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!


December 29, 2020

CHAMPION—December 28, 2020


Champions are alert to their good fortune to live in a place so placid and peaceful, at the same time so pleasantly packed with wildlife and good neighbors. We meet out on the road and wave, and perhaps roll our windows down for a chat. “Good morning, neighbor!” “Did you see those seven white tails bounding across that field?” “You and your family all doing okay?” “Well, take care and happy new year!” Solitary old couples enjoyed many phone calls with friends and kin and watched on the internet as friends gathering with their families. It is a Champion quality to be able to delight in the happiness of other people. We have had a Merry Christmas indeed and we hope for the comfort of the many in the world less fortunate.

When Mr. Potter realized Uncle Billy had accidentally handed him the $8,000.00 meant for the bank deposit of the Building and Loan, instead of calling the old man back and returning the money, he sat like a scurvy little spider and watched as the drama unfolded. We know the story had a happy ending, but Potter never returned the $8K. He got away with it. In today’s money that would be $148,702.29. Maybe we should just let it go and focus on the joy and the celebration of a genuinely good man as his many good works were acknowledged. A sequel to the story might have the miserable old man investigated for theft and malfeasance by some hard-nosed attorney general with subpoena power and a pique of righteous indignation. Phillip Van Doren Stern wrote “The Greatest Gift” in 1943. It was a short story that he shopped around to a number of publishers and none of them were interested. He finally self-published it as a 21 page booklet that he sent to 200 of his friends for Christmas. It eventually got into the hands of Frank Capra and that is how George Pratt became George Bailey, the richest man in town.

Old Mr. Gower lost his son to the influenza pandemic in 1918. For a little while he was so grief stricken that he lost his way, and had it not been for the keen observation of a young employee, he might have caused another family to suffer. Many now are suffering the loss of dear ones and a general malaise over world conditions. We hope not to lose our way. We are reminded of a message written in stone after the previous pandemic that was happening at the same time with World War I. In those hard times someone thought to write, “So with the darkest days behind, our ship of hope will steer, and when in doubt just keep in mind our motto Persevere.” The stone is in a walkway in the Port of Leith, now part of Edinburgh, Scotland. That country endured much and sacrificed much in that great struggle. We struggle yet, but with hope and good hearts, so we will say, “Persevere and Happy New Year from Champion!” Looking on the Bright Side!


December 23, 2020

CHAMPION—December 21, 2020


Jupiter and Saturn are teaming up to make their appearance as the Star of Bethlehem on the longest night of the year. Starting Tuesday, the days will be getting longer a little bit at a time. Things are looking brighter overall as the vaccine and the continued good vigilance of the population will have us all back in each other’s arms before next Christmas. Some great scientific treatise or novel will be written about “Two Years of the Pandemic.” People who are in the second and third grade now will one day talk about this time as their grandparents talk about walking so many miles uphill both ways in the snow to get to school. Last week’s letters to Santa in the Herald made some Champions smile thinking about themselves at the age of these young scholars. Seasonal sentimentality surges as we remember our sweet Christmases past. This one, being like no other, is still the special one for our youngsters.

This is a special time for Herbie Johnston too. He just had his 65th birthday, but he is one of those forever young people by virtue of his lively nature. Internet users were treated to a 3 minute 45 second video of him on that great big fiddle in the company of a couple guitars, a couple mandolins and a banjo playing “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells.” The Midwest Bluegrass Directory folks have a great video of “Herbie Johnston’s Fiddle Frolic at the Boot Heal Bluegrass Festival” in 2014. It is a pleasure to hear him play that little fiddle and a joy to know that he is encouraging a generation of young fiddlers. The positive effect of music on children (on all of us) can hardly be overstated. The Backyard Bluegrass baby boy is now three years old. His venerable old grandpappy most likely has him up on his knee picking something. Merry Christmas!

We read in history that from 1659 to 1681, the Puritans outlawed the celebration of Christmas in Massachusetts. They hated its Pagan roots and excess. Meaning the only group to ever ban Christmas in America were Christians. Libraries are full of books about the Meaning of Christmas and the Reason for the Season. There is a lovely Nativity scene at the corner of C Highway and 76. We all have our personal feelings and histories with the best day of the year. And we are, every one, ready for a time of love and peace and wonder and joy and thanksgiving and hope. God bless us every one!

