Humbolt Museum Humbolt, AZ

Early Credit Card
Early Credit Card

The Humbolt Museum is a quaint little museum located in the historic town of Humbolt, Arizona.

Like many old small towns of Arizona, Humbolt’s history is one steeped in mining and ranching.

The museum holds many historical artifacts related to those endeavors, everything from barbed wire samples to miners candle holders and blasting caps for dynamite.

The most unique item in there is this early Store Credit Register.  At least this seems to be the only description I was able to find on it.  The white cards you can see, held in place by basically a mouse-trap design have the name of a local family on them.  The display counter you see it sitting on held the commodities of everyday life, beans, flour, sugar etc.

The customer would come into the store and pick up what they needed then it was listed on the card with the amount owed. When payday came, they would come into town and the merchant would removed the card, total it up and the customer would pay it off.

Because it served as the businesses entire accounts receivable it was a protective case that was really more of a vault or safe. The walls of the safe are heavy gauge steel, insulated to protect it from the fires that were so common at the time and included a combination lock to keep it securely closed.

While it was referred to as the Store Credit Register, the white card inside that held the record was a precursor to the modern day credit card.

These credit registers were manufactured and sold by various companies, one of which was the familiar National Mfg Co. that later became the National Cash Register Co.

Angel Oak (Rewrite)



What began its life a 1,000 years before Columbus sailed to the New World and a mere 500 years after Christ walked the earth?  Angel Oak.

Angel Oak is a Live Oak tree believed to be the oldest “thing”, living or man-made east of the Rocky Mountains at 1400 to 1500 years old. That’s a lot of birthdays.

It’s managed to survive hurricanes, forest fires, Civil War, Revolutionary war and development; quite a feat when you stop to think about it.

I don’t recall where I heard about the Angel Oak originally but my original fascination with it, was to photograph it.

After researching, I learned it’s in a small park in a wooded area of Johns Island about a dozen miles out of Charleston. The first time I went I had no idea it was in a park, and when I finally located it, the park was closed for the day.  Resolute, I decided I’d make the hour drive again.

Unfortunately my second attempt was on a Saturday and a lot of other people were there too, making it difficult to get a shot without people in it.

The tree is magnificent to say the least. Live oaks typically grow out, not up so much. Because this grand dame has been around so long, it’s done both. It’s 65 foot height isn’t overwhelming, but the 25 foot circumference of its trunk is more impressive. What really puts you back on your heels though is the area of it’s shaded coverage, an impressive 17,000 sq. ft.

When it comes to photographing Angel Oak, it’s a challenge trying to get it all into the frame.  In fact, I abandon that idea pretty quickly. I also was resigned to the fact that my photo was going to end up with people in it.

My thoughts were to just photoshop them out, however, without the people in the shot, it was just another photograph of a tree. The people give it a sense of scale…especially those in back of the tree.  If you look closely, just to the left of the trunk you can see several very tiny people…actually these were full grown adults.

If you look close you can see how the weight of the long limbs as they grew out ended up growing down, finally continuing underground for a few feet before rising upward again.

Because of their massive size and weight close inspection will reveal where posts have been placed in the ground to support them.

Angel Oak doesn’t hold any religious significance…it was the family name of the property owner a number of generations ago.

Looking Into Hell

Sinister SkiesDSC_1030 (1024x685)

DSC_1030Glimpse Into HellI’m sure every photographer has a photo he can’t really find a use for.  This is mine. It has nothing to do with traveling or americana, it’s simply a photo I took one evening at sunset.

I had just arrived home from work and had only been in the house a short while. Because the sky looked threatening on my drive home I decided to step out onto the patio to see how it was coming along.

This was the scene I was greeted with, or something very similar. The sky was churning so much the scene was rapidly changing, so by the time I ran back inside to grab my camera it had changed some but did leave me this for a unique shot. So unique in fact I’ve had it for a number of years and couldn’t find a place to use it, so I decided to post it here.

I think it probably represents many peoples vision of what Hell must be like.

