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Editor’s column

When they remember that our little boy is old enough to head off to kindergarten, our city friends’ first questions are usually: “Will he have to go on the bus?” “How long will have to be on the bus?” and, “Are you okay with him going on the bus?”

When I tell them that that our son’s bus ride to Weyburn takes about an hour (including stops), and that the bus pulls into our yard at 7:40, most of them are horrified. I suspect some of them have called Social Services to report us for cruelty to children.

(I know. I know. Some of your children are probably getting on way earlier that that. And it’s not that cruel. Just keep reading.)

Five reasons to like the bus

Of course we’re okay with our little boy riding the bus. I think it’s a good thing. Here’s five reasons.

1. Building independence

It was tough, putting that little guy on the bus all by himself for the first time. But it’s sure building his independence. City kids whose parents drop them off at the school door and meet them there again at the end of the day don’t have that same “going by myself” experience.

And just because he’s not with me doesn’t mean he’s not safe. The bus driver watches the kids traipse to the door of the school; the teachers make sure they get back on the bus at the end of the day. Bus kids are probably safer than town kids who walk three blocks on their own twice a day.

I’ll admit it, there were a few times that I didn’t feel that safe, riding the bus. One older boy, “Ralph” scared me a bit. (Of course I’m not using his real name. He was that scary.)

You don’t know independence until you walk out to the end of the farmyard lane mid-way through second grade, wearing your new eyeglasses for the first time, waiting to find out how many different ways Ralph can mock you as soon as he gets on the bus.

2. Learning opportunities

I learned to read on the school bus.

My ride was just short of an hour, and my seatmate, Robin, was two years older. She already knew how to read, so she got out her reader and showed me.

There were other things too. I still remember the day that two older girls from the back of the bus walked by my seat gossiping about a third girl. “She’s expecting!” one of them said.

“Expecting what?” I piped up.

One of them said, “Expecting a bus!” and they both got away from me as fast as they could.

And don’t even get me started on the things we overheard Ralph talking about at the back of the bus. (Not that I could print them here.)

3. Understanding hierarchy

I’ve never heard of a rural school bus where there weren’t some pretty non-bendable rules about where everyone would sit. Little kids at the front. Everyone knew that. As you went through school, you worked your way toward the back.

By the time you’ve hit Grade 6, you know your place on that bus, and exactly where you’re going to be sitting next year.

If you had any trouble figuring it out, I’m sure there was someone like Ralph on your bus to straighten you out.

4. Building community

Being thrown onto a bus together five days a week, two hours a day gives the kids a chance to get to know the neighbours.

When my little boy got on that bus, I knew two of his babysitters would be getting on a few stops down the road. If he had a problem, they’d help. When he gets bigger, he’ll help younger kids (I hope).

Of course you couldn’t count on every kid to help you out (hey, Ralph). But learning that is part of learning to live in a community.

5. Building tolerance

Yeah, there’s always that one kid that smells funny. Or the first-grader that won’t be quiet. But farm kids know they’re going to be riding the same bus with those same kids for the next 12 years (or until they get their own car). If that’s not a good way to learn tolerance, I don’t know what is. (I’m not saying they’ll like it at the time.)

In case you’re still worried about me — a short blond seven-year old sitting alone on the bus waiting for Ralph to see my new glasses — here’s how it went down.

By the time the bus pulled into Ralph’s yard, I’d worked myself up into quite a state. I had no idea what he’d say, but I was pretty sure he’d be more creative than “four eyes.” And everyone would hear. I’ve blocked out the memories of getting up the courage to look at him as he stepped onto the bus and clomped past my seat.

Ralph glanced down at me. Took a good look. Nodded. And this is what he said: “Nice glasses.” Not a trace of sarcasm. No rudeness. No mocking. He nodded again, went back to his seat, and that was the last I heard of it.

Riding the bus to town from our farm didn’t do me any harm. I wish the same experiences for my little boy.

Hemp harvest

On page 13 of this issue, you’ll find Angela Lovell’s article about growing hemp. Regulations around industrial hemp have lightened up, making the paperwork simpler.

At the Brandon Ag show in January, my husband and I stopped to talk to Tom Greaves, director of operations for Manitoba Harvest, a hemp food manufacturer. He was manning a booth and passing out free samples of hemp hearts — tasty little seeds, a bit like sunflower seeds or pine nuts.

“We’re the largest hemp manufacturer in Canada,” Greaves told us. The company’s website says that 60 per cent of Canadian farmers growing hemp are growing it under contract with Manitoba Harvest.

When we asked about prices, Greaves said, “Most of the contracts are between 70 and 80 cents a pound.” (Find contact information at www.manitobaharvest.com.)

When my husband asked Greaves about harvesting hemp, Greaves said it’s a lot easier than it used to be (read more about this in Angela’s article.) Greaves said, “new combine technology has really made a difference.”

That’s what our neighbour found when he grew hemp for the first time last season. He didn’t have any problems with his harvest. But when he put the combine away, he said, “It smelled like Cheech and Chong’s combine!”

Enjoy this issue.

Leeann

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