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National Hobo Convention a Great Success

Discussion in 'Metal Heads' started by KaBar2, Aug 15, 2003.

  1. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66
    I just returned from the National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa. It was great, everybody had a wonderful time. I got there about a week early and hung out in the jungle socializing with everybody. "Preacher Steve" from Staples, MN was the crumb boss this year, and things went off pretty well. We had a good crew on the cemetary crew, and got a new poured-concrete headstone set for Cinderbox Cindy (the old headstone had her name spelled wrong---she was a true 24/7 tramp and very few people knew her actual last name.)
    We also made a stone for Hobo Joe, who died earlier in the year, and they interred his ashes at the National Hobo Cemetary in Britt.

    Saturday they had the Memorial Service, like every year. Texas Mad Man and "Adman" eulogized the tramps buried there, telling a little bit about each deceased person. One of the most touching stories is about "Lord Open Road."
    Lord Open Road was a eccentric, even for a tramp. He was a true 24/7 tramp, and he had a very ostentatious, ornate way of speaking. If you asked him a question, and he wanted to reply "no," he might say something like "Given all the various permutations and possible outcomes, and considering my own willingness to commit to that particular endeavor, I would have to respectfully decline, keeping all future options to participate unfettered for the present, however."

    He was a real character.

    Unfortunately, he was murdered for the change in his pocket (about $3.62) by two vicious homeguards in Dalhart, Texas, about ten years ago. They were convicted of murder, and remain in prison today. Every year at Britt, as part of the Memorial Service, a collection is taken up among the tramps present (it's an honor to be asked to contribute) and they ceremoniously give Lord Open Road back the money for which he was robbed.

    That's not the end of the story. A while after he disappeared, everybody started wondering "Where the hell is Lord Open Road?" So Steamtrain Maury Graham sent a few guys out looking for him. They knew the last place he was supposed to be was Dalhart, and when they went there, they discovered he was buried in a pauper's grave under a number. Steamtrain Maury Graham, who was King of Hobos then, asked Adman and another guy to go get Lord Open Road and bring him back to the cemetary at Britt. So they got his family's permission, filled out a ton of paperwork and paid to have him disinterred and cremated. They divided his ashes into three packages--one they spread all over boxcars, container well cars and gondola cars between Dalhart and Britt. One they gave to his family, and one they buried at Britt under his concrete headstone. The idea was that Lord Open Road would ride the rails forever sprinkled on a thousand rail cars.

    There's a great song about Lord Open Road, and the guys that brought him home, on an album called "Catching the Westbound" by a guy named Larry Penn.

    You just got to love people that do shit like this, honestly.

    Anyway, a new King--Hobo Spike (of Rainbow City, Alabama), and a new Queen, Mama Jo LeCount (of Kansas City, MO) was elected. Spike has been around for years. He beat out Adman and Dante Fucwha. Each candidate got two minutes to address the crowd from the Gazebo in front of the Britt City Hall. When it came Dante's turn to speak, he stated loudly "I like peace and quiet," and stood silently for his two minutes, while the crowd snickered and the election MC fumed. Adman spent considerable effort passing out "campaign literature" written on the back of Hobo Convention "stew cards," but was gracious in defeat.

    Mama Jo is very well-known to the tramps, hobos and homeless of Kansas City, having worked for years and years as a field contact for the Uplift Organization, which feeds the homeless in Kansas City on Mondays-Wednesdays-and-Saturdays.

    BY THE WAY---former King of Hobos, Redbird Express, told me that this would be the last year for the Pennsburg Gathering, in Pennsburg, PA. This is your last chance to go to Pennsburg, so if you want to go, best do it this year. It's in September.

    Nobody got arrested. A handful of tramps "rode in" to Mason City, the rest took the easy way and drove in to Britt in old cars, pick-up trucks with camper tops or vans. There was much, much less police hassle this year, a much lower police profile than in years past.

