The wheels on the bus go on your phone

A school bus winds down a long country road for the first day of classes in Northern Minnesota on Sept. 2, 2014. (Aaron J. Brown)

The school bus winds down our long country road for the first day of classes in Northern Minnesota on Sept. 2, 2014. (Aaron J. Brown)

Aaron J. Brown

Aaron J. Brown is an Iron Range blogger, author, radio producer and columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune.

Each morning, out on the dirt road by our house deep in the Northern Minnesota wilds, I wait for the bus with my elementary school-aged boys. It’s a special time for reflection, conversation and encouragement. We build the special bond between father and sons. I wouldn’t trade those first five minutes of the day for anything.

But after five minutes, if the bus hasn’t come, I’d happily sell all of my children to gypsies. Did I say sell? I meant give. Please, I’ll pay you, gypsy. I’ll. Pay. YOU!

Despite having each stood a comfortable distance from one another for several minutes, one boy will suddenly decide that his brother would make a pretty good fire pole. That signals the third brother, the one who was happily looking at birds just moments ago, to scream like a muskrat caught in a trap. Not because he’s hurt. Not because he’s upset. Because that is a sound that he feels would be appropriate for the situation.

We could just let this play out, a la Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom,” but we’ve learned that it’s best when I’m there because in the past they’ve attracted the attention of neighbors. This is significant, because we cannot see any of our neighbors houses from where we live. In fact, some of the nearest houses to us are in a different school district. Our boys are much louder than the distant axe swings that drove Charles Ingalls from Wisconsin to the Little House on the Prairie, and frankly we don’t know what to tell people when they call.

“A bear was chewing off their feet. But they’re OK now.”

I was a kid once, too, an older brother to be specific, and I lived in the country to boot. So their energy is familiar. But my bus stop was directly in front of the kitchen window where mom could watch my sisters and I from afar. Besides, that was a different time — a time for bean bag chairs in the back of GM Cutlass Cruiser station wagons and long, unexplained absences of children punctuated by meals.

So I stand out there with the boys— rain or snow, hot or cold. The bus rolls on its own time, however. We wait to see the lights peak over the hill up the road — a sign the bus will arrive in 90 seconds, a long stretch when you’re at the end of your rope. Until then, only the wind and distant highway noises offer any clues whatever.

That’s why a Feb. 26 Beth Hawkins piece in MinnPost caught my eye, detailing the Robbinsdale School District in the Twin Cities and their plan to help parents in just my situation. The school district there is supporting a smartphone application that would allow parents to see exactly where their child’s bus is on a GPS-based map, and estimate how long it will take for the bus to arrive at your stop.

In other words, those cold mornings could be spent in the house until the exact right moment to go out. Sometimes the bus is stuck in the mud in some far-off corner of the countryside come April. The app would let you focus on making dinner instead of standing in your own nearby sea of mud waiting for your kids to show up. In short, it could be a life-changing miracle.

Of course, kids can still fight inside the house. We’ve got some field notes that support that fact. And there is no app that make winter boots go on quickly while we’re running late. The underlying truth remains that kids are kids, no matter where their bus might be.

Perhaps there are some things technology just can’t cure. Perhaps someday the boys and I will look back on these days and laugh. Perhaps they will have boys someday and I will laugh much, much louder than them.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and college instructor from northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on Northern Community Radio. This post first appeared in the Sunday, March 15, 2015 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune.



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