March 27, 2017

CHAMPION—March 27, 2017


A Sunday swarm of children enjoy the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion.

The idea of having to mow the yard before the first of April is circulating through Champion.  “Surely,” they say, “this is an April Fool’s joke!”  No joke—things are greening up and growing.  There is, however, something about the time of year, as we turn from winter to spring, that lends itself to lighthearted celebrations.  Many different cultures have had days of foolishness around the start of April since the time of Constantine who lived from about the year 288 to 337.  Some people think it all started with some aggravation about switching calendars, from the Julian to the Gregorian, in 1582.  Whatever the beginnings of it, a little spring time silliness is certainly acceptable in Champion.  In keeping with the spirit, and with the mode o day, a Champion lie is being hatched—concocted, if you will.

Don Bishop’s birthday was March 23rd and that is the truth.  It turns out that his name really is Don and not Bob.  He was introduced to visiting Texas grand girls as Bob by a clearly distracted Grannie—sorry Don.  They learned his real name before they left the store that day.  Charming Judie of Tar Button wild black bear fame also celebrates on March 23rd.  It seems that The Champion News has always celebrated her in February.  She is well worth a second party.  Among the special birthdays to celebrate soon is that of journalist Rachael Maddow, political commentator and author.  She was born April 1, 1973.  She earned her Doctor of Philosophy degree in politics (University of Oxford, 2001) and uses it to help make sense of current events.  Jhonn Rhodes is a student at Skyline School.  He is making sense out of the second grade and also celebrates on April 1st.  He and Rachael may always have trouble making people believe that is really their birthday.  It is a funny holiday.  Miranda Cannucci is a 4th grade student with birthday on the 3rd.  That is also the day that Skyline’s Book Fair starts.  It will go on until the 7th.  Larissa Pendergrass, first grade student, celebrates on the 6th.  Muffins with Mom will happen that day at the school so it will be a good day for Larissa.  Bud Hutchison will have his birthday on April 8th.  It may be a big one, but Bud is young at heart.  Spring seems to be here early; maybe he will have his Spring Trail Ride early.  Nannette Hirsch with the Douglas County Health Department will be at Skyline early on the 4th.  That is the first Tuesday of the month and the day she always shows up to do blood pressure checks as a service to the community.  She is there from 8:45-10:45 in the morning.  She comes to Champion on the last Tuesday of the month.  She may be there in time to help fabricate the great Champion lie.  She is certainly a lighthearted, positive individual up for fun.

Revisiting The Champion News from a decade ago we find the following:  “’If you cough, sneeze, sigh, or yawn, do it not loud but privately; and speak not in your yawning, but put your handkerchief or hand before your face and turn aside.’  That is the fifth rule that George Washington copied (in his own hand) out of the list of 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation.’”  There was also a reference to Ben Franklin who used the pseudonym Richard Saunders to write Poor Richard’s Almanack.  He printed up to 10,000 copies per year of between 1732 and 1758, providing his readers with seasonal weather forecasts, practical household hints, puzzles, amusements and insightful aphorisms.  An axiom appropriate to these days is “A Slip of the Foot you may soon recover, but a Slip of the Tongue you may never get over.”  Important things going on these days would be amusing if they were not so dire.  It will take a young person to be able to look back on this period of history fifty years hence and make sense of it.  There is optimism inherent in such a thought…that sense can be made of it.

Welcome home to Mary and Bob!

Good thoughts that come from music can go a long way to making things better.  To be distracted from your ailments and worries is a gift.  Champion grandson Foster Wiseman is taking mandolin lessons and is active in a regular jam of his young contemporaries up in Springfield.  His Champion grandfather would be pleased that the tradition is being carried on.  There was a welcome home party for Bob and Mary at Vanzant on Thursday evening, and they are so welcome that there will be another party next Thursday.  Seventeen musicians and a nice bunch of music appreciators made a lively evening.  Some of the good thoughts from the recent jam include lyrics that say, “I’m free as the breeze and I’ll do as I please.”  “I thought I heard you calling my name.”  “It’s a shame that all the blame is on us women.”  “Each day I’ll do a golden deed by helping those who are in need.”  “Down the road from me there’s an old holler tree.”  “I’m working on a building.”  “Make the world go away.”  “Life gets mighty hard in the gravel yard making little rocks out of big rocks all day.”

