April 24, 2017

CHAMPION—April 24, 2017


The aproach of Spring in Champion.

After a soggy few days, to see the sun on Sunday was a joy and anyone who doubts that Spring has arrived must be watching television instead of being out in the beauty of it all.  Lawn mowers will be sputtering for the next few days trying to get caught up and some of the operators of those mowers will complain about the rampant growth when recently they were complaining about having to haul firewood and ashes.  Country living is sublime, most particularly in Champion.

Ms. Collins, of Champion-East (Vanzant) posted a nice picture of Duane and his turkey.  Then Ms. Rodgers sent a picture of her Jim and his turkey for Ruth to show Duane.  A couple of big tom turkeys bring smiles that don’t show up on the photographs because these guys are serious.  Surely, when everyone is looking away the hunters must grin from ear to ear.  There is plenty of reason to be happy.  Turkey season is putting groceries on the table and smiles on faces and feathers in caps.  This week is also staff appreciation week at Skyline School.  There are twenty-three people there every school day doing what does the very best good for our young people….education!  Thank you, every one of you.  Parents and others with a vested interest in the welfare of the children in our quality little rural school are welcome to show your appreciation with treats, supplies or kind words all week, and well, anytime.  Appreciation might boost their spirits.  Mrs. Ryan, teacher, and Mrs. Beth, bus driver, both have birthdays on May 1st.  Eighth grade student, Madison Shearer, will celebrate on the 2nd.  This will be her last year at Skyline and she will move on the next phase of her learning, another adventure.  Another adventurer partying on the 2nd is up in Springfield–Leo’s Grandmother.  She is the grandmother of a number of interesting and talented people and has a great Affinity Estate Sales business.  She knows her stuff.  Champions wish happy days to all you celebrants and to the people who know and love you.

“Take control of your future:  grow your own food, preserve your own food, trade and barter, cook from scratch, save your own seed, become self-sufficient,” says the homesteader on the internet.  It is a great idea and one that captures the desires and imaginations of many who are in the midst of learning how to match their expectations with their relative vigor.  It is exciting to see what some young folks over in Denlow are doing on the place that some people call the ‘pink’ house, though it has not been pink for a long time.  Passing by quickly, because the narrow winding road calls for vigilance, it looks like there is good gardening going on and that there are innovative chicken facilities.  To see an old place revitalized and thriving is an especially positive sight for people who are more accustomed to seeing the old places in decay.  Hopes are that the folks who live there now are well acquainted with the history of the place and the interesting lives and times of the people who grew up there and are now long gone.  “This old house was home and comfort as we fought the storms of life.”

Esther said not to swerve for a squirrel.  Nothing that you can do will affect the behavior of the squirrel.  What will happen will happen, and it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the squirrel.  Turtles are different.  You can see them from a distance.  They do not move in any kind of erratic way and you generally have time to make a small temporary adjustment in your trajectory to miss them.  They are moving around these days—mating and nesting.  The Missouri Department of Conservation says that there are seventeen kinds of turtles in the state and all but three of them are ‘protected.’  They are no threat to game fish and are beneficial scavengers.  They eat water plants, dead animals, snails, aquatic insects and crayfish.  Box turtles live on land and eat plants.  Our local species of box turtles live an average of 40 to 50 years.  Ethics would dictate that putting a protected box turtle on a fence post or in the crotch of tree in order to add to your turtle shell collection next winter might fall into the category of ‘unethical.’  Ethics are not tricky.  They are just the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior.  It is what your Mother meant when she gave you that stern look and said, “Behave.”

The set list for a Champion musician’s regular Saturday night gig at The Royal Oak in sister-city Edinburgh routinely includes covers of tunes made popular by Hank Williams, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and others.  One evening recently there was a group of appreciative patrons enjoying the music and the atmosphere for the first time in the iconic establishment.  It was only as they added to the tip jar and made their way out on to the street that the musicians learned that they were Russian.  They look just like everyone else.  It turns out that they are regular people like us.  They just speak a different language and have a different government that is doing no better job of representing its people than the current outfit on this side of the world.  The rhetoric and Machiavellian machinations of so called foreign policy rife with faux-conflict and obfuscation does not translate very well to regular people out here in every-day-land.  It would be easy to close our eyes and say, “Let somebody else worry about all this stuff that does not really have anything to do with us”.  That might be the reason we are in this pickle.  “Where are our pitch forks?”  These days we make our voices heard over the telephone:  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.

