December 30, 2016

December 30, 2016

EDINBURGH—December 30, 2016


Fireworks from the Castle on December 30th…the first day of Hogmanay.

        Edinburg, Scotland County, Missouri is up on the northern border of the state, the second county west of the Mississippi River.  There was a post office there from 1841 until 1845.  Named after the ancestral home of a government surveyor, it is now listed as an unincorporated community.  Back in 1838, a man named William Preston Thompson settled in the area that is now Grundy County, just a few counties west of Scotland County, and named his little hamlet Buck Snort.  When the post office came in 1857, the name of the place was changed to Edinburg (again, minus the ‘h’).  That community is thriving still with a population of 92.  There may be no one left who knows why or when the hamlet of Goose Nibble changed its name to Champion.  It would surely be a riveting tale.  Here, Edinburgh has been called Auld Reekie (it smells much better now), the Athens of the North, Robert Burns called it ‘fair Edina,’ and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Edinburgh is what Paris ought to be.”  Sojourners find it to be a Champion kind of place.

The talented John Hunt at the Jazz Bar.

        The Venerable General (venerable because he will have gained yet another year of age before 2016 is out!) dutifully and deftly reports, “There was another good turn-out of musicians and singers (seventeen) at the Vanzant Thursday night jam.  Dave and Sue Thompson came again and Sue’s rendition of ‘Lost River’ was superb.  Josiah Strode and Travis Hathaway continued playing an additional 45 minutes after the normal curfew.  They are very talented and their music was greatly appreciated by the few people that stayed.”  He goes on to inquire about the jam east of the pond.  The Sketchy Beats folks were off on holiday with family so the place was closed, but earlier, a visit to the Jazz Bar found John Hunt singing and playing the blues.  He moved seamlessly between old standards and contemporary pieces with original works interspersed.  He plays an electric guitar of his own making that includes a gooseneck microphone that is situated just right to blend his voice with the instrument to be heard well without great volume.  Then it was over to The Royal Oak for another joyful episode of music…all in all a great evening.

        Amid the holiday celebrations this year are birthdays–musician Corinne Leigh Zappler, December 27th, Skyline fifth grader Logan Hull on the 29th, Champion grandson Eli Oglesby, the 30th and then the year ends with The General, himself, and Dr. Kay Talley (River’s Mum) both combining new year’s eve with their birthday bashes.  Dr. Talley’s party will be in Arizona and The General’s in Vanzant at the annual Redneck Armadillo Drop.  New Year’s Day finds Jacob Coon’s dad getting older, and Teeter Creek’s Jan Liebert accumulating another year, but only getting more lovely.  Skyline prekindergarten student, Kabela Clark, was born January 2, 2012.  Guitar master, Leland Isley, celebrates that day also (no year included).  The next day, the third, is Jacob’s own birthday.  It was also the birthday of the lovely Esther Howard, who passed away earlier this year.  The fourth belongs to the Prominent Champion Girlfriend, Sami McCleary.  Others celebrate that day, but she is the Champion favorite.

        The new Bryant Creek State Park is in Douglas County off Highway N about three miles north of Rockbridge.  It is 2,917 acres of thick oak and pine forests and nearly 2 miles of river, hills and bluffs along Bryant Creek.  A friend of The Champion News shared an article that says there will be a ranger guided hike to explore the park on the 8th of January.  Those planning to participate should arrive at the farm house at about 11:45.  To get there, go north of Rockbridge on N Highway to Douglas Count Road 337D, turn right and go less than half a mile to the farmhouse driveway.  Hopes are for good weather and good use of a beautiful new state park.

        * There is an ancient Lakota prophecy about a black snake that would slither across the land, desecrating the sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the Earth.  The indigenous people gathered at Standing Rock hope to kill the snake with prayer.  Supporters of the cause have come from all around the country and all around the world.  The path of the pipeline would cross twice beneath the Missouri River which supplies drinking water to an estimated 17 million people.  Punishing winter storms have caused many to leave the camp for their own safety, but many remain and will continue to stay until the snake is dead.  Many Veterans have come to shield the prayerful water protectors from heavily militarized police.  It is a great current and continuing struggle under the banner “Water is Life!”

