Wednesday, February 11, 2015


Early 1960's Ford school bus.  We weren't cute little elementary school kids, we were rowdy high-school kids.  And I
never saw Smitty in a tie.  He favored plain shirts with collars, open at the neck, and work pants.

An acquaintance of mine recently took a job driving school busses.  Her training and experience is teaching in a Montessori school, but she lost her job and couldn't find another one in her field.  A few weeks ago she said "I'm going to swallow my pride and take a bus-driving job."  Yesterday she was wearing an authentic smile and seems to like it so far.

She put me in mind of Smitty, the bus driver who got me to and from high-school.  Not that they look anything alike: Smitty was a wiry 50-something guy with close-cropped grey hair and a bald spot.  We never messed with him.  I think it was as much because we liked him as much as it was fear of consequences.  Smitty had presence, and a quiet dignity.  But he was also a sunny guy who liked kids. Even teenagers.

I usually sat right behind him, watching him handle the bus.  His route was a long one that went up and down the hills of the river valley it wound through.  He wrangled a 4-speed box behind the 352 cubic inch (I suppose) Ford gasoline V-8.  He had, and needed, a tachometer: Smitty wound the hell out of that engine to get up hills, and to make time on the state highway his route centered around.  The tach had green, yellow, and red zones on the dial.  Smitty kept the needle in the high end of the yellow zone. He was a master of matching the gear to the (varying) load, and of smooth shifts with a truck clutch that was either in or out.  It was a joy to watch him work.  If we had thought to nickname him, it would have been "A Gear Lower Smitty:" always a gear lower than the rest of the fleet's drivers.

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