Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Aug. 19, 2004

"Did you run out of gas money?"

When we told Katie last week that her school bus driver had died, she tearfully responded, "I don't want to ride the bus any more."

Roy had been the driver for Riley County's Number 11 bus for many years. I suppose if I go back through all my photos and videotapes of our girls getting on and off the bus, I could determine exactly when he took over our route from Mary Jo.

On every first day of school, I'd photograph and Art would videotape the bus coming down the road. When Roy got to our corner, Katie would run to board the bus while Mariya took her sweet time. Roy patiently waited long enough for me to snap a picture or two on the bus steps.

"Turn around and look at your Mom," he'd tell them.

After the bus pulled away, Art and I would drive to Riley to photograph all the big yellow vehicles pulling up at the grade school and, after the bell rang, the kids pouring out of them. I always thought everyone looked so bright and fresh and excited on that first day of school. It made me feel excited, too.

On the last day of school, I photographed Roy's bus lumbering down the road and stopping at our corner. The girls - loaded down with their almost used-up school supplies, portfolios and various other paraphernalia - shouted "School's out for the summer!"

Roy would smile and say, "Have a good one," and then honk as he pulled the bus away.

Between the first and last days of school, Art and I would chat with Roy when we went to pick up the girls. He and the other drivers usually sat along the low wall outside the building waiting for the dismissal bell to ring. He always seemed to be interested in talking. Even the minister at Roy's service - who also drives a school bus - mentioned Roy's love of conversation. He said when he drove the bus on various field trips, he took his Bible and books along to prepare for the upcoming week's sermon. But that was before he knew Roy. He learned any time Roy was along, he'd better just be prepared to talk.

Roy also liked to gently tease the kids.

After Mariya received her driver's license, she spent less time riding the bus. When she did ride it, Roy would ask, "Did you run out of gas money? Did your car break down?"

If I picked Katie up from the school, I'd tell Roy I was taking her home and ask if she behaved herself on the bus.

"She's not the one I worry about," he told me with a grin. "It's your older one I worry about."

Katie always smiled because she knew he was saying it to see how she'd react to news that her older sister could be ornery.

On another occasion, he told Art Katie was just too fast for him. He said he knew she was causing as much trouble as those in the seats around her, but by the time he'd look, she'd be quietly reading her book or looking out the window. Of course Katie enjoyed the left-handed compliment.

We'll miss Roy. The first day of school just wasn't as bright this year without him pulling up in Bus Number 11.

Roy Taylor, driver for Bus #11, and
Katie on last day of school, May 2004.

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