Railroad Semantics: Train Hopping Across Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, : California, and Oregon By Aaron Dactyl, 96 pgs. By Jackie Rusted

Apr 28, 2016

The life of a traveling kid is a simple one. The layer of filth on your skin is a badge of honor and everything you need to survive is meant to be carried on your back. Only the absolute essentials make the cut. I lived this way for five years of my twenties. I’m guessing this kid counted a thesaurus among those essential things. I had a hard time getting past the first few pages on account of having to stop and look up every other adjective the author had chosen in his flowery descriptions. I’m no slouch when it comes to the English language, but some choices in the wording made it a tedious read. Beyond that, the author, Aaron Dactyl, also uses a lot of technical language, slang, and terminology that—if you are not familiar with the subject—would make this read confusing. 

If you are interested in this subject, I suggest starting with a book called Hopping Freight Trains in America by Duffy Littlejohn. It’s probably the most comprehensive train hopping how-to book. It also explains how the industry works and gives an excellent recounting of the history of the railroad in America. All of that aside, this compilation of zines makes me long for a simpler time in my life. While in practice I was way more successful as a hitchhiker than a train hopper, there are plenty of similarities in lifestyle, and the characters you encounter. I really enjoyed the recounts of Aaron’s journeys. You might, too! (Microcosm Publishing, 2752 N Williams Ave., Portland, OR 97227, microcosmpublishing.com)