We sat in the shade outside the Jade Café, across the street from the John C. Fremont Library in Florence. It was David’s first time to meet Sunny–Sue Bishop, as she’s now known. Sue and I had first met almost two years earlier, and now we three were eagerly awaiting Clara’s arrival. And before we knew it, there she was, walking toward us and grinning from ear to ear.
“Sunny!” Clara called.
“Birdie!” Sunny returned.
Then they were hugging as though they hadn’t seen each other for forty years. And they hadn’t. But they’d kept in touch with regular cards and letters and an occasional phone call during those decades.
When I was writing the book, Clara had told story after intriguing story about those late 1950s summers at the Flying G Ranch, the Girl Scout camp outside Deckers. When she’d recall them, she’d exude the same sense of warmth and happiness that was radiating from her now. It was those particular stories that made me realize that friendship was the uniting thread that ran through much of what became Because We Wanted To!
So many of the friendships formed during the Flying G years were lasting. Here’s a short excerpt from “Girl Scouts on Horseback” (Ch. 1, p. 35-36) that describes a little of how that bond strengthened so many years ago. In a riding accident, Clara’s kneecap got fractured. For a person who likes to be as active as Clara does, that was a big challenge. Her many friendships that rippled out beyond the camp helped get her through it.~~
Of the many things Clara felt grateful for during her convalescence, a major one was her friends, and sometimes that extended to a friend’s parents, as well. Sunny, known as Sue Gibson in life outside camp, was one warm, full-of-fun, delightful person. And no wonder, she thought, when she met Sunny’s parents and felt their kindness and thoughtfulness right off the bat.
Then when the Chester accident happened, Sue’s mom and dad had taken her in when she had to see doctors in Denver. They wanted her to stay with them, and Mrs. Gibson made sure to cook Clara’s favorite foods. She took care beyond that, too, driving Clara to appointments, and had even taught her some new card games.
She could definitely see where Sunny’s genial disposition and good sense came from. Clara couldn’t have known at the time, but she wouldn’t have been surprised that she and Sunny would still be in touch more than five decades later, when they were far into their seventies. In 1957, when they were barely twenty, it was enough for Clara that she had that friendship then. She treasured it.
I could see why when I had the opportunity to meet Sunny, now Sue Bishop, some fifty-eight years after their Flying G days. Clara gave me Sue’s contact information and I called, hoping she was still at that number and that she would be willing to talk with me. With a yes on both counts, we arranged to meet at The Market on Denver’s Larimer Street. It’s a popular lunch spot, and neither of us knew what the other looked like, but somehow we spotted each other right away.
Warm, smiling and lovely, Sue’s camp name of Sunny suited her perfectly. We chatted like old friends for a couple of hours, with so much of what Clara had told me coming to life all over again. I was moved by the thought that those young women had come from vastly different backgrounds, had shared experiences out of the ordinary for both and, because of those experiences at that point in their lives, had become lifelong friends. And there Sue and I were, connecting over our mutual friendship with Clara.
Me with Birdie & Sunny, 6/25/16