Monday, February 13, 2012


The following is adapted from Bill Nye's Remarks. Bill was postmaster of Laramie, Wyoming in about 1885.


Mr. Webster, no doubt, had the best command of language of any American 
author prior to our day. Those who have read his ponderous but rather disconnected romance known as "Websters Unabridged Dictionary, or How One Word Led on to Another." will agree with me that he was smart. Noah never lacked for a word by which to express himself. He was a brainy man and a good speller.

It would ill become me at this late day to criticise Mr. Webster's great
work--a work that is now in almost every library, school-room and counting
house in the land. It is a great book. I do believe that had Mr. Webster
lived he would have been equally fair in his criticism of my books.

I hate to compare my own works with those of Mr. Webster, because it may
seem egotistical in me to point out the good points in my literary labors;
but I have often heard it said, and so do not state it solely upon my own
responsibility, that Mr. Webster's book does not retain the interest of
the reader all the way through.

He has tried to introduce too many characters, and so we cannot follow
them all the way through. It is a good book to pick up and while away an
idle hour with, perhaps, but no one would cling to it at night till the
fire went out, chained to the thrilling plot and the glowing career of its

Therein consists the great difference between Mr. Webster and myself. A
friend of mine at Leavenworth once wrote me that from the moment he got hold
of my book, he never left his room till he finished it. He seemed chained
to the spot, he said, and if you can't believe a convict, who is entirely
out of politics, who in the name of George Washington can you believe?

Mr. Webster was most assuredly a brilliant writer, and I have discovered
in his later editions 118,000 words, no two of which are alike. This shows
great fluency and versatility, it is true, but we need something else. The
reader waits in vain to be thrilled by the author's wonderful word
painting. There is not a thrill in the whole tome. I had heard so much of
Mr. Webster that when I read his book I confess I was disappointed. It is
cold, methodical and dispassionate in the extreme.

As I said, however, it is a good book to pick up for the purpose of
whiling away an idle moment, and no one should start out on a long journey
without Mr. Webster's tale in his pocket. It has broken the monotony of
many a tedious trip for me.

Mr. Webster's "Speller" was a work of less pretentions, perhaps, and yet
it had an immense sale. Eight years ago this book had reached a sale of
40,000,000, and yet it had the same grave defect. It was disconnected,
cold, prosy and dull. I read it for years, and at last became a close
student of Mr. Webster's style, yet I never found but one thing in this
book, for which there seems to have been such a perfect stampede, that was
even ordinarily interesting, and that was a little gem. It was so
thrilling in its details, and so diametrically different from Mr.
Webster's style, that I have often wondered who he got to write it for
him. It related to the discovery of a boy by an elderly gentleman, in the
crotch of an ancestral apple tree, and the feeling of bitterness and
animosity that sprung up at the time between the boy and the elderly

Though I have been a close student of Mr. Webster for years, I am free to
say, and I do not wish to do an injustice to a great man in doing so, that
his ideas of literature and my own are entirely dissimilar. Possibly his
book has had a little larger sale than mine, but that makes no difference.
When I write a book it must engage the interest of the reader, and show
some plot to it. It must not be jerky in its style and scattering in its

I know it is a great temptation to write a book that will sell, but we
should have a higher object than that.

I do not wish to do an injustice to a man who has done so much for the
world, and one who could spell the longest word without hesitation, but I
speak of these things just as I would expect people to criticise my work.
If we aspire to monkey with the literati of our day we must expect to be
criticised. That's the way I look at it.

P.S.--I might also state that Noah Webster was a member of the
Legislature of Massachusetts at one time, and though I ought not to throw
it up to him at this date, I think it is nothing more than right that the
public should know the truth.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Well, it is an option. 

I pastored a small church in the California High Desert, in the town of Yermo, half way between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. There were two churches in town, and the other one's pastor lived far away. We lived in a parsonage attached to the church a short walk away from the Union Pacific railway station.

The train station also had a small classification yard where trains were broken up and sent in two directions, Los Angeles and Bakersfield. The Yermo station was also the point of the end of a train engineer's shift from L.A. or Las Vegas. Shift changes happened all through the day. Because of this all the ho-bos that rode the rails dropped off for a while, and most had to find another train. The yard bulls (rail yard police) were almost non-existent, and the ho-bo was pretty much free to come and go.

