July 18, 2016

July 18, 2016

CHAMPION—July 18, 2016

        Tranquility.  (Okay, that is not a sentence.  Rules of grammar can seem restricting, but overall English is a good language even if it seems a little awkward sometimes.  Aunt Nellie’s daughter says it is a strange language, though through tough thorough thought it can be understood.)  Tranquil.  It is just the statement of conditions in Champion.  The storms have passed.  The brush is almost hauled.  The soil is still moist.  Sunshine has returned.  Hay is being made.  Cucumbers are overwhelming.  Tomatoes are ripening.  The creeks are cool.  Family comes and goes and comes back again.  Life is good in Champion.

        Over in Brushy Knob it is pretty much the same, except for the bears.  Snagged from the internet the other day from Tarbutton Heights, “It’s been an exciting afternoon in Brushyknob.  At least on our hill.  We had another visit from a black bear about 3:00.  He was walking around in the yard and then went over to the Apple tree and ate apples off the ground.  He’d stand then sit and then lay down to eat them.  I suppose we’ll have to be on alert now till the apples are gone.  We have a few blackberries out back so I bet the ripe ones are gone now.  That’s the direction he came from.  Never a dull moment around here.  I just happened to walk over to the sink and saw him out there.  We stood on the upstairs deck and watched him for quite a while.  Hope your afternoon was as exciting as ours.”  Chances are pretty good that almost no one around these parts had such an exciting afternoon.  The July issue of the Missouri Conservationist (mdc.mo.gov/conmag) has a great article, “Bear With Us” by Kristie Hilgedick.  It provides a lot of good information including guidelines to “Be Bear Aware.”  (Be loud.  Do not turn your back.  Do not run.)  This monthly magazine is free to Missouri households and at a nominal cost to other areas.  There is a great kid’s magazine that comes out six times a year.  It is a Parents Choice Approved Award Winner.  It is also free to Missouri residents and costs only $5.00 per year to send it to grandchildren who live far away.

        On July 18th, Tracee Davis said, “Happy 88th Birthday to my miracle mother, Inez Proctor Davis!”  Tracee had lots of sweet things to say about the dear lady.  Ethan Alexander and Zee Heffern (a Skyline alumnus) both have birthdays on July 19th.  They do not live in Champion, but they have deep good connections here.  The last ten days of July find a number of Skyline School teachers, staff and students with birthdays.  Mr. Prock teaches 5th and 6th grade.  His birthday is on the 20th.  Mrs. Gunter teaches 4th grade and has a birthday on the 23rd.  She shares the day with bus driver Ronny Trammel.  Sixth grader, Grace Crawford, celebrates on the 25th, as does the cook, Ms. Dot.  Jaci Borders is a second grade student who will be having a party on the 27th.  Mrs. Sartor teaches kindergarten.  Her birthday is on the 29th and kindergarten student, Eugene Elliot, has his birthday on the next day, the 30th.  Apparently school will be starting up again soon–school supplies are showing up in the stores in town.  Summer is the swiftest season.  The August 2nd election will give residents of the Skyline R2 School district the opportunity to pass the levy that will raise the total up to the minimum amount required for matching funds from the State.  There is a strong case to justify the need and the increase is a mere $0.48 per $100.00 assessed value.  A Snickers Bar costs $0.99.  An educated population is the hope of the Nation.  This little rural school is a jewel—one of the last of its kind.  SOS!  Save our School!

        Little Champion grandchildren Carson and Drayson Cline are moving off to Tennessee.  They plan to come back often to see their Champion grandmother.  They will probably grow by the foot between visits, even if those visits are as close together as friends and family here hope.  They were out playing in Clever Creek on Sunday.  Next week they may be splashing in Cripple Creek.  Where ever they are there will be fun and excitement, so look out Tennessee, here they come!

        Neighbors over at Vanzant are bracing for a surge of relatives from Idaho.  Seventeen additional Upshaws, though some are called by different names, are slated to attend the July 28th Bluegrass Jam.  They are in for a treat.  There will be family and friends there whom they know and some they have not yet met.  All will be enjoying the benefits of music, which among many other things includes reducing stress, pain and anxiety, boosting the immune system and keeping an aging brain healthy.  “Put another nickel in, in the nickelodeon…”

        These days are tranquil in Champion while the world all around seems to be in turmoil.  Tragedy and strife is everywhere as 7.4 billion people try to exist on the same little planet.  Political upheaval, regime change, old alliances broken, new ones forged, social unrest, civil disobedience and violence on every corner makes us fearful and anxious.  Dionne Warwick’s song from 1967 still rings true, “What the world needs now is love sweet love.  It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.  What the world needs now is love sweet love.  No not just for some but for everyone.”  If ever there was a time for tolerance, empathy and compassion, it is now.  Each person feels as if he is justified in the belief that his prejudices are better than anyone else’s prejudices.  The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and, while Champions applaud the right, they are willing to forego some of their person vitriol for the sake of harmony.  Someone said, “Live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending.”  That is a tall order.

