Arvel Pearson

You leave home with good intentions and tell your folks you're going to come back a millionaire. You return with your head between your arms.You're broke and dirty and they see right away that you didn't make it. I'd stay a day or two and hit the road again.
I was never so desperate that I wanted to commit suicide but I often felt put down. I realized it would take a while to change things. "I'm going to keep going," I said. "I may not end up a millionaire but someday I will be able to face people I used to beg for food." If I hadn't had hope I would have starved to death by the time I was seventeen.

There were nights I'd get homesick waiting for a train with nobody to talk to, sitting alone on a pile of ties under a water tank out in the middle of nowhere. You're only a kid and you get to dreaming about that warm bed back home and seeing the folks.

Arvel Pearson, quoted in Errol Lincoln Uys, Riding the Rails, 85, 88

Copyright Digital History 2016