Train-Hopping Scabs of Capitalism
First-time filmmaker, Daniel Skaggs, will be showing Missoula a humanizing depiction of “modern train-hoppers” during this year’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. After last summer’s inundation of Rainbows, Drainbows and Gutter-Punk “Anarchists”, it’s going to be a tough sell.
The Missoula Indy’s review by Erika Fredrickson probably won’t help Skaggs humanize the subjects he
followed joined across the country for over a year, and this is why:
Besides falling into the Maumee River, which happened toward the end of production, there were a couple other near disasters. In Portland, Ore., just two weeks into meeting and hanging out with Skrappe’s group of travelers, Skaggs got drunk and stole beer from a convenience store and brought it back to the train yard. The cops showed up to haul him off to jail and he found himself in a predicament: take his camera equipment to the jail where it might get lost, accidentally or otherwise, or leave it with his newfound companions? He decided on the latter. After being released six hours later, he nervously wandered through the city trying to track down Skrappe and the gang. He finally found them in the parking lot of a Fred Meyer.
“There were 10 train-riding kids sitting outside with their packs yelling at people and causing a ruckus,” Skaggs says. “And Skrappe, who is such a charismatic individual, comes running up [with] my pack. He was so proud that he had [kept it safe]. And we eventually formed a really strong bond.”
I wouldn’t call getting arrested for drunkenly stealing beer from a convenience store a disaster—I’d call it consequences for an asshole breaking the law.
Though I’ve personally had a few positive interactions with members of this counter-culture, the majority of my interactions have been with rude, entitled punks who have zero regard for the messes they leave behind, and I’m not just talking about trash.
There is a direct connection between the type of behavior Skaggs’ crew apparently exhibit in this film and the panhandling ordinances our city is going to get sued over. We will see what happens this coming Monday, when City Council tries to pass compromise ordinances. From what I’ve heard, there is a good chance the Montana ACLU will litigate anyway. That means taxpayer money will be spent defending ordinances crafted to curb the obnoxious but not criminal behavior of, primarily, the seasonal migrations of travelers Missoula experiences every year.
At the end of the interview, Skaggs says it’s hard to be the object of public disdain:
“It was difficult after a year of being in the trenches, living on the street with these people when I knew I didn’t really have to,” Skaggs says. “And there were a few times when I really didn’t want to do it anymore. I had come from graduating at the top of my class at the university, getting an award and operating my own farm, to putting myself out there on the street being judged every day by the populace.
Attitudes toward these traveling train-hoppers will probably get more negative as the economic engines of late-stage capitalism sputter and choke toward the inevitable cliff. My own animosity comes from watching their hypocritical dependence on local food banks, local ER’s and the generosity of people in the communities they travel through while too many of them get drunk and belligerent.