March 28, 2016

March 28, 2016

CHAMPION—March 28, 2016

Off the pavement—headed home.

        Old people have a wonderful advantage in life.  We can close our eyes and wait a few moments, taking a few deep breaths, and open them again on a whole new perspective.  The ability to see life happening through the eyes of others is a gift.  It comes with experience and is called empathy.  Young Champion grandchildren are experiencing the fading of a dear grandmother, maybe some of their first experiences into sadness.  Oklahoma fathers are re-blossoming themselves as they watch sons bloom.  Suffering siblings are endeavoring to persevere. Texas sons and wives and grand-girls, nieces and great nieces and nephews are growing, thriving, striving and succeeding in their exciting eclectic lives.  Dear family in the Valley is keeping connected with reverence for the old folks, keeping their memories alive and pursuing the good lives the old folks hoped for us.  An epic journey ends with an appreciation for home that has far outshone all previous homecoming appreciations.  It is a Spring!—a Champion exaltation.

        The first week of April is always an exciting time of the year.  Skyline’s first grader, J.P Rhodes, will start the month off with a birthday celebration on the first.  Bud Hutchinson’s birthday is on the eighth of the month.  His friends here are always interested to know about his trail rides to come and stories of trail rides past.  It was reported in the Ozark County Times that Mr. Clifton Luna had recently celebrated his 91st birthday.  His Champion friends will be waiting for the wagon train to roll into town this fall—gala festivities are in the planning.  Meanwhile those wishing to send greetings to the Wagon Master can address them–2512 County Road 192, Dora, MO 65637.  Bud has an invitation to come home to party any day of the week and if he brings Wilma the fun will be assured.  The most reliable stringer from the Goose Nibble Gazette informs that last Wednesday’s Salon was unusually well attended perhaps due to a couple of no-shows.  The meeting is fluid.  How many conversations can be going on at once?  It was reported to have been a cacophony.

        Out in Oklahoma the redbuds and some of the dogwoods are already full blown.  It is beautiful to see.  That is a pretty part of the country and driving through the Seminole Nation brings to mind Will Rodgers who was a great humanitarian with Native blood and heart.  He said, “The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy.  Mr. Hoover didn’t know that money trickled up.  Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow.  But it will at least have passed through the poor fellow’s hands.”  Another adventurer, Carl Sagan, said, “We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and by the depth of our answers.”  Following that thought, though much beforehand, George Orwell said, “In war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred comes invariably from people who are not fighting.”  From “The Lakota Way” comes the statement: “When choosing a leader, we always kept in mind that humility provides clarity where arrogance makes a cloud.  The last thing we wanted was to be led by someone whose judgement and actions were clouded by arrogance.”

Champion hyacinths

        The internet is an innovation that has altered the nature of information available to anyone who cares to navigate it.  For example, there is currently a petition being circulated in Missouri called “Stop Rex.”  This refers to Rex Sinquefield whom Wikipedia describes as an American financial executive, active in Missouri politics.  He is a major funder of ALEC, which readers of TCN know to be the American Legislative Exchange Council which crafts the wording of state legislation to benefit private and corporate interests.  He supports an end to the income tax in Missouri and supported the group Kansans for No Income Tax which helped Governor Sam Brownback lower the state income tax significantly.  As a result, according to Wikipedia, Kansas had a 50 million dollar deficit and sales tax was raised, affecting disproportionately the poor.  While Champions do not, on the whole, consider themselves poor, old folks on fixed incomes spend their money on food and fuel, well taxed already.  Moreover his taxation proposals would necessitate cuts in the state’s provision of services many people take for granted as part of living in a modern, civil society:  public education, public libraries, and other public goods.  That being said, the election on Tuesday the 5th of April contains the provision that the Board of Education of the Skyline RII School District shall raise the operating tax levy by $.58 per hundred dollars of property evaluation.  That will bring the overall levy up to $3.43, which will then qualify the school for much needed matching funds from the State, unless Mr. Siquefield and his cronies can somehow pervert things to redirect or eliminate those matching funds.  To be fair, Wikipedia entries about his philanthropy and the scandals surrounding him take up about the same amount of cyber space.  There are good people running for two spots on the Skyline School Board and, with a small levy, there is an opportunity to make a difference in the survivability of the wonderful little rural school that ties the community together so well.  Vote April 5th.

