July 30, 2020

CHAMPION—July 27, 2020


The Honor Guard — Pete Proctor, David Virtue, and Robert Upshaw — “Taps” by Francis Pope

Once again we have Pete Proctor, Sharry Lovan and others to thank for all their good sharing of a great local event on-line for those who cannot venture out.  The Holt 4H Picnic is one of the highlights of the summer.  Head, Heart, Hands and Health are the tenets of the 4 H Club that is benefited by this annual picnic.  The reports are that music was lovely and the food, the games and the camaraderie all made for a delightful evening out.  The American Legion dedicated Taps to Verlin Rogers, who passed away recently.  He was a long-time supporter of all the good causes in the community and is much missed.  The Honor Guard will have officiated at twelve Veterans’ funerals this month.

In some ways are we living much as early settlers here lived, rarely going out—relying on home grown food.  Gayle Schroeder is busy, as are many Champions these days, canning tomatoes, beans and corn and making pickles.  She will be exhibiting her food preserving skills at the Pioneer Heritage Festival this fall.  Debbie Berthold and Mary Pruitt will both demonstrate how to make soap.  There will be flint knappers, spinners and weavers, black smiths and broom makers, and many others there to show us how to use the past to get along in the future if the need arises.  The late Jack Ryan, CB handle ‘Foxfire,’ was a great proponent of all the old time skills.  He even had his place logged by some guys who used mules instead of skidders.  He and Gladys were always pleased to share their know-how with young folks moving into the Ozarks.  From The Champion News, June 1, 2008: “As new people move into the community and work to make a place their own, they are just like the people who did the same thing before them.  Everyone works to put his stamp on the land, but the land endures while people come and go.  There is much to be learned from the past.  A person might do well to turn the TV off every now and again and go hunt up an old-timer.”  The Pioneer Heritage Folks are busy planning another opportunity for us to mingle with old timers the first week end in October over at the Foxtrotters Showgrounds.

Garden pests are an aggravation.  Green tomato hornworms eat pepper plants too.  Stink bugs/shield bugs/squash bugs sting tomatoes and make them ugly.  But the butterflies are beautiful.  And who can dispute the beauty of the Naked Ladies, known by some as surprise lilies?

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional,” someone said.  It is all about the choices we make.  A person fighting depression, while nailing some used tin up on a shed, once smashed a thumbnail with a heavy hammer blow and held it up, throbbing and bleeding, laughing and happy to finally have something that hurt that everyone could see.  We do not know what anyone else is enduring and the choices people make are often a mystery to us.  Champions endeavor to choose hope and optimism.  We will go to the polls next week to make some important choices.  Local politics seem relatively civil compared to the rancor and divisiveness on the National scene.  During the 98 days before the November election, we will strive exemplify decorum with our friends and neighbors who are on the ‘other’ side.  On that day there are bound to be some broken hearts.  On that day, let the winners be noble in their victory with consoling compassion for the bitter losses of their friends and neighbors.  Good for you if you were able to vote absentee by mail.  Good for everyone if everyone votes.  Be careful when you go to exercise your franchise, but go.  Vote like the choice you make matters.

The Herald reported last week that the COVID-19 has been confirmed in Western, Eastern and Central Douglas County.  “You should presume every place or location has some potential for risk.”  The jump in total cases from 21 to 57 between the 14th and the 27th of July, (and on July 29th 79 cases) according to the Douglas County Health Department, is reason for concern.  Therefore, the official word is that there will be no Skyline Picnic this year.  It will be a great disappointment to all those who count on the event for a chance to meet up with seldom seen friends and to enjoy the great music on the stage and the door prizes.  It will be a loss to the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department, as the picnic is its major annual fund raiser.  While we will miss those wonderful picnic burgers and donated pies and getting to play all the games and walk in the cake walk, we can still find a way to support the vital organization protecting our property and our lives.  Share what you can at Skyline VFD, Rt. 72 Box 254, Norwood, MO 65717.  No sooner had this call gone out than Connie Freeman stepped up to donate a beautiful quilt to the cause.  We might call it the Instead of the 2020 Skyline Picnic Quilt!  See it in person at the Champion Store.  It is a beauty, a king size beauty.  If you have good ideas for remote fund-raising, share them at champion@championnews.us.  Caring for each other is Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!

Connie Freeman donates her 2015 Quatrefoil Quilt to the Skyline VFD.

