February 25, 2021

CHAMPION—February 22, 2021



Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious pre-spring by the appearance of Wilbur the Champion Groundhog, awake from his long nap and strolling about the grounds reacquainting himself with the compost pile, his favorite Osage Orange tree and the derelict chicken house. Perhaps he will be more amenable to Jonnie the Friendly Dog than he was last year, when he rudely shunned every friendly overture. Exclusion is one of the saddest forms of bullying. Yet, he is just being himself, adhering to long established Rodent Rules and Jonnie will continue seeking friendship and acceptance because she is affectionate by nature.

Again, Champions are appreciative of the efforts of all the road crews for getting roads cleared so well so soon after such a winter blast. While snow still lingered on fields and hill sides, topography revealed itself and gave us a new view of our neighborhood. We live in a beautiful part of the world enhanced by seasonal changes. Mud is on the way. Some spots of some roads can transition snow into a particular axle sucking mud with slick slivering sliding attributes to rival solid ice. Proceed with caution and the possibility that you may be in a position to pull someone out of a mud hole, or be pulled out yourself. Neighbor helping neighbor is a Champion concept.

Jim and Donna Dewitt will enjoy a scenic trip to Ava on Saturday to get their second vaccinations. They will be glad to feel more at ease getting together with family and friends. Hugging grandchildren will be a gift for many twice vaccinated old folks. Elisabeth answered the phone at the Douglas County Health Department on Monday to reassure the community that the mass vaccination clinic will indeed happen again on Saturday the 27th. She was pleased to accept the compliments on the well-ordered efficiency of the last episode on behalf of the DCHD, local health care providers, fire departments, and the National Guard. Good things happen with people working together.

Some family and friends are struggling these days. Some, after years of distress, have finally stopped thinking about turning the American flag upside down, and others have now actually done it, an alarming and sad sight. If hatred, anger, fear and vitriol could run a power grid, lights would be blazing from here to yonder, no matter who might be in charge. Still, all the stories of neighbors helping neighbors during these difficult times lift our spirits and help us feel less stressed about our various differences. We are all in this together. Recovery will be a long ongoing process for many in Texas and other parts of the country where buildings and infrastructure were no match for the brutal weather. We are mindful of their difficulties and are feeling blessed to be here in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 18, 2021

CHAMPION—February 14, 2021


Nitrogen is being fixed.

Champions appreciate the MODOT workers and our Douglas County Road crews and others who have to be out in the weather doing essential things to keep us safe. Thank you.

A little ice, then a little melt, then a little refreeze, then a little snow, then more and more snow: it piles up and made us feel good on Valentine’s Day (and for many days ahead) to be marooned with someone we love. People who live near the pavement may not be so isolated, but they still appreciated the opportunity to be sentimental, if not romantic. All the wise weather people say to stay home if you can–so cuddle up. Of course, we have work that needs doing and basic survival chores to keep us busy. We have absurd politics to keep us annoyed, but we also have hope for the future just because there is no future in being hopeless. Have some fun in the snow if you can.

Old time lore says that if it is raining when the sun is shining, that is a sign the devil is beating his wife. (A feminist says the devil is beating her husband.) There does not seem to be local lore about when it is snowing in the sunshine. That was the situation in Champion for a while on Monday afternoon, with the wind whipping wisps off shed roofs and limbs, the whole bright world was a sparkling flurry.

Cardinal Show-Off

Susan Perry posts pictures of dozens of red cardinals at her bird feeders in the snow. Photographer Lanny Thompson of Maumelle, Arkansas shared a phenomenal photo of a cardinal in flight. He called it Cardinal Show-Off. It is picturesque out there now yet only 34 days until Spring. One Old Champion planted tomato seeds, parsley and basil on Valentine’s Day, not caring if the signs were right, just longing for a time of green growing things. In a few weeks she will be transplanting and wondering why she planted so much. The up side of the heavy snow, apart from the spectacular beauty of it, is that it ‘fixes’ nitrogen in the garden.

