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Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier Paperback – 4 Mar 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books (4 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030772090X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307720900
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,041,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James Gallen TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 8 July 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Born on a Mountaintop" is part history and part travelogue. Author Bob Thompson takes on the legends, myths and truths about the King of the Wild Frontier and weaves them into an enjoyable and informative book for any Crockett fan.

Davy Crockett's story is known to many. Born on a Mountaintop, well it was really along a river, he enlisted in the Creek War and the War of 1812 before beginning a political career that would take him to Congress. He went on a book tour, toyed with the idea of running for president and took some controversial stands before being defeated and telling his constituents that "You may go to Hell and I will go to Texas." You know how the story ends.

Thompson's method is different from that of many historians, or at least he admits to methods that others do not mention. He visited many sights of Davey's exploits and interviewed numerous Crockettoligists, from professors to local "experts." Some of the encounters are as entertaining as the stories they uncover.

This book tackles many issues about Crockett's career that historians debate. How good, or bad, of a husband and father was he? Was he a clever politician or an unwitting dupe manipulated by others? Did he oppose the Indian Relocation Bill out of respect for the Indian, or in support of the poor farmer? He is portrayed as an early version of the populist-progressive who would rise to prominence later in his century. Why did he go to Texas, to help the Texians' fight for freedom, or to look for a new land in which to find prosperity and, possibly, rebuild his political career? Finally, was Crockett killed in the assault on the Alamo, or was he taken prisoner and executed?

The biggest challenge that Bob Thompson takes on is to separate the Legend from the Man.
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By hunnybun on 31 July 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
great book delivery service excellnt highly recommend
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 79 reviews
11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Making of a Legend 6 Mar. 2013
By Sam Sattler - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Born on a mountain top in Tennessee,
Greenest state in the land of the free.
Raised in the woods so's he knew every tree,
Killed him a bear when he was only three.

Davy, Davy Crockett King of the Wild Frontier.

Just looking at the title of Bob Thompson's new Davy Crockett book, Born on a Mountaintop, gets me humming this old Disney song from the fifties - even to the point that I have a hard time getting it back out of my head. Men (and probably more than a few women) of a certain age are likely to have fond memories of the five-segment Walt Disney "Disneyland" series that spawned this little tune and all the Davy Crockett gear we managed to wear out between 1955 and 1956. I still remember the coonskin cap I wore everywhere and the little plastic frontier "rifle" I carried with me.

Suddenly, children across America were obsessed by a fabled hero that grabbed our imaginations like nothing had before. Davy's (as portrayed by actor Fess Parker) face was on so many lunch boxes, magazines, comics, bubble gum cards, coloring books, games, and pajamas that Walt Disney was probably able to pay for most of Disneyland with his company's share of the sales proceeds. Davy Crockett was that big - and we loved him. Little did most of us suspect, at least at the beginning, that he had been a real man. He really had been a congressman, an Indian-fighter (of a sort), and had died a hero's death at the Alamo. When we found this out, especially those of us growing up in Texas, we were more enchanted by the idea of Davy Crockett than ever before. The man will be a mythical hero to us for the rest of our lives.

Only later would some of us wonder about David Crockett, the man who transformed himself into "Mythic Davy," a national celebrity long before he died in San Antonio. Born on a Mountaintop, explores how Crockett managed to achieve that, the key role Walt Disney played in perpetuating the Crockett legend for at least another half century, and what might have really happened at the Alamo.

For author Bob Thompson it all started when his two little girls became obsessed with the Burl Ives version of that old Davy Crockett theme song. Soon, the girls were asking questions about Davy, his nemesis Andrew Jackson, and their shared history. Thompson, in the process of answering their questions, grew fascinated with the "alchemization of history into myth," and a book idea was born. With many stops along the way, Thompson would walk in Crockett's footsteps all the way from his east Tennessee birthplace, to where he fought Indians in Alabama with Jackson, to Washington D.C, and, finally, to the Alamo, where Crockett took his final breath.

Crockett, of course, would not survive long in Texas because of his decision to join the Texas army when it was least prepared to defend itself. But, as Thompson notes, from the moment word of his death reached the rest of the country, the real Davy Crockett was forever replaced in the minds of most by the fictional Crockett. And the myth that grew up around Crockett so deeply captured the imagination of Americans that his story would be common knowledge for close to 100 years before finally fading from the public consciousness.

Better timed for Crockett's was his crossing of paths with another kind of legend, Walt Disney. Disney's 1955 decision to use Crocket rather than the more conventional choice of Daniel Boone to help publicize the "Frontier Land" section of his new theme park, coincided perfectly with the "arrival" of television. Now, a cultural hero could be created from scratch in just a matter of weeks, and in Crockett's case, there was so much good stuff to stretch that his myth would become more widely accepted than ever before - and it would endure for at least another half-century.

