to one Asa Musgrove, the Statesman story decribes an event that
supposedly took place a couple of years before Crockett crossed
the Red River into Texas in January
1836. In it Musgrove (the story referred to him as “Judge,” a common
term for lawyers back then) relates an amusing incident involving
the colorful frontiersman he said he saw happen in Santa Fe.
“It was in 1834, shortly before the outbreak of the war between
Texas and Mexico,”
Musgrove began. “A party of a dozen or more was shooting at a target
with rifles when a stranger rode up, threw his leg across the pommel
of his saddle and watched the sport.”
Musgrove observed that the man had a long rifle strapped across
the back of his saddle, “one of tghose old-fashioned affairs heavily
ornamented with silver.”
Though his opinion does not seem to have been solicited, the stranger
began commenting on the men’s marksmenship – or rather, their lack
of it. Soon, they invited him to “set the pace” if he knew so much
“He replied that he never throwed away any ammunition, but if they
would put up their crack shot he would shoot with him for 10 Mexican
dollars,” Musgrove continued. “The crowd agreed, and the stranger
unslung his gingerbread gun, as his opponent dubbed it.”
Before any lead flew, the stranger made a suggestion:
“Perhaps y’d like t’ raise the bet?”
Sizing him up as just another freshly arrived blowhard, the shooters
doubled the bet and then tripled it.
To sweeten the deal, the stranger offered to bet his gun against
his opponent’s rifle. The confident local shooter, envisioning a
small fortune in silver and a rifle to boot, readily accepted the
At that, the stranger assumed a wide-footed stance, raised his rifle
and nestled the butt-plate against his shoulder.
To the delight of the crowd, the muzzle of that flintlock wobbled
worse than a homeward-bound drunk. Someone yelled out to the stranger
that if he didn’t watch out, he’d end up shooting a circle around
The man lowered his rifle, stood silently for a moment as if weighing
a big decision, and then said he’d bet his horse against $40 more
dollars. Happy to take advantage of a foolhardy stranger who clearly
couldn’t even hold his rifle steady, the crowd assented to the proposition
and further enhanced the pot.
The matter settled, the stranger again raised his flintlock. This
time, the rifle extended from his shoulder as steady as a big oak
When he squuezed the trigger, a cloud of black powder smoke billowed
from the barrel as a round lead ball punched a neat hole dead center
in the target.
Reloading, the stranger fired again, his bullet going through the
same hole. He did the same thing a third time, easily out-shooting
his no-longer-cocky opponent.
“As he rode off with the spoils some one cried out, asking his name.
‘Davy Crockett,’ came the reply, and the party adjourned to the
nearest saloon without another word.”
While Musgrove, whoever he was (no information on anyone by that
name turns up on an Internet search), told a good story, it’s clearly
just one of the many made up tales about Crockett. The backwoods
gentleman from Tennessee, while he definitely knew some characters
who had traveled the Santa Fe Trail, never made it to New Mexico.
Of course, it’s at least possible the incident could have happened
elsewhere. Crockett supposedly was a good shot and on occasion well
could have taken advantage of that skill to earn himself a little
whiskey money. No matter, as a fun piece of folklore, it hits the
"Texas Tales" February
10, 2011 column