Blog Title Card

Blog Title Card

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The blog shall not be silenced!

To all:

Thank you for your concern these past 6 months or so.  I have received an outpouring of support and concern expressed by e-mail and personal visit since the abrupt TEMPORARY silencing of this blog.  Your kind words are very much appreciated.

The truth is, I was accosted and relocated multiple times after a recent post, and have spent the summer so far seeking out safe places to make arrangements.  To start, I want to let everyone know that I am alright, and will continue to run this blog as long as I am able.  It may be less frequent than it once was, and it may be some time before I feel safe enough to begin again with any regularity, but I feel it is important and will continue to do so as long as I can.  Actually, if the events of the previous six months have taught me anything, it is just how powerful, moving and inspiring this blog can be--"life changing", in the words of some--and I have made a solemn vow to continue it.  And, if I am am ever unable to proceed myself, it will now continue in my absence.  More on that in a minute.

Allow me to start at the beginning.  I've been marginally aware of a group of transient highbrows who are not pleased with the publication of this blog, and the blatant introduction of our life-style to the "carpet walkers" of the world.

However, until recently, it was only the occasional e-mail or writ note conveyed through a Messenger Man that ever communicated the notion that my forum here was unappreciated (a "you better quit it or else" sort of thing).  Essentially harmless.

That is, until my post dated 07 January of this year.

I'm sure most of the regulars are well aware of the post I am referring to.  I alluded to some Rail Men language, phrases and ideas that some consider sacred and not for public consumption.

I will not get into details as to what transpired shortly after the publishing of that post, but there are two things you need to know.  I am still here, and this blog remains.  In fact, I am proud to say that very post still remains.  I did nothing wrong and will not be censored.

Fret not, friends, I will be fine.  And I have put a multiple-layer structure in place to ensure the proper protection of this forum in the event of my inability to operate it.  This is much too important, I have found, to allow it to be so susceptible to the whims of hobo elitist bullies.

As my good friend frequently says, "keep the flame, my brothers".  The road of the righteous is not always an easy stride.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Turkey & Rice Day!

I happened upon a troop of wild turkeys making their way across the way north part of Brain-Bridge Road today.  I selected a nice, fat one with a gimp and will be enjoying boiled turkey and rice tonight!  Yum, yum!  It's too bad I didn't happen upon this plump squawker back in November!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Monday, January 7, 2013

Ode to the Rails

There's really nothing like a day spent on the rails.  A hobo gathering under a bridge is one thing, but a to see a throng of Train Men gathered near a roundhouse or movie-it-or-lose-it dredge encapsulates the feeling of brotherhood in this old vagrant's mind.

The wind in my hair, the sun at my back, fresh air in my lungs and my treasures in a knap-sack.  Ah, yes, there's nothing like riding the rails.

The tattoos, the hand-signs, the language, the feeling of familiarity and family.  Ah, yes, there's nothing like riding the rails.

The food, the fresh mountain water, the arid desert wind, the bubbling Tommo Gravy.  Ah, yes, there's nothing like riding the rails.

The dank smell of a comfortable old box-car, the warmth, a hint of old grain and molasses   Ah, yes, there's nothing like riding the rails.

A new bed every night, a new sunrise every morn'.  Ah, yes, there's nothing like riding the rails.

To my Train Men brothers out there, I shall join you again soon--if only for a short visit.  In the meantime, take this sentiment to heart:

Ah buckskin hard -t- ah malama day for the eighteenth double-toot pulling Aces all night long til the red red morning Sauce!

I have to think a few of you can understand such treasured old lingo!

To the rest of you, who prefer the warm familiariy of a common place over the rails....I understand, I really do.  But this old soul is meant to fly in the steel bosom of an iron bird.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Don't Forget: Thursday is Share With a Vagrant Day!

It's been nearly four dozen years since famed hobo luminary East Texas Jon came across an elderly fellow transient in the city of Antioch, on the verge of death, weakly preparing for himself a shoe polish sandwich.  ETJ, as he's now commonly known, was brought to tears by the sight.  He spent the next month sharing with this poor soul a full half of his food, warmth, company and affection, nursing him back to health.  That spring he taught him how to boil a fox belly before the two parted ways.

The date of that initial meeting was January 10, and it is a day that is very special to those in the vagrant community.  In recent years, some have taken the whole week to celebrate the spirit of giving and brotherhood, strengthening those Five Pillars.

Should you happen to come across a fellow 'bo making himself a meager shoe polish sandwich...or perhaps having trouble lighting his fire, or finding clear water to drink, or is unable to locate a warm place to stay, or any other dire need...why not give him a hand?  It is this spirit of unforced unity and brotherhood that helps keep us all afloat on this ever-shifting raft of life.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I Am Resolute! 10 Ways I'd Like to Keep The Flame in 2013...

Hello friends and readers, vagrants and carpet-walkers alike.  I thank you for another impressive year of discussion, thought, travel and well-being.  I greet this New-Year with resolution and forward-thought.

Why not e-mail me your own resolution in this New Year?  The mail-bag is always open, friends.

Train Tom's 10 Resolutions for 2013:

10.) Update The Transient Way - A Hobo Blog more regularly.  Our readership is increasing and interest is coming in from all angles.  This makes my heart glad.
9.) Travel more.  This may seem to go in contrast to Resolution #10, but really, in today's age, it does not.  I can travel from place to place and still find a way to get on-line, be it at the local public or a community center.  My foot has healed well and it is time for me to get back on the road.  I've missed you, Lady Travel, ever so dearly.
8.) RIDE THE RAILS.  An accouterment to Resolution #9.  This former Train Man has not ridden on the bosom of an iron horse in near four years.  I miss the wind in my hair and the sun shining bright overhead.  2013 will see my return to the tracks, believe you me.
7.) Render more wild game.  Too much of my food has been processed by another in recent months, even years.  It's high time for me to again master the skill of Forage, particularly in rendering my own dietary meat and grease.  I've always enjoyed butchering, but takes time...not to mention the skill of the hunt.  It's time to stop making excuses and enjoy the fruits of the wild once more.
6.) Meet someone new every day.  This seems like an odd resolution for a man of the transient persuasion, but there are often days where I am my own company, lying close to the fire and not inviting social graces.  Time spent alone can be a wonderful reprise, but time spent with others is heavenly.
5.) Invite more outside participation in The Transient Way - A Hobo Blog.  By far the most-read articles on this site are the Questions of the Week and the Op-Ed pieces by guest essayists.  Both of those require the utilization of outside thoughts.  I resolve to incorporate ever more thoughts and opinions in this forum other than mine own.
4.) Bathe in a hot spring.  For those of you who like to geo-track my progress around the nation, here's a head's up: I plan to spend a portion of 2013 down Arkansas way.
3.) See a white-tail Cottonal Dewee.  It's one of the legendary beasts whose lore is passed down from one generation of vagrant to the next.  A creature so rare that it's not ever been found, classified or studied by modern animal scientists, only observed by transients who have the closer relationship with nature.  I saw a small gray-tailed one many years ago, but I'd love to see a full-size White.  They are said to roam the high forests of the American Southeast, a mixture of deer and hare, with the face of a man frozen in death's scream.
4.) Brew some of my famous Pickle Brau and serve it to friends old and new.
3.) Find my old friend, Huckleberry Builder.  Huck is a self-taught stone-mason, who builds his own remarkable additions to existing stone structures (usually old stone foundations in the woods).  I was hoping this web-log would attract ol' Huck to contact me, but so far it has not.  I do, however, have a tip on a structure he build some years ago, so I'm hoping to travel to that area to see if he's still in the vicinity.
2.) Find a recipe for a nice, therapeutic balm to help with muscle and joint aches.
1.) Convince my friend Gumball to author at least three to four essays throughout the year.  He's a treasure, his essays always spark the greatest social media discussions and feedback to my e-mail bag. To be honest, he would be a better Hobo Blog moderator than I (although he has quite firmly rejected the notion a number of times).  We all love hearing from Gumball, so my #1 Resolution for this new year is to continue to gently press him for more words of wisdom and encouragement.  He's quite an amazing individual.