        The GNG (Goose Nibble Gazette) stringer reports that there was a family from Coal Valley, Illinois at the Thursday night jam–Ollen and Sue Stephens.  Ollen is a cousin of Junior Firrell, Joy Ann Coonts Firrell’s husband.  The reporter indicated that they did not play or sing but that Ollen had with him a four pound banjo mute on a short handle.  It was an antique mallet shaped device not unlike one with which a certain Lady of Vanzant would like to address a local accordion.  Music does have great healing and comforting properties depending upon a great number of factors.  Send any music, poetry or prose of an up-lifting nature to The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Go to for the unedited versions of TCN going back a decade.  There are photographs there that show “…a land that is fairer than day, and by faith we can see it afar…”  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 21, 2016

March 21, 2016

RIO BRAVO, TX—March 21, 2016

Texas Palms

        Along the Rio Bravo towering palm trees sway in tropical breezes to herald the arrival of spring.  Friends and families gather on patios to watch great flocks of red wing black birds alight in trees already full with fragrant blooms and boughs drooping with ripening oranges.  Family news is traded and, just like in Champion, political and social commentaries are rife.  It also seems that, like Champion, most everyone who speaks up believes the same things that the other people who speak up believe.  It is nice to know that, in both situations, people hold strong views, but also hold on to good relationships with people whose strongly held views are in opposition.  One particularly ornery bloke did have the grace to say that our wonderful National bird has two wings and both are necessary for survival of the bird and of the realm.  Elmer Banks once remarked that he had a teacher when he was a kid who made a brilliant statement with profound meaning.  The gist of it was that before you speak, your words should pass through three gates:  Is it true?  Is it necessary?  Is it kind?  It seems that most of politics has missed this profundity, but not so Champions.

Texas Redwings

        A trusted stringer for the Goose Nibble Gazette says that Kalyssa’s grandmother saw snow in Champion this morning.  The lady is a great appreciator of that form of precipitation and may often see it when others do not.  Incognito at the Wednesday gathering at the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square, this reporter said that a certain Mr. Banks had in years past been traveling out in Arizona when he observed some people around a wood fire somewhere out in the desert.  He registered bewilderment at a wood fire in the desert with no trees.  It seemed incongruous.  An unidentified know-it-all spoke up quickly to say that they were probably burning petrified wood which, according to him, burns for days in a variety of colors.  Mr. B is not so gullible.  Desert fuel is most likely cow or buffalo chips and cactus, all of which remind one of the man with all the answers.

        Mr. Gordon Reynolds, a fine musician who excels in a variety of genres, will celebrate his birthday in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he resides and frequently presides over bluegrass jams.  Mr. Troy Powell was a Champion, who was born on March 26, 1921 and passed away on that day in 2001.  He was a well-regarded gentleman with a great appreciation of bluegrass.  Over at Skyline, Mrs. Downs, who teaches there, has her birthday on the 27th.  Mr. Ted drives a school bus (as did Mr. Powell) and also celebrates that same day.  Joseph Fulk is a first grader with a birthday on the 28th.   Gavin Sartor is an eighth grader this year, celebrating on the 29th.  Back in Scotland, Bobby Nicholson, a fantastic musician will have his birth anniversary on the 29th.  Then the 31st will be given over to the celebration of dear Morag Edward on both sides of the ocean.  Happy Days all!

        An adventure out in the big world is a joy as dear family and friends are once again drawn close.  The halfway mark is thirteen hundred and twenty miles and on this end, it takes quite a tug to get a Valencia orange off a tree.  The Mexican food is authentic and the days pass in happy reunion.  On the homeward bound leg, precious memories will be mixed with a longing for a little mountain home and the homebody that makes it sweet and expectations of dogwoods, redbuds, and mushrooms.  For, “Now, the moon shines tonight on pretty Red Wing.  The breeze is sighing, the night bird’s crying.  Far afar ‘neat his star her brave is sleeping….”  In Champion—Looking on the Bright Side.

Texas Valencias

March 14, 2016

March 14, 2016

ABILENE, TEXAS—March 14, 2016

Texan Wind Farm

        The Wednesday gathering at the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in scenic downtown Champion was mild and jovial.  It was well attended but not rowdy, not overly stimulated.  Issues of red or blue were bandied about, but by and large, it was convivial, though as often happens when old people are together, conversations decay into issues of health.  Still, light hearted banter and stories of the distant past floated through the air with the enticing hint of something interesting in the works for the next assembly.  The General had made an internet posting showing the oldest building in Arkansas–the Rice-Upshaw house.  Local Upshaws are not direct descendants of the Arkansawyers but they are connected to that bunch through their fourth Great Grandad, Leroy Upshaw.  History is exciting.

        It was hard to leave home with the daffodils in glorious bloom and lilacs, elderberries, forsythia, flowering quince all starting to bud out.  Spring will happen quickly.  Going southwest through Oklahoma to West Texas was like driving into spring with dogwoods and redbuds already showing themselves in southern Oklahoma and bluebonnets beginning to make their beautiful presence known over the resting place of ancestors–mother, grandparents, great grandmother and many others.  The huge cedars surrounding the old cemetery rocked in the gentle wind and thousands of wind turbines whirled atop the mesas on the horizon.  West Texas has its own beauty, not at all like Champion, but beautiful for its rolling landscape and big, big skies.

        News from home is that the Skyline VFD Chili Supper was a most pleasant evening.  The food was wonderful, the pies were delicious, the music was delightful and the generosity of the bands is a gift that is much valued.  A good time was had by all.  Attendance was smaller than in previous years as there were a number of other functions going on in the area that night.  Nevertheless, some much needed funds were raised for the fire department that serves the community so well.  Auxiliary volunteers put in a lot of hard work to make it happen.  Among the many volunteers was Steve Moody, who always does a fine job as master of ceremonies.  Karen Griswold greeted people at the door.  Auxiliary President, Betty Dye, sold tickets for the Dobro.  Sami McCleary organized a great silent auction, as always.  Teresa Wrinkles used Esther’s receipt for her wonderful coconut cream pie that was auctioned off for a pretty penny.  Betty Elliot made a mean (marvelous) pot of chili with the help of Lisa Shephard, Sharon Sikes, and Fae Krider.  Diane and Xue Lynn Von Altendorf managed the desert table and Farrell Sikes was a Jim Dandy dishwasher.  He also made the phone call to the man, often referred to in The Champion News as “an Old Champion,” to inform him that he had won the amazing dobro that the lovely ladies of Downtown Pawn had so generously donated for the event.  (Most likely he will let his old Champion wife learn to play it.)  The funds raised at the chili supper will be used for necessary equipment for the fire department.  The community expression of recognition and appreciation of the men who put their own lives on hold at a moment’s notice to go out at any hour to battle the fires and to work the auto accidents and do the health checks that save lives are sentiments well expressed and well earned.  Champions all!

        Willow Townsend is a prekindergarten student at Skyline School with a birthday on March 15th.  That is known as the Ides of March and a number of charming people share the day with Willow.  Among them are Jacob Masters, now 13, and his dear Uncle Sam, 30 years older, and Sam’s friend Ursula, mother of Dominque.  Elizabeth Mastrangelo Brown was 23 in 2013, on the 16th of March.  That is also Skyline’s Ms. Helen’s birthday.  Myla Sarginson is a fourth grader celebrating on the 18th.  Happy birthday to all of you!  Have a Champion day!

        The primary election will have come and gone before this is in ink.  Hopes are that Missouri will have broken all records for voter turnout.  Historically, the nation over, only a small percentage of the eligible voters actually participate in their democracy.  So by not engaging, a person relinquishes his franchise to zealots with agendas.  Establish your own agenda with zeal down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek.  Share your love of music and poetry there on the spacious veranda overlooking the Behemoth Bee Tree or with readers at  Jimmy Rogers sang, “I had a home out in Texas, out where the bluebonnets grew.  I had the kindest old Mother.  How happy we were just we two.”  But now Mother is gone and home is in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Texan Bluebonnets

March 7, 2016

March 7, 2016

CHAMPION—March 7, 2016

Smoke-filled valleys…

        A Sunday afternoon drive home to Champion from an outing had an old couple remembering the Great Smoky Mountains.  The wind was stiff from the southwest.  They observed that from any high spot it was smoky as far as a person could see in every direction.  The predicted rains will be welcome.  Hopefully they will be gentle and building, rather than torrential and violent.  Until the rains come, Champions will observe all fire safety rules and will greet the showers with gratitude.

        Frances and Wayne Sutherland have celebrated 66 years of marriage.  They are an inspiration and have been since 1950.  Other inspiring people are Mrs. Vivod and Mrs. Casper.  They are teachers at Skyline School.  They have birthdays on March 10th and March 12th respectively.  Cadence Trimmer is a seventh grade student there celebrating on the 11th.  Second grader, Cason Evilsizer, celebrates with Ms. Casper on the 12th.  The students and staff at Skyline are enjoying spring break this week.  As old timers look back on their school days they often remember the good times, the significant times, their dear friends and sweethearts.  Most likely Frances and Wayne were school mates.  The hard work of being a teacher and of being a student is considerable.  Their little vacation is well earned and for a week they will all be released from the rigors of education.  Free range children sometimes get into mischief, but old timers can probably remember their own mischief making and give these youngsters a pass if they do not get too out of hand.

