Saturday, January 18, 2014

Not My Victrola: A Good Old Jimmie Rodgers Tune

I haven't seen a bum riding a freight for forty years, but songs like this still appeal to me.  The stories I've heard and read paint a pretty sad picture of life for the men who hopped freights, and that mode of transportation would be difficult today, with the cars used on railroads designed to discourage riders.  An old boy was telling my dad and me about hoboing, and he stated that he never stole anything.  Dad set me straight as soon as we left that guy.  Dad told me that bums and hobos couldn't survive if they didn't steal, and I think that's true.  Nearly every home had a chicken house in the early part of the Twentieth Century, and the chickens weren't safe if their house was near a railroad track.

Another old boy told me about hopping freights to get to a bigger town about twenty miles up the line from his home.  He would hop a train with a friend whenever they wanted to go to town, but on one trip they encountered a railroad detective who kicked them off the train.  The friend of my acquaintance took it personally, and he rode again.  He threw the detective off the train, killing him.  It was pretty common for men to be locked in a car and to die from thirst, cold, or hunger, and the unwary could be robbed and killed in the hobo jungles along the railroads.  It was a rough life out there.  Anyhow, here's Hobo Bill's Last Ride, by Jimmie Rodgers.


Anonymous said...

What a harsh life that must have been!


winslow said...

Grandpa Claude used to sing this song when he got extra specially drunk. I sure do miss him.

David aka True Blue Sam said...

A good songwriter can really pull at your heart.

I never knew my father's dad, because he died too soon. He was a singer/performer, and Dad had wonderful memories of him singing songs like this one.