The 107th annual National Hobo Convention is underway in the northern Iowa town of Britt. The four-day event includes story telling, a memorial service, a parade and a Mulligan stew feed for all. One of the hobos at this year’s convention, who goes by the name Ad-Man, says hobos are much different from bums or the homeless people you might see in the street.
Ad-Man says: "We work and we’re independent, self-reliant and we travel and we ride trains but the big piece of it is that we choose our life. The bums are alcoholics and stuff like that and certainly aren’t like by choice. The homeless have been set out because they can’t afford housing." He draws another distinction between hobos and bums.
Ad-Man says, "When it gets cold out, a bum will take a newspaper and tuck it down their shirt to stay warm. The hobo does the same thing, but we read it first." He says the biggest symbol of the convention is the bonfire that was started Thursday night in the "hobo jungle" and it will be continue to blaze throughout the convention to honor hobos of the past.
He says: "We keep that fire going because it’s the heart of our family all the way until we leave on Sunday morning. That fire can’t go out so, all during the night, we’re guarding the fire and we’re getting firewood on that." This year, the fire particularly honors a special hobo who died recently, Steamtrain Maury Graham, who Ad-Man says was their "grand patriarch." For more information about the National Hobo Convention, call the Hobo Museum at 641-843-9104 or look online at www.hobo.com .