What is “The Milk and Honey Route”?

 Posted by on July 14, 2015 at 10:48 am  Mad Men, Season 7
Jul 142015
Mad Men, The Milk and Honey Route, Don waits for a bus

Photo Credit: Courtesy of AMC

The title of Mad Men episode 7.13 is The Milk and Honey Route. A “milk and honey route” is “hobo code” (yep) for an easy railroad line with plenty of food along the way. This academic paper (pdf) points out that a route may vary in its plenty by individual hobo.

The original milk and honey route was a railroad from Salt Lake City southward through the valleys of Utah. Along this line were the Mormon villages so euphoniously named, Moroni, Manti, Nephi, Lehi and Juab. In the early days, before the Latter Day Saints got disillusioned by the great influx of bums and yeggs, or, what is worse, the auto tramps, this was the greatest feeding ground for hobos. Hence the name, milk and honey route, which has since become a household term among hobos. Any railroad running through a valley of plenty may be called a milk and honey line.

By the way, this paper is from Fairfield University, which is where Betty studied psychology.


  5 Responses to “What is “The Milk and Honey Route”?”

  1. Nice!

  2. Don Draper’s journey in this episode was anything but “milk and honey” as he heads west while losing or giving away all of his possessions. That final Forrest Gump shot of Dick Whitman at the bus stop let’s us know that the story is going full circle. A solitary man with his worldly possessions in a bag, patiently waiting for his bus to arrive.

    When Don has his moment of inspiration while meditating, we finally understand his journey. Don Draper/Dick Whitman may have been many things but what he is, at his core, is creative. For any creative person, there is no greater purgatory than the inability to be inspired, to run out of ideas, to hit the creative wall. In the pilot, we see a desperate Don Draper talking to a lowly busboy, trying to find the spark that will elude him almost until the end of the meeting with Lucky Strike. In the finale, we see a Don Draper clearing his mind of all of his fears miraculously finding the inspiration for one of the iconic ads of the 1970’s. Whatever became of Don Draper, we can only guess. All we do know is that the old lion had one last victory in him, inspired from the most unlikely of places.

    • I agree with your assessment, except for “lowly busboy”. Don never stopped seeing himself as Dick Whitman, as the lowly busboy, as the kid who relieved himself in trunks of “fancy people”‘s cars. I think he was more comfortable with busboys and grifters and race car mechanics than he ever was with the upper crust.

  3. The phrase “Milk and Honey” could also refer to the description the burning bush gave Moses of Canaan. In “Ladies Room” Don tells Roger to think of him as Moses, arriving in a basket. In “Out of Town,” we see the literal significance of that, Don is delivered to Abigail in a basket.

    And in “Milk and Honey,” Don plans to go west to his promised land, but instead give his car to Andy and leaves his journey in question, similar to how Moses led his people to the promised land, but never arrived there himself.

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