* this news item was not included in the Douglas County Herald

        ”Hey! Is that the Real News or is that just the internet?”  The real news is apparently whatever echo chamber suits you best–in alphabetical order: ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSMBC, NBC, PBS, or any others that strike your fancy.  Are any ‘unbiased’?  Does anyone know?  To be informed is a challenge, particularly if one is only willing to hear those things that fit comfortably within preconceptions.  A sage suggests taking a sampling of all and then triangulating to form your personal amalgam of what ‘truth’ might be.  To be sure, there is a perception management campaign that is designed to stifle dissent.  The American Founding Fathers were all dissenters, so keep that in mind when struggling with “post truth” journalism and think of Harry Truman who famously said, “My choice early in life was to either be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician, and to tell the truth, there is hardly any difference.”

The perfect coat and bag for Scotland this time of the year.

        Compliments go to the Wright County Crisis Center in Mountain Grove where a traveler found the perfect coat for Scotland this time of the year.  It is a new Pacific Trail (a division of London Fog) purchased for the grand sum of $8.00, and has proven itself to be light weight, warm, and water proof.   It has a hood that pulls up snug and, with the addition of a silk and woolen scarf from a charity shop in Leith, has kept the traveler cozy in all kinds of Scottish weather.  The perfect purse with the trademark “Travelon” came from the Douglas County Crisis Center in Ava for $1.00.  It has a long adjustable strap that allows it to be worn across the body under the wonderful coat.  The next time you donate or shop for bargains in one of these places ask the staff about the charitable services the Crisis Centers provide.  You will be proud to participate.

        Across the country and across the world assessments are being made about the Old Year and expectations are being formed for the New one.  This might be a good time to revisit the Four Agreements.  They are:  “Be impeccable in your word.  Don’t make assumptions.  Don’t take things personally.  Always do your best.”  Look to for examples of good behavior year around.  Send your thoughts about the year passed or the year ahead or the concept of a strategic sacrifice in the game of checkers to  Keep a song in your heart.  “Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind, should auld acquaintance be forgot” in Champion?  Nae!  We’re looking on the Bright Side!

Fireworks on Calton Hill on the first night of the three day festival of Hogmanay.

December 24, 2016

December 23, 2016

EDINBURGH—December 23, 2016


Chocolate Marzi-Cherries being prepared for the Solstice Feast.

        The Winter Solstice came with a celebration of darkness and light and with great feasting and merry making.  The shortest day of the year (quite short in Edinburgh–just 6 hours 39 minutes) brought new acquaintances and old friends together with wonderful food, sterling conversation, laughter and music.  Next comes Christmas day….that day that looms as the most important day of the year….the one that has all the memories attached to it and all the hopes for peace and good will to all men (and women).  Hopes from here to there are that all your Champion expectations are well met.  Merry Christmas!

        The Prominent Champion Girlfriend writes to say that the weather will be good for Christmas Day in Champion, “raining but up in the 60s, so I’m happy.”  She reported that the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department Firefighters and their families all got together for a Christmas party at the Pizza Hut and had a great time laughing and eating.  She also said that the Wednesday gathering at the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in downtown Champion was wonderful with lots of Christmas goodies for the 25 or so who attended.  She sent pictures of the beautiful tables of cakes and special snacks.  Champions know how to have a good time.