        The weather was wonderful, if a little cool, and cool was the world for the Wednesday Salon.  While there was not an actual ‘elephant in the room,’ the mood was pensive and somber.  With a room full of people, long moments would go by (you could count to twenty) before anybody would say anything.  A few old jokes were told and the one about the traveling preacher’s demonstration of the evils of alcohol was appropriated and changed on the spot.  There were stories about sending women to the lumber yard to get board-stretchers and Mr. Stone had some poor woman looking for a left front tire for a wheelbarrow.  Dailey Upshaw agreed to sell Dobro tickets at the Vanzant Bluegrass jam on Thursday and an interested party tentatively picked out the Wabash Cannonball on the beautiful instrument.  It was pleasant enough even with the awkward silences.  One must wonder what was on their minds on a Wednesday morning after Super Tuesday.  Reports were that some fashionably late arrivals picked up the mood.

        Dailey did a great job of Dobro ticket sales on Thursday evening at Vanzant and has agreed to do it again one last time.  The instrument is on display at Hensons Grocery and Gas on the North side of the Square in Downtown Champion.  It will be taken to the jam again on Thursday and then on Saturday night at the Skyline VFD chili supper, M.C. Steve Moody will officiate as the winning ticket is drawn.  He will, in all likelihood, ask those dear ladies from Downtown Pawn to stand up for a round of applause for donating the beautiful thing.  Some lucky music lover will have the pleasure of taking it home or of making arrangements to pick it up in the case of a distant granddaughter who might just let her grandmother keep it for a little while.  Who knows?  A person does not have to be present to win, but music lovers in attendance will be treated to a great show with Whetstone, The Lead Hill Players, Backyard Bluegrass and Stringed Union.  The hard working volunteers of the Skyline Auxiliary will be serving up that wonderful homemade chili and the membership will be donating pies.  Diane Wilbanks, (who has a great upright piano to give away–417-683-9239), is an excellent pie maker and a genuine appreciator of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department.  She became a fan when their place was threatened by a grass fire that the volunteer firefighters were able to stop just in time.  Champion!

        Mushroom season is about to happen.  It will not be long.  Sometime toward the middle or the end of March, depending on weather conditions, those edible treasures will start to pop up and for a few weeks will be all the rage.  Spring turkey season will open for youth April 11th and 12th and the regular season will begin April 20th and go through May 10th.  Epicureans will be salivating.  That old saying about how thunder in February means frost in May may have a few gardeners second-guessing themselves as they get their cabbage and broccoli in the ground.  It was a joy and a relief to one old Champion to see bees in her garden the other day.  The resident swarm in the Behemoth Bee Tree on the South side of the Square seems to be doing well and gardeners are grateful as they depend heavily on those brilliant little pollinators.  Gardening is a gamble in the best of times and an abiding opportunity to express optimism amid the uncertainty of weather.

        Uncertainty is certainly the political situation these days and while many are tired of it all already with the presidential election still many months away, many are thinking this election will be a most critical one.  Ignoring it does not make it go away or happen any faster.  The cost of living, the cost of beans, of flour, of rent, of medicines all depend on political decisions.  If you plan to be out of pocket on March 15th, absentee voting is easy.  Just go to the County Clerk’s office.  The people are nice and the process is efficient.  In 1950, about the time Wayne and Frances were getting married, they could have gone to Norwood and boarded a train that would have taken them anywhere in the country.  We cannot do that now because public transportation in the United States is all but nonexistent for much of the country, other than expensive air travel.  This condition is the result of political decisions after World War II that encouraged the building of our wonderful interstate highway systems and our love of automobiles and of petroleum.  Who knows what the policies of the next administration will have on the future of generations to come?  Each of us is participating in the outcome whether or not we vote.

        Share your news and views, your history, your philosophy, your poetry and music with online or send it via the wonderful socialist snail mail of the United States Postal Service:  The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek for a spring break from your troubles.  Sit out on the spacious veranda in the warm sunshine among friends and neighbors to sort out your politics or to get away from them for a spell.  St. Patrick’s Day is on the way next week and the Irish will be up to mischief and fun with The General, The Wild Rover, leading the parade with the fair Colleen Malone and Whiskey in the Jar.  He will probably be in his leprechaun (Robert-Hood) costume belting out “Oh! Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling from glen to glen and down the mountain side.”  He will undoubtedly be all right until he gets to the emotional part that says, “It’s you must go and I, I, I must bide…” (sniff) in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!