July 23, 2020

CHAMPION—July 23, 2020


Wilbur up a tree

The official word is that there will be no Skyline Picnic this year.  It will be a great disappointment to all those who count on the event for a chance to meet up with seldom seen friends and to enjoy the great music on the stage and the door prizes.  It will be a loss to the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department, as the picnic is its major annual fund raiser.  While we will miss those wonderful picnic burgers and donated pies and getting to play all the games and walk in the cake walk, we can still find a way to support the vital organization protecting our property and our lives.  Anyone who would like to make a donation can send it to Skyline VFD, Rt. 72 Box 254, Norwood, MO 65717.  If you have good ideas for remote fund-raising, share them at champion@championnews.us.

Distant thunder is a terrible tease to gardeners standing out in a thirsty patch.  Thunder rumbled over around Denlow, then up north, and about sunset on Sunday, Sherry Bennet wrote, “Thank you, Lord, for the good rain in Ava.”  Finally, late in the evening, a little drizzle dropped almost enough to settle Champion dust.  Every drop is met with gratitude.  Wednesday morning’s rain gauge showed six tenths inch of muddy water.  The gauge was a little out of plumb so maybe there was a tad more in Tuesday night’s shower.  Vanzant did not fare so well according to the General.  Mr. Stone reported some storm debris on 95 south.  Summer thunderstorms always have potential for excitement.

Frogs have thyme

Even folks who live in a peaceful rural part of the world are somehow more attune to nature during these unusual homebound days, and though city dwellers may have fewer or different opportunities to appreciate the exquisiteness of our natural world, the exercise is healing for everyone.  One observed that the clouds are often looking like some out of the illustrations in biblical texts—round and roiling and bright against the blue sky or back lit at dusk.  Sunrises and sunsets are being marvelous.  The rabbit or rabbits eating our sweet potato plants are not being much appreciated, though they are charming little creatures.  One friend says to sprinkle blood meal around the plants.  It did not work.  Another says human hair offends rabbits.  A saved braid was strewn about to no avail.  Now the third suggestion is a chicken wire tent over the plants.  Maybe the bunnies will be discouraged enough to look elsewhere for their feasting.  Jonnie, the Friendly Dog, does not seem overly concerned about them, just disappointed that they will not play.  Jonnie might have treed the groundhog, but she was asleep on the porch.  It seems the groundhog; we will call him Wilbur, just likes to spend time up in the tree.  He can be found up there at various times during the day.  Leopard frogs enjoy a good thyme basking in the morning sun.

Gardening is not an inexpensive avocation.  Seed, nursery plants and soil amendments all cost in dollars.  The planning, tending and harvesting are purchased with honest toil.  Then comes the kitchen work that produces the jars of tomatoes so admired for their color and taste.  Lucky are those who can shell beans in the comfort of air conditioning.  The pressure cooker makes a happy “shhh shhh shhh” sound and, as the larder fills, gardeners feel better about the coming winter.  Perhaps the uncertainty of the times has encouraged more people to garden.  Canning jar flats are becoming a scarce commodity.  Hopes are that the market will adjust as it has with toilet paper.  It is supply and demand or demand and supply.  Make those phone calls to your gardening friends to compare your harvests, ask advice about critters, or just to reassure each other that you are well and busy.  It is easy to get lonesome.  Thank you, Mr. Bell, for helping us stay in touch in a time when we cannot hug.

“What a wonderful time to be living!” extols Eulalia Jasmin in her recent letter to The Champion News at Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  She says the current upheaval of the whole world gives us a chance to recalibrate, to reorganize, to rebuild in a better way.  She is excited to be alive right now and hopes she will live long enough to see an improved world.  Her return address is always a mystery.  Use the search engine on the www.championnnews.us website to see her observations, advice and council over the years.  Wherever she is, she says she considers Champion her home, though we do not know if she has ever been here.  “A line from my friends is like balm to my soul,” said Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon in November of 1821.  A handwritten letter is always welcome.  The USPS is a necessary institution for grandparents marooned from the smartest, most talented, best looking children in the world.  Businessman, Louis DeJoy, heads up the outfit now.  Postal patrons hope he will use his 35 years of business experience in reverse, as his expertise heretofore has been in labor analytics—the art of eliminating as many jobs as possible.  Those voting by mail because of COVID-19 did not have to have their absentee ballots notarized, but they had to arrive at the court house by the 23rd.  (You can still vote absentee by going to the court house up until August 4th.)  The system that has been trusted with our Social Security checks, our medications, and letters from grandchildren should be able to handle the National Election, if left unimpeded.  Maybe Mr. DeJoy will join Ms. DeVos on one of her yachts and they can sail off into the sunset and have some kind of redemptive adventure before they incuriously reach the edge.

