the adventures of a female tramp

[the snare of the road]

[Garrett County Press]

Excerpt from
The Snare of the Road
by A-No. 1 "The Famous Tramp"

When the pleasure of having achieved my heart's desire had become calmed so far as to permit an intelligent study of the letter, I found a postscript appended to it which contained several items of importance. Among others was a note making it obligatory on the winner of prize No. 1467 to personally appear at the Billings land office to have his claim legally confirmed. Another paragraph explained that to obtain a valid title from the government the claimant was required to reside on the tract for a period of no less than six months annually for five consecutive years. A third appendix in terms which made a misinterpretation impossible, warned that a least infraction of the rules governing the land distribution by lottery would automatically result in the reverting of the prize to the federal authorities.

This last mentioned, rather caustic reminder of the responsibilities which had so suddenly been thrust upon my shoulders, caused me to glance at the date of the letter. Only then I was to become aware that for almost two weeks the notification had trailed me crisscross the land from one General Delivery to another. Instantly realizing that I had not even a moment to waste if I desired to put myself in appearance within the time allowance at the lottery headquarters, I fairly raced to the nearest railroad station and soon had started on what I fervently prayed would be my last hobo journey.

Looking much the worse from the loss of sleep and many meals but with a day to spare until the expiration of the time limit, I arrived at Billings. When my identity had been duly verified at the land office, I was handed a map whereon had been marked the location of my prize farm. Highly elated that with the exception of the actual taking possession of the tract, I had completely complied with the complicated rulings of the land gamble, I returned to the street where I had a native direct me to my allotment which was located some thirty miles to the northwest of Billings.

Soon after leaving the city line, I entered the ex- Indian reservation which was dotted as far as my vision would reach with tents, slab shanties and other temporary shelters which the prize winners of the lottery had constructed to house themselves and families.

I remember stopping at a dugout to panhandle a lunch, where I found a squatter woman and her numerous brood of tow headed youngsters occupying the semi-cavern. The widow treated me so decently that I promised to return in due time to balance her kindness with a wagon load of the best my homestead had produced.

Late in the afternoon of the second day the numbers marked on the stakes placed by the surveyors announced I was approaching my destination. The rays of the setting sun had commenced to slant over the erstwhile hunting ground of semi-savages when I placed foot upon the one hundred and sixty acres which the paternal government had presented to me by means of a game of chance.

So shocked was I with the sight my eyes beheld that I hurriedly inspected the numbers marked on the corner stakes of my allotment and only when I had assured myself that "No. 1467" was written on each of the four posts, I knew for a certainty that I had not erred but had come into my own.

While I wistfully scanned the acreage of my private domain, by chance I espied a large rock protruding from the ground near the center of the tract. I took a seat upon this stone and then had another long look at my property from the spot whereon in the course of a few prosperous years it had been my fond intention to build for my family -- to be a cozy home from the wide verandas of which I had hoped to gaze over the broad acres of my homestead.

Only when I recalled to my memory this and other lofty air castles I had so deftly built in the course of many a pleasant daylight dream, came to poor me the crushing realization how mercilessly I had been taken in with a piece of Mother Earth that to secure I had braved the perils and privations incident to three almost trans-continental hobo trips, not to mention the hazards connected with the return journey I was yet to negotiate.

The farther my thoughts ranged backward to all I had yearned should be a corking fine future after the many years I had wantonly wasted hearkening to the call of the Road, the more mushy I began to feel within my outraged soul. In the end the smashing over every hope I had fostered so depressed my spirits that I commenced to blubber as if I were a severely punished child.

"Howling desolation" would hardly describe the condition of the crusty surface of my homestead and all the others adjoining it as far as my vision reached judging by general appearances. Nowhere could I discern a single blade of grass sprouting from the ground, nor any other visible sign of animal or vegetable life, for that matter. The land for miles was spread over steep, rock ribbed mountain sides upon which had been scattered so many boulders of every dimension that it brought to my mind the odd idea that Satan must have temporarily deserted his hellish headquarters to provide humanity for all time to come with an example of what could be done in the way of making a tract of land absolutely worthless for agricultural purposes. Retracing my steps, I dragged myself back to Billings, whence I had departed buoyed by a sublime hope for a better life and to which I now returned a human wreck in whose soul the last spark of ambition had been extinguished forever.

Oft times since, and especially when I chance to be camping out-doors in the solitude of the night, the trend of my thoughts revert to the days of my youth and I wonder if the Old Folks still are among the living, and if they are, then if they have arrived at the conclusion that one of their offspring must have been endowed with a marble heart to be capable of voluntarily leading the revolting existence of the common tramp. I generally finish these reveries by cursing the memory of the agent who had charge of the village railroad station and had allowed boys to loaf on the premises and so had furnished them with first-rate prospects of taking the leading role in a tragedy similar to the one for which I have to thank him -- and him exclusively.


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