September 27, 2020

CHAMPION–September 25, 2020


Sad news comes from our Skyline/Champion friend, Lannie Hinote, up in Marshall, Alaska. She writes, “Prayers for our village would be greatly appreciated. An elder passed away, a young man committed suicide, and COVID is in the village.” The Country is awash in prayers and grief over the loss of so much and so many in pestilence, fire, flood and hopelessness. We grieve in different ways. It might happen sometime that you attend a funeral where the only person you know there is the deceased. You hear friends and family talking about that person, revealing things you did not know and you get that familiar feeling of being an outsider, a stranger. It seems that we are going to lots of funerals lately. They bring our own mortality to our thoughts. Who will come to say “Goodbye” to you? Maybe there will be some stranger on the edge of the crowd whose life you touched without your knowing.

Justice Ginsberg said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” She said, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” The best possible way to honor her contributions to our wonderful democracy is to vote. Imagine the good that could be done with all the money spent on vitriolic political discourse. Ballots for the November 3rd election are available now at the County Clerk’s Office in the Douglas County Court House. In this election, chances are pretty good that everyone knows for certain for whom he will vote. The amendments are another story. A Champion friend writes, “Amendment One tries to give the appearance of reform, but it makes minor token cuts to gifts, etc. that they can take and has hidden inside an attack on term limits of government functionaries, those people who have experience and know how the government works. Amendment Three is set to undo what was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2018. Ballot language seems to be designed for confusion and obfuscation, designed to make you think you are voting for what you want, when you are really voting against your own best interests. The point of this is to say, it is a good idea to study the issues before you jump to orchestrated conclusions. We will be optimistic and believe in better times ahead.

Things are winding down in the garden. Green tomato hornworms are enjoying their last feast while peppers keep producing and caterpillars feast on milkweed. Felix the Farmer’s old Papa writes in to say, “My butterfly weed now makes a circle about a dozen feet in diameter. That color (neon, electric, atomic orange!) is so intense; I’ll bet my little circle can be seen from space. I saw only a few Monarchs, and no caterpillars, but had many Spicebush Swallowtails and many others, too. That colorful bug seems to come with milkweed, and is appropriately called milkweed bug. I had hundreds of babies this year, and have had them every year I had milkweed. I have read that they employ the same defense as Monarchs, ingesting the poisonous milkweed and rendering themselves also toxic to predators, and advertising the fact with brilliant color.” Some Old Champions carry their camera along with their harvest basket when they head out to the patch. The almanac informs that October 1st and 2nd will be good days to harvest, so we will see if the rabbits, the deer and Wilbur have had an impact on the sweet potato harvest.

The harvest, the safety of our friends and family, the beauty of our natural home places, and hope for tomorrow—those are the things that keep Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Milkweed Tussock Moth larva on milkweed

Hornworm Moth larva on tomato

Monarch Butterfly larva on milkweed

September 19, 2020

CHAMPION—September 17, 2020


Traveling on.

…on the East side of the Square….Sanders, Webster, Feltz

The West Plains Wagon Club rolled in early to Champion on Thursday. They had tried to take a couple of rest stops on their way, but both times had to move on due to traffic on narrow roads. They were happy to reach the Square and to be able to take a leisurely luncheon break. Families of home-schoolers stopped into check out the interesting wagons and the beautiful animals. There were six wagons in the train this time. Jim and Judy Cantrell headed up the procession and were lucky to have one of the Keller brothers drive part of the way. Ken Felts had another Keller brother take his reins for a while. Marvin and Nancy Webster came next in their big wagon. They have made some long trips in this one—once all the way to Wisconsin and back. Jerry Sanders and Tony Amison had a horse in between their two mules in their three-up. Their little traveling companion is part Beagle and something else, Tony says, “…a sweet dog,” a Cracker Jack. David Dinwiddie had horses pulling his wagon. He has been accustomed to driving horses, but this was his first wagon train experience. He says he is having a wonderful time, but will be better outfitted next year. Randal Barnet says he likes riding drag because he can stay far enough in the back to avoid the dust and his fine mules can catch up any time. He has a little dog, Joe, who talks to Randal, but Randal does not tell anyone about it. He said that if he told you about it, you would tell someone else and they would call you a liar for the rest of your life. He is a thoughtful man, an Arkansawyer from down Viola way. Nancy Webster had the sad news to report that their long time wagon train friend, Shelby Blades, had passed away a while back. The wagon trains are getting shorter as the years go by, but it is encouraging to have newcomers like David Dinwiddie join in and to have youngsters like the Keller brothers interested in the art. We will see what next year brings while we enjoy again having had the chance to see something lovely out of the past roll down the road. Happy Trails to you, until we meet again!

