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Buggy's Outdoor Adventures: Chapter 1

Author's note: The plan for "Buggy's Outdoor Adventures" is as an ongoing story, with each column acting as a separate chapter. Though the frequency of the column may vary, it is expected to run with some consistency throughout the year.

The basic premise of "Buggy" is of a young, Midwestern girl who loves the outdoors: think of her as that cute little blonde kid next door. Where she goes, how she lives, who she interacts with and why she does what she does will shape the story, and her life.

So take this as the opening chapter, and we'll go from there.

Oh, and as far as how she got her nickname, well, that's another story...

When Beatrice "Buggy" Olson was old enough to dress herself (Onesies and footy pajamas were so last year) her mother, naturally, decked the pint-sized tot's pink armoire with all the frilly girl things necessary for a budding 21st century female: tutus, pink leggings, frilly feather boas and a half dozen sparkling princess crowns.

With a hand on her hip and a satisfied nod, Buggy's mother eagerly urged in the preschooler with the soft, round face and bouncy, blonde pigtails.

"Look what your mommy got you today," Buggy's mother said, waving her hand with a magician's flourish around the bulging armoire. "Aren't you excited?"

Buggy was not. She wrinkled her nose, sheepishly shrugged her slender shoulders and began edging toward the door.

Undeterred, her mother picked out a particularly feminine pair of pink polka-dot leggings and fairy wings, shaking them to get Buggy's attention as if she were a distracted puppy.

"Let's try these," she said enthusiastically, forcing a grin that sent creases crackling across her porcelain face. "You can be my little, fairy princess."

Fairy princess? Who did she think she was - a girly girl?

Buggy didn't move. In a panic, she held her breath and stood rigid at the brink of the door frame. Behind her was the hallway and safety; in front, her mother and certain unpleasantness.

Weighing the options, Buggy did an immediate about-face and raced for the stairwell, her strobe-light tennis shoes flashing with seizure-inducing intensity. But her mother was too fast. In quick, lanky stride she overpowered the squirming bundle and hauled Buggy back to the bedroom.

"You are going to put on these lovely clothes and like it," Buggy's mother said through clenched teeth, the artificial warmth melting from her exterior like the Gummy Bears Buggy once forgot on the seat of her mom's car.

With no small amount of effort, Buggy's mother wrestled the clawing animal into her new clothes. When finished, Buggy stood in a disheveled mess, fairy wings flopping lopsidedly to one side, her crown crooked atop her head.

"There," her mother said in a gasp, beads of perspiration streaking her makeup in rivulets of beige and rose, "my little ... princess."

She spat out "princess" like a watermelon seed.

Buggy frowned and tugged at her new prison attire. The leggings itched something awful, kind of like that poison ivy she got last summer after playing in the woods of her grandparents' farm.

"Stop that, don't fuss," her mother warned, wagging a finger for emphasis. "Now, go play with your dollies and I'll come and get you for lunch in a bit." She left, and the sound of the latch clicking as the door shut was music to Buggy's ears.

In a frenzy, she ripped off her outfit, sending each piece airborne across the room. With single-minded determination, Buggy set about dismantling the armoire. To a lover of textiles, the site was horrifying; like a claymore detonating in the Macy's children's' department. Ripped tutus hung listlessly from her bedside lamps. Leggings of every color clung to furniture corners like sad, deflated balloons. The glam and glitter of her mother's dream dashed in an instant.

Upon completion of her task, Buggy brushed her hands together, smiled and gave a satisfied nod.

She dug through her dresser drawer and pulled out her favorite outfit: a pair of her brother's ratty hand-me-down jeans and a camouflage T-shirt that read "Daddy's Little Hunter." Then, in lieu of the dolls, Buggy ransacked the closet for her favorite toys: a stuffed Bambi doll with one eye missing, and a gun that shot tiny yellow pellets.

Buggy set the scene. Bambi was placed atop a stack of pillows, halfway hidden behind a tall, skinny floor lamp. Then, she eased behind her bed and patiently waited for the imaginary sunrise to crest the horizon.

She gingerly fingered the toy gun, which transformed into a shiny hunting rifle just like her dad's. She checked to make sure the safety was on, and to always be aware of where she pointed the barrel, just like daddy told her.

It was last fall when her father finally relented to Buggy's begging and brought the eager tike hunting. She remembered him, dressed in a faded blaze orange cap, down-filled jacket and tan, oil-stained Carhartt coveralls. When he exhaled, she could smell the sour aroma of morning coffee still on his breath.

Buggy had her own cap that had to be constantly adjusted since it insisted on stubbornly sliding down to cover her eyes. The old orange coat of her brother's also was too big, and the limp sleeve ends flopped over her hands like an extra set of mittens, which helped to keep out the cold.

She looked up at her dad - he smiled and winked.

To be continued...