        The General’s Report of the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam flew the 4258.6 miles to The Champion News Mobile Office in record time:  “There was a super turnout of musical talent tonight, eighteen.  We were glad to have Dave and Sue Thompson back.  And a super pleasant surprise to have banjo player Todd Miller and his wife, singer Crystal, made their first appearance at the Vanzant Thursday night jam.” (The General is proving to be a stellar reporter and his pay envelope will reflect as much.)  What wonderful news!  Dave and Sue have been too long gone and much missed with strains of “Oh, Lost River, now I’m coming back to the potbellied stove, where the fire wood’s all stacked” hanging expectantly in the air, just waiting for the Texan and his Quebec girl to croon them out again.  The jam has been languishing without banjo for a year now since the passing of dear Norris Woods, so barber shop Todd is good news indeed and the lovely Crystal with her great voice is a gift.  Hopes are that Roberta sang “Christmas Time’s A Coming” and that all the regular musicians and their appreciators felt it warm in their hearts.  Sherri Bennett said that singing may even help you live longer, so let that be a lesson to you one and all.

Eli Lowen and Gareth Jones with friends
at Sketchy Beats on Thursday.

        “Sketchy Beats Café is a not-for-profit arts café and event space on Great Junction Street, Leith.  The space is an open platform for creatives of any kind to use and share their ideas with the public.”  That is the mission statement of the café, just on the banks of the Water of Leith, where Thursday is an as open jam that this week featured an excellent array of talented musicians and poets.  The amplification was a little less magnificent this time but still could be felt well within the torso at intervals.  Christmas Eve at The Royal Oak will be sublime with the regular line up and waves of revelers surging in and out from early to early some in Santa hats and lighted Christmas jumpers (sweaters) to dazzle the eye.  In 1697, William Congreve said, “Musick has charms to sooth a savage breast , to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak…”  Aye!

        The internet shows us that Lannie Hinote is home for the holidays and out having a glorious time with family and friends.  Bonnie Brixey Mullens says that both their girls will be with her and Pete on Christmas day and that their son and his wife drove up from Elk City, OK for and early Christmas with them.  Across the country and the world, families are gathering for the joy of it.  It is that time of year.

The Royal Oak welcomes folk.

        * A Veteran who has joined with hundreds of others at the Standing Rock Reservation in defense of the Water Protectors said that he was a senior in high school when September 11th happened and he began his enlistment process that day.  He wanted to fight for right and he wanted to fight for justice.  He said that even though he joined to be a soldier he was forced to become a mercenary.  He was fighting for big oil and for the military industrial complex and he felt like his honor was stolen from him and this is his chance to take it back.  His weapons now are his words and his work in protection of an unarmed civilian population from an over-militarized police force willing to perpetrate unconscionable acts at the behest of private industry.  People across the country are divesting from companies that support the DAPL.  This Veteran says that it has been an honor to be welcomed as a nephew and a warrior of the Sioux Tribe.  Now he has a new unit to fight for.

* this news item was not included in the Douglas County Herald

        “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”  Albert Camus said that and the statement was shared by the charming Ms. Brook Quiet-Timber. Apply the thought to the weather, if you like, or to your spirit if it is low and discouraged because the Fat Lady sang her dreary dirge.  Do not criticize the chanteuse, and to be fair, some find hers to be the very seraph song.   “Love is where you find it.  Don’t be blind, it’s all around you everywhere…”  You just have to look carefully.  The Supreme Court may still have a say and it might turn out that the Fox is not really going to be in charge of the Ministry of Hen-house-ery.  Copies of “1984” are flying off book shelves world-wide.  For some the cautionary tale of King Midas plays well this season.  Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

        A distant Champion shares his love of grammar, “’I am the Ghost of Christmas Future Imperfect Conditional,’ said the Spirit.  ‘I bring news of what would have been going to happen if you were not to have been going to change your ways.’”  Look back through the archives at to see if any ways have been changed in the last ten years.  Send your Christmas stories and hopes for the New Year to to have them read as poetry next Thursday at Sketchy Beats.  Give yourself the gift of an easy amble into the Village for a view of one of the word’s beautiful places.  It is at the end of the pavement where country lanes converge at the bottom of several sylvan hills.  Eartha Kitt sang, “Santa, Baby…..I’ve been an awful good girl…so hurry down the chimney tonight…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

It is four miles from the Ocean Terminal to Arthur’s Seat–that
volcanic mountain in the distance at the end of this street.

