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Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  229 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Pioneer. Congressman. Martyr of the Alamo. King of the Wild Frontier. As with all great legends, Davy Crockett's has been retold many times.  Over the years, he has been repeatedly reinvented by historians and popular storytellers. In Born on a Mountaintop, Bob Thompson combines the stories of the real hero and his Disney-enhanced afterlife as he delves deep into our love ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published March 5th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was in Barnes & Noble looking – and failing to find – an entirely different book when I came across Bob Thompson’s Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier. The curse I uttered was the curse of a man who knows he’s about to buy a book at full cover price.

Thompson’s book is of a particular sub-genre that I cannot resist: the historical travelogue/memoir. The best examples of this brand include Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation and Tony Horow
All over America there are old white guys like me who can still sing the theme song from the Davy Crockett TV shows. Yes, I had a coonskin cap and defended the Alamo in my front yard a thousand times – always dying a heroic death, but only after dispatching hundreds of Mexicans. Bob Thompson’s “Born on a Mountain Top: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier” was written for and about us. Thompson embarked on a year-long historical road trip to detach history from mytho ...more
Dec 14, 2017 rated it liked it
I won't blame Thompson for making an overt reference to Confederates in the Attic for his book, since it probably helped sell copies. However, there is a two way street and this book from the cover says it is in the tradition of Tony Horwitz and Sarah Vowell. Horwitz's modern classic looms large on this one.

A travelogue is probably not a bad idea. As you may know, most of my reading in the past few years fall in that category. For me, Horwitz, Vowell, Bryson and Algeo to name a few. Thompson's t
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm afraid this one just didn't connect with me. I was hoping for something educational and charming but not here. Just too little known about Davy after his term in Congress and all the conjecture just wasn't interesting. 2 Stars ...more
Jun 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I came to know and love Davy Crockett in about the same manner as everyone else my age, or even thirty years older than me. It was watching Fess Parker play Davy Crockett for Disney, that made me fall in love with the adventures he had, and the kind of man he was. Parker's Davy was daring, generous, fearless, and about every other positive adjective I can think of. I wanted to go on his adventures and grow into the man he was. He was almost godlike to me as a kid, and all I wanted was that damn ...more
Sep 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"Davy, Davy Crockett, Kind of the Wild Frontier!" Do the words to this song ring through your head with any mention of legendary woodsman? Did you see the 1950s Disney series or movies with Fess Parker and become enchanted with this frontier hero? Bob Thompson takes readers on a journey in "Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier" to discover the real David Crockett,historical figure, and compare him with the pop culture icon that's been hanging ...more
Virginia Campbell
Frontiersman, politician, and genuine American Icon, Davy Crockett was a legend in his own time. Although his time on Earth was relatively short, just forty-nine years, he achieved much before that fateful battle at the Alamo ended his celebrated life. His legendary status will live on forever, and it will never be equaled in its uniqueness. Author Bob Thompson offers a fascinating look into the blended facts and fallacies of Crockett's life in: "Born on a Mountaintop--On the Road with Davy Croc ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was definitely too young for Disney's Davy Crockett-Mania of the mid-1950s, however I do know the song through osmosis. For me, this was an informative read since I never really identified with Western or Frontier hero types. However, as of late I find the real stories to be compelling (not that anyone really knows anything but the bare bones of the real Crockett stories).

The evolution of the mythical Davy Crockett is almost as interesting as the truth. It is clear that Crockett was already a
Ronald Roseborough
Hit the trail with Davy Crockett one more time. Don't try to tell me you didn't grow up wearing the coonskin cap while watching Davy's adventures on television. If you even read the first line of this review, I know you had to grow up around the legend of Davy Crockett. This book goes well beyond the legends, while still pausing to acknowledge them and appreciate their place in our lives. The author, Bob Thompson imparts to us both the facts and the fiction as he travels the country in pursuit o ...more
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Thompson roams around the country on the trail of Davy (who preferred to be called David) Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier. It's fascinating because we know so little about Crockett except what Walt Disney taught us. The reality is both more interesting and less interesting. Thompson always manages to find THE person in each location who can tell him the history of Crockett in each place he goes.

Crockett became famous just at the time America was moving to the "celebrity" culture we know so
Glenn Frankel
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege to see an advanced copy of Bob Thompson's forthcoming book and can report that it's a lively and entertaining journey through the Southeast and Texas in search of Davy Crockett's life and legend. I worked with Bob at the Washington Post for many years and watched his skills as a researcher and myth-buster evolve over time. He was born to write this book and he's done a wonderful job.Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier ...more
Jun 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
I gave it up after 100 pages. I expected it to be a straightforward biography of Davey Crockett, but it was more of a "follow along with the author as he drives all over the South investigating and sifting the Crockett legends from the real truth, talking to local historians, and musing about Crockett's life." It was an obnoxious format--continually switching from biography in the 1800s to contemporary memoir. ...more
Jason Pyrz
This book had its highlights, but mostly it was a rather bland slog through conjecture and rumor - not much actual fact is settled when it comes to Crockett - surrounding the life of a guy who really doesn't seem all that great when separated from the myths and Disneyfication.

Like a good deal of other reviewers, I came to this book expecting something more along the lines of a Tony Horwitz travelogue interspersed with history lessons related to the subject of the book. Here though, we received
Brenden Gallagher
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love historical road trip books. The combination of history and and a cross-country journey is irresistible to me, especially if the author makes sure to mix legitimate history with road side kitsch. Since Bob Thompson ends up visiting a Davy Crockett themed mini-golf course, remarking on Made in China coonskin caps, and eating Texas shaped pancakes, "Born on a Mountaintop" fits the bill.

