We have a piece going into the new shop that I will respectably title now, The Hobo Homage (let’s hope that sticks, otherwise I’m in trouble). It is a series made by Jennifer Jennings, who seemed to romanticize, along with Joe of course, the idea of the hobo. The artwork that consists of a her own special technique of developing old photos using bichromate and silver gelatin in her at home dark room is gorgeous, truly capturing the bleak and discouraging lifestyle of the hobo. But why romanticize or idealize… bums?
For one, hobos aren’t just bums. Bums refused to work. Hobos, by definition were traveling workers. Men who were impoverished and traveled freely by freight car to find work on the road. I did a little research and found the hobo way of life one that should be exemplified and idolized. Yes, they were poor, and back then looked on as people of lesser value. In reality, they seemed to have more values and more honor and respect than most people I know today.
What inspired Joe and Jennifer to create these pieces was the hobo language—a way they would let each other know if a house was a kind and safe place, or if the house had work, or when to protect yourself because the owner had a gun. They were a tight knit community that truly looked to assist in the well being of each other.
What I found even more interesting is hobos had their own ethical code—a code literally voted on at National Hobo Convention (crazy, right?!) This code is why I’m tempted to drop everything and become a freight train dwelling, bindle wheeling, on the road, working man.
Here are a few of my favorite codes that I feel reflect their true ideology:
— Always respect the local law and officials, and try and be a gentleman at all times.
— Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or hobos.
— Always try and find work, even if temporary, and always seek out jobs nobody else wants. Doing so, you not only help a business along, butensure employment should you return.
— When no employment is available, make your own work by using your added talents and crafts.
My favorite by far, and their number one rule is: Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.
The hobo way of life is fascinating and more importantly, honorable. They lived impoverished, but free. They lived on the road, traveling from train to train, from town to town, house to house. They saw more of the country than most men who had stable jobs could ever see. They lived unattached and uninhibited, truly living simplistically.
They decided their own lives, and didn’t let anyone run or rule them. How beautiful is that?