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