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KaBar

BACK FROM BRITT--IT ROCKED

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I just got back home from Britt, Iowa a couple of hours ago. It was great--I had a blast. Basically, the whole thing has about as much to do with real trainhopping as Civil War re-enacting has to do with the real War Between The States. In Ted Conovers' words, "It's fake, but it's a lot of fun."

Out of the 100 or so tramps and hoppers camped out in the city-owned "jungle", only three actually rode into the convention on a freight train. The rest of us pussies drove up. Still, it was pretty cool.

I arrived early on the morning of Thursday, 8/08. The jungle was up and running, and had been for about a week, when the first of the "hobo organizers" got there and started preparing things. Texas Mad Man and Collinwood Kid had been there for several days--Mad Man actually had been there about two weeks I think. They had been purchasing supplies, making arrangements to get wood delivered and things like that. We got a mountain of wood from somebody who owns a carpentry shop, and we couldn't burn it all, even though the fire burned day and night. Other tramps who are usually involved with all the preparations were there too, but I don't know them by name. The National Hobo Museum, located in the old Chief theatre, "downtown" was open during the entire convention. It is manned by "civilian" volunteers, who all work unpaid, and a few of the more genteel of the hobos, especially some of the women, and a few young daughters. That night in the jungle there was free food for everybody, courtesy of and served up by the owners of the Hobo House Restaurant downtown. What great people--and the food was outstanding. In fact, there was way more food than we could eat, in general. Somebody brought about a pick-up truck load of cookies in packages, and there was fresh fruit, bread, vegetables and stuff piled all throughout the jungle building. The jungle building has men and women's bathrooms, showers and a sort of dressing/shaving area, a garage that serves to store stuff like cook pots and benches and utensils.

I was honored to be allowed to accompany the work party up to the cemetary, where we pulled weeds, trimmed grass around the hobo headstones, and dug two new holes for new headstones--there were two deaths this year, and the families of the deceased came and helped prepare the holes for the headstones. It was pretty touching.

At night, about 7:00 p.m., there was performances of singing, music and recitations of poetry by "hobos" and quite a few tourists and townspeople showed up to watch.

 

On Friday, there was a Flea Market on the main drag, and the crew from the carnival arrived and started setting up all the rides and stuff in the middle of the main drag. At 9:30 a.m. there was a Memorial Service out at the cemetary. Among other things (besides prayers and hymns) the bros tossed $3.20 in change on a deceased brother's grave, because that's how much for which he was robbed on the day he was murdered, a can of Mountain Dew was poured over a brother's grave, because that was his favorite drink, and a fifth of Irish whiskey was brought, a toast shared, and the half-full bottle left for the departed. Actually, I would not mind being buried there at all--hobos seem to care more for their dead than the average group. There is a large cross marking the National Hobo Cemetary, made of used railroad ties. During the convention, it is decorated with a wreath made of thorn bush branches and edible American plants and herbs (no, there's no marijuana.)

After the Memorial Service, there was the meeting of the Hobo Council up on the hill at the cemetary. There was a big discussion about whether it should be "rail riders only" or what.

There's also an auction of authentic (and somewhat smelly) hobo items donated by well-known 'bo's--so-and-so's hat (this year) and somebody's boots, etc. asd well as photographs, books of writings, etc. There was a Ladie's Tea at Mary Jo's. Word had it among the men, that the guys were kicked out last year because it was "ladies only" and they passed a resolution that nobody could get in "without wearing a dress." So, of course, several people showed up in drag. There was a Kiddie Parade, with kids dressed up like bums, and "real" hobos as judges.

 

Over in the "sinner's camp", the Hobo Tramp Family held forth with lots of drinking and loud behavior, but no fights. The honchos over there put a lid on fighting because of the problems experienced in past years. I smelled unusual odors though, although I understand drug use is "completely forbidden." (It oughta be, since that sort of shit draws the cops like flies.) The Tramp Family people remind me of bikers, and their behavior is very similar. Camped right next to them were the women from the National Hobo Gospel Singers, so I wonder how that worked out. The ladies from NHGS are staight Christian arrows, but who likes sinners better than the saved?

 

Saturday there was a "Gigantic Parade" including hay wagons with tramps on board (I was asked to ride and help toss candy to the kids.) Steam Train Maury Graham was on our float. It was a kick. We also had a mysterious young-teenaged-girl runaway who ate almost as much candy as she threw, and who asked me "are you going to Montana when you leave? Is it a good place?"

