St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

King of the Wild Frontier

A friend from my early days passed away in 2010.    I first met him December 15th, 1954 when another friend, Uncle Walt Disney, introduced him to me. His name was Fess Elisha Parker (1924-2010), but I knew him better as “Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier.”  He died last March. I found myself very moved by the death of my old friend.   

 I was 5 days into being eight years old, a young man ready for a hero when Uncle Walt promised us a great adventure for his next week’s program.  We would see “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter.”   We had no idea who Davy Crockett was, but we figured “Great, a cowboy show!”

We were ready, tuned to WTCN, Channel 11, ABC, broadcasting from its powerful transmitter high above the Twin Cities in the Foshay Tower at 7 pm.  The show opened with Jiminy Cricket singing “When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are..” in his beautiful high voice, while Tinker Bell sprinkled stardust over the screen and the Disneyland introduction scenes.      

We learned about Davy “I'm half-horse, half-alligator and a little attached with snapping turtle. I've got the fastest horse, the prettiest sister, the surest rifle and the ugliest dog in Texas. My father can lick any man in Kentucky... and I can lick my father. I can hug a bear too close for comfort and eat any man alive opposed to Andy Jackson.”

The show introduced us to Davy and the “The Ballad of Davy Crockett.”

Born on a mountain top in Tennessee
The greenest state in the land of the free
Raised in the woods so's he knew ev'ry tree
Kilt him a b'ar when he was only three
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.

We didn’t even consider asking our parents to order us a real coon-skin cap like Davy’s; the $1.99 Disney wanted for his genuine (rabbit) coon-skin cap was way too much.  Luckily, our winter caps were fur lined, so turning them inside out and hanging on a gray squirrel tail, adding a stick for Old Betsey, and a wood lathe knife got us ready for meet’n any b’ar that might come along. 

The next day, Davy Crockett was the main topic in school amongst those of us who had TV (not everyone by a long shot).  I had the Ballad of Davy song in my head, and was singing it over and over.  I came home and went to our big old piano, and sat down seriously for the first time, and picked out the tune after a little effort.  Mom came in and listened as I played it with one finger—and by summer, Marvin and I were sent off to piano lessons, because I had shown such talent!

Walt had been showing us previews on his TV show about his new project, Disneyland that was to open in July of 1955 in California.  I didn’t get out there to see it until 30 years later, but even then, it was even more wonderful than Walt had promised.  Yep, feels like I lost a real pardner when Fess Parker passed away this past year.