May 31, 2020

CHAMPION–May 28, 2020


Every path has a few puddles. We, in Champion, do not have to haul water to fill our puddles these days, though in days to come we may pray for rain. Meanwhile, we pray for the health and safety of our dear ones—our family and our friends, and for the health and safety of our Nation and of the whole world. Odd times, these. Odd, yes, but glorious out here in rural America—when have we had such a magnificent spring? Each spring seems like the first, always amazing. The grass in the broad rolling fields is high and the contours are softened making that “Sea of Grass” illusion very clear. Back in 1936 Conrad Richer wrote a novel by that name. It was set in the late 1800s and dealt with the clash between rich ranchers, whose cattle ran freely on government-owned land, and the homesteaders, a version of that fight still being fought in some areas. It portrays the end of the cowboy era on the Great Plains. Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn appeared in a movie based on the novel in 1947. Romance and conflict make good entertainment. Conflict seems ubiquitous these days. Brian Haggerty (February 26, 1953-July 27, 1976), was wise beyond his years. He said, “Sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you.” He passed through Champion in the 1970s making it a livelier, better place for a few days. He was an optimist and, as Susan Bissonnette said, “An optimist is the human personification of spring.”

As of the 11th of May, the community got even better with the arrival that day of young James IV. His parents, D.J. and Talisha Mastrangelo, are delighted with their 7lb 5oz baby boy. He has a full head of beautiful straight blonde hair and a home full of the joy and excitement that comes with such a wonderful package. He is named after both his great-grandfathers, Dominick and James, so he is another D.J. Mastrangelo–the fourth one. He will be called James to avoid confusion.

There may be some confusion about how to drive in the rain as there have been reports of several accidents recently. It was the smile of good fortune that there were no serious injuries on 76 Highway on Thursday. Our local firefighters and first responders were willing to work out in the pouring rain to keep traffic moving around two separate accidents. James’ dad was among those volunteers and we can always pretty much count on him for a smile. Later there was a report of someone having to be towed off the Fox Creek Bridge, but details are sketchy, which leads to speculation that the creek came up fast and hard and his rig drowned out in high water, or that someone pausing to take pictures off the bridge was then unable to get her car started again. Look for a complete report about the incident laden with facts sometime in the vague indefinite future. Meanwhile, here is the promised account of the Fox Creek crossing by Bud’s Intrepid Trail Riders. Andrew Hardin said they had no difficulty with the horses crossing Fox Creek there just east of Champion. He said he might not have been willing to drive across it, but the horses had no trouble. The water was wide and fast moving, but not too deep. Their trouble had been at the crossing up on Fox Creek Road with a tree down over the slab. Andrew and half a dozen other guys wrestled it around so that it was crossable. One horse was good for stepping in water and for stepping over trees, but to step over a tree into the water was more than the animal had in mind without some serious coaxing. Eventually everyone was able to cross and, at the end of the day, the excursion was considered to have been a sterling success–a beautiful day.


Champion BFF, Felix the Farmer, heard his old (grand) Papa say, “If I had it to do over, I would put our garden on a hilltop somewhere.” Papa will be sure there will be plenty edible pod peas for Felix to munch and when things dry up, he will be glad his garden is where it is. He has a birthday coming up on Election Day, Tuesday the 2nd of June. He would elect to have people straighten up and act right during these bizarre and unfamiliar times. He said he loved okra but never planted it because his family did not like it, but now that he is an old man and can do what he wants, he reckons he will plant a couple of hills, a Central Texas heirloom variety. Some are surprised that there are such great perquisites in becoming old. You know you are old when what you used to think was old now seems young. Enjoy!

As far as doing it over, well, that might be a wish for many of us about one thing or another. We are reminded that timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance, that good judgement comes from experience and a lot of that experience comes from bad judgement. We are, as a general rule, doing the best we can, making the best decisions we can with the information available. Reliable sources of information are those which conform to your personal beliefs. A lot of the other person’s point of view just makes you sick. Ridiculous, how can they believe that stuff? Are they mentally deranged or evil? Many of “them” are our friends, our neighbors, our families! We better find a way to get along. Behave the way your Mother taught you.

