IN THE LAND OF THE FREE.
Hustling the News in the Jungles.
by Mrs. C. A. Solomon.
The following are some of my experiences regarding my trip to the harvest this year, beginning May 8th and ending August 17th.
In response to the advertisements in the daily papers, those lying sheets, we left St. Louis for the berry fields at Monett, Neosho and Sarcoxie. We arrived two weeks ahead of time, as the berries were late this year. We had nothing to do but to look wise.
I pitched my tent in the Jungles, so you can see I had a chance to study the actual life of the hobo, Now, some of these men had money, that is those who came up from the berry fields in Arkansas. Others had none, but all were broke before the picking began. I found men sleeping in box cars, empty buildings, out in the open without cover, in old straw stacks. And all this in the rainiest summer on record. I also found from seventy-five to one hundred men sleeping nightly on the floors of an old city hotel.
Wagon Tramps and Their Families.
Wagon tramps were coming and going all the time. Some came from Oklahoma, others from Arkansas and the Ozarks. The wagons all broken and dilapidated and tied together with wires; the horses would be scorned by the buzzards if they dropped dead by the hillside. Others were drawn by Jennies in little better condition.
There are three classes of these wagon tramps: one known as the “Tradesman,” because he makes his living by swapping any old thing he can lay his hands on; others are called “Junkers.” They deal in rags, bottles and any kind of old junk; the third class lives by daily labor and are called ‘Travelers; they go from place to place seeking a day’s work.
Amongst this motley crew were aged men and women, dirty children, babies in arms, all on the ground in response to the advertisement which read: ”Wanted five thousand berry. pickers at once. Pay two cents per quart. Sarcoxie, Mo.
On the Job.
We went to work about one mile and a half south of town, for a Mr. Sam. Block and found this man to be a gentleman. This is a twelve acre field; but owing to the over-supply of pickers, we could not get in enough time and could not make expenses. When we got through with the strawberries, we got a job picking dewberries, and this was some job. The field belonged to Messrs. Roper and Johnson of Sarcoxie, Mo., and is one of seventy acres. It has never been cultivated for six years. You can imagine the briars and weeds, with water ankle deep, all over it. Conditions in the field and camps were something awful. Two water barrels with four tin cups to drink with. The comforts consisted of a few boards stuck up without trenches; and only four of those for two hundred pickers-men, women and children.
In camp, things were nauseating. Tents a half mile long on the Jasper and Newton County line. An old deserted house of seven rooms, partly afforded shelter for thirty pickers. Among those vas an old woman of seventy and her grandson, a boy of fourteen; a widow, who had five children to support; a young girl of sixteen; two boys of eighteen; two old men of seventy years; a man, wife and baby-the man an invalid; a young couple; a man and wife with two little girls; the others, like myself, hoboes, They found an old straw-stack in the fields and carried it in bundles for their bedding on the floor. On this litter, not fit for animals, this assortment of the down and outs, young and old, male and female, clean and dirty, had to pig together for their night’s rest. When the rain fell it was impossible to sleep as the roof and walls would not keep the water out, Cooking their meals was the same problem as in the railroad jungles. There was but one well to supply water for all these, including the horses of the wagon tramps. The yard around this old house was used as a pasture for these horses. At this camp there was but one comfort station for all hands-men, women, girls and children,
On June 14th I received my notification that there was a bundle of the Hobo News for me at the post office; but I did not get them till June 18th.
Hustling Under Difficulties.
A wagon pulled in with a sick woman, and they informed me it was a case of smallpox So I left that camp. I began to peddle the Hobo News, which soon came under the observation of Dr. Johnson, one of the owners of this dewberry field. On Sunday morning, he came to my tent and gave me forty minutes to get off the camping grounds, or he would have me pinched, and I had to move my tent to the county road. I put up a sign on my tent ‘Hobo News for sale here. per copy.’ The boys soon began to buy the paper and on reading the article in No. 3, by I. A. White, on the Harvest, soon became victims of the fury of Boss Johnson.
As there was nothing else doing here, we started for Kansas via Joplin. We found so many men at Dueneweg and Joplin that the law was running them out of town. We arrived at Columbus, Kan., and were stopped by two railroad Dicks and questioned as to where we were going. They told us not to go over to Skinners’ farm as there was a case of smallpox there, and not to go near the Jungles as we would sure get pinched. We learned through the baker and the constable that this was a case of chicken pox and not Evidently there was a reason for this contrary evidence.
