Wednesday, November 10, 2010


In the late 1980s and early '90s I embarked on a new adventure with my Best Friend (BF) in a school program called Odyssey of the Mind. Please keep in mind as you read this, my husband and I never had, nor raised children.

Our local school district co0rdinator believed in volunteer leaders rather than teachers as leaders. The larger schools in our district often had more, or  only, teachers, as leaders.

I personally thought competing against teacher-led teams , whose daily job and professional training basically was problem solving, put volunteers at a disadvantage. However, our little school district regularly won some accolades against the big guys.

Students, wishing to participate,  were separated by age and by the problem they wished to solve. As I remember there were usually 6-10 problems varying from building various equipment from a specified limit of materials, creating weight bearing structures, or interpreting classic reading materials or events.

Each problem had two parts: the preparation and/or construction of the assigned project, and an extemporaneous problem solving. The topic of the extemporaneous problem was only known to the group when they arrived at the competition.

As leaders you could only guess and prepare your group by creating you own extemporaneous problems. We did not seem to have teams as proficient in this, for which we as leaders, take some blame. But our teams excelled in creating the classics, which is the type of problem we always chose.

What led me to this volunteer job was I believed in creative thinking in any area of scholastic endeavor. Further I believed in emphasis on programs which encourage student creativity over sports.

Our local school system in my and many other persons' opinions had too much emphasis on sport activities, especially basketball (no football program) to the extent one year they requested a millage increase to build a larger gymnasium than sorely needed middle school classrooms.

Even though the millage vote defeated the request, imagine our surprise they found the money to build the gym!!!

Although not the crux of this blog, one year the basketball team excelled to several levels of playoffs. We needed a bus to transport our teams to STATE Finals (we placed second). No school bus or driver was available, so they found an extra large van and told us to find our own driver.

We quit coaching after that debacle and were judges one year, before retiring from this activity.

We had as many adventures as our students. First of all each team was like moving to a new neighborhood. We generally had teams in the lower elementary levels. We loved every minute of these teams.

Once we got stuck with the level where the girls had begun forming their special friendships and excluded others from their circles for various reasons.  We found we could not deal this age group. It reminded me of a Sunday Morning Bible study group I accepted composed of the ages 11-13/14. I never taught Sunday School again.

In Arkansas with few Interstate highways, the idea there is a straight road of any length should be eliminated from your driving memory bank. We were scheduled to compete in state finals (we went twice) at Little Rock, if I remember correctly for the story I am about to tell. This is about 150 mi. south of us. We and our school system are located about as far north in the state where we can live on dry land.

Our bus driver took US 65, a major N-S highway, but like most of our state's roads, basically 2-lane, a few passing lanes, winding, and definitely up and down hills or mountains. There is even a run-away sand ramp on this highway. I tried not to think about the bus using that ramp. The very sudden stop from higher speed to zero would problem give everyone a whiplash--minimum.

There were several adults and the teacher program coordinator on the bus, all teams, and our props, costumes, and other paraphernalia associated with our particular projects.

Our competitions were in the autumn/winter months so there were extra coats and blankets, etc. to keep warm, coming home which was usually in the evening, arriving back at the our school anywhere from 9 p.m. -midnight.

This particular trip, as I vaguely remember was somewhere near Russellville and our bus was packed to the gills.

This highway becomes very scenic when you leave Clinton, AR north. One of the most beautiful vistas on US 65 is the approach to Marshall, AR where the highway runs the steep edge of a mountain where you look down into the valley where the town is located. There is even an overlook park there.

By the time we approached this scenic vista around 8 p.m. returning home, most of the students were asleep and a few adults,  but not BF and me, although I was dozing.

I was seated by the window with BF and we had a comforter for warmth.

All of a sudden BF leaped up and shouted, 'stop the bus. This child (across the aisle from us) has regurgitated in her sleep.' [I doubt that is the exact word she used, but I am getting queasy writing this!) 

Then she wisely instructed me to stick my head out the window. BF knew I never raised a child, rarely was sick in that manner, and if confronted with the situation, did the same. I wisely did as told, as did a mother behind me.

But then the comedy began.

The bus driver would not stop the bus...period. In fact, he said, "No, I am not stopping this bus." 

As we were going down this very steep ordinarily beautiful vista, the regurgitated meal  was rolling down the aisle with the bus, like small rapids in the narrows of a stream.

