A Bus, a Bottle, and a Boy

Back in the 1970s, the gas crunch called for creative measures. When I was in the first grade and my older sister was in the third grade, the county’s Board of Education decided to transport high schoolers and elementary schoolers on the same bus . . . at the same time.

The bus was heaving, mostly with rowdy teens, and the experience was quite terrifying for my sister and me. Fortunately, a high school-aged boy who lived down the road sensed our fear and took us under his wing. He’d save us seats and regale us with folksy tales, such as “The Lady Who Lived in a Bottle.” He was an excellent storyteller, and he sparked our imaginations.

I wonder why he went to such effort. He wasn’t a weird-o, nor was he an unpopular boy. Perhaps he did it because he was raised well and had a tender heart. Whatever his reason(s), my sister and I look back at his kindness with gratitude.

“Our Sunny Day Bus Ride” – artwork from the 1st grade

Down on the Farm

Growing up, one of my friends lived in an old, brick farmhouse with her parents, younger brother, and an array of unusual pets. Down on that farm, there was an adventure around every corner!

One Saturday when my younger sister and I were visiting, I heard muffled music coming from an unexplored wing of the house. Following the sound, I found a door ajar. I peered though the crack into a bright, airy room with long windows and built-in bookcases.

The music stopped, and I glimpsed movement in the far corner of the room. It was my friend’s father. He put down a trumpet, glided across the room, and picked up a shiny brass saxophone. The music started again. He was the music maker!

My friend’s brother appeared, looking flushed, and swiftly closed the door. I followed the boy into the kitchen where his mother was making lunch… and where a boa constrictor was wrapped around a houseplant in the middle of the farmhouse table. I shrieked. The tall, slender woman turned from the stove.

“Oh, there you are!” She looked playfully at the massive creature, which had craftily escaped its cage (again). She scooped the reptile up. Within seconds, it covered her hand and wrist like a huge boxing glove.

“What?” She cooed as she came toward me. “Are you afraid of him? Don’t be afraid. He’s so sweet!” As she nuzzled the beast, I fled from the house toward the barn with my friend, her brother, and my sister close on my heels.

We leaned against the barnyard fence, giggling and gasping for air. The resident hog sauntered over and gave a loud wheeze of his own. His round snout – the size of a skillet – was inches from our faces. We fell into more peals of laughter as a singsong, “Lunch is ready!” drifted through the screen door and touched our ears.