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I do not know a single trainhopper that uses heroin. What kind of bullshit is this, anyway? Anybody caught with heroin is going to prison for a serious sentence. If you are travelling with somebody hooked on this shit you are taking a bigtime risk. If the cops have enough dope to charge him, there might be enough to split and charge you too.


"Oh, the police would never do that, falsify evidence."


Really? Are you sure? 'Cause in my experience, uh, yeah, they do.


Heroin addict? As a road dog? Absolutely fucking NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.


Ditto for any other hard drug. Marijuana, okay maybe. But cocaine, or any of that other shit? No fuckin' way.


"I don't judge." You gotta be kidding me. What a moron.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

K-Bar up at Britt cooking Pizza Soup


HOLY SHIT, what a big, fat tub of lard I am! I found this video by accident on YouTube. What a disgusting fatbody. This video guy was bugging me to show him about pizza soup. I had mentioned it, and he just insisted, so I did it. It was pretty tongue-in-cheek, but I didn't think it ever actually was put on YouTube or anything.


So here you go, the Hobo Convention up at Britt, Iowa. It was several years ago. I'm probably a bigger tub 'o lard now than I was then. ("Does this tee shirt make me look fat?") Jesus. They say the camera adds ten pounds. In my case it must have added eighty.



I know pretty much everybody in this video.

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That is not the voice I hear when I read your posts. I hear it in a much more southern accent.


Though I will now read them in a more Jabba the Hut accent :)


Have you ever ran? Do they actually wear the crown on the road? Is the same crown handed down to the next king or do they make a new one every year? If they make a new one, is it still Folgers and plastic?


I really need to make it one year just to go.

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I know that it sure don't look like it, but when I got out of the Marine Corps in 1981, I was lean and mean, Xen. I must have run ten thousand miles in the Corps, and probably half of them wearing a flak jacket. I weighed 185 pounds when I got out and there was very little blubber, if any. We went running every day at lunch and worked out with free weights every night. Now I weigh about 265, and I definitely need to lose weight. Wow. What a lard ass.


I chalk it up to three things--one, Zoloft. I started taking Zoloft when my mother passed away in 2003, and I took it for about ten years. Zoloft can make you gain weight, but it's just one element. It helped with the depression, certainly, but it has its drawbacks too.


The second thing is (I hate to admit this) the internet. The net is interesting and leads one to a sedentary lifestyle. I'd rather surf the net than exercise, and you can see for yourself where such laziness leads to.


The third thing is my work. The nature of my work is very low impact in terms of exercise.


The last time I caught out with Stretch I lost thirty pounds. Maybe it's time to retire and go ride a few trains!

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Homemade banjos


I think I've mentioned my interest in homemade musical instruments on here before. I've made about ten homemade banjos out of stuff I found. A lot of the wood I got from what I call "curbside couches," abandoned furniture that people throw away.


Building homemade, "found object" banjos got to be a sort of a hobby, and I set myself some rules. I could use anything I found on the street or in a dumpster. I could use anything I could buy in a hardware store, and I could use strings and tuners from any source. As time went on, I scored a violin peg shaper from a dumpster behind a violin store in west Houston, and later I bought a violin peg reamer (to ream the holes the pegs fit into.) I tried various things for frets, including finishing nails, copper wire and the stiffeners out of discarded windshield wiper blades. None of those things worked satisfactorily, so I went to a music store that a high-school buddy owns, and he gave me some banjo fret wire just for the hell of it, and also gave me permission to dumpster dive their dumpster anytime I want.


Obviously, I can afford to buy a banjo anytime I want, but the fun part of building them from junk is looking for the needed parts and pieces. I built a couple using the rawhide from large "dog chews" I bought at the grocery store for the banjo head. Worked pretty well, too. (To make a dog chew, they take a piece of rawhide about eight by twelve inches and roll it into a sort of cigar shape, then tie a knot or two in it. Soak it in water, and presto--you can untie it.)


Anyway, below is a video from a good ol' boy from Indiana named Bill Withers who makes his own instruments, and plays pretty well, too. He plays "clawhammer style" in this video, but I think he also plays three-finger Monroe style. ( Clawhammer is appropriate for a fretless banjo.) "OLD SCHOOL."



