Growing up on a farm meant taking a bus to and from school. As you might imagine, there are miles of gravel roads, usually in straight connecting lines, to get to the different farms. There isn’t one stop, and ten kids get on the bus. Each farm usually translated into one, two, or three passengers.
There was a fair amount of time between stops.
While our school bus functioned as an essential mode of transportation, it also served as a place where many lessons were learned for the growing minds on board. The lessons varied in scope from being very practical in nature to being very valuable in our lives.
The top 8 lessons I learned were:
- Playing cards. The four back seats were reserved for the card players, and this is where I learned how to play cards. The typical game was Whist, and sometimes Euchre. No money was ever exchanged, yet the competitive spirit was always present along with a friendly banter. Playing cards is a great skill, best played with people rather than a computer. Doing an activity enables conversations to occur without much thought or apprehension; the words just flow along with the dealing of the cards.
- Young love. On those dusty bus rides, flirting or young puppy love happened from time to time. It wasn’t the madly in love type of thing; it was innocent, kind, and untainted. The youthful infatuation really was about boys getting to know girls and vice versa. It was learning the very basics of a like-like relationship and how to communicate and interact with the opposite sex. Sometimes it seems we should take our spouse or kids and just go on a good ol’ fashioned bus ride to reconnect and go back to the communication basics.
- Backbone. During the bus rides, every so often, there was posturing or staking a claim on something, whether it was a certain seat or something that happened during the day. At times, you had to stand up for yourself, defending what was yours or what was right. We learned how to fend for someone or stand up for ourselves.
- Life ends. Even a school bus could not escape the reality that life ends. For me, this came when the bus was leaving our yard and accidentally hit our new black Labrador puppy. I can still remember picking up the hurt, whimpering puppy and carrying him over to my parents, holding back the tears of sadness (since everyone on the bus was watching). How we express ourselves in sorrow, especially when everyone is watching, may always be a challenge.
- Stamina. Yes, I can truthfully tell my kids (and grandkids some day) that I walked a half mile in knee-deep snow to catch the school bus. It was a horrible winter season, and the school made all farm kids move into town in order to keep school open. There is a hardiness that is acquired by both experiences.
- Daily chores. Before the bus came, there were chores required to be done. The biggest one required at times was milking the cow. Yes, one cow. On a family farm, we were self-sufficient, and one cow can keep a family of six going just fine. Milking that cow was by hand, no machines. It is a skill which is really not transferable, but the responsibility of helping out and doing your part is.
- Punctuality. There were no other real options to get to school, so it was get up on time, dress, eat something, and be ready to get on the bus. The bus only waited a few minutes, because the miles between farms and the school start time meant a tight schedule. I can honestly say that we never missed a bus.
- Friendships. Good friendships were made during these rides. We talked about the school day, about our plans for the weekend, what we wanted to be when we grew up, a little politics time-to-time, and just general kid talk. If you ever saw the movie Stand by Me, you know what I am talking about. It was those types of friendships that developed and sustained us.
I know bus rides are very different today with iPods and texting. To my knowledge, there isn’t much card playing going on, at least without an electronic connection.
We need to remember the simplicity of things, like a bus ride. The lessons enabled by doing simple things are invaluable to our growth as humble, solid citizens.
In our technology-enabled world, it may be a little more challenging to bring out these lessons, but we need to look for those uncomplicated moments to enhance our relationship with our spouse, our children, and our community.