Champion was a wildly busy place all during the holidays. There were people on horseback ambling through the countryside, maybe singing, “I ride an old paint.” It is a song with a mysterious beginning, a lonesome middle, and a mystical end. Harley and Barbara were in town, but even some of their favorite mischpocha did meet up with them. Harley was seen cruising up and down Cold Springs Road on a nifty four-wheeler. Hopes are that that Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri family conclave was as full of riotous good humor, lavish feasting, and memory recounting and building as was the Texas, Louisiana, Champion assembly and all the other sweet family gatherings in the area. The General reported that the annual red-neck party was very small on New Year’s Eve and was over by 9:30. He said, “There must not be very many rednecks around this area anymore or maybe they are ashamed to identify as one.” Most likely there are as many rednecks as ever and, by definition, they are shameless. It just turns out that some are getting old and not willing to stay up until 9:30 p.m. Others may be accordion shy, though there was a splendid version of Auld Lang Syne played on said squeeze box and posted on the internet for all the world to see and hear. It was a good way to end an old year.

On January 3rd Donna Mullens Gainer wrote: “Today we lay our Dad’s body in God’s green earth next to our Mom, his wife of 64 years. He instilled in us the values of hard work and the motto of, ‘if you can’t be on time, be early.’ Dad never knew a stranger and was always there for whoever needed, especially his grandchildren, whether it was a ride to school, change a flat tire or even come by to scrape your windows in the winter. Dad was never one to sit around. He would always find ways to keep busy. While he is now with his beloved wife and family who left this earth before him, we are left with broken hearts that only time and loving memories can heal.” She was talking about Pete Mullens, Walter Presley Mullens, and her Mom, Bonnie Brixey Mullens, who passed away in July. They were a sweet couple and will be missed at the Denlow School Reunion.

A number of December birthdays of Skyline School students went un-sung in print through the holidays. Starting anew, Jacob’s Dad, Arne celebrates his birthday on New Year’s Day. Teeter Creek’s musical grandmother also has that day for her own birth anniversary. The 2nd belongs to Leland Isley, Champion nephew, and to xylophonist, Kabella Clark, who was born in 2012. The 3rd is for Arne’s boy, Jacob, and for our adopted Champion granddaughter, Greta, who is now 17. She has accomplished a great deal for a person so young. Another bright, beautiful and busy young woman, Sami McCleary Hutchison, had a birthday on January 4th, but she will hold off until May for her party so she can wear her flip flops. The 4th is also the birthday of Lena’s little brother. She routinely whips him in Scrabble every Wednesday morning. He says she cheats, but she probably does not have to. That may also be the special day for one of The General’s nephews. He will get that song or another one sung to him the next time he shows up at Champion. Felix Maverick Osage Parsons has his second birthday on January 6th. Mr. Bud, Skyline School’s mechanic, also celebrates on the 6th, as does 5th grade student, Aryn Miller. Travis Hathaway was 20 in 2017. Elizabeth Johnston Lawrence has the 9th for her special day, together with Skyline 7th grader Kaylee Casiano. Happy days to all you people celebrating being alive. It is a good thing.

The world is in an uproar. The danger zone is everywhere,” so sang Ray Charles. Still, optimism is the key-word for the New Year in Champion and gardeners are leading the way. The garlic planted in November 9th is up and looking good. One old gardener has invested in half a pound of purple top turnip seeds and the plants are up almost an inch high. He says it is a cover crop, but he will be happy for the greens. He will plan to have plenty of turnips on hand if Lem and Ned make an appearance in the spring. They are wild for turnips and are willing to do most any kind of chore that the old man shirks or just not have time to do—best of all, they sing while they are working. Come down to the wild, wide, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek to share your favorite work songs or to just soak in the charm of one of the world’s truly beautiful spots–Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!