Champions welcome the new year with customary optimism and good will. It was Marian Conradi who shared her father’s motto: “Looking on the Bright Side!” He called Champion ‘the Village.’ Marian taught school for many years, third and fourth grades, and was a great appreciator of the bald eagle, which were often featured in her correspondence. Her parents’ farm is still a going concern, one hundred years later. An Old Champion has been wondering when does memory of what never was become the good old days? It is a habit of some to embellish or manufacture memories. We rely on historians to preserve the truth of the matter, and on ourselves to hold on to the good times and let the bad ones go after we have learned their lessons. Thanks to Sharon Sanders over at the Douglas County Museum for all she does to maintain the relics and records of our recent and distant past.

Whatever you were doing New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day was lovely—in the 60s. Just over a week before there were some -9° readings locally. The forecast for January looks reasonably mild, but winter is far from over. Something worth looking into is a pump-house thermostat. They cost around $20.00, look like a multi-tap outlet, and are preset to come on at 35° and go off at 45°. So, plug your heat lamp or heat tape in the thermostat and go back in the house. Perhaps invest another $20.00 in a remote-read outdoor thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside your well-house without having to go out there. Someone said, “Now you tell me.”

Wednesday had Day dulcimers and a banjo joining the jam, everyone smiling after a lovely Christmas. Harley joined in for some sweet gospel songs. He and Barbara were down from Peoria, making for a lot of fun and reminiscing. Barbara was in her usual good spirits, ready to play cards. Old stories around the old stove had to do with all the work a kid might have to do to get out of work. At the Vanzant Jam on Thursday, they joined the legion of Upshaw family and admiring friends of The General, who was destined to have a birthday, the last one of his eighth decade, on New Year’s Eve. Apparently, he had it, and, as the Vanzant correspondent for The Champion News, he submitted the following: “NEWS BREAK: Downtown Vanzant is in turmoil this morning. The New Year’s ‘Opossum Drop’ did not go well for the beginning of 2023. As an opossum wasn’t available, a skunk was substituted. The City Fathers (and their families) and Chamber of Commerce has concluded: ‘That won’t happen again.’” (It may be that Sherry Bennett has found them all, much to her delight.) We can look forward to a year of The General’s reports from the Vanzant Weather Station and Celestial Observatory, his accordion playing, which, as a gentleman, he rarely does, as well as his helpful household hints, such as the one he shared ten years ago. At that time, he was touting labor saving devices proffered by the Vanzant Fly-By-Night Owl Risky Business Batt Factory and this one had to do with daily replacing the newspaper in cuckoo clocks. Next year he will be an octogenarian.

Just before the holidays, some friends from far away came visiting Champion friends. Conversation rolled around many subjects, including that any small gesture might have far reaching, unexpected, perhaps unintended effects. To illustrate this, the friend shared a note he had received: “So happy you visited us yesterday, Glenn! Actually, you did Alfred a world of good. It’s a sad fact that as we oldsters plumb deeper into our nineties, we often bemoan lost time and opportunities; we wonder, were our lives worthwhile? Did we contribute to making a better world? Or was it all for naught? Our efforts forgotten and faded into oblivion? Perhaps they really weren’t that viable? Were in fact worthless? We lose faith in who we were, or what we did, and the emptiness those doubts bring is depressive. I often remind Alfred and myself, that we may not see them, or even learn about them, but if our life’s work was well intended, most surely the germ of our ideas have been seized here and there, given impetus to new and greater ideas, and then bloomed for good. Perhaps we won’t ever know, but I assured Alfred they are there. So, to hear you tell him that he inspired you was more than gratifying. I know he was touched and pleased. Thank you for that Glenn. You did a good thing yesterday! Your friend, Nell”

Who knows what good we may have done without even knowing about it? Who knows what will happen in the year ahead? Down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek, at the end of the pavement, we hope for everyone love, good health, peace, contentment, friendship, favorable circumstances for dreams to come true, the chance to be of help to others, good crops, good music, all to be purchased with the optimism of Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!