There was Great Plague back in 1665. Samuel Pepys, a member of the British Parliament and Secretary of the Admiralty, wrote in his diary, “The taverns are full of gadabouts making merry this eve. And though I may press my face against the window like an urchin at a confectioner’s, I am tempted not by the sweetmeats within. A dram in exchange for the pox is an ill bargain indeed.” Just west of Fox Creek, and south of Clever Creek, at the end of the pavement and at the bottom of several beautiful hills, folks are being safe, careful, thoughtful, helpful and kind—Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 24, 2020

CHAMPION—May 18, 2020


Looking west towards Champion from the east side of the Fox Creek bridge.

Champions have measured five inches of rain in five days and are ready for some serious sunshine. Flooding has been a problem for many and some folks will be stranded till the creeks go down. It is Springtime in the Ozarks. Gardeners will be socially distancing themselves out pulling weeds, planting seeds and setting out seedlings. Current anxiousness about the food supply is inspiring many to garden again or maybe for the first time. In 1919, the National War Garden Commission put out a pamphlet that said, “Small things count.” The Victory Garden movement encouraged all citizens to garden in whatever spaces they could and allowed that there was nothing more valuable than self-sufficiency, than working a little land, no matter how small, and harvesting your own eggplant and tomatoes. The message was serious: “Prevention of widespread starvation is the peacetime obligation of the United States….The War Garden of 1918 must become the Victory Garden of 1919.” Many are familiar with the Victory Gardens of World War II, but they were started back in the first big war or maybe long before that. Descendants of farmers say they were not really aware of The Great Depression because everyone they knew was in the same boat. Self-sufficiency has always been a Champion notion. Young Felix Parsons is getting a good garden education and he is a willing worker. He loves to go to the library too. He is just the kind of fellow to have around to help with the chores and to keep everyone in a good positive mood—a genuine Champion.

With our newly realized awareness of our connectivity with the rest of the world comes the thought that every little community has its share of interesting people, solid citizens and scalawags. Stories about Ferlie Lambert still circulate in Champion and Cletis D. Upshaw gave us plenty to talk about and was quite a good talker himself. We wonder what our old timers and the old timers of little communities all around the world would have to say about these days and how we are behaving. We would particularly be interested in what Ed Sutherland might have to say. His granddaughter, Laine, recently posted a picture of him that she had taken a long time ago. Someone else shared an audio clip of him playing “Indian War Whoop” on the fiddle. Not having heard it before, it was quite reminiscent of the 8th of January and beautifully played. Laine said, “Music was his passion.” She responded to Pete Howard, who said that he did not know she had a fiddler in the family, by telling him about her great grandfather, William Franklin Sutherland, who was a left handed fiddler. Ed’s brother, Ellis, she said, played the fiddle and the violin. It is a relative rarity for one to play both. Ed was a rarity and so is his granddaughter. He might well have said of Laine, “She’s the dammedest thing that ever peed behind a pair of tennis shoes!” He was a colorful character. There is much that we could learn from the old folks if they were still around. We will just have to take some old farmer’s advice and make our fences horse high, pig-tight, and bull strong. We will try to keep skunks, bankers and lawyers at a distance and will plow around stumps.

Marjorie Carter writes, “We left Drury on May 8th and got home Sunday May 10th.” Their home is in Sheridan, Wyoming. She said it was a windy drive and raining some when they got home, threatening snow. Bleak weather there finally reached the 80s. She said they could use some rain. “….just a little to help me get weeds out of my flower garden. We miss everyone.” Doug is working at the community garden mowing and trimming. They have two plots and were glad to have been able to get to Bakersville to get seeds before the shut down.” She closed her note saying she had to go. “No matter where I am, must continue to bake cookies for Doug.”

Skyline Summer Send-off from left to right: Terry Prock, April Mayberry, Carolyn Willhite, Melissa Willhite,
Jocelyn Downs, Samantha Adler, Jana Brixey, Deborah Barker, Crystal Sartor, Terri Ryan, Katie Vivod

Teachers and staff lined up outside the school to wish a happy summer to Skyline students in their drive through parade on Tuesday marking the last day of school. It was the last day for Mr. Prock, who is retiring after 25 years. Mrs. Helen is retiring after 15 years. They will both continue to be active with the school as volunteers. Mr. Prock will likely be fishing more down at Vera Cruz and Mrs. Helen has lots of grandchildren to keep her busy and happy. Congratulations to all students everywhere graduating without much fanfare. Your Champion friends and family care! Good luck to you!

Wilma and Joe Hamby were among the 19 equestrians enjoying the Champion Spring Trail Ride on Wednesday. Somewhere along their path, Wilma said there was a big tree down across the road at a deep creek crossing. She said it was a little dicey, but they were able to make it through. She and Joe and a few others made a short ride of it and were back at The Historic Emporium by noon-thirty for lunch. A couple of them had wet feet. The rest of the party continued on to their routine destination. It was thought that they would have to retrace their steps rather than make the full circuit as they generally do. They arrived back in Champion around three o’clock and reports were that they had come in from the east. Residents up a mile and a half from Fox Creek were alerted to voices on the road and saw perhaps a dozen riders pass by in the neighborhood of noon so it must have taken some while to cross Fox Creek. Those handsome steeds may have had water wings, or perhaps they found a ferry, though that brings us to remember Josey Wales and the Missouri Boat Ride. Inquires will be made and a full report will be forthcoming.

The creeks are already roiling and, with another week of rain ahead, we may all have wet feet before it is over. Those poor folks up in Michigan are really suffering from the catastrophic flooding. The world over things seem calamitous. Yet, we still have much reason for gratitude. Memorial Day finds us grateful to the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S Military, a somber reminder of their brave sacrifice to keep the United States a free and just society. The Denlow/Fairview School Reunion is always held on the Saturday of the Memorial Day week end. Veterans play a big part in the program every year. Saturday is predicted to be a ‘dry’ day, prime for decorating and for gathering carefully. There will be lots of smiles and expressions of thankfulness and much nostalgia for those long ago days when life seemed so much simpler. Looking back to those precious school days, we are reminded that our Skyline R2 School is the last vestige of the way of life we celebrate with our little school reunions. However, whenever school resumes, it will need help. Those of us in the Skyline R2 School district can vote on June 2nd for the small tax levy increase that will raise the level sufficiently to qualify for additional state and federal funding. The rest of us can drop a check in the mail to Skyline R2 School, Rt. 72 Box 486, Norwood, Missouri 65717. Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Looking south towards Champion from the north side of the Clever Creek slab.

May 16, 2020

CHAMPION—May sometime, 2020


Champion Comfrey

Local print newspapers are going through changes. The Mountain Grove News Journal and the Mansfield Mirror are joining forces to become the Wright County Journal, effective June 3rd. The Champion News may continue to show up in its few pages from time to time even though we are in Booger County. The Douglas County Herald, “Dedicated to all the people of Ava and Douglas County,” also has fewer pages lately and frequently the folks there are unable to find room for The Bright Side, even though we are very near the geographic center of the county…just a little to the right. It may be that we do not meet journalistic standards or it may be that the new folks there just have not yet been out our way to see that Champion is truly a perfectly delightful place. They may have troubles of their own, so we at TCN will not take it personally. The lockdown has brought out the procrastinator in our staff and colored things over with a haphazard, lackadaisical brush, which causes our on-line posts to be tardy. We plan to straighten up right away.

Harsh weather has caused trouble for people to the north, south, east and west of Champion. Pictures of flooding and wind damage overflow on the internet and we are left with but gratitude that there have been no reports of serious injury, apart from some folks who were caught out in that hail storm on May the Fourth. They did not photograph their mushrooms but their bruises were that amazing shade of purple that show up on people after a hard blow. Somewhere a cell phone tower blew down. It is spring after all. Creeks are out of their banks and over the roads. The owner/operator of the recreation of the Historic Emporium on the North side of the Square says that no one is approaching the city limits from the east currently. Champions apply their “Turn around—Don’t drown” wisdom to high water. Detour! There’s a muddy road ahead. There is room for lots of wisdom in our present-day situation. It is easy, out here in a wonderfully remote part of the country, to forget that we are part of the whole wide world. Two episodes of frost in the month of May were just two episodes too many for some worried gardeners who, relying on their experience of recent years, had many tender things in the ground already. The up-side is that it is still early enough in the season to recoup losses with more of that stuff called hard work.

Good conversations this week include one with Corrine over there in Vanzant. She’s doing fine and had been to town to gas up her truck. She had spoken with Frances Banks the day before and reported that Frances is doing well too. Judy Russel indicates that she and Eldon are getting along nicely, of course they always get along with each other, and they are very much missing the music. A good rumor is going around that the jam may start up in some fashion the second Thursday in June if all goes well. That is something to hope for! “Whispering Hope” was one of Uncle Al’s favorite songs.

