August 29, 2016

August 29, 2016

CHAMPION—August 29, 2016


A tidy little Champion garden on a tranquil summer Sunday.

        Many long years ago Sylvia Henson, who lived up on Cold Springs Road, wrote the “Champion Items.”  Later on, Ruth Hicks, who lived in the next place to the south, wrote them.  Then, Esther Wrinkles, who at that time lived just across the road from the Champion Store, wrote them.  Esther moved over to Vanzant and wrote for those folks for a while.  This permutation of the Items, “The Champion News “ (TCN), is being written in the same room where Sylvia Henson began her correspondence.  It is complete with its own website where every article from the past ten years is posted together with pictures and special features. can now be read on your smart phone.  Times are changing.  From the first edition, August 28, 2006:  “News has reached the Champion community that its former longtime resident, Mrs. Clifford Wrinkles, has suffered a mishap that has resulted in a plaster cast on her foot together with admonitions to stay off the foot for two weeks.  This will work a hardship on Mrs. Wrinkles who is routinely more active than most.”  Over the years Esther’s name has come up frequently.  Look up the July 29, 2007 posting to read a good conversation with the lady.  She wrote for The Douglas County Herald for more than 50 years and was a founding member of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department.  Her enthusiasm for the vital little organization never waned.  She would say to every volunteer on the fire line or behind the scenes today, that your efforts are genuinely appreciated.  She would acknowledge, as we do, that not everyone can participate as fully as she did, that we are all just doing the best we can to carry on her good work.

        Several of Sylvia’s children and grandchildren are expected to be at the 33rd Champion School Reunion on Saturday, September 3rd.  They will come from Springfield, Texas, and Arkansas to meet up with old school chums and friends for a day of visiting and reminiscing.  There will be a pot luck luncheon ‘on the grounds’ and perhaps some music this year.  A plan has been hatched to get Charlie Lambert to come with Zelda and his mandolin, hoping to entice other local musicians to show up for the fun.  Perhaps Charlie’s granddaughter, Hannah Janson, who likes to go with him everywhere, will come.  She and her friend, Chloe Hart, had a good time at the Skyline Picnic and were kind enough to provide a song for the cake walk when the last cake was up for grabs.  There were 18 alumni present at the last reunion.  See their picture at where there are also pictures from previous reunions and samplings of the music.  These reunions tie the past to the present for the community and illustrate the importance of the friendships forged in childhood.  A Prominent Champion wrote in the preface to his book “Champion School Memories” published in 1985, that in the previous year several people had commented that their school days were “some of the happiest times of their lives.”  He went on to say that they probably did not realize it at the time because times were rough.  Champions today are recognizing good times as they happen.

        The hummingbirds are getting ready for their trip to the south.  They have kept some old Champions busy all summer making ‘hummer-goo’ and the sugar bill is approaching $20.00 for the year, still fairly economical entertainment.  The year is going by quickly, as they all seem to for people of a certain age.  Seneca Parsons may have been surprised that he is already 37 years old as of the 26th, the same day that Rita Krider might have been amazed that 81 years have passed since she arrived on the scene.  Laine Sutherland will have celebrated her birthday on the 30th with music at McClurg the night before.  Kalyssa Wiseman, Jenna Brixey and Ray Hurt all have birthdays on August 31st.  Kalyssa lives up in Marshfield, but is often in Champion visiting with her Grandmother.  She and Jenna are the same age.  Jenna and Ray go to Skyline School, where Jenna is in the 3rd grade and Ray is entering kindergarten.  Bonnie Brixey Mullens wrote, “Sixty years ago today (August 29th) at 6:05 p.m. I gave birth to my 1st child and only son, 6 lb. 2 oz. Gregory Russell Mullens.  Happy Birthday Greg!  Love you.”  Champions say, “Happy birthday, Young and Old!  Enjoy every day.”

        Brenda Coffman Massey was busy at the Skyline Picnic grilling burgers and helping her neighbors the way she always does.  She is very active in the Vanzant/Drury community and can be seen out supporting every good cause in the area.  Debbie Stone (679-3845) and Debbie Shannon (948-2116) are putting together a benefit for Brenda’s sister, Sharon (Coffman) Driskell, sister also of Beverly Emory, at the Vanzant Community Building on Saturday the 10th of September.  Watch for ads in the local newspapers.  The purpose of the benefit is to help with travel expenses for cancer treatment in Texas.  If you cannot make it to the benefit but would like to help out with a donation use this address:  Brenda Coffman Massey, Hc 73 box 185b Drury, Mo 65638.  Neighbors helping neighbors is some of the best part of living in this part of the world.

