Ben Kilgore would like to sell you a school bus. Not just any school bus, mind you, a ’57 Chevy 3800. Condition is, well, rough. Maybe even rougher than the pictures on craigslist suggest.
The Caledonia town marshal also has a ’49 REO Speedwagon — a dump truck, not the band — he’d be willing to part with too.
Both are listed on craigslist and were brought to my attention by my daughter who keeps tabs on these sorts of things.
When I first saw the photograph of the side view of the bus with an almost flat tire and flaking paint, I thought it was some sort of joke. When she pulled up the picture of a coonhound peeking over the bottom edge of the photograph, I was sure of it. Not so.
The dog, as it happens, is an almost-four-foot high great Dane named Sarge. Kilgore and his wife, Jane, are babysitting the dog for their daughter Kayla, who is expecting their fifth grandchild later this month.
“The bus costs, the dog is free,” Kilgore said when I called to ask if I could come out. “Turn at the first right past Bloomer’s; we’re on Dowdle Road. When you come to the white vinyl fence, you’ll see the shop.”
He could have said, “When you see the pink polka dot Volkswagen Beetle, turn in.” Or “look for a gray and white dog the size of a small pony, galloping around the yard.”
Kilgore takes in abandoned vehicles like some people take in orphaned cats.
“I hate to see an old truck get scrapped,” he said “A buddy of mine from Weir saw that school bus in a man’s yard in Black Hawk. It took four of us to get it (back here).”
That was a year and a half ago. A couple weeks ago, he got around to listing it on craigslist.
As for the pink polka dot Beetle (pink with black polka dots), which for years sat in a yard next to the liquor store in Caledonia, Kilgore saved it from the crusher, too. When his buddy and fellow town marshal Lance Luckey was hauling the VW to the scrap yard, Kilgore intervened with a $100 bill.
“The grandkids love playing on it,” he said.
Kilgore has considered making the Volkswagen into a teardrop camper.
Don’t laugh. Not until you see the rat-rod camper in his shop. It’s another of Kilgore’s rescue vehicles. Imagine the Beverly Hillbillies in an RV and you’ll have a good idea of this Kilgore undertaking. It’s a 1-½ ton truck that looks to be part truck, part country shack — complete with red-checked gingham curtains and a pitcher water pump.
Like he did with the school bus, Kilgore bought the ’48 Ford truck with no real idea what he was going to do with it.
Said Jane, “He just woke up one morning and said, ‘I know what I’m going to do with it, Jane.'” She’s Ben’s main collaborator on these projects. That was five or six years ago and he’s been working on it since.
Ben and Jane take the rat-rod camper to hot-rod shows where organizers often invite them up front and center; year before last they drove it in six Christmas parades and earned $875 prize money.
But back to the bus for which Kilgore is asking $2,200.
“You’ve heard the saying about people riding a short bus,” he said. “This was the shortest bus I’ve ever seen.”
In its heyday, the school bus carried Holmes County school children.
Kilgore is convinced there is someone out there who will restore it to its former glory.
Act quickly — before Kayla’s baby comes — and you might get Sarge as part of the deal.
Birney Imes is the publisher of The Dispatch. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.