Prefatory Materials

Cover page
Letter A.
Letter B.






All subject matter, as well as all illustrations, and especially the title of
this book, are fully protected by copyrights, and their use in any
form Whatsoever will be vigorously prosecuted for Infringement.

U. S. A.

To restless young men and boys who read this book, the author, who has
led for over a quarter of a century the pitiful and dangerous life of a
tramp, gives this well-meant advice: 

DO NOT jump on moving trains or street cars, even if only to ride to the
next street crossing, because this might arouse the “Wanderlust,”
besides endangering needlessly your life and limbs.

Wandering, once it becomes a habit, is almost incurable, so
NEVER RUN AWAY, but STAY AT HOME, as a roving lad usually ends in
becoming a confirmed tramp.

There is a dark side to a tramp’s life:  for every mile stolen on trains,
there is one escape from a horrible death; for each mile of beautiful
scenery and food in plenty, there are many weary miles of hard walking
with no food or even water through mountain gorges and over parched
deserts; for each warm summer night, there are ten bitter-cold, long
winter nights; for every kindness, there are a score of unfriendly acts.

A tramp is constantly hounded by the minions of the law; is shunned by
all humanity, and never knows the meaning of home and friends.

To tell the truth, the “Road” is a pitiful existence all the way
through, and what is the end?

It is an even ninety-nine chances out of a hundred that the finish will
be a miserable one—­an accident, an alms-house, but surely an un-marked
pauper’s grave.

Of all good fellows I’ve met, the best one,
His greatest pal
The book everybody should read.


FIRST      The Meeting of the Ways
SECOND     The Smoky Trail
THIRD      In the Thick of the Hobo Game
FOURTH     Hyenas in Human Form
FIFTH      The Hoboes’ Pendulum of Death
SIXTH      The Killing of the Goose
SEVENTH    Shadows of the Road
EIGHTH     Old Strikes & Company
NINTH      Deadheading the Deadhead
TENTH      Sons of the Abyss
ELEVENTH   The Rule of Might
TWELFTH    Prowlers of the Night
THIRTEENTH Bad Bill of Boone
FOURTEENTH Old Jeff Carr of Cheyenne
FIFTEENTH  Sidetracked in the Land of Manna
SIXTEENTH  The Parting of the Ways


“The Meeting of the Ways.”

“Infamous is your assertion that in New York City should be abroad even one resident so grossly uninformed of the miserable existence led by the roving tramps as to voluntarily offer himself as a travel mate to a professional hobo, A. No. 1!” Editor Godwin of the Sunday World Magazine protested, having overheard a corresponding comment I had broached to a reporter who was recording the points of an interview.

On arriving in New York City I had drifted to the editorial rooms of the newspaper publishing the best feature section in connection with its Sunday issue.  The World had accepted my proffer to furnish an exclusive interview.  A pencil pusher was assigned to take notes of my story which he was ordered to transcribe into a human-interest article for the magazine section.

Most entertaining was the tale of hobo life which I had to unfold.  It reviewed an existence fairly brimming with adventures and experiences the like of which were never encountered by folks who trailed in the well-beaten ruts of legitimate endeavor.  Of paramount importance was the circumstance that securely pasted in a memorandum I carried on my travels documentory evidence which verified the fact that my statements were based on actuality.

To this day when the possession of a most happy home seems to have effectually quenched the spirit of unrest which heretofore had driven me for more than thirty years over the face of the globe, I still treasure the humble note book as my most cherished belonging the only relic remaining to remind me of the days I wantonly wasted on the Road.

Among no end of other most worthy services performed by the memorandum, many an envious “knocker” had his blatant mouth shut up in short order by a perusal of its pages.  It contained records which irrefutably proved that I, who was a homeless outcast, had gloriously made good where all my fellows had failed to gain even a fleeting remembrance by posterity.  There were recommendations galore donated by grateful railroad companies and others by individual railroaders for saving—­ofttimes at the risk of serious personal injury—­trains from wreck and disaster by giving timely warning of faulty condition of car or track equipment.  And letters penned by appreciative parents of youths, and others by some of the waywards themselves whom by the thousands I had induced to forsake an unnatural existence which was the straight path to mental, moral and physical perdition.  And newspaper clippings by the score which mentioned deeds worth while I had performed—­in many instances years prior to the time publicity was accorded them.  And autographic commendations by a long line of national notables, such as Burbank, Edison, Admiral Dewey, three of the presidents of the United States, a governor general of Canada and others too many to enumerate in limited space.

By reason of this record and the fact that I was a total abstainer—­which was a case of utmost rarity with the hoboes—­I was regarded by newspaperdom as an authority concerning everything pertaining to the Road and the tramp problem in general.  Therefore my loud-spoken remark to the reporter that there were abroad in every community folks who would blindly accompany a hobo, elicited the retort by Editor Godwin which was chronicled at the opening of this chapter.

“How will you prove your contention, A. No. 1?” Mr. Godwin inquired when I had reiterated my assertion.

“Allow me sufficient space in the ‘Help Wanted’ columns of your daily for the insertion of an announcement asking a traveling companion for a hobo, sir!” I returned, assured that my demand would be refused point blank.

Contrary to my expectation, Editor Godwin considered my suggestion.  Making use of his desk telephone, he held a consultation with the management of the newspaper’s advertising bureau.  The conference resulted in the granting of my request.

In the morning issue of the World this advertisement made its appearance: 

Wanted—­travelmate by hobo contemplating roughing trip to California.  Address:  Quick-Getaway, Letter Box, N. T. World.

The afternoon mails brought a veritable avalanche of responses.  Other dozens of letters were delivered by special messengers.  Several telegrams arrived, some of which had prepaid replies.  All had come from correspondents who had most greedily snapped up the tempting bait of the phoney advertisement

The messages originated from all walks of life and were of every kind of offer and demand.  Inquisitive inquiries predominated, as a matter of course.  Again, many of the answers were dictated in a jocular or sarcastic vein.  Some of the replies were of such a memorable character that I recall them to this late day.

One came from a patriarch who stated, that, though he had six married sons, he had all his days nursed a strange fascination for the outdoor life, that to satisfy this great craving of his he would gladly consider an acceptance of the position.  Wishing to convey a literal estimate of his personal prowess, he frankly wrote:  “Although I am right smart up in years, I still am as spry as a bad wildcat!”

Another letter of this class was forwarded by a brokenhearted mother.  The unfortunate lady pleaded that her son, a reprobate, be taken away from the city as an only means of saving his unfortunate family further shame, if not disgrace far worse.

“Haven’t I correctly judged the degree of ignorance manifested by the average citizen when it comes to a lucid idea of what the Road really is, Mr. Editor!” I cried triumphantly, when on wearying of opening the letters, which still came pouring in, we consigned the remainder of them to a waste paper basket.

“The material you have provided we shall work up into a story that will be warning long to be remembered by every soul who answered the advertisement, A. No. 1!” Mr. Godwin declared, at the time I took a final leave of him and his editorial staff.

In the morning, and ere I quit the city for another destination, I called at the letter box to pick up mail which might have arrived during the preceding night.  While I scanned the contents of letters handed me by the clerk in charge of the mailing division, I was tapped lightly on the shoulder by some one who desired to attract my attention.

“Pardon my interrupting you, sir!” a stranger said, excusing himself.  “But as I noted by the address of your correspondence that you were the Mr. Quick-Getaway who has advertised for a traveling companion, I dared to accost you to request a personal interview.”

The speaker was a youth of perhaps eighteen years.  His five foot seven of stature, though of rather slim proportions, displayed every indication of holding no end of latent animal energy.  A mass of rich brown hair tumbled well down on his forehead, shading a pair of gray eyes which gazed at you, keen and penetrating.  At the moment they were a-smile—­this no doubt due to the immense satisfaction it brought their owner to know he had stolen a march on his competitors for the hobo job which was so greatly coveted.

This was his wearing apparel.  A traveling cap which he wore jauntily tilted to the side of his head, and a navy-blue flannel shirt with collar attached.  He had no vest.  His coat and trousers were much the worse for rough usage.  A pair of brogans of a medium weight completed the outfit.

Courteously lifting his cap, the chap went on:  “When are you to depart from the city, sir?”

“Is that any of your concern,” I sharply let hint know, taken aback by the fellow who had caught me off my guard, also believing that my intentions were none of his business.

“As I, too, am ready to shake this burg for California, I am willing to stake you to my company!” he continued unawed by the reproof, faithfully acting the role of the dog who adopted his master.

“And who, then, are you?” I flared, aroused by his impertinence.

“I’m out looking for a comrade with whom to hobo-cruise around the globe, friend!” he replied, revealing his plan.

“Then you’re on the wrong tack for I am no sailor!” I informed the persistent fellow, temporizing with him for the sake of not drawing public notice to our unfriendly conversation.

“That’s why I believed it to be most desirable that we travel in comradeship to the Pacific Coast, pal,” he came back undismayed.  “There I belong in Oakland, across the bay from the city of San Francisco, where I want to stop a while to visit with my folks prior to continuing my jaunt by sea.”

I was at the point of treating the stranger to a tart rebuff, when that wagging tongue of his resumed:  “You’ll find me to be reliable and strictly on the square.  Should I turn out disappointing, ditch me en route anywhere you prefer.  And, should we get along together, what’s the matter with doubling up for the rest of the trip I have in view.  I’ve been a sailor and know how to make things pull easiest aboard ships.  It always was my pet project to make a journey around the whole of Mother Earth.  As I’m determined right now to make a start-off on such a rove, wouldn’t you like to come along?”

Jack London proposed a hobo partnership.

Thus the youth prattled on.  Running counter to the great dislike I had fostered against his person and personality, ere I was aware of this change, I had acquired a deep interest in the speaker because of his odd proposition.  Too, there was an honest sound closely bordering on outright bluntness ringing through his appeal.  All this combined to send my thoughts running riot.

All my days I had yearned to see the world by way of a circling trip.  Only too well I recalled characteristic incidents of my school days.  Then countless times I was reproved by the teachers for sitting with eyelids held widely open but with eyes entirely oblivious to surroundings.  For I was allowing daylight dreams to drag me away to far-off shores and on and ever onward seeking hair-raising adventures among strange peoples—­until the harsh words of my enraged preceptors rudely tore me from the willful neglect of my lessons. (No wonder then, that I did not shine at school!  At thirty-eight sheer necessity compelled my commencing the study of books of primary education.)

While these lively thought-bees busily buzzed through my mind, thus arousing to a more furious flare the wanderlust which already held me enthralled, I hearkened to the invitation of my tempter.  By the time he had concluded, I was on edge to have a further investigation of his prospects.  I proposed that we adjourn from the crowded business lobby of the World to a bench I chanced to espy as standing vacant in the nearby City Hall Park—­a bit of breathing space in the heart of a group of towering skyscrapers.

“And what might be your name, sir?” I asked the youth when we had occupied the bench.

“It’s Jack London, sir!” he simply stated, then an ugly scowl came on his countenance for I had broken into a merry laugh while I explained that I had asked to hear his correct family name and not his moniker.*

“That’s what it is!  Exactly as you see it spelled out in the address of the envelope of this letter I received a couple days ago here at the General Delivery!” he remonstrated, as if he regarded my comment as a personal affront.

“I understand!  You purposely transposed your road-name to have lawful passage in the government mails accorded to your correspondence, sir!” I replied when I had read the address of the letter.  Then quite assured that I had struck the key of the riddle, I continued, “After all, your moniker is ‘London Jack’ meaning that you are a tramp whose call name is ‘Jack’ and who originally hailed from Old London Town or other community which adopted this name as its own.”

“I was tramp-named ‘Cigaret’ and ‘Sailor Jack’ by fellows with whom I’ve roughed it on land and water, but ‘London’ is my correct family name!” he insisted.

“Whichever moniker you prefer, ‘Jack London,’ ‘London Jack’ or any other which strikes your fancy, what are your plans?” I impatiently quizzed, aiming to get a straight conversation under headway.

“Today I am going to leave overland.  This will be the first stretch of a journey comprising a mileage of no less than twenty-five thousand!” he briefly announced.

Seeking information on a very important matter, I asked:  “And how are you fixed financially?”

’This forenoon I spent my last cent on a postal card to advise my folks that I am about to pay them a brief call,” he admitted.

“Then we are both in the same unfortunate fix, my boy!” I groaned commiseratingly.

“Yet you had the nerve to insert that tantalizing offer!” he came back in sharp reprimand.

This retort caused me to account for the events which preceded the insertion of the advertisement.  I explained how for my meals I had stood off Editor Godwin.  That at night I had flopped a-top a battery of boilers connected with a power plant which was placed in the lowest of the basements which in the World Building extended three-deep below the street level of the metropolis.

Mutual confessions were in order.  From one stage of quick acquaintance we drifted to another.  He feelingly spoke of his past.  He mentioned incidents which had occurred in the days of his childhood when he was a member of the family of a poor ranchman.  He told something of his experiences as newsboy, factory hand, cannery laborer, oyster pirate and of his connection with the fish patrol which policed the waters of the Bay of San Francisco and the estuaries of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers.  He bitterly complained that so relentlessly had he been driven to his tasks by his workmasters, that, step by step, his belief in receiving a fair-deal by his fellow-men was undermined.  Then he had abandoned himself to the Road—­the abyss, figuratively, which among other human scum, engulfed the derelicts produced by our intense civilization.

“There seems to be nothing to prevent our becoming hobo comrades and, I hope soon, the best of chums, fellow!” he said, reiterating his original plea when he had concluded the review of his personal history.

“But I am bound for Boston and the scenic section lying to the north of that city!” I informed him, stating the route I intended roving.

“It’s a most simple matter for a tramp to change his travel plans to suit the occasion!” he quickly countered.  “By doubling up with me, you too, maybe, will make my globe-trot!”

Thus irresistibly ran the line of his argument.  He decisively checkmated every objection I dared to advance.  In no time I found myself outgeneraled on every point I tried to score against a partnership.  Finally, he who was my junior by four years compelled my consenting to become “his” travel mate for the term of the circle trip of the globe, which he was contemplating.

The dry advertisement which in a spirit of rank bravado I had caused to be inserted in the newspaper had come home to roost in the shape of a boomerang.  I, who had derisively snickered while perusing the correspondence of more than five hundred fools who had yearned to become a companion to a hobo, had myself fallen an easy prey to the self-same lure.  A hobo comradeship resulted which culminated in a friendship which firmly endured until the death of Jack London.

* Spoken:  mo’nee’ker—­the nickname every hobo assumed.

A No 1 and Jack.


“The Smoky Trail”

Having arrived at an understanding on the matter of partnership, we allowed our conversation to become a conference, the object of which was the selection of a railroad route whereby to reach the Pacific Slope.

In eighteen hundred and ninety-four there were nine distinct railway systems running westward from New York City.  To the uninitiated these railroads looked as much alike as an equal number of beans in a pod—­to cite a familiar comparison.  But to the professional hobo there were no end of fine distinctions to be discerned which had carefully to be considered before he decided on the line over which he “hit the Smoky Trail.”

Some of the nine railroads, while maintaining a faultless passenger service, had woefully neglected or “red taped” their freight traffic.  One of the larger of the systems actually penalized engineers who dragged freight trains over its splendid trackage at a greater rate than ten miles an hour.  Another of the railroads had deliberately permitted that portion of its business which was transported in “varnished” cars to deteriorate to such a degree of slovenliness, that this service became the butt of common ridicule.  On the other hand, this rail line maintained a cargo service which was so expeditious that shippers most liberally patronized this, its only modernized department.  Then there were roads which though otherwise considered as “free and easy” by the wanderlusting fraternity, served communities—­sometimes lone water tank stops—­where officers of the peace raised havoc with the “liberties” of the tramps.  Again, there were the “hunger lanes,” thus nicknamed by the Wandering Willies because they passed through territory the populace of which either was “strictly hostile” or refused to “produce” in response to further “battering” for alms.

But of an almost invaluable importance to the devotee of vagabondage was the exact knowledge of the location of the lairs of the railroad “bulls.”  At that time (1894) the railroad officers had just commenced to transform the idyllic existence of John Tramp into an interminable living nightmare which was filled to overflowing with drubbings, clubbings, long terms in workhouses and, worst penalty of all, self-supporting prison farms, the “key” of which was thrown away until the time the hobo had absolutely reformed.

(I first hit the Smoky Trail in 1883.  Then the railroads comprised 190,000 miles of trackage and 25 just about covered the number of effective detectives employed by the transportation companies.  By 1894 the membership of the railroad-salaried sleuths had mounted to 275.  At present (1917) 7,410 special officers are required to police a mileage of 257,570.  These statistics not only prove the phenomenal increase in the criminality of the hoboes but also the lack of common sense in human beings who will cheerfully stake their life and liberty against odds so utterly hopeless.)

For some time prior to our meeting, Jack London had lived the life of the Road.  He had negotiated one complete transcontinental round trip.  At this moment he was about to start on the return journey of a second hobo jaunt.  But neither his scope of railroad knowledge nor the vast practical and otherwise experience, which I had acquired during the more than a half of a score of years which I had roughed it, was to be of any benefit when we came to select a route of traveling from New York City.  We found ourselves effectively shelved by the simple circumstance that neither of us commanded the six cents which was necessary for our ferriage across the Hudson River to Hoboken or Weehawken or Jersey City where eight of the nine westbound railroads had their termini.

This left us the New York Central Lines as an only avenue of exit from New York City.  Quitting the park bench, we walked to the Grand Central Terminal, which railroad station was located in the heart of the metropolitan business district.  We had rashly calculated that it would prove child’s play to slip, mingled with a crowd of bonafide railroad patrons, through the depot to where we could board an outgoing passenger train.  Arriving at the gates, the only available entrance to the train shed, we staged any number of futile attempts to run the gauntlet of ticket inspectors and other guards.  The disturbance we created was such that somebody tipped us off to the police.  Forthwith we found ourselves “pinched” by a John Law who, kindly fellow that he was, confronted us with the alternative of instantly quitting the railroad premises or serving a stiff term at Blackwell’s Island, the penal colony of the municipality.  We readily chose the lesser of the two evils and went our way without waiting for further unpleasant developments to ensue.

