The last few years of my career as a language teacher I was also a school bus driver. What fun it was sharing the following travel tale with friends and family far removed from Ripley County.
Flash flood watches do not keep the fleet of school bus drivers from their appointed rounds…neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor dread of night, etc. The drivers take pride in emulating the postal service, much to the disappointment of the kiddies served.
Local school buses are equipped with the most advanced of communication systems, the trusted two-way radio. This helps drivers keep track of students who change residences frequently and alert colleagues to road hazards as they appear.
Just as they affect our local cable and phone services, variable weather conditions can alter considerably the dependability of the radio. One particularly soggy day mine was quiet. Thinking the dreadful weather had all the drivers so occupied that no one had time to chat, I splashed along delivering my riders to their drenched addresses.
About half my cargo had waded through the waves to their front doors when I approached that part of my route blessed with the famous Ozarkian low-water bridge. As I topped the hill, a panoramic view of a gravel road beach from which no sane, sea-faring kayaker would launch stretched before me.
The one who lived between the hilltop and the submerged bridge asked to depart the bus and run to down to his house while I idled, pondering my predicament. To get some expert advice I attempted to contact my boss via the radio, but there was no response. An adviser, my instructor in all things bus-related, had suggested once that I was not fully aware of the power of the 6-wheeler I steered, that it could sail right through gurgling creek waters and come out with all six wheels still attached, with nothing to fear except perhaps damp brakes.
But…that was based on the assumption that one sailed through crystal clear gurgling creek waters rather than plunging into rolling, rumbling waters muddied with red clay runoff camouflaging the bridge and the road on either end of it. Besides, all resemblance to a creek had vanished. What lay before me were the dark churning waters of an angry river trying to find its banks. Who could tell if the bridge still existed in one drive-overable slab?
(To be continued)