        Ask any writer what he thinks of any editor and the answer might vary from article to article.  It has always been pleasant dealing with Mindy Johnson at the Douglas County Herald.  Friends in Champion learn she has been ill lately and send her best wishes for a good recovery.  She did not edit the very first article by this writer that had the quote by Matthew Henry removed.  That quote was, “If truth is once deserted, unity and peace will not last long.”  It was a surprise to be edited.  The most recent edit (last week by The Herald–probably just for space) concerned reporting of the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline protest going on up at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota.  There is no national news organization bringing the situation to the attention of the general public.  Thousands of people from across the United States and Canada have gathered to stop a 1,170 mile pipeline from being pushed through tribal lands, ancient burial sites and sacred ground, through fragile watersheds, crossing under the Missouri River, over four states.  This is an example of eminent domain for private gain.  A few months ago when the Bundy family had occupied some park land out west, the media coverage was everywhere.  They are now aggressively ignoring an event that is being compared to the most recent Wounded Knee incident.  That one lasted from February 27, 1973 to May 8, 1973.  The current protest has been going on for more than a year and is gaining strength.  Perhaps the news blindness is because the mass media in general, broadcast and print, is owned by a very few corporations which (not ‘who’) have vested interest in oil one way or another.  There is also the consideration that we, as a Nation, are so accustomed to ignoring the Government’s historic abuse of the Native People (as it has broken every single treaty) that we are deaf to the reality of their current suffering.  We are accustomed to seeing Indians chased across our movie screens and we get to somehow pretend that all of those bad things happened long ago.  The Wounded Knee Massacre happened on December 29, 1890.  Many of us are proud that we can trace our families back long before that time—some right here in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 22, 2016

August 22, 2016

CHAMPION—August 22, 2016

Wes Lambert says this hood is probably off a 1947 Chevrolet.

        When the weather turns from hot to perfect, as it just has these lovely days, some Champions take a little while to catch up…catch up with the yard work, and with the whole idea that summer is almost over.  Most likely there will be more hot days ahead, but the temporary reprieve from the oppressive heat and humidity is a gift that will make it more bearable as the season winds down.  Naturally, no one has had the heart to complain when neighbors just to the south and east are floating away, stranded, and bereft.

        Tuesday the 30th will be the last Tuesday of the month and therefore the day that Nannette Hirsch, the Douglas County Health Department Nurse will be in Champion from 9 in the morning until 11.  She does blood pressure checks and other health screenings as an amenity to the rural community.  This program has saved lives.  The following Tuesday will find her at Skyline School from 8:30 to 10:30 in the morning doing the same thing.  She helps us look after ourselves.  What a sterling service.

         Labor Day is on the way and that means the Champion School Reunion will again have the Square full of students and their families and friends celebrating the institute that figures so vividly in their childhood memories.  It has been sixty years since it was merged with the other local schools into Skyline.  The reunion has been going on for well over thirty years now.  It happens on the Saturday before Labor Day and anyone with an interest in the school is welcome.  There is a pot luck lunch and ample opportunity to visit with seldom seen friends.

        A sojourner relaxing on the wide veranda at the Historic Emporium might look over at the big oak tree that bears the sign, “Lonnie Krider Memorial Drive” and will notice the hood of an ancient car leaning up against the tree.  Larry Wrinkles, enjoying an ice cream out on the veranda the other day, said that it was the hood off the car that Ed and Anna Henson were driving when Bob Shull ran into them.  It happened up on the dirt road, now named for a much loved native son, in front of Manfred Smith’s house.  Ed and Anna were both badly hurt, but both declined a trip to the hospital.  They recovered with time and Larry said that for a long time the old car sat over on the creek bank.  Bob Shull lived down the road east on the other side of Fox Creek.  He was reported to have been an excellent welder and a week end tippler of some distinction.  Maybe Larry will attend the Champion School Reunion and share some of those stories about how Arthur Porter kept Punk in line for a couple of years.