Having had our initial start thoroughly queered, we set out on Lexington Avenue to reach the New York Central freight yard which then was located at One Hundred and Fifty-Second Street.  While we plodded along the seemingly endless avenue, now and again we stopped en route at private residences and shops to panhandle food.  Everywhere we “battered” we were tartly sent on our way.  Evidently consecutive generations of professional mendicants and others had exhausted the charity of the New Yorkers we tackled for donations.  Dusk had begun to blend with darkness and we were but a short step from our destination, when Jack London managed somehow to secure a loaf of stale bread at a baker’s.

“Let’s camp on the curb of the street and have a royal feast, pal!” he jubilantly cried on returning to where I was waiting, triumphantly holding aloft the precious gift.

“And attract the attention of the mounted police!” I frowned, giving a warning which made him quite willing to continue our walk.

Beyond the further end of the freight yard and near the switch by which the outlet siding connected with the main line of the New York Central, we found a resting place upon some discarded railroad sills (ties).  Scarcely had we seated ourselves, than below us in the yard we heard shooting and wild shouting.  Shortly afterward a man rushed by where we were lounging.  Seeing us and correctly surmising why we were near the spot where trains departed from the yard, he called out that sleuths were at his heels.  Another instant—­and carrying the loaf of stale punk, we, too, had joined in the headlong getaway.  We were running in the race betwixt the fugitive and the John Laws from whom we managed to escape after they had chased us quite a distance.

The fellow who had saved us from the penalty of the law was a hobo.  He introduced himself as “Stiffy Brandon.”  His moniker indicated that for a beggar craft he had chosen the one which imposed upon the credulous by stimulating the awful affliction of the paralytic.  He told how he was scared up by special agents and had run for freedom while bullets came mighty nigh whistling his requiem.

In the company of Stiffy Brandon we continued on the track until we reached a “tower.”  In the days prior to the installation of automatic train protection, a two-storied structure held a telegraph operator who from his vantage point in the second loft of the tower guarded the passing traffic against collisions and other disasters by signalling to the train crews by means of colored flags and after nightfall with lamps of various colors.

Whenever trains approached each other too closely for safe railroading, the towerman brought the offending crews to terms either by reducing the speed of or halting their trains.  It was to wait for a chance of the latter sort to hobo onward that in a thicket located but a short distance from the track and tower we lighted a low-burning smudge the warm glow of which afforded protection from the night air and the thick fog which heavily shrouded the valley of the Hudson.

“Do you wish to share the bread with us, stranger?” kindly inquired Jack London when we were ready to make away with the loaf.

“Since early morning I haven’t touched food, friends!” the fellow admitted, accepting our charity.

“It’s like casting bread upon the waters!” laughed Jack London while he handed a third of the loaf to Stiffy Brandon who joined us in bolting the pittance of food.

When we had lunched we improvised pillows by rolling our shoes into our coats—­a common usage practiced by tramps.  Then we stretched ourselves by the side of the campfire to take a rest while we waited for a train to stop.

Jack London awakened me from the deep slumber into which I had sunk wearied by our long march, a distance of more than two hundred paved city blocks.  On the main line and almost abreast of where we were camping, stood a passenger train, halted by the towerman and awaiting his signal to proceed on its journey.

“Where’s the other guy, Jack?” I asked rubbing the sleep from my eyes, noticing the absence of our fellow-tramp.

“And where are our coats and shoes?” stormed my travel mate, calling attention to the fact that our pillows, too, had disappeared.

“The scoundrel with whom we broke bread, has done us this turn to prove his gratitude!” I angrily shouted.

But we promptly realized the full extent of our predicament.  I proposed that we take advantage of the moment by hoboing the passenger train to a town or city where the outlook would be more promising to panhandle other coats and shoes than it was at the lone watch tower by the railroad.

In our stocking feet we painfully stumbled to the side of the track.  We arrived in the nick of time to swing aboard the departing train onto its “blind baggage,” as is called the front platform of the first car coupled to the rear of the engine tender.

While we were discussing the miserable treatment we had received at the hands of a hobo we had trusted to be incapable of robbing his own kind, the train, then running at a fair rate of speed, began to take water from a track tank.  This was a chute-like contraption a quarter of a mile in length, made of flush-riveted plates and built between the rails in the center of the track.  From an adjacent pumping station water was let into the chute from where it was drawn aboard the moving train by means of a scoop which extended at an easy gradient through the bottom plates of the engine tender.

“Hustle over here, A. No. 1!  See our train taking water on the fly!” Jack London cried out in excitement, bringing me hurrying to his side where between the cars we could watch the process of the track tank.

Neither of us had previously hoboed the blind baggage of a passenger train of one of the few railroad systems which at that time were equipped with track tanks.  Furthermore, we were quite innocent of knowledge of the fact that the water chute held a capacity to supply the requirements of the wet fluid to “double header” trains, as trains pulled by two engines were called in the parlance of the railroaders.

The engine caught water on the fly.  And so did we.

Soon the capacity of the tender of our engine was reached.  Then the surplus shot over the rear of the tender.  This overflow caught us on our necks as we were bending over to watch the sight.  The water struck us with the enormous pressure produced by the immense force of the speeding train on the water drawn upwards in the scoop.  But for the fortunate circumstance that to gaze downward the better, we had taken a firm hold of the guard railing of the platform, for a certainty we would have shared the fate of the many trespassers who were washed off moving trains by the overflow from track tanks to be dashed upon the right of way and there to meet a most horrible death.

As it was, we were almost drowned in the torrent of the overflow.  When we had traveled beyond the zone of immediate danger, wet through and through as we were, we were chilled by the cold draught of air generated by the train which soon after leaving the track tank attained a speed of better than a mile a minute.

Seventy miles further on, at Poughkeepsie, the train made its first halt.  Even before the coaches had been brought to a complete stop, we were taken in charge by a railroad sleuth.  I could readily recognize our captor to this day, as then but recently a savage hobo had bit off one of his ears.  The officer marched us to the city lockup where the warden, Samaritan that he was, supplied us shivering ones with shoes from a collection of castoffs brought to headquarters by the local police.  While most charitably inclined, our friend proved himself very remiss in the performance of his official duties, or, and this was most likely, he had intentionally left improperly fastened the door of the cage into which he had placed us.  Anyhow, when on an errand, he went from the calaboose, we released ourselves from the cell and left the jail.  Then we hurried from the city by way of alleys and byways which were not frequented during the hush of the night.

Samaritan officer.


“In the Thick of the Hobo Game.”

Break of day was painting the eastern horizon with rainbow tints, when we swung aboard a freight train passing at reduced speed through Rhinecliff.  Unmolested we hoboed to the West Albany Yard where a policeman went for us.  By a very close shave we escaped arrest.  Later on we climbed aboard an outtlound train of empty stock cars.  We had scarcely entered a car, when coming in by an end door, a brakeman paid us a visit.

“Got any money on which to ride, fellows?” he roughly asked.  At the same time he threateningly whirled a stout hickory club, such as was carried in the days preceding the universal introduction of automatic brake devices by every trainman for use in setting and releasing of the brakes.

“We are down-and-outers hunting for employment, sir!” Jack London humbly volunteered, excusing our presence.

“Do you carry cards?” gruffly inquired the railroad man, having reference to identification cards issued to members by labor unions.

“We’re non-unionists, friend!” admitted my hobo mate, finding himself cornered.

“Scabs shan’t ride my train!  Therefore, if you fellows value your hides don’t allow me to catch sight of you aboard these cars after this train quits the Schenectady water plug!” he roared at us and then withdrew from the car.

In the stock car adjoining the one we were hoboing, the shack found other trespassers.

Presently we heard him snarl:  “Got any money with which to square yourselves for this trip?”

The answer he received must have proven an unsatisfactory one for presently he called for a showdown of union cards.

“Here they are for your inspection.  They are paid to date, Brother Workman!” was the reply which echoed above the racket raised by the cars.

“Where’re you boes traveling to anyhow?” growled the brakeman.

“To Rochester where we’ve got jobs waiting our arrival, friend!” he was told.

“There are already too many men out of work now at Rochester!  Therefore, if you fellows value your hides don’t allow me to catch sight of you aboard these cars after this train quits the Schenectady water plug!” warned the railroad shack who grafted while his job lasted.  Then he would appear, sailing under another assumed name, on some other railroad where he plied his crooked game until frowned upon by his honest fellow-employes who usually lent a helping hand to have the unprincipled “boomer” discharged from the service.

Among the tramps who were left behind at a water station located some miles beyond the city of Schenectady, we discovered Stiffy Brandon, the rascal who so meanly had repaid our charity.  He grudgingly confessed that after he robbed us while we were sleeping, he had sneaked back into the freight yard.

There foolhardily defying arrest, he had come away from New York aboard the same freight train with which we had connected at West Albany.  He already had disposed of the footwear.  But he wore our coats drawn over his own, one squeezed into the other—­this in accordance with a custom observed by all hoboes who were seeking purchasers for garments dishonestly obtained.  We took charge of our coats.  Then we settled for the theft and the absence of our shoes by handing the scoundrel such a sound drubbing, that when we chased him from the vicinity of the water plug, he swore to even the trouncing though this necessitated his following us all the way across the continent.

Soon afterward a train pulled up to take on water.  We crawled into a hiding place aboard.  With the exception of a close race with a city cop who at Utica hot-footed it after us, we had no other encounter worth while chronicling until we landed in the western outskirts of the city of Buffalo.

Buffalo dirt bed.


“Hyenas in Human Form.”

The freight yards of the New York Central Lines were located at West Seneca.  In close proximity to the extensive terminal were the residences of some of the employees of the Buffalo street car system.  During the day many of these men rang up fares, twisted brakes and controllers and honorably earned stipends considered quite sufficient to meet the needs of fellow-workers who were not let in on the graft the others plied after nightfall.  Then they hooked to the coats of their uniforms a badge supplied to its constables by Erie County, New York.  Equipped with club and revolver they set out on a hunting expedition.  Odd indeed was the quarry stalked by these gents in the dark when Br’er Rabbit and other prey of the legitimate huntsman had retreated to their lairs.  The street car roughs were hunting penniless out-of-works who, in many instances, had dependents looking to them for support.  Fortunates who had daily bread a-plenty were searching for unfortunates who not even had a place to rest their weary bodies!

Judas Iscariot who for paltry shekels peddled his immortality stood no comparison with the black souls of these residents of Buffalo.  The miserables which they caught were handed over to the authorities for a fee amounting to twenty-five cents for each prisoner.  The law sent the unfortunates to serve long terms in the Erie County Penitentiary, then universally conceded to be the most shameless money leeching proposition within the confines of the graft-ridden state of New York.

As were all hoboes who had attained or were aspiring to attain the professional rating, so Jack London and I were amply apprised of the great menace which threatened every box car tourist who dared to linger after dusk at West Seneca yard.  Furthermore, only recently while hoboing eastward, Jack London was “glummed” at Niagara Falls, also in Erie County, where he drew down a sentence of thirty days which he served in the notorious work-house.

It was night time when we arrived at West Seneca.  Without tarrying an unnecessary moment we continued westward on the track until we walked into Angola.  In the morning a freight stopped at this first water stop beyond Buffalo.  While looking over the train for a likely hiding place, we ran across a stock car loaded with cabbage.  An end door of the car stood ajar—­possibly somebody had helped himself to a mess of the succulent vegetable.  We climbed aboard the car and barricaded the end door with cabbage heads.  Then we built for ourselves from the green goods a nest the sides of which reached almost flush with the ceiling of the stock car.  From our hiding place we could peek about but were protected from casual observation.

Coupled ahead of the cabbage car ran a gondola loaded with heavy machinery.  When the train began to draw away from Angola, a fellow swung aboard this car.  A moment after he had concealed himself in the machinery, two other men boarded the gondola.  That they were dangerous scoundrels they proved when the freight had attained a high rate of speed.  They made the hobo crawl from his hiding place and had him hold his hands aloft while they searched through his pockets.  They found nothing worth taking away.  Just the same the inhuman hounds forced the poor fellow to leap for his life from the racing train.  Man was not built to hop from speeding cars to rock-ballasted track where there awaited him death or lifelong crippling.  On a grade several miles beyond the scene of their beastial deed, the robbers quit the train.

While the yeggs had no inkling that we had witnessed their crime, an alert brakeman who chanced to stray over the top of the cars, spotted our roost.  He saw to it that we had a stop-over at the next halt of the train.  This was Erie, the hustling lake port city of Pennsylvania.

To avoid running counter of yeggs, we decided to ride passenger trains until we had passed Cleveland.  Then the Buffalo — Cleveland district of the railroad was the stamping ground of numerous bands of hobo cutthroats who preferably preyed upon fellow-tramps.

From Erie we made the “White Mail.”  Climbing on behind us onto the blind baggage of the crack train came two youths who acted so awkward on the job, that a third trespasser, an elderly, typical hobo, lent them a helping hand while they mounted to the platform.  Even before the train had drawn beyond the limit of the Erie yard, from snatches we caught of a conversation into which the trio had entered, we became informed that the nasty tramp had induced the lads to run away from their homes.  He promised to guide them to Texas where they would lead the life of cowboys.  He proposed other crack-brained inducements for the youths to embark upon the lawless and degenerate existence of the wandering beggars of hobodom.

“Do you recall the turn which the ‘stickups’ today handed to the poor bum?” Jack London remarked in a mumbled aside, not wishing that the others overhear his comment.

“What has that got to do with these chaps?” I perplexedly retorted, not noting a connection.

“Abide your time and you will learn!” he rejoined and then we returned to listen to the lofty air castles which were rated as truths by the guileless boys who with all-absorbing interest hearkened to their tempter.

At Conneaut, Ohio, a freight train blocked the progress of the mail.  Our train halted while the freight cleared the main line by backing over a crossover switch onto the eastbound track.  Then the “Fast Mail” preceded on its journey.  The train had attained quite a bit of speed, yet was running none too swift to serve his purpose, when Jack London called the attention of everybody to something which seemed to have occurred on the track at the side of the train.  A first view was allowed to the burly tramp who had eagerly pressed forward.  The fellow had leaned far out from the car and was lightly balancing himself with the tips of his toes upon the rim of the platform when Jack London gave him a sudden shove which sent the detestable vagrant spinning into space.

“He’s merely cashing in less, by far, than that which by rights he so richly deserved for attempting to ruin your chances in life, lads!” my comrade told the waywards when he finally managed to reassure them that we were their friends and not hobo yeggs.

Quickly the train attained topnotch speed.  Evidently, the engineer was driving his engine at fastest rate while endeavoring to retrieve time lost by the delay.  While the cars raced onward, in the narrow limits of the coach platform was enacted one of the strangest episodes I encountered in the course of my world -wide wanderings.  Jack London, himself a wayward youth, undertook to preach to the runaways the truth that the worst of parents was a veritable saint in comparison with the best guardian the abyss of hobodom had to offer.  It was a matter of two hours ere the express reduced its terrific pace on entering the yard at Collinwood, located a short distance east of the limits of the city of Cleveland.  All the while my hobo mate bravely continued his preaching until over and over again the lads had promised that they would return home by the first train.

As the “White Mail” rolled under the train shed of the Union Station at Cleveland, we dropped from the blind baggage to the ground.  Detectives routed us.  So anxious did the sleuths seem to lay their hands on our persons, that, maybe they had received telegraphic orders for our apprehension.  Possibly the hobo who was bounced by Jack London at the Conneaut crossover was injured by his fall.  Society will slobber over and tenderly care for every hobo who receives a deserved bump.  But how many citizens are there who would waste the least attention on a professional beggar who, frequently posing as a workingman, nowadays might often be seen hoboing over the land with from one to a dozen minors whose futures were invariably and irretrievably blasted by the criminal of criminals who stopped short of nothing.

In the heat of making our getaway the waywards became separated from our company.  And this is my fervent hope:  that they and theirs practice toward others the service rendered unto them by noble Jack London,

Push comes to shove.


“The Hoboes’ Pendulum of Death,”

This day we caught a fleeting glimpse of Stiffy Brandon!  Having accomplished a clean getaway from the officers, we thoughtfully accorded a wide berth to the premises of the Union Station.  We regained the railroad a safe distance from the zone wherein for us lurked trouble.  While we walked on the grade which steeply rose from the banks of the Cuyahoga Creek, the pride of the Clevelanders, a passenger train overtook us.  As the cars flashed abreast of where we stood on the right of way, we saw a hobo dangling from the gunnels—­these were the inch-gauged trusses which helped to sustain the weight of the coach bodies.  We recognized the rod-rider, though he failed to see us as he held his eyes tightly shut against dust and cinders which whirled about in the draught created by the train.  We highly appreciated the fact that the fellow was unaware he had out-hoboed us.  Every hobo, including the slovenliest, firmly believed himself to be the wisest of the wise and to stand without compeer in the fraternity.

In other respects this was our day of misfortune.  Near the summit of the grade we boarded a passing freight train.  While the train stopped at Port Clinton, we went to a residence located nearby to ask for a drink of water wherewith to quench our thirst.  Repeated ringing of the door bell at the front entrance brought no response.  Then we tackled the side door with no better result.  And though we knocked for some time at the kitchen entrance none came to attend to our want.  Deciding that no one was at home, we helped ourselves to our needs at a pump we espied in the back yard.  Then we retraced our way to the tracks.  There, while we patiently waited for the train to resume its journey, we were nabbed by a constable.

“I want you fellows on a charge of being dangerous and suspicious characters!” snarled the John Law when we vehemently protested against the outrage.

But he took no stock whatever in our objections; quite to the contrary, he came back by snapping handcuffs to our wrists.  Then he conveyed us to the residence where we had drunk our fill of water.  A typical old maid met us at the entrance of the house.

“For sure!  They are the lads who tried to burglarize my home, Mr. Officer!” cackled the ancient dame, identifying us.  “They attempted to enter here by way of the doors.  Failing to gain an entrance, they were wrenching off the handle of yonder yard pump, when they were chased away by the barking of Atkinson’s dog.”

