The Hobo's: Memories by Robert Shackles

During the great depression it looked like every one was looking for
work. In the 1929 stock market crash,many professional people lost every
thing they had. Also the banks closing made it impossible for workers to
get what money they had saved,so many were flat broke. It was in this
environment that I learned the difference between a railroad  Bum & a
Hobo. Sedalia was a railroad town because it was the main hub for the
KATY line.  In the 30s there was no overpass over Broadway  for the
trains to crossover. The tracks ran right over Broadway and traffic had
to drive over the rails. During the night you could see bon fires all
along the tracks. These were fires built by the Hobo's and they would
use them to cook their Hobo stew. Hobo stew was prepared by a group of
Hobo's teaming up,where each participant  would contribute something to
the pot that could be cooked and eatable. These Hobo's were men riding
the rails from town to town looking for work and trying to make money to
send to their family's back home.How do I know this? Bill,Red,& I
learned if we could get hold of some old bread,the Hobo's would throw it
in the pot and let us eat stew with them. You eat Hobo stew out of an
empty pork & bean can, that you supplied yourself, and if you didn't
have a spoon you just drank it. The Hobos would let us sit around the
fire where  we would listen to their stories.This is where we learned
you don't dare refer to them as bums. Of course Freddy & Percy didn't
have the opportunity to do this,but here's where Freddy  comes  in. We
heard one Hobo telling about how to stop a freight to hop it. He carried
a bar of P&G soap and he said he would find a steep grade on the tracks
and he would soap the tracks part way up the tracks. When that old steem
engine come chug-a-luggin up that hill &hit that soaped track it would
spin its wheals to a stop & he would hop on. The steam engines were
equipped with a sand tube in front of the wheels for ice covered tracks
& they could  apply sand on the track to get on up the grade. Grandma
Scott's husband Ellis was picking up lead ore along the tracks that fell
off the box cars. He would melt this ore and extract the pure lead and
sell it to a trash dealer there on Ohio street. The lead ore was hauled
in open box cars by the train & we decided if we could stop the train we
could climb aboard and through this lead ore off, melt it down & sell
it. We knew Freddy could get the soap and he was anxious to get in on
the deal. One day we convinced aunt Cora we were going to a little old
pond that we fished in and we took off,picked up a sack and the soap we
had hidden and headed for the tracks. Bill already knew a good hill to
soap and we soaped it, & waited for a train that wasn't long in coming.
We were hiding when that ol' steem engine come a chug-a-luggin around
the bend on a hard pull . When it hit that soap "MY GOSH ALL HELL BROKE
LOOSE" its big ol' iron wheels started throwing SPARKS EVERYWHERE and
the NOISE was ear shattering. Bill started to run and that was all we
needed. WE all took off and ran most of the way home, & that ended THAT
money making project. When we got home aunt Cora asked us if we caught
any fish--a most embarrassing  question!! Oh by the way,our fishing gear
was a cut wooden stick with kite string,a wood cork, and a safety pin
hook. We actually caught sun perch with these things.