    All-in-all, it rocked.
  2. im not witty

    im not witty Guest

    haha. thats incredible.
  3. rob deer

    rob deer Guest

    do you ever get sick of the greenhorn tourists showing up at this event? A friend of mine went a couple years ago...and it seems like she would be the perfect example of a fish out of water. Or do you guys have groupies that you could fuck?
  4. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66
    It's a Mixture of Real Tramps and Wannabe's

    There's two or three different aspects of the National Hobo Convention at Britt. One is the celebration put on by the City of Britt, which includes various kinds of entertainment. They're not in it strictly for the money, but it is definately a big shot in the arm for Britt, economically. They contract for a carnival to come (they set up on Britt's Main Street--blocking all the intersections "downtown") and they have a sort of flea market atmosphere going, with all kinds of booths and kiosks that sell stuff like cotton candy, foot-long hot dogs, T-shirts that say "Hobo Days, Britt, Iowa!" on them, and stuff like that. The National Hobo Museum, presently located in the old Chief Theatre, but due to move soon to a new location as yet unbuilt, does a booming business at a dollar a pop with the tourists. All the proceeds go to the National Hobo Foundation, which maintains both the museum and the National Hobo Cemetary. All the local churches set up big booths that sell food (the Methodists have the best chow, seriously) and use the money made during Hobo Days to fund their church activities during the rest of the year. There is also a big-ass parade on Saturday morning, with all the local high-school marching bands, the VFW, local volunteer fire and ambulance companies, floats from businesses and organizations like the Boy Scouts and 4-H. (This year, the "hobo float" full of all these smelly tramps was waiting in line right next to a bunch of Boy Scouts, and we were like "Hey, cool gear! We started out as Boy Scouts, too!") The tramps and hobos riding the floats throw candy to the little kids, and any seemingly deserving adults along the way. Everybody has a good time. We had a strict policy of "bombing" any teenagers who were acting all cool and cynical, making fun of the smaller kids running for candy. As soon as a tramp spotted some teenager acting like a dick, we'd shout "Cool Teenager! Get him!" and bombard his ass with hard candy like jawbreakers and Tootsie Roll pops. It's hard to remain aloof and cool when a bunch of smelly old farts are rocking your ass with hard gumballs and shit like that. It's tough being a cool guy teenager if you live in rural Iowa. All those black clothes and pierced noses and shit don't fit in all that well in Hicksville. We did the same thing whenever we saw some fucking idiot standing at a parade talking on a cell phone. We rocked his ass with Tootsie Roll pops and all shouted "NO CELL PHONES!" The crowd laughed their asses off.

    The other thing that's happening is the Jungle. Down next to the tracks where the old real hobo jungle used to be, the city built a city park and called it the National Hobo Jungle. A collection was taken up over time, and a pole-building pavillion was built with mostly donated materials by the citizens of Britt, which includes electric power and large bathrooms with showers and toilets. It's still pretty "hobo," with concrete floors and a lot of dumpster-dived stuff, blue plastic tarps hung up for shower curtains. To get the water to stay on in the showers, the handles have a hole in them and a piece of 550 shock cord tying on a 1/2 gallon cut-down juice jug. You just fill the jug with water from the shower and it's weight holds the lever open so the water will run. When you're done, pour out the water in the jug and the lever springs back up and cuts off the shower. Two meals a day (breakfast and dinner) are cooked by the designated volunteer cook for that day, and generally consist of a meal made up from food donated or brought in by tramps. Collinwood Kid is a dumpster-diver extraordinaire, and this year he brought in frozen hamburger meat, corned beef in plastic packages, fresh vegetables and salad stuff and about fifty pounds of packages of cookies. We ate cookies from dawn til dark, and still could not eat them all. And we always eat lots and lots of good Iowa corn and other vegetables donated by the local farmers.
    The Hobo House Restaurant, owned by Mary Jo and Linda Hughes, also donates one meal every year. This year they fed us at the restaurant, but in years past they fed the tramps down at the jungle itself. They do catering as well as run the restaurant. Every year a few tramps and hobos get temporary jobs washing dishes and working in the scullery at the Hobo House. This year it was Snapshot and a girl I didn't know. Jenny was supposed to work as a waitress, but she got fucked up the night before her first day of work and didn't show up on time, so she lost the job. Too bad, she would have added a lot of color to the place. Several people worked at the carnival, too.

    The last thing is the cemetary clean-up, Memorial sevice, and the Hobo Council meeting that always follows the service, up on a little hill under the trees in the cemetary. This year, the big controversy was whether or not to strip New York Ron of his title as "Crown Prince of Hobos for Life." There has only been three Crown Princes for Life ever awarded, and the one before New York Ron was Fishbones, a very well known and much loved hobo who is the father of one of the women in the National Hobo Gospel Singers. Fishbones is buried in the hobo cemetary at Britt.

