The Mark of Bozo
Bill Danile Runs the Hobo Down
by Andrew Hultkrans

When Robert Silveria confessed to multiple murders at a Placer County, CA jail in early March, police and media began excavating an underground culture which many associate with early 20th century Americana, that of the freight-hopping hobo. Dubbed the "Boxcar Killer" by investigators, Silveria traveled the rails for over fifteen years, and by his own admission, murdered at least fourteen fellow drifters "out of an uncontrollable rage," often stealing their bundles and boots afterwards. Unlike many of his ilk, whose victims are functioning citizens with incomes and IDs, Silveria is a serial killer with an unusual M.O. His grisly tales illuminate a still-thriving subculture of men who, by choice or necessity, slip beneath society's radar and adopt a rootless existence, free of social security numbers and the bonds of wage slavery. In a political climate where welfare mothers receive the full brunt of opprobrium from upper and working classes alike, few are aware of this liminal network of rail-riding hoboes, whose names are not recorded in the files of state-assistance bureaucracies. The lurid account of Robert Silveria is just one portal to this shadow civilization, and most likely the only one with enough tabloid clout to court national attention. Texas filmmaker Bill Daniel offers another, more sympathetic channel to the culture of the "bindle stiff" through his twelve-year work-in-progress Who is Bozo Texino?

Up Talk! Next