Mar 4, 2009

Ridin' the Rails

This is an iconic image...the hobo, his bindle stick thrown over one shoulder, ready to hop another train to another town.

The hobo has been a part of American culture since the mid-nineteenth century. With the end of the American Civil War, many soldiers wanting to return home would take to hopping freight trains. Others who were looking for employment followed the trains westward, looking for a better life.

Life for the hobo was fraught with danger. Riding a freight train was no easy thing, and many were killed while attempting to hop aboard moving freight cars. Even if they survived a failed attempt, it would occasionally come at the cost of an arm or a leg crushed and severed beneath the wheels of the train.

Then there were the railroad security workers, nicknamed bulls, who were often merciless to trespassers.

Though perhaps not quite as numerous as they were decades ago, the hobo culture is still alive and well in America. There's even a National Hobo Convention held the second week of every August in Britt, Iowa.

*A great place to find all types of interesting information regarding hobos is Hobo.com.

*Check out these amazing carvings made from nickles by hobos!

*If you grew up in California during the 1970's, you'll remember Hobo Kelly.

*Finally, here is the delightful 700 Hoboes Project, in which artists provided sketches of hobos based upon (mostly) historical hobo names. To jump right to the galley, click here!

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