Champions are surprised! One finally figured out that the baby black bear she has been seeing in the same tree every time she passes is, after all, a plastic bag brought up there by the wind and held in brushy entanglement. It was nice thinking it was a bear. The first trip to town in a month found 20 miles of surprises—land being cleared, new houses popping up. Along the way Christmas decorations offer bright fanciful fun with fat snowmen wobbling in the wind and candy canes from here to yonder. In a year of surprises, hopes are that Christmas surprises will be sweet ones. We have our families and our friends and we will all be celebrating, even if in different places together. Peace on Earth, good will toward men from Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


December 16, 2020

CHAMPION—December 14, 2020



A Champion couple, Freemans, who call themselves Still Hillbillies live down in McKinney, Texas, but they never forget the old home place. Suzie says, “I’ll never change. Never had a credit card, cable TV, cell phone, face-book or a computer and I’ve made it over 73 years.” She and Wes celebrated 55 years of marriage in November. They both have health problems and she said there is a great deal of Covid in her family and in the area where they live. Still, she is optimistic for a better year ahead, and once again, shared her sweet holiday art work in the mail. See an example in the Meeting Room at the Historic Emporium in Downtown Champion.

Royce and Jody Henson celebrated 62 (sixty-two!) years of marriage on December 13th. Chances are they met in Champion or in the general neighborhood sometime before 1958. Jody says, “We are fine and staying at home. Guess that’s why we’re fine!” She is a ‘people person’ wondering if we are missing people as much as she is. Plans are to meet up with them at the Champion School Reunion on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in 2021. It will be a glad reunion day for everyone when we can gather again in big happy bunches.

Emily’s dear old Dad is a garlic lover. He likes it in everything and even likes it pickled. One of his kin folks raised that big variety called Elephant Garlic, and he fertilized it with elephant poo that he was able to get from the zoo. It was big—not like the tiny vegetables a Champion is reported to have harvested after using miniature donkey poo for fertilizer. One Old Champion prefers horse manure for her garden, but she is no longer able to double shovel. Alas!

Once again, we sing the praises of the Douglas County road crew. Those gentlemen keep our country lanes in good shape around the twists and turns over the hills and over the creeks. That fancy articulated brush hog has been up and down Cold Springs Road lately and doing a fine job of it. It looks ragged now, but spring will be wonderful for the work they are doing now. Just now, however, someone abandons a fairly neat little plastic bag of trash on that straight stretch of sandy road just south of Orville’s barn. Solid waste management has always been an issue in Douglas County. People do not seem to know what to do with their refuse or they lost it inadvertently or they just have not been taught good citizenship. It will be a Champion who picks it up.

It was a beautiful snowy Sunday with flakes falling fast, first fine and wet, then slowly and softly, then fast again and fluffy, all falling straight down and hardly any sticking. It was a good day for looking out all the windows and for watching the Kansas City Chiefs in another exciting victory. When asked, “Was there anything, other than the game, on television or on the internet today that made you feel better about anything?” the Old Champion replied, “No. Nothing much is going to change. Things will not get appreciably better; maybe they will just stop getting worse. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a long, long tunnel.” In a year when our vocabulary has been augmented by words like kakistocracy, crumbletonians, and snollygoster, we are cautioned and enlightened by Woody Guthrie’s great “Mean Talking Blues.” He made the polka dots hate the stripes. Hopes are that the Mean Season is over and we can mend the beautiful fabric of our democracy with our good hearts meeting the good hearts of our neighbors. We all want the same thing. This week we remember the great Charlie Pride and “On the Wings of a Dove.” Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


December 9, 2020

CHAMPION–December 7, 2020


Lonnie Krider Memorial Drive runs right through Downtown Champion. Lonnie said his birthday was three days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. He did not think he caused it, but as he grew up he thought about it when his birthday rolled around. He was a farmer, a teacher, and advisor and a wonderful musician of the bluegrass variety. He was a fan of Doyle Lawson and acapella gospel was his forte. He passed away in 2009, leaving a legacy of farmers, teachers, advisors and musicians and more. He would be 79 this year and it has been 79 years since Pearl Harbor, where we lost 2,403 lives in one day. We lose about that many people every day now, many of them Veterans of the War that America joined following that attack. They had the support of every American as they fought. This battle is just as serious, even more deadly, and we are all in it together right here on our own soil. We hear the type-setter at the Herald is still recovering from a hard Thanksgiving week with the Covid, “It does a number on you.” To all those convalescing, give yourselves plenty of time to heal.

