Riding the rail
Riding the rail (also called running out of town on a rail) was a punishment in Colonial America in which a man (rarely a woman) was made to straddle a fence rail (usually the triangular split-rail rather than the modern machine-milled) held on the shoulders of at least two men, with other men on either side to keep him upright. The victim was then paraded around town or taken to the city limits and dumped by the roadside. Intense pain came from the weight of the body resting on the sharp, narrow edge and injuries from the ride could, if the victim were stripped, cut the crotch and make walking painful. Alternatively, the term also refers to tying a person's hands and feet around a rail so the person dangles under the rail.
The punishment was usually a form of mob extrajudicial punishment, sometimes imposed in connection with tarring and feathering. It was intended to show community displeasure with the victim so he either conformed his behavior to the mob's demands or left the community.
The film O Brother, Where Art Thou? used a visual example when the Stokes character denounces the Soggy Bottom Boys as hostile to the social order but the crowd is unimpressed and runs him out of town on a rail.
- Charivari in North America
- Tarring and feathering
- Warning out of town
- Wooden horse (device)
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