Pleasant Hill’s school bus, like those of today, had a lever with a big handle attached to a rod that opened and closed the door. The younger boys considered it fun and an honor to stand alongside the bus driver to open and close the door at each stop. The bus driver welcomed it because it relieved him of a chore. There were no safety rules about such things.
As the bus returned each afternoon to pick up its second load the driver would enter the parking lot turn sharply to the right, pull the bus’s front bumper up to the fence and after turning his wheels in the opposite direction, back out so that the bus was facing the direction he wished to go. We weren’t allowed to get on the bus until he had completed his maneuvering. But oddly enough we first, second, and third graders were allowed to jam up against the bus door when he pulled up to the fence and then follow it as it backed up, side-stepping with the movement of the bus. While side-stepping we were also jockeying to get into position to be the first kid to enter the bus after the driver opened the door. The first boy in got to be the door opener.
Having a cohort of little boys jammed up against the door of a bus, walking sideways, pushing and shoving, while it moved backwards, with the driver was looking in his mirror was not a good thing but apparently no one in authority thought about that until the day I was tripped or stumbled. I was first boy, pressed tightly against the door, sidestepping to keep my place when my feet tangled in another kids’ feet. I went face down onto to the sandy ground parallel to the bus but with my right leg directly in the path of the oncoming front tire. I felt the tire roll onto my foot, and continue on up my leg pushing it down into the sandy soil. I yelled and screamed, but the kids jammed against the door were doing the same thing. No one saw me. I was on my way to becoming road kill.
Happily, my older brother Willard was nearby. He saw what was happening and began waving his arms while running toward the bus. The bus driver saw him and stopped just as the tire was about roll onto my pelvis. At this point, I was pinned. The driver had to drive forward, running back down my leg to free me.
I don’t remember what happened next. I was scared and hurting, but it wasn’t as bad a hurt as I had endured not too many months earlier, when the fingers on my right hand were smashed by the rod line, then assaulted by an Indian “Medicine Man.”
Someone took me home in their car and explained to Mother what had happened. She apparently took it in stride. Having almost completed raising four older boys she had become stoical about childhood injuries. Miraculously, thanks to the softness of the thick Oklahoma sand prevalent in that part of Oklahoma, the flexibility of my young bones and most surely, to my guardian angel, I had no broken bones. My leg was bruised and sore, but no doctor seemed to be needed. I returned to school some time later; limping a bit.
There was no more competition to be door opener. The school superintendent put a stop to having kids sidestep alongside the moving school bus. I don’t think I would have been interested any longer, anyway, in competing for the job.