Saturday Stories: The Hobo Jungle

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The trip that Alton and Bumpa took across the country was frought with danger.  Here were two small town boys, just barely out of high school with no worldly experience facing hardened men on the road.  Although they started their adventure with what they thought was a sure plan, obstacles often arose which led them to plan B or even C.

One time, outside a big industrial city, Bumpa and Alton were separated.  Through word of mouth, the boys knew about certain places that they could stay.  The last resort was a hobo jungle.  Hobo jungles or camps were squatter towns.  These tent cities were a law unto themselves.  Yes, there were people who were law abiding citizens who stayed in these camps, but there was also an element ripe for crime.

With nowhere else to turn, Bumpa wandered into one of these jungles alone.  He later related that the atmosphere literally made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.  He saw the most desperate kind of people.  They eyed him with suspicion and malice.   Now you have to realize that Bumpa was not a puny weakling.  He was not a big man by any means, but he was enormously strong.  Looking at him, you wouldn’t think he was an easy mark, but being in that camp made him nervous.

Finally, one man offered to share a pot of beans with him.  He sat down to eat and started to observe some of the goings on around him.  Apparently, an illegal fencing operation had been set up in the camp.  People covertly lugged items up to this area and exchanged them for cash.  Bumpa turned to his host and asked what was going on and the man replied, “You mind your own business and don’t get involved in what doesn’t concern you.”  Bumpa didn’t say anything more, but continued to watch.  Pretty soon an automobile pulled into camp and some swanky dressed Al Capone type characters went over to the fence and did some business. 

That was enough for Bumpa.  He thanked his host for the meal and took off out of the camp.  The oppressive feelings of evil and danger were too much for him.  He hadn’t gone more than a quarter mile out of the camp when streams of police cars rushed past him in to the camp.  Cops jumped out of their cars and started billy clubbing the men, breaking up the camp and the operation within it.

Bumpa said it was probably the scariest, most awful experience of his entire trip.

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