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Hobos, Tramps and Homeless Bums

Discussion in 'Metal Heads' started by KaBar, Oct 13, 2001.

  1. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    I'm not sure if this topic is cool here or not, but when I'm in the yards, I see tramps occasionally. I see graff artists occasionally. Usually, I don't see ANYBODY, not even yard workers. There is a big difference between Hobos and Tramps. There are really very few hobos left. Modern tramps consider hobos to be the old timers from the steam train days of the Great Depression. There are a few of them still alive. Steam Train Maury Graham in Napoleon, Ohio, is one of the best known hobos in America. (He rode back in the late 1940s and '50s. He's in his eighties now, but he still goes to hobo conventions once in a while. The best known convention is the second weekend in August every year, in Britt, Iowa. It's on Route 18, 35 miles west of Mason City, Iowa.)
    Hobos travel to work. Tramps travel to not work. Bums can't work or travel, they just get high and drink. And "homeless" people have an attitude problem. I lived outdoors for months at a time, and I never once felt like I was "homeless." Wherever I was, that was "home." I treated it with respect. I saw a hand-lettered sign in a jungle that said, "Serious Tramps Keep A Clean Camp." I believe that, too. The guy that taught me to hop freights, Rufe, said it many times. "You ain't no bum. We keep a clean camp here. Pick that trash up off the ground and burn it." Rufe called that having a "straight-up tramp attitude." All business, no sloppy behavior. Being homeless is not about being POOR. It's about being WHIPPED DOWN and NO-ACCOUNT. There's no reason to go around all filthy and dirty. I lived outside with everything I owned in a ruck sack. I still took a spit bath every day and cleaned up and washed my clothes. The people that do that sort of shit (go for days without bathing or cleaning themselves up) are mentally ill, for real. I don't believe in panhandling. Working like a squeegee tramp is okay, but no begging, and no stealing. That sort of shit lacks dignity. (Gotta go. Be back later.)
  2. suburbian bum

    suburbian bum 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: Jan 30, 2001 Messages: 14,673 Likes Received: 3
    Very good, post more stuff. I like what you have to say.
  3. Vanity

