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A Study of Bums and Tramps and how to Know the Differences

Kenneth, born and raised in the South, resides in Hamilton, Alabama. He enjoys sharing his unique perspectives on life through his writing.

Can you guess the identity of this man? He is lazing around, not working. He is a lazy man. But he may not be a lazy bum.

Can you guess the identity of this man? He is lazing around, not working. He is a lazy man. But he may not be a lazy bum.

In a delicate operation such as this one, you have to take your time, collect needed information about your subject, write a rough draft--or a smooth draft, it doesn't make that much difference, read the piece over carefully and if you spot over 20 typo's or noun and verb misuseage, then the piece should be written again.

Not this time. Not on your last buck. The reason: I have got a bad case of laziness. Not really every hour of every day, but I would say a serious case of laziness--lasting for more than two hours or more. It comes and goes. Just like an old football injury. But in my case, just pure laziness. I never played any high school football. Too disciplined for me to go out for the team then watch my diet, exercise, and that was enough. No thanks, Coach L.E. Fowler, Hamilton, Ala., who was seriously, a good guy. And a good friend.

I have found that in my recent narratives, poetry and just regular hubs, the more simplistic the best. I love simplicity. Simplicity wards off a lot of complex, unwanted questions that I am way too lazy to answer. Simplicity acts like an electric fence surrounding my keyboard. Nobody gets in and I don't get out roaming inside my home--especially during the week of Nov. 7 - Nov. 15 as my wife went to visit her little sister in Panama City and with the rest of her family, have Thanksgiving and Christmas at one time due to time restraints, work schedules. I could have said due to life's obligations and that would have sufficed. But my wife gave me strict orders not to pilfer (a rural term meaning plundering) in any of her stuff. As if that were my number one reason for living.

What we are going to look at today are two very important terms: Bum and Lazy. Many times used together: "You lazy bum!" Now, this has never been said about me, but I have heard wives of my buddies use this term fluently and frequently. Seemingly this harsh phrase did not phase the behavior of my male buddies. So I changed the subject to something tame: War Between The States. Yeah, man. That is a hot topic if there ever was one.

Lazy and bum exist on different parallels. And although both terms may look and possibly sound similar, if you take a good, hard look, you will see that all of this time we have been misusing these iconic terms. As a complimentary side note--lazy and bum are both enduring terms of Americana. Since Adam and Eve, the term, lazy, has been around for eons. The same cannot be said about bum.

In a more-sophisticated time and day, the word, bum, was probably the harshest of things a person could be called. But if you want to get technical, a True Bum is very rare in our world as we know it. What is the difference between a Bum and a True Bum? Look. A bum does, sometimes, do some work to get his next meal while a True Bum will sit and sit in one location and talk in a pitiful manner to prey on the sympathy of passersby. True Bums are a sly lot. A Bum, maybe behind the backs of civilized folk, are better thought of.

But we've not even talked about the noun, Tramp. Now this word changes the entire landscape. Just how would you define Tramp in 2017? Much like a bum, who does know how to work, but not enough to hurt himself, is like a Tramp who in the Great Depression, moved from place to place to find work in the beginning, but when he discovered that a giving heart of someone with food and shelter would give him something, there went the job searching. And to be realistic, if you were a Tramp, would you walk the soles of your shoes off to get a job that was very scarce if you could just sit near the backside of a cafe and wait for the cook to toss out some uneaten food? No. A wise Tramp would just sit and eat while preserving the soles of his shoes.

Oh, now we have to cross that Language Bridge and discuss Lazy. The Bible speaks synonymously as a man that will not work as being slothful--slow, wasting time and never getting anything finished. Have you ever in your life ever heard someone who was very angry at another person say: "You slothful bum!" Too much work. A wise, efficient person could get his point across and save time in the process by yelling: "You lazy bum!" See the difference?

What have we learned so far? Well, children. We now know that there is a difference between a Bum and a Tramp. And a Bum, in order to be a True Bum, has only to sit stationary and hope for someone to give him something to eat or wear if his clothing is way beyond repair. And like we discussed about Tramps--who will work or go through the motion by walking, sidling or moseying over or to a nice bench to sit and rest after his 20-yard movement from the hot sun to the shade where the bench is sitting.

For just a moment, I have to add the other way that society of a few years back looked upon a woman with little or none principals. A well-to-do woman of means might see one of these types and say in a snide manner: "Just look at that tramp! She is wearing a dress thin enough to read a Superman comic book through." If I had lived in such a snooty society, I would have stood up for a woman that is being put down. No room for self-righteous biddies in my life.

You might be asking, do bums drink whiskey or other alcoholic beverages? Yes. Some bums do drink and drink so much that they have to lay on their backsides in some deserted alleyway and pass out. This is an awful sight. I have a feeling for people like this. And on occasion, a Regular Tramp will take a good swig if it becomes convenient, but a True Tramp will not work hard enough to break a sweat just to get a half-bottle of whiskey that someone threw out of his car window afraid that the police would arrest him for drunk driving.

Are Bums and Tramps mentally challenged? No. An emphatic NO! Why is it that some Hollywood film makers insist on the bums and tramps in our land being mentally challenged? Is this being stereotypical? I would say so. Most Real Bums and Tramps in the Great Depression were of higher learning--with proper speech, writing abilities, and their real gifts were covered by their exterior circumstances. A lot of educated, well-to-do men on Wall Street jumped out of windows from the highest floors to take their lives to avoid the humiliation and shame of having it all and losing it just as fast.

Would you say that Bums and Tramps are prone to violence? Yes and no. Some True Bums and Tramps were simply good-hearted, happy-go-lucky guys just trying to scratch out a living--and I use Charlie Chaplin who portrayed the idyllic role of a bum. But a lovable bum.

Be sure that when you are traveling outside of your common area of life where everything and everyone is familiar, then you are in a big crowd in a big city, do not be too quick to judge the Bums and Tramps . . .some are just doggone nice. While some of the best-dressed, best educated and groomed folks are just plain bums.

You'll figure it out.

On a Hungry Track is the title of his painting by Frank Mahony. Is he a bum, tramp, or just a lazy guy?

On a Hungry Track is the title of his painting by Frank Mahony. Is he a bum, tramp, or just a lazy guy?

© 2017 Kenneth Avery

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