March 20, 2017

CHAMPION—March 20, 2017


Champion Spirea

The most anticipated day has finally arrived at 5:29 a.m.  Is it spring?  It feels like spring.  If it is indeed so, the Prominent Girlfriend is truly happy.  She has already been wearing her flip flops.  Some Champion gardeners were able to get their potatoes planted before St. Patrick’s Day, which is said to be ideal in this part of the world.  On Wednesday, The General led Charlie’s brother, Thomas’s grandpa, the Flint Knapper and Reba’s sweetheart in an investigative study of various natural materials provided by Deward’s granddaughter.  The Flint Knapper identified the tree section as, most likely, black locust, which he says makes excellent bows.  The other item of interest was a short section of a slender sprout, about two feet, wrapped about in serpentine circuitousness by a similar sized vine dried the same color as the stem around which it twined.  Wisteria or trumpet vine?—that was the question.  The General opined with aplomb if not expertise, “Probably not wisteria if it is looped counter clock-wise.”  Champions appreciate his gravitas.  Surreptitious plans were being forged for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade slated for Friday.  Friday, however, turned out to be such a pretty day that the parade did not happen.  Everybody was about his own business, but humming “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and “Danny Boy.”

Many folks in this part of the world are of Irish or Scots-Irish lineage.  Elmer Banks will tell you about his heritage with an Irish grandmother, a Scottish one and an Englishman in the mix.  A Champion great grandmother was brought here from Ireland as an infant.  She is now buried out in West Texas and has a hoard of descendants to remember her—Sarah Brady was her maiden name.  She was part of the one million Irish immigrants that arrived on these shores back in the mid-19th century.  The Potato Famine killed a million Irish and a million emigrated.  In part, the famine was caused by the potato blight, but the key factor was in the way the government handled the problem.  There are books written about the situation, the gist of which is that in addition to the fundamental failure of the English government programs, workhouses, public works, and soup kitchens tended to concentrate the people into larger groups and tighter quarters.  This allowed the main killer of the Famine, disease, to do its evil work.  The greed of absentee landlords and the repeal of The Corn Laws, which had been of some protection of farmers all contributed to this great calamity.  As a nation which seems to be in a rapid retreat from civility and empathy, the lesson of the Potato Famine is one to consider and one that can be applied to current circumstances.  The Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for example, has a reputation for siding with corporate interests against individuals as a matter of course.  He made some statements recently that would make it seem that he is not in lock step with the current administration, but speculation is that this is a guise to make his visage more acceptable to the opposition.  How many times in recent years have we thought of Ray Charles singing, “The World is in an Uproar—danger signs are all around”?  Meanwhile, the Indigenous Environmental Network is steady at it in their struggle against the extraction industries and their corporate and fiscal backers as they do what they can to protect the sanctity of their ancestral land, theirs by virtue of binding treaties with the United States Government.  It is an interesting subplot to the drama that is current national and world politics.  Are we entertained?  There is another wonderful song applicable to these times by Pete Seeger’s sister Peggy called “The Song of Choice.”  It goes, “Close your eyes.  Stop your ears.  Hold your tongue.  Take it slow.  Let others take the lead and you bring up the rear and later you can say you didn’t know.”

The General’s fair daughter, Elva, will enjoy her birthday on the 23rd.  Great nephew, Jack Masters, down in Austin, may be about sixteen years old on the 27th.  Special people at Skyline School are also due celebrations that day.  Mrs. Downs teaches third grade and Mr. Ted drives a bus.  The 28th will be the big day for first grade student Joseph Fulk and the 30th for prekindergarten student Tucker Johnson.  Skyline Tigers roar, “Happy Birthday!”  Over in Fair Edina, Gordon Reynolds will be celebrated on the 22nd and Bobby Nicholson on the 29th and lovely Morag Edward on the 31st.  They are all talented, creative people–musicians and artists—making the world a sweeter place.

