Biff America: A slice of Americana behind a slow moving bus
It’s a drama that plays out on our streets every weekday morning.My mate and I were driving down a ranch-road in central Colorado. It was early morning, and we were stuck behind a slow-moving school bus. The road was narrow and winding, there was no place to pass, and every few miles we would be forced to stop when the bus picked up young children.We were on our way to climb and ski a peak and were impatient to get to the trailhead before the sun got too high. We slowly followed as the bus stopped for its youthful cargo. We made a game of interpreting the body language of the children shuffling toward their education. It didn’t take long for us to get into the rhythm of hypothesizing on their moods and circumstances. Children, in all shapes and sizes, headed off to the daily adventure, some aspects of which they would recall their entire lives. Some approached the bus with a confident swagger, while others seemed less enthused about leaving the comfort and security of their driveways. I cursed myself for the scenes I was too impatient to appreciate, but one pick-up I remember well. It occurred like this:
As the bus approached, a mother with a daughter about 7 years old got out of a parked pick-up. They were waiting at the end of what looked to be a very long driveway – more than likely to a ranch. The truck was old and well worked, and in the back bed was a very excited cattle dog. I imagined a ranch house at the end of that driveway and a husband and father already hard at work.The little girl wore a skirt over long underwear and snow boots. The mother walked around to the passenger side of the truck – it seemed in attempt to help the child out. The kid, instead, leapt from the high seat, hit the ground running and headed toward the bus. At the same time, the dog jumped out of the pick-up’s bed and ran along with the child. When the little girl reached the steps of the bus, she did an about-face and ran back towards her mum and gave her a hug; both mother and child walked towards the bus holding hands. The child climbed in, the mother and driver exchanged a few words while the dog ran in circles.The bus took-off slowly; the mother watched it leave. As the bus rolled away, the dog ran next to it barking. Ellen and I saw a window slide down and a little hand stick out and wave.
The mother headed back to her truck and the dog obediently jumped into the back.”That was beautiful,” Ellen said.What we had just witnessed was what is right about this country and the human condition: the love and guidance of a parent, the social growth and education of a child, all contained in the structure of a family and community.For the rest of that day, I thought of the perfect portrait of Americana I was graced to witness. I reminded myself that this same event was playing out around the country with varying cast of characters and, in some cases, distinctly different circumstances. Somewhere there is a single mother who, due to work, isn’t allowed the luxury of walking her child to school or the bus stop. This single mum works and sacrifices in hopes that her child has every advantage and opportunity to make the right choices; perhaps better choices than the mother herself had made.
And then there is that gay couple who love their child all the more because of the ordeal and ostracism they have faced and endured. They send their child to school praying that it grows up in a more tolerant world than they themselves did.While that goes on, there are immigrants whose children get on that bus as an initial step at becoming the first generation to graduate high school in a new country. Granted, those latter scenarios aren’t normally featured in Normal Rockwell paintings, but Rockwell painted this country as it was, not as it is now. The true beauty of America is that it is ever evolving, and that the definition of “an American family” is forever changing.Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on RSN TV, heard on KOA radio, and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s book “Steep, Deep and Dyslexic” is available from local book stores or at Backcountrymagazine.com.
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