Tonto National Forest

I had some time in my “busy” schedule so decided to head over to Apache Junction to spend some time visiting my older brother and sister-in-law who snowbird there. While in the area I decided to park in a campground within Tonto National Forest I’d been to several years ago while photographing the mustangs.

Coon Bluff is a part of their dispersed camping program. My Senior Access Pass is good for the park in general and general parking but camping overnight requires an additional Day-Use pass. Because I’m a senior it only costs $3/day…pretty modest.

In the section of the camping area I’m in there are only two other campers. One, my nearest neighbor is a retired guy from Canada and his little dog…on the other side at the end are a younger couple that live and work in Yosemite summers and retreat to Arizona to winter over. The result is, it’s very quiet here. The downside is, there’s no cell service meaning I can’t use my phones wireless hotspot to get online.

The Salt River that runs along the campground is much lower than the last time I was here. It appears to be at least 6 feet lower. A tract of land that was an island on my last visit is now just a riverbank on the other side.

If you enjoy dispersed camping I have no problem recommending Coon Bluff. There appears to be some conflicting information both online and in the campground. On the website for Tonto NF, and more specifically Coon Bluff, it says that camping in the area is limited to 1-day and that the Senior Lifetime Pass is good for the area.

When you actually get to Coon Bluff, there’s a sign at the entrance road saying “Closed Sunset to Sunrise”. Then when you get into the campground area the sign says, “14-day Stay Maximum”.

In the morning a Forest Service employee came by checking maintenance so I collared him and asked about the confusion. In short, the campground is open for Day-Use all year. But from Oct 15, to Apr 15 it’s open for overnight camping, with a maximum stay of 14-days. The various interagency passes are good for all the day-use activities, but IF you want to stay overnight you’ll need to purchase one of the Tonto NF passes at a cost of $6/day, or $3/day if you’re a senior with a Lifetime Pass.

I’m baaack !!!

After a long absence my site is back online. So, what happened?  Good question, I can only tell you what I know and what I suspect happened.

When I originally registered my websites I was contacted via email by a young man from Grandville, Michigan soliciting my hosting business. Since I’d grown up very near where he lived and because I tend to be a supporter of small business I opted to go with him to provide my hosting service.

Because I was going to be traveling full-time I didn’t want to have to fool with it, so I had him invoice me for 3 years and I paid it up front.

Everything was going along fine until about a year and a half ago. In July a friend asked if I’d quit my website, I assured him I hadn’t in fact, I’d just been on it the night before. I went right to it, but alas…no website. I contacted him and he said he’d check into it and get back to me.

A few minutes later I went to the site again and it was back up leading me to believe all was well with the world. It didn’t last long though…the following day, I went to it again, and like before, it was gone. So I called him again, and got some crazy story about it being hijacked.

Up to this point is what I know, based on what I experienced and what they told me.

What I believe happened is this. They were a startup business when I went with them, and while I thought I was helping them out by prepaying 3 years worth of hosting. I think they were wholesaling server space from a larger company and eventually ended up not paying them and they were suspended, meaning my site ended up in the ether someplace.

The whole experience made me so disgusted I just quit dealing with the site all together. Recently while reading a blog I noticed an ad proposing help for WordPress sites. When I finished the blog I contacted them and we’ve begun to get it going again.

They managed to scrounge up bits and pieces of it from the internet; now I’ll do my best to resurrect my old posts. It means I’ll have to rewrite those not currently up there which is something I’ll do as I get time. I’ll have to work those posts into current posts.

Bear with me…it will eventually all come together again.

Hobo Convention (Part 4)



Wash Day
Wash Day

I’m not sure where my fascination with hoboes comes from. My mother seemed to share it though. She told me stories when I was young about the depression and how hoboes would come to their door offering any type of work for a bit of food. She was the one that told me they have “jungles” and that there is a hobo king. I don’t think she ever mentioned a queen. Given she always loved travelling, and had seen them as a young girl during the depression I think she had a certain amount of respect for them and their ways.

