I Believe the Girl Scouts are Our Future
September 18, 2004
Girl Scout Promise
On my honor, I will try,
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
The year is 1989. Bitsy Bascomb is a bright and bushy-tailed Junior Scout, dedicated to her God and country. Born in Florien, Louisiana,
Bitsy lives in a trailer with her mama, Aunt Teri, step-brother Jason-Tom, four dogs and two step-daddies. The step-daddies,
they change from time to time, but who's counting? She started in Brownie Troop 412 when she was seven. Since she's
home-schooled from the Bible, the social worker assigned to their family said it might be a good idea for Bitsy to spend
time with girls her own age.
The Bascombs are mighty proud of their Lil' Bits, as they like to call her. She is on track to earn her final badge before
moving up in the Girl Scout hierarchy to "Girls 11 - 17." When she's sober, her mother, Pat, spends hours
laboring over Bitsy's patches, badges and insignia. Each one must be sewn on precisely in the right spot on her sash.
Pat dreams that it might all be different for her only girl:
"Bitsy jest need to meet a nice boy who's not on the bottle and who will treat 'er right. She can git outta this godfersaken
town and maybe find some kind of work up to Shreveport at the airport. Lots of opportun'ty at that airport, folks is sayin'."
At 10, Bitsy has already seen her share of hard times. Her real daddy was long gone before she was born. Her
step-brother, Jason-Tom, almost blew the trailer straight up to Jesus when he miscalculated how much muriatic acid to
add to the meth soup he was cooking up in the back bedroom. A few weeks ago, her mama had to get a restraining order against Big Steve,
one of her step-daddies, after he threatened Aunt Teri with a deer guttin' knife.
All in all, there's little going for a girl growing up in Florien, Louisiana. For Bitsy, Girl Scouting, like the
sweet Lord Jesus, is just another way to salvation.
Bitsy has already gotten her badges for "United we Stand," "Ms. Fix-it," "Oil Up" and "Yarn and Fabric Arts." Her latest
challenge is to earn the "Women's Stories" badge. The Women's Stories badge recognizes important women in history or those who have made an impact on the Scout's life.
Bitsy decided to interview her mama about her past relatives and find out more about her family history.
Where did they come from, what did they do and what can she learn from it all?
Bitsy's family history is a bit spotty. She could only find information going back to her great-grandmammy. She
waited until her mama was good and drunk so she'd be sure to get the full story on her kin.
Bitsy used a tape recorder that she borrowed from the local library's A/V section to make sure she didn't miss anything her mama had
to say. The following is adapted from Pat Bascomb's statement.
So, you want me to tell ya about yer great-grandmammy? Well, settle in, girl, cause it ain' goin' to be
pretty, I can tell you that much.
Great Grandmammy Cookston
Name at Birth: Mabel Lee Olivet
Date of Birth: April 6, 1910
Location: Shreveport, LA
Died: Shreveport, LA, 1956
No one knows much 'bout Mabel's parents or where she come from. Some say it coulda been Kraut, others
say some kinda Slav. She definitely ain' no Jew. No dirty Jews in this here family. All that's
known is she was livin' on the street in Shreveport, givin' handjobs in the backs a pick-up
trucks...jest tryin' to get by like the rest of us. When Albert Cookston, a local sharecropper, asked fer her hand, she took it. She and Albert got hitched somewhere
abouts 1926. Her only child, a girl, came five months later. Mabel was walking home from the town well when the
chile' decided it was time. Well, Mabel, she had to birth that young'n right there in Mr. Pecker's woodlot. She
named that baby girl Sophia. Always thought that was an ugly name, myself -- 'specially since yer grandmammy saw
fit to pass it on to me...the old dried up rais'n cunt.
Jest a second, honey -- light yer mama's cigarette. That's a good girl.
The bottle had gotten hold of Albert. He was off drinkin' hisself to death on that whiskey when he shoulda
been workin'. Dint even make it to his lil' girl's chris'nin. Some say he raised a hand to Mabel, but then, she
known for usin' her mouth - and not like way she used to. (Pat cackles.) If anyone ever knew the real story, they never said, but
Papa Cookston, he run into some trouble with a pick axe. Fell right on top of it, he did. Went right through the
heart. When Mabel went and tole the sheriff, he could tell she'd been cryin' but her eyes, you see, they was pure
hate. No one ever found a way to pin it on her and she never mentioned Albert again. She moved on down here to
Florien where she raised that little girl all herself. Our family been here ev'r since.
Her girls and reg'lars used to call her "Fat Mabel." She ran the Black Lily Brothel out of her
rooming house on Tulip Street. It's long gone now. They tore it down when they wanted to build the Quik Gas N' Lube.
Back then the Black Lily was where them boys went if they wanted somethin' a little extra. Fat Mabel's girls weren't
too stingy with lettin' 'em in by the back door if ya catch my drift. Lil' Sophia started helping her mama
as soon as she could hold a mop. When Sophia got to be just about your age - you ten now? - Mabel ain' had no trouble
finding some reg'lars for her girl. She ran that cat house up til about '45. Sophia had gone off and found herself
a husband in '42 and her mama just couldn't keep it up on her own. Mabel died in a char'ty hospital in 1956 with
some kind a flesh eatin' affliction. It was punishment from Jesus himself, that's what I think.
