Hobo Bob….Washington 1979

mtdWICKUM-3-FB1200-040 copy

There was this guy they called Christmas Tree. He got that name ‘cause of how he’d go into those Christmas tree lots at night ‘n steal Christmas trees ‘n take ‘em into the taverns aroun’ Spookaloo ‘n sell ‘em. He’d come into a tavern, draggin’ a tree b’hin’ ‘im, ‘n go from one end a the bar ta the other, askin’ guys if they wanted to buy the tree. ‘N when he sold it, he’d go back to the lot ‘n git himself another. Then one Christmas he didn’t show up ‘n ever’body started askin’ ‘bout ‘im ‘n wonderin’ what happened to ‘im. Come to find out, ol’ Christmas Tree’d been ridin’ through Wenatchee in a boxcar, ‘n the door was open only a little bit, a foot er two.  He was pokin’ his head outta the op’nin’, ‘n the units jammed on the brakes er an air hose broke er somethin’, ‘n the train stopped sudden like, ‘n the door snapped shut ‘n cut off ol’ Christmas Tree’s head. Ev’ry year, ‘roun’ Christmas, somebody’ll start talkin’ ‘bout Christmas Tree. They kinda miss ‘im in Spookaloo.

I knew another guy had an arm cut off in Nebraska. It was ‘bout ten, fifteen years ago. This guy rode a boxcar over the hump while they’s makin’ up the train. Them cars take into one another mighty good sometimes. They come down the rise in them hump yards ‘n bang into the line a cars at the bottom a the hill, ‘n ya’d swear they was gonna jump the track, they hit so goddamn hard. ‘N this guy seen the door start ta shut when his car hit, ‘n he put his arm out ta stop it, n’ it took it off, almost. Crushed it so bad, they had ta cut it off.

Most times them doors won’t budge; they’s always bent ‘n shit, but once in a while ye’ll git one that’ll move on ya if the car gits banged ‘roun’ good. I rode through a hump once when I was sleepin’. When my car hit bottom I was throwed forward four, five feet. First off, I thought I was in a wreck. Got up ta look ‘roun’, ‘n it was black as a coal bin in there. The door’d near slammed shut. Only one door’d been open ‘n the force a the hump’d near closed it. There was this slit a light comin’ in from where the door wasn’t quite shut, ‘n I went over ‘n tried pullin’ the door back, but it wouldn’t give. Them things weigh better ‘n five hunnert pounds. It was only open an inch or two, so I waited there by the op’nin’ fer someone to come along. Musta been four, five hours went by b’fore this car knocker come ‘roun’. I could hear his footsteps on the gravel outside, ‘n when he’s passin’ right by the door, I give a yell. I sez, “Hey, git me outta here.” He come over ta the door, ‘n he sez, “You stuck in there?” I sez, “Sure am.” ‘N he sez, “How long ya been in there?” He was kind of a young fella, so I thought I’d shit ‘im a little. I sez, “Three weeks, ‘n I’m jus’ now beginnin’ ta smell bad. Nah,” I sez. “Only been in here a few hours, but I’d like ta git the hell out b’fore this here train pulls out.” ‘N me ‘n him both tried to pull on the door; him from outside ‘n me from the inside, ‘n it still wouldn’t give.  He went ‘n got a few other guys, ‘n they wedged some two by fours in the op’nin’ ‘n pried it jus’ enough so’s I could squeeze out. Took ‘bout an hour ta git me outta there. It’s the only time in twenty-five years I had a door close on me. Most times them things ain’t gonna move.