ONLY A POOR HOBO

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Tramps, hoboes, bums, gentlemen of the road….I suppose it starts right there. The differences in perspectives.  I always thought of the “tramps” of the highway as the good guys in the story .Sure , they might  be poor, smelly  and ragged .They might be down on their luck in some way .They  might have been dispossessed of their lands, homes, jobs or families .Their human relationships might have gone sour ,or mental illness might have   led them to the wandering  life .There was a time when every city or town might have a few of these characters around who had become part of the social furniture.

These were the tramps.

Jack Kerouac’s writings in  “Dharma Bums”, “Desolation Angels ” and “On the Road “, set a generation of us out hitch-hiking the roads of the world , exploring and experiencing a form of this “tramping” ; bumming lifts in cars and lorries across America , Europe and the Middle East. I did a bit of that in my youthful adventuring and lived to tell the tale. I did experience first -hand some of the flavour of a life on the road with a rucksack on my back .If truth be told  i couldn’t wait to get at it and was rewarded variously with adventure, danger and also bouts of boredom .I didn’t have to do it as a full-time vocation , of course, but it left me with a pre-disposition to be on the side of the “tramp”. I experienced  a flavour of his existence.

I suppose there  are some of us who see the tramp or hobo as the villain of society.It is usually when their professed morality or Christianity fails them in action or in speech.

Certain of our public figures have let themselves and their humanity down badly by insulting their fellows with the curse of being “tramps” …or in some cases “thramps”.  I . on the other hand see it as a badge of honour to side with the underdog or the dispossessed…but then I’ve always been a fan of folk and blues music and the scribblings of  Woody Guthrie  and Bob Dylan, who put it like this in “ONLY A HOBO”…

As I was out walking on a corner one day

I spied an old hobo, in a doorway he lay

His face was all grounded in the cold sidewalk floor

And I guess he’d been there for the whole night or more

Only a hobo, but one more is gone

Leavin’ nobody to sing his sad song

Leavin’ nobody to carry him home

Only a hobo, but one more is gone

A blanket of newspaper covered his head

As the curb was his pillow, the street was his bed

One look at his face showed the hard road he’d come

And a fistful of coins showed the money he bummed

Only a hobo, but one more is gone

Leavin’ nobody to sing his sad song

Leavin’ nobody to carry him home

Only a hobo, but one more is gone

Does it take much of a man to see his whole life go down

To look up on the world from a hole in the ground

To wait for your future like a horse that’s gone lame

To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

Only a hobo, but one more is gone

Leavin’ nobody to sing his sad song

Leavin’ nobody to carry him home

Only a hobo, but one more is gone

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