Tales of Open Road

The Unexplainable Incident

...I had lost my bindle in a sandstorm near Walla-Walla ...

Tales of the Open Road, by Bill Jodrey

It was one day in September and, I might add, a brilliant fall day which of itself had a mystical quality that I have only sensed a few times in the White Mountains of New England.

At this time in my wandering I had worn out the clothes I had started with. I had lost my bindle that contained my clothes and camera in the sandstorm in the desert near Walla-Walla. I was wearing a pair of cast-off knickers and second-hand socks. My shoes had only one heel and both soles were worn through. My jacket and shirt were gifts from the Salvation Army. My hair was long and my hat was someone's throw-away.

I can recall these things now, but at the time these conditions did not cause me to feel self-conscious or less than equal to anyone. It is only in retrospect that I realize that regardless of my outward appearance I felt myself to be one with nature and knew that all was well with me.

I was east of Chicago that day. I heard a train whistle from a crossing and my instincts told me not to go that way because east and south of Chicago hobos who hopped freights were often taken by police to work on roadgangs and farms.  However, I did it and hopped the next freight and it was already loaded with more hobos than I had ever seen at one time.

Well, the train had not gone more than ten miles when it came to a stop. Before any of us got our minds together, four railroad policemen, two on each side starting at the front of the train, unloaded the hobos as quick as can be and marched them to the back end of the train. At each car they ordered us, "Out! That way!" I was at about the middle of the train and watched probably a hundred men file by. The policeman wrapped on the car I was in with his club and said "All out! Do it! All out!" As fast as we could we hit the ground and started to walk along.

My next statement is gospel and I swear it is true.  A voice apart from the walking column of men said, "You!"  I looked up and he was pointing his club at me and commanded me to, "Get back in there." I always pay attention to people who carry clubs so I hustled my butt back into the boxcar. I noticed that none of the other men had paid attention to the voice of the guard or my action of returning to the car. I clearly recall the men still passing by as I stood in wonder near the door.

Soon, of course, all the train was vacated and the men were marched to the roadway, which was only fifty yards away. In a sense of wonder I counted 202 men being herded along the road as the train started to move with one lone passenger - me.

Probably an hour passed before the train pulled into a siding and stopped. I quickly left that train, walked back to where I had seen cars and trucks on the highway and before too long a pickup truck motioned me into the back and off we went. I still had no luggage - only this unexplainable incident which has lived with me for these three score and six years.

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