Today, a modern hobo can access the internet, and share his information with the rest of the hoboes of the world:
Where can I find the good houses to beg at?
Which trains can I jump on, without falling in the tracks and dying?
But the life of a hobo was not always this easy. Before the PDAs and hobo.com, hoboes were forced to communicate using a slightly less sophisticated tool: Graffiti. Using chalk, or whatever the hobo had/has available to them, they made/make signs on fences and posts to inform other hoboes about the environment.
Language is more than spoken words and writing. Sign language, African drums, when people need to communicate without speech, they find ways. Hobo signs allowed hoboes to communicate with their fellow hoboes, plenty of whom they would never meet or talk to. Somehow, a group of unorganized beggars and train-jumpers created a country-wide communication system.
The depression era was when the hobo reigned king, hobo signs all over the city. But even today, after the depression is long gone, hoboes and their signs still exist and are occasionally being created. Few exist today, but the signs of the past are still to be found, if you look in the right places.
Are you planning on becoming a hobo? Well then, you damn well better know your signs.
Unless you want to be a loser hobo, that is.
These are just here until I collect the shells.
Go this way
don’t go this way
sleep in barn
tell a pitiful story
Sit down and eat
No one home
Alcohol is allowed in this town
Food for chores
Help for sick
Alright / Okay
Kinds of people
Police officer lives here
Bad Tempered Owner
Criminals in the area
Hold your tongue
This town does not allow alcohol
Man with a gun