Some mornings when I’m walking or jogging on the track above the Clark Kerr Campus, I’ll see homeless people shuffling down from their sleeping sites on the slopes of Claremont Canyon. They are usually young and scruffy, often towing a dog on a rope leash. I always assume they are on their way to Telegraph Avenue or the benches around Downtown Berkeley BART station.
On Saturday morning, I saw a person whose neatly packed bags, banjo case, and saddlebag-bearing dog suggested a more serious commitment to the nomadic life. I asked him how long he’d been travelling. “Three years,” he said. He said his name was Scout and that he'd crossed the country four times, hopping trains when he could to cover long distances between Chicago and California.
He is originally from Connecticut. He studied animal science at the University of Connecticut, but he said he prefers to live on the road because it teaches patience. Scout said his mom worries about him “all the time.”
In the ancient tradition of settled folk demanding a story from passing nomads, I asked Scout to tell me an interesting tale from his journeys. “How Scout Got His Banjo Back” isn’t exactly “The Travels of Marco Polo,” but it offers a small glimpse into the lives of this current crop of young people who are on a different path to adulthood than most of their peers. Zoe is the name of his dog.