I got a little wistful out at the ROC this Sunday, where our church does it’s hobo feed. All those fellas with their gear and their stories. The thing about being on the margins is that you can dress exactly as you want to, no one of any “importance” sees you anyway.
I remember experimenting with style as a hobo. A lot of rich Portland folks give up some pretty cool merchandise to the hobo help stations. When I was not long off the streets, I recall seeing my brother and a friend in polo shirts and kaki shorts and thinking, “Man what a couple of squares.”
Anyway a lot of guys around here have walking sticks they carve on. They make little gear bags for their knives, flashlights and stuff. More than a few carry cool looking rocks in their pockets and all sorts fo different things they find interesting. One friend of mine collected a bunch of pine pitch to start fires with. Another man collects fishing lures and gear along the river to sell to pawn shops.
The hobo life is a hell of a lot more tribal, and that, in my mind, is a good thing. Our brains and DNA are full of millions of years of evolution, most of it in step with nature and in small, very mobile, communities.
I read that Clark, of Lewis and Clark, lost his writing desk when the horse carrying it rolled off a ledge above the Clearwater River. I thought, geez a desk? Very practical.
A family brought some ice cream bars to the feed this week. There were more than a couple left after everybody had one. You would be surprised how polite most hobo’s are. They rarely hog stuff, and though quite a few ice cream bars were sitting there, no one was going back for more.
I found myself handing out seconds, but that devil -manipulation- was in my heart. I had one bar and they were delicious, so I was fixing on having myself two. The last one in the box was all mine. For whatever reason, I never felt I had enough of anything growing up, so I am still a bit of a horder with certain things, and stingy has always applied to me.
I started sacrificing a little on the streets of Portland. I ran across a lot of good gear going through the dumpsters and my buddies were always hinting about wanting the best of what I found. It touched my heart to see how happy it made them to have some good stuff. One leather jacket, part of me still wants back, but that is the mind and not the heart.
When I was down to the last ice cream bar, a guy was trying not to eye me, but I could see and feel that he wanted it. He got it, but I got the satisfaction of seeing a bunch of people who care about me and who I care about looking pretty content. Not a bad sacrifice at all.
The laws you place in your head often fight the heart. That is a recent Hobo Metaphysic. You may have some rules in your head about who deserves what. No doubt in my mind we all deserve kindness, even if our minds tell us we don’t.
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