How I came to carve Hobos
by Rick Ferry
Twelve miles or so down river from Wenatchee, Washington is a wide spot in the road known as
“Rock Island”. This “town” was named for a couple of large rocks that protrude from the middle of the river just above the Rock Island Dam. As a young boy I would see hobos following the tracks that ran along both sides of the Columbia River.
There was a hobo jungle just outside of Wenatchee where they would gather to cook, sleep, and share information while looking for work or waiting for their next hop.
The jungle was just a small clearing under the railroad bridge that provided some shelter from the weather. Located far enough from the highway, it allowed the hobo time to disappear should the law stop by.
(Hobos were sometimes blamed for crimes the sheriff could not otherwise solve)
Every now and again, a hobo would find his way to our door. My Grandmother would always have something that needed fixing or firewood that needed splitting. So, while the hobo was working, Grandma would cook him up something to eat; usually no more than beans, cornbread, and coffee; but they never complained. I always wondered where they came from and where they were heading. I can’t recall when I first started woodcarving, but I received my first set of “real” carving tools on my twelfth birthday as a gift from my Father. Dad did his best to pick out a good set of tools, but somehow he found the worst set available at the time. They were impossible to carve with because they were so thick. I finally donated them to a missionary who was traveling to a remote Mexican village. I have real sympathy for the poor Mexican boy who received those tools. Now forty years later, I have more tools than I like to admit, and my love of carving is just as strong as it was on my twelfth birthday. I prefer to carve figures of older men because of the character and experience reflected in their faces. It seemed natural that if I was to carve elderly gentlemen, they may as well be hobos.
I hope my hobos stir memories of a simpler time;
and perhaps bring a smile to your face.
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