I had a minor epiphany about the song Home on the Range today on my bike. I used to love that song as a kid – I grew up in a land with 360 days of sunshine a year, and though I live nowhere near any buffalo (and they’re not buffalo, by the way, they’re bison – does North America even have wild buffalo? Anyone?) I did see a wild deer in the nearby desert once and I’m pretty sure if one were omniscient one could readily locate an antelope within 500 miles of my house. So the song was clearly tailored for my region.
But there was that one pair of lines, “Where seldom is heard / a discouraging word…”
I totally read that wrong as a kid! I thought they meant that the word ‘seldom’ was somehow seen as discouraging to the types of people who make their homes on ranges. Of course the sentence construction was a little off, but I put it down to lyrical constraints and my ineptitude with the English language, having so few youthful years behind me at that age. I came up with all sorts of whimsical reasons why range people might not like ‘seldom’ – maybe the word was too hoity-toity for them, or they were the kind of people who would always say ‘yes’ to everything because they were so generous and kind (I’d been reading a lot of Little House on the Prairie and I had built up a very fanciful idea of what prairie living was like, and further assumed that prairies and ranges were the same thing), and so on and so forth. Obviously none of these made any more sense than my initial assumption, now that I think of it.
So anyway I sort of dropped the song somewhere along in my childhood, and woke up with it stuck in my head this morning and only just realized how the line is supposed to be read whilst I was valiantly conquering the infuriatingly persistent fire hose mud pit on my bike on the way in to work. Hey, it only took me 20 years to figure it out, right?
P.S. I apologize if you can’t get the song out of your head, now.
EDIT: See, this is why I need an editor. I have no idea when I’m being totally ridiculously unclear. So it’s like this:
The line is supposed to be interpreted as follows: “Discouraging words are almost never heard on the range.”
My childhood interpretation: “The word ‘seldom’ is considered discouraging to people on the range.”
I hope I have clarified this post.
UPDATE: The greatest thing happened this morning – and I totally foreshadowed it in this post! I happened to be at the creek by my parents’ house taking some pictures, and look who happened into my camera view! They were far away, so forgive my blurriness...