Off-farm income | Driving a bus has enabled Douglas Smith to drive his children — and now his grandchildren — to school every morning
ARELEE, Sask. — Saskatchewan school bus driver Douglas Smith first drove a 1960 Ford panel van that hauled nine children and rode much too low on roads that were challenging in bad weather.
“I was a feeder bus for the big bus that went to Perdue. Then I’d go around and pick up the little kids who were still going to the Grade 8 and under school in Arelee,” Smith said.
“It used to be very poor in the winter. The first snow bank you’d hit, the motor was wet and you’d stand there until it dried up.”
Fifty years and more than a million miles later, he continues to drive students, although now he navigates a 48-passenger diesel bus over much improved roads.
Smith has taken multiple generations of neighbouring farm families to school.
He drove his five children to school and now drives some of his grandchildren.
“Lots of the people around here I drove on the bus. There are too many and I can’t even remember all their names anymore,” he said.
The bus job provided Smith and his wife, Maria, with an additional income for their 1,200 acre mixed farm. He fit cattle feeding and fieldwork around the bus schedule, and never had any crops left in the field when winter came.
“I liked how I got to drive to Perdue, have a coffee with the other bus drivers, and then come home and work,” he said. “There was no real conflict between farming and driving the bus. We did more work on the farm in the evening than in the daytime.”
Smith sold his cattle years ago, but he continues to grain farm with his son.
They grow canola, peas, oats and wheat, but dropped barley because it made Smith itchy.
Farms have grown larger around Perdue, but Smith felt expanding his land base wasn’t worth the headache.
“We all end up with a four by eight piece of land, so why spend so much time worrying about getting all the land in the countryside,” he said.
In addition to farming and driving the bus, Smith served as a councillor in the Rural Municipality of Eagle Creek for 40 years.
For the future, he plans to keep driving the bus.
“I have to go every year for a medical. That’s compulsory,” he said. “My licence is good for another year, and if I’m still good, I’ll renew it again.”