Dirty Kids

Photojournalism student hops trains with hippie group

Last Fall, Emily Kask, a photojournalism student at Western Kentucky University, took a semester off to join, and document, a self-proclaimed set of countercultural vagabonds, known as the Dirty Kids, who travel state to state hitchhiking, sleeping in cars, and hopping on freight trains. Contacts made by Kask on “Hippie Hill” in Christiana, Tennessee, a bastion for the homeless and free expression, led her to Southern Illinois, where she attended a “rainbow gathering,” a traveling convention aimed at building community across multigenerational hippie types. There Kask met Bambi, then 20, who was preparing to learn to hop freight trains with her friend Travis Sauter, 41. Kask drove Bambi and Sauter to Kentucky, where upon arrival Sauter was arrested over a prior panhandling incident. They continued on with a new friend, Matt Johnson, also known as Smerph, who grew up in a family of train riders. Kask would hop onto her first freight train near Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Train hopping is something of an American tradition, as drifters, migrant workers and hippies have rode the rails since after the Civil War. “It’s this blend of these Great Depression train riders and the hippies of the ’60s and ’70s,” said Kask of the Dirty Kids. “And I think it’s come to blend together with the millennials.”

Read the full story at Lens Blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *