February 29, 2016

Leap Day February 29, 2016

CHAMPION—Leap Day—February 29, 2016

        Our moon has been wonderfully entertaining these past weeks as it has been waxing and waning and now riding high and pale in the morning sky.  It is there all the time but we only see it in the reflected light of the sun.  The same side of the moon always faces Earth and when the moon is full it is full for everyone on Earth.  It is easy to miss out on the spectacular romantic night lite–for the sake of cozy inside television time or the requirements of undistracted night driving.  The Snow Moon saw little snow in Champion this year.  Thunder in February, frost in May, they say.  Rich Heffern shared enlightening thoughts about the observing of lichen here in our winter wonderland.  Earth and sky, beauty and mystery are just here for the soaking in–in Champion.

        A special poem by Wordsworth from 1804, was copied in a beautiful hand, in part, by a distant lover of Champion, missing the Bright Side at this time of the year—“When on my couch I lie in vacant or in pensive mood, they flash upon that inward eye, which is the bliss of solitude.  And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils.”  Poetry is always welcome at The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.

        The hills are alive with the sound of music!  Diane Wilbanks has an enormous upright piano to share with anyone who needs a piano.  Contact her at 417-683-9239.  It is a doozie.  Tickets for the beautiful dobro being raffled off by the Skyline VFD were being sold by the sixes at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam on Thursday night.  Meanwhile, around the circle, Dave Thompson channeled George Jones, “I’ve had choices since the day that I was born.  There were voices that told me right from wrong.  If I had listened, no, I wouldn’t be here today, living and dying with the choices I made.”  Sue Murphy sang, “If I could I surely would stand on the rock where Moses stood.”  Then Jerry Wagner had everyone smiling that mysterious smile with “Mona Lisa.”  Sherry Bennett sang, “Come morning I‘ll walk by the river.  I’ll rest neath the evergreen tree.“  Ruth Collins asked the Rebel Soldier’s question, “Will my soul pass through the southland?”  “If tear drops were pennies and heartaches were gold, I’d have all the riches my pockets would hold,” declared the lovely Roberta.  David Richardson crooned, “I still miss someone.”  Sherry’s beautiful daughter, Neda, sang, “You say it best, when you say nothing at all.”  (aaaaaalllllllll) Candy the fiddler, passed her first turn but next time around shared the “Ashokan Farewell” and later “This world is not my home.”  J.R. Johnston declines the limelight, but provides support for everyone with his sweet ringing banjo.  The circle was completed when Sue Thompson took her melodic trip to Fantasy Island.  The music went around and around ending with an acapella question, “Is that you, Myrtle?”  It was indeed Myrtle Harris who was attending for the first time in a while after some serious ill health.  Her friends were glad to see her and hope she will be in regular attendance now that she is home.  Narvil Tetrick, (Rt. 1 Ava, 417-683-4289) was at the Jam enjoying the music and hob-knobbing with his very distant Upshaw cousin.  He would like to find pictures of Layfette Upshaw, his wife, Harriet Tetrick Upshaw, and her sister Mary Tetrick who married Morgan Reilly.

        Shaelyn Sarginson is a seventh grade student at Skyline School.  She shares her birthday, March 3rd, with teacher, Mrs. Barker.  Rylee Sartor is in the first grade with a birthday on the 6th.  Mallory Ludwig is a fourth grader with a birthday on the 7th of March.  The Skyline students and teachers are grateful to have such a wonderful little school way out in the country near home.  It is a vanishing treasure across the country.  Hopefully, the little tax levy will pass so our school will be more secure financially.  Linda Hetherington and Krenna Long, both of Norwood, celebrate birthdays on the 5th.  Linda and Krenna have known each other for a long time.  They will both be having a Champion birthday.  Linda will probably have some bridge mixed with hers.  Happy daze all!