When they dropped off the train, there were ho-bo signs somewhere, we never found them, that told them there was a church and soft hearted preacher there who was good for a lunch. That was me :-) We would make them a sandwich and fill their water jug. I never gave them money because they would usually buy booze with it, and that was why a lot of them ended up riding the rails.

There were several catagories of ho-bo out there.

There were the losers: They had lost a marriage, employment, family relations, or were simply a loser at submitting to social order. These fellows were almost never a threat to anyone. I would ask them if they were running away from something while suggesting they not tell me the details. If they were, I would talk about how Christ could turn that around for them. Most of them wanted to hear more, though I did not ask them to stay to pray right then. More about that later.

There were the happy wanderers: These were usually younger men who simply wanted the feel of being free with no bills to pay while they saw the world. They too were good natured men, and they had some curious stories to tell. Most of them got tired of the boredom and hazards and went home one day.

There were the genuine ho-bo types: They were ususlly very old back in the 1970s because they were left overs from the late 1940s and eartly 50s-- men who had still not escaped the Great Depression and hit the rails to survive. They were real gentleman and often insisted on working before they would eat. I would usually honor their standard for themselves by telling them some small job around the church property that needed doing. I often sent these fellows to a local cafe where I had a standing arrangement with the owner to feed them the special of the day, and I would go around and pay the bill later. Some were old and did not know there was a pass about 5000 feet high before they dropped down into Las Vegas, and in winter it could get cold. I would ask the cafe owner to see if he could find them a semi truck driver who would give them a ride to Las Vegas, which he always seemed to be able to do.

There were the criminals: They were running away from the law. I never knew for sure who they were, and I did not ask. That kept us both on good terms. They were never a danger to us, though a couple of urban Blacks tried to mess with my father-in-law one day. They are mostly bluff, and I walked up and thrashed them verbally and told them to do their crime elsewhere. They shuffled off grumpy. They did not need another count against them to add to the one in south Chicago or west L.A.

There were the druggies from the Vietnam era: They were a sad lot, and there were not a lot of them. Their minds were shot and just useful enough to hop a freight and beg for food. The guy who stands out was "Famous Amos". That is what he called himself, and I suspect he was known by that name from California to Boston because he had to be very famous. He was a Black fellow, very likable at first, loud, and carefree. But, suddenly he would get loud, jerky, and ominous, after which he would settle down, get a bit weepy, and tell a short pathetic story about drugs in Vietnam during the war there. Being a Veitnam Era Veteran, my heart went out to him. Drugs were cheap in Vietnam, and the US Commanders did nothing to control it, as well as actually providing the soldiers with whores to amuse them. The drugs and the STDs left these soldiers mentally destroyed. I got Famous Amos a lunch and gave him some pointers about the "road" ahead.

There were the young adults who simply messed up: They had migrated from one end of the USA to the other in an old car looking for work which was not there. That left them only the option of hopping a freight to get home, or thumbing a ride on the interstates. The railroad was the safer choice, but it took some nerve if they had never done it before. These young adults got to me, and I usually went to more trouble to make sure they got through. They could easily be identified because they had a lot baggage. Ho-bos never carry baggage. These young adults were the only ones that included ladies in the 1970s, and they always were accompanied by a young man. The rails are no place for a real lady because they are such sex images. That applies to the young boys for the same reason.

Yes, the rails can be cruel. 

Every ho-bo out there has been rolled at least once. It is almost taken philosophically. But, the rails are made safe to savvy men as they learn where you hop the freight and whom you keep company with. A lot of the man on the rails also look out for each other, and doing harm to an older ho-bo can get you a thump on the head from some young buck.

So, what do I think of this life on the rails? I have a lot more experience with these folks than you do, so control your attitude please. I happen to like these fellows quite a lot. If I were to go riding out yonder (only if I had no family), and having seen other parts of the world, I would choose to be a worker on a ocean freighter or oil tanker, and I would wander the whole world. You need no visa or passport. When you get caught, they simply throw you back on a freighter, and off you go to the next port.

But, I reserve a reality check on this life. It IS irresponsible, for it is a life of free loading off of humanity. Having said that, I always felt a lot better about helping a ho-bo then sending my tax payment to the IRS to support some loser in the south side of Chicago. He does not even have the self-respect and initiative to hop a freight, come to knock on my door in person, and ask me for a hand out face to face. If you do not understand that, then you simply have no experience with humanity down there in the lower echelon.

