A tramp, as the term is applied to a person, is one who wanders from place to place, usually on foot but sometimes by hitchhiking, by illegally riding on trains, or sometimes temporarily working to pay for conveyances, and who has no fixed dwelling (or has abandoned a fixed dwelling) and usually lacks the the means of an honest, stable livelihood.
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- It has become a common expression to say "dirty tramp," or, "as dirty as a tramp"; but this is not always true, except occasionally in the large cities; although such a term may be applied morally to them all. There is one species of tramp who wanders from workhouse to workhouse; and this man, having every night to conform strictly to the laws of cleanliness, is no less clean, often cleaner, than a number of people whose houses contain bath rooms which they seldom use. Another species of tramp is proud of being a good beggar, who scorns the workhouse, but who knows well that a clean appearance is essential to his success.
- One day my friend the barber called me aside:
"Say, kid, I've been delegated to tell you that you've got lice." ...
... I could scarcely have felt more beyond the pale, more a pariah. I had not detected them before, because I was ignorant of the thought of having them, and because their grey colour was exactly that of the inside of my woolen shirt. ...
I look back with a shudder even yet to that experience. During my subsequent tramp-career I never could grow callous to vermin, as a few others that I met, did. Once I met a tramp who advised me not to bother about 'em .. and you would soon get used to 'em .. and not feel them biting al all .. but most tramps "boil up"—that is, take off their clothes, a piece at a time, and boil them—whenever they find opportunity.
- The tramp's real means of livelihood is begging. He can tell at a glance a house where he will get a "hand-out." A "hand-out" is a parcel of food, which derives its name from being handed out through a half-opened door.
Yes, the tramp develops into a skillful and expert beggar. Some people may think that there is no art in begging, but if they do they are much mistaken. It takes a clever man to know what stranger to ask for money. As he goes along the street he must be able to single out at a glance the giving type of man; for, as the tramp will inform you, there are really in existence men who like to give money to anyone who asks for it. They are rare, but they do exist. The thing is to be able to single out this man, and then to know if he has money in his pocket, and if he be in the right mood. To do this requires genius.
- Every once in a while, in newspapers, magazines, and biographical dictionaries, I run upon sketches of my life, wherein, delicately phrased, I learn that it was in order to study sociology that I became a tramp. This is very nice and thoughtful of the biographers, but it is inaccurate. I became a tramp—well, because of the life that was in me, of the wanderlust in my blood that would not let me rest. Sociology was merely incidental; it came afterward in the same manner that a wet skin follows a ducking. I went on "The Road" because I couldn't keep away from it; because I hadn't the price of the railroad fare in my jeans; because I was so made that I couldn't work all my life on "one same shift"; because—well, just because it was easier to than not to.