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Everything posted by KaBar

  1. 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."
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Absolutely, totally awesome. Send these guys DIRECTLY to a full-scholarship at Parsons.
  5. 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.
  6. KaBar

    Slack Action

    I hope that didn't sound TOO defensive. I didn't intend it to be a refutation, more just an explanation. I see art, real art, in the more ambitious and carefully crafted graff works. The awesome thing about serious graff writers is that to really appreciate the artist and his work, one must invest considerable time and effort to view even a small portion of the body of his (or her) work. There was a time when I said to myself "If we could only get these guys to paint on canvases! They'd be celebrated!" But I'm coming to understand that part of the art is the nature of it's creation. One element I'm unsure of it the segment of the graff community that insists that "vandalism" is a key element to the creation of it. On the other hand, it has an element of outlawry and defiance of authority that is not unlike other artistic rebellions against conformity, etc. It's damned difficult to sell a big chunk of a concrete overpass in a gallery, though, or to hang a side bulkhead of a grainer in a art patron's foyer. Graff denies and resists commercialization and co-optation by it's very nature. As it gains acceptance, it bleeds into the mainstream, and becomes slowly adopted by standard commercial channels. When that process becomes easier and graff-based art begans to show up in car commercials, CD and tape promotions, etc., it begans to lose it's impact and cutting edge nature. As hip-hop culture starts showing up at Wal-Mart and Pep Boys, it begins the process of being transformed into a commodity. And out there, somewhere, is some creative 12-year-old who is thinking up the next cultural evolution, the next ultra-radical artistic expression, the next rebellious teenaged thing guaranteed to completely piss off their teachers and parents and the local gendarmes. Think Expressionism. Art Nouveau. Jackson Pollock. The Lost Generation, drinking wine in post-WWI Paris. Swing dancers pushing the boundaries of dance in the smoldering ruins of Berlin. Hippies dancing in the ankle-deep slop at Woodstock to Jimi Hendrix. Beatniks, snapping their fingers in inexpressively "cool" applause to Allen Ginsberg's poetry in Greenwich Village cafes, painted black, wall-to-nihilistic wall. Low-riders spark-racing down hilly East L.A. streets. As each generation moves forward, it's rebels and visionaries either accept that the moment is slipping, or they become pathetically clingy, trying to insist that Disco really didn't suck, or that Flower Power can solve all the world's problems, or that Florence is the only place where one can genuinely create art worth appreciating. Or that this style of graff or that type of letter is the only worthwhile graffitti effort. Burn on, people. Make your mark, send your message, make it happen. But don't forget that the fundamental values that make life worthwhile and valuable drive every effort, even midnight paint bomb runs under brilliant mercury-vapor security lights on fat Canadian grain cars. Graff kids often think they are smashing the old, breaking new barriers. They rarely see that they are carrying the flag that other, older radicals have handed over. Old Dylan said "Don't Look Back." Okay. Don't. But we need to know that they were there. And in their day, they burned bright, too.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.)
  9. KaBar