How about you, good friends and neighbors?  What are your resolutions?  Do any of them match mine?  E-mail them in, friends.  If I get a goodly amount of responses I will contribute a day's wordage to them.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Little Levity

Heard this one today behind the bowling alley by the train tracks.  Thought I'd share.

Said one tramp to another, "I think I'm going to quit smoking.  It's becoming too dangerous."
"Really?", asked the other.
"Yes," replied the first, "Twice today I picked up a cigarette butt and someone nearly ran me over!"


In solidarity,

Train Tom

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Daidi na Nollag!

Donga Dai!

Nollaig Shona Duit!

I spent all last night placing my hand-made ornaments on people's doorsteps.  Happy Christmas!

Now this old elf needs some Christmas sleep!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Op Ed: "A Tool Most Useful & Dangerous"

There has been a lot of buzz on social media since my post this afternoon, wondering whose today's guest essayist would be.

It's been a long time since we heard some words of wisdom from my old friend Gumball, noted Hobo Historian and legend of his craft.  His offering this evening certainly does not disappoint and will well worth the wait.  Enjoy.

I've walked the hallowed streets of transiency for near four decades.  

Before that, I knew the life-style through my brother, my uncle and my great-grandfather, who were proud vagrants of the train & way-fare variety.  I don't bring these topics up to boast, oh no.  There are men who have been living the lifestyle a lot longer and more effectively than I, who consider myself a mere steward of this earth.  

A student, never more.

Instead, I bring up my years ingrained in this lifestyle as credentials to comment on some of the changes I've observed, both in the short- and in the very long-term.

Technology is a tricky thing.  Used modestly it allows us some beautiful advances, such as chicken hock that can last, unrefrigerated, for months.  Or a way to make an egg be fully cooked yet so deliciously runny.  But when abused--well, you know what happens when it's abused, friends.  When abused we have a populace that locks itself behind four walls and reinforced doors, or travels in the tight-packed insulated bubble of an automobile.  We end up with children who have never had opportunity to look up at a star-soaked sky, or old men who lie down in their death bed without ever watching the sun rise over an unknown horizon.

Technology has it's place in a transient's life--we're much better off than our fore-fathers in a goodly number of respects.  But there is a reason we choose to live this life, friends.  Let us not forget that.  

There is a reason we choose to live without the clutter of so-called modern convenience always at our fingertips.  There is a reason we abstain from the cutthroat rat-race of today's society.

For full disclosure, I freely admit that I am writing this essay from behind the glow of a computer's screen.  I sit here in the New Haven Public Library at 6:30 PM on a cold Wednesday evening, although the temperature in here is a comfortable 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  I rationalize this--perhaps presumptively--by using my time on-line to advocate for the Transient Lifestyle.  And (to me, most importantly), when I leave this warm building at the end of my hour, I will return to a bridge or the underside of a boat dock, build myself a fire and share stories of times past with my vagrant brothers of the night.

As we move forward into the future, we are bound to see more transients with access to technology--be it cellular phones, lap top computers or even television and radio hook ups.  Some will accept this as part of the changing culture, and others will despise such sights.  I only ask that you all, as individuals, periodically assess your technology use and make sure that you are staying within your own self-imposed boundaries.

As with any other luxury  technology can be used to the point of abuse.  Let us never forget our purpose, friends, and not allow our way to be deluded by the unneeded use of technological tools.  Our way of life is not easy, but it is important.

It always has been.

Keep the flame, my brothers.


In solidarity,

Train Tom

Featured Guest Essay to be Posted Tonight!

It's been ages since we had a guest writer for The Transient Way. Well tonight I expect that to change!

I can't give details on who it is yet, but I guarantee you'll be thrilled. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

QOTW: The Clothes Make the Man

I open the mail bag, and what do I seek?
Here in my right hand, the question of the week!
Do you have a question? Come pass it along!!

Hello friends, today's Question of the Week comes to us from Cathy J. of Spring, Texas.

Cathy writes:
"Do you people just wear the same thing every day? Because that's just nasty."

Well, Cathy, personal commentary aside, sometimes it's just a matter of function when a vagrant chooses to employ the use of the same clothes from one day to the next. As the brisk fall transitions into a frigid winter, many of us elect to simply keep adding to our layers. The opposite is likewise true as the weather gradually warms again. So while we may well technically be wearing "the same clothes", our wardrobe is constantly evolving on account of need and function.

One hobo secret that I'll let you in on is how to store clothing items that are unneeded for the season. I once found a wonderful, thick woman's wool coat
out behind the bowling alley. She must have been a big lady, because that coat wrapped around me easy. Boy oh boy was that a fine coat. Wealthy woman, too, no doubt, on account of her throwing it out on account if just a few pinworms.

Anyhow, I wore that warm coat all through that winter and kept oh so toasty warm.

That spring, as the coat became heavy and uncomfortable in the warm rain, I employed an old hobo trick for storing items of seasonal value...I buried it!

It took some time to find her again, but it was sure worth the effort. That beautiful wool coat had eight full months to marinate in the earth, acquiring a near waterproof membrane of tight-packed dirt and mildew on the outer surface. What a great old coat that was.

I buried her again the following spring, but never could recall where I'd left it. Eight years later I still go look for her when I'm back that way. By now, I imagine, she'd be just about the ultimate barrier against the icy winds and snow.

Thanks for the question, Cathy J.! Keep them coming, everybody!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Hip Shimmy and a Leg Shake


One interesting way some of my transient bretheren have chosen to keep warm is through dance.  While I am a little leery of any activity that burns excess calories (epecially during these cold winter months), it is gaining popularity.

What occurs is that a group of five or more vagrants will gather together in a central location, preferably out of the wind and near a fire.  Between two buildings in a downtown district would be a good location, especially with a burning trash can in the center of the alley.  Otherwise under a bridge or somewhere with a brick wall you can get good and hot would work fine.

One will crouch and bang two tin cans together, and at least one other will clap in time.  The rest will dance gaily about, exercising their muscles and building body heat to dispel the cold.

I was walking along 53rd Ave the other day looking for bottle caps.  There, to my left, near the post office, was an old transient dressed warm and dancing away.  What a sight!

It's a good idea, I suppose, but you'd best ensure you had a good meal to replace those calories.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cold Out There Tonight

Huddle with your fellow 'bo and dress warm tonight, friend. The cold will cut to the weary bone tonight.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Sunday, December 9, 2012


It's a good night to be close to a warm flame, with a pair of heavy mittens and a tin can full of bubbling hot water!

I add a squirt of maple syrup that I find in packages outside the movie theater, and a little nip of Hobo Whiskey to help me sleep!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Recipe: "The King's" Nutty Buddy Fried Elvis Sandwich

It was 56 years ago today that the world was first introduced to a motion picture starring Elvis Aaron Presley, things would never the same again.

The "King of Rock & Roll" led a long, industrious career, and is probably best known for his love of savory fried nut-based sandwiches.

In that vein, here is an Elvis-inspired recipe of my own concoction, that I think you will like very much.  The Sandwich has left the building, and entered your belly!

