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Memories of Men of the Road

August 28, 1986

Patty Perrin's "Encountering the Deaths of Innocence" (Other Views, Aug. 15) for me was a delightful and nostalgic voyage. I lived in the northeastern corner of Oregon where the hobos from the east part of the United States hopped off the freight trains so they could search for at least a meal in exchange for some work before they continued their journey. Since we lived close to a major rail yard we had many hobos knock on our door.

My mother, always a soft touch for a downtrodden person, said she was sure there was a mark on our front tree for other hobos to see. I, like Perrin, was about 5 (in 1930) when so many desperate men were leaving their homes and traveling the rails in search of any kind of work.

Maybe Patty Perrin and I met the same man. One told me he had a little girl that looked just about like me, except she had blue eyes instead of brown--I couldn't tell the color of her eyes from the snapshot he showed me because it was wrinkled and only in black and white. He said he missed her very much. He looked at me a long time and then said, "I hope I see my little girl again before she grows up."

Always the men came to our door would never take any food until they had first done some kind of chores; they chopped wood, weeded the garden, dug potatoes, painted the fence--things like that. After their labor, they would wash up with water from the hose and sit on the porch with a tray on their knees loaded with freshly baked bread, a large bowl of mother's soup or chili or a piece of apple or peach pie and a mug of coffee. Almost always the men politely said, "Thank you, ma'am, may God bless you for your kindness." And then they walked over toward the railroad tracks and out of our lives . . . but not out of my memory. Thank you, Patty Perrin, for also remembering.

ULA PENDLETON

Los Angeles

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