Grandma Mellie's Scrapbook
Copyright © 2001, Michael S. Cole, M.D.

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Remember the Tramps?

    A long time ago, when I was a girl at home, I remember tramps coming by to beg for something to eat.
    The railroad went through our farm and one could look out through the day and often see tramps or hobos walking on the railroad tracks.
    I often wondered why they had become wanderers. Perhaps some were just going from one place to another seeking work and had to walk. Maybe it was just a way of life with them--no folks and no home.
    Often they would come to our house wanting food. Some were willing to work for a bite.
    My father always fed them. He would ask them to chop a little wood while mama fixed them a sack of food. Often there would be amusing incidents. Once a man started cutting wood and papa came into the house. Dad looked out and the man had disappeared. Evidently he wasn't hungry enough to work for his eats.
    I remember a man came one day and there was not much left from dinner. But papa fixed some cornbread and put apple preserves between the bread like a sandwich. As the tramp went up the road he looked inside the sack and then threw the food on the ground.
    Another time a tramp came to the gate. We had a dog that slept on the porch on a table. He gave one leap and landed out far from the gate, barking as if he would eat the man. Actually, the dog wouldn't bite. The man kept trying to come in but gave it up and went on his way.
    My brother and I had to walk a mile to our mailbox and we usually walked up the railroad. One time it was very cold with snow on the ground. An old tramp was lying beside a burning log, trying to keep warm.
    I felt sorry for the tramp. Somehow, though, I was always frightened of them although they were considered harmless.
    In the year 1917, after I was married, we lived near a railroad. A tramp came by the house one evening when I was cooking supper. He wanted something to eat.
    I told him I didn't have anything cooked. He saw I was cooking supper and said, "I'll just wait." I said, "No you won't. Move on." I added that my husband was in calling distance, so he left.
    Another day it was cold with snow on the ground. There was no school and the boys were at home. Our back door happened to be open and an old tramp walked in without knocking.
    He wanted some coffee. I said there was no water from the spring and he replied, "Melt some snow."
    I had an old iron heating stove with a hearth so I pulled some coals out and made some coffee. I had sent a son down to get my father. He arrived soon but could hardly get the tramp to talk. Finally, the tramp did say that he had slept out on the ground the night before by a log fire. He was dirty and dressed in ragged clothes. He had old tow sacks wrapped around his feet. He went on his way after drinking his coffee.
    Today, tramps are seldom seen. In these times they would be regarded with fear and suspicion. In those days of long ago I never heard of one molesting anyone or stealing.

Mellie Smith
August 13, 1970

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