In You Got Trouble, one of the best known songs from The Music Man, lyricist Meredith Wilson skillfully employs contemporaneous idiom, enticing us with a slice of small town life in Middle America at the turn of the 20th century:
some big out-o'-town jasper, my grandparents talked like that;
kids in the knickerbockers short pants;
Cap'n Billy's Whizbang, an early joke periodical of low culture;
dime novel, penny-dreadfuls in another era;
Sen-sen, breath-freshening gum - you can still buy it at some liquor stores.
One detail betrays Wilson however:
Not a wholesome trottin' race, no,
but a race where they set down right on the horse
Like to see some stuck up jockey boy sittin' on Dan Patch?
He's right on the money with the mention of Dan Patch
, the legendary horse of early 20th century harness racing
, except for the linkage with "wholesome trottin' race". Dan Patch never ran a trotting race
in his career: Dan Patch was a pacer
, not a trotter
. Every picture of Dan Patch in action shows his legs moving in bilateral symmetry
: right foreleg and hind leg together, left foreleg and hindleg together.
Any suggestion that this would be a error in keeping with the character of Professor Harold Hill fall flat. As one of those slick "out-of-town jaspers", a real sharp, Hill would be very familiar with the varieties of horse race gambling; he would never mistake Dan Patch, a nationally-known and beloved sports celebrity of the equine persuasion for a trotter.