Longtime bus driver Linsacum leaving for Grand Junction

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When the movers arrive at Shawn Linsacum's house next week, they'll find a box of pictures featuring children who aren't hers. They'll pack up stacks of letters written with great care, if little skill. And school projects with big letters spelling "thank you."

What they'll load in a truck, destination Grand Junction, are relics of Linsacum's nearly 20 years as a bus driver for Moffat County School District.

Linsacum has kept nearly all the little gifts those who rode her bus gave her. And they're many, she said.

"Little kids love you," she said. "They just love you. They think their bus driver is the greatest person in the world. They want to kiss you."

Linsacum will take the tangible reminders of children's affection, but easier to pack are the memories she'll carry with her always -- a half-eaten cupcake shared, the tears of a nervous rider, a teen's transition from passenger to driver. Specific incidents mostly blend together, she said, but she does recall the time when she pulled up to a bus stop to find one of her passengers with his tongue stuck to a frosted mailbox and his brother watching idly.

Passengers from years ago may not remember her name -- she said they often just called her "bus driver," but they would remember when she allowed them to braid her waist length honey-blond hair on the way to school or the way she made doing the right thing seem like it was their idea.

"Bus drivers try to guide you, too, just like a teacher does," she said. "You have to have rules and you have to be consistent and fair, but if you respect them as people, they respect you back and that makes you feel good."

Linsacum spent 13 years as a bus driver and has been the transportation department secretary for nearly 4 years.

"This has been my life," she said. "I grew up doing this."

She and her husband, Gary, moved to Craig in 1979. Gary went to work at the Hayden Station power plant.

Linsacum, mother of a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, applied to be a bus driver when she discovered she could take her kids to work with her as a bus driver.

She was 21.

"Some of the kids I drove weren't much younger than me," she said. "But, I had two kids, so to have a full-time job and pay a babysitter ... you might as well not work."

When she started, she was instructed on how to run the eight-way light system and sent on the road. Now, drivers go through 40 to 80 hours of training, take at least six written tests and three driving tests.

Linsacum is the one teaching them.

"You have so much more to learn before you ever get to drive with kids on," she said.

The Linsacums moved to Craig from Montrose expecting to be transferred back fairly soon. The absence of that transfer turned out to be the best thing that could have happened, Linsacum said.

"We had to depend on ourselves so we pulled closer together," she said. "It made our marriage stronger."

The Linsacums fell in love with Craig --ostly because of the people they met.

"It has been a really great place to raise kids," Linsacum said. "They've had a good education and a wonderful sports career. There were a lot of people here raising them."

Linsacum found that the older her kids got, the more they needed her, so she continued on as a bus driver.

"It's a good part-time job," she said. "I like kids and you get the chance to make an impression."

There's probably more diversity in less space on a school bus than anywhere else, Linsacum said. There are children ages 5 to 17 or 18.

"What a mixture," she said. "Kindergarten through fourth-graders are great. In middle school you just think 'oh my God!' then in ninth through twelfth they start to mature and you can see it and you start to like them again."

There are many annoyances on the bus, Linsacum said, from screaming kids to fighting, but what irritated her the most are adults -- drivers who aren't careful around a bus.

"I know where road rage comes from," she said. "I want to chase them down and say 'what do you think I have in here? They're not a bunch of potato chips!'"

Linsacum takes pride in her driving record -- one minor accident the first year she drove. She slid across black ice into the back corner of another bus.

There were plenty of other opportunities for an accident. Moffat County buses run, she said, no matter what. She said there has never been a time when routes were cancelled because of the weather, even when the county charted 36 inches of snow in three days.

Twenty-six years after moving to Craig, the transfer they'd originally hoped for came through. The Linsacums will be moving to Grand Junction at the end of this month. The decision was a difficult one, Linsacum said, but she and her husband both have family in the area, including two nieces, only one of which has had Linsacum's personal bus safety and familiarization course. The other is almost old enough.

Linsacum said she doesn't plan on returning to work right away.

"Because I don't know what I want to be when I grow up," she said. "This will be a chance to do something new."

She said she'll miss her friends and her co-workers and a grocery store where people know her name.

Many will be disappointed to see her go.

"I tried to tie her down, but she was too fast," Moffat County School District Transportation Director Jim Baptist said.

"I asked her how her commute was going to go."

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