Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Best Things About Being Shane Stoopback - A 700 Hoboes Top-10 List

Being a hobo wasn't only about hardship and despair.  There were some oft-overlooked benefits to living along the rails in the early decades of the 20th century.  Naturally, not everyone had the same likes and dislikes, when it came to this lifestyle.  Some loved the smell of coal smoke; others couldn't stand it.  While tinned beans were a feast to most hoboes, some were allergic to beans (others to tin).  Illiteracy was freedom to many a vagabond, but to some it was a prison.

Here is a list of the top ten things Shane Stoopback loved about being a hobo.  It was recovered from beneath his hat following his untimely death at the hands of Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick outside the lifeless grey pit that is IndianapolisShane could read and write fairly well, all things considered, but his handwriting was the stuff of nightmares.  For that reason, and the fact that he had scribbled this list on the back of a tattered Western Pacific freight manifest, using a lump of coal, some of the items have been interpreted.

"I like bein a hobo cuz...

#10 - The hours are good.

#9 - My back is good fer carryin all sorts of heavy things, so I got a lot of frends.

#8 - I like trains and birds and chipmunks and also the fire flies who follow after me in the summer.

#7 - [illegible, except for the last two words of a long paragraph - fancy rodents]

#6 - Fresh airs good fer my black lung.

#5 - No wimmen trobbles.  Cept for Ol' Barb.  Gotta get away from her.  She keeps findin me and always sore at me.

#4 - To roam free 'neath the brilliance of an autumn afternoon sky, or under the diamond-encrusted velvet cloak of night.  To live off the bounty of God's green earth, beholden to no man.  To be the master of my destiny, warmed by fires started and nurtured with my own hands, dressed in clothes of my own manufacture, with the wisdom and instincts of the red people my great-grandfather chased from these prairies.  To drift softly into dreams to the plaintive, musical call of distant locomotives. To know what it is to live, unfettered, unashamed.  To be truly free.

#3 - You can trade coal fer liquor and be drunk in a minnit!

#2 - No line fer the commode - cuz ther is no commode.  The world is the commode.  The commode is the world.

#1 (THE BEST) - The sweater Ol' Barb Stab-You-Quick nitted outta lint-yarn fer me last fall.  Cant wear it in rain, but it shure is warm!"  


  1. Isn't #4 actually six reasons? I think I would have liked ol' Shane!

    1. I LOVE #4, especially given the way he expresses the rest of the list! I think, to him, #4 is probably just a fancy way of saying "freedom," but they are separate ideas for which he's thankful, so, yes!