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Retiring Hernando school bus driver had her share of adventure

Bus driver trainer Kim Dressler hugs retiring bus driver Shirley Price at her retirement luncheon.

P. LASH RITCHIE | Special to the Times

Bus driver trainer Kim Dressler hugs retiring bus driver Shirley Price at her retirement luncheon.

BROOKSVILLE — When Shirley Price started driving a Hernando County school bus more than three decades ago, she could hardly have foreseen that the job might involve a snake, guns and the FBI.

But it did.

She hadn't been on the job long when a girl pulled a gun on her, she says.

"She was only in fifth grade," she recalled.

At a time when there were no bus radios and, of course, no cellphones, Price could only drive away as fast as possible.

And twice in the 1980s, bullets smashed through windows of the bus.

No one was hit, she said.

Then there was the time when a boy brought a big blacksnake aboard the bus.

"We got it off the bus," she said.

Other adventures included a tense moment when her bus was surrounded by FBI agents.

It turned out that a man had kidnapped his son from the boy's mother in New York. "He was on my bus," she said. "That was scary."

And then there was the time Price unwittingly played a part in a police capture.

She said she was delivering a child home when some kids started throwing oranges at the bus trying to break windows and then ran off into a subdivision.

Five deputies came and, while looking for the kids, Price said, one deputy came upon a woman and her daughter. They had killed the woman's husband and were cashing his Social Security checks, she said.

"And I was out there waiting," she said. "I didn't know what was going on."

Eventually the deputies told her the story and released her.

And there times that touched her heart, too.

"I've gone to court several times for my kids for child abuse," she said. "And later these kids — I've seen them grow up — came back to thank me for helping."

There also were other less dangerous, but still memorable, times during her bus years.

"I had long hair," she said. "I leaned over and it got caught in the fan. I took a pencil and had to turn it backwards."

Now, Price, 59, is retiring from her surprisingly eventful years aboard the bus.

All but three of those years were spent driving Hernando High School students.

Because she drove two daily routes with staggered school hours, she has served other schools, too, but Hernando High is special.

She graduated from there herself in 1971.

"I started driving the bus on my 23rd birthday, Feb. 22, 1977," she said.

Price was surrounded by her friends during the recent retirement celebration. She did a lot for them.

"I created 'Someone Cares,' " she said, referring to the gift baskets that go to transportation workers who are sick, or peace lilies for those who have had a loss.

Another part of that is a recognition program. "I pick a transportation employee once a month to honor, if they've done something for other people," she said.

Fellow driver Laura Mathis, 53, affectionately called "Bubbles" by Price, will miss her friend.

"I've been with her off and on about six years," she said. "I'm going to miss her. She's a lot of fun to be around. We're like sisters. She loves kids. Never a dull moment."

Price, who lives with her husband of 40 years, David, will drive her route for the last time on May 31.

After that, she'll concentrate on one of her other interests, growing vegetables.

But maybe not right away.

Her plan for June 1, she said, is to "not get up at 3:30 in the morning."

Retiring Hernando school bus driver had her share of adventure 05/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 17, 2012 8:18pm]
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