Westbound Raven

a young train hopping girl, red hair, sunglasses and tattoos on her face


The following was a guest post submitted by Duffy Harris after reading our article on train hoppers.

I had a photography studio in South Louisiana for a while but it was mainly a hobby. I mostly take iPhone pictures now. I was in Pensacola Florida a couple of years ago parked at a Walgreens pharmacy at an intersection waiting for a friend to get his prescription. Pensacola has a large number of panhandlers and on busy corners they are stationed at each quadrant. There is usually a queue nearby waiting for their turn at the corner.

This girl who called herself Raven–who was traveling with her boyfriend and their dog–came up to my truck and asked for a smoke. She was so interesting looking I gave her $20 instead. She thanked me profusely and went into the store to buy cigarettes. When she came back and walked up I asked if I could take her picture. She said “sure, people take pictures of me all the time”. She immediately went into a front and rear pose and I snapped two pictures on my iPhone.

She had this intimidating look about her but when she took off those sunglasses she had the most radiant blue eyes which changed her look completely. She was soft spoken and extremely nice. She said they camped out in a tent in a nearby little copse of woods and were traveling by freight car from the East Coast to California. When I asked about the danger of riding the rails she just shrugged and said they never had a problem. I joked that people were probably afraid of her.

I told her that I was going to print a picture for her and she said she’d love to have one but to please hurry as they were probably leaving the next day because rain was coming. That night at my hotel I created an 8 x 10 montage in Photoshop, printed it and put it in a light frame for her with the intent of delivering it the next day. We had decided that it might be cool to offer to send them a little money periodically to send us a journal of their travels and we could keep up with them that way.

We didn’t make it to the corner with her picture until the next afternoon. It was raining and none of the panhandlers were out. For the next five days we checked the busy corners and couldn’t find them. I guess they hopped a freight and left.

I still have her framed print and I’ve done several online searches for her without success. I wish we could seen them one more time. Anyway, Raven, if you’re out there here’s your picture I promised.