A Champion granddaughter asked her mother why anyone would eat margarine when she could have butter.  Her mom said that so much of what we think is bad or good for us depends on our conditioning.  She said that when she was a girl, it was just understood that margarine was preferable for a number of reasons relating to obesity and heart disease.  In recent years explications about the effects of trans-fats and other chemical properties of some margarine make it seem that butter is better.  She pointed out that five years ago coconut oil was considered to be one of the worst things of its kind on the market.  Now it is perceived to be one of the best things.  A shifting view (a shifting base line) brings to mind that Johnny Cash song, “…and the lonely voice of youth cries, ‘What is truth?’”

Here’s Jonnie!

Jonnie is a long legged, big footed, thirty-five pound, boxer/hound mix about two years old.  She is playful, curious, affectionate, and anxious to please.  A couple of old folks who have been by themselves for a number of years are suddenly being amused and called upon for regular interaction with said dog.  Visiting grand-girls made fast friends with her and now that they have gone home, Jonnie is lonesome.  Her howl is plaintiff and makes a person want to join in the song like the sound of a steam train the next ridge over.  Her antics through the day and the process of getting acquainted make the days interesting—certainly things have changed.  Rules will have to be learned.  Who is doing the training, the people or the dog?

Enjoy these warm days and the beautiful blooming things along the roadsides as you make your way down to the broad banks of Auld Fox Creek—the wide, wild and wooly banks, where country roads meet the pavement and where neighbors meet to exchange views, examine natural phenomena and share histories and hopes.  The big clump of old fashioned spirea is blooming flagrant white there by the west entrance to the Square.  On warm days the wide veranda of the Historic Emporium offers a place to sit and ponder.  On cold days the old wood stove offers warmth and comfort as it has for generations in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 13, 2017

CHAMPION—March 13, 2017


The Champion snowman is for the birds!

Wednesday turned out to be a lovely day in Champion.  Spring Break combined with young visiting Tennessee cousins allowed a hoard of Champion youngsters the freedom to romp up and down the steep hill by the church that was once the Champion School.  How many rambunctious young’uns must have struggled up it and then rolled or plunged down that grassy slope over the years!  Some of them are collecting Social Security now.  Used to, a long time ago, they call them Old Age Pensioners.  The raging bull of Champion, now an ‘OAP’, did not make his appearance in the meeting room this Wednesday.  There was no turning over of plastic furniture and titillating of small children with his roaring antics.  Optimism tells Champions that next week will also have a Wednesday.

Friends down at Teeter Creek Herbs post that Hawthorns and Sarvice Berry are the first wild blooming trees in these parts.  There are many varieties of Hawthorns in the area out in the wild and ornamentals in town yards.  “Both the early flowers and young leaves (which emerge together) as well as the ripe berries in the fall are known for their high flavonoid content; nutrition that has been shown to be directed to strengthen the heart muscle.  Studies also show Hawthorn’s ability to control inflammation of the arteries.  The flowers and young leaves and berries can all be carefully dried for a tea or tinctured; the dried ripe berries are traditionally made into syrup.”  The Ozark weather changes are playing havoc with all kinds of things that are budding now with snow in the forecast.  Gardeners will just make adjustments to the new normal (odd/unusual) and will try to keep their eyes from rolling all the way back into their heads like marbles in a mixing bowl, when Oklahoma’s pride, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said right out loud that carbon dioxide does not contribute to warming, global or any other kind.  At the same time they are guffawing and slapping their thighs over that absurdity, some are perplexed and a little put out that the hellbenders in Fox Creek are holding up repair of a bridge out on a county dirt road.  It is unclear if they all need to be caught and counted or relocated, but it will get figured out.  Local environmentalists are as well intentioned and goofy as the next bunch (well, almost as goofy, say as those folks in the Nation’s capital), but they make some good points; like clean water is not just a gift, it is a requirement for life and some life is fragile and fading.  Champions are on the, by gosh, cutting edge of life.