"The King's" Nutty Buddy Fried Elvis Sandwich
Grated yellow cheese (or regular cheese sliced fine with a pocket knife)
Four or five packets of fast food condiment Mayonnaise
Three index fingers full of peanut butter
Half a handful of salted peanuts
Square of chocolate
Shallow bowl
Turning stick

Oil up a pan and get it nice and hot and sputtery.  Butter two slices of bread.  In the shallow bowl, mix the cheese, mayonnaise and peanut butter.  Slather the spread onto one slice of bread (non-buttered side).  Place the excess peanuts and chocolate on top.  Cover with the other slice of bread.

Lie one of the butter-sides of the sandwich down.  Leave to cook for a few minutes.  Use the stick to see when it begins to brown.  When it is ready, use the stick to turn it over.

Serve hot, so the cheese is gooey and the chocolate melted.  Enjoy!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Sunday, October 7, 2012

blood in urine

yahoo answers i am peeing blood

pictures of bloody pee different ratios

what is wrong with thi

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Full Compliment of Appendages

Friends, let's be thankful, those of us that have a full compliment of appendages.  Can you imagine what life would be like without an arm, or a leg, or a hand or a foot or even a few of our precious fingers or toes?  We may not appreciate them all on a daily basis, but we utilize these appendages more than we tend to realize or appreciate.

If you have full use of all of your facilities, try to take some time to appreciate them.  Care for them, allow them a warm soak in a truck stop sink, or rub them down with some spare oil.  Our arms and legs do a lot for us, friends.  Let us not forget that.

And if you happen upon a poor soul who has a hook for an arm or a solid oak block for a foot, give him a hand, so to speak.  Help him out, make something easier for him.  Something simple, but meaningful.  I guarantee you it will be appreciated.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Thursday, August 9, 2012

RECIPE: Summer Sizzlin' Pulled Pork

I talked recently about the wonderful, varied tastes of summer.  To this old bag-man, nothing accompanies a hot summer day better than some greasy and flavorful barbeque.

This one's a keeper, friends.  Why not give 'er a try tonight?

Pack of salted ham lunch-style sandwich slices
Three good handfuls of bbq sauce packets (free, with a little insistence, at most fast food restaurants and gas stations)
Two mustard packets
Taco sauce packet (optional)
Bread/Bun pieces (optional)
Tin foil
Small cup of water
Clean stick
Metal box with holes in the sides
Three good smears of grease or oil

Get a medium sized fire going.  Set the metal box on top of it.  Make sure holes are punched in the sides of the box so that the fire can stay good and hot underneath it.  Allow the box to get very hot to the touch.

Meanwhile, form a shallow bowl out of a few sheets of tin foil.  Smear the bowl down with a goodly amount of grease or oil.  Put the tin foil bowl on top of the box, and let it warm.  Drizzle a few swigs of water onto the tin foil bowl, it should sputter and steam up real nice.

Empty all of the condiment packets into the sputtering water.  Mix it up nice, so that it is a consistent light brown color.  Using the rag, carefully remove the bowl from the heat.

While the bowl and barbecue slurry is still good and warm, add all the meat slices to the bowl one at a time.  Mix the sauce so that it slathers both sides of all meat slices.

Put the bowl back on the metal box.  As it heats, add small amounts of water periodically so that it doesn't burn.  Allow the sauce to reduce and thicken.

Using the rag, remove the bowl a final time.  Lay out bread.  When the meat is cool enough to handle, pick up each piece and "pull" it apart into small chunks or strips.  Fill each bread piece with a generous amount of meat.  Drizzle sauce over the top of each, and add pepper to taste.

Yum, yum!  It's a lot of work, but it's well worth it.  I find it's best to cook this up just before nightfall, so I can sit back in front of my fire in the warm summer dusk, listening to the crickets and enjoying life.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Monday, August 6, 2012

Backyard Grill Buffet!

It's summertime, friends.  Hot days and muggy, serene nights.  One of the wonderful perks of nice weather is that it draws so many carpet-walkers out of their shells.  I was at the playground earlier today looking for coins in the sandbox, and it was wonderful to see how many of them were out enjoying the weather with me, talking and laughing and preparing food far from their stuffy kitchens.

Warm weather sure brings some delicious smells and tastes outdoors, and either later today or tomorrow I will be sharing one of my very favorite hearty summertime hobo meals.  Today, though, I'd like to talk about being neighborly and sharing a bite with a friendly wayward carpet-walker.

The families I encountered at the playground were enjoying some grilled meats and vegetables at the nearby pavilion.  After working up a little courage (I'm always a little nervous about striking up social conversation with non-vagrants, as some can be very judgmental), I decided to wander over and introduce myself.  I'm glad I did.

At first they seemed to be a little leery as to why my hands and knees were saturated with sand, and that I was wearing several layers of duct tape as shoes.  I lightened the mood with a joke about two transgendered magicians that had wandered onto a pirate ship.

When all was said and done, I ended up being offered a piece of grilled chicken, grilled & buttered corn-on-the-cob and a can of soda-pop before I was sent on my way.

I encourage you to try to get out there and enjoy the company of carpet-walkers and their tasty grilled meats, complete with seasonings, rubs and marinades.  It really does make for a nice change of pace from your traditional hobo slurry.

For my shy readership, there are less-social alternatives to striking up a conversation at a playground or park.  A great way to get a few bites of this sort of food is by helping yourself to the large buffet that is the average American neighborhood.  Most carpet-walkers will leave their grills unattended for long stretches, and it's really unlikely that they will miss a half a hot dog, quarter of a steak or chicken breast skin.  Some frown upon the practice, but helping yourself to a sample really doesn't do anyone any harm--as long as you don't go overboard!  Make sure to leave them more than plenty for the working man.  By picking a half dozen or so grills instead of focusing on just one, everyone can enjoy their fair share.

And, hey, perhaps the carpet-walkers will end up sticking around to tend to their grills.  That's great, too!  Stop by, say hello, offer a smile, a story or an anecdote.  They'll no doubt share some of their bounty with a weary traveler.

Remember to always be respectful and courteous.  There's almost always plenty to go around.

In solidarity,

Trian Tom

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Salt Packing

It is very dry around the country this summer, and most people are forgoing rigorous salt-packing for their non-canned items, such as a cut of meat.  "The moisture is not in the air", they say, "The mold will stay away!"

Even on very dry days there is still a risk of contaminating your precious food, especially when the air temperature is very hot.  If you are lucky enough to be transporting a hock of meat, it is best to take the time to properly salt-pack it if you aren't going to eat it within a few days.

People having been using salt to preserve food for thousands of years.  Salt has even been used as a form of currency when it was not readily available.  They say that wars have been fought, kingdoms toppled and vast stretches of the world's land discovered all because of the salt-trade.  What a wonder!

Salt is not nearly as valuable today, and you can find all the salt you need, for free, with half a day's effort.  Simply hit up all the fast food restaurants and find your salt packets in the same way you do ketchup or taco sauce packets.  A good way is to go when its busy and walk up to the counter as if you are already dining, and ask if you can have "more salt for your meal".  9 times out of 10, the cashier won't even realize you hadn't previously ordered anything.

Make the rounds to perhaps 10 fast food restaurants, and then go again later in the day when the shift has changed.  You will have all the salt you need.  If you are so inclined, share the rest of your bounty with a needy fellow in exchange for a tale or a song.