Things are being hard for folks in Nebraska as they say they have beaten the Keystone Pipeline before and they will do it again.  “We will never allow an inch of this foreign steel pipeline carrying foreign tar sands that can pollute our water and take away property rights and threaten treaty rights of tribes here in Nebraska.  We will not allow that to happen,” says Jane Fleming Kleeb.  The project that has been given the green light again and the justification for it is that it will make lots of jobs and will promote the energy independence of the United States.  Some say that there will be as few as 35 permanent jobs created after the construction.  As to energy independence, the reality is probably that the refined products will be exported.  These struggles will continue.  Environmentalists will be lauded as heroes and scorned as crackpots.  Corporate interests do not seem to be concerned with the welfare of the population.  Address your concerns with your law makers and elected representatives.  Governor Greitens (573) 751-3222, Roy Blunt (202) 224-5721, Claire McCaskill (202) 224-6154, Billy Long (202) 25-6536, Jason Smith (202) 225-4404—their job is to listen to you and to work for your best interests.

Rough winter is departing and the spring rains are bringing lush growth to make the countryside glorious again.  On the wide, wild and wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek the days pass gently and evenly as if these were ordinary days.  Neighbors meet neighbors and commerce is brisk in the lovely Recreation of the Historic Emporium.  Children play on the wide veranda.  Foster and Kalyssa, Drayson and Carson, and Chase were in a sprightly swarm on the store’s steps on Sunday.  Bees are seen in upper stories of the Behemoth Bee Tree again.  Visitors, hungry for the nostalgic comfort of home or a place like home, take their photographs, make their purchases and then depart for the big dreary elsewhere.  The big lie in Champion is that we are depressed.  April Fool! –Looking on the Bright Side!


March 20, 2017

CHAMPION—March 20, 2017


Champion Spirea

The most anticipated day has finally arrived at 5:29 a.m.  Is it spring?  It feels like spring.  If it is indeed so, the Prominent Girlfriend is truly happy.  She has already been wearing her flip flops.  Some Champion gardeners were able to get their potatoes planted before St. Patrick’s Day, which is said to be ideal in this part of the world.  On Wednesday, The General led Charlie’s brother, Thomas’s grandpa, the Flint Knapper and Reba’s sweetheart in an investigative study of various natural materials provided by Deward’s granddaughter.  The Flint Knapper identified the tree section as, most likely, black locust, which he says makes excellent bows.  The other item of interest was a short section of a slender sprout, about two feet, wrapped about in serpentine circuitousness by a similar sized vine dried the same color as the stem around which it twined.  Wisteria or trumpet vine?—that was the question.  The General opined with aplomb if not expertise, “Probably not wisteria if it is looped counter clock-wise.”  Champions appreciate his gravitas.  Surreptitious plans were being forged for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade slated for Friday.  Friday, however, turned out to be such a pretty day that the parade did not happen.  Everybody was about his own business, but humming “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” and “Danny Boy.”

