There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you haven't time to respond to a tug at your pants leg, your schedule is too crowded. Robert Brault

Whats driving a bus like? Seventy of your kids in the back seat going to town. Mr. Brandon

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


For the one that will take my place:

     The school is not exactly down town. I have found that the rural roads that lead to the school are great for letting you catch your breath as you are about to start your day.  I personally have found it to be a great quiet time to say a prayer of thanks for all that I have been blessed with or to make request for the many things that I seem to come up short on.  As you are checking your bus out, which is important because you make up 50% of the schools fleet of buses, you will hear a multitude of roosters from the farm next door crowing to welcome the day. You may even see a few of them scampering across the school grounds. In the spring it's always blow the grass out your tail pipe time. No, this is not a type of country insult. During the spring, because of the large diameter of the tail pipe on the bus, the swallows try to build a nest in it each afternoon when the bus is parked and it has cooled off. Monday mornings are the worst, when you start the bus about a half a bale of hay will blow out the tail pipe. They will continue to do this for about two weeks before they give up and move on.  As you pick up the students, it may seem like a no brainer, be sure to smile and say, "Good morning." You see for some of them you will be the first friendly voice they have heard that morning and for some you are the first person they have talked to that morning because no matter how small you may think they are, they got themselves up, got dressed, and came out to wait on the bus all by themselves because Mom or Dad never got out of bed.  Some of the first students to get on the bus will be a brother and sister. The brother will just go sit down but the sister will often stop look at you, she has a little scar over her left eye, and say, "Guess what?"  For the sake of time just guess anything because she will give no hints.  I usually go with the absurd like, "A dinosaur ran through your yard or your brother was eaten by an alligator." You will have to make at least two guesses before she will tell you the guess what. Do not let her sit by her brother they will fight all the way to school. At this point you have a few miles before the next pick up. If you want you can talk to the little quiet boy that will sit right behind you. He hardly ever responds so I often do both sides of the conversation. As you come into the next neighborhood you will pass in front of Hot Pickle Boy's house but don't stop he has moved on up to the middle school. I'm sorry that you won't get to know him. One day, the last week of school, he was standing waiting on the bus in a full ghillie suit. If you don't know what a ghillie suit is, it is the suit worn by hunters or military snipers that helps them to blend in with grasses and other flora.  In his case he looked like a Sasquatch waiting for a ride. So on my list of things that I thought I would never see or hear I added two things: 1. Picked up kid in ghillie suit. 2. Gave Sasquatch a ride to school. Oddly enough he was also the reason for the one listed right above that, when he got on the bus one morning wearing a military gas mask. After a few more stops you will be picking up the Twins Who Are Not Twins. To avoid a lecture no matter how much they look alike, dress alike, or talk alike do not say or refer to them as twins. After all these years I still don't know who is who. Later you will pick up a young man that loves to wear a mohawk. I just call him rooster he seems to be ok with it. Before you leave the neighborhood you will need to pick up my best friend Mr. Mucus.  He has grown from a little kindergartner whose face was always gooey to a young man that is kind hearted and will befriend those that need it. If you have a new student that is scared his or her first day, Mr. Mucus is you man and if you let him he will be your best friend also. There will be a little girl on the route, which if she doesn't grow out of it, will cry almost every day she gets on the bus. With her you have to do the Daddy thing and not feel sorry for her or she will cry all the way to school. Give her to the end of the block to stop on her own, she will on occasion, if she hasn't stopped look at her and say, "Knock it off already you're not hurt." Most of the time the tears are turned off instantly. There are several little boys that will make you wish you had a tranquilizer gun to use on them or yourself. Just grit your teeth and hold on. You will pick up Francine along the way, that's not her name but I've called her that for so long, because I didn't know her name, that she answers to it better than when you call her real name. She never fails to turn and wave when she gets off the bus in the afternoon. It's that kind of wave where she just wiggles her fingers. There will be many more, each with their own personalities, each needing a friendly face to start their day. Before you know it you will be a constant figure in their life, the one thing they know that will not change. You will be there each day to say, "Good morning" and there each evening to say, "Have a good evening, see you tomorrow." Remember they may be small but their dreams are big and the things that seem silly and trivial to you and I are world changers to them. And if perchance you feel half as loved by them as I have, you will be truly blessed.

