January 25, 2016

January 25, 2016

CHAMPION—January 25, 2016

January Robins

        On Saturday night the big full yellow moon made its way through the clear sky.  It was cold.  It was a great night for a birthday party for a couple of talented young men who do not know each other–Missouri Kyle and Oklahoma Oliver.  The next day red, red robins came bob, bob bobbing along in the front yard.  It was January 24th!  Are they harbingers of Spring, or are they just taunting us?  Whatever the weather, the days are passing one after another and Champions are uniformly grateful for the dawning of each new day.  The big old yellow moon made its path through the clear night sky on Saturday and shown in on sleepers warm and cozy.  Ah!

        Skyline preschool student, Cody Coonts, may be related to middle school teacher, Mrs. Coonts.  In any event they share a birthday on January 25th.  Is it possible that they are both related to Cowboy Jack?  Brooke Johnson is in the 4th grade at Skyline.  Her birthday is on January 26th.  Kaye Heffern Alexander was a student at Skyline back when she was Kaye Heffern.  Her birthday is on the 27th and she can expect a card in the mail.  Erika Strong is a third grade student.  Her birthday is on January 30th.  If James Brixey was 40 years old on January 30, 2012, how old is he now?

        Lannie Hinote has had some adventures since she returned to Alaska after the holidays.  She has been coaching basketball again and very much enjoying it.  She also posted this:  “You know it is time to be grateful your feet are back on the ground when the pilot of the little tin can you have been flying in says it is okay to be scared because he is too….however a free roller coaster ride…. E.B.,  I know how you felt, yesterday but I refuse to say thanks for the experience.”  Lannie is a Champion surrogate adventurer.  Thanks!

        The Wednesday dusting of snow was scant enough that gravel showed through on the county roads and travel was safe.  A number of regular attendees made the effort and were rewarded with a mostly pleasant gathering down on the wide, white, wooly banks of Aulde Fox Creek.  A celebratory chocolate cake from the day before was polished off and some interesting conversations ensued.  Ethel is trying to find the name of a western movie she once saw where the two main characters were sworn enemies, but circumstances forced them to cooperate in order to survive.  They determined that when they reached the river they would resume their hostility.  She did not say how the movie ended.

        The subject of General Custer came up in connection with Ethel’s inquiry about the movie and in connection with that a famous local farrier correctly identified Custer’s marching song as Garry Owen.  He said that the 7th Calvary was serving in Viet Nam when he was there in 1966 and 1967.  They thought their unit was jinxed on account of Custer.  He thought they were jinxed because they thought that way.  They showed him the empty pen that had held the 7th Calvary’s mascot mule.  He was told that the animal had wandered out in an open place and had got it from all sides.  Asking the Google folks later, “What happened to the mascot mule of the 7th Cavalry?” a number references confirm that she did not survive.  Her name was Maggie.  She… “—got blown away by a nervous guy on perimeter guard.”  There are a number of books that tell the story.  The mule was named after Lieutenant Colonel Stockton’s wife.  (There may be an interesting story there.”)  There was some idea that the mule had been named after General Custer’s wife, but her name was Elizabeth.  Elizabeth ‘Libby’ Bacon Custer was only 35 when she became a widow.  In that day women were not supposed to work, but in 1877 she found a part-time job in New York as a secretary at the Society of Decorative Art, an organization that trained impoverished gentlewomen in practical arts (such as needlework) so they could earn a living.  In 1881 Libby traveled to Washington to ask for increases in military widows’ pensions.  Because women were not supposed to talk about money, this was a difficult effort for her, but she was effective.  In 1882 her pension increased from $30.00 to $50.00 and by 1890 the government was paying widows $100.00 per month in benefits.  She lived until 1933.