One of Champion’s favorite ‘Hillbillies in Texas’, Suzie Freeman, will be 70 years old on March 13th.  Join the club! She said that Wes has made his 88th truck, including a lavender flat-bed semi for her Christmas present.  He has nine rows of onions out and will be panting the rest of the garden soon.  Other special birthdays include Willow Townsend, prekindergarten student at Skyline School celebrating on the 15th.  She shares the day with a favorite immigrant to Scotland and with his second cousin, Jacob Masters in Austin, thirty years his junior, and the delightful Ursula, mother of Demetri, living on a remote farm on the east coast of Ireland.  Elizabeth Mastrangelo Brown was 23 in 2013 on the 16th of March.  Skyline’s own kind and smiling Ms. Helen celebrates on the 16th and Myla Sarginson, fifth grader at Skyline will have her birthday on the 18th.  Lizzie Heffern, up in Springfield, will have a party on the 18th.  It will be Lizzies Paws for a Cause Party and the donations of pet supplies that party goers will bring will help the dogs and cats in her community.  She is a Champion granddaughter with a big loving heart–giving back.  Happy Birthday all you sweet Champions, near and far.

Suzie Freeman said in her letter that her sister, Wilma Ramos, lived in Blue Ridge, Texas for a while.  Wilma said that Blue Ridge got its name from a ridge just outside of the city that was covered with beautiful blue flowers in every season.  First known as “Pull-n-Tug,” the name was changed to Blue Ridge when the first post office was established in 1860.  William Worden was the first post master there.  Wilma also reports that the Blue Ridge pipeline spill is affecting flow of oil nationwide and that while it is unclear about how much crude oil was spilled, about 4,000 barrels, 168,000 gallons, have been recovered, according to the Texas Railroad Commission.   She said that so far no impact on water has been reported and that a dam is being constructed at the end of the spill path to prevent runoff from entering a nearby creek in case of rain.  Meanwhile, Chase Iron Eyes is a young attorney who grew up on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and lives there in the small town of Fort Yates with his wife, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, and their three children.  Dr. Jumping Eagle oversees the delivery of medical care at the Indian Services hospital.  Iron Eyes was joined by thousands of allies in Washington D.C. this week to tell the world the fight against big extraction and big finance is not over.  “This has just begun,” he said.  He is one of three Native Americans running for office in the next election in oil-rich North Dakota.  Meanwhile, over in Montana, a banjo player and song writer named Rob Quist is running to fill the Montana congressional seat of Ryan Zinke, who was sworn in last week as the new U.S. secretary of the interior.  Quist has folk and bluegrass albums that have made him one of the best known names in politics there.  There is a great youTube of him on the internet singing “Shady Grove.”  His wife, Bonnie, says that his music is quite political and that his song, “.45 Caliber Man,” is one of her favorites.  “It’s going to take a .45 caliber man, meaning it’s going to take somebody with a strong will to stand up for the values of the middle-class America.”   An Old Champion remarked out on the wide Veranda of the Historic Emporium the other day that it would be a good idea if all politicians/law makers/government officials were musicians—bluegrass/classical/jazz/country/rock ‘n roll/etc.—a different caliber of people altogether.

If you are just tickled about how things are going up in Old Jeff (Jefferson City) and Washington D.C., give our law makers a call to let them know.  Everybody appreciates encouragement. The White House (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414, Governor Greitens (573) 751-3222, Roy Blunt (202) 224-5721, Claire McCaskill (202) 224-6154, Billy Long (202) 225-6536.  Jason Smith (202) 225-4404—they will all be glad to hear from their constituents.  In with Suzie’s letter and Wilma’s history of Blue Ridge was a hand full of newspaper clippings, mostly in Spanish concerning current events.  Spanish is a beautiful language spoken by millions of people in the world.  A local suggest, however, that Russian might be the prudent language to learn.  There are lots of sites on the internet that provide instruction.

Texas granddaughters visiting for Spring Break were very excited to see Monday morning’s little dusting of snow, but would have preferred much more.  They opine that country snow is prettier than city snow and were out the door singing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….” in Champion—looking on the Bright Side!

Champion daffodils endure the snow.