Same guy, with his homemade frettless banjo made from a salad bowl from Goodwill and cherry wood from his dad's corn crib.



Here's the same guy with his homemade "lap steel" guitar.



Damn, I like this guy. "Lean On Me, " on an Epiphone ulelele. Wow.


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More homemade banjo stuff. This guy plays "Julianne Johnson" clawhammer style on his fretless Appalachian banjo.



Here's the same guy, playing "Walk Right In" on a six-string guitar made from a gas can.




"Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down" on a three string, cigar-box guitar tuned D-A-d. Awesome!




"Here Comes the Sun" on a short-scale, home-made six-string, cigar box guitar.




"Angel From Montgomery" on a home-made, cookie-tin banjo.




"Cold Frosty Morning" on a home-made, cigar box fiddle.



"When the Roll is Called Up Yonder" on a cigar-box mandolin. Awesome!


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I don't know what they call this kind of music--some kind of retro-Gay Ninties/ Roaring Twenties music. It reminds me of the band Old Crow Medicine Show.



Garbage Man Blues (awesome)


Anyway, this guy's name is Pokey Lafarge and his band plays some cool old blues music.


The La La Blues


In the Jailhouse Now


Also Dom Flemons. The guy is phenomenal on the tenor banjo. He was in a band called the Carolina Chocolate Drops that played music from the Piedmont region of North Carolina.


Going Back to Arkansas


Your Baby Ain't Sweet Like Mine


Pretty Girl With A Blue Dress On


San Francisco Baby

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I missed answering a couple of your questions. No, the people who get crowned Hobo King and Queen do not keep the crown. The crowns are pretty old, they were made for the election of the King and Queen years ago and they don't travel well. They are kept in the Hobo Museum in Britt. Frankly, they are pretty cheesy and should have been replaced with something better years ago. I've seen photographs of the King and Queen taken in the 1930's and it looks to me that they were wearing cardboard "crowns" covered with aluminum foil or something.


Several "traditions" up at Britt were invented in the 1980's by a couple of old timers--Steamtrain Maury Graham and Fry Pan Jack, I think. The Hobo Convention didn't have much in the way of activities for tourists to observe. Tourists mean money. Money means the Convention has a reason to continue. Steamtrain convinced the town fathers to create the Hobo Museum. He also "invented" the Hobo Shuffle and all the rest of the "traditions" (like the Four Winds thing) that have become much beloved antics by people who regularly go to the convention. I got dubbed a Crown Prince of the Hobos once because I served as crumb boss. I didn't seek it out, but I didn't want to refuse and embarrass everybody so I went along with it. It's kind of silly stuff, sort of like Boy Scout ceremonies or King Neptune celebrations when a ship passes over the Equator. The tourists love that kind of stuff. I guess they think they are seeing "real hobo culture" I don't know. It kind of reminds me of Mardi Gras parades or the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo--a lot of corn for tourist dollars.


The West Coast Hobo Gathering is a lot realer, but it has it's drawbacks too.


It embarrasses me that the same town that brags about hosting the National Hobo Convention won't let tramps drink in camp or let hobo dogs run loose. They want the tramps to be picturesque and be pleasant to tourists who are sometimes pretty rude. Still, it's the only Convention we've got.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I figured it was nothing but a giant jar of Cheez Whiz conjured up for tourists but still, I want to make it one year just because from the time I first found this thread to the first time I climbed on a train, I said I'd go one year.


Those banjos rule.


Train Doc looks nothing like I thought he would either. Nothing

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Britt's Bad Points:

No drinking in the camp. This has bounced so many times, one year we even had the mayor having a few beers with us. It's usually the so-called real riders who screw it up by over indulging and pissing all over the place. One year it got so bad that some of the riders were stripping in front of children at the local pool.


No dogs: I can't figure that out either. Everyone I see with a dog has taken care of it and it's waste.


As to the ceremonies, who knows? It's the same thing every year. I've tried to introduce new things bit by bit. The biggest problem is that the "real riders" and the town won't compromise on either side. The town doesn't realize that the riders are a rougher than usual bunch and the riders won't clean up a bit to meet the public.


The good points of Britt.

