My First Train Ride
Train Dummy - Rebecca
April 18, 2004

BStLouis.jpg (33717 bytes)My dad, St Louis Frank, left me by the Hobo campfire at 6 A.M. in Amory, MS on Sunday April 18, 2004.  I contemplated waking BBurl.jpg (44786 bytes) Stretch up in order to distract my thoughts of chasing after the RatPack limo in tears.  Stretch was laying up against the fence sound asleep, but as 'ole K-9 Burlington was keeping guard; I didn't want the responsibility for waking up the entire jungle or getting my head tore off.

 

BobbyBRut31.jpg (27866 bytes)I then looked for Bobby Blues' tent, but a big gap in the tent jungle was apparent, so I concluded that Bobby Blues wanted to keep his mystery alive with such a quick disappearance.  You see, that's how it goes in the Hobo world-when you gotta go, you just gotta go.

I still had my dad's backpack slung over my shoulder, along with his little blue duffel bag full of raisins, granola bars, and cans of sardines, as I stared into the flames wondering what the meaning of my life was at that point in time.  A part of me was singing the old blues song by Hasil Adkins, "What the Hell was I Thinkin'?", but yet I had my own fire burning inside with the excitement of riding a freight train for the first time.

BLucky.jpg (61292 bytes)I was telling myself how blessed I was that I had a dad that encourages me to embrace these types of opportunities.  To quote Hobo Lucky, "I'd rather regret something I've done than something I've not done."  But yet with everything I've done in my life, I felt as if I still wasn't quite prepared BGeo.jpg (27261 bytes) to jump onto a train.  But GrainCar George had already called me a Sissy LaLa, and God forbid I have THAT label over my head-heck, I already had enough societal labels that I didn't need yet another.  On the other end of the spectrum, a small voice was also telling me that my dad was just as whacked out as I was, but dad was long gone at that point-so there I was.

 

GrandpaBec1.jpg (49657 bytes) Around 7 A.M., the remaining Hoboes started gathering around for a church service.  I was in a Zen-like state curled up by the fire, but I was still catching bits and pieces of Grandpa Dudley's sermon.  My curiosity peaked, however, when Oel started giving his life account of finding the Man, Jesus I think he called him.  Oel talked about his five years in prison and how he led a "horrible life".  How he witnessed abuse concerning his mother and his little BOel.jpg (18961 bytes) brother.  What I noticed most about his account was that he was talking as though he was reading the cooking instructions on the back of a spaghetti bag.  His heart wrenching story was told so matter-of-factly that it made you believe that this was "just the way it goes" sometimes.  I felt like a weak Sissy LaLa for feeling the Blues over the failure of my last relationship-that I had no job, and no close friends, and no hope for a brighter, happier future.

 

Heck-Oel took my Blues away that morning.  For the first time in a few months, I felt on top of the world and that "my life ain't BTex.jpg (23159 bytes) so bad after all."  It was around that point that the Texas Madman made a nasty NOISE right in the middle of a Hallelujah, and Road Hog hollers out, "You're not supposed to fart in church."  Madman just went back to talking to the fire as though it never happened.

 

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I spent most of the morning just hanging out doing the usual nothing.  Road Hog and Hobo King Spike came over and gave me some advice about riding trains.  I liked the one bit about, "No road is a bad road" and "You quickly realize the difference between want and BMoses.jpg (38154 bytes) need."  Old Man BOhioTom.jpg (24971 bytes) Moses fed me hobo stew and bagels for lunch.  Then I attempted to take a nap alongside Ohio Tom under a shade tree, but Train Doc got into a conversation with Shari about religion-need I say more?

 

 

Around 4:30 P.M. we headed over to the yard to look for a ride.  We had the intention of going to Birmingham.  BStretch.jpg (26780 bytes)The hours passed aBJoe.jpg (22423 bytes)nd we were still there.  Stretch, Lucky, and Oak Tree Joe kept us company as we talked about nothing while sitting under a tractor trailer bed.  Around 10 P.M. Lucky jumped into an unoccupied rear engine.  Train Doc and I decided it wouldn't be an appropriate "first ride" for me-so we waited for another.  Around 11 P.M. we decided to call it a night and try again in the morning.

While I have roughed camped many times, this was my first Hobo night out in the open with nothing but the natural elements surrounding me on all sides.  You know, a girl always dreams of a romantic night spent under a mosquito net, on a feather bed with candles lit all around her, a bottle of champagne, and a hunk of a guy that looks like Andy Garcia next to her.  Well, my first night out wasn't quiet like that, but in a way, it was darn close (no-Train Doc does not resemble Andy Garcia).  I had my cardboard pieces laid up underneath the trailer tires and my sleeping bag spread out.  The air was brisk and it felt great all tucked in as I HATE being cold-the weather was absolutely perfect that night.  As I lay on my back I could see the full moon and stars all around me.  I slept like a baby zzzzzzz.....