    Vanity Veteran Member

    Joined: Apr 11, 2000 Messages: 7,673 Likes Received: 6
    i dont think beggin or stealing lacks dignity.. esp stealing.
  4. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Vanity---I debated with myself for a while about how to respond to your statement about theft. You certainly have a right to whatever opinions you hold, and if you genuinely believe that living by ripping off from people is okay, then anything I have to say ain't going to influence you very much. I've known quite a few thieves in my life. Mostly, they treated other people with a lack of respect because they lacked respect for themselves. I can't say that I never took anything that didn't belong to me. Just riding freight trains at all is considered by the law to be a form of theft ("Theft of transportation", a Class C misdemeanor, on a par with littering or jumping turnstiles on the subway) and like any violation of law, if you get caught, there are consequences. Pretty slight consequences in this case, maybe a $75 ticket. But there is a big difference between riding an empty rbox, or a pig, or camping out on a 48 behind the container, and busting into cargo. Or ripping off somebody's gear. Or shoplifting from a store. That's all theft, and in my opinion, it is not okay. Property is owned by somebody by it's very definition. They have the right to own it, and control it, and to buy or sell it, and to limit it's use by others, unless the other person is willing to satisfy the owner with a purchase price, or rent or lease or some other exchange of value. Nobody understands the concept of property better than someone who has very little of it. I own more now than I used to, and it's still not much. But it is MINE, and pitiful little as it is, I will defend it against people who try to jack me up for it. In Montana, if someone is convicted of robbing a tramp of his bedroll, he can be sentenced to as much as twenty years in prison. Some rich rancher has his thousands of acres and his ranch house. All a transient has is his ruck and his bindle, but it's home. Out in the boondocks, one's ruck and bindle may be the difference between surviving the weather or death by exposure. Montana juries don't take robbing tramps lightly.
    I chose to ride trains, I chose tramp life and during the parts of my life when I lived outdoors, I accepted the consequences of my decisions. I jumped freights knowing I was breaking rules. I've never been caught, and I've never been punished for it, but in the back of my mind, I know what I was doing was against the law, and I had already decided I was willing to accept the consequences of my actions. Maybe, if the consequences had been more severe, I would have been less willing to accept them. But I never thought, and still don't think, that I have a RIGHT to ride freight trains. The trains don't belong to me. If I get popped, well, then I guess I pay. I know three young guys that carjacked somebody with pellet pistols, and got arrested and convicted. One got ten years deferred adjudication. If he even gets so much as a MIP charge, he goes to prison. The other two got eight years apiece in the Texas Youth Commission. If they do all their time, they won't get out until they are about 25 years old.
    Society is US. And WE, all of us together, collectively say, through the law, that taking anything that doesn't belong to you is wrong, and will be punished one way or another. Obviously, there are some people both rich and poor that try to get over by ripping people off. Ripping off with a fountain pen instead of a revolver doesn't make it right, and if they get caught, they get punished, or at least they are supposed to get punished. Justice is imperfect.
    If I come face-to-face with somebody trying to rip ME off, I won't need any cop, judge or jury to settle it. Ultimately, that old line by Bob Dylan is true--"To live outside the law, you must be honest." I don't steal from other people because I don't want them stealing from me. Stores, restaurants, etc. all are owned by somebody. I know a few older tramps who are retired and receive a check from stocks or mutual funds that they own in companies. Essentially, they own part of the company. If you steal from the company, you are stealing from the stockholders, i.e. from thousands of people who have put up money to capitalize the company. You can buy stock too, anybody can. If you choose to spend your money on stuff you want instead of stocks, that's okay, but don't snivel that the company is some conspiracy to mistreat people. ANYBODY can buy stock. And most big corporations are now owned or controlled by worker retirement funds, essentially making American WORKERS the owners of AMERICAN COMPANIES. In other words, it's thousands of little people (and a few rich folks) who own virtually every large corporation.
    I have, on occasion, GIVEN people half of whatever I had in my pocket. But how often can one afford to do that? It is the responsibility of each of us to take care of ourselves, unless we cannot do so. I might be willing to GIVE somebody five bucks, if I thought the situation warranted it. But if he tried to TAKE it from me, I would fight and use whatever force is necessary to keep it. That five dollars is mine. No sonofabitch has a right to it without my permission, not by theft, and not by robbery. So. Let criminals take heed, I guess. One lives by crime at a serious risk. The poorer the victim, the greater the crime.
  5. Fox Mulder

    Fox Mulder 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: Nov 23, 2000 Messages: 12,434 Likes Received: 86
    Kabar do you write? if so, how do you justify that?
    Rucksack likes this.
  6. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Fox Mulder---Good point. Obviously, putting up graff on somebody else's property is use of it without that person's permission, unless, of course, the owner grants permission, which I think would be pretty damn cool. But I've met people who said that if they were given permission that they wouldn't bother to write there. To those guys, the whole point was to be pissing off some property owner, especially a large corporation or a government facility. I don't agree. I think tagging on personal property like some guy's wooden fence or the side of his house is totally, completely lame. Writing on the side of a grocery chain store is still messing with property, but at least it's not an individual. Writing on railcars, and places like freeway overpasses, and other big, ugly, industrial type spots seems a lot more acceptable to me. I used to live near a school in Los Angeles that had a "tag wall" where anybody could tag anything but threats of violence. Part of it was a "big piece" wall, where writers had to get prior approval by a committee, and then the school would "feature" the piece for a month at a time, then another writer got selected. There's also a serious difference between a large fill-in (which is definately in the category of art) and some idiot that scrawls "Los XVII Avenues xxx187 Snoopy" and then disses a bunch of other ignorant tags, who then diss his stuff---it's just STUPID. Not to mention dangerous. These people that kill one another over gang tags are just beyond ignorant low-self-esteem losers. They might as well be in the Klan. Certain areas of Houston are just plagued with this kind of stupid vandalism. It's not attractive, it's not creative, it's just--ugly. In my neighborhood, patrols of volunteers regularly buff everything on every wall they see, with paint given to them by the city. The industrial-railcar-freeway overpass spots are just about the only spots where good writing stays up for any length of time. Writers with some talent are pretty rare around here, and it's been a while since I saw anything obviously put up by a crew with a plan and a color scheme. Most of it is some no-talent 13-year old kid trying to make his bones with a gang. What can I say? I guess I am a hypocrite, because I don't see decent graff and dummy vandalism in the same light, and definately not in the same light as ripping stuff off.
    Kevin Harris likes this.
  7. imported_xhobox