It's the only public enity that will allow hobos to camp without hassle for a week. They provide a small shelter and a shower facility (riders, please use it). It's the only place where a hobo has a place to be buried. It's the only known place with a museum for hobos.


Also to set the record straight, Steamtrain Maury, Hood River Blackie and Feather River John created the Hobo Foundation. The city of britt has nothing to do with it. The Foundation handles the Museum and the Grave sites. The city handles the Jungle park. The Hobo Days Committee handles the carnival and flea market and other celebrations.

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Well fuck me gently with a chainsaw. Looks like I'm not making either one this year either.


*e Also if you run across a tramp that goes by Ytry, tell him to call his mother. Probably in the Oakland/Bay Area.

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Flatcar, thanks for the correction about Steamtrain, Feather River John and Hood River Blackie. Every year that I did go up to Britt, people drank in the jungle on the sly, but kept it kind of on the down low. The cops will not tolerate any fighting, they will not tolerate people carrying open containers and they will not tolerate drugs. Do people drink? Of course. They pour it into a big coffee mug with a lid. Do they get high? Yes, but they do it discreetly, not right in the middle of camp. People who just want to get wasted would probably be happier at Trampfest, if it's still going. (Some people call it "Drunkfest.")

There are good points and bad points to every single thing under the sun. Britt has its good points, and it also has its bad points. Quite a few of the old hard core riders have died. Shot Down Wills, Space Man John, Preacher Steve, 8-Ball, Dog Man Tony--these guys were the hardest of the hard core, but they also knew how to behave in town. Some of these younger guys just don't seem to get it, and their deliberate misbehavior brought down the Law on everybody.

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  • 1 month later...

I finally got around to reading Duffy Littlejohn's Hopping Freight Trains in North America. It is a damn good read. It's not just a how-to, common sense type read but interesting bits about railroad/hobo history. If any one is interested, hit me up for a .pdf.


No offense to Kabar2 but I have a lax view on copyright.

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None taken. But Duffy Littlejohn is an attorney. And he's trying to make a living writing books and selling them. For money. So if you take his book and make .pdf copies, you are taking the bread right out of his mouth. He probably won't like that. Did I mention that he's an attorney? Who rides freight trains? Just sayin'.

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I know there are a lot of people who have some sort of cultural commitment to violating copywrites on music, DVD movies, books, etc. but I've never really understood this. The people who write the books, create the music, make the movie, etc. are not millionaires or anything for the most part. (Okay, major Hollywood stars, yeah, they're millionaires, but I'm talking about the little guys.)


They write a book or make a CD, and they're getting like a quarter on each CD that sells. Obviously, they are trying to make a living like everybody else, but one in which they don't have to go punch a clock every day. Without a copywrite, they don't get paid. If they don't get paid, then they stop making CDs and writing books, because in the real world, nobody does anything without getting paid to do it, one way or another.


I don't object to paying for the stuff I get, because I want that stuff to continue to be available to me. If everybody started stealing Fritos instead of paying for them, pretty soon the Frito-Lay company would go out of business.


A few blocks from my house there used to be a Kroger grocery store. The neighborhood has gone through demographic change since I moved here in 1990 or so. It used to be about 95% white, now it's about 95% black and Latino. One day, the Kroger store announced they were closing. I went to the manager's office to find out why. I always liked the store. It was clean and well-stocked, the prices were reasonable and the people that worked there were great people.


The manager told me the reason they were CLOSING THE STORE was that the shoplifting had gotten so prevalent that their profit margin went below acceptable limits and the Kroger Corporation was shutting it down. I asked the guy, "Are you saying the shoplifters drove this store out of business?" and he said, "Yup. That's about the size of it. Kroger is not in business to give away free food."


So now I have to drive 2-1/2 miles to a Wal-Mart to shop for food. When there is a culture of entitlement and criminality in a neighborhood, the honest people say, "Screw this. I'm not living here with all these thugs." Here in Houston they talk a lot about "food deserts," areas of town, usually minority areas, where there are no grocery stores. This Kroger store is an excellent example of why this is so. Businesses go where they can do business. They don't exist to give away free shit. If people want respect, they have to give respect. Unfortunately, the idiots in my neighborhood have no respect for themselves and no respect for other people. And no grocery store, either.

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