Our first order of business was no small task. We had to obtain a set of keys to the snub-nosed bus that we had left in Marion. Remember, it was 1:30 a.m. Larson said, “Where are we going to get the keys?” I replied, “You are the one that wants to go back now in the middle of the night. You call somebody.” He said, “Who?” I told him, “Call Jan Oakley, she is the secretary at the bus garage and she will tell us how to get in and get some keys.” Larson immediately got out the phone book. Using our office phone in the gym, he made a call. Now remember, Coach Larson was not a native Trigg Countian. At 1:45 a.m., he dialed a number and a man answered. Of course, I could only hear Larson’s side of the conservation. I heard him say, “Mr. Oakley?” Then he proceeded to say multiple times, “This is Coach Rick Larson from the school and I need some keys to our snub-nosed bus.” Well, ole Coach Larson had called the wrong Mr. Oakley. He thought Jan’s husband was named Grover. Larson had called Grover Oakley in the middle of the night trying to get a bus key instead of Jan’s husband, Joe Oakley. Needless to say, Grover wasn’t delighted with being awakened in the middle of the night for something he had nothing to do with. He told Larson in no uncertain terms that he didn’t know anything about any bus keys. Finally, after I routed Larson to the right Oakley, he ended up talking to Joe and then Jan. Eventually it was Mr. Bob Cannon, chief mechanic at the bus garage, that met us at the garage and got us the spare key.
At about 2:30 a.m., Larson and I boarded the Crittenden County bus and began the trek to Marion to make the swap. I need to add this. Before we left Marion at 12:30 a.m., we called the Marion police and asked them to check on our bus throughout the night if they would.
At 3:30 a.m., Larson and I rolled up to the Marion Druthers. To our surprise, our bus was gone. I mean gone without a trace. Missing. Disappeared. Vanished! We immediately went to the police station in the center of town. We began talking to the man working the graveyard shift at the desk. We told him our bus was missing. The officer explained that they had had a couple of calls about disturbances on the other side of town from Druthers and his officer on duty had gone to cover them. Meanwhile, the officer at the desk put out an all points bulletin on our missing bus. Within minutes, every constable and wannabe lawman in Marion, Kentucky was swarming the station. Larson and I were in waiting mode. At 4 a.m., the station’s phone rang. I told Coach Larson to go ahead and take the call. You know the old adage about the captain going down with the ship. Well in this case, it was the driver going down with the bus. Anyhow, the officer called Larson over to pick up the phone. I heard Larson say, “You found it where? Is it hurt bad? Can they get it off?” I surmised one thing quickly from what I had heard from Larson’s side of the conservation. That was simply that the situation wasn’t good.
After Coach Larson got off the phone, he explained to me what he had been told. They had found our bus out in rural Crittenden County stuck broadside across the highway with the back bumper hung on a guardrail. The bus had a road completely blocked. It was just good fortune that someone hadn’t rounded the curve and t-boned the bus, causing major injury or worse. As you have figured out by now, our bus had been stolen. The calls to the Marion Police Department about disturbances were a diversionary tactic to take the police’s attention away from the bus.
The next step in the process was for Larson and I to go see the bus. We were herded into a small Chevy truck with some kind of emergency light on top. The chain-smoking young man driving was so excited I thought he was going to hyperventilate. Cigarette butts littered the vehicle. After a few minutes of riding in the smoke-infested truck, we rounded the corner and there it was, our brand new Trigg County snub-nosed bus stuck across the entire highway. The back bumper was badly hung on the guardrail just as we had been told. To my even greater surprise and horror, I looked across the road to see the entrance to a rock quarry that was complete with high bluffs and, as I would later learn, a deep pool of water.
Tune in next week and we will hopefully make it home safely as word spreads about the Trigg County girls’ basketball team that won one and lost one.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to email@example.com.