Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Hobo Rules

Dorothy A. Bell Author of Oregon historical fiction romance. Hartwood Publishing.
 New releases March, April and May 4 all new Laura Creek Sweet Romances.

Hobo rules
Tramps and hobos are commonly lumped together, but see themselves as sharply differentiated. A hobo or bo is simply a migrant laborer; he may take some longish holidays, but sooner or later he returns to work. Lower than either is the bum, who neither works nor travels, save when impelled to motion by the police.

It is unclear exactly when hobos first appeared on the American railroading scene. With the end of the American Civil War in the 1860s, many discharged veterans returning home began hopping freight trains. Others looking for work on the American frontier followed the railways west aboard freight trains in the late 19th century.
Life as a hobo was dangerous. In addition to the problems of being itinerant, poor, and far from home and support, plus the hostility of many train crews, they faced the railroads' security staff, nicknamed "bulls", who had a reputation of violence against trespassers.[8] 
Expressions used through the 1940s
Hobos were noted for, among other things, the distinctive lingo that arose among them. Some examples follow: Many hobo terms have become part of common language, such as "big house", "glad rags", "main drag", and others.

Accommodation car
the caboose of a train
a young inexperienced child
Bad road
a train line rendered useless by some hobo's bad action or crime
(1) a small portable frying pan; (2) a short, "D"-handled shovel, generally used for shoveling coal
a person who sticks to one job a year or more
a hobo who hangs around docks or seaports
Big house
Bindle stick
a collection of belongings wrapped in cloth and tied around a stick
a hobo who carries a bindle
a genuine, trustworthy individual
the common way one hobo referred to another: "I met that 'bo on the way to Bangor last spring."
Boil up
specifically, to boil one's clothes to kill lice and their eggs; generally, to get oneself as clean as possible
Bone polisher
a mean dog
Bone orchard
a railroad officer
a Catholic priest, good for a dollar
today's lunch
C, H, and D
indicates an individual is "Cold, Hungry, and Dry" (thirsty)
California blankets
newspapers, intended to be used for bedding on a park bench
Calling in
using another's campfire to warm up or cook
a fast train
Carrying the banner
keeping in constant motion so as to avoid being picked up for loitering or to keep from freezing
Catch the westbound
to die
Chuck a dummy
pretend to faint
body lice
Cover with the moon
sleep out in the open
Cow crate
a railroad stock car
anything edible that grows on a riverbank
Doggin' it
traveling by bus, especially on the Greyhound bus line
Easy mark
a hobo sign or mark that identifies a person or place where one can get food and a place to stay overnight
under the influence of drugs or alcohol
to board a moving train
a place to sleep, by extension, "flophouse", a cheap hotel
Glad rags
one's best clothes
Grease the track
to be run over by a train
a chicken[11]
Honey dipping
working with a shovel in the sewer
(1) a fugitive hobo; (2) a hot or decent meal: "I could use a hot and a flop"
Hot shot
a train with priority freight, stops rarely, goes faster; synonym for "Cannonball"
an area off a railroad where hobos camp and congregate
Jungle buzzard
a hobo or tramp who preys on his own
Knowledge bus
school bus used for shelter
a young hobo, usually a girl
Main drag
the busiest road in a town
Moniker / Monica
Mulligan stew
a type of community stew, created by several hobos combining whatever food they have or can collect
Nickel note
a five-dollar bill
On the fly
jumping a moving train
Padding the hoof
to travel by foot
Possum belly
to ride on the roof of a passenger car (one must lie flat, on his/her stomach, to avoid being blown off)
a railroad sleeper car; most were once made by the George Pullman company
any young kid
a compression or "refrigerator car"
Road kid
a young hobo who apprentices himself to an older hobo in order to learn the ways of the road
Road stake
the small reserve amount of money a hobo may keep in case of an emergency
Rum dum
a drunkard
Sky pilot
a preacher or minister
Soup bowl
a place to get soup, bread and drinks
cigarette butts "sniped" (e.g., from ashtrays or sidewalks)
Spare biscuits
looking for food in a garbage can
panhandling or begging along the streets
Tokay blanket
drinking alcohol to stay warm
a traveling professional thief, or burglar
Hobo signs (symbols)

Hobo signs, California, c. 1870s
To cope with the uncertainties of hobo life, hobos developed a system of symbols, or a visual code. Hobos would write this code with chalk or coal to provide directions, information, and warnings to others in "the brotherhood". A symbol would indicate "turn right here", "beware of hostile railroad police", "dangerous dog", "food available here", and so on. Some commonly used signs:
·         A cross signifies "angel food", that is, food served to the hobos after a sermon.
·         A triangle with hands signifies that the homeowner has a gun.[12]
·         A horizontal zigzag signifies a barking dog.[13]
·         A square missing its top line signifies it is safe to camp in that location.
·         top hat and a triangle signify wealth.
·         A spearhead signifies a warning to defend oneself.
·         A circle with two parallel arrows means get out fast, as hobos are not welcome in the area.[13]
·         Two interlocked circles, representing handcuffs, warn that hobos are hauled off to jail.
·         caduceus symbol signifies the house has a doctor living in it.
·         A cross with a smiley face in one of the corners means the doctor at this office will treat hobos free of charge.
·         A cat signifies a kind lady lives here.[13]
·         A wavy line (signifying water) above an X means fresh water and a campsite.
·         Three diagonal lines mean it is not a safe place.
·         A square with a slanted roof (signifying a house) with an X through it means that the house has already been "burned" or "tricked" by another hobo and is not a trusting house.
·         Two shovels signify that work was available.
Another version of the hobo code exists as a display in the Steamtown National Historic Site at Scranton, Pennsylvania, operated by the National Park Service. There is an exhibit of hobo codes at the National Cryptologic Museum in Annapolis Junction, Maryland.[14][15]
The Free Art and Technology Lab released a QR Hobo Code, with a QR stenciler, in July 2011.[16]
Ethical code
Hobo culture—though it has always, of course, had many points of contact with the mainstream American culture of its day—has also always been somewhat separate and distinct, with different cultural norms. Hobo culture's ethics have always been subject to disapproval from the mainstream culture; for example, hopping freight trains, an integral part of hobo life, has always been illegal in the U.S. Nonetheless, the ethics of hobo culture can be regarded as fairly coherent and internally consistent, at least to the extent that any culture's various individual people maintain the same ethical standards. That is to say, any attempt at an exhaustive enumeration of hobo ethics is bound to be foiled at least to some extent by the diversity of hobos and their ideas of the world. This difficulty has not kept hobos themselves from attempting the exercise. An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 (a hobo union created in the mid-1800s to dodge anti-vagrancy laws, which did not apply to union members)[17] during its 1889 National Hobo Convention:[18]
1.   Decide your own life, don't let another person run or rule you.
2.   When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
3.   Don't take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
4.   Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
5.   When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
6.   Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals' treatment of other hobos.
7.   When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as badly, if not worse than you.
8.   Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
9.   If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.

16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!


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