Everyone probably has an stereotype image of a Hobo. During the Great Depression there were a lot of them Mostly, the were ordinary people facing hard times. There were no social networks to help them and they traveled a lot looking for a better life. Usually they were not welcome in communities because they competed for low level jobs with the locals.
A lot of them came by my grandmother’s house in East Lake. They always came to the backdoor and asked if they could work for food. My grandmother never turned away anyone who was hungry and she always had something they could do.
They usually did the chores assigned and were surprised when she told them to come eat at the family table. We heard some heart rending stories about families split up looking for work.
The hoboes had a camp in the woods near Memorial Highway. They built sheds out of cardboard and stray lumber. We kids knew about it but kept quiet because local men burned out another camp they had.
One day, one of them asked if he could work for one her chickens. She said yes but fed him anyway. At the end of the day he selected a fat hen and set off for the camp.
We kids followed. We wanted to see what they would do with the hen.
They killed it, cleaned it out and put the heart, liver and gizzard back in with an onion. Wrapped it in red Georgia clay and buried it in a hole. Then built a roaring fire on top. They had not taken off the feathers and quills. Then said come back tomorrow.
The next evening, they dug up what was now a ceramic ball, cracked it open with a hammer and all the feathers came away from a baked chicken. It was tasty.
We told grandmother and she said they were very clever.
We lived there a few more years an hoboes were always part of our life.