Many folks in this part of the world are of Irish or Scots-Irish lineage.  Elmer Banks will tell you about his heritage with an Irish grandmother, a Scottish one and an Englishman in the mix.  A Champion great grandmother was brought here from Ireland as an infant.  She is now buried out in West Texas and has a hoard of descendants to remember her—Sarah Brady was her maiden name.  She was part of the one million Irish immigrants that arrived on these shores back in the mid-19th century.  The Potato Famine killed a million Irish and a million emigrated.  In part, the famine was caused by the potato blight, but the key factor was in the way the government handled the problem.  There are books written about the situation, the gist of which is that in addition to the fundamental failure of the English government programs, workhouses, public works, and soup kitchens tended to concentrate the people into larger groups and tighter quarters.  This allowed the main killer of the Famine, disease, to do its evil work.  The greed of absentee landlords and the repeal of The Corn Laws, which had been of some protection of farmers all contributed to this great calamity.  As a nation which seems to be in a rapid retreat from civility and empathy, the lesson of the Potato Famine is one to consider and one that can be applied to current circumstances.  The Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for example, has a reputation for siding with corporate interests against individuals as a matter of course.  He made some statements recently that would make it seem that he is not in lock step with the current administration, but speculation is that this is a guise to make his visage more acceptable to the opposition.  How many times in recent years have we thought of Ray Charles singing, “The World is in an Uproar—danger signs are all around”?  Meanwhile, the Indigenous Environmental Network is steady at it in their struggle against the extraction industries and their corporate and fiscal backers as they do what they can to protect the sanctity of their ancestral land, theirs by virtue of binding treaties with the United States Government.  It is an interesting subplot to the drama that is current national and world politics.  Are we entertained?  There is another wonderful song applicable to these times by Pete Seeger’s sister Peggy called “The Song of Choice.”  It goes, “Close your eyes.  Stop your ears.  Hold your tongue.  Take it slow.  Let others take the lead and you bring up the rear and later you can say you didn’t know.”

The General’s fair daughter, Elva, will enjoy her birthday on the 23rd.  Great nephew, Jack Masters, down in Austin, may be about sixteen years old on the 27th.  Special people at Skyline School are also due celebrations that day.  Mrs. Downs teaches third grade and Mr. Ted drives a bus.  The 28th will be the big day for first grade student Joseph Fulk and the 30th for prekindergarten student Tucker Johnson.  Skyline Tigers roar, “Happy Birthday!”  Over in Fair Edina, Gordon Reynolds will be celebrated on the 22nd and Bobby Nicholson on the 29th and lovely Morag Edward on the 31st.  They are all talented, creative people–musicians and artists—making the world a sweeter place.

A Champion granddaughter asked her mother why anyone would eat margarine when she could have butter.  Her mom said that so much of what we think is bad or good for us depends on our conditioning.  She said that when she was a girl, it was just understood that margarine was preferable for a number of reasons relating to obesity and heart disease.  In recent years explications about the effects of trans-fats and other chemical properties of some margarine make it seem that butter is better.  She pointed out that five years ago coconut oil was considered to be one of the worst things of its kind on the market.  Now it is perceived to be one of the best things.  A shifting view (a shifting base line) brings to mind that Johnny Cash song, “…and the lonely voice of youth cries, ‘What is truth?’”

Here’s Jonnie!

Jonnie is a long legged, big footed, thirty-five pound, boxer/hound mix about two years old.  She is playful, curious, affectionate, and anxious to please.  A couple of old folks who have been by themselves for a number of years are suddenly being amused and called upon for regular interaction with said dog.  Visiting grand-girls made fast friends with her and now that they have gone home, Jonnie is lonesome.  Her howl is plaintiff and makes a person want to join in the song like the sound of a steam train the next ridge over.  Her antics through the day and the process of getting acquainted make the days interesting—certainly things have changed.  Rules will have to be learned.  Who is doing the training, the people or the dog?

Enjoy these warm days and the beautiful blooming things along the roadsides as you make your way down to the broad banks of Auld Fox Creek—the wide, wild and wooly banks, where country roads meet the pavement and where neighbors meet to exchange views, examine natural phenomena and share histories and hopes.  The big clump of old fashioned spirea is blooming flagrant white there by the west entrance to the Square.  On warm days the wide veranda of the Historic Emporium offers a place to sit and ponder.  On cold days the old wood stove offers warmth and comfort as it has for generations in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 13, 2017

CHAMPION—March 13, 2017


The Champion snowman is for the birds!