Salt-packing your meat is easy.  Simply drizzle your meat with a little oil or grease (water works fine, too, in a pinch), and then put a good 1/8" layer of salt on the top of the meat.  Don't be stingy!  The top layer of this salt can be re-used later, so don't be shy to use as much as you need.  Pack it down nice and firm into the surface of the meat.  Lay a cloth or piece of tin foil over the salt, then turn it over, and do the same on the other side.  Apply salt in a similar fashion to the sides of the meat, and then wrap it tightly.  Your meat will keep for months! (Although mine never seems to stick around that long!  Ha! Ha!)

Not only is your meat going to keep from spoiling this way, but this dry salt-marinade will actually make the meat more tender and tasty when you do end up boiling it.  Salt Packing: A Functional and Flavorful Discipline!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

A Good Old-Fashioned Meat-Fold

If you have a hungry group with a sparing amount of supplies available, a Meat-Fold can be a great way to quell those hunger pangs.

A meat-fold is a communal activity.  Basically, you gather all your meat slices (the kind that come in packets, such as turkey or honey ham) and lay them out on a picnic bench.  I'd say the average packet contains about 20 slices, give or take.  Then have everyone bring their garnishes--cheese, condiments, oils, pickles and the like.

The original idea of a meat-fold is that these garnishes can be distributed between some of the meat, and then the meat is folded over on itself, hiding what is (or isn't) inside.  When garnishes are limited, some of the meat will not have anything in it.  Other meat will have a nice dollop of mustard, or oil, or pepper or whatever else has been brought.  The folds are handed out in equal ration, at random, to those participating.

The intent is that some will feel lucky when they get a fold filled with goodies on the inside.  But, even in instances where your meat-fold is empty on the inside, you still don't feel too bad...even in the worst case, you're still getting some delicious meat!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Pack of Matches and a Small Bell

I lost a pack of matches and a small bell somewhere on Devil's Glen Road in Bettendorf, Iowa today.  More than likely it's near Devil's Glen Park (but not in the park, as I took inventory shortly after returning to the road).

If you find these items, enjoy them.  The great Lost & Found of life is a way for two people who will never meet to share a sacred connection.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Downed Power Lines

I received some upsetting news this morning.  A good friend of mine that I met a number of years ago in Tallahassee named Plumb has passed away.

Plumb was a good man, could whistle the full musical scale and played a mean game of gin rummy.  His favorite meal was cheese-bread.  He was once in the military, although he would never say what branch.  He always smelled like women's perfume ('[his] mother's smell').  He loved a good pair of warm gloves.  He collected "No U-Turn" signs.  He also loved animals, especially feral cats.

The last time I saw Plumb was in late 2004.  He didn't talk to me much that day, he was busy looking for logs by the interstate.

Apparently he died three years ago after making contact with downed power lines.  I'd like to ask all of my readers to keep in mind how dangerous downed power lines can be.  As vagrants, it's always tempting to explore, especially when things change in an area we know well.  But power lines can be very dangerous, and oftentimes when they are down they are still carrying an electric charge.  Apparently Plumb came across such lines and thought they were shut off, and he was trying to strip them for spare copper.

Be careful out there, please.  And be sure tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.  There are a lot of things I wish I could have shared with old Plumb.

Rest in peace, old friend.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Monday, March 14, 2011


Rain!  Oh glorious rain, how I've missed you!

Each year I always wonder if I'll ever say that again, but after suffering through a long, cold, icy and snowy winter, it's lovely to see some precipitation that doesn't put my extremities at risk!

If the rain gets you down, there are plenty of ways to keep dry.  Blankets will quickly get wet and soaked through, but an old tarp will keep you dry all day!  I use a shower curtain I found on the curb outside the Y.

Unfortunately most old umbrellas you find are in poor shape, so to keep your head warm and dry simply find or make a wide-brim hat.  A bucket with holes punched in will work in a pinch!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Buffet Train!

For those of you who still keep some spending money on your hands, I encourage you to greet the gradually warming weather and treat yourself to a Sunday lunch buffet tomorrow at a local eatery.  I know, this kind of goes against the 'live off the land' mentality we vagrants strive to hard to foster, but it's nice to get a taste of the carpet-walker's life from time to time.

Tomorrow there will be thirteen of us vagrants running a train on a buffet in Rockford.  We've saved up all month long, and are really going  to let loose!

Here are some tips we've compiled in planning the event:

1.)Be selective!  Choose the right buffet if there are several within walking distance.  Keep an eye on price and food offered.  One of the most important things to remember when spending hard-earned monies on a buffet is CALORIE INTAKE.  You need to use the precious time spent at the buffet to engorge yourself on as many calorie-heavy foods as possible.  We'll get to that more in a minute.  But the point is, do your research.  There is a big difference in selection at a Sunday-only Chinese buffet than a 7-day establishment.  American buffets often provide a heavy selection, but tend to be a few dollars more.  Avoid Mexican, Indian and Greek buffets altogether if you are looking to really load up on calories.  Also, try to find a buffet where you can get your own drinks (limited wait staff) to help avoid raising flags as to 'staying too long'.

2.)Sit and stay!  Proprietors will be looking to move you along as fast as they can (the longer you stay, the more it costs them), but there are strategies that can be used to extend your stay.  Be wary of establishments that shoo out diners between breakfast and lunch, or between lunch and dinner.  I once spent a full thirteen hours at a buffet before finally being escorted out.

3.)Go when it's busy!  As stated in #2, many establishments really frown on diners staying for more than a few hours.  Many "mom & pop" style places, where the owner is on site, will actually keep watch for people who look like they are looking to park there for the day.  It's easier to keep a low profile if you go during a rush, and Sundays work especially well because they are usually filled with the 'after church' crowd for most of the morning into the late afternoon.  Change tables every hour or so to avoid suspician on part of the wait staff.

4.)Load up on calories!  While most of America is watching their waist-lines, us vagrants are coming out of a long winter and likely haven't had a square meal in a while.  Paying $5 or $6 dollars for a buffet means we have to make the most of our money, and that means calorie-loading.
Here are some of my suggestions on that front:
* Pile on deep fat fried foods.  Fried chicken, fried meats, french fries, chicken nuggets, et al.  Don't dip it in ketchup...dip it in a calorie-rich slurry.  I like to take mashed potatoes, gravy, sour cream (equal parts with the mashed potatoes), three or four butter packets, grated cheese from the salad bar, mac & cheese and ranch dressing.  Mix the slurry up and dip your chicken nuggets, fried chicken and whatever else.  Yum!
* Avoid vegetables.  We vagrants eat more vegetables than the average American on a daily basis, due to their potability in cans.  At the buffet, steer clear!  Only hit the buffet table for dressings, mayonnaise-based salads (krab salad, tuna salad, etc) and cheeses.
* Slather.  Find the most calorie-rich dressing (sour cream or ranch dressing usually works well, blue cheese dressing even better!) and douse everything in it.  Sop up the empty plate with buns stuffed with butter packets.
* Go easy on the beverages.  Sure, they add some sugar and calories to the mix, but a cup full of fried chicken skin and mac & cheese beats a cup of Fresca any day.

5.)Don't be bashful about take-outs!  I know, I know, it's a social faux pas to take home a "doggie bag" from a buffet.  Hey, I'll leave that up to you--but consider this: Anything left on my plate is going in the garbage anyway, and it breaks my heart to see all those calories go to such waste.  Imagine how much they throw away over the course of a day, week, month, year!  I think they can part with some stray items going to good use.  Anyway, be coy about it.  Fill up your bags, pockets, shirts, hats and so forth when no one is looking.  We don't want to cause a scene.  I like to fill my clothes with chicken skin...not only does it form-fit and pack a great caloric punch, but my clothes smell heavenly afterwards!

