August 28, 2020

CHAMPION—August 27, 2020


Wilbur the Woodchuck

Virginia Canada lives up in Columbia these days, but she has deep roots in the Denlow/Vanzant/Champion metroplex. She graciously shared the “We Are the World” video on the 35th anniversary of the original performance. She said, “This touched my heart, a beautiful song…we need this feeling of love and compassion now.” She just celebrated 25 years with her sweetheart and is full of the optimism that comes with true love and security. Her positivity is contagious and we appreciate it. John Lennon said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”

Mary Goolsby and her handsome companion made the journey to Champion on Wednesday to secure their tickets for the “No-2020-Skyline VFD Picnic Quilt.” “Wow! What a beauty!” The drawing will be October 1st, and Mary is hoping to be the winner. She will tell you that she is a very lucky person. They have always been avid supporters of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department. Several years ago Mary won an old fashioned milk can at the picnic. Now that they are no longer in use in the dairy business, the once common items have become nice porch decorations, ash trays and have sometimes been filled with concrete to support a rural mail box. This one was adorned with a painting of the Old Champion Store–a nice piece of nostalgia. The artist signed the work, “CMD 09.” Mary would like to know who the artist is. It is a mystery—Milk Can Mystery, bringing to mind the Milk Cow Blues. Mike Satterfield’s swinging fiddle has brought that one to the Vanzant Jam on a number of memorable occasions when Mary and her handsome companion were in attendance. Recently the two of them have been showing off his beautiful 1946 Studebaker pickup. It is his favorite on account of his having been born himself that very year. Any number of Champions can claim that distinction, but without that fine ride.

Judy and Eldon Russel were unexpected and very welcome guests at The Historic Emporium down on the wide wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek on Wednesday, and more so for having brought the Dora Pie Queen, Roberta the Chanteuse with them, together with her beautiful old guitar, which came to her when she was in high school in Dora. The first song she ever sang in public was “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” She still sings it, as well as “There Is a Time” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and many others. It is hard to hold back when it comes to “Yippie ti yea! Yippie ti yo o!,” though she has been seen to smile when others join her for this refrain. The General agreed that her presence had increased the quality of the mid-week recital by more than one hundred percent. The next time Judy Russel comes to the Wednesday Open Air Sometimes Porch Jam, she will be regaled with an a capella version of “Fallaste Corazon,” a Mexican song which caught her attention once at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.

Barbara Krider had a beautiful birthday up in Elmwood, IL. “Thanks to my daughters for the lovely flowers and dinner out. I love them both for their thoughtfulness.” Her sister-in-law, Reta Krider, also just enjoyed a birthday. It is a joy to see families celebrate each other.

A thoughtful Champion from up Tar Button Road shares a good thought from her daughter concerning internet behavior: “Post wisely over the next months. Contribute to discourse, not division. Check your facts. Resist memes and cheap digs. Create beautiful content. We can transcend the bitterness and be better, even when we disagree.” A Champion living now in Springfield, seconds that message. From a prominent Champion Spouse comes a thought to ponder: “There will always be a ‘lie’ in believe, an ‘over’ in lover, an ‘end’ in friend, an ‘us’ in trust, and an ‘if ’in life!” Another Old Champion thinks about the advice, “take a sad song and make it better.”

Was it a mistake to name Wilbur? If he is the critter eating the sweet potato plants he might have to go. It might be easy enough to ‘4-10’ him out of his tree, but maybe deer are feasting on the succulent sweet potato foliage. A deterrent has been placed over the sweet potato patch, so time will tell. Hopes are that Wilbur is innocent.

Some good advice comes from a postal worker in Texas. He has been with the USPS for 27 years and says the thing we can do as individuals to insure our mail moves quickly is to use the full nine digit zip code as you address your mail and to make it big and bold. So, if you can solve the mystery of who painted Mary’s milk can, or if you have histories or suggestions to share, or inquiries, address them to: The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717-9446. Be sure to include your nine digits on your return address to make it easier for your correspondents to speed your important mail to you. It may take some learning and adjusting to make this a new habit in our routine communications, but learning and adjusting seems to be the mode-o-day. Learning and adjusting is what we are asking of our school administrators, teachers, staff and students as school opens. Good luck to the Skyline Tigers! Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!

The sweet potato patch.

August 20, 2020

CHAMPION—August 17, 2020


Nearby Bears

It was an unusual time in Champion and surrounding areas on Monday morning as residents were not in their second day of recovery from the Skyline VFD Picnic. In years past the post-picnic mantra has been: “Great picnic! Whew!” Sarah Cloud, who has deep Champion connections, lives in Hurricane, Utah. She said she still has glassware that she won in a dime toss at the Skyline VFD Picnic in 1992. “Grandma Bonnie always tried to bring us kids down for it. Sure miss being close enough to drop in.” She is glad to be getting tickets in the mail for the “No 2020 Skyline Picnic Quilt.” It will not be as much fun as the picnic, but she is helping to keep the Skyline VFD going so there can be a 2021 Skyline Picnic.

No 2020 Skyline Picnic Quilt

Joy Ann Coonts Firrell reported “Hurricane in Iowa” and posted pictures of widespread destruction caused by 100mph hurricane-level winds that raged across Iowa and Illinois last week. The governor said that 10 million acres of cropland was damaged, as well as many silos and much other damage. Recovery will take some time. On her next visit to Champion she will have stories to tell about the Derecho. She will be getting some tickets too, just to help her remember her friends and family in Booger County who are wishing her well.

Diane Strickland spent ten years in Michigan, but she is back home in the Ozarks now and living over in West Plains. She makes a trip to Champion now and again just for nostalgia and for closeness with family. She will be interested to know that somewhere within a radius of few miles of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion live multiple black bears. She should have been around Wednesday when The General sang his special version of “The Bear Went Over the Mountain.” His grandsons denied having taught him the song. It’s a good idea to sing when you are out in the wooly woods of deep Central Booger County. Sing out loud and, if you see a bear, try hard not to run.

In a bit of good news, a Champion from Champion-East found the horse that he had thought might have been stolen the night before. “False alarm! There is a swamp on my west border, about half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide. I started at the top and worked south. Visibility was about ten feet between plants and vines. After thirty-five minutes I’m hearing branches snapping and Moe about ran me over and out he went back into our pasture.” He thanked friends, near and far, who had commiserated with him in his loss. They joined him in relief. “I’m getting dumber by the day,” he said, but that could be said of all of us. Banjo player, Steve Martin, just had his 75th birthday. He said, “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.”

A Skyline School alumnus writes in to advocate for kindness. “Imagine,” he said, “if the guys that went to high school with young Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. had only been nice to him, how different he might have turned out.” His class mates at the duPont Manual High School in Louisville Kentucky who grew up together might have been unkind to a newcomer from Athens, Alabama. The girls may have spurned him. Nevertheless, he has become one of the most influential people in the world. One might think that his experience with polio as a young child would have made him compassionate with people who lose their financial security to illness.  He said his family “almost went broke” because of the costs related to his illness.  Well, we do not know what all has happened in his life that has caused him to be the way he is–with all that money and all that influence and still so few good works.  He is only 78, so there is time for him yet.  Bless his heart.

It turns out that it was “The Young and the Restless” that has had the Cowboy’s attention at 11:30 a.m. most weekdays for decades. They have stopped filming now due to the pandemic and have defaulted to old re-runs from years gone by. The Cowboy is aggravated about the whole thing and was spotted in Champion at about 11:30 last Wednesday a little agitated. Agitation is easy these days. A current subject for it might be the lack of broadband internet in rural Douglas County. The White River Valley folks are said to have the money and to have been in the planning for years. Now would be a good time to get it going. Feel free to address other concerns with Senator Blunt at (202) 224-5721, Senator Hawley at (202) 224-6154 and Congressman Smith at (202)225-4404. They appreciate your call.

Call some old friends or neighbors today. You never know whose spirit you might lift. Find out about their gardens and tell them if you have seen bears. Ask them to tell you something for which they are grateful. The answer may be something as simple as wildflowers growing by the garden fence. One Old Champion is grateful that, so far, Wilbur has only been interested in walnuts, pokeberries and oregano.

There is no glory in defeating a weak opponent. The combination of events and circumstances (the virus, bad weather, aggravation, disappointment, isolation, politics, unrequited love, etc.) has produced a ripsnorting humdinger of an opponent. We endeavor to persevere, helping each other in whatever ways we can. Nothing makes a person feel better than helping someone else. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!

Wilbur snacks…


August 13, 2020

CHAMPION–August 10, 2020


Cowboy Jack was heard to say that he heard someone say that the very best time to water the garden is just before sun up. That works a hardship on certain individuals who have become accustomed to a solid eight to ten hours sound sleep between intermittent interruptions. With no cows to milk, no hay to pitch, or chickens to feed or hogs to slop, some Old Champions just get up when they do. Morning has broken. Of course, the Cowboy is a fairly regimented person. Do not attempt to delay his leaving Champion if he is on his way home to his soap opera. Is it “The Days of Our Lives” or “As the World Turns” that has his devotion at precisely 11:00 a.m. each week day? (It turns out, he is a fan of “The Young and The Restless.” He is aggravated now because they are not filming new shows on account of the virus, so they are going back to the beginning of the program with reruns. He came to Champion about 11:30 on Wednesday!) A local Spoon Virtuosi says she does her watering at night. She is the fan of the Roma tomato, for which her esteemed grandfather, on account of their configuration, had a comical bovine anatomical term. They are ripening and that makes her happy which benefits the rest of us on account of her beaming smile. It is contagious.

Almartha’s Bard has gained new favor on account of his infrequent appearances and altered costume. He missed the music of the porch jam because, he said, Lena Bell has moved their scrabble game up to 8:00 A.M. on Wednesday mornings from 7:30 and that she spends a lot of time thumbing through the dictionary trying to beat him. He said her Fiddler had been going to the barber shop for a little while, but once the number of Covid cases began rising in the county, there are 100 now; he is mostly hanging out at home. Hopes are that he has learned some new old songs or remembering ones like “Sitting on Top of the World.”

Go to the mailbox for fun if you have distant grandchildren. Go there for your medications and your bills. The kerfuffle over voting by mail may impact this vital service. We can call Senator Blunt at (202) 224-5721, Senator Hawley at (202) 224-6154 and Congressman Smith at (202)225-4404 to suggest to them that the USPS is imperative for rural people. It needs all the support it can get so that old folks can get their medications and newspapers and so that our much appreciated retired old postal carriers can get their pensions. While you are chatting with our representatives, you might inform them that there are 3,865 people in Douglas County (population 13,373 as of 2018) who receive Social Security as old-age people, survivors and people on disability. That is about 30% of us. Efforts to undermine or defund Social Security will not go over well with Ida Mae and her folks.

While you are making phone calls, remember your old friends who may still be sheltering at home for their health and who might be getting lonesome. You might ask them about elderberries. They are ripening at a ferocious rate. While they are tedious to stem for processing, they are said to have medicinal properties supporting the immune system against the flu and common colds. There are good recipes for elderberry syrup that include ginger, cinnamon and cloves as well as honey or sugar. Your old friends have great storehouses of information to share. Just ask them. One might tell you about Abby and Martha Brewster, a couple of old maids, who had a special recipe for elderberry wine. It is too late now for elderflower fritters, but think about them for next spring. They are a favorite of a favorite nephew.

The recent wonderful rains have made weeding a delight. Why, the weeds fairly jump up into your hand. Even The General has had unusually good success with his garden this year. He says he has tomatoes enough to give away. He attributes this success to having watered the plants during the dry periods. Fall garden crops that can be planted now include beans, beets, spinach and turnips. The Missouri Botanical Garden folks say that spinach may germinate better if the seeds are refrigerated for a week before planting. Popeye the Sailor was often pit against formidable adversaries and was always able to prevail on account of spinach.

The No-Skyline-Picnic-Quilt is getting some good action down at Henson’s G & G in Champion and on The Champion News Facebook page. Distant Champions are receiving tickets and return envelopes in the mail. It will be a surprise to many, but we have until October 1st to generate some much needed revenue for our wonderful volunteer fire department. Some folks are just stopping in the store to donate the dollars they had in their budget for the picnic. Keep a bright hope for better times ahead and take a drive down our beautiful country lanes and out through the amazing country side for a reminder of our good fortune to be Champions! Looking on the Bright Side.


August 7, 2020

CHAMPION–August 3, 2020



Quatrefoil Quilt

The Champion School Reunion has been cancelled for this year.  It has been held on the Saturday before Labor Day for at least 36 years.  Some local old-time Champion may know exactly what year it was started.  This is the first year it will have been cancelled.  The growing number of Covid cases in rural areas and the age of most attendees make this a wise move for this year.  Next year will surely be a different story.  Scroll through the archives here to see past reunions and keep a bright hope for better times ahead.

Connie Freeman and her quilt-guild friends have made many donations to Veterans through their Quilts of Valor program and to other worthy causes over the years.  The Knights of Columbus auctions off one of her quilts every year.  The one she has graciously donated to the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department is a real king size beauty.  The pattern is called Quatrefoil and it is worked in pastel shades of green and blue, made to last.  Her studio is in her lovely home in a remote part of Douglas County.  She is happy to have the volunteers, fire fighters and first responders, of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department looking out for her, her home and her property.  She may hear “You Can Quilt That Out” from some of her clients—she does good work.  Go down to the wide, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek and view her contribution in the Meeting Room of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion.  When we think of picnic quilts we are reminded of Esther Wrinkles, one of the founding members of the fire department.  She made many for the fire department and always endeavored to sell more tickets than anyone.  A local banker laughed and said any time he saw Esther coming in early August, he reached for his wallet.  Tickets are $1.00 each or 6 tickets for $5.00.  You can send a check to the Skyline VFD, Rt. 72 Box 254, Norwood, MO. 65717 and Betty will fill out your tickets for you.  Or, you can share your mailing address at and we will mail you tickets and a photo of the quilt.  If you live far away, we will ship the quilt to you when you win on October 1st.  Good luck and thanks for supporting our vital fire department.

August has arrived in a delightful way with rain and break from the withering heat.  The heat will be back and may seem more belligerent for the respite, but as Chief George said in The Outlaw Jose Wales, we will “endeavor to persevere.”  Entertainment in the canning kitchen has included a variety of old cowboy movies together with some lofty theatrical productions like Sir Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.  Mel Gibson did a quite rite version of the play as well.  It was said to be the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.  As tomatoes and pickles went into the jars, that speech about the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” spoke to our current state of affairs.  If opposing the sea of troubles can really end them, there is hope that these tumultuous times may evolve into better days for everyone.  Sometimes it is hard to find beauty in the storm.  A noted local counselor is worried about November.  He says we have never had violence around an election even through wars, pandemics and depressions.  The level of vitriol is unprecedented.  Local contests have been decided and now we know who loves the king more.  Meanwhile, the ‘pop,’ as the jars seal, incites optimism.  Lincoln’s optimism was that “with malice toward none and charity toward all,” we bind our wounds.  Henry Fonda did an excellent performance as Lincoln in John Ford’s movie Young Mr. Lincoln.  So far, there are forty of jars of tomatoes and sauce in the pantry and more in the pot.  Excellent!

The internet has been graced in the past few days with many pictures of Amaryllis Belladonna.  That is the botanical name of what is known in these parts as the Surprise Lily or Naked Ladies.  It is a wildflower in South Africa, leafless on naked stems which give the Ladies long legs.  Sometimes driving down a shady country lane there survives a lonely reminder of a garden and a home-place where some homemaker, now gone on to a better home, planted bulbs shared by a friend.  There are Iris gone wild now up on Cold Springs Road, and day lilies transported down the road by the road grader.  In the spring old home places are marked with daffodils, forsythia, narcissus and lilacs.  The endurance of nature is comforting as we think about the old folks at home.

Did Jonnie actually tree Wilbur, or was it just a coincidence?  Are there enough butterflies in your garden?  On top of all the difficulties going on in the world, many are suffering through terrible storms.  Neither the weather nor the pandemic nor political strife is a respecter of persons.  We will hope for the safety and health of our friends, our families and all our fellow humans.  We are full of gratitude and optimism in Champion, Looking on the Bright Side!


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  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

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 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