A little before 6 A.M. Monday, the workers came in for their trailers.  We crawled out in time and I think the workers were as surprised to see us as we were to see them.  We gathered our gear and Train Doc found a spigot on the side of a warehouse.  That served as our morning bath.  By 7 A.M. we were back at the Amory Cafe having breakfast.  The train to Birmingham wasn't expected to leave until 6 P.M. that night.  The best thing about being a hobo is that you don't have anywhere to be and time just doesn't matter.  And I later find out that the place doesn't matter as well.  The States are an open book, and BLarry.jpg (34689 bytes) depending on BMsChar.jpg (25283 bytes) what train is in the Yard, the destination just doesn't matter either-No road is a bad road.  I spent the afternoon over at Loco Larry's place and I helped Ms Charlotte clean out the Hobo shed and had a peaceful time chatting with John-John.

 

 

Bjohnjohn1.jpg (28439 bytes)At 4:30 P.M. I was attempting to get into a gondola car that was heading to Memphis, when I hear a "Hey Train Dummy".  I peek under the car and see John-John.  I was touched by his desire to see me off for my first ride, and he memorialized the event with one of his hand-made patches that said "Train Dummy."

 

Hopper.jpg (39536 bytes)Train Doc had me all spazzed out about getting on as fast as I could.  Like the Train Dummy I am, I hurled myself over the side of the car, and dropped about five feet into a pile of steel protruding in all directions.  Remarkably, I escaped that disaster with only a few bruises and scratches.  BMSsign.jpg (48596 bytes)At that point I adamantly expressed to Doc that I would rather get busted than lose a limb.  We cleaned up the car, made our beds and waited...and  waited...and waited....  Train Doc kept me amused with one story after another.  8 P.M. Monday April 19, 2004 Choo Choo!  The train began to move-my first train ride was underway!  I piled up some logs so that I could peer over the side.  The crossing of the Mississippi River was stunning, and the sounds of the train were "tribal and dinosaur-like"-just like DeadEye Kate said it would be.  I hardly slept.....

BMemSIGN1.jpg (40621 bytes)6 A.M. on Tuesday April 20, 2004 we exited the train in Memphis, TN and we jungled up in some ditch.  I felt wonderfully dirty, and if I had a scissors on me I would have probably cut off my hair.  Train Doc found a hose that was in a secluded spot.  Boy did that cold water feel good.  We slept most of the morning and chatted about hobo life in general.  Doc believes that "those people" that look at us like we're nuts are simply envious.  A part of me agrees.  I mean, c'mon, would I rather be behind a computer listening to some ignorant, asshole attorney screaming about nothing-or, would I rather be out in nature, riding trains, going wherever I damn well please answering to no one??? Hummm.....

BridgeMiss.jpg (43318 bytes)Train Doc had a good statement about "it's not a matter of being irresponsible, it's a matter of CHOOSING to be non-responsible".  Give that some thought-it's an interesting meditation.  I thought of an ex-boyfriend and his materialistic, shallow, selfish ways, and how he constantly lectured me about my wanderlust and gypsy-like nature-as though it was a bad thing and I should be ashamed and seek help for my wanting to see the world.  According to him and many others, I was just plain crazy and unwilling to conform to everyone else's way of being.  For fuck's sake-just read the saying on this years Amory Hobo T-Shirt, "Not Everyone Who Wanders is Lost".  At that point I decided it was time to start regaining my self-respect.  Who would've thought that a Hobo train ride would have led me to that conclusion, eh?

In the afternoon we decided to take a bus into downtown.  We walked forever and then sat forever-and BTrainDoc.jpg (23520 bytes) no bus came.  Train Doc had the usual BDocLIFE.jpg (27388 bytes) conversations about nothing in particular, but I realized that he focuses on politics, religion, and the current war as compared to prior wars.  Regardless of my answers to his questions, he disagrees and it felt way too much like being back in the office, so I decided not to play anymore and took off on my own back towards our camp, in search of FOOD.  I hitched a ride and made my way to Bubba's Barbeque.  Life was good again....

 

We had just missed the train heading towards St. Louis, but at 6:30 P.M. we jumped on a sitting train, which according to the Fat Albert on the Train Yard mini-bike, was heading to Springfield, MO and then on to Tulsa, OwlHole.jpg (24298 bytes) OK.  It's such an awesome feeling knowing you can go anywhere you want on a split second notice.  I jumped on the front of a Grainer, and Doc hit an Owl Hole a couple of cars back.  I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and the peace and quiet.  We sat all the way until 5:30 A.M. the next morning before getting underway.  Riding trains is like forced therapy.  You have nothing but time and no outside distractions except nature.  You have no means of communication in or out, so most of the time you sit idle and BecJohnJohn1.jpg (46528 bytes) just  think.  I'm proud to admit that I didn't have too much to think about.  I listened to the wind through the trees and the birds chatter away.  I now know what John-John meant when he talked about the natural high you get when you find a great jungle and settle in for the night.

