It’s some’um happens grad’jl. Ya don’t know it’s happ’nin’. Ya stay on the rails fer a time, ya git off ‘em, mebbe git a room somewhere in a city er some’um, settle down, git a job, mebbe buy yerself a change a clothes. An’ time’ll come ye’ll git tar’d a the job, an’ start ta want ta be out in the open again. An’ there ya are, back on the tramp. First, ya got a destination in mind. Ya think mebbe ye’ll head up ta Oregon er some place, dependin’ on where it is yer startin’ from. An’ then it might happen ya git there an’ ya ain’t quite ready ta go back yet. An’ ye’ll pick another spot; say, North Dakota, an’ mebbe ye’ll git there, an’ mebbe ya won’t. Mebbe ye’ll run inta a guy ya knew from b’fore, an’ ye’ll team up an’ fergit all ‘bout North Dakota. It happens like that till ya couldn’t settle down even if ya wanted to. Trampin’ becomes yer way a life. Ya git use ta livin’ this way. Git so’s ya wouldn’t know how ta go ‘bout livin’ no other way. Sure, ya pick up a job once in awhile, got to ta survive, but it’s nothin’ perm’nent; jus’ ta git a stake enough ta head out again.
Never planned stayin’ on the tramp long as I have. Trampin’s one a them bad habits I jus’ never give up. First time out I didn’t even have me a sleepin’ bag. Won my first bag in a punchboard game in Wenatchee. Won an air mattress too, but first night I slept on it was in this gondola had steel shavin’s on the floor. Woke up the next mornin’, an’ the air was all blowed outta the mattress; flatter ‘n a pancake, fulla holes. Once I had that bag, I was set. B’fore that, if it got cold at night, I’d git up, build me a fire an’ git warmed. Sit by the fire all night, keepin’ the shivers off. It’s the only way ta make it without a bag er blanket er some’um.
Twenty-seven years, an’ the longest I been away from the railroad was six months, workin’ on a road crew outside Denver, bustin’ up a highway. First few years I kept tellin’ myself I’ll git off one day soon an’ settle down. Well, I kin be damn sure a one thing; I might talk ta myself once in a while, but I sure as hell don’t listen. Here I am, never did git off. Oh, I’d git off a couple a months, but it never worked. Wound up back on the railroad ev’ry time.