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Word of Mouth

The American Hobo

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Credit dhendrix73 via Flickr Creative Commons

There’s something keenly American about riding the rails. We meet kind-hearted hoboes in Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” hear the restless spirit in Woody Guthrie songs and cheer on Chaplin’s little tramp striking out for the Yukon.

The life of a working hobo isn’t nearly so romantic, especially today, when their numbers are few and rail security is fierce. Since 1900, many of those who can make their way to Britt, Iowa for the annual National Hobo Convention. Aaron Lake Smith is Senior Editor of Vice Magazine, where he wrote about hitching his own ride to Britt. His experience there led him to wonder if the American hobo has reached the end of the line.

Check out the accompanying documentary from Vice Magazine :

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