December 19, 2016

December 19, 2016

EDINBURGH—December 19, 2016


The great Scott Monument on Princess Street in Edinburgh as seen from the North Bridge
flanked by the Christmas ferris wheel and the amazing Star Flyer.

        The naughty and nice list is getting a lot of attention all around the world at this time of the year.  When asked if a granddaughter had received what she wanted for Christmas one year, she replied, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.”  That did not really answer the question but it showed a parenting philosophy that seems sound.  The Prominent Girlfriend can almost be heard across the wide Atlantic complaining about the weather.  She is longing for the beach.  “Baby, its cold outside” in Champion and no one will put her on the naughty list for whining about it.  The forecast looks good for an improvement and Santa should have no problem on his route.  In Edinburgh today it will be gray but will be flirting with 50 degrees.  The festive lights and music of the city make it an exciting Christmas destination.

        The Champion News is pleased to announce the hire of a hometown correspondent.  The General, himself, has agreed (tacitly) to become the neighborhood reporter for the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  It is an important position and remuneration is contingent upon performance.  So far so good with the first installment, to wit, “We had 14 players and a good jam here as well.  One young man playing and singing was here for the first time.  Another surprise, Josiah Strode (banjo player) was back for the first time after about 18 months.  And Steve Sloan, a bass singer, was back again.  Most everyone left at the usual time.  A few people did stay around to listen while Josiah, Steve, Herbie and J.R. Johnston, Travis Hathaway, and Kenny Bushong played and sang.  What a super job they done. (did)  They played until a little after 10 PM.  Travis and Josiah are cousins.  So we had a great evening of music.  I drank a few pints….of coffee.”  Good reporting, General.

A cup of tea at The Oak

        Over here in the seaport of Leith, now a mere suburb of Edinburgh, the Thursday jam at Sketchy Beats just on the east side of the Water of Leith (a nice river), was lovely.  A young man with an electric guitar and two drums with pedals was the first on the scene.  His name is Andrew John Cairns and he was magnificently amplified.  He also had a cold and his voice sounded like Cookie Monster, but it was the first thing your foreign correspondent had heard clearly since Philadelphia.  He looked just like a big overgrown Ozarks farm boy in his plaid shirt and blue jeans and railroad hat…about 6’4”…..280 pounds…big smile.  He looks to be in his late 20’s and has a lot of original music…songs like “The Years Have Not Been Kind,” and “This Morning Will Eat Us Alive.”  It might be the climate that makes it all seem so dour.  Maybe it is just the genre.  In any event, he was followed by a bunch of guitar and bass players.  They were just ‘riffing’ off each other and mostly it was great.  Almost always it was loud, much to the satisfaction of this foreign listener.  Father and son strolled into The Royal Oak, a famous folk venue, to hear some authentic bluegrass.  It is a small and a big world.

        The internet had some sterling good birthday wishes for Emogene Sprague on the 15th.  Rita Silverberg used to be Rita Dorr and her birthday is the 17th.  Mary Goolsby, who used to be seen often in the area in the company of Studebaker Bob Berry, celebrates on the 20th.  The 20th is also the birthday of two Skyline School students–4th grader Destiny Surface and prekindergarten student, Rachael Prock.  Archie Dailey’s sweetheart, Chris, will be partying on the 21st.  Pennsylvania Ben Cohen will have the 22nd as his special day.  The 23rd will be a busy day in the neighborhood.  Rowdy’s little great grandmother, one of those charming Stone brothers, Chase Couthran and his dear old Dad will all have their birthday that day.  Christmas Eve was the birthday of Sarah Emaline Putnam Hector, born in 1885.  She set the example for how grannies were supposed to be for 14 cousins who will never forget her.

        Lannie Hinote was posting pictures of herself on facebook asking Santa for a trip to Missouri.  The next thing was “Hello Anchorage and Solid Ground.”  Then she posed with a moose entangled in blue lights, then said, “Hello Denver!”  This morning she is in Kansas being pleased to be away from airport food and into a nice soft bed.  Her family is getting excited to see her.

