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by [?]

The poor tramp is a much-abused person, and I have no doubt that he often deserves what is said of him, but, in spite of that, his life is often so hard that he might extort at the least a little sympathy–and something to eat. All Americans are too ready to confound two distinct classes of tramps–those who take the road to look for work, and those (the larger number, I confess) who look for work and pray to heaven that they may never find it. In this preponderance of the lazy traveller over the industrious lies the distinction between the state of affairs in America and Australia, for in the latter country the “sundowner,” or “murrumbidgee whaler,” or “hobo” proper, is in the minority.

When I was on the tramp myself in Oregon I was much annoyed by being taken for one of the truly idle kind. I remember at Roseberg, or a little to the north of it, I once stopped and had a talk with a farmer whom I had asked for work. Although he had none to give me he was very civil, and we talked of tramps and tramping. He looked at me keenly. “I can see you are not of the regular professionals,” said he. “Thank you for your perspicacity,” I answered, and though perspicacity fairly floored him, he saw it was not an insult, and went on talking. “Now look here, my boy, they say we’re hard on tramps, and perhaps some of us are, but I reckon we sometimes get enough to make us rough. Last summer I was in my orchard, picking cherries, I think, and a likely-looking, strong young fellow comes along the road. Seeing me, he climbs the fence, and says to me, ‘Say, boss, could you give me something to eat? I haven’t had anything to-day.’ I looked at him. ‘Why, yes,’ said I. ‘If you’ll go up to the house I’ll be up there in a few minutes when I’ve filled this pail; and while you’re waiting just split a little wood. The axe is on the wood pile.’ Now, look you, what d’ye think he said. ‘I don’t split wood. I ain’t going to do any work till I get to Washington Territory.’ ‘Oh!’ said I, ‘that’s it, is it? Then look here, young fellow, don’t you eat anything till you get there either; for I won’t give you anything, and just let me see you climb that fence in a hurry.’ So he went off cursing. Ain’t that kind of thing enough to make us rough on tramps?–let alone that they steal the chickens; and if you look as you go down the road you’ll see feathers by every place they camp.” That was true enough, and south of the Umpqua I used to find goose feathers every few hundred yards. On that same tramp down through Oregon I once met four men travelling north. There had been a murder committed by a tramp in the south of Roseberg, and we stopped under an old scrubby oak to talk it over. Three of them were working men, but the fourth was a true professional, about fifty years of age, whose clothes were ragged to the last extremity of tatters. His hands were brown at the backs, but I noticed, when I gave him some tobacco, which he very promptly asked for, that the palms were perfectly soft. He told us how long he had travelled, and how many years it was since he had done any work; and, finally rising, he picked up a wretched-looking blanket, and said, “Well, good-day, gentlemen. I’m off to call on the Mayor of Portland and a few rich friends of mine up there.” He winked good-humouredly and shambled off.

I met a lame young fellow near Jacksonville, who told me he had come all the way from New York State, and was thinking of going back. He was in very good spirits, and did not appear in the least dismayed at the prospect of tramping 2000 miles, for he was one of those who do not use the railroad and “beat their way.” When I was at work in Sonoma County, California, a little fellow came and worked for ten days, who once travelled 200 miles inside the cowcatcher of an engine. Most English people know the wedge-shaped pilot in front of the American engine well enough by repute to recognise it. When the engine was in the yard over the hollow track he crawled in, taking a board to sit on inside. When the locomotive once ran out on the ordinary track it was impossible to remove him, although the fireman soon discovered his presence there, and poured some warm water over him. On coming to a little town about fifty miles from his destination the constable came down to the train. “He came,” said Hub (that was our tramp’s name) “to see that no tramps get off there, or, if they did, to advise them to clear out. He walked to the engine and said ‘Good day’ to the driver. ‘Got any tramps on board to-day, Jack?’ he said. ‘We’ve got one,’ he answered; ‘but we can’t get him off.’ ‘Why? how’s that?’ said the constable. ‘Go and look at the pilot.’ So he came round and looked at me, and he burst into a laugh. ‘All right, Jack,’ says he, ‘you can keep him. He won’t trouble us, I can see.’ And with that he poked me with his stick, and called everyone to take a look. I said nothing, but you bet I felt mean to be cooped up there, not able to move, with all the folks laughing at me.”