        Meanwhile, the song Gary Owen (Garryowen) has been around since the 1700’s.  Beethoven got hold of it and composed two arrangements of it in 1809—1810.  These interesting Wednesday conversations always lead from one thing to another and then to exciting research that continues to prove that the past has informed and shaped the present.  It is fascinating.  It was a lovely day Wednesday, cold and snowy, and hardly spoiled at all by an aging self-confessed prevaricator again shaming all honest fishermen with a preposterous tale invented on the spot for no other purpose than self-aggrandizement, and fishing for a fight, casting stink bait across political and ethical lines.  “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him,” said a wise person, Dr. King Jr.  “When the debate is lost, slander becomes the tool of the loser,” said Socrates, though in this case it was more egocentric pontification than debate.  Garry Owen is more than a song.  And it is not a person, as many people might think.  It’s a place.  Translated from the Gaelic, it means “Owen’s Garden.”  Look for a more about this mid-February for the St. Patrick’s day episode of TCN.

        As per last week:  Road conditions are passable; gardens are burgeoning; passive aggressive behavior is still an enigma.  This week January 25th is celebrated for Robert Burns.  He was a republican fan of the French revolution and a great lover of the American Revolution.  It is fitting that his birthday should be celebrated here in this land of freedom and democracy…”for he sprung from the people, remained to the end one of the people, and his heart was ever with the democratic institutions of the United States.”  There will be special dinners with music and poetry for him this Monday night.  (My love is like a red, red rose that sweetly blooms in June.  My love is like a melody that’s sweetly played in tune.)  Burns was a great fan of George Washington and of all things democratic.  In Mountain Grove a person can register to vote at the Division of Family Services in the Cedar Center, at City Hall and at the drivers’ license bureau across from the Post Office.  Serious efforts to impede voting are going on in a number of states, Missouri included, under the guise of preventing voter fraud, which turns out to be minuscule.  It seems that a low voter turn-out works to the favor of some.  Then there are those who say it does not matter who you vote for, it only matters who counts the votes.  Who owns those voting machines anyway?  Champions everywhere are urged to become informed and participate or to quit your bellyaching.  An important election will occur on March 15th.

        Foster Wiseman was featured on the internet Sunday playing his mandolin.  He is just getting started and is showing some real promise.  He comes from a musical family.  Everyone can remember starting something new.  Children are expected to learn new things all the time.  It is education.  It is growing up.  Old folks often fall into the ‘old dogs-new tricks’ category.  They lament the loss of the effortlessness of their youth and are cowed by fear of failure or of ridicule.  Others embrace their ridiculousness with humor.  Share your curiosity, your questions and answers, your songs and slogans and fearlessness at champion@championnews.us or bring them with you down to one of the world’s truly beautiful places…Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 18, 2016

January 18, 2016

CHAMPION—January 18, 2016

Sunlit debris along Fox Creek.

         Champions are a forward looking people.  Some are looking forward to mushroom season already and are now looking up into the woods grateful for the nine degrees Fahrenheit that may be doing away with some of the ticks and chiggers that plague even the most stalwart mushroom hunter.  They are also most grateful for the warmth of the flame and for the keepers of the fire who bring in the wood and haul out the ashes.  These are the same fellows who keep the water flowing and the truck running and the snow shoveled when it snows.  Respect for those hoary heads is amplified by the list of responsibilities they assume with no expectation of reward other than to keep the home operating smoothly.  Hooray for the menfolk–and for the womenfolk who do that kind of stuff too!  What Champions!

        The Skyline VFD Auxiliary got together the other night for a good meeting.  They are planning the chili supper that will take place on March 12th.  The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 9th, at Henson’s Grocery and Gas in downtown Champion.  Everyone is welcome to come and to participate in the hard work it takes to make a lovely event like the annual chili supper happen.  This happening is usually one of the first of its kind in the year and it is a chance to get rid of the winter doldrums, to visit with old friends, many of whom only get together at these festivities.  The year is off to a great start with support for the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department.

