of the Month
Mission and Values
Born in Ohio, G.
Wilbur Miner, also known as "William
G. Miner," was a longtime railroader in Altoona, Cambria County, PA,
home of the famed "horseshoe curve." He retired in 1942 as a
conductor with the Pittsburgh Division of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad and
was a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, a union organization
founded in 1883. He most decidedly was not a "hobo" as the word
is understood in today's American culture.
William's great-granddaughter Linda
(Miner) Bryan is a writer of literary poetry. She uses her family
experiences as source material, with her work based on "many kernels of
truth and fact but poetic license is used," she says. Linda remembers as a
young girl, sitting at William's farm house and hearing about him talk of riding
the rails to pick apples or whatever else he could do to make money. "It
was always fascinating to hear him talk," she says. "He gave me a
silver dollar with his birthdate on it and of course she still has that
treasured coin and his stories to remember him by.
Grandpap Miner was a railroad hobo.
Not a bum – a hobo – and there is a difference.
A bum looks for handouts – a hobo looks for work –
Weeding gardens, washing windows, sweeping walks.
his wiry, slim body into fast-moving box cars,
Grandpap traveled by rail from Altoona to Seattle earning
Money to send to his mother, brothers and sisters.
was a professional apple picker
Which made him more of a man than those rich
Wall Street wimps who couldn’t face the prospect of poverty.
They took the easy way out – spring boarding to a premature
Death by diving out of twentieth story windows leaving
Wives and children to pay for their funerals and
Fend for themselves.
spoke a foreign language –
The language of hobos –
Signs left along the side of the road to warn of danger and
Tell of kind ladies who might be willing to feed a poor hobo:
this place - risk of being arrested.
police here are not friendly to hobos.
religiously and they'll give.
water is dangerous to drink.
can camp here.
dream I am running along side a box car and
Grandpap sweeps his muscular, strong arm down
Pulling me up into his world. We
ride the rails together –
A little country girl in denim jeans, a buffalo plaid shirt and
Pig tails tied up in red gingham bows and
hero, now old, his thick coal black hair turned the
Color of silver dollars, his aging cerulean blue eyes,
Pale and translucent. His tall
straight back now
Bent forward. His long, slim
fingers, knarled and stiff.
off to lands unknown –
Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Portland, Seattle.
The cinder dicks – railroad police – call our kind “box car
They don’t really mind us but when they pass by we
Hide in the corner just to be sure they aren’t in the mood to
“rustle for bums” that day.
we’ll make coffee in hobo jungle under the railroad bridge
Using a huge blue granite pot left behind by others.
We’ll fry eggs we found in a basket near a nice lady’s mailbox.
If work is good, we’ll buy a can of pork and beans to share.
was a gentleman and much more interesting than
Most of the erudite PhDs I’ve stumbled upon.
More than forty years ago. I would love to sit on his porch and
Talk with him once more. But my dreams are only dreams and
I am left to ponder a life well spent – a husband, father,
Grandfather, great-grandfather, teacher and box car tourist
On the Hobo Express.
Copyright © 2008
Linda (Miner) Bryan. Republished with permission of the author.