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KaBar

Hobos, Tramps and Homeless Bums

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It's kind of difficult for me to tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Kind of seems like "yes." Sorry if you don't like my stuff, guy. What can I say? Don't read my posts and it won't bother you. The thread is clearly marked so I guess if it's a topic you don't care for, what the hell---just pass it on by.

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Originally posted by elpecador

iyou guys should let this guy take over the site,he is the man.hahahahaha

 

perhaps we will... but until then, maybe we could implore him to giva brief explanation of whistle calls and signal lights..

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Well, I have a fairly limited knowledge of signals. These days, trains use radios for about 80% of all communication. There is a system called the block system, in which a moving train can tell whether or not the next block of track is occupied or not by the signal lights. Littlejohn says the blocks are about two miles in length, but out in the boondocks, a block is a lot bigger than two miles. Engineers look out the right side of trains, so the signals to the right are the ones telling him what to do. If the signal is red, it means stop, and stand. If the train gets a "stop but proceed slowly" signal, it will be red with a smaller signal light off to the side and lower. Yellow means "Proceed with caution". Green means "Go ahead." The signals change according to what the trains are doing on the track. If there is a train in the block behind you, he will be getting a yellow "proceed with caution" while you will be getting a "green--clear track ahead" signal. When it comes to signals, I'm in over my head. It's a very complicated system. Back in the days of railroad semaphores, it was even more complicated.

Trains are required to sound their horn whenever they approach a grade crossing, marked or unmarked. Years ago, they used a system of whistle blasts to signal the brakemen and switchmen on the ground what they were preparing to do in the engine. Today, they use radio. The operations manual for railroads is online, but believe me, it is very dry reading. It's like reading a military manual. I wish I knew more about this subject myself. If somebody knows about this, please enlighten me.

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Originally posted by elpecador

i don't mean to be a dick but this guy kabar is just far too informative for me.i just paint freights,and i have ridden them occasionally to get back to my car.i guess it's oppinionated of me;but i couldn't help but voice this...you guys should let this guy take over the site,he is the man.hahahahaha

i honestly would have to agree.i like fr8s cause they travel and their appealing...but besides that i give a fuck about most of the detailed fr8 posts here.i mean i know enough to get me by but al lot of the info in the third rail is unneccesary to me.it seems like some of you are more into fr8s themselves rather than graffiti.i'm not saying that's bad in any way, it's just not my thing.

 

as far as this topic goes i like it since it's not about the latest co. merger and all that other common sense about yards et.

 

in general i do believe that there's no dignity in begging.shit i've never even stolen in my life either.a lot of "bums" do seem to take advantage of it.i rarely spare change.....rarely.

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trains are just interesting in general. you all should be greatful that you get to read this shit. dude lived it, dont turn around and bite the hand thats tryign to feed you.

 

 

much respect bro, i'll read anything you want to post...

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Can't Please Everybody

 

Well, I do run way too long on my posts. It's like a personal shortcoming, I guess. I know that not everybody wants to hear what I want to say, so I try to keep my opinions out of posts about straight graffitti action. This isn't the only place I post stuff about trains. I have gotten booted off of the train-hopper list serve (at train-hopper@nw.com) because I posted a flame about some liberal female journalist who wanted to write about hopping after riding about three trains. It was my own fault, I was drinking paisano and lemon juice and got a little carried away. But, boy, you'd think all those adventuresome, liberal, yuppie wanks over at Train-hoppers would have a little more tolerance for a out-of-the-mainstream opinion. Huh. I guess not.

One of the best receptions I ever got is on a survivalist-militia-patriot board. You'd think they'd be pretty uptight, but they liked the train-hopper stuff real well. I was glad it got accepted. People were posting questions like "How would you conceal an AR-15?" Amazing. BTW, the address for the railroad operations manual is http://www.ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/rmo.html

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more power to ya

 

well, I like what you have to say, and you start your own threads to fill with what I consider usefull and interesting, so you're welcome here... also, around here, a well reasoned flame, no matter how drunk the author is still considered valid, we just ask that you concede the points you miss... and as far as drunken rambling, well, I certainly would be a hypocrite if I didn't say that I look upon it with a knowing and wistful eye...

 

actually though, this is just sober rambling, I only had 2 beers at work and I'm finally home, ahhh...

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Hammocks

 

I lurk on a lot of these threads that are directly related to graff, but seeing as how I'm much more an appreciator of graffitti and graff writers, rather than a writer of any great experience or talent, I try to keep my mouth shut. Hard to believe, I know.

