Life in out Mountain Town: At the bus stop
There is quite a scene every school morning down at the bus stop, which involves about 20 kids who play, and who sometimes dart out into the street, and dogs who mill about, and oversized vehicles parked along the shoulder of the road.
During the winter when the shoulders of the road are used for snow storage, parents’ vehicles are parked in the road, which makes for a very narrow artery through which other cars can pass.
My children’s bus stop is bordered by two empty lots which provides for wide open spaces in which to play until the bus arrives. The intersection is built up and the bordering lots are on lower ground, down in a sinkhole. This makes for a great dirt and grass slide.
The other morning before the bus had come, I watched a group of mostly boys stomp around on thin ice. The ice would break giving way to muddy water underneath. They thought this activity was great fun. I was wondering what their mothers would think if they only knew that their children had not even arrived at school yet and already, they were wet and muddy up to their knees. As I was thinking this very thought, my own daughter headed down to join this group, because she is not one to mind getting wet or muddy either.
Her friend, who is a neater type, watched from up above near the line of backpacks.
There is an older boy who lately likes to wear a visor, backwards and upside down, role modeling what it’s like to be cool to the younger boys. He likes to ride on his scooter from his house down the hill to the bus stop on the corner. I’ve seen him run over to his friend’s house, which sits next to the empty lot, and fling his scooter under their tree. Then when he gets off the bus in the afternoon, he heads over to the tree, retrieves his scooter, and rides home.
My younger daughter does not like to miss the bus and be driven to school, because that means she has missed an important social event of the day. Once we developed a roll of film from one of those disposable cameras, which unbeknownst to me, my daughter had taken on the bus. The panoramic pictures that came back of three girls huddled together tell a story of a huge amount of fun. All you can see in the pictures are three sets of eyes shining with merriment and wide nostrils, and parts of the biggest grins you can only imagine.
When my kids were younger I used to take the time to get to know their school bus drivers, because I felt I was basically entrusting my child’s life to them. I knew them as well as I knew their teachers, and one very special school bus driver even got an end-of-the-school-year thank you gift from our family.
One snowy morning five or six years ago I drove my older child to school, rather than choosing to put her on the bus. After doing a 360-degree spinout and then slipping sideways down a hill, luckily not hitting anything or anyone, I then realized it might actually be safer to put my kids on those chained up buses that crawl through town at very safe speeds in the snow.
The kids have a code of behavior at the bus stop, and while parents sometimes climb out of their vehicles to supervise, it is mostly a scenario run by children 11 and under. Over the years I have watched as the older kids teach the younger ones what to do. When you first arrive, for instance, you place your backpack in line, then you go play (the rules are fairly simple). This may involve swinging on the snow pole or having a rock throwing contest if you’re a boy. I hate to say it, but the girls are more apt to form circles and talk.
Then, when a few of the kids spy the bus at the top of the hill, they will call out in unison “B-u-u-u-s-s-s!” This call is delivered like an extended warning signal. All the kids drop whatever they’re doing, grab their backpacks and fall into line. Sometimes my daughter will pull a friend out of line and jointly they’ll go to the back of the line, I think so that they can sit together on the bus.
The dogs with tails wagging will line up with the kids, and get their heads patted. As the last child climbs up the steps of the bus, the dogs will turn around and head home, the fun over until the next day.
Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.
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