Mini Book Review: Rolling Nowhere by Ted Conover
Subtitled: Riding the Rails With America's Hoboes
As a graduating college student and with an instinctual wanderlust, Conover pursues a long held dream to find out about riding the rails and meet the hobos who use that mode of transport. The journey took place in 1980 followed by this book in 1981. On his first ride out of St. Louis, he follows a large circle of railroad riding to the northwest, down to southern California and ending in Denver. Like any cross section of any unique population of individuals, there are good people and bad people. Conover attempts conclusions of how the hobo hits the rails. The stories differ, but they all seem to share a huge hurt.
Along the way, Conover shares the stories of some of his traveling acquaintances, who they are, how to travel the rails, dumpster diving and the best mission and homeless shelter or food stops. Obviously, the author was dedicated to his task because most others would have given up the journey after just a few days. With squalor, danger, hunger, no community and living in all kinds of weather the life of the hobo is not the least bit romantic.
Why did Conover take on this dangerous and risky journey. The answer comes from one of Conover's more intelligent hobos, "...when you become afraid to die, you become afraid to live."
Another Conover book... Conover seems to have a penchant for telling the stories of the less advantaged in the population. For another Conover read, check out his 1987 book about illegal immigration in: Coyotes
Hobo visits the boyhood farm.... No doubt there were more hobos who came by the farm when I was a kid. However, I only remember one. There weren't too many people walking on the graveled road out in the country and I noticed it first. Told Mom. Soon the hobo carrying a very small bag was walking in our driveway. By that time Mom had us kids in the house and Dad was outside to greet our visitor.
No. Dad did not have any work to be done, but we could spare a sandwich. Mom made a sandwich. Dad sat on the bench under the willow tree with the hobo as the hobo dined. Soon he was on his way down the road. If Dad related the hobo's story, there is no memory of it.