“Boys caught in freight yards were summarily beaten by notorious railroad bulls like Texas Slim, who ruled the yards at Longview, Texas. Denver Bob was reputed to have shoved trespassers under the wheels of moving trains. . .”
Riding the Rails, Errol Lincoln Uys
The more I read about hobos and the privations suffered by them for the crime of being poor, the more I notice an indifference and callousness visited upon the poor in this city. Some years ago, a wine-soaked acquaintance of mine named Tony came to my studio door around 2 in the morning, soaking wet. He used to sleep up under the highway bridge around the corner from my studio, under the Kennedy Expressway. Evidently, a firetruck had come by and opened fire with hoses to get the homeless guys out of there. Nine or ten guys used bunk up under the highway in order to stay out of the rain. They were mostly there during the summer and spring months and as far as I know, had never bothered anyone. You’d often see them having little trash fires and cooking hot-dogs over them. From what Tony told me, the city did this quite often and when they did it it would wipe out his blanket and clothing and whatever other meager supplies he had. They have since fenced this off and it is no longer accessible as a place to flop. I remember at the time not giving it much thought, and now I feel guilty about it. I could have picked up the phone and called the alderman, or city hall or a reporter, but I didn’t. I just didn’t think much about it. I gave Tony a few bucks and continued to hire him to shovel the snow, or wash the windows or sweep up once in a while. In short, I didn’t do anything.
Our alderman at the time was a self-satisfied douchebag named Terry Gabinski who was smug, above-it-all and had been on the city tit for most of his working life. It was almost assuredly on his order that this fire-hosing of homeless men occurred; and it was because he could get away with it. They weren’t voters and had no political voice, as is often the case with the poor. This does not absolve me; abuses of power occur when people stand by and do nothing. Indifference and pain happen because we allow it to. I haven’t seen Tony in a long time; a year or two, at least. I hope where ever he is now, he has found some kindness.
This is the hobo symbol for” Fake illness to get food.”