The Boy Scouts cooked hundreds of gallons of (free) mulligan stew, served up on the lawn of the City Hall. The election of the 2003 King of Hobos and Queen of Hobos happened in the gazebo, next to the City Hall. Everybody went--it was a lot of fun. More music in the jungle. I shared a gallon of red with a few friends. There were three young female film documentarians there from Chicago, who shot video and still shots day and night. I drank some whiskey with a biker couple, and spent most of the night talking about film with one of the girls from Chicago. It was great night.

Sunday things started to break up. We ate a big (free) breakfast of sausage and Pennsylvania scrapple (don't ask what's in it--but it tastes good) and there was a large Christian worship service, led by Grandpa Dudley (a former King of the Hobos) and highlighted with a performance of hymns by the National Hobo Gospel Singers.

 

Be prepared to dispense with cynicism and bullshit attitudes. Be open minded. But mainly-- LET'S GO TO BRITT NEXT AUGUST. It rocked--I had a hell of a good time, and met numerous people I only knew from talking on the net--including Milwaukee Mike, Collinwood Kid and Texas Mad Man--these are all very well-known trainhoppers--as well as Redbird Express--the 2003 King of Hobos (he weighs about 260 and looks like a Viking biker) and Nightingale (of the gospel group, Serenity) the 2003 Queen.

 

There were very few of what were called "Flintstone Kids" or "crusties" in previous years. These are the pierced-everywhere, heavily tattooed, green-spiked-hair group. The Britt cops hated them and arrested as many of them as they could the last couple of years. Essentially, they would not behave, so lots of them went to jail.

 

Saturday night, the railroad pulled a corn train out of the siding at Hutchins, west of Britt, and we had a bunch of cops and railroad bulls watching everybody. Still, two guys hit the train and rode a short distance, then bailed off because the train stopped and they thought they'd been spotted, but they were just backing up to pick up another string. Everybody cheered them on, even the train crew. The cops were freaking out. IT WAS STILL A KICK.

 

We've got a year to plan it. Next year, I want to ride a train to the Convention. And there are numerous other gatherings around the country as well. Come on, let's do it.

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You're a sweet, misunderstood kid, and undereneath all that sorry bullshit, you probably really need a little hug. So come over here, sweet cheeks, and let old KaBar make it all better.

 

P.S. Why don't you come ride to Britt with us next year? Quit being such a twink and learn how much fun life is.

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he is just another member using an alternate login to bitch about things so he doesn't have to take the heat on his "normal" name.

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sounds awesome. don't stop keeping kids posted - i'd probably never dig up this info. on my own, but there's always the off chance i might wanna go...

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great story there kabar.....it does sound like a whole lot of fun.... you made it sound so great, i might think about trying to make it next year too....kabar would you be oh so kind and email me please....i got something to ask ya.

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I made the trip to Britt in my pick-up truck. I went up I-45 from Houston to Dallas-Ft. Worth (YO BROON--you shoulda been there instead of moving to the Big D) and then up I-35 to OKC, then to Wichita, Kansas City, then through Des Moines and to Clear Lake, Iowa. Total mileage one way--1, 226 miles, in 23-1/2 hours, BY MYSELF. I was dying for sleep when I got to the jungle.

 

The nearest north-south rail line passes through the yards at Mason City, Iowa so if anybody hops, that's the target. Britt still has a rail line, but it's a single track service used mainly for hauling grainers from the elevators. Several people came down south from Minneapolis and reported that Minneapolis was hot as a skillet, but there were no bulls at Mason City when they de-trained (a rolling get-off, because the train did not stop.) From what I could see, every city cop in Britt and all the Sheriff's deputies from Hancock County were all down guarding the corn grainers being hauled out of Britt from Al Quaida and the Taliban....it must have worked because no terrorists blew up the train.

 

A couple of years ago, when "Sidetrack" was reputed to be frequenting the Burlington Northern Hi-Line, the FBI sent several car loads of agents to Britt to watch the jungle, in case he showed up wearing a sign that said "Hi, I'm Sidetrack, the notorious FTRA hobo killer". The kids had a good time calling "Hey, SIDEtrack!" to one another in groups, causing flurries of activity among the FBI men, LOL. ("He's everywhere, he's everywhere!").

 

Of course, if you go, be careful about anything illegal. Just for GP, the law in Iowa permits one to carry a knife with a blade NO LONGER than 5 inches, so if you carry a knife, BE SURE the blade is shorter than that. Say, no longer than 4-7/8 inches. And as for drugs, etc., I figure you guys are intelligent enough to figure this one out already. A guy named New York Ron got busted for shoplifting, and last I heard they were still holding him in jail. The Hobo Tramp Family was highly pissed off about it, as he was one of their guys, but everybody else was like "Oh, well--he must like going to jail, I guess."

I bought a calender from Iowa Blackie, so I'll post some of his tidbits of information for your enjoyment. Blackie is a cool guy, but he's a little crazy, so treat him with respect. Check for the new topic.

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I just got email reports of people I met at the Convention beginning to arrive at a friend's place in Ohio via rail. Tanner City Kid got in last night, soaked from rain. Texas Mad Man is in transit right now, probably due to arrive tonight or tomorrow. Everybody is getting some rest, preparing for Pennsburg, PA on September 19, 20, 21. Then after that, there is the Derry, PA Railroad Days, September 26, 27, 28, 29. I suppose if you could stand all the partying, you could just spend the whole summer going from one hobo gathering to another. Most people don't make every single one. Oh, and BTW, Pennsburg is a "dry camp." No drinking, no drugs. That usually results in "virtually no cops" as well. Derry PA is a city-sponsored gathering (I think), similar to Britt, but smaller.

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For those of you that have been following this, Texas Mad Man got to Ohio to our friend's house late yesterday, after riding NS through Indiana. He says "Never again--too much of a risk. It's 90 days in Indiana if you get popped by the NS bulls." This increased rail security thing is apparently getting serious. Next it will be Homeland Security troopers checking your ID at state borders. "Your papers, please."

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And then from state borders it'll be every other street corner. It's coming. Just wait......

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No Idea

 

I have no idea exactly what route he took, but he is one bold fellow. Rumor has it that when he left the city in Ohio he was in, he walked right past the bulls' office at 0300 and talked some rails into putting him on a train for Boston. He has to be one of the most resourceful and gutsy trainhoppers I ever met, without a doubt.

 

When these guys hop, you never see them. They come into the yard, pick their train, board it, ride it, detrain and leave without making so much as a ripple. Ninja trainhoppers, LOL. I call 'em "snake eaters." They are the Special Forces of the trainhopping world. "Swift-Silent-Long Gone." Leave no trace, make no disturbance, never skyline yourself in a rail yard or on a train. "Old School."

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KABAR, I MET TEXAS MADMAN, AND TANNER CITY KID, AT THE PENNSBURG HOBO CONVENTION LAST YEAR, GREAT GUYS, AND YEAH TEXAS MADMAN DEFINITELY KNOWS HIS SHIT, THATS FOR SURE..REDBIRD EXPRESS, AND KEYSTONE BOB HOST A GREAT EVENT IN PENNSBURG, AND I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THEM ALL AGAIN IN A FEW WEEKS...ONE DAY I HOPE TO MAKE IT TO BRITT...BUT UNTIL THEN, MY SLOGAN REMAINS THE SAME---->''ONWARD'', ''THE KODAK KIDD''

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Pennsburg is Gonna Rock, Too.

 

I highly recommend that you guys attend the Pennsburg gathering if you can. Redbird always takes pains to explain (I guess I should be calling him "King Redbird," LOL) that while Pennsburg is indeed an important gathering in the world of tramps, BRITT is The Convention, and always will be. I sure wish I could go, but a guy's gotta work. Maybe I'll start going one year to Britt and the next year to Pennsburg or something.

 

Another figure in that group of hoppers is Stretch, and his dog, Burlington Dog. Stretch, Texas Mad Man, Collinwood Kid and Tanner City Kid all know each other and sort of hang out. Of course, the hundreds of people that meet each other at hobo conventions all form a sort of loose network. There are little groups and clans within the larger group, people that live together, people that hop together, people that just know and like one another. Even if they don't see each other often, they meet back up at either Britt or Pennsburg or one of the other gatherings.

 

I was very impressed with the organization and spirit of cooperation at Britt. I'm pretty sure you'll find that at nearly every tramp gathering you go to. Total strangers volunteered to help cook, or wash dishes, or clean up the Cemetary. They share food, and booze, and music. It was a very, very good weekend. Anybody play the fiddle or the banjo? GO TO PENNSBURG. No doubt, it will rock 'til ya drop.

 

Speaking of banjo and fiddle, anybody else here in LOVE with the Dixie Chicks? Man, when "Long Time Gone" comes on my radio, I'm DANCIN'. I fuckin' love that tune. Gotta love them Dixie Chicks.

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Iowa Blackie is listed in the 2002 Hobo Address List generated at Britt. He and Collinwood Kid had some kind of a dispute (I'm not sure over what, nobody wants to talk about it) and his web address is listed as

 

iowablackie@spitoncollinwood.com

 

LOL. I cracked up when I saw that. It's a joke, of course, Collinwood Kid generates the List. LOL. What a bunch of characters.

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