by Sharon Stevens
Years ago my daughter traveled with the Girl Scouts to the birthplace of Juliet Low in Savannah Georgia. Their bus was involved in an accident in Memphis Tennessee. They reported that their bus driver saw a light pole at the intersection ahead moving back and forth. In his experience he knew a wreck was occurring and reacted accordingly. He slowed and swerved till he could safely stop the bus. With his actions he was able to avoid a horrific and deadly tragedy. There were a few minor bumps and bruises among the girls and their leaders, but nothing that prevented them from continuing their journey. It could have been so much worse!
Dad used to drive the bus for the WTSU band kids and the football kids, spiriting whoever needed a ride to a school rivalry or athletic function.
My father-in-law and my husband both drove a school bus not only to get the kids safely to and from school, but they also drove the band bus, the spirit bus, the football bus, the fan bus to away games.
I remember the story my mom would tell about my grandfather. He would come home from working all day and see how tired grandmother was so he would send her downtown on the bus to window shop while he watched the kids just to let her get out of the house.
Servicemen stationed at the Amarillo Air Force Base rode the bus to get to town, to go to dances, to go to the movies, or just to see the sights.
I rode the school bus, my sister and brother rode the school bus, our daughters rode the school bus, and our neighbors rode the school bus until such time as we could afford a car to make the journey. Precious cargo!
I wonder how many college students make ends meet by driving a school bus every week, back and forth, to and from, day in and day out?
Our Canyon High School drama group traveled to Dallas one year to see Our Town performed by the Dallas Theater. A sweet memory I will carry with me forever. The Randall and Canyon High School choirs rode a charter bus to Dallas to take a flight to New York City to see the sights and perform at St. Patricks Cathedral and several other venues. One of the highlights was to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at Shea Stadium for a Met’s game. What a journey that was.
My mom rides the bus at the Craig Retirement Center to go to the doctor, to get groceries, to eat out with other residents. The bus driver is always gracious and helpful as they get on the bus as well as when they exit.
Jodi Thomas, our local best selling author and Writer-in-Residence at WTAMU told me her dad used to drive a city bus in Amarillo.
Countless times I have watched across the street as school buses from around the panhandle as well as those from the charter bus companies unload passengers to tour the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum.
Rosa Parks and also The Freedom Riders will forever be linked. Their memories of riding a bus differ from mine.
I was reminded of all these stories when I heard that members of the TEXAS Musical Drama were traveling to The Gaylord in Dallas Texas to perform for the opening ceremonies for the American Bus Company.
What an opportunity! What an experience!
TEXAS has been named for several years as one of the top ten destinations for the bus companies. Here in the panhandle this means they visit our restaurants, our museum, our shops and our TEXAS.
But more importantly when they get back on the bus they take a little bit of our heritage and hospitality home with them.
Can you imagine the stories that are shared between the passengers after each stop? Many have some tie or connection with either our community, WTAMU or the history of our area.
I will never forget standing in line at Luby’s in Amarillo several years ago. Ahead of me in line was a group from Kentucky traveling by charter bus. One of the men stepped out of line and made his way back asking if anyone knew about the area. Always the tour guide I spoke up. He shared with me that he was working on a book and was wondering where he could do research in the area. He was scoping out places he could return to later on.
The bus had visited the museum, but this man didn’t know about the archives and their rich storehouse of information for every aspect of pioneer life from architects, ranchers, cowboys, business and writing. I told him about the Cornette Library and their special collections, and I racked my brain for all the out-of-the-way spots where he could find information.
I also pointed out that we were home to the Panhandle Professional Writers, one of the oldest continuous writing groups in the nation and that every year we sponsored the Frontier in Writing conference in conjunction with Amarillo College. He was excited to say the least! In one moment he had scored a hit just by getting off the bus.
This last year a tour bus from England stopped at the museum. Several tired of walking the halls and wandered across the street and came into our Buffalo Bookstore. One of the women visited quite a while with me and shared her story. Later I encountered this same group when I went by United and Hastings here in Canyon to run an errand. They had just been to Feldman’s for lunch and wandered over to visit the shops next door. The same lady who had talked with me for so long was excited to see me again. With a twinkle in her eye she smiled and said, “Isn’t it ever so nice to have a chat.”
And this brings me to the crux of my blog. A bus driver drives the bus. They may travel hundreds of miles from their home on their journey. They have a life, a family, a story. Who knows when they might recognize an adventure at hand or a tragedy about to unfold.
I have a great deal of respect for bus drivers. When passengers get on the bus they are putting their life in the hands of an experienced man or woman, trained to deliver them safely to their destination.
Who knows who they will bring to visit our community and what memories they will take back with them.
So many times as writers we are so focused on the story itself we can’t see all aspects surrounding the tale. We want to make our writing fit the page, the paper, our visions, our ideas and can’t bear the thought that we might have to go in an entirely different direction than what we anticipated.
If only we could gaze out the window at the scenery passing before us, by us, behind us and let the bus driver drive the bus.
He knows the way.