The fleabirds came in a caravan, a dozen strange vehicles. They were loud and cantankerous machines, rumbling and belching smoke, primitive things still powered by combustion. The vehicles are as garish and ugly as the people who stream out of them. They are flying ancient flags, forgotten mementos of bygone eras, and strange symbols like rainbow skulls painted on the sides of the vehicles. They moved in a strange harmony, directed by a small number of hairy men in animal hide jackets. Within an afternoon, the caravan was a tiny village, with homes arrayed around a common space, and a large trailer unfolded to become a common kitchen to feed all of them. They killed and brought back all sorts of animal vermin, skinned them, cooked them, and ate them.
Origins and History:
Fleabirds are a nomadic culture indigenous to North America. This socio-ethnic group comes largely from Anglo-European and African ancestries and most can trace their roots back to the poverty stricken parts of the United States during the middle and late Petroleum Era. As the Resource Wars sputtered out and the Second Dark age settled, the people in more directly affected areas simply up and moved. While many people were tied to their homes, many of these previously viewed as very poor people had the ability to hook a vehicle up to their homes and just drive away.
Through the second Dark Age, these mobile homes became part of a caravan culture. A family would occupy a small trailer, and had a single vehicle to pull it. These caravans would be accompanied by buses, work vehicles, and motorcycles, and this mobile population would travel wherever there was a chance to find work, and money to take care of their families. This culture grew and adapted, learning new skills and honing old ones. The old trailer and mobile homes were eventually replaced with more streamlined units, made of stronger and lighter materials. Where the first generation of Fleabirds were in pressboard homes with wheels, the latest generation of Fleabird homes are made of synthetic plastics, scavenged building materials, and other higher grade goods.
The Fleabirds have adopted their own culture, drawing on a mixture of native american practices and traditions (hunting, rites of manhood) Pre-Cosmic era spirituality (Southern Baptist Hellfire and salvation) and a crafting culture of moonshining, ethnic cooking, and music (country/folk/rap).
The Flea Market:
One of the hallmarks of the Fleabirds is their propensity for gathering for major swap meets. There are certain locations, intersections of their travel routes where several caravans will all arrive at the same general time. When this happens, they will form up their ranks and lay out all of the various goods that they have scavenged from the ruins of the towns and cities too small to draw the attention of the scavengers and other resource reclamation corporations as well as home made goods like music instruments, alcohol, and food goods. The resulting flea market or swap meet lasts several days and it is open to outsiders, but the Fleabirds don't accept virtual currency, bitcoins, and the like, so smart potential traders will take physical goods to trade with the travelers.
The Flea Markets are a good place to drop a dingus, something dug up from a town, lost research center, or truck that went into a ditch a century ago and wasn't recovered.
Gear and Equipment:
Mobile Homes: All Fleabird family have a mobile home that is largely self sufficient. Years of living off of the grid have caused them to learn how to live without it. They favor simple technologies that are easily repaired or replaced, and as such these homes have solar paneling, portable windmills, and other energy capturing technologies. The mobile homes are tough, have water capture and purification systems, and other features that allow a family to live in relative comfort away from the cities.
Vehicles: In the post automobile era, the Fleabirds are unique with their machines. They retain heavy trucks, buses, and other sundry vehicles, some of which are more than a century old. These vehicles are modified to run on alcohol derived fuels, and are like the gypsy and tinker wagons of antiquity, covered with art and icons relevant to the family that owns them.
Musical Instruments: in the age of pure electronic music, the Fleabirds still have physical music instruments and pass down the skill to play them through families and apprenticeships. (Imagine modern Southern Rock, progressive country, and the various fusions of Rap and country, Crunk, and other music originating from the South rendered into folk music).
The Paterfamilias: The Paterfamilias is the chauvinistic leader of the Fleabird caravan, very obviously a man in his later years, with a full beard, deep reverence for their religion, and an established history of caring for the group, fighting off enemies, and keeping a number of wives, and having many children within the caravan. (Duck Dynasty)
The Fleabird caravans do have leaders, most of which do tend to be the men, whom also tend to be older. Women within the caravan have their own circles of power and influence, and the men lead with the consent of their wives (of which they each only have one). Some caravans do have a resident pastor or preacher, who is the image of the bearded elder.
The Moonshiner: One of the things Fleabirds are famous for is making their own alcohol and other recreational drugs (meth, super meth, etc). The Moonshiner is a wild eyed young man, likely missing teeth or otherwise showing scars an wounds from his trade. He is also likely a trouble maker and a thief. (Tickle)
The tradition of hating the gypsy lives on. There are moonshiners and chemists who cook up drugs in the caravans, but these are often either intelligent and well respected within the camp (distillers and those who can compound medicines) or reviled and fringe groups (those who cook the artificial drugs). The missing teeth, inbred features, and other caricatures are media inventions against the Fleabirds.
The Daisy Girls: yet among the beards and missing teeth, there appear stunning nymphettes among the Fleabirds, with long legs and a purposeful sexuality, one mostly availed upon by their family members. These women are dangerous, armed with knives and skilled in fighting, deceit, and theft. They dress up, are crass, and have no semblance of manners (Honey Boo Boo)
The women of almost any culture can become a composite for the stereotypes against the entire group as well as being fixed as sexual objects. The women of the Fleabirds are generally much more competent and capable compared to the average arco-dwelling woman in the Cosmic Era, which means they are also much more competent and capable outside the arcos than the average male arco dweller for that matter.
The Dare-Devil: Like the moonshiner, the Dare-Devil is a young man prone to mischief and danger. Unlike the Moonshiner, the Dare-Devil has a family heirloom automobile, motorcycle, or some other personal vehicle which they use for jumping over things, causing mayhem and destruction, and general trouble. (Dukes of Hazard)
The young men of the Fleabirds are the ones most likely to live out of a smaller vehicle, dependent on communal resources like the kitchen, and such as they lack a mobile home of their own. They are much more willing to take risks, do dangerous jobs and accept questionable deals because with enough profit they can turn this into a mobile home and tow vehicle to start their own family.
The Fleabirds are retro-american Gypsies who rolled out of the trailer parks in the South and just kept trucking along. They cling to their guns, and their god, and they don't associate with the trappings of the modern era, like the CogNet, robots and clones, and they don't associate with any of the national and megacorp powers that exist. They consider themselves a free people, and this is one of the reasons that they continually move, so that no one power will attempt to 'domesticate' them.
Also, the Fleabirds are a mobile collection of skills, talents, and knowledges that have either been lost, or discarded in the Cosmic Era. They are fabricators and welders, able to make their own fuel, and homes, hunt, and keep some domesticated animals in an era where machines do the work, and the food is grown in tanks, not on farms. Likewise, the Fleabirds offer a group seeking to hide from authorities an off the grid group of people and resources to travel with and hide with.
Finally, the Fleabirds draw on the concept of the Grateful Dead touring bus, the snowbird tradition of people living up North and keeping homes in the South, and the plethora of low quality entertainment designed to make a mockery of people who live in the south by finding the most stereotypical caricatures of said people and giving them television shows aka Duck Dynasty, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, Tickle, Moonshiners. In the Cosmic Era, the average arco-dweller sees the Fleabirds (if they ever see them at all) as the grotesque caricature presented by the media, which has little to do with the actual individuals who compose it.
Once upon a time, A&E and TLC were channels that showed Biography, biographical movies, medical documentaries, and so forth.