Now, this post is getting pretty busy, and I need to go see if I can spot my wife for a little breakfast, so I will just drop some videos in here to let you try to figure it all out:


There is a blank period of dark screen that the video maker used to give the sensation of going through a tunnel. Don't give up on the video, it comes back.

Did you catch the sense of freedom, or did you get claustrophobia?

How would you like to have lunch with one of these characters?
Been there, done that :-) -- that is, had lunch with them, NOT dance on the wheels !!

The cop knew he was looking at a novice I suppose. Many law men do not take a very serious view of the illegal occupation of riding the rails. These people just do not feel like criminals.

Who is Bozo Texino?

Here is the truth. CAVEAT: Bad language.
Responsibility and authority are the ultimate bane of bums, welfare junkies, and ho-bos. From my experience with men of the road, I would say this old self-proclaimed bum is right on the money.

Here is a story of how the Great Depression changed the lives of teen agers during that era. It is not a pretty story. This is the trailer:

Here is the movie available online.

This is sad and pathetic, but I think it is pretty accurate. Now, tell me, did Jesus have these losers in mind when he was dying on the cross? Huh? What do you think?

The day may be all to close in the USA when hard working men may be forced to the rails again. But, the next time, I figure there will be a lot who head out over the whole world. It is a small world, and there are a lot more options open to the man of the road. 

How you treat the down and out today may come back to haunt you one day.

Luke 6:31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

To the young man who got off the rails one day, the one I talked to about his being a sodomite, the one who repented in tears, I hope you made it all the way back to Moody Church in Chicago. 

If a Bible believer runs away from his Bethel, as Abraham did long ago, he will never have victory until he is back at Bethel again worshiping the God who saved him in the first place.

Oh yes, about not asking them to "get saved".... Every ho-bo on the rails has been "borned again" a thousand times. He will bow his head in tears and pray the prayer for salvation to please any "soul winner" if you are sucker enough to believe it. I would usually tease them a bit and ask them how many times they had been "borned again". They would chuckle and admit it up front.

Then I would tell them that salvation would only come to them if they got saved alone on a flat car with no one to con nearby. I told them to talk to God in their own words, not repeating the words of a preacher of priest, and God would hear them and send Jesus to save them.

I gave them a Gospel of John and a jug of water and told them where I thought a safe place was to hop the outgoing freight.

By the grace of God I hope to see some of those fellows again in heaven. There will be no more wandering over there. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012


The somber thoughts are important, but they often make us enemies just as fast as they make us friends. When they make us friends, these friends then invariably ask us to lead them to battle, whether with guns of ideas.

So, in the end, when the flesh is weak and betraying us, what really lasts?

WATCH THIS MAN AND HIS TAKE ON IT. Keep the last line-- you may need it.

Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.

I added the verse from Solomon because some pious soul will defy me and say that making people laugh is somehow inferior of profane.


Thursday, February 2, 2012


I once stood on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and looked at the water cascading over the edge. What a mighty scene. We went down into some sort of cave under the falls, put on rain coats provided, and we gasped in unison as millions of tons of water went down in front of us. It was not so awesome, but we gasped as water ran down our necks, COLD water.

People standing around were talking about how heroic some idiot was who went over the falls in a wooden barrel long ago. If I went over the falls in a bucket, I would make that guy look like small stuff. No one present had a spare bucket, so I had to postpone my great moment.

Anyway, what I wanted to discuss with my readers..... all of you with surging intellects and infinite curiosity..... is the way the falls wear away all the time from hydrological erosion. (That sounds contagious, don't it?)

You see, in the past before some bright engineer found a way to slow it, the falls eroded away at the rate of 10 feet a year. Now, it occurred to me to go back in time, back past the Bushian Age, the Rooseveltian age, the Neolithic Age, and the Neoprene Age, all the way back to the beginning of  the present evolutionary era. I did the math, based on 500,000,000 years, which is modest and quite generous to the effulgent intellects on high.

Rounded off, I show that Niagara Falls was 947,000 miles east of its present location when the whole globe done bust wide open and started flowing. Now, you must admit, that is quite a distance and a lot of rocks to wash away into the Atlantic Ocean. 

I would like to give full credit to Isaac Azimov, Stephen Hocking, and Richard Dawkins for their wise and reliable estimations of the time lapsed for evolution to make this hydrolic event possible. I must say, in great awe, "How in the name of creation did you men find the time to do this for us all?"