Severe diarrhoea, ending in a horrible death. That’s what dysentery is, and it’s what most people died of on the Oregon trail, according to the video game.
In reality it was cholera that was the most prolific disease. Cholera was similar to its pal dysentery – except that as well as the explosive pooing, you also vomited your way to the grave.
Imagine being trapped in a wagon with your whole family as they slowly all crap themselves to death. You can understand why they took along a banjo or two to sing some songs. While Aunt Mildred is spraying from both ends it can’t hurt to drown out the sound with some folky hymns.
As well as covering up the sound of gastronomic problems, singing releases endorphins and lowers blood pressure. As your wagon bumps along the trail, familial vomit pooling on the floor, your relaxed and happy demeanour will help you through.
During our recent travels through Europe, TJ and I would often sing to alleviate stress. As we walked up hills in thirty degree heat, we’d hum familiar tunes, enjoying the camaraderie and bonding it would bring.
“Here I am!”, I would begin.
“I ain’t got a dick, I got a chicken noodle can”, TJ would follow.
Together, we’d continue:
“All my life
I’ve been putting this can inside my chicken noodle wife.”
(Sitting on seven-hour train journeys with nothing but a backlog of Harmontown podcasts had given us a unique set of songs to sit along to.)
It didn’t end with the chicken noodle man having unsatisfying sex with his chicken noodle wife. We also added Pringles Dick to our set list, a song with a similar theme of a man sporting a snack-based penis. The gist, if you aren’t familiar, is that a chap is stuck with the nickname “Pringles dick”, yet feels at a loss to explain the reasoning behind it.
Some people call me Pringles dick, but I never really found out why.
He goes on to examine the situation, explaining that he simply stores his organ inside a (presumably empty) Pringles can to ensure it stays free from water and remains secure.
I don’t really have a Pringles dick, I just keep my dick inside
I keep my dick inside a Pringles can, because it keeps my penis safe and dry.
Some people call me Pringles dick, but I never really found out (no, I never found out)
I never really found out why.
The first time we bought Pringles overseas was at the Vatican City. Despite the super-religious-and-very-serious vibe the place seemed to promote, we felt a duty to pay homage to one of our favourite tunes with a photo.
A few weeks later we were in York, and we ended up at a very small and terrifying pub. We walked in and were greeted with silent stares, the burly tattooed men suspicious of the new arrivals with their own teeth. We ended up out the back, sitting at a table with two men from Glasgow. One was young and cocky, the scar on his arm suggesting he wasn’t the type to run from a fight. The other was older, wiser, and far more drunk. He moved like his centre of gravity was being toyed with by opposing bored magnets, his nose a deep and angry red, with a transport map of purple veins. Our conversation began with him slurring with a heavy Scottish accent, me replying “what?”, so to make things easier, he put an arm around my shoulder and shouted everything into my ear.
After a few pints and some confusing shouting about building railroads in Australia, the men treated us to a song – a Scottish ditty their grandfathers might have sung. Stuck without remembering any traditional New Zealand songs – with no Pokarekare Ana at the ready, forgetting the verses to I’m an Utter Peanut Butter Nutter, we launched into Chicken Noodle Man.
Two lines in and our drunk friend hit the table hard with his palm.
“I love this song!” he shouted, continuing to hit the table with a rhythmic smack, keeping time with palm against wood.
As we sang about the chicken noodle god coming down from the mountain, he cackled to himself and to his younger friend. “Great song! Chicken noodle! I love those chicken noodles!”
Knowing that he probably wouldn’t have ever used a computer, let alone understood what a podcast was, we didn’t try to explain the song’s origin. We just taught him the words. Sure, we may not have had the glamour and excitement of an infectious intestinal disease. But we had friendship, we had beer, and we had songs about men with cylindrical genitals.
And with that, we didn’t need anything else.