Explanations were in order.  We had almost exhausted our vocabulary for words wherewith to plead our innocence of intentional wrong-doing, when the constable, though most reluctantly, permitted our release from custody.

At this juncture, the freight train began to depart from Port Clinton.  An empty box car with its doors standing ajar most invitingly beckoned for a continuance of our journey.  Posthaste we ran to connect with the open car.  But the minion of law and order took after us.  Most likely, he saw a chance to work up against us a “case” which could be made to “stick” in court.  Fee-hungry as he was, he ran so close at our heels, that we escaped from his clutches only by a headlong dive from the car by the door which stood open opposite to the one by which we had entered and through which the cop had climbed aboard to capture us.  We hurriedly mounted a side ladder of a passing freight car.  But to the roofs of the cars went the John Law chasing us and so compelled our return to solid ground.  There he raced after us alongside the moving train.  We were pressed so closely by him, that as a last recourse, we swung onto the gunnels beneath a freight car.  Fearing the risk of injury, the cop refused to dive under the running car.  He contented himself to trot by the side of our traveling haven of refuge, all the while bawling commands demanding our voluntary surrender.

“Never count your fees until you’ve got them earned!” derisively sang out Jack London, at the moment when the constable abandoned the foot race with the train which was running at an ever faster rate of speed.

Onward we traveled lazily stretched across the gunnels and enjoying a deserved respite from the strenuous man-hunt we had sustained.  Quite ignorant of the fact that the members of the train crew had witnessed the fray, we entertained each other with joshing at the expense of the officer whose authority we had put to naught.  But the crew, the rulers of the train, were law-fearing folk who doubtlessly looked askance at our wanton defiance of mandates by which they, the railroaders, abided.  The first thing we were to be aware of, we who were riding in the cellar of Hades beneath the jolting car, was to behold how a member of the train crew left the caboose which swung at the tail end of the train and came running forward over the roofs of the cars.

Although we could not see the man who was abroad beyond the constricted arc of our range of vision, we had a means which allowed a close tab on his doings.  This merely was a matter of keeping a watch on his shadow to be conectly informed of his designs and whereabouts.  The silhouette of any trainman abroad on the cars while under way was cast groundward by the sun or, if after nightfall, by the moon, or should the night be a moonless or overcast one, then by the rays emitted by the lighted lantern which after dusk was carried by every railroad man employed on trains or trackage.

And this day the sun shone from a cloudless sky.  The shadow of the railroader informed us that he was coming forward and that he had abruptly stopped on arriving a-top of the box car beneath which we had taken lawless passage.  He was a brakeman as this fact was borne out by the hickory brake club he carried.  He descended on a side ladder of our freight car.  Arriving at the lowest rung of the ladder, he took a survey of the lower works of the car and only when he had assured himself that he had correctly judged the distance from the caboose to our hiding place, he yelled:  “The conductor of this train has ordered that you get out from under this train.  Right now!  Instantly!  Do you hoboes understand!”

“Get us out from under this speeding train, if you can, sir!” the brakeman was dared by Jack London who was cocky from having defeated the designs of the Port Clinton police officer.

We were chased by the John Law.

The railroader neither heeded London’s tart invitation nor uttered a syllable in reply.  But almost instantly the color of his countenance turned to a livid crimson—­a telltale sign of fury otherwise controlled.  Presently a diabolic grin made an appearance in his face.  To us who believed ourselves safely ensconced beneath the car, this hard grin only helped to confirm our belief that no common agency could dislodge us from under the train—­at least not while the cars continued to race at better than forty miles an hour.

Having received our defy, the brakeman climbed back to the roof of the car.  We heartily laughed when we saw by his shadow that he was returning to the caboose.  There he remained but a brief while, for presently we noted his coming again forward over the cars.  But this time he carried a coil of light rope—­judging the gauge by the diameter of its shadow.  On his approaching to where we were, we discerned a coupling link dangling from one end of the rope.  The link, weighty and made of wrought iron, was of the pattern used in the days prior to the universal introduction of automatic car coupling devices.

As the railroader had done on his preceding trip, so at this instance, he halted when he had arrived on the roof of our car.  We broke into boisterous laughter at the remarks of derision which we passed regarding the helplessness of the shack in the face of our determination to hobo his train in spite of his orders to the contrary.  But the very next minute our laughter was superseded by groans.  By merest chance, I glanced at Jack London.  His countenance had assumed an ashen-gray overcast.  His eyes were protruding.  Further, I could hear his teeth clattering too.  I felt myself shuddering.  And there were no end of other mental and physical manifestations to prove that we both were suffering in the agonies of mortal fright.

There was ample occasion for our panic.  The shadow play had told how the trainman had uncoiled the rope.  Then he had deliberately lowered the coupling link into the canyon formed by the front wall of our car and the rear side of the one coupled ahead.

A faint metallic clinking was heard.  It emanated from the heavy link coming in touch with the coupling apparatus of the cars.  On our part another throe of most dreadful fright—­then Rip!  Crash!  Thump!  Smash! came thunder-like detonations due to the contact with the stationary track by the coupling link which sustained the momentum of the racing cars.  These detonations alternated with crunching, crushing and splintering which resounded from the havoc wrought to the iron and wood work of the car by the heavy link which was propelled by titanic force to and from the track, thus faithfully copying the motion of a gigantic pendulum wrecking destruction to everything coming within the radius of its swing.

As the brakeman gradually paid out the rope which held the iron weight in check and to its work, at a similar ratio our personal danger increased.  Nearer and ever nearer approached the hideous weapon to where we lay huddled against the gunnels’ cast iron supports which transverse limited our retreat from the path of the tool of vengeance employed in bygone days by irate railroaders.

I lay farthest from the death-dealing railroad iron.  That is, if the width of a human body might be reckoned to be a span worthy of measurement.  But on this occasion even this negligible distance made a vast difference in our demeanor confronted as we were by death.  Protected by the body of Jack London from the thick shower of debris, I instantly realized our dire peril.  I yelled to London to hurl himself from the moving train irrespective of the consequences of such a leap to the stationary right of way.  He neither made a least move nor offered a reply but dazedly stared at the ricochetting link—­in fact, he was rendered inanimate by terror of the horrible fate which threatened us.

The paying out of the rope had allowed the link to come within a few inches of where Jack London lay helplessly paralyzed with fear.  It was then that I collared my mate by his coat, bodily dragged his nerveless body into my grasp and then, fortunately clearing the rail and the pounding wheels, I flung him to the right of way.  Again Providence intervened.  The train was thundering over the crest of a high embankment and when I let go of London, he rolled down a grassy slope.

The next instant I was ready to repeat his vault for life.  But ere I let go of my hold on the handle of the car’s sliding door, I glanced back into the inferno produced by the pendulum of death.  Most timely had we accomplished our exit!  The flying weight was bending the gunnels as if they were chaff:  Exactly overhead of where we had lain huddled, hand-sized splinters were easily ripped off the car box by the cavorting railroad link.

Then I leaped—­a leap with life or death at stake.  I performed a neat line of somersaults and did other acrobatic stunts ere, like Jack London had before me, I, too, was deposited at the foot of the grass-covered incline.  There we both lay sprawling but uninjured.  But so terrific was the horror we had passed through that it was some while before we could shake off the grip of our experience.

“And say, A. No. 1, didn’t we make a hair’s breadth escape from the finish of all things mundane?” gasped Jack London when finally he had recovered so far as to connectedly express his thoughts.

“The Road provides its devotees with such a grand array of dangerous entertainment, one chasing the other so close at the heel, that it is but a matter of days for the hobo to reach the end of his lifetime,” I commented contemplatively.

“That’s so!” he blurted out and then a weak smile spread over his wan face, indicating that he, too, comprehended the absolute hopelessness of the existence we were leading.



“The Killing of the Goose.”

We walked to Graytown.  There we stopped for brief rest and improved the opportunity by striking out to panhandle a meal.  My lunch was earned by trimming the acre-sized lawn of a residence.  Returning to the railroad station, which by way of mention, is the pre-arranged meeting place of all hoboes traveling in company, I waited for the coming of Jack London.  More than an hour had elapsed ere he arrived at the depot.

“Been having troubles connecting with a handout, sir?” I gruffly quizzed, having completely lost my patience because of the long wait and the fact that several “good” freight trains had stopped and then without us had departed from Graytown.

“None whatever!” he reported, speaking as if he resented my insinuation of his being incapable of properly looking after his wants.  “Contrariwise, while I was absent, I was continually making away with a really firstclass meal.”

“Tackled a drummer who treated you to a hotel course-dinner which took an hour to finish?” I came back, believing I had struck a straight clew as commercial travelers were about the best fellows going.

“No, my angel wasn’t quite up to the generosity of the drummers!  Nevertheless, I spoke the truth.”  London laughed, and when I insisted on hearing the details of his experience he reviewed a bit of “human interest” of the first rating.

The hobo was a slacker.

“There’s a woodpile in the back yard and you’ll find an ax hanging on the wall of yonder wood shed, sir!” Jack London was advised by the mistress of a residence where he had applied for food.  “And only when you have split a sufficiency of kindlings to have earned your meal, shall I call you to the stoop of the kitchen.  But if this arrangement does not suit you, you have the privilege of continuing on your way.”

“But, as I was saying, I am starving, marm!” rejoined the vagabond, a plea which proved of no avail as the pertly spoken woman sharply shut the door in his face, permitting him every chance to select his choice of either of her propositions without being embarrassed by her presence.

Tramps, especially while en route, cannot well afford to miss a meal, even though a task is connected with its acquirement.  Too, the outdoor existence is a most phenomenal appetizer.  Therefore Jack London accepted the wood chopping job which the lady of the house had set for him as a means of earning his dinner.

He went to work with a will to reduce the size of the wood pile.  This proved quite an undertaking.  The material he tackled was cordwood cut from live oaks, thoroughly seasoned in the heat of the summer—­a process which had still further toughened the stringy fiber of the hard wood.  The ax was not of the sharpest.  Yet he persevered as he was buoyed by a hope that the meal would prove commensurate with the great exertions he expended while making a scarcely noticeable inroad on the cordwood.

Then he came to his first surprise.  It was in the person of the lady of the residence who interrupted him at his task by arriving with a plate on which was placed a succulent roastbeef sandwich smothered with gravy.  She remained until he had partaken of the tidbit.  While she retraced her steps, he attacked with renewed vim the hearts of oak.  Then for a second time she returned to regale her woodchopper with a plate of tasty soup.  When she came for a third time, she brought a saucer of delicious salad.  Repeating her trips, she gradually fed him a full meal of the best cookery.  Finally, she sweetly informed him, that the task he had performed sufficed to settle for his repast.

“Would you mind telling me why you fed me the dinner piecemeal, marm?” inquired Jack London before he took his leave.

“But ... and, well ...  I don’t care to take a stranger into my confidences, sir!” she blustered, evading an answer.

“Suppose I would appreciate the information, marm?” persisted Jack London, undaunted by her refusal.

“Then you insist that—­” she had halted in her sentence and while her cheeks flushed, she acted as if she debated with herself if or if not to tell him, then she went on:  “I fed your dinner in courses as this morning a hobo who preceded you here ate his meal and then ran off without touching the ax, though this day, more than ever previously, I needed kindlings for the starting of fires!”

“Verily, verily!  Among ourselves we hoboes are our worst enemies!” mused Jack London as he went from the house to meet me at the railroad station.


“Shadows of the Road.’

At midnight and soon after we had wearily trudged into Air Line Junction, the division freight train terminal located just beyond the boundary of the city of Toledo, the fair weather which had prevailed for so many weeks abruptly changed to a drizzly rain that held on.

Rain-stormy days and, more especially, such nights as this one was, were ideal time for the hoboing of railroads.  Then detectives and other implacable foes of the Wandering Willies have retreated from track and train to their lairs—­yard or station offices or, if overtaken en route, cabooses or engine cabs.

The downpour had assumed torrential proportions when a freight train departed from the yard.  We scanned the cars while they passed us to find a shelter aboard from the miserable weather.  Through the gloom of the night we saw a small end door of a box car to be standing ajar.  Mounting to the bumpers of the car, we took note by the flickering light of a match we had struck that the contents of the car was lumber.  Evidently an amateur had attended to the loading of the cargo, for while the boards were stacked upwards until flush with the ceiling, a large space remained vacant at the side of the car from where we surveyed its interior.

Momentarily the train was gaining speed.  The box car, but partly loaded, looked most inviting for a ride through the rain-riven night.  Without further delay we climbed aboard.  Right then a series of tribulations commenced.  The door through which we had entered would not shut.  Not even when we pulled and pushed at it with might and main.  Neither would it budge when we had returned to the bumpers and there repeated our efforts from outside the car.  Finally, after we had wasted the last of our matches, the blackness of the night thwarted a successful search for the cause of the clogging of the door.

Crawling back into the car, only too soon we were to become aware that it offered but a most indifferent shelter from the unfriendly elements.  In a corner and farthest from the spot where the rain driving in through the open end door splashed to the floor, we pitched our berth.  The track was a straight-away one for many miles beyond Toledo.  Then came a curve which routed the train to run in a direction which brought the downpour pattering against our cheeks.  This, naturally, sharply aroused us from our sleep.  We scurried for shelter to another corner.  But soon another curve sent the storm into our new retreat.  There were other curves and more changes of our berthing.  We gave up all further attempts to snatch a rest when the floor of the car had begun to resemble a miniature pond.

The train made a first halt at Ryan where it stopped to take on water.  During this interim in the journey, two tramps came to keep us company.  The newcomers had searched the whole length of the train to find shelter.  At the next stop another pilgrim of the Road joined our crowd.  Later on, where the train entered a siding, five other tramps were added to our hobo club.  Others came and some more until no less than a score of bedraggled tourists were squeezing each other in a space which now became very narrow quarters.

One of the rovers carried a flash lantern.  While he undertook to search for the fault which prevented the sliding of the door, I recognized him to be a fellow badly wanted by the police.  He removed a splinter of wood that had become tightly wedged in the runway.  Obviously, it was placed there by a hobo who feared to be trapped by the shutting and fastening of the door.

While jockeying to provide a favorable position for his train at the Butler (Indiana) coal chute, the engineer slammed the brake shoes with such a sudden force against the rims of the wheels of the cars which were provided with automatic brakes that the remainder of the train was given a most terrific jolt.  This sudden shock completely disrupted the natural adhesion supplied by heavy weight to the lumber stowed in our car.  The hefty boards were hurled forward with a momentum so great, that some of the hoboes were mercilessly wedged against the sides of the freight car.  With others of our fellows who had come through the accident without sustaining serious harm, we extricated ourselves from the tangled mass of jammed timbers and crushed humans.  Then we beat a quick escape into the open.

Extraordinarily precipitate was our exit from the box car.  Actually we fairly fell over each other to be first to reach the right of way, so anxious we were to remove ourselves promptly from the vicinity of the mishap.  We feared an. interference with our travel plans and other inconveniences should the authorities decide to hold us as witnesses or, and this was likely, to punish us for trespass.

While Jack London and I scurried for cover, we heard ringing through the darkness the piteous cries of the unfortunates whom in their agony we others had shamelessly deserted.  Still we went on—­we did not care to get mixed up with new trouble.  Then, by chance, while we looked back, we saw how a gleam of light brightly lit up the interior of the car we had quit in such cowardly haste.  This brought us to our senses.  Responding to the urgings of our outraged consciences, we decided to return to the car and help with the rescue of the injured, irrespective of the outcome of such a step.

Although we were running on an errand of mercy, impelled by a natural suspicion to which every hobo is heir, we took every precaution to guard against untoward surprises.  Stealthily mounting the bumpers, we peeped into the end door of the lumber car.  We discerned neither officers nor railroaders in the freight car.  Instead we saw by the light of his flash lantern that the yegg, he who was hunted for by the authorities, was busily working over the injured.  He was not offering succor to those who with their own bodies had become the living cushions which had saved him from sharing their fate; quite to the contrary, he was rifling their pockets of the pitiful contents one might expect in possession of penniless hoboes.

Slipping back into the night we hurriedly held a council of war.  Well aware that all murderous hobo criminals carried concealed weapons, we decided against giving battle to the degenerate.  Instead we ran to the railroad depot which was located nearby.

There we acquainted the night-operator with the particulars of the crime.  He promptly gathered a posse.  But ere the avengers closed in, the yegg had escaped from the car from which soon afterward an ambulance hauled away several loads of battered hoboes.

When the train departed from the coal chute, on account of the hard rain, we climbed back into the lumber car.  But this time we crawled a-top of the cargo where the shifting of the. timber had left an ample space.  But before we allowed ourselves to drop off to sleep, we barricaded our berth in such manner that we were secure against accident or other interference.  By taking this precaution we merely proved that we had practically mastered the lesson of not putting a further trust in an adhesion to each other of either the boards of the lumber or the vultures of the Road.

Trusty boards.


“Old Strikes & Company.”

Even before the train was running under a fair headway again, Jack London and I had sunk into sound slumber.  From our rest we were awakened by loud commands, roughly spoken.  Some one ordered our obedience to the law.  Instinctively almost, we realized that we were trapped in the side-door Pullman by a police officer as our fellow-hoboes previously had been by the unstable cargo.

But while we were asleep, at stops and grades there had swarmed into the car a new lot of tramps.  By the gray light of dawn we saw that the forepart of the car was packed with hoboes like a can with sardines.  These rovers hastily complied with the mandate of the John Law.  Their crowding to and crawling through the narrow aperture of the end door obscured the interior of the car to the view of the officer.  Grasping our opportunity, Jack London and I wriggled back over the boards and dropped from sight into the vacant space left to the rear of the lumber by the shifting of its upper layers.

As it was, the captor of the others never suspected our presence.  Laying low in our retreat, we heard him herding and then leading his prisoners away into captivity.  Only some time after the lightest of noise had died away in the distance, we dared to emerge from our hiding place.