…on the South Side of the Square…Cantrell, Barnet, and Dinwiddie

Former Skyline teacher, Lannie Hinote, posted last week that it was 28 degrees in Marshall, Alaska, and that she was looking forward to fall. Up in Sheridan, Wyoming, Marge and Doug enjoyed their first frost on Friday. They had picked their crops already and had them ripening under newspaper in their basement. Marge said that fires burning in southeastern Montana had blown some smoke into their county and that there were some fires in Wyoming south and west of them, but that all was well with them. Many of us have friends and families out on the West Coast who are dealing with the devastation of the wild fires. The smoke engulfing the coastal cities is being very hard on everyone, especially those already having breathing issues. By Thursday, rain in Oregon had helped improve the air quality and mitigated some of the fire hazard. The rest of the coast is still under siege and much in the thoughts of Champions.

Every once in a while something unexpected and pleasant happens. Such was the case for Alvin Barnhart recently. He learned that he had twelve chances to win the amazing No-2020-Skyline Picnic quilt, purchased for him by his friend, Hovey down in Houston, Texas. They were Mountain Grove High School buddies a while back. Hovey wrote that Mountain Grove was competing against West Plains in football and “on the first play, our friend, Alvin, was knocked unconscious. The first half we were giving it 110%, playing for our friend, Alvin. Even though West Plains had a superior team, Mountain Grove was leading at the half. The second half we got worn down by a team that had more talent and depth. Mountain Grove lost.” Hovey was sorry the Champion School Reunion had been cancelled, so he did not make the trip back home this year. He also bought quilt tickets for his Champion cousin living on a Centennial Henson Farm, who said, “That is nice of Hovey and Dawn. They have always been wonderful family and visited my Mom for years when they came back home for reunions.” Meanwhile, it made a nice spot in Alvin’s day and he said to tell Hovey, “Thank you,” and said that he would do something nice for Hovey someday. He will find out if he is the winner on October 1st. Marge Carter sent a picture of the quilt to Doug’s daughter, Tammy, and they are both buying tickets through the mail. So is Theresa Howard up in New Vienna, Ohio. Alvin has competition.

These beautiful cool days have gardeners bring in the sheaves. It is a good feeling and great to be able to share the harvest. Whether or not you have vegetables to share, it is well worth the time to check in with friends and family who are still isolating due to the pandemic. Frances Banks was up for a nice phone visit the other day. She is feeling grateful for her family living close by. She misses Elmer, as do all his Champion friends. He could spin a yarn from here to yonder and there was always some laughter around him. Frances has a good sense of humor too and plenty of her own stories. Glen Branstetter was talking to a friend of his over near Hartville and said, “You’ve told that story so many times you are about to believe it.” Champions have asked again to hear the saga of Waterhole Ike and the IRS.

More good news is that we can cast our ballot for the November 3rd election as early as September 22nd! We can just go to the County Clerk’s office and exercise our franchise. The fifty days between now and the election will be noisy and contentious, so voting early will let a lot of that hyperbole pass us by. At this stage of the game, it is probably a rare individual who has not made up his mind. About half of the voters will be disappointed and it will be up to the other half to be gracious. As to the 46.9% of the eligible voters who did not bother to vote last time, maybe you want to rethink it. The more of us who participate in our Democracy, the better it will work for us. Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!


September 11, 2020

CHAMPION—Labor Day, 2020


Wagons on the Square

The first order of Champion business is to say, you may never know how a small, kind word can lift the heart of a person. Everyone can use a little pat on the back occasionally. It is free and easy to be pleasant. Warmed hearts thank you.

Last of the summer’s hummers?

The West Plains Wagon Club will meander through Champion again on September 17th. It is a local mule train tradition going back decades. The Gee Haw Club out of Viola, Arkansas often joins the outfit as it takes off from West Plains on a Monday for the 100 mile trip to Mansfield. They generally pull into the Champion Square around lunch time on Thursday. They do not mind having spectators meet them at Champion to enjoy seeing their interesting outfits and their fine animals. They kind of like it. In recent years, there have been as many as 14 wagons and 21 outriders and as few as four wagons with no outriders. It will be exciting to see them roll in and to hear their stories of the trail. Look around the page to find many pictures and stories of the West Plains Wagon Club.

The Nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership—the American worker. The idea of the holiday may have originated with the secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners or the secretary of the International Association of Machinists. One was McGuire and the other Maguire. Apart from the holiday, benefits brought to us by unions are things we take for granted now, like the eight hour work day and child labor laws. The vital force of labor brings us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. The holiday has been the final summer ‘hurrah,’ with boating parties, picnics and family gatherings for 132 years now. Hurrah!

Fall garden spider.

A friend reminds us that September is the first of the ‘ber’ months. The full ‘Corn Moon’ was Wednesday, September 2nd. That day also marked 75 years since VJ Day when World War II ended. The Herald’s story about Ernie Pyle probably opened the eyes of many who have no personal experience with the arduousness of warfare. The clear language and attention to detail in his column gave families back home a sense of ease, a way to be in touch; the way the smartphone does today. That Wednesday found Veterans on the wide veranda, as it often does, and stories were told. Some of them might have been a little farfetched and may require some investigation before reporting them as fact. The Prominent Champion, when asked if a person might be lying, said, “He probably wouldn’t lie to you, but he’d haul you a load.” Some stories are so good they bear telling again. Such is the one about Waterhole Ike, a boar hog with a Social Security number, a single head of household with seven dependents. He might have lived over just south of Goodville. This would have been (was) in the early 1970s.

Young black swallowtail larvae eating parsley.

Next Wednesday will be the Diez y Seis de Septembre! That is the day in 1810 when Miguel Hidalgo gave a speech motivating people to revolt against the Spanish regime. Hidalgo was executed in 1811, but Mexico finally got independence on September 28, 1821. By 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico. During its short tenure as a Republic, there was discourse among its leaders much as we find here in the USA today. They just used more elegant language. “You prate about the faults of other men, while the blot of foul unmitigated treason rests upon you. You…canting hypocrite, whom the waters of Jordan could never cleanse from your political and moral leprosy.” Wow. Sam Houston was more than a little peeved with David Burnet on account of the agreement he made with Santa Anna giving him safe passage home in exchange for ceasing all hostilities immediately and withdrawing his troops south of the Rio Grande. Many/most had wanted to see Santa Anna hanged. Burnet said of Houston that he “grumbled ungraciously, was hard to please, and spent all of his time giving orders and collecting souvenirs.” A friend suggested a great Merle Haggard song for the porch players. “ …When a President goes thru the White House door and does what he says he’ll do, we’ll all be drinking that free bubble up and eating that Rainbow Stew.” Leonard Peltier said, “The injustice you allow against others will become the injustice that comes against you.” This marks his 44th year in prison for something he did not do.

Glen Branstetter was so accustomed to traveling the countryside with his Kitty Clover merchandise; he hardly knows how to stay home. He said that, up until recently, he had some place to go every night of the week to hear music. He is still going and would go more if there were more places to go. Otherwise, he is cooking and watching the birds. Country folks watch the birds too, and the cows, horses, dogs, groundhogs, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, turtles, snakes and spiders, not to mention the bugs and butterflies. Ah! The bucolic charm of Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Wilbur and friend.

September 4, 2020

CHAMPION—August 31, 2020


Shades of The Ancient Bee Tree, 2008 (inset) and 2015.

The cancellation of the Champion School Reunion, scheduled for many years on the Saturday of Labor Day week-end, seems especially sad due to a cool and pleasant weather forecast.  The Ancient Bee Tree, that was first base when they were in school, used to provide ample shade for the crowd to spread their lavish pot-luck luncheon and to enjoy a long afternoon of visiting and reminiscing.  Since the tree was ‘pruned’ in 2015, it seems each year has been hotter than the last, so a cool day would have been welcome—maybe next year.

