Print the LegendrnRetaking the Alamornby William MurchisonrnAt the Alamo, Davy Crockett either: A. Died while swingingrnold Betsy; B. Came radically disconnected when herntorched the powder magazine; C. Surrendered to the Mexicans,rnwho tortured, then killed him, along with six other Anglornsurvivors of the siege.rnDoes it matter immensely which of these versions of Crockett’srndeath commends itself to us as truthful? Possibly not. Arnand C (the trick choice, B, is the version from John Wayne’s famousrnfilm. The Alamo) lead to the very same place: the tinyrnAlamo garrison wiped out, Santa Anna’s vastly more powerfulrnMexican army in full possession of San Antonio de Bexar,rnTexas’s hopes for independence flickering low in the ashes,rnwaiting to be kindled less than six weeks later at San Jacinto.rnWhy, then, the sensitivity—much trumpeted in the mediarnthese past few months—over which version is right, A or C?rnWhat’s it all got to do with the price of eggs in Arkansas? Especiallyrngiven that, just before Texas hrdependence Day (Marchrn2) of this year, a random poll of Texans uncovered what appearsrnto be widespread public ignorance concerning events atrnthe Alamo. I say “what appears” because you know^ about polls,rnespecially random ones conducted, as in this case, by a NewrnYork City firm. Anyway, I solemnly relay the finding that 36rnpercent of the 403 people surveyed could not name anyonernwho died at the Alamo, nine percent did not know where thernbattle took place, and 23 percent were unaware whose armyrnoverwhelmed the Texicans. I conclude with the caution thatrneach one of these people’s votes counts just as much as yoursrnand mine.rnWilliam Murchison is a nationally syndicated columnist for thernDallas Morning News.rnBut the point was Day Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier,rnas the Disney series and its lilting Ceorge Bruns theme songrndenominated him. Does it matter how he died? Certainly notrnto those who are not even sure he was at the Alamo. Amongrnthe conventionally informed, the Crockett death story hasrnachieved a certain resonance. A political resonance, you willrngather from your knowledge of the circumstances.rnIn 1975, the English translation of a Mexican officer’s diaryrnfirst made headlines, chiefly because of the officer’s claim tornhave seen Crockett and six other Alamo defenders tortured andrnexecuted by the Mexicans after the battle. This account, ifrntrue, set at naught the received version of Crockett’s death duringrnthe battle.rnOf course, there was more to the matter than this. News,rnhowever long delayed, of a Crockett execution could be seen asrndeflating a romantic and heroic story. In the late 20th century,rnas in George Orwell’s day, the self-enlightened squint balefullyrnat romance and heroism, which pull the wool over ordinary’rnpeople’s eyes, ratify the claims of a ruling class, blah blah blah.rnWe still battle the same cultural cynicism that Orwell cogentlyrnconfronted in his time.rnThe legend of the Alamo concerned all the defenders dyingrnat their posts for the sake of freedom. (“Now the bugles arernsilent, and there’s rust on each sword / And the small band ofrnsoldiers lie asleep in the arms of the Lord . . . “—Paul FrancisrnWebster, from the John Wayne version.) What if one of thoserndefenders—the most famous of them at that—could be shownrnto have surrendered, possibly cringed, even begged for his life?rnPimcture a myth, and the air escapes rapidly.rnWell, the diary of Col. Jose Enrique de la Pena made a briefrnsensation. As it happened, not the same sensation de la Penarnhad envisioned in the 1830’s when he penned it, probably inrnJUNE 1999/17rnrnrn