California was a Nightmare. Now He's.....

Dreaming of Kansas

Telling Ralph's story is our way of honoring him and preserving our history. It's the story of thousands of men and women whose uncommon lives make our lives and businesses possible. As the story continues it's 1936 and 20-year old Ralph has dropped out of college (football season is over!) and, egged on by his housemates and poker buddies, is determined to win a $100 dare to ride the rails to Los Angeles with only the 3 shirts on his back and $40 dollars. He's made it as far as Salt Lake City without freezing to death, thanks mostly to the kindness of strangers and he's still California Bound...

Back in Hays, Kansas, the young men who dared Ralph to ride the rails to Los Angeles begin to realize he is not going to show up ready for breakfast and another poker game. Either he is hitching home to Paradise or he is still on that west-bound freight train. No one calls Mr. Weller. He is a quiet man but they all know where Ralph got his immense strength and they also know that Ora Webster Weller is not a man they want to see angry.

Ralph is having a few thoughts of home and family himself. The next train he hops is headed for Reno, Nevada, and unlke the empty car he'd ridden from Hays to Salt Lake City, it is full of men, women and children. They aren't heading to California on a dare. They're trying to survive.

At the California state line, the train stops and everyone piles off and walks across the border. The train stops on the California side and everyone jumps back on. Someone explains to Ralph that the railroad can't legally carry them across the border. Ralph is in California! The next stop is Sacramento and the Hobo Jungle.

The Jungle is full of people searching for fields of gold and opportunity in California. People from all over the United States are gathered in tents and shacks. They live in this ramshackle little city near the train yards until they find work or jump another train to another dream. The Hobo Jungle is a city, complete with entrepreneurs. Ralph eats a meal at a "restaurant" set up by two enterprising hoboes. For 5 cents he gets beans poured over a slice of bread. It tastes like heaven and he notices that each of the men has on 4 or 5 shirts and 2 or 3 pairs of pants---it's their mark of success!

Ralph is ready to go home to Kansas, but first, he has to get to Los Angeles. He sticks out his thumb. "Can you read?" the old man in the pick up hollers before he picks him up. Ralph reads the newspaper out loud all the way to Los Angeles.



The old man tells him he can catch a train in the Los Angeles yards, but first Ralph sends a post card to the guys in the house (he's won the dare!) and one to his Dad. He thinks he's done pretty well. He's in one piece, he has most of the cash he started with and all three of the shirts on his back.

The Los Angeles train yards are a rough place. He doesn't even make it out of the city before the car he chose to ride in is emptied by the Railroad Police and everyone is booked into jail, stripped, fumigated, showered and released. Ralph reclaims his shirts, but his money is gone. Raising hell is strongly discouraged by his fellow hoboes. Ralph isn't a college boy on a dare anymore. He's just another penniless tramp trying to get home.

When the train stops in Nevada, the bulls chase everyone off. A guards takes pity on Ralph and shows him how to ride the top of a boxcar. He rides this way all the way to Texas. The next boxcar he catches takes him to Monett, MO, and things begin to get much worse for Ralph.

He's happy to be inside a car instead of clinging to the top, but when the car hits the switch in the yard at Monett, the heavy boxcar door rolls shut, the car stops, and Ralph is trapped alone in an empty boxcar on a remote Missouri siding. He's not sure how long he's been in the boxcar. He pounds on the door and yells himself hoarse. The 5-cent beans and bread he had in Sacramento is a dim, pleasant memory. He's cold and hungry and almost certain he will die in a boxcar in Monett, MO.

Two days and one night pass before a railroad employee hears Ralph yelling and banging. Ralph is free and very hungry but all he has to his name are three shirts. The railroad man directs him to a woman in town who buys two of the shirts for $3.00. Ralph eats, hops a train to Hays and finally makes it home to collect his $100.00. The guys are surprised (and relieved) to see him but not surprised that the first thing he does is go to the local diner and order everything on the menu!

Ralph still has to face Webster and come up with a plan for his life, but he's confident and optimistic that everything will turn out just fine!

Like our articles? You'll love our newsletter. Send us a message and tell us to sign you up for our twice yearly publication. We'll add you to our mailing list.


Get Your Parts From Ralph's Kids!
Call Weller Tractor Salvage
Your Source For Heavy Industrial Equipment Parts --- New Used Rebuilt

Home | Parts | Salvage Machines | Search Inventory | Communicate | UPS | Links | Newsletter
Wisdom | UPN Conventions | SETI | Jeremy's Art | Disclaimer

© Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. Contact Weller Tractor Salvage.