My own first encounter with a hobo was in 1979. I was entering the freeway on-ramp outside Ann Arbor, Michigan on a trip to South Bend, Indiana. The guy was standing with his thumb out on the ramp. He was late 40′s or early 50′s, clean, in a white t-shirt and jeans with a suitcase with a sign taped to it saying “Chicago”. Since he had a destination, looked clean I figured he was safe and picked him up. Once on the freeway, I told him I could get him as far as the South Bend exit and we began to chat. He started out by saying he’d just gotten out of jail. I thought to myself…..”great…I just picked up a serial killer.”

Evenings Entertainment
Evenings Entertainment

Fortunately, he went on to explain that he was in a small town in Ohio, where he was picked up by the local constabulary for loitering. He explained it’s just a trumped up charge they use, to pick them up, toss them into a warm jail bed, feed them, let them shower and then release them in the morning. Needless to say, the explanation provided a measure of relief. He told me he was a hobo and was headed for Seattle, to winter over. When I asked if he had family, he said he did, a wife and a couple kids, that he did keep in touch with. Out of curiosity I asked how a guy with a family ends up a hobo. He said he really didn’t know. “I went to the store one night to pick up a pack of cigarettes, and ….just never went home.” I think all of us, at one time or another have just felt like dropping out. Well….he actually did it. He said when he gets to Chicago, there’s a lady there that works for a bank. She’d give him a hot meal and a small amount of cash and he’d move on. He said that’s pretty much the way it is all across the country, till he gets to Seattle, where he spends the winters. He seemed to be pretty happy, certainly not anymore unhappy than anyone else I’ve known.

There are other regional hobo festivals that I’ve seen listed, but Britt is the official hobo capital, not only according to Britt, but the hoboes as well.

Hobo Convention (Part 3)


Hobo Signs


An example of their symbols used in messaging can be seen in this photo. If you wander a railroad yard, or under a railroad bridge you’re likely to see some of these symbols that tell other hoboes passing through what they can expect locally. The entire symbol list has about two dozen more symbols used.

One of the things I found of particular interest was their identities. All hoboes have hobo names (handles) that they’re known by within the hobo community. I, and I suspect most people thought they just chose what they wanted to be known as like Frypan, or Slow Motion, Hobo Bill etc. Not so. Their hobo moniker is assigned to them by others in the community.

Any hobo is welcome in the jungle and is welcome to the coffee and mulligan stew without contribution. However that courtesy is only extended for the first night. The next day, each “bo” as they refer to themselves is expected to pitch in something for the meal…if he doesn’t, he’ll go hungry. Charity only goes so far in a community with very limited resources.

X Factor Wannabes
X Factor Wannabes

While at the convention in Britt, they don’t panhandle, stuff is just brought down to the jungle for them. I noticed during the evenings entertainment the newlyweds going through a pile of cards and simple gifts. Watching from a ways away I could see in many of the cards were a few dollars to help them start their new life, so I walked over and handed them a $20 bill and wished them a happy future.We on the outside of their life may think of them as loners or society’s outcasts, but they are quick to rally around their own.

I’m sure most of them here, didn’t know each other well, or even at all, except for the convention, but you’d have thought they’d been next-door neighbors for years. It was more like a neighborhood street party, than a party of people from either nowhere in particular, or someplace far away.There are few events I’d recommend people attend as many people’s likes are quite subjective; however I would encourage everyone to attend the National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa.

Ghost Dancers
Ghost Dancers

It’s held the second week of August each year. While there’s a schedule for the entire week, it seems that most of the week, they’re arriving and getting settled in. If you arrive in the area on Thrusday evening you’ll be fine as most of the things of interest take place Fri, Sat, and Sun.

There’s not a carnival atmosphere. No rides etc. There is a craft fair on the main street on Friday and there’s a parade one of the days….I missed that so I can’t comment on it. On the Sunday, there’s a huge auto, semi, and farm tractor show on the main street. Some of the custom work is as good as you’ll see anywhere. I didn’t spend a lot of time there as I was there for the hoboes, I’ve seen plenty of car shows.