        Just back from vacation, a regular visitor to Champion had pictures to show and tales to tell about being out west.  The vacationers inspected Mt. Rushmore and other scenic places, enjoying the natural spectacles and each other’s fine company.  Their stay in the Black Hills coincided with the 76 annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  The folks at Wikipedia say that the highest attendance for this rally was in 2015, when there were 739,000 people there.   There may not have been as many this year, but there were enough to have traffic so chaotic that our Champions beat a hasty retreat.  They missed getting to see the Crazy Horse Monument which has been under construction since 1948, and has a way to go before it will be completed.  It was commissioned by Henry Standing Bear, an Oglala Lakota chief and well-known statesman who wanted the real patriot of the Sioux tribe to be honored along with Washington and Lincoln.  Some Oglala Lakota object to the carving of the sacred Thunderhead Mountain and say that Crazy Horse would not have approved.  Standing Bear spoke with anger of the broken Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868) in which the President promised the Black Hills would belong to the Indians forever.  Imagine how he would have felt about the Bakken pipeline.  Many Oglala have traveled up to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota to join in the protest of the 1,134-mile long underground oil pipeline project for crude oil that would run from the Bakken oil fields in Northwest North Dakota, through South Dakota, Iowa and end in Patoka, Illinois.  Pipeline opponents say the project would disturb sacred sites and could affect drinking water on the reservation and for people downstream.  Again, however, if there is money to be made, somehow the rights of the native people and the promises of the Nation become nebulous.

        Eli and Emerson Rose Oglesby sang ‘Happy Birthday!’ to their mother, Tianna Krider Oglesby, on August 22nd, also the birthday of Skyline School’s custodian, Mrs. Stephanie.  Drayson Cline shares his birthday with Skyline’s second grade teacher, Mrs. Willhite.  Drayson’s Mom taught at Skyline before he came along three years ago.  His cousin, Dakota Watts, who lives over in Tennessee, celebrates his birthday on the 24th.  He will be 23 this year.  He is studying to get his pilot’s license, which makes his grandmother proud and nervous at the same time.  Daniel Cohen teaches literature to middle school and high school students in a little school about the size of Skyline up in Stroudsburg, PA.  His birthday is also on the 24th.  Skyline 4th grade student, Dana Harden, and Barbara Krider, of Elmwood, IL, have the 25th as their birthday.  Rita Krider, Barbara’s sister-in-law, also lives up in the Elmwood area.  Her party will be on the26th.  Champion, Wes Smith, and Springfield’s Jody Henson will party in different places together on the 29th.  That is also the special day for Rowdy Woods.  He is a 5th grade student at Skyline and was a big help getting ready for the Skyline VFD picnic this year.  Happy Birthday to all you folks near and far–remember you have to keep having birthdays if you want to get old, which many old people say is a good thing.

        The old bees have moved out of the Behemoth Bee Tree on the South Side of the Square.  They had overpopulated again and the elders have taken off in a swarm.  It is a natural occurrence that happens a time or two every year.  There will be a great roaring and a v-shaped group will transport a queen with them and hover somewhere for a while before dispersing to a new home.  It is an excellent time for bee keepers to capture them, though this time the swarm had disappeared before the local bee wranglers arrived.  Young bees take over the hive and the process begins all over again.  Bees are our very best pollinators and gardeners enjoying a bountiful harvest have them to thank.  “Oh, the buzzin’ of the bees in the peppermint trees/ ‘Round the soda water fountains/ Where the lemonade springs and the bluebird sings/ In the Big Rock Candy Mountains” of Champion—Looking on the Bright Side.


August 15, 2016

August 15, 2016

CHAMPION—August 15, 2016

Saturday at the Picnic was like a big Birthday party for Dean Upshaw!

        The Skyline Volunteer Picnic was another rousing success.  It started out Friday with a dramatic little downpour.  The rain did not last long and the temperature dropped dramatically.  Turnout was modest that night but the fun was plentiful.  Saturday saw the great gathering of friends and neighbors enjoying themselves and each other amid perfect weather conditions.  They opened their pocketbooks and their hearts in support of the great little Volunteer fire department that serves the community so well.  After all the games, the excellent picnic food, the wonderful music, and the exciting door prizes came the drawing for the quilt/display chest and quilt.  Pete Proctor was the big winner!  Pete does all kinds of good work for Veterans in the area as well as other civic chores and it is nice to see something good happen for him.  The whole evening was like a big birthday party for Dean Upshaw and when it was all over and everyone was home safe in their beds, the rain came again, gently.  Some of the volunteers who work so hard to get the event together worked hard the next day to get things broken down and stored away for next year.  Other volunteers, not used to so much exertion, slept the rainy morning away.  The thirtieth Skyline Picnic now is just a pleasant memory.

        Betty Thomas was at the picnic showing some sensational pictures of the bear that visited their place the other day.  She glanced out the window in time to see the critter walking through her yard.  Dale said Betty roused him up from a good nap in his recliner to let him know the bear was there.  The animal stood up with front feet on top of a refrigerator they keep on their patio and appeared to be over six feet tall.  Eventually it went on its way, but not before Betty snapped the photos she had on hand.  She also had flyers for the next Pioneer Descendants Gathering and pictures of the beautiful quilt she has made for their annual raffle.  This quilt has a horse theme and will be a prize for anyone, particularly equestrians.  There is a rumor that this will be the last of the Pioneer Gatherings so it will doubtlessly be an enormous affair and not one to be missed.  Dr. Suess said, “Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”  Champions always try to be aware of the good moment and are looking forward to another trip over the Edge of the World.

        “I’m as mean as a peach orchard boar!” barked the yodeling fiddler after an unsuccessful attempt to run The General down with his car.  The General performed a series of theatrical stumblings and hat throwings as passengers poured out of the car ready to join the fray.  Much lively banter revealed it all to have been in good fun.  Good fun ensued with another evening of enjoyable music at the Vanzant Thursday Bluegrass Jam.  The internet informs now that doctors are prescribing music therapy for heart ailments, brain dysfunction, learning disabilities, depression, PTSD, Alzheimer’s, childhood development and other things.  Good food, fellowship and music sounds like a prescription for a Champion.  This term ‘mean as a peach orchard boar’ does bear a little study as to the origin of such a declaration.  Anyone who can come up with a good story will be a Champion huckleberry.

What is it?

        Interesting people bring interesting things to Champion looking for answers.  The most recent such occurrence was on Wednesday when Bert Lehman brought in an item that had come to him incidentally in a box of things he had bought at an auction.  It is a steel cylinder about an inch and a half in diameter and perhaps a foot long.  One end has a ring going through it.  The other end has a hook that when pulled exposes itself to be on the end of a screw that is concealed within the cylinder.  A local engineer opines that it must be a turning device—the hook matching a fitting eye attached to a similar screw, perhaps for opening a transom window or who knows?  Find a picture on The Champion News Facebook page and on the website at and share your knowledge or speculation.  The last item brought for this kind of inspection and identification turned out to be a hay needle.  Several people had seen something like it or had experience using it.  A story was told on Wednesday about a man who used to live down by Gainesville who now lives maybe over by Rolla.  He had an elk ranch and one day he looked out to see a man riding by on a black horse with a yellow, three legged dog following along.  The rancher discovered subsequently that three of the yearling elk that had been sleeping in a pile had suffocated.  He would like to have talked with the man on the black horse to find out if he knew anything about that incident, but he was already gone three legged dog and all.

Sharon Tate Williamson with Ed Henson.”

        Jewell Hall Elliot shared a video that Rose Zella Myer had made available on Facebook.  It was made at a square dance in Ava on April 24, 1997.  J. R. and Janet Johnston were in the group, along with Sue Potts, Edna Mae Davis, Joe Englehart, and perhaps Max Decker.  Jewell was not sure about that.  The caller of the dance was Edna Mae Davis and the band was made up of Bob Holt, Charlie Walden on fiddle and Alvie Dooms on guitar.  It looked like everyone was having a good time.  Sharon Tate Williamson posted a picture of herself and Ed Henson sitting on the porch at the Champion Store…She did not know what year it was but her friend Sherri Tate Unger commented on how dark her hair was in the photo to which Ms. Williamson responded, “I didn’t notice.”

        August 10, 1821, marked the day that Missouri was granted statehood.  Details of the Missouri Compromise only 195 years ago show us how far, as a Nation, we have come.  On August 14, 1935, Social Security was signed into law by President Roosevelt, pulling millions of American seniors out of poverty.  There is a movement under way to privatize Social Security with arguments that include the specious notion that it is an ‘entitlement’ that somehow adds to the deficit, when, in fact, it is self- sustaining and would be solvent perpetually if the taxable earnings cap were lifted.  Likewise, the socialist organization called the United States Postal Service is self–sustaining and would be perpetually had not Congress decided a while back that retirement and health-care funds be set aside to cover employees for the next 75 years.  This was a ploy to bankrupt the service so as to justify its privatization.  Congress has also chosen to, at the last minute, slip into a must-pass military spending bill a provision that hands over the title to Oak Flat, an ancient Apache holy place, to Resolution Copper Mining, an Australian owned company which plans to open a crater two miles wide and 1,000 feet deep across the holy site.  The Society for American Archaeology says there is abundant evidence that the Apache have been there “since well before recorded history.”  If Oak Flat were a Christian holy site, no senator who wished to remain in office would dare to sneak a backdoor deal for its destruction into a spending bill, no matter what mining company profits or jobs might result or how many campaign contributions and lobbyist dollars were involved.  But this is Indian religion.  Clearly the Arizona congressional delegation is not afraid of a couple of million conquered natives.  This protected land is under siege as is democracy.  If you do not like the way things have gone for the past few years, look to your elected Congress.  The results of the three months of political turmoil ahead will shape the immediate and long-term course of the Nation.  While it has been a welcome relief to have the Olympic Games temporarily divert attention from politics, giving us the illusion of unity again, the struggle is far from over.

        People in Louisiana and in other parts of the country are not thinking about politics or the Olympics.  Extreme flooding has obliterated communities, taking lives and washing away the life’s work and future hopes of many thousands of people.  The extreme heat in the north east is killing people.  Those of us so far unaffected extend sympathy to them and gratitude for our own relatively good circumstances.  “Count your many blessings.  Name them one by one.”  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 8, 2016

August 8, 2016

CHAMPION—August 8, 2016

Catahoula Frankie Midnight, the ‘hog-killing swamp dog,’ was just a month old when she first visited Champion. At nine months now and at 50 pounds, she enjoyed the Mill Pond on a hot day and then a nice nap.

        Champions are getting excited about the Skyline Picnic to be held on Friday and Saturday.  (See details in the newspaper ad.)  Their grocery shopping lists include ingredients for pies and cakes to donate for the concession stand and for the cake walk.  It will be another chance to meet up with family and friends for an evening of fun.  This year Champion’s prominent artisan has donated a quilt/display chest.  It is 24″ high, 29″ wide and 18″ deep.  It is a beautiful piece of work with glass sides and front to show off those prize possessions.  The drawing will be held on Saturday night.  Last year Sally Prock won the drawing for the quilt called “Broken Dishes.”  It was put together with hundreds of tiny pieces and quilted in a style called ‘stippling.’  Sally was happy and the community was happy for her because she is always out supporting every good cause in the area.  This picnic supports the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department.  The firefighters are all volunteers who are trained as first responders to aid in emergencies of all kinds in addition to fighting fires.  Proceeds from the picnic go toward equipment and training for these folks who are willing to put themselves at risk to protect the lives and property of their neighbors.  Champions!

        Caleb Harden, Jaycee Hall and Cryslynn Bradshaw are all first grade students at Skyline School and they all have birthdays in August.  Caleb’s birthday is on the 5th, Jaycee’s on the 10th and Cryslynn’s on the 12th.  Their birthday celebrations will be over before school starts on the 17th.  The school will have an open house from 5:30 – 7:00 in the evening of the 15th to give the community a chance to get to know the teachers, the parents, and the students.  Everyone is welcome.  Foster and Kalyssa, Champion grandchildren living over in Marshfield, will have helped their Dad count his candles.  He was born August 8, 1968, so that is quite a few candles.  Champion friends wish you all a Happy Birthday.

        Boy Howdy and the Howdy Boys, featuring Rattlesnake Slim and Frankie Midnight, the Wonder Dog, provided almost a week of entertainment for folks up in Near Champion North.  The band pulled in Tuesday and departed Sunday.  In their wake, the house seems big and quiet.  The days passed with no television—no news, no politics.  It was a lovely time of pleasant conversation, storytelling, help with farm projects, great meals and music, music, music.  These world travelers continued their tour on to North Carolina where it is sure they will be well received.  Meanwhile, back in Champion, plugged back in now and turned back on, it is exciting to see young people from all over the world striving to be the best in the world at their Olympic sport.  The Olympic Games remind us that we live in a small world and people have more in common with each other than they do differences.  It is a cause for optimism to see that spirit of friendship and cooperation.

        It was great to see Ruth Collins back at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam with her velvety voice and sweet smile.  Dwight is sporting his new titanium hip and is getting around nicely already with just a cane.  The big circle of musicians included Montana Banjo with his lightening fingers and a guitar wielding high lonesome singer wringing hearts with, “Why did I leave my plow in the field and look for a job in the town?”  Festus had another humorous ditty.  Jerry obliged requests to yodel.  Roberta wished someone “Many Happy Hangovers.”  Visiting Texans wowed the house with eastern European music from Bulgaria, Greece and Macedonia.  The time flew by and already folks are looking forward to next Thursday.  Pot luck at 6 p.m. and good music until 9 makes a nice evenning.

        “If voting mattered, they wouldn’t let us do it,” according to Mark Twain.  He was born in 1835, and died in 1910.  He was a keen observer of the human condition.  His observation, made sometime well over a hundred years ago, may have been a cynical response to a disappointing election.  A candidate who, in the recent election, won by a narrow margin was heard to say, “Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t matter!”  One hundred thirty seven people who voted for the Skyline School Tax Levy are disappointed.  Those voting against the proposal numbered 201.  In the previous election, the proposal was defeated by mere 3 (or maybe 6) votes.  Once again, the resourcefulness and dedication of the school board, the staff and the school community will be called on to keep our valuable little rural school viable with minimal resources.  Their efforts are to be commended.

        The weather is volatile all over the world these days.  There has been flooding in places that have never seen it before here in the United States and across the world.  Strong winds and heavy rain have wreaked havoc in many places.  Damage from recent storms has been cleaned up nicely on the Square in Historic Downtown Champion and locals are grateful for the relatively minor nature of it.  Marge and Doug are home again from their summer in the mountains and may have some stories to share about nature at higher elevations.  When they first located to this area they spent some time searching for it and now that they know where the Square is (at the bottom of several hills, near the confluence of a couple of creeks, where country roads meet the pavement), they may well be enjoying the placid view of the wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek and of the Behemoth Bee Tree from the wide veranda of the Famed Emporium.  On Friday and Saturday nights, on your way home from the picnic, pull over at some scenic overlook and gaze at the heavens for a while.  If the sky is clear you are sure to be rewarded by the Perseids Meteor Shower and the sight of many fireballs streaking across the sky, but “don’t let the stars get in your eyes.  Don’t let the moon break your heart.  Love blooms at night…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 1, 2016

August 1, 2016

CHAMPION—August 1, 2016

        It turns out that Champion is in the mid-southern latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, which puts us in the most favorable position on Earth to see the sights as our planet passes through the densest, dustiest area of the path left behind by the Comet Swift-Tuttle.  Meteor experts at NASA say that the Perseids Meteor Shower will be in “outburst” which means meteors will appear at double the usual rate, as many as 150 or even 200 meteors per hour.  They will be most visible around midnight on August 12th and 13th.  As if in cosmic alignment, The Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department Picnic will be held those nights as well.  The ride home will be a magic trip through shooting stars.  It is always good to be reminded that in the big picture people are quite small.  People in Champion are nevertheless pleased with our spot in the Universe.

        It is picnic season.  Wesley and Suzie Freeman came all the way up from McKinney, Texas for the Holt 4-H Picnic, which is always a great happening.  Wesley, the son of Chester Freeman, grandson of Sam Freeman, grew up at Brushyknob and went to school at Vera Cruz.  Suzie went to Mountain Grove.  They were visiting in Champion on Monday and planning to spend the week with family and friends.  Wesley builds replicas of trucks out of Balsa wood.  Go to to see a picture of his very detailed work.  Karen makes her lovely Christmas cards by hand every year and says that she is still a hillbilly even if she lives in Texas.  Homecomings happen often in Champion, sometimes in order to hold fast connections to family and friends and sometimes for the sake of nostalgia and longing for a simpler time that, now that it is over, seemed better.  Being here now is good.

