Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 7: No 2) >> Simms, ''Bill Bauldy,'' and Alligator Horses >> Page 32

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Secondary Scholarship | 1999
Transcription statements he made in Views and Reviews (1845), Mary Ann Wimsatt accurately
claims that Simms "preferred humor that was clever, lively, and believable" ("Simms
and Southwest Humor" 123). And while Simms was familiar with Davy Crockett
and actually uses Crockett as a major character in his melodrama Michael Bonham;
or, The Full of Bear, produced in Charleston in 1855, he portrays Crockett in a
prominently negative manner as a tenderfoot and laughingstock, or, as Wimsatt
describes him, as a "yokel, garrulous and blundersome, who gapes at the splendors of
city life." In Wimsatt's estimation, this demeaning and self-deprecating portrait of
Crockett suggests that Simms may have been "indulging his own slight anti-Crockett
bias" ("Native Humor" 162). Even so, while Simms seemed to enjoy the aspect of
fantasy which looms large in Southern frontier humor generally and in the Davy
Crockett lore specifically, still, no evidence has yet surfaced to indicate that he had
any direct knowledge of or appreciation for the subliterary sketches featured in the
Crockett Almanacs.
It is more likely that Simms obtained this subject matter second-hand,
possibly from Major Henry, who likely acquired it from reading the Almanacs or
listening to someone already familiar with these alligator sketches orally recount
them. Major Henry's sketch of Cudjo's boasting about riding on alligators to cross
rivers is unmistakably derivative, likely coming from materials featuring this tall-
talish activity in the Crockett Almanacs. I have discovered, in fact, four separate
sketches in the Almanacs, published between 1840 and 1854, which feature the
alligator-as-horse or a slight variation of this, three of which Major Henry may have
read or heard and subsequently retold, but with his own modifications.
The sketches featuring alligators-as-horses in the Crockett Almanacs which
may have inspired Major Henry's alligator yarn in "Bill Bauldy" are " A Kentucky
Team" (1840), "Crockett's Wonderful Escape Up Niagara Falls" (1842), and
"Crockett and His Pet Alligator on an Exploring Expedition" (1845). Each of these
yarns features extended hyperbole and employs Davy Crockett or another character
as a narrator who adopts the persona of an uninhibited boaster, a tall talker with a
vernacular voice. In both "Crockett's Wonderful Escape Up Niagara Falls" and
"Crockett and His Pet Alligator on an Exploring Expedition," the anonymous author
prominently features the alligator-as-horse. In "Crockett's Wonderful Escape,"
Crockett boasts about having looped the tail of his pet alligator Long Mississippi
around his body and having "steered [him] right up the eternal roarin' thunder wall
[of Niagara Falls] jist as slick as a wildcat up a white oak" (Dorson 10, 12) to escap
the British. In further describing this experience, Crockett enthusiastically reports:
And the way my pet and me grinned `no go' an' Yankee tantilization
at these pets of Queen Victoria set `em all to bitin' their guns and
swords with teetotal vexation. By way of a parting salute, my
alligator sent such a cloudburst of old Niagara's cold water upon `em,
that they all cut stick like to many half-drowned turkies from a spring
shower, thinking that the full entire cataract was coming to baptise
'em Christians and Republicans. My pet an' me shot up the rapids
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