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I never had six months education in my life I was raised in obs[c]urity without either wealth or education I have made myself to every station in life that I ever filled through my own exertions . . .
David Crockett, August 18, 1831
When he wrote his autobiography in the winter of 1833&ndash34, David Crockett insisted that it should run at least 200 pages. That, to him, was a real book. As he wrote he studied other books, counted the words on their pages, and compared the tally with his own growing manuscript. As a result, when published his narrative spanned 211 pages, and he was content. By that time in his life he had been a state legislator, three times elected to Congress, the subject of a book, the thinly disguised hero of an acclaimed play, a popular phenomenon in the eastern press, and touted for the presidency. Yet he devoted more than one-fourth of his own work to his youth: a time when his "own exertions" availed him nothing. He remembered youthful pranks, a few adventures, and vicissitudes that should have made him wise but only left him gullible. Repeatedly he returned to three things he remembered from his first eighteen years: that the father whom he loved was a stern disciplinarian and could be violent; that he wept easily as a child and as a young man; and that he was poor. Certainly it took no stretch of memory to recall the last in particular. For David Crockett poverty was never yesterday.
His was the story of a whole population of the poor who started moving from the British Isles in the 1700s and simply never stopped. Despite the misnomer "Scots-Irish," they were almost all Scots, as surely were Crockett&rsquos ancestors.1 Like so many who grew up ignorant and illiterate on the fringes of young America, he knew little of his forebears, and some of what he believed was erroneous. Indeed, that father whom he loved yet feared knew little himself, or else chose not to speak of it. Perhaps the child David did not listen or kept his distance, especially when John Crockett had been at the drink and felt ill-tempered and prone to reach for the birch.
The man David did not even know where his own father had been born, and believed it was either in Ireland or during the ocean passage to the colonies.Three Roads to the Alamo
Excerpted from Three Roads to the Alamo: The Lives and Fortunes of David Crockett, James Bowie, and William Barret Travis by William C. Davis
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.