Being a Campfire Girl Doesn’t Mean You Have to be Good at Camping


Marcella “Marcie” Wagner, a red haired beauty, was a newcomer to our seventh grade class.  She quickly attracted the sympathy of our neighborhood gang and we made it our business to bring her into membership of the Campfire Girls at our fair city.  We soon discovered this was going to be no easy task, because her mother stymied our plans at every turn.


“She’s too delicate to participate in those activities,” she told my mother.  “A week away from home, outdoors, camping is just impossible.”  It took a month of us pleading for Marcie to join us;  plus the Campfire Girl’s sponsor, who worked in the town’s bank, and two Sunday school teachers to change her mind about this nationally, regarded organization.


On the day we left for Blue River, Mrs. Wagner waved goodbye to Marcie and with a false giggle turned to my mother and said, “If something bad has to happen to one of the girls, I pray it will be your girl instead of mine, after all you have other children and we have only Marcie.”


My mother hid her laughter.


Campfire Girls were supposed to “Give service to family, club, council, country and others through teamwork.”  It kept us hopping trying to live up to those expectations while dealing with Marcie’s shortcomings; for you see she had been cooped up inside a city apartment all her life and the closest she had come to the forest was watering a potted plant.


At roll call the first day Marcie didn’t answer when her name was called and got a lecture for that.  “I couldn’t help it,” she explained.  “When she said Mahcee Wagnah in the southern accent I didn’t know it was me.”


Then, since the dining hall was too small for all the girls to eat meals at one time we were allowed to carry our trays outside for a picnic every day.  One day Marcie chose a spot near the river and when a bug crawled on her she jumped up knocking her tray, food and all, into the river.  Our cabin got 10 demerits for that.


When we entered the modeling clay contest we came in last because of Marcie’s lumpy cat creation.  We hiked, Marcie got poison ivy; we swam, she cut her hands going down the slide; we canoed, she couldn’t paddle.  Finally, she got such a bad sunburn that she was confined to the cabin.  We were able to move up from last earning ribbons for swimming, archery, fire building and tennis.  Then, the last night of the camp we were ready for the skit and songs around the campfire.


Our gang planned a take off of the camp counselors as old folk running in the Olympics.  We thought it was hilarious, but it was never to be.  It started raining and the show was moved inside the dining hall.  There wouldn’t be enough room for us to do our skit.  We would have to cancel.


Then, Marcie spoke up, hesitantly, “I could do something.  My sunburn doesn’t hurt so much anymore and my bandaged hand won’t matter.”


Reluctantly, we agreed, thinking she would recite a poem or something;  it couldn’t get any worse than it already was.  Besides, we were going home the next day.


When her turn came Marcie stood up bravely in the spotlight made by handheld flashlights and began singing the most beautiful rendition of “America, My Country Tis of Thee” –all the verses.  The crowd exploded when she sang the last note.


The Head Counselor handed Marcie not a blue, red, yellow or brown ribbon like ours, but the highest one, purple, that was awarded for Special Projects.


Mary Elizabeth Mruzik

Pacific, Missouri