Early frosty mornings are a sight in Champion. The sunlight races across the valley floor shifting silver sparkles to soft shades of summer green. Birds are busy out every window. Yard dogs are getting a rest with fewer deer hunters touring country lanes. Some days the only vehicle to trundle by is the mail truck. What a service! Newspapers, Christmas cards and letters from grandchildren get mixed in with the bills, junk mail and catalogues. One day is much like another but for the possibility of something special in the mail. One of Winthrop’s town folks sang that Montgomery Ward sent him a bathtub and a cross-cut saw on the Wells Fargo Wagon. Wells Fargo does other things these days and we now have the USPS. We appreciate our letter carriers keeping us connected, our grocers keeping us fed, our truckers keeping us supplied, our first responders and health care workers keeping us safe, and many others, especially our teachers and school staff doing the remarkable job of educating our children in difficult times. Thank you all!

How wonderful it is to think we are out of ‘The Mean Season’ that has been the mark National politics in these very recent years. Our dearest hope is that polka dots and stripes can join to mend the tattered garment of our democracy.

Old Burl Ives has been outdone by The General himself. “Oh, by golly, have a holly jolly Christmas this year!” Friends laughed remembering a warm, sultry evening summer before last when Dennis and his friend, banjo Dave, kicked off “Jingle Bells” to the delight of those at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam. In the middle of a heat wave and the tick-picking and hay making, it seemed like a long time until Christmas. Now, it is fast upon us, and one unlike any most of us have seen. The joy of the season will triumph. The charming Champion Spouse seems to keep her name on both the naughty and nice lists, and that is just part of what makes her special in the special part of the world. We are given to believe that she is a big Kansas City Chiefs fan. She must really be enjoying these days.

Among art supplies shared by Barbara Anderson a couple of years ago were some photographs of old barns and old store buildings, some of her favorite subjects to paint. One photo is of the Old Champion Store, taken somewhere around the turn of the century. Linda Clark is ascending the steps on the east side of the building. Kenneth and Wayne Anderson are sharing the bus seat on the porch, and stepping up on the porch from the west, obscured slightly by the waving flag, looks like Lonnie Krider. It was just another typical, perfect day. The building has changed, but the essence of the place is very much the same—picturesque, peaceful, and pleasant. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


November 30, 2020

CHAMPION—November 30, 2020


Last Thursday afternoon an Old Champion leaned back in his chair, smiled up toward the ceiling, lacing his fingers loosely over the little round bread basket that has in time grown up on what used to be called his abs.  “Well,” he said, “I sure do feel a whole lot more like I do now than I did a while ago.”  (In truth, it sounded more like “shore do” and “a wholla go.”)  He went on to say that if he always felt like this, the price of groceries would not be anything at all.  Thanksgiving dinner for two old folks netted leftovers clear through Monday and beyond.  In many places all over the country the traditional banquet was celebrated in clusters of two.  Some fortunate families were able to gather in bigger lots.  In Champion, Kriders, Wisemans, Watts and Clines, and perhaps others of that clan were fortunate to be able to spend the day feasting together.  Some of The General’s brood visited the nest over in Vanzant for biscuits and gravy and, doubtlessly, for old family stories going back generations.  If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it is that family and dear friends are the most precious things we have.  Until we can safely hug the stuffing out of each other again, we will have to keep the phone lines, internet, and post office humming with our declarations of love and concern and, most importantly, those old family stories that tell us who we are and how we got here.

Esther Wrinkles’ Christmas cactus

A regular patron of the Historic Emporium in Downtown Champion hails from down on the Bryant and celebrates his 75th birthday on the full November Beaver Moon and this one is special for having 85% of the visible surface  darken at 3:42 a.m., central time, as a result of the last penumbral eclipse of the year.  Whether Mr. Birthday was awake to see that special sight, we hope he knows he is as special to the Champion as a rare full moon is to the heavens.  There is a wonderful story about “…..that big old yellow moon a hangin up there, and God’s sweet lanterns a hangin in the sky.”  It involves a still that produced something akin to ‘honeydew vine water.’  And then there was the bear.   That good neighbor from down on the Bryant, has plenty of stories to tell, including that one about how the 7th Calvary’s mascot mule got shot up in Vietnam and the one about Waterhole Ike, the boar hog that got his Social Security card and food stamps.  It is a true story.  Champions hope it was a happy 75th birthday for one of it favorite story tellers.

Shirley Emerson is one of those charming ladies who used to visit Champion on behalf of the Douglas County Health Department to help us regulate our blood pressure and general health.  It was a great amenity to the community and we miss their monthly visits since the pandemic has been on us.  Shirley still checks in on her favorites, in particular those whom she deems may not take care of themselves as well as they should.  Part of taking care of ourselves is staying positive.  As Mr. Python said, “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”  Do as much of that as you can and tell those old family stories like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!