Wednesday turned out to be a lovely day in Champion.  Spring Break combined with young visiting Tennessee cousins allowed a hoard of Champion youngsters the freedom to romp up and down the steep hill by the church that was once the Champion School.  How many rambunctious young’uns must have struggled up it and then rolled or plunged down that grassy slope over the years!  Some of them are collecting Social Security now.  Used to, a long time ago, they call them Old Age Pensioners.  The raging bull of Champion, now an ‘OAP’, did not make his appearance in the meeting room this Wednesday.  There was no turning over of plastic furniture and titillating of small children with his roaring antics.  Optimism tells Champions that next week will also have a Wednesday.

Friends down at Teeter Creek Herbs post that Hawthorns and Sarvice Berry are the first wild blooming trees in these parts.  There are many varieties of Hawthorns in the area out in the wild and ornamentals in town yards.  “Both the early flowers and young leaves (which emerge together) as well as the ripe berries in the fall are known for their high flavonoid content; nutrition that has been shown to be directed to strengthen the heart muscle.  Studies also show Hawthorn’s ability to control inflammation of the arteries.  The flowers and young leaves and berries can all be carefully dried for a tea or tinctured; the dried ripe berries are traditionally made into syrup.”  The Ozark weather changes are playing havoc with all kinds of things that are budding now with snow in the forecast.  Gardeners will just make adjustments to the new normal (odd/unusual) and will try to keep their eyes from rolling all the way back into their heads like marbles in a mixing bowl, when Oklahoma’s pride, Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said right out loud that carbon dioxide does not contribute to warming, global or any other kind.  At the same time they are guffawing and slapping their thighs over that absurdity, some are perplexed and a little put out that the hellbenders in Fox Creek are holding up repair of a bridge out on a county dirt road.  It is unclear if they all need to be caught and counted or relocated, but it will get figured out.  Local environmentalists are as well intentioned and goofy as the next bunch (well, almost as goofy, say as those folks in the Nation’s capital), but they make some good points; like clean water is not just a gift, it is a requirement for life and some life is fragile and fading.  Champions are on the, by gosh, cutting edge of life.

One of Champion’s favorite ‘Hillbillies in Texas’, Suzie Freeman, will be 70 years old on March 13th.  Join the club! She said that Wes has made his 88th truck, including a lavender flat-bed semi for her Christmas present.  He has nine rows of onions out and will be panting the rest of the garden soon.  Other special birthdays include Willow Townsend, prekindergarten student at Skyline School celebrating on the 15th.  She shares the day with a favorite immigrant to Scotland and with his second cousin, Jacob Masters in Austin, thirty years his junior, and the delightful Ursula, mother of Demetri, living on a remote farm on the east coast of Ireland.  Elizabeth Mastrangelo Brown was 23 in 2013 on the 16th of March.  Skyline’s own kind and smiling Ms. Helen celebrates on the 16th and Myla Sarginson, fifth grader at Skyline will have her birthday on the 18th.  Lizzie Heffern, up in Springfield, will have a party on the 18th.  It will be Lizzies Paws for a Cause Party and the donations of pet supplies that party goers will bring will help the dogs and cats in her community.  She is a Champion granddaughter with a big loving heart–giving back.  Happy Birthday all you sweet Champions, near and far.

Suzie Freeman said in her letter that her sister, Wilma Ramos, lived in Blue Ridge, Texas for a while.  Wilma said that Blue Ridge got its name from a ridge just outside of the city that was covered with beautiful blue flowers in every season.  First known as “Pull-n-Tug,” the name was changed to Blue Ridge when the first post office was established in 1860.  William Worden was the first post master there.  Wilma also reports that the Blue Ridge pipeline spill is affecting flow of oil nationwide and that while it is unclear about how much crude oil was spilled, about 4,000 barrels, 168,000 gallons, have been recovered, according to the Texas Railroad Commission.   She said that so far no impact on water has been reported and that a dam is being constructed at the end of the spill path to prevent runoff from entering a nearby creek in case of rain.  Meanwhile, Chase Iron Eyes is a young attorney who grew up on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation and lives there in the small town of Fort Yates with his wife, Dr. Sara Jumping Eagle, and their three children.  Dr. Jumping Eagle oversees the delivery of medical care at the Indian Services hospital.  Iron Eyes was joined by thousands of allies in Washington D.C. this week to tell the world the fight against big extraction and big finance is not over.  “This has just begun,” he said.  He is one of three Native Americans running for office in the next election in oil-rich North Dakota.  Meanwhile, over in Montana, a banjo player and song writer named Rob Quist is running to fill the Montana congressional seat of Ryan Zinke, who was sworn in last week as the new U.S. secretary of the interior.  Quist has folk and bluegrass albums that have made him one of the best known names in politics there.  There is a great youTube of him on the internet singing “Shady Grove.”  His wife, Bonnie, says that his music is quite political and that his song, “.45 Caliber Man,” is one of her favorites.  “It’s going to take a .45 caliber man, meaning it’s going to take somebody with a strong will to stand up for the values of the middle-class America.”   An Old Champion remarked out on the wide Veranda of the Historic Emporium the other day that it would be a good idea if all politicians/law makers/government officials were musicians—bluegrass/classical/jazz/country/rock ‘n roll/etc.—a different caliber of people altogether.

