An anxious voice trickles through the two-way radio mounted on the wall next to an organized toolbox.
“Forrest! My bus won’t go. I think it’s freezing.”
With a calm but concerned look on his face, Forrest Cunningham walks across his workshop, picks up the radio and pushes the talk button. “Can you pull over? Where are you?” In less than a minute, he ends the exchange. “I’m on my way.”
An independent contractor responsible for maintaining a fleet of 20 buses for Hallsville schools, Cunningham’s job is to be prepared for situations like these.
Luckily, on this day, like every day, Cunningham has started an extra bus, just in case. Armed with a large wrench and a few bottles of de-icer, he drives out and exchanges buses with the grateful driver so she can continue on her route.
This is Cunningham’s main concern: to make sure the children get to school safely and on time.
“We really appreciate everything he does,” says driver Sandy Jones. “And he’s funny, too,” chimes in another driver, Amy LaForce.
As the drivers return from their routes and recount the stories from the morning, Cunningham cuts in with his witty responses and self-deprecating sense of humor.
“I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed,” he says jokingly. But his co-workers know better.
Cunningham worked at Cummins Diesel for 22 years, and he knows his way around a diesel engine. Cunningham always has plenty of work to keep him busy, from replacing broken lights and silencing loud heater fans, among other tasks.
“If there’s any little thing wrong, he’ll say, don’t take it out. Take another bus,” LaForce says. “He’ll have it fixed by the time we come back.”