Dropping Off the Hobos

This is a multi-part post. You’ll need to scroll down or otherwise find a way to read In Which I Meet Real Hobos and Real Live Hobos, Continued for this post to make much sense. I usually try to have posts stand alone, but this is an exceptional story.

I was interested about Matriarch’s family and how it was that she was able to live the life she had chosen. When we met, she was 35, her husband was 32. She said that she had a “grown” kid. He lived in Florida and was going to school to be a mechanic.

In the past year she had birthed another child that she had given up for adoption. It was clearly hard for her, with the partem scant months behind. She said something to the young’un that suggested that she too had given a child up for adoption.

Matriarch really likes her traveling life. One of the things she appreciates about it is that everyone shares equally. “If there is one hamburger,” she said, “everyone gets two bites.” Her community is also a very honest one, “you don’t touch other people’s stuff.” As someone who still has some trepidation about allowing strangers into my home with potential access to all of my belongings, this was a good thing to hear.

One town we drove past the Young’uns had been to before. “You can get arrested for being dirty and having a pack” code blue said of on Louisiana town. The Young’uns once got kicked off a train once because someone on a passing train saw them and notified local authorities. They got arrested and taken to the local jail. As it turned out, the local cops didn’t know what to do with them, and the train cops didn’t come to press charges. With no charges they couldn’t be held, so the local cops drove them to the edge of town and sent them on their way.

I left out that when I picked them up and we were talking about iLiveInMyVan.com, the guy from the Young Ones said that he was going to register iLiveInTheWoods.com. Then he realized that he didn’t have a computer.

As we approached Lafayette, there was discussion about which exit it was that they wanted. They were headed to a camping spot behind a Mexican grocery store where they had stayed the previous year. Matriarch and her husband discussed it and it was decided. We headed down the road “Yeah! That’s it!” Excitement was in the air. It was a great spot to spend a couple of weeks, as the weather in Louisiana was pretty good this time of year and there was plenty of food to be had from the dumpster at this grocery store. They said that the previous year people would see them coming out of the woods and look at them with surprise, but no one bothered them, and it had been a great place to stay.

“I wonder if our frying pan will still be there” said Matriarch, explaining that they had a little iron skillet, the perfect size for making a grilled cheese sandwich. It was too heavy, so they chose to leave it behind. One good thing about life on the road is that you learn to pare down to only the essentials. I too am constantly trying to figure out what stuff I can get rid of.

“You should come see our camp!” said Matriarch.

Uh, yeah. Go off in the woods behind a Mexican grocery store in Louisiana with four strangers? Sounds great! What could happen?

But, actually, gentle reader, that’s what I did. They seemed like nice folks, and I didn’t know when I would again get a chance to see a real hobo camp. I did have a tinge of trepidation, so I checked in on Google plus to the La Morenita Meat Market. That way, I figured, people would know where to start looking for my body.

We got out of Walden. They loaded up their packs. I got my camera. And we headed off behind the grocery store. When we arrived at the site, less than two hundred yards from the store, one of the first things we saw was the frying pan


It was a pretty nice spot. There were a bunch of beer bottles there, some of which they were sure someone else had left. They started picking things up, putting all of the bottles in one place, cleaning off the frying pan, and getting set up.


I snapped a few more pictures and bid them farewell. Matriarch thanked me profusely for the ride (and the harmonica). She said it was one of the best rides she had ever gotten and that she enjoyed talking to me.

My biggest lament is that I didn’t manage to record the conversation. When I got back to Walden I immediately pulled out the laptop and started making notes. All the time that I spent hanging out with ethnographers was paying off.

I posted a few more pics if you’re interested.

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7 Responses to Dropping Off the Hobos

  1. mike says:

    Did they ever bath!?

  2. pfaffman says:

    I did not bath with the hobos. We didn’t have that kind of relationship.

  3. Alison says:

    My concern with you picking up the hobos (and other hitchhikers) is that you’re going to end up with bed bugs! I’m very serious. Our neighbors decided to do a good deed and helped out the homeless in a run down church by our house and guess what they brought home?! Yep, bed bugs. We thought they were moving out but they were actually taking everything out of the house and getting rid of things while they tried to rid the house of bed bugs.

  4. Howell says:

    This has been one of the most interesting legs of your journey I have read. Not real sure which of your hitch hikers was the most fun but you seem to have somehow bonded with these guys in a shorter time than the others. Keep safe and have fun in Key West.

  5. Mark says:

    Hello Jay,

    I have enjoyed reading your journal. Your kindness to strangers is an awesome example that I will try to follow as much as I can.


  6. dee says:

    Did you inform them that microbes were not a capitalist conspiracy to sell them soap? Seriously though it takes some real guts to live like that and I’m glad there are gutter punks out there doing it.

    • pfaffman says:

      Well, I, for one, quit using soap, except for hand washing, a year ago. I do sort of think that selling us soap to remove oil from our skin so that we can apply lotions to put it back is something of a capitalist conspiracy. In her case it was more like she just hadn’t gotten around to bathing. She did apologize more than once for how much she did need to bathe.

      I think I left out my favorite quote from her, which was “I love being a street kid.” And seeing them and their life does point out that if you really want to travel, one way to do it would be to diminish your desire for creature comforts. Few of us are willing to do it to their degree, but it is still instructive.

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