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"All the tramps have left New Orleans—they kick around up North for the Summer."

Patrick Reedy of Sundown Songs told me that at the end of May, and it surely is the truth. I'm seeing people perched on highway guard rails waiting to catch a ride. A few days ago we saw three crust lords at the stoplight in downtown White River Junction, headed for the train yard. When I came through Maine last week I saw people we know from the Museum, and we're seeing people show up at the Museum whom we know from our own roaming. Everyone seems to be on the move, especially now that the weather has broken. Bless you all, and safe travels.

David Hammond. July 13, 2009.

You Can't Get There From Here, Because Rail and Bus Service Have Been Discontinued

A couple weeks ago I went to Montpelier and Barre, Vermont, to do research for the Main Street Museum's current project on tramps and hobos. I didn't hop a freight - I drove.

I met a woman in the Vermont newspaper archives who is researching a family name across the country, and she said it's getting harder to do this without a car.

That's because a lot of small-town public records and newspaper archives have never been digitized. You have to visit them in person to see them.

But she doesn't drive, and many communities in the midwest and northern plains have lost both passenger rail and bus service.

So she hitch-hikes to the archives.

Once upon a time, communities competed to get rail service. Now they try to hang on to what they have left - an elementary school, a post office, a stop on the long-distance bus route.

And there's someone on the road side with her thumb out who is neither destitute nor a vagabond - she's a researcher, and she's trying to get to an archive.

David Hammond. June 6, 2009.

Which Way Does Time Flow? And What Does it Point To?

I'm putting together a study disc of songs relating to the open road and the rails for our Tramp and Hobo Symposium.

I'm taking my cue from the new Abbe Museum in downtown Bar Harbor, Maine, where a timeline of local indigenous people starts in the present day and moves to a point many centuries ago. I understand the display to see that point in time as not having been left behind.

So I read my tramp and hobo sources starting with one of the newest, a book that includes a lot of oral history taken down decades after widespread hobo-ing came to an end. Then I read memoirs written closer to the golden age of hobo-ing, which ended in 1929. Then I looked at the oldest tramp-related material I could find, stuff from the 1870s and 1880s. The I went out in the backyard and spent an afternoon tearing down a rotted fence.

I hoped I was peeling down through what hoboes were not, to what they were, or are.

I'm arranging my study disc the same way. The first track is the "Hobo's Lullaby," and I'll run back—or inward—to "Lonesome Joe" or something even older.

This way I get out from under letting nostalgia and mellow memories stand as the conclusion to what I've read and heard this spring.

I want the endpoint to be whatever is oldest, meanest, surliest, loneliest, sweatiest.

Maybe the cycle will end with the wail of a train whistle, or the clacking of the wheels, or perhaps the scream of a hobo who has lost hold of a brake beam and fallen to his death on the cinders below. Or the scrape and grunt of a man shoveling coal, or ore, or dirt, for hours on end.

Maybe those sounds should all fall away, and leave only the sound of walking feet, and then only the sound of water flowing.

Drat – I just romanticized all this. Hard not to, really.

David Hammond. 27 April, 2009.

Spikes and It's the Stupid Economy

Winter. End of 2008—The Main Street Museum has seen a signifiant increase in memberships over the last half of 2008. It may be the economy. It may be the stupid economy. People are thinking more locally. And they are definitely supporting the Museum more since this past September. We don't know what it all means.

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Laugier. Essay on Architecture published in 1755.
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