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American Stuff
Work from the Federal Writers Project

Publishing Information

    Bumming in California
    McDaniel, Eluard Luchell, San Francisco, California

  1. In the winter of 1931, three Bums and myself began to see California by a I-O-U. About twenty-five cents among the four of us. Sleeping in the most comfortable box-cars in the Southern Pacific Railroad yard. There were no hotels in the city of Los Angeles, for the price we had to pay. Twenty-five cents would only pay for one in a common flop-house.

  2. At that time hitch-hiking was not so good. People were afraid to trust strangers in their automobiles. The people that would give anyone a ride, did not want their car dirtyed up by Bums like us. We done most of our traveling by train. In the railroad yard floaters were from all parts of America.

  3. The railroad Bulls were plentyful. They stayed busy trying to keep Bums from riding the trains. Policemen were busy ordering floaters out of towns throughout California.

  4. Some of the guys was from California, most came from the North, South, and East. There was no trouble to find gangs from everywhere. Some floaters could tell you every railroad stop from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

  5. There were four in our group: Luchell McDaniel, B. Jay Hubert, Asti Butt Slim, and Mulligan Joe. The railroad Bull put us off the trains from Los Angeles. Walking taken place. We seen a milepost it showed six miles from Los Angeles city limit, on the road no ride and no stops.

  6. Not one had enough money to buy food for the group. We were saving the twenty-five cents for ferry fare into San Francisco. Every one of us had something different to say about food. Not one was in humor to say much about anything. We were expecting to land in Oakland off some highspeed Limited from the Valley Line. It was harder to hobo the Coast Line. The talk were something to eat.

  7. When we were three miles pass San Bernardino, Asti Butt Slim spied some farmer's ranch. We taken to the ranch as if it were our own. Eating taken place. That ranch was the best friend we had on our journey over California, by a I-OU. We had been boasting about the wholesale terminal, but the policemen had made it so hot, Los Angeles was not the place for anymore Bums.

  8. That ranch had peaches, grapes, and apricots, we made ourselves at home. We had our pockets full. That satisfied us a full stomach, without bumming anything.

  9. We were on the ranch three hours and twenty minutes. Mulligan Joe called us by name, let's go guys; not me, answered Asti Butt Slim. I ain't thinking about going nowhere. Then B. Jay Hubert spoke up: Man, as long as we went without eating, you guys should never talk about leaving this kingdom. Mulligan Joe said, well, you know that my home ain't here. It don't make me no different now if you guys never leave this farmer's ranch.

  10. Mulligan Joe was long and tall, he was seven feet tall and weight one hundred and ninety pounds. He had allways been call Joe but when we found him to be the biggest Mulligan eats that where he get the name of Mulligan Joe. Joking taken place. Us Floaters had America and the World to talk about. The ranch owner name were never mentioned. We never forget the peaches, grapes, and apricots we had taken from the ranch. We heard trains blowing the whistles but there were not a one in that group cared anything about trains or whistles anymore.

  11. By the time we were to leave the ranch, six more floaters from Los Angeles came walking in to make their selves at home. Not one of that gang asked who own the ranch. What's your name? one of the other Bums ask me. Luchell McDaniel. Whose those other guys with you? One answered I am Mulligan Joe, another I am B. Jay Hubert, I am Asti Butt Slim. Rocking Chair Buddy told the names of his gang. These guys is: Long Coat Lizy, Sugar Butt Sam, Candy Dodging Dayboy, High Cap Swanginggate, Slicker Fastblack, and Didy Waw Didy. We waited until they were full from peach ranch and began looking for a train.

  12. Not a passenger train in sight. Bums were walking around the little station, like soldiers on the army ground. Loud talking. No place to go, we were in such hurry. What's rush? ask Mulligan Joe. No rush, I just want to be doing something, answered Asti Butt Slim. B. Jay Hubert never said a word. Another: Deal me out this time. Our gang had the peach and apricot blues.


  13. We rode the Fireball Special for three hours and twenty minutes. Another unhappy stop. Most of the fruit from the ranch had almost petered out. Not so much high talking and laughing. No one cared about how large New York was, or how small the next town. The talk were food. Some said that nothing could worrie they mind but the lack of food was worrying all of our stomachs.

  14. Only two hours before daytime. We never had sleeping to worrie about. The train stop about three miles of town. All of us taken a little headache. No bad off sick. The idea of having to walk three miles on an empty stomach. In Fresno, California, a train of sugarbeets was couple to a dead engine. Not even a watchman nor a Bull in sight. We had been kind of choice about our food, especially after we left the peach, grape, and apricot ranch.

  15. That morning it wasn't a bad choice about anything we ate. We found that sugar-beet train to be a friend. We made a breakfast of raw sugar-beets. The Fireball Special standing in the yard at Fresno, California. Floaters were walking up and down the sugarbeet train like ants on a meat skin. Eating beets wherever we wanted. We fill the empty spots in our stomachs, and began to talk about traveling. Some wanted to gamble. We had cards and dice. About twenty-five of us in one box-car. Us twenty-five had one dollar and thirty cents. Mulligan Joe had a deck of black-jack cards and banking his own game with twenty-five cents. Only thirty-five cents around Mulligan box table, including his own twenty-five cents. We known that Mulligan Joe was the biggest game runner-on that train.