Looking back in the Archives to last May, we see things were different and the same with wild weather all around. Big rains had caused the Spring Fling to be cancelled. Bud Hutchison’s Spring Trail Ride had taken place and The General had been on the Honor Flight of the Ozarks with his daughter up to Washington, D.C. They toured all the monuments there and returned home to find a large appreciative crowd waiting for them at the airport. Pete Proctor had been on one of those flights a few years ago and found it to be a very moving. He was still recounting the experience at the Denlow-Fairview School Reunion. This year the reunion will be May 23rd. It will be the 34th reunion for Denlow students. The Fairview students started their bi-annual reunions in 1997. They changed to annual reunions in 2015, when they combined their observance with Denlow. These kinds of gatherings may have to be done differently. We will see how those ingenious Wildcats do it this year. Good luck!

Last week the country heaved a simultaneous sigh, smiled and said in unison, “Gee, thanks, Ma!” The cards, flowers, phone calls and messages lifted Mother’s hearts. She has done well by us all these years, teaching us lessons, standing behind us. “But it’s not fair!” The frustrated lament of youth, feeling put upon these days, gets the answer from Mother who says, “Get used to it. Much of life is not fair. Make the best of it or change it. It doesn’t get better. We get better.” Those of us who had parents who lived through the pandemic of 1919, the Great Depression and World War II had the advantage of an upbringing that included the possibility of world-wide turmoil. Here we are again and may the strength of our forebears inspire us to our best response. These difficult times may forge the strength in our young people that will enable them to insure domestic tranquility when they are running things. Good luck. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 9, 2020

CHAMPION—May the Fourth be with you in 2020


The Champion Circle Garden

Sunday’s exciting thunderstorm rolled through Champion in about an hour giving us a fast half inch of rain and a pleasant cooling. Monday’s weather was not so kind to many. Folks in Seymour, Mansfield, Norwood, Mountain Grove and other places north and south experienced significant damage to buildings and trees. Days later some are still without power. The storm dropped pea to marble sized hail in Champion for about five minutes and the rain and wind were torrential for a little while, but it was good fortune for us here that there was no serious damage and good fortune overall that we have heard of no injuries or loss of life. Champions count our many blessings and extend our sympathies to those suffering from the ravages of storms and all the difficulties of our current times.

Those of us fortunate to be marooned with someone we really like are mindful of the struggles of solitary folks. Some people have always enjoyed being alone, but it is tough for others and loneliness is hard on them. Heart disease, dementia, anxiety, stress, inflammation and balance are all made worse by loneliness. Service, they say, is the most powerful antidote. Remember how good it makes you feel to help someone. A phone call can lift the spirits of people on both ends of the line, so if you find yourself feeling blue, dial up someone else who may be feeling that way. The fortunate ones can sing, ”It’s such a perfect day. I’m glad I spent it with you.”

Local lore tells us that May 10th is the last frost date for this area and Champions are holding off getting their tomatoes in the ground until after that date and hoping the peppers and other tender things they have in already will survive the episode of cold headed this way for Saturday morning. Gardening is a gamble. It has the same optimism about it as fishing, but the risk of all that hard work and effort going to waste is somehow more stressful than an empty stringer at the end of a lovely day at the lake. Champion Rich Heffern lets us know, “You don’t have to be good at gardening for gardening to be good for you.”

Thursdays are particularly difficult for some folks. Skip and Ina are doing okay over there near West Plains, and so is Bertie in Dora, but they, like many others, are missing the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam. Jerry and Lena live a few miles south of Mansfield and were glad to have missed the bad weather there, but not glad to miss the Thursday jam. They are doing well though and report the same for Sally and Wilma. The McClurg jam has opened up again, but with some significant alterations in the protocol. Whenever and however we are able to get back into these wonderful gatherings, we will be grateful. A couple of years ago a young man, a high school student, showed up at the Vanzant Jam with his guitar and a mandolin. He played beautifully, keeping up easily with much more seasoned musicians. He sang with confidence has a pleasant voice and a confident presentation. Someone said, “I suppose you have a fiddle and a banjo at home too,” to which he responded affirmatively. School and a full time job kept him away from the jam thereafter. His admirers are hopeful that he is still finding time to play. He has been busy. He is a senior in Mountain Grove High School this year and has just been appointed to West Point Class of 2024. His Champion and Vanzant friends could not be more proud of him if he were our own grandson. Congratulations, Bo Parker! Well done!