    imported_xhobox Member

    Joined: Feb 15, 2001 Messages: 628 Likes Received: 0
    i probably shouldn't write this cuz i'm tired and not thinking too much... but i disagree about the stealing issue with you KABAR... to me part of graffiti is racking paint and other stuff... and you are a bit hypocritical about writing graffiti and yet talking about how stealing is bad.... the way i see it is that big places (non-mom and pop stores) rip off the american workers and american people by pushing small business out of the way... especially because most big places don't hire union workers... also if i rack a can of rusto it's not going to make the stores stock drop that much... if at all... the act of graffiti is rebellion and by painting graffiti you are basically challenging the concept of property ownership... personally i disaggree with a society run by money, and property and i guess that is why i feel that racking isn't bad... companies steal from workers and consumers everyday, i'm not going to lose sleep over stealing afew cans...

    secondly... graffiti is graffiti... seen said it best "just a kid telling his story" if a kid does some gang graff that you deem ignorant it's still telling his story... even if it is ignorant... i usually don't take the time to care what other people do anyways... i do agree that bombing houses and stuff is not very cool... but most people that do that stuff are laughable... but in the same heart beat i'll bomb apartment buildings and buildings with apartments above them... and again the whole issue of challenging the concept of property ownership... it just seems silly to me that someone owns a bit of land and says it's ok for you to use it for a fee... i mean... what right does anyone have to own a piece of land that was here long before the human race and will be here long after? it just seems silly to me...

    i mean no offense but i felt i should give you my take on the issue...
  8. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Hobo jungles

    The morals issue aside, I wanted to ask if any of you folks have discovered any hobo jungles in your forays into and around rail yards. I have discovered several. A couple of them were obviously still in use, but I've also discovered a couple that have been abandoned or forgotten. They were all overgrown, but I found old bottles, blue plastic UP water bottles, a metal cooking grill buried under leaves, old campfire rings and so forth. Just for something to do, I cleaned a couple of them up and left firewood (what is called "squaw wood" down here--dry branches you can break off of trees and bushes), newspaper, toilet paper, etc. in the jungles I cleaned up.
    When I was a young kid (maybe eight or nine) I lived near the famous T&NO Junction here in Houston. There was a large jungle near there, and we saw hobos all the time in our neighborhood. I didn't realize, back then, that we lived so close to a major Texas rail junction, or that New South Yards was so close to us. (I'm not sure when NSY was built, it might not have been there back then.) (Edit 3/12/02--I talked with my father, and he says NSY was already there when we moved there in 1949-1950.) The tramps back then cooked in one-gallon cans with a bail handle made of coat-hanger wire. The tramps call them "gunboats." I probably saw fifty of them when I was a kid, because they would make one, use it to cook, then wash it out and leave it for the next guy, upside down on a stick driven into the ground near the fire ring. Usually, they would find three straight branches about four feet long, lash them together and make a tripod above the fire, and suspend the gunboat can with a piece of "dog chain" and an s-hook made out of coat hanger wire or out of a nail. They could raise or lower the can on the chain, depending on how hot the fire was. Have any of you seen anything like this? I found one, so I decided to make a few gunboats and leave them in jungles that I cleaned up. When I go back, I see that the cans are black on the bottom from a fire, but they are still there on the stick where I left them. Look for jungles near where you go to check trains. I've met a couple of young tramps, in their twenties and early thirties. But mostly, they are older guys.
  9. Smart

