“May your horse never stumble; may your cinch never break; may your belly never grumble; may your heart never ache.” Such is the cowboy’s birthday wish to his compadres and to all his folks. Such like is also the wish of the great grateful citizenry and lovers of The United States of America on the occasion of our 241st birthday. Huzzah! Giggle-box Susan Dempsey celebrated her day on July 2nd. She puts good energy into reawakening the life-giving power of joy through laughter and play. She and her volunteer group of gigglers spend time with the children at Mercy Children’s Hospital and with seniors and people at risk. They improve lives. Second grade Skyline student, Jacob Shannon, has his big day on the 10th. Seventh graders, Isabel Creed and Wyatt Hicks, have their great days on the 12th and the 13th. The 13th is also the birthday of Champion great niece and Austinite, Sophia Zappler, who will be 15 on the 13th. Zachary Coon will be a 6th grader at Skyline and has his birthday is on the 15th. July is an exciting time of the year and everybody gets to join in with the National Birthday Celebration with birthday cakes, picnics, fireworks, watermelons and swimming holes. Happy Birthday, dear America! Happy birthday to us!

The 30th annual Starvy Creek Bluegrass Festival was augmented by a few of the regulars from the Vanzant Jam last Thursday. Doubtlessly they had a wonderful time over the week end. Meanwhile, the Thursday jam was augmented by some infrequent, but much welcome musicians, so, as usual, a good time was had by all. The General, officiating before the pot luck had begun, informed the crowd that there will be no jam on the 6th of July because the facility will be being prepared for the annual Vanzant Picnic, which will happen on the 7th and the 8th. This will be one of the first local community picnics of the summer social season. There will be music, great food, games (Bingo in the spiffy new Bingo parlor). Proceeds will benefit the Vanzant Community Building and grounds which is the venue for benefits and all kinds of good works in the area. The regular jam will resume on the 13th. Meanwhile the all Acoustic Jam at the Cabool Senior Center will be on schedule 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the 10th. It is getting great reviews. Fiddler, Candi Bartch, says it is a nice place to have a jam…very relaxed and friendly. Everyone is welcome every Monday night.

A Sunday drive to visit old friends brought Champions up on the ridges and dazzled them with great distant vistas. To get to those high ridge roads they started out on country lanes in some places roofed over, tunnel like, with dense foliage. Black-eyed Susans, Queen Anne’s lace, blue chicory, orange butterfly weed, mullein, banks of elderberry flowers, walnut sprouts, golden sumac, the glorious musk thistle and many other blooming things grace the sides of all the roads, gravel and paved. There is not too much red to be seen along the roadsides this time of the year other than green blackberries and the occasional Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket. From here to there, passing the old home place of friends, now gone, brings a rush of memories. On a splendid summer Sunday, it is a gift to reunite with dear old friends and to make new ones. Young Bailey has made her trip back to the country from Portland, Oregon to visit with her chicken friend, Violet, as well as with her grandparents.

The idea of a TigerSwan brings to mind a mythical beast, some chimera, with an odd combination of body parts.  It is actually a private security company that provides Department of Defense compliant, military-grade data and human intelligence to manage risks. The company is part of a fusion of private security, public law enforcement and corporate money in the fight over eminent domain issues across the country particularly related to the extraction industries. It is troubling to think that some company with a profile like that of the infamous Blackwater, employed in the Middle East, is working against individual property owners here in the United States. Corporate profit has usurped individual freedom. It is all very mob like. Alfonso Capone (1899-1947) was a mobster who was active in Chicago politics. He had a seven year reign as crime boss and pulled all kinds of dirty stunts like murder, extortion, kidnapping, robbery and more. His collusion with local politics came to an end about the time of the St. Valentine’s Massacre when there was finally public outcry. After that he became Public Enemy Number 1. He had a number of nicknames, including Scarface, Big Al and Big Boy. He was ultimately brought down by the Internal Revenue Service. The Supreme Court ruled that illegally earned income was subject to income tax. Big time crooks and flim-flam men ought to be paying attention to history, as should we all. It is as if a current Big Boy has caused our horse to stumble, our cinch to break, our belly to grumble with revulsion and our hearts to ache for the safety and sanctity of our Nation. We have survived many perilous fights and we will surely get through these days with our stripes and bright stars intact.

Local history is getting the spotlight through a new on-line group started by Champion friend, Kaitlyn McConnell. It is Ozarks Alive: Folklore and History. It is a public group that offers an opportunity to share information, histories and photos and to make inquires about things you have always wanted to know about the area. The group is new, but there are already 247 people in it. Some of the first photos posted have teams and wagons on ferries and several serious looking people around a moonshine still. Spend a little time out of the heat on the wide veranda at the Historic Emporium with neighbors for an opportunity to learn about the daring exploits of earlier generations in these parts. Songs have been written about some of them, though it is said that surviving descendants would prefer those songs not to be made public. An old friend from Rock and Roll Creek some distance west of Champion recently mentioned a tune called, among other things, “The Missouri Dog Song.” It is probably familiar to many in these parts. “Every time I go to town, the boys keep kicking my dog around. Makes no difference iffin he’s a hound, you gotta quit kicking my dog around.” It is considered unacceptable behavior by the dog lovers in Champion-Looking on the Bright Side!