Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Sneaking on railroad cars as a means of transportation is a lifestyle that isn't for everyone. In fact it's outlawed in every state. But there is a loose-knit family of old and young, men and women, who still consider themselves hoboes.

And being considered a hobo, or a rail-rider, isn't something Charles Gill of Rainbow City tries to hide, at least if the person asking doesn't work for a railroad company.

The retired General Motors employee, known by his hobo moniker as Hobo Spike, was crowned Hobo King last month at the 2003 National Hobo Convention held in tiny Britt, Iowa. The gathering is attended by as many as 40,000 spectators. But typically about 100 real-life hoboes - with names like Steam Train Murray, Connecticut Shorty and Squirrely Shirley - attend. The convention has been held every year since 1900 in Britt, in the middle of the mostly rural state known for its seemingly endless cornfields.

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