Thursday, June 24, 2010

From Bus Bum to Helicopter Pilot

Bus Kid
The picture is of my son Micah playing "King of the Bus". He is in the toy draw. He would pull them all out and then climb in and play. He still has a strong streak of adventure running through him.

The bus was a 1969 GMC school bus converted into a motorhome by my friends Dwayne Langham and Steve Hingle. The bus was painted brown and the school bus banner on the front was replaced with "Jesus is Lord" over a white background. The bus was 39.5 feet long and weighed over 16,000 pounds.

My friend Dwayne showed up in the bus at my mama's house when I was going to college at SLU in 1988. I was making good grades in college till Dwayne showed up. We'd stay up all night talking about Jesus. When the sun rose, Dwayne would head to his bus to sleep and I'd head to class. Not a good combination for academic success. Anyhow I ended up dropping out of school, buying the bus from Dwayne, and decided to move to North Arkansas.

Why North Arkansas?
Steve and Ellen had visited Jo and I in Alabama and told us about when they lived in North Arkansas. I had also floated the Buffalo National River on a Sierra Club camping trip when I was fourteen. We put in at Boxley. The river was up a little. This was also my first experience in a kayak. I now owned a couple of Kayaks and thought the kayaking would be better in North Arkansas than South Louisiana, so off we went; myself, JoLynn, Joanna, Cai, Micah and SadieDog.
White River RV Park, Calico Rock, Arkansas
We arrived in North Arkansas in the fall of 88' where we spent our first two weeks at the White Buffalo Resort. The resort closed down for the winter back then, but the manager told me about his dad's place in Calico Rock, Arkansas. I visited his dad, Jerry Newhouse, who rented me a spot for $50 dollars a month.

I pulled the driver's seat out of the bus and replaced it with a cheap trash burner wood stove. That was probably the most memorable winter I can recall in all my married life. I thought it was fun too. The wood stove would not hold enough wood to burn through the night, so prior to going to sleep I would drink a lot of juice. This caused my bladder to wake me up about 3 or 4 am every morning, and I'd throw a couple of more logs on the fire and take care of business before going back to sleep.

Jerry was a handyman besides a Resort owner and he accumulated a lot of scrap blandex chip board. Jerry told me once that the blandex burned good and hot and I should try it. NEVER AGAIN! The wood stove overheated and became cherry red, then it started huffing and puffing and tap dancing inside the bus. It was like it had a life of its own, and a little on the scary side. But, we survived without further incident and never burned any blandex again.

There was also a young kid, Eric Faulkner, that worked at the local gas station. Eric knew me as the ole bus bum that would come by the gas station to fill up an old station wagon and occasionally get a flat tire fixed.

After we left Calico Rock I eventually went to work for Air Evac Lifeteam. Air Evac was a pretty small company when I first went to work for them. Starting pay was less than 20K a year back then. When I got medically grounded in 2006 my annual salary was 52K a year. ...And I bet, you thought helicopter pilots made a lot.

One day shortly after hiring on with Air Evac, I had a flight to the small hospital at Calico Rock for a transfer to a larger hospital. Inside the hospital hallway there was a fair sized group of people. I eventually got around to surveying the faces and recognized Eric. He was now a brand new EMT. Eric had also recognized me and had quite the puzzled look on his face. After all he remembered me as the bum who lived in a bus.

When I recognized him I said, "Hi Eric. How are you doing?"

Eric said, "H, ho, how'd you get that job!"

I said, "Well, if you find the right Cracker Jack box you can be anything you want to be."

Here is my story of how I found that box: The Road to Flight School

I still see Eric from time to time and we usually have a good laugh over that story of the bus bum turning into a helicopter pilot. Here is a story with a picture of Eric Answering the call of duty. He is a good man and a good medic. We have not encountered each other enough to be close friends, but I always say hi when I do see him and he seems like one that would make a good friend.



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