        * Indigenous Rising Media had an update on the water protecting folks up in North Dakota.  The weather is frightfully cold and the people are resolute in their determination to stay in place.  A young lady born and raised there said that the new administration will be aggressive in its approach but had the other side won, it would have been the same only in a more sneaky way.  Across the United Kingdom there is great support for the Native Americans and a wee chuckle associated with the outrage at the idea that Russia may have interfered with the election.  That humor has to do with apparent CIA deeds relating to Eastern European, Central and South American elections over the decades.  It has been a relief to be away from the news even for a short time.  At the same time there is a calling to be more engaged.  “Que´ sera´, sera´,” (whatever will be, will be) is a fine and easy philosophy to have, but if you are paying attention, remember that there in the United States of America a person is free to express his belief without qualification.  Appropriate quotes at this time come from Edmund Burke, George Orwell, and Theodore Roosevelt.  In order:  “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  “The farther a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”  “To announce that there must not be criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile but it is morally treasonable to the American public.”  Today the Fat Lady sings.  Her song will change the world.

* this news item was not included in the Douglas County Herald

        Sherry Bennett shared a post that says singing daily for at least ten minutes reduces stress, clears sinuses, improves posture and can even help you live longer.  It was sweet to hear children from the local elementary school singing all the same Christmas carols that Skyline kids sang at their program back home.  Hank Williams songs were a big hit a The Royal Oak on Saturday night.  Alan Grant treated the crowd to an original song, “The Fool I Am Now Ain’t the Fool I Used to Be.”  Go to to find music and entertainment for the last decade in one of the world’s truly beautiful places.  Have your email read in Scotland at  Fill it with history, music and queries.  Get down to the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square to get your seasonal postcard before it is too late.  It features a snow picture of the village in days gone by with the message, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Elementry students singing the same sweet song.

December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

STROUDSBURG, PA—December 12, 2016


        Good news from the Skyline School is that the Christmas program on Thursday night was a great success.  Thanks go to the Skyline students, Mrs. Casper, Mrs. Coonts and Mrs. Downs and to the community for coming out to support our school.  (Some grandparents were so excited about the program that they showed up a week early.)  More good news comes from teacher Terri Ryan who posted the following: “Who was that woman with the no-bake cookie hanging out of her mouth, waving mail, and leaping wildly over to her friend Mrs. Hicks’ office?  Yes, it was me and I’m still flying high.  The wonderful Justin J. Watt Foundation sent a check for $3929 for our middle school archery program to get some much needed equipment! 🙂  I’m so thankful I put in the time to write the grant and that they approved it.  That’s a great way to start a Monday.”  Mrs. Ryan is a Skyline Champion!

        Wednesday was a nice day for Ethel of Omo.  It was her birthday.  She had celebrated early and had rolls thrown at her at Lamberts and then went on a fine shopping spree for Pioneer Woman dinner ware complete with champagne glasses.  Dawn Henson said, “Thanks for all the birthday wishes!  I had a great day!”  Hopes are that Amanda Mastin of the Honky Tonk Clothiers up in Springfield will have a good day on the 16th.  Olivia and Leo will be sure that she does.  Loretta Upshaw was busy on the 12th responding to happy birthday wishes.

        The Prominent Girlfriend said, “You can quote me on this:  Spring starts March 20th and it can’t be too soon.”  Her friends agree.  A couple of farmers share a common problem.  Their farm work gets them dirty.  Not just dirty, but stinky dirty.  Just to pop back in the house for a moment requires a lot of disrobing and boot removal.  This has to be done outside because they can stink up a house in no time.  One of them has a chair in the garage where he can sit to put his boots back on, but those boots get cold out there.  These gentlemen farmers have each built a new house in recent times.  The houses are lovely and well appointed….each only lacking a heated mud room.  A number of remedies have been suggested including a temporary heated structure on the porch.  Of course, none of this would be necessary if the farmer’s wives and children could stand it.  Compromise is a delicate balance and it either stinks or it does not.  Before the winter is over a solution will be found or they will have learned to live with it.

