Roseville Blues

It’s about Roseville, California.  I got an email from on a mailing list one time that talked about how hard it is to catch a freight train out of there, and it reminded me of a section of Jack London’s excellent book, The Road.  Here’s the email, and an excerpt from the book (the whole thing is available here, although the chapters aren’t in the right order).

The email:

fucking roseville .

how many people have had their plans scrapped and said the same thing?

Spent fourteen hours at the oasis, got caught by connely (err?) and put into 
the mythical database. He knows about the place and parks where you cant 
see, even if you try and go further down, up the little hill to the next 
hole in the fence, he parks easily out of sight not some 300 yards from there 
and watches you.

BEWARE, there must be a new spot i dont know about. Met a 
guy that had just got slashed in the arm by an ftra guy (so he claimed) 
in Ogden, met a kid who rode with him from utah….its strange, I always meet 
people hopping on days that I can’t catch out.

Just in case anyone doesn’t 
know, if you wind up in roseville , over by the amtrak station is a church 
not even a block away from the station, (you’ll see it) and they offer soup 
and coffee and oatmeal and razors in the morning if you’re there around 8 
thirty. I wish you all better luck than i had, not sure where else to go in 
roseville now so I’m open to suggestions. thanks!

riley rhodes

From The Road:

At 10.20 P.M. the Central Pacific overland pulled out of the depot at Sacramento for the East — that particular item of time-table is indelibly engraved on my memory. There were about a dozen in our gang, and we strung out in the darkness ahead of the train ready to take her out. All the local road-kids that we knew came down to see us off — also, to “ditch” us if they could. That was their idea of a joke, and there were only about forty of them to carry it out. Their ring-leader was a crackerjack road-kid named Bob. Sacramento was his home town, but he’d hit The Road pretty well everywhere over the whole country. He took French Kid and me aside and gave us advice something like this: “We’re goin’ to try an’ ditch your bunch, see? Youse two are weak. The rest of the push can take care of itself. So, as soon as youse two nail a blind, deck her. An’ stay on the decks till youse pass- Roseville junction, at which burg the constables are horstile, sloughin’ in everybody on sight.”

The engine whistled and the overland pulled out. There were three blinds on her — room for all of us. The dozen of us who were trying to make her out would have preferred to slip aboard quietly; but our forty friends crowded on with the most amazing and shameless publicity and advertisement. Following Bob’s advice, I immediately “decked her,” that is, climbed up on top of the roof of one of the mail-cars. There I lay down, my heart jumping a few extra beats, and listened to the fun. The whole train crew was forward, and the ditching went on fast and furious. After the train had run half a mile, it stopped, and the crew came forward again and ditched the survivors. I, alone, had made the train out.

Back at the depot, about him two or three of the push that had witnessed the accident, lay French Kid with both legs off. French Kid had slipped or stumbled -that was all, and the wheels had done the rest. Such was my initiation to The Road…

…In the meantime, I lay on the roof of the mail-car, trying to remember whether Roseville Junction, against which burg Bob had warned me, was the first stop or the second stop. To make sure, I delayed descending to the platform of the blind until after the second stop. And then I didn’t descend. I was new to the game, and I felt safer where I was. But I never told the push that I held down the decks the whole night, clear across the Sierras, through snow-sheds and tunnels, and down to Truckee on the other side, where I arrived at seven in the morning. Such a thing was disgraceful, and I’d have been a common laughing-stock. This is the first time I have confessed the truth about that first ride over the hill. As for the push, it decided that I was all right, and when I came back over the hill to Sacramento, I was a full-fledged road-kid.

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