Change is coming whether we like it or not according to some excited young people. And it seems to be true even locally. The east side of Highway C approaching Skyline School from the south has undergone radical changes. Dense woods have been removed in a wide swath and a long stretch of good fence accommodates a series of spared mature trees at regular intervals. The new gate is expansive and in a few short years it will be seen as an attractive spread—well cared for and productive. Just now it seems raw and ragged to the eye struggling to adjust. Sudden change is sometimes difficult to accept. Orville’s barn has been standing abandoned for forty years and now a person can see daylight through the roof. That means it probably will not last much longer. The old Coffman place up on 76 east of Fox Creek is in a similar situation. Once the roof goes, an old building seems to just melt away. That is slow change–still difficult to watch. The roof on the gym at Skyline is beginning to have issues—no daylight yet, just a little leaking from time to time. There are a number of infrastructure issues there that could use a significant influx of funding. We are in no mood to see our school disappear for lack maintenance funding. All the country little schools in this area, so well-remembered by local folks, disappeared into Skyline in the 1950s. It is the community heart.

Joshua Garner is a seventh grade student at Skyline. His birthday is on February 13th. Shelby Ward, a Champion great-niece, has her birthday on Valentine’s Day. Eighth grader, Jaime Casiano, celebrates on the 15th and Madison Bradshaw, sixth grader, on the 16th. Trish Davis and Linda Clark have both been out of school for some while now and they share their birthdays on the 17th. Pete Proctor, a Fairview alumnus, shares the 18th with Skyline prekindergarten student, Rayleigh Harvey. Ruby Proctor’s birthday was on the 19th. We miss her sweet smile still. Your friends and family are smiling for you, wishing you a happy birthday.

If you were a crow taking flight from Champion and flew in a straight line South-southwest for a few miles–eight or so—you could light in a tree along Bryant Creek in a very remote part of the Ozarks. The Bryant Creek State Park is 2,917 acres of mostly undeveloped land. There are meetings being held with people in the community and the parks department to determine just how the park will be developed. Hopes are that it will open to the public soon. A Champion who had done timber stand improvement for the forestry department back in the 1970s had some vivid memories of his three years exploring and working in this region. He was glad to have had military training when it came to reading topographical maps. It is a rugged part of the world and beautiful. A few years ago National Geographic shared a map of the world at night. It was lovely to see that we are in a dark part of the country, that is to say, sparsely populated. We have bears and eagles and places to walk that are wild and secluded. We have glorious distant vistas and wonderful clean water. We have our challenges, but overall we are blessed to live in this part of the world, particularly when we have long histories with old Champion friends who have stories to tell. Have you ever been alone and lost in the woods?

Inclement weather substantially reduced attendance at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam Thursday, but those who made it out anyway had a good time. Toes tapped, yarns were spun and there were a few lively conversations concerning current events. The potluck starts at 6:00 and the music starts at 7:00 every Thursday unless the weather forbids it. Everyone is welcome. Bring your acoustic instrument. This Thursday should be fun with Cupid’s arrows still poking old couples. They will reminisce about meeting–some at school, some on blind dates, and some, like Susanna and Wesley, at Hazel’s CafĂ©. Some met just walking through the woods in the Great Smokey Mountains. Romance might look different in our seventies and eighties than it did in our teens and twenties, though still it is a beautiful thing to have somebody to love—look at the Prominent Champion and the Prominent Champion Spouse, at Kenneth and Barbara Anderson for example, at Judy and Eldon, at Jerry and Lena, at Bob and Mary, Bob and Ethel, Don and Reba, the General and the Gipsy, Pete and Joann, John and Sherry, Skip and Ina, Sue and Dwayne, Doug and Marge, and all the old sweethearts you know. Stores are full of flowers and candy. Sweet sentiments fill greeting card racks and phone lines and the internet will be humming with declarations of love and affection. Enjoy, you Sweethearts all!

Sunday’s full moon was obscured by clouds though Champions are alert to the changes in the signs. Some are itching to get started planting. In a few months they’ll be itching for other reasons. Meanwhile, mushroom season is on the horizon and daffodils are poking up. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There are. Really. Look for them and find them and share them liberally. Wednesday is likely to be full of sugar at melodiousness at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square as old and new friends gather for fellowship, to share their tales of love and romance or fox hunting stories or who has had the most rain and the deepest mud. Champion Valentines love it on the Bright Side!