        Infrequent visitors to the Bright Side are in for a surprise.  The old farm house on the southwest corner of the crossroads is no more.  It was probably built back in the 1930’s by Ivy and Pearl Hutchison who eventually sold it to Clifford and Esther Wrinkles who lived there for many years before trading it to J.T. and Betty Shelton.  Harley and Barbara Krider acquired it a few years ago and now the property has passed into the hands of the Cothran family–Welcome to new neighbors!  The house had been unoccupied for a while since J.T. moved to Springfield and, consequently, it has made a rapid decline.  Some nice people with heavy equipment came and dug a big hole and pushed the old building into it.  It is buried now and will turn back into soil eventually.  Meanwhile, the foundation for the new house is going in a little higher up the hill and young Chase, who just turned two, will have the extraordinary good fortune to grow up in Champion!  Change is exciting, unavoidable, and constant in Champion and the world over.

        There was a nice young family who used to live up off C Highway back in the late 1970’s, Chris and Fae Giacalone.  They had a son, Chad Knight, and two younger ones, Caesar and Sicily who were born here.  They moved to Republic and later back to Michigan.  The children are all grown up and hopes are that they have started their own young families somewhere away from the poisoned water of Flint.  Even if there were not individuals with whom we have affectionate connections there, the lead poisoning of the water supply is an ongoing tragedy that will play out for generations.  Lead mining and smelting are an important part of Missouri’s history.  It has remained the dominate lead-producing state in the nation.  Wes Smith can point to a spot downstream of the slab across Clever Creek at the junction of County roads 243, 237 and Fox Creek Road where there was a vein of lead ore that local people mined.  Like other minerals and elements with useful attributes, there is definitely a down side to lead.  The Missouri Department of Health says, “Lead affects almost every organ and system in the body.  The effects are the same whether it is breathed or swallowed.  Lead damages the brain, central nervous system, kidneys and immune system.  Lead in the human body is most harmful to young children under six years of age.  It is especially detrimental to children less than three years of age because their systems are developing rapidly.”  There are some treatments available and their success rate is better with early detection.  The test is available at the Douglas County Health Department–a simple finger stick.  The lead the people of Flint are dealing with did not come from rocks in the creek, or old peeling paint or the mini blinds, but from the blundering of individuals whose responsibility it is to husband the resources and provide safe water for the inhabitants of the city.  Whatever their motivation for the catastrophic choices they made, they will surely be held responsible.  The next batch of elected officials will have them as an example of what not to do, meanwhile the full extent of the damage may not be known for a long time.  It is a reminder that choosing the right people for any job is a responsibility that has consequences.   In Douglas County a person can register to vote with the County Clerk in the Courthouse, at the drivers’ license bureau, the office of Family Services and on-line with the Office of the Secretary of State.  Call the County Clerk in your county to find all the places where you might register to vote.  Encourage your high school students about to become 18 to register to vote and to participate in the important decisions that determine quality of life.  There is to be an election on the Ides of March, always an ominous date.

Evening colors.

        The well-practiced fish story was again trotted out for the amusement of the Wednesday bunch, this time perhaps a little longer, with one parenthetical phrase after another until it was finally over and the mark, this time, Larry Dooms, was prime to take the bait.  But he did not.  It got a little quiet.  The erstwhile fisherman/story teller was almost up against it when the Knuckleball Champ stepped up and said, “Well, (pause) if it got away,(pause) how did you know how much the fish weighed?”  Face was saved, and the conclusion was finally reached. “I read the scales as it swam off.” Sigh.  It is plain to see that The General’s retirement will work to the benefit of the weekly meeting.  He also keeps the coffee pot perking over at Vanzant for the Thursday Bluegrass Jam.  He probably just naps the rest of the time.

