Off The Wall #1


Hobo House

I’m a busy guy, so I don’t have a lot of free time to do yard work or even basic home maintenance that I should be doing. I live in an average-looking single family home in Parker, Arizona. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. Nothing fancy.

The other day my wife and I pulled into the driveway and my wife sighed and said, “This looks like a hobo house.”

A hobo house? I thought hobos were homeless. If a hobo lives in this house, then they should turn in their stick with the supply-filled bandana hanging on the end of it, because they have a house now.

My wife tends to exaggerate on occasion, but as I looked around, I realized she was right. It did look like a hobo house. The screen from the window was lying on the ground in front of it. The porch itself was covered with those tiny leaves from our mesquite tree. There were several pairs of mismatched shoes lying about. The garden hose was curled across the porch and stretched into the yard with no real purpose.

As I gazed upon my hobo haven I began to think maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe living the hobo life would be cool, although I wasn’t sure exactly what it entailed. I decided to research it further.

According to Wikipedia, a hobo is “a migratory worker or homeless vagabond, often penniless.” The penniless part wasn’t much of a stretch for me, but I clearly have a home, despite its hobo-like appearance, so I don’t qualify as a hobo.

I always thought a hobo was just another name for a bum or a tramp, but apparently even the lowest on the human food chain have a sort of homeless hierarchy.

According to Wikipedia, unlike tramps, who work only when they are forced to, and bums, who do not work at all, hobos are workers who wander. So basically, the guy sitting on the street corner with a sign reading, “Need Help” or “Need Gas” is a bum, because he is not working at all. But if he has a sign reading “Need Work” or “Will Work For Food,” then he is technically a tramp, unless he moves to a new street corner in a different town every day, in which case he could be classified as a hobo.

But—whatever the case—hobos seem to carry a more dignified mystique than your average homeless bum with a shopping cart full of garbage. Hobos are generally viewed as independent travelers who fend for themselves while adhering to a strict code of honor known as The Hobo Code.

While researching the subtleties of hoboness, I came across a movie trailer for a film called Hobo With A Shotgun which, ironically, is scheduled to be released this week. Hobo With A Shotgun was originally a fake trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse films, and now it has been made into a full length movie starring Rutger Hauer. In the movie, Hauer plays a hobo who cleans up a crime-ridden city with his pump action shotgun.

Being referred to as a hobo might be politically incorrect, but it may soon take on a more heroic significance if Hobo With A Shotgun becomes a hit movie. If it was called Tramp With a Shotgun (starring Angelina Jolie) or Bum With A Shotgun (starring Charlie Sheen), it just wouldn’t sound as cool.

The point is, if the movie becomes a hit and hobos are forever viewed not as shiftless miscreants, but as wandering saviors of the downtrodden, my hobo house will not only be socially acceptable, it will be looked upon with honor and admiration by hobos, bums, vagrants, gypsies, tramps and thieves.

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Randy Hartless is Executive Director of the Parker Area Chamber of Commerce, columnist for the Arizona Independent and regular contributor on KLPZ 1380am.


  1. After reading Randy’s article I did some intra-inspection. Am I a “hobo?” I live in a house that has wires hanging out of the walls, 100 empty DVD boxes by the front door with various shoes of various conditions for various uses, a garage that looks like it was from the reality show, “Hoarders”, an old broken dish washer sitting in the yard and a pickup filled with garbage. I go from place to place looking for work and sometimes finding it. Maintenance, I don’t have time for it. So, I guess am as much as a hobo as Randy is!

    Maybe Randy and I should start a new club in Parker….”The Hobo Club”, motto, “Who Gives a ____.” ☺

    But the truth be known, it is all in how you look at just a slice of your life!

  2. I’m glad I was a full time RVer all those years. It really imbedded in me the practice of putting stuff away all the time.

    Sadly, this in no way prepared me for getting all my stuff out of storage with no real place for it.

    So, now I have a house with a hidden-hobo side and I’m pretty good at avoiding my hobo-land.

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