And the teacher-co-ordinator was standing at the front, wringing her hands, saying,"Oh my, this has never happened before!" This was a long-time teacher. Come on!!! Don't tell me a child has never been sick on a bus in her entire lifetime of teaching!!

The bus driver kept driving. The coordinator kept wringing her hands. I and the mother continued to hang our heads out the window.

BF saw things were chaotic so she, being nearly 6' with the longest legs and arms ( she has very hard time finding clothes to fit) began walking across our bus row of seats until she reached the front of the bus.  After all, who would walk down the aisle at this point?

Not me, my head is still out the window.

By the time she reached the front of the bus, we were in Marshall. BF told the bus driver,  "stop this bus right now at this convenience store." Fortuitously, there was an open convenience store which appeared out of heaven (just my hyperbole). It was around 9 p.m. and could have been closed.

I cannot believe the bus driver was so obstinate when there was a sick child. But you have not heard nor seen my BF in her best disaster management form. The government should hire her and maybe our Presidents would not be so slow to respond to national disasters.

The driver stopped the bus!!!....immediately. It was like God had spoken.

BF and others ran in and bought kitty litter, lots of kitty litter bags, and spread it on the floor up and down the aisle. Some how BF's comforter was also complete unfit for further use and was trashed in the dumpster outside the store. That store probably has a sign now that says "no school buses welcome" after this chaotic debacle.

I and the mother continued to hang our heads out the windows.

After the aisles were saturated with kitty litter, we proceeded the remaining  hour or so home. The little girl blissfully went back to sleep.

Yes, I and the mother held our heads out the window the entire distance home.

After this debacle, we sent notes home with students, requesting permission to administer motion sickness pills. Yep, we decided doping the students was a good idea.

The end result of the trip for me was the last case of severe pneumonia I've had to date.  I've had a couple of light cases.

I always take two Meclizine when I ride the highways of this state.

Although commonly know as " Marshall mountain or hill" all of us on this one trip still refer to it as "Barf Mountain."


forever lost said...

I remember Odyssey of the mind programs, and friend my head would be out the window with you...We raised 4 kids and that was aspect of parenting/nursing I simply can not handle!
love the story, and never wouldve thought of cat litter! (we lived in Russellville, had our first child at St. Mary's Hospital 1980!)
We loved Russellville folks!

Arkansas Patti said...

What a fun story--for me since I didn't have to endure it. Sorry but I was laughing out loud several times. Then I felt badly when I discovered you got sick from hanging your head out the window.
The whole story sounds like a good reason for the future doping.
Knowing the road fairly well, I could picture it as you told the story.

Lisa said...

Oh! My Gosh! What a great story! I can't stop laughing :) I think I would be hanging my head out the window with you! More reasons to home school!

Hope your feeling well.

NitWit1 said...

Forever lost: I was 4 when my parents adopted another daughter. I remember Mother trying to involve me and my brtoher in diaper dipping in the toilet and other cleanup.

Neither of us proved to be reliable helpers, for obvious reasons.

AR Patti: Best Friend and I reminisced about those trips Monday when we made our annual trip to LR to our allergist (my husband and I have been to LR 3x in 30 days and hope to stay home awhile.) Luckie was a great traveler, slept mostly in back seat with me.

There is another bus trip if I can recall it enough, just almost as funny,

Virginia Mallon-Ackermann said...

What a riot! I can't believe you hung your head out the window all the way are lucky you werent decapitated. Now that would have been something even kitty litter couldn't solve.

Small City Scenes said...

What a wild tale. Whew! I am all worn out just reading it.

In response to you comment on my blog:Yes the ship is large. My husband was in the Korean War and was on a DDE--Destroyer escort--Tiny in comparison. MB

Small City Scenes said...

Thanks for the visit to my post. But my pic is not B&W. That is exactly how it came out of the camera. I guess that is one of the reasons I liked it. Not to mention the shimmer. haha I impressed myself. LOL MB

Pat - Arkansas said...

"the idea there is a straight road of any length should be eliminated from your driving memory bank."

So true, so true!

Loved your story, Carol. My family lived in Clinton my last two years in high school. I'm very familiar with the Marshall area, and know just where "Barf Mountain" is.

Dimple said...

How funny! (I know this is retrospective-I-wasn't-there funny!) I'm glad your BF was so commanding a presence to the bus driver!
A very well told tale!
Thanks for coming by!

Silver said...

My goodness- it seems like you've been having a good part of your journey with your head sticking out of the window..! The wind in the face could make a really nice sequel story! ;)