What a joy it is to be in the woods on these glorious spring days. New life springs fourth under every footfall. Everything seems to be in a frenzy of growing. The birds dazzle us with their beauty and their industry. One of the many reasons to encourage dandelions in your yard and garden is that birds love them too! Shifting attitudes now make the former weed our dear friend. Walking through the garden and through the woods and walking through our days the choices we make will hopefully bring us through to some kind of new normal where we will all be comfortable again. Make the trip a pleasant one, making good choices along the way. Stay at home if you can. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion birds love dandelions.

April 30, 2020

CHAMPION–April 29, 2020


Champion Honey Bee

Today is Willie Nelson’s 87th birthday. Champions hope he received piles of birthday cards and good wishes. The U.S. Postal Service is doing an excellent job of keeping us connected during these troubling times. Thank you. A lovely card came from Suzie and Wes Freeman living now down in North Texas, still hillbillies at heart and still doing okay even though they have challenges. The General and the Gipsy are doing well and report the same is true for Jeff Harper and Candi Mae Fiddle. Barbara and Kenneth are fine, or we would have heard. But would we? That is a question that sends us all to the telephone, to the computer and to the mail box. We hope all our dear ones are well and safe and finding ways to enjoy these unusual days. Old friends from decades gone by are dialing us up. It is sweet. A call list of friends and family is a good thing. Dial them up or write notes in your diminishing cursive. Stamps are worth the money and receiving a hand written letter is a delight on a dark day. Our elected representatives might benefit from hearing how much we appreciate the folks that handle our important mail. Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put all together that overwhelm the world.” We isolate now so that when we gather again no one is missing. So thanks so much to the USPS, the phone company and the internet. If you can holler across the holler, yodel to your neighbor like you were Jimmy Rogers or Patsy Montana to tell them you are okay and hope they are too…yodel lady who! Brenda C. Massey says, “Thanks to my brother-in-law for cutting the trees out for me or I should have not got out to go to work…a big thank you.” Brenda runs a mail route and is single-handedly responsible for much of the fun that happens across three counties.

Discover Nature

Travis Hathaway said that at 8:05 on Wednesday morning he finally gave a gobbler some lead! It was a 20+ pounder “Finally,” he said, “A dead bird!” He and the fair Savanah had heard gobblers all around them. He sounded pleased about the whole thing. Travis sings “Jimmy Brown the Newsboy” among many other great songs and picks a mean guitar. He is often in the company of Jim Orchard, so there you go. Jimmy Brown had his struggles and so do our local newspapers these days. They are becoming fewer and smaller, some in width, and most in the number of pages, but that was happening before the Corona19 virus hit. One Old Champion gets some of her best newspaper reading done in the garden. She mulches with a layer of newsprint and a covering of straw. It was of some concern to her when the local papers began printing in color, thinking about the chemicals in the ink, but she let that concern go because the earthworms still seem numerous and vigorus. The Herald is still wide, sixteen inches, the perfect separation for pepper plants. The News Journal is narrow, about 11 inches, a good spacing for cabbage plants or ground cucumbers. Reading things you may have missed when the paper was new might be a good way to pace yourself. It is easy to overdo after a cold snap. Gardeners, overdoing it on the nice days and recuperating on dreary ones, hope we have had our last freeze. Honey bees like the fall-planted turnips bolted to bloom. It is a joy to see bees again. Last year they were scarce and some in North Champion were lamenting yet the dramatic pruning of the Ancient Bee Tree on the south side of the Square back in on Valentine’s Day in 2015. The bees held on for a couple of years. Then there were squirrels in what had been the two story hive. Bees are smart so they moved on when their habitat had become inhospitable. They have found a new home somewhere in the area and Champions are glad. As the world’s circumstances change, more of us may be growing our own food as we did in the old days. Bees are the reason we have much of our agricultural produce. And the honey is sweet.

