Wagons West Chronicles October Issue 2016 October Issue - Page 9

October 2016 Wagons West Chronicles “HOBO JACK” The Migratory Miner April 2, 1892, Phoenix Daily Herald, AZ — I want to say something about the migratory miner of Arizona. There are hundreds of him. But a single specimen suffices for our description. There he climbs, cheerily up in the rear steps of the company bunkhouse and lays a huge bundle of timeworn blankets tenderly down on the platform. He is a fleshy, good-looking son of Adam. He is decked out in a good black hat, a heavy blue flannel shirt and overalls, and miners’ shoes, with soles an inch thick, and he is known only by the euphonious title of “Hobo Jack.” Other names he may have had when a loving mother shared his baby cares in some eastern home. But what that name is, no one between the waters of either Ocean has the faintest idea, even with himself it is largely a matter of conjecture. All he knows is that he is just from Globe, dead broke and he “wants on.” When he “wants on” he “wants on” bad. He goes to the foreman and addresses him as “mister,” in meek and lowly tones that imply dire distress in the applicant’s make up. The foreman may understand English, but he can’t speak it very well. If he could, he would never get to be foreman in Arizona. The foreman is a big chief and Jack is a supplicant; figuratively speaking he gets down and licks the dust from off the Boss’ shoes for a job. Such abject homage is sweet to the imperious foreman, his high aldermanic authority is vindicated, his pride is satisfied and “Hobo Jack” gets his “lay out,” $2.50 per day and grub. Boiler iron steak broiled by a Chinaman and warmed over for seven hours before Jack puts in a shift on it. Cabbage, boiled roots Click To Watch 9 The Real Gold Rush Doctumentary Click To Watch and all. Butter that you had to chain fast in the summer, and spread with a soldering iron in the winter. Coffee brewed above a sediment, the age and nature of which no science could ever determine. Besides this, he has the privilege for $2.00 per month of laying his weary frame to rest in one of the Company’s hard wood bunks, there to be confronted with a chorus of disjointed snores, and bed bugs as big as Arkansas snapping turtles. The Company saves him the trouble of paying his poll tax and road tax by taking $4.50 out of his wages for that purpose. Thus he contributes to educate the children of men who would refuse him admission to their back yards. Then again the Company deducts $2.00 per month from his payroll for hospital services; yet if he wends his way sick and weary u nto the Company physicians, he is straightway informed that his is a 45 calibre case brought on by his own indiscretions, in using hard names or rambling in the storms as the case may be and so he is entitled to no maintenance. He gets $2.00 worth of moral advice and dies or gets well according to the tenor of his constitution and the extent of his determination. After a few months, despite every disadvantage, he is able to count up a couple of hundred dollars to his credit. Word goes around the camps that “Hobo Jack” has got a “long sack” and is negotiating for the purchase of a drinking joint over in “Cutthroat Band.” He is no longer the same Hobo Jack with sheet iron overall and socks, the forerunner of yellow fire. But Jack the Daisy. The foreman is a different proposition in Jack’s eyes now. He has to deliver his orders to Jack in very even tones and look pleasant while he is doing it or the latter will “smack’m one and hit the trail.” Jack’s prosperity is at its high tide. At its zenith, in fact. He sometimes talks of women, babies, home; a mere allusion of this kind is as high as he gets. The next day, Jack’s “pard” is “fired” for wearing too much on the gable end of his overalls in the foreman’s absence. His pard goes downtown to arrange for his departure. After supper, Jack goes down to assist him. They both “come up ox-eyed” before midnight. Jack hunts up the foreman and demands time with a John L. Sullivan glare. The foreman implores him to be merciful and not break up the company by leaving. But Jack is inexorable. Takes his pay, breathes vengeance on the company in general and the foreman in particular, and with his pard, mounts the Rocky Mountain Snail of a stage the next morning and glides away in all his glory. Six weeks at most will see him crawling up another flight of back stairs in the rear of another Company boarding house. In another and distant camp in this blessed Territory, another bundle of blankets on his back, the remnants of his recent greatness, and this is the life of Hobo Jack from year to year, and of a thousand such in Arizona as the snows settle and melt and as the Bluebirds come and go.