    Smart Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Apr 14, 2000 Messages: 17,017 Likes Received: 178
    I've probably wandered into 15 or so full on Hobo camps in my life, it's always interesting to analyze the 'garbage' a big thing around the gulf coast that I've noticed it a huge abundance of 5 gallon buckets, it rains all summer and the ground is foul so there are usually scads of buckets around for seating and such, plus I've seen some pretty ingenious lean-to's
  10. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    I have noticed the same thing. When I was a kid, the buckets were gray-painted steel cans with a handle for carrying, but now they are mostly plastic 5-gallon paint buckets. I find small trees with several nails driven in them about five feet off the ground, too. The tramps swing hammocks if there are any trees. Sometimes you'll find two sets of nails, one above the other--I guess they are swinging two hammocks off the same two trees, one above the other. I find clean tin cans to use for cups, lots of wine bottles and beer cans and those silver mylar bags that go inside 5-liter boxes of wine. They call them "space bags." They drink straight from the spout, without touching it, and pass it around. I usually build a fire and burn all the trash. Once I clean one up, it stays pretty clean for quite a while.
  11. imported_xhobox

    imported_xhobox Member

    Joined: Feb 15, 2001 Messages: 628 Likes Received: 0
    in the cn yard in milwaukee there used to be a big one... the one that's under the interstates by the harbor... it was almost like a city inside a city back in the day... but things have changed...

    catching out in that place isn't hard... there's always a train leaving... you probably wouldn't want to paint there though because of the traffic...
  12. Fox Mulder

    Fox Mulder 12oz Loyalist

    Joined: Nov 23, 2000 Messages: 12,434 Likes Received: 86
    kabar i was just asking because you seemed to have a problem with stealing from a large corporation but not a problem with painting on them. both things cause the business to lose money. i personally don't see anything wrong with writing or stealing from large companies.
  13. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Fox Mulder---Like I said before, you certainly have a right to your opinions, I just disagree, that's all. I can't say that I've never taken anything that wasn't mine, because I have. I feel bad about it now, of course, but there's no way to compensate the person I stole from (like twenty years ago) because I don't know who the person is. What I can do, is decide for myself what is the right way to live for me, and be true to my feelings and beliefs. I suppose one could say that my beliefs about stealing are irrational. But I would never steal from a bro, and I'd never steal from a fellow rider, so that philosophy seems like it ought to extend to the rest of the world. I guess I irrationally don't see writing as destructive to industrial property, even though, as you say, it does cost money to remove it, if the owner of the spot doesn't want it there. I have left my streak on quite a few railcars, but I always tagged in chalk or soapstone, so it didn't stay there too long. The places I ever painted were so messed up already, I think my stuff improved things rather than detracted from them. Like I said, maybe it's irrational. I still don't rip people off. Even people who shoplift usually draw the line at ripping off individuals, but some don't.
    People who ride trains without any gear, without any money, without any way to take care of their own business are called "streamliners." This is not an affectionate term. Usually streamliners steal from other tramps, or rob freight, or do petty crimes in neighborhoods along the rail lines. Of course, this brings down the cops on everybody in sight, so most straight-up tramps hate streamliners. There are a lot of people running from the law trying to ride trains, and if they will rob some guy running a convenience store, they will rob you and me sitting around a campfire brewing coffee in a gunboat. I have seen tramps give a streamliner a beating (well, not a very effective beating, but he got the message.) He tried to snag somebody's bindle.
    There is a thing called the "Rule of the Match". It's an old tradition, and I've never actually seen anybody give anybody else a kitchen match (a lot of you younger guys may have never even seen a kitchen match in your life, LOL) but the idea is "Beat it, you're not welcome here, go start your own fire, you jerk." If anybody ever gives you a match, LEAVE IMMEDIATELY. It's a serious message that you are not welcome. You could get hurt, or worse. But hardly anybody today even has ever heard of the Rule of the Match.
    When I was in the Marines, a barracks thief was considered the lowest of the low. It was okay to snag gear for the platoon, or "kipe" stuff somewhere else, but Marines NEVER steal from their own. The worst thing you can call a Marine, worse than "coward," is "buddy fucker." It means back stabber and those words are not heard very often. They are fightin' words, for real. I just don't steal, that's all.
    There is a funny saying in the Marines about theft. It goes like this:
    "There is only one thief in the Marine Corps. Everybody else is just trying to get their gear back."
  14. KaBar