Champion Orioles

Garden exertion reminds one Old Champion of the smell of Watkin’s Liniment. It was her grandmother’s signature scent. Ben Gay is the current equivalent, with perhaps less camphor. We could use a good tonic. Back in the 1940s Hadacol was a popular tonic for young and old. It was a mixture of B vitamins, iron, niacin, calcium, phosphorous, honey and diluted hydrochloric acid in 12% alcohol. It was particularly popular in ‘dry’ parts of the country. The story of the tonic and the company is an intriguing one that has inspired books and a number of boogies. (“The Hadacol boogie makes you boogie woogie all the time.”) The company was relatively short lived and had a hard end. It all had to do with a man Time magazine described as “a stem-winding salesman who knows every razzle-dazzle switch in the pitchman’s trade.” The enterprise collapsed under the weight of debtors, but the music lingers on.

A pleasant posting from Teeter Creek Herbs reminds us of the many varied uses of the herb mullein. It grows in a beautiful rosette with thick soft leaves. In olden days it was submitted that smoking mullein and cedar was a good treatment for asthmatic children. A wild Swedish Indian up on Highway C says to put a leaf of mullein in your shoe to ease any foot trouble. Bob says, “Which brings us to its new-found (but long-known) fame as emergency wilderness toilet paper.” Uncle Al, the Lonesome Plowboy, sang of the virtues of sassafras…”that good old yeller tea. Sassafras, it’s good for you and me. If it put pep in my grandpap, it’ll put pep in you too. Sassafras–that good old southern brew!” That old song was being sung long before the potential risks were discovered back in the 1960s. Now we can research almost anything on the internet and make our best decisions. We used to buy a little bundle of sassafras roots in the produce section of the grocery store.

Bird watching is excellent entertainment for days like these. Angie Melton was excited to see her first blue grosbeak and Indigo buntings in Mountain Grove. Over at the farm house on WW, Wilburn and his bunch have been enjoying Orioles. Connie reported, “8 orange orioles eating cuties and grape jelly for their breakfast!” A Champion driveway was overrun with buntings. We live in a beautiful place in tumultuous times. Stay safe the way we do in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Indigo Buntings

April 24, 2020

CHAMPION—April 22, 2020


Earth Day beauty…

It is Earth Day and we are glad to be living on it even in these peculiar times. Earth and heart are spelled with the same letters. So take heart! We will persevere. Meanwhile, goldfinches are in Champion in swarms and the poke is coming up. If you do not know how already, you can learn how to harvest and cook poke via the internet. It might be better if you could learn those things from your mother or your grandmother, but if that is not possible, it may be a comfort to them just to know you are interested. People seem to be doing a lot more cooking these days. The General himself made a big breakfast of biscuits, gravy, sausage, and coffee. He said it was enough to serve at least two people with big appetites. Three of his friends came to eat, but he guessed they were not too hungry because he had a lot of leftovers. He was hoping to share those leftovers with friends early (before daylight) the following morning. Sherry Bennet offered apologies for not being able to attend. She is a fan of possum gravy. Greg Thompson pledged to bring the Pepto Bismol in case something went haywire. Robert Mull does not like so much protein, thinking that the fast moving squid looking things in the gravy could be tad poles. Lonie Upshaw chided that his Mother surely had taught him better than burn-and-serve biscuits and squid gravy. Joy Ann Coonts Ferrell is just pleased that she does not have to clean the kitchen after he cooks. The good thing is that The General is keeping the community entertained. One’s Champion Mother might say, “Well, thanks for what little you did do.” But she would say it with a smile and maybe a wink. Little things mean a great deal these days. Asked for a comment, he said, “I’m not one to start rumors.” An Old Champion said, “If it weren’t for The General, you wouldn’t have much news at all.”

A musician from Texas quotes someone saying, “O, but to have the wisdom of an oyster, that I might take an irritation and make of it a pearl.” Musicians need to pull those old guitars out from under their beds and lift their voices and their spirits. While it may be a little irritating to those with whom they share tight spaces these days, there is relief that at least it is a guitar and not a banjo. Someone has suggested that ‘perfect pitch’ is when a person throws a banjo into an accordion. A local accordion player, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been channeling conjunto music and enticing frogs to unusual behavior. Dan Kintner, of the National Banjo Association asserts, “The banjo is kinda like the random onion ring you find mixed in with your fries. You don’t realize how much you love it till you find it.” He attributes the remark to Adam Lee Marcus. Banjo virtuoso, Noam Pikelny of the Punch Brothers, can explain three bluegrass banjo styles. That is very interesting, but can he make a frog dance? If you look up ‘Dave Medlock Banjo’ on the internet you will find a nice video of him at the Friday Night Jamboree with Dennis Shumate on the mandolin and Montana Howerton on guitar playing “Lost Indian”. You will also find that the Google people located him in The Champion News. From the archives, July 17, 2017 we read, “Music has health benefits in physical, mental, emotional and social ways. It reduces stress and anxiety and may help with pain relief. Studies show that it may improve immune functioning and may aid memory. It is also a big help with exercise, if it is only patting your foot. “Put your little foot, put your little foot, put your little foot right out…”

Big green field.