Gardeners are getting busy with spring planting and the ticks and chiggers are already out in force.  May Day is coming up so there will be parties going on all around the world.  The much anticipated Champion Spring Fling will happen on the 6th of May.  That is a Saturday.  Things will kick off about 11:00 and there will be good food, good music and the chance to reconnect with old friends and neighbors.  Harley and Barbara will miss it, but the internet had some good pictures of Barbara’s Illinois morels so their friends and family will not feel too bad about it.  Come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek that day for a good time.  Bring your lawn chairs.  Remember that Roger Miller song, “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!


April 17, 2017

CHAMPION—April 17, 2017


“Music?  Will there be music at the Champion Spring Celebration…the Spring Fling?  Word from those in the know is, “Absolutely—especially if you musicians come and bring your instruments!”  One is planning to bring extra instruments, because there are so many people who play, but have not played in years.  Their guitars are languishing under their beds, gathering not dust, but age.  They might prove to be valuable heirlooms for survivors and heirs, though it is said that an instrument that is not being played might as well be stove wood.  So drag them out, tune them up or borrow one and join the fun on May 6th starting about 11:00 or so.  It will be on a par with that extraordinary happening back in October of 2011, at what was called “Henson’s Grand Reopening.”  A person looking on www.championnews.us can find pictures of the event by looking under ‘Champion Events’ or under ‘Champion Videos’ to find David Richardson’s excellent recording of the event.  The sound track starts out with “Ashoaken Farewell.”  It is very cinematic.  David is one of those solid citizens, ready to share his talents for every good cause.  Prominent Champions will be cooking, so there will be great food at a nominal cost and great opportunities to reconnect with old friends in a spot that is itself like an old friend–Champion.

Drayson, Carson and Chase in the bleachers.

Wednesday was a red letter day on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek.  Emma had never been to Missouri, so in the company of native, Don Dooms, she was initiated into the charms and foibles of Booger County.  They lingered a spell and are now ambling their way west through Oklahoma and on out to Arizona before heading north to Idaho for an approximate arrival on May Day.  Don allows as how there are no ticks up there.  (Note to TCN:  fact-check that.)  Harley and Barbara were home for a little while and it was lovely to see them resting on the wide veranda and reconnecting with friends and lots of family at the old home place.  Barbara was under the weather and friends hope the trip to Champion helped her feel better.  Vivian Floyd enjoyed the day at the Historic Emporium together with her son and his wife, and their little dog.  One of Skyline’s new school board members frequents the Emporium any day of the week.  She has her finger on the pulse of the community.  Charlie Lambert has not been in the neighborhood for a while.  Maybe he will make it back for the Spring Celebration.  Meanwhile, his brother was busy sharing mushrooms with the Preeminent Champion.  Wes said that he found mushrooms under sycamore trees this year and that they seemed to be a little higher up on the hills.  Tensions ran high on the horseshoe pitch as Harley and the General teamed up against Lux’s Dad and a fellow who says he is “too blessed to be stressed.”  Final scores were not available, and really the most engaging part of the scene was the audience.  Drayson, Carson and Chase sat in the bleachers in rapt attention.  Ethel of Omo received a compliment in absentia when the unstressed horseshoe player displayed the birthday card he had received from her.  It featured a truck just like his, but with a better paint job.  His remark was that she is always thoughtful in personal ways.  The square was full of cars and trucks and scampering children—another pleasant day, one that is reminiscent of a Saturday back in the 1930s and 40s.

There was another welcome home party for Bob and Mary on Thursday at Vanzant.  It is getting to be a regular thing.  Friday was Bob’s birthday so several folks at the bluegrass jam let loose with that special song for him.  Someone will sing it for Skyline 8th grader, Haley Wilson, and for kindergarten student, Jordan Ellingsworth, on the 23rd.  Third grade student, Shelby Wilson, will celebrate on the 24th.  Eli Johnson is a first grade student with a birthday on the 28th.  Isaam Creed is a 7th grade student rejoicing on the 29th.  Taegan Krider, another first grader, has her birthday on the 30th.  This time of the year people stay in the mood for a party.  Champions and Skyline students and parents are reminded that next Tuesday, the 25th, is the last Tuesday of the month and that means Nannette Hirsch will be at Henson’s Store from 9:00 to 11:00 doing blood pressure checks as a service of the Douglas County Health Department for the citizens of the area.  She will be at the Skyline School the following Tuesday from 8:45 to 10:00.  She is a pleasant person providing a real amenity.  She will surely be at the Champion Spring Celebration/Fling.

Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.  He is 85 years old now and a retired Anglican bishop.  During the 1980’s he became famous as an activist against the policies of apartheid.  He has been given many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism in 1986, and the Gandhi Peace Prize in 2007.  He said, “We will pray for the downfall of the government that misrepresents us.”  National politics has become almost unfathomable and foreign policy something that seems as it is being used as a diversionary tactic to keep the lid on domestic chicanery, collusion and treason.  High minded rhetoric in our own echo chambers helps to relieve some of the anxiousness or perhaps causes some of the anxiousness.  The lofty works of our wonderful free press and media will help us stay informed if we will sample them from various sources.  One of them said the other day, “The truth—we don’t forget the truth—we just get better at lying.”  If you have some concern, address it to our elected representatives.  They work for us.  Some of them are:  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.

The good soaking rains have encouraged the seasonal greening and soon the time of the lilac and dogwood will be over.  Summer is rushing headlong at us.  (Remember the Champion Spring Fling on May 6th around 11:00 a.m.  There will be family, friends and neighbors, good food and music.  Get ready for some fun.)  Ticks and other varmints are already out in force and hummingbird scouts are showing up regularly at local feeders.  The delicate pinks and greens of spring are replacing the gray brush and country homes will soon disappear behind dense foliage.  Enjoy every trip you take this time of the year, even if it is just to the mail box.  Observe carefully.  Come down to the end of the pavement where country roads meet on the banks of Auld Fox Creek.  You will see that a couple of baby squirrels and their mother are now occupying the Behemoth Bee Tree over on the South Side of the Square.  It is just like Sam Cook said, “It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


April 10, 2017

CHAMPION—April 10, 2017


Champion Spring

Spring is all over us here in Champion with the lilacs, the spirea, tulips, ajuga, hyacinths, the wild phlox and the domesticated creeping phlox, the waning daffodils and narcissus, the red buds, the flowering quince, the wild plumbs, serviceberry, apples, peaches and pears, the dogwoods and the mushrooms!  We are awash in the beauty of nature and grateful for it.  Back during the cold months the Prominent Champion Girlfriend was asked by her beau what she wanted for her birthday and she said, “A Spring Celebration!”  Her birthday has passed and her celebration is on the way– May 6th, a Saturday, about noon on the Square in Downtown Champion.  It will be a community event for Champions far and wide to enjoy.  Everyone is welcome.  There will be fried fish, hamburgers, hot dogs, coleslaw and baked beans and whatever you bring.  Bring a dish, your lawn chairs and your enthusiasm for friends and neighbors in this lovely setting.  It is not a fund raiser, but in keeping with the flair of the charming instigator, it will be a Fun raiser.  Champion!  Y’all come.

Other birthday celebrations these days will be for Dillon Watts on the 12th of April.  He is a Tennessee banjo player and Champion grandson just turning 18—practically grown.  Bob Berry will have his birthday on the 14th.  The folks at Vanzant have been having a party for him and Mary every Thursday since they got home.  Dustin, daddy of Caron and Drayson, shares the 15th (Income Tax Day) with his aunt-in-law, Champion Vivian Floyd, and with G. G. Jones, now over Stockton way (uh huh, uh huh).  These three and Skyline second grade student, Wyatt Lakey, will all be having some big time fun that day.  Wyatt is going to a great school.  They have some new school board members and this week the middle school students are taking a trip to Jefferson City.  There will be no school on Friday or Monday for the Easter holiday.  Mill Pond crawdad queen Olivia Trig Mastin, who lives up in Springfield, will have her birthday on the 16th.  She may be back this summer for another go at it.  Dave Thompson has a birthday on the 17th.  He is being much missed at the Vanzant Jam, hopes are he will be back soon with his Quebec girl singing, “Oh, lost river, now I’m coming back to the potbellied stove where the fire wood’s all stacked.”  On the 19th that great love song, “Is That You, Myrtle?” will go out to Myrtle Harris on her special day.  She has relocated to Seymour but makes it back home from time to time.  Happy Birthday all you Champions!  A wonderful find for music appreciators on the internet are the You Tube videos of Herbie Johnston and his fiddle.  You can see him there with the Possum Trot Bluegrass folks in Willow Springs and with Blue Steel Rail and Bootheel Bluegrass back in 2013.  He knows all the great old tunes and can keep tempo for any wandering amateur.  His fans will be glad when he is through with his day job someday.

