Leroy was my school bus driver from the time I was in Kindergarten all the way into my high school years. At first, I always thought he was mean and scary. He was gruff at times, but he always took care of us and made sure we arrived at our destination safely.
He came to mind Wednesday morning while I was driving a school bus of my own, which I do from time to time when the local school district is in need of someone to fill in for a regular route driver. I was actually stopped on the side of the road. According to my watch, I was running a bit early for my first pick-up of the day, so to kill time I pulled over and waited.
As I did so, I watched the sun rise. It’s been a long time since I watched the sun rise. It was beautiful and calming. I felt an incredible peace pervade my being. As I basked in the glory of rising sun and the fact it meant another day on this earth had been granted to us all, I thought about life. Since I was sitting behind the wheel of a school bus, my mind wandered back to my times of riding Leroy’s bus.
Like I said, when I was younger, he was an iron-fisted master of the bus domain, but as I got older and actually had conversations with him, I quickly realized how kind and gentle he truly was. And he was smart and funny. Talking with him was joy.
Of those many, many years riding and talking with him, two memories are the fondest and freshest in my mind.
One was the story he told to make sure the girls didn’t allow their hair to blow out the open windows of the bus. He said once a girl let her hair fly out the window, and then it got caught on a low-hanging tree branch. He said it ripped her hair out. At the time, this was terrifying, even though I didn’t have long hair. In retrospect, it is hilarious. It was clever and funny and accomplished what he needed, which was to make sure nothing, nobody, or no part of anybody was outside of the bus while it was in motion.
The second memory is of the mornings. Leroy always listened to a local country music station. When we were about 30 minutes from arriving at the school Paul Harvey always came on. Every day, without fail, we listened to Paul Harvey. I wish Paul Harvey was still on the air, so I could have it playing while I’m driving a school bus.
Those are good memories. It was a good sunrise. And it all made for a great day.