If you are just tickled about how things are going up in Old Jeff (Jefferson City) and Washington D.C., give our law makers a call to let them know.  Everybody appreciates encouragement. The White House (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414, Governor Greitens (573) 751-3222, Roy Blunt (202) 224-5721, Claire McCaskill (202) 224-6154, Billy Long (202) 225-6536.  Jason Smith (202) 225-4404—they will all be glad to hear from their constituents.  In with Suzie’s letter and Wilma’s history of Blue Ridge was a hand full of newspaper clippings, mostly in Spanish concerning current events.  Spanish is a beautiful language spoken by millions of people in the world.  A local suggest, however, that Russian might be the prudent language to learn.  There are lots of sites on the internet that provide instruction.

Texas granddaughters visiting for Spring Break were very excited to see Monday morning’s little dusting of snow, but would have preferred much more.  They opine that country snow is prettier than city snow and were out the door singing, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow….” in Champion—looking on the Bright Side!

Champion daffodils endure the snow.

March 6, 2017

CHAMPION—March 6, 2017


Champion Pears in Bloom

Wednesday was one of those lovely days in Champion.  Chase led the Veranda Band inside with special surprise guest star, Sherry Lovin, who came with her big bass fiddle and her handsome husband, Jack.  Chase kicked things off with “The ABC Song”, “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  Sherry sang, “I’m Working on a Building” and “Summer Time.”  The General was complicit and contributed significantly.  Requests from the audience came from Ethel of Omo who always favors “Gary Owen.”  Sherry has a weekly bluegrass show in Willow Springs and has the good news that the Star Theatre is due to reopen after its renovations.  She will have her first gig in Nashville soon promoting bluegrass.  She also had some good stories about growing up around here in a musical family playing the stand-up bass.  With a big family and no room inside for it, she said her dad tied the bass on top of the car and down the road they would go.  This was her first trip to Champion.  She and some friends make an appearance at Vanzant every now and then—always a treat.  There were a few empty seats in the circle there on Thursday, but still a fine time.  Music has healing qualities and there is significant need for healing in every quarter.

Heather Peugh was met with a larger than expected crowd on Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce in Ava.   She is the director of the West Plains office of Congressman Jason Smith.  Her responsibility in the four counties she administers is to assist with the wide range of requests relating to administrative agencies such as request for personnel and medical treatment records from the military or to assist with obtaining passports and visas and the like.  She said that matters of policy are handled in the Washington D.C office.  She also said that the best way to get a letter to the Congressman is to send it to her office. (35 Court Street, Suite 300 West Plains, MO 65775 or  She will open it, scan it and send it to his office in a bundle of her mail to him.  Otherwise a letter gets delayed due to the need to X-ray the mail because of the anthrax threat of years past.  All of the issues before Ms. Peugh at the listening post on Thursday were matters of policy.  She took copious notes and kept the meeting moving positively as more than a dozen of the congressman’s constituents addressed issues of health care (H.R. 370 and H.R. 354), “right-to work” legislation (H.R. 785) Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, public education (H.R. 610 and H.R. 899), gun violence, support for Veterans and environmental issues (H.R.861 and H.J.R. 69) such as protecting the water, particularly relating to the recently reversed protections of small streams and small bodies of water.  There was concern expressed for the new administration’s flagrant disregard for the ethical behavior and protocols of our democratic system and calls for an independent investigation into the president’s business dealings, his campaign’s alleged connections to Russian influence and the like.  There were folks there of every political persuasion—some avid fans of Mr. Smith and some who strongly disagree with the Congressman’s stance on many issues, and it was comforting to see civility at its best.  One of the good things happening these days is the active involvement by people who have never been active before in their own government.  Champion!

