Hospitality in the Hobo Jungle?
White County Historical Society member Earnest Best hoboed through the Depression and wrote a fascinating book about it years later. Another writer’s recent article about “riding the rods” and enjoying camaraderie of the hobo jungle and its famed mulligan stew drew this contrary response:
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n all my travels, I only saw one man riding the rods. Some say it was common practice, but I disagree. The bribe of ‘a dollar a division’ may have been part of a few ‘bo’s experience, but in all my wandering, I was never asked to ‘pay up.’ I’m sure some were.
“The ‘jungles’ were not always as friendly as one might like to think. I’ve seen some real knock-down-drag-out, bloody fights during the making of a mulligan stew. There were those who would go out and scrounge, and contribute to the process, but there were always those like some that John Smith had in his colony … they were averse to work of any kind. They were spongers. This most always created a fracas.
“Bums, tramps, hobos: yes, they were all different. A true hobo was honest, kept his pride, would work for whatever he got, and in general was a nice guy that one enjoyed visiting with. On the other hand, the bum was lazy, wouldn’t work, usually dirty, not very sociable. He could lie down beside work and go to sleep. The tramp was a sort of mixture of the two … a hybrid. He might work (a little) if he was faced with starvation. But he’d rather not … there were plenty of other people that he was willing to let do the work. The hobo did resent being called a bum. There was a cute song in that era, called ‘I know I’m A Hobo, But Don’t Ever Call Me A Bum!’”