Lewis “Doc” Shrivner became a hobo when the market crashed in 1929.
His descent into poverty was a reflection of what was happening to Americans everywhere. The rich suddenly became poor. The poor somehow got poorer. Hard times caused lifestyle changes.
Doc once rode in First-Class train cars and enjoyed the many amenities that came with it. The conversion from riding in luxury to empty boxcars was surprisingly smooth for him. He was always disillusioned with humanity in general.
His decision to “drop out” of society turned out to be a good one, and he found himself happy for the first time in his life. The months turned to years and he made a reputation for himself in the hobo universe.
After two years of riding the rails without being thrown off a train, he became a legend. His peers talked about his exploits with pride. He’d made many a fool of the security thugs that went after him.
Doc knew about, and was greeted at, every hobo camp from California to Maine. His stories were shared from coast-to-coast by admiring fans. Sometimes his peers suspected he was telling them a yarn, but still eagerly listened, enthralled by his mellow baritone and speaking skill.
One night in an Indiana hobo camp, Doc told a group of about twenty men and boys about a scary experience he once had.
“I was riding from Iowa to Idaho on the Central Railroad, when I met a strange man. Right after I jumped onto the car I looked around, as always, to see who else might be there.
“A big man wearing a knee-length fur coat was standing in a corner staring at me. His dark hair and long beard were scraggly and unkept. But it was his pale blue eyes that got my attention. They were souless. Like a sharks.
“I said hello, and he nodded slowly. As I came closer his size surprised me. He was the biggest man I’d ever seen. And believe me, I’ve seen a lot of guys in my time. He was at least seven feet-tall and thick with bulging muscles.
“The bearskin coat he wore was greasy-looking and matted with dried mud and something else. He wasn’t wearing a shirt under his coat, and his dirty chest showed numerous scars. I wondered if he was a mountain man like I read about in dime novels?
“He still hadn’t said anything when I approached him and stuck out my arm to shake his hand. They call me Doc, I said conversationally, What’s yours?
I saw what looked like a flicker of a smile as he reached out his enormous hand (twice the size of mine) and engulfed mine…gently.
“I am Richard, Earl of Sandwich, late of England,” he said with a true limey accent. He sounded serious, so I didn’t laugh at what I thought was a silly pretense on his part.
“Suddenly he was serious, “Will you help me?” he asked.
“If I possibly can, I replied.
He stooped over and picked up a heavy-looking canvas bag.
“There were steel shackles for hands and feet inside. He dropped the bag and I heard the metal clank. Taking a key off a necklace he wore around his thick neck, he handed it to me.
“It’ll be dark soon, so I don’t have much time, he continued. I’m a werewolf – I do hope you know what that is – and there’s going to be a full moon tonight. Before it comes up I need you to lock me up until daylight comes, and I’m in my man shape again.
Well, I can tell you boys, I was scared shitless. I couldn’t very well turn him down though. When I stopped gulping for air and calmed down, I assured the Earl I’d be glad to help. I’m pretty sure he smiled when I said that.
The hours went by fast and I locked him up as he requested. He told me he was tired of killing people, but he didn’t know how to rid himself of his curse. The padlock and chains, he reasoned, would contain him long enough until the curse withered in the daylight.
Just before the moon was totally full he said one more thing.
“I hope this works!”
The next thing I knew a snarling horror was struggling across from me, trying to rip itself loose from the chain wrapped around the two-by-fours lining the side of the car. It’s howls curdled my blood!
To my absolute horror, the thing broke loose and was working on the chains holding it’s hairy arms and legs together. I can still hear it’s howls of rage. Then it was free and looking at me!
“What happened next?” One of the listeners cried out.
“It killed me!” Doc howled with laughter.
The group slowly stood up stretched. Everyone was getting ready to settle down for the night when a huge man in a bearskin coat stepped into the light of their bonfire.
“Could you help me?” he asked.
As It Stands, werewolves, or no werewolves? That is the question.