|Title: Kansas School Bus: Stuck|
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Date Posted：05/19/2016 1:34 AMCopy HTML
I posted this story in the “Passenger’s Seat” but thought you stuck fans might enjoy it. It is the second part of a pedal pumping post titled “Kansas School Bus” about a female substitute school teacher’s first day driving a school bus in rural Kansas. Hope you enjoy it even if it isn't a “pure” stuck story.
I was feeling pretty confident as I left the dry river bed. So far on my first day of driving the school bus I had handled the rain in town with a full load of students, managed to get the stalled bus on the highway restarted and with Johnny’s help (one of the students) got through the dry river bed.
As we bounced along the dry dusty road I noticed a fast moving thunderstorm headed our way. “Johnny, how far is it to the paved road?” “Too far, we won’t make it before the storm hits.” He replied. “And that’s the road to my farm ahead.”
I would have missed the turn if he hadn’t pointed it out. It was just a narrow lane with crops on both sides of the road. I hoped I had room to turn around at the farmhouse….and then the rain hit us. It poured so hard the wipers were useless and I couldn’t see the road. I had to stop the bus. “It’ll be over in a few minutes. It’s moving pretty fast.” He said to reassure me. The rain drummed so hard on the roof I could hardly hear the kids in the back of the bus. They were all excited again by the rain and the windows quickly fogged up. I tried the windshield fan again but it still wouldn’t work.
Johnny was right, the downpour was soon over and after clearing the windshield I could see the road. As I shifted into gear Johnny cautioned me about driving on the muddy road. “Don’t give it too much gas or the wheels will spin.” I was a little too cautious and stalled the bus. It wouldn’t start. I kept pumping the accelerator but it just wouldn’t start. In desperation I even pulled the choke out but that didn’t seem to help. I looked to Johnny for help, “Why won’t it start? Do you think it’s that wire?” He had been focusing on my legs again and looked a little uncomfortable at being caught. I pulled my skirt down for the umpteenth time, “Johnny?” “It’s flooded” he said. Push the choke in and push the gas pedal to the floor and hold it there until it’s running. I think he just wants to see me stretch my leg again but I do what he says, I don’t know what else to do. Once again I have to sink down in the seat to push the pedal all the way to the floor. This is really embarrassing, my skirt hikes well above my nylons but it’s the only way I can get the pedal fully on the floor. The starter turns slowly and I want to pump the pedal but he insists that I keep the pedal to the floor. I’m about to give up when the engine sputters again and again and then starts! I leave the pedal on the floor and rev the engine until I am sure it will stay running. “Oh Johnny, thank you!” He just grins as wide as before and I think he is blushing. I’m going to make sure I change my run from now on to drop him off last.
I get the bus going without stalling but the rear wheels are slipping in the mud. I hesitate but he tells me to keep going. The bus is hard to steer in the mud and suddenly starts to veer to the side of the road. I try to steer it back to the center but the steering doesn’t work. Alarmed I bring the bus to a stop and then try to steer back to the center as I accelerate but it keeps heading to the side of the road. "Back up" Johnny says. I shift into reverse and ease out the clutch expecting the wheels to spin but they don't and the bus starts backing. "Try to stay straight." I am hopeless at backing and never could stay straight but I try. "Keep going. Okay stop. Now straighten the wheel and go forward, try to stay in the middle of the road." I shift into first and manage to go forward without stalling. "Stay in the middle of the road, give it a little more gas but stay in first gear." The bus starts to wallow in the mud. "Keep going, don't slow down." I feel like I'm driving a boat, the steering is useless, we just kind of plow through the mud. And then the rear wheels start to lose traction. I can feel the wheels slipping and suddenly the bus starts to slow and then stops, the wheels spinning uselessly in the mud. I add more gas but that doesn't help. I push in the clutch and release it again but the bus is stuck. I shift to reverse and try to back up but the bus just shudders as the wheels fail to grip. I try to go forward but the rear starts to slide toward the edge of the road. "Oh no! Johnny what should I do?" "You're stuck." He replies which is obvious. I shift to reverse again and try to back up. I slam my foot on the accelerator hoping a lot of power will do it but the bus slides off the road into the ditch. "Oh no!" I shift to first and try again but now the bus won't move at all. I let off of the gas and the engine dies. I struggle to get it started but it won't start. I am hysterical and keep pumping the gas pedal hoping to get the bus started. Johnny is very quiet as are the rest of the kids. He knows he can't help me now.