I wanted to write about hammocks. They are really, really fuckin' GREAT. I tramped for years without a hammock, and I got used to sleeping on the ground. There's ways to make it less uncomfortable. For one, I always scooped out a "pit" for my shoulders and my hips, and covered my bed site with several layers of cardboard. Years later, I got with the program and started carrying a closed-cell foam camping ground mat. That improved things a lot. I always used a military mummy bag. Take my word for it, there are better sleeping bags. I always used a cheap-ass bag though. If you have a girlfriend, buy TWO BAGS THAT ZIP TOGETHER. Sleeping solo with a girlfriend definately sucks bigtime.

Once I bought a hammock, I was hooked. Man, you talk about a serious lifestyle change! Sleeping in a hammock takes a lot of the pain and hassle out of tramping. Of course, you do need appropriate trees, but here on the Gulf Coast of Texas, we got trees aplenty. (We also got mosquitoes OUT THE ASS, so if you come down here, BRING A MOSQUITO NET, and I'm not joking.) I carry nylon strap tubing to use as hammock points on trees that lack a branch at the right height. I picked up a tip from other tramps--drive two or three 16d nails into the tree at the right height (sitting astride the hammock, your feet should touch the ground) and rig nylon tubing around the tree and stopping on the nails. The nails keep the nylon tubing from sliding down the tree. My hammock is called a "double" hammock (as if two people could sleep in it) but that just means "big enough to be right." Don't buy a hammock with spreader bars. They are a serious pain in the butt to pack around. I just roll my hammock up and stow it in a plastic sack in my ruck. I paid about $10 for my hammock, but you can find them at all prices. Or if you were a really serious tramp, you'd make your own equipment, including your own hammock.

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where I come from you can't sleep on the ground, we had hammocks of several sorts in different places around our house all my life basically, I wholeheartedly agree, they rock... and those military mummies, oh god, I used to sleep in one of the korean era down feather models, freakin dust trap, the dirtiest... I actually know several sailor ways to make a 'hammok' out of planks and rope, or just rope...

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Water Source

 

When I was a kid (1958), I never realized that the big attraction for the tramps at T & NO Junction in Houston was the water faucet behind the Fed-Mart store. There was a liquor store down a ways at the Palm Center on Griggs, and I always figured that the reason the jungle was there at T & NO Junction was the liquor store. Foolish kid!

The junction itself was in poor condition back then. The rails were beat and I can recall seeing "overflow" shards hanging off the rails in the curve of the wye. Because the wye was in shitty condition, trains went around the curves very slowly, probably at walking speed or no more than 5 or 10 mph. This made getting on or off trains a cinch. I can only recall a tramp getting off a train there once. It was in the late afternoon. He waited for his boxcar to clear the switches, then, sitting in the boxcar door, jumped down and hit the ground at a brisk walk for a few paces. He had a bindle, but no pack. He looked around, and headed straight for the jungle. A regular, had to be.

The water faucet provided the tramps with drinking water, and late at night, a place to take a bath. They would strip down to their underwear and bathe out of a bucket, back behind the Fed-Mart. They would carry clean water from the faucet to the jungle in a 5-gallon bucket to use as dishwashing water.

A source of nearby (or relatively nearby) water is essential to any serious jungle. If it is a "dry" jungle, it won't last for long.If people must travel a long way to look for water, they'd rather move the jungle itself.

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Tramping in Houston

 

The other day I ran into three guys and a young woman, all in their twenties I think, at Englewood Yards in Houston. Englewood is a big place, several miles long, and it sees a lot of tramps and trainhoppers. It's the biggest yard in town. Second biggest is probably Settegast Yards, and then Congress Yards, I guess. Englewood is a major point of origin for trains headed east to New Orleans. These trainhoppers were headed to the Big Easy and they looked pretty beat. The weather is still almost like summer down here, in the 80's, and they looked like they were hot, dirty and skeeter-bit. I was impressed with their gear, though. Despite the fact that they looked a little road weary, every one of their crew (the girl, too) was wearing outdoor work boots, blue jeans or camouflage trousers, had a good coat or a field jacket, gloves and a hat, and they were all four carrying good rucks. The girl and two of the guys had military surplus medium ALICE packs with no frame, the third guy was carrying a dark-colored mountain rucksack. They were not carrying bindles, however. I wonder what they were using to sleep in? Maybe sleeping bags that can be "stuffed" into a much smaller bag. I met them on the east end of Englewood, trying to figure out which track led to New Orleans. They had no map, and I didn't notice any water containers except for a military canteen on one guy's pack. I dug out my maps and showed them which track led to New Orleans, and then they saddled up and started trudging east down Liberty Road. It kind of reminded me of a group of soldiers or Marines. They had that same sort of I-am-so-fucking-tired-I-could-fall-asleep-right-here look. I noticed that when we were talking the men always kept themselves between me and the girl. It sort of amused me (I'm no threat) , but it was tactically sound. When they decided they wanted to talk to me, everybody grounded their gear, and they sent one guy over to talk. Once it was clear that I was okay, the rest came over. What they really needed was a shower, a meal, and a decent night's sleep. Trainhopping ain't for the faint of heart, I guess.

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Good Boots

 

There are as many different opinions about what constitutes "good" boots as there are people who have a need for them. Everybody is different, and what suits me may not suit somebody else. But, I have a studied opinion about boots, having been tramping and living on the bum, and been a Marine Corps infantryman, and an industrial worker for years (I was once a shipyard welder.)

I believe in stout boots. I don't think these lightweight boots that are sort of like rough-out leather tennis shoes are up to a railyard environment. When I was tramping in my teens and early twenties I wore "hunting boots" that had a square edge around the top of the foot that was stitched--they looked kind of like old-time Boy Scout boots. They were comfortable but provided very poor protection to your foot, and had what I call a "pussy heel." The sole of the boot was a molded, cream-colored rubber of some kind, and the heel was not sharp and defined, but had a sort of ramp effect with a ripple or waffle sole, similar to a modern tennis shoe. THEY SLIP on wet rocks or on wet steel railcar ladder rungs.

In the Marines, I wore military issue leather combat boots, of course. They are really a good compromise between the heavy, steel-toed industrial boots, and the light-weight hiking boots. They used to be cheap, but are pretty expensive these days. I paid $65 for the last pair of combat boots I bought. Their one great asset is DURABILITY. Boy, they are tough boots. Choose a good mil-spec boot, with either a Panama sole (for jungle mud) or the standard military tread sole. For the rainy, humid South, the jungle boots are okay, but don't buy the cheap $19 Korean-made jungle boots. They don't fit well and are a WASTE OF MONEY.

Last of all is the steel-toed industrial safety boots. I always bought Red Wing boots. They will continue to re-sole them until the boots just fall to pieces. I have a pair of beat-up, slag-pocked, steel-toed Red Wing boots that I have had re-soled three or four times at the Red Wing factory. I bought them in 1984. They are HEAVY. But they are TOUGH. Those steel toes saved my feet many a time. When you are buying boots you get what you pay for. No reason to spend $150 on steel-toed boots if you will never wear them, But kicking around rail yards in tennis shoes is a bad idea--it's just a matter of time till you injure a foot.

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Kabar, when sleeping on the ground do you ever worry about animals? Snakes(would be attracted by heat) and bears/coyotes(being attracked by the smell of food)?

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Worrisome Wildlife

 

Fox Mulder---I have spent a lot of time sleeping outdoors in all parts of the country, and the only animals brave enough to actually come up into camp with us were raccoons. Raccoons are extremely intelligent, and they can open containers and will boldly rattle around in your cook gear, trying to get into leftovers or into your garbage. Even raccoons would not approach us if the fire was still burning. I did wake up once in the middle of a herd of cows. Cattle are not the slightest bit intimidated by sleeping trainhoppers in sleeping bags.

That business about snakes being attracted to warmth sounds kind of like a sea story--I've been hearing that old saw about the BoyScout/young Marine/yuppie trainhopper who woke up with a rattlesnake in his sleeping bag for about forty years. Maybe it has actually happened (anything is possible) but I doubt it.

Once when I was in 29 Palms on a live-fire training exercise (called a Fire-X) in the Marines, we were in what is called an administrative stand-down, where we were allowed to build fires, cook chow and drink a couple of beers. There were two platoons of us at several fires (about eighty guys.) One of the kids (most Marines are about 17 or 18 years old--I was 26) went out into the dark, away from the fire to take a piss, and suddenly we heard this anguished scream "SNAAAKE!" To a man, every guy at our fire whipped out a bayonet or a (here's my namesake) Ka-Bar knife and rushed into the dark with a resounding 'HOO-rah!" Ten minutes later we were all barbecueing rattlesnake, seasoned with Louisiana hot sauce. That sucker was huge, at least four feet long, and big around as my forearm in the middle, but he was no match for twenty Marines. They attacked him as a group with knives. It was awesome--no fear whatsoever, they just went for it. It was a miracle nobody but the snake got stabbed.

I've seen deer and a few elk cows or calves when I was camping up north, but no predators, like a bobcat or a cougar. Dogs can be a problem. The last dog attack I had, I knocked his ass cold with my deadman. I would have killed him, but he was wearing a collar and tags--probably some kid's pet.

Lots of trainhoppers travel with a small dog, maybe twenty-five pounds. They make good watch dogs for the camp while you're asleep. I used to tie my dog's leash to my pack--he would defend it just like a house dog defends your back yard. Very few wild animals will approach human beings, and virtually none will approach a camp with a dog. I've never seen a bear except in Yellowstone National Park and zoos. If I did, I'd probably shit myself--they are extremely fast. You cannot outrun a bear.