March 6, 2017

CHAMPION—March 6, 2017


Champion Pears in Bloom

Wednesday was one of those lovely days in Champion.  Chase led the Veranda Band inside with special surprise guest star, Sherry Lovin, who came with her big bass fiddle and her handsome husband, Jack.  Chase kicked things off with “The ABC Song”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  Sherry sang, “I’m Working on a Building” and “Summer Time.”  The General was complicit and contributed significantly.  Requests from the audience came from Ethel of Omo who always favors “Gary Owen.”  Sherry has a weekly bluegrass show in Willow Springs and has the good news that the Star Theatre is due to reopen after its renovations.  She will have her first gig in Nashville soon promoting bluegrass.  She also had some good stories about growing up around here in a musical family playing the stand-up bass.  With a big family and no room inside for it, she said her dad tied the bass on top of the car and down the road they would go.  This was her first trip to Champion.  She and some friends make an appearance at Vanzant every now and then—always a treat.  There were a few empty seats in the circle there on Thursday, but still a fine time.  Music has healing qualities and there is significant need for healing in every quarter.

Heather Peugh was met with a larger than expected crowd on Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce in Ava.   She is the director of the West Plains office of Congressman Jason Smith.  Her responsibility in the four counties she administers is to assist with the wide range of requests relating to administrative agencies such as request for personnel and medical treatment records from the military or to assist with obtaining passports and visas and the like.  She said that matters of policy are handled in the Washington D.C office.  She also said that the best way to get a letter to the Congressman is to send it to her office. (35 Court Street, Suite 300 West Plains, MO 65775 or  She will open it, scan it and send it to his office in a bundle of her mail to him.  Otherwise a letter gets delayed due to the need to X-ray the mail because of the anthrax threat of years past.  All of the issues before Ms. Peugh at the listening post on Thursday were matters of policy.  She took copious notes and kept the meeting moving positively as more than a dozen of the congressman’s constituents addressed issues of health care (H.R. 370 and H.R. 354), “right-to work” legislation (H.R. 785) Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, public education (H.R. 610 and H.R. 899), gun violence, support for Veterans and environmental issues (H.R.861 and H.J.R. 69) such as protecting the water, particularly relating to the recently reversed protections of small streams and small bodies of water.  There was concern expressed for the new administration’s flagrant disregard for the ethical behavior and protocols of our democratic system and calls for an independent investigation into the president’s business dealings, his campaign’s alleged connections to Russian influence and the like.  There were folks there of every political persuasion—some avid fans of Mr. Smith and some who strongly disagree with the Congressman’s stance on many issues, and it was comforting to see civility at its best.  One of the good things happening these days is the active involvement by people who have never been active before in their own government.  Champion!

Bailey and Violet

When young Bailey came to visit her grandparents over west of Ava last summer, she became attached to Violet, one of her Grand Papa’s chickens.  Violet has a bad leg and Bailey took the little hen under her own wing and they became friends.  Bailey is looking forward to coming back to the Ozarks this summer; meanwhile she has a birthday on March 9th.  Ava neighbor, Kaye Dennis, celebrates that day too.  Skyline’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Vivod has her birthday on the 10th.  Cadence Trimmer is an 8th grade student with a birthday on the 11th.  Mrs. Casper who is the music/art teacher of our wonderful little rural school has her birthday on the 12th.  Eighth grader, Isam Daugard, celebrates on the 13th.  Birthdays give us a reason to celebrate each other and happy days.

