i have always loved hobos. i aspired to be one from an early age. i was always tying my treasures up in a bandana, tying that to a stick, and heading off into the woods. born with a wanderlust, i was.
i had this incredible mom. she took in stray people like some old women take in stray cats. her door was always open to anyone who needed food, companionship, or a place to live. it wasn't unusual for someone to come for supper, and to stay for a year. one christmas eve, my brother (who worked at a crisis center) came home at midnight with a priest in some sort of spiritual crisis. she fed him, listened to him, and had the couch made up like she had nothing better to do on christmas eve at midnight. in the morning, when everyone gathered for gift opening, there were gifts for him under the tree, as if he had been a long anticipated guest.
i saw the plaque (pictured above) in a catalog one year. the caption said it was the hobo sign for a kind-hearted woman. when hobos traveled around, looking for odd jobs to earn money, they would leave symbols like the one above. drawn on fenceposts, sidewalks, trees, and outbuildings, these symbols would inform other hobos of places to seek food or shelter, places with mean dogs, places to avoid, and, of course, places with kind-hearted women.
i got this plaque for my mom as a tribute to her generosity, and her good heart. it hung over the door to the gathering room, where she fed hundreds of people over the years. when she died, i kept it. being a bit of a hermit, i don't come close to earning it over my door, but i keep it next to it, as a reminder of what i should strive for, every day.
so i got to thinking. tara posted recently somewhere about graffitti on her van, and how she liked to keep it as a reminder of people she's met and places she's been. what if we as vandwellers were able to communicate to others information about good places to stealth park, spots with free wifi, and other useful information? that would be so cool, having our own secret language. of course, graffitti laws being more stringent than they were in the hobo era, it would add an element of risk to a lifestyle already viewed as suspect. well, that's okay.... it appeals to that little bit of outlaw in me :-)
click on the post title above to see some neat hobo signs. and if you run into to any wandering folks, hobos or otherwise, feed us, offer us a hot shower, and maybe get a good story in return....