Bailey and Violet

When young Bailey came to visit her grandparents over west of Ava last summer, she became attached to Violet, one of her Grand Papa’s chickens.  Violet has a bad leg and Bailey took the little hen under her own wing and they became friends.  Bailey is looking forward to coming back to the Ozarks this summer; meanwhile she has a birthday on March 9th.  Ava neighbor, Kaye Dennis, celebrates that day too.  Skyline’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Vivod has her birthday on the 10th.  Cadence Trimmer is an 8th grade student with a birthday on the 11th.  Mrs. Casper who is the music/art teacher of our wonderful little rural school has her birthday on the 12th.  Eighth grader, Isam Daugard, celebrates on the 13th.  Birthdays give us a reason to celebrate each other and happy days.

A stroll back through The Champion News archives of a decade ago at finds a suggestion by Professor Darrell Haden that a tune called “Rock Salt and Nails” might have been appropriate listening for those times (perhaps for these times as well).  There were plans being made for the Civil War Memorial in Denlow that came to fruition and was dedicated the following year, Memorial Day, 2008.  An unsuccessful attempt was made to organize a St. Patrick’s Day Parade to rival and overshadow the pageant that was reported (erroneously) to have occurred over in Spotted Hog.  There was also a serious warning about the approach of the Ides of March.  According to Mr. Shakespeare, that is when Julius Cesar asked his famous question, “You too, Brutus?”  There is currently a postcard project underway to answer that question.  Postcards do not represent the threat that sealed envelopes do, so they might get through to the recipient in a more expedited manner.  The idea is to have everyone drop a postcard or two in the mailbox on that day, March 15th, directed to the president at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington D.C. 20500, just to let him know what you think.  Let Governor Greitens know how you feel about his budget cuts to education, as well as some of the state mandated health care regulations relating to age requirements for nursing home care.  His address is P.O. Box 720, Jefferson City, MO 65102.  Other destinations for your important input and observations are:  Roy Blunt at 260 Russell Senate Office Bldg., Washington, D. C. 20510, Claire McCaskill at her District Office 324 Park Central W, Ste. 101, Springfield 65806, and Jason Smith at his District Offices, 35 Court Street, Ste. 300, West Plains, 65775.  The social and political struggles of ten years ago were every bit as serious as they are today, but today there is a dire feeling of uncertainty and fragility to our system that is unnerving.  The nuclear arsenals of the world suddenly seem vulnerable and it reminds one of the eleventh verse of Bob Dylan’s “Talking World War III Blues.”  It says, “Well, now time passed and now it seems everybody’ having them dreams.  Everybody sees themselves walking around with no one else.  Half of the people can be part rlght all of the time.  Some of the people can be all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.  I think Abraham Lincoln said that.  ‘I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours.’  I said that.”

The daffodils are still being extravagant and the ridges and high places are sporting pear trees and forsythia in glorious profusion.  Daylight savings time, spring and spring break are all just around the corner.  The indigenous peoples across America are still gathering and praying.  Down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Aulde Fox Creek commerce is brisk at the Re-creation of the Historic Emporium and the song of the week is Roger Miller’s “Walking in the sunshine, sing a little sunshine song.  Put a smile upon your face as if there’s nothing wrong.  Think about a good time you had a long time ago.  Think about forget about your worries and your woes.  Walking in the sunshine sing a little sunshine song” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!