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Infrequent visitors to Champion are in for a surprise.  It will shock and sadden some to see that the ancient tree that served as home plate for ball players now in their nineties is suddenly a stump.  Granted, it is a 35 foot tall stump and the bees seem safe inside.  Chances are that it will have sprouted out by summertime to be a curious looking tree—a shrub on an enormous tall trunk.  Time will tell.  Its lean toward the old school building seemed more precarious in light of the flood of early August, 2013, and recent high winds.   September’s school reunion attendees might need to bring parasols if they want shade.   “The only constant is change,” says one.  Getting used to it might take some time.

Wesley’s Mom, Trish, will have her birthday on the 17th.  Pete Proctor will celebrate on the 18th.  His Mother, dear Champion Ruby Hicks Proctor, was born February 19, 1925. She had stories to tell about playing ball under that old tree.  At her last school reunion she named the girl who let go of the bat that hit her in the face one time.  She got over it and had a beautiful sweet smile.    Joanna Bell will be smiling on her birthday on the 21st.  Drayson and Carson Cline may help their Mom celebrate on the 24th.  That is the special day for Morell enthusiast, Judi Pennington, as well, and the next day is given over to celebrating Texas Ella Mae and Arne, the big Swedish Indian gardener of Farmer’s Market fame.  Happy days, all!

The nurse did not get much business on her last trip to Champion.  There were colds and flu keeping people home around the fire.  She will be here on Tuesday the 24th, the last Tuesday of the month, helping to keep Champions healthy.  Her name is Angela Souder and she works for the Douglas County Health Department.  She sets up her station in the meeting room of Henson’s Grocery and Gas from 9:00 to 11:00 A.M. with her blood pressure checking equipment, her body mass index machine and the lung age test apparatus.  Now she is also doing blood sugar testing.  Angela, with her good humor and pleasant demeanor is providing a real gift to the community.

Valentine’s Day found one of Champion’s sweethearts out for a ride in his new bright orange RTV.  It is diesel powered all-wheel drive and has a dump bed.  It is about the cutest thing you ever saw.  It has a steel cab with doors, windshields, heat and air.  Elmer Banks and his son, Craig, brought it out on its maiden voyage to Champion to pick up some feed and to have a celebratory ice cream sandwich.  There will soon be a new set of ruts in the road and his friends will always be glad to see him coming.

The Skyline Auxiliary had its pre-chili supper meeting at the store on Wednesday evening.   They are busy finalizing and refining plans for the big event.  It is everyone’s hope that snow will be history by then and that cabin fever will have the whole community ready for good food, good music and good fellowship all in support of the wonderful rural volunteer fire department.  The Skyline VFD is the reason homeowners are able to have insurance, and the reason that a serious health issue or an accident at home or on the road will get the speedy attention of trained first responders.  It is a little fire department, but a big part of the community.  Ticket sales have been brisk for the drawing for the garden bench and fire pit.  Pie pans are being readied and the excitement is building.  Set aside March 7th for a good time.  Backyard Bluegrass, The Lead Hill Players and Whetstone will be providing the music and Steve Moody will keep the fun moving along with his genial, good humor.

Not everyone watches television.  Those who do are likely to have seen a message put out by the American Petroleum Institute wherein an attractive actress in a conservative business suit walks across a polished floor, pausing in front of charts and graphs that illustrate the point that “safe hydraulic fracturing techniques” are helping us to become energy independent.   The API does not talk about benzene in the Yellowstone River or the total loss of property value in Mayflower, Arkansas.  A local engineer says, “Pipelines are mechanical things.  Mechanical things break.   It is a given.”  So far the brave Native Americans and property owners of Nebraska have prevailed in a State Supreme Court ruling that says land seizures under eminent domain are unconstitutional if for the purpose of private gain.  It is a widely accepted fact that the Keystone Pipeline will provide fewer than 50 permanent jobs and the nasty Canadian tar-sands oil is to be sold to China after passing over the pristine Ogallala Aquafer that provides drinking water to millions of people, plants and animals in a broad area of the Midwestern United states.    The person you love is 72.8% water.

Skyline School’s Lannie Hinote posed congratulations to individual placements in the Rogersville Cupid Shoot Archery Tournament on Valentine’s Day.  Gavin Sartor took fifth place, Shaelyn Sarginson took 4th place and Dylan Ford, eighth place in Middle School.   Levi Hicks took second place and Wyatt Hicks fifth place in the Elementary Division.  They are Champion competitors with a Champion coach.

A good thing happened for our Veterans this last week with the signing of the Clay Hunt Act into law.  It requires collaboration on suicide prevention efforts between the Veteran’s Administration and non-profit mental health organizations.  Clay Hunt was a decorated Texas Marine who served with distinction in Iraq and Afghanistan.  He struggled with depression and post-traumatic stress after he came home.  He committed suicide in 2011 at the age of 28.  Deaths by suicide appear to be increasing across Missouri.  It costs more lives that homicides and DWI accidents combined.   The Southeast Missourian reports that Missouri had a suicide rate of 15.9 persons per 100,000 in 2012. The national average is 13 suicides per 100,000 people.  They did not say how many of those were Veterans.   It is hard to know what is going on with another person just by looking at them.  Despair can masquerade in a variety of ways.  Exclusion, particularly, is a lonesome, hard, sad feeling.   Be the friend you would like to have toward all your friends and especially those who have sacrificed at the behest of the Nation.

Look for some pictures at www.championnews.us to see the tallest stump in Champion and Elmer’s tiny pick up.  Come on down to the Recreation of the Historic Emporium on the wide, wild and wooly banks of Old Fox Creek if you’ve got your snow shoes on–it looks 10 inches deep on Monday morning.   “I bless that happy day when Nelly lost her way and I found her little foot-prints in the snow” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

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