Remember, don't abuse the buffet--I make it a once-a-year, mid-March ritual.  It takes a little away from the spirit of vagrancy, but when used sparingly it can give you a great pre-spring jolt!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bean Pottage

On those coldest of evenings when even a deflected wind wants to cut deep to your bones, warm yourself up a nice soupy bean pottage and stoke the kindling of your body's hearth.

I like to take a nice can of red beans--the kind that are nice and meaty with flesh that just sloughs right off the bean curd--and get a good fire going.  I'll take a knife a pop a tab-sized hole in the top of the tin and set the can right down on the fire.  You'll know it's done when the slurry begins bubbling up from the hole.

Carefully take the can, using an article of clothing or a handful of rags to protect your fingers from the flame. The hot can will soon warm these protestants and your hands below them.  After allowing the can to settle, drink the pottage straight from the can.  It will be nice and warm and bubbly, delicious.  Afterward you can choose to pop the lid and eat the dry ingredients right then and there, or save them for the next day's meal.  Anything to warm us from this bitter cold!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Walking Sticks

I wanted to talk a little bit today about the topic of walking sticks.  Webster's defines "walking stick" as:

A stick held in the hand and used to help support oneself while walking.  

Sounds simple, right?  As our grass-walker friends forced to traverse rough, hilly terrain will tell you, sometimes the simplest things are the most important to get right.

What makes for a good walking stick?  I interviewed a number of friends of mine that wander the highlands, and while there were certainly different preferences cited, a number of themes came up over and over.

The walking sticks we'll discuss today are the type suited for moderately vigorous rural travels, not the variety used to support physical ailments such as canes.

Proper length, first and foremost, was the crux of most everyone's opinion on a quality walking stick.  There is no standard for conformity here, it has a lot to do with the user's stature.  "A good stick conforms to its' owner", stated Bagaby, a very old and dear transient friend of mine from the southwest United States.  It's more than just height, too...a properly proportioned stick will factor in the user's height, weight, arm length, leg length, torso length, length from shoulder to elbow, length from shoulder to wrist, length from elbow to wrist, and wingspan (left hand's middle fingertip to right hand's middle fingertip).  Obviously not everyone that utilizes a walking stick will take all these sorts of figures into account, but those who utilize walking sticks as so-called "tether to life" will appreciate more exacting proportions.  If you would like the full figure that is often used to measure out a proper walking stick's length and crotch angle, e-mail me at and I will get you in touch with a knowledgeable expert.

Next, crotch angle was prominently discussed, albeit with much discrepancy between those interviewed.  The crotch of a walking stick is the angle between the head (top third of the stick) and the knickers (bottom third).  This may sound strange to some, who are used to having a ramrod-straight stick for their travels (no crotch angle), but some rural walkers swear to it's importance.  Overall, the consensus seemed to be somewhere in the 10 to 15 degree range, although some preferred a much more abrupt angle.  My take on the matter is that it has a lot to do with the type of land being crossed (generally less of an angle in rocky areas, moreso in soft, marshy areas), and it has quite a bit to do with user preference.  If you are experiencing any sort of extended wrist fatigue, try increasing or decreasing your crotch angle.

Stick girth or shaft circumference was another much-discussed topic.  The consensus here was simply to achieve a balance of hand comfort and stick strength.  Obviously, the thinner the stick, the more apt it will be to snap (especially if used in vigorous travels).  On the other hand, too thick of a walking stick will cause significant problems, including everything from light fatigue to severe joint problems.

Material.  What sort of wood should you seek out in a quality walking stick?  In my experience, maple has been by far the most common.  But I'm a rail man (or a former one, anyway), so rural instruments are certainly not my forte.  Much of this is going to come from local availability, but take care to seek out a quality stick constructed from some sort of dense hardwood.  Investigate it thoroughly to see that there is no sign of trauma or fungus.  Almost everyone I interviewed for this essay said that if they are going to harvest their own walking stick (or are hired to find one for someone else), they extract it live from the tree.  Picking them up off the ground may be easier, but there may be some reason why the stick is separated from the tree that can cause problems down the road.

Finish.  It is wise to apply some resin or varnish to the walking stick, and most of those I talked to that used their sticks on a daily basis went to varying lengths to achieve and maintain the right finish (often referred to as "feel").  Some applied oil uniformly to the stick, applying multiple coats for a deep saturation into the wood.  Others took special care of the grip, everything from waxing to buffing to scuffing to singeing the head of the stick.  Many wrapped the head of the stick in some sort of material for extra grip, but this varied.  Some of the suggestions in this regard were duct tape, electrical tape, tightly woven twine saturated in paraffin wax, tar, rubber bands, sponges, leather, cloth and others.

You can seek out a good walking stick in the forest, but there was an almost unanimous consensus that it is better to have one fitted to you by an experienced rural vagrant.  Make sure this person is trustworthy and knowledgable before commissioning them to do this sort of work for you.  For that matter, expect to pay a fair amount for this sort of custom instrument.  Some are shocked at what is asked to procure, customize and finish a stick, but with use it will no doubt prove to be a very fruitful investment.  I know I'll be in the market for a new one this spring.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Quote of the Day

Your body is built for walking. 
--Gary Yanker

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

TIP: Lip Balm Recipe

A common complaint during the cold, dry winter months is sore lips.  The arid air robs our smackers of their natural moisture, and it can get to the point where wetting them with saliva can become extremely painful.

Lip balm can be a luxurious comfort on these long winter nights.  However, we all know the feeling of trading away good food or potables for something seemingly unessential (although those suffering from chapped lips might argue that moniker!)

A simple, effective solution is to use a few common garbage scraps and resources you may have lying around to make up your own batch.  Plus, you're likely to even have some left over, to give away or for trade!

Vagrant Lip Balm
1.5 inches of candle wax.
Smear of grease
Dollop of oil (preferably olive oil, but any will do)
Dollop of honey
Heating stone
Individual tins

Get a small fire good and hot.  Smear a 3" diameter of grease on a heating stone.  Warm up the heating stone until it is hot enough to make the candle wax nice and malleable.  Add oil and honey.  Crunch up the multivitamin until it is a fine powder, incorporate into goo with stick.  Ladle individual servings into tins.  Allow to cool thoroughly before using.  Do not eat.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Monday, January 24, 2011

Interesting article

I came across this essay on a vagrant-friendly newsgroup.  Definitely an outsider's perspective, but it gives a unique and unfiltered perspective that I find fascinating.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Storm's A'Coming

Batten down the hatches, my northeast U.S. readership!  My Baltimore-based transient weather reporter Holder says that the shells predict an ice storm in the next 48 hours.  Find a shelter, find a commune.  Stay in a library or a 24-hour retail store if necessary.  By all means, stay safe, stay together, stay warm!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Friday, January 21, 2011

Op Ed: Sugar & Spice...

Spirred on by Gumball's wonderful Op Ed, my good friend Satchmo from the Norfolk docks decided to share his two cents, with a little help from his brother (?) and eternal comrade named Petros, but his friends affectionately call him Tonk.

For those of you unfamiliar, Satchmo typically documents nearly everything that goes on around him, for what he claims will become his memoirs.  He's got literally stacks and stacks of the stuff, and it's interesting/exhausting to review.

Anyway, he insists on writing in his accustomed style no matter if it's his memoirs or an e-mail or a grocery list.  Give it a try, it's sure to grow on you.