    Slack Action

    You know, the thing I like about the Internet is that people on it are just about totally anonymous. Do you ever think about that? Like, you go on a board or a chat about music, and maybe some guy from Aerosmith is on there shooting the shit about guitars, and I think "How cool is that?" Aerosmith online, talking to some kid in the 10th grade from Lufkin. Or, maybe it's just some guy PRETENDING to be a member of Aerosmith. It's a plague and a curse, as well as a tremendous advantage. If you go on a chat room for "Divorced and Available" probably 50% of the guys are a couple of 14-year-old boys pretending to be an adult man who is hoping to get hooked up with a beautiful divorcee. All part of the charm of the Net. Sometimes people make assumptions, too. They may judge you by the way you write, or the language you use, or the interests that you have, and assume that you are a certain kind of person, or a certain race, or whatever. I hestitate to reveal much about myself, but on the other hand, I don't want to mislead anybody, either. Suffice it to say, I am not a kid, I am an adult. My interest in graff is secondary, and subsequent to, my interest in riding trains. I first rode a fr8 quite a while ago, and I learned from an "old school" kind of tramp. When I first rode freights, graffitti was very rare, and I didn't see a large work for years. What we saw back then were tramp streaks, and the occasional water tower or something with "SENIORS '62" on it. I have read Littlejohn's book, and it is a good one, although I think he sugarcoats it a little too much. I've never met him, but the last time I heard, he was living and working as an attorney in San Luis Obispo, CA. If my information sounds a little too much like Littlejohn's stuff, all I can say is that the information is pretty basic. If you are describing a hammer, how many different ways are there to talk about it? One might say that the language in my posts "sounds too young" to be an adult. It so happens I work in a job where I talk to a lot of teenagers, and my speech patterns sometimes follow theirs. I'm even developing a taste for rap, just not much of an affection for it. My natural inclinations in music are a little more acoustically oriented. I started hopping fr8s when I was very young, and my very first hop was from Chicago to St. Paul, Minnesota. A couple of hours later, we caught one that went from St. Paul to Butte, Montana. Believe it or not, that was in 1970. Try to be open-minded about graff and the people that admire it and have done a little. They aren't all slackers in their late teens. All old tramps aren't hopeless alcoholic losers, either. You young guys won't be kids forever. But I bet you'll always remember blasting lines on a clean fr8 at midnight, and running through the Yards outfoxing the bulls. And when you're not a kid anymore everybody else will expect you to settle down and become a civilian. Go ahead, go to college. Get your ticket punched. Make some money. But don't forget what it feels like to wake up at five-thirty in the morning in the middle of complete fucking nowhere without a clue in the world as to where you are. There ain't nothing like it in this life, I'm here to tell you. How do the kids put it? "Tramp4Life." There it is.
  10. WebsterUno---I'm not dissing YOU, but it pisses me off when some sorry murderer like Sidetrack, or Charlie Manson, or some other POS like that gets a a lot of play, especially with young kids who don't really know. I met a couple guys in FTRA. Most of them are pretty much cool people, but there are always a few in any group whose shit is weak. The FTRA site has passwords, and I know them, but the site doesn't have a lot of stuff. There are some streaks and tags, and a couple of pics of an FTRA crew chillin with some beers. Guys like Sidetrack are a shame and an embarrassment to most of the new, younger FTRA. A lot of the older criminals and ex-convicts that joined the FTRA are history--either back in jail, or just "gone." Some of the guys that actually started FTRA are born-again Christians now. They don't drink or smoke of hop freights or anything. FTRA started in 1983 in Libby, Montana. So the old originals are all pretty old, in their 40s or 50s, minimum. Don't let some poseur kid tell you he runs an FTRA crew. It ain't possible. The most active true tramp members are in their twenties and thirties now. The OG's are really gettin old.
  11. KaBar

