Pennsylvania Jack


Appalachian folklore

Author unknown

Davy Crockett was a frontiersman, back when our nation was young, and the state of Tennessee was pretty much the "wild west." Davy was a real live person. In fact he was even a Congressman in the 1830s, before he went to Texas and found immortality at the battle of the Alamo. Even before his death in Texas in 1836, there was a lot that was "legendary" about Davy. Much of the bigger than life legends were promulgated by none other than Davy himself. He too was a teller of tales, and most of his tales were about himself. His legends were further cemented in popular culture in a long running series of books called "The Crockett Almanacs", which were printed annually from 1835 right up almost to the Civil War. Davy was the fictional narrator of most of the tales in the Almanacs, and he had great adventures such as riding his pet alligator up Niagara Falls, or stopping to drink up the entire Mississippi River. To quote from one of the almanacs, Davy "war the biggest infant that ever was, and a little the smartest that ever will be." The tale that follows gives a hint at the character that was Davy Crockett.

Back in the days when Davy Crockett was living on the frontier, hunting for wild game was a very important part of finding enough food to stay alive. Davy was an excellent hunter. He had a long rifle named "Ol' Betsy", and he was about as good a shot with that rifle as any man who ever lived. Davy would hunt deer, and now and then a bear, but most of the time he and his family would survive on raccoon meat.

Davy's skill and marksmanship with his rifle was well known, even by the animals that he hunted. One time his dog chased a raccoon up a big old tree. Davy came around to the base of the tree and commenced to take an aim at the critter. Just then the raccoon looked down from high in the tree and asked, "Hey there, are you the famous Davy Crockett?" Well it made Davy proud to be so recognized, and he allowed that he was indeed. "Well then, I guess I'm as good as dead," the raccoon said. "Don't shoot. I'll come on down."

With that the ring-tailed varmit climbed down the tree. Davy was so touched that he couldn't bear to harm a hair on the animal's hide. "You go on and get out of here," Davy told him. Quick as a flash that raccoon took off down through the woods. Davy watched him go, still feeling good about the compliment, until he heard that raccoon laughing as he went. Davy realized he had been snookered and took off after the critter. But the raccoon disappeared into a hole in a huge oak tree, too thick for Davy's bullets to reach him. Davy never let another raccoon outwit him after that.

As important as it was to get wild game to feed himself and his family, it took hard money to buy gunpowder and lead to make bullets. These were things that couldn't be grown or gathered in the forest. They had to be bought at the store. Cash money was a scarce commodity on the frontier. So Davy found another way to catch raccoons without having to shoot them.

Davy was a very handsome man, or at least that is what Mrs. Crockett was known to say. But he could put on a sillier grin than any man alive. Davy had found out that when his hunting dogs chased a raccoon up a tree, all he had to do was grin at it with that silly, silly grin of his, and the raccoon just couldn't stand the sight of it. The varmit would start to laugh, and when it did, it would fall right out of the tree, and Davy would put it in his sack.

One night when Davy was out hunting, he spotted a raccoon up in a big pine tree. He could see the two eyes in the moonlight. So Davy just rustled up one of those big old silly grins of his and pointed it at the raccoon. He waited. Usually the raccoon couldn't take more than about five minutes of Davy's grin, but this one was really holding on. Davy stopped and wiggled up his jaw muscles. It was hard work grinnin'. Then he put that grin back on again, but twenty minutes later those two eyes were still staring back at him. Well Davy fixed that grin one more time, as silly a grin as he had ever grinned. About a half-hour later, do you know what happened? Davy fell asleep. When he woke up it was light, and those two eyes were still looking at him. Except they weren't really eyes at all. They were two knot holes in the tree trunk. But you know there wasn't a bit of bark on that tree for two feet in each direction from those knots. Davy had grinned the bark right off that tree.