CHAMPION—September 8, 2008


        Champions generally consider themselves to be observant people—especially when it comes to good things.  So it was quite a surprise to one driving east on 76 Highway the other day when he happened to glace over to see the new sign on the Firehouse at the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department.  It’s a beauty!  “When did that happen?”  Well, it happened back in early August when the Fire Department was getting ready for the Picnic.  It was those Mastrangelo girls that did it—Elizabeth and Loren.  “I was sort of used to that ‘A’ being tilted over to the right, (or was it to the left?) and the whole thing looking sort of ‘catawampus.’”  Now he’ll just have to get used to the new and improved look.  It is a perfectly wonderful sign that identifies the place with the suggestion that it is substantial, well maintained and well regarded.  Moreover, no committee assigned the work.  No delegation spurred on by complaint caused it to happen.  These young ladies saw that it needed doing and did it.  They are Champions!

        Aged Champions grew up watching Ward Bond on TV shouting, “Wagon’s Ho!”

        Champions are excited that once again the West Plains Wagon Club is about to pass through town.  Wagon Master, Clifton Luna, says that the train will leave West Plains on the 15th of September.  It will be in Champion about lunch-time on Thursday the 18th.  Champions are urged to make that their regular shopping trip to the Village that week.  Some plan to bring a basket of dainty vittles just to share with the trail riders.  The chance to experience the sounds and smells and general atmosphere of a wagon train comes around infrequently and often has passed by before many Champions knew it was going on. So Champions Look Out!  Here they come!  Maybe Shelby Blades will have his three-up again.  (That’s three mules.)  Jim, Sam and Sue are the three up of Bill and Blanche Jackson of Ozark.  Last year Blanche told about a trail ride they had been on from Corpus Christ,  Texas to San Antonio through the King Ranch.  It took them about ten days.  They were in a train of 35 or 40 wagons with 300 outriders.  Champions wonder what they’ve been up to since then.  Luna said that ferrier Mutch Stone wasn’t shoeing but about a dozen a week last year.  He’s been doing that work for 37 or 38 years now and hopefully he’ll be around to chew some harness leather with local ferriers..(Joe!)  Of particular interest will be the three quarter size Springfield wagon pulled by Rabbit and Ruthie.  This outfit belongs to Jerry Sanders of Norwood.  The wagon was built 29 years ago by a guy named Elvin Huldo.  It is authentic except for the rubber tires.  Mr. Sanders is a seasoned trail rider.  He once rode 200 miles horseback for the Boys and Girls Ranch.  It took nine days.  He has been participating in this trail ride since 1993.  Last year the Gee and Haw Club out of Salem Arkansas was well represented by Don Crawford from Salem and Randall Barnet from Warm Springs, Arkansas.  Don Crawford said that he and Clifton Luna had been on every one of these rides since 1989.  Some of these rigs are just amazing to see.  Some like to keep things as authentic to the old days as possible.  Others like to innovate and have solar collectors on their roofs charging batteries for their CB radio, their TV and Radio and cell phones.  Some have lights and some have ‘running water.’  It will be a spectacle and so the opportunity to observe something especially interesting won’t slip by Champions this year.  The train is, as in the old days, accompanied by a number of outriders.  They were scouts, herders, solitaries and security.  They all have interesting stories.  Some are relatively new to the train, but others like Gary & Pam Carder of Mountain Grove have been outriders with this wagon train for 15 years.  The squeak of saddle leather and general horse and wagon racket is music to the ears of nostalgic Champions.  Lonnie and Faye won’t get to see the train this year.  They are taking their “19th trip to Tulsa.”  That sounds like a hard driving song.  Champions sing “Happy Trails” to them and wish for them safe and successful journeys.  Champions are still enjoying the music from the Champion School Reunion last week-end.  It was one of those perfect occasions.  Some good pictures of the reunion can be seen on the internet at   This is a thriving berg of constant entertainment.  Why, just around the corner on the 4th and 5th of October Dale and Betty Thomas will be hosting the Pioneer Descendants Gathering over in Yates.  That promises to be another spectacle full of wagon rides and demonstrations of all sorts!  Between now and then Farmer’s Days and other harvest festivals will be celebrated.  The social calendar around these parts is replete with fancy functions!  It’s a good time for family and friends to come wandering by.  That’s always a good time in Champion.

        As to the matter of standing on the corner and listening to the opposite point of view, some Champions struggle.  They are like King Agrippa almost being persuaded by Paul.  Abandoning momentarily their own prejudices and seeing the fervor of true belief in the faces of their friends and even misguided family members, they are pulled almost to believe the Contrary.  Ultimately, they know what is right, however, and hardly any except the politicians ever change their political minds once decided upon.  They resign to tolerate the crackpot opposition because sometimes they are married to them or have lived next door to them for forty years.  “Where do these off-the-wall ideas come from?”  One old Champion about teared up the other day saying that it is a heartbreaking shame that Adli Stevenson wasn’t respected.  He might have been the smartest man to run for office this century.  “Smart” doesn’t seem to mean much he laments.  The voting franchise has been hard won and Champions take it seriously.  This will be the first presidential election that folks who are ten years old now will remember.  Champions are hoping for the best!

        So are the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  There are many more of them now than ever and they could use the Love and Gratitude of their Nation. As of September 5, 2008 the Department of Defense reports that there are 320,000 Vets with brain injuries.  There are 18 Veteran Suicides per day among the Nation’s 25 million Veterans, according to Dr. Ira Katz, the VA’s head of Mental Health.  Clearly these patriots who step out there to protect the voting franchise could use some advocates.  They will be here for the duration.

        When the ground is so nice and wet, the weeds slide out of the ground with the least amount of pulling.  Sometimes they come out with the sound that the sod-busters loved as they turned the prairie grasses over to farm.  That same sound was the death knell for indigenous peoples and it was  their heartbreak.  It is all so subjective.  Linda’s Almanac says the 14th will be good for planting above ground crops and the 15th for root crops.  Both days will be good for vines.  The 12th and 13th will be good days to prune to discourage growth.  Encourage growth by pruning on the 23rd and 24th.

        Encouragement of any sort is welcome at Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or at Champion News.  Sing like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans out on the porch at Henson’s Store at the way station:  “…Some trails are happy ones, Others are blue.  It’s the way you ride the trail that counts, Here’s a happy one for you.  Happy trails to you Until we meet again  Happy trails to you Keep smiling until then.  Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?  Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.  Happy trails to you, until we meet again.”  Meet up with yer partners at Champion where they always Look on the Bright Side!