Portrait of the Artist as a Young Hobo

I grew up in Saginaw, MI – a town that boasts such famous former-residents as…um…my dad? Oh, and Stephen Lynch. And that guy who wrote, directed and starred in the movie ‘Street Boss‘ (so bad it’s…still not good). And the guy in ‘Street Boss’ who wears the fedora and hides under the table. Yeah, I think that’s about it.

Over the course of my life, I’ve had a lot of strange experiences (many of them in the aforementioned bustling metropolis hive of industry place). As a kid, I didn’t really recognize the absurd for what it was, especially when the absurd was a school-sponsored function.

Like Hobo Day.

Yes, you read that right. When I was a young lass of about five or six, my school declared that there would be a special day for us to dress up like those charming vagabonds who ride the rails.

My mother put together quite the spiffy hobo ensemble for me to wear to what would become one of the most memorable bizarre events of my educational career (a career that fortunately, did not lead me down the dusty tracks of hobo-ism). Some goofy knee-socks, a pair of baggy blue knickers, a green vest, and the all-important red bandana on a bindlestick and before I knew it, I looked like a miniature version of a deranged down-on-his-luck Payne Stewart.

Now, it wasn’t enough for all of us kids to show up to school in tattered, mis-matched rag bag couture. Those bindles would prove quite handy as we made our way to…wait for it…the Hobo Picnic!

Yes! We packed up our mulligan stew, slung those sticks over our shoulders, and paraded through town to a nearby park to stand around a roaring trashcan fire dine on our delicious hobo fare. And, you know, climb on the monkey bars.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Was this really a school-sponsored activity? What did the good people of Saginaw think when they saw droves of mini-hobos sauntering down the street (with the required 1 chaperone per 5 children, of course)? Didn’t Simon and Garfunkel sing about Saginaw in some song? What is mulligan stew? Where can I get an official Hobo Convention tee shirt?

And here is my reply. Yes, yes it was. Why, I do not know. Really, it’s Saginaw, so probably nothing. Yes, yes they did. The song is called ‘America’ from the album Bookends. A dubiously tasty dish made of whatever one can beg, borrow, or steal (my guess is that owning a shiv is really helpful in procuring the ingredients for this particular delicacy). Right here!

illustration : portrait of the artist as a young hobo in pen & ink + watercolor by yours truly

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7 thoughts on “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Hobo

  1. Oh, we used to have field trips to the zoo in elementary school too. We were amazed by the exotic animals there…like guinea pigs. Or was that the pet store? Hmmm…nope, it was the zoo!

  2. I am laughing hysterically! Hobo Day? Seriously? Hobo Day? Ruth, that story is priceless, and so is your illustration. Thank you for making me have such a good chuckle, you silly girl!
    (I don’t think I will ever get that mental picture out of my head. Little mini hobos. I love it. Although, I don’t think hobos would wear a little heart barrette in their hair.) 😉

  3. Oh, Deirdre, I’ve got a million of ’em! If the absurdity of my childhood can bring a smile to one person’s face, then it was allllllll worth it. Heh.

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