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We’ve sifted through a lot of advice, but it’s rare that you find anything approaching real wisdom in a magazine. To get the good stuff, we recommend going to a slightly smellier, more grizzled source.

We’re talking about the Hobo Code.

Inscribed in the Annual Convention Congress of the Hoboes of America in 1894 (we hear the buffet was amazing), the Hobo Code has stood as the gold standard of vagrant ethics for more than a century, guiding famous vagabonds like Fry Pan Jack, Stormin’ Norman and Waterbed Lou as they rode the rails through the country. It holds up surprisingly well, especially if you ever find yourself in Hobo Court…

A selection from the Hobo Code:

Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.

When in town, always respect the local law and officials, and try to be a gentleman at all times.

Don’t take advantage of someone who is in a vulnerable situation, locals or other hobos.

When jungling in town, respect handouts, do not wear them out, another hobo will be coming along who will need them as bad, if not worse than you.

Always respect nature, do not leave garbage where you are jungling.

Try to stay clean, and boil up wherever possible.

When traveling, ride your train respectfully, take no personal chances, cause no problems with the operating crew or host railroad, act like an extra crew member.

If present at a hobo court and you have testimony, give it, whether for or against the accused, your voice counts!

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom