Davy Crockett and his alligator single handedly defeat the red coats at Niagara Falls.

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My name is Davy Crockett, darling son of Tennessee and the greatest all-around patriot in the United States of America.

I can jump higher, shout louder, and think faster than any man, woman, or child on the face of the Earth. ’Course I don’t like to brag—but if you think I’m fibbing, let me tell you about one of my high adventures.

You see, Uncle Sam was having a disagreement with King George of England. They’d been snarling like a couple of panther pups ever since Uncle Sam won his independence, and old King George kept a whole army of redcoats up in Canada, just waiting for trouble. In 1812 the trouble came, and there was plenty of it around that thunderous waterfall we call Niagara.

The boats were closing in.

Naturally, I wanted to do my patriotic part, so I whistled for my pet alligator, Long Mississippi. It was half past springtime when we sailed up the Big River and into the Ohio, with Long Mississippi paddling strong against the current and me resting peaceful on his elegant, scaly back.

We ran out of river a good day’s walk from the falls, and we were commencing to cross the land when a twisty, terrible tornado roared past, picking up wild critters so fast that I could hardly tell a weasel from a wildcat.

Long Mississippi grinned, nervous-like (that’s just the way with alligators and tornadoes), but I kept one hand on his tail and reached up with the other to grab a passing bolt of lightning. We streaked across the sky like a wonder of nature, leaving the tornado behind and plopping down in the water just below Niagara Falls.

After such wearisome electric skychasing I decided to take a snooze, using Long Mississippi for a fine reptile pillow. I was dreaming about the Tennessee woods—busy grinnin’ a raccoon down from a tree—when a whole battalion of British redcoats surrounded me.

“Surrender in the name of the king!” they called, their weak voices barely penetrating my own magnificent snores. I opened my eyes to find the entire British navy sailing out to meet me.

“I surrender to no one!” I shouted back, loud and brassy enough to drown Niagara. “I’m Davy Crockett, darling son of Tennessee and the greatest all-around patriot of Uncle Sam!”

Those redcoats just closed in tighter, until the bows of their boats tickled the belly of my pet alligator. “Come with us, Colonel Crockett,” said the leader, “and you can sample His Majesty’s hospitality.”

Normally, I’m the greatest lover of hospitality, and I don’t much care where it comes from, majesty or mongrel. But I figured this particular hospitality was something I could do without, so I set my brain to thinkin’, and I knew I’d better do it fast.

The boats were closing in on three sides, herding me toward Canada astride the curl of Long Mississippi’s tail. When we went past the falls, the water pounded down so loud and thick I thought I was in the middle of a cannonball—and the redcoats let loose a shout of teetotal triumph, figuring I had to follow ’em or else get drowned under old Niagara.

But those redcoats didn’t know the go-ahead gumption of Davy Crockett. I tickled my alligator with my big toe to give him the message. Then I twisted his tail around me tight, plugged my nose with a couple of fingers, and rode Long Mississippi right up that raging mountain of water as slick and easy as a wildcat climbing a white oak tree.

All the way up the falls my ’gator and me grinned Yankee pride, while those redcoats bit their swords in vexation. When we reached the top, Long Mississippi sent down such a shower of Niagara’s spray that the whole battalion caught a calamitous case of the sniffles—like a flock of turkeys in a cold spring rain—and they were never the same again.

Free, proud, and American, I stood on my ’gator’s back and crowed over the thunderacious roar, “Cock-a-doodle-doo! Uncle Sam and Crockett, too!”

Fact is, my pet and me defeated the redcoats right then and there. All I needed was quick-thinking, loud-yelling patriotism—and a tornado-shy, waterfall-climbing alligator named Long Mississippi.

This Didn’t Really Happen, Did It?

“Davy Crockett Shoots the Falls” is a tall tale, an exaggerated, humorous kind of story that first became popular in the United States in the nineteenth century. Some tall tales tell about the adventures of imaginary heroes like Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill. However, the hero of this story, Davy Crockett, was a real person, though the story itself is fictional.

Born in eastern Tennessee in 1786, Davy Crockett spent much of his adult life moving westward across the state, farther and farther into the wilderness. He fought under General Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812, but he never really met the British “redcoats” at Niagara Falls. A wonderful storyteller who often entertained his neighbors with tall tales, Crockett was elected to the United States Congress in 1827, where he gained a reputation as an intelligent, though uneducated, spokesman for the people of the American frontier. Davy Crockett died in 1836 while helping to defend the Alamo.

A year earlier, in 1835, the first in a series of inexpensive books called the Crockett Almanacs was published. The almanacs were so popular that new volumes were published for more than twenty years. They contained a mixture of frontier news, weather reports, and tall tales about Davy Crockett.

This story is based on two tales from the Crockett Almanacs, with a “splendiferous” dose of modern imagination.