Like a Hobo on a Ham Sandwich
Although I can’t recall who it was, I remember someone telling me “stay out of those woods, there’s hobo’s down there”. Of course it didn’t work as we all went to the woods as soon as we were able, but I never ran into any hobos. However, from what I understand, at one time there were hobo camps in the woods along the tracks where the men riding the rails would jump off at different places and hang out for a while before moving on. Carol’s mother told me that they had a hobo camp in the woods next to the B&O tracks in Morrell Park, and sometimes one of the hobo’s would come up and knock on the door and ask if there was some job they could do around the yard for a little grub. She would give them that proverbial ham sandwich or whatever else she had to give them as they did some small job around the yard. She recalled that they were polite and didn’t cause any trouble, they were just looking for a little food before moving on.
I believe most of us have felt that wanderlust from time to time although I doubt that most would want to do it by hopping trains. However, there was a guy from the neighborhood named John back at the peak of the hippie movement that use to ride the trains across country and from what he relayed, made several trips from Baltimore to California and back. We did a little train hopping back in the day but the furthest we got was under the Howard Street tunnel over to the yard in East Baltimore.
It’s a different world out there today as you have some dangerous people out there riding the rails. Some of the worse serial killers have used the rails to get around and avoid capture for a time. As Woody Guthrie sang as he traveled the rails, “this land is your land, this land is my land” But it’s not a land that even a hobo would recognize today.
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