from Education of a Wandering Man, by Louis L’Amour
Over the years the terms applied to Wanderers have been confused until all meaning has been lost. To begin with, a bum was a local man who did not want to work. A tramp was a wanderer of the same kind, but a hobo was a wandering worker and essential to the nation’s economy.
In the days before the big combines it was the hobo who “shocked” the grain, picking up the bundles dropped by a binder and stacking them to be picked up by men on hayracks.
Many hoboes would start working the harvest in Texas and follow the ripening grain north through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska into the Dakotas. During harvest season, when the demand for farm labor was great, the freight trains permitted the hoboes to ride, as the railroads were to ship the harvested grain and it was in their interest to see that labor was provided.