Many Champions are old enough to remember Ralph Edwards and “Truth or Consequences,” the popular game show that started out on the radio in about 1940.  It found its way on to television all the way up until the late 1980s.  Truth or Consequences, New Mexico changed its name from Hot Springs back in 1950.  There are still ten commercial hot springs bathing spas there and a fountain, across the street from the post office by the Geronimo Springs Museum, that provides a place for visitors to sit and relax while soaking their feet in the town’s famous hot mineral waters.  Some folks are having a hard time relaxing these days as they contemplate the nature of truth and the consequences of the alternative.  No amount of soaking can soothe the wounds caused by the current serial assaults on truth.  Truth is as vital a part of the civic, social and intellectual culture of the country as justice and liberty.  According to a respected newspaper, “Our civilization is premised on the conviction that such a thing as truth exists, that it is knowable, that it is verifiable, that it exists independently of authority or popularity and that at some point — and preferably sooner rather than later — it will prevail.”  We are dependent on ‘reliable’ sources from a variety of points of view to determine for ourselves what we believe to be true.  Admiral William McRaven was the commander of the Joint Specials Operations Command that captured and killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.  He had a 36-year career as a Navy Seal and he knows something about what an enemy actually is.  He said recently, “We must challenge the statement and sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people.  This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.”  He went on to say, “Flaws and all, I believe that the free press is our country’s most important institution.”  The old game show was light=hearted and the consequences were inconsequential and humorous–not so in real life these days.  An Old Champion opines, “What is amazing is that people, whom you may love and care about, can believe the opposite thing that you believe and believe that other thing with the same fervor and sense of conviction and correctness and rectitude as you do.  And, just as you may think of them, they may consider you to be ignorant, ill-informed, lazy, and the product of intellectual depravation, with a complete lack of common sense and no willingness at all to be enlightened.”  She goes on to say that the most dangerous liars are the ones who think they are telling the truth.

Elmer said never eat possum fat, that it is bad and bad for you.  Bear fat, however, is like jelly and you can eat all of it you want.  This information came out as part of a conversation concerning young groundhogs and raccoons and their delectableness.  It also turns out that a tanned groundhog hide cut into thin strips will make excellent shoelaces.  Elmer said good shoe laces could also be made out of a particular kind of eel that lives in Louisiana swamps.  These eels have short little legs, and the shoestrings, if done right, will outlast several pairs of shoes.  Such was the excitement in the meeting room at the Historic Emporium the other day.  Young Chase was conspicuously absent at the Wednesday gathering.  It seems that he has had an ear infection and a Mom with a cold!  They had some farm help show up to give them a rest and, hopefully, they will both be feeling much better soon.  We are reminded that one cannot tell just by looking how another person is feeling.  Often people suffer in silence and put on brave faces and keep their health problems to themselves.  It is a Champion kind of idea to just be kind to everyone.

Feeders are going up in preparation for the arrival of humming birds.  In years past they have arrived on April 23rd, but last year the first scout was seen on April 1st.  They may come in with the Easter bunny.  There is a lot of excitement this time of the year connected with the swift passage of time.  Come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek any time, but put May 6th on your calendar for sure.  You will be in excellent company celebrating Spring, “Where the mockingbird is singing in the lilac bush…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


April 3, 2017

CHAMPION—April 3, 2017


Champion Deer

Sam Walter Foss was an American poet who passed away at the age of 53 in 1911.  He wrote, “Let me live in a house by the side of the road where the race of men go by.  They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong, Wise, foolish—so am I.  Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat, or hurl the cynic’s ban?  Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”  There are five verses to the poem and they all make Champions feel good about being in this tranquil part of the world.  Be advised, however, that those houses will soon be disappearing into the woods again.  Mailboxes will be the clue that just out of sight are families and old retired people and solitary individuals, comfortable in their new seclusion.  It is a glorious time of the year with flowering trees and all the tender greens filling the spaces in the gray brush.  Champions appreciate the beauty of home and the reputation of being a friendly bunch, though the Prominent Citizen felt snubbed when an Old Champion drove by him on the road the other evening, engrossed in her thoughts and failed to see him.  Perhaps she will endeavor to be more alert, and he, a little less sensitive.