While you’re in Britt, be sure to visit the Hobo Museum which has artifacts, collections etc. dating back into the early 1930′s. You can also visit The Hobo Cemetery, located within the local Evergreen Cemetery where you can check out the gravesites of those free-spirited men and women whom have caught the Westbound. To find the jungle you can take the streets of Steamtrain Way, Bindle Boulevard and Hobo Lane which along with Main Avenue, form the boundries of Hobo Park. One caveat I’ll toss in. While the hoboes are quite polite, they use the “f-word” freely. The only place you might hear it used more is a Richard Pryor or Eddie Murphy live show. If there would be a negative for some, it might be that. Other than that, I think most people, if they can leave their preconceived ideas at home, will enjoy a few days with a small contingent of our population we either make it a point to not see, or look right through.

Britt, Iowa and the National Hobo Convention (Part 1)

Original Hobo Logo 1900

Okay, how does one go about explaining a hobo convention? The place to start is with definitions. What exactly is a hobo? Despite what Webster or other dictionaries might say, the only one that counts is how hoboes themselves define a hobo. Their definitions are:

A Hobo is a man who Travels to work.
A Tramp is a man who travels and won’t work.
A Bum is a man who won’t travel or work.
*The last one, a bum, they sometimes include that he’s apt to have problems with alcohol or drugs.

There’s some confusion about the early hobo conventions with some thinking that they were held in Chicago. Actually, the first two were held in Twin Oaks, Michigan. The reason for the confusion is that the four orginal members of the Tourist Union 63 were from Chicago. They had travelled to Twin Oaks for the convention. The other point adding to the confusion was that when the town fathers of Britt, Iowa were looking for something to stimulate their local economy, they travelled to Chicago to meet with the original four members in an effort to get them to move the convention to Britt. After they brought the 4 members to Britt to look the place over it was agreed that the convention would meet there in 1900. It’s been held there each year since 1900 and will probably remain there for the foreseeable future.

So what is the purpose of a hobo convention? A better question might be, “why does it need to have a purpose?” Actually it does. It’s the event where as many as can congregate not only to have fun swapping stories, but they do conclude one “official” bit of business. Each year they elect the new King and Queen of the hoboes, who will reign as royalty for the next year.

Another point of confusion is the titles of King and Queen. Offically the title of the king is Head Pipe, and no one seems to know why the Queen is called the Queen rather than the Head Pipette or Head Pipe Cleaner or something else more colorful. Meaning no disrespect to the Head Pipe, for purposes here, I’ll use the title of King as it only requires typing one word rather than two.

Tourist Union 63 was founded by one Charles Noe and three others in 1900. They were four young men of little responsibiltiy and a love of travel. While preparing for the trip to the first convention to be held in Britt, Iowa, they founded the Tourist Union 63, evidently for the purposes of at least appearing they were organized in some form or fashion. The reason for the 63, is that was the number of the first membership list. Again…”list” implies at least, organization.

The conditions for membership were pretty simple, especially for the time. To gain membership, you had to swear an oath that:

You’d ridden the rods (rails/steel) for 1,000 miles.
That during that 1,000 miles, you’d survived only by panhandling dookies the entire time.
That if you were ever elected to Congress, you’d promise legislation to require soup kitchens at every railroad yard, and better and bigger free beers.
Today the first two requirements are waived with the payment of $5; however you do still have to swear to the last one….they seem pretty firm about that one. After paying my $5, and swearing to the latter requirement I became for the first time in my life, a card-carrying union member, officially I guess making me a hobo. Loving travel I figure it fits me well.

So, what did I expect for my first hobo convention? I don’t know. I had decided to keep an open mind about it all and limit my preconceived ideas or biases. I’m glad I did because it left me more able to enjoy the environment. First, they weren’t all dirty and smelly as most of us would think. Yes, their clothes are in many cases pretty worn, but I only saw one, who would actually qualify as unkempt.

My Arrival

Because I blew and tire and had to buy a new set for the rear and feeling waaay under the weather I didn’t arrive until Thursday afternoon. Feeling bad, I just checked into a local campground and went to bed in the hope of feeling good enough to venture to the convention the next day.