From Columbus we went to Sherwin Junction over the Frisco and then took the Mop to Chetopa, near the Oklahoma line, intending to go and take in the potato harvest. But changed our minds in meeting so many hoboes coming from there as there was nothing doing in that place, we went north on the M. K. & T. to White City.
At this hostile burg I sold several papers and among them one was sold to the butcher. When ‘Slim’ went to the butcher shop to buy some meat, the butcher said to some man in the shop, ‘That’s the feller that sold me the Hobo News.’ While we were eating our dinner, in the shade of a stock car, which was the only shade near, we heard a voice eall out. ‘We have to disturb you, I want to put those hogs in the shade.’ They immediately drove the hogs into the car, so we had to eat oar dinner in the mid-day sun. When talking to the hoboes we were informed that White City was a white-cap town. So we left for Junction City, Kan., over the M., K. & T. We found there a jungle by the side of the river. One bo, taking a bathin the river was washed away and drowned.
The ‘Hobo News’ went like hot-cakes but it was stopped from selling them at the depot
platform, by the station master. We went to Salina over the U. P. and while there, another hobo was drowned while taking a bath. Another starved to death, and they found by postmortem examination that he had nothing on his stomach but mulberries. We found Salina to be a cheap burg. They were paying only $2.50 a day in the wheat fields with hours from sunrise to sunset. So we moved on and went to Luray, on the U. P. branch.
The Wheat Harvest Jungle.
We stayed here for ten days with the Harvest Stiffs. The men were holding out for $3.50 a day for ten hours work and the farmers came into the Jungles, looking for men they would walk around them, time after time. sizing them up as if they were buying cattle.
When Mr. Farmer got one picked out, and was asked what he was paying, he would say ‘the going wages, which meant three dollars, with hours sunup to sunset. One day while the harvesters were cooking a Mulligan stew, one farmer said to another, ‘You can’t get these gol darned hoboes to work for their board. They have too much to eat.’ I noticed that the men who had a little change would see to it that the others could eat, thus making it possible for them to live and get their demands. Our boys went to work on a farm, for one John C. Freeman, three and a half miles northeast of Waldo. They were there seventeen days and got seven days’ work. I spent the seventeen days in my tent on this farm and boarded with the family. He treated me white, But I found that other farmers were sore at the article by H. A. White. When we came back to Luray, and the boys were peddling the Hobo News on the stem, some of the home guards made threats and showed signs of violence, so we doubled back to Salina, and we found harvest hands there by the hundreds. After selling the paper there we started to Solomon, Kan., as I had some business to attend to there. When we reached the east end of the U.P. yards, there were forty men there, and we stopped to sell them the paper. All of a sudden there were twenty-five or thirty shots fired at us, The crowd scattered some going through nearby fields, others down the county roads, while others followed the railroad. There were from twenty to thirty minutes of great excitement. Then a hobo special pulled out. I could see in the dim light the forms of the men on the box ears. After the train passed on and all was still, we started down the county road which ran alongside the track. About two miles and a half from Salina, we picked up a man lying sense. less in the grass by the side of the track. He said the shack had shoved him from the train. We caught the train at Solomon to Junction City and left there at 8 the next morning on a passenger. We got off at White City and had our breakfast. While eating, one of the section men told me that a hobo had just shot a Roek Island brakeman and the town hull had shot the hobo. It seems the shack had demanded money and upon being told that the ho had done the shooting followed. In the afternoon I went to the depot to send a telegram for more manners and bought a ticket for Piqua. While waiting for the train T was peddling the Hobo News. Now this is the white-cap town. The sheriff and marshal had two men under arrest in the waiting-room. tried to find out something definite, if these men were mixed up in the shooting affray, and when Slim was speaking to them, those limbs of the law, those fat, sleek looking gentlemen who make their living by arresting harmless men in their way around the country, looking for work, came up to Slim and asked him forcibly, ‘Who are you and what do you want Slim said, ‘We represent the Press,’ ‘What paper,’ demanded the bull. ‘The Hobo News,’ answered Slim, ‘Well, you can’t talk to them fellows’ and pushed Slim aside and followed him to the platform. They then turned their attention to me. What’s that sheet you got there Y’ ‘This is the Hobo News, ‘Is that T. W. W. dope, he asked. I explained it was published by the Brotherhood Welfare Association. “Well” he asked, “This takes the Hobo side of the story” “Yes, sir; this gives the Hobo side of the question. You will agree that there are always two sides to every story.” “Well,” he said, “Thar is only one side to this story. That thar man is an I. W. W.’ Mr.’ I said, ‘I represent the press and here is credential. I do not want to see your papers,’ he shorted brutally, ‘That man is an T. W. W. I tall you, I can tell an I. W. W. forty rods away. I can tell an L. W. W. in the dark, by the noise he makes in the grass. That man wouldn’t work. Turning to the crowd that had gathered, he continued, ‘I tell you that fellow is an T. W. W. He would not work. I seized the hand of Slim and raised it to the view of the crowd and said, ‘You people can see the prejudice of this sheriff. Do you see the hard callouses on this man’s hands from the use of the pitchfork?’ Well,’ broke in the bull, ‘Why ain’t he workin’ now.’ He is employed, Mister,’ I answered. He is a news agent, and at this point the train came in and the two prisoners were hustled into the smoker. On account of my luggage and the costume I wear I always ride in the smoker. When I went to enter the ear, a well-dressed man seized me by the arm and said in a low, soft voice.This way, lady, this way, and hurried on into the coach. I did not understand the move of this prosperous looking man, but as the train proceeded on its journey for about three miles, the engine blew three sharp whistles as if some cattle or something were on the track, and the train came to a stop for about two seconds. Then sped on its way. I was looking out all the way to see where they were taking those prisoners, but when the train reached Piqua neither prisoners or sheriff were to be seen. I never saw hem leave the train. If any render can give me any information as to who those two men are or what was their fate, or can tell me their present whereabouts, I will appreciate it very much. All communications will be received at 1111 Cark avenue, St. Louis, Mo.
In the Peach Harvest.
At Fort Scott, we received another bundle of papers and started for southern Missouri, and on arriving at Brandsville, there were tents enough to cover a twenty-acre field. So we went on to Koshtonong, Mo., near the Arkansas line. Here the slaves who were fortunate enough to get a job must wear a large badge, oval shaped about four by two inches with the advertisements of The Ozark Fruit Growers’ Association, Pickers Number Conditions in this camp at Kosh were very bad. I found men by the hundreds without jobs and with nothing to eat. One particular case was that of a young man who chopped sprouts two weeks for his board, and after that time was unable to get work. He went three days without eating a bite. Faint from hunger and weak, he stopped to rest, and was noticed by another man who gave him a drink to revive so he could talk, and the wagon tramps found some morsels of food for him. This act saved his life. Another case was that of a boy of sixteen who had walked into town, hare. footed, and was picked up by a family of wagon tramps. This family consisted of six – father, mother and four children. Two of the children were sick. Still they were willing to divide their shelter with the homeless boy. There was an even more pitiful case of a man, wife and seven children. The eighth child, the oldest, was killed on the railroad track. This family of nine is living somehow in a tent waiting for the peach picking. One day when I was eating my dinner of bread, potatoes and pork chops and coffee, when I threw away the pork chops the little children scrambled for the bones. This was more than could stand, for I had nothing for myself and no hopes of getting a job. The conditions here in this camp are the same as the berry camps at Sarcoxie.
You will understand that there is a different class of people here to those in other parts of the country. They are illiterate and ignorant of the ways of the world and therefore more submissive and easily oppressed. Now, in this wonderful Ozark country, I know these conditions well. for Tam in the same plight as these nor people, no money, no work and no food.
With the Lumber Jacks.
After a cross-country hike, following a trail, across Oregon County, Carter County and part of Wayne County, Mo., in the White and Black River regions, when talking with the lumber jacks, they told me they were unable to make a living; that their wages ran from eighty cents to a dollar and a quarter a day. The people in those regions do not know the taste of meat. In Hunter and Carter Counties, while I was cooking my dinner, a woman, two little girls and a boy of fourteen came down the road. The mother stopped to talk to me and finding that I was traveling, told her story She was a widow in search of work. But she could find no work and was leaving town. The two little girls were riding a pony, all she possessed. The mother and son walked the track leading the pony. We met a man and his son, who stated that at the peach picking, from Monday and Tuesday, they had saved the sum of twenty cents. At the river side, we met a constant stream of men going down South. They said it was impossible to get work anywhere or at any price. One of them was an aged black man, who had just left the hospital; he did not have enough clothes on to pad a crutch. His footwear was rags and an old rubber shoe, tied on by strings. I found him to be a well schooled and intelligent person, although he was black and it misery.
It was raining when I arrived after a twenty-two mile hike. I was tired to death, but I cannot sleep in rainy weather, thinking of the homeless ones I met in my trip to the Jungles.