The wild front ear

If blogging is supposed to have an element of timeliness then  I have given up on that ideal.  After all – I am still writing about stuff from the NAIS annual conference  in February.

Fess Parker died in March and while my mind went instantly to the Davy Crockett craze of my childhood, it’s only now that I have found the time to write about it. Maybe I can argue that reflection is a good thing and immediacy overrated – like fast food versus slow blogging.

I’m not sure I saw the film – released in the UK in 1956 – but I do remember the loud lines of children waiting to get into the Gaumont in Regent Circus,  Swindon. They went around the corner in one direction and down the alley in the other.

The Walt Disney advance publicity team had done their job well. Children across the UK were in the thrall of the commercial craze for everything from ‘coon skin hats with the requisite tail down the back (my brother made mordant comments about the disappearance of cats) to Davy Crockett charms, bracelets, transfers and nougat bars.

It was a merchandising miracle.

The Ballad of Davy Crockett opened with

Born on a mountaintop in Tennessee

Greenest state in the land of the free

and went to the top of the hit parade. But in a flash, in that other miracle – the instant viral transmission of children’s lore – other versions dominated the playground and brought the hero of the Alamo down a peg or two.

Born on a tabletop in Joe’s cafe

The dirtiest place in the USA

Polished off his father when he was only three

Killed off his mother with the DDT.

Davy, Davy Crockett

King of the wild frontier.

There were other more scurrilous versions.

And then there were the jokes and riddles. And the one I still find funny went like this:

“How many ears did Davy Crockett have?

“I dunno. Two?

“No. Three. He had a left, a right and wild, front ear.”


  1. Dierj:

    Now 60, I can recall my Davy Crockett hat like it was yesterday! I think it lost all or part of its tail. Given my fondest for cats, I also recall a certain concern re:its origins. I also had a couple of cowboy hats and guns. I'd buy caps with my pocket money. These were minitures explosive dots on a red or green paper spiral that fitted into a smooth grey round box.Loaded and fired they emitted a pleasing sulphuric smell and sharp bang much to the shock and annoyance of elders. To complete my outfit, I also yearned for some chaps, but never got them. Now, I will try to remind myself that having these toys did not turn me into a homicidal maniac or cow-girl. I am pondering, however, if digital toys are quite the same as ones you can hold in your hand? Or e-mails the same as the conversation you might have relaxing with a friend. Digital technology enables so much in our society that is good and clearly it is important for us all to be as adept in it as we can. However, there is much it can never replace or replicate that derives from, profoundly, our human spirit. So whilst much is gained, something is lost. That the Davy Crockett hats are still remembered with much warmth and joy, and much else, seems to me to recognise this.

  2. JosieHolford:

    Did you ever scrape off and explode the cap dots with your thumbnail?

  3. DJM:

    I recall that brave kids did that and I think I tried to copy but burnt my thumb. I think I then tried hitting it with a stone instead. That's playing and learning in action!!Been rather like that ever since.Of course that may not have been a helpful piece of learning……….?!

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