Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Disappearing Nomads

Remember hobos? I am just a little too young to have had much personal contact with these uniquely American characters, but I remember when they were still around. Although I was very young, I did meet two in my lifetime. Luckily, one of them was “Steam Train Maury” – Maurice Graham, King of the Hobos. It just so happened that when he settled, it was in my section of the country. Here’s his obituary:
Luckily, my mom found hobos fascinating and made sure that my sister and I took advantage of meeting them when we had the opportunity. The other gentleman was hanging out at a Kmart store when Mom took us over to meet him. He carried his lunch in a gas can because people were more likely to give him a ride while he was carrying it!
Hobos had rough lives; they weren’t treated well and were often victims of violence. This discrimination was unfortunate; their lifestyles developed through necessity of finding work in the middle of the Great Depression and hobo culture held its own code of ethics. You’d think there would have been more generosity towards them.
I remember Gypsies being around when I was very young, too. They traveled en masse, wore colorful clothes and had big wads of cash that they weren’t shy about flashing in full view. I don’t recall Mom encouraging conversation with them.
I haven’t seen or heard of hobos or gypsies in years. I wonder if they’re still wandering? I've heard that the Roma in Europe were treated much more harshly than Gypsies here.
Nowdays, the hobo and Gypsy just seem like romantic, carefree cultures. It seems that the vagabond lives we used to fear now intrigue us.
My girlfriend introduced me to freighter travel. That’s another nomadic pastime. You need a lot of time to do this, so it will have to wait until I’m retired.

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