Terri Ryan posted, “I’m ecstatic from this morning’s Walmart visit! There was rubbing alcohol, Angel Soft toilet paper, AND ramen. Having one of each in my cart made me feel so happy. I hope that I remain thankful for these things I took for granted and the wonderful people who had any hand in providing them. “ Marjorie Carter says they are still hanging in and continuing to make cookies. “Our bluebirds didn’t make it. But there is another family in another box, see what happens.” She said they saw their first hummingbird and got their feeders out. Hovey, in Houston, said, “4/20/20 first hummingbird at 3731 Brookfield today, hope he informs his friends. Peace and tranquility, Hovey” For some peace and tranquility a couple of Old Champions took a slow ride through the countryside and found the Race Track Memorial up north of Denlow. There are still plenty of Alsup descendants in these parts and lots of other parts of the country who can tell you all about how that quarter mile race track drew more attendance than the state fair back in the day. The monument sits next to an incredibly green field that one can imagine full of revelers. It is amazing to see how much beauty is all around us as we meander down new/old roads right here in Booger County. We live in an interesting part of the world and, now, in an interesting time in the word. Harmony and Chaos have always been around. Find a way to enjoy it. Get out in the garden and sing real loud while you are working up your rows and beds. Beets and radishes are coming up and potatoes are beginning to peep through the mulch. Last fall’s cover crop of turnip greens will provide one more good dish before they get plowed under. Put some bacon and onions in those greens, make a pan of cornbread and enjoy a nice glass of buttermilk.

Finally the heavy coats are taking their place in the back of the coat closet. The pockets have been emptied of cough drops, loose change, tissues, and gloves. They have had zippers zipped, buttons buttoned, and then a through brushing before finding their places on good wooden hangers. They will be ready next fall. Next fall seems a long way away here in the middle of sweet Spring. We will wait for the time when we can all be together again and in the meantime we reach out to those we are missing. Graeme Laird sings his plaintiff song, “Rosina.” Sometimes even a sweet sad song can make us feel better in Champion. Looking on the Bright Side!

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April 16, 2020

CHAMPION—April 13, 2020


Apple blossom time.

A ride along some seldom traveled country lanes is a good way to break the monotony if a person begins to feel stifled or stymied.  Dogwoods are out up on the ridges and soon will be so in the hollows.  They join the lilacs, the flowering quince, the apple blossoms, peach and pear trees, the honeysuckle, and phlox, creeping and wild, and myriad other blooming things.  Some of that beauty may be short lived as the temperatures drop and the wind picks up.  Our native things are resilient.  In Champion we have been acknowledging every beautiful thing we see, sometimes as if we are seeing it for the first time and, at other brief moments, with the sinking sense that it is fast fleeting and may never appear again.  Our Easter parade may have been canceled, but we joyfully don our bonnet with all the frills upon it.  We dress up to feel good, and feeling good helps us to cheer on our loved ones who may be anxious and dreary.  The internet and the phone lines are humming as people reach out to connect with one another during this isolation.  Sometimes the internet seems overloaded.  It must be that it is being used more than ever.  The whole situation is unsettling, but we are reminded that Albert Camus, said “What we learn in time of pestilence:  that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.”

School kids are being required to make serious modifications in their lives.  Certainly these will be days they remember when they are adults running the world.  Meanwhile, the school is remembering students with a sign on the fence, “WE MISS YOU.”  Skyline food service is providing a grab-and-go meal program on Tuesdays for any person 18 years or younger.  The drive-up service is open from 10:00 to 12:00.  For more information call 417-683-4874.  On April 7th they served 86 people, giving out 10 meals each.  That is 860 meals, a valuable amenity to the community.  When the opportunity to help the school shows up on the ballot again, hopes are that this kindness will be remembered.