        Leap Day is a devise concocted to keep human time-keeping up with celestial reality.  In 1288, Scotland began what is now called ‘Sadie Hawkins Day’ here, by passing a law permitting women to propose marriage on leap day and if refused, the man had to pay a fine.  That is a money making opportunity that modern ladies might have taken up if men were better at paying up.  It is too late now, anyway.  The notion will be tabled for four years, or a few weeks shy of four years from now.  They say that Julius Caesar introduced the whole idea of a leap day, but the math he used was not quite right.  His math created too many leap years.  It was probably not on account of bad math that he wound up the way he did (Et Tu, Brute?)  The ominous Ides of March is just around the corner.  The elections coming up in the weeks and months ahead will have consequences.  Participate.  Not voting is a vote.  Silence is speech.  “Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong.  When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted.  It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable.  That uncomfortable feeling is called cognitive dissonance.  And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that does not fit in with the core belief.”  These are words of Franz Fanon famous French philosopher and psychiatrist.  Then John Kenneth Galbraith says, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for moral justification for selfishness.”  Listening to the radio the other day, a Champion heard about neo-liberals.  They are an interesting bunch with an approach to economics and social studies in which control of economic factors is shifted from the public sector to the private sector.  Privatizing the post office or social security could have some unforeseen consequences.  What a privilege it is to vote!  Some are thinking to endow the voter franchise upon every citizen automatically, perhaps at birth with their social security card.  With everyone’s life at stake, it ought to be easy to vote.  If you are not going to be home for the March 15th election, go vote absentee at the Court House.

        If you are anywhere near Skyline on March 12th go to the Skyline VFD Chili Supper to see if you are going to win that amazing dobro.  While you are at it you will be supporting the great volunteer fire department that gives us assistance when it is most needed.

        Look at the garden and talk about help needed!  Preparing garden beds is a chore that longs to be done this time of year.  Seed catalogues are weighing down the packs of postal carriers and the colorful pictures spawn daydreams of hot summer days shelling peas and canning beans and tomatoes with some good music on in the background to make the work lighter.  It will take some singing out in the garden before the harvest songs come along.  Pete Seeger’s Garden Song says, “Inch by inch, row by row, I’m gonna make this garden grow.  All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground.” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 22, 2016

February 22, 2016

CHAMPION—February 22, 2016

        An Old Champion was working out in his shop late Wednesday morning when he heard and then saw the largest flock of geese he had ever seen.  They filled the sky as far as he could see from south to north.  He suspects the open waters of the Lake of the Ozarks, and Truman Lake and the prospect of gleaning fields of grain have them on the move.  On Sunday morning February 21st (Happy Birthday Joanna!) there were daffodils already showing their beautiful butter hue.  In the weeks ahead the countryside is slated to be well buttered with daffodils and perhaps with snow, ice, and/or mud.  It will be what it will be in Champion.

        The big beautiful news for the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department comes because Marjorie Carter, Linda Keyes and Darlene Stigall of The Downtown Pawn Shop on the Square in Mountain Grove put their heads together and decided to make a generous and substantial donation to the Skyline VFD for its annual fund raiser.  The gift (Thank you, Dear Ladies.) is a dobro.  It is a gorgeous thing in a good case with a slide bar and a couple of finger picks, plus a book that tells a person how to teach him/herself to play the dobro.  The instrument made its debut at the Wednesday Salon in Downtown Champion where the first tickets sold were to The General Himself!  (He sets a fine example for his sister and nephews, Dailey and Dean, in attendance, as well as the rest of us.)  Thursday night the wonderful instrument was on display at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam, where tickets sold like hot-cakes and from whence a call is going out for local dobro players to make it to the jam this Thursday to demonstrate the power, range, brilliance and lovely tone of the instrument.  It will be like that old song, “The Touch of the Master’s Hand,” where a disreputable looking fiddle was not getting bids at an auction until some old guy picked it up and played the daylights out of it.  ‘Johnson’ is the maker of the dobro, but the year is not known.  It is in lovely condition and can be inspected at Henson’s Grocery and Gas on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion as well as at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium.  The Skyline Auxiliary will be meeting there on the 1st of March as the particulars of the upcoming chili super are being finalized.  Everyone is welcome to participate in the good community effort to support the little volunteer fire department that provides us with help when we need it most.  The meeting starts at 6:30.  J.C. Owsley was the first to address an envelope “Dobro Tickets, c/o The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO.  65717.”  He has 12 chances to win for his ten bucks and his friends here wish him good luck.

