We picked up Joseph as he was hitchhiking in the rain outside of Walsenburg. He is 50 years old and has been on the road since he was 19.
“I wanted to see the world and meet people,” he said. “Since I left home in Texas the longest I’ve been in one place is nine months. My family’s all gone —mom, dad, brother, and sister; I’m the last of the Mohicans. I guess I’m what you’d call a drifter. I drift from one place to another. I’m also a survivalist; put me pretty much anywhere and I’ll get by. I don’t drink or use drugs, and I get by doing odd jobs here and there. I’m not looking for a handout. I just spent three weeks shoveling snow in Helena.”
Joseph has gum disease and no insurance, and has been systematically pulling his teeth with a pliers. “I’ve done ten so far,” he said. “You just grab a hold of them, keep wiggling until they’re loose, and then you yank ‘em.”
In his pack he carries a change of clothes, a map, two goose down sleeping bags (“I’m good for 30-below”), his father’s old Gillette razor, and personal hygiene products, including Axe body spray and deodorant.
“You have to be clean,” he said. “And you have to smell good. This stuff works. People pick me up all the time and say, ‘You don’t stink as bad as most hitchhikers.’”
We asked him what he regarded as the most essential item for life on the road.
“Socks,” he said. “Do not get low on socks. Take care of your feet and they’ll take care of you.”
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