Home and the school-house had both become too hot for me

Posted by | April 6, 2011

Folk hero Davy Crockett was born on August 17, 1786, in Greene County, TN. He remained in East Tennessee until 1811, when he and his family moved to Lincoln County. They moved again in 1813 to Franklin County, where the following took place.

I remained with my father until the next fall, at which time he took it into his head to send me to a little country school, which was kept in the neighborhood by a man whose name was Benjamin Kitchen; though I believe he was no way connected with the cabinet.

I went four days and had just began to learn my letters a little, when I had an unfortunate falling out with one of the scholars—a boy much larger and older than myself. I knew well enough that though the school-house might do for a still hunt, it wouldn’t do for a drive, and so I concluded to wait until I could get him out, and then I was determined to give him salt and vinegar.

I waited till in the evening, and when the larger scholars were spelling I slipp’d out, and going some distance along his road, I lay by the way-side in the bushes, waiting for him to come along.

After awhile, he and his company came on sure enough, and I pitched out from the bushes and set on him like a wild cat. I scratched his face all to a flitter jig, and soon made him cry out for quarters in good earnest.

The fight being over, I went on home, and the next morning was started again to school; but do you think I went? No, indeed. I was very clear of it; for I expected the master would lick me up as bad as I had the boy. So, instead of going to the school-house, I laid out in the woods all day until in the evening the scholars were dismissed, and my brothers, who were also going to school, came along, returning home. I wanted to conceal this whole business fro my father, and I persuaded them not to tell on me, which they agreed to.

Things went on this way for several days; I starting with them to school in the morning, and returning with them in the evening, but lying out in the woods all day. At last, however, the master wrote a note to my father, inquiring why I was not sent to school.

When he read this note he called me up, and I knew very well that I was in a devil of a hobble, for my father had been taking a few horns, and was in a good condition to make the fur fly.

He called on me to know why I had not been at school. I told him I was afraid to go, and that the master would whip me, for I knew quite well if I was turned over to this old Kitchen, I should be cooked up to a cracklin’ in little or no time.

But I soon found that I was not expect a much better fate at home; for my father told me, in a very angry manner, that he would whip me an eternal sight worse than the master if I didn’t start immediately to the school.

I tried again to beg off, but nothing would do but to go to the school. Finding me rather too slow about starting, he gathered about a two year old hickory, and broke after me.

I put out with all my might, and soon we were both up to the top of our speed. We had a tolerable tough race for about a mile; but mind me, not on the school-house road, for I was trying to get as far the t’other way as possible. And I yet believe, if my father and the schoolmaster could both have levied on me about that time, I should never have been called on to sit in the councils of the nation, for I think they would have used me up.

But fortunately for me, about this time I saw just before me a hill, over which I made headway, like a young steamboat. AS soon as I had passed over it, I turned to one side, and hid myself in the bushes. Here I waited until the old gentleman passed by, puffing and blowing, as though his steam was high enough to burst his boilers.

I waited until he gave up the hunt, and passed back again: I then cut out, and went to the house of an acquaintance a few miles off, who was just about to start with a drove. His name was Jesse Cheek, and I hired myself to go with him, determining not to return home, as home and the school-house had both become too hot for me.

—excerpt from Davy Crockett’s Own Story As Written By Himself: The Autobiography of America’s Great Folk Hero. Illustrated by Milton Glaser, Stamford, Conn.: Longmeadow Press, 1992

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