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Thursday evening was an interesting one in Champion.  Unexplained lights hovering over West Champion blinked intermittently, disappeared and then reappeared.  It was impossible to determine the exact elevation of the lights and they were accompanied by some lightning and an eerie stillness. The phenomenon was first seen by Charlie’s Dad who called Tanna’s Mom who stepped out on the porch to look at it.  It was about seven o’clock.  Later she talked to Peanut’s Pop who said he had seen it too.  So it is official and corroborated by three reliable sources.  UFOs frequent Champion!  By Sunday the excitement had ebbed a little and the old line about tactical maneuvers of stealth bombers was being bandied about with an overtone of skepticism that would dissuade some from their belief in their own eyesight.  These are people who have seen bears!  They know the Bright Side when they are looking at it!

Talking about brightness brings Ms. Clare Shannon to mind.  She is the daughter of Mary Beth and Clark Shannon and grew up over east of Vanzant.    On Friday she will graduate Summa Cum Laude from MSU in Springfield.  Clare is one of the many home schooled kids in the area and her graduating college with “highest honor” for her grade point average is a statement to the dedication of parents who put forth the effort to give her a good start.  Her Dad says it was all her own doing.  Clare says to the many friends and family who have responded to the good news, “Thank you for all the congratulations and well wishes!  You have all been part of my journey and helped me along the way.  Thanks for being there!”  Brooks Blevins of MSU has a nice piece called “The Country Store—In Search of Mercantiles  and Memories in the Ozarks.”  It is included in the magazine, Southern Cultures, Winter 2012, published by the University of North Carolina Press for the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Therein is a splendid view of Henson’s Downtown G & G.  The proprietor of the famous Emporium on the North Side of the Square in Historic Champion says that the piece is quite flattering and fairly accurate.  It promises to be a good read.

Suzie Freeman addresses her envelope to Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  She is from McKinney, Texas writes a beautiful letter that says she and Wesley are still kicking and are still hillbillies in Texas.  Suzie has had a rough year with her health but says that she is still standing on two feet because she had the Good Lord walking beside her.  She has excellent penmanship and is one of the few correspondents to the Champion mailbox who uses a genuine fountain pen.  Her cute hand-drawn cartoon shows a turkey complaining that he is fat, flightless and delicious.  Your Champion friends say, “Merry Christmas!” back at you, Suzie.

During the past year a number of photos have come to the mailbox.  One of them was of about a half a dozen young folks on the steps of the Denlow School.  They looked to be teenagers—17, 18,19—years old, well dressed and kind of serious.  They may have been serious because in 1912, it was a serious matter to have a photograph taken.  The photo had the inscription, “Denlow 12-12-12” written across the bottom of it.  Somewhere in a cyber-folder is this great picture that was slated to be published this week just for the fun of it.  The plan was to see who might recognize a grandparent or other ancestor among the group and to tell as much of their stories as could be discerned.  One day the picture will emerge from its hiding place and all of that will occur.  For now some Champions and others are just celebrating the date 12-12-12 with open house parties and the acknowledgement that the date will most likely be the last of its kind in this lifetime.  Naturally, that is true of every date, but something about the repetitive numbers makes this one seem special.    Some special people have birthdays on the 14th.  Shannon Alexander, photographer extraordinaire, handsome father of Ethan and Zack, shares his day with Judy T. Ing.  She was also a great photographer and graphic artist.  She ran the art department at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Research Lab for many years.  She and Shannon have Spike Jones as a birthday buddy.  People much older than Shannon know old Spike as the musician who introduced the slide whistle, the gargle, and the bicycle horn to classical music.  Amanda Mastin celebrates her day on the 16th, good friend of Shannon’s wife and  the mother of Olivia and Leo, charming young people who are growing up quickly.  Grown up, Jesse Ing, Judy’s son, is a big time Hollywood producer out in California these days.  His birthday is on the 18th of December.  Mary Goolsby has a birthday on the 20th.  She is a lovely woman, who has been a dear friend to the Skyline VFD and to all the dear friends of her sweetheart, Bob Berry, formerly of Gentryville.    They are a lovely pair of Champions wherever they live!

Bob has been a frequent visitor of Esther Wrinkles during her sojourn at the Autumn Oakes in Mountain Grove.  She was surprised happily the other day by a visit from Foster and Kalyssa Wiseman who were in town with their Mother that day.  Esther is making good progress with her therapy, but for an active person like herself, it seems much too slow.  Her many friends wish her well and encourage her to be as patient with herself as she has been with them over the years.  Friends like Esther are a real gift.

Old Uncle Grover Norquest may be surprised to see how many rat heads are in his Coke bottles these days.  That is to say, how many who signed his pledge are now rethinking it.  It is an amazing thing that words can lift people, encourage them, build them up and make them better, stronger and more successful.  Words can also denigrate, undermine and tear down.  While some may think that Pollyanna herself was a communist, and that relentless optimism is naive and childish, there are others here to say that at moments when things are most perilous, a positive word can make the difference.  So to the troops who fought and who fight, Champions extend their Gratitude.  To elected officials, officers of the government, supporters of the Constitution and the wonderful Bill of Rights, Champions will be pleased to see that their mutual Love for the Country will win out over partisan rancor.  God Bless America!

“God bless us every one,” says Tiny Tim in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  The staff of the Public Radio Station KZ88.1 FM will present a dramatic reading of the play on Saturday, December 15th at the Cabool Church of the Brethren.  Refreshments will be served at 6 pm and the performance will be at seven.  The auditorium in the basement of the church will hold quite a large crowd and it will prove to be most interesting to see how live radio works.  For any who will not be able to attend, the program will be recorded and broadcast again before Christmas.  Champions who do not enjoy driving at night much these days are planning to go en masse for safety’s sake as well as for the fun of it.  “Where there is a will there is a way,” they say.  For more information about this special holiday performance look to for a link to My KZ88 Radio Home.    This is a wonderfully busy time of the year. The Skyline School’s Winter Concert will be Thursday evening at 7 p.m.  YEP is providing a dinner earlier in the evening designed to help support the school and it is slated to be another excellent event.

Cowboy Jack said that Ava got a lot more of the rain than came down over in Coonts Holler.  It was a lot colder over there in Ava on Monday morning too, as their deep mud puddles were full and frozen over.  They also say, “Whenever skies are gray, don’t worry or fret a smile will bring the sunshine and you’ll never get wet.   So, let a smile be your umbrella on a rainy, rainy, day.”   That is just the way it is in beautiful downtown Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

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