        A trip to town for country people this time of the year brings surprises.  There are new houses stuck off in the woods and houses that we had forgotten were there are revealed to show us again that the country is more densely populated than a summertime drive would suggest.  A night time arrival at the Philadelphia airport is enough to stagger the imagination with lights as far as the eye can see in every direction.  By comparison, Douglas County is very dark.  A trip along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Nation’s oldest turnpike, is exciting from the back seat.  In 1776, the British were in Philadelphia and the French were in Pittsburgh.  The British needed to move a great number of troops, cannon, and material of war those 300 miles in order to defeat the French.  They had to build a road.  The turnpike pretty much follows that path.  The exit for Valley Forge brought to mind the six month encampment of the Continental Army in the winter of 1777-1778.  “Naked and starving as they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery,” said General George Washington, February 16, 1778.  * Winter has descended on North Dakota.  A blizzard swept through the state earlier this week, shutting down nearly 300 miles of interstate highway there.  The weather does not promise to relent in the coming months.  In the midst of it all, many people remain at the temporary camps on the northern edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.  And now, with an eye toward the impending winter weather, they are being asked to go home.  They say they are home.  They are soldiers protecting water.  In these amazingly tumultuous days the words of Thomas Paine seem applicable:  “Let it be told to the future world, that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive, that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet and repulse it.”  The Crisis may be defined differently depending upon your point of view.  There are 538 people with the fate of the election in their hands.  A new project to give free legal counsel to faithless electors is being offered by a Harvard Law School professor.  The Fat Lady will do her singing on December 19th.

* this news item was not included in the Douglas County Herald

        A gracious host asks, “Have you unmet needs?”  Seldom seen family in a festive mood, with much laughter and wonderful food and a comfortable bed are gifts indeed.  Conversations stray from old family history to the new world order and to references to George Orwell.  Children’s antics lighten the mood and everyone figures that things are going to settle down and become sensible again.  Send your sensible notions to and look at for a glimpse of a well ordered pleasant place in the world.  David Richardson shared a video there that he made on the occasion of the Grand Opening of the Recreation of the Historic Emporium back in October, 2011.  The music will lift any spirit.  Find there also a stirring rendition of “America the Beautiful” as played by the U.S. Marine Band of 1953.  The last verse says, “O beautiful, for patriot dream/ That sees beyond the years/ Thine alabaster cities gleam/ Undimmed by human tears!  America! America! God shed His grace on thee/ And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


December 5, 2016

December 5, 2016

CHAMPION—December 5, 2016


Bud Hutchison and his smiling trail riders.

        It does not happen everywhere in the world that a sashay down to the convenience store for a last minute cake mix involves passing a passel of equestrians.  Bud and four of his buddies mounted up at 8:30 in the morning on Saturday in Veracruz and by 11:30 were ambling into Champion…ready for a stand around the wood stove….and a good hot lunch.  They are a nice looking bunch….ranging in age from 20 something to 80 something—one more handsome than the next all with Champion smiles.

        As a birthday gift to her friend, a wise woman is making a weekly phone call to Congressman, Jason Smith, (202) 225-4404, asking him to consider the precariousness of our natural environment, to encourage him to support ‘single payer’ as an answer to the health care crisis, and to adopt a balanced approach to governance referencing our national symbol, the magnificent bald eagle.  It is an enormous bird that needs both its wings to be healthy and strong in order to fly.  One Old Champion sings, “….straighten up and fly right!  Cool down, papa, don’t you blow your top!”  Other people sing, “Happy birthday to yoooou!” to Chris Tharp on the 8th, to Richard Johnston, on the 9th and to Skyline nurse, Mrs. Karen, that day as well.  Several Ava attorneys share a birthday on the 10th or the 11th, but they may not party together.  Portland Champion, Kai Parsons, also parties on the 11th.  Skyline prekindergarten student, Kennedy Hinote, has the 13th for a birthday, as does Vietnam Veteran River Rat, Richard Green, down in the Valley.  Some favorite people have the 14th to share with Spike Jones.  They are a dearest friend, Judy Ing, a renowned photographer in Springfield, Shannon Alexander, and Champion Xue Lynn, on top of the hill.  Happy daze all!

