Champion rain gauges are full.  Rain barrels and stock ponds and tanks are full.  Sump pumps are emptying cellars.    On Monday morning some people are marooned.   It is a pleasant set of circumstances to know the water table is rising.  The electric power in the country has been steady and if there are complaints no one is willing to voice them.  Rather, the talk is full of comparisons with last summer when the scant inch of rain that finally fell had Champions feeling that they had a reprieve.  It was as if they had been pardoned or had found amnesty or sanctuary from the heat and the oppressive prospect of no-end-in-sight to the brutality of summer.  Every dry spell in history has ended in a shower.  There was a question last year about whether Champions would remember the parched conditions prevailing then when the creeks were too deep to ford as they are this soggy Monday.    Yes.  Clever, resilient postal carriers develop alternate routes for the mail and all is well, if wet.

Marilyn Alms emails that she is sending a check for quilt tickets, thinking that she may not be able to attend the Skyline Picnic, though she would like to.  She had sent an inquiry earlier about the picture she had seen in the paper.  She said, “Regardless of winning the quilt, I want to support the Skyline VFD.  These organizations are invaluable to our communities.  Where I work at Ava City Hall, I hear them on the scanner (and the other volunteers) responding to all sorts of need for help—fires, accidents, medical emergency.  I really admire the people who give their time and effort to these fire departments. “   From over in Wichita, Kansas Bonna Mullens also sent a check for quilt tickets with the focus really being on supporting the fire department that protects so many people she loves and cares about.

Brian Haggerty was a delightful young man from Port Clinton, Ohio.  He grew up right on Lake Erie.  He was 23 when he died in an accident in 1976.  Brian seemed to have wisdom beyond his years.  He had a warm and generous smile a kindness about him that was most appealing.  His philosophy was, “Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you.”   Nick and Judi over on Tar Button Road had a visit with a bear last Monday.  The big fellow walked right through their yard, right by the kitchen window and then on down the hill headed south east.  The Conservation agent said that since it did not have a tag or a collar, it might be new to the area, maybe just passing through.   Nick and Judi live more than a mile from the pavement on the East, two miles on the South and to the North and West it is many miles to any kind of major roadway.   Certainly the area is occupied, just not very densely by people and so there is room for bears.  It was just last year that Esther Wrinkles over on 95 Highway had a bear up a tree in her yard.  Wes and Pat Smith over in near Champion West have seen bears in their blackberry patch and Taegan’s Grammie has, on more than one occasion,  seen bears at a distance on their considerable family land holdings in Champion.  Champions never tire of living on the edge of the wilderness where wild things flourish.  The Conservation agent says not to be afraid of the bears, just to make a lot of noise if you think one is near.  They also appreciate reports of sightings as they are charged with conserving and protecting wildlife.

The new normal for weather seems to be ‘strange.’  One old guy said that it would take another ice-age to get rid of the chiggers and the ticks from this part of the world.   His friend replied that he considers them to be the first line of defense against land speculators, saying that without this built in deterrent even more big land grabbers would be coming to the Ozarks to buy up property and sell it at bloated prices to refugees from the coasts and deserts.  It has happened in other places where an influx of population caused municipalities, school districts, counties and other authorities to have to levee such magnified taxes that old timers could not afford to pay their assessments and were then in jeopardy of losing ancestral lands.  The ratio between ticks and chiggers and tax rates might be a study worthy of some hillbilly economics issertation.   Champions will leave it to the academics and for themselves will just enjoy the strange, cool, wet weather and scratch a little.

Summer picnics and festivals tax local merchants who are set upon by representatives of every organization to contribute goods and services for the benefit of their various causes.  While the economy struggles, merchants still generously give.  It is not just good business; it is a key element to a strong community.  The area is about to be strengthened by an onslaught of Upshaws.  They are headed this way from Alaska and Idaho having timed their trip specifically to be able to attend the Skyline VFD Picnic.  The General will probably head up the welcoming committee and will perform bell-hop duties for Chateau Upshaw for the duration of the family visit.  Welcome!

“Oh the night was dark and stormy; the air was full of sleet.  The old man stepped out in the yard, and his shoes were full of feet!”  Meet up with your friends and neighbors over at the Skyline VFD Picnic on Friday and Saturday to sing the chorus.  Some of the best singers and happiest people at the picnic will be Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!