Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Handout (04/14/11)
TITLE: Entertaining Angels
By Betty Farrow
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Hobo Bill my daddy called him when he brought him home for Mama to feed. Even though it was the late 1950’s, it was nothing unusual for daddy to bring home a tramp he’d found by the railroad yards and sit with them while mama fed them. I was terrified of them and I think mama must have been too, but she graciously set plenty of food on the table to feed their hungry bellies.
“How long you been ‘boing?” daddy asked.
“My folks took sick with the fever and died in 1920. I was just 16 and no family but knew how to work the fields so I took to the rails to find work. That’s been almost 40 years ago. Railroadin’… it’s all I know. I’ve traveled the country. To the Nor’west in the winter where I worked the lumber camps, Oklahoma in the summer to work wheat fields. Been to California a time or too to work the orchards. Didn’t know nothin’ else,” Hobo Bill responded.
“Then daddy repeated a story I had heard several times and it always fascinated me when he told it. “My pop rode the rails for awhile,” he would start, almost with a note of pride in his voice. “He was sharecropping down in Klondike, but there just wasn’t enough to feed the family. He would sneak on the train under a box car above the brake rails and hold onto that train all the way to Dallas where he’d work all day and then climb back on another train leaving Dallas back to Klondike late in the evening. Daddy kept that up for almost two years. I was just a boy but I remember how he would come home covered in dirt and grime. I also remembered how my mama worried about his safety and was afraid he’d get killed ridin’ those rails.”
“It’s a hard life,” Bill acknowledged. I seen a few young men who slipped. The wheel ran right across their face. Not a pretty sight.” For most of us there’s no one to care whether we live or die. He shuddered involuntarily. “I know people think of us as just beggars looking for a handout, but most us boes are looking for work, honest work. During the Great Depression we served a purpose, but not now. Now people don’t want us around.”
Off in the distance we could hear the whistle of a train as it made it’s way into town. Bill began to fidget and we knew the train was calling him.
“I’ll take you back to the track, Bill,” Daddy said. As they headed out the door I heard daddy ask Bill if he knew the Lord.
“Mama,” I asked. “Why does daddy always bring those men here. They scare me.”
My mama’s words burned deep within my heart and I repeated them to my own daughter today at the Burger King when she asked me why I bought the old beggar a meal. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2.”
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