        An early Christmas letter comes from the Freemans, Wesley ad Suzie.  Suzie said she was almost done with her Christmas sewing.  She made 8 pairs of pillow cases and a baby blanket.  She and Wes had their 51st wedding anniversary on November 23rd.  When they were here earlier this year, Wes brought several wooden truck replicas he has made.  They are very intricate and good representations of the actual trucks.  According to her any time he sees an interesting truck out on the highway or parked, he looks it over and then comes home and makes it.  He has made 74 now by her count.  She says they are still hillbillies in Texas and still get the local paper.  She sent along her lovely handmade Christmas card.  Karen Ross, Champion’s own intrepid mail carrier, and all her co-workers will have extra work over the holidays, as they do every year.  This year among the armloads of mail will be the new Champion Christmas postcard, now available at Henson’s Downtown G & G.  It features a photograph of the old store in the snow with an appropriate greeting, designed to arouse nostalgia.

        The holidays will be filling our attention…meals to prepare, cards to send, gifts to buy, old acquaintances to renew….shopping and cooking and visiting….all go a long way to alleviate the stresses of the recent political season.  Some are embarrassed.  Some are still in stunned disbelief.  Some are experiencing buyer’s remorse and others are certain it is all just wonderful.  Whatever the case may be, this is surely not the time to disengage.  Now, more than ever, vigilance is the responsibility of the citizen.  Over at Standing Rock, it took a lot of people a long time to effect a little change, but it happened.  That means it could happen again and perhaps the next time it will not take so long.  If enough people make enough noise, long enough, some change is possible.  It may have been the vision of 2,000 or so Veterans in body armor that caused the local constabulary to cease and desist its aggression toward peaceful protesters.  Perhaps the President had some sway over the Army Corps of Engineers that caused them to reconsider issuing the permit that would have allowed the pipeline to continue through sacred sites and under the only water source for the Standing Rock Reservation.  While this is seen as a real victory, it is certain that the Sioux will not relax their vigilance.  There will be a presence on the site until the pipeline is rerouted and the equipment removed and then there will still be a vigilant presence.  “Water is sacred,” they say and we in the Ozarks, blessed with bountiful, clean, free flowing water, realize that others are not so blessed and do not take our good fortune for granted.

Musical father and son.

        J.R. and Janet Johnston’s fiddling son sat next to his Dad at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam on Thursday and scrubbed off a fine rendition of “Sally Goodin”.  He knows all the old songs and probably the words to many of them–like, “Watermelon, cantaloupe, peach tree puddin’ ain’t half as sweet as my little Sally Goddin.”  Pot luck is at six and music until nine—unless school is closed for the day for bad weather.  If you cannot make it to a local live music jam or performance, make your own music in the car, or the shower, or over the kitchen sink.  Music is a great soother in rough times and good for the spirit any time.  “I want to be happy, but I can’t be happy till I know you’re happy too!”

        Gary Hutchison called the other day to chat and chat and chat.  He says he is kin to most of the people in Douglas and Wright Counties.  He misses Champion and thinks he will make it to the next school reunion.  Young Fisher Bray, four year old grandson of Kirby Fossett, does not eat bugs–even when the big ugly thing proffered by a local jokester turned out not to be a bug at all but some strange fruit from Honduras.  The thing was about the size of a small plum, but kind of flat with a dark purple skin covered in black pointy things that looked like legs.  The gelatinous insides tasted like a grape, but Fisher was having no part of it.  He is steadfast and resolute about it.  He is one of a number of charming youngsters who frequent the Historic Emporium over on the North Side of the Square keeping it a lively and exciting place.  He might learn that great Arlo Guthrie song, “I don’t want a pickle, I just want to ride on my motorcycle” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!