Natural and man-made disasters are much on our minds on September 11, 2017.   It has been 16 years since the attack on the World Trade Center and the United States.  It was a world changing event, though even now there are assessments of that tragic occurrence that do not agree with the official account of the facts.  The natural disasters unfolding now are mind boggling to see with fire on one side and flood on the other.  Television coverage of the storms and fires keep us involved with our neighbors.  Out here in the middle of the country, in the midst of perfect weather–if dry, most everyone is acquainted with someone who is affected by the hurricanes or the fires.  We are reminded that every part of the country is vulnerable to something.  While the power of nature is amazing, it is also amazing to see how well people respond to crisis and to each other when the need is great.  There will, of course, be efforts to use these calamities to further political agendas.  It will likely turn out that there will be some entanglement between disaster relief and tax reform with the aim to make it seem as if a person who does not agree with tax cuts for corporations does not support the victims of the storms and fires.  It is sad that so many across the country are suffering and sadder that some think they can manipulate the situation for their own nefarious purposes.  America is full of smart, caring people who will not be hornswoggled.

Champions are full of anticipation for the arrival of the Wagon Train.  The West Plains Wagon Club and the Gee and Haw Club out of Viola, Arkansas gather their wagons together to make their way from West Plains to Mansfield, a journey of one hundred miles.  They generally roll in to Champion about mid-day on the Thursday of their journey. (That will be this Thursday, September 14th.)  It is always a mystery about how many wagons and outriders there will be and how big the welcoming committee on the broad beautiful banks of Auld Fox Creek will be.  The wagon train folks seem to always welcome people of the community to look over their beautiful animals and their interesting outfits.  It is a great opportunity for young folks to see how things used to be done back before cars and smart phones.  The big difference between now and the old days is that these wagons have rubber tires and not those authentic wheels like Dale Thomas made of wood and steel.  There are also more sophisticated springs than were available on the original wagons.  Some wagons are equipped with solar collectors and radios.  Some of the travelers are more interested in the authenticity of their rigs than others.  For some it is just a matter of getting there and of sharing the experience with like minded folks.  They always seem to enjoy being in Champion.  David Richardson will be there with his drone for picture taking.  Hopefully he will have a guitar with him for music making.  Several of his friends plan to bring their instruments and everyone is welcome to join in.  Bring your fiddles and banjos and come for the fun.  You can see several of David’s YouTube videos on line at  Look over on the right hand side of the page for Champion Videos.  There are lots of pictures there too of previous wagon trains.  There you will find photos of beloved wagon master Clifton Luna, who passed away this last year, and of Ken Felts, