November 30, 2020

CHAMPION—November 30, 2020


Last Thursday afternoon an Old Champion leaned back in his chair, smiled up toward the ceiling, lacing his fingers loosely over the little round bread basket that has in time grown up on what used to be called his abs.  “Well,” he said, “I sure do feel a whole lot more like I do now than I did a while ago.”  (In truth, it sounded more like “shore do” and “a wholla go.”)  He went on to say that if he always felt like this, the price of groceries would not be anything at all.  Thanksgiving dinner for two old folks netted leftovers clear through Monday and beyond.  In many places all over the country the traditional banquet was celebrated in clusters of two.  Some fortunate families were able to gather in bigger lots.  In Champion, Kriders, Wisemans, Watts and Clines, and perhaps others of that clan were fortunate to be able to spend the day feasting together.  Some of The General’s brood visited the nest over in Vanzant for biscuits and gravy and, doubtlessly, for old family stories going back generations.  If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it is that family and dear friends are the most precious things we have.  Until we can safely hug the stuffing out of each other again, we will have to keep the phone lines, internet, and post office humming with our declarations of love and concern and, most importantly, those old family stories that tell us who we are and how we got here.

Esther Wrinkles’ Christmas cactus

A regular patron of the Historic Emporium in Downtown Champion hails from down on the Bryant and celebrates his 75th birthday on the full November Beaver Moon and this one is special for having 85% of the visible surface  darken at 3:42 a.m., central time, as a result of the last penumbral eclipse of the year.  Whether Mr. Birthday was awake to see that special sight, we hope he knows he is as special to the Champion as a rare full moon is to the heavens.  There is a wonderful story about “
..that big old yellow moon a hangin up there, and God’s sweet lanterns a hangin in the sky.”  It involves a still that produced something akin to ‘honeydew vine water.’  And then there was the bear.   That good neighbor from down on the Bryant, has plenty of stories to tell, including that one about how the 7th Calvary’s mascot mule got shot up in Vietnam and the one about Waterhole Ike, the boar hog that got his Social Security card and food stamps.  It is a true story.  Champions hope it was a happy 75th birthday for one of it favorite story tellers.

Shirley Emerson is one of those charming ladies who used to visit Champion on behalf of the Douglas County Health Department to help us regulate our blood pressure and general health.  It was a great amenity to the community and we miss their monthly visits since the pandemic has been on us.  Shirley still checks in on her favorites, in particular those whom she deems may not take care of themselves as well as they should.  Part of taking care of ourselves is staying positive.  As Mr. Python said, “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”  Do as much of that as you can and tell those old family stories like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


November 16, 2020

CHAMPION—November 16, 2020


By way of a disclaimer, it is not necessarily the case that every Champion agrees with the observations and opinions as proffered in The Champion News. However, every Champion who has the good fortune to see an eagle light in a big dead tree up on WW Highway shares the joy and excitement. That includes the Cowboy, the Prominent Champion, the Essential Shop Keeper, Deward’s Granddaughter and numerous others. Deward’s daughter, Marian Conradi, who lived on the old home place, was a great appreciator of the eagle. Her note cards most often featured eagle pictures and she referenced the link of the great bird with patriotism. From her hill top vantage point she must have often seen a local resident pair and those migrating this time of the year. Her daughter, now on the old home place, the Henson Centennial Farm, sees them there occasionally and reported seeing a young one and one with a white head and tail on Friday. “Beautiful!” she said. Indeed!

The General was a little late getting to Champion on a recent Wednesday. He sent a message that he had an appointment at 9 am to get a new muffler and tailpipe. This prompted some Champions to ask if the muffler was for himself or for his truck. Then they suggested that when he arrived, they might require him to turn around for an inspection. By and by they moved on to other topics and let that opportunity for levity pass. Levity had its place however, when The General recalled that there was a day when a person might cough in order to disguise that funny noise that happens sometimes when digestive gases escape the human body. These days it is the cough that is to be disguised, but the method in reverse is not nearly as voluntary or predictable.

A local gardener, a while back, was said to have used fertilizer provided by miniature donkeys. That year all his produce was miniature with little bitty potatoes and tomatoes. Don Bishop reported a dismal harvest from his garden this year—small potatoes. He did not say what kind of fertilizer he used, but he said if he had a couple of big ones in addition, he might have enough sweet potatoes for a mess. There is a big doe with three fawns routinely patrolling and feasting upon his plantings. He would put her in his freezer but for Reba, who is not a fan of venison. Maybe the mama deer will wander onto neighboring property and be harvested by some hunter. A fat doe makes good eating. The season has commenced with much wind and rain, thunder and lightning. The harvest will be appreciated for the extreme conditions as much as for the kill and the resulting good food. Traffic has increased on country lanes so much as to exhaust vigilant yard dogs. Champions wish all the hunters good luck and a safe chase.

Political discourse swirls around ancient wood stoves, cafĂ© tables and over fences and the internet. A room can be squelched to a sudden silence at the arrival of someone perceived to hold unpopular (other) beliefs. Tension is so high as to vilify the nonconformist. Not since Sir Walter Scot introduced the term in 1816, has the cold shoulder been turned with such conviction. Real power, a prominent figure has declared, is fear. The fear of change and of altering values, the fear of losing something and of people with nothing getting something are some of the general fears that help drive the divisiveness. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” said another prominent figure in 1933. Someone said that courage is not not being afraid but doing what needs to be done even when you are afraid. Champions are courageous, though some are pleased to say we don’t know what we are talking about.

Home is the best thing there is according to Jerry Wagner. He is pleased to be spending these days with the Fair Lena. He admits not playing his fiddle like he should. There is nothing wrong with his playing; he just does not do it as often as he ought. Otherwise, he says they are doing fine, and he, like all of us, is looking forward to the time when we can all get together again. One of his tunes is “I wonder how the old folks are at home.” The Christmas cactus that Esther Wrinkles shared a decade ago is blooming mightily, making us remember her and the many old folks who have gone on to the ‘better home.’ We will all get there eventually. Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!


November 10, 2020

CHAMPION—November 3, 2020


Halloween in Champion was spooky! It started under what might be called a ‘buttermilk sky.’ The whole expanse of the bright blue western view was curdled with golden bottomed wispy white cotton ball clouds erupting in a fountain of color from behind the hill over toward the Henson Centennial Farm. It was brilliant, explosive, but quiet–still and quiet. The parade of Waterhole Ike and Elvis impersonators, gypsies, hula girls, mummies, zombies and pirates happily did not appear. There were no trick and no treats, just a long procession of precious memories of dear spirits now rambling with the blessed. Obituaries occupy a substantial part of most newspapers and old people almost always look there first. What we learn about people after they are gone from us sometimes surprise us. Must we lose someone close to us, someone important to us in order to take seriously our vulnerability? Someone laughed and said, “If you want to clear a room fast, just cough.” We might ride that cavalier air all the way to our coffin. If you are sick, stay home.

Music has healing properties best applied live, but any way you can get it is good. Choose your favorite kind and blast it when you need your heart lifted. Banjo picking and hot fiddling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but one Old Champion takes it as a tonic to get up and get with it. As old folks break up housekeeping or just spend their quarantine time in house cleaning they are faced with the mountains of their accumulated stuff. Recent good rains have not significantly reduced the fire hazard, so take care in your blazing decluttering, while you relieve your heirs of the onerous burden of disposing of your heaps and piles and boxes of papers and junk.

Anxiety over the election, over the pandemic and our losses, over social issues and over the prospect of a hard winter ahead adds up a lot of anxiety and it is all bipartisan anxiety. Everyone feels it. We are all in it together. Our individual life experiences have shaped us all differently and as widely divergent as our points of view may be, it is understood that everyone wants what is best for the Nation
for everyone
all 331 million of us. The intensity of rancor and vitriol of recent days has been overwhelming. What a great relief it will be when we can lay those things aside finally. Then we can begin to work together to address all those other important issues. We may not all be drinking that free bubble up and eating that rainbow stew. It may be cornbread, buttermilk and good old turnip greens, but we will all be grateful to come to the table—still friends and neighbors and kin folks.

We pause in the midst of the election hoopla to acknowledge Veterans’ Day–November 11th. The freedom and security that we are able to enjoy here in the United States of America comes to us through the sacrifice and service of our men and women in uniform. Thank you. There are currently about 1.3 million active duty personnel and 800,000 reserve forces. We have about 17 million Veterans in the Country and more than 1000 of them live here in Douglas County. Many of them are Vietnam era Veterans. They came home to a Nation in turmoil and the recognition they deserved was long delayed. The Nation seems to be in turmoil again and hopes are that our courageous Veterans will help us all to heal and unite like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!