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To avoid detection, “land stowaways” like Kennedy often spent a whole trip “riding the rods” — hanging on to the brake rods or beams underneath freight or passenger cars, just above the wheels.If this seems like courting disaster, it was: In the two decades around the turn of the century, at least 32,000 hobos or tramps were killed on American railroads, whether by falls, encounters with railroad “bulls” (private security officers) or other misfortunes.When he could, he chose to ride somewhere safer, such as the feed box of a cattle car.(Even though, he later wrote, “You can’t sleep very well with [the cattle] eating your bed from under you.”) Sometimes, he would hop off in a town to grab a bite to eat — for example, the free pretzels that saloons offered with a schooner of beer — or to sleep someplace stationary, like a livery stable or a ten-cent flophouse.But in time, he would take up that pursuit again, with a passion. For the next couple years, the widower and his oldest son would struggle along, living and working together, bereft of the tempering influence of the woman they’d loved.Bill and his brother Joe increasingly enraged their father with their late-night carousing.Moreover, those howling “sports” — the cigar-chomping, derby-clad gamblers who attended these de facto prizefights — could be rough characters, and brawls and even riots broke out after some events.Seeing no future in that world, Kennedy would hang up his gloves after a few years.

Kennedy, had moved his brood out to another frontier: Port Chester, a tiny but bustling factory town in New York’s Westchester County. J.” plied his trade as a bricklayer and eventually became a moderately successful contractor, overseeing the construction and enlargement of factories, schools, hospitals and libraries across the region. Bill took up the trowel and went to work as an apprentice at age thirteen.During the course of his travels, Kennedy had one close call, when he dozed off and slipped from the rod of his freight train on the approach to Cleveland.He suffered severe cuts on his right arm, but lived.“They fought not in a scientific manner but in true slugging form, and the way they thumped each other made the sports howl with delight,” the Police Gazette reported of one heavyweight battle at Coney Island.“Maher beat his opponent’s bruised eye into a jelly-like pulp.” Several fighters died during the Horton Law era.

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