Now I live 800 miles away from my school years in Schell City, Missouri. That's in Vernon County in the southwestern part of the state. My parents sold our eighty acre farm in the summer of 1961 and moved the family to Iowa. I was subjected to a whole different kind of life after that. No more running with my brother like wild Indians around our farm. I missed that freedom. [caption id="attachment_608" align="alignnone" width="91"] Remembering a special school bus driver in Vernon Co. Mo.[/caption] Once in a while my memory is jogged by something I read, and a moment from the past comes back to me. That's what happened when I saw Mr. Corbin's story on Facebook about a dedicated bus driver at Schell City that had a real fondness for children. Mr. Corbin remembered the bus driver, Roy Vogt so well he wrote a song about him that has become popular by all who hears it. The story he tells that prompted the song surely can be echoed by many of the students that rode Roy's bus between the 1950's and the 1980's. My older brother, Bill, graduated from Schell City in 1954. I was eleven years younger, and when my brother started riding the bus to go to high school four years earlier, I'd follow him out in the yard to wait for the bus. We'd play catch with a softball. My brother, Bill, saw the bus coming. He'd throw the ball high in the air in the opposite direction from the road. I'd run after the ball and by the time I found it, Bill boarded the bus and headed for school. I'm guessing now that my brother's plan was to keep me away from the road until the bus left. I finished fourth grade at the one room school house in seeing distance of our farm. My younger brother, John, finished second before the school closed. After that we rode Roy Vogt's bus to the elementary school in Schell City. [caption id="attachment_609" align="alignnone" width="300"] East side of Main Street in Schell City. Blue and white building was Dickbreder's grocery store and cafe.[/caption] Mr. Corbin was right about Roy taking us downtown to Dickbreder's cafe for candy or an ice cream cone. What a treat, and I expect for a while we did stay quiet while we concentrated on eating. It was the spring of my freshman year of 1961 that I remember most about the man at the helm of that bus. One morning, we'd just picked up a student not too far from the end of the route and were on our way to school. Roy stopped the bus and looked at the students in his rear view mirror. “There's a possum in the road, acting funny.” We all rushed up front to look out the windshield to see what Roy saw. Sure enough the possum was moving slowly around in a circle. I thought our kind, soft hearted bus driver just didn't want to hit the opossum and kill it. Later it occurred to me, he might not want the children to see him run over an animal. It might upset some or all of them. As I watched the possum out the windshield, I thought about my missing Science project. The assignment was for each student to bring some sort of animal to school to be dissected. Not all of us would be able to find and catch a specimen for this purpose. At least that is what I told myself until I watched that slow moving possum. A light blub went off in my head. I said out loud, “I sure wish I could catch that possum for my Science class today.” The bus driver said, “I have a box under the seat if you want to go get that possum.” Maybe he didn't expect a fourteen year old girl to have the guts to mess with a weird possum. He probably thought I'd say no way am I going to touch that animal. If that was what he thought, Roy was wrong. I didn't stop to think the possum was probably sick. Maybe he had distemper or rabies? What ever was wrong with the possum, he didn't make any of the students sick for which I'm thankful. The bus driver was probably thinking he couldn't waste much time, or we'd be late getting to school. Which would have probably been the one and only time that bus driver was ever late which would have been hard to explain. No matter what Roy thought, he kept it to himself. I looked where he pointed under the front seat opposite him. Sure enough there was the cardboard box. Just what I needed. I grabbed the box. Roy opened the bus doors. He followed me to the middle of the road. As I remember we'd had a shower the night before. The tree lined slightly graveled road was tacky. I opened the box and turned it on its side. Roy helped me scoot that possum into the box and sit it upright. We bent the lids under each other to keep the box shut, and Roy carried the box back to the bus. He placed the box next to the front of the bus where he could watch it. I sat in the front seat and kept my eyes on that box, too, until Roy stopped the bus at school. I kept worry about what if that possum livened up. That box wouldn't hold him, and he'd get loose in the bus. Not once did the top of the box move as if the possum was trying to get out. Stuck in that dark box that animal lived up to his name. He played possum. I suppose Roy thought this was sort of a show and tell project I needed the possum for. It was later that I decided I was glad I hadn't told the soft hearted bus driver what was going to happen to that possum. He might not have helped me. That cardboard box was heavy and awkward, but I managed to carry it down the sidewalk and across the street to the house where we had Science and Biology. No way did I want to drop that box and let that possum get away from me after I went to all that trouble. [caption id="attachment_610" align="alignnone" width="300"] Science and Biology classes held in a house south across the street from the school.[/caption] The Science teacher was delighted to see my specimen for that day's class. I can't remember what the others in the class brought. That possum was the center of attention. Mrs. Edmondson produced a bottle of ether and warned us not to breath deep while we were around the bottle. She even had us open up all the windows to let fresh air in. Students took turns holding the possum still and shoving cotton under the possum's nose to put him under for surgery. We took turns cutting that possum into parts and identified each piece of him. It sounds gross now to think about what we did, but like I said, I had lived on a farm all my fourteen years. Like many of the students, my father was a hunter, and we ate the game he brought home. I'd held squirrel legs and rabbit legs while Dad skinned them. I'd helped Mom butcher chickens and watched while a steer was strung up to be butchered. Animals dying was just a part of my farm life. [caption id="attachment_611" align="alignnone" width="300"] My Award Card to prove my story was true. I've kept it all these years.[/caption] That project got me an award for special honors in General Science Achievement in the class and an A+ on May 11, 1961. I've kept that index card all these years just to prove this story is true for non believers. Science and Biology were never subjects that I enjoyed. Heck, I just barely passed the classes except for that one year thanks to my bus driver Roy Vogt.
A woman that has worn many hats in my life time. Join me here and find out about those hats.