Tex King of Tramps
Tex King of tramps is a long term project for HIGS. We've done a lot of traveling in the last five years documenting Tex's work across the United States.
If you happen to know the location of one of Tex's markings or anything about Tex himself, we would love to hear from you*. We'd also love to hear any personal recollections of seeing his work, no matter how short or insignificant they may seem.
*We are committed to protecting the locations of these and not sharing them in any way without the proper care. We feel that getting these markings documented is extremely important as more and more are lost each year to demolition, the repainting of bridges, or to people spray painting over them. In the first four years of our search, we know of at least four marks which have been lost.
YEARS AGO, in almost every tank town and village In the United States and even in foreign countries, railway water tanks, depot platforms, and other buildings, the sign A-No. 1 with an arrow pointing in the direction taken and a date revealed that one of the most celebrated of tramps had passed that way. There are still railroad structures where the sign has outlasted successive coats of paint since the days when he ceased to roam. For the last two weeks, the Yellowstone county jail has harbored a worthy follower In the footsteps of the great tramps of the early part of the century who left their mark, carved with skilled jackknives, on many a beam and joist. In 7,300 cities, towns, and stations, during the last 15 years, the sign “T-E-X” K-T has been placed by A-No. 1’s successor. The cabalistic meaning of the sign is Tex, Extraordinary, King of the Tramps, a title which he admits is self-bestowed but which he endeavors to wear worthily.
-Courtesy of The Billings Gazette, 1931
Bound East, July 12, 1930, Tex King of Tramps
At least fifty times in the course of a couple of thousand miles I came across his insigne, his coat of arms: Tex-KT. You would find it carved on the wooden seat of a privy on the edge of a Nevada town, penciled on the wall of a shower room in a Salvation Army flophouse in Idaho, chalked on the iron side of a locomotive tender in South Dakota, painted in six-foot high letters of red on a white cliffside high up in a Montana canyon. Men told me you found it from Maine to California, everywhere, printed, written, carved thousands of times in the course of what must have been fifteen or twenty years of wandering.
- Eric Sevareid, Not so Wild a Dream
Oh I got into a battle with my folks at 14, so I just packed up a suitcase, plenty of white shirts and stuff… shoulda had a gunnysack, that’s what all the other hobos had. Caught a Northern Pacific train headed west and stayed about two months picking apples. I told a few guys that I saw that T.K.T. all the way out there on different overpasses and stuff, and they said, "Well there he is over there," and I couldn’t believe it.
I went over to him and we had quite a conversation. I thought he was from Texas the way he talked; he said he had to pick apples to buy paint. He had a buddy with him there and I didn’t learn too much about him, but he said he was his handyman who helped him out a lot carrying paint. When he saw me he called me Slim right off cause I’m about 6’6” and about 140 pounds at the time. I asked him how he got to all those places to paint all that and he said he walked between a lot of them. Well gee-wiz he really spread out after that, that was in the 30s when I saw him.
About 2 o’clock in the morning is the best time, when the stations and yards are most deserted. I use all colors of paint which I buy with money that I get panhandling. Sometimes I use ink. Shoe polish makes a good substitute. Other times I cut in the initials with a sharp jack-knife. At one time I carried seven different knives at once. I have worn out dozens of jack-knives at it. What do I do it for? Oh, just for notoriety, I guess.
- TEX K.T., Courtesy of The Billings Gazette, 1931