Rightly it is said that no blessing comes to him who trespasses on railroads!  Our glee that another time we had escaped the just due of the law, proved of brief duration.  Scarcely had we landed on the ground, than we heard some one hail.  When we gazed about to see what was wanted and by whom, we recognized in the person of him who had hailed, “Old Strikes.”

Some time or another, but in most instances no end of times, every hobo roaming at will over the land had been forewarned against Old Strikes.  Approaching Jeff Carr of Cheyenne in fearless ferocity when it came to dealing with John Tramps, he too was conceded by the latter to be one of their most relentless persecutors.  By natural gravitation he came to his abounding dislike for everything affiliated with tramping and trespassing.  In his day he had been a car inspector.  While searching over the cars for needed repairs, he came in frequent contact with every species of the hobo.  Therefore, it could not have been otherwise but that a great chasm of hate should have sprung up between him who earned his bread by the sweat of his brow and they who were pure and simple parasites of humanity and who everlastingly and most maliciously sneered at every toiler.  One day he chose to vent his spleen on a box car tourist who had given cause for punishment.  But the car inspector ran up against a losing proposition when he tackled the tough—­he came out second-best from the fracas which ensued.  This humiliating defeat at the hands of one who belonged to a class he hated so cordially, added fresh fuel to the great malke he bore even then towards hobodom.  Finally, he resigned from his job and was readily granted his request for a transfer to the position of a yard watchman in the division freight terminal at Elkhart, Indiana.

There was left no possibility of committing an error in our identification of him who had hailed—­hailed us, at that.  He was Old Strikes and could be none other.  A scarce three car-lengths away he came running, affording a clear view of his person.  He was viciously whirling overhead a short span of heavy dog chain.  To insure its presence under all circumstances, this chain was securely fastened to his right wrist.  Of all police representatives abroad in the land and waging a merciless war against hobodom, Old Strikes was the only one who had adopted this unique device as a means of attack and defense.  His selection of this distinctive weapon came only after he had personally passed through a number of holdups by hoboes—­who mark the sting of complete disgrace—­had relieved him of his six-shooters and other approved protectives.

And then Old Strikes yelled for us to light out.  While we gazed at him for the moment undecided which course to pursue we noted a decided slackening in his running gait.  Fellow-tramps had cautioned us to beware of his practice.  He preferredly allowed his prospective victim to run away ahead of him.  This sly procedure abridged all argumenting and rendered his prey incapable of offering resistance.  Closing in from the rear, he would strike him who was fleeing from the avenger of the law a crushing blow with the heavy chain.  So expert had he become by constant practice with this, his favorite weapon, that never was a second stroke required, not even when it came to an effective felling of the burliest of the trespassers.  When he had scored the knockout, and then only, he troubled himself to institute inquiries as to the business which had brought the vanquished to prowl on the premises of the railroad.

Despite the manifold advance information we had received concerning the methods used by Old Strikes, we lit out like frightened hares.  Ours was a case of instinctive self-preservation, for it was the first law of Nature that supplied the overpowering incentive which urged our feet to run their fastest in an attempt to score a getaway where most hoboes before us had miserably failed.  Fortune favored our exit!  Well rested as we were by the sound slumber we had enjoyed, we managed to break the record by getting ahead of Old Strikes to and then over the right-of-way fencing.  There we were free of molestation at the hands of our enemy, for the fence abrogated the rule of the wielder of the dog chain as his authority was strictly demarkated by the limits of the property controlled by the New York Central.

Although for a while we were quaking like aspens during a storm from our fright and the great exertions of the race we had run, we quickly returned to a normal state of mind.  Then elated by our success, we retaliated by mercilessly gibing Old Strikes on his signal failure to accord us the treatment which had earned him the nickname he so well deserved.  In his helplessness he promised, provided we placed ourselves where he could legally enact his threat, to regale us to the best in the line of strikes his chain was capable of delivering under his masterly guidance.

We left the John Law and took to a highway which led off in the direction of Elkhart.  This public road closely paralleled the railroad.  Perhaps a mile from where Old Strikes still lingered by the fence, keeping an alert tab on our actions, a most comical sight greeted us.  The highway at this point was less than a hundred yards from the railroad fencing.  There strung out in a long line we saw no less than thirty men.  They were hugging the posts of the fence, one fellow to each post.  Though they behaved livelier than an equal number of fleas, yet they held to their queer embrace of the fence supports.  Further, while we stood amazedly sizing them up, we could plainly overhear the bantering remarks they passed to each other as to who of them would be the first to quit his job.  Despite their jesting and quite contrary to the dictates of common sense, none of the post huggers made a least effort to desert his most ridiculous position.

Posted hoboes.

Jack London judged the strangers to be lunatics who, so as to have them out of the way for the day, were allowed to follow the inclinations of their unsound intellects.

“Let us step to closer quarters for a better observation of their singular antics, A. No. 1!” my hobo mate urged, a suggestion to which I conceded.

Believing that we were about to carry our safety in our hands, we warily, approached the strangely acting fellows.  Nearing their station by gradual stages, we quickly comprehended the aspect of the game they played or, rather, the one of which they were the pawns.  They were enacting the role of another of the countless tragedies one continually encountered at almost every nook and turn of the Road.

The unfortunates were trespassers who in the course of the preceding night were rounded up by the police patroling the freight terminal.  They were tramps and out-of-works indiscriminately taken into custody.  For the want of a more convenient and, perhaps, less exposed detention the officers had taken recourse to the right-of-way fencing for herding their prisoners.  With handcuffs the hoboes were manacled to the fence posts.  To forestall a “jail delivery,” one of each pair of steel bracelets was passed through the stout wire meshing and then around a support of the fence.  Besides these whom the John Laws had tangled up with law and the fence, not a soul was to be seen.  But while we studied to find means to liberate the hapless chaps from their uncomfortable quarters, a large farm wagon drove into view.

This wagon was drawn by a team of horses.  When abreast of where the hoboes stood staked out in the open, the horses were allowed to move the vehicle at a very slow walk only.  One of the two occupants—­they were John Laws as their subsequent actions proved—­climbed down off the wagon and then stepped over to the side of the fence.  There he gingerly released a trespasser from a picket and then re-adjusting the handcuff, he sent the unfortunate to the wagon where the other officer saw him to a seat.  Thus man after man was released from his awkward position, one which with certainty must have become a most exquisite torture to those of the offenders who since dusk had decorated the fencing.  Soon the hoboes were collected in the wagon which then, running at a smart jog, left for Elkhart, a distance of several miles.

Returning to the highway, Jack London and I resumed our walk.  It was breakfasting time when we arrived in the more thickly populated suburbs of the city.  There we separated to mooch our morning meals.  Later on we met at a street corner.

When once more we were walking in the general direction of the railroad station, Jack London regaled me with the details of an adventure he ran across while he was hunting for his breakfast.  Refused food at the doors of the well-to-do and the rich and the very wealthy he had hied himself to the homes of folks in humble circumstances.  There a lady had in a friendly way invited him to share the morning meal of her family.

The Samaritan in petticoats was a poor washer-woman.  To still further enhance the glory of her charity, she was a widow who had six children left on her hands.  None of her youngsters had arrived at an age where they might have at least lessened the burden which an unkind fate had so heavily thrust upon the shoulders of their frail mother.  But on this behalf she voiced no complaint.  She owned her home, though it was a miserable frame shack.  But it was a heaven to her and her little ones as there they were protected from the landlords who relentlessly hounded other poor ones for their dues.  But she complained of a black shadow which effectively spoiled her life—­an existence already so fearfully marred by hardest toil.  She bittery lamented that at almost the same ratio she felt her physical strength waning while fighting the battle of life against the ever increasing expenditures made necessary by the natural growth and attendant outlays for her six, from year to year the total of her tax assessment was advancing at a most astonishing rate.  She could give no sound reason for this increase of the general tax rating nor the amazingly mounting valuation of her humble abode and that of the patch of slum on which it stood.  Construction of new residences and structures of every description was met with in every block, almost.  New suburbs were taken in annually and had become contributors to the tax income of the city.  Still every year had a larger tax rate—­one guaranteed nevermore to mount—­and new taxing schemes and ever heavier assessments, exactly as if the locality suffered in the throes of a great national calamity.  Thus ran the plaint of the widow.

There and then we had a hearty laugh at the expense of others—­they who were encumbered with real estate and other taxable property.  We were of the improvident.  We were tramps—­just plain hoboes.

Farther on in the street, we encountered a gang of something like fifty men who were lazily sweeping the side walks.  The evident dislike these toilers displayed for their task and their general down-and-out appearance boded ill for an equitable return for the wages they assuredly collected from society for their work.  On approaching them, we saw that armed guards were superintending the street sweepers.  Then we comprehended their status in the community.  Local characters usually managed to make a cash settlement with the law if caught in its toils.  Hoboes, homeless and penniless, stoically accepted the second choice of the penalty imposed by those who dispense punishments.

Yet farther on in the street, we met another mob of twenty street cleaners.  And a city square beyond them, we met ten others of their kind.  They were the latest captures gathered in hoboland.  They were marching two abreast securely shackled with handcuffs to a chain one end of which was held in tow by a policeman who was assigned to guard the public display of human wretchedness.

On passing us in the street and recognizing us as hoboes, one of the prisoners, among whom were several of the fellows we had seen handcuffed to the railroad fence, thrice lifted his hands in quick succession.  He held his fingers widely spread.  Then motioning he drew a circle in the air.  Thus he signalled that he and his comrades-in-trouble had visited with the local magistrate who had sentenced them to a term of thirty days with the chain gang.  Obviously, this was the average allowance the squire handed out to all brought into his court on a charge of trespass.

Fifty plus twenty plus ten totaled eighty prisoners.  Eighty times thirty times three equaled seven thousand two hundred meals which were to be consumed by the hoboes whose crack-brained roaming for the time being was broken at Elkhart.  Other trespassers had been before them on the street sweeping.  Again others would step into their job when this batch of convicts had departed from Elkhart without a least thought of the heavy expenditures incurred in their behalf by the hapless taxpayers.

There is one successful method of combating the lawless element, and most effectively.  Everywhere self-supporting highway improvements, farms and workhouses should be promptly established for the reception and prolonged entertainment of all who virulently despise honest toil.  While the offenders earned their personal keep they should look to the maintenance of all other public indigents—­thus eliminating two expensive luxuries (?) from the public accounts.  Then only the day will dawn when the widow with her babes and other poor folks who scraped all their days to have overhead a roof of their own won’t discover that such possessions have entailed an everlasting financial “farming” at the hands of public servants whom they, the taxpayers, had placed at the helm of their civic government.*

If interested in this phase of the Tramp Problem, read “The Ways of the Hobo” by the author of this volume.

Old strikes.


“Deadheading the Deadhead.”

At the railroad station of Elkhart we boarded the blind baggage of a westbound “Limited.”  While this train steamed through the freight yard, we kept an alert lookout for Old Strikes.  We saw the John Law standing by a long string of gondolas.  He espied us at about the same time we caught sight of him.  He raised a hand and executed motions which faithfully copied the task of the telegraphers.

Interpreting the message, Jack London cried:  “Old Strikes” is going to queer our ride by wiring to the next station ahead an order to have us taken in charge by the police!”

While waiting for connections, we had acquainted ourselves with the schedule of the train we were to hobo.  The Limited made but one stop betwixt Elkhart and Chicago.  The halt was South Bend.  This city was but fifteen miles away, a most insignificant distance when one considered that soon after traveling the length of the freight terminal the Limited struck up a gait of better than a mile a minute.  There was no time to be squandered if we desired to avoid our arrest at “Studebaker Town,” as the hoboes had nicknamed the city of South Bend.

At Elkhart, the division point, there had been a change of the engines drawing the Limited.  To avoid shortage of fuel while en route to Chicago, coal was carried heaped so high on the tender that the apex of the pile was flush with the top of the coaches.  We crawled to the summit of the fuel.  From there we peeped downward into the cab of the engine.  There we saw that the engineer was alertly watching the track ahead of the racing train.  The fireman was busily working coal into the firebox of the engine boiler.  Neither railroader was attracted from his devotion to his vocation by our leaping from the top of the coal pile to the roof of the coach coupled to the tender.

We wriggled and crawled on hands and knees over the roofs of the coaches until we landed aboard the one hooked rearmost in the train.  Fortunately, this was an ordinary Pullman sleeper having a regulation vestibuled platform.  We gingerly acrobated ourselves to this platform where we were met by a reception committee in the person of the flagman.  Evidently the racket we had raised overhead while moving over the full length of the train had attracted the attention of the shack who, surmising our errand, had posted himself on the rear platform of the train there to await our appearance.  As it was, on espying the brakeman, we were certain that we had landed from the frying pan into the fire.  Therefore, really astonishing was our surprise when the railroader made no attempt to grab us.

“What’re you doing, guys?  Decking my train, eh?” the brakeman bawled just as the engineer was whistling for South Bend.

“We’re hoboing to Chicago, friend!” he was informed by Jack London.

“Can you square yourselves for the ride?” quizzed the trainman, boldly bidding for a bribe.

The brakes had commenced to grip the wheels beneath the Pullman—­an indication that the train was approaching the station limit of South Bend.  Although neither of us had the command of a red cent, I was fighting for time, when I blandly asked:  “How much will it cost us to have you see us through to Chicago?”

“Two dollars for each of you will turn the trick!” he informed us, daring to demand the amount of first-class fares to Chicago.

Haggling might have resulted in a command for a showdown of our cash, which order would have spoiled every chance to keep beyond view of the South Bend police.  To avoid any untimely exposure, I stated bravely:  “Lately my pal, here, and I have run afoul of several railroad men who accepted our money and then had us fired off their cars by some other members of their train crew with whom we refused to settle a second time.  But we stand willing to take you on your own terms with the understanding that you won’t come around for your money until the train enters the Chicago limits.”

The flagman had to be satisfied with our offer, though he showed unmistakable signs that he felt greatly irritated at the harshness of our proposition.  He was greedy for graft.  We were equally anxious by all means to travel past South Bend as our capture would have meant a return trip to Old Strikes and an unpleasantly intimate acquaintance with his chain.

The flagman was awaiting us.

Opening the entrance of the Pullman, the trainman bade us enter the car.  The sleeper was a “dead-head” as was termed a car, coach, engine, employee or anything else, for that matter, traveling “light” over a railroad line.  Trailing the brakeman, he led us forward through the sleeping car into the adjoining one which, too, was a deadhead.  In this car our guardian stopped before the entrance of a drawing room compartment.  He had us step into the “private” apartment and then took pains to show us how to bolt the door so no unbidden person might enter the narrow quarters.  He ordered that we were to maintain strictest silence and then went his way.  But before he stepped from the car, we heard him carefully lock both the entrances of the Pullman.

Our man returned soon after the express had thundered over the grade crossing of the Grand Trunk Lines beyond South Bend.  He was furious because police officers had delayed the train several minutes over the scheduled stop allowance.  He explained that the cops had met the train in response to an urgent request wired in from Elkhart to arrest two hoboes who were seen aboard the Limited.  But neither the efforts of the policemen nor of a mob of common depot pests proved of any avail to discover the whereabouts of the trespassers.

The brakeman lingered in the drawing room to ask a favor of us who virtually were his prisoners.  He humbly pleaded that, barring himself, under no provocation were we to open the door of the compartment to anyone.  The discovery of our presence in the drawing room would have pointed straight to himself as the party who was guilty of a serious infraction of the strict railroad discipline.  This might lead to his instant dismissal from the service of the company.  He could not well afford this disgrace, so he feelingly stated, as four minor children depended on his earnings for their support.

We promised to obey his instructions.  Obviously, when too late to undo the false step, there had come the qualms which like inexorable furies haunt every conscience-stricken soul.  In the instance of our rear shack the afterthought had taken on the form of an urgent remembrance of the helpless little ones at home.

The Limited had bowled by La Porte and Gary.  While the train was rumbling through the outlying suburbs of the city of Chicago, we heard some one unlock, then open and shut the front entrance of the Pullman.  Dull thuds of footfalls announced that whoever had handled the door had come into the car and was walking over the thick runner-carpet which covered the aisle.  The thuds abruptly ceased when the person reached the door of the drawing room we occupied.

On a preceding occasion when the brakeman had come into the car, even before he stooped in front of the door of our compartment, he had loudly announced his presence.  Our suspicion that all was not well as to the party who had entered was instantly aroused when he failed to proclaim his identity.  Furthermore, we took quick notice that whoever had halted before the drawing room was endeavoring to gain an entrance to our quarters by trying the knob of the door.  He repeated the turning of the door knob with an ever increased exertion of pressure.  Of course, the bolted door refused to budge.  Then we heard the metalic rattling which comes with the handling of a bunch of keys.  A key was inserted in the keyhole of the door.  This we could tell by the glint of the key heel as it was turned in the lock.  Although the key admirably worked the mechanism of the lock, the bolted door still held fast.  The key was withdrawn and another one inserted in its stead.  Other keys were tried out until every key of the lot had had its inning at the impossible—­to open a door which was securely bolted by means of a latch fastened several inches above the knob.

Then a period of profound quiet ensued.  The other party was meditating while we maintained silence likewise.  Then presently we were startled by loud whistling by a human mouth.  The sound seemed to emanate from within the limited confines of the drawing room.  So uncannily clear broke the note of the whistling that we involuntarily moved in our positions.  This stirring proved to be our undoing.

A sharp cry rang out through the quietude of the Pullman.  It was a shout of victory let out in pure ecstacy by the stranger who was abroad in the sleeper.  He informed us that he had whistled, though this was an unintentional act on his part, while he was peeping through the keyhole trying to ascertain what was the matter that the door would not respond.  Then, by chance, he had seen us move.

He continued:  “Now, you blinkety-blankety hoboes!  Instantly open the door so that I may learn who permitted you to get into this sleeping car, both entrances of which I found to be regularly locked.  And don’t dare make any further monkeyshines!  I am the conductor of this train and promise, unless you promptly abide by my orders, to hammer the life out of you and then turn you over for further punishment to the Chicago police!”

Just then the limited was flashing past Englewood Junction.  The next stop was La Salle station, the Chicago terminal of the New York Central Lines.  As we were compelled to admit that we were caught like rats in a steel trap, to me as the elder member of our hobo partnership fell the dubious privilege of discovering a means of escaping the penalty the conductor had threatened.  We might have meekly surrendered ourselves.  Logically, this would have meant that we would have to make a clean breast of our transaction with the grafting brakeman.  Then again, we might have offered battle.  Should we have overpowered the railroader, we might have penned him in the compartment we quit.

Undecided what counsel to suggest, I quizzingly glanced at Jack London, to read, if such was possible, the trend of his thoughts by the expression in his face.

He had anticipated my thought, for in a voice quivering with emotion, he whispered:  “Let us hold out in here and in the end take our deserts like good fellows!  All the while we must remember that in our hands we hold the weal or woe of the four kidlets of the rear shack!”

Square fellow that Jack London was, and was all his days, he had pointed to our proper course.  Reaching out, I heartily grasped his hand in acknowledgment of approval.  No word was spoken nor was required to be said in explanation.  We were tramps—­mere derelicts, young though we were, who, perhaps, would never understand the boundless blessing conferred on a human being by the possession of a happy home.  And by the plea advanced by the brakeman, we were aware that he had such a nest.  Therefore, we felt it to be our bounden duty to protect his identity with all our might—­if only for the sake of his little ones.

We did not return a reply nor comply with the demand of the conductor for the opening of the door.  This failure on our part resulted in the railroader losing the last bit of patience he still retained.  He uttered threat after threat.  Each rank one was yet more rank than the one preceding it.  Failing with cursing and threatening us, he resorted to diplomacy.  This gave us a chance to reason with our enemy.  We tried to argue him away from the notion that a’ drubbing of us by him would help matters.  Instead of allaying his insistence that we unlock the drawing room, our temporizing talk brought his anger to mount to an even more dangerous stage.  He undertook to vent his fury by raining fist blows full upon the door!  So powerful were the blows that the impact upon the door panels made these bend beneath his strikes.  Then someone entered the Pullman car.

“Run forward to the baggage master and fetch back his hatchet, Rastus!” the conductor bawled, addressing himself to the newcomer.

“All right, capt’n” came the submissive response to the command by the other whose broad dialect betrayed his African ancestry.

The threat implied by the request of the conductor might have been a bluff to intimidate us.  Therefore we quietly awaited the next step he would take.  During this intermission, the express began to slacken its speed.  On raising a window of the compartment, Jack London ascertained that a train of another railroad, which crossed on a grade level with the tracks of the New York Central Lines, was blocking the progress of the Limited.  At this juncture, we heard a familiar voice shout through the stillness of the sleeping car:  “He’ah I’ve fetched yuh the hatchet, boss!”

“We had better open a lane for a sudden retreat from this drawing room!” groaned Jack London and the next instant I followed his lead and began to squeeze myself through the narrow aperture of the other car, window which I had hurriedly opened for this purpose.  Luckily, neither of us sustained bodily damage by our drop from the slowly moving train to the right of way.

When the tailend of the passenger train rolled by where we stood waiting its passage, we saw our brakeman standing in the vestibule of the last deadhead Pullman.  Flag in hand, he acted on the jump to protect his charge against a rear-end collision.

The flagman espied us.  For the moment he was dumbfounded but the next instant he made free use of language so rank as to exclude its reproduction in print.  The fellow was sore—­immensely so, as he labored under the impression that we had deliberately hoodwinked him.  This we had actually done, as far as our exit by car window was connected with a nonsettlement of the graft which he coveted and for the sake of which he had taken such great odds against losing his employment and good name.  Grafter that he was, he proved himself an exact counterpart of the others of his brand, all of whom stood with bad grace having some one play a sharp game at their expense.

When we had quit the Pullman in such haste, we inadvertently came to new trouble.  Through the city of Chicago the tracks of the New York Central were raised to a grade which was all of twenty feet above the pavements of the adjacent streets.  Smooth, precipitous concrete walls which bounded and sustained the elevated right of way prevented our escape into the thoroughfares.  This forced us to walk on the elevated tracks to the La Salle Terminal, a distance we found to be nearly a mile.

The Limited aboard of which we had arrived in Chicago, was yet standing under the train shed.  Station employees were relieving the cars and coaches of mail, baggage, express and other matter.  None of the members of the train crew who had brought the train to town were to be seen.  With their work of the day rounded out, they had hurried away to their homes.  Car inspectors were surveying the braking and rolling gears of the train equipment and did not note our climbing aboard the rear Pullman.  Through this deadhead we passed on into the adjoining car, the one in which we had traveled from South Bend.  A panel of the door of the drawing room was splintered and the entrance stood unlatched—­the enraged conductor had made good that which we had lightly estimated to be an empty threat.

Most justifiable were our mutual congratulations that in the nick of time we had staged a clean getaway from punishment.  Likewise we felt greatly elated at having manfully shielded the identity of our railroader from whose home we had averted a tragedy.  But on this score we both suffered from a singular aftermath of our adventure.  We were certain that on reaching his house, the flagman had regaled his wife and youngsters with an account of his recent experience—­the latest one of a long line of tribulations he had had with “bad” tramps who undertook to hobo his train.

But such, everlastingly, is the way of the world in the matter of according simple gratitude to benefactors!


“Sons of the Abyss.”

By freely making use of the facilities afforded by the washroom connected with the La Salle Terminal, we rid ourselves of travel stains.  Then we set out to see the sights of the city.  There was a lot to be visited in a metropolis as large as Chicago.  So absorbing of interest was our exploring, that the night overtook us almost unawares.

Then we retraced our steps to the terminal.  It was our intention to hobo from the city aboard of one of the numerous evening trains of the Rock Island Lines.  On arriving in Chicago we had taken care to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the railroad depot.  But this knowledge went for naught as after nightfall the police regulations were enforced much more strictly than those which prevailed at the station during the daylight hours.  After any number of futile tries to get away aboard a train, we were compelled to remain trapped penniless by night in the populous metropolis.

Nevertheless, we did not falter.  We knew that every city held an “abyss”—­the stamping ground of hoboes who voluntarily lay over or, like us, were brought to a stay by adverse circumstances.  On our inquiry, we were informed by a passer-by in the street, that the heart of the Chicago hobo abyss was located but a short city block only from the stately portal of the marble and granite magnificence of the La Salle Terminal.

In 1894 the abyss of Chicago reached northward on South Clark Street from the intersection of this thoroughfare with La Salle Street.  There the distance of several city squares was lined with buildings the owners or renters of which exclusively catered to the trade brought to town or created there by the transient wanderers of hobodom and peculiar to them only.  Other districts scattered over, the city held the hangouts of the local vagrant elements and the various subdivisions of the underworld.

Bounding the Chicago abyss within narrow confines, actually it was the east side of the street only which held the “cafes”, the dime flopping dumps, the nickel restaurants and barber shops and the “missions” patronized by the uncouth hoboes.  Across the roadway, on the west side of South Clark, were “cheap” stores, the basement dens of vice of various degrees of viciousness presided over by slant-eyed Orientals and the boarding houses and booze resorts of low-caste Greeks, Sicilians and other human castaways of the nations of the universe.

Sight hunting had thoroughly wearied us and to seek a spot where we could rest for the night, we set out to explore the abyss.  Jack London proposed that we enter one of the numerous rum joints and there become “chair warmers” until break of day—­this meant that we were to roost astride of chairs.

We entered the nearest of the saloons.  Eight drink dispensers held forth behind a mahogany bar.  The fellows had a busy time of it attending to the wants of their thirsty customers.  “Schooners” of a capacity so ample that they readily held a quart measure of an amber-colored chemical concoction which sailed under the misnomer of “lager beer,” were the favorites, by far, of the men who stood lined four-deep before the bar and the hundreds of others who occupied chairs by small tables which were placed in the spacious lobby of the saloon.

We noted that every adult patron of the groggery displayed a most horribly bloated mug.  This conclusively proved that it was not the roughing of the Road but alcoholic excesses which had marked with beastly countenances hoboes who lacked the will power to resist the temptings of John Barleycorn.

The precious few non-alcoholic wanderlusters whom I ran across in my world-wide roamings, all had regular features.  To cite an excellent example:  there is Jeff Davis, him of the Hotels de Gink and renowned as an anti-hobo lecturer, who today is as refined of face, speech and manner as he was when some twenty years ago I met him while we were hoboing in Kentucky.

Although it was quite late in the night, every “Alcohol Blossom” was wide awake.  Those of them who were occupying the chairs and were not yet too deep in their cups, were passing the time by recounting incidentals of the vag business they had worked out during the day.  Not a word of clean adventure we heard referred to in conversations which brimmed with vile slang, foul language and revoltingly immoral repartee.

But no!  Near the aisle where we stood studying this scene of utmost human corruption, there sat one lusher who had drowsed away in his chair.  A professional bouncer in the employ of the rummery noted the snoozing patron—­he who while asleep was not wasting his substance.  With a short but heavy length of garden hose the slugger struck the sleeper a sounding whack which sent the maudlin fellow spinning from the chair.  Rising to his feet, the drunkard remonstrated against the uncalled-for brutality practiced on a fellow who had spent his last cent in the place.  He was promptly rewarded for his objection by being bounced into the street.  As we had witnessed enough depravity in the short moment we had lingered in the groggery, we, too, left the hoboes’ retreat.

The victim of the slugger had fallen prone upon the side walk.  Bleeding from numerous abrasions, he painfully staggered to his feet.  Steadying himself a bit, he accosted a lady passing in the street for the price of—­a meal.  Fearing to refuse the drunken beggar, she handed him a coin.  But he did not seek a restaurant; instead he returned into the Hell’s Half Acre from which he was bodily kicked so recently.  There the parasite invested in alcohol the pittance of the sympathetic woman.

Unwilling to become a prey of John Barleycorn and his minions, we turned to seek refuge for the night at the doss houses which abounded in the abyss.  At every place we applied, we were bluntly refused the privilege of performing chores in payment of a “chair” lodging.

The Abyss of Chicago.

At the farther end of the abyss we encountered another of the numerous “missions”—­establishments that were the rankest graft of them all as their professional begging was skillfully shrouded with the cloak of charity and religion.  Passages copied from the Holy Writ were plastered in lurid colors on the window panes of the church (?).  Also, there was a lamplit sign which advised that for a dime a flop might be bought.

“Here’s the place where we won’t be refused a stay until morning!” happily cried Jack London as he led the way into the mission the interior of which stenched heavenward even more nauseatingly than had the other hell holes of the abyss.

Hoboes, packed like bloaters in a box, were stretched out in sleep upon the bare floor of the place.  That the tramps preferred to rest like so many swine upon the hard boards and without a shred of covering, indicated the awful conditions which prevailed in all the other doss houses of the abyss.

“You have no money, eh?” lazily drawled the clerk who had charge of the lair for vagabonds, when he had wearily listened to our explanation how it came to pass that we were strapped of funds.  “It’s against my strict instructions to accomodate folks who haven’t got the small price we ask for our lodgings.  But you look like a pair of healthy lads!  What’s the matter with you ‘throwing your feet’ and tackling pedestrians for your needs?”

The public practice of mendicancy, which, by the way, is the most shameless of the manifold degradations of which humanity is heir, was so lightly thought of by the pseudo “churchman” that he frankly suggested to us its application.  Caught as we were in a financial pinch, we accepted the lure.

Back in the street we went and there accosted for alms every pedestrian.  As might be expected, in the end we struck a wrong steer—­London panhandled a plainclothes officer who put a stop to our operations by ordering us to vacate the thoroughfare.

Returning to the mission, we reviewed our exploit to the shark.  Pickings were poor at midnight in the abyss of Chicago, we complained, when eighteen cents represented the gathering of an hour.  As it was, we were but two cents short of the regulation stipend, still the marble-hearted wolf in lamb’s skin refused to lodge us.

Crestfallen we quit the hobo sty.  Standing on guard at a nearby corner, we espied the detective who had routed us.  His presence precluded collecting the pennies we lacked.  Just then, and only a few blocks away, the train of an elevated railroad passed overhead of South Clark Street.  The passage of the cars pointed out an avenue of escape from the sleeping city.

We went to the nearest station of the elevated railroad and invested in fares.  Five cents each brought us eight miles to the end of the line of the “West Side Elevated.”  This was Oak Park whence it was but a short step to where we crossed the city boundary of Chicago.  There beyond the police lines of the metropolis we camped by a fire which we had built in a thicket adjacent to the right of way of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.

Peacefully sleeping upon the damp ground by the side of the glimmering smudge, we rounded out the day.  As this was the case with all our preceding days, so the most notable memory of this day was the circumstance that we had lived” through another span of twenty-four hours without paying the final toll of the Road—­which was to be maimed or be murdered by either the cars or our fellows.


“The Rule of Might.”

At break of dawn we walked to Maywood.  Thence we rode the gunnels of a commuter train to West Chicago.  Here all freight trains halted for fuel at a coal chute located a mile or so from the passenger station.  Near the coal chute was a small country store and having need of matches we stopped there to beg a supply.

The store keeper favored our request.  But of all owners of stores either Jack London or I recalled to have met in our time, none was worse afflicted with inquisitiveness, the common failing of their class.  That we were strangers in the neighborhood all the more whetted his curiosity to know more about ourselves.  He led off with interrogating us concerning our points of departure and destination.  Then he shunted his attention to an inquiry whether we had mastered a legitimate trade or approved profession.  Other questions followed in rapid succession.  Their scope covered a vast range of subjects.  As he had favored us with a gift of matches we answered him in accordance with the dictates of prudence.  Finally, when his native curiosity was satiated, we ventured to ask for information as to when a train might be expected to halt at the coal chute.

“Then you’re going to sneak your fares!  This means that you’re vagranting tramps, trespassers who aimlessly chase over the land!” venomously snarled the store keeper.

“We’re out looking to find employment, sir!” replied Jack London, in an attempt to temporize with the stranger.

“That’s the one excuse advanced by every hobo stopping at the coal intake, which is a natural hangout for his kind!” he stormed, acting as if our affairs needed his supervision.

This accusation was so just, that we were making ready to beat a disgraceful retreat from his place of business, when the native yelped:  “Many years before I opened this general merchandise store, I traveled very extensively in the United States and Canada.  Yet I never had to descend to the low level of the hobo; on the contrary, I always settled my fare like a gentleman and only stopped at first-class hotels!”

“This must have cost you a heap of money, sir?” I querried, presuming the store owner in his day to have been a man of ample means.

“I earned a fine competence while I enjoyed the sights of the continent!” he snapped, at the same time treating us to a contemptuous stare.

“And your recipe?” chimed my mate, all agog to hear how the trick was accomplished.

“I disposed of patent medicine by the gallon!” he gleefully ejaculated.

“Is such peddling so profitable, sir?” I broke in, unaware that the stuff would yield a sufficient revenue to balance the expense account of even the most stingy of the commercial hustlers—­men notoriously generous.

“I dealt in seven different brands of elixirs and sold the goods in shape of a complete home treatment guaranteed to cure every form of human ill—­if the folks took the dope long enough.  Buying the medicine at wholesale each set stood me at eighty-four cents.  I created business by hunting out the sick and afflicted and others whom I induced to believe that they were liable to die the death of a dog unless they immediately invested seven dollars and fifty cents for a home treatment of bottled colored water and crocked tallow.  Women with sick babies and widows recently bereaved of their supports, were by far my best customers!” the store owner confessed, speaking in a matter-of-fact way that was meant to still further glorify the bottomless meanness of his imposition.

“And it was you who dared to register exceptions against us homeless hobo wanderers!  You, who to this day believe it to be a highly honorable act to callously dupe sick and heart-sick unfortunates!” I cried out in wrath.

The ex-quack promptly proved himself to be an even worse moral degenerate than we had already judged him to be by his admissions.  Instead of curtly ordering us to vacate the store or going for us in the manner of a man who was offended by insult, the coward sneaked towards the rear end of the store to where he had a telephone.  Then he held a conversation of which, though he spoke in a subdued voice, we caught a sufficiency to forewarn us against our danger.  The rascal was pleading with some one to hurry to his place of business where, so he complained, two tramp desperadoes were threatening his life.  Even while the fellow gave this foul message to the wire, we backed from his store and then looked for an abrupt getaway from the locality.

As we passed the coal dock we were stopped by a laborer who asked for a pipeful of tobacco.  This led on to our inquiry as to what sort of citizen was the store keeper with whop we had visited.

“A clever kind of a chap who knows how to make use of his tongue to best personal advantage!” laughed the coal shoveler.  “But he’s got a deuce of a brother who is our local deputy sheriff.  If anyone does, it’s he who knows how to handle hoboes.  Whenever the flock of bums waiting at this chute to take trains becomes too numerous or boisterous for our comfort, we step over to the store and phone for him to come and clean up a bit.  Judge Middleton appreciates the ability of the deputy so well, that he always allows him to state the term that the prisoner must serve at the county workhouse which is located at Geneva, some six miles west of here on the Northwestern and—­“.

“Come along, Jack, we have no time to waste!” I excitedly yelled, while I pushed my mate ahead, thus cutting short the flow of gab of the coal heaver who unawares had revealed matters of far reaching importance for our personal safety.

We kept on the right of way of the railroad until a curve placed us beyond the arc of vision of the men at the coal chute.  Then in a straight line from the tracks we struck out overland.  Only when we had placed miles between ourselves and the railroad without our exit being interfered with, we began to breathe more easy for we felt secure from colliding with not only the John Law who lorded it over West Chicago but also those of a similar calling, who, so we had every reason to fear, might be waiting to tender us a rough reception at Geneva—­and a term in a work-house is no fun.

We continued southward until we came to the city of Aurora.  Thence we hoboed the Burlington Route.  Beyond the Mississippi River we had arrived outside the direct jurisdiction of the state of Illinois where we had learned that there were fellows abroad roaming over the land whose sharp practices were scarcely approached by what the hoboes had to offer in the line of outright cussedness no, not even by the most accomplished of the vagabonds.

