FRISCO, Texas – After spending a year driving a special needs school bus, Craig Davidson wrote about his evolving relationship with each student who struggled physically, emotionally and socially, and how the “precious cargo” in his care changed his life.
On Monday, he shared his story, literally a book, with TSD Conference attendees.
About a decade ago, Davidson was a self-described, down-and-out novelist whose first published book had just received bad reviews. He was literally living a hand-to-mouth existence and couldn’t even land a job as at a local bait shop.
“My dreams vaporized,” he told attendees, “I told myself, ‘Davidson, you’re not even worm harvester material.”
Shortly before that, he learned he wasn’t lunch supervisor material, either, as a local school principal passed on Davidson after an interview that didn't go so well.
One day, he came home to find a flyer stuffed in his mailbox that called for school bus driver candidates. He called the company, and was told it had a need for special-needs route drivers.
Not personally knowing anyone with a disability, the offer gave Davidson pause. He said he questioned if he had the emotional fortitude to take on such an endeavor.
“I had some concerns,” he explained. “I wondered if I could deal with the kids’ disabilities.”
He viewed this student population, especially, as being dealt with a losing hand, and it all seemed too unfair. But he said he pondered the position some more and concluded that feeling sorry for the kids was the totally wrong mind-set to have. Plus, he needed money.
He took the job for a local operator in the Calgary area and, and that decision and the following school year changed Davidson’s life. From that experience, he wrote “Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077.”
Davidson has since gone on to be a successful writer — or as he self-depricatingly corrects, "I make a living." He has published a total of five books, including “Precious Cargo,” under his given name and another four under the nom de plume Nick Cutter. The likes of authors Chuck Palahniuk, Clive Barker and Peter Straub now sing his praises, as does Academy Award-winning writer and director Paul Haggis.
But, as Davidson told the couple of hundred TSD attendees present during the Monday morning general session, he sees himself driving the school bus again one day. And not because he will have to.
“I definitely see myself driving a school bus again. I don’t know when that day might be, but it will come,” he added.
He talked of his definite missteps as a driver, like challenging a high-school bully’s father to a fight after the teen made a certain highly insensitive, chest-bumping hand signal as Davidson’s bus drove through the high school parking lot one afternoon. His book mentions a couple of fellow drivers who probably (no definitely) shouldn’t have been on staff. But he also writes of the “Knights of the Road,” which the caring, career bus drivers referred to themselves as.
And he introduces readers to Nadja, Vincent, Gavin, Oliver and Jake, the kids in his care that year. Plenty of hijinks ensue from Halloween costumes to talking movies, you know, the things that make all kids, kids, no matter their needs. Davidson also shares experiences with Oliver’s “storytelling” and his outbursts. Or how he broke through to Gavin, who was nonverbal. His friendship with Jake, who has cerebral palsy and quadriplegia and lost his spleen and his mother to a drunk driver.
“Every moment I spent with you was a privilege,” he concludes at the end of the book.
Precious Cargo: My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077” can be purchased on Amazon.com.
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