We are grateful for the sunshine and the rain, and grateful too for our families and our friends.  As we age, more of them leave us and it is hard to let them go.  While attachment is said to be the root of suffering, we fiercely hold on to their part in our lives.  We miss them.  Saturday morning friends stood in the sunshine on a beautiful hillside to say farewell to one whose friendship will linger in more than memory.  David Scrivner and Herbie Johnston sent her off with “Peace in the Valley” and every heart was touched.  Her enthusiasm for life was contagious and we will smile thinking of Laine and her sweet admonition to us to make the most of our time.  Ever a Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 16, 2020

CHAMPION—July 13, 2020


53rd Annual Vanzant Picnic, July 11, 2020
[aerial view]
Laine Sutherland suggested the Lonesome Moonlight Waltz as a good one to learn. She loved music and people. The world has lost
a dynamo of goodness.

If you are mailing in your absentee ballot for the August 5th Primary Election, it will need to be in the mail to arrive by July 23rd which is 13 days before the election. You can take it directly to the Court House as late as August 4th. If your reason for voting by mail is concern about Covid 19, it will not be necessary to have it notarized. Being able to vote by mail is a great convenience for folks who are working to stay home. The USPS is a real life-line for old folks, some of whom get their medications in the mail. Along with the bills, sometimes a grandchild’s letter graces the mailbox and out here on Route 72, John is one of our favorite people. We like his alternates as well. Their diligence makes life much easier for us. Thanks. John is a big guy. Most likely he has heard “Big Bad John.” He smiles and waves and we can attribute no badness to him.

The only constant, it is said, is change. We have watched the Herald change in recent times and are generally pleased. These days, being pleased about something is a pleasant experience. Congratulations go out to Sue Curry Jones on the occasion of her retirement. The change will be a big one for her, but Champions who have enjoyed retirement for a couple of decades now know that her days are about to get busy in different and interesting ways. (Good luck, Sue. Have fun!) We appreciate her hard work and that of three generations of her family. The Boyink family has brought visible and agreeable changes while maintaining the content and focus of the paper which is “devoted to the interest of all of the people of Ava and Douglas County.” The Herald has been passed into good hands. It generally arrives in Champion on Fridays, making it one of the seven best days of the week. We are looking forward to getting acquainted with Mr. Hoskins and to learning how to pronounce Mascoutah. We might think of him as Jimmy Brown the Newsboy.

Jonnie, the friendly dog, had a busy and exhausting few days out on Cold Spring Road as the traffic between Linda’s house and Marty’s was heavy. She needed to bark at every passing rig from tractors and haying equipment to the little red four-wheeler that Foster whizzed up and down. She does not mind them so much when they go slow, but several bad experiences a few years back with a low flying four-wheeler caused her serious injury and made her think speed is bad. A long strait stretch of smooth sandy road is a great temptation to put the pedal to the metal or the torque to the throttle. Just be mindful of your own safety and please watch out for Jonnie.

2020 Vanzant Picnic – ‘Backyard Bluegrass’ with Jim Orchard and others including Herbie Johnston

The Dog Days of summer are officially upon us. According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, they are the 40 days beginning July 3rd and ending August 11th. They get their name from the Dog Star, Sirius, and the days coincide with the annual rising of the star briefly above the eastern horizon at dawn just before sunrise during those days. The Greeks and Romans connected those days with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. Here in Champion we connect them with raccoons in the corn patch, red ripe tomatoes and frequent trips to the swimming hole. A summertime visit from Harley and Barbara Krider is always welcome. Wednesday, out on the wide veranda at the Historic Emporium, Barbara detailed the damage raccoons are doing to her flowers up in Elmwood, Illinois. It sounds like their whole neighborhood is overrun with them. The pelts are no good in the summertime and no longer bring much in the winter. Harley says there are places in the area where they can be relocated, dead or alive. He and Barbara went to the Vanzant Picnic on Friday and headed for home on Saturday. Champion is always a more interesting place with them around, so hopes are they will be back soon.

2020 Vanzant Picnic – ‘Hot Burrito Breakdown’ with Herbie Johnston on fiddle,
Javan Loadholtz on banjo, Sharry Lovan on bass, and Gene Collins on guitar [video]

Thanks to the Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department, Pete Proctor, Brenda Massey, Sharry Lovan and others who posted pictures on-line of the 53rd Annual Vanzant Picnic, those who were not able to go for some reason or the other felt like they had been there. Drone footage from an outfit called Missouri Brown Dog Productions featured the turtle race from on high. It was nice to see so many familiar faces and everyone having a good time. All reports are that the music was great. By Monday Sharry had some videos on line of her group, Stringed Union and there was Herbie Johnston fiddling away and dancing his jig. While overall attendance may have been down, it was a splendid affair. For those still sheltering in place there is the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau who said, “I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.” For those lucky enough to be marooned with people whose company they enjoy, the time also passes sweetly. J.C. Owsley shared a good Beatles tune to help us remember how to have fun at home.

