This episode of Wagon Train, Little Girl Lost coming in its next to last season remains one of the most haunting ever done on that long running series. It also is one of the few times that Frank McGrath as Charlie Wooster took center stage in an episode.
Charlie was always the comic relief on that series. In fact Terry Wilson as Bill Hawks and McGrath are the only two regulars that made it through the Ward Bond and John McIntire years of the series from the beginning to the end.
Wooster and Hawks were fellow veterans with Ward Bond of the Civil War and Bond was their commanding officer hence why he was known as Major Seth Adams. In fact it was a running gag kept up throughout the series about Wooster's lousy cooking and lousy coffee.
We're well into the John McIntire years now in this episode. Wooster is the only one who hears the plaintive cry of a little girl at night as the Wagon Train is traveling through the California Sierras He asks around and the rest think he's been hitting the cooking sherry. A few nights later he meets her and her name is Robin Mercy Rossiter. Wooster's relieved of course that he's not crazy.
But then he can't find her family or who she's traveling with on the Wagon Train. Until he meets up with another oldtimer on the train in the person of John Doucette.
The tragic truth is that little Robin is a ghost and she was one of the many who perished in that most horrifying of incidents of pioneers crossing the plains, the Donner Party. Doucette was one of the survivors of that and one can speculate how he survived since it was reported that the survivors turned to cannibalism. But that's not part of this show.
Doucette remembers how little Robin and her parents perished. It's been a quarter of a century now since they died Robin's ghost is still calling out for them.
Since the only human contact she's made for all that time was Charlie Wooster it's up to him to explain it to her. In a tear jerking climax Frank McGrath explains it to little Robin played by Eileen Baral. She's finally at peace now and reunited with her parents.
McGrath who was always comic relief was described by Harry Carey, Jr. in his book as one tough hombre. He was a stuntman, used a lot by John Ford and he finally got some bit parts and then came along with Ward Bond and fellow stuntman Terry Wilson to Wagon Train. But this was his episode and he plays it beautifully. There was not a dry eye in America wherever a family was watching Wagon Train that evening.
It was one of the best episodes of the series.
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