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Bob Lind, Published November 13 2012

Neighbors: Late Munich man proudly owned title ‘King of the Hobos’

You’d get Knute Hofius mad if you called him a bum or a tramp. “A bum won’t wash,” he said, “and a tramp won’t work.

But he liked being called a hobo. That was a proud title, he said, because “A hobo thinks the world owes him the opportunity to earn a living – as easy as he can.”

Knute was not your everyday hobo, though. He was a wanderer for 42 years who gave himself the title “King of the Hobos.”

He lived in Munich, N.D., from 1959 until his death in 1967.

Dick Beranek, of Fargo, read of the current King of the Hobos, a man from Oakdale, Minn., in The Forum recently, which reminded him of the column he wrote about Knute in 1960 when he (Dick) was a writer for the Cavalier County Republican, Langdon, N.D. Here’s some of Knute’s story that Dick reported.

Knute was 69 then, and had decided to settle in Munich because his daughter, Mabel Adrian, lived there. Besides, he said he liked the country around there.

Knute was born in 1891 in Utica, Neb. As a child, he lived in Sharon, Pa., where his schooling ended after the third grade.

He farmed at Sharon, then held the first of the only two steady jobs he ever had: He was a street car conductor in Sharon.

His second job got him into a real stew.

Worldwide traveler

Knute got married in 1910 and had three children. But then, he told Dick jokingly (if it’s anything to joke about), his wife ran off with the ice man.

So in 1918, he began hoboing, a practice that took him to every state, France, Wales and several other countries.

He kept scrapbooks with stories local newspapers published about him. He said he knew more than 400 newspaper staffers and he had more than 10,000 autographs of people he’d met.

He didn’t accept handouts. He always found work: picking spuds in Ohio and tomatoes in Pennsylvania, for instance, and shocking wheat in North Dakota.

The only town he stayed in for more than a year was Sycamore, Ohio; he was there one year and one day in 1953. It was there he held his second, and last, steady job, as a café chef, where his claim to fame was his Mulligan stew.

Wandering poet

Knute traveled light. He carried a dog-eared Bible he said he’d read cover-to-cover 18 or 20 times. But that was about it, other than the clothes on his back.

He said he once left Corpus Christi, Texas, “with a clean shirt and a dollar bill, and I didn’t change either one until I got to Kansas City.”

He was something of a poet, also. His daughter wrote of him in a book in which he said he called himself a “poet nauseate” because of the effect he said his poems had on some of his readers.

Over his hoboing years, he slept in jails, Salvation Army quarters, on park benches, lawns and concrete pavements.

This hobo hobnobbed with dignitaries and common folks and, he told Dick, he enjoyed them all.

In Munich, the retired hobo lived alone, kept a large garden and braided rugs.

He survived on a monthly Social Security check of $39. After paying rent, he figured he had about 70 cents a day to live on.

After Dick’s story about him ran, Dick received a postcard thanking him for the article.

It was signed, “Hobocially, your friend, Knute.”

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com

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