The Up and At It 4-H picnic is coming up in a couple of weeks—another excellent gathering. Our summer social season may be less splendid this year, but folks will find ways to adjust to the new situation we find ourselves enduring. The 2020 Norwood Farmer’s Day festival has been cancelled. The committee says “Next year, our 40th Annual Farmer’s Day will be bigger and better than ever!” The organizers of the Pioneer Heritage Festival are doing some good planning. This year it will be at the Ava Fox Trotters Showgrounds. They have a great list of exhibitors already. October seems like a long way off, but as one day melts into another, it will be here soon, and all the thoughtful preparations will pay off. Meanwhile, we will tend our gardens, put up as much food as we can, go wading in the creek and keep the health and safety of all our dear friends and families in our best thoughts. We are optimistic in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

53rd Annual Vanzant Picnic, July 11, 2020

July 9, 2020

CHAMPION—July 6, 2020


The Grand Old Flag waved and the music swelled and American hearts pumped with pride in our Nation on our 244th celebration of Independence.  This year we seem more mindful, more thoughtful about the whole concept.  It does a citizen good to re-read the Declaration of Independence.  Molly Ivins said, “It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”  The traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall was in Springfield over the holiday week end.  It is a humbling experience to view it.  Thanks to all who have served and are serving yet.  It was brats and beer in seclusion on the Fourth of July for many who still harbor hope for a bigger celebration in 2021.

If March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, how will July go out, after having come in with such a thunderous wet and wonderful beginning?  An inch and a half of rain came down in the middle of the day on Wednesday, July 1st, washing away worries of drought.  Friends in Vera Cruz recorded two and a half inches and others out east had an inch and a half.  Local haymakers had it bailed already so there were no complaints to be heard.  It was another delightful day down on the broad banks of Auld Fox Creek made even more pleasant by visitors out on the wide veranda.  Eldon and Judy Russell, from somewhere between Gentryville and Richville, passed a pleasant couple of hours enjoying the little Wednesday Outside Jam, which was much improved by Roberta, Ms. Country Pie!  She says she is making more pies than ever and the most popular one is coconut-cream.  Roy’s is doing well, she said.  Floaters are stopping in.  We are in the midst of full-blown summertime.  Roadside flowers are spectacular and summer skies sublime.

Summertime was on full display on Wednesday the 8th, as waves of local youth rallied on the Square getting ready for a picnic trip to the creek.  Harley and Barbara are visiting for a few days and it was a pleasant visit out on the wide veranda.  Harley added his voice to the Outside Wednesday Jam on some old songs.  He was remembering one called Tall Pines.  He said it was kind of a sad song but in a good way.  He and Barbara have been seen scooting up and down Cold Springs Road on a little red 4-wheeler.  He said the machine was about at its load limit—like driving Jell-O.  The youngsters made him recall the games he and his fellow Champion School mates played.  They invented ball games and made up all the rules.  They played complicated games of marbles and shot so much he rubbed a hole through his thumb nail “right down to the meat.”  They were unsupervised out on the school yard at recess and everyone survived.

Two pieces of mail arrived in The Champion News mail box concerning the letter cited in the June 16th post.  One was from the Crackpot himself, pleased to have been quoted and to have had his idea recognized.  He said he “would just as soon” be known as Crackpot and expressed gratefulness at not having been identified and allowed as how he would be pleased to share more of his good ideas in the future.  The author of the other letter also did not wish to be identified “for obvious reasons,” she said.  She said she liked the Crackpot’s notion that the world could be unified by fighting a common enemy like space invaders.  She thinks we have one in Covid19.  She goes on to say that it would be nice if we could be unified in appreciation, understanding and affection rather than hate and political incompatibility.  She said she remembered the letter because she had seen a posting on the internet that said, “One thing the pandemic has taught is that if America is ever attacked by actual invaders, the Democrats will join the enemy.”  “As a Democrat, your neighbor and friend, my feelings are hurt that you think so poorly of me.  I love our Country as much as you do and I have never been disrespectful of you or your views.” The strident divisiveness of these days makes it hard to not take things personally.  The purpose of so many of those kinds of posts is to spread that kind of divisiveness, so let us try not to get het up and “love thy neighbor.”  Another internet posting: “The law of the universe is simple.  What you focus on not wanting, is what you will get more of.”  Mail on these subjects or any other is welcome at TCN, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or champion@championnews.us.

Someone said, “I can’t go out because of the virus” sounds weak, whiny and boring.  Try this instead:  ‘I’ve sworn an oath of solitude until the pestilence is purged from the lands.’  That sounds more principled, valiant and heroic—and people might even think you are carrying a sword.” These shut-in days make a thoughtful greeting card in the mail even more appreciated.  Ethel must have her calendar full of special days for people.  Thanks, and thanks to the mail carriers out here doing their good work.  In the early days of the pandemic we recognized the importance of the post office, of grocers, truckers, and all the health care workers and others upon whom we depend.  They are still important and this thing is not over.  Be grateful to those folks and be kind to them.  Be safe and kind to yourselves and strive for Optimism the way we do in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


July 1, 2020

CHAMPION—June 30,2020


The Fourth of July on a Saturday and a Full Moon makes this one a special one. We may miss getting to share it with our friends and families as we celebrate in different places together. Yes, there will be lots of gatherings, but many older, vulnerable folks will picnic alone with their bar-b-que, watermelon and apple pie, thinking about the current State of the Nation and the good changes they hope will come. The necessary cancellation of the Old Tree Huggers Jamboree that has a history of more than 30 years will thwart and stymie the myriad enlightened conversations that would have been had over the past, present and future. Those discussions are still going on if only around the kitchen table with the old man or with friends on the phone. Some people just talk to hear their head rattle, but ever so once in a while, something rings true. Whatever that is that rings true for you, it generally conforms to whatever you already believe. There is hardly any point in trying to convince folks who believe differently that you are right and they are wrong. We better just look at each other and grin, maybe shake our heads and leave unspoken our wonder and amazement that people we like and care about can be so obtuse. Harmonize with them if you can “…and crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!”

If you wonder if you are doing a good job of hand washing, just get a little fish emulsion on your fingers. By the time you get the smell off, you can be pretty sure your hands are clean. No one has come to claim the bottle that replaces the one Jonnie, the good dog, chewed up. Lena says a person’s fingernails ought to be dirty during the summer. She claims hers are as she works with her flowers and splits wood and what-not outside. She says that Sally and Wilma are doing fine these days. She is making quilts for great granddaughters and keeping track of Jerry and his comings and goings. Maybe he plays the fiddle for her sometime or turns the radio on for a dance. They have been seen to cut a lovely rug. He may know Fiddlin’ John Carson’s tune, “The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going to Crow.” That is from 1923, a little before Jerry’s time.

Reports are that the Ava Farmers’ Market is doing very well with many more young people participating as vendors and shoppers. That is good news. A note from Champion-South: “the garden is doing well considering the abundant rainfall earlier in the spring everything was slow to start. oh weeds were not slow but produce was very slow we usually have squash by now but just blooming. onions garlic potatoes lettuce dill carrots cukes (just blooming as well) doing good eating snow peas and beans along with lettuce and onion. had a blackberry yesterday there are lots of tomatoes green of course but the peppers were the slowest to start but are hitting their stride now.” Home grown vegetables are dandy, capital letters and punctuation notwithstanding.

A friend shared a great recipe for a refreshing summer iced tea. It makes half a gallon: 2 quarts of water, one and a half inches of ginger root, thinly sliced, a heaping tablespoon of powdered turmeric, one teaspoon of black pepper, and three tablespoons honey. Simmer for half an hour stirring often. Do not strain it. Refrigerate it and enjoy a pleasant tea that turns out to be very beneficial for folks with arthritis since it has all those ingredients with anti-inflammatory properties. Arthritis comes from working hard. Dear friends come from our good fortune. Thank you for sharing the good things. Another friend shares a recipe for jewelweed broth. She says, “Not only is this a tasty cold soup for summertime, it is a superior remedy for poison ivy rash. Sipping 2-4 cups of jewelweed broth, hot or cold, will quell both skin and joint inflammation. Harvest jewelweed (Impatiens pallida or canadensis) by pulling every 4th or 5th plant up by the roots. We are using the entire plant. The redder the root, the more effective this remedy. At home, rinse your jewelweed and place it, roots and all, in a pan, pressing it down very well. Add just enough cold water to barely cover the jewelweed and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, until the water is orange. Cool, then refrigerate or pour into ice cube trays and freeze.”

Unusual atmospheric conditions have rendered our golden hour more golden yet. It is as if Rembrandt has slathered another coat of shellac over our bucolic landscape, a glimmering varnish of softened light. As we go through these stressful days, we hope to know all our friends and families are well and safe. We celebrate the 244 years since 1776 and hope for the safety and health of our Nation. Champion–Looking on the Bright Side!