Editor's note: This column was originally published in the Review-Miner in October 2012.

LINDEN, Texas - During the years of World War 11, all trains going through Imlay, and of course Lovelock, were pulled by steam engines. The big, heavy, beautiful engines burned crude oil for fuel and used a lot of water.

Immediately behind the engine was a fuel car and a water car. Every engine stopped at every terminal point for water and fuel. Imlay was a terminal for Southern Pacific Railroad.

At every railroad terminal, there was a "hobo jungle." Imlay's hobo jungle was across the railroad tracks from town, at the east end of the loading corrals. The Bo's nailed old confiscated tin roofing to the corral fencing so you couldn't see their campfires from town or the highway.

Their "jungle" was basically off limits to all, except the Bo's themselves. Even the law enforcement people steered clear of the jungles, unless they had reason to go there on official business.

My buddy Dale Austin had more guts than the packing house. He was forever more trying to con me into going to the hobo jungle with him. I was too cowardly to go there, knowing that unless you rode the rails as a Bo, you weren't welcome, and they might hurt you.

Sometimes a Bo would come to our house, asking for something to eat. Mom always gave them food, hence our house was on the hit list at the jungle.

    One day, Dale said we are going to the jungle tonight, I have an invitation from "Cotton." Dale had met the old Bo "Cotton" at the general store, where Dale's father and mother worked, and they lived. Dale talked to the Bo, and was invited to visit the jungle that night. We were careful to not tell our mothers, because we knew they would not approve our going there.

Just before dark we set out, taking a loaf of bread along as a peace offering. Dale was excited about walking into the hobo camp, but I was skeptical. I had a good defense, speed, in case flight became a necessity. None of the Bo's could outrun me if it came to that.

We walked in, and Cotton welcomed us, as did the other men. They had hobo stew cooking on the fire in a huge pot. It smelled good, and later, tasted good. Our loaf of bread complemented their stew. The talk was quiet and, surprising to me, very interesting.

Mainly they talked about riding the rails all over America. Some talked about family. I heard mentioned Frisco and Chicago, Detroit and Seattle.  They went north in the summer and south in the winter. They were heading south, since it was getting cold weather.

They treated me and Dale with utmost respect, fed us, and invited us back. They offered us coffee, and hand-rolled cigarettes, which we declined. 

Cotton told us goodbye, because he was leaving in the morning. We both liked that old hobo; he was kind with a soft gentle voice. I remember him well. He said he was heading for Sacramento to spend the winter. He had family there, and spent winters there most of the time.

I never went back to the jungle, and Dale never mentioned it again. What kinda frightened me was a young kid, a teenage runaway, who flashed a large switchblade knife and bragged it was sharp as a razor.

We felt safe with Cotton there that one night, but the young tough was so intimidating with his "frog sticker" we were satisfied to stay away after that.

In later years, the railroads went to diesel engines, and did not need to stop in Imlay for fuel or water. So they whizzed through town at 60 miles per hour, like they do today. Sometimes late at night, when I'm awake and in bed, I remember the sound of a lonesome whistle off in the distance, coming from a mighty steam engine, circa 1943, in Imlay, Nevada, U.S.A.

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A hole has been drilled in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

Roy Bale can be reached via email at roybalemail@yahoo.com.