Bums line up where ‘X’ marks the spot for a handout

By Jack Hackley

Being a homeless bum begging for money at the freeway exits on I-70 seems to me like hard work. No matter what the weather, they show up early and stay late before being picked up and taken back to the city. They are seen at almost every exit within a 35- to 40-mile radius of Kansas City.
One guy that I have seen at several of the off-ramps has a dog and a sign that says “Need money to feed dog”. I always carry a Walmart Meaty Dog Bone in my truck and when I see this guy I always stop, roll down my window, he comes running over expecting a big donation, and I throw the bone to the dog. Some say these guys at a busy exit will make $50 to $100 per day.
Back during the Depression when I was a kid, bums would walk down our road, stop and beg my mom for something to eat. She would always fix a sandwich. We could never figure out why the bums would stop at our old, poor-looking farmhouse and not the good-looking farm of our neighbors’ up the road.
My dad was a tenant farmer and the landlord wouldn’t spend a dime to fix anything up. (If there was any fixing, my dad would have to pay for it.)
My mom’s cousin by the name of Lee White, who lived with a brother in Oak Grove, was a professional bum back in those days.  He would leave town on a freight train, bum around for a few months, maybe working a day or two now and then, but always begging for food and money.
When my mom told him about all the bums stopping at our place and not at the nice house up the road, he explained to her whenever they got food at a house, they would mark it for the next bum so he would know it was an easy hand-out. He didn’t tell us what kind of a mark they left, but if he had, I would have moved it up to the neighbors’ house.

Jack can be reached at PO Box 40, Oak Grove, MO 64075 or or

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