The Ways of the Hobo

[Ways of the Hobo]

[Garrett County Press]

Excerpt from
Ways of the Hobo
by A. No. 1

From Chapter 1: "The Brehren of the Road"

SET like a royal jewel amid the foothills of the Alleghenies where the latter cross Northwestern Pennsylvania towards the waters of Lake Erie, is idyllic Cambridge Springs. Not only have its grand scenic environs given to this town of lesser dimensions a landwide reputation as a most charming summer resort, but the medicinal properties of its numberless gushing springs have so added to its fame, until annually thousands of people in need of health and recreation make a pilgrimage to this "Carlsbad of America," filling to capacity the spacious hotels bordering its maple-shaded avenues.

Because of its convenient railroad location, I had made my headquarters for many years at delightful Cambridge Springs. Driven by the weird promptings of the Wanderlust hither and thither about the globe, time and again when the almost incredible hazards of the Wander Path had brought me dangerously close to the verge of a mental and physical collapse, I hastened back to Cambridge Springs, there to find a brief respite from the hardships of the Road.

That I had chosen Cambridge Springs as my headquarters, quickly became common knowledge to the Brethren of the Road, with the result that the otherwise rather aristocratic health resort soon became a veritable "Mecca" to chronic hoboes. From every train chancing to stop at Cambridge Springs, Sons of Unrest dropped singly, in pairs, and at times even in squadrons, and when told that I was in town, hurried to Mrs. Cunningham's boarding house where I always lodged when "at home," there either to renew old friendships, make my acquaintance or a financial touch, which latter reason was the most frequent object of their visits, and which assistance was refused to none, until impudent and intoxicated scoundrels put a limit to my benevolences.

Twofold were the reasons why I preferred Mrs. Cunningham's to the many other boarding places, for not only was its mistress a motherly souled sort of landlady, but my own arch-enemy, the Road, had cast its foul blight over her life.

Forever cursed be the tramp who proved himself the willing tool of the Road! Soon after Mrs. Cunningham had buried her husband and embarked in the boarding house business as a means to earn an honorable livelihood for herself and her only child, a most promising youth, a tramp, to whom in a spirit of charity she had furnished shelter during a bitterly cold night, somehow contrived to portray the Road to this son in such alluring colors, that the guileless boy, believing the scoundrel's falsehoods, ran away from his home with the rascal and quickly degenerated to the miserable level attained by his tutor -- that of a confirmed vagabond.

Just as if this pitiful misfortune had not sufficiently marred the bereaved widow's joy of life, there was to come home to her the same gruesome reward for a mother's boundless devotion that had to be accepted by so many other unfortunate parents of runaway boys. Less than two years after his disappearance in company with the professional hobo, they brought the son home to his mother as a gory mass, packed haphazard into a dry goods case -- the whining wheels had added a new name to the long register of waywards they had crushed ere they destroyed young Cunningham.

recounting stories of the road

As it is the bane of every small burg, so in Cambridge Springs, everybody knows every other body's business, and as I had been duly advised of Mrs. Cunningham's personal history, I made it a point to give my patronage exclusively to her boarding house. But a man's reputation hangs to his heels like a shadow, and soon some local busybody acquainted Mrs. Cunningham with her new boarder's antecedents, with the result that she came to interrogate me concerning the existence her son had led prior to his death, and which to her, as to so many others who see but never investigate the doings of the hoboes, was a sealed book.

Throughout the many years I had been her frequent guest, I carefully abstained from dropping even the least hint of the revolting life all tramps lead, because I reasoned that to lift the veil would perchance have reopened wounds of her soul which time had mercifully healed.

During a wintry afternoon in the fall of nineteen fourteen, Mrs. Cunningham announced that two well-dressed strangers desired to meet me. When she ushered the callers into my studio no introduction was required, as I recognized them as Brethren of the Wander Path whom I had met during my previous travels. One of them was known to me by the name de tramp, "Hobo Mike," while his companion's monicker was "Denver Johnny." Both were well-proportioned fellows aged about thirty-five, and though I knew them to be "blown-in-the-glass" Wanderlusters, yet by a total absence of filth and rags, the earmarks of the common hobo, they amply proved that somehow they had managed to save their self-respect.

When we had exchanged mutual greetings, they informed me they had come from New York City and were hoboing to the great Southwest to escape the rigors of the winter. They stated that the freight train aboard which they were traveling despite the cold weather, had slackened speed on entering the limits of Cambridge Springs, and deciding not to further place their limbs in jeopardy by freezing, they had jumped from the moving train. While warming themselves in the waiting room at the railroad station, they had ascertained that I was in town, and had come to pay me a friendly call.

I invited them to prolong their visit and be my guests at supper, and when they accepted my invitation, we took chairs and soon had an animated conversation under headway, the theme of which hinged on the routes and the mileages of our latest hobo journeys, but quickly drifted to the recounting of the latest bits of hobo gossip. Exhausting this theme, we turned to relating stories of personal encounters with those who upheld the majesty of the law, and we soon became so absorbed in telling our exploits, that ere we suspected the lateness of the hour, Mrs. Cunningham announced supper. We entered the dining room where amid jolly conversation, my guests did full justice to the ample repast spread before them . . . .

[Ways of the Hobo]

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