Patently absurd medicine.


“Prowlers of the Night.”

The day was another most inclement one.  While we were about the Burlington (Iowa) Yard of the * Burlington Route and there looking to make connections, somehow we managed to stow ourselves away aboard the wrong train.  We wanted to hobo to Omaha.  Instead we were well on our way to Saint Paul when towards dusk we discovered the great error we had committed in our routing.  The freight had stopped at a city.  As we had missed every meal of the day, we felt quite inclined to let the train go hang while we issued forth from our box car to hunt provender.  As charity always shines at its best during the prevalence of bad weather, we easily supplied our needs.  Then we returned to the railroad depot, to find that in the meanwhile the train had departed hence.  This unpleasantness, after all, proved a veritable windfall.  While we were rummaging about the station for a lounging nook, we learned, and then only by a merest chance, that we had traveled to Cedar Rapids.  Consequently, we had come a hundred miles from the general direction of the trip we had intended should land us at Omaha.

Outdoors the rain kept on.  This brought us to the decision to camp until morning at the railroad depot.  But a telegrapher who was in the station office, must have divined our intentions.  Scarcely had we stretched ourselves comfortably on benches in the waiting room, than he was up and after us with orders to find other lodgings.

Cedar Rapids citizens were served by four trunk line railroads the depots of which, by chance, had been placed in close proximity to each other.  From the station of the Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern, by which we had come to town, it was but a step to the one of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.  But here eastbound passenger trains timed to arrive in Chicago in the morning and westbound ones which had left that city during the evening were due to stop at almost every hour of the night.  This meant a lot of local interchange of traffic that, in turn, would give rise to no end of disturbances which would seriously interfere with the presence of “bench floppers.”  Furthermore, on account of the rain, a swarm of bluecoats had scurried to the depot for shelter.  And no John Tramp would dare hunt peaceful sleep where John Law was abroad under the same roof.

Diagonally, almost, across the tracks from the Chicago & Northwestern platform was the depot of the Illinois Central.  With the exception of the station office, the depot structure was darkened.  In the office we saw a fellow poring over bulky ledgers.  Soft-stepping about the platform, we discovered that one of the doors leading into the waiting room had been overlooked by whoever attended to the locking of the entrances.  Our glee proved to be premature however, for when we shut the entrance after we had sneaked indoors, it creaked and so called the attention of the railroader to our intrusion.  This worthy raised the ticket window and threatened to call in the police if we did not instantly vacate the waiting room.

Unwelcome visitors.

Nearby was the fourth of the Cedar Rapids group of railway depots.  This station was that of the “St. Paul Road.”  Taking care of this, our last chance for a depot flop, we observed every possible precaution against detection.  Of all good fortunes!

When we peeped into the lamplit office of the station, we noted that the man in charge was stretched out in sleep upon a table.  Further, we found every door of the waiting room to be standing ajar.  Profiting by our late experience, we noiselessly slipped within doors and then occupied benches.  Soon afterwards we became unconscious in slumber.

Just once, I was aroused by the passage of one of the freight trains which rumbled past on the nearby tracks.  Again, a boisterous, rasping snoring that emanated from the station office harried my rest.  And, finally, I was awakened by an unearthly yell from Jack London whom I saw wildly jumping from his bench and then taking after a large dog who did not wait for further experience with my mate’s boots but fairly flew, all the while yelping his worst, from the waiting room.

The disturbance roused the telegrapher from his snooze.  Even more awake than we had become in a trice, he tore ajar the door leading from the office into the waiting room.  When he saw that we had not waited on orders but were quitting the room without a special invitation, he contented himself, after we had left, with making the round of the doors each one of which he carefully locked.

Jack London and I groped through the downpour until we ran across an open box car.  Only when we had crawled under shelter, I took occasion to soundly berate him for having so effectively spoiled our last depot lodgings.

“You wouldn’t have done differently, A. No. 1!” he sharply returned “I was dreaming that I had safely arrived home from this hobo trip.  No wonder then, held as I was in the thrall of the pleasant dream, that when the dog-beast began to lick my face, I believed this to to be a part of the regular program of reception.  Then the kissing became so persistent that it took my breath away, and, naturally, I awoke.  The moment I clapped my eyes on the brute, I realized that I had become the victim of an animated nightmare and, as a matter of course, I landed with my boots on the miserable hound!”

“Why should a cur want to lavish affections on you who are a tramp?” I wondered aloud, most dispirited by the continued disrupting of our night’s rest.

While Jack London wiped his face with a handkerchief which he had allowed to become saturated with the rain, he groaned:  “At the residence where I stopped for supper, they served country sausage—­the home-made brand, fried to a turn.  As you well know, no hobo is ever invited to wash himself after he had dined at a private home.  Led on by his sharp-sensed nose and a hankering for the rare treat I had enjoyed, the dog believed it to be his proper office to undertake the lacking service by way of licking.”

Although feeling quite ill-at-ease at the cleansing given to his countenance by the vagrant cur, Jack London most heartily joined me in laughing which we intermittingly kept up until despite our waterlogged garments we fell fast asleep.


“Bad Bill of Boone.”

The weather moderated while we were away in Slumberland.  When the rain broke, the John * Laws set out to earn their salaries.  Searching through the railroad yards for available “court cases,” a detail of the cops stirred us up.  On the spot they subjected us to a cross-examination.  So very plausible was the tale of woe we recited for their especial attention, that they allowed us to return to the box car.

But oil and water won’t mix.  Neither would hobo trust bluecoat.  The average span of life allotted by the Road to its devotee was an entirely too short one for the hobo to accept verbal guarantees of immunity from arrest if advanced by a uniformed minion of the law.  Endless practical experience had inexorably taught John Bum to be chary of John Law and most especially of the uniformed brand.  Therefore, we were but heeding a natural instinct of distrust when we surreptitiously deserted our retreat the moment we felt assured that the “uniform bulls” had vacated the immediate vicinity.

In response to an ugly feeling of uneasiness, we walked from the city.  We had marched but a few miles on the railroad track, when the rain storm revived and, at that, with doubled fury.  While we painfully splashed onward through the absolute darkness, we solemnly vowed to ourselves not to leave afoot the next railroad stop, whatever its importance.  This was Fairfax, a community so very lean in population that no police cared to headquarter there to earn a living by enforcing the ordinances of the law at so much cash per diem or for each case brought to trial and conviction.

A depot pest acquainted us with this welcome bit of local news.  In reciprocity, we revealed to him the vow we had registered ere we struck Fairfax.  Our peddling of confidences proved an outrageous blunder.  The two-legged “Dispatch” lost no time in repeating our information to his friend, the station agent.  They got into an argument.  Fanned on by some idle remark, perhaps, their discussion waxed heated.  The quarrel ended with the station agent offering to bet the depot loafer that we would not leave town aboard a train—­not while he, the agent, was on the job.  The station fly accepted the challenge and backed his conviction with hard cash.

It was no time ere the word had gone forth among the remainder of the populace of what had occurred at the depot.  To properly prime themselves for the round of gossipping bound to ensue from the affair, the natives hurried to the station platform to collect items at first hand.  They volubly interviewed us.  But while they merely came to substantiate first reports, new arguments sprung up.  Other bets were posted.  In the end everybody from kid to patriarch was gambling hard and heavy on the outcome of our visit.

In accordance with their personal beliefs, the inhabitants of Fairfax separated into two factions.  This separation resulted in a rush to the Northwestern depot by members of the opposing camps whenever a train was heard to toot its whistle.  They came to guard against eventualities should a train come to a halt.  In that instance, they who had backed our exit from town by train busied themselves to further our departure.  Their opponents were no less industrious.  They snitched on our whereabouts to the train crew whom they plied with cigars and other subtle inducements to have our sojourn extended indefinitely.

It was a lusty game of chance which the Fairfaxers had improvised at our expense!  In the beginning our novel adventure proved a huge round of fun and entertainment.  The natives fairly vied with each other in seeing us supplied with every reasonable comfort.  But after a bit that which at first we had considered the grandest sort of treat, steadily began to assume the ugly aspect of an intolerable nuisance.  Obviously, we were confronted with a first rate show of terminating our days as communal prisoners of Fairfax.

Then the “Overland Limited” made a halt at the station.  Never before had this crack train stopped at the “jerkwater” community.  The notable event brought the citizens of the burg swarming to the train side.  There they lent willing help with the cooling of the “hot box” which had necessitated the breach of schedule.

While the folks of Fairfax were furnishing the train crew with lots of water and free advice, Jack London and I seized the opportunity for the staging of our getaway afforded by the spell of local excitement.  We tarried on the track ahead of the engine which hauled the Limited.  When we thought the time to be drawing nigh that the heated axle was again in shape for a resumption of the journey by the train, we climbed aboard the pilot of the engine.  Thence we crawled beneath the overhang of the boiler extension.  There hidden from view of the engine crew, we lay when we scored our exit by train from Fairfax.

With a full head of steam pumping the cylinders of the locomotive, the engineer sent the belated train scooting over the rails.  When traveling “on time” the express made stops at both Belle Plaine and Marshalltown.  This day we went like a greased streak of lightning by these important points and all other stations on the line.

The first stop of the Overland Limited was Boone, the division point.  It was one hundred and twenty miles from Fairfax to this city which had gained no end of notoriety among the tramp fraternity as the headquarters of “Bad Bill.”  This worthy was an active member of the Boone police department.  At the hands of the Brethren of the Road he had come to his nickname, on account of his anti-hobo activities.

Eastbound train bummers whom we had met en route, had everlastingly precautioned us against an encounter with the relentless persecutor of our clan, He, so the scared fellows advised, made it an obligation always to be on guard for trespassers at Boone station on the arrival and the subsequent departure of all passenger trains.  Because of this information, we were satisfied that where we lay so fully exposed to public view, we had not one chance in a million to escape arrest by Bad Bill of Boone.  This meant a drawing down of a stiff penalty.

Beyond Ames there was a curve in the right of way.  While the engine was yet ranging around the farther end of this turn, to our indescribable terror we saw where but a few rods beyond the point of the pilot a heavily loaded farm wagon was standing straight in the path of the speeding Overland Limited.  An instant survey of the environs disclosed where at a safe distance from the right of way, a farmer was having the time of his life trying to hold in check a pair of wildly prancing work horses.  The traces of this team were disorderly trailing along the ground.  This fact, the frightened animals and other telltales told the story of what had come to pass.

The weighty farm wagon had become wedged between the rails at the road crossing.  Warned of his danger by the roar of the swiftly oncoming train, the agriculturist had hurriedly unhitched the horses from the stalled vehicle.  By promptly guiding the animals beyond harm’s way, the man had saved the team from sharing the disaster about to be enacted.

A fraction of an instant—­and the collision of the onrushing Overland Limited with the farm wagon was a matter of history.  Driven on by the titanic force created by the momentum of its immense tonnage, the passenger express, racing at topmost speed, had rammed the comparatively light vehicle and, of course, had smashed it into a mass of wreckage.

The engineer slammed on the brakes.  Having brought the train to a standstill, he came forward to inspect the damage.  Only then he became aware that he had carried two hoboes.  We were pinioned under the boiler overhang by jammed debris.  By a miracle, neither of us had sustained injury, none whatever.  The engine pilot, now shattered beyond all possibility of re-pair, had saved us from seemingly inevitable destruction.  The cowcatcher had hoisted the farmer’s wagon against the front of the boilerhead and high above where we had hid.

Members of the train crew and passengers who had come forward assisted in affecting our release.  We could readily tell by his demeanor that the engineer was furious with anger.  Of all unpleasantnesses a railroader most hates to be reminded that a hobo had successfully bummed his train.  But for the presence of the passengers, the locomotive driver with certainty would have wreaked his vengeance on us who in full view of everybody with eyes to see, had traveled astride the cowcatcher the full length, almost, of the division.

“Who told you rascals to ride on the pilot of my engine?” growled the engineman, when we had been extricated from the wreckage.

“How many miles is it from here to Boone, sir?” I countered his question by asking one.

“Less than six miles!” volunteered a mail clerk, hearing my inquiry.

“Then, sir, today we have cause to be threefold obliged to you for service rendered.  You have saved us from dying a natural death at Fairfax, an artificial one in this smash-up and, best of all, from running afoul of Bad Bill of Boone!” I gayly shouted over my shoulder at the engineer while Jack London and I made haste to vamoose from the landscape ere the conductor, who was on his way, had joined the group of our rescuers.

“Poor fellows!  The accident must have dethroned their understanding!” we overheard the train news agent express himself while we were clambering to the other side of the railroad fencing.

A highway we followed led on to Boone.  While on the way, we made inquiries concerning the local police activities.  We heard a lot more of the wonderful doings with which Bad Bill was credited to the detriment of the hobo tourists.  What we were told not only made us even more “leary” of our man, but also instilled us with a yearning to have a squint at the notorious hobo snatcher.

Landing at Boone, we drifted to the railroad station.  The eastbound Overland Limited was due.  We were told that Bad Bill was abroad in the waiting room.  There we found him surrounded by a gang of boys and men.  He was entertaining them with experiences of his career.  This held his undivided attention and allowed us a close approach.

Bad Bill was a wiry built chap of medium height.  His cap and coat appeared more in need of soap and repair than were similar garments worn by the seediest dressed of the tramps.  Diametrically counter to what we had been told to be his disposition, we found him to be most jovially inclined.  Today, his sunny disposition actually seemed to be brimming overfull.  The contents of a telegram had much to do with his burst of jollity.  He was passing this dispatch to the round of his admirers and where we stood inconspicuously mingled with the crowd the paper came to us for perusal.

The message nad come to the Boone police authorities from Carroll, a town located fifty miles to the west.  It held the announcement that on passing through, a hobo was seen to straddle the blind baggage of the eastbound Overland Limited.  Whoever was the spotter of the unsuspecting fellow, he had staged for him a warm reception at Boone.

To Bad Bill was assigned the task of nabbing the free-lance tourist.  This was in accordance with an unwritten rule strictly observed at headquarters, as in this branch of police work the officer was firmly believed to stand without an equal in the land.

The valiant cop took to disguise.  He laid aside his nobby uniform and donned the delapidated outfit he was now wearing.  Then he hurried to the Northwestern station to meet the train.  While he was impatiently waiting for the deadhead to come in, he was entertaining the crowd with snatches of his personal experience in connection with the taking of hoboes from trains.

“Wasn’t you ever afraid to tackle a hobo, sir?” weakly wheezed one of the sallow-faced, cigarette-sucking youths who were among the most interested of the officer’s auditors.

“The word ‘afraid’ was never put in the dictionary for my attention!  The hobo who will undertake to best me, isn’t born yet, sonny!” bragged the John Law who had Boone by the heels.  “I’ve got a regular ’lead pipe cinch’ on the grabbing of the onery scamps.  The defiant-acting of the small fry I collar by the nape of their necks and then, like so many rats, I shake them into meek submission.  The burly and rowdy I behammer with my boots and fists until they howl their willingness to comply with my orders, see?”

The eastbound Overland was heard rumbling in the distance.  The whistle-signaling of its engineer for the yard limits of Boone, furnished an inspiration to Bad Bill.  He invited all who cared to witness at firsthand the actual taking of a hobo, to follow him to the train side.  To a man we scurried after the officer who led us across the tracks beyond the main line of the Northwestern.  There he distributed us so none of us would miss a least incident of the proceedings about to ensue.

The Overland Limited pulled up to the platform.  Standing at full height upright on the blind baggage of the mail car, we espied the hobo for whom the Law was laying.  He was built of such magnificent physical proportions that his bulk would have easily made two men of the size of Bad Bill.  The smoke-begrimmed fellow acted most nonchalantly.  He took no notice whatever of our presence.  He seemed to desire to create the impression that instead of his being a traveling lawbreaker he was a person of national renown who had condescended to pay a state visit to the Boonites.

Ere the train had come to full halt, Bad Bill commenced our initiation in the craft of hobo grabbing.  He swung upon the lowest of the steps leading up to the platform occupied by his nibs, the hobo.  The officer bellowed a peremptory demand to hear by whose permission the stranger was traveling aboard the train by a method universally deemed to be an illegal procedure.  The tramp contemptuously ignored both the inquiry and the man who had asked the information.

Of all things, the stranger could not well have selected a more stinging affront to Bad Bill than to treat this particular John Law with an insolent ignoring of his presence.  Exactly like a vast majority of the lesser lights connected with the police calling, Bad Bill was thoroughly obsessed with the lunatic notion that the respect which in reality the “citizens” accorded to him as the representative of the law, was rendered in humble tribute to and as a testimony of his vast superiority, in both person and personality, above the “common herd.”

“How dare you, sir?” shrieked the station agent.

Instantly, almost, fury uncontrollable was plainly depicted by the expression which appeared in the face of Bad Bill.  The next moment saw him mounting to the platform of the mail car.  Then without waste of words, he headlong sailed into the haughty vagabond.  In all his living days the officer never committed a worse error than when he undertook to bodily punish the burly offender.  He came to his Waterloo at double-quick.  He received in return a telling blow for every one that, because of his shorter reach, fell short of landing on his hobo opponent.  Becoming warmed up to the scrap which had been forced on him, the Wandering Willie promptly adopted the lead in the pummeling.  Sure hitters and hard landers were the strikes he liberally doled out, and then by making use only of his open hands, as we noted with greatest amazement.  In no time, almost, he had Bad Bill laid out in unconsciousness.

When the train had come to a complete standstill, the conqueror of Bad Bill dragged the limp form of the vanquished officer to the depot platform and then in through an open door leading into the station office.  To the infinite dismay of the station agent and his sniffy-faced crew of assistants, the fellow deposited his human burden in the center of the office floor.

This uninvited proceeding proved entirely too strong for the nerves of the agent, for he angrily shrieked:  “How dare you plank down this drunk in here, my private room, sir?”

“I am quite sure this depot loafer tackled the wrong man when he tried to teach me the first railroad commandment:  Thou shalt not trespass,” lightly laughed the big bruiser who was laboring to restore the senses of his victim, ignoring the sharp remark of the agent.

