Davy Crockett, by Constance Rourke, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1998, $12.95 paperback.
An American cultural historian with an interest in the frontier, folklore and humor, Constance Rourke (1885-1941) found an ideal subject for her 1934 book–Davy Crockett, a folk hero with a sense of humor who took hold of the imagination of Americans even before he died at the Alamo. Her work nourishes nostalgia for the past and “incorporates a degree of escapism that was quite popular, one might even say necessary, in the 1930s,” writes Michael A. Lofaro in his introduction to the recent Bison Books edition. To the author, Crockett was a larger-than-life hero whose legends are as important to tell as the plain facts about his life. “Even in the most soaring of the many tall tales about Crockett there was truth,” Rourke writes in her foreword. There is also a definite oral bent to her tale, as she quotes the quotable Crockett often, sometimes even creating dialogue. Crockett wrote the narrative of his own life, but of course he wasn’t able to write about the Alamo–one of the conflicts he was engaged in that, according to Rourke, “seem to us of prime importance because their outcome has had a determining effect in the life of the nation.” In her chapter on the Alamo, Rourke insists that Crockett was not one of the Texans captured and executed, but that he “fell in the thickest of the swift and desperate clash.”