This gospel-folk song about a man and his mule and a mirage in the desert was originally written by Canadian-born singer-songwriter Bob Nolan in 1936. Nolan was a founding member of the American cowboy singing group The Sons of the Pioneers who recorded this song in 1941 winning a Grammy Award for it.
Johnny Cash recorded the song many years later during his recording sessions with Rick Rubin and it was included on his posthumous 2010 American VI: Ain't No Grave album. Cash told Mojo magazine's Sylvie Simmons that this was "a song of the Pioneers, a song I've known since I was a tiny boy."
Vaughn Monroe, backed by The Sons of the Pioneers, recorded the best-selling version of this song in 1948. Other artists who have covered it include Frankie Laine and The Mellomen who took it to #2 on the British charts in 1955, Fleetwood Mac for the B-side to the single "Gypsy" and Joni Mitchell with revised lyrics on her 1988 album, Chalk Mark in a Rainstorm.