        The out-of-state visitors to the Vanzant jam on Thursday were not disappointed in their kin.  Entertaining is not the word.  From the depths of a battered guitar case The General produced a coonskin hat with a tail so long it completely obscured his face until he turned the thing around.  Unbidden, he proceeded to accompany Sherry Bennett in “Five Pounds of Possum” with cowbell aplenty and a pantomime of a person playing a bass instrument…a large tin can attached to a stick and a string.  No real sound came out of the instrument, but it would not have been heard anyway for the uproarious laughter.  He may have been ‘showing off’ for the bunch, hoping to have them take home some vivid memories.  Roberta had a birthday that evening and was roundly serenaded by the whole room.  Young Thomas Jarnagan’s granddad was also included in the song, though his day had been the 25th.  Visitors from Idaho, Ron and Darcy (Upshaw) Cecil and their four children enjoyed their first vacation all together in 15 years.  The bluegrass jam and the Saturday Upshaw family night ice cream party with twenty two in attendance were probably some of their best memories as they headed home.   The General said they did like Vanzant and the area, “but I don’t think any of them are planning to settle here.“

        There was plenty of good Wednesday fun at the Emporium.  Even with occasional trivial distractions and disruptions, there were many polite conversations, observations, and speculations.  Pete Proctor was out from town and Ronnie Medlock, nowadays from over at Houston, enjoyed relaxing on the wide veranda with the Dooms brothers.  He is a great guitar player, they say, but he said he does not play these days, which some folks find hard to believe.  David Cauthran, a new resident of Champion Heights, talked about his Dad who was a friend of Alfred Brumley.  Like Brumley, he sang and wrote gospel songs.  Karen Ross, intrepid mail-lady stopped by on her regular route.  Her birthday was to be Friday—she is in the prime of life—always in a good mood even when the roads are rough—a welcome sight with a dazzling smile.

        Wednesday evening a few stalwart Skyline VFD workers spent time at the Fire House starting the picnic process.  It is a treat to have some new faces helping out with the hard work.  Still, as in years past, there was a communal yearning for additional help, some young, energetic people from the area with good ideas and muscle to apply toward making a great picnic.  It is a chance to bring the community together in support of the vital little rural fire department that protects our lives and property.  Local merchants are already thinking about the door prizes they plan to donate for the picnic.  The ladies at Downtown Pawn in Mt. Grove will likely share something with the fire department again, though they outdid themselves with the amazing Dobro that they contributed for the Skyline Chili Supper back in March.  This is the 30th Skyline Picnic.  It has been decided that there will not be a silent auction this year and that fried catfish will be added to the menu.  A prominent local artisan has donated a handmade quilt/display chest for the raffle.  It is definitely shaping up to be another sterling event.

        The almanac says that the first few days of August will be good days for killing weeds, briars, poison ivy and other plant pests.  As to poison ivy, the Teeter Creek herb folks have Jewel Weed as their featured herb this week.  The plant has long been used to treat the poison ivy rash.  The leaves and juicy stems are crushed and used as a poultice.  The plant grows well in wet places and the touch-me-not seeds are easy to collect.  There is still time to plant a variety of things for a fall harvest.  Summer squash grows fast and will have time to make, as will lettuce and fall greens,  particularly Swiss Chard.  The garden is a beautiful place to be.  Young Bailey, a granddaughter visiting from Portland, Oregon enjoyed her grandparent’s garden immensely.  She particularly liked the little Dutch Bantam chickens that go about their garden eating bugs.  One little hen had an injured leg and the little girl spent her time carrying it under her arm, making sure it had its feed and water.  After a week of her tender care, the little chicken seemed to be more able to take care of herself.  Bailey’s Grandad says the little chickens do get a lot of bugs out in the garden, but they also do a great job of scratching mulch away from where he puts it, and punching holes in the low-hanging tomatoes.

        Champions are hoping that the Skyline School levy will have been approved by the voters.  Politics has some people nervous.  “What do we want?”  “Respectful discourse.”  “When do we want it?”  “Now would be agreeable to me, but I am interested in your opinion.”  The following quotes come from Presidents Harry Truman and FDR and from Voltaire.  “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”  “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”  “America was not built on fear.  America was built on courage, imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”  If the next ninety plus days can pass with forbearance, dignity, civility and calm, perhaps we can stand on the wide veranda together and sing, “America, America!  God shed His grace on thee.  And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”  Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!