That’s how many combined years Connecticut Shorty, New York Maggie, Redbird Express and Minneapolis Jewel have been traveling to Britt for the National Hobo Convention.
Britt Mayor Ryan Arndorfer, who is also a member of the Hobo Day Association, recognized the four hobos as “honorary residents” Thursday evening during the fire-lighting and four-wind ceremony for which more than 100 hobos, Britt community members and visitors gathered in Hobo Jungle.
“2019 marks a very special year for the four people who are coming up and standing with me today,” he said.
Arndorfer proclaimed Thursday “New York Maggie and Connecticut Shorty Day,” Friday “Redbird Express Day,” and Saturday “Minneapolis Jewel Day,” within the city of Britt, for their contributions to the city and the hobo community.
Sisters New York Maggie and Connecticut Shorty and Redbird Express have been attending the National Hobo Convention for 30 years, while Minneapolis Jewel has attended for 40 years.
“The city of Britt is proud of our long relationship with the hobo community and grateful for everything our hobo family has done to promote the city of Britt, Iowa,” Arndorfer said, reading one of the proclamations.
After each hobo received a copy of the proclamation, family and friends congratulated them with applause.
The fire-lighting and four-wind ceremony was held off Second Street Northeast, where golf carts, tents, campers, lawn chairs and bleachers were set up, marking the beginning of the 119th National Hobo Convention, which coincides with Hobo Days. The convention and town celebration ends Sunday afternoon.
Dante, who was crowned Hobo King in 2010, lit the firewood donated by North Iowa Lumber. The fire will remain lit until the conclusion of the convention Sunday afternoon.
“This is a friendly fire, so come and gather ‘round and witness this event,” said Connecticut Tootsie, reciting words passed down to Redbird from Frisco Jack who used them in the 1970s during the convention. “As the smoke from our fire gets in your clothes and the light from our fire shines upon your faces, you become one of us. You become part of our hobo circle. You belong to our brotherhood, the brotherhood of hobos.”
Those in attendance then saluted the four prevailing winds with the help of Minneapolis Jewel, Grandpa Dudley, Dante and Hobo Day Association President Amy Boekelman in memory of Tuck, Mad Mary and Frog, hobos who caught the westbound within the past year. Walking sticks in the audience were pointed in each direction as Connecticut Tootsie read the salute.
Hobos were then invited to dump ashes into the fire before 2018 Hobo Royalty, The Dutchman and Crash, provided an update on their year as king and queen.
The Dutchman said he, along with Gypsy Moon, wrote a children’s book about hobo life within the past year.
“I’m not talking about bums on the rails. I’m talking about a working ‘bo, what it’s like to survive out there from day to day and to point out just how rough it really can be,” he said.
Crash said she worked with the Minnesota Transportation Museum and customers at her job about Hobo Days and the city it takes place and the people it brings together.
The Dutchman and Crash then gave three individuals hobo monikers before dubbing them as official members of the community. Those welcomed were Old Buck, Smiles and Bug.
After the official ceremony, Grandpa Dudley, JP The Blues Man, The “Cannonball” Paul Skiffle Band, Sunrise and others entertained those sitting around the campfire with song, dance and poetry.
As the sunset, the crowd thinned, but the camaraderie among hobos and non-hobos remained.