“But you’re in the wrong!  This isn’t a bum.  It’s Bill Sanders, one of our Boone policemen!” corrected one of the clerks who had identified the prostrate form.

“And who are you that you dared to down our ‘Bad Bill’ as we locally know him best?” the stranger was challenged by a telegrapher.

“But recently I was appointed division detective with headquarters at Denison.  I took after a hobo who attempted to bum the Overland Limited.  While I routed the trespasser off the coaches, the train had gained headway so rapidly that I did not care to incur the great risk of jumping to the ground.  Nor did I wish to delay the train by stopping it.  I came on to Boone where I was troubled by this character who tried to read me the riot act!” declared the newcomer who produced credentials which verified his official connection with the Chicago & Northwestern.

“The treat for the crowd is on me boys!” whined Bad Bill when on regaining the full use of his intellect the various incidents of the fracas were exhaustively explained to him by the railroad sleuth.

When a messenger had returned with a box of smokes, Sanders personally saw to the distribution of the cigars.  He joined in the smoking and the laughing—­both at his expense—­by the others.  Later on railroad sleuth and city cop quit the station arm in arm.  They were trailed to police headquarters by a motley mob who went to hear one more repetition of how the John Laws came to battle to a decisive knockout.  In the meanwhile, Jack London and I hung to the neighborhood of the railroad depot.  Properly posted as we were on the whereabouts of the two enemies we had most to fear, we boldly hoboed the first passenger train leaving Boone and unmolested traveled to Omaha.  While on the way, we derived pleasurable entertainment from the working out of the excuse Bad Bill had to offer to his so oddly acquired friend—­he who had so niftily blackened both his eyes and land-wide reputation—­of how it came to pass that there was an audience at hand and that two of the otherwise terribly shocked auditors had vociferously applauded the going-down in complete defeat of the star hobo snatcher of Boone.  And the two who had so savagely appreciated the spectacle—­were us Jack London and yours truly.

Counterfeit hobos.


“Old Jeff Carr of Cheyenne.”

Night had shrouded the landscape of Nebraska when we strayed into the thoroughfares of the city of Omaha.  We were penniless—­a chronic condition which never worried hobodom.  Accosting passers-by in the street for the price of a flop, some one referred us to a “Workingman’s Home.”

Both Jack London and I had quite frequently stopped at a “home” or “barrack” of this sort.  They were to be encountered in every large city.  Commonly they were presided over by a superintendent, usually a suavely spoken chap-of-the-world.  The superintendent, quite often, was a proprietor of the doss house the revenues of which paid him a fat salary.  This income was derived by furnishing a “police-proof” sty to hoboes.  Ofttimes a dive and groggery was had in connection with the lodgings.

Knowing the kind of reception which awaited all comers without funds, while we were on our way to the home we showed foresight by panhandling enough alms to meet the price of the kippings.  But we found the place to be in a class all its own.  Spick and span with cleanliness the institution was a credit to Omaha.

At the home we bumped into Stiffy Brandon, he who had rascally decamped with our belongings.  No, he did not threaten to sweep the floor of the doss joint with us in repayment of the mauling we had administered to him at the Schenectady water plug.  Contrariwise, he performed this task by means of a regulation broom.  This indicated that he had accepted public employment he was an apostate of hobodom as he had broken the tenet of the Road which proscribed manual tasks as the worst possible disgrace to be incurred by a hobo.

Despite our scowls at his breach of the sacred tramp tradition, Stiify Brandon good-naturedly grinned at us when we had called his attention to our presence.  Then he greeted us and did so in a spirit of cordiality.  Without waiting for our invitation, he voluntarily accounted for his abandonment of the Wander-Path.

While bent on meeting us, Stiffy Brandon had come to Omaha.  There he had found his way to the “Workingman’s Home.”  Confessing himself without funds, the superintendent not only provided him with a free lodging but also with needed meals.  In the morning, as this was the superintendent’s wont to do with fundless customers, he was lectured to on the endless wrong of the damnable hobo existence.  The words of him who understood the lack of will power in the other, struck a responsive chord in the soul of Brandon.  The tramp volunteered to mend his ways—­some day.  Well aware that promises were readily broken if made under the stress of a fleeting emotion of repentance, the good man offered to give employment to the contrite fellow.  A better job was promised when the erstwhile yegg had proven that he had conquered the curse which had made of him a football of Satan.  Thus ran the revelation of Stiffy Brandon who then resumed the task he had neglected to visit with us.

Current magazines and newspapers lay scattered over the table which graced the center of the lobby.  Jack London and I took chairs by the table.  Both were scanning the contents of the evening dailies, when we heard a soft whistling.  Noting that it was Brandon who had whistled to attract the attention of young London, I held aloof to await developments.  When I saw my hobo mate leave his chair to meet the ex-tramp, I made believe to be yet intent on studying the columns of the newspaper screened behind which I was taking observations.

“Although Stiffy Brandon has temporarily changed his vocation, he’s still up to hobo meannesses!” I mused aloud when I saw the two put their heads together, believing the fellow was about to snare my companion and then break faith with his benefactor.

“There isn’t a darn thing but misfortune to be gained by anybody on the Road.  The sooner you understand this outcome of your loafing over the land, a confounded nuisance to everybody, the quicker will you beat a bee line to where you belong by rights, kid!” preached Brandon to the wayward.

In this way his talk went on until brought to an abrupt termination by the clerk in charge of the office who took exception to the fraternizing of the employee with a guest of the doss dump.  All the while the reformed wanderluster was addressing himself to my pal, I held the peace.  Words like his, coming as they did from a wakened conscience, had the vital ring of truth which was totally lacking in the pratings against the Road by folks who had come to their knowledge of its harmfulness either by hearsay or superficial investigation.

Traveling beyond Omaha we left aboard a box car over the Union Pacific System.  We held down this car for three hundred miles beyond the Missouri River where hunger compelled us to break our trip at North Platte, the division point.  The racket we raised while departing from our hiding place, brought us to the attention of a yard watchman.  But, wonder of wonders, though he frisked the contents of our pockets for contraband articles, he failed to place us under arrest.  Further, a queer creature we judged him by reason of this unheard-of act, the officer congratulated us on hoboing into town on another day than Monday.  When we acted surprised, he explained matters.  So limited was the capacity of the local lock-up and so exceedingly heavy was the hobo patronage burdening North Platte, that the fathers of the town had set aside Monday for the weekly “loading” of the calaboose.  Consequently, after Monday for the rest of the week there was no cause for the grabbing of Box Car Willies.  Therefore we not only went scot-free but also, what of our good fortune, were the recipients of heartiest congratulations by the sleuth, who for all that, eyed us very savagely.

Eighty miles westward we came to Julesburg.  We had so timed our arrival at this junction point where a tap line branched southward to Denver, that we landed after nightfall.  Forewarned of a deputy sheriff who held high carnival at Julesburg at the expense of trespassers, for the time being our scare proved groundless.  Our enemy was on the sick list and was unable to attend to his vocation.  Perhaps his tribulation saved us from becoming guests of the municipality which in connection with a bread and water diet maintained a rockpile for the entertainment of lawless transients picked up by the deputy officer.

Thence we rambled on to Cheyenne.  Again we were cautioned to beware of getting in on the wrong side of the law.  At a grade some miles from the capital of Wyoming we quit the cars and walked to the city.  This was the sufficient cause for our “safety-first” precaution:  Old Jeff Carr headquartered at Cheyenne.  His was the reputation of being the railroad sleuth most violently execrated by all of hobodom.  None excelled him.  Only the “Nigger of Galesburg,” a colored man who was a yard watchman of the Burlington Route, “Big Four Brim” of Mattoon, Illinois, “Pap Papineau” and “Roughy Caruthers” both with the New York Central and stationed at Cleveland, Ohio, and Erie, Pa., respectively, approached Jeff Carr for dare-devil fearlessness in combating the vicious element of the hoboes.

In his day, Old Jeff Carr had served a term as the high sheriff of Laramie county, of which the city of Cheyenne is the county seat.  Likewise, he had filled no end of other offices, civic and public, in testimony of the highest esteem in which he was held by his fellow-citizens.  But from that day in 1890 whereon he entered the police department of the Union Pacific System really dated the stranglehold on the affection of his fellow-citizens which he faithfully maintained until, ripe in years of life and rich in honors, he died a natural death in 1916.  An estimate of the extent of Carr’s service might be garnered from data kindly furnished the author by the present chief of police of Cheyenne:  no less than ten thousand tramp criminals who, freely mingling with the hoboes, patronized the main route of transcontinental vagabond travel, were brought to justice by Old Jeff Carr.

“Buffalo Bill” and “Old Jeff Carr” were the two citizens of the west most prominent in the limelight of public attention.  Their careers were an open study for all concerned.  However, there was a vast difference betwixt the manner of reverence accorded to each by those personally most interested in keeping tab on the affairs of these national characters.  Folks fairly fell over each other to pay homage to Buffalo Bill.  On the other tack, Wandering Willies scattered like chaff before the wind to avoid contact with Old Jeff Carr.

The famous railroad detective catered to a personal hobby.  Although he, who was a six-footer, never toted a revolver, he had a hankering to collect shooting irons personally taken by him from the pockets of hoboes.  Among railroaders there is afloat a good story best illustrative of what manner of man was Old Jeff Carr and those he went after in the name of law and order.

Word was wired in from Sidney, Nebraska, that a mob of starving “out-of-works” had taken forcible possession of an empty box car in a freight train bound for Cheyenne.  Making use of his handpower track speeder, Carr met the train some miles beyond the city limits.  He climbed into the car box pre-empted by the “workingmen” who acted and looked every whit capable of tearing to pieces any soul daring to interfere with their plans.

“I’m your friend Old Jeff Carr, boys!” thundered the officer, “and the faster you face towards the sides of this car and then stretch your arms ceilingward, the less likely you will be of receiving right here the thorough thrashing you ought to have got when first the crazy notion entered your numb skulls that trespass laws were passed to be brutally ignored by the likes of you!”

Following suit to his warning, the sleuth collared a burly bum who, glowering his fiercest, stood within handiest reach.  Perhaps of all humanity, hoboes were the ones who most disliked to endure a sound trouncing.  Aware of the foremost trait of the men he dealt with, the detective had correctly judged his chances of making the bald bluff protect him from coming to harm.  Neither was it necessary to lambast the animated rag bundle he had grabbed hold of nor to apply a similar persuasive to obtain the obedience of his companions.  The mere announcement of who he was sufficed.  As if actuated in this by common impulse, straight overhead went all hands while their owners meekly faced towards the sides of the car.

An inspection by Old Jeff Carr of the pockets of the “laborers” produced most astonishing returns.  From the belongings of the thirty vags who were in the car, twenty-two six-shooters were extracted to be added to Carr’s collection of concealed weapons taken from “harmless” wayfarers who, supposedly, would not hurt a baby.  With the help of the trainmen the human rattlesnakes were knocked off the car.  Then the train resumed its trip.

Downtown we ran against a landmark of Cheyenne.  This was the notorious “Silver Dollar” saloon.  The dram shop derived its classy distinction from the fact that silver dollars were cemented in a snug cavity left for the insertion of one of the coins in the center of each of the porcelain tiles of which the floor of the lobby and the sidewalk fronting the saloon were constructed.

To us the silver dollars underfoot proved an attraction almost irresistible.  All through the long day we were dragged by slow freight from Julesburg without having tasted a mouthful of food.  And we had finished one hundred and forty miles by walking from the railroad grade, a distance of eight miles and a fine appetizer.  Our hike had led through a section where persistent panhandling had brought no reward whatever.  And now when it was quite late in the night, a time when battering for alms was at its worst, we were completely fascinated by the lure of the shiny dollars we found planted without guard in the public thoroughfare.

We promptly realized that the possession of a single one of the hundreds of dollars we saw wantonly placed underfoot, would have purchased several substantial feasts for us poor devils who were famishing.  We took note that the streets were empty of pedestrians, though everywhere saloons, restaurants and gambling hells were running at full blast.  Not even a snooping bluecoat was in sight.  The lay of the game, therefore, augured so well that we decided to become acquainted with the good cash which in the starlight of the night was so temptingly spread out for our abstracting.

Using our pocket knives each of us tackled one of the shiners.  We dug and pried away endeavoring to lift the dollars from their receptacles.  But the cement with which the coins were fastened had become as adamant as granite.  The blades of Jack London’s knife snapped off short.  All the blades but one of my knife had been sacrificed to Mammon when the dollar I was after came from its setting.

We appropriated one of the dollars.

Scarcely had I extracted the coin from its resting place in the tile, when we heard some one shout:  “Come in here, lads!  The ‘Silver Dollar’ will stand the treat of the crowd!  But you might have saved all concerned a lot of trouble had you applied at the bar for your needs of the dollars of which we always keep on hand an ample stock for free souvenirs to whoever cares to ask for them!”

Glancing about to locate the speaker, we were dumbstruck with shame when we became aware that it was the bartender of the groggery who had addressed us.  In company with patrons he had quietly stepped before the entrance of the dram shop.  The keen interest displayed by these spectators and their beaming countenances best proved how well they enjoyed our burgling operations.

To vastly add to our discomfiture, we espied a bluecoat swinging into the street from around a nearby corner.  Fearing arrest, we did not wait for orders to quit the locality.

The dollar we had appropriated was another sufficient incentive for a sudden removal of our persons beyond the clutches of the John Law who, suspicioning our motive, had taken after us who ran for dear life to avoid the serving of a prison term for the coin.  We struck an air line to the railroad tracks where the police officer continued otir chase until he had driven us well beyond the city limits.

While we executed the fast-clip getaway from arrest, we dropped the trade-mark of the “Silver Dollar” saloon.  Its weight was hampering our flight from our pursuer.  Truthfully stating, we lost nothing worth while when we generously shed ourselves of the trouble-maker—­which was a silver-plated, cast-iron reproduction of the dollar of the realm.


“Sidetracked in the Land of Manna.”

Leaving Cheyenne to the rear, we walked into the night.  It was an up-hill hike in a double sense—­we were walking on empty stomachs and climbing the steep grade which continued skyward all the way to the Continental Divide.  By break of day we had come nineteen miles to Granite Canyon.  There the lady of the section house provided us with a stack of hot cakes in return for supplying her with a stack of kindlings.  Not knowing when a train would make a halt at the flag stop of a station, we resumed our march.  So crooked was the right of way of the Union Pacific that we substantially shortened the mileage by tacking across the country.  At Sherman’s Cut, eight thousand feet above sea level, we reached the continental apex where one stream flows eastward to the Atlantic and another westward to the Pacific.  Right beyond Sherman Tunnel was Tie Siding where we blackened the kitchen range of the station agent for a flop overnight.  In the morning we rambled by train to Laramie, the division point.

Beyond Laramie was a howling desert and wilderness.  Fortunately, we made fast time over the high plateau which stretched westward from the Rocky Mountains through to the Sierra Nevada.  At Green River a switchman who chanced to hear our urgent cries, which we had kept up for many hours, rescued us from the firebox of a deadhead engine the door of which had swung shut soon after we had crawled within at Rawlins.  Onward we rambled until we arrived in Utah, the stronghold of the Mormons.

At Ogden after dark we hid ourselves in a box car loaded with paving brick.  To insure against interference with our ride while we were crossing the Great American Desert, a passage most dreaded by hoboes, we piled so many of the weighty bricks against the doors of the car which we had shut, that no railroader could possibly have moved them a fraction of an inch—­not even a graft-greedy shack.

The freight train made excellent progress.  On awakening in the morning we believed the train to be still running at better than fifty miles an hour.  We gauged the rate by the usual method employed by tramps who quickly became expert in estimating speed by the jolting of the car they were hoboing.

“Let’s see if we passed Montello and have entered the state of Nevada, Jack!” I said, greeting my hobo mate when the wild pitching of the car prevented further sleep.

Peeping through a crack of the door, I was most amazed to note that the train was “making” less than ten miles an hour.  Too, I saw that one measly wire slovenly strung on miserable looking telepraph poles had, somehow, taken the place of the fifty cleanly strung wires which, suspended from the six cross-arms of stately poles, had cared for the transcontinental telegraph service.  In dismay I called to Jack London to come and help me unravel the riddle.  We cleared up the mystery at the first milepost we passed.  The directions we saw painted on the post explained that we had strayed from our route of roving.  We had missed connecting with the Central Pacific and were now traveling over the Rio Grande Western, now the Southern Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande, respectively.

To make a bad blunder still worse, we had been dragged deep down onto the Marysvale tap of the Rio Grande.  The milepost also told that the next stop was Marysvale, the terminal of the “jerk” line.

To vastly increase our tribulations, on arrival at Marysvale we were to discover that only one train ran over the branch railroad.  This train was a mixed one, meaning one caring for both freight and passenger traffic.  Furthermore, it ran on alternating days over the road, one day arriving from and the following day leaving for Thistle, the junction with the main line.

A rare event was the freight train that had deposited us at the end of the tap line.  Sometimes many months intervened ere sufficient freight cars had accumulated at Ogden, Salt Lake City and Thistle to permit the despatching of an “extra” run.

When by diligent inquiries we had ascertained all these items, we set up a grand howl.  We weren’t a bit backward in expressing our personal opinion of jerk lines in general and the one we had inadvertently strayed on, in particular.  It so happened that a brakeman of the mixed train—­which was shunting cars and coaches at the station—­carefully took stock of our vehement denunciations of his “bread and butter” line.

It was this trainman who routed us from the only open one of three box cars which the mixed train took away on its departure from Marysvale.  We vainly tried to square our account with the shack and while we argued with him, the conductor got hip to our doings.  All this held our undivided attention and while we were working with the crew of this train, we allowed the extra freight to depart without us from Marysvale.  Furthermore, ere we were done telling the railroaders of the mixed run what we thought of them, they had promised that we should be the first individuals who succeeded in traveling without the purchase of tickets back to Thistle Junction or any portion of this mileage.  In short, the quarrel culminated in our hiking the whole distance of one hundred and thirty- two miles, for though we made any number of tries to hook en route a ride by rail we miserably failed in all our schemes to best the wrathy crew of the Rio Grande.

