Every season has its charm in Champion. Currently, farmers and gardeners are dealing with the unusual weather, trying to get their hay in and fight the blight on tomato plants from too much rain and not enough sun. “Dry heat” is a fiction in these parts. Around here ‘steamy’ goes with ‘hot’ like ‘dogs’ does—awkward language notwithstanding. There is plenty of language, awkward and otherwise, in those intervals between hard work, as agrarians gather for a schmooze on the spacious veranda.
Vanzantians are most likely resting up from their wildly successful picnic on Friday and Saturday. (The General is away from his phone.) The weather could not have been better and attendance was excellent. The big old yellow moon hanging in the sky added to the magic of the event, full of music, laughter, fun and games. The food was good and the flood of familiar faces was just fine. It is nice to see old friends and acquaintances, if just during this festival time of the year. Many of the same bunch will be looking forward to the Skyline Picnic next month and the beat goes on. Every week end will feature some area happening and a person could keep his social calendar full with little effort. It was great to see Bob Berry and Mary Goolsby back in the neighborhood. They are enjoying summertime and still take the Studebaker out for a spin from time to time. Their Champion friends will be glad when they have re-relocated back to the area.
Sometimes in the summer the countryside around Champion seems to pulsate with the resonating sounds of haying equipment. Sound is curious in this part of the world as it moves mysteriously up hollows and around hills. Sometimes, when the air currents are just right, or very still, people in near North Champion can hear the train rumbling through Norwood. A house on the side of a hill can act almost as an ear magnifying the sound of distant machinery that turns quiet when a person steps outside to locate it. In the early spring, a disembodied conversation from over the hill might be as clear as a bell and yet a child twenty yards away can be deaf as a post when admonished by parent or grand to, “Quit teasing that cat!” or “Come in and clean-up for supper!” Children are as mysterious as sound. One of the new tyrannies that old folks are experiencing is the conscious lowering of volume so that the interesting thing is being said just below the hearing range of the interested old person. Who would ever have thought that a child could be too quiet? It might be considered passive aggressive behavior much like the chronically shy person seems to get extra attention to be drawn out, to be begged to participate. The ‘confidential’ tone in an aside, speaking to oneself, is a way to make cryptic remarks pertinent to the conversation that are somehow otherwise inappropriate, kind of a back door communication. The voice in volume and tone, a terrific tool, can say more than words. “Those with an ear to hear …” might find solace in music.
Charlie Haden has passed away. He was 76 years old. He started his music career as Cowboy Charley, a yodeling toddler, with the Haden Family Band, often playing on The Ozark’s Jubilee. His older brother taught him how to play the bass and as his voice was affected by a bout of polio in his youth he became more proficient with his instrument. He became one of the most influential bassists in the history of jazz. He played with all the jazz greats of his time and was recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2012. He received a lifetime achievement honor at last year’s Grammy Awards. He said, “The beauty of it is that this music is from the earth of the country, the old hillbilly music, along with gospels and spirituals and jazz.” Haden has cousins and other family over in Smallette, out in South Fulton, Tennessee (Hello, Darrell), and over in Nowata, Oklahoma (Hello, Ethel). He has admirers all over the world.
Myrtle Harris has an open book that says, “Welcome to my garden. My flowers want to see you.” The book is a concrete statue in one of her many flower beds and her garden is delightful. Tall ‘tree-lilies’ and phlox in standard purple and unusual pinks, stand with day lilies in brilliant yellow and reds, dinner plate hibiscus, white with red centers and the huge deep red ones. Begonias, geraniums dianthus, impatiens, marigolds and more are showcased against a deep bed of mulch. Myrtle has an eye for color and design. It is a joy to stroll around her garden. She is full of plans about what will be transplanted where and how to keep some color going all season. Visitors are amazed at the effort and energy that have gone into planning and maintaining this stunning garden/park with the many sculptures and unusual stones placed just so among the flowers. Myrtle is a transplant herself from Connecticut, but has had the Ozarks as her home since the mid-1970’s. She claims to have the best neighbors in the world. The neighbors can say the same.
A mistake is a good reason to revisit a subject. That handmade cedar chest on display down at Henson’s Grocery and Gas is not white oak lined with cedar as has been reported here. It is red oak lined with cedar. What a prize this will be for some lucky winner at the Skyline VFD Picnic in August! It will be one of those family heirlooms that may cause some jealousy some day when one inherits it and another does not. Families will have to work those things out for themselves, but whoever is in possession of this exquisite chest will know that their precious items inside are protected from dust, light, insects, and prying eyes. The eye will simply stop at the chest (as so often happens, even in polite society). Meanwhile, plans are coming together nicely for the Skyline Picnic and a meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Wednesday, the 24th, up at the Fire House/Picnic Grounds to get a start on all the things that need doing. Everyone is welcome to attend and help out. Bring your gloves and your enthusiasm. There will be cold drinking water on site.
Lazy summer afternoons find the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square a favorite spot to loiter for a spell while things cool off. Lee Ray was heard to say something to the effect that he had “got his wish” having said a while back that he would a site rather have been beat by a hundred than by the close score of a recent scrabble game with his sister. She has subsequently trounced him roundly and soundly and he claims to be ‘way down in the dumps and depressed’ about it, but hardly anyone believes it. He has a twinkle in his eye that belies most seriousness. In that respect he reminds a person of The General Himself. They both bring to mind that Kris Kristofferson song, “he’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction…” Submit your lazy summer songs and poetry or find out how to get tickets for that cedar chest at [email protected] or by snail mail at The Champion News, Rt. 72, Box 367, Norwood, Mo 65717. Bring your truth and your fiction down to the wide, wild, and wooly banks of Old Fox Creek, take all the right directions to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!