GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. " A long time ago, Sherrill Dodd set her sights to work for School District 51.
"I applied for everything but teacher, mechanic and school bus driver," she said.
Time went on and still no job at the district. Then one day, at her son's football game, a friend came up to her and asked if she'd sub for him on his school bus route.
"I can't drive a bus!" was her immediate reaction.
Apparently, she could " and did so " for the next 38 years.
In an ironic turnabout, Dodd Thursday finished up her final run for Palisade High School.
"I never wanted this job at all," she remembered.
It was the kids that kept her coming back year after year.
Dodd, 71, was born in Appleton and graduated from Fruita Union High School.
She attended Mesa College with the intention of going into broadcast journalism.
"I never got around to it because I got married in June of '56," Dodd said.
She eventually went back to school and earned an associate's degree in medical office administration " all while driving the bus.
During a summer break, Dodd went to work for Rocky Mountain HMO, but it didn't last a month. Two weeks before school was to start, she was fired.
"I am totally convinced God had a hand in this. He wanted me to be a school bus driver and he's been with me ever since."
Three out of five of Kris Potter's children rode Dodd's school bus back in the '80s.
"She gave parents good peace of mind knowing our kids got to and from school safely," Potter said.
Potter's kids attended Taylor Elementary in Palisade, where they made Dodd's acquaintance, and subsequently, the lovable hugs she's known for.
"She's just really caring, happy, cheerful. She made the bus run fun for the kids," Potter said.
"I just love it. It's kind of insanity, but it grows on you. We say you don't have to be crazy to drive a school bus, but it helps," Dodd said.
Now she said God is giving her other signs that it's time to hang up the keys.
"He's ready for me to retire. He's ready for me to get off the bus. I'm truly not able to do it anymore," she said.
Bad hips, double knee replacement, and a failing memory have led up to this day.
At least for today and tomorrow, the thought of retirement sounds wonderful, Dodd said.
"Next week it will hit me."
As for her future, which includes her husband of almost 53 years, Jasper, she said plans on writing a book about her decades driving a school bus " one she hopes to get published.
Other than that, she'll keep up with her model railroad hobby ("I'm just a big kid, I like to play with toys.") and surround herself with her four kids, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Next school year, someone else will have to helm bus number 67.
"I'm turning my bus in and saying adios forever."
Reach Tracy Dvorak at firstname.lastname@example.org.