We’ve all likely seen the Depression-era images of desperate train-hoppers riding America’s rails in search of jobs. The novelty of six recent arrests demonstrates that we’re obviously less accustomed to 20-somethings illegally trespassing on trains in search of aimless adventure.
Railroad companies are familiar with both, which is why they vigorously ferret out, arrest and prosecute train-hoppers – including the six who were caught March 16 by CSX Railroad police when the train on which they’d stowed away stopped briefly in Grovetown while en route from Atlanta to Savannah.
Plenty of people in the community have been dismissive of the charges against the six modern-day hoboes, even expressing their own fantasies about a vagabond lifestyle. Certainly, the idea of freely roaming the country flashes across everyone’s minds occasionally, especially when it’s sunny outside and job duties keep the daydreamer chained to a desk.
But those flights of fancy give way to the reality that 442 pedestrians were killed on train property last year alone. With those kinds of numbers, rail companies aren’t going to be lenient with train-hoppers. In our hyper-litigious society, surely no one rationally believes the railroads should simply look the other way as people sneak aboard freight trains for a free ride – one that might leave the stowaway dead or locked inside a car for days on end.
Having said all that, 38 days in jail seems like a somewhat hefty price to pay for what amounts to trespassing. The six arrested in Grovetown don’t appear to have the means to post their $1,100 bonds, and will have to sit in jail until their April 23 court date.
Still, four of them are even more fortunate that they were caught in Columbia County, where a compassionate manager of the county’s Animal Services is looking after their pets until the owners are released.
Without human intervention, it’s entirely possible that all four dogs could have been released to adoption or even euthanized while their owners continue to enjoy the taxpayer-funded hospitality at the Columbia County Detention Center. The owners’ actions endangered not only themselves, but their pets, too.
It probably won’t happen, but we wouldn’t object to turning them loose (at least, the ones without scary criminal records) with time served – right after they spend a few days of community service cleaning up the county’s kennels.