Living free and dying

February 22, 2015

I suppose I wasn’t the only kid who daydreamed about being a hobo, at least among people of similar age and background. I recall reading stories that included hobo characters or which were about hobos and their foot-loose way of life was attractive to a boy living under his parents’ and schoool’s discipline.

So I enjoyed this short documentary about modern day hobos in the U.S. Watching it reminded me that I’d still like to travel across the country by train just to see what’s out there, away from the Interstates and the airports.

Are there hobos in other countries? I don’t know. There are migrant workers, surely; I wonder if they have a tradition of riding freight trains between jobs.

Thinking about hobos reminded me of Hard Times, Studs Turkel’s oral history of the Great Depression. (It’s a good book to read, if you haven’t.) That site has links to audio of the interviews he conducted while writing the book.

Here’s an interview with a former hobo named Frank Czerwonka and another with a fellow named Louis Banks.

Stories about hobos led me to thinking about songs about them. Here’s Jimmie Rodger’s Hobo’s Meditation. I particularly like the cover of this song by Parton, Ronstandt, and Harris on their album Trio.

And I can’t bring up hobo songs without mentioning Roger Miller’s King of the Road, of course. Years ago, I heard a local musician perform this and he described it as ‘flawless’.

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