        Birthday celebrations this week start with Drayson and Carson Cline’s dear Mom.  It was just 12 years ago that her friends and family gathered at Skyline School one Saturday night to celebrate her 21st birthday.   She is having all kinds of fun with those little guys.  She shares the day with Judi Pennington over on Tar Button Road who is already planning her morel mushroom holiday.  Ava’s Farmers’ Market guy, Arne Arhnstat, celebrates on the 24th.  Matty Hutsell is a kindergarten student at Skyline and her happy birthday song will get sung on the 27th.  One of Ruby’s boys, Frankie Proctor, will celebrate on the 29th.  The Champion News salutes you all!  Huzza!

        It was sweet to see young Drayson and Carson on Sunday.  They are growing quickly and will soon not be babies.  A new arrival to Champion is a nice young man named Chace.  He is around three years old and will walk right up to shake your hand.  There is some speculation that he will be a politician, but time will tell and no one will hold it against him.  He might be the good one that will show up at just the right time.  Old folks at a distance from their own grandchildren just love the little ones they are with.  It is hard to remember being young parents.  It was so long ago and recollections of the hectic business of making a living and ‘riding loose herd’ on a houseful of youngsters fade.  The day to day struggles seem not to play a big part in the memories of old folks.  Shala Clark and her husband have three children.  She says, “My oldest, Brylee, is 5.  She has been a great helper with the baby.  She is a little mother hen to any children younger than herself.  Kabela is 4.  She loves to play and cuddle her kitty.  Our newest is a little boy, Tucker.  He is 4 months old.”  Shala said that she would like to start offering a babysitting service here in the area, “…since I am home so much more now.”  She would like to keep children in the age range of her own and during regular business hours.  Her number is 417-259-7969.  Her Champion friends wish her good luck in this endeavor and are glad to remember those days of youth and vigor when a house full of children was a joy and no trouble at all.

        It is nice to be on a road that is traveled by horses.  Divots in the dirt give a clue to the direction of the travelers and occasional fragrant deposits of that good garden additive that horses make might give a clue as to when they passed that way.  Mysteries are abundant in Champion.  Gardeners can hardly contain themselves.  Some are hauling that soil additive from near and far.  Some have seedlings that they have started much too early for an early May frost.  Some are sensibly spending cold days in sharpening their shovels and hoes and oiling the handles.  They are removing last year’s debris from the garden and getting ready to turn pea vines back into the soil.  The Skyline School students will be busy in their greenhouse and soon their garden beds will be showing the rewards of their efforts.  Reports are that the archery tournament there Saturday was a great success.  An uninformed person drove by in the early afternoon and was impressed at the number of cars and the overflow parking at the church across the road, but did not snap to the fact that something marvelous was going on.  The mystery is revealed and soon the results of the tournament will be revealed for all those who somehow managed to miss it.  On April 5th voters in the Skyline R-II School District will have the opportunity to approve a 48 cent tax levy increase which may make all the difference in the survival of our great little school.  The raise in the levy will bring the amount up to $3.43, which is the minimum that would allow the district to receive additional state funding.  There will be another forum on Thursday, March 24th at 7 p.m. at the school that will more fully explain the need for the increase.  About 60 years ago ten little schools combined to make Skyline and it has served the area beautifully.  Steve Moody says, “We value our school, students, and their education.  We value our community and Skyline is the hub of the community.  A little extra money once a year will help save the school and the community.”  Well said!  Champion– Looking on the Bright Side!


February 15, 2016

February 15, 2016

CHAMPION—February 15, 2016

        Valentine’s Day was a perfect day to stay in with a sweetheart.  It was icy and cold outside and warm and cozy inside.  Some old Champions say that once you get this old every day is a holiday and love stays in the air because old people, men and women alike, find themselves more sentimental as the years go by.  The rapid passage of time and hints of mortality bring all kinds of love into focus.  Champions just cannot get enough of it and hope that all their dear ones, near and distant ones have lives that are over-flowing with affection and appreciation.  There is a song appropriate to the sentiment, “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.  That’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.”  Surely some of the world’s problems could be solved with a little compassion and understanding across religious, political and geographic lines.  It is the very nature of a Champion to make the effort.

        Shelby Ward had a birthday on Valentine’s Day.  She has deep ties to Champion with a great aunt living here and many second cousins and Mishbucha.  Madison Bradshaw, who is a second grade student at Skyline has her birthday on the 16th.  Trish Boring-Davis celebrates on the 17th, and Pete Proctor on the 18th.  Pete is busy doing helpful things for the Veterans of the area and his efforts are appreciated.  The 19th is a day we always remember for dear Ruby Proctor.  There never has been a sweeter lady.  Rebecca Macbeth Harvey, another dear lady, a childhood friend now growing old like her friend, celebrates that day too.  She is a Rose of Old San Antonio.

        State Representatives come up for election every two years and Senators serve terms of six years.  Senatorial elections are staggered so that only one third of the whole Senate comes up for election every two years.  Pete Proctor posted on the internet, “You can’t fix stupid but you can vote it out of office.”  An informed electorate is the hope of the Nation!  March the 15th will be here soon and it is exciting to be part of the process.

        A local gardener wants to go out on the same limb with the Hunter Creek sage and say, “Spring is likely to be early by two weeks.”  Looking forward to the growing season is a prime winter activity as seed catalogues get dog-eared and plans get drawn up.  February is a good time to start pepper plants since the seeds take a long time to germinate and peppers have a long growing season.  Cole crops, cabbage and kale can be started about this time as well.  The 27th and 28th of the month will be good days to start seed-beds according to The Champion Almanac.  Look for it on-line soon at www.championnews.us.   Linda, from over at The Plant Place in Norwood has sponsored the almanac for years and visitors to the website have grown to rely on it.  Linda has retired now and, except for a monthly sale there at The Gift Corner, will be enjoying some well earned leisure.  Maybe she will get in some extra bridge games.  The Almanac now will be sponsored by The Champion News and others and will soon be posted on the bulletin board at the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square as well as at Henson’s Downtown G & G.  Change is in the air.  “The greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if only on a small scale, in our own gardens.  If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone.  Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”  These are the sentiments of Australian professor, Bill Mollison.  He and his student, David Holmgren, coined the word ‘Permaculture’ back in 1978.  The idea of it is to utilize the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems as a guide for our own agricultural pursuits.  Champions can do that.

        One of several interesting items brought for inspection at the Wednesday Salon was a mysterious little green metal contraption.  The fellow who brought it had acquired it in a box of junk and could not figure out what it was.  That proved to be the case with the whole assembly.  At last he revealed that John Webber had identified it for him as an egg scale.  Back before standardized chickens laid standardized eggs, it was a way to grade them for sale.  A local, much appreciated, breakfast cook is a great fan of the non-standardized egg.  According to him, while factory eggs can be relied on to break with the same amount of effort each time, and to break exactly the same way each time, they still do not match up to the flavor and wholesomeness of farm eggs.  It is a joy to live in the country.

        The Tree Shakers Genealogical Research outfit informed The General of the fate of Fate.  It says “Lafayette ‘Fate’ Upshaw was born in 1847, in Ozark County, the son of William Upshaw and his wife, Nicey Sweeten.  Fate married Harriet Tetrick soon after the Civil War, in 1866.  They made their home in Douglas County, becoming the parents of five children.  In the spring of 1884, (it is thought he was out hunting), Fate was sitting with his back to a tree, his shotgun standing by his shoulder, his horse’s bridle rein in his hand.  In the act of switching the gun to the other shoulder, he hit his horse with it, which startled and sprang back, and before Fate could disengage himself from the riddle rein, the gun got caught in it, lifting the hammer, and fired off into his knee.  He got home and Doctors Hubbard, Musick and Haynes were all sent for.  The decision was made that amputation was his only hope of survival, but he died anyway from the loss of blood and shock combined.  He was only 37 years old.  His family buried him in the Tetrick Cemetery in Douglas County.”  There is a picture on-line of his gravestone at the cemetery with the information that he was a private in the 46th Regiment of the Missouri Infantry during the war.  Canadian, Sue Thompson, has been studying the American Civil War and has a particular appreciation of the music of the era.  Not long ago she sang, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  It is a soulful song from the Southern side.  Fate’s family is well represented at this gathering.  Perhaps they may have favorite Civil War songs to suggest to the talented singer.  The jam happens every Thursday—pot luck about six and then music until nine.  Everyone is welcome.

        The Skyline VFD chili supper committee has lined up a great list of musicians for the annual event.  This year David Richardson will again start the evening with his group, Whetstone.  He provides the sound equipment and generously operates it for the evening.  Back Yard Bluegrass and the Lead Hill Players will perform again and this year a group from Willow Springs, Stringed Union, will be on the stage supporting the wonderful little rural fire department that protects local lives and property.  It is the first event of a dazzling social season, set to be the most dazzling yet.  Champion!

