Hold your horses! Yes, it's Girl Scout cookie time, but unless you've got the hookup, you may have to wait just a few days more.

Girl Scouts Council 612, which covers much of the Central Valley, from Frazier Park to Chowchilla and Ridgecrest to Taft, just offloaded cases upon cases of Thin Mints, Shortbread cookies and seven other varieties, moving them from mid-sized moving vans into the anxious hatchbacks of Girl Scout moms across the region.

The first customers will mostly be neighbors of Girl Scout families (or, in many cases, mom or dad's co-workers). Not until Friday will we start to see card tables set up in front of grocery stores and other retail stores — "boothing," they call it. Scout families accepted their "mega-drop" on Saturday and many Girl Scouts were going door to door the very next day, Super Bowl Sunday. 

If you happen to live near a Girl Scout, get the checkbook out — you might be getting a knock on the door any minute now.

In any case, rejoice, because one of the great traditions of modern American culture is back. 

Jackie James, a Girl Scout mom and coordinator of the local chapter's Robo-Girl competition, a program that encourages girls to develop STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), knows what it's like to be loved.

"Everybody gets excited when they hear cookies are coming," said James, whose daughter CJ, a sixth-grader, is ready to get busy. "We get asked about it for months. Everybody's always happy to see us."

This is clearly a case of absence making the heart grow fonder.

"They're special because they only come once a year," said Michelle Loyd, the Bakersfield's unit's program leadership manager. "It's like the feeling you get when it's tax season, only the opposite."

Loyd sold Girl Scout cookies as a kid herself. "They were cheaper — $2, I think," she said.

It's just the way of the world. Salaries are higher, mortgage payments higher, cookies higher. Today they're $5 a box.

But most of your favorites are still available: Thin Mints (the perennial top seller), Thanks-a-Lots, S'Mores, Lemonades, Shortbread, Peanut Butter Patties, Caramel deLites, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, and the newcomer, gluten-free Caramel Chocolate Chip.

Wait a minute, you might say — where are the Samoas? Do-Si-Dos? Tag-a-Longs? Trefoils? They're still here: Two bakers produce Girl Scouts cookies — Little Brownie Bakers, a subsidiary of Keebler, which has trademarked some of those names, and ABC Bakers, a subsidiary of Interbake Foods.

The Central Valley council switched from Little Brownie to ABC several years ago, and though the duplicate varieties look and taste virtually identical, their ingredients may vary slightly.

Cookie sales have two benefits: They raise money for troop activities and teach the girls about money.

"The girls use the proceeds to fund their activities for the year — travel, camping, community service, big trips," Loyd said.

"They plant trees, put benches in parks, do all kinds of services with the money," added Kerrie Ann Camacho, the local office's product program coordinator.

The annual cookie sale isn't just a fundraiser, though. It's a program with a purpose.

"We train the girls to be good financial people. They learn goal setting, decision making, money management — I'm reading off the side of the box here — people skills and business ethics. They learn how to deal with people who say no."

No to a Girl Scout? Hard to imagine.

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