By Friday afternoon I wasn’t feeling good but I could at least get around a bit so decided to venture over to the hobo festivities. I only made it to the main street of town where there was a street bazaar going on. After walking about half of it, I decided to return to my campground and go back to bed, which turned out to be the wise move as Saturday morning I woke up feeling pretty decent allowing me to head to the convention.

The festivities center around the hobo jungle which is held in one of Britt’s parks named Hobo Park. The first thing you notice is that while unwelcome in most communities, the opposite is true in Britt.

The relationship with the town of Britt, IA is sort of symbiotic. The town not only tolerates them, but welcomes the hoboes in. They have a respect for them and it’s readily apparent that the hoboes feel the same way about the town. While the convention is going on, the hoboes want for nothing. On Saturday morning about 5am a farmer dropped off a dressed pig. By 6am, it was properly cooking over the fire and at 5pm, it was being served. In addition, various stores drop off bread, pastries, veggies, drinks (soft) and anything else that might be needed for a feast, open to all.

Hobo Park, the location of the jungle is at the edge of town near the railroad tracks. While all the rest of the street signs are in the usual green background with white lettering, the signs around Hobo Park are red with white lettering with a picture of the typical hobo image. There’s a boxcar located there permanently, that non hoboes aren’t allowed into except by invitation of a hobo. The town has built them a pavillion providing shade and tables and there are a bunch of old fridges I assume have been donated. It’s their place, the rest of us there are just welcomed guests.

Entering the Jungle

Hobo Universal Soup Bowl, Coffee Mug
Being my first time there, and especially not knowing how they might react to someone with a camera around their neck, I tried to remain as inconspicuous as I could hanging on the margins. That didn’t last long. An old hobo approached me and asked if I was taking pictures. I responded I’d hoped to but didn’t want to invade anyone’s privacy. He said…”don’t worry about it, we’re all used to it. I’m Bill…I’m a stealer, and an agent.”

With that, he handed me his card. He owns a structural steel company, hence the steeler, and then he pointed to 3 young women and said, he represents them. He went on to tell me that he’s in his mid-80′s and the young women have adopted him as their father and that he couldn’t be more proud of his “daughters”. It seems back in the early 90′s they had come to the convention kind of to honor their father who’d been a hobo and was buried in the town cemetery. He was there paying his respects for old hoboes he’d known that were buried there. They began talking and he learned they are a musical group of gospel singers. While they were planning on leaving, he encouraged them to stay and join in the evening festivities around the campfire. They stayed and have become a big part of the convention each year since, with him making the arrangements to get them there, picking them up at the airport etc. I’ve forgotten what the name of their group is 51 weeks of the year, but for the 1 week, they’re billed as the National Hobo Singers….and, they are quite good.

It should be mentioned here that most hoboes, don’t ride the rails all their lives. Most only do it for a few years and end up returning to the real world, many becoming very successful. Remember the 4 original members of Tourist Union 63 mentioned above? One went on to become a successful journalist, another ended up owning a chain of restaurants in Chicago, and I’ve forgotten what the other two ended up doing, but all ended up quite successful. While having a discussion with the 2010 King I asked if anyone knows how many hoboes there are today. He said, best guess is around 50,000, down from its depression high of over 1,000,000. He told me that most of those that take to the rails with the idea of doing it permanently finally have to give it up, either because they’re no longer fast enough to hop a train, or can no longer continue because of health reasons. He said it’s a hard life, and very hard on one’s general health. I listened to him relating a story where someone locked him in a freezer car where he ended up suffering frostbite before he finally was heard and let out. Each had stories of close calls, some caused by deliberate actions of others, and some just blunders on their part. When you listen to their stories you know, that for each of these that are around to tell them….many others aren’t.

I found virtually all of them to be quite nice and more than friendly. All are willing to have their photos taken. I also got to meet the oldest female hobo. She’s a very nice Black lady and is 87 yrs old. Though she no longer rides the rails, she’s still a hobo, as are all who have ever ridden the rods. Many there are no longer riding trains for a variety of reasons, but they all still identify themselves as hoboes, not former hoboes. Once a hobo, always a hobo.

