Memoir Contest Winner: It’s June! Contest

by Matilda Butler on November 17, 2011

 catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #133 – Women’s Memoirs, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

It’s June Memoir Writing Contest Winner

Today, we are pleased to publish the first Honorable Mention winner in our June Memoir Writing Contest that gave women an opportunity to share their storytelling skills around the topic of June. Women’s Memoirs offers our congratulations to Sara Etgen-Baker for her charming story recalling summer camp.

Congratulations Sara on your award-winning memoir vignette.

By Sara Etgen-Baker
I always loved June even though it heralded the three-month sauna season in North Texas—a time of heat and steam that required having all the windows wide open.   So when I woke to June’s open windows, I sometimes lingered in bed relishing all the sights, tastes, and sounds of summer—the fragrance of mother nature’s honeysuckle bush, the taste of juicy ripe plums that grew on the trees in our backyard, the sound of clothes slapping themselves dry on the clothesline adjacent to my bedroom window, and the savory aroma of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs cooked to burnt perfection. 

June also marked the beginning of summer—a time for me to shed both my heavy childhood responsibilities and my school clothes.  I felt content—almost complacent—with the promise of the abundance of days that lay before me like a vast ocean.  Soon urgency replaced my complacency, for I feared summer would be too short.  Summer always seemed like a promissory note—signed in June with its long days spent and gone before I knew it—due to be repaid come September. 
Yet, each June I convinced myself that summer would be eternal, and—like my girlfriends—I looked forward to it with great exuberance, for Girl Scout Day Camp and summer’s warmth beckoned me with its assurance of sun-drenched days filled with girlish bonding, campfire secrets, outdoor cooking, and s’mores.  I dreamed about lying on the comfy grass, listening to water softly flow through Duck Creek, and watching the clouds float by above me.  In short, Girl Scout Day Camp made June simply delicious!
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Our Girl Scout Day Camp was called Shady Acres and was located in an undeveloped park in a yet unincorporated part of the city—isolated enough to provide us with a true camping experience yet close enough to town to provide a sense of security.  Until we giddy Scouts arrived, the park was tranquil with its unpaved roads, tree-lined nature trails, small creeks, and swimming hole. 
By 9 a.m. each day, we arrived at Shady Acres always giggling and fidgety—full of nervous energy with our canteens in tow.  Before we traversed the park into the interior regions, the “sulphur patrol”—aka the Girl Scout Camp Leaders—greeted us and required us to dust the openings of our pants, socks, and shoes with yellow, powdery sulphur. Frequently throughout the day we were further commanded to rub the same smelly yellow powder over the skin on our arms and legs.  This practice was one of the many ways in which we were taught the application of Girl Scout Law VII—A Girl Scout obeys orders.

As a veteran day camper, I personally understood this drill and wholeheartedly believed in its necessity because sulphur was by far the most effective, time proven repellent for Day Camp Enemy #1—chiggers.  Simply put—I hated chigger bites and their itchy aftermath and knew that chiggers hated and avoided sulphur.  By the end of each day, however, the combination of that sulphur and sweat smelled a bit like rotten eggs mixed with expired orange juice making us unpleasant company for anyone who had not done the same. 

Once we passed sulphur patrol inspection, we Scouts participated in the morning flag ceremony—a time when we scouts honored God and America by properly unfolding the flag, raising it up the makeshift wooden flagpole, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.  Then with somber jubilation we proceeded to our respective campsites—that parcel of land that we commandeered on the first day of camp as our official troop campsite. 

By the end of the first day, each individual campsite was properly marked and clearly identified in two ways.   Initially, we marked our specific campsite with binder’s twine as we strung it securely between the stately oak and cottonwood trees.  Then we hung bed sheets over the binder’s twine.  Behind the secrecy and privacy that the bed sheets provided, we began our second task—determining our secret summer camp name. 

Once we agreed upon our camp name, we made and then hung a handcrafted sign denoting our summer camp name—always written in a cleverly camouflaged, symbolic language that only the members of our troop understood.   Never did we divulge our secret, for we took to heart Girl Scout Laws I and II—A Girl Scout’s honor is to be trusted and A Girl Scout is loyal. 
In order for our campsite to run smoothly, Girl Scout convention required that each Scout cheerfully perform various duties throughout the five-day summer camp.  Some of these duties were met with jubilation while others were met with a little trepidation.  Regardless of the duty, we were not allowed to complain, for Girl Scout Law VIII clearly reminded us that A Girl Scout is cheerful. 

By far, my favorite duty was either preparing the campfire or preparing the food that would be cooked over the campfire.  However, servicing the latrine (our outdoor privy) created the most uneasiness.  I was a city girl at heart, and the idea of using our makeshift privy was already disconcerting enough.  But to be expected to enter this area, clean it, and place lime powder in the hole was almost unbearable and disgusting.   Yet, I somehow understood the necessity and remembered Girl Scout Law III—A Girl Scout’s Duty is to be useful and help others.  

storytelling, memoir contest, memoir writing contest winner, memoirAfter eating lunch and successfully completing clean-up duty, we Scouts traditionally engaged in some sort of outdoor craft—like making necklaces and bracelets out of uncooked elbow macaroni, face-painting, and manufacturing Indian costumes from burlap sacks and scrap material—adorned with dried flowers that we gathered the day before. 

All too quickly the last afternoon of Day Camp arrived.  We spent it quietly walking together along the cool, shaded trails—observing and respecting the animals and other creatures.  Eventually, we stopped, sat down, and received charcoal and sketch pads so that we could draw and comment upon what we observed.  In this way, we befriended both nature and her creatures and learned to appreciate Girl Scout Law VI—A Girl Scout is a friend to animals. 
These moments of solitude in June were ultimately my most memorable ones, for I felt encouraged and secure—surrounded by friends, Girl Scout sisters, nature, and female leadership.  From that day forward, I passionately carried in my heart Girl Scout Law IV—A Girl Scout is a friend to all and a sister to every other Girl Scout. 

All trails had been walked; all duties had been performed.  Now it was time to end our Day Camp fun.  Indeed, Day Camp, like June, had passed all too rapidly.  Then September came, and I willingly cashed in summer’s promissory note and marked it paid in full.

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