The Occupational Hobo
The Great American Hobo
America was once hobo powered, before the puffs of steam and clouds of exhaust flowed from machines, it was the sweat on the brow and the grunts of exertion uttered by hoboes that accomplished the work. Louis L’Amour in his memoir the “Education of a Wandering Man,” explains that a hobo was a wandering worker, often providing seasonal labor and essential to the nation’s economy; not to be confused with bums and tramps that were local and wandering persons who weren’t willing to work. Hoboes plied a variety of skills depending on the work that was available always learning and always drifting on to new places and new work.
A Family of Occupational Hoboes
While never a drifter, my wife has labeled me an occupational hobo, my interest drifting from one subject to another, sometimes from curiosity other times from necessity. A trait that runs in my family, my Grandfather Sam Simpson was born in 1919, during the heyday of the hobo and just before the Great Depression. He often describe his life as one of constant work, with never a moment to just “play”. From his earliest years he supported himself running a trap line and working as a farm hand harvesting, tiling, grubbing stumps, and even sneaking rides on trains to traverse the country. Later in his life he worked in a ceramic tile factory and farmed while ranching, welding, and working as a machinist.
My father, Gerald Simpson, was something of an occupational hobo as well, working on the farm, as well as in a motorcycle repair shop and as a truck stop attendant earlier in life. Later as an apartment manager, appliance repairman, and then as a farmer, while doing whatever else was necessary: roofing, plumbing, dry walling, and auto body repair.
Finally, my life is already somewhat that of an occupational hobo helping on the farm as child before working as a contractor installing roofs, siding, and windows. During the slow times as a contractor I also worked as a Barista and a UPS package handler. In more recent years I have been a Pastor and a Wastewater Operator.
The Interests of Paul the Occupational Hobo
My foremost interest recently is leather working and you can see and purchase items via The Railroad Leather Company. Someday I might decide on a single occupation, but for the time being, an occupational hobo is what I am, with interests mainly working primitively – doing by hand that which is mainly mechanized and automated today, crafts including working wood with hand tools, bookbinding, baking bread, blacksmithing, and tinsmithing. All with the intent of restoring old things, recreating the kind of artisan quality that was once renowned in handwork, and reusing items so often discarded today. I also have ever expanding interests in other subjects including web and graphic design, coffee roasting, and so much more.