A stroll back through The Champion News archives of a decade ago at finds a suggestion by Professor Darrell Haden that a tune called “Rock Salt and Nails” might have been appropriate listening for those times (perhaps for these times as well).  There were plans being made for the Civil War Memorial in Denlow that came to fruition and was dedicated the following year, Memorial Day, 2008.  An unsuccessful attempt was made to organize a St. Patrick’s Day Parade to rival and overshadow the pageant that was reported (erroneously) to have occurred over in Spotted Hog.  There was also a serious warning about the approach of the Ides of March.  According to Mr. Shakespeare, that is when Julius Cesar asked his famous question, “You too, Brutus?”  There is currently a postcard project underway to answer that question.  Postcards do not represent the threat that sealed envelopes do, so they might get through to the recipient in a more expedited manner.  The idea is to have everyone drop a postcard or two in the mailbox on that day, March 15th, directed to the president at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20500, just to let him know what you think.  Let Governor Greitens know how you feel about his budget cuts to education, as well as some of the state mandated health care regulations relating to age requirements for nursing home care.  His address is P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65102.  Other destinations for your important input and observations are:  Roy Blunt at 260 Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D. C. 20510, Claire McCaskill at her District Office 324 Park Central W, Ste. 101, Springfield 65806, and Jason Smith at his District Offices, 35 Court Street, Ste. 300, West Plains, 65775.  The social and political struggles of ten years ago were every bit as serious as they are today, but today there is a dire feeling of uncertainty and fragility to our system that is unnerving.  The nuclear arsenals of the world suddenly seem vulnerable and it reminds one of the eleventh verse of Bob Dylan’s “Talking World War III Blues.”  It says, “Well, now time passed and now it seems everybody’ having them dreams.  Everybody sees themselves walking around with no one else.  Half of the people can be part rlght all of the time.  Some of the people can be all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.  I think Abraham Lincoln said that.  ‘I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.’  I said that.”

The daffodils are still being extravagant and the ridges and high places are sporting pear trees and forsythia in glorious profusion.  Daylight savings time, spring and spring break are all just around the corner.  The indigenous peoples across America are still gathering and praying.  Down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Aulde Fox Creek commerce is brisk at the Re-creation of the Historic Emporium and the song of the week is Roger Miller’s “Walking in the sunshine, sing a little sunshine song.  Put a smile upon your face as if there’s nothing wrong.  Think about a good time you had a long time ago.  Think about forget about your worries and your woes.  Walking in the sunshine sing a little sunshine song” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 27, 2017

CHAMPION—February 27, 2017


Daffodils drooping a little after a couple of nights of hard frost will recover and will be resiliently holding on to their role as the first and brightest harbinger of spring.  To call the weather unsettled or unusual is just to concede that the new normal is odd.  Meanwhile, some young housewife’s garden of the 1920s survives when every trace of the house is gone, the property has changed hands a dozen times and her grandchildren have become old people living in cities.  The anonymous lady, in her youth and energy, planted a few bulbs.  Her mother-in-law shared some peonies.  Lilies and iris were traded with friends.  She surely raised mustard and turnips while she was doing the laundry on the rub board, milking, churning, canning and quilting.  Her flowers survive, wild along the road side, and she is a sweet, distant ephemeral memory in Champion.

Some peaceful little spot of farm land in southern Idaho near the Utah border was the sight of the Battle of Bear River on January 29, 1863.  Perhaps because it occurred while the Civil War was raging in the east, or because it is embarrassing, history seems to have paid little attention to it.  Archeologists surveying the area along the Bear River say there are compelling signs that it is the site of an event whose gruesomeness is matched only by its obscurity.  It was the largest single massacre of Native Americans in U.S. history–The Bear River Massacre.  Too bad those Shoshone did not have the world wide web looking after them at their winter camp the way the Standing Rock Oglala Sioux have.  The Sioux have still been ravaged, robbed, and wronged, but at least they have not been slaughtered by the hundreds.  Rubber bullets, mace, pepper spray, sound cannons, attack dogs, arrests, strip searches and confinement in dog kennels have been the tools used by the corporate purchased police against peaceful, prayerful people, journalists and observers.  The great relief when the National Guard was called in was soon dispelled when the water protectors realized the Guard was there on the side of the pipeline purveyors.  Many American Military Veterans joined the camp to protect the elders and the internet watched it every day.  The national news media had its attention diverted elsewhere while indigenous peoples and environmentalists around the world engaged.  Because people are watching, there has been no “Standing Rock Massacre,” but the Black Snake Crawls on.  The struggle is not over.  It is reported that as a result of public pressure, the Bavarian owned public bank, Bayern LB, will divest $120 million from the Dakota Access Pipeline.  They say, “Wasser ist Leben—Water is Life.”  What seems most tragic here is that the market for this expensive, nasty oil will likely be short lived.  Even if good fortune prevails and a spill does not contaminate the water supply of millions of people downstream with toxins, it will likely be abandoned eventually and all of this suffering will have been for naught.

