Hobos converge on Britt for National Hobo Convention

For Hobo King & Queen candidates, they're sharing their experiences while on the road

Posted: Aug 11, 2019 12:19 AM
Updated: Aug 11, 2019 10:05 AM

BRITT, Iowa - You may have heard about the hobo culture during the Great Depression era in the 1930s. But what you may not know is that there are still hobos in the U.S., crossing the country looking for work with little belongings.

This week in Britt, hobos from all over converged on the Hancock County town for the National Hobo Convention and Hobo Days, which pays homage and respect to the hobo lifestyle. 

During the King & Queen coronation at City Park on Saturday, nominees are advocating their reasons why people should vote for them, including sharing their own personal experiences while living on the road.

Road Runner, originally from Texas, is one of them. He's been a hobo since he was 17 years old, when he lost his apartment.

"Roommates were always on drugs, and they actually took my name off the lease illegally and sold most of my stuff. I decided if I either hit the road or I go insane."

Five years later, he's been in virtually every part of the country except the Northeast looking for work.

"Whether it's farming, construction...if I can't find any work, I'll play music or I go out and do any crafts here and there."

It's his first time visiting Britt, and has gained a new found appreciation of the town.

"It's really fascinating to actually be in a town where they actually accept us for who we are. You go anywhere else, where everybody treats us poorly."

Bookworm Bonnie is a former Hobo Queen from Minnesota, and has come to Britt for over a decade. She feels for what these mostly young men, women and children go through.

"Some of them are kids that were kicked out of their homes, or sad stories. Mom, Dad died, who knows? Terrible stories. For whatever reason, this is the way they can go, on the road and hopefully find something better."

During last year's coronation, the most recent Hobo King had such a compelling story that he won easily.

"He's been a rail rider for 50 years. And when people saw that, he was appointed immediately, because he really knew what he was talking about. He came out and said, 'this is everything I own,' and he dumped his knapsack. That was pretty powerful."

For Road Runner, he plans to resume looking for work after the Convention wraps up for the year. When he's on the road, he follows a plan to keep him on the right path such as staying away from drugs and alcohol, and always watching his back.

"We're not out here to show off. We're just out here trying to live and survive."

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