The railroad tracks were walked by men in worn out clothes. They looked dirty but wore their best clothes—with neckties and old vests. Mom would give them a drink of cold water if they came to the door, knocked and asked for a drink.
Sometimes mother would fix-up a plate of beans for them to eat—if they asked for something to eat. The hobos would not be allowed to come in our house; they stayed outside to eat. Mom gave them a wash pan of hot water, a wash rag, homemade lye soap and a towel. She stood there and made sure they washed their face and hands. Once they got cleaned up she would hand them a plate of food.
This painting that I did about 50 years ago was an attempt to create the generic hobo. I would often see a trail of smoke coming up from the railroad tracks north of town where we lived. It didn’t take me long to walk up the tracks to where the smoke was and I would see a hobo sitting there, smoking a hand-rolled Bull Durham cigarette, with a pot of beans or something cooking over a fire. I saw a lot of them reading an old newspaper that they carried with them to use for toilet paper. And it was also used to keep up on their reading skills. Most were friendly, middle aged men—down on their luck, mom would say.