Treat Me Like A Tractor

Farm equipment on Rt C near New Wells 11-13-2013I’ve been burning up the road between Cape and Altenburg interviewing people for my Last Generation project – trying to capture the last generation of East Perry county residents who spoke German as their primary language.

There are a lot of crops being harvested right now – primarily corn and beans. I was southbound on Rt. C near New Wells when this monster machine appeared in front of me doing about 20 miles per hour.

The driver did a masterful job of keeping the high center of gravity vehicle going while dodging mailboxes and shoulder drop-offs when he had to get over in his lane for oncoming traffic.

As the cars backed up behind me, I could only think of how many people would be honking and writing letters to the editor about how bikes don’t belong on the road if I had been on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. (For the record, this is one of my favorite bike routes. I’ve always been treated with courtesy on it. It’s only when you get close to Cape that you run into drivers who are jerks.)

So, when you see me on my bike with my Slow Moving Vehicle triangle on my back (just like this guy’s), treat me like a tractor. And, if you are going too fast to slow down without hitting me, you’re going too fast to keep from hitting the Monster Machine or the many deer I’ve seen alongside (and crossing) the road.

Heartwarming Americana

Athens County school buses 10-11-1968I was trying to make a left turn out of a nursing home in Perryville where I had been shooting one of my subjects – a 103-year-old Altenburg woman.

A school bus dropping off kids had traffic backed up about a dozen cars deep. “Oh, man, I’m going to be here for a long time,” I thought.

Reminding me that I was back in the Midwest, a car about four back slowed down to create a gap, then the driver motioned me out. Yep, we’re not in Florida anymore.

I didn’t mind the delay

The bus driver must have made at least six or eight stops, with the line of cars growing longer and longer behind me. I didn’t mind the delay, to be honest. I really enjoyed watching the grade school kids hop off the bus loaded down with their backpacks and dash to the house where a parent would be waiting at the door.

One middle school kid stopped at the mailbox, grabbed a letter from it and went running up the hill to his home. He seemed excited. I wonder what was in the envelope?

The driver finally got to a spot wide enough for him to pull off to let the line of cars go by. I was kinda disappointed. Since I wasn’t watching the clock, it was nice change of pace.

P.S. I was too far back to get a good bus shot, so I had to dip into the time machine to pull up this Athens County bus from Oct. 11, 1968.

Riding the Bus

This shot of kids boarding the bus on the south side of Central High School in 1966 has some interesting things in the background. First off, Millikan Car lot is loaded with cars. Griff’s Burger Bar is just out of the frame. There’s a billboard pitching Suedekum and Son Hardware. The Sinclair Dino gasoline in Cape Girardeau sign is for Huckstep Oil Company.

In the far background you can see students walking home down Caruthers.

Standing room only

I remember some days that the bus had late riders standing in the aisle, but I didn’t think it was THIS crowded. I think the Class of 66 might have been bigger than the Class of 65, so that would explain it.

I didn’t mind riding the bus. The driver was a SEMO student picking up some spare money. He was a nice guy; in fact he and his girlfriend would come by the house some evenings and I would help them with their homework and provide them reference materials. I think he was writing some papers on topics we covered in debate.

Bright and early

Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems like the bus came by the house at an ungodly hour, like 7 a.m. I had a curious study routine. I found out that if I did my homework before going to bed that I would drag it out and procrastinate for hours.

If, on the other hand, I calculated about how long I thought it would take me to do the homework and got up, leaving just enough time to do it, eat breakfast and get dressed before the bus got there, I could get a decent night’s sleep. It was the classic adage of “A task will expand to occupy all of the time available to it.” Seeing that deadline marching toward me allowed me to focus on the job, something that I always liked about the news business.

When I moved to North Carolina, I was surprised to see they allowed high school students to be bus drivers. The driver would take his (it was a guy thing) bus home at the end of the route and start out from home at the start of the next day. I think the safety record was amazing. I don’t recall ever working a wreck involving a student driver, which is pretty amazing, considering some of the roads they had to go on.