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Rated: E · Short Story · Comedy · #2265310
Hitching a ride, it's good to be alive! (Part 1)
Some of you may be familiar with the tales of hoboes travelling across America to find work. Often they would illegally travel by train, a dangerous practice sometimes called freight-hopping or train-hopping.

Far fewer know anything of the secretive aviator hoboes who have been travelling the world since the very earliest days of flight. Indeed the very first Aviator Hobo was one Monsieur Jean Claude Clochard, who in 1783, hitched a ride on the Montgolfier brothers' hot air balloon, during it's first public demonstration.

Small and wiry, Jean Clause was a miner by trade who was in Paris to purchase a cat shaped blancmange mould for his pet iguana. (This incidentally is why so many 'Teach Yourself French' books contain the lines: Vous avez un moule à blanc-manger en forme de chat à vendre? C'est pour mon iguane de compagnie.).

Having made his purchase, a particularly fine orange tabby mould, Jean Claude was looking for a way to travel home to Barlaston. (Barlaston was the iguana's name). When he saw the Montgolfier balloon, he immediately saw the possibilities. Displaying his garlic1 acumen, he was soon scrambling up the ropes and secured himself to the side. Unfortunately, as the balloon was ascending nicely, he felt himself slipping from the various ropes that encircled it. His first instinct was to swing his pickaxe to secure his purchase.

The subsequent deflation of the balloon, together with the loud expulsion of air as the balloon careered above Paris caused a major scandal, that was subsequently referred to as 'La Grande Framboise', (The Great Raspberry). Clochard was lucky to survive both the sudden and violent descent, and the fury of Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. He subsequently emigrated to the United States, (with Barlaston, and the somewhat battered blancmange mould).

On his arrival on the North American Continent, Clochard changed his name to George Washington St. Claude, possibly with the idea that this would help him blend in. Settling in McAdoo Pennsylvania, GW St. Claude, as he now styled himself, mined for coal, and soon married.

Katherine Nelly Elizabeth St. Claude (née Capp) was to bear 15 children, and an unlikely dynasty was established. Many of St. Claude's descendants became hoboes, and one of them, Abraham Lincoln Claudee, was born on a freight train carrying a consignment of upright pianos to syncopated New Orleans. (They'd dropped the St. by then, but added an extra 'e' to compensate, such is the way of things you understand).

Since powered flight didn't take off until 1903, we will skip forwards a few generations to when Grover Cleveland Cloudy happened to be staying in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina for Christmas. Orville and Wilbur , those spiritual descendants of the Montgolfier brothers, were of course the inventors of the Wright Flyers, but few know that they took advice on wing construction from Grover, who used the generous payments they subsequently made to him, to feather his nest egg, so to speak.

Thanks to Grover's input, all subsequent wings were made with sufficient strength to support a hobo or two. Indeed, just 15 years later whilst Manfred von Richthofen, the famous World War I fighter pilot, was engaged in aerial combat with George 'Handlebars' Moustache, an Anglo-French Air Ace, an entirely related conflict was unfolding on the wings of their respective aircraft.

Theodore Roosevelt Cloudy, the youngest of Grover's three sons, fought a pitched battle with forks against the German Lufttramp Maximilian Flügelmann. Such were the skills exhibited by the pilots that Theodore, who never went anywhere without his trusty beagle Snoop Dawg, was at one point fighting upside down, being suspended from the wing. Unfortunately the plucky American plunged to his death after Maximilian dealt him a vicious blow with a previously concealed sausage. This was to be Maximilian's own downfall too, as an excited Snoop bit him bloodily in the worst way and subsequently liberated the blutwurst.

But, this wasn't the end of the story, for when the Red Baron was joined in the cockpit by Snoop Dawg and the remains of the sausage, the surprise caused him to execute an unexpected exit from the plane. Although the parachute had by now been invented, von Richthofen did not have one. His fall may or may not have inspired Joan Armatrading's 1983 hit 'Drop The Pilot'.

Snoop Dawg became the stuff of legend, and many a German soldier reported seeing the ghostly apparitions of a beagle chasing the Red Baron across the skies, which is odd since Snoop dog being in possession of a parachute, was to survive the whole exciting episode. He was eventually adopted by one Carl Schulz of Minneapolis.

George Moustache retired to live as a badger in Pangbourne, Berkshire, where he became great friends with the author Kenneth Grahame.

Between the wars air hoboes became more and more adventurous. In 1932, Nellie Taft Cloudy became the first hobo to cross the Atlantic by air, accompanying an unknowing Amelia Earhart on the wings of her Lockheed Vega. By this time rumours of the aviator hoboes had spread amongst those who flew regularly, and though Amelia was reportedly very annoyed upon discovering that her flight had been borrowed in this manner, she was somewhat mollified when she met Nellie's brother, Woodrow Wilson Cloudy.

He was handsome and debonair Amelia and Woodrow were soon an item, and notwithstanding Earhart's marriage to George Putnam, Woodrow was to accompany Amelia on the wings of every subsequent flight she made.

1. Editor's Note: I think you mean 'Gallic2 acumen', you are indulging your stereotypoes again.
2. I know what I mean, and there is nothing wrong with Alliumophiles.
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