Hello!  It’s Satchmo talking to you from my trusty Smith 8-10.  For many years me and Tonk have been fending for ourselves as vagrants and you tend to pick up a few skills as you go.  Today I’m gong to tell you how to get yourself some hot pecan pie!
    I have a bit of an advantage here as Tonk has been recognized as a Grade-A pie-snatcher in the tri-country area but I hope you still learn something from him that you can apply in your own ventures.  
“Yes, Hello Tonk, hello Reginold.”
Reginold is a little knick-knack that Tonk carries around, a mess of fence wire and twine he calls a rabbit.
“I’ll tell you what it is!  Now stop reading over my shoulder, it makes me nervous!”
Sorry for the interruption.  About pie-snatching, the secret to Tonk’s success is that he can smell a pie cooling on a windowsill from a mile away.  When he smells some pie he’ll shout “OH BOY!” and that’s my signal to grab him by the scruff of his neck to keep him from getting run over as he leads me to the pie.  He’s pretty single minded when he’s on the scent (not that he’s very many minded most other times) so keeping him out of harm is a big challenge.
    Locating the pie is the easy part.  It’s so temping to dash and grab that hot pecan pie off the windowsill and take off!  But that’s the sign of amateurs itching to get shot full of buckshot.  The true pie maestro will distract the pie owner so that an associate can take off with the pie safely.  
Tonk will hide in the bushes while I ring the doorbell and engage the man-of-the-house.  My go-to distraction is as a travelling salesman.  I doff my hat and give my best pitch.  Unwanted items you acquire at the hobo swap make great fodder for this.  The goal isn’t to make a sale but to distract the man long enough for the associate to abscond with the pie and take off!  Tonk will tweet like a red-bellied woodpecker and that’s when I know its time to excuse myself and scram!  
“That detail’s not important!  Now stop interrupting!”
If everything went well you will be well out of site before the absent pie is noticed.  Now your biggest challenge is how to enjoy that hot pecan pie!

You've given us a lot to think about, boys.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Reverend Tucibat's Eastern Tour

Reverend Tucibat maintains a number of summer hobo churches in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and winter ones usually around Dallas or in the Florida panhandle.  This winter, however, to bring some good cheer to vagrants stuck in the cold, he has been doing a series of goodwill ministry events in the American Northeast.

I don't usually prescribe to Thumpers or ministers in general, but Reverend Jimla is different because he gives his sermons with a wonderful hobo flair, including a lot of hobo history and Bible-related transient anecdotes.  It's worth giving him a listen, and if you can treat him to lunch I really encourage you to.  You'll have some great, memorable conversations.

I wish I would have known about this sooner, I know we get a lot of readership out of New York and New Jersey, and he's been in the Northeast since late Novermber.  Anyway, I will list here the dates/times/locations of his public sermons, all of which will be held in open-air street venues.

The talk given at each of these is entitled, "Jesus Was a Transient, Too!".  I have not heard this sermon myself, but it has come highly recommended from some close friends.

1/22 - Utica Ave. & Farrgut Rd. (under the train track overpass), East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. 10:00 AM
1/23 - Utica Ave. & Farrgut Rd. (under the train track overpass), East Flatbush, Brooklyn, NY. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM
1/26 - Brower Park (east of the basketball courts), Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY. 1:00 PM
1/27 - Brower Park (east of the basketball courts), Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY. 7:30 PM
1/29 - Mott Ave. & Beach Channel Dr. (parking lot behind Rodriguez Grocery), Far Rockaway, Queens, NY. 10:00 AM
1/30 - Mott Ave. & Beach Channel Dr. (parking lot behind Rodriguez Grocery), Far Rockaway, Queens, NY. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM
2/2 - Field between Riverview Dr. and Totowa Rd. (just east of Laurel Grove Cemetery), Paterson, NJ. 1:00 PM
2/3 - Field between Riverview Dr. and Totowa Rd. (just east of Laurel Grove Cemetery), Paterson, NJ. 7:30 PM
2/5 - Irving Ave. and Cohansey St. (dirt path near walking bridge), Bridgeton, NJ. 10:00 AM
2/6 - Irving Ave. and Cohansey St. (dirt path near walking bridge), Bridgeton, NJ. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM
2/9 - Parking area east of the State Street Bridge, Camden, NJ. 1:00 PM
2/10 - Parking area east of the State Street Bridge, Camden, NJ. 7:30 PM
2/12 - East Stafford St. & Baynton St. (under the Baynton Street alley train overpass), Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. 10:00 AM
2/13 - East Stafford St. & Baynton St. (under the Baynton Street alley train overpass), Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM
2/16 - East Stafford St. & Baynton St. (under the Baynton Street alley train overpass), Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. 1:00 PM
2/17 - Field southwest of St. Agnes Hospital, West Baltimore, MD. 7:30 PM
2/19 - Field southwest of St. Agnes Hospital, West Baltimore, MD. 10:00 AM
2/20 - Field southwest of St. Agnes Hospital, West Baltimore, MD. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM
2/23 - Clearing behind Jerusalem Mill Museum & Administration Building for Gunpowder Falls State Park, White Marsh, MD. 1:00 PM
2/24 - Clearing behind Jerusalem Mill Museum & Administration Building for Gunpowder Falls State Park, White Marsh, MD. 7:30 PM
2/26 - Light rail station at Gilroy Road, Cockeysville, MD. 10:00 AM
2/27 - Light rail station at Gilroy Road, Cockeysville, MD. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM
3/2 - Under the Penn Lincoln Parkway overpass (at Forward Ave), Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. 1:00 PM
3/3 - Under the Penn Lincoln Parkway overpass (at Forward Ave), Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA. 7:30 PM
3/5 - Old abandoned dock under Liberty Street bridge, Mount Washington, Pittsburgh, PA. 10:00 AM
3/6 - Old abandoned dock under Liberty Street bridge, Mount Washington, Pittsburgh, PA. 10:00 AM, 1:00 PM

Reverend Tucibat asked me to pass on that, while the sermon will have a Christian-theme, he really wishes to present a non-denominational atmosphere at these events.  So whatever your faith, whatever your belief, if you are able then certainly try to show up and enjoy the festivities.  Should be a fun time, and might get your mind off the cold for a while!

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fire Hatch

A sizable percentage of the readership of this blog are people that either know me personally or from other forums.  If you fall into one of these categories, chances are you have heard me weigh in (likely more than once) on my opinion on eternally-maintained Fire Hatches.

For those unaware, a Fire Hatch is a small, low flame kept in a small cavity in out of the wind.  The intent is that there will always be fire readily available when needed, without having to use a flint or a match or a lighter.

That's all well and good, but for years I have been a pretty outspoken critic of the Fire Hatch philosophy.  Unless someone is going to continually maintain it, I have always maintained that this sort of operation is just more trouble than it's worth.  It takes more effort, more supplies (wasted kindling!) and more attention than benefit.  If a group has a man that can constantly maintain it, sure, I always said, I guess that's ok, although it seems like wasted effort for someone who could otherwise be out foraging or earning.

And don't get me started on the alternative--those of you who maintain a Fire Hatch on your own, without constant maintenance throughout the day (and night), you forever run the risk of having it die, having it be stolen, or--heaven forbid--burning down a city block or two.  It's happened!

But!  The Steam Men I am currently housing with have a dedicated Fire Hatch, and I must admit it is damn nice to have around.  Not only does it keep the area nice and warm, but it saves the annoyance of having to rustle up kindling when you're hungry, not to mention trying to start a fire in wet conditions.  Our Fire Hatch even constantly boils a pot of water, and I can't tell you how beautiful it is to have constant, easy access to hot water through the night and into the morning.  Coffee, anyone?

