The American Hobo - NOT a Tramp or a Bum

First and foremost, let's introduce our fellow, the Hobo - he's a migrant worker.  Hobo's seek work, they are not bums.  Bums are beggars looking for handouts, and tramps are just travelling bums.  Hobo's are migrant workers.

The term hobo came from the term hoe boy, as early civil war era hobos were often migrant farm works that travelled with their own hoes.  It's plain for all to see how the term was shortened up some.  Now a hobo, as a migrant worker, sometimes might find himself in a bad position, and might have to revert to the lower lifestyle of a bum - but the intentions of a hobo are that of one who seeks to work and pay for his own way.

During the American First Great Depression - and we are certainly spending our way on frivolous, pointless, and murderous wars built on false pretense towards an even GREATER Depression - and then onwards into the Dust bowl years, there were often entire hobo families. In John Steinbeck's  wonderful and timeless novel, The Grapes Of Wrath, the Joad Family was such a family, and they represented a fictional version of what was reality for countless American poor during their time.

The Grapes Of Wrath, John Steinbeck

The Joad Family From Fitzgerald's" Grapes Of Wrath."

Wanderlust and the Hobo

Now, one shouldn't imagine that a lifestyle of conformity and accumulation is the least bit preferable to a lifestyle of hand to mouth labor and wanderlust.  How happy are the billionaires of America?  Apparently they are NOT happy - they want more and more money, and seek to leverage more and more control over  the common citizen.  Such are not the actions and desires of contented Peoples.

Hobos are seemingly wiser and more intelligent individuals.  Certainly many of them could live a life of forever  and ever seeking one upsmanship over their neighbors.  Hobos only decided that that was as superfluous as it actually is.  Clearly the hobo feels the Earth more than the insulated man in the top corner office of some large building.  Certainly the hobo understands the things of real life more than he who seeks to start another war.  Surely the hobo enjoys the small things in life, and indeed, his entire life much more than a Rockefeller.

Depiction of a Typical Older Hobo

The Travelling Hobo

The Traveler and His Possessions

You've all seen the depiction of the elder hobo travelling around with a stick and a bundle on the end of it.  But what exactly did they carry around with them?  Well, the first thing that comes to mind for me would be a good drinking cup - gotta have something to drink out of - and probably a good fork, spoon, and knife.  I'd imagine that they carried a good Bowie knife, but not in their bundle on the end of a stick.

If you're travelling the country by hopping on trains, and hopping off of them again, then it stands to reason that it gets cold from time to time, not to mention hot.  Some good flint rocks and some matches would be some must have items.  The new age hobos that will certainly come with the coming day of economic reckoning - will probably have Bic lighters, or even a Zippo.

But back to the old time hobos - they probably carried a whet stone to sharpen knives, and possibly made a buck or two at it - well, a few pennies anyway - when the lucky breaks hit them, and  they also needed to keep their personal knives sharp.  String, twine, and rope would always be good things to have some of when riding the rails too, I'd imagine.  Common tools like a hammer, pliers, screw drivers and wrenches come to mind.  Little old ladies all over the world always need something fixed, and a kindly looking older guy just might score a meal and a bed for a bit should he be able to do some sufficient repairs.

The stick with the bundle tied to it?  It's a walking stick, of course - and wouldn't the modern man be so much the healthier of mind and body - they are not separate, but one and part of the same man - if he'd only torch his suv, his diesel pickup, and collect the insurance money while he still can - and take off on foot for his mind, his memories, and his health?

A Hobo Jumping On a Train

Riding Rails - The Hobo Form of Transportation.


Hobos of old might have often been on foot and needed a walking stick to help them along, but their preferred mode of transportation in the Dust Bowl and first and lesser Great Depression era was to hop on board a train.  This was often deadly, as hobos were not welcomed on board the rails as free travellers, and often doors would be locked in the heat and the cold, and opened to find human corpses.  Such disregard for human well being  has always been the case of those who are using means to move goods in order to make an ever larger fortune.  Of course no one should assign undue sainthood upon the traveling hobo - he would surely take some of whatever he thought that he could use from the freight cars.  I have no desire to persecute the poor at the behest of the exceedingly wealthy.  Isn't that what police officers do?  Are laws not always designed to benefit the wealthy, and keep them with their wealth, and is it not that way throughout the world, and throughout all of human history?  It is that way.  It is going to stay that way, and no one gets out of here alive.