        Special local birthdays include those of River Stillwood whose day was the 17th.  Mary Beth Shannon and kindergarten student, Jacob Kyle Brixey share their day on the 18th.  Sharon Woods will be celebrating on the 20th and third grader Kyle Barker on the 21st.  First grade student, Elisabeth Hinote, has her birthday on the 22nd and percussionist, Oliver Holden-Moses over in Oklahoma will be 17 on the 23rd.  Enjoy your voyages into another year with health and happiness!

        Next week’s subjects for consideration will be road conditions, garden plans, passive aggressive behavior and, as always, music.  Send any thoughts on any of these subjects to champion@championnews.us or to The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Go to www.championnews.us for a look back over the neighborhood for the past decade.  Come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek and stand on the broad veranda of the Historic Emporium.  You will be standing in sunshine, sheltered from the cold north wind and can “Count your many blessings.  Name them one by one..” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 11, 2016

January 11, 2016

CHAMPION—January 11, 2016

From the South side of Clever Creek…
Plenty of conversation.

        John Buchan said “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”  Heard around the round table where, supposedly, no lies are told because they come around like Karma to get you, “I throwed that little mackey out there….peeled the line off for 300 yards…finally caught my drag…fifteen minutes later…waves moving around the line…got his head up….lips all full of hooks…trying to get him off…broke the line and had to watch him slowly move back out into the creek….”  The story went for three paragraphs, one adverbial clause after another, with comma after comma until a thought was finally completed, the gist of which was:  The biggest fish he ever caught was 26 pounds 8 ounces, but this one that got away was 39 pounds and one ounce.  Pause.  In the quiet room, the sucker asked, “If it got away, how do you know how much it weighed.”  “Well, I’m glad you asked, Wilda,” he said.  Pause.  “I read the scales as he swam off.”  This would have been bad enough, but he had told the same story the previous Wednesday, pretty much word for word, (he rehearses).  On that occasion the dupe had been the illustrious store keeper.  She knew what was coming, as did Bob Leach, who flashed his smile and nodded in encouragement, “Listen to this one.”  Amusing conspiracies and collusions aside, being snookered sometimes is just part of life.  Lessons learned the hard way stick.  Stories like this one have gone on around the same wood stove for generations.  It is a Champion kind of thing.

        Among the interesting artifacts for group inspection was a powder horn, beautifully outfitted with brass and in good working order.  Mr. Partell thought it might be an exotic African animal horn.  Speculation was that it was not buffalo because of a blonde area in the horn.  Mr. Stone happened to have an actual buffalo horn with him.  It was kind of nasty, having only recently been separated from the remains of the rest of the buffalo, and it was definitely all black.  A new regular to the bunch, General Knuckleball, stepped out to his truck to retrieve his rifle.  Jaws dropped as he slowly withdrew the piece from its sheath.  The relic brought every man back to his childhood.  Hand saws and horse rasps in adolescent hands shaped this weapon more than sixty years ago.  It has held up well with a fencing staple for a site and a history of having slain many an imaginary foe in the dense forest in the land of the Upshaws.  Champions all!

The General’s creation stands inspection by Stan and George.

        The first person asked about predictions for the coming year had such dire and cataclysmic expectations for just the next few months ahead that the inquirer abandoned the project altogether and has no plans to pursue the survey further.  The chance stranger to the table may not yet have caught on to the mode o’ day in Champion which is, “Looking on the Bright Side!”  Deward’s Granddaughter on the other end of the room sat in stunned disbelief, her eyes wide asking silently, “Is this for real?”  Certainly the world is big enough for widely divergent philosophies, but the breadth of the difference among people in such close proximity can be staggering.  Stagger on down to the wooly, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek and see for yourself.  It is good to remember that in any given gathering there may well be people (polite people) who believe exactly the opposite things and in most cases they are indistinguishable from each other by their looks.  For your own peace of mind, be sure you are registered to vote and participate in your democracy.  It is a sure bet that “they” do.  The last day to register to vote for the 2016 Presidential Primary is February 17th.  Register with the County Clerk in the Court House.  The Primary Election will be March 15th—the Ides of March, historically a fateful day.

