Union Pacific train passing over rail bridge near my camp in Green River, Wyoming.
This was just another usual day for me out on the rails. I had just ridden into Green River, Wyoming on a Union Pacific freight train that I caught in Salt Lake City, Utah about 10 to 12 hours earlier.
It was the spring of 1997, Green River had always been one of my top 10 most favorite towns. Green River had a couple of beautiful parks in town, a few nice country boy bars for cold beers, a nice police department, an awesome abundance of places where I always made my hobo camps. I usually made camp along the Green River where there was always just enough driftwood lying around on the banks of the river, so there was most perfect campfire in my camps.
As soon as I got into town this warm day I made camp on the Green River near the water’s edge. There had been a camp fire here before, because the person or persons had left empty food cans and also a heavy cooking pot. That was perfect for me, being I now had something to cook in later. I then walked downtown to the liquor store where I always shopped when there. I picked up two fifths of Canadian Hunter whiskey, then walked to the Albertson’s grocery store up on the hill for two pounds of steak, a two liter of Pepsi to mix with my whiskey, a ten pound bag of ice. My last stop was made at a dumpster where I looked inside and pulled out a fair-sized empty cardboard box to make a cooler.
After getting back down on the river to camp, I started a good size campfire. With a bunch of good hot coals going, I cooked up my steaks, ate, then poured myself a nice mixed drink from my home-made makeshift cooler. The cardboard box was lined with a small clean 13 gallon plastic trash bag, with the ice in on top.
Delicious steak I had grilled before my next train hop.
Around midnight, most all of my ice had melted and I had polished off an entire fifth of whiskey by myself. I was pretty intoxicated! I could finally hear another freight train blowing its whistle across the bridge, so I decided to catch-out on this train if there were any good rides. After about seven to eight minutes, the freight train came to a complete stop in the yard to make a crew-change.
I put out my campfire by dumping my box-full of ice water over it, scouted down the side of the train, found an empty boxcar to ride in. Since I had been drinking liquor, this boxcar would be a lot safer for me to ride, (or so I thought). So I mounted up inside, sat down on top of my backpack waiting to go.
We stayed there motionless in the yard for over an hour. I started to wonder why we hadn’t left, when, to my surprise, another hobo about my age walked up to my boxcar and asked me if he could ride with me. I said, of course, since it doesn’t take long to get lonely out on the rails. He tossed his pack into the boxcar alongside where I was, and popped right up into the boxcar with me. I offered my new-found-rider friend a drink which he gladly accepted. After two hours, we left Green River bound for Cheyenne, Wyoming. Departing Green River was the last thing I remember before I blacked-out. I woke up in the hospital in Rock Springs, Wyoming, about 30 miles east of Green River. My clothing had been cut off my body by paramedics, but my back-pack was nowhere to be found! I started screaming for somebody to come to my bedside in the ER! A few seconds later a large husky doctor stepped up next to me and told me that I had fallen out of the boxcar as it passed through town. The train had been estimated to have been moving about 30mph when I fell off! My top lip had been sewen up & dried mud & blood covered what was left of the clothing that had been cut from my body, giving paramedics access to my bare body to look for broken bones and to get an IV-line started. The doctor told me that my blood-alcohol level was .78 when I was brought into the hospital, my lip had been torn and sewen. They wanted now to hold me overnight for observation while my alcohol level went down.
I checked myself out of the emergency room against medical advise with just my wallet and a hospital-gown! My backpack had apparently kept on going east with the other hobo after I fell off the train, the clothing that I had worn now lay on the ER floor in a frayed pile. I walked out of the hospital with only a gown on and right away I was given a ride to a second-hand thrift store by an off duty nurse. She bought me two changes of clean clothes, and a second-hand book bag I could use to carry my clothing in.
After my hangover had gotten a little bit better, I sat under a huge, tall cottonwood tree and started crying. I had come so close to death, so I said a prayer to God & asked him for forgiveness for what I had done, thanked him also for letting me live. Then I got out on Interstate-80 and hitch-hiked a ride back west to Green River in order to get back on another freight train; this time I would ride “clean & sober”.
A week after this had happened, I had already made it east all the way to Conway, Pennsylvania, by way of the rails and was pretty much healed up by then.