Crossett Boys En Tramp
Written by Frank and Eric Crossett to their sisters probably in the 1880s.
To our dear sisters Marcia, Bessie and Eva, these lines are dedicated.
You remember that morning dear girls when we parted.
We left you in sorrow (or was it in bed) ?
And off on the road for employment we started.
Though we felt quite down hearted twas but little we said.
Our destination the Electric City.
They called it Scranton in days of old.
The home of the Welch maid bright and pretty,
The billygoat and the miner bold.
We found no work in this town of blackness
So we raised our gripsacks and bid her adieu.
And counted the ties down the valley
To seek “green fields and pastures new”.
We wend our way by many a breaker,
By many a gloomy calm file.
We’ve eaten the crackers we got from the baker,
And we’ll have to get “hand outs” until we “strike ile”.
Arriving at Pittston that town of black diamonds,
We seek but in vain for the labor we lack.
We are wet to the knees and as lame as old “Simon”,
As we turn to the southward and plod down the track.
But stop! Shall we walk when the coal trains are numerous ?
The bumpers are wide and conducters asleep.
The very idea to our minds seems quite humerous,
So upon a bumper we stealthily creep.
The whistle blows twice and the bell rings a warning.
The brakeman sneaks back to his cozy caboose.
We stick to the berth ‘til the grey dawn of morning
Sneaks over the hill like the Devil let loose.
But ere the bright sun has shinned up the horizon
And tinted the valley a bright rosy red.
A brakeman ran over the box cars like “pizen”.
And wildly he waves his black paw o’er his head.
The whistle blows shrill and the brakes are down- twisted,
And slowly but surely we come to a stop.
We are loath to get off but the brakeman insisted,
So down to the ground with a dull thud we drop.
We stand on the side track in deep meditation,
And watch the coal “jimmies” go by one by one.
Therse vanishing chances are poor consolation.
We’re heartily wishing our pilgrimage done.
But why do we linger in bitter reflection ?
We’re looking for work and we’re bound to succeed.
While forced on our minds is this sad reflection.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a square feed.
We advance on our way with these brave resolutions,
And soon Kingston City appears to our view.
But the bosses dispel our long cherished delusions
For here as before we find nothing to do.
To Wilkes-Barre next like two wandering “Hindoos”,
We seek for the man that has money to loan.
Our tool box now graces a pawn broker’s window,
And we’re off again for a job cutting stone.
And so we proceed from one town to another.
We hold down the bumpers our passage to beat
We stick to each other like brother to brother,
And dodge round the boxcars our forms to secrete.
The long shadows creep o’er the dark rolling river,
The jagged rocks frown from the mountains above.
The December winds cause us poor tramps to shiver,
And we think of the dear ones at home that we love.
We think what we did with our last summer’s wages.
We know how to use the first money we get.
We think of the truth handed down from dark ages,
We must either have grub or go hungry to s__t.
And thus ruminating we pass through Shickshinney
Bloomsburg, Dansville, and Northumberland town.
But before we proceed on our way to Virginia,
We will spend a few hours in looking around.
For the hours that we spend we get poor consolation
As we walk round the town we are hungry and cold.
We try to explain our true situation,
But remember the half will never be told.
You may sit by your fireside and read this effusion,
You may give us your sympathy deep and sincere,
And we have no doubt in your chamber’s seclusion
You will shed for your brothers a sorrowful tear.
But you cannot know of the hardships and trials
The sad disappointments and heartless rebuffs
The asking for work and repeated denials
A poor devil gets when they have help enough.
But I fear we are making too sad an impression,
So now we’ll return to the thread of our tale.
Your pardon we’ll crave for this doleful digression,
And keep to our course like a ship under sail.
By freight and express to our next destination,
The capitol city of the Keystone State.
At the Hummelstown quarries and other locations,
We’re about three months early or ditto too late.
We curse our bad luck to dad-gusted blank-nation,
While a new resolution within us is born.
The sweet sunny south seems our only salvation,
So we take a free ride in a boxcar of corn.
We take to this berth like a duck to the water,
And dine off the cargo and think ourselves rich.
We pass Christmas eve in these elaborate quarters,
And soon find ourselves stopped on a Baltimore switch.
T’was a long dreary night not o’er burdened with pleasure.
We rise from our couch with a cold in the head.
Our innermost cravings we still in a measure
Appeasing our hunger by eating our bed.
Oh, Blessed be the fate that has turned our steps hither.
Dame fortune has smiled on our efforts at last.
When hopes of success in our hearts seemed to wither,
A job we obtained and our wanderings are past.
We are now in a boarding house quite systematic,
And three times a day we fill up our crop.
And now that we find that we’re no longer poetic,
We lay down our pen and suddenly stop.
Frank and Eric