Recently I was listening to my grandsons talk about what they wanted for Christmas and for the most part what they were saying sounded pretty routine. But my second grand son was focused on one, and only one item that he wanted, and you could tell in his tone that he just had to have it. This got me thinking back to when I was about six years old. That would have been around 1956 and it was a time when prime time television was dominated by the westerns, shows like Gunsmoke, Cheyenne, Have Gun Will Travel, Maverick and many, many more. I liked them all and tried as hard as I could to watch as many of them as I could.
About this time Walt Disney, who had already made a daily show called “The Mickey Mouse Club,” was now adding another show that appeared every Thursday night titled “The Wonderful World of Disney”. This show brought a variety of one hour programs with different themes anywhere from cartoons to science and my favorite of course was about the Old West.
Shortly after this new program began, western night introduced a mega-star hero that every child just couldn’t get enough of- Davy Crockett. Davy Crockett aired as a three-episode series and the hero could do no wrong. I mean he could even grin down a bear from attacking him. He could arm wrestle anyone and was a great Indian fighter. The only mistake he ever made was going to the Alamo and even then it took Santa Anna’s 10,000 soldiers to kill him. Davy Crockett was on the lips of every child and many in the country faster than ever expected and Disney was of course, an expert at marketing. This was the first real hero I remember and the products with his likeness and name sold off the shelves faster than they could be replaced.
Any place kids gathered it wasn’t long before they began to play “Davy Crockett.” Of course all the boys wanted to pretend to be Davy but that honor always fell to the one who had replica Crockett items. But the item that always put a kid in the lead was a coon skin cap. Davy the character played by Fess Parker, was dressed in buckskin clothes with moccasins, a powder horn, a flintlock pistol and long rifle and a big hunting knife, but most notable was his coon skin cap.
For some reason he seemed to be the only frontiersman wearing one but on him it was like a crown distinguishing who the leader was. So I had to have one. I can’t explain the logic as all I knew was I just had to have one. Now in 1956 financial standards, a coon skin cap came at a higher price than most any item in the Crockett line. My parents tried to give us things we wanted but there were limits, and from all I could tell I had hit the limit and was pushing on past it, but I just couldn’t relent. I had to have that cap.
So as Thanksgiving passed and the calendar turned toward Christmas I decided this was my biggest and best chance to obtain the crown of the old frontier. Every chance I had I would talk to Dad and then Mom as I felt my chances better to divide and conquer. I even talked to my sister Peg, who would listen but not be much help, and even my brother Ben who was more interested in cars, girls and basketball, but I figured he might hear a bit of what I was talking about. I pleaded and finally pleaded that if I got that cap I would settle for that and nothing else would I ask for. (That plea really hurt.)
The big day finally arrived and when I went to the Christmas tree I saw a wrapped gift shaped in a square and just the size I felt a cap would be in. I opened it and there in its entire splendor was an official Davy Crockett coon skin cap! All the begging, pleading, and campaigning, and please don’t tell me that prayer doesn’t help, it took all of those things in my opinion to let me get that cap.
I took it out of the box and put it on my head and it wasa perfect fit. The longer I wore it the more I felt like I could wrestle a bear. The cap didn’t leave my head until I went to bed. When school started back up after Christmas vacation that cap was on my head and as I climbed onto the school bus the kids noticed as they did when I walked into the classroom.
I don’t want to brag but guess who got to be Davy at recess? Yep, it was little old me. That is until Hank got one for his birthday and then I had to move to second in line and share the lead with him.
That cap was the best present I received as a child and is still on my top five list. By the way, the next year I got a lunch box with Davy on it and it was pretty awesome for a lunch box. So when my grandson got that one item he wanted so much I really understood where he was coming from on the gratitude end, but even he could never feel like he was “The King of the Wild Frontier.”
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.