A new friend writes that if there are no gardeners there are no gardens. New friends are a blessing and so are old ones, or, more politely, ‘long time’ friends. Phone calls with Skip and Ina over in Dora, with Jeff and Candi in the National Forest, with Cathy Odneal and Frances Banks revealed that they are all well and safe. Through the grapevine, we know The General and The Gypsy are fine. The Acting Mayor posts: “IMMEDIATE PRIORITY FLASH ALERT: The Vanzant Chamber of Commerce has voted in favor to cancel this weeks, 18 Feb 2021, Thursday night community center entertainment by a two percent margin (51% heck yeou, 49% h… nay. Now, this decision may be reversed when mail in votes are received and counted next week. We will post updates ASAP. The (less than sober) local storm team weather person was unable to give an accurate reason for this cancellation in that it wasn’t safe to climb the Vanzant three foot weather tower because snow is covering the bottom rung.” The final tally after all the absentee and mail in ballots from the scattered living musicians (Sue Murphy declared no more than three votes per individual) and the host of Dearly Departed from Cemeteries in Vanzant, Denlow, New Hope and others amounted to 821 ‘yes’ and 32 ‘no.’

The proprietor of the Historic Emporium in Downtown Champion says that business has been brisk, particularly the propane business. Neighbors and friends call to be sure that she has a safe commute to and from work. Call your friends and family to verify they are fine and try this exercise: While sitting in a chair, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles. Now, while doing this, draw the number ‘6’ in the air with your right hand. Your foot will change directions. The weather will change directions too. That is our hope here in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

A crow in the snow.

February 12, 2021

CHAMPION—February 8, 2021



A flicker joined robins filling Champion yards on Monday morning reminding us that spring will be here before long. Seed catalogues choke mail boxes and especially cold unpleasant days make those colorful pages a haven for summer garden dreams. Louise H. liked the Parks Whopper. Linda H. goes for Delicious. John W. likes both of those and Early Girl. Felix the Farmer likes Amy’s and all the varieties that his Old Papa likes. So, let the stove burn down a little so you can haul the ashes. Bring in another armload of firewood. Make a cup of hot chocolate and settle in for garden daydreaming that will go all the way past tomatoes to peppers, squash, beans and cucumbers. Over in the United Kingdom they often call a vegetable garden ‘an allotment.’ Johnny and the Raindrops sang a song about his Granddad who used to have an allotment and it meant so much to him. On these cold days inside remembering being in the garden with Granddad warms the heart.

Neighbors met on the country road by chance and enjoyed the chance to visit. They reported that their children and families are all safe and well and grateful. They talked about getting their taxes done and the phenomena that it seems to take longer to go someplace than it does to come home. That is particularly true of going to the creek in the summer. They talked about the increased local traffic. In the old days, before the turn of the century, the milk truck and the mail-man were often the only vehicles going by. Things change. Robert Frost said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”

Jim and Donna DeWitt were in Ava on Saturday getting their vaccinations and feeling lucky about it. They have Champion connections. Jim once bought quilts from Esther Wrinkles as a gift for Donna. He had a funny way to present them to her that had her hiding under the table. There must be more to that story, but hearing loss combined with mask-muffled speech complicated the understanding. They asked to be remembered to Alvin and Beverly Barnhart. They were school mates in Mountain Grove a while back. They had read that Beverly had a hard recovery from the virus and that she is encouraging people to wear masks and to vaccinate when they can. That is good advice from a friend. The DeWitts were impressed with the efficiency of the Douglas County Health Department’s handling of the vaccination event. By the end of the day, it was reported that more than 1200 people had received the vaccine—a good start.

The Douglas County Community Foundation has awarded a grant to our Skyline R-II School for new basketball goals and backboards for the gym. It is a gift to live in an area that supports our vital little rural school where our youngsters learn the value of good sportsmanship. As the Tampa Bay team is the winner in the Super Bowl, dashing the hopes of our Kansas City Chiefs, we are given the opportunity to exhibit grace and good humor. Patrick Mahomes was genuine in congratulating Tom Brady on his victory, though it was the worst loss of the young quarterback’s career going all the way back through his college years. That generosity of spirit in the face of defeat is an example that could well serve people in other walks of life these days. Congratulations you Bucks! You earned your victory, but in our hearts the Chiefs are still our Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 4, 2021

CHAMPION—February 1, 2021



Jerry Wagner

We turn a calendar page thinking of the Sunday song, “Oh! I’m dreaming of an uncloudy day!” Champions would welcome clouds to prevent the groundhog from seeing his shadow, if groundhog lore were science. Phil probably enjoyed a couple of feet of fresh snow up there in Punxsutawney on Tuesday, but in these parts, just another beautiful day. Lonnie Krider said his Dad, Oscar, said, “There’ll come a day in February when a dog looks for the shade.” Ruby Proctor passed away in 2014, at the age of 88. She once said that when she was a kid in Champion there would be snow on the ground from Thanksgiving to Easter. The 1930s were rough all over, but Champions endured. They were all in the same boat, so like them and the good Scots sailors, and Chief George, we will endeavor to persevere.’

The friendly fiddler, Mr. Wagner, says, “Well, I wonder how the old folks are at home. I wonder if they miss me when I’m gone. I wonder if they pray for the boy who went away and left his dear old parents all alone.” If you’re wondering about your old folks, call them up. You may find that they, like Jerry, are breakfasting on bacon and eggs, biscuits and baked apples. He is a lucky man. He will tell you so, and if he doesn’t, Lena will.

Folks who have been mostly home bound this last year are reminded that the caterpillar grows wings during a season of isolation. That is a butterfly metaphor for making the best of a situation. The Old Champion Granny mixes her sports metaphors to say, “Floats like a butterfly–stings like a bee that’s how Mahomes handles Bra-dee.” She may have gone off the deep end getting ready for the Super Bowl. The creeks are up, so take care not to go off the deep end in the fast flowing low-water crossings as you head down to the wide, wild wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek to turn pages as Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 27, 2021

CHAMPION—January 25, 2021


New birds in the neighborhood.

Champion is full of good news. There are new birds visiting in the neighborhood. The water table enjoyed a sudden surge overnight, swelling streams and working sump pumps. Neighbor Jackson, who lives at the confluence of the Clever Creek and the Old Fox, said it had been bone dry for three months and this morning it is seven feet deep and forty feet across. Going up Cripple Creek, going in a whirl! Traffic on Cold Springs Road is liable to be slim for a few days and the mail may arrive from the south. Those charming and handsome gentlemen who work for the Douglas County Road Department will have plenty to do as the waters recede. What other good news? Oh, yes. The Chiefs are going to the Super Bowl! Buttons are popping off vests. Throats are sore from the shouting and menus are being planned for the party. (Par-Tee!) The General is tuning his accordion and Granny is grinning. A celebration is just what the doctor ordered.

Robert Burns

Groundhog Day on February 2nd coincides with astronomy’s cross-quarter day, marking the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox. Some gardeners are sowing seeds already in hopes of an early spring. We have our hopes up for a number of things: that our dear friends and families all stay well and safe and that, ‘er long, the pandemic will wane; that we may soon embrace distant loved ones and go about as in days of yore. Until then, we must remember to stay in touch with each other. That is what our phones are for and our great USPS, now in full operation again in Norwood. We need to cheer each other on. It is lovely to be remembered. While we are at it, remember to save those ‘Best Choice’ and ‘Always Save’ UPC bar codes and the ‘Box-tops for Education’ coupons for the Skyline R2 School. You can drop them off at the school, at the Historic Emporium on the north side of the Square in Downtown Champion or mail them to Rt. 72 Box 486, Norwood, MO 65717. Mr. Luna and all the staff there are doing a splendid job of keeping our vital little rural school going. They are preparing our young Champions to be the responsible citizens who will be running things in a few short years—schools, farms, banks, businesses, hospitals, government, etc.

“Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us.” On the occasion of his birthday, we celebrate Robert Burns (1759-1796) and the remarkable insight of the young Scotsman. It may be as hard to see ourselves as others see us as it is to put ourselves in another’s shoes. When the shoe is on the other foot and tables are turned, are we likely to treat our neighbors with the kindness we once so recently longed for from them? Burns lived a short desperate hardscrabble farm life that did not dim his joy of being alive, even in a world shot through with terror and darkness and fear. He wrote over three hundred songs celebrating love, friendship, work and drink. They were sometimes hilarious, or full of tender sympathies and most often proffering hope and courage. Music brought down anxiety back then as it does now, so remember the great smile of Norris Woods with his wonderful banjo singing, “Hot corn, cold corn, bring along the demijohn,” or conjure up whatever tune makes you feel good about being alive. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


January 13, 2021

CHAMPION—January 11, 2021


1973 Fastpitch softball team

The first photo to pop up on Monday morning’s Facebook feed was the 1973 Fastpitch softball team of the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming. There were a dozen fine looking young men, all of them fit and focused. And there was General Fastpitch himself, front and almost center, just a little to the left. Joy Ann Coonts Firrell commented, “Looking good in this picture, Robert, but my eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be.” When queried about his ‘no hitter,’ he responded that because of the Wyoming wind, he always managed to hit two or more batters a game. J.c. Owsley said, “I’d still hate to have to catch you. Your pitches could still burn through a good catcher’s mitt.” J.c.has the physique of a catcher and is learned in myriad subjects, a cowboy who likes to sit a big white mule. Back to sports, the blonde football neophyte says, “All this trouble for $.25! They toss the coin and then spend an hour, on the clock, yelling, ‘Get the quarterback!’” It looks like the Kansas City Chiefs (14 & 2) will play the Cleveland Browns (11 & 5) next Sunday. The Old Champion self-appointed Grandmother of the Chiefs says, “It is lovely to have something wholesome and exciting to look forward to!”

