A friend of ours in the park–himself the very white kind of traditional man who loves fishing, swearing, his beers in a can and a good porn–stopped by the other day, as he does about every day, to stand around the fire or outside of the bus and tell the tales of the day. But this day in particular he brought a friend of his own. We had a drink, talked about how the fire could use more wood, how many fish they’d caught in the river next to the park earlier in the day, and spit and smoked cigarettes and were otherwise our white trashy selves. After awhile, the new friend found himself comfortable enough to let me know that he lives in a tent beside the river further south of here. Just he, his dog and a heaping pile of army blankets, fishing for food and occasionally coming up to visit.
The guy doesn’t look homeless, though he is a self-described self-sufficient, a trimmed beard, clean clothes, a beautiful dog with a thick shiny coat. When they left, and he wished us best of luck in our travels, there was a sincerity in his voice and eyes like I have rarely experienced from any other human being.
We picked up a hitchhiker today on our way into town. He didn’t give out much detail of his life, but from what I could gather he lives just a few miles down the highway from us on a road which has no homes. It’s below zero here some nights, and for the past week that’s been the case nightly. We only took him about 3 miles down the road before we were at his destination. He thanked us for the ride and waved all the while we pulled away.
While living in Bisbee, Arizona last year we met three guys, one living in nothing more than a sleeping bag, the other two fortunate enough to have trucks, who both made their living without making any living at all. I sat up late drinking with the sleeping bag gentleman who shared every bit of the few things he had and told me how he can get a free meal every day at the soup kitchen, some 10 miles away from town, so his life consists of climbing down the mountain every morning, sitting in the park and talking with the local buskers and other transients, hitching to the soup kitchen for lunch, and then coming back to repeat the morning’s affairs. When we were about to leave town, both he and one of the guys living in a truck made sure to find us before we left. They hugged us and wished us safe travels and how they hoped to see us again some day.
These are only a few of the homeless, the hobos, buskers, whatever you might call them, who I’ve met over the years. I’ve gotten drunk with more than I can remember and even lived that way myself for a winter after high school. It’s been an honor nearly every time. To imagine all of the kids jumping trains, the families living out of station wagons and young or old men who just don’t seem to want or aren’t able to do the whole have a house, work a job thing, I think the percentage of people like this might surprise you. They’re out there in vast quantities, hidden away purposely from society but at the same time right in the very midst of all of these towns and highway roads.
For anyone on the road, whether in a 50′ luxury RV or with nothing but a tent strapped to their backs, best of luck and stay warm and safe this winter.