Encounter with a Tramp

| 10/6/2017 10:35:00 AM

Sam MooreWhen I was a kid an occasional “tramp,” as Mom called them, although they were also called “hobos” and “bums” while today they’re known as “homeless people,” would show up at the kitchen door of our western Pennsylvania farmhouse asking for a bite to eat. As with most farm families during the 1930s and ’40s, we didn’t have much money, but we always had food from the garden and the critters we raised so these itinerate “knights of the road” usually got a morsel or two of food from my mother or grandmother.

In the October 1927 issue of The American Thresherman magazine “Aunt Malinda,” a column that was written by M. Belle Clarke, the wife of the publisher Bascome B. Clarke, wrote of an encounter she and “Uncle Silas” had with one of these itinerate gentlemen.

The two had just sat down to a supper of fried eggs, bacon, bread and butter and a pot of tea, and “Silas had just told the Lord that we were grateful for the helpin’” when a tramp knocked on the door with his hat in hand.

Aunt Malinda goes on, “He was a polite old German and grey-headed, a man of more than fifty years. I told this old man that we could certainly fix him up, takin’ the bacon and eggs for our supper, when Silas began to mutter about the crop of tramps that were gatherin’ in flocks these days. I never feed tramps at my table like I used to do and when I saw Silas reach for the teapot, I told him I’d do the honors. To drink tea properly one must sit down and that meant at the table.

“I scraped the platter, takin’ both his bacon and mine and I started to do likewise with the eggs but Silas ’lowed he’d just finish that egg seein’ that he’d started on it. After I handed the old man the lunch—five or six strips of Swift’s bacon and a few eggs and other things thrown in—and he’d hoped that God would bless me for my kindness to the homeless and made his getaway, Silas grabbed a skillet and started in fryin’ more bacon and eggs.

“‘Malinda,’ he says, ‘you’re getting’ chicken-hearted lately. The idea of feedin’ a tramp Swift’s bacon taken from a box that costs fifty cents a pound, and slippin’ him all the eggs and cake and all that, and then refusin’ him a cup of tea. Shortin’ him on the cheapest part of the meal proves you ain’t as generous as you let on’


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