My driveway wasn’t a regular stop

Published 8:54 am Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Column: Tales from Exit 22

I lived on a farm.

My school did not.

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I attended an institute of lower learning in the city.

I needed to be at the end of our farm drive early in the morning to await the orange school bus made by the Blue Bird Co.

I was one of the first picked up on the bus route and one of the last returned home.

My bus driver, BD, wouldn’t wait for me. The rumor was that BD (“bus driver”) became a bus driver because he didn’t like kids. He didn’t call us by our first names. We had them. BD figured we were like cats and wouldn’t come if he called us anyway. He called us by our last names or, when he wanted to express endearment, as “you.”

Pardon me as I flick a sentimental tear from my eye.

I could be running down the driveway and BD would drive past as if he hadn’t seen me. How could he see me if he didn’t look?

Because of BD’s behavior, I had to get to the end of the drive early. Excessively early. That end of the drive, that spot where I waited patiently for the bus, was colder than anywhere else in the world — probably twice as cold. The wind howled like the Hound of the Baskervilles. The weather has a nasty side, and it showed it at the terminus of that drive.

The neighbor put a retired outhouse at the end of his drive. The plan was that his children would wait for the bus while inside the outhouse, out of the elements. A refuge from the brutal cold. The idea was good in concept. Not so good in practice. The kids refused to enter the outhouse. The thought of exiting an outhouse and getting onto a bus filled with fellow students repulsed them.

I recall boarding the bus when I was a sixth-grader. The bus looked tired. BD pretended to be unhappy to see me. What a kidder he was.

There were no assigned seats. Kids arranged themselves in a pecking order, seated by age. First- and second-graders sat in the front — unless they’d been redshirted.

In the back of the bus, in the bouncy seats hanging beyond the rear wheels, were the senior high boys. These guys had lost their driver’s licenses or blew up the engines in their cars and needed to ride the bus until things improved. This predicament made them surly. They occupied their imposed passenger status by playing penny ante poker and making snarky comments that only they understood. The back of the bus changed a man — not always for the better.

Being a sixth-grader, I found a seat about halfway in. I sat down and developed a look of bored detachment. It was my persona. Some of the kids looked as if they wanted to curl up in a ball and weep. I saved that look for math class.

I sat next to a friend. He wanted to talk about the TV show “Have Gun, Will Travel.” I’d heard it all before. If I heard Paladin’s name one more time, I was going to scream. I decided to move to an open seat. I told my friend that I needed a nap.

We weren’t supposed to change seats while the bus was moving, but I did. It was the rebel in me.

As I moved down the aisle, a neighbor boy gave me a push. I don’t blame him. I’d have done the same thing.

I was carrying a thick history book covering everything from Adam to atom. I liked carrying the tome. I thought it made me look scholarly. I hit the shoving schoolmate over the head with the big book of important dates.

BD didn’t see the neighbor boy push me, but he saw me hit the neighbor boy with a book.

BD hit the brakes. I went zooming down the aisle to the front of a bus. BD kicked me off the bus three miles from my home.

I found myself in an unfortunate situation. There were no cell phones in those days, and on that day, no traffic. I walked home and was late getting into the dairy barn.

My father asked where I had been. I admitted to being thrown off the bus.

Dad didn’t ask why. He expected the reason had been just. He reminded me of my responsibilities.

He added that the next time I walked home, I’d better run.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.