I am a native Texan. I live within an hour's drive of the spot (Washington-on-the-Brazos) Sam Houston sat when the call for help arrived from the Alamo defenders. What is left of the Alamo itself is within easy driving range of me. Because their story has been part of my life since I was seven (thanks to Mr. Disney), I tend to give Davy Crockett, William B. Travis, and Jim Bowie stories the benefit of the doubt more times than not. But, when it comes to history, I am also a realist. Born on a Mountaintop re-visits all of the weakest points of the Davy Crockett legend that I have encountered and wondered about over the years. For lack of any real proof, Thompson's theories about what really happened all those years ago will have to remain just that - theories. However, I feel certain that his theories are closer to the truth than the myths that have grown up around these heroic men.

But, you know what? I think I admire Crockett and the men of the Alamo more than ever because a book like Born on a Mountaintop is a good reminder of what real human beings can accomplish when challenged to do the seemingly impossible.
13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The Greatest American Hero? 7 Feb. 2013
By mrliteral - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In its over two centuries of existence, the United States has developed its fair share of legends to accompany its history. Somewhere in that hazy zone between the two is Davy Crockett, a real person who has worked his way into the mythology of the U.S. in general and more specifically the one-time western frontier of Tennessee, Kentucky and Texas.

Bob Thompson's Born on a Mountaintop is superficially a biography of Crockett. As becomes quickly apparent, however, there aren't much in the way of facts about Crockett. Born in a rural area without much literacy, there weren't much records of his early life, and even his later years would be rather sketchily documented. Essentially, most of what you think you know about Crockett is a likely fiction.

As stated in the Western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." This is what happened with Crockett: even during his lifetime, he was a celebrity renowned for adventures that likely never happened. After his death, the stories would both get wilder and become more entwined in his biography.

This is where Thompson's book succeeds. Rather than just telling the story of Crockett's life, he tells the story of Crockett's biography and how it has evolved. Working in roughly chronological order, Thompson visits the various sites where Crockett had been and tries to glean the truth behind the legends. The various depictions of Crockett in film (most notably, the Fess Parker version by Disney) are also discussed.

Of course, it was the Alamo that made Crockett a martyr, and Thompson also discusses the many controversies regarding Crockett's exact role (and manner of death) in that siege. The truth may never be completely known, but we will still have the legend. Thompson's book may sort out some of the fact from fiction, and in the process, expose a few flaws that Crockett had, but the book shows that Crockett was more than a hero. He was a human being too.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
The Buckskin Astronaut 3 Feb. 2013
By Found Highways - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Davy, Davy Crockett
The buckskin astronaut
Davy, Davy Crockett
There's more than we were taught

--They Might Be Giants

Before starting his travels to uncover the myth and reality of Davy Crockett, Bob Thompson didn't know much about either the fictional or the historical Davy. His young daughters became addicted to folksinger Burl Ives's version of the theme song to the Walt Disney Davy Crockett movies from the 1950s, and his wife told him what watching the Davy Crockett series meant to her.

Thompson starts out on a trip through the places Davy Crockett lived (and died) to find out what, if any, of the fables about him (especially the ones Crockett created himself) were true.

Thompson examines in some detail the Walt Disney movies and the 1960 film The Alamo, directed by John Wayne and starring Wayne as Crockett. Thompson doesn't spend a lot of space on other fictional representations.

I appreciate Thompson's not trivializing the lives and suffering of real people who lived in the age of Andrew Jackson by making their mythological doppelgangers seem more significant than they themselves were. As one of Thompson's interlocutors said, "Yeah--a lot of Hollywood going on there."

Thompson doesn't appear to have any prejudices in favor of academic historians over buffs. He gives everyone who participates in the Davy Crockett debates a fair hearing and lets their arguments stand on their merits. But it's clear that some people want a Davy whose heroism is unadulterated by any weakness, a Davy who can reflect back to them attributes they wish to see in themselves.

But, as much as we might want historical truth, and the abandonment of a pop culture mindset that turns the search for what happened in the past into a species of entertainment reporting, you can't get away from the buckskin astronaut when you look at the backwoodsman. As Bob Thompson points out, Davy Crockett turned himself into one of the first celebrities in this country, and that's they way we still want him.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Didn't like book's organization 5 April 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I selected Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier by Bob Thompson as family history says I am distantly related to Davy Crockett. I wanted to learn more about my ancestor.

While Thompson has written a cleverly titled book, (titles such as Go West, Poor Man or Crockett Goes Rogue) I found his book lacking in organization.

Recommend with caveats given.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Very Interesting Book.... 16 Jun. 2014
By James W. McArthur - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Since I live in the South and near the areas described in the book, I could easily relate to the history
discussed by the author. I have been in many of the places described but was unaware of the
topics provided by the writer. Learned much by reading this book.
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