        Wilburn Hutchison shares his birthday with Bob Liebert of Teeter Creek fame on January 11th.  When they were boys, some while back, Wilburn and Fleming Gear saw a dirigible motor over the field they were working.  Diane Wilbanks celebrates on the 13th.  She and Jerry drive white mules and are probably taking the high road out of their place these days.  The Bryant filled their front yard.  The 13th was also the birthday of Norris Woods, who departed the scene recently and has many missing him still.  Willis Masters will have open heart surgery on his 73rd birthday the 14th.  Bert Godkin will be smiling sweetly and celebrating on the 15th.  Judy Ing called him ‘Father Bert.’  Champion grandchildren, Miley Schober and Rese Kutz, are cousins who celebrate on the 16th and 17.  Jacob Kyle Brixey is a kindergarten student at Skyline.  He celebrates on the 18th.  He has a sister and a mother in the same school with him—a lucky guy.  The 19th is the birthday of the singularly hardest working person in Champion, as well as the most pleasant and modest one.  She shares the day with the generous patron of The Champion News, J.C. Owsley, who rides a big white mule named Dot and comes to the Bright Side as often as he can.  Wishing you all a Champion Happy Birthday!

        Weather does not pay attention to the calendar so it can wreck local thoroughfares at any given time.  Those charming men who do the road work for this part of Douglas County are again to be commended for making the country lanes safe and passable so that Champions can receive visitors and can venture out, if they must.  Area residents may not deliver the cookies to the county shed that would say, “Thanks, fellers,” but they appreciate the difficulties of the job nonetheless.  These cold bright days with a good stiff breeze make the birds look fat.  It may be that ticks and chiggers are being frozen out of existence.  Seed catalogues and musical instruments help to pass the time when the cold wind blows and fortunate folks do not have to be out in the elements.  It turns out that Josef Franz Wagner (1865-1908) wrote Under the Double Eagle (“Unter dem Doppeladler”).  The double eagles were on the coat of arms of Austria-Hungry.  The 1893 march has found its way through John Phillip Sousa, Benny Goodman, Monty Python and any number of good bluegrass musicians.  Some of those musicians still play it and Listen to the Mockingbird.  “I’m dreaming now of Hallie, sweet Hallie….and the mocking bird is singing all the day” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 4, 2016

January 4, 2016

CHAMPION—January 4, 2016

Looking East across Fox Creek from Champion

        Brilliant sunshine and warm temperatures helped Champions get a good start on the New Year.  By Sunday Clever Creek was crossable by intrepid travelers though it has taken a week for them to build their courage while the water slowly receded.  On Monday last it was reported that the milk hauler who picked up at the Krider farm felt some serious movement of his rig while passing through the Clever on his way to the Brixey farm.  There are tales of harrowing escapes and mishaps floating around.  They will come to rest around the tables in the meeting room at the Historic Emporium where some will be believed and some taken with a grain of salt.

        Holiday visitors have made a safe return to their home places and Champion friends and family are relieved for the good news.  The open road is a dangerous place even in good weather.  Now the little alertness ‘until they call’ can be replaced with the good memories left behind.  The Tennessee bunch was in town for Christmas and was joined by a mob of cousins, aunts and uncles, grand-people, in-laws, and friends for several days of Champion country fun.  A dear niece and nephew, world travelers, epicureans, enthusiastic laborers, sterling story tellers and conversationalists came home to the farm bringing mandolins and fiddles.  They played their own and tuned and played every other instrument in the house and kept the place jumping with heartening melodies and rhythms and some somber strains as sad news came of deep loss at this otherwise joyful time of year.  The holidays include a space for acknowledging the absence of loved ones with whom we have celebrated in the past.  Memory condenses and softens past moments for us in a way that makes those bygone days seem ideal.  Looking ahead with that same idealism is a Champion goal.

