island."

"I can't help it. The current is too strong."

"You said you were an experienced pilot," said Davy.

"I thought I could pilot the boat," explained the man, "but I can't. You will have to take over."

"But I know nothing about piloting a boat," said Davy.

"Neither do I," answered the pilot.

Davy rushed to the long oar. He tried to steer the clumsy boats. "I will make for shore," he called.

Some boats came from behind. The experienced pilots on these boats were having no difficulty. They understood their work and knew how to avoid dangers.

"Don't try to land. Go ahead," they called to Davy.

"Go ahead?" laughed Davy. "I can't do anything else."

"Be careful when you come to Devil's Elbow," warned the pilot on another boat.

Devil's Elbow was a sharp curve in the river. Davy and his men worked to pass this dangerous bend. The boats almost overturned but they finally rounded it. Again they tried to steer to shore. But they could not make it. They had to go on even though it was dark.

"I will go down to the cabin and rest," said Davy to one of the men. "You take over and I will relieve you in an hour."

Davy stretched out in the bunk of the cabin. He said to himself, "It's easier and safer to hunt bear than to sail on the Mississippi. This is a fine introduction to the 'Father of Waters,' " he added, smiling to himself. He lay quietly. Suddenly a crash hurled him from the bunk. He jumped up and made for the door. It had slammed shut with the crash and could not be opened.

"Water!" said Davy as the water leaked into the cabin. Again and again he tried to open the door. He looked about the small room.

"That hole!" he said aloud. He made his way through the flooded cabin and pulled himself up to the hole. "The boat has overturned," he said. With an effort he pushed his head and shoulders through the hole. "Men," he called. "Help! Help!"

"Where are you, Davy?" called one of the men.

"Here! Here!" he answered. "The hole where we bailed out the water before we tied the boats together."

The men rushed over toward him. He reached his arms up to them. "Pull!" he said, "Pull! I can't crawl through it because the hole is too small. Pull with all your strength."

After a great effort the men rescued him. His clothes were torn and he was badly scratched.

"I am all right," he said to the men. "We must try to escape. The boat is sinking. Make for that small raft nearby," he called.

In the darkness the men made their escape to the raft.

"All this work and effort for nothing," said one of the men.

"But we are safe. That is the most important thing," answered Davy. "We can get more staves and boats. Not that I want to," he added, "I am not going to try this again."

The hours passed. As dawn came over the river, the men saw the thirty thousand staves floating on the water. The two boats had disappeared.

A whistle was heard. Around a bend came a steamboat.

The men waved and shouted. The boat gave an answering whistle. The men were taken aboard the steamboat.

Davy told the Captain what had happened to his two boats. "Will you take us to Memphis?" he asked.

"Yes, we will," replied the captain.

"My men and I need new clothes and supplies," said Davy. "I know Major Winchester there. He will help me."

As soon as the boat landed at Memphis, Davy went to Major Winchester and told him what had happened.

"You are right, Davy," said the major. "I will help you. You may have everything you need."

"I will pay you as soon as I can," said Davy.

"I know you will. I watched you all through the Creek war and I know you are a man of your word."

"Thank you, Major," said Davy. "It is good to have a friend like you."

The major smiled and said, "It is good to know a man like you, Davy Crockett."

Davy Crockett lived forty miles from the nearest town. Tell how he made a living and how he obtained food for his family.

1. If you had lived in Davy's time would you have voted for him? Why?

2. Why was Major Winchester willing to help Davy? TRANSPORTATION


1. Name the ways people traveled in the early days of our country.

2. Can you tell how transportation helps make a country grow?

3. Tell about Davy's introduction to "The Father of Waters."

4. Compare old and modern methods of transportation.

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