Folks said that Fat Mabel could get nearly a whole damn ham up in her parts. Now, I woulda paid to see that.
Name at Birth: Sophia Mabel Cookston
Date of Birth: July 9, 1926
Location: Shreveport, LA
Died: Florien, LA, 1981
Yer grandmammy was one of a kind. When she was 16 she ran off and married Harvey "Crawdad" Perkins. She met Crawdad
when he happened to wander in to a lil' place called the Black Lily. He'd been left a widower when his first wife got
herself caught in a turbine. Stupid slut. Crawdad was somethin' lonely and needed some purty young thing to wash his shorts and cook
his grits. Well, after spendin' some time at the Lily, he thought that Sophia would make quite a wife and mama, what with her work ethic and all.
Sophia lived on with Crawdad and helped work his small plot of sugarcane. He ain' had no children with his first and he was hopin' that Sophia would be fertile.
I finally come 'long in the spring of 1965. I was her only one far as I know and even that was some kind of miracle. Everyone said after her days at the Black Lily that Sophia wouldn'
be able to take with child. Rotten insides, they said. Crawdad took one look at me, saw that I wan't a boy and beat Sophia senseless.
I guess she never talk much after that - too busy thinkin' 'bout the good days back up in Shreveport, I reckon. After Crawdad passed
in '75 (his ticker just gave out), yer grandmammy went back to what she knew best: whorin' and makin' money. I pitched in, doing odd jobs.
We was poor, but we had each other. And Jesus, of course. I dint even mind when she passed on her reg'lars to me. Everythin' changed after I took up with Hawk. But I'll get to that in a minute.
Until she lost her teeth, your grandmammy could spit tobacky further then anyone I ever seen then and since. Won that
contest at the Sabine County Fair 10 years running. Second, I never known no other woman that could gut a hog like your
grandmammy, God rest 'er. She also made a damn fine whiskey sour.
Name at Birth: Patricia Sophia Perkins
Date of Birth: March 12, 1965
Location Florien, LA
Girl, what you wanna know about your mama for? I ain' done nothing special. Well, you go git me another Tall Boy
and I'll tell you. That's a girl.
I've lived in Florien all my life. Born and raised. I met yer daddy when I was workin at Big Wheel Truck Stop up Route
171 'fore it burned down. They say it was that Clawson boy playing with matches again. Me, I think was old Ms. Bailey
wantin' the insurance money for that old shit hole. Them roaches had more control over it that she did anyway. Her food tasted deader than shit too.
So this fella, he come in and orders the Trucker Special - grits, bacon, sausage, flap jacks, eggs, pork back and black coffee.
I ain' talkin' to no fairy who put all that cream and sugar shit in his coffee. You know how I feel about them negroes, but my man gotta
take it black. He was on his way up to Montgom'ry with a load of plywood. I remember he smelt like some kinda fast food
grease and this man-smell that just got me going. His name was Hank Bascomb, but he was quick to tell me that they called
him "Hawk." Who's "they," I ast him. Well, he jest stared straight into my eyes and said "them." I knew then and there
that me and Hawk had somethin'. I threw my apron right into Old Lady Bailey's face and split. I'd been prayin' to get the
hell outta Florien and Hawk seemed to be jest the ticket. We didn't get far, me 'n Hawk, cause your grandmammy got wind a
what happened. She sent that goddam sheriff out to find me an' bring me back. Goddamn whore...all she wanted me fer was to
clean her house and make sure she dont pass out on the lawn.
Hawk and me, we was on the run fer damn near three days before that sheriff done picked me up and brought me back. I was kickin'
and hollerin' bloody murder. I got him once in the nose but that bastard dint care. He jest kept holdin' me down and I kept screamin'.
The ol' lady probly promised him somethin' nasty fer free if he got me back home. When Hawk found out that I was
only 14, he just stood there lookin' stupid. Dint do nothing to help me. Yella bellied pussy, that one. It was some time
later that I realized I wasn't gettin' my visitor. Now, I ain' never been pregnant before that, but I knew what it meant.
'Fore that sheriff pulled me out of Hawk's rig, we still managed to make you, Lil' Bits.
I never did see that bastard, Hawk Bascomb, again. Either way, when you was born, I still thought it Christian to give you
his name. Asshole never paid me a lick of child support. I knew he was around from time to time. When I heard he died up in
Fisher with that lil' pecker of his all caught up in that chick' wire, I can't say that I was sorry. What he was doin' out in that goddamn
pasture with that Thompson boy...I jest don't want to know.
What's that? Special skills? Lessee, honey...thing I was best known for aroun' these parts was that I could always get my feet back behind
my head without even using my arms. Jest threw right back there and said "Who's next?" Those were the times.
What? Of course I'm proud of ya, honey! You make a fine little scout. No one can ever take yer scoutin' away from you, ya hear?
Jest keep praying to sweet Jesus up above and you'll get there. Now...be a good lil' scout and empty that ash tray. And while yer up, whyn't ya go see
if yer brother's done with his latest batch? That's a good girl.
Bitsy turned in her project to her Troop Leader, Mrs. Wilson. She praised Bitsy for a job well done and awarded her the
Women's Stories badge for her uniform. It wasn't until later that Shirley Wilson found a small note wedged in with Bitsy's cassette
tape of the interview: