Slip sliding away at Girl Scout camp

A few holes in the wall was a small price to pay for a whole lot of fun.

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I'm mopping our kitchen floor, planning to wax it, and this mundane chore reminds me that when I worked for the Girl Scouts, I was pleased with the quality of my work on floors, but that skill with floors helped lead to holes in a wall.

I took care of Magic Sky Ranch, a year-round camp in northern Colorado's Rocky Mountains. At least once a year, after I mopped the floors in each building, I stripped off the old wax and put on new.

The bedroom floors of the large lodge were never mopped, however. They were waxed hardwood, so the rules for all the groups of Scouts and their adult leaders were: stocking feet only in the bedrooms, then pick up the mattresses from the floors, stack them in the designated place, and sweep or dust mop the floors before leaving.

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I waxed and polished the hardwood floors when they needed it, and I did a good job, because anything less than a good job looked terrible – dull and streaked.

Well-polished hardwood floors and stocking feet can be an adventuresome combination for children – even for adults who have not gone staid after their departure from childhood.

The largest bedroom upstairs was a long room. When outside activities were limited by cold weather and snow, sometimes the supervised indoor activities didn't fill the Scouts' time or adequately use up their exuberant energy.

So it became great sport for two of the girls to grasp another between them and propel her – sliding on the well-polished floor in her stocking feet – the length of the room.

Sometimes, the "propellers" gave an extra-hard push toward the end of the propelled's ride and released her. I'm sure she was thrilled by the smooth, fast slide, but she had no way to stop except to put up her hands and bang into the end wall.

When doing this, some of the Scouts discovered, to their horror, that sheetrock walls are not all that strong.

A girl sliding at high speed across a polished floor and using the wall for a sudden brake can make a hole in that wall, especially if the wall has been broken and patched many times right where she hits it – which that wall had.

I was never there to see this sequence of events, but it didn't take a Sherlock Holmes to piece together what led up to the hole in the wall, especially since the most honest of the adults told me what had happened.

Sometimes the leaders would hope I wouldn't notice, or the children wouldn't tell the leaders, hoping against hope that the hole that exposed the ugly wooden studs behind the sheetrock would go away. But it never did, of course.

Some of the adults took full responsibility for the new hole in the wall: "It says in the rules that the girls have to be supervised at all times, and, obviously, we slipped up. How much will it cost to fix it?"

Some pushed the guilt-stricken girl forward: "Tell him what you did. We've already told her she has to pay it out of her allowance. She'll pay it."

The latter approach usually led to tears as the perpetrator probably imagined making payments well into adulthood for the unintentional crime that ingloriously finished a moment of joyous freedom.

In both extremes and in all cases in between, I assured everyone quickly, "I don't think the center ever charges anyone for those holes in the wall. They aren't as serious a problem as you might think. I usually fix them in about 15 minutes. I've had lots of practice fixing the sheetrock on that wall."

I repaired the wall when I was working upstairs on other projects, so I didn't have to wait around while the patching material or coats of paint dried. That helped keep the time for repairs minimal, which helped the Girl Scout Council decide not to charge, and everyone was happy.

In the present, I've finished waxing our kitchen floor. While the furniture is out of the way, I take a couple of small practice slides. There isn't room here to do it right, but small slides stimulate memories and remind me to always find the small, fun moments – like sliding in stocking feet – that might be there when we do serious tasks such as polishing hardwood floors.

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