Even a hobo can get too old for his profession.
Harry Messer, "the king" of the Ludlow Hobos, is abdicating. He's going to kick back and take life even easier.Messer, 71, has been king, or top hobo, of the Ludlow Hobo Club for 23 years.
"They appointed me king for as long as I could prove myself worthy," he says. Soon, another hobo will get that chance.
In the main, the Ludlow hobos are knights of the road in spirit only. They come from all walks of life, many of them holding blue-collar jobs. Their common thread is the fellowship found at Hobo Springs.
Since the mid-1960s, when Messer and the late Duke Botkin founded the hobo club, the leisure-hour hobos have been coming to the springs to have a few brews, maybe some homemade soup or barbecue and carefree talk.
The club, nestled in this Ohio River town in Kenton County, has about 150 members, some being non-active membership card holders.
In a ravine, and within earshot of passing trains, the springs attracted hobos and drifters in decades past and provided water for Ludlow during the 1937 flood.
It's the steep climb out of the ravine, whether by concrete stairway or up the banks, that pushed Messer into retirement. A former bartender and cook who traveled as a hobo some, Messer said his health is in decline, and his doctor has recommended he avoid climbing.
Messer plans to move back to his hometown of West Union, in Adams County, Ohio, where several of his children live. But he plans to return to Ludlow for future hobo events, "if I'm able."