Though Thompson does his due diligence, visiting all of the important sights as he traces Davy Crockett's l
Aug 04, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars

While I'm much too young to have been alive during the Davy Crockett craze of the 50's, a lot of my knowledge of him is from Fess Parker and the movies. Reading this book made me realize that the man and the myth are two separate entities. It was really interesting to read about the author's trips around the country to learn more about him. In real life we actually don't have a lot of facts. I might have given more stars but there are so many people that sometimes I didn't know if I was
Beth Galey Pero
Sep 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love non-fiction written like this....instead of a cut-and-dry biography, the author takes us on a road trip as he attempts to uncover the truth about Davy Crockett. Who was the real David, and what was only legend? What parts were created by the man himself? I had so much fun on this journey about the life of an American legend, and enjoyed all the characters and Crockett enthusiasts we met along the way.
Sam Sattler
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
Chris Stephens
Jul 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting take on the Crockett story. Thompson attempts to trace Crockett from Tennessee to Texas and all points in between. What's true and what's made up? What is history and what is legend? When it comes to David Crockett, we'll probably never know. ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thompson, in his journey following Crockett from Tennessee to Washington to Texas, brings the man to life in a way that is both touching and enlightening. A great study of myth and fact and the thin line that separates the two.
Mark Bunch
May 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: tennessee
I enjoyed this book. Davey Crocket is from my home town Morristown TN. They lived there in the late 1790's. This book has several people in it I know. They are East Tennessee experts on Davey Crockett. ...more
May 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Joe Cummings
Oct 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Running across Bob Thompson’s 2012 book Born on a Mountaintop: On the Road with Davy Crockett and the Ghosts of the Wild Frontier in the public library last week was like running into an old friend that I hadn’t seen or heard from in over 25 years. Back in 1986, I was the coordinator for the Tennessee Department of Conservation during its bicentennial celebration of Crockett’s birth in the state of Tennessee. That time was great fun, and for a short while, I was considered an expert on the D ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, vine
Anyone who lives in Texas learns very quickly the story of Davy Crockett, hero of the Alamo, frontiersman, statesman and soldier. I’ve been to the Alamo many times, paused in reverence at the various Crockett displays, and always considered him to be a hero without really knowing much about him. After all, he died at the Alamo—what more did I need to know?

In Born on a Mountaintop, Bob Thompson attempts to separate the myth from the man through visiting various locations mentioned in bios, myths
Barb in Maryland
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biographies
Full disclaimer--I am old enough that I remember the Disney Crockett craze. I stood in line to shake Fess Parker's hand, my younger sister had a coonskin cap. I am the logical target audience for this book and I gobbled it up.
The book is an interesting blend of biography, history, travelog and pop culture. Thompson does a deft job of balancing all those elements. He has a very engaging voice and the story flows easily.

Several points struck me--
As an amateur genealogist, I was already aware of th
Feb 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Say "Born on a Mountaintop in Tennessee" to any American male over the age of 50 and you will get most of the song from the Disney show. This book is wonderful, as it is a slice of America that has spent the better part of the last 30 years disappearing. When I was a kid (even now) I was a sucker for historical markers, small town museums and local histories. More people should be.

Thompson's writing is excellent, and he is almost affectionate in his descriptions of the many "Crockettologists" wi
Bob Schnell
Mar 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book tries to reconcile the real Davy Crockett with the mythical hero. The goal is not to shatter anyone's illusions about a larger-than-life historical figure but to look at the reality behind the legend. The author undertakes a road trip, following David from his birthplace in Tennessee to the Alamo, talking to fans and experts along the way. It is an eye-opening journey for an ordinary reader whose image of Crockett came courtesy of the Walt Disney/Fess Parker creation. There is plenty t ...more
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
My mom was an infant when Disney reintroduced Davy Crockett. My Dad was barely old enough to watch, and loved it. It helped that he and Davy were both from East Tennessee-- he said it was the first time he'd ever seen someone from "home" portrayed on TV. So I come to my Crockett interest naturally.

Thompson has done an excellent job with this history/travelogue style tour of Crockett's life. I like this style of writing--I love Sarah Vowell and Tony Horowitz. And I really enjoyed the way Thompso
Apr 17, 2013 rated it liked it
This started out like it was going to be a rather lighthearted travelogue of Davy Crockett related sites. Then it seemed like Thompson really got into it and it started to morph into a traditional history. He then came to realize that it was important to separate Crockett the man from Crockett the myth. To his distinct credit, he came to realize that much of the time, this separation is impossible. Therein lies a valuable lesson for those of us who love to read history. Even the best writers beg ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel, biography, history
There's a genre of books. Kind of a mix of history, travel, and humor. Sarah Vowell is the master of it. I have loved everything of hers I've ever read. (Assassination Vacation is a great one to start with if you want to try her out.) Tony Horwitz has also written in this area. His book Confederates in the Attic is just outstanding.

This book is an example of that genre. The author looks at the life and legend of Davy Crockett. There's actual history here as the author travels to various places
Ted Lehmann
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent book combining solid historical scholarship and an enjoyable search through today to separate fact from myth. Enjoyed reading it a lot. I've posted my review on my blog at My friend Sam Sattler, who blogs at Book Chase ( and I have posted our reviews simultaneously and cross posted them. It's an interesting exercise, especially considering differences considerable differences in our mututal passions. ...more
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