If you were a Brownie, you were on your way to becoming a Girl Scout. Girl Scouts got to go camping. And who wanted to go camping? Millie Noe. She wanted to gather wood, sit around a campfire under the stars, sing songs, eat S'mores, poke sticks into the coals and sleep in a tent. But jeez, what a tough row it was being a Brownie. For starters, we had to wear those ugly brown dresses that buttoned down the front to school once a week. And then afterward attend a meeting and miss Gilligan's Island. This was just so that we could make crafty things, sing songs and act out skits. I hated those skits. Even at seven I thought, "But, what does this all have to do with being a Girl Scout?" Well, the day finally arrived. I'd paid my dues. I was old enough to put away that ugly brown dress that buttoned down the front and put on that ugly green dress that buttoned down the front. Millie Noe was officially a member of Troop 544. It was real exciting to learn that our Scout leader lived in a house with an underground, heated pool, in her backyard inside a heated, Quonset hut. She had guinea pigs with fuzzy little babies in her basement and an aquarium filled with salt water fish, built into her wall. But damn it all. We still sat around once a week in those ugly green dresses during Gilligan's Island. We still made crafty things. We still sang songs. And we still acted out skits. I hated those skits. What the? We were supposed to be camping. What did all of that have to do with camping? But I hung in. I earned a few merit badges along the way and my mom stitched them onto my sash. And then I was awarded one for sewing. I was appalled to learn that my mother expected me to sew it onto the sash and any other patches that I might earn from there on out. What the? I was about to throw in the towel. But then, in the middle of the January, we had a Troop 544 pool party. We walked barefoot to the Quonset hut on a stone path with snow piled on either side, wrapped in towels, and we swam our hearts out. When we were told that we were done swimming our hearts out, we collectively ran back to the house, through a cloud of self made steam. It wasn't long after that, that we began planning our annual camping trip. At the time I was not familiar with the word annual. But I soon learned that Girl Scouts didn't camp all the time. It was more like one weekend a year. But hey, I was in. A few months later, a caravan of station wagons stuffed full of zest, drove off to camp. When we arrived at the site we met up with several other troops in a large building with rows and rows of bunk beds. Now, I know I was in on the planning, but somehow I missed the whole building thing. What the? Almost immediately, we broke up into groups within groups and each group within a group had responsibilities for clean up after every meal, be it clearing off the tables, washing dishes, drying dishes, sweeping the floor, hauling out the trash or wiping off the lines of long tables, that could hold a hundred people. Well, by the time we finished the first breakfast clean up there was just about enough time for a ceremonial flag raising with a bunch of saluting and song singing and then it was time to get ready for lunch and the whole process started over again. What the? Thankfully there was a big enough gap between lunch and dinner to go for a hike in the woods. We identified different types of leaves, in order to earn some sort of leaf identifying, nature, merit badge, that we could take home and sew onto our stupid sashes. I was nearly marred for life when I realized that after cleaning up dinner, we weren't going straight to the fire pit. Hell no. It was time for skits. And come to find out, since our group within a group wasn't performing on the first night, we would be on stage the next. Shoot me dead. And then there was another ceremony with a bunch of saluting, to take the flag back down. We eventually did gather wood, which went toward a wood gathering merit badge. We did stack it in the circle and we did have a crackling fire. Someone did bring a guitar and we did sing, "There's a hole in the bucket dear Liza dear Liza, there's a hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole." We did roast Marshmallows. We did eat S'Mores. And later we doused the fire with enough water to run the old fashioned pump dry and to earn a fire safety merit badge. Then we went into the building and we climbed into our bunk beds. Good news. We got to go to the outhouse in the middle of the night, by flashlight. Well, thank God for small favors. Now, perhaps you might think that Millie Noe threw in the towel. No. Rumor had it that the following year we were going to camp in tents. So, I sold my soul and went door to door with Girl Scout Cookies. I managed to earn a few more merit badges and I kept the little collection in a basket on top of the dresser. The year turned and my sister Louisa was old enough to join the ranks of, the ugly green dress society. And then it happened. We went on a real camping trip with tents. There we were, all in snuggled in our sleeping bags with our flashlights, telling ghost stories, when the troop leader came knocking on our zippered door. "Millie Noe? Are you in there?" "Yes." I squeaked out, fearing the worst. Was I swearing? "Louisa wants to sleep with you." The other girls groaned. Are you kidding me? I thought. "Sure." I said. What could I do? She was crying. Louisa squeezed in next to me. "What's the matter?" I said. "Millie, there are June Bugs out here." The next day was phenomenal. It began with a campfire breakfast and brushing our teeth and spitting the tooth paste into the bushes. Then after the clean up, which consisted mostly of tossing our paper plates into the fire and then properly dousing it, it was time for a hike. It was super cool. We came out of the woods and were wandering on a desolate country road. Troop 544 was having a real live Girl Scout adventure, just the way I'd always pictured it. And then we heard something that sounded a lot like gun shots, even though none of us had ever actually heard real gun shots, this sounded like real gun shots. A few minutes later we were at a stand off with a wounded German Sheppard. Our fearless leader held her hands up and shushed us. She motioned us to slowly back up. Lumps rose in our throats. The dog slithered into the cornfield. A farmer showed up in a pick up. A squad car pulled up next to the truck. We all stood there silently crying. And then we left. That pretty much ended the fucking hike. We made our way back to our site. I don't remember much about the rest of that afternoon, except I, me, Millie Noe, didn't have much to say. We did have a fire under the stars that night and we did sing "There's a hole in the bucket dear Liza dear Liza, there's a hole in the bucket dear Liza a hole." We did roast Marshmallows. We did eat S'Mores. And after we properly doused the fire, we did go to sleep in our tents. The next morning we broke camp. "Remember girls, always leave your campsite in better shape than when you arrived," said our leader. And then we drove away. Okay. Then, I quit. If everybody would just leave their campsite in better shape than when they arrived, the world would be about perfect.