    KaBar Senior Member

    Joined: Oct 9, 2001 Messages: 1,397 Likes Received: 28
    Gunboats and Dog Chain

    Re-reading some of this, it occurred to me that some readers might not understand that true tramps often made their own gear from trash and stuff they scavenged from dumpsters. Rufe, the guy from whom I learned to hop trains, wouldn't even use an Army surplus pack, which were available very cheaply back then from Army-Navy stores. They might cost a dollar or two. I saw a lot of tramps carrying a military surplus combat pack when I was a kid. Rufe carried all his gear in a homemade ruck, made from a "tater sack", which was a burlap bag that potatoes came in at the store (today, they come in plastic bags--Booo!) He tied a length of cotton rope to the two bottom corners of the sack, put a small cardboard box inside, and loaded the cardboard box with his stuff. When the bag was full, he tied the top shut by throwing two half hitches around the open end of the bag, and the rope then formed his "pack straps." He carried an old type one-gallon Clorox bottle as a water bottle. They were made of much tougher and thicker plastic back then than they are today. Today, I use empty, clean 2-liter Coke bottles for water.
    Gunboats are made from two-pound coffee cans, or those big restaurant-sized cans that vegetables or beans or whatever come in. They hold about a gallon or so. Punch a couple of holes for a handle and bend a piece of coat-hanger wire to fit the can, so that the handle can be folded underneath the can to make it easy to stow in your ruck. I carry a piece of dog chain about four feet long with a snap hook on one end, so I can loop it around the tripod of branches and leave the chain dangling down in the fire. Then, you take an "S-hook" made of coat-hanger wire or maybe a nail or a piece of welding rod, and suspend the gunboat however high over the fire you want, depending on how hot the fire is. I carry a pair of needle-nose pliers around that I found on the tracks, and I look for scrap wire and nails, and just make S-hooks out of all kinds of stuff and leave them in the jungle, usually hooked over a branch near the fire ring. If you want to cook coffee and stew or something at the same time, just hook another gunboat to the chain. As long as the tripod is well-made, you could probably put three or four on there, no problem.
    I never buy expensive equipment. Expensive gear just attracts streamliners and rip-off artists. I can usually find stuff I need at Salvation Army thrift stores, or scavenge it for free. A lot of stuff I just make myself.
    Besides a durable pack and water bottles, I bring a couple of blankets rolled up in a bindle, with a shoulder strap made from a piece of nylon webbing I picked up off the ballast. Among other things, I carry a gunboat, a few cans of food, a spoon and a tin pie plate (NOT aluminum, it's worthless) a plastic cup (I love canteen cups, but they get hot and burn your lip), a rolled-up newspaper in it's plastic sleeve, toilet paper, a military rain poncho, bottle of Louisiana Tabasco Sauce, an old Army field jacket with liner, a balaclava, extra socks, a long-sleeved shirt, leather trucker's gloves, a small flashlight, lots of matches, extra AA batteries for my scanner, and a ratty old baseball cap I've been abusing. It sounds like a lot of crap, but it really ain't all that much.
  15. Unit

    Unit Member

    Joined: May 19, 2001 Messages: 449 Likes Received: 0
    Kabar, just a question. Are you talking as you used to be a tramp/train hopper/whatever you want to be called or are you still one? if you are, do you carry a computer around ro something? Sorry for such a stupid question.