    Slack Action

    Everybody has heard about Slack Action, but not everybody understands exactly what it is. The railcars are built with couplers that automatically close when two cars are banged together in humping, when humped over a hump crest, or by "flat-switching" the cars in a small yard with no hump. When a switchman cuts out a car on the crest of the hump, he has to do it at just the right moment. The unit powers up in reverse (humping is done in reverse--the unit pulls the string over the hump, then starts backing up so the cars can be cut out, humped, retarded and switched into their new string) and gets the string rolling, then he slacks off the accelerator and the car to be cut (called a "cut") rolls up slowly to the hump crest. When the switchman sees the unit is off the power, he pulls the pin (it's a lever that goes out the side of the coupler) opening the coupler, releasing the "cut" and allowing gravity to roll it into the hump and the master retarder. As the car rolls down the hump, the switchmen in the crest tower hit the MR, and you can hear the squeal of the retarder shoes rubbing the outside of the train car wheels to slow it down. Couplers can handle an impact of about 5 mph, no more. There is another retarder farther down the hump line, called a "group retarder" but I think my local yard doesn't have one. The car rolls until it hits the string of cars in it's CONsist. When it hits, the impact closes the coupler, and it locks automatically. There is about 1"-3/4" slack in the couplers themselves. The couplers are connected to the "draft gear." The draft gear isn't really gears, it's like "gear" in terms of somebody's stuff, rather than a transmission gear. The draft gear can move in and out about 12"-14" max. So when a unit starts to pull a train, the first car hits slack action after a foot. The second car, after two feet, and so on. On a long train, say 80 cars, the unit may move 85 feet before the FRED moves an inch. Slack action is much more violent in the back half of the train, like the tail on a bull whip. As the train "stretches out", you hear slack coming down the string b-b-b-b-B-B-B-Boom-Boom-Boom-Boom-BOOM-BOOM-BANG! and all the sudden your car is jerked into motion. Stretch out is also called "draft" like in "draft horses." It means "pull." Then, if the engineer gets on the brakes, the train starts contracting the same way, but it's called "buff." It sounds the same b-b-b-B-B-Boom-Boom-Boom-BOOM-BOOM-BANG! and suddenly your car is slowing down. It is now "buffed in." What this means to people in railyards is that they need to be aware that trains can move at any second, especially a long string. The units way down on the other end of the yard may suddenly get powered up and told to move, or get "called." Or the string your car is on can be hit by a midnight rambler at any time, as the hump crew suddenly starts making up a consist. BE ALERT AS TO WHAT IS GOING ON AROUND YOU. Really tight crews have at least one guy (maybe a rookie) serving as a spotter, watching for ramblers, bulls, cops, etc. If you're hopping, you definately need to understand slack action to the nuts. ALWAYS HANG ONTO SOMETHING. Don't ride freestyle or skylining. Only FNG wannabes do shit like that. HIDE. "No exposure without purpose." That's what I think, anyway. (Yo, Collinwood, your shit rocks. "CK, rock like him," and Ride Safe.)
  12. I don't think anybody should admire or glorify this sick asshole. He murdered old guys while they were asleep, just to rip off their measly Disability checks and Food Stamps. He murdered a yuppie bo while he was asleep in a tent--killed him with a piece of pipe with concrete on the end. Even the FTRA only defend him as a member, I never met one yet that tried to defend his killing people to rip off their gear or their pitiful-ass welfare money. He said it himself, "I preyed on the weak." How sorry ass can a person get? He's up there in the joint now, denying that he is even a member of FTRA, and confessing to as many killings as he can remember the details to, to clear FTRA guys that are still on the street. If you guys want to glorify a killer, glorify one with some GUTS. Sidetrack is nobody to admire. He's a sicko, psycho serial murderer. I have nothing against the FTRA as a group, but when they attack some guy who is 60 years old to steal his food stamps or some shit like that, all I can say is "What goes around, comes around." I hop trains. I have several friends that hop trains. We go heeled. Guys like Sidetrack will only come to one end, either DEAD or IN PRISON. If you treat people with decency and respect, you will get decency and respect in turn. If you act like a sorry-ass murderer, you will wind up dead on a slab. FEAR AIN'T RESPECT. Anybody can make you afraid enough to kill them. Respect must be EARNED BY HONORABLE BEHAVIOR. NO HONOR=NO RESPECT.
  13. KaBar

    Yard Safety

    I was reading about the DeadTrainBums.com site up the stack---the pw's are "dead" and "bums." A guy named Jaks is the owner, he's an old-time trainhopper who is real worried about all the FNG's starting to hop and getting pinched. He's concerned that if hopping gets real popular the railroads will catch shit from the government and they will ALL start turning up the heat on railriders and make new laws increasing the jail time and fines for hopping. I hop all the time--anybody interested in starting a thread on hopping and painting? I meet true tramps in the yards all the time. Some of them are cool, some of them are straight up crazy, and some of them are genuinely scarey and evil.
  14. I'm in Houston, and everybody says there's more cops and bulls, but I haven't really seen that. I've caught out three times since Sept. 11, twice in one yard, and once from a park that the train tracks go thru, and I have yet to see any extra security. I see a lot of tags, and a lot of half cars, because Houston is a big ass port city, and we get railcars from all over the place thru here. Even though I haven't seen any increase in the number of cops and bulls, I'd still be careful. Union Pacific and BNSF are the two major railroads around here, and UP has a "zero tolerance" policy for tresspassers and BNSF bulls write down your name. I know a couple of people that got popped painting and got arrested for violating curfew, because the bull didn't catch them with the can in their hand. Their parents had to come get them at the Chimney Rock Center--that's a detainment center for kids.
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