Shelly’s Book Review: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier

25 09 2012

I got a great opportunity to review a type of book that I wanted to read.  As a reviewer in various programs, sometimes you get a small selection of stuff you like, but not always the stuff that you LOVE.  Fortunately, I have been able to find some review titles that I love – or at least things that stir my reading passions.  I am completely enthralled by Non Fiction and History…so when they come together in a book to review, it’s indeed a beautiful thing. 

Honestly, picking up this copy of Davy Crockett was impulsive.  In our studies we are shortly venturing on his time and life.  But I think I learned as much about America and what happens to some historical figures as I did about the Crockett Mystique itself.  Here’s my thoughts:

Release Date:  March 5, 2013

Title: Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier

Author:  Bob Thompson

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group / Random House

Rating:  Five out of five stars

Review:  “Davy, Davy Crockett, Kind of the Wild Frontier!” Do the words to this song ring through your head with any mention of legendary woodsman? Did you see the 1950s Disney series or movies with Fess Parker and become enchanted with this frontier hero? Bob Thompson takes readers on a journey in “Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier” to discover the real David Crockett,historical figure, and compare him with the pop culture icon that’s been hanging around since before his last stand at the Alamo.

Starting out at home base in Tennessee, Thompson travels most of the trails that David (his moniker for the real Crockett vs. Davy for the legend) walked, gathering stories – some half truths, some tall tales and trying to document what happened to the mountain man. What part was real and what part is fabricated? Everywhere the author goes, we see there are no easy answers to these questions. From the pages of his own autobiography to letters and correspondence – and “eye witness” accounts we get to see how murky historical information can really be, especially in situations where written evidence and documents just don’t exist. Can third person accounts passed down through generations be trusted?

Because of the multifaceted characters of David and Davy, this story has many interesting twists and turns. Thompson meets a variety of Crockettologists, all with a unique love and perspective of our coon-capped hero (did he even wear a coon cap?) He discovers that every place that has a “story” (verified or not) seems to have some tribute to Crockett – monuments, museums, portrait, hotels, roads, parks. All over Tennessee and Texas, travelers will find the larger than life legend, with sometimes bits of the “man” also apparent. The Crockett story is a complex one. Every piece of his life has three different versions (at least) with no clear trace of the truth.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. As a homeschooling mom, a few weeks away from embarking on the era of Crockett, I always like to read additional material on our studies. There is a wealth of Crockett material out there, and it was happenstance that I ran across an ARC of this book. I thoroughly enjoyed Thompson’s travels and was amazed at the amount of Crockett lore out there – and how emotionally attached folks are to “their” Davy. Even Thompson acknowledges his own bias, his desire to believe the best about David.

Every part of Crockett’s life is meticulously researched. Legends are documented as well. Thompson hunted down site after site in place after place, talked to numerous Crockettologists (I just love that word) from every walk of life, poured over existing documentation and sifted through the various accounts of events along the trail. No stone was left unturned. Thompson mentions a spectrum of resources throughout the book, and then not only provides notes, but explanations of the resources in the notes, perhaps setting his book up to be the ultimate Crockett resource.

One thing I missed in this ARC copy were pictures. Notes in the beginning of the book mention an 8 page B/W photo section, but I didn’t find one in my ebook copy. I can only imagine what might be in it – maybe a picture of Fess Parker playing Davy in the 1950s Disney series? Visuals will definitely enhance the reader experience.

This book is more than historical research. It is a study in our culture. How could this one simple man, with a simple life become an icon of his era – the indomitable frontier man – a representative of the American Spirit, so intertwined into the lore of a nation that each generation reinvents him for a new round of idol worship? From the months following his death, right up to today, we find Davy Crockett fueling the passions and imaginations of our country.

Recommend for: Lovers of history and students of pop culture, and anyone who has loved the story of Davy Crockett enough to own their own coon skin cap.

Note: I received a complementary copy of this book in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Note 2:  Because this book is still in the works, there really isn’t a website or anything that I’ve found connected to it yet – not even on the author.  But in the event that more information shows up, I will update links here.

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