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Excerpts from "The Autobiography of a Tramp," by John (Jack) Lewis Everson (1873-1945), Chapter 14 - Reflections on the wondrous world of Trampdom.

In this chapter is he talking about A-No.1? Or is he talking about the Josiah Flynt, Jim Tully, or someone else? You be the judge? Let me know what you think?

Excerpts from "The Autobiography of a Tramp," by John (Jack) Lewis Everson (1873-1945), Chapter 14 - Reflections on the wondrous world of Trampdom.
Before writing finis to this tale of my life, I desire to supplement what has gone before with a few observations on the habits and customs of tramps, and to comment briefly on one or two other matters.

One writer in particular amused me when I read his book relating his experiences in Trampdom. The writer is a distinguished author in other fields, and styles himself "A Tramp Royal." In his book, presumably written in serious vein, he writes in great detail of his life on the road and gives word-for-word accounts of his conversations with various people. What a prodigious memory he must have had! He devotes more than five thousand words to an account of how he outwitted the entire crew of a passenger train--five men--by methods even the dullest-minded of tramps would scorn to use. He tells of running time after time, at station after station, from the front of the train to a point ahead of the engine, where he boarded the blind baggage each time after the shack had of necessity dropped off to catch a coach further back. Even the veriest tyro among tramps, when he finds that the shacks have spotted him trying to ride the blind, knows enough to drop back to the middle of the train unseen, go into a coach, sit down and wait until the train is well under way. He then merely goes to the platform of the car, stands upon the handrail, and climbs to the deck, a comparatively easy feat for an experienced tramp. There is little likelihood that the conductor will spring the tramp in the second or third coach, for the cons start their round of collecting tickets in the first car. Should a shack pass through the car in which the tramp is sitting, it is unlikely that he will be discovered, for shacks rarely notice the passengers and they certainly don't stop in the performance of their duties to count noses. On several occasions when pulling this stunt, I have met shacks in the coaches or on the platforms and by simply meeting them face to face and walking past them as a passenger would do, I have gained my ends. Shacks rarely get close enough to the tramp they are trying to outwit to be able to recognize him even in a brightly lighted coach. The tramp sees to that, for he seldom is out in the lighted spaces where he can be seen and identified.

When a tramp finds he can't ride the blind, he has another ace in the hole besides "swinging under". As the train pulls out, he gets onto the lower step of the front end of a coach, and with both hands clinging to the step handles nearest to the body of the coach he swings his body out of sight alongside the coach until he thinks the way is clear, and then hits the deck. Should a shack pass from one coach to another while the tramp is clinging to the step handle the tramp will not likely be discovered, for the shack is too intent on keeping his hips from being bruised by the handrails as the cars lurch from side to side. Should he be discovered, however, he is in a precarious position, for the shack can kick at him. In that event, the knowing tramp quickly swings himself forward, grabs the step handles of the forward car, and is up and onto the platform before the shack realizes what is happening. They are then on an equal footing, where they can fight it out if necessary. The tramp's chief stock in trade is a nimble wit.

In passing, I will add that shacks are seldom so zealous in keeping tramps off trains that they will risk being injured or killed while doing so. Before the advent of air brakes, shacks carried "Paddy-sticks" (usually sledgehammer handles), which they used to obtain leverage when tightening brakes, or for lifting coupling links into the best position for effective coupling of the cars. The paddy-stick also served as a formidable weapon, but since the advent of air brakes and automatic couplers they are no longer used. Shacks knew that some of their passengers were desperate characters, and when a tramp displayed unusual determination to ride, the wiser shacks let him alone.

But to return to our self-styled "Tramp Royal"-- at one place in his story he tells how tramps on the rods are sometimes killed when the shack lowers a coupling pin, with ball cord attached, between the ends of two cars, and manipulates it in such a manner that it will bounce up and knock the tramp off the rods - this while the train is rolling sixty miles an hour. One infers that the practice of doing so was not unusual on what he terms "bad roads". That story might serve to dissuade a six-year-old child from becoming a tramp, but the absurdity of it should be patent to any thinking person, and I surely cannot be the first to point it out.