Thursday’s Vanzant Bluegrass Jam carried on a little longer than usual and it carried on without mention of Ruth Fish Collins’ birthday which occurred the very next day.  This beautiful redhead has a wonderful velvet voice and a soulful repertoire.  Happy Birthday, dear Ruth!  Shaelyn Sarginson is an eighth grade student at Skyline School.  Her birthday is March 3rd.  She shares the date with Mrs. Barker there at the school, and second grader, Rylee Sartor, will celebrate on the 6th  Linda Hetherington and Krenna Long, both up Norwood way, celebrate their special day on the 5th.  Linda is in the middle of big time bridge tournaments and Krenna is likely just keeping up with her Billy—her Sweet William.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed.  Everything else is public relations,” said Eric Blair, writing as George Orwell.  By Mr. Orwell’s standard, “All the Late News from the Courthouse” definitely falls under the scope of journalism.  The song, written by Walter Darrell Haden back 1971, accurately (“very blunt and very briefly”) described the political condition of Ava in those days.  It did not get much local play at the time.  There has recently been a resurgence of interest in the song.  Sally Brown Taylor was looking for a copy of the lyrics.  She said, “My dad taught Darrell at Silver Shade and Darrell was gracious to keep in touch through the years.  My dad was Lyle Brown.  He also taught Bob Holt.  What a privilege.”  She later messaged to The Champion News Facebook page that a Haden relative had shared a photo of his hand written lyrics.  Gary Hutchison, over in Dunn, shared a copy of the song that had been transferred from a 45 rpm record to a CD.  The 45 was recorded October 25, 1971, by Darrell Hayden and The Courthouse Gang at Hilton Studio in East Nashville, Tennessee and released in late January, 1972 by State Fair Records of Nashville.  Look at to see the hand written lyrics.  Professor Haden was a great friend of The Champion News and wrote many post cards with positive critiques and great encouragement.  Get some postcards of criticism or encouragement written to your elected officials at the following addresses:  Roy Blunt at 260 Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D. C. 20510, to Claire McCaskill at 730 Hart Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20510, or at her District Office 324 Park Central W, Ste. 101, Springfield 65806, and to Jason Smith at 118 HOB, Washington, D.C. 20515 or at his District Offices 35 Ct Square, Ste. 300, West Plains, 65775.  A member of Jason Smith’s staff will be at the Chamber of Commerce Office in Ava from 1 to 2 pm on March 2nd.  That is just off of 5 Highway by the Cox Health Clinic.  “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”  Voltaire said that sometime in the 1730s.

“Sit down and tell me a big one,” said Ronnie Medlock to The General on Wednesday at the Historic Emporium.  Ronnie gets back to the area every now and again just to stay in touch and he most likely got an ear full as he and The General spent quite some time visiting.  Modeen McGowin also made an appearance and caught up with some of her local friends from years gone by.  Carson and Drayson Cline are in the neighborhood from Tennessee for a few days.  They will join Chase and Luxe to make a very active younger set looking up to the older grandchildren–Taegan, Foster and Kalyssa.  Grandmothers are often some of the most happy people in the world.  More happiness comes to some Old Champions who have been adopted by a stray dog.  It would seem that Tank, the big (90 lbs.) Boxer up on Highway WW, may have made the acquaintance of a local Beagle sometime before his operation.  Young Johnnie may well be the result of that tryst.  She is a long legged, big footed individual with some very hound dog qualities.  She has had her operation and is learning from her new family not to chase cars and how to howl.  “Some friends of mine ask me to go out on a hunting spree, ‘cause there ‘ain’t a hound dog in this state that can hold a light to me.  I ate three bones for dinner today, then tried to tree a ‘coon.  You’ve got me chasin’ rabbits, scratcin’ fleas and howlin’ at the moon…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


All the Late News from the Courthouse


Click on an image to enlarge it.