        If you wish to understand the Universe, think of energy, frequency and vibration,” said Nikola Tesla.  When the weather warms up, think about those things out on the wide veranda of the Recreation of the Historic Emporium.  Until then, discuss them with civility around the ancient stove inside where optimism is captured in Champion– Looking on the Bright Side!


February 8, 2016

February 8, 2016

CHAMPION—February 8, 2016

A typical scene…

        It was just a year ago that Champions were surprised to see the ancient tree that had served as home plate for ball players, now in their nineties, had been pruned down to a 35 foot tall stump.  It was thought to be a threat to the old Champion School building, now a church, because of its enormity and a slight list.  The bee colony that has occupied the tree for decades survived all the way through to the beginning of winter.  On a sunny day soon Champions will discover if the bees have wintered well and speculation will begin about whether or not the stately old tree will make another effort to live.

        One of the interesting items brought for inspection at a recent gathering was a flintlock pistol made in 1848.  It was said to have been picked up on the battlefield at Little Big Horn.  It was the property of an elderly lady who bequeathed it to a grandson who subsequently sold it to Rob.  Rob always has something interesting to share.  People unfamiliar with pistols in general are surprised to discover how heavy these old firearms are.  It would take a substantial person to wield such a weapon effectively.  Not to be outdone, The General came in brandishing two flintlock handguns.  One had a filigreed hatchet attached to the end balanced with an ominous hook.  Like Rob’s, the metal work was ornate and the stocks were a dark heavy wood.  Rob’s gunstock was probably American walnut.  The wood for the stocks of The General’s guns was probably harvested in the hills overlooking the Turkish town of Smyrna.  Most likely these antiques were manufactured as toys or as tourist baubles.  From Denlow to Smyrna and back—what an adventurer!  His nephews, Dailey and Dean Upshaw were among the crowd for the first time in a while and seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves.  Reba Bishop came with Don and met up with old friends.  Hopes are that JoAnn Anderson might make a visit with them one of these days.  Her friends miss seeing her out and about.  Community is a gift to be enjoyed.

        Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “There is a growing strain of anti-intellectualism in our country that may be the beginning of the end of our informed democracy.”  Champions consistently work toward maintaining an informed populace and to that end have begun to offer elocution and vocabulary lessons to wayward sojourners of the hinterlands and backwaters north of Romance.  The first step toward knowledge is a willingness to admit abject ignorance.  A gracious admission of that circumstance was followed by a recitation of the week’s lexicon which included the surprising discovery of a related word, ‘dogmatic,’ which seemed to excite the student.  An ancillary benefit of the interchange seemed to be in the realization that apologizing does not always mean you are wrong and the other person is right.  It means you value your relationship more than your ego.  The best apology is changed behavior.  Having embraced humility, the sojourner took his leave.  “There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”  Words of his hero, R. Reagan, pounded in his heart.

The Gipper

        The Champion News is pleased always to acknowledge birthdays.  Recent celebrants include Cowboy Jack, hopefully not flat on his back, on February 7th.  Aidan Acree is a preschool student at Skyline who celebrates on the 8th, and shares the day with Sarah Rucker, lovely mother of Champion granddaughters.  Joshua Garner, a third grader, shares his day with Sondra Powell, who is a grownup alumnus of Skyline School.  An impromptu birthday celebration for Ronald Reagan (his 105th) was held on Wednesday the 3rd of February.  It is figured that he was so well regarded in this area that he chose to come back from the grave for a Champion birthday.  His birthday was February 6, 1911, but knowing what a rocking place Champion is on Wednesday, he chose that day for his post mortem appearance to the amazement of all present.  Seizing the moment, your intrepid Champion News reporter posed the question, “Respectfully, sir, whom among the current contestants for the highest office do you recommend?”  He must not have been keeping up on contemporary events since his demise as he had no recommendations other than that the winner should be from his own party.  His idea was that the government could not solve the problems of society, because the government was the problem.  The upcoming election will be a referendum on that very dichotomy.  A local pundit suggests that Democrats generally believe that government can and should fix the problems of society, while Republicans believe that government is the cause of the problems.  President Reagan said, “We can’t help everyone but everyone can help someone.”  “Peace is not absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”  “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.  We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream.  It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”  By today’s standard, these are down-right centrist sentiments.  Champion!  This week there was a photograph of Susan B. Anthony circulating on the internet.  Her birthday is February 15, 1820.  In this photograph she had been knocked down in the street and beaten by a group of men in top hats.  She had been trying to vote.  It was 1872.  She was arrested may times in pursuit of women’s suffrage.  She lived until 1906.  It was not until 1920 that women won their right to vote.  February 17th is the last day to register to vote in order to participate in the important election coming up on March 15th.  In the primary election, while the actual ballot is secret, one must declare his party.  No intimidation is allowed at the polls, so, Ladies, everyone, vote your conscience.

