Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Coast Rail Challenge


A 500 word short story by Scott A. Gese

His name was Saul Porter. He was a travelin' man. On the road for three years come June.

The road was a stretch of tracks along the Pacific Coast between Seattle and Los Angeles. He knew them well as he had traversed them from one end to the other on several occasions.

Saul wasn't your ordinary homeless and hungry transient living on the streets of some big city. He was a self made transient, or hobo as he preferred to be called. He shunned the city streets and kept to the tracks. Living off the land and the generosity of others. He did odd jobs in exchange for food or money. Was always polite and as clean as he could keep himself.

Three years ago Saul Porter was an American history professor. Specializing in the early twentieth century depression years. Particularly the life of the American Hobo. He was in his thirties, had a good job and money in the bank. His friends knew of his “hobo obsession” as they called it. How he would drive to the coast from his home in Eugene, Oregon and wander down to the tracks that ran along the rim of the west coast. How he looked for hobo's just passing through and gathered information for a book he planned to write some day.

One day a friend challenged him. “You'll never know what it's really like unless you live the life yourself. Take a year and become a hobo.”

Saul accepted the challenge. In late June he packed up a few essentials, put a twenty dollar bill in his pocket and hit the road.

Saul wasn't an authentic hobo? He had the luxury of knowing he would be home in a year. That he could stop at any time. Even so, he tried to make the experience as authentic as possible.

There was a definite learning curve involved. Meeting up and camping with other homeless men along the tracks could be challenging. Some were genuinely nice, but most only wanted what they could get from him. No one used their real name, so he gave himself the moniker of Moukey. He learned to keep his personal possessions close and to keep a wary eye on anyone who appeared overly friendly.

He learned to hop slow moving freight trains and enjoy the passing scenery from a box car door. Food was a challenge and Moukey quickly learned what plants were edible, where to find fruit and berries and how to make due with little. Hobo stew became a staple.

Finding odd jobs close to the tracks was challenging but not impossible. People were generally helpful if he was sincere and polite. Whenever he had more than he needed, he shared it with others in need. They did the same. It was one of the many unspoken rules he learned along the way.

After a year, Moukey decided to extend the challenge to three. Only then would he feel qualified to write about the experience.

© Copyright 2019 by Scott A. Gese All Rights Reserved.

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