My wife and I have been watching Season 2 of Wagon Train (on disc). We enjoy it very much: that is, until you get to the ending theme music.
Written by Sammy Fain and Jack Brooks, and sung by Johnny O’Neill, this music, in addition to having a rather jarring Las Vegas sound, reveals in its lustily-sung lyrics a peculiar quirk of the human mind–writing or saying something that makes no sense at all, and then presenting it over and over again without ever noticing that it makes no sense at all.
Here are the two lines that jump out at us:
Rollin’ over prairie where there ain’t no grass,
Rollin’ up a mountain where there ain’t no pass…
To which we can’t help adding a third line: Find that wagon-master and fire his a**!
Really now: with the wagons being pulled by horses and mules, a prairie in which there ain’t no grass–otherwise known as a desert–would likely prove fatal to the wagon train. And trying to push the train over a mountain where there ain’t no pass–well, you know what happened to the Donner Party: trapped in the snow all winter, almost everybody died, cannibalism all around. Wouldn’t it make much more sense to roll the train over a prairie where there is plenty of grass for the horses to eat, and to cross the mountains by means of a pass? Even if you had to go a long way around?
Nevertheless, week after week, Mr. O’Neill belted out those crazy lyrics implying a suicidal wagon train full of incurable nitwits–until about two-thirds of the way through the season, when they dropped the lyrics altogether and just played the not very evocative music. And in Season 3 they switched over to the vastly-improved theme music which many still remember today.
Why did it take them so long to realize that poor Mr. O’Neill was singing poppycock? But at least they eventually corrected their mistake, which is more than we can say for some others.
But why did no one notice as soon as the lyrics were written? Someone should’ve said, “Uh, excuse me, but they’d have to have more than a few screws loose if they tried to drive their horses through a desert and then straight up a mountain.”
It seems to me that this little glitch from Wagon Train explains much of human history.