        “Let me call you sweetheart.  I’m in love with you.  Let me hear you whisper that you love me too.”  Romance is in the air with Valentine’s Day on Sunday.  The Cowboy will be crooning to Joyce.  Bob will be flashing his winning smile at Ethel.  The Prominent Champion will woo the Prominent Champion Girlfriend, who will bat her big eyes at him and smile that sweet smile.  Elmer and Frances will exchange some pleasant words.  Wes and Pat of Champion West will have plans, and Louise and Wilburn up the hill always have something going on.  Then there is St. Janice nee Hill, who lives just north of Romance.  She is in for a raft of flowers, candy and jewelry from her narcissistic spouse who fears his remarks about her in public and behind her back may get back to her.  Well earned, dear Lady!  Dave and Sue will be harmonizing.  That is how they met—in a big hall, singing.  Their voices blended perfectly and they found each other.  They sing over in Vanzant on Thursday evenings at the Bluegrass jam, always a pleasant evening.  Pot luck at 6:00 then music.  Bring your voice and your instruments or just your appreciation of an old fashioned music party.

        Weather patterns have favored the area so far with a few warm and lovely days, a few bitter cold days, a little rain, more warm days, maybe a skiff of snow, a blast of artic wind and then a few more warm days.  Any complaint is short lived because the weather changes.  Gardeners are getting excited about the soil again, some wishing they had a good layer of manure and mulch over the whole thing just ready to be tilled in and planted again.  Gardeners are at least as optimistic as fishermen.  Come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Aulde Fox Creek for a step back in time.  You can buy a picture postcard to send to loved ones who languish out in the great elsewhere, longing to be back in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 1, 2016

February 1, 2016

CHAMPION—February 1, 2016

A walk in the woods…

        Seventy degrees on the last day of January seems a little unusual, but the new norm for weather the world over now seems to be ‘unusual.’  Daffodils are beginning to emerge, as well as some surprise lilies and the flowering quince is making tiny globes among the brush that will, before long, burst out into brilliant color.  Meanwhile it was a chance to open the windows and air out the house.  Gardens are calling.  Some folks have little seedlings of various kinds up already and are thinking about getting peppers started.  The swift passage of time is on everyone’s mind and in Champion it is tempered with gratitude for another day and awe for the amazing present.  Want-to-be Champion, Melissa Masters, posts on the internet, “Happy last day of January.  Only 48 days until Spring!”

        Zack Alexander lives up in Springfield, but he has Champion grandparents and is often in the neighborhood.  His birthday is February 1st.  Mr. Cooley celebrates that day as well and has been doing so since 1940.  Ground Hog Day gets its own celebration but is also enjoyed by a number of fine folks as a birthday.  They include Judy Sharon Parsons, Charlene Dupre, Angie Heffern, Connie Grand, and Irish Poet and novelist James Joyce, who was born in 1882.