 

 

8 A.M. Wednesday April 21, 2004 and the sky opens up with that nasty weather that was coming across country.  I was soaked.  I did my best to keep my gear dry, but it was hopeless at this point.  I just sat it out and started singing to myself.  There was a bit of exhilaration when it finally stopped raining, and I stripped down to myRidingFree.jpg (49654 bytes) birthday suit and just laid in the car soaking up the sun.  I felt free!  There was absolutely no civilization  around and the views of the country side were  stunning through Arkansas and  through Southern Missouri.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself.  Well....until the sky started turning dark again.  The train wasn't stopping as frequently and I was starting to get nervous BARKANSASsign.jpg (27295 bytes) about getting caught in another downpour.  A drop here, a drop there-shit! it was raining again.  The train stopped within thirty minutes and I started throwing my gear off the side.  Train Doc was there to scoop it up for me.  Lo and behold the damn train starts to move, so I had to high tail it up onto the front of an un-rideable car BmoWel.jpg (47033 bytes) which was facing toward the back of Doc's Owl Hole.  OK I thought-the train will probably stop again soon.  Hell no! it rode faster and it rained harder and harder.  I had some type of braking device slamming into my back every few minutes, a 2x2 foot space to squat in, no head or side cover and it just rained and rained and got colder and colder.  I thought about ending it all with a back flip off the side, but it was about then the train slowed down and I crossed over to the Owl Hole.  I passed out from exhaustion and didn't wake up until morning.

Bokla.jpg (26655 bytes)April 22, 2004 Thursday and we arrived in Tulsa, OK.  As we were entering the Yard, we got onto the front of a grainer and within an hour, Doc throws his gear off the side and says, "Hope you can get off a moving train."  I thought to myself, "I hope so too."  I did OK, but I admit I felt my legs wobble and for a split second I thought I was going face first into the tracks to get decapitated.  I'm sure that's an exaggeration simply due to my fears.  Now, for some unknown reason, as worried as Doc is about getting caught, he was the King of Lolly Gag that morning.  Some guy in a truck rode by and saw us walking away from the train.  I insisted we keep moving, and Doc insisted we rest so he could get his bearings.  I entertained that idea for about 2 minutes and then just started walking.  We got off the Yard and Doc Lolly Gagged again under a tree.  As the weather was nasty, and tornado sirens were going off (I later find out that six funnels had touched down in the area thru the night, and concluded that's what we rode thru!).  All I wanted to do was keep walking towards some sort of cover.  As I was complaining about wanting to keep going, and as Doc was lying under a tree, sure enough here comes the BN bull!

Doc says, "Hello Officer" only to get a response of, "I don't give a damn, give me your ID's and take a seat."  We both thought for sure we were RRsign.jpg (17193 bytes) busted.  He comes back and looks at me and asks, "You OK?"  "Uh, yes Officer", I reply.  "Do you have any water?" he asks.  Doc says we're OK, but I say, "No, I don't."  He comes back with two bottles and I down them as if a starving animal.  A part of me was incredibly embarrassed.  I could only imagine what I must look like, and that I looked so bad that he felt sorry for me, and how stupid and hopeless he must think I am.  The officer then starts lecturing Doc saying, "It's obvious you've been doing this for some time, but this is her first time.  You have no business taking a woman like this out.  Do you know how dangerous it is?  Just last week we pulled someone dead off the tracks.  They will shoot you for your shoes in this area.  Your train had two huge tankers of toxic chemicals and you rode through tornadoes."  He goes on and on and it sure worked on me!  He spooked hell out of me, and I was convinced I was heading home to Florida at that point.  It was just that the weather was so bad, and I already rode through the worst of it, my gear was soaked and the thought of another night out was NOT appealing whatsoever.

He didn't take us in, but rather informed us that our names were in the system as illegal train riders, oh-and where the nearest Homeless Shelter was located.  We made our way to the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless, where I stood in line for my styrofoam cup of coffee, and then another line for my hand towel, small plastic cups of shampoo, conditioner, baby oil, lotion, powder, as well as a razor.  It's amazing how much we take things for granted.  I mean you have no idea how good a hot shower feels until you've rode for two days on a freight train, part of which was curled up in a filthy Owl Hole.

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Thursday April 22, 2004 7:00 P.M. I was on a Greyhound Bus heading back to Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  27 and 1/2 hours later I arrived back home in Florida at 10:30 A.M. Saturday April 24, 2004.

bECdOC11.jpg (47127 bytes)So there you have it, my first 603 train miles through Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma.  My thanks to Train Doc for his guidance and perseverance and to all the Hobo Family for your help and advice with my first time out.  I hope to see you all down the line.

 

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Luv, Train Dummy-Rebecca - email me at

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