Originally the country we traversed to Thistle had been a desert of the very worst rating.  But thanks to the Mormons, always industrious and scientific agriculturists, the howling desolation became transformed into a worthy counterpart of the proverbial Garden of Eden.

Both Jack London and I had panhandled through countrysides as thickly settled and no less prosperous by intensified farming than was the Marysvale section—­and all other districts settled by the Mormons, for that matter.  But nowhere had either of us met with a more cordial reception than the one we received everywhere in Mormonland.

In all the world there were no people more charitablly inclined than were the Jews and the Mormons with whom we were thrown in contact during our world-wide travels.  That is, reckoning the practice of practical charity in conformity with the numerical strength of the worshippers affiliated with each of the various religious denominations abroad on the American continent.

The Mormons were the more noteworthy in that their charity towards their fellow-beings was sustained by a most sublime belief.  Their religion taught that some day the archangel of God, his identity disguised in garments typifying abject poverty, would come to knock for admission at the entrance of the home of every devotee of Mormonism.  On account of the grandly divine teaching, a hobo needed but to allow his needs to become known in the land of the Mormons to receive a prompt response to his appeal.

Faring like kings we returned through the heart of Utah to Thistle.  There we ran across a seasoned hobo campaigner.  We visited with him and recounted in the course of a conversation which ensued, the gifts of most wonderful “eatings” which had rewarded our simplest efforts among the Saints of the Latter Day.  He it was who informed us that among the hoboes all the country settled by the Mormons was termed the “Land of Manna” and that the railroads passing through there were nicknamed “Milk & Honey Routes.”

(There were other railroads or parts of them which had gained most appropriate nicknames at the hand of the hoboes.  That portion of the Norfolk & Western which in south-eastern Ohio runs from Portsmouth to Circleville was dubbed the “Apple Butter Route.”  Not so many years ago, I chanced to stray over this trackage which was rated as one of the most hobo-hostile bits of railroads.  I was continually chased off the cars by the shacks and routed from the right of way by section hands and railroad police.  For this simple reason I was given every opportunity to verify the weakness of the housekeepers thereabouts to regale tramps calling at their homes with thin slices of bread thickly spread with juicy apple butter.  So persistently was I fed with the sticky apple marmadade that even now, when I am so happily married, no apple butter is allowed a place on our dinner table.

The Trenton-Harrisburg short cut of the Pennsylvania System for sufficient reason is nicknamed the “Doughnut Lane.”  The Boston & Albany is the “Sacred Tract Road.”  The thrifty New Englanders living on this railroad, aware of the weakness of the hoboes for John Barleycorn, had acquired the most commendable habit of presenting religious and temperance tracts to tramps pestering for victuals.  The “Bitter Biscuit Line” is the nickname of the Piedmont divisions of the Southern Railway.  This because the handouts passed out to beggars consisted in the main of ancient dough biscuits which had become tart by reason of the poisonous alum powder used in their baking.  The “Spud Drag” is the Bangor & Aroostook, one of the finest bits of railways, by way of mention.  Along this line immense quantities of the tubers were marketed annually.  Naturally, potatoes were the principal contents of every handout donated by the Maine farmers.  The Oregon & California of the famous Harriman System is the “Snaky Route” of the hoboes because from Sacramento to Portland, a grandly scenic mountain trip of eight hundred miles, there is scarcely a half mile of straight track.)

At Salt Lake City we battered the residence of Joseph Smith.  We worked the trick in company, that is, we two went the act together.  It so chanced that the prophet of the Mormons was at home.  He visited with us in the yard where we split wood to earn our dinners.  Previous to our meeting with this man, we had ofttimes laughed at the caricatures of him and of the religious teachings of the sect of which he was the leader.  He neither looked a bit like the scandalous drawings nor remotely capable of committing even a fraction of the misdeeds laid at his door by apostates from Mormonism and the envious of humanity they with an intellect so gnarled that it allows them to hold nothing inviolable, least of all the good name and the religious belief of their fellow-men.

Quite to the contrary, Joseph Smith was a most unassuming sort of a gentleman.  For more than an hour he was not above personally helping us along with our task.  Ere we went from his home, the prophet of the Mormons bade us a hearty farewell and we were presented with a dollar.  At that, he had lots more cares than ordinarily were the burden of the everyday mortal.  Not only had he to look after the welfare of a nation of people but also four wives and a most respectably sized family of children.  We met some of the younger Smiths and we had to admit that we never seen a more likely set of healthy and vivacious youngsters.

Returning to the railroad center of Ogden, we skirted the Great Salt Lake and then crossed the American Sahara in which Winnemucca was set like an enchanted oasis.  We were ditched many times en route and suffered many of the other tribulations to which hobodom exclusively is heir before we reached the city of Reno whence it was but a step to California, the land of plenty.

At Reno every hobo, ranging from the aristocratic “comet” down to the lowliest of low “grease balls,” registered his moniker.  Eastbound tramps made here their final preparations for the traverse of the immense desolation which practically stretched from here to Julesburg, Colorado.  Westbound bummers lingered to “feed up” after finishing the starvation trip of twelve hundred dreary miles.

At Reno were abroad other transients who left their trade-marks.  But unlike the tramp fry who registered on station structures, cattle pens, water tanks and divers available spots, the other intruders placed their signatures in the registers of hotels and boarding houses where expense was a secondary consideration.  Unlike the treatment meted out to the wandering tribe of trampdom, whom the Reno police showed no mercy, the other visitors were sycophantly kow-towed to by the minions of the law.  And all this difference because the hoboes were sponging a living at the expense of the Renoites who, in their turn, were trimming to a fare-ye-well the other folks, they who were in town to throw aside the matrimonial yoke.

A telling majority of the seekers for divorce were women.  Back home the grounds they had to advance for an application of separation from their life’s mate either was too scandalous for an airing in a public court or would not stand the test of the local laws.  A few months of legal residence was all the state of Nevada required to grease the slide into single-blessedness and, at the same time, the pocket-books of the lawyers and others financially interested in the flourishing of the divorce enterprise.

A native son of Reno told us some interesting items.  He had it that some of the regular patrons of the Nevadan courts, had engaged their rooms by the year.  Thus they avoided the annoyance of hunting new quarters every time they arrived to secure a “Reno” separation from their latest husband (?) whom they had divorced of his cash.

There was one outstanding feature which most impressed Jack London and I while we were sightseeing in town.  This was the unusual number of lap dogs and other nasty creatures taken out for an airing by members of the Reno divorce colony or their maids.  Precious few of the women, all of whom were attired in the most expensive creations of Parisian fashion, were encumbered with babies.  Ladies who were mothers were kept too busy caring for their little tots and making life worth living for their husbands, to gayly galivant to Reno there to patronize the homebreaking industry.

In fine, one must have studied at close range the divorce mill of Nevada in the days when this shame was grinding the fastest to truly understand the depths of depravity to which humanity will descend.

Terminal line.


“The Parting of the Ways.”

From Reno we rambled to Truckee, the first stop within the boundary of the state of California the stately portals of which were the eternal snow covered peaks of the Sierra Nevada.  It was so miserably cold at that season of the year that we decided the risk to be too great to hobo trains hanging on to the outside of the cars.  There was another ample reason for our caution.

At the apex of the mountain pass and some twelve hundred feet above Truckee there was a long tunnel.  With two and three and even more of the heaviest kind of mountain climbing engines necessary to drag an average train through this long bore, it was a miracle that not more hoboes were annually either suffocated by the gases or, losing consciousness, let go of their hold to be cast to a swift death in the darkness.

For the twofold reason set forth, we endeavored to find an empty box car or one left unsealed so we could stay within doors and thus in safety make the dangerous passage of the High Sierras.  But the shacks of the Southern Pacific stopped our exit from Truckee.  So fierce they were and so thoroughly “hobo hostile” that ere any westbound train quit the yard, all the cars were carefully searched for hidden trespassers.  Few of the hoboes ever escaped this search.  Those who managed this trick or swung aboard the cars while the train was leaving town, were fired from off their hiding places while the train slowly crawled up the steep railroad grade which for fourteen miles and in full view of the inhabitants of Truckee snaked upward on the mountain side.

A solid week we had wasted while trying by every means to negotiate an indoor passage of the tunnels, the snow sheds and the arctic granite fastnesses which comprised the next forty miles beyond Truckee.  Soon we were to discover we could not continue to “hold down” the small community where, at that, at all times hoboes galore were on hand who were brought to and then dumped and indefinitely detained in town by the hostile railroaders.

Finally, in desperation, with starvation facing us, we decided on tackling the California Mail, a fast train which at midnight departed from Truckee depot.  We hoped to reduce our danger to a minimum by the swift passage we were assured aboard the passenger train.  When the Mail pulled up in front of the station, we found that our plans were favored by the circumstance that the train that night was hauling a “private car.”  We were aware of the regulation which forbade trainmen to enter a car of this class which generally was the expensive privilege of the very wealthy.

Knowing ourselves secure against molestation by the crew while the train was in transit, we boldly climbed aboard the observation platform which formed the rear end of the departing train.  The occupants of the special coach had retired for the night.  This we readily ascertained when the shades, which were drawn over the large plate glass windows that led to the platform, flopped back and forth whenever the Mail swung around a mountain curve.  Peeping indoors through the windows, we looked into a lamplit sitting room which was shut off from the rest of the interior by a swinging door.

Everything went famously well until the train dove into the portal of the long tunnel at the apex of the pass.  There the mountain bore, which enveloped the cars like a tight fitting glove, gave the noxious gases emitted by the engines every chance to get in their work.  We began to cough and to choke and then to reel.  To steady myself, I groped in the darkness for a handhold to keep myself from dropping over the railing of the platform.  Luckily, I caught hold of the knob of the door leading from the observation platform into the private car.  Some one had neglected to properly fasten the door for the night for when, by chance, I tried the knob the door yielded to pressure.

Whispering to Jack London for him to exercise caution, we stealthily slipped into the sitting room of the car and shut the door behind us.  Then we sank into chairs which stood near at hand.  It was some time ere we regained our composure so greatly had we suffered from the effect of the deadly gases and the fearful ordeal we had passed through.  Ere we were aware of the matter, we did the natural thing when we fell asleep on the softly upholstered chairs.

“Who done tole yuh to make yuh-selves at home in dis yere priv’te cah, white folks?” bellowed the colored porter of the car when in the morning he discovered our unbidden presence.

The porter was most amazed to find two “extra” passengers.

Matters were satisfactorily explained to the dusky servant.  But he would not hear of our riding further, not even out on the observation platform until “his folks” had quit their berths.  He insisted that we leave the train at the first stop.  This was the city of Auburn.  Here and five miles farther on at Newcastle, to where we walked, we feasted on figs and other tropical fruits which we gathered from the trees and plants.  This proved a rare treat following the hard fare which was ours since we quit the Land of Manna.

We hoboed to Sacramento, the capital of California.  Having taken in the sights to be seen in this ancient city, we returned to the freight yard to railroad the last ninety miles yet remaining of our transcontinental roughing trip.  While we waited for a train to depart at a bridge which at the west end of the yard spanned the Sacramento River, we espied some row boats which their careless owners had tied to the trunks of trees which grew on the bank of the navigable stream.

In his day Jack London had been a sailor.  On him the vista of the boats acted like a charm.  He could not resist the call of the water for, there and then, he proposed that we appropriate one of the row boats and then travel by river and bay to Oakland, his home city.  I tried my level-best to dissuade him from this notion which meant reaching our destination by a route so circuitous that it was more than double the mileage of the trip by rail.  But he would brook no refusal.  And for the sake of preserving our partnership, I consented to share the adventure.

Loaded down with provisions we had collected in the meanwhile, at midnight we returned to the river bank.  There we selected and then released the most likely one of the row boats.  Lacking oars wherewith to paddle the boat down the swiftly flowing stream, we made use of staves which we had ripped from a discarded wine barrel.  At dawn we steered into a slough where we capsized the craft.  We camped in a jungle but a short distance from where we had left the keel of the boat awash with the bosom of the river.

After dusk we righted the boat, bailed it and reembarked on a continuance of our journey.  While we were hugely interested in our exploit and kept on a sharp lookout for steamboats which plied the Sacramento, mosquitoes took a mighty mean advantage of us.  With our blood we furnished them meals for which they settled in more than full by thoroughly inoculating our circulatory systems with the virus of dread malaria.  The third day out we had become so delirious with the ague that we had to abandon the hobo water trip.  After setting the boat adrift, we struck out across the country.  From the bend of the Sacramento it was forty miles before we reached the nearest railroad station where, more dead than alive, we crawled aboard a freight train and came on to Oakland.

At the residence of the Londons I was tendered a most whole-souled reception.  In the belief that our saffron-hued complexions and other visible ravages of the malarial fever were telltales of semi-starvation, motherly Mrs. London prepared a sumptuous banquet.  But we were unable to do justice to the many good things she had dished up and a doctor was consulted.  He promptly ordered us put to bed.  There being no suitable provision at the house to care for more than one sick person, I took temporary leave of Jack London and his folks.

Then I went to hunt an asylum for myself.  But a penniless stranger and more especially a fellow who, so plainly as I did, displayed the earmarks of vagrancy was not accorded admittance at hospitals and other institutions where I piteously pleaded to be nursed back to health and strength—­to follow the Road.  Failing in my errand at Oakland, I turned to San Francisco to find free shelter and medical treatment during my siege of sickness.  To reach the latter city I had to cross the bay of like name.  I slipped aboard a ferryboat at the moment it left Oakland Pier.  But a watchman in the employ of the boat had espied my act.  As I could not produce a ticket or settle for my transportation, on landing at San Francisco he placed me in charge of a John Law.  The officer had me taken by patrol to police headquarters.  Thence I was dragged before a magistrate who neither permitted my humble plea of sickness nor other excuses to prevail but off-handedly settled my latest transgression of the law.

Tramps did not consider a transcontinental hobo jaunt as formally accomplished unless the roamer who desired the right of this distinction had personally gazed upon the roaring surf of the Pacific Ocean.  It was several months from my arrival in the city to the day when I fulfilled this obligation.

Then I resolved to find Jack London if such a meeting could be arranged, wherever his whereabouts.  Under a ruling of the code of the hoboes, no tramp partnership was considered as rightly dissolved unless by mutual understanding or the death of one of the principals of the agreement.

Over in Oakland, I was advised by Mrs. London, that after battling three months ere he conquered the malaria, her son had accepted employment with an up-state laundry.  In response to my urgent inquiries, the brave mother gave me to understand that her reformed wayward was quite content to remain with his task the address of which she curtly refused to divulge.

Even while good Mrs. London thus sounded the death knell of our contemplated hobo cruise around the world, I realized that the seemingly impossible was achieved.  As ever, so in this instance, it had required a harsh remedy to counteract the inroads of a malignant malady.  In Jack London’s case it took an overdose of malaria to down the hobo fever which so virulently scourged him.

When I had bidden farewell to Mrs. London, the lady expressed a fervent wish that I, too, would soon mend my ways.  While I walked along the street this well-meant advice provided food for poignant thought.  Long before this day I had indulged in calculations dealing with items intimately pertaining to the Road.  The figuring I had done was of the statistical sort, a matter-of-fact one that stopped errors and slipping in of deceptions.  The especial subject of my study was the recent hobo trip.  The figures which resulted heavily brought home the truth that as an investment of human lifetime, the Road was the most thankless of propositions.  Soley counting the many weeks we had wasted while we roughed it overland, we could have done a thousandfold better had we accepted honorable employment in New York City.  There we could readily put aside weekly a portion of our earnings and thus in short order have saved the wherewithal for the purchase of firstclass passage to California or any other points on the globe, for that matter.  In four days of traveling like gentlemen aboard of the varnished cars, we would have avoided all the incredible risks every ride thief continually courted.

While yet I was debating with myself whether to follow the dictates of common sense or the yearning which directed me back to the crooked path, in the nearby terminal of the Southern Pacific a locomotive driver whistled the signal which announced the departure of a freight train.  Always in the past this tooted call was to me the clarion of the Road.  As on other days so on this day the nerve-racking blasts acted as an invitation to leave the locality for other fields.  Another moment of indecision—­then away through the streets of Oakland I raced to board the outgoing train.  I arrived in time to swing myself beneath a freight car.  There lying stretched full length across the gunnels I left Oakland.

At Roseville Junction where the “Snaky Route” of the hoboes forked from the main line of the Southern Pacific, I turned northward.  The grand Puget Sound country called me.  There I would arrive in due time—­unless a last and fatal slip sent me hoboing onward in the Great Beyond through all eternity.

Big heap.

Letter written aboard the “Snark.”


The Wanderlust which was the lifelong bane of Jack London would not allow him to remain at rest.  Twelve years later he made another, also futile attempt to circle the globe without actually investing in regular tickets.  He, his good wife and our jovial friend, Mr. Martin Johnson of Independence, Kansas, embarked on the “Snark,” a forty-five foot sailing boat.  They were unable to turn the coveted trick.  After having strayed halfway around the world to Sidney, N.S.W.; Australia, two years later, ill health contracted in the South Seas by the participants compelled an abandonment of an undertaking which stands without compeer in the annals of red-blooded adventure.

The end.

A List of the Books on Tramp Life

Written by ->A-No1<- the tramp author

The first book
life and adventures of A-No. 1

The second book

The third book
the curse of tramp life

The fourth book
the Trail of the tramp

The FIFTH book
the adventures of A FEMALE tramp

The SIXTH book
the ways of the hobo

The seventh book
the snare of the road

The EIGHTH book
from Coast to Coast with Jack London

The NINTH book
the mother of the hoboes

The TENTH book
the wife I WON

traveling with tramps

The TWELFTH book
here and there with A-No. 1

The Author has carefully avoided the least mention of anything that would be unfit reading for ladies or children.

A complete set of these moral and entertaining books should be in every home.

Letter C.