Excerpt from Hobo Ed's up-coming Book!
Sitting alone and cold along the railroad yard‘s steel highway, away from the trains and off to one side beneath a natural shelter of scrub pine, I took out my tobacco pouch and started to roll and hand craft a cigarette, my feet sore with jungle rot from not bathing in 3 months, I gently perched them up on a lone rock to comfort them ,and leaned back against the tree's stoutness. I thought this was a good enough spot as any to wait out for the next locomotive that would take me back to the big sky country of Montana, at Helena. As I settled in against the pine trees’ thick trunk , it felt reassuring that no one would sneak up from behind me, least not anyways a railroad cop. I thought about why I even smoked these nasty cigarettes in the first place,… “they will be nails to your coffin, Edward“, I could hear my mother say. As it were, it was cold , and it was windy, and it was the month of December and the Spokane rail yards was just another place, spawned out in front of me, too cold and lonely, a place that was like all the other rail yards I’ve traveled through. One immutable truth, they all smell the same: a dirty mix of diesel and creosote; a smell--one all to its own. What purpose was I serving here? What happened to my life as a school boy, when I shared warm meals with family; around a table, shellacked and shiny , it was clean, neat and tidy, with nice flatware and real oven fired china. I can imagine my sisters and brothers there all having a great time together as close knit families do. And my Mother bringing out the steaming entree with two very proud hands, and setting the food specimen in the middle of the table, a grin of pride across her visage. My sisters helping her with the side dishes if she beckoned them. And my mother would kiss me sometimes, that would comfort me and reassure me; and she would send me off to school to learn, where did all my learning go,...I wondered. I was a satisfactory student, that’s all... mediocre grades; some D’s and an occasional F. Yes, that's it, F for failure , I was a total failure! Yes,...that's what I was doing now and I was failing the Mother who loved me and trusted me, as any Mother would trust her son. Why was my father an alcoholic who abused my mother? I had nothing but the cloths on my back and even they were worthless, and they smelled like the dirty diesel rail yards of where I now made myself,.. this desolate place I call my home most days! How did I come to this black hole in time, this dark tunnel to nowhere, the ultimate mistake to chose this life as a bum, a hobo….? As a young boy my life was a mess then, too, why must I fight boys older than me after class in the playground or on the football field. They made fun of my last name, Furlong. This was the worst name to have I thought, it was a name you could really go gang busters on if you wanted to make fun, or tease. Didn't these. my childhood foes know that I was like a spring, that when wound too tight I would explode and burst out. I suffered enough abuse at the hands of my drunken father, so at school I was a ticking time bomb. I would be amazed myself, as were other children, too, who watched in disbelief, of how I would be the one called out for a fight and as the underdog, yet by short shrift I would come out swingin' to become victorious, a one two punch is all it took sometimes. These menacing kids were stupid I thought, because of the many eye opening victories that notched my belt, there were, eventually less and less bullies for me to contend with, but not completely, there always seem to be one that needed an ass kickin'. My older sister would ask me one day,…"why do they make fun and tease you, Eddie?" I told her it's no bother, just leave it at that. I was embarrassed, I didn't know why I was different from most of the other boys at school; maybe their father's weren't alcoholic, I didn't know the reason, I didn't care; I didn't comprehend those kinds of things then, and probably still don't now. I think about Florida a lot this time of year when it freezing out here in the bad lands of Montana. I should head down there but I won't, and here I sit in some railroad yard in the northwestern United States, sitting here with jungle rot on my feet and an empty stomach save for the residual alcohol that may reside there; and not knowing myself as who I really am. The alcohol keeping me fermented into my own skin, from exploring the inner values that I have lost; I am sitting out in a cold freight yard but I chose this life, I had options growing up and this is where the trails of my life end ,…. it made me think of the warm weather of North Miami Beach, I have some family down there, I reminded myself, and I wished that I were there instead of here but I weren’t. They wouldn't have me this way. The dizzy cold made this particular morning unbearable and moving my extremities was difficult , but after a few moments of blowing my hot breath into my cold stiff fingers they began to thaw some, as I continued to blow into my hands I could smell my own hot breath billowing up from inside me and the acrid stench of the sardines I had eaten almost 24 hours ago, last night at the campfire, down at the Hobo jungle. I was day dreaming again it seems, I do this more and more often lately. As my hands and fingers were half froze they were not cooperating with each other, I figured I'd better put gloves on soon or suffer frost-bite. I began rubbing them together violently, as a pugilist would while facing his opponent,…back and forth, back and forth;…like I was at school again, fighting off the bullies… turning one fisted hand into the other, with repetition, until they finally became supple enough for me to extract a single sheet of rolling paper from it's sack , pinching a quantity of tobacco from the pouch, I feathered it along the length of the rolling paper evenly. I began a twist and roll motion, twist and roll, my cold tired fingers- stiff as jerked hide, were acting stubborn and not moving in unison with my elbows and hands , the extreme elements of the cold and wind made my work to roll a cigarette new to me, like I was a greenhorn of sorts, the freezing cold made hard what was usually second nature to me, rolling a butt. It was early in the mornin’ close to minus five degrees out, and I was chilled to the core, my petrified socks sticking to my feet bottoms making them feel tingly, like they were ready to leave me too and fall off and walk away, sick of the way I have treated them. As the tobacco felled out at both ends from the rolling paper below my shaky hands and my mouth and fingers were contorting and telecasting to the wrong rhythm of my rolling , I chuckled beneath my breath in frustration and then grinded my teeth like a bison chewing it's cud. I immediately thought of the thick warm fur of that animal, and wished I had some. My snot freezing now in the instant as it dripped out my warmed nostrils, what was I doing here. I'm driving myself crazy. It was a no go, or so I thought, until I expended some more hot air from my lungs onto my fingers then I was able to proceed, twist and roll, twist and roll. It was almost a losing battle as I tried sprinkling some more tobacco on the paper and an equal amount of tobacco went flying to the wind . “God damn it”… I took a deep breath this time and continued rolling until I thought I finally had it, a cigarette,...would it be smokable, I weren’t sure. I licked the paper energetically and sealed the deal. Fashioning a cigarette in sub-freezing temperatures with wind chill made it a near impossible task. Its equivalent, I thought, to spitting forward against the wind when you’re riding a freight train at sixty mile an hour. I had done this a few times before, too, while riding the rails, intoxicated of course, always riding the rails intoxicated. And always having the spit fly back to your face. I put my cold gloves on my cold hands, they offered me little warmth and almost seemed to make me feel colder.
The best I could do as a wayward hobo was just not good enough in the face of forces greater than myself. Mother nature’s weather were forces beyond my control, alcoholism was beyond my control, too. And it only becomes mother’s nature’s wrath if you aren’t prepared for her. As for alcoholism, one must have certain predisposed weaknesses to be beyond it‘s control.
"And so it lay, Diamond Ed was not in control of anything and this ate at him inside and out."
The cigarette was a tad looser than I would’ve liked but dangling the butt from my mouth I reached for my bic lighter and cautiously lit the cigarette,… cupping it‘s flame from the wind and head down, eyes up peering out over the freight yard ,always vigilant,...we had ignition; still protecting the flame with my hand as not to give up my position under my canopy of scrub pine to the yard Bull’s--who are prick’s in their own right, and who were always watching, they would surely bust me if they could see me to find me. They would‘t take kindly to my presence as a trespasser, indeed, and as the great General George Armstrong Custer would have done it: his eyes were diligently searching the prairie and ridge tops for any troubling sign of the Indians, or in my case, the railroad police. I pushed even further back against the tree’s trunk and slouched down further making myself even more obscure. Drawing on the cigarette with my chapped, blistered mouth, the smoke flowed into my throat and entered the sanctity of my impatient lungs , and as the nicotine pervaded my bloodstream I felt the tranquil reprieve I was seeking. The within body experience of an addict craving a drug, giving up to the temporary pleasures of my senses, if only for a moment; and it’s insidiousness, honing down on it’s user with calm pestilence. Albeit tobacco being the less of the two evils, alcoholism is the devils choice amongst his arsenal of demons. My cold fingers defied my true ability to expertly roll a decent cigarette, I know,...but I was proud of the craftsmanship it took me years to master from going to jail and living on the streets; it was one of the only physical testaments, other than my hardened liver, that spoke of the pride I had as a Hobo; to roll a cigarette was an accomplishment, that’s all. To roll a cigarette as straight as a machine rolled Camel was entirely different , this was the ultimate fulfillment of being a destitute man. My acquaintances along the rails called me Diamond Ed. I chose that name because I like diamonds, of course, though I never owned any, they fascinated me with there value and luster. I always liked things that shined. I suppose never having anything in my life with any material worth made diamonds a perfect fit for me as my rail name, diamonds represented that of which I did not have, wealth. It seemed like I was just a dreamer anyway, but that was okay with me for the time being. I had no aspirations to be anything more than I could be with my tenth grade education. I remember my uncle Stan once telling me that the only way to get anything or anywhere in life is to work for it. Well I tried to work at different jobs but my addiction to alcohol kept me side-tracked most of the time. I met Sammy Davis junior once up at the Diplomat Hotel in Hallandale Beach, Florida, don’t ask me how I met him, it was by mere happenstance, this was before I really traveled down the road less traveled; however, he had a diamond ring on his pinky finger that must of been all of 3 carat; I thought that was the most awesome ring I had ever seen on a dude, seen plenty on women’s fingers, but HSammy's diamond was brilliant and I wished I had one, and so the story goes of how I took to a street name of Diamond Ed, I very rarely touted the name and felt that when I did it sounded arrogant, that’s something that embarrassed me in the beginning, sounding arrogant- unless of course I was drinking than I didn't give a cat's ass,… believe it or not, I was sensitive at times. I suppose it was in ways in which my childhood didactics were instilled upon me by my austere father, remnant of his ways in me. Though my father was an alcoholic himself he was from the old school, and know matter what you had as an aberrant behavior, social etiquette was a must. But I figured “Diamond Ed” from Miami Beach suited me; I thought it was a good name for me and- perhaps, it would presage some riches my way, some day….maybe. I found out later in life, though, that the only way you can have nice things or get rich is to work for them, just as my Uncle Stan had told me. I didn’t know but I had read in a book somewhere that Capricorns always had money and good fortune; I wondered why I was a Capricorn and had no good fortune, just misfortune, and if I didn't have bad luck I wouldn't have any luck at all. Alas! I heard that line from a gangster...in a movie. Rail road yards were notorious for murder, robbery,… and it could happen at any time of day, even in the morning. Taking a long slow pull from the cigarette I meticulously pursed my lips and exhaled as I eased back against my leaning post again, the thick trunk of the pine tree becoming a welcome friend on this frigid morning in a smelly rail yard. The smoke from my cigarette exited my mouth with a swirling, whirlwind,... like a funnel cloud from a magicians lamp, I watched it as it disappeared. Too bad I hadn't such a lamp I would wish all my problems away...