Travelers through the countryside in the early evenings this time of year are often rewarded with the sight of deer out in fields and frequently crossing the roads.  These handsome creatures are on the move year round and vigilance by motorists is a requirement for a safe arrival.  Sharon Tate Williamson said that she and Harold drove down home to Booger County the other day to see the redbuds and they were absolutely beautiful.  They went to Ava and on to Champion and Drury.  They were headed to Rockbridge to have a fresh trout sandwich, but at Gentryville there was a sign that said the road was closed six miles ahead.  She was told that the low water bridge over Bryant Creek was under water, so they missed their treat.  They just live up in Springfield so maybe they will make it back down this way soon.  Had they been to the Historic Emporium on Wednesday, they might have had the chance to visit with Don Dooms and his charming companion as they pause in the area on their way from their winter home in Arizona to their summer home in Idaho, where Don says there is currently still five feet of snow.  They may linger on the Bright Side a while, then meander through Oklahoma to fish for a spell before heading north.

The Cold Spring Store is now just a pile of decaying lumber with brush growing up through it.  The old log house of the Coffman family up on 76 is rapidly disintegrating.  Once there are holes in the roof it does not take long for the whole thing to go.  Orville’s beautiful old barn is now providing a roosting spot for buzzards and the walls are starting to sag.  It is sad to see the old buildings disappear and with them the memories of the people who built and occupied them and the events that occurred in and around them.  The landmarks of previous generations are being lost, particularly to those Champions without deep roots of family history in these parts.  While change is the only constant and changes are inevitable, let us not always consider that they are necessarily improvements.  Simpler times are often thought to have been better, and certainly some were undeniably better.  Still, the nostalgia that we feel for the past may, in part, just be that we were young and strong.  Many an old age pensioner (OAP) yet thinks the 1957 Chevy/Ford/whatever was the best car ever made.  How lovely it would be to again sit with Cletus Upshaw and to hear his stories of this part of the world and to hear his laugh.  Deward Henson used to call Champion the Village and he was the inspiration for our motto:  “Looking on the Bright Side!”  Deward’s daughter continues his optimism—doing ‘no better-no worse,’ and enjoying her new situation in Ava.

In response to the recent proposed deregulation of the coal industry and the proposed opening up of federal land and federal park lands to coal mining and oil production, an Old Champion suggested a song for the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  The fiddler said he was not old enough to know the song—“The Dream of the Miner’s Child.”  She said, “Go down to the village and tell all your dear friends that as sure as the bright stars do shine, something is going to happen today.  Please, Daddy, don’t go to the mine.”  Well, it is said that there are more jobs available in sustainable power—solar and wind–now than in the petroleum industry.  It is also suggested that coal country has the infrastructure suitable to all kinds of manufacturing—good rail transportation in and out and plenty of people who need jobs.  Uncles who worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps back before they joined the service always talked about what wonderful things they built and the friendships they fostered and the help it was to their desperate families back in the Great Depression.  They were farm boys, used to hard work.  These days it might be a challenge to find young people willing to do physical labor, particularly in the mood of the country with such uncertainty.  In those old days there was a sense of camaraderie and of everyone working for the good of all.  These are confusing times.  The peaceful, prayerful activist who worked unsuccessfully to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline are being treated as ‘terrorists.’  They are native to the land, and struggled to protect their water, their heritage, and the land ceded to them by the United States Government in the Treaty of 1868.  Many of those whose land is being threatened now by the Keystone Pipeline in Nebraska are white.  Reckon they will be considered ‘terrorists’ when they protest?  If you have a bone to pick with our government, do it by phone, post card, or e-mail, but do it.  Vote.  Participate in our democracy or we may lose it.  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 and others are anxious for our input. They work for us.

Mushroom fever is running wild through the neighborhood.  Many nice small to medium specimens have been bragged upon and a few shared, they say.  The dogwoods are beginning to show themselves and Sharon’s observations about the red buds were spot on.  Gardeners are getting things going.  The almanacs say that above ground crops can successfully be planted on the 2nd, 3rd, 9th, and 10th.  April’s moon is called the Pink Moon.  It is an exciting time of the year.  Yearling ticks have been making themselves known.  More time is being spent on the wide veranda and the industry of the Preeminent residents who go about tidying their landscapes does not go without notice.  Come down to the lovely place for a break from your dreary speculations or look in on it at www.championnews.us.  “I never knew the charm of spring/Never met it face to face/I never knew my heart could sing/Never missed a warm embrace/Till April in…”  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

The old Cold Springs Store