Then, he saw it, the small piles of snow that signaled a break in the banks and the opening of a drive way. The driver carefully made a sharp left hand turn, flicked off his strobe light (so as to not annoy the family members) and pulled up to the side door of his first passenger’s home. The young girl climbed on board and found her seat. The dogs and cats stayed out of sight. He followed his regular routine and first put the bus into gear , (g) released the park brake, (e) checked all mirrors, (m) and slowly pulled away. Get it? G.E.M.S. Gear. Emergency. Mirrors. Signals or Start slowly.
He spun the bus around and headed back to the highway. So far, so good.
But, before getting back on the main highway he had greeted his first passenger with a hearty "Hello" and waited for her reply.
If it came, he didn't hear it. Maybe she spoke, maybe she didn't. But that was fine with the driver. The girl was bundled up from head to toe in toque, scarf, mitts, boots, and a snow suit and was carrying a back pack. With the scarf wrapped around her tiny face, muffling any possible sounds, how could he have heard anything?
He chuckled to himself as the big yellow school bus reached the end of the drive and turned left. At least no grain bins or tractors had jumped out of the dark to smack him. The day was off to a good start, but caution was always the word of the day.
A light snow had fallen overnight, the sky was still dark, and the prairie as empty, as the song goes, as a Monday morning church.
Heading north toward his next turn, he kept his eyes moving, as school bus drivers, and all good drivers, are taught to do. He looked ahead, into his future. Any strange shapes up there? Anything out of place? He looked to the sides, to the rear. Always checking mirrors, always paying attention, always alert and wary.
Wildlife on the roadways was a part of daily existence in these parts. One day, the driver had looked into his future and snatched a glimpse of some strange forms at the side of the road about 20 seconds ahead of him. Horses or hay bales? Bushes or a broken vehicle? Some trash that had fallen from a truck? No. The closer he got the more clearly he could see. Yes, he could now recognize the shapes. Not horses, but moose. A mummy moose and two kids, or kits, or calves, or whatever young moose are called. He slowed and watched as they looked at him, then, surprisingly, quickly hopped a fence and sprinted to the safety of a bunch of trees to the left. Moose can run fast? Who knew? And why is there no plural form for moose? Life would be a lot easier if there was.
Back to the present. No moose on the road today, but the journey had just begun.
(to be continued