        Rebecca Turcott made her way to Champion again on the last Tuesday of the month.  She works for the Douglas County Health Department and does free blood pressure screenings for people from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. at the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square.  Her next visit will be February 23rd.  Cowboy Jack was one of a number of individuals who took advantage of this excellent community service.  Rebecca is also an appreciator of horses and she was overheard confirming that they like the same farrier.  The Cowboy just has two horses these days and that is enough for him.  In the process of dumping a big wheelbarrow load of that good garden additive that horses make, he caught his heel on a rock that has been in his way for decades and took a flying trip down hard flat of his back.  He said he fell harder than he did when he fell in the creek on Bud Hutchison’s trail ride a few years ago.  It knocked the wind right out of him.  He was glad no one was there to see him lying on the ground looking up at the stars twirling around in his vision.  It would have been embarrassing.  He was about over it and was there at the store thinking about his wife’s birthday that day.  He said that Joyce plans to retire exactly a year from the day.  It will be nice for the Cowboy to have someone looking after him full time.  They will be having fun.  A neighbor asked him if he frequents the Wednesday gathering.  He said that he does but he tries to get out of there before ‘it gets crowded.’  Indeed there were reports of a packed house on Wednesday with many of the regular visitors, some infrequent ones and a few new ones.  Some of the same shenanigans were being pulled and the good natured regulars are, so far, still willing to sit through them even with the metaphorical aroma of old fish.  When you lose once sense, others are enhanced, they say.  When you lose your sense of humor, your sense of self-importance seems to be enhanced.  Good humor is endemic in Champion.

        Saturday morning was warm and glorious, a perfect day for an adventure.  A group being called The Facebook Ladies made an expansive tour of Champion.  They are mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.  Shirley Crouch, Carol Barton and Stacie Sperlazza, from Houston, Missouri, met up with Cindy Phillips and Jane Means, of Springfield to see for themselves the place they had discovered on the internet.  They posed for pictures, remarked about the bee tree and the flood debris so high up in the trees along the creek.  They seemed satisfied with the look of the place.  They headed into the store to visit for a spell and to get some Champion post cards to be able to prove to the folks back home that there truly is a beautiful place on Bright Side!

        Tuesday, February 9th, the Skyline VFD Auxiliary will meet at Henson’s Grocery and Gas at 6:30 in the evening for another planning session for the upcoming Chili Supper, which will be on the 12th of March this year.  Everyone is welcome to come and take part in the process of getting good community support for the wonderful little rural volunteer fire department that is here to protect our property and to save our lives when necessary.  All the volunteer firefighters are trained in CPR and First Responder skills.  They are often first on the scene for auto accidents and for home health emergencies.  The annual chili supper is a chance to acknowledge these volunteers for their sacrifices and good works.  David Richardson has agreed to play again and to round up some other good music for the evening.  David is a friend to every good cause in the area.  Someone called him the other day and he could not talk because he was busy unloading a mule.  When asked about it later it turned out to be one of those Kawasaki kinds of mules.  He often joins the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam on Thursdays.  A pot luck dinner gets on the table about six and then the music starts.  It is a welcoming bunch.  One of these days Foster Wiseman will be playing over there with his great uncle Fastpitch.  He played Doyle Lawson’s “Little Country Church” for his mandolin recital and did a bang-up job.

        A note comes from Jeanne Curtis saying, “Skyline School would like to invite District Patrons to come out to an open forum to learn about the proposed tax levy increase.  The Board has placed on the April Ballot a tax levy increase from $2.95 to $3.43 (state required minimum).  The Board and administration will discuss the need for the increase and how much funds the increase would generate for the District.  After a short presentation the Board and Administration will field questions from patrons.  For more information contact Superintendent Jeanne Curtis at 417-683-4874.”  The forum will be held at the school at 7:00 p.m on February 11th.

        While shoveling that good soil additive that the horses make, one was left pondering ALEC.  She asked Lem and Ned who had come to chore for her if they knew anything about it.  Regular readers of The Champion News will recall these fellows show up from time to time to help out around the place.  Lem does not have much to say, but Ned is what Festus Haggen might ‘category’ as plum ‘jabberty’ and a mite ‘eruditious.’  Ned leaned on his shovel handle, looked up at the blue sky and commenced, “ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is a pay-to-play club with secret meetings where corporate lobbyists and state legislators write ‘model bills’ that change our rights in ways that often benefit the corporations’ bottom line at public expense.  Participating legislators bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.  Now that is what I call a real load of first-rate soil additive!”  Lem and Ned have been pleased that the winter has been so mild that a sweet turnip can still be unearthed.  Ned reminds us that an important election is coming up on the Ides of March.  Educators in all the local high schools say that they have programs in place to encourage seniors who are turning 18 this year to register to vote.  There is a responsibility to being a citizen, even for rusty ankled hillbilly boys.  Lem likes Roy Acuff and can be heard singing “Way back in the hills as a boy I once wandered…” in Champion– Looking on the Bright Side!

The way home…