Hoops Of Steel - Poem by Matthew Buchwald
I'm the dog.
I spent my whole life hoboin' cross the country—with him along too, and he's always been willing to share a meal, even though sometimes we went hungry not knowing where our next feed was gonna come from riding the rails or camping in one of the jungles.
He's just a small feller, he's old, got holes worn in his clothes, is crooked, awkward, stiff in his getalong, stubborn as a mule, and has a comical face, and straw colored hair sticking out all over, and is a little hard to look at; but nobody's kinder than he is, and nobody's more loyal, excepting maybe me.
No, anyone who thinks that he ain't loyal to his friends ought to see him when he's down and out, scaring up a load of grub and sharing the first portion, and begging for a second serving, and sharing some of that too and filling his pockets with leftovers and biscuits just in case either of us would want a treat later.
No, I won't hear anything against him—and I'm big enough to back it up.
I'm his only dog, but he could have hooked up with plenty others. Rambler that he is, I've followed him thirty miles on foot between sunrise and sunset when we got thrown off the boxcars; and he'd be good for another thirty at night, if there wasn't someone along to make sure of him taking his rest.
I'm no wonder dog, but I'm no slouch either. Together we could have circled the globe at least twice while riding the rails, and there ain't a city, a town, a village, a station, a siding, a whistle stop, nor a hobo jungle in the whole United States and Canada where we ain't been or been chased out of.
He is the Grand Poobah of the Amalgamated Tramps of the Universe, and we've got a lot of friends in places both high and low. In my position as leader of runaways and strays you need to be well connected and possess intelligence above the normal to help out your fellow canines when in need.
I might be the smartest dog inside or outside of a traveling circus, he is fond of saying, and the quickest when on the lam. It sure is true, even though I'm saying so myself; there ain't no point in being modest if it means you have to lie. I personally taught him most of what he knows, and he taught me the little that he knew before I met him, and together we learned the rest.
Lay out a hobo camp before us—with stew pots, barbecue grills, baking pits, smoked meats—and I'll lay you dollars to donuts the pair of us will have a six course dinner in our bellies before the next train whistle blows. I ought to keep a record of all our adventures for the sake of posterity, and you can bet your meal ticket that I could do it too.
I know all the secret signals used by tramps—the silent signals they use when the railroad bulls come to bust up a camp. Him and me stayed ahead of the law just about every time we could have been nabbed; and I helped him escape more'n a couple of times after he got caught; at least I put the fear of god in the occasional too-eager cop when it made a difference. And I've got the marks on me to prove it.
Yup, I've done a lot of things. I've seen clubs, and nightsticks, and shotguns too; and I never forget a face or the way a man smells when he thinks he's got you cornered or when he's afraid. I learned the fine art of slipping out of a jungle, and I know a counterfeit threat from a honest to goodness one. I can keep the heat at bay all by myself, while he makes his getaway; and he has gratefully returned the favor to me more than once I'm proud to say.
I can't count the times, when we been running all night, that he's slowed down and said to me while we catch our breath, 'I dunno what I'd do without you, boy; if they ever catch up to us, we'll split up and meet again for sure.' Then we'd make our break. And a whole week never passed but we met up again, just like he said. A dog that has a good thing going won't give it up easy.
I never knew my mother or father cause I was abandoned as a pup. Anyway it all turned out for the best, unless you count that big fat mama and her pair of whining brats that hooked up with us at the last whistle stop. Henrietta, her name is, I don't know theirs, and she's claiming that he is father to the two mischievous whelps she drags along with her everywhere she goes.
Knowing him and knowing me the way you do now, how long do you think it's gonna be before we slip that trap and light out for freedom again?
I sure hope you ain't a bettin' man!
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