In the Great Smoky Mountains, there are two adjacent scout camps, named in the language of the native tribe with words meaning cleverness and beauty, respectively: Camp Gunagitchu for Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, and Camp Qatchuntakmi for Girl Scouts and Brownies.
The two camps are separated only by a wide but shallow stream.
The Boy Scout camp is constantly occupied by several dozen troops averaging 20 boys per troop, in tents. Likewise the Girl Scout camp hosts a fairly steady population of a few hundred girls, but in cabins. The few leaders the camps can afford to hire have a very difficult time keeping track of them all.
One of the Boy Scout troops present on a hot day in August was troop 2469. The highly acclaimed and beloved scoutmaster who had led the troop for the previous thirty years had recenly been arrested, and committed suicide, over a sex scandal, causing great grief and anger among the boys in the troop, but the troop's planned trip to camp had gone ahead without a leader.
Three new members, Jeff, Mark, and Curt, had made plans to get their Merit Badges in tracking and trailing, woodcraft, and knots. At least, that's what they told the other boys, which gave them an excuse to spend all day, every day, away from the rest of the troop, doing their 'tracking and trailing' stuff, and an excuse to bring lots of ropes and other assorted equipment to camp.
On the other side of the wide but shallow stream, Brownie troop 321 finished breakfast and returned to their cabins to begin the first day's activities at camp. Six-year-old Trisha, humming the tune the girls had sung to the birds at the opening ceremony, turned from the road and approached her assigned cabin.
The other three girls who shared the cabin were not in sight, having lingered to play with a camp counselor who seemed to like them, swinging them around and tickling them. Trisha's parents had told her repeatedly to stay away from any adult who seemed to like her, so she had run away to her cabin to avoid the stranger danger.
She wished she could have fun like the other girls did, with adults who liked them and made them so happy. Still, Trisha was always a good girl, and knew that her parents were never wrong.
Slightly out of breath, she tucked her long brown locks behind her shoulder and straightened her Brownie beanie, then reached for the door handle. She wondered at the muddy footprints on the step. She stopped and looked beside the trail, surprised at what she saw. "Sugarpuff! What are you doing there!" she exclaimed.
"Come here this instant, you naughty kitty!" Now, Trisha was old enough to know the difference between a real kitten and her little white kitty-cat doll, but she liked to pretend Sugarpuff understood her.
Even so, she knew she had to go get the doll herself, wondering how it had got out of her cabin at all. Just as she bent over to pick it up, the doll leapt and tumbled and ran into the woods, toward the stream. "Sugarpuff!! You come back here!" Trisha shouted, chasing after her disobedient kitty.
She spotted it going down the bank, and ran faster. She reached the top of the stream bank, and spotted the little doll at the edge of the stream. "Sugarpuff!" She could see the bright white doll pausing at the edge of the stream, though her eyes hadn't yet adjusted to the shadows of the tall thick trees above her.
Without looking back, the little kitty doll leapt into the water and splashed across the stream and up the other bank. Annoyed, Trisha ran down the bank and looked around for a way to cross it without getting wet.
Seeing no way, but not wanting her little kitty cat doll to get away, she ran through the stream herself, her feet sinking into the mud. She ran up the other side of the bank, calling "Sugarpuff!
You naughty kitty, come back here!" She spotted the little doll, still white but a little muddy, running along a trail between four trees, directly away from the stream. She charged down the trail as fast as she could run, certain she could catch up to her dolly before it got much further.
"Aahhie!" she screamed, when she tripped and fell headlong into a tangle of. what? She didn't know what had stopped her, she hadn't seen anything in the dim light under the trees, but she felt herself tangled up in a mass of tiny strong cords running between the trees.
"Eeeie!" she screamed, twisting and struggling, finally calming down somewhat and beginning to disentangle herself from the morass of tiny invisible cords that held her suspended in the trail.
"We got one! We got one! This way!" a boy yelled. Footsteps crashed through the underbrush, and two boys stepped out onto the trail behind her.
"Hey!! You're no deer! What are you doing here?" the biggest boy challenged. "You're a Brownie! You're not supposed to be in the Boy Scout camp! You're going to be in big trouble when we tell on you!!" "Look what she did to our snare!" the second boy complained.
"She ruined it! We can't catch any deer in this now!" "I- I was trying to catch my dolly," Trisha stammered, frightened, still trying to pull free from the cords.
"Your what?" one boy asked. "Your dolly was in our snare? Where is it now, then?" Trisha tried to look around, but didn't see Sugarpuff. "I saw it run right through here," she gestured awkwardly, still laying over on a web of unseen lines. "Your dolly?" the other boy mocked. "Your doll was running from you, huh? Liar!" "It was," Trisha moaned, weakly.
She knew how silly it sounded. "So you're a liar on top of everything else too," the first boy accused. "Coming into the Boy Scout camp where you're not allowed to be, wrecking our snare so we'll have to do the whole thing over again, and lying to us, and not only that, look at your shoes!" Trisha lay in the cords, half over, helplessly tangled, trembling in fear.
She looked at her feet and saw the mud all over her shoes, even some just visible on her Brownie socks. "You're in big big trouble!" a boy added, unnecessarily, as he stepped forward and stood glowering down at her.
The other boy came up beside him. Trisha squirmed in the snare, afraid they were going to hurt her. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Please don't tell on me!" she pleaded. The two boys stood with hands on their hips, angrily staring at the struggling little Brownie.
Meanwhile, a third boy off in the bushes put down a fishing rod and cut a loop of nearly-invisible nylon fishing line from the neck of a muddy white kitty-cat doll, a loop he had tied half an hour earlier.
He struggled to suppress his laughter, listening to Trisha's increasingly desperate pleas.