Frankie Catahoula

        Frankie is a Catahoula Leopard Dog, but happens to be all black except for her blue eyes and big brown mottled feet.  She was born in October and is in full sweet puppyhood.  It is clear she will be a keen watchdog.  The breed is said to be ‘a serious working dog who thrives on vigorous exercise and goes about his business with tremendous focus and assertiveness.’  Her people rub her tummy and coo, “You are our big hog killin swamp dog, aren’t you?  Yes, you are!”  On her first trip to Champion Frankie learned to climb steps and eventually how to go down them again.  She has a fuzzy hedgehog with a squeaker inside that she torments fiercely.  Her Champion hosts welcome her and her people back any time.  The bright yellow truck that goes out hunting for Tank, the 80 pound boxer, was seen cruising the roads on Sunday.  It follows that Tank is out on a lark.  Bon adventure!

        Garden catalogues have begun to choke the mail-boxes again.  (Thank you, Karen Ross and your stalwart substitutes, for keeping us connected to the rest of the world via the wonderful USPS.)  The mild weather up to now has provided ample time to clear the garden of last year’s debris and start the process of building the soil for spring planting.  Old Champions who have been diverted from gardening and onto other projects will be running behind.  Their already diminished productivity combined with the exaggerated expectations of a youthful person stuck in an aging carcass might have them set up for disappointment.  Champions, however, live one day at a time and do the best they can every day.  Back in the early 1950s Joe ”Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes got together to write a song that was inspired by things that Joe’s mother said over the years.  “Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old or a friend when you’re lonely or a love that’s grown cold.  The wealthiest person is a pauper at times compared to the man with a satisfied mind.”  In the cold days to come Champions will peruse their colorful catalogues and sit around the fire, satisfied that all is as it should be.  They know that no amount of guilt can solve the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future.

        School is back in session and the youngsters will have stories to tell and may take a little while to get back into the swing of their role as students.  Lannie Hinote came home for Christmas and was all over the internet having a good time.  She is back in the classroom in Alaska now and recharged for another term.  After this good break, Skyline students will be ready to apply themselves to the important job of learning.  Good citizens are being made in our beautiful little rural school.  They are learning valuable lessons and hopes are they will be exposed to a journalist named Charles M. Blow, who said “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm.  The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”

        By Thursday at the resumption of the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam things ought to have settled down to a normal routine again.  The potluck there at 6:00 is always a fine spread.  If you don’t want to or cannot contribute to the meal, there is a donation box that will let you eat guilt free.  Everyone is welcome and welcome to bring your instruments and your singing voice, or just your appreciation of a musical get together.  The party breaks up at nine in the evening so farmers can get up in the morning to do their chores.

        The last Wednesday gathering in the cozy meeting room at Henson’s Downtown G & G is reported to have been well attended, if not very well.  Most of those present had taken a long way around to get there and some could not get there at all.  Alas!  It was said that The General appeared, but for lack of media attention, he did not bring out his specialized, hand crafted, antique weapon for perusal.  Perhaps next Wednesday will find him less reticent.  Those absent last time can catch up next time.  Ms. McCleary may well be there with details of her birthday extravaganza.  The actual date is January 4th, but the party has probably been going on for some while now.  The first Wednesday meeting of the New Year may have some prognostications for the year ahead.  The Champion News will endeavor to record for posterity the far reaching thoughts of this stable of sages.  Communicate directly with TCN at champion@championnews.us or at The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Any news of interest to the community: i.e. birthdays, anniversaries, poetry, music appreciation, and encouragement of any kind is welcome.  Those things are welcome in person down on the debris strewn banks of Auld Fox Creek.  Some northern hay bale has come apart and has come to rest in tuffs in the notches of every bush and shrub and tree up to and above higher than any Champion can reach.  It is a sight in itself and explains the ‘wooly’ banks.  Check it out at the bottom of several hills where the pavement ends in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!