A Dog Who Barks Has No Bite

Solo Vino, Fidolice, and Miclo all names of friends of the four-legged kind who have been a part of my life  at one point or another.  None of them entirely too brave.  Solo Vino, I can’t even remember when we made our memories together.

My parents decided that would be the most appropriate name for you since one day you just showed up out of nowhere (Solo Vino = Showed Up On Your Own).  We fed you and you decided to stay.  When we headed back to the States you became the keeper of my grandparents and their land.  If anyone so much as stepped within your peripheral vision the roaring strength of your woofs could be felt for miles, as far down as the arroyos.  You growled, you howled, you forced yourself against the power of the iron fence, and paced wildly until your warnings were heeded, but you never actually attacked anyone.

Instead you waited for your cue.  Callate perro or shh-ta we’d say and you obediently would comply.  Fidolice and Miclo you never cared much for barking, only in the most inappropriate of times, like when we were sleeping or talking on the phone.  Eventually you’d stop, but not before we yelled at you to shut up.  Of course, others from your same breed would follow their fierce bark with a vicious attack.  As in life, we never could tell when a woof from your kind was really a threat or just a frivolous warning aiming to create fear in your bite.

In middle school, my bus driver Mrs. Campbell turned out to be mostly bark and very little bite.  From the moment we walked onto the bus she glared through us, letting us know she wasn’t having any of the hell we had unleashed on our previous bus driver.

Our route had a reputation.  We’d been zoned outside of the well-to-do schools in the area in which we lived because we lived in the rattiest of apartments, ironically next to The Galleria, to an overpopulated, understaffed campus 30 minutes away – closer to an hour ride on a school bus.  Southwest Cholos and wannabe cholos, along with a pimply array of low income, high testosterone, mostly Mexican or Mexican American kids rode this bus that a year earlier had all but driven the elderly and feeble Ms. Lilly insane.  Rumor had it she had refused to come back to work after completing a school year with us.  We were bad and we knew it.  In our world of little means and respect this was something we could take pride in.  Mrs. Campbell, though, was different.

She was a deep dark brown, mature in her tone, and firm in her middle age.  Every couple of weeks, at the top of her head she donned another hairstyle, which she’d then spend days talking about with her bus driver friends at the foot of our bus while we loaded inside for our drive back home.  On more than one occasion we bounced our heads against the seats as Mrs. Campbell slammed on the brakes to let us know she meant business.  I will turn this bus around right now, she would threaten.  We’d stop our paper throwing, yelling at other school buses, yelling at each other, and pencil break fights until she continued driving.  If we didn’t stop Mrs. Campbell would just sit there staring us down through the rear view mirror, saying nothing at all.  Even though we didn’t like to admit it we admired her for keeping us in check.  Those of us a little more pimply and dorky felt a layer of security from our bullies on her bus.

One day our behavior was so bad Mrs. Campbell literally turned our bus around and drove us back the three fourths of the way she had already driven, pulled up at the entrance of the school, and watched from her seat as our principal escorted all of us back into school.  The wannabes had initiated a fight at the very first drop off site for our route, proceeded to insult Mrs. Cambell when she got off to stop the fight, and then had thrown rocks at the back windows of the school bus.  Get back in here, she roared at her young passenger and said nothing again about the incident the rest of the school year.  Parents were called, kids were publicly scolded, in school detentions were assigned, and from then on nobody dared so much as provoke Mrs. Campbell.

The very last day of school when the first student went to get off the bus she stopped them.  Sporting a red, partially curly at the top and straight at the bottom do, Mrs. Campbell hugged Southwest Cholo Adrian, the toughest kid on the bus, and handed him a small white bag and a pencil.  On and on each student that exited that old yellow school bus was greeted with the same farewell from Mrs. Campbell.  When I finally made it home, I tucked myself away in the privacy of our only bathroom, quietly opened the small little white bag and found in it a few chocolate kisses and a simple handwritten note that read: Thank you for riding my school bus.  It was a pleasure having you on my route, and I wish you the very best in the future.  God Bless.

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