December 30th…“WAS GETTING FROM YOUR FARM TO SCHOOL DIFFICULT IN THOSE MINNESOTA WINTERS?”
Trying to rouse a little school boy from his warm cocoon of thick quilts was no easy task for our dear mother back in our frigid Minnesota winter mornings. It was SO cold in our unheated, upstairs bedrooms, that the single-pane, multi-paneled glass window of my upstairs bedroom was encrusted on the inside with frost. So much frost; I could scratch my initials in the layers of frozen morning brrrrrrrr! One thing for sure, once I DID force my boy body out of bed and into the arctic abyss of my icy bedroom, I could easily beat any speed record in getting dressed so as to minimize the goose pimples that began to emanate and rise up all over my body from the atmospheric shock, even with my winter longjohns on. With clothing now covering my corpuscles, I looked back, longingly, at the cozy repose of my now cooling bed……as if saying, “See ya tonight, cozy quilts!” 😉
With Mom’s bountiful breakfast in my tummy, and bundled to face the elements of Winter, the goal of my little sister and I was to head outdoors to wait and catch the school bus that passed our farm each day on its way to Kiester Public School in our dear hometown of Kiester, Minnesota. With the freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw cycle of life in Winter, long icicles would form and hang from the roof edges of most of the buildings around our yard. On the way out to the gravel road, I’d sometimes stop by a lower building roof-line and snap off an “icicle lollipop” to suck on while waiting for that long, metal school “banana” to arrive. Being the ruff n tuff little cream puff I was , I didn’t care that the water that made up that “Popsicle” contained dust and bird doo-doo from the nasty roofs. Although our father, Russell, spoke of himself walking three miles to his school in Winter, we had the modern pleasure of a classic yellow school bus chariot to take my sister and I to our elementary school.
The out-going lady who was the charioteer of our powerful school bus was quite a personality all her own. Marie Meyer was her name, and I readily admired and enjoyed her “larger than life” persona.
Marie had the knack to make a little schoolboy, like myself, feel welcome and safe on her bus. On the other hand, Marie also had the innate personal power to scowl down a raucous High School bully and reduce him to a quivering puddle of Jello if he had the unmitigated gall to act disrespectfully to her within her yellow-metaled domain of student transportation. Marie’s husband, Manville Meyer, was co-owner of the fleet of buses that serviced, not only our school district, but any community-wide need for transportation.
Daily, as a kid, I never had to pay a nickel for a rock-n-rollin’ ride to school that had all the ear-markings of a wild and woolly carnival attraction. This day was to be no exception. Our Minnesota countryside, that morning, was enveloped in a full out blizzard. Blowing snow, across the graveled roads, made for some large snowdrifts that required Marie to bulldoze her bus through them in order for her to, eventually, deliver us young riders to Kiester and the pending educational process of school. With the whiteness of Winter, those massive dual tires on the back of Marie’s bus sported impressive link chains for better traction in this Winter wonderland. I can still see us rolling along in the blizzard that morning. We were bouncing along the rough roads southwest of Kiester when Marie saw a massive snowdrift across the roadway, almost fully blocking our path and about three feet or more high. Marie got on the “public address” speaker of the bus and told us, “HANG ON KIDS!! BIG SNOWDRIFT AHEAD!!!”
We all became cheerleaders as Marie revved up that International Harvester school bus engine. With her “pedal to the metal”, Marie launched that beast of a bus at full speed as it plowed into the mighty snowdrift. Like a war between yellow and white, you could hear the snowdrift drag against the bus belly beneath us as those chained, rear dual tires ground and growled at trying to chew up and conquer that snowdrift. But, “the white” won out that morning and our bus was high-centered in that capturing snow. We were stuck. Usually, our Marie was the winner against those mini-mountains of white, but not today, the “mother of all snowdrifts” had won. Even our bus snow-chains were no match against that thick, arresting white mass of frozen water crystals.
Thanks to modern technology, in 1960’s, of CB (Citizen’s Band) radios, Marie had a Plan B already in operation. She pressed the talk button on the radio and called into the bus barn (shop) in Kiester to let them know we were stuck. Plan B called for another bus to come towards us from the south. For those too young to know, there were no street signs in the farming regions, back in those days, so, Marie just radioed to her dispatcher the family name of the nearest farm to our place of being stuck. Being a small community, everyone knew where everyone else’s farm was, so it was easy for our rescuers to find this stranded bus of ours!
In that sweet positivity of youth, my fellow bus riders, and myself, saw this as more of a happy adventure than anything remotely dangerous. Besides, we were having more fun being stuck in a snowstorm than being in an old boring schoolroom any day! 😉
Our blizzard-induced euphoria was gently brought back to reality as we could, in the distant haze of the snowstorm, see our rescue bus making its approach along the country roads towards us. Marie, like a kindly army general, gave us, her little troopers, the command to disembark and jump into the snowdrifts from her stranded, yellow troop carrier and make our way over and into the rescue bus. With his bus heater running full blast, our rescue driver (Marie’s husband, Manville) welcomed us into the warm comfort for the rest of the ride to school. Those blustery, blizzard blowing breezes were actually one heck of a fun adventure for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son