Snowbird, Doug Larrabee of Sheridan, Wyoming, enjoyed a recent sojourn in Champion.  Marge sent him off with a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  He had not seen the photos of the near-Champion bears on the website until he returned home to Marge.  She says he wants to know where the picture of the mamma bear and her cubs was taken.  Permission to post the pictures came with the caveat that the precise location not be divulged.  So the answer to Doug is that they were not at his Champion retreat, but were somewhere within a two or three mile radius of Downtown Champion.  The Cowboy says his game cameras are full of them dancing.  They have been spotted in Vanzant and over in Smith’s blackberry patch in Champion-West, as well as near Wolf Pen Hollow and Tar Button Road up Brushy Knob way.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has a feature on its website that shows where bears have been sighted.  Find a good article in the archives of the Douglas County Herald, February 20, 2020, about being ‘bear aware.’  Do you have any bears in Wyoming, Doug?  Marge requested tickets for the No-2020-Skyline Picnic Quilt, which were dispatched to her immediately via the wonderful United States Postal Service.  A favorite local retiree from that illustrious organization is pretty sure she will be the winner of the beautiful quilt, but everyone is a potential winner, especially the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department.  The drawing is not until October 1st, so there is plenty of time for Marge and others to get their tickets in the mail to Skyline VFD, Rt. 72 Box 254, Norwood, MO 65717.

Every once in a while something unexpected and pleasant happens.  Such was the case for Alvin Barnhart on Wednesday.  He learned that he had twelve chances to win the amazing No-2020-Skyline Picnic quilt, purchased for him by his friend, Hovey down in Houston, Texas.  They were Mountain Grove High School buddies a while back.  Hovey was sorry the Champion School Reunion had been cancelled, so he did not make the trip back home this year.  He also bought quilt tickets for his Champion cousin living on a Centennial Henson Farm, who said, “That is nice of Hovey and Dawn.  They have always been wonderful family and visited my Mom for years when they came back home for reunions.”  Meanwhile, it made a nice spot in Alvin’s day and he said to tell Hovey, “Thank you,” and said that he would do something nice for Hovey someday.

The fall turnips are about ready to thin so the remaining ones can plump up for Lem and Ned if they make their circuit of good works this fall.  They are a couple of rusty-ankled old boys who like to do the chores about the place that the old man is not interested in doing.  They do not really ‘hire out’ so much as they ‘help out,’ and they really like turnips.  These lovely rainy days will be good for the turnips and everything else that has been distressed during recent dry, hot days.  The humming bird feeders are seeing less action lately as the southern migration has begun.  There may be a few stragglers hanging around until early October, so Champions will leave out a feeder or two.  It has been a nice summertime chore to keep them clean and filled.  We have but 21 days left of summer and everything’s okay.

A cool Wednesday out on the broad Veranda at the Historic Emporium had Chase’s grandmother singing, “You are my sunshine” with the sometimes porch band.  She complains that she cannot play an instrument, but she can pat her foot and she has a lovely voice and a wonderful feel for harmony.  A visitor with a smile suggested a great song that he thought was by Bobby Bear, but it turns out to be another of Merle Haggard’s gems—“Rainbow Stew.”  It uses those three wonderful chords in G and will get some porch play one day.  Thanks!

Mary will be glad to know that the Mystery of the Milk Can has been solved.  Those initials, CMD, are the signature of artist Charlene M. Dupre.  She does not recall having painted the milk can as the date is ‘09’ and she has painted many things since then.  She is a snowbird too now, spending summers in Norwood and winters in Florida.  She taught at the Norwood School for a number of years.  She and her sister, Linda, have booths in the new flea market in Mountain Grove called ‘Out of Time’ in the building that previously held Crowley’s Home Works on West 11th Street.  Most likely you can find more of her work there.

Leonard Peltier has been in prison for 44 years.  His birthday is September 12th.  If you want to send him a birthday wish, you must do it on white paper in a white envelope.  Do not send cards, photographs or any colored paper.  You must put your full name and (return) address on the upper left corner or on the back of the envelope.  His address is:

Leonard Peltier
USP Coleman 1
P.O. Box 1033
Coleman, FL 33521

Leonard Peltier

Hopes are that the recovery process will go smoothly for our Mountain Grove neighbors who suffered significant property damage in the big week end wind storm.  Much needed rain graced lands south and west without the destruction.  “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is, in the eyes of others, only a green thing which stands in the way…As a man is, so he sees.”  That is according to William Blake.  Someone else said, “Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is.”  A bully says, “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.”  We are unafraid in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!