Orie, Page 2

Posted: January 30, 2017 in Everyday Life, poet, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Of all the men Orie’s age that I knew, none spoke of World War II or what they had to do in it. Not one glorified their time in the service. I didn’t even know until his death in 1983 that my own uncle had served in a armored Calvary unit that ran reconnaissance behind enemy lines in Europe. His unit traveled in advance of the Allies by 20 miles. He had hand to hand combat with the enemy and was wounded in the thigh but turned down the opportunity to be sent home because he felt at the time that a leg wound was suspicious and used as a free ticket home. For 40 years he never spoke of any of it, I learned of his valor after his funeral while my brother and I went through his personal effects and found his bronze star with V and other ribbons and citations.

That’s how it was with Orie Penny, I knew he served in the War only because of a picture of him in his combat uniform that I spotted in an old photo album. The album was propping up one leg of his leaning end table. What happened to him during the war I never knew but I think he came home a changed man. So changed that after he got back to the States, wanderlust set in and he felt only the urge to travel. The only means were the trains that steamed so frantically coast to coast across the country at the time. And Orie wasn’t buying any tickets.

He spoke of Tin Cup Tim, Plug Nickels, Skeleton Jones, Kid Kicks and Jim Beam Jim. All hobos he had traveled with the four years he spent riding the rails. On a broken slate board with chalk that he kept near the kitchen table, he showed me the “marks”. The code of the hobos made of specialized X’s and O’s, boxes, triangles and hash marks. He spelled out “This woman will serve you pie”, “this man is mean”, “bad dog inside” and “soup around the corner”. As we sat and drank his strong black percolated coffee, he told of the time that Tin Cup Tim fell from a passenger train that they found themselves on and “greased the rails”. Bo speak for being run over by the train.

He spoke of Wild Cherry, Georgia, Paducah, Kentucky, Moscow Mills, Missouri and Ada, Oklahoma to name only a few. He spoke fondly of the cities as if he enjoyed feeling the sound of their names as they rolled off his tongue as he recalled the sway and the sounds of the rides. He said he was taught to always work for the little money he needed and always to take the worse jobs available in town. Like dippin honey, pickin blooms and pushing crumbs, meaning spreading manure, picking fruit and sweeping floors. He said he always took the worse jobs, that way he or a fellow bo would probably be hired again if they came back through town later. I have learned since that’s the hobo ethic.

We stayed up late into the morning hours talking of his travels as Plug Nickels. Remembering the rides and avoiding the railroad Bulls (train cops). But the smiling stopped and the smooth names of cities changed as he began to tell of 1949 and San Quintin.


  1. Thank you for sharing more about Orie! His life story needs to be remembered!

    I heard my aunts (mom’s older sisters) talk about the hobos that would come by and their mom would invite them in and feed them at the kitchen table.

    So many of the men who came/come back from war never talk about it. And so many of them are wounded emotionally…and were not/are not helped by our country. 😦 And to expect them to come home from war and just get “back to life as it was before” is an impossible expectation. 😦

    I can’t wait to hear more about Orie’s life!
    San Quentin!? The prison in CA?!
    I used to drive by there to get to work, when I lived in the SF Bay area!

    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You are welcome! Thank you! Very hard to understand getting “back to life as it was before” to themselves let alone trying to explain it to anyone else.

    Yep, the prison in CA..



  3. iampeacenow says:

    Very interesting. You write so well. Orie led an interesting life. I have heard about Hobos using special marks to leave messages to other hobos passing through. That was a different time. I wonder if anyone still attempts to ride the rails this way? I have often heard how many service men (and women) won’t speak of the wars they have served in. I can’t imagine the burden some bear. Life would never be the same – would never be “normal” or as it was before. I wish you knew more of your Uncle’s story as well. peace to you


    • Thanks Peace, I don’t think the rails move around as much as they did back then. As the song says “Can’t hop a jet plane, like you can an old freight train” . 🙂 I don’t feel bad about not knowing about my Uncle, some things in the past, you just don’t need to know about folks.

      Liked by 1 person

      • iampeacenow says:

        I do understand about not needing to know about some things in people’s past and strongly agree. I have a relative that thinks they (& everyone) should know everything about everything and says they can’t stand this “keeping secrets” … I said sometimes it’s not anyone’s business.

        Liked by 1 person

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