... do we follow a path laid out for us?
I have often wondered why we as individuals so often, certainly not always, seem to follow a path of physical and spiritual development almost as if a track had been laid out and one need only to touch certain goals along the way in order to achieve what he needed to satisfy an inner urge.
Not without exception, of course, - a doctor is born a doctor, a physicist could hardly be anything else. As a whole we seem to be "niche"-oriented with, of course, many exceptions. Derelicts seem to choose their stations as a whole, etc., etc.
During the early 1930s a terrible financial depression had a death grip on our economy and gainful opportunities were so few that, it is estimated, as many as two million, mostly young men, took to the highways and freight trains, if for no other reason than to escape what seemed to be a dead end.
There were trials and temptations but on the whole it was a learning experience without equal.
One had to get along with others because we needed each other for information about danger zones and policed areas to avoid. Just an aside observation about police. I had quite a few encounters with police officers during my four months on the roads and railroads and did not even once get treated unkindly.
When riding freight trains it was essential to "get along" with everyone else if only because of the wicked cold nights on the mountains. None of us was prepared with proper clothing and because the doors of the old wooden freight cars were loosely fitted, the wind blew in and it was very uncomfortable and the only solution was to lie down on the floor on our sides and cuddle up as close as possible.
It is not and was not a pretty picture but there was no alternative. One has to picture a row of men strangers lying belly to back as close as possible with a bitter cold wind blowing over them. The person closest to the door can stand the wind for only a few minutes and then he goes to the back of the line and everybody moves up to make room for him.
There is no sleep for anyone until the train gets out off the mountain and the sun shines again. A learning experience for sure but I question that few were deterred for long from their lifetime goals and I suspect that the temporary HOBO experience gave them a more understanding and tolerant view of their fellow man.
April 16, 1999