Monday, January 16, 2012

700 Hoboes: Lord Dan X. Still Standing.

The next hobo on the list is Lord Dan X. Still Standing, and writing about him is extremely exciting to me. This is because he is number seven on the list (yes, I'm still going through the names in order), so when I finish talking about ol' Dan X, I will have achieved the call-your-mom-and-tell-her-to-turn-on-channel-four-worthy milestone of one percent completion of this ridiculous project. Which reminds me -- any new readers (haha - I just launched an outward-bound spray of Patron Resposado, nasally. New readers. I slay me.) should note that I did not make up these marvelous hobo names. They come from John Hodgman's hilarious book "The Areas Of My Expertise," and I do not have his permission to use them. I figure if each and every one of you nice readers were to run out and purchase a copy of this book, it would make him just that much less angry with me, should he find out about my use of his list.

Lord Dan X. Still Standing was one tough hobo. He rode the old Union Pacific rails throughout his 20s and 30s, during the '20s and '30s. His toughness was not an innate characteristic; it was a trait made necessary by his own inflated sense of self-worth. For a while, he had tried to call himself Czar Dan X, but when the great hobo known as Czar King Rex The Glorious Leader caught wind of it, well, that was the end of that.

It probably isn't fair to call Lord Dan X self-important; he was really more of a know-it-all. He was at least somewhat noteworthy in that he was one of a small minority of hoboes would could read and write, beyond the cryptographic signs and messages his kind left for one another on telegraph poles and such, and he mistakenly thought this skill could help him lord over his boxcar brethren with his fantastic knowledge of everything. He was wrong - on a couple of levels.

There were many things hoboes hated - yard cops, winter, padlocks, debutante balls - but the two things they most reviled in each other were literacy and bossiness. Lord Dan X was just literate enough to be exceedingly bossy. He would read a found bit of newspaper and instantly become a leading authority on world events (in which hoboes had absolutely no interest), or baseball, or the weather. He corrected his fellow hoboes' grammar, lectured them on politics, told them where and when to camp to avoid weather or cops and harangued them about their health and hygiene - all with an utterly intolerable air of intellectual superiority.

As a result, he was beaten up a lot. He was beaten with sticks, rocks, stop signs and cans of beans. On several occasions, he was nearly beaten to death. But he always got back up. Before long, he added the defiant "Still Standing" to his moniker. He didn't learn anything from his beat-downs. He never stopped trying to impress and control his fellow drifters with his vast knowledge. The beatings continued. He kept getting up. In 1940, he became one of only a few hoboes to successfully leave the vagrant's life behind. He won a seat in the Texas State Legislature as the last Tory candidate in our nation's history. His bossiness continued in that venue, as did the beatings.

But he kept getting up. He was Lord Dan X. Still Standing.

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