To begin with, if a ten- to fifteen-pound coupling pin were used in the manner described, from a train traveling "sixty miles" per hour the strain on the free end of the ball cord would be sufficient either to break the cord or tear it out of the shack's hands -- unless he were foolish enough to wrap it around them, in which case his hands would be broken. One must also consider that on one of its rebounds, the pin will sooner or later lodge momentarily between two ties. The force of the resulting pull on the cord would make the cord holder wish he'd never been born. Further, what is to prevent the coupling pin from lodging under one of the wheels? Nothing. And if it did so, there would be grave danger of derailing at least the rear end of the train, for once a wheel flange is lifted to or above the top of a rail, the least sidesway of the trucks, or the swing of a curve in the rails, would be sufficient to derail the train. Shacks have too much regard for their own lives to attempt anything so foolhardy. Besides, they would be discharged immediately if such a practice were known to their superiors. The whole story is a libel on shacks and a reflection on the intelligence of anybody who reads and believes it.

In another part of this author's tale, he tells how one can get away from anybody who grabs one by the coat collar in such a manner that the grabber's hand or fingers are between the collar and one's body. All one has to do is to twist one's body repeatedly under the grasper's arm, whereupon ". . . the blood will be bursting out of his finger ends, the delicate tendons will be rupturing, and all the muscles and nerves will be mashing and crushing together in a shrieking mess." His method is based on the principle of a tourniquet, but he neglects to tell us that in the meantime hiw own larynx will be flatter than a pancake, his jugular vein will be so surprised it will forget to function, and long before the grabber's hand begins to bleed, the grabee will be unconscious. Another thing he forgot to mention was where in hell he buys his coats, with their superlative buttons and buttonholes. I would like to own one.

At yet another point this author writes that he spent "two weeks" in Washington, D. C., "trying to beg a pair of shoes" without success. Even a gaycat could do better than that; and what tramp would be so wasteful of his precious time, when he would know that all he had to do was to beg a shoestore for a pair of the half-worn shoes that so many customers leave behind when buying new ones? Or, the tramp would stand outside a well-patronized shoestore and mooch for shoes from those men who emerge from the store wearing new shoes and carrying their old ones in a neatly wrapped shoebox. One such might even be so philanthropically minded as to take the tramp into the store and buy him a new pair. It has happened. Failing that, all a tramp would have to do would be to mooch a few homes, where in the closets of most of them one or more pairs of old shoes have been thrown merely because the tenants were too busy to carry them out to the trash can. What a "Tramp Royal" he proved to be!

I can't resist recording this one, where this writer says he walked "forty miles" and " interviewed the housewives of a thousand homes" -- all within a space of "ten" (count them) hours. That works out to an interview every thirty- seven seconds. What a man!

I have not exposed the preposterous nature of the above author's fairy tales because of any "holier than thou" complex, but merely to show that the best and worst of human beings sometimes swindle the public by selling phoney things of one kind or another, and to affirm that the man who once said "all men are liars" knew what he was talking about.

In my recent reading of what are presumed to be true accounts of tramp life, written by men who for one reason or another claim to have taken up tramping for a time, I have failed to find a word regarding this ever-present danger of rod-riding to the inexperienced hobo. Real tramps seldom ride the rods, and I venture to say that ninety-five per cent of those whose dismembered bodies are found scattered along the railroad's right of way are hoboes or gaycats who have fallen from the rods; and of the remaining five per cent, most are in the same category and took long chances in boarding a train, or fell from the bumpers when drunk. A few of all classes get killed at times when a train is derailed, but so do members of the crew and a few passengers. The proper way to ride the rods was one of the first things Curly taught me, and when I saw the gaycat showing his companion the rods of a coach I warned him of the rear-rod danger. I almost laughed when I read one of the foregoing authors' comments to the effect that railroad officials complain bitterly of being obliged by law to bury the bodies of the victims of their own mantraps.

The Complete Work: "The Autobiography of a Tramp," by John (Jack) Lewis Everson (1873-1945).

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