The caricature heading this post of the carefree fellow carrying his bindle with his toes sticking out of his flopping soles was created in 1900 by a printer in Chicago and has remained as the standard since. It’s believed to be a caricature of Charles Noe, one of the original organizers of Tourist Union 63. You’ll see this fellow all over Britt on street signs, window displays and literature. He figures prominently in the hobo culture.

After a week of campaigning, on Saturday afternoon, the new Royalty is finally elected and crowned. The crown is fashioned from an old coffee can. They will reign over the rest of the fesivities and throughout the coming year.

A Dead Computer

For about the last month I’ve been screwing around with my computer. I managed to fry the motherboard. Finally deciding that replacing the whole computer was cheaper than buying a new motherboard that’s what I opted to do. That’s the main reason I’ve been delayed in posting. The other is, that once I got the new laptop, I’m not able to get my photos off the old harddrive. When I backed it up to my portable harddrive, there was evidently a virus on board. The anti-virus software sees the individual files on the drive and scans them, but when you try to access them, it says there’s no volume on the drive.

Rather than wait to update any longer I’ve decided to do a post or two without the photos and then drop them in later after I have a geek retrieve them.

In addition, I’m going to start a standalone gallery of photos where those interested will be able to see more photos, some relating to the stories, others not. Remember, that all the photos on the blog can be enlarged simply by clicking on them.

Britt, Iowa National Hobo Convention (Part 2)

Once the Royalty is chosen for the new year the offical business is concluded. By now, the jungle is a blend of hoboes, locals, and tourists all mingling together while the feast is being prepared for the evening. This was to be a unique experience for most of us there observing as a young hobo couple had decided to get married, and decided that it would be a traditional hobo wedding, which meant all the public in attendance were invited.

Hobo Wedding
Hobo Wedding
Bride & Groom Shedding Old Lives
Bride & Groom Shedding Old Lives

The young couple I’d guess to be in their mid to late 20′s got all gussied up. He in a nice yellow shirt with what appeared to be new bib overalls topped off with a little beret and a red bandana around his neck. The bride was dressed in a traditional white bridal gown with a crown of flowers in her hair….all highlighted by the large tattoo on her back.

There were a half dozen older people dealing with the ceremonial part of it, a couple of guys more or less dressed up, and a couple of women also dressed. One of the gentlemen explained to the rest of us, what was happening and what the significance of it was.

Bridal Path Honor Guard
Bridal Path Honor Guard

With the groom waiting at the front in anticipation, the bride enters under a tunnel of walking sticks held high by the other hoboes much like the military passes under swords. The bride carries a bouquet of wildflowers. The guy up front explains that wildflowers are traditional because most hoboes don’t have a lot of money. She hands off the flowers to her bridesmaid and she and the groom are handed a complete rhubarb stalk, complete with leaf. As they’re walking toward the campfire a guy is explaining that the rhubarb leaves represents their old life and as such, they will tear up the leaves and throw them on the fire, as a symbol that they are ridding themselves of their old lives in preparation for their new one. As they’re finishing up their symbolism, he’s explaining to anyone willing to fix it, that the rhubarb, with a few blackberries, makes a wonderful pie. I didn’t notice anyone willing to take him up on his challenge.

Wedding Dance (Hobo Shuffle)
Wedding Dance (Hobo Shuffle)

The wedding proceeds, much like any wedding going through the “I do’s” and then the newlyweds, start the reception by doing a version of the “hobo shuffle” around the campfire. Following a couple of laps, the rest of the hoboes join in, and then anyone in the park is dragged in, locals, tourists….anyone in reach. The wedding reception goes on for an hour or so when it’s wound down in time for the feast to begin. It’s a full spread, revolving around that pig mentioned in Part 1, with more different fix’ins than most of us can imagine. You go down the line with the servers filling your plate with everything on hand. With your plate(s) you go to the long tables under the pavillion or some go to the bleachers that are set up or just a picnic on the grass. I’m too old to be getting down on the grass, so I elected the tables.