  16. B. Jay Hubert and Asti Butt Slim were playing across the log, with Rocking Chair Buddy and High Cap Swanginggate. Luchell McDaniel, Candy Dodging Dayboy, Seal Goodstuff, Cantie Catchen, Long Broadway, and Slicker Fastblack were playing the Georgia Skin. In the lefthand side of that box-car, was Long Coat Lizy and Didy Waw Didy, playing Kune Can. We gambled until the sugar-beets began to wear out.


  17. We never stop walking. Some singing the blues, some telling stories while other talking about railroads. Not a policeman on our mind. Who's that man, ask Asti Butt Slim? Another Bum like you, answered Long Coat Lizy. It is two of them guys, said Mulligan Joe. If it twenty policemen we don't give a dog, some answered. A well dress man and his son walk to us and ask if we would like to work. Don't talk like that, said Didy Waw Didy, you known that we want something. Well, I have a lot of hay to get in before it get wet and if you boys will hall it for me I will pay you well.

  18. Bums began to whisple from one to the other. Boys, if we take this job, everything will be allright. Yes, answered Didy Waw Didy. Didy Waw Didy was known more than any hobo. He had cross the country more than any floater in America. He could dot in and out a town more than any hobo, that why he was known Didy Waw Didy.

  19. We stayed on that ranch for two days. That farmer paid us six dollars for the two days. We went some distance from that ranch and began our usual oldtime game. Gambling on everything but the time of day and with six dollars each, we had something to gamble with.

  20. We gambling like we had a income. We made agreement not to break each other all of us had been broke once. No one could lose anymore than three dollars of his money on that train.

  21. Before the Fireball Special got to Oakland we stop in another one horse town. That town was not large enough to worrie us about policemen. After we had been there for only a short time the chief of police came down and ordered us out town. Long Coat Lizy began to show the officer where he was wrong about calling us Bums. We got money, answered some of the other boes. The chief never cared what we had.

  22. We Bums had too much money in our pocket for any man to talk that way to us. Didy Waw Didy said: Officer, if you give me five or ten minutes, I will leave this one man town. He ask us again: who's going to jail or whose going to leave this town. Sugar Butt Sam was allways too smart anyway. He made the officer angry. Mulligan Joe, who had such kind way of talking, never had a chance. Sie Boleg, the Bum that could never be satisfied playing cards except he was in jail, keep his self trying to get everybody arrested.

  23. Asti Butt Slim was round shouldered from getting in and out of patrol wagons, stayed in different jails more than he lived in anybody home, did everything to have all of us put in the can. The chief taken us before the desk sargent: book these fellows. Where about? How is we going to keep all this many guys in that small jail. Well, answered the chief, in a angry way; if the jail won't whole these birds, we will put all over in the post-office. We may have to put some of these birds in the Western Warehouse for safe keep.

  24. You seven guys that begging so hard may go. No you: slim one. You are going to the workhouse. You ten birds, standing by the fence beat it. You eight guys here will serve a plenty time. What your names? I am Luchell McDaniel, I am B. Jay Hubert, I am Asti Butt Slim, I am Mulligan Joe, I am Long Coat Lizy, I am Sugar Butt Sam, I am Sie Boleg, I am Cantie Catchen, and that guy over there is Didy Waw Didy. It is good thing that I didn't have to take the names of that whole group, said the chief. You know that some time ago, we got the news from South that a gang of floaters coming to San Francisco did a lot of harm in San Bernidena and Fresno, I hope you are not the one's. What was the harm ? All just a bunch of unthoughtful Bums wreks some Farmer ranch. Beside that, the police in Northern California is on the lookout for that worthless gang of hobos.

  25. We hobos could not afford to speak. That chief was talking about us and we knew it. Not one in our bunch knew anything about that town or what happen. We knew that he was talking about us. Mulligan Joe were all upset about having to go and serve the thirty days, that he lost his head. Well, officer, why tell us what happen in the South? That ain't going to fill our stomach. Didy Waw Didy never had anything to say while the officer were talking but he went to whispleing the black snake blues.

  26. How old is you guys? I am 15 - I am 14 - I am 16 - I am 17 - I am 16 - I am 17 - I am 15 - I am 14. You boys is just kids, ain't you ? Yes sir. Still you are old enough to do a lot of harm. I never got your age, McDaniel. I am 14 years old. What did you say and how old? I am 14 years old. The officer was silent for two or three minutes. I was fixing to turn you boys aluce but he had to liar. No liar, officer. Well, I just know, that it ain't no way in hell for you to get that big, fat, and ugly in 14 years.

  27. He let us go without having to serve anytime in prison. We promise that officer that we would never try it again. That was the last time we Bums were arested for trying to travel on the I-O-U over California.