Wednesday, May 30, 2012

700 Hoboes: No-Shoulders Smalltooth Jones

Many of the hoboes took very descriptive names that were wholly-inaccurate or, in some cases, completely contrary to reality - like a 300-pound man calling himself "Tiny."  No-Shoulders Smalltooth Jones was not one of those hoboes.  

He had no shoulders, and one of his front teeth was exceedingly small.  His arms disappeared into his sides at the fifth rib.  Heavy lifting was out of the question, as was throwing like anything but a Tyrannosaurus, but otherwise Jones' arms were fully-functional.  In fact, he was an accomplished artist by the time he dropped out and hit the rails as one of those hoboes who chose the wanderer's life.  His chalk hobo signs and drawings were the stuff of legend, renown for their crisp, sharp lines.  They were also recognizable by their height.  With no shoulders, Jones couldn't lift his arms above where-most-people's-shoulders-are height, so his drawings were generally about four feet off the ground.

The small tooth, it was said, was a baby tooth that never fell out.  Instead, its permanent replacement erupted next to it.  The result was a gap between his upper incisors with a tiny tooth making an earnest attempt to fill it.  Its appearance never much bothered No-Shoulders Smalltooth Jones, but it did cause him to lisp and whistle as he spoke.  His hobo brethren adored listening to his imitations of tea kettles and steam engines.  He could replicate the signature sounds of little 0-6-0 switchers, geared Shay locomotives, streamlined J-Class 4-8-4's and everything in between.  He could also whistle "Dixie" like no other.

He rode the rails, drew his pictographs - and the occasional "hobo portrait," a chalk or charcoal silhouette of a fellow drifter patient enough to stand still whilst his shadow fell on a wall or pole long enough (and at the proper height) for Jones to trace it - and he whistled, wandered and stayed out of trouble.  Another truly unusual fact about the life of this man is that he had no enemies.  He was one of very few hoboes who was actually happy.  He chose his path, embraced his physical deformities and walked on the sunny side of the tracks.

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