Matthew Henry

Last Wednesday’s extraordinary happenings have prompted a wide variety of responses on social networks, as well as phone conversations and face to face exchanges. The charming Champion Spouse writes, “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond. That’s where your power is.” Kim Linder Porter posts, “Be careful not to dehumanize those you disagree with. In our self-righteousness, we can become the very things we criticize in others and not even know it.” Aunt Tiffany Marie Putnam, formerly known as ‘Aunt Mary,’ now wants to be called Aunt Tiffa. She says that she was a teenager during World War II and is fully acquainted with antifascists. “My father and all his brothers, and my mother’s brothers were all antifascists. They every one wore uniforms of the United States Military and fought against Hitler. They had the full support of every breathing American.” Aunt ‘Tiffa is way up in her 90s now and will tell you that old women can get away with speaking their minds. While we are all comfortable expressing our views to people of like minds, some eloquent listening to each other might help us be less anxious. Back in 2006, Lonnie Krider, in his Sunday lesson, quoted Mathew Henry (1662-1714), “If truth is once deserted, unity and peace will not last long.” We are treading lightly with each other’s feelings these days and that is a good thing as it is figured that, ultimately, we all want the same things—a safe, just, prosperous Nation of Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 8, 2021

CHAMPION—January 7, 2021


I have no words to address yesterday and cannot think of another song that will make us feel better. So here is the most recent pre-insurrection post, a bluebird in the snow and hope for tomorrow. God bless America.

CHAMPION—January 4, 2021

December’s waning moon was still bright enough to make Saturday night’s skiff of snow luminous. It melted away as soon as Sunday warmed. Early risers on Monday found fog filling the low spots and the week ahead is destined to be cool and colder–wet and dryer the way it has been in these parts this time of the year for many of our recent years. By this time next week the political climate will be revealed and good neighbors with opposing views can smile while playfully presenting the packets of Kool Aid each has been saving for the other. As they, each perhaps unknowingly, embrace the philosophy of perspectivism, they are equally sure of the clarity of their own version of objective truth and amused at the almost comical obtuseness of their otherwise perfectly convivial neighbor. “But would he pull you out of a mud hole?“ That is the salient question. Certainly your good neighbor would, but would your politician?

An Old Champion has adopted a whole string of grandsons without their even knowing about it. After many decades of thinking football was a brutal, noisy, absurd waste of time and money (Think of all the good that could be done with the billions spent on sports.), she has fallen headlong through the pandemic’s constraints into full-fledged fanaticism. She sees every one of those gallant Kansas City Chief’s players as her own precious grandsons and grunts with them when they hit the ground, amazed that they can get up and do it again. She is yelling, “Get him! Get him! Get him!” when some opponent tries to run off with the ball and bellows, “Shoot! My little sister could run faster than that!” The old girl is learning terms like off-sides, conversion and why someone might punt. For other ladies who might not know, the offence is the team in possession of the ball. It is all very exciting. The General himself says that he hopes the Chiefs do not lose another game this year–14 and 2 so far. She imagines that other teams have fans too, but she wonders why.

Among mail and other communications to The Champion News this week a niece writes, “I hope the New Year doesn’t bring back ‘normal’ but instead creates a new and better normal.” That is reminiscent of poet, Rainer Maria Rinke (1875-1926), “And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been.” Additionally, we are admonished by Neil Gaiman in the Douglas County Herald to freely make mistakes, because that is how we learn. There is much we need to learn going forward. One remarks that by Monday most New Year’s resolutions had been broken already. Another says not to voice your resolution. That way when you falter, you will be the only one who knows you may have let yourself down. Some folks have corn beef and cabbage with their black eyed peas. Others just have cornbread with their good luck peas, appreciating the simplicity of the meal that many, in these hard times, would find lavish. On a happy note, Harley, Barbara and Diane were in town for about a week visiting with family and their favorite locals. Hoping perhaps to see them next time, we remain Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!