Vern Carpenter has a project.
While the name Vern Carpenter may not sound familiar to the common Canyon county resident, it means something to all who’ve traveled via the school bus within the county’s boundaries. Vern is the former owner of Brown Bus Company.
When visiting Vern, he first showed me the latest item, stored in the back of his pickup truck. It was an ornately upholstered black bench, very vintage-looking.
“It’s going into my Amish buggy,” Vern said, “It’s a buggy like those old-time doctors used to ride in around the countryside.”
“Like Doc Baker’s on Little House on the Prairie?” I asked. He nodded, then moved the tour to his warehouse of impressive antiques. One of those treasures was the Snake River Stampede wagon, which I have always wanted to get a closer look at. Vern, who is on the Snake River Stampede Board, even let me climb inside. He showed me an old hardware wagon and his aforementioned Amish doctor buggy, which Vern himself had restored.
We went to the repair shop, the home of Vern’s latest endeavor.
He first got the idea while visiting the museum in Baker, Oregon, where there was an old-time, horse-drawn buggy that took children to school, back in the day. Vern thought it would really be something to build one. When his son heard of Vern’s idea, he encouraged his dad to hurry up and build it, then enter it in the Parade of America on May 21st. Each year Brown Bus Company has a couple of entries: one is their sleekest, latest-in-technology school bus; the other is a 1937 Chevy school bus. They thought it would be meaningful to have Vern’s school bus-buggy lead the way, showing the progression of student transportation.
Vern, now retired from Brown Bus Company, is putting in lots of hours to get that bus- buggy going. Having taken pictures of the buggy in Baker from every imaginable angle, and then using those pictures as his guide, he is recreating what he saw. He has never built a buggy from the ground up before, but thinks he can, engineering pieces and parts and putting them where they belong, like a large puzzle. Although he’s done most of the work solo, he says he’s had a bit of help here and there with welding and other things as May 21st looms.
I asked Vern what made him want to do such a thing. I was expecting perhaps a sentimental answer, possibly a poignant story from his childhood.
“I just like buggies,” he told me.
He also said that he liked taking something old and making something new. I asked if he would make his deadline for the Parade of America.
Vern Carpenter’s reply was classic.
“I’m going to give it a heck of a try.”