    Ron was busted shoplifting in Britt (this is a major fuck-up, but he is a kleptomaniac, or so they say) but his worst offense was ripping off a well-respected bro (his best friend for years) from the Boxcar Boys Ranch, a guy named Tuck, and some members of the FTRA. Exactly what happened is not being discussed in public, but it apparently involved him stealing money. Tuck finally agreed that NOTHING can remove an award of "Crown Prince for Life," no matter whether the guy is in prison for murder or whatever. "For Life" means exactly that. However, the council agreed that if Ron gets out of prison and shows up at Britt again, he is to be watched all the time to make sure he doesn't steal anything else and further damage relationships with the town. The guys he ripped off are black bandana, so he'd be wise to just disappear altogether unless he can figure out a way to make it right. If they catch him on the street, he's in big trouble.

    To answer your question, "no," they don't get tired of wannabes showing up. They almost always have beer money. If they are female, they often fall for one of the tramps. Sometimes they go from being a jungle hangaround to riding along, and then to catching out 24/7. But not to take anything away from the motor home crowd--some of the rubber tramps contribute more than anyone else. It's not about getting fucked up every day, although some people do that. It's about being a travelling worker--that's the definition of a hobo. Getting drunk or high and acting like a jackass has nothing to do with being a tramp, although plenty of people do exactly that. Some tramps travel by freight train. Some tramps travel by car, truck or motor home. Some travel by motorcycle or bicycle. But the railriders are the heart and soul of it.

    FR8HOUND Dirty Dozen Crew

    Joined: Mar 21, 2001 Messages: 6,795 Likes Received: 38
    Kabar, Stretch, and Burlington dog say hi..they're in my neck of the woods, Pennsylvania..Stretch said it would be nice if you could make it to Pennsburg one year..haha..Guess Redbird is giving it up, and Stretch, and Keystone Bob are going to run things next year, etc...Stretch catches out tonight, but he'll be back in a week or two...take care..
  6. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66

    Thanks for the update. I talked to Debbie from the National Hobo Gospel Singers and she said Stretch had been up there in Maine before the convention. Good to hear he's doing okay and going to Pennsburg. Wish I could go, but it's not possible this year. Maybe next year. Later!
  7. Southern kid

    Southern kid Elite Member

    Joined: Apr 19, 2000 Messages: 3,965 Likes Received: 0
    I'm going next year, damnit. Kabar, I'm going. You hear me, you're going to make me go. Next time I won't be in the middle of a move like the past two years........
  8. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66
    I hear ya, Southern.

    BTW, how's your jungle coming along? Still chillin' in the toolies?
  9. Southern kid

    Southern kid Elite Member

    Joined: Apr 19, 2000 Messages: 3,965 Likes Received: 0
    The jungle was good the last time I left it. More details via email are coming soon.
  10. iced_tea

    iced_tea Member

    Joined: Jun 17, 2003 Messages: 328 Likes Received: 1
    upsetdasetup = whore
  11. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66
  12. BigOatser

    BigOatser Senior Member

    Joined: Jan 7, 2003 Messages: 2,097 Likes Received: 0
    I feel like I know these guys. Very werid stuff, you are lucky to know the culture. I wonder what my hobo name would be in a parallel universe?
  13. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66
    Big Oatser

    Well, it ain't hard to learn all about it, bro. Just read "Hobos, Tramps and Homeless Bums," then buy a copy of Duffy Littlejohn's book, "Hopping Freight Trains in North America," and a Deskmap.com railroad atlas (the 1st Edition for $25 will be fine, you don't really need the $75 2nd Edition) and go hopping.

    Come up to Britt next August, or to Pennsburg next Sept, or to Dunsmuir or Trampfest, or just any of the the hobo gatherings. A couple of weeks hanging out, and you'll be an expert.

    Wear boots, and gloves, take a jacket and a hat, a gallon of water, a small rucksack with spare skivvies and some chow and a blanket-roll bindle or a sleeping bag and you're "good to go."
  14. brown towel

    brown towel Banned

    Joined: Sep 10, 2003 Messages: 118 Likes Received: 0
  15. KaBar2

    KaBar2 Senior Member

    Joined: Jun 27, 2003 Messages: 2,128 Likes Received: 66
    That's true. Live outdoors, carry a loaded ruck, cook over open fires, wash your clothes in a plastic 5-gallon bucket, or in a stream---yeah. Smells like "freedom" to me. Grow up.