Sitdown Dinner
Sitdown Dinner

After the feast, while things are being cleaned up, people are just mingling and swapping stories and others like me, were just enjoying them. Once everything is cleared, the evenings entertainment begins. I’ve come to the conclusion that every hobo, plays at least one instrument, usually more than one. Some do their musical performances solo, many play together as a group, sometimes switching instruments if they get to many of one, one of the people will switch to a different instrument that isn’t represented. While there’s much dancing going on around the fire, many are just watching and enjoying the music and poetry. This goes on late into the night. Officially, they have to kill the mic’s at 10pm, but they turn them off and just continue.

This is a good place to relate a couple of observations. First. In most towns, people would shield their little children by keeping a tight hold on them in this motley crowd. The local children weren’t glued to their parents hips but were pretty much on their own with hoboes teaching them different crafts or just watching them doing what they do. There was no air of fear around the place. Second, just before the feast, one of the guys got on the microphone and asked if anyone had lost a digital camera or expensive watch, as each had been found and turned in by hoboes in an effort to get them back to their owners. Third, I watched a local cop pull up and get out of his car. He walked into the jungle and spent about a half hour watching the entertainment. When it looked like he was getting ready to leave I went over and asked if they have any problems from the hoboes. He said, “no…they’re never a problem”, he just stopped by to enjoy the show.

That’s not to say that it’s all perfect. The hoboes, don’t allow alcohol, drugs or dogs in the jungle. The Head Pipe told me, they have nothing against dogs, in fact many own one, but people don’t clean up after them, and afterall, many of them sleep on the ground. The ban on alcohol in the jungle means those that want it, have to walk into town which some do.

I was talking with one of the hoboes who had come in from Florida. He’s a Seminole indian. He casually said….”I’ve only been in town 4 days and I’ve spent 3 nights in jail.” I asked him what he was in jail for, he said it was drunk in public. He said they just put them in a cell and don’t even lock the door. As soon as they can blow sober on the breathalyzer, they’re released without any charges. He said it’s usually the next morning before they wake up and can blow sober enough to be released.

While I was there I saw several television networks there with their cameras interviewing various hoboes. PBS, Discovery and another I can’t recall were all there. Most of us don’t think of hoboes as female, but there is a pretty large percentage that are females and that seemed to be of the most interest to the television people.

The town of Britt has created a home for the hoboes. It’s a relationship that the town and the hoboes both seem to enjoy. Many hoboes are buried in the local cemetery, there’s a Hobo Museum with all kinds of history and artifacts of hobo life. Most hoboes, have numerous talents they use to earn money or will trade for food and some of those are displayed in the museum. They can make useful everyday items from things we toss out. One of their more unique skills was what are called “hobo nickels”, which you can learn more about from this link. Many of the original ones, done by actual hoboes are quite valuable and have become collectors items. Since the real world discovered hobo nickels there’s been a rush of carvers putting them out. While all are a wonder, most of the carvers today only copy what they’ve seen in the past and do it with modern tools. The original hobo nickels were usually carved with a nail or other crude, sharp instrument, usually homemade. Some carve nickels, others walking sticks.

Speaking of walking sticks. The tradional image of a hobo we have is a guy with his toes sticking out from the flopping soles of his shoes with his bindle slung over his shoulder. The bindle is the cloth that the hobo wraps all his worldly possessions in and then ties it to a pole, his walking stick and props it over his shoulder for his travels. Hoboes take pride in their walking sticks. Many are carved or inlayed with various things. At the convention, a guy was selling the sticks with an inlayed copper plaque with the date of the Convention people could take home for a souvenier. With hoboes, everything has a value. They can take a #10 tin can, put a handle on it and it becomes their coffee mug, or cup for their mulligan stew.

Hobo Universal China
Hobo Universal China

Hoboes have been a part of our culture for a long time. Most historians accept that they got their start shortly after the Civil War. Many of those returning from the war had nothing left at the homes they returned to and decided to “hit the road” in search of a better life. As the railroads expanded, so did the range of the hobo. There’s also no agreement as to where the term “hobo” even came from. Some believe it derived from the term hoe boy, from the freed slaves. Others claim it’s source as short for homeward bound. In any case, the culture itself has been around long enough to have developed its own societal standards and language.