i A Time and a Place...: The Texas and Pacific Railroad..The next part...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Texas and Pacific Railroad..The next part...

Again I've been reading my Journal and, having gotten a couple of nice comments on the last post, I have decided to post another part of my life story, then maybe one more. That would get me to Odessa, Texas. Enjoy.

"...I don’t remember much about the rest of the trip until I got to El Paso, Texas. When I pulled into El Paso, it was in the mid-morning and I was hungry and I remember I had been cold the night before.

I got off the train at the edge of the train yard and began walking through town. After I had walked a ways, I met a man who looked to be around 40 years old. He was a tall, skinny man and was wearing a long, horsehair army surplus coat that hung way down on his legs. He asked me where I was coming from and I told him. Then he asked me how old I was and I told him that, too. (Almost everyone I met asked me how old I was)Then I told him I was headed for Odessa to see my Dad.

He said he was going to get something to eat and asked me if I was hungry. I told him I was. He asked me if I had any money and I said I had a little change. He said if I would give it to him, he would get us something to eat so I gave it to him. He told me to wait there and he would be back.

In an hour or so he returned with a grin on his face. I think I gave him 30 or 40 cents, all I had left from scraping the paint from the windows of a house that had been painted in a little job I did in Colton. He said,” Let’s eat!” and walked over to a trestle piling and sat down.

I followed him, wondering how he could have enough food for the both of us. He had a paper bag with a loaf of bread in it. It didn’t look like much, then he opened his coat and took out a package of lunch-meat, several candy bars and a small carton of milk. He chuckled and said his big old coat sure came in handy sometimes. Then we ate and it sure tasted good. I don’t think I had eaten anything but oranges in the last couple of days.

We hung around there for a few hours and just talked. He asked me about my home and family and listened intently as I described my Mother and step Dad and my brother and sisters and stepbrothers and stepsisters.
He seemed kind of wistful and said he didn’t remember his family very well. It had been a long time since he had seen any of them. He said he had a sister somewhere but didn’t know where she was now. He didn’t know if anyone else was still alive. I got the impression he wanted to come to Odessa with me to meet my Dad and everyone but he never asked to so I didn’t suggest it.


When I met Hobos on the road, they usually acted happy-go-lucky or at least, content with their station in life, but there seemed sometimes to be a vague suggestion of sadness and melancholy among them, as if maybe there was something that might be missing and they weren’t sure what it was.

Except for telling their stories of how they got started hoboing, they said very little about their pasts or families. Their talk was, for the most part, about food or smokes or where to go and how to get there. And about friends on the road they knew or had known. I heard them discuss Hobos much more than their families; as if they had all become families amongst themselves.

It may seem strange and impossible but I can still remember exactly how the people I met on the road looked. I remember Blackie just like it was yesterday. I remember the old man from New York with the long, white beard at Colton and the younger man who told me about his family in Oregon. I can remember the men who a made the fish-head-stew and, also, the men in Los Angeles who sent me across the Los Angeles river to a bakery for day old bread. And I can remember this man in El Paso as if this all just happened. And I remember them fondly.

After a while, I said I’d better go so I could get to the other side of town to the Texas and Pacific yard before dark. He reminded me how to get there and not to let anyone see me get on the train.

Then he admired the Levi Jacket I had on. I told him it wasn’t very warm at night and he asked me if I wanted to trade for his big old horse hair coat. I told him I would and he took my jacket and gave me his coat. He said it would keep me warm on the train. I think that is what he intended. Then we said goodbye and I left. I never saw him again." I hope he stayed happy.

Later...

3 Comments:

Blogger Lucy Stern said...

Funny how we can remember the past so easily. I always wondered what would make a person leave home and be a hobo, traveling on a train? It seems that, back then, people were pretty friendly. I wonder what it would be like today? Thanks for the story.

9:22 PM  
Blogger CA said...

Lucy, the old man with the long white beard had been a Wall Street stock broker, (he said) with over a million dollar stock portfolio when the crash of 1929 happened. He said he walked to the window of his 6th or 7th floor office more than once fighting the urge to jump because he had lost everything. Instead he found a freight yard and headed west, ending up in California and never looked back. He said he was happier in this life than in the one he left.

7:32 AM  
Blogger Lucy Stern said...

There were many suicides after the Stock market crash, even today it is a very stressful job. I can't imagine handling the money of a lot of people who trust you to make their money grow. It must have been devastating to those men when the market crashed. My parents we very young children back then. Dad's family were in construction and they had it really hard during the depression. My mom's dad worked for the city of Houston as a firefighter. He kept his job and they did fine during the depression. A lot of people had to learn how to be frugal in those days.

When I was growing up my dad did most of the cooking. He used every part of the chicken and didn't waste anything. If there were any vegtables left over from dinner, they went into a baggie and were used along with rice or beans for soup on Saturday. Being raised by Depression Era parents has taught me to be frugal. As of this day I have a hard time throwing things away. I will take old clothes to the Salvation Army store and I recycle plastic. Sorry, I didn't mean to get so long winded....Waiting for part three.

4:59 PM  

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