I lived three places growing up, but always along the Illinois Central tracks. I remember a parade of hobos or bums trudging toward St. Louis in the summertime. I heard a hobo was a professional bum; Webster made no distinction and neither did Mom — she fed them all.
We were dazzled by their attire and the dog went crazy. Most were timid and took their repast to the woods. Us kids knew everything: They had a secret marker, they had money, they knew each other. Dad knew them not, thus they came from afar. Some said it was the drought, some said just the times.
I had my wonders: where from, where to, how come, why don’t they ride the train, hitch hike, will they be back, where will they sleep, what if it rains? Dad had enough, he fired his pipe and headed for the woods his ownself.
Later I saw a Frank and Ernest cartoon, which had nothing to do with these times. Frank and Ernie were under that tattered blanket on their favorite bench, snowflakes flying. Frank said, “You know Ernie, with these government handouts it don’t hardly pay to be a bum no more.”
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Joe Fontana, Roxana