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Steel Dreams

Updated on March 15, 2017

the distance men wil lgo to perserve thier family and their way of life.

Steel away

By 1932, more than thirteen million Americans -- twenty-five percent of the workforce -- were unemployed. In that period of time, there was only one way to get around, and that was by railroad. By box car. Wherever you'd hear a rumor that a job was opening up, thousands would be sitting up on top of the car. We're talking about professional people reduced to bums.

My grand pap used to ride the rails
he'd steel away on their backs
to escape the depression of the 30's
his fleet feet running
over the gravel inclines
just missing the gaps between the ties
skipping two or three at a time
in acrobatic flight not seen much today
one misstep, and an arm or leg could be gone
his strong and calloused hand reached out
to snag a handle or a lip as a grip
that when grabbed caused him to be be
yanked forward as his legs swung deftly
up into the open maw of a boxcar mobile home
sometimes another scraggly arm would emerge
to grab his hand and pull him in to safety
at other times a rougher fist would extend
and disembark him with a solid blow and a tumble
to the grass that lay below the trestles banks
bruised and battered he'd wait for the next ride
to come by and set him free from a small town
with no work to fill his pockets or his empty gut
he traveled all over the country that way
for several years seeking hope and only finding
hobo camps where each man would bring something
to add to the poor man's stew..some tidbit stolen
or purloined from a farmers field or hen house
found laterally to the ties that bound him
to the iron path that took him to the next opportunity
he loved those years even though they were leaner
then a dessicated rat in a mouse traps slap
ten years after it had snapped....
he made tracks that stayed in his soul till the day he died
and I could often see distant horizons in his eyes
as he blew smoke rings from his non-filtered Raleigh's
and whispered of the glory days gone by
still caught between the locomotives and the caboose
sipping cold water from a tin cup he filled my head
with the chilly dawn's spent sleeping in a ventilated boxcar
or the splash of a river's flow to clean sleep dirt
from eyes that had seen little to dream about except
the endless breathtaking beauty all across the land
sometimes even now when I hear the lonesome wail
of a train blowing it's solo song as it passes through
I can see him running alongside and catching the
last express to eternity for an endless ride of joy
and I realize now that when he whistled
it was so similar to that haunting sound that a train sends out
over the sleepy villas and small towns
where all the stationary folks reside.....
"Godspeed Grandpap Ebey ..I'll catch a later train
and bring some carrots for that hobo soup
I'll see you on the other side of the tracks....."

A hobo recipe my Granddad taught me.

Coffee Soup.


Sugar -use lots

Saltine crackers

cruble the saltines in a large bowl

use a lot of crackers

pour in sweetend coffee


in about five minutes you will have

a goopy coffee flavored soup.

the crackers swell and absorb the coffee

it is a very filling and easy to snitch

sugar and crackerwise from restaurant counters.

I love it...enjoy!


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    • MFB III profile imageAUTHOR

      MFB III 

      18 months ago from United States

      Hey Ken, Mel and Louise, Thanks for your kind comments and for your enjoyment of my treasured Grandfather. There are rumors that the stock market is going to undergo a Melt-up and then crash, so If we don't invest in the stock rising we might all be riding what few rails are left again and enjoying coffee soup with a filched chicken. I'll see you all in boxcar number twenty-two.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      18 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I loved this poem. Reading this poem really shed some light on life for a hobo. I particularly like the recipe too.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      18 months ago from San Diego California

      You know, it really sucks that poetry is no longer a popular medium. I'm always reluctant to read it, because most of it is bad. But you really paint some really nifty, articulate images in your hobo rambling free verse. Great poem.

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      18 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      A pure masterpiece depicting the true perils

      of a hobo, an important segment of American

      history now fading with each new day.

      Loved it.

      Keep up the great work.


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