Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sleepytime Ride

Blair and Anita.
And me.
In my beautiful 'fur' coat.
Okay. I was six. Grade one is hard work! I was tired!
And we lived a million miles from town!
Enough background.
Living 20 miles from the local schools might be a blessing during ‘snow days’ in the winter when the buses didn’t run, but the rest of the time, it merely meant a very long ride. A very long, boring ride.
If one didn’t have someone to visit with, the trip was interminable. Especially to a six year old.
Which I was.
Seating was a highly organized, painstakingly structured fact of bus life.
The eldest kids got to sit in the back. The youngest directly behind the bus driver.
Okay, maybe not so organized . . .
Hijinks were restricted to the back two rows. Your progress through school and through life was largely measured by where you sat in the school bus.
I had never sat more than two sets behind the driver.
Until that fateful day.
The Lindemans weren’t on the bus. Will and Louise's seat in the second last row was empty and just waiting to be claimed. My day had come.
Happily, I perched in that heretofore inaccessible spot.
Our bus driver, a wonderfully kind and loving man named Dick Sabey was responsible for delivering us safely into the waiting arms of our mother, Enes Stringam, at Nine Mile Corner. It was a corner situated, interestingly enough, exactly nine miles from our ranch buildings.
Okay, so imaginative, we weren’t.
Day after day, our faithful friend dropped us off at the corner, waving to us cheerfully as we began the trek towards home.
Usually, we managed only a few yards before our mother’s car, trailing a cloud of dust on the country road, appeared around the turn. She would skid to a halt and load us in, questions and news being tossed back and forth before the doors had even closed.
Occasionally, when our amazingly busy Mom was late, we would manage to make it to the Sproade’s, an elderly couple who lived about ½ mile from the corner and whose house was always filled with the rich smell of wonderful German baking. Baking which needed to be eaten by ravenously hungry school children.
We prayed every day our Mom would be late.
But I digress . . .
It was chilly. I don’t remember if it was Spring or Fall, but the weather necessitated the wearing of fairly warm clothing. I had a golden faux fur parka. Purchased by my Dad specifically for a trip to cut our family’s Christmas tree. A coat that could easily have doubled as a bear disguise. But which was wonderfully warm . . . and cozy . . . and *yawn* comfortable . . .
When I awoke some time later, Dick and his dear wife, Scotty, were standing over me, shaking me gently. I sat up and looked around. It was dark. The lights of the Sabey home were shining dimly into the shadowy bus.
Nine Mile Corner was nowhere to be seen. Or my brothers and sister. Or my Mom.
That’s when the tears started.
Dick picked me up and carried me into the house, where Scotty calmed me and cuddled me. And fed me. (Amazing how so many of my stories revolve around food.)
Later, my relieved parents arrived to pick me up and the story was finally told.
The Stringam kids always left the bus in a group. The bus driver, watching alertly to make sure they were safely on their way, noticed that Diane wasn't with them.
But sometimes, kids stayed in town for some reason or another. The accepted practice in such an instance was to give the driver a note explaining their absence.
But it wasn't unusual for said note to be forgotten.
Dick surmised I had had piano lessons . . . or something.
And since I hadn’t been sitting in my usual spot, my brothers and sister had concluded the same thing and headed quickly toward the Sproade's. By the time our Mom arrived and my absence was noted, the bus was long gone.
The time for panic had truly arrived.
Cell phones existed only in the imaginations of science fiction writers. The only phone connection available was a single party line, installed by my father (and enormously entertaining, but that is another story).
Once she reached the ranch buildings, Mom wasted no time in calling the Sabey household and raising the alarm. Dick hadn’t yet returned from his route, so Scotty waited breathlessly at the front window for the bus. When he arrived, she met him and the two of them quickly searched the bus.
They soon discovered that a bulky coat, discarded on one of the last seats, actually contained a person. Not a very big person, to be sure, but a person just the same.
Me.
Some time later, with my Mom’s arms around me, I could see the humour of the situation.
Almost.
Until I grew taller, about grade nine or so, I never again sat anywhere but directly behind the bus driver. It was safer there. And less forgetful.
And, oddly enough, I find it impossible to fall asleep in a moving vehicle.
Except when I’m driving.

13 comments:

  1. Awww.
    I am pretty certain I would have sat immediately behind the bus driver from then on too.
    I can sleep in moving vehicles. I do sleep in moving vehicles. Except planes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Planes. Yikes! I'm the one they have to sedate. Sigh.

      Delete
  2. Thank goodness for bus drivers who were also neighbours/friends! We had a similar driver and he kept a careful eye on us all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No one ever wrote songs about the bus-driver/bus-rider relationship. I think they should! :)

      Delete
  3. You can fall asleep while driving?? (*o*) That's kind of scary.
    My son once fell asleep on the back seat of a bus. I was near the front and got off at our stop, expecting him to exit from the back door of the bus, but he didn't. He woke as the bus went around the corner, his face as he watched me standing on the footpath is something I'll never forget. He got off at the next stop and we met at the corner. He was 13.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scary, poor boy! I can imagine the panic. So glad it was short-lived!

      Delete
  4. A different time, a different place...a whole different kind of childhood. And another great story! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One I keep on revisiting - especially when the present gets crazy! :> So glad you enjoyed it, Carol!

      Delete
  5. I love this story! Your poor parents, and the poor bus driver! Sounds like you mostly slept through all the excitement :)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kinda like all my favourite stories! :)

      Delete
  6. There were so many school bus adventures in my past - but I don't remember any of us sleeping through our stop! Your poor mom - I bet she grew a few grey hairs that day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think all of my Mom's grey hairs were caused by me! :)

      Delete
  7. I can remember our bus driver Mr. Hill. He had an ashtray as big as a dinner plate and chain smoked all the way home every single day.

    ReplyDelete

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