Since The Douglas County Herald has not been interested in Champion for the last month, a number of important Skyline birthdays have been neglected.  For example, fifth grade student JP Rhodes has April first for his special celebration.  He will have special attention because of that date for the rest of his life, no doubt.  Skyline staff member, Mrs. Kristi, celebrates on the 4th.  Prekindergarten student, Hunter Harris shares his birthday on the 9th with Mr. Luna.  Mr. Luna is the grandson of long time West Pains Wagon Club wagon-master, Clifton Luna.  He is also the Skyline R2 School Superintendent and is receiving great reviews for his work to preserve, protect and promote our great little rural school, one of only two left in Douglas County.  Thank you, Mr. Luna!  Seventh grader, Coby Wallace, enjoys the 14th.  Wyatt Lakey, of the 5th grade, and Destiny Brown, kindergarten student, both have the 15th for their birthday. Happy birthday, you Tigers!

1946 Studebaker….”Bob has one of these!”

What would a person give Studebaker Bob for his birthday?  Lovely Mary says, “Car parts.”  The 14th is his big day.  Banjo Dillon Watts enjoyed his birthday on Easter Sunday.  Dustin Kline has his day on Income Tax Day, along with Champion Vivian Krider Floyd and George G. Jones, currently of Stockton.  Income Tax Day has been extended to July 15th, but these charming folks can have their birthdays in April the way they always have.  Susanna wrote on April 9th, “Happy Birthday to the sweetest man on Earth.”  She had lots of good things to say characterizing him as a sensational all-around nice guy.  His cousin, The General, had reported last week that the recent earth quake, the epicenter of which was about 150 miles from him, had not shaken him from his recliner.  That was a relief for Kenneth (Hovey) Henson to read in The Champion News.  “I’m happy to hear that Wesley, our football manager at Mountain Grove High School, came through the earth quake with no damage.”  He said, “As of 4/14/20 no humming birds at 3731 Brookfield.  Being quarantined I am rereading all my James Michener books.  Love the way he can make you part of his historical novels.  Granddaughter, Avery, is doing her school work over the internet.  She is in the 8th grade taking all advance classes–2 of them are freshmen high school algebra and Spanish, very proud.  Dawn says that I’m obnoxious sticking that child in every ones face, can’t help it.”  Our response to Hovey is that having an obnoxious old man proud of her will be a gift his granddaughter will treasure always.

Judie, up on Tar Button Road, has only had a couple of skillets of morrelas so far.  Maybe warmer weather will bring more out.  Meanwhile she is out in the woods, keeping her eye out for bears and appreciating life in general.  She now has three teenage grandchildren, as the twins have now had their 13th birthday.  Other folks strolling about in the serenity of the woods are those fine folks at Teeter Creek Herbs.  Look them up at just to see what good they can do for you.  One Old Champion swears by the anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric.

Musicians are suffering for want of a jam.  Some are practicing at home getting better and better.  Lena said Jerry has not been playing very much since they stopped having the Wednesday morning jam at the barber shop.  He has new strings on his fiddle and they will need some breaking in.  He probably has an old guitar lying around somewhere.  Many people do.  Pull them out from under the bed, even if they have been there for decades.  Dust them off, tune them up and make your heart merry with song.  Jerry sings, “I wouldn’t change a single thing about you if I could.  The way you are just suits me to a T.”  Then he gives Lena that look and she smiles.  Music is good for us.  In response to last week’s question a distant Champion responds, “After listening again, the devil and his band of demons definitely beat Johnny, in my opinion.”  Another said, “I’m opposed to the devil outright and care not how good he might play.  Johnny was mortal, after all.”

As we struggle with the uncertainty connected with the virus and the disruptions to our daily lives, we also acknowledge that all across the south the violent weather of Easter Sunday has thrown many into additional turmoil.  A great number of lives were lost and the damage to property may never be recouped.  Even as we face our own challenges these days, there are others in more dire circumstances.  Robert Frost says, “The best way out is always through.”  And we hear that the comeback is always stronger than the setback.

The first hummingbird scout showed up in Champion North on Good Friday.  It is a comfort to know that nature is behaving as it routinely has.  Now it is just up to us to continue behaving, as Mother would say, ‘…like you have good sense,” and exhibiting patience and kindness whenever we can.  Love and Gratitude are the watchwords and we rest well with a lullaby in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Somewhere along a seldom traveled lane…