Champions are conscious that just a few hours’ drive west the tornado damage in Oklahoma has wrecked homes and lives.  Many have friends and family out there and hopes are that recovery is swift and strong.  It is hard to find the bright side of a tragedy such as this, but there have been a few.  Long lost and estranged siblings and other family members are reaching out to each other to verify their safety and to reconnect.  The squabbles, tiffs and misunderstandings that loosened the ties that bind somehow seem so much less important in the big picture.  In peril, families draw close.  Champion!

Memorial Day celebrations are of the old fashioned kind in these parts.  People gather at the country cemeteries for religious services and dinner on the grounds.  Graves are decorated as dear ones who have passed away are remembered, and dear ones present are enjoyed and appreciated in sweet fellowship.  For some it is a marathon as their roots are so spread through the area.  For Americans everywhere it is a good time to pause to express Love and Gratitude.

Miss Alexandra Jean will be having her birthday on the 31st of May.  She will be seven years old!  She lives in Texas and will be coming with her sister, Zoey Louise, to visit her grandparents as soon as school is out there.  It looks like there will be lots of nice things in the garden for them to pick and that it may be warm enough for a trip to the creek.  Everyone is getting excited.  There will be some good days for planting root crops while they are in Champion and a good chance for some little city girls to get very dirty.  Linda’s Almanac will help.  Find a copy of it on the bulletin board at Henson’s Downtown Grocery and Gas, up at The Plant Place in Norwood, and on line at www.championnewsus.  Another Texan and fine gardener, who lives over west of Ava will celebrate his birthday on the second of June.  His age has not been disclosed, but since some Champions have known him for close to 40 years and he was a grown man when they met, it is figured that he is getting up there.  Happy birthday to him and to Alex and to everyone who wakes up again happy to be alive.  Every day is a cause for celebration in Champion.

It was good to see Wilma Hutchison’s photographs of Bud’s Champion trail ride.  It looks like those folks had a good time out on the trail.  Larry McFall is a fellow who lives over in Marshfield and has ties to the Denlow community that makes him want to move over this way.  He has a couple of horses so he is looking for ten or so acres to keep them and he might get acquainted with Bud and some of his cronies to enjoy the many trail rides in the area.  Someone said he plays the dobro, so he will fit right in this part of the world.

There is a sad tale to tell.  Jerry Wagner has lost his fiddles.  He and Lena returned home Friday from a bluegrass festival up in Curryville, MO.  They parked the RV down in the lower drive this time because they had a car hauler attached to the back of it.  Ordinarily they would have parked up by the house.  No sooner had they got in the house than they looked out and saw black smoke coming out of the RV.  Jerry got back down there but could not get the fire out with the garden hose.  He managed to get the car unhooked before the whole RV erupted in flames.  Lena called the fire department and they came out and extinguished the fire.  Of course, the good thing is that Lena and Jerry are OK.  They were lucky not to have parked up at the house where the fire might have spread to their home.  They have found a number of reasons to be grateful.  But oh!–that beautiful old fiddle!  It had been a gift from an old family friend who had no children to pass it along to and it was a beauty.  They guess it to have been every bit of 150 years old.  It had a sweet sound and Lena said it was easy to play.  The music community is tight knit here and Billy Hicks let Jerry know he would have him a fiddle in short order.  He got together with Bill Conley who sent two fiddles over for Jerry to try.  He had a gig on Saturday afternoon playing for an alumni banquet over in West Plains, so he must have found one useable.  Maybe the perfect one will fall into his hands one of these days the way he fell through the ceiling for Lena back in Kansas City all those years ago.  The two of them had grown up around these parts but were not acquainted.  Jerry went to school in Mountain Grove, and Lena went to school in Almartha and then Ava, but was a farm girl home milking morning and evening and did not get out very much.  She was the middle one of eleven children and worked in Gainesville in a one person telephone office for a year after she graduated from high school.  Then she moved to Kansas City with a couple of girls and worked there.  That’s where she met Jerry and the rest is pretty much history.  Her baby brother, Lee Ray, still lives in Almartha but is a frequent visitor to Champion.  Lena indicated that he is spoiled, but they would not have it any other way.  He has a very pleasant disposition and a lovely smile and so does his sister.  Jerry might be a little slow getting his smile back, but his many friends and musical acquaintances will help him.    In England in 1720, J. Roberts wrote, “ Ballad Upon a Gentleman’s Sitting upon the Lady W’s Cremona Fiddle.”  “This Fiddle of Fiddles, when it came to be try’d, was as sweet as a Lark and as soft as a Bride.   This Fiddle to see, and its Musick to hear, gave Delight to the Eye, while it ravisht the Ear.”  Well, Roberts goes on to say what all he hoped would happen to that part of the oaf which sat on the fiddle.  Champion friends are glad there is no one to blame for the loss and will just be pleased that the music is in the man.  It will find a way to get out.

Get out on the spacious veranda at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium and visit with Lee Ray, or sing, “Uncle Pen played the fiddle, how he made it ring.  You could hear it talk.  You could hear it sing.” In Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!