One of my beautiful nieces recently used the word “hobo.” Great word, and I speculated that its origins may be with Hoboken and its railways. An online search showed I was partly right. Other explanations included HO-pping BO-xcars, and an obscure German greeting used in the Pacific Northwest. I thought of other great words like tramp, vagrant, bum and roustabout and was surprised to learn that they are not synonymous. According to Wikipedia (I know), ‘tramps‘, work only when they are forced to, ‘bums‘ do not work at all, and ‘hobos’ are workers who wander. I feel bad for lumping hoboes in with the others.

Hobos had a written code, used to communicate with other hobos. AND they had an ethical code! A Hobo Code!

Check this out:

“An ethical code was created by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis Missouri.
 This code was voted upon as a concrete set of laws to govern the Nation-wide Hobo Body; it reads this way:

  1. Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.
  2. When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.
  3. Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.
  4. Always try to find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody wants. By doing so you not only help a business along, but ensure employment should you return to that town again.
  5. When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents at crafts.
  6. Do not allow yourself to become a stupid drunk and set a bad example for locals’ treatment of other hobos.
  7. When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.
  8. Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.
  9. If in a community jungle, always pitch in and help.
  10. Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.
  11. When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.
  12. Do not cause problems in a train yard, another hobo will be coming along who will need passage through that yard.
  13. Do not allow other hobos to molest children, expose all molesters to authorities, they are the worst garbage to infest any society.
  14. Help all runaway children, and try to induce them to return home.
  15. Help your fellow hobos whenever and wherever needed, you may need their help someday.
  16. If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it. Whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

I wanna be a hobo. I wanna ride the rails and live by the hobo code. Who’s with me?

PS:  This is my 50th post.  Feels like a milestone of sorts!

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