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He was of all things a typical New Yorker, an Irishman who’d been driving a truck for the Post Office most of his worklife and was now headed for a girl in Denver and a new life. I think he was running away from something in NY, the law most likely. He was a real rednose young drunk of 30 and would have bored me ordinarily except my senses were sharp for any kid of human friendship. He wore a beat sweater and baggy pants and had nothing with in the way of a bag– just a toothbrush and handkerchiefs. He said we ought to hitch together, I should have said no, because he looked pretty awful on the road. But we stuck together and got a ride from a taciturn man in Stuart, Iowa, a town in which I was destined to be really stranded. We stood in front of the railroad ticketshack in Stuart waiting for the westbound traffic til the sun went down, a good five hours… dawdling away the time at first telling about ourselves, then he told dirty stories, then we just ended up kicking pebbles and making goofy noises of one kind and another. We got bored; I decided to spend a buck on a beer; we went to a riotous old buck’s saloon in Stuart and had a few. There he got drunk as he ever did in his Ninth Avenue night back home and yelled joyously in my ear all the sordid dreams of his life. I sort of liked him; not that he was a good sort, as he later proved, but he was enthusiastic about things. We got back on the road in darkness and of course nobody came by much. This went on until three o’clock in the morning; we spent some time trying to sleep on the bench at the railroad ticket office, but the telegraph clicked all night and we couldn’t sleep and big freights were slamming around outside. We didn’t know how to hop a proper hiball, we’d never one it before, whether they were going east or west and how to find out and what boxcars to pick and so on.. So when the Omaha bus came though just before dawn and we hopped on it and joined the sleeping passengers— for this I spent most of the last of my few bucks, his fare as well as mine. His name was Eddie. He reminded me of my cousin-in-law from Brooklyn. That was why I stuck with him.
—from On The Road: The Original Scroll


For information on Brooklyn and Queens hiballs, please see photographer and writer Joseph Anastasio’s books, Brooklyn Queens Freight and Yard Job NYC, available from LTV Press and Amazon, if your mom won’t give up her copies. I don’t know if Joe’s ever been to Stuart, Iowa but if not, I’m sure he knows somebody who has.  ”Clearwater Freight” video by Amber Tides. — Kenny Wisdom

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