editor’s letter nov/dec 2008

Editor’s Note: Following is Chapter 12 of my 2007 adventure, BUS RIDE. From last month, “… I heard the bus doors close and looked up. Straight-faced, our red- and -blue clad driver climbed the stairs and without a word, slid under the wheel. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes as the bus rolled out of Cincinnati. Ah! S-l-e-e-p…

MIDWEST: IMAGES AND MEMORIES

Like a dream, western Ohio flashed by my window. A cattle car passed and through its white cage, patches of brown hides alternated with pink noses pressing out the white grid. High in the Greyhound, I looked down on semi- drivers in rolled-sleeve T-shirts sitting cool in air- conditional cabs. I stared at the side of one trailer whose tall green lettering announced, “Carrol Fulmer.” From my bus-high perch, tops of silvery tankers presented their ladders and hatches for my inspection and a white-sided camper labeled, “SCAMPER” let me view its air-conditioning unit sitting high on its painted roof.

Bright highway signs sprouted. Red and yellow “Wendy’s,” green and white “Perkins,” and golden arches of “McDonald’s” hollered, “Eat! Eat!” I reached into my carry-all, pulled out a fifty-cent bag of Planters, tore it open and popped a few in my mouth.

Colors and shapes shifted as we rolled into the countryside. White farm houses with matching barns topped in green shingles sat in yards of brownish corn. Cut half-stalk, dry rows stood at soldiery attention

The mid-state Ohio scene triggered an elementary school memory of Sunday afternoon drives to “The Farm.” Standing at the screen door, Daddy had teased our rusty cocker spaniel already dancing at our feet, “Wanna’ go? Wanna go?”

Glancing back at Mother and me, he had said, “I’ll back out the car.” Hand on the screen door handle, he looked down at the curly eager animal and shook his head, “Stay, Bootsie, stay.”

He had squeezed out the screen to keep the wiggling dog inside with me. I heard, “Vroom!” and watched our garage. The sleek dark green tail of “Diana, the Wonderful Dynaflow” slowly emerged.

By now, Mother was standing behind Bootsie and me, her brown leather purse over her shoulder. When the car stopped Mother said, “OK.”

I pushed the door and our pet rocketed toward the car, bouncing by the back door. Pulling the door I ordered the little dog, “Hit the deck!” She leaped ahead of me onto the floor, bounded onto the seat, and jumped into the flat place in front of the rear window — the deck. Settled, Bootsie smiled showing her long pink tongue.

Climbing in, I sat and leaned out, grabbing the arm rest. I pulled until the door slammed and then clicked down both door locks. Back-seat duties complete, I reported,

“OK in the back!”

Looking out her window, Mother chimed in, “OK to the right.”

Daddy took his foot off the brake and backed the Buick into the alley. Gravel crunched under our tires and a small cloud of dust rose. As Daddy moved the column shift’s red circle to “drive,” dust followed us until we turned onto the paved street that ran in front of our house.

Steering right and left, Daddy curved us along a two-lane road soon lined with corn fields. As we rolled toward Benton Mills where Grammy and Grampy still lived on a hundred acres, I rolled my back window down half way. Bootsie jumped to the seat and hung her head out, eating the wind.

Daddy had cranked down his window, too. His hair ruffled as he turned to Mother and sang in his throaty baritone, “Green eyes with their soft lights, those eyes that promise sweet nights…”

Mother smiled, blinked her green eyes at him and they laughed.

Riding through green pastures, Mother clicked on the radio and Daddy told me about the cows. “Those black and white spotted ones are Holstein. They give the most milk… See those brown and white ones over there? Those are Guernsey. Their milk is richer, but they don’t give as much as Holsteins.”

Closer to “The Farm,” the roadside showed crops. Daddy pushed in the cigarette lighter and when it popped, he set its glowing red coil to the end of his Pall Mall. Blowing a blue stream of smoke out the window he nodded, “Those soybeans look good … corn’s getting high…”

When I saw the peaked black end of a barn painted, “Chew Mail Pouch” in tall yellow letters, we were almost there. Noticing the rest of the barn had no paint I asked, “Why is that barn only painted on one end?”

“Advertisers pay for that paint …” Daddy explained. We were close enough I could read the words under Mail Pouch, “Treat yourself to the best.”

Bumping over a set of railroad tracks, we turned right at the first corner and slowly passed through two blocks of town before reaching Grampa’s white farm house across from his faded red barn.

Gazing out the bus window, I saw white Ohio barns and returned to the present. The sinking sun’s last rays flashed off passing cars as we entered Michigan and the Interstate widened from two lanes to four. Soon the coach roared into outskirts of Detroit. By the time we wound our way into the old city, the sun had set. Overhead lights illuminated empty streets. All around I gazed on buildings’ dark windows as the bus moved quietly on new blacktop before it slowed near the Greyhound Terminal.

The coach finally parked at a tan brick building. When cabin lights came on, I looked at my watch: 8:30 PM. — the time I was scheduled to arrive in Grand Rapids which was still four car-hours away. Vaguely I heard the driver announce, “…and to you traveling to Grand Rapids, and Muskegon, your bus will depart at 8:30 AM…

What? Tomorrow? That can’t be! Collecting my suitcase, from beside the bus, I rolled it slowly into the brightly lit terminal, shaking my head. Surely there’s a bus yet tonight!

Frances Fritzie

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