Where did the name “hobo” come from? There are several theories on the name such as the term hoe-boy meaning “farmhand”, or it could be from various greetings, “Ho, boy” or “Ho, beau”, meaning “homeward bound”. The origin of the name is just as mysterious as when hobos were first seen riding the railroads. It was either the mid or late 19th Century and could have been soldiers leaping onto the freight trains home after the American Civil War, or people heading west to a new life.
This was not an easy life and was extremely risky. Many of these nomadic penniless hobos were usually harassed by the railroad employees, security, and the train’s crew. Not only did they put up with the railroad people but had to fight the dangerous elements. Jumping on a moving train is not only crazy but treacherous as well. One false move and you could lose a limb, get caught between the cars, or ultimately lose your life. Sometimes the weather is dreadful and one could freeze to death, especially those hiding in the ice cars. Others may rob or kill you while you sleep for the minuscule amount of money you might be hiding. Being a hobo was and is not an easy life.
Today they estimate that there are around 20,000 people living as hobos across the country. Even though the trains nowadays are much faster than those of the 1930’s, many are boarded at rail yards. Hobos not only have their own lingo, but also abide by the “Hobo Ethical Code”. These 16 rules were set up by Tourist Union #63 during its 1889 National Hobo Convention in St. Louis, Missouri and voted upon as a valid set of laws to reign the Nation-wide Hobo Body.
When Sharon (Autumnforest) and I were at the abandoned trailer park near Mobile, we noticed deserted campsite nearby. Hanging in the trees was a tarp or blanket with a small table underneath. The ground below looked disturbed as if someone might have been lying on it recently. There was a rusty barrow with two plastic patio chairs nearby, perhaps used for cooking and keeping a fire. There was lots of junk just tossed about in and around the area. We were not sure how long this camp was vacant, but with the extreme Arizona weather, they probably didn’t stay long. Was this a hobo camp? The abandoned trailer park was near the highway and across from that was a railroad track. We were not sure who occupied this camp but were glad there were not there at that time.