        On a Wednesday, or any day, come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek for an opportunity for civil discourse with convivial friends and neighbors.  Buy some chicken feed or ice cream or any number of necessities from the broad, eclectic inventory.  Get a look at the Champion Farmer’s Almanac posted on the bulletin board there.  It says the 22nd and 23rd will be good days for transplanting, for setting strawberry plants and for planting root crops.  Find the almanac on line at www.championnews.us where there is also a picture of six students who had perfect attendance at the Champion School sometime in the early 20th Century.  Sit out on the broad veranda and enjoy the scenic beauty looking across the Square to the Behemoth Bee Tree and the Little Church in the Wildwood.  Soak in the mellow ambiance Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

July 11, 2016

Perfect Attendance

At the Champion school you got a silver dollar for perfect attendance–fifty cents if you missed because the creeks were up.

Front row, left to right:

Elsa Hancock, Wava Hicks, Duane Henson, Benton Hutchinson

Back row:

Eva Henson, Patty Proctor, Royce Henson
Champion School Perfect Attendees

July 11, 2016

CHAMPION—July 11, 2016

        It was all chaos in Champion on Wednesday morning as a thunderstorm ripped through the Village with a vengeance.  The storm was at its worst at about 10:30 and when it was over, the whole Square was littered with debris.  Neighbors stepped in immediately to begin the cleanup.  By noon things were mostly back to normal.  Some of the big limbs downed are now stacked neatly in short lengths.  Patrons of the Recreation of the Historic Emporium continue to be impressed with the substantial nature of that recreation.  They felt entirely safe inside.  It is unlikely that the previous permutation of the Champion Store would have fared so well, though it doubtlessly saw many a raging tempest in its time.  The electricity was off and on for a while as the White River Valley crew replaced a transformer up on County Road 243.  Otherwise, it was a just another busy day in the hub of the community.  Friends, neighbors and family visited back in the meeting room, on the wide veranda and out on the Square–sharing their observations, memories of the past, and hopes for the future.  It seems to be an annual event that the sky opens up any time Harley comes down from Illinois to make hay.  That might just be a coincidence.  He always brings good humor with him.  Another storm on Friday brought down more trees and brush across county roads.  Chainsaws hummed all over the place to open pathways to get back to the middle of things–Champion.

        That Friday storm ended just in time to make conditions perfect for the Vanzant Picnic.  The temperature was ideal and lingering clouds kept attendees from having to compete for the shade this year.  The puddles were easy to avoid.  Friends who only see each other at these events reunited with much laughter.  The food was superb and the music sublime.  Steve Moody does a wonderful job as master of ceremonies and Pete Proctor and his fellows from the American Legion Post presented the Flag.  Saturday evening also started off beautifully and the crowd was having a wonderful time when, at about 8 o’clock, the electric transformer overheated and power was lost.  There were no sparks or other fireworks, just a sudden loss of juice.  The band, however, played on.  Big Creek was on stage when the power went out and they completed their set acoustically.  Then Backyard Bluegrass took over and performed their portion of the show in the dark.  The General, speaking under the condition that his limited knowledge of the situation be presented as if he knew what he was talking about, said that the bands are to be commended for carrying on, which, indeed they are.  He said the fire department (Eastern Douglas County) and some picnic workers used their vehicles to light the picnic area until the electricity resumed.  It was about 10:20 when the Howell Organ people arrived and quickly restored the power.  By that time the crowd had thinned out to just the workers.  Speculation was that the additional lights that had recently been installed combined with the electrical requirements of the picnic and the possible damage to the transformer from recent storms and the age of the device all led to its failure.  The spokesman said that no squirrels were hurt during this calamity and that a larger transformer will be installed in the near future.  Already plans are in the works for next year’s picnic.  Meanwhile, Thursday’s pot-luck Bluegrass jam will continue in this splendid venue with all the fun that brings.

