My family moved a lot when I was a kid so I never managed to stay in a Girl Scout troop–and they never managed to keep up a troop on their own–but what I did do was go to camp. There were summers where I’d go to three separate two week camps, sometimes one right after the other so I was away from home for a month. Those days at camp are some of the best memories of my childhood. I am who I am because of those days at camp.
I frequently got the chance to hang upside-down from rather precarious positions:
I learned how to shoot and gained a life long love of archery:
I went backpacking in some of the most beautiful wilderness out there:
I met a woman called Pink who was a HUGE influence on who I am today, dyed hair and crazy artist and all:
And while I went to a handful of different camps there was one that stood out above all the rest: Flying “G” Ranch Colorado. It was this beautiful place nestled up in the Rockies full of horses and platform tents and storms that made the ground rock and so much more. Not even the Haymen Fire that destroyed most of the area around it could bring it down.
Pink ran the art shed for every year I can remember going there. She taught us how to make candles and weave beads and paint and make friendship bracelets. I was even lucky enough to have her as a unit counselor on an art themed backpacking trip.
My mom went to Flying “G” when she was a kid. I started going when I was nine years old. But when I was 12 the camp was shut down. It broke my heart.
I remember my last session there; it was the session with the art themed backpacking trip with Pink. I remember the very last flag ceremony the camp ever had:
I remember that there was a virus that was going around camp on the very last night so we had to cancel the big, final, closing campfire. But Pink, someone like me who was a second generation attendee of the camp, wouldn’t have that. She gathered all of our unit up into the outdoor kitchen in our unit, turned on her radio, pulled out her guitar, and started singing camp songs over the radio for the whole camp to hear.
We cried. Every single one of us. Every single girl in that unit was someone like me who’d been attending the camp for years and we were devastated. It was like losing our home. We were never going to come back and tell ghost stories about the Aspen Heart up on the mountain. We were never going to churn butter in the homestead house. We were never gonna have to pull our mattresses off of their metal frames because the lightning was so bad. We were never gonna sing in front of the lodge before meals. We were never gonna watch Pink dip her hand into a vat of boiling wax because she was determined to have a hand shaped candle. We were never gonna hike up to Lookout Rock before dawn and watch the sun come up over a valley full of clouds. It was over.
Sure, there are plenty of other great Girl Scout camps in Colorado. I’ve been to a handful of them, before and after Flying “G” closed. But it was never the same.
I’ve missed Girl Scouts like crazy ever since that camp closed, but I moved on. I had other things keeping me busy like high school and then college. I still hiked, I still practiced archery, I still told ghost stories. I still missed it, even if I’d moved on.
Then, about a month ago, Elba Barr contacted me wondering if I’d be interested in teaching comics at the Girl Scout Centennial Colorado celebration on the 23rd of July. She’d found me online when searching for women artists in Colorado. I wanted so much to say yes, but at the time I thought it would be out of the state that weekend for a family vacation. Then that vacation got canceled and I jumped at the chance to e-mail Elba back to say I would be available after all. I didn’t get my hopes up though, it had been about two weeks and I knew Elba might have found someone else to fill the position.
But she hadn’t, and she was ECSTATIC that I’d become available. So I sent her a list of supplies, packed up a collection of my favorite comic books and drawing resources–as well as my old Flying “G” bandanna–and headed down to Colorado Springs where the celebration was taking place.
I got there about two hours early because, for one, I’m terrible at planning, for two, I was ridiculously excited. I couldn’t WAIT to meet the girls and talk to them about comics. So I hauled out my box of books, set up under my little tent in the dusty field, and waited for things to get rolling at this delightful little get together that would be teaching the girls not only comics but other wonderful things like spear-throwing (something every girl should, obviously, know).
The celebration started off with a wonderful flag ceremony and some great speeches and, not gonna lie, I was quite proud of myself for remembering the Girl Scout pledge after about ten years. Then it was back to my tent to get things started.
Technically the comic artist badge is a cadet level badge (around middle school age) but I had girls of all ages come to my tent, some as young as five or six. There were even girls from other countries. They were all so sweet and happy to draw and show me their comics and ask questions. Some of them even gave me little trinkets to take home, and one set of parents bought me a slushy to battle the heat of the day.
It was great. It was just straight up great. Yeah, I was getting to talk about and teach something I love doing, but more than that I was on the other side of it now. I was a counselor, even if it was just for a day. I was Pink, the woman who had such a huge, lasting influence on who I am today. It was a little surreal and it brought back so many amazing memories of being the little girl sitting in the dirt at camp with a homemade sketchbook and dreaming about being a successful artist one day.
So thank you, Elba, for inviting me to this awesome event that gave me back something I’ve been missing for ten years; a little piece of Flying “G” ranch.