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  • Hobos are workers who wander. During the 1930s more than two million men and perhaps 8,000 women became hobos. At least 6500 hoboes were killed in one year either in accidents or by railroad “bulls”, brutal guards hired by the railroads to make sure the train carried only paying customers. Riding the rails was dangerous, mostly because of the bulls. You couldn’t just go to the railroad yard and climb on. Most hobos would hide along the tracks and as the train gained speed, they’d grab hold and jump into open boxcars. Sometimes they missed, lost their legs or their lives. As the train reached it’s destination the hobos had to jump off before a new set of bulls could arrest them or beat them up.

    People had to jump on trains to find work and no amount of clubbing or shooting would keep them off.

    * * * * *
    Rock’n away
    steel rails humming
    by the steep mountains edge
    and hilly grades
    Rock’n sway’n
    to cities, burghs
    pastures, lakes
    east and west
    signal lights blaring
    rails a’ clatter’n
    whistle blows
    rock’n the way

    * * * * *
    Seth ’n Yegg
    on the fly
    tattered and greyer day by day
    weary of padding the hoof
    steering clear of ”Bulls”
    Bulls half blind sneer can track
    any ‘bo with his good eye shut

    Seth ’n Yegg found a crate
    to cover with the moon
    safe from the rain and the wind
    all clear from the jungle
    and buzzards
    lighting up a snipe
    watching the smoke curl
    to the sound of
    the distant whistle
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