        Champion Bonnie Mullins had a nice 4th of July.  She said that in the old days they would spend the day working in the fields, “…but Granddad Brixey always had a watermelon in the spring getting cold for the end of the day and we always had one or two small packages of firecrackers and that made us happy.”  She is happy now about the beautiful flowers that surprise her every week in their new home.  She shared pictures of hibiscus and said that the bush is just full of buds.  The Teeter Creek Herb of the week is Mullein.  The folks over on Teeter Creek report that it is a biennial, “having a rosette of the fuzzy leaves on the ground the first year, and sending up its stalk and seeding the second year.”  The tall flower-staff is blooming in fields and along roadsides now with its easily identifiable yellow flowers.  They say it is a transplant from the Old World, a valued herb for treating rheumatic pains, bruises, sprains, swollen glands, ear-ache and respiratory problems.  “A use you may find critical someday—it is one of the best toilet paper substitutes in the wild!”

        Sharon Tate Williamson has a birthday on July 13th.  She shares the day with great niece Sophia Zappler who lives in Austin, Texas but comes every summer to visit her old aunt and uncle in Champion.  Jude Hicks is a kindergarten student at Skyline School.  (Keep in mind the proposed tax levy increase of $0.49 which will appear on the ballot on the August 2nd election.  It will represent a small tax increase to the residents of the Skyline R2 School District and will be the determining factor in the school being able to obtain matching funds from the State—critical to the long term survival of our small rural school, serving the community so well.)  Jude’s birthday is on July 14th.  As he grows up he will learn that he shares a special day with the people of France.  Bastille Day, July 14, 1789, marked the beginning of the French Revolution when the infamous prison was stormed by partisans fed up with the abuses of the monarchy.  A few weeks later the French National Assembly abolished feudalism and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as its constitution.  This was inspired by the American Declaration of Independence and contained the iconic statement:  “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.”  Quotes from current presidential candidates and past Presidents of the United States include the following:  “The problems we face did not come down from the heavens.  They are made by bad human decisions, and good human decisions can change them.”  “What is needed now, more than ever, is leadership that steers us away from fear and fosters greater confidence in the inherent goodness and ingenuity of humanity.”  “We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American eagle in order to feather their own nests.”  A recently departed Nobel Laurite and Holocaust survivor said, “We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  Apply happy birthday wishes and profound common sense philosophies where needed.

        Come down to the broad banks of Auld Fox Creek for a look at a beautiful place in the world.  A prominent citizen pointed out that the Behemoth Bee Tree stood like 35 foot tall pop-sickle stick hardly ruffled in the breeze and the bees are fine.  “The storm in its fury raged today, crushing hopes that we cherished so dear.  Clouds and storms will in time pass away.  The sun will shine again bright and clear” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

July 1, 2016

July 1, 2016

CHAMPION—July 1, 2016


       Friends gathering once a week or so ask each other, “How are you?”  “What have you been up to this week?”  “How are you doing?” One answers, “I must be doing OK.  At least nothing bad has happened.”  This is a philosophical point that proves itself regularly.  The absence of something bad is indeed the same as something good.  As the Wednesday bunch chatted among themselves and examined items of interest (this time an engraved silver tatting shuttle with work in progress), it was peaceful in the extreme with no unseemly behavior by anyone and no provocative angst.  It was just lovely, particularly as Hoovey and Dawn Henson came for the experience.  They were in town for the annual alumni doings at Mountain Grove High School.  They will be back for the Champion School Reunion in September.  They had already been to Tulsa where Dawn grew up and went to school.  Hoovie had some artifacts of Dawn’s family going back to the time of Abraham Lincoln and it is clear that he considers himself to be lucky to be intertwined with someone of such fine pedigree.  Dawn grew up in the city and has lived in cities all her life.  She likes it.  Whippoorwills might make her as anxious as sirens make country women.  It was a good time for Hoovey to get to visit with cousins, Deward’s Granddaughter and Ethel of Omo.  He had plenty of stories to tell about the generation that included Deward’s daughter.  It is funny what we remember in the way of family stories.  Some are poignant, some humorous, some revisionist and some are there to tie the distant past to the future for the sake of continuity and the feeling of belonging.  Family.  Imagine if Elmer Banks were your Grandfather!  Just think about that.  His grandson, Chris, was visiting from Louisiana–a good looking, well-spoken young man somewhere in his 20s with a nice smile and a polite demeanor.  Years hence he will have stories to tell.  He probably already has some.

       The storm that blew through the Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival on Thursday evening made its way down to Vanzant before the music was over.  Starvy Creek is up by Conaway, Missouri in northern Webster County–up the road a piece from Marshfield.  Musicians come from all over in their RVs and camp for a few days.  They bunch up and play all night, or so said Sally’s brother as he was planning to go.  The internet news is that Friday dawned beautifully up there and they were all looking forward to a beautiful day.  Meanwhile back at the ranch, it was lovely to see Sherry Bennet out on the east side again and David Richardson down from Norwood.  He’ll be on stage next week at the Vanzant Picnic, Friday and Saturday, the 8th and 9th.  Doug Bean and his wife Bonnie live around Caulfield, MO.  They come out to Vanzant from time to time.  Doug has a great voice of that Bluegrass timber that is called ‘high lonesome.’  He knows old songs with lots of words…fox hunting hound dog songs—always a gift when he sits in to sing.  Over at Champion on Wednesday Hoovie had said that he and Dawn were planning to come to the jam Thursday, but he did not say that Royce and Jody would be there too.  Royce said that he had been reading about this gathering in The Champion News for years and was glad to get the chance to see for himself.  They seemed to have a good time.  The rain had caused Royce to be able to take a day off from work and, hopefully, the storms had all passed before they started their long trip back to Springfield.

       Hooray for the folks in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania.  With great community involvement and a law suit, they were able to stop the Nestle Corporation, which had its sights set on pumping 200,000 gallons of water per day from the aquifer there.  Residents were worried about the impact this would have on local wells.  The predatory water profiteering actions taken by Nestle’ Water Bottling Company in various cities, counties and states has yielded mega profits for Nestle at the expense of citizens and taxpayers.  (Corporate welfare)  During California’s historic drought, the company was siphoning off 80 million gallons a year from the Sacramento aquifer.  Nestle calls itself “The Healthy Hydration Company” and has 67 different brand names for bottled water including Perrier, San Pellegrino, Nestle Pure Life, Poland Spring, and Ozarka.  Company spokespeople have actually said that “water should be defined as a need—not as a human right.”  As to human rights, the United States Supreme Court recently rejected Nestlé’s appeal in a child labor case in Ivory Coast.  It has admitted the use of child slave labor in Thailand and Turkey and is implicated in the practice in countries around the world where chocolate is produced.  “This is awful, what can I do?”  If it says ‘Nestle’ on the package, do not buy it.  It might alter your grocery shopping habits drastically as the company has an enormous number of products.  A person says, “What difference does it make?   What can I do to change the practices of this enormous company?”  Perhaps the only difference will be the peace of mind that you get from not contributing to the evil.  (The absence of something bad is the same as something good.)  Champion sits on a beautiful aquifer.

       The Nation celebrates its birthday on the 4th of July.  On the 5th of July the Dali Lama shares his birthday with Virginia Canada.  Janet Burns and the late Walter Darrell Haden have the 6th marked as their day of remembrance.  That is also the last day to register to vote in order to be able to participate in the August 2nd election that will fill several local offices and will give residents in the Skyline R2 School District the opportunity to pay a few cents more in taxes to insure the financial security of the important little institution.  Of course it is to the advantage of certain entities to keep the population only educated enough to follow orders and to run the machines, but not educated enough to be capable of the critical thinking that would allow them to question.  Passive people are more easily manipulated.  That may be the reason that education is so expensive and so underfunded.  Supporting this little school is a gift that will pay off down the line.

       “Reckon who is having the most fun?”  That was the question under a picture of Buzz Woods and four little grand people, the tallest one being about elbow high, as they were strolling along together engaged in deep conversation.  The annual Tree Huggers Jamboree at the Mill Pond is an event much anticipated and this year attended by many far flung huggers, some from as far away as Portland, Oregon.  Independence Day all around the country is celebrated by gatherings of friends, old ones and new ones, celebrating with good food, music, fireworks and homages to nostalgia and patriotism.  What brings us all together all over the Nation at the peak of the beautiful season is acknowledgement of good fortune.  Though one Old Champion says, “Everything that doesn’t hurt, itches.”  Teeter Creek herb people will be there with friends and family and will have some suggested remedies for those aches and itches and will help fill in the names of some of the wildflowers that are gracing every country lane this time of the year.  Some of those Old Tree Huggers will be harkening back to an old John Prine song, “We blew up our TV, threw away our papers, Went to the country, built us a home, Had a lot of children, fed ‘em on peaches” and some of them found themselves in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

June 27, 2016

June 27, 2016

CHAMPION—June 27, 2016

The Bee Tree, Valentine’s Day 2015

The Bee Tree, June 27th 2016

        Sunday afternoon an old Champion, headed to the Village, approached the slab over Clever Creek and observed that there was a couple standing in the creek.  The woman was giving the man a haircut standing there in the cold water.  Their car was parked on the edge of the road and there was plenty of room to get around them, but about that time a full grown skunk came running down the road toward the creek.  The couple did not see the skunk and the Champion was so excited that she kept adjusting her side mirror rather than opening her window.  By the time she had her window down in order to alert the couple to the presence of the skunk, the critter had headed off into the brush on the south east side of the creek.  It unusual to see a skunk out in the daylight and, while it is advisable to avoid a skunk any time you can, particularly do so if it is behaving in any odd way such as staggering or being aggressive.  Skunks are susceptible to rabies.  Alert the Conservation Department, the sheriff or the Douglas County Health department if you see a skunk that you think might be rabid.

