A Big Man

March 19th, 2010

As reported in Fess Parker, TV’s `Davy Crockett,’ dies at 85 and As Davy Crockett, actor was king of TV’s wild frontier (Washington Post 3/19/10), actor Fess Parker died yesterday at age 85. At 6’6” tall, he was literally and figuratively a big man.

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,
Killed him a bar when he was only three.
Davy, Davy Crockett, king of the wild frontier.
Davey Crockett theme song
 
Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
With an eye like an eagle and as tall as a mountain was he.
Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
He was brave, he was fearless and as tough as a mighty oak tree.
From the coonskin cap on the top of ol’ Dan to the heel of his rawhide shoe
The rippin’est roarin’est fightin’est man the frontier ever knew.
Daniel Boone was a man. Yes a big man.
And he fought for America to keep all Americans free.
Daniel Boone was a doer what a dream-comer-truer was he.
Daniel Boone theme song
 
“Who needed a guy running around in a coonskin cap?”
– Fess Parker after retiring from acting

 I used to watch him on TV when I was little,

He was tough but fair, and never non-committal.

I owned a (fake) coon-skin cap and “Old Betsy” rifle (toy),

As did almost every other American boy.


Fess’s Crocket and sidekick Buddy Ebsen

Would fight if they had to (and always win).

If were forced to fought, they’d fight whole hog,

Always on the side of the underdog.


When they fought Indians (seen as the terrorists of Crockett’s day),

Davy would still fight them in a fair way.

To him, morality wasn’t just a platitude

(Clearly a pre 9-11 attitude).


Similarly, Parker’s Daniel Boone and his trusted Indian sidekick Mingo

Would travel around and help people wherever they’d go.

(These days it’s not PC to have a subservient sidekick who’s non-white,

But back then it was progress to present minorities in a positive light.)


Parker always portrayed the rugged individualist

Who with untamed nature could coexist.

His characters were trustworthy, strong, and brave,

And went out of their way, the downtrodden to protect and/or save.


As Americans, we all revere

That rapidly disappearing wild frontier.

But we also revere those who tamed it

And for our country and way of life claimed it.


There’s an innate contradiction there, of course:

The latter eventually get rid of the former, perforce.

But those days still harken us back to simpler, better times

(Even I think that way sometimes).


Conservatives want to take us back then,

By “bringing back” freedom, religion, and that “can-do” attitude again.

But you can’t bring back “can-do” with the unending chant

Of the Party of No’s refrain “no you can’t.”


It’s strange that the party that wants to return to days of yore

Are destroying what made them worth fighting for.

Civility, fairness, the environment, and our “can-do” spirit:

The GOP takes us farther away from that past instead of near it.


And of course, the past also had many bad things,

Which ironically seems to be the vision to which the GOP clings:

Racism, homophobia, hatred, and no women’s rights,

A society where people knew their place, ruled by and for Christian whites.


Now, because of GOP policies, Tennesee’s not so green any more

(At least not nearly as green as before).

A lot of those mountain-tops have been “removed” to get what’s under them,

Blown away by coal-mining companies that plunder them.


Maybe we regret that there’s nothing left to conquer.

 (Is that why some Americans of invading other countries are in favor?)

JFK said the only thing to fear is fear itself.

Maybe now the only thing left to conquer is oneself.


Parker did just that (or maybe he just conquered what we thought he should be).

He was true to himself rather than his audience on TV.

The big fight scene, the dramatic close up:

After 20 years in Hollywood, Parker gave that all up.


He stayed married 50 years and raised his family

(An achievement in modern society).

He lived a long (and apparently happy) life.

And is survived by 14 kids, grand-kids, great grandkids, and his wife.


He avoided the spotlight for the last forty years

(Sometimes fame with true happiness interferes).

Happiness can be elusive, but he seems to have found it

(All those kids means he was often around it).


That’s what tells me Parker had real character

And wasn’t just a shallow TV or movie reel character.

He took a pass on more fortune and fame

(He had plenty of both, and didn’t need more money or acclaim).


Davy Crocket, Daniel Boone, and what they represent live on today,

It was Fess Parker the man who died yesterday.

And a man he was –a big one,

But not because his characters carried a gun.

***

Here’s the TV mini-series theme song, the Ballad of Davey Crockett (sung by Fess Parker himself), and your theme music for today. It was also made into a pair of Disney movies.

 

Here’s Fess and company in the long-running (six years) TV series, Daniel Boone. Parker’s Native American sidekick Mingo (played by singer Ed Ames) was the inspiration for the character Mongo in the classic Mel Brooks cowboy movie satire Blazing Saddles—stereotypical, yes, but a step up from when he and Buddy Ebsen (of Beverly Hillbillies fame) would just shoot the Indians. After that, he retired and became a real estate investor and vintner (the tasting room in his winery appeared in the movie Sideways).

 

Fess Parker also starred in this all-time classic (you must have seen it as a kid, and if you have kids make sure they see it too), Old Yeller. If the climactic scene didn’t make you cry, you have no heart.

 

Here’s a scene from the updated version of the Davy Crocket legend, Alamo, with Billy Bob Thornton as Davy Crockett. “It’s amazing what a little harmony will do.”

Speaking of the frontier’s disappearance, here’s the final scene from another one of my favorite movies (great fight scenes!), Last of the Mohicans (starring the great actor Daniel Day Lewis).

Finally, here’s a nicely done farewell tribute to Fess Parker.

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PS: Speaking of filibusters, Parker also starred in an early sixties TV version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He was a Republican, but I don’t hold it against him. (Anyway, California Republicans almost count as Democrats anyway these days, right?)

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4 Responses to “A Big Man”

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