EDINBVRGH—May 5, 2014
There are things about the beautiful old city that will linger in the heart of a rambler who will soon rest again in the tranquility of home. In the last few days, the last few hours as the time for parting approaches a rising swell of emotion is almost too near the surface. The plan is to stave it off and stay merry until the transatlantic flight has left the ground and then to let it go quietly in the privacy afforded by strangers. The charm of the place is in its physical beauty and its deep history, but the real joy, apart from the precious family tie, has been the great number of kind, good people whose paths have crossed with those of Champions.
Giovanni Caiaiti is a young Roman in his late twenties who was in “The Athens of the North” for the first time. He took a turn in the open session at The Royal Oak and sang “Irene Goodnight” in a medley of familiar songs that fit well together. (He graciously extended his sympathies to America for having lost one of its treasures in the person of the late Pete Seeger.) It turns out that young Romans started coming to Scotland in the year AD 71. They named the place Caledonia and it was beyond the frontier of the empire. They departed in 213 leaving various aqueducts, Hadrian’s Wall and the gift of literacy. Scotland had been inhabited for thousands of years before the Romans arrived but its first written history seems to have come as a result of the association. (There are yet some marvelous Italian Restaurants in the city.) Chances are pretty good that when Giovanni’s predecessors were touring Caledonia they were met by the predecessors of Mr. Stefano Aitkenhead. Aitkenhead is a Scots language surname of medieval Scottish origin. Its oldest public record dates it back to 1372. Anyway, “Stef” is a great fan of Texas music and goes often to spend time there in Bandera, Texas. “Celtexmusic” is his moniker. He looks the part of a well healed country/western musician in his fine Stetson hat, but when he opens his mouth, he is all Scots and charming.
Champion grandchildren, Seamus, Elizabeth, and Zac have a great Aunt Linda who lives in Waldo. She has her birthday on the 6th of May and most likely has had some nice cards and messages sent her way. Gracie Nava is a kindergarten student at Skyline with a birthday on the 7th. Skyline bookkeeper, Dixie Pierson, celebrates the next day on the 8th and preschooler Conner Jonas will have his party on the 12th of May. Jay and Alex Williams have their birthdays on the 7th and the 12th and they have Champion grandparents.
Lannie Hinote keeps her facebook friends and neighbors up to date with much of what is going on at Skyline. On May 2nd she posted, “Congratulations to the Skyline Archery Team today at taking 2nd Place. We had 27 archers competing. Morgan Whitacre placed 1st in Middle School Female Division; Madison Shearer placed 2nd in Elementary Female Division; Shaelyn Sarginson placed 3rd in the Elementary Female Division and Isaam Creed placed 2nd in the Elementary Male Division. I am so proud of all 27 archers.” She was also appreciative of Rachael Brown, Debra Shearer, Morgan Whitacre, Skyla Boyd and Waylin Moon for running the archery range. She said they made the tournament a success. Lannie also posted a great picture of herself holding up a good size fish (probably five pounds!) She was out in Warsaw. Some nice Ozark creek was the scene of some “perpetual series of occasions for hope” (John Buchanan) when Dean Brixey and Richard Johnston dangled their hooks in the water. Elizabeth says they did not catch anything, but that they had a great day out together anyway. It is easy to have a great day in a beautiful place. Linda’s Almanac from up at The Plant Place in Norwood says the 6th to the 10th will be barren days. The 11th, 12th and 13th will be an excellent time for planting tomatoes, beans, peppers, corn, cotton and other above-ground crops. The 14th will be good for carrots, beets, onions, turnips and other root crops. All the good planting days are good for transplanting. The garden is out there waiting for watering and weeding. The sun is shining and food is growing. Champion!
One of the best known stories in recent Scots history has to do with a little Skye terrier named Bobby. He was a shaggy little dog that belonged to John Gray. Mr. Gray worked for the Edinburgh City Police as a night watchman. When he died he was buried in Grayfriar’s Kirkyard in the Old Town of Edinburgh. Bobby then became known locally, spending the rest of his life sitting on his master’s grave. In 1867, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Sir William Chambers, who was also a director of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, paid for Bobby’s license and gave the dog a collar, now in the Museum of Edinburgh. Bobby is said to have sat by the grave for 14 years. He was fed by a kindly inn keeper. He died in 1872 and was buried just inside the gate not far from John Gray’s grave. Some say this is a ‘shaggy dog’ story that was concocted as a Victorian publicity stunt. A bronze statue of Bobby is outside the church yard gate and passersby often stop to rub Bobby’s nose for good luck. This is a fairly recent ‘tradition’ probably associated with touching the philosopher Hume’s toe up on the Royal Mile. Last year the City Council of Edinburgh had the statue restored and repainted since Bobby’s nose was showing up shiny brass from under the black paint. Soon after the restoration was complete some vandal came in the middle of the night with and abrasive of some sort and took the paint off the nose. People are anxious to maintain traditions no matter how new they may be.
Toby was Ed Henson’s dog. It is widely recalled that George Tom Proctor would go down to the store most days and while visiting there would enjoy a box of chocolate milk. Toby would sit down beside George Tom and wait to get to finish the milk from the bottom of the carton. Bring your own set of recollections down to the Historic Emporium over on the North Side of the Square on the broad banks of Old Fox Creek. New traditions are being invented every day. Dorothy, herself, in the” Wizard of Oz” was talking to her little dog, Toto, when she said; “There’s no place like home!” The sights and sounds of faraway lands are truly grand, but home is Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!