Crust Gets in Your Eyes

Forced into the light by a recent murder, a transient community starts talking.

By St. John Barned-Smith
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 13 | Posted Jul. 25, 2007

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"Running around in train yards, hopping trains," Marc says, "you get fucking filthy. I spent one time, weeks straight--I had about 15 cans of food, 8 gallons of water and about $300�--no reason to stop anywhere and a couple of handles of liquor, and so I had no reason to stop, hop, hop, hop, hop ... " His hands roll forward with each word--bam, bam, bam.

"Started up in Canada, I ended up in Miami--straight stop, getting off, hopping on another train. Made it in about a week, week and a half--14 days tops. At the end of it, my face from here [he gestures from his nose to his hairline in a Zorro-like mask of filth] up to here was solid black. And I was sweating my balls off by the time I got to PA."

Marc and Steve-O say the risks are worth it. "We don't [hop] because we're stupid or miserable. We're happier."

It's almost an addiction, says Marc. The last time he stopped hopping, he got chills.

Whatever you do, don't call them tramps. Tramps don't work.

Marc labors as an arborist in Cleveland, a ranch hand in Florida, and in a diner in Richmond, Va.

Many of the punk hobos also stay in constant contact with each other using disposable cell phones. Even as he's being interviewed, Marc gets a call from some friends in Pittsburgh looking for a place to sleep.

Marc and Steve-O fear train hopping is on the verge of extinction. Train cars are becoming more dangerous. Railway police carry shotguns loaded with beanbags and rock salt.

Ward and McCarthy won't have to worry about those dangers. Better still, they don't have to worry about hobo justice as they sit in city prisons awaiting their trial in October.

"Train hopping will be dead in 10 years," says Marc. You don't see old hoppers. Few last past their 30s. "They either ride forever and die off, or get their shit together and quit."

At 35, Steve-O himself is at the end of the line, planning to soon abandon his own crusty life.

So what exactly are the crust kids, the punk hobos? A dangerous subculture luring American youth into a degenerate lifestyle with the promise of cheap thrills and freedom? Hardly.

Thirty years ago the media, having noticed the scumfucks and their propensity for booze, violence and crustiness�, might've used Tim Bradly's murder as an excuse to paint the likes of and Steve-O and Marc as folk devils, a danger to society, a threat to the American way. Just as they did with the beatniks, hippies, punks and skinheads before them.

This time no one's biting. At least not yet. It could be because the punk hobos are so obviously the exhausted last stage of the punk subculture--a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. They're the last drags of the punk joint, devoid of any real ideology, scorned even by their peers, perceived as no real threat to anybody except maybe themselves and each other.

Or it could just be that nobody's paying attention.

St. John Barned-Smith is a PW intern. Comments on this story can be sent to

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Comments 1 - 13 of 13
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1. jp said... on Jul 18, 2008 at 11:20PM


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2. wraith said... on Aug 28, 2008 at 10:41AM

“do you have any picks of kids known as....lost,wraith,or horace?”

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3. sour pickles said... on Sep 25, 2008 at 08:23AM

“this is the worst article i have ever read. not only is it poorly written , and terribly researched, but it fails to take into account more than two individuals perspective on how they live and the subculture they claim to be a part of . to not include the viewpoints of numerous subjects, and allowing the journalist to make such obviously generic statements regarding an entire subculture and way of life, shows extreme lack of integrity .thanks for nothing, but a sensationalized piece of trash that only seeks to cash in on tragic events.”

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4. shannon said... on Nov 11, 2008 at 08:38PM

“hahahahaha blow job”

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5. me said... on Dec 1, 2008 at 02:58AM

“More than half of your glossary is totally or partially wrong. Don't add something you're not confident about just to give your readers a spiffy decoder ring in a cereal box. Most of the folks interviewed probably could have defined those terms instead of you guessing at them, incorrectly.”

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6. Otter said... on Dec 5, 2008 at 06:23PM

“>> FTRA Freight Train Riders of america >> Homebums Hobos' terms for not just squatters, but people who spend a long time in one place. the older ones sometimes call themselves "homeguards", such as in AZ. >> Spider/Kill shwill Backwashed dregs of ANY beer.”

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7. upthepups said... on Dec 21, 2008 at 07:07PM

“this is one of the worst articals i have read. i think ol' pickles summed it up pretty much. ”

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8. Nope. said... on Dec 22, 2008 at 02:24PM

“Let's just marginalize another group of people we don't know and consider ourselves worldly. It takes all kinds and reading this doesn't mean you know anything. I am particularly fond of the bit about facial tattoos. Also who doesn't call it a space bag? ”

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9. ?? said... on Jan 12, 2009 at 12:08PM

“RIP - Tim. Your killers pleaded Guilty. Tim was a Hockey Champion and a teammate of mine. My brother is also a crusty and hope he does not meet the same fate as Tim. ”

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10. jz said... on Jan 12, 2009 at 01:09PM

“anyone know where marc is”

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11. your worst nightmare said... on Jan 29, 2009 at 11:13PM

“UM..... WHAT? are you fucking serious? you have no idea what the fuck you are talking about and the fact that you would put it on the fucking internet on some bullshit site like this is fucking retarded. way to call everybody who does this for real out. Are you too much of a pussy to call this shit on the spot? You shouldn't write a check that your ass can't cash. bitch. Have you ever met a SF Scumfuck? what goddamn planet are you from? Where do you get your info? you need to check your shit.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Jul 31, 2010 at 11:40PM

“hahaha, humm, well, i guess their equal cuz tim was tryin to rape echo, her face blooded by him, whem conor woke up, so i think it was very fuckin justified. rapos have no fucking right to live, im not sorry if im to blunt because thats the truth. Conor is not a normally violent person, i should know, i lived in a bathroom with him for 15 months, he was my cellie up state. He is the contrary, very giving and forgiving so dont talk shit just cuz u can, nobodys doin shit cuz its all talk...”

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13. hoohah said... on Aug 18, 2015 at 03:36PM

“I'm thinking Sour Pickles may not have realized that the article was longer than just the first page. Click the 'next' button by all the numbers at the bottom and see if your opinion changes.”


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