Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Small Town - Pt 3

School started around here last week. I remember growing up feeling excited and, at the same time, sad about the beginning of school. It meant summer was over. No more spending the day riding bikes, fishing in the ponds around our house, swimming at the "strip pits" or the city pool. It meant going back to a regular bedtime during the week and for sure, no sleeping in!

Going back to school also meant new clothes and new shoes. I think I was in fourth grade--I got a new pair of "PF Flyers" (we called them "tennis shoes" or "sneakers"); I could run REALLY fast in those things! The new school year meant school supplies, which depending on your grade, could be pretty simple or a little more involved. In first grade, we needed a "Big Chief Tablet" and two pencils...the big fat ones, and a box of Kleenex! In Junior High or High School you needed a couple of notebooks, some pencils, a pen, colored pencils (for coloring a map of all 77 counties in Oklahoma), a compass (if you were taking Mrs. Dutton's geometry class), and maybe a three-ring binder with some loose-leaf paper. Today? The list is an entire page and includes a $800 calculator that is REQUIRED for any math class. My first calculator cost over $100 (1974) and did basic math functions, square root, and a couple of geometric functions, i.e. sin, cos, tan, etc. Today's calulators have enough number crunching power to fly the first (or maybe even current) space shuttles!

I'll never forget my first day of school--first grade. I had already attended kindergarten in the city were we had lived prior to moving to "the country." Now, because we lived out of town, I rode the bus to school. I also rode the bus, because my Mom didn't drive. It was 1964 and she did not have a driver's license. Anyway, getting on the right bus was easy--it pulled up to our driveway that morning and I got on. Getting home that afternoon was a little different. Being all of 6-years-old, I hadn't paid attention to the number of the bus I had ridden that morning.

When the bell rang that afternoon, everyone ran out to get in the bus lines. I ran out too...and there they were--not just the ONE bus I thought would be there, but the ENTIRE FLEET of buses, waiting to take all of us home! I had no idea which "bus route" I was on--I just knew MY bus was yellow and it had a lot of seats in it. I grabbed a teacher and nearly in tears, explained my situation. "Can you call your Mom or Dad at home and find out which bus you're supposed to ride," she asked. "No" I replied. "We haven't got our phone hooked up yet." Now what was I supposed to do? I don't recall how she determined which one, but the teacher finally put me on a bus, assuring me "this one will get you home." "Okay. Everything's good," I thought to myself.

About ten minutes into the bus ride, I began to recognize some landmarks. Yes, I remember the dairy down the road--and there's the house with the swimming pool (not vey common back then). I'm close to home; I'm going to make it! I looked out the front of the bus and there it was...our new house...and there was my mom, sitting on the front porch waiting for me to get off the bus and tell her all about my first day of school in our new town.

Then it happened; not 100 yards from our driveway, the bus TURNED LEFT onto a dirt rode HEADING AWAY FROM OUR HOUSE! I jumped from my seat and ran to the front of the bus. "You missed my house!" I shouted at the driver. "You're supposed to drive by the MY house." The driver firmly told me to take my seat. "But my house!" I cried. He didn't seem to care and he made it known that he had no intention of turning that bus around. He had a specific route and he was not going to deviate from it! I slumped down in my seat. I was never going to see my mom or dad again...or my little brother. Why had the teacher put me on the wrong bus? Why wouldn't that bus driver stop!? I sat there. I sat there and watched the other kids, one by one, get off the bus until I was the only one left. THEN, the bus driver said: "Now, let's see if we can find your house."

"What in the world is he thinking?!" I thought to myself. I had no idea where I was. I didn't know our address (which at the time was "Rural Route 1 Box something"). I couldn't tell him where I lived to save my soul! And so, we drove and we drove and we DROVE for what seemed like hours, but nothing looked familar to me. The driver retraced the route, but I was all turned around and scared. Finally, the driver said he had to get the bus back to the "bus barn" and that we'd try to call someone when we got there.

I remember thinking to myself: "Why hadn't I just jumped out the bus window. ANYTHING would be better than this!" By now, it was getting late, or at least it seemed like it was to me. I was scared, tired, and hungry...and I was riding in a school bus going to who knows where in hopes of somehow, miraculously finding my house. We arrived at the bus barn and parked the bus. As we were getting off the bus, I woman approached the driver. Turns out, Mrs. Hargrove was a teacher at the elementary school. Why she was in the vicinity of the bus barn at that time of day I'll never know, but I was certainly glad to see someone I thought I recognized. The bus driver explained the situation and she agreed to take over the quest to get me home. Her plan? Drive me around town until I recognized something or someone. Great plan, eh?

Well, I don't mind telling you that I wasn't very hopeful by this time. My first day of first grade had been a DISASTER and we were'nt going to find my house. What a dumb plan!...and this woman was a teacher?! Now I was going to be an orphan and grow up without a family! I'd be taken to an orphanage far away and that would be the end of that! No more parents, no more little brother, no more new house in the country, no more...then it happened. I looked up and saw him. It was my DAD! He was driving right toward us on Main Street! And he was looking for ME!!!

"There's my Dad!" I shouted. "There's my Dad!" Pointing and waving, I continued to shout, while Mrs. Hargrove frantically pounded on the car's horn and waved, trying to get my Dad's attention. Dad saw us and pulled his car over; we did the same and I jumped out of Mrs. Hargrove's car! I've got to tell you, that's the best ride home I've EVER had. I told Dad all about how I had gotten on the wrong bus---I made sure I told him about the teacher, too. Then we got home and I told Mom all about seeing her on the porch and riding around with Mrs. Hargrove. What a day! Surprisingly, I don't recall saying "I'm never going back"; we did however make sure I knew which bus I was supposed to ride: bus number 3! I don't believe I ever got on the wrong bus again.

1 comment:

Baxter said...

What a precious story. I can't help but think there's a story like that in all of us...that's what makes it so special. Wasn't childhood something? :)