        Nanette Hirsch is the Douglas County Health Department nurse who comes to Champion on the last Tuesday of each month to do blood pressure checks and other health screening.  She is also at the Skyline School on the first Tuesday of each month from 8:30 to 10:30.  That will be Tuesday, July 5th for local residents who wish to take advantage of this real service to the community.  Lives have been saved.

        The Behemoth Bee Tree over on the South Side of the Square is beginning to look like it will survive.  This is its second summer after the February, 2015 pruning that rendered it a 35 foot tall stump.  The bee inhabitants seem to be thriving and hopes are that the little green brush pile at the top of the stump will flourish.  It will be some time before it provides the shade again for the Champion School Reunion.  “Champion School Memories” was published by a Prominent Champion back in 1985.  From the chapter on school history, “The school tax levy during the 1890s was usually around forty cents per one hundred dollar valuation.  The total assessed valuation of taxable property in the district in 1892 was $9,124.00.  The total taxes on one hundred sixty acres would be about two dollars.”  The Champion School was consolidated with other area schools back in the mid-1950s into the Skyline R2 School.  An effort to raise the current tax levy by $0.48 will be on the ballot in the August 2nd election.  That will bring the total levy per hundred dollar valuation up to $3.43 which is the magic number that will make our wonderful rural school eligible for matching funds from the State of Missouri, while still being the lowest tax levy in the State.  Enrollment has decreased in recent years, but the cost of operating the school has not reduced.  “School days, school days, good old golden rule days!  Reading and writing and rithmetic taught to the tune of the hickory stick.”  Those nostalgic sentiments could well be translated into support.  SOS!  Save Our School!  Skyline bus driver, Paul Kennedy has a birthday on July 7th.  Seventh grader Patrick Vincent will celebrate on the 3rd.  Then the whole Nation will celebrate on the 4th.  There will be bar-b-que, fireworks, watermelons and creeks full of people having a good time.  Huzza!  America!

        Champion gardens are looking good, particularly after a good rain.  That is when, according to some, the weeds just want to jump up into your hands.  Champion the Wonder Horse was a Tennessee walking horse and the on-screen companion of singing cowboy, Gene Autry, in 79 films between 1935 and 1952.  The horse lived to be 47 years old.  One of the Wednesday sages brought a replica of his famous pistol bridal for community inspection.  It is a shiny silver thing and sparked recollections of the singing cowboy.  “I’m back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend!”  That was his theme song.  Dave, sometimes referred to as Jim or Bob, over at the Thursday Vanzant jam was struggling for words to that song the other night.  Perhaps he will have it worked up for the next jam.  He likes Gene Autry better than Roy Rogers, and endeavors to adhere to Autry’s “Cowboy Code” which said, “He must not take unfair advantage of an enemy.  He must never go back on his word.  He must always tell the truth.  He must be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.  He must not possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.  He must help people in distress.  He must be a good worker.  He must respect women, parents and his nation’s laws.  He must neither drink nor smoke.  He must be a patriot.”  The Cowboy Code could be applied to current times, particularly relating to politics and world conditions, with good effect—a Champion code.

        The swift passage of time is on the minds of some Champions reminding them that the year is half gone and soon it will be Christmas again.  “It’s a Wonderful Life” is one of those Christmas movies that have scenes that are poignant any time of the year.  Some of the life lessons that can be gleaned from this nostalgic 1946 film are:  Your life has purpose.  Keeping up with the Joneses is for saps.  Bad guys do not always get punished.  Do not hire someone just because he is family.  Appreciate how blessed you already are.  Marry the right person.  Deliver a good toast:  “Bread, that this house may never know hunger.  Salt, that life may always have flavor.  And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”  Recently a scene from the movie was played out in real life.  George Bailey shook hands with Mr. Potter and then recoiled, wiping his hand off on his coat in revulsion as if to erase the event.  Anyone can have a momentary lapse in judgement.  “There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks.  They fear the future, mistrust the present and invoke the security of a comfortable past, which in fact, never existed,” said Robert Kennedy.  These old movies seem to reinforce that image.  Champions prove that the past can be venerated, fictional or not, even as they strive toward making the present better for themselves and for future generations.  Come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek for a vision of the Behemoth Bee Tree and for a progressive breath of fresh air in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!