This is what Ivan Doig had to say about Mark Wyman’s new book Hoboes: Bindlestiffs, Fruit Tramps, and the Harvesting of the West:
“This profoundly researched book is itself a rich harvest, bringing to life forgotten workers of the field and forest in the days of riding the rails. Mark Wyman has mastered the epic of an America unable to do without migrant laborers but often morally unsure what to do with them, a story that goes on to this day.”
Farms followed the railroads west, making way for Kansas wheat, Colorado sugar beets, and Washington apples. But with this new agriculture came the need for harvest workers. Mark Wyman: Later scholars would define them as “agricultural nomads” …. They often carried a rolled-up blanket known variously as a bundle or “bindle” — hence their nickname, “bindlestiffs.: And they were also called “hoboes,” “fruit tramps,” “harvest gypsies,” “floaters,” “transients,” “drift-ins,” “apple glommers,” “almond knockers,” “and “sugar tramps.”
Whatever their name, Mark Wyman tells the migrant worker’s story with real insight and sensitivity, laying the groundwork for future harvests ahead — from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath to Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Movement.
The Land Library has hundreds of books on farms & farmworkers in the West, and here’s just a few that cast more light on Mark Wyman’s Hoboes:
The Harvest Gypsies by John Steinbeck, Bull Threshers & Bindlestiffs: Harvesting & Threshing on the North American Plains by Thomas D. Isern
Irrigated Eden: The Making of an Agricultural Landscape in the American West by Mark Fiege, The Likes of Us: Photography and the Farm Security Administration by Stu Cohen