Saturday, August 06, 2011

Hobo-ing America

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This was the most exciting adventure in our lives and despite all the conversation, very few people actually do what Carol and I did. We sold everything we owned, including Carol’s little MG Midget; bought a van and hit the road, Jack. We left our secure lives in 1976 and the adventure never stopped. I was managing restaurants and Carol was a reparatory therapist working the emergency room at a Miami hospital.

When our initial adventure capital ran out, we were reading the Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. We were inspired. Why couldn’t we get crazy migrant/hobo type jobs and continue traveling across America? We did. And that is where this book begins – in a farm labor bureau employment office in California. We were signing up to go “top onions” with all the poor contract laborers and illegal immigrants. The interviewer thought we were nuts.

I subtitled this book “a workingman’s adventure.” That is not quite fair to Carol who also lived a “workingman’s” life. She didn’t sit back at the van baking cup cakes. She climbed 20 ft. ladders to pluck oranges from the top of thorny oranges trees; she tonged oysters from the bottom of Apalachicola Bay; she topped onions crawling around on her hands and knees in the desert-like sun of southern California. She did a “man’s” work, as they say.

We are both now well into our 60’s and as I review this book and our adventure, I must say I found a girl who was one in a million. Carol can gripe with God over what she was given but I certainly have no justified complaints on the girl he sent to me.
We had so much fun on this adventure that I felt compelled to write a book about it. Our adventure began in 1976 and ended in an ice cream parlor in Carrabelle Florida in the year 2000. That’s where the book ends but our adventure is still in progress.
Deciding to pack up and leave Fort Lauderdale and our steady, dependable jobs and lives to have a little adventure before we were too old to enjoy it, was truly a monumental decision. It changed our lives and it changed us … for the better.
When I compare this to other travel books and I have read them all – On the Road by Jack Kerouac or Charles Karualt, Mark Twain’s many travel books, the Dove, Walking Across America, Blue Highways, Travels with Charlie by John Steinbeck, Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson, I think Hobo-ing America stands out as somewhat unique. We worked our way around this country. We weren’t on a sabbatical or a scholarship. We weren’t getting a check from National Geographic. We worked and we worked hard doing jobs that the majority of Americans wouldn’t do on a dare.

There are only two other books that I think compare with Hobo-ing America in this regard, Two Years before the Mast by William Henry Dana and Pages from a Worker’s Life by William Z. Foster. Those two guys also put in some sweat.

This is a fun book. It is written as Mark Twain advised, without the author forgetting his sense of humor. Carol and I had great fun and met bunches of loveable and very interesting people. It was the experience of a lifetime for both Carol and I. We both hope you will buy a copy and enjoy reading it. Good luck on your adventure.

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