I shut off the ignition and sink back in the seat. My skirt is in my lap but I don't care. I run my fingers through my hair as I try to calm down. I try the radio again. I can hear the other drivers talking to base but they can't hear me. I try to call several times but finally give up. The radio just isn't working. I don't know what else to do. Suddenly a huge tractor is heading toward us. "That's Mr. Hawkins, he works for my dad. He will pull us out for sure." I open the door with the intention of getting off the bus, but Johnny stops me. "He doesn't need any help and you will just sink into the mud. He knows what he is doing and will pull us up to the house." And he did! I start to get off the bus again and Johnny stops me again. "But I have to arrange for payment" I protest. "He doesn't want any money; it's what farmers do. We help each other. Now let's get the bus started. It's flooded for sure." I remember what he told me to do before and now that I wasn't so flustered I was able to start the bus. Johnny went to the back of the bus and talked to one of the girls and then he brought her forward. "This is Mellissa, I told her how to get back to the paved road without using the muddy road. I'm pretty sure this road will be in good shape even though it's gravel."
Mellissa had long curly red hair and was covered in freckles. She was taller than me but I was sure she had gotten on the bus at the Middle School. She sat on the seat that Johnny had vacated. As I closed the door she started giving me directions to the paved road. Johnny was right the road was much better than the dirt road and I didn't have any problem until I got near the paved road. There were lots of standing puddles and the road didn't seem as firm. When we got to the end the road became muddy and I could feel the wheels slip. I kept going but I had to stop at the paved road and wait for a grain truck to pass. I shifted to first and when the truck passed I tried to pull on the highway. I stalled the bus. "Damn" I muttered. I set the brake to keep from rolling back and proceeded to start the bus. I tried to hold the gas pedal down like Johnny told me but I was tired and my feet hurt from driving in my heels. I slipped my shoe off and massaged my foot. "It would be easier for you if you had my sneakers." Said Melissa as she was slipping them off her feet. "I think they will fit you." she handed them to me. I thought she was right and gratefully accepted. They felt great, now unencumbered by my heels I could hold the pedal to the floor and after a couple of attempts got the bus started.
"Can I try your heels?" she asked. I handed them to her as I revved the engine to make sure it wouldn't stall. She slipped them on and stood up to model them. They made her legs look gorgeous and she was pleased. She left them on and sat back in her seat as I shifted to first. She was right the sneakers were much more comfortable. I was careful to give the engine plenty of gas so I wouldn't stall and we started forward and then stopped. The rear wheels were spinning. "Oh no!" I added more gas but we were stuck again. I tried to back up and moved a little but then the wheels just spun again. I shifted into neutral and let the bus idle while I tried to think of what I could do. "I can get us out of the mud" Mellissa said. I looked at her rather incredulously. "I can drive any equipment on our farm, except the combines, and I drove grain trucks on muddy roads on our farm all last summer. I can get us out of this mess." I was considering this when one of the boys piped up from the back of the bus. "She can. Missy can drive anything!" I didn't know what else to do so I agreed and turned the bus over to her. "You'll need your shoes." I offered. "No, I like these, if it's okay with you. They make me feel grown up."
She settled in behind the wheel and even handled her skirt better than I did, but then she had a fuller skirt and bare legs. She shifted into reverse and let the clutch out and then quickly shifted into first and then back again. She stalled the engine once but quickly got it going again. I watched her feet work the pedals in my heels. They were a little big on her and her heel kept lifting out of the shoe but it didn't seem to bother her. It was like she had always worn them. The bus started to rock and each time got a little closer to being free and then suddenly we were up on the paved road. "Told you I could do it." I decided right then that I was going to leave her house for the last stop. She was going to be my co-pilot.