I was in the “well” of a 48-foot container carrier, wedged next to a weathered blue COSCO container.
The cop stood on the platform above, pointing his gun down at me.
Big railyards have cops patrolling the yard, keeping the drunks and thieves out. Typically, when they catch a hobo, they administer a beating and then throw the hobo in jail.
They’re railroad cops, but hobos call them “bulls,” and they’re the hobos’ worst enemy.
“Get your bag and get off the train,” he said…
Let’s fast-forward for a moment here. I’ll be in Japan when you read this story.
Eighteen months ago, my family and I threw away all our things and converted all our savings to gold. We’re traveling around the world, living like gypsies.
But this isn’t the first time I’ve done this…
In 2002, I became convinced that gold was going to rise. I put all my savings into gold futures. I even convinced eight of my mother’s work friends and some college buddies to buy gold futures with me.
I was right about the gold price, but not about the futures. A story for another time…
Anyway, as part of my research on gold, I found Bill’s daily e-letter.
At the time, I was working at Salomon Brothers, in London, for the repo desk. Each night, I’d print off Bill’s email and read it on the train home. It felt so clandestine… so subversive… so exciting. I loved it.
I quickly realized I didn’t want to work at Salomon anymore. I wanted to work with Bill. So I wrote him and told him I’d quit my job and would work for him for free if he’d give me a job helping with his e-letter.
At the time, only three employees were working on it, and there wasn’t a place for me.
I quit my job at Salomon anyway and decided I’d go find some adventure. I said goodbye to my family and friends, and I flew to Mexico City without any money or credit cards.
I spent the next three months living like a tramp, sleeping outside, eating scraps, and catching free rides. (I hitchhiked, I hopped freight trains, and I even caught an illegal ride on a cargo ship.)
I was in Atlanta, on a container train, waiting for it to leave the yard, when I heard footsteps on the gravel… then on the ladder… and found myself staring up the barrel of the bull’s gun.
The bull made me sit on a rail while he checked my background. Then, he checked my pack to make sure I wasn’t a thief or a graffiti artist.
“Now get the f*ck out of my freight yard,” he said finally. “If I see you again, I’m going to put you in jail.”
So I went to the Greyhound bus station and caught a bus to Birmingham, Alabama. I had a friend there who could put me up for a few days.
While I was there, I got an email from Addison Wiggin, Bill’s managing editor at the time.
“There have been some changes,” it said. “We need a new managing editor. The job’s in Baltimore, but you’ll need to come to Paris for the interview. Are you interested?”
To get to Paris, I’d need to hitchhike from Alabama to Mexico City, fly to London, shave, put on a suit, and take the Eurostar train to Paris.
“Yes!” I replied. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
I slung my backpack over my shoulder, said goodbye to my friend, walked onto the westbound on-ramp to Interstate 10, and stuck out my thumb.
The experience I had on I-10 was so terrifying I will never hitchhike again. I’ll tell you that story tomorrow…
– Tom Dyson
Maria’s Note: Over the past few months, Tom has been sharing stories from the first time he put all his money in gold and hit the road, back in the early 2000s.
If you missed them (originally published in Bill Bonner’s Diary), read them below. Then stay tuned for the next postcard in our two-part Thanksgiving edition tomorrow…