Darrel “Tuck” Ray has caught the westbound train.
That’s the hobo community’s way of saying that Ray, 58, has died. Named King of the Hobos several times, he died of lung cancer on June 20 at Our Lady of Peace Hospice in St. Paul.
Ray lived the hobo life for 25 years until he married Julianna Porrazzo-Ray, and together they were named the first King and Queen Hobo couple at the National Hobo Convention in Britt, Iowa, in 2017.
His wife said his cancer probably was caused by a combination of smoking (he rolled his own cigarettes), inhaling smoke from the campfires he built on the road, and breathing chemicals from the train boxcars he hopped.
“Tuck was the real deal,” said Porrazzo-Ray, whose hobo moniker was Minneapolis Jewel.
Ray’s family moved around when he was young, living in Texas, Louisiana and Illinois. Money was tight, so he left home and hit the road at 15.
Porrazzo-Ray said her husband lived hard as a hobo, drinking too much and often landing in jail. His weathered face bore the signs of living outside for years.
But he lived by the hobo’s code of ethics, working odd jobs and taking care of himself. He traveled with his “road dogs” and camped in “jungles,” what hobos call their resting spots for the night.
Porrazzo-Ray said hobos are as American as cowboys. “Cowboys rode horses and hobos rode the iron horse,” she said.
The couple first met at the Hobo Convention in 1994, but they never rode trains together; Porrazzo-Ray couldn’t live the hobo life full-time because she was raising her children. She took her first train ride to get to the hobo convention in Iowa and wound up in Wisconsin.
When they married in 2002, Ray was ready to give up the hobo life. He sobered up and had a regular job at a manufacturer. Mary Haywood, Porrazzo-Ray’s friend since high school, was skeptical that Ray was a good match for her.
“He looked grizzled and had this rocky voice with a Southern accent,” said Haywood. “But it became clear to me he was the happiest husband I’d ever met. They were perfect for each other.”
Ray earned his moniker “Tuck” because he wouldn’t tuck his shirt in. His wife said there was another story behind the name, but it wasn’t appropriate to tell in public.
The couple attended the Hobo Convention for many years, each winning the individual queen and king titles several times. The crown is made from a Folger’s coffee can, and Ray’s remains will be buried in a coffee can in August.
Ray was called “Head pipe” at the conventions, meaning he was greatly respected among the hobo community as one who kept everybody in line, Porrazzo-Ray said.
The couple were well-known in the hobo world and recently received a mention in Smithsonian magazine in a story about America’s hobos. They shared their story at nursing homes and schools, making sure to tell students the dangers of living as a hobo.
Porrazzo-Ray said her husband was inquisitive and creative. He made hobo coffee cups, furniture and jewelry.
Ray hadn’t been in touch with his family for 30 years before making contact last year with his brothers. They made up for lost time, and attended the Hobo Convention with him.
Besides his wife, Ray is survived by his sister, Tonya, of Illinois; brothers, Mark, of Colorado; Jeff, of California; and Leslie, of Illinois; and a stepdaughter, Sarah Porrazzo-Davis, of Minneapolis.
Services are set for 9 a.m. August 9 at Evergreen Cemetery in Britt.