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HOLY SHIT KABAR YOU GOT HELLA GOOD IDEAS/POINTS , YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK OR SOMETHINGS THANX FOR THE INFO...

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damn pretty informative thread man

good looking out

u dont come around this kinda shit much often

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I started reading the thread but god damn my man you can go on for ever... maybe if i find myself stuck in bed for a week or so i'll give it another shot, you got good shit to say but take to damn long to say it... or maybe i need to get one of thoses books on how to speed read?

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Big T--Sorry 'bout that. Refer to "Can't Please Everybody." It's here somewhere, LOL.

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not a problem... im printing all the pages out and then i read them next time i find myself stuck with nothing to look at while benching... it is good shit your typing though...

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Aw, come on, guys! I'm long-winded, but they're not that long, LOL. I guess I oughta pace myself. I figure I've got enough obscure knowledge for about a week and then I won't have shit to say!

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hey kabar i have been reading this board for a couple years now and i have yet to fall upon anything as thought provokeing as this..your post read like a good novel.each one provides me with a glimpse of a great world that most of us will never be able to live in. everything you have had to say has been well worth my time and im sure others.keep the information comming and how bout some personal stories from your train riding days im sure you have some good ones....

 

keep the posts coming

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i just wanted to say, those cask wine bags are called goon bags! as in "go get us a gooney, love". you drink them in your local park, pass out, wake up, blow them up and use them as pillows. good teenage fun. anyway...

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The Best of the Best, and the Worst of the Worst

 

I've always been a wanderer. I got whupped by my parents for trying to run away from home when I was only about seven. I had gotten a little pack, Scout mess kit and canteen, and I decided I'd take off and try living on my own for a while. Some neighbor spotted me headed for the brush and my Dad caught me before I got very far from our block.

I got popped in Abilene, Texas when I was 13, trying to run away from my uncle's house. That time I almost made it out of town. I had made the mistake of trying to say goodbye to a girl I had a crush on (she was a cousin "on the other side of the family" of my own cousin.) Anyway, I got a trip to jail, and my poor uncle came flying down there with his comb-over all flopping down, dressed in his pajama shirt and a pair of slacks. Lord, was I glad to see him. I was fighting back tears, and he got pretty mad when he saw that the cop had hand-cuffed me to the ready bench. I guess the cop figured I was a flight risk.

My first trainhop was to Galveston. A couple of other boys my age had done it before. We lived pretty close to Mykawa Road in Houston, which is right on the line leaving out of New South Yards to Galveston. We went down on our bicycles several nights in a row, watching trains and "double-dog-daring" one another to get on one. Finally, a train stopped and we got on a boxcar, and it rolled down to Galveston in about two hours. We got off, and about ten minutes later another slow boat to China came by, rolling north very slowly. We got right back on and rode back home, getting off about a block from our bicycles in the weeds along Mykawa Road.

I don't consider that a "real" hop though. We didn't intend to stay gone long, we didn't take any equipment or supplies. It was a joyride.

My first "real" hop was after I had been hitch-hiking and bumming around for quite a while. I knew some guys in Chicago and we started talking about going to California. They suggested jumping a freight, because hitching in Chicago wasn't the greatest. Again, I didn't know that much about it. They knew where the rail yards were, so off we went. When we got down to the yards, we just asked a switchman what train was going west. He pointed to a train, we got on a boxcar and about an hour later, she aired up and started rolling. It turned out that our train was headed to St. Paul, MN, and it was a consist of "bad order" cars. Our rbox had a flat wheel, and it bam-bam-bammed us all the way to St. Paul. There, they started humping our train to break it up and sent it's cars to different places. Our rbox was headed to the RIP track (repair, inspect, paint) so we started looking around and found another friendly yard hand, who directed us to the only train headed west--to Butte, MT. This train turned out to be a low-priority train shuttling boxcars back west. It stopped every few hundred miles, much to our frustration, and let every other train in the world go past. In one of our many trips "into the hole" we met Rufe. I took a real shine to Rufe, and I was fascinated by his knowledge of tramping. I knew about gunboats and so on, but Rufe had a vast stock of knowledge about railroad operations, etc. that I couldn't get enough of. When we got to Butte, I bid goodbye to my friends from Chicago, and took off with Rufe. Lucky for me, he was an okay guy. He didn't talk much about his personal life, but I found out he had left his wife after a big argument, and just walked out of his mobile home, left his welding truck and all his tools and equipment sitting in the driveway, walked across a field and caught a train on the fly. He didn't even have a blanket. I was amazed. He had been on the bum about ten years when I met him, in 1970. By then, of course, he had some gear, LOL.

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