It does come at a price, as all Fire Hatches will, and I'm not saying I have completely reverted on my opinion in all respects.  It still seems silly to me to maintain a Fire Hatch by yourself or in a small group.  But there are 9 of us here in the old abandoned industrial complex, and each day one stays behind.  Not exclusively for the Fire Hatch, but to do basic homemaker type duties which includes stoking the Fire Hatch and collecting kindling.

I know I'm going to get a lot of "told you so!" e-mail messages, and that's fine.  I'll admit it, having a Fire Hatch handy is a luxory that will be difficult to ever break myself of--it's wonderful to have around.  But just be careful before you create one, and know that it certainly helps if it can be shared communally.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

RECIPE: Fried Ketchup Sandwiches

Ketchup packets are a gift from the vagrant, easily portable, nutritious and darn good.  They can serve as a lovely condiment, a delicious accouterment to a meal, or--in a pinch--a fist full of packets can make a damn fine dinner on their own.

Sometimes, though, it's nice to throw our standard dishes a curve ball and get some new ideas for dressing up old ingredients.  I'm going to kick us off with an easy, inexpensive alternative to straight ketchup, Fried Ketchup Sandwiches.  Feel free to send me other ideas and I'll publish them as well--the mail bag is always open,

Fried Ketchup Sandwiches
3 ketchup packets (fast food style)
2 slices of bread

Lube up the pan with a fair slather of oil or grease.  Also wipe some on one side of each piece of bread. Heat the pan good and hot over a low open flame.  Apply contents of ketchup packets to ungreased side of one slice of bread.  Placed greased side down on pan.  Place other slice of bread on top of ketchup, greased side up.

Allow to fry for one full singing of Back Alley Kitty Cat (about 1.5 minutes).  Flip over sandwich, sing again.  Bread should be crispy and brown on both sides.  Enjoy!

Note: For a South-of-the-Border flare, replace one ketchup packet with a fast-food style mild taco sauce packet.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Warm Place to Stay

Just a quick update on my winter lodging situation.  A few weeks ago I came across a Steam Man named Len fishing in the Donner Street sewer and asked to sit with him a while.  After a friendly conversation (and a thorough vetting), he invited me to stay the night at his industrial home--an old, abandoned factory, office and warehouse facility on 8th and Glenny once called "Cunningham Materials".  I guess they used to manufacture custom metal shelving units.

There are eight Steam Men in the group: Len, Matchsticks, Steam Kyle, Ratchet, Marbles, Tummy, Steam Bud and Sweat Nuts.  They call themselves Clear River Steamers.  I explained my dire situation--the fact that my home had been under the bridge but it's just too cold to stay there, and my medical condition makes me immobile at the moment.

Thankfully, they took pity on me and took me in.  Not as an official member, by any means, but as a semi-permanent guest until spring.  I have some extra dues that are expected of me to stay there, but the warm lodging, safety, companionship and social gravitas offered by the other men are well work the extra expenditures.  I could have found a way to survive the winter on my own, I am sure, but a warm, safe place to stay and a relatively friendly group will sure make the season easier to bear.

The stereotype about Steam men is that they enjoy tinkering with the abandoned equipment and other supplies harvested from their industrial settings.  That's obviously not true for everybody, but this group has done some interesting things with the leftover Cunningham Materials machinery.  Steam Bud is going to have me assist him in converting an old hydraulic press into a way to make soap.  Matchsticks found a big stack of damaged screen doors and has been repairing them for some reason, and Sweat Nuts is convinced he can get an enormous old backup generator up and running again.

Should be an interesting winter, will keep you updated!

In solidarity,

Monday, January 10, 2011

QOTW: No one rides free?

NOTE: This post contains some adult language, please distribute only to appropriate parties.

 I open the Mail Bag, and what do I seek?  Here in my right hand, the Question of the Week!

Next time it may be, your question to Tom.  Email it,!

Do you really suck dick for rides?
- Lonny M., No city listed

Some of you may expect me to take offense for such a brash question, but this is something I have actually been asked a lot in conversation with non-vagrants and in the mailbag.  Best to address it concretely, once and for all.

Generally, modern vagrants do not panhandle nor hitchhike.  We've discussed before the difference between a legitimate homeless person and a vagrant, and we should add to that differentiation those desperate to travel for one reason or another.  Some people need to travel across the country to visit a sick relative, or run away from something, or in search of a better lifestyle.  These sorts usually adhere to one or both of the following: They are traveling to a specific place and/or they in a hurry to get there.

If we're going to nit-pick, we could say that one or both of these could also apply to a modern transient from time to time, but it generally does not define them.  A transient may be headed specifically to Florida for the winter, for example, or are in a hurry to get to a certain city to find seasonal work.  But in general, their lifestyle isn't defined by frantic, specific purpose-driven relocation.  Transients are more often than not wanderers, moving from place to play in a leisurely manner, not after some specific "final destination" (Shangri-La) to settle in.

The majority of travel in my life as a tried-and-true transient has been by foot, by train, by donkey, by bicycle or by the back of a pickup truck.  Very seldom will I ride in a car seat, and I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that this is the case for nearly all modern vagrants.

There are times where hitch-hiking is essential...if you do need to get out of a certain area quickly, if the weather is turning bad and you have no accommodations, so on and so forth.  For these sorts of reasons, yes, a transient will occasionally travel by vehicle.

More often than not, no matter what your movie-pictures say, there is no exchange of goods or services for the ride.  The friendly driver simply wants to help someone out.  Other times the vagrant may be expected (or willingly give some sort of monetary compensation for the fuel used.

I'm going going to flat-out say that sexual favors are never exchanged for such a service, but I do want to dispel the myth that this is any sort of common form of payment for a modern vagrant.  I cannot say what the case is for other hitch-hikers with other motives, all I can speak for is my own experience and the experience of those I am close to.

This is especially the case in the day of HIV, AIDS and other common forms of sexually-transmitted diseases.  I can say with a level of certainty that there is VERY seldom any penetrative act given in exchange for a ride, although other forms of non-penetrative sexual relief such as a "four mile handshake" may or may not be common in rural areas where non-automotive travel is restricted.

In short, friends, be safe and don't allow yourself to get into positions where you feel uncomfortable or unnecessarily vulnerable.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sew What!

Dashing to learn to sew!
Hurry, teach me please!
Useful skills to know!
So that I don't freeze! (Brr! Brr! Brr!)

These are some of the lyrics to the popular hobo parody, "Neddle Spells", a take off on the traditional Christmas anthem "Jingle Bells".  It's a lighthearted tune that History Dan (our blog's resident hobo historian) says dates back to at least the late 1940's.

While this song is lighthearted and whimsical, the idea of learning how to adequately sew clothes is very serious business to the modern vagrant. Even at so-called "discount stores" clothes can come at a premium price, so keeping them in good shape and usable is key to practicing the Five Pillars.  That's not to mention the fact that sewing skills can mean the difference between health and disease--or even life and death--in cold climates.

Throughout the years, experienced Leathermen would conduct impromptu classes (commonly called "Sewlas", pronounced "So-Las") to a number of hobo brethren  where they would pay a fee (usually an ingredient in a good batch of hobo chili or gumbo) that the Leatherman would then be allowed to enjoy all by himself if he so chose.  It was in one of these Sewlas that I first learned the song that opened this post!

The term "Sewla" probably only dates back to the mid-1970's, but History Dan says they have gone on in some fashion for as long as vagrants have wandered the earth.

Some vagrants still prefer to learn through Sewlas, but in the event that they don't have something to trade, are on bad terms with the local Leatherman or don't have a local Leatherman at all, there are some modern-day alternatives.

The Internet has brought a wealth of information to our fingertips, and public libraries often provide free limited-time access to the Web.  That's how I am able to transcribe for this blog, and likely how the vagrant audience of this blog are accessing this website.

For a cheaper alternative Sewlas, check out these and other tutorial web sites and videos.  Feel free to bring a pair of pants, needle and thread with you to the library to practice on, or simply stitch what you're already wearing.  In my experience, many librarians or computer lab monitors are tolerant and respectful of this sort of activity, as long as we ourselves are respectful and quiet.  Remember your Five Pillars, friends.

Here is an introductory list of some tutorial sewing websites and videos.  Feel free to send me your recommendations; the mail bag is always open...

Good Intro to Sewing Resources:

These skills also come in handy for repairing or reinforcing sleeping tents, shoes, blankets, hats, gloves and scarves.  As they say "the sky's the limit if you say sew!"

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Monday, January 3, 2011

Op Ed: "Christmas Presence"

Happy New Year!  I have news to share but it will have to wait, because waiting for me in my Inbox this morning was an Op Ed piece from my friend Gumball.  It was beautifully written, and sure to bring a tear to your eye.  I'm honored that he is my first guest writer for this blog, and it's wonderful that he has such a poignant message to share.

Please enjoy.

"What did you get for Christmas?"
That is often the question on the lips of old and young alike this time of year. Still, even as a transient man who has lived this way for the majority of my adult life, I am often asked this question by my non-transient friends and acquaintences.

What did I get this year? What did I receive? What did I treat myself with?

This year I treated myself to fresh air, the cool breeze on a hot July morning or a warm, crackling fire on a cold December night. This year I treated myself to seeing the west, exploring and enjoying the beautiful and ancient rustic spirit of this nation. This year I opened myself up to new tastes, new smells, new friends, new hopes and dreams and life and liberty. I treated myself to good clean air in my lungs, to breathtaking beauty and scenery. I treated myself to wake up in a different location every morning. I treated myself to never feeling trapped, asphyxiated within a box.

Some people look at me and my brethren and feel sorry for us. They think we are lacking because of our lack of a Christmas tree, or the ringing of Christmas bells, or special food or drink or time spent with blood relatives. Most of all, they seem to think I'm missing something because I do not afford myself Christmas presents.

Maybe I won't enjoy a bounty of Christmas presents, but instead I hold close to my heart something much more valuable...Christmas presence. A presence not in simply existing, but in living within the moment. Taking it all in. The world is a big, scary, tragic and hauntingly beautiful place. You can't see it from behind closed doors. You have to live it, be a part of it, not apart from it.

I have seen some things in my time, some things I wish I could un-see and other things I'd give my life to experience a second time. You take the good with the bad, the horrid with the lovely. This world has a knack for simultaneously breaking your heart and filling it with childlike wonder all at once.

It's hard to break away, and this path is not for everyone. Some are better off behind their closed, locked doors, away from the rest of the world. Let them have their cubicles, their mortgage, their auto repairs, their health insurance. Let them have their Christmas presents. For the select few of us--the ones who choose not to remove ourselves from what this world has to offer--we strive for something much more symbiotic with nature. A Christmas presence.

Keep the flame, my brothers.


In solidarity,

Train Tom

Friday, December 24, 2010

SONG: Brightest & Best

Merry Christmas Eve!  The library is open until noon today and not at all tomorrow, hopefully I get a chance to check in before the New Year.  If not, I'll see you in 2011!

I moved my blankets and towels into a old abandoned schoolhouse late yesterday afternoon.  I was hoping to find some other transients huddled up there, but after sitting up for most the night over a low flame no one else came to join me.  Everyone else is smarter than I, several hundred miles south or west!

Unfortunately there were no usable items left on the first floor of the school house.  The area it is in was flooded fairly heavily in 2008 and there is still a dank, musky smell to the wood.  It gets especially bad when I have a fire, the rotting beams started smelling like wet dog when my flames were built up.  Still, it keeps me out of the wind, and hopefully I'll find some other leftover transients around town before long and we can band together somewhere else.

For tonight, though, it looks like I will be singing the old hobo Christmas tunes solo.  The road of a transient can be accompanied by others, but is very often traversed alone.

Brightest & Best

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
Dawn on our darkness and lend us Thine aid;
Star of the East, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Savior of all!

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Happy Christmas to you all.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Thursday, December 23, 2010

QOTW: Living Conditions

I open the Mail Bag, and what do I seek?  Here in my right hand, the Question of the Week!

Next time it may be, your question to Tom.  Email it,!

Where do you sleep?
- Kyle B., Livingston County, New York

Well Kyle, it's interesting you ask that at this juncture, because I've been actively looking for new accommodations.  The weather has started getting really cold, and it won't be long before snow really starts cramping my style!

In the warm months I really like sleeping out under the stars, so a nice sleeping bag is all you really need.  In the summer I actually try to avoid the cities at night, choosing to retire a few miles out of town in a quiet park or graveyard where I'm unlikely to be disturbed.  As the weather starts getting rainy in the latter part of the year, I usually migrate into the city and either find a structure to sleep under or build my own semi-permanent lean-to.

That's what I've been in since late September, a nice little lean-to I built with a friend of mine named Burris, who was not in town long after (true transient!).  It's lovely, solidly built out of wood, stone, good river mud and leaves.

Since the weather started getting cold, I've been lighting a barrel fire on either side of the lean-to an hour or so before bed, which warms it up nice from both sides.  I don't allow the fires to burn after I go to sleep, because I have known many transients who have burned to death trapped in their own lean-tos.  Instead, I set grates on top of the burn barrels and heat up stray bricks I have found.  I then wrap the bricks in cloth and sleep near them.  Between these tactics and my supply of blankets and old towels, I have been able to keep relatively comfortable through the night.

Lately, though, the frigid cold through the night has started to become unbearable, and I will need to find somewhere else to lie my head within the next few days.  More than likely I'll have to transport my collection of blankets and towels from my lean-to home to an abandoned building somewhere, where I can at least be more securely in out of the elements.

My goal, though, is to locate a friendly group of Steam Men and ask if I can join their rank & file throughout the coldest months.  Steam Men, as a rule, are not particularly accommodating to strangers--especially ones who don't arrive until they're looking for a handout.  Still, there is an exception to every rule and I am hoping to seek out some genuine hospitality this Christmas season.

In solidarity,

Train Tom

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

RECIPE: Krabb Kakes

Neat little recipe I got from Beantown, who will be leaving for the Florida pan-handle this afternoon.  I'm going to give it a whirl tonight!

New England Style Krabb Kakes
2 generous handfuls of fish meat, any type
Fish oil
1 handful of saltine cracker mash
1 chicken egg or 2 robins eggs
3 fast-food style Mayonnaise packets
1 dill pickle
Butter or lard
Stream water
Shallow bowl
Metal grate
Pan or hot stone

Fill your bucket about halfway with stream water, place on an open flame. Add fish oil to water. Allow water to boil up good and hot so that steam bellows up.  Place metal grate over bucket and lay fish fillets over grate.  Let them steam for a full hour, flipping them every ten minutes or so.  After an hour, remove fillets from steam and allow them to cool until they can be handled.

Slather butter or lard onto the pan or hot stone, set aside.  Mash up the fillets and place the slurry in a shallow bowl.  Add crushed up saltine crackers, mayonnaise, egg and smashed pickle.  Mix thoroughly with hands, then form the paste into small cake-size portions.  Lay cakes out on pan or hot stone.

Place pan or hot stone on hot grate.  Allow to fry until cakes become golden brown.  Garnish with mayonnaise, relish or ketchup if available.

Bon appetit!

In solidarity,

Train Tom