Friday, May 20, 2016

“It’s In There”

Remember Wednesday Addams from the old T.V. show The Addams Family? Her clone was riding my bus. There before me, on her first day, stood a pretty little first grader, long dark hair, and an emotionless expression. I said, “Good morning!” She looked at me, blinked, turned, and walked down the aisle to be seated. As she left the bus I said, “Have a great day!” She paused long enough to cut her eyes my way, without moving her head, and then exited the bus. The voice inside my head said, “Challenge accepted.” As each day passed I would tell her how pretty she looked or how glad I was to see her.  Each was rewarded with the same stoic expression. Then one day I made a joke about where she would play when she got home. She looked at me with those dark eyes and just stared. “Well,” I said, “I saw that your parents were having a yard sale. If they sell your yard where will you play?” Then it happened, instead of the same emotionless stare, she rolled her eyes as she walked off the bus and said, “It’s just an expression. They don’t sell the yard.” Be it ever so small there was a crack in the dam and a droplet of emotion had squeezed through. Each day the onslaught of complements and corny jokes continued. One afternoon, as we pulled up to her house, her mother was out watering some flowers. Held in one arm was her baby brother and in the other hand her mother was holding a water hose. In a panicked voice I said, “Is she going to hose that baby off right out here in the yard?” I opened the bus door and as she descended the steps I actually heard and audible snicker. The crack was now wider and the droplet was now a steady stream. Over time with persistence the flow seemed to increase ounce by precious ounce. Then during the last week of school as the bus came to a stop in front of her house she said, “Here” and she handed me a red pipe cleaner that had been made into what I took as a bracelet. “It’s the best circle that I could make,” she said. There was even a half smile on her face, well maybe a quarter smile.  The flood gates were open, and all the seemingly futile moments that we had shared over the months were all wrapped up in a red pipe cleaner bracelet.  At that moment I wouldn’t have traded it for one of solid gold. The people that you meet each day they all have a red pipe cleaner bracelet. Some wear it on their wrist for all to see and give it easily, with others it’s often hidden and takes time and effort for it to be revealed. Best of all, some of those red pipe cleaner bracelets will turn out to be gold bracelets in disguise.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


When he stepped on the bus you knew this was not just a normal day. He had on a nice pair of pressed khaki shorts, a handsome pull over three button shirt, and sun glasses. After he was seated he addressed me as if we were already in the middle of a conversation, “That’s right I’m headed for Las Vegas. I’m playing in a big golf tournament out there. I’ve decided to play some professional golf.” Well this most defiantly explained the sharp outfit and it was a change of pace from all the professional athletes that I usually carry to school each day. Having played a few rounds of golf myself I felt this might lend its self to some tickets to the Masters or some other prestige’s tournament if he were playing in the area. I didn’t ask about ticket to the Vegas tournament a little too far to travel. Well, he sat quietly for a few miles. I assumed he was going over his game plan in his mind like most professionals do. The next thing I know he asked, “Mr. Brandon do you have a five iron?” I apologized, not have a five iron on me at the time and said it in that quiet tone that golf announcers use, because without me knowing it he had already teed off and was in the middle of the fairway. Trying to get a feel for the course and being a helpful caddie I asked, “Do you need it to finish out this hole?” “Yes, I’m trying to make a decision here.” You know yardage is critical in club selection and not to question his judgement I asked, “Well, how far are you from the hole?” He squinted as he looked down what appeared to be the fairway, out the front window of the bus. I looked and could not see the hole so it must have been a considerable distance so a five iron could have been the proper club selection. I repeated, “How far?” “Well,” he turned and gave me that thoughtful look, “about twenty….. about twenty minutes.” I’ve had rounds like that. I didn’t want to second guess him but for me, a distance to the hole of twenty minutes at least calls for a three wood.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Random Thoughts of a Bus Driver, “Summer Breeze”

"If it were a snake it would have bit you," was a phrase often used by my father. He would send us to find a particular item that he needed. As time passed and we had not returned he would show up and we would say that we were unable to find it. At this point he would reach just a few feet from where we were standing and retrieve the item. Truly if it had been a snake it would have bit us. Often there are things that are right there yet we do not seem to see them.

    The signs were there, I just wanted to ignore them. Age it was trying to make itself known but I refused to give in. My truck tried to tell me, yes my truck. I looked down to read a message that had come up on the information panel. It said, "Your turn indicator has been left on." How long does your turn signal have to be left on that even the truck says, "Hey, old man turn your blinkers off." The next evening I had the opportunity to pass on that feeling that comes when you feel age creeping up on you. My wife came home from work and pulled off her shoes complaining how much her feet were hurting. After sitting for a few minutes we were headed for her mother's house to fix supper. She said, "You know my feet are hurting so bad I think I'll just wear my house shoes." Since we were just going to her mom's house, she slid those fluffy things on. Not being one to let such an opportunity pass I started with the come on granny jokes. I asked if she needed me to get her walking stick before we went out the door. Then taking her by the arm I said, "Come on Momma let's shuffle on out to the truck." I delivered every old person joke and innuendo that I could think of on the way to the truck. She accepted each with her usual smile. I opened her door and helped her into the truck as I would any elderly lady. Just as I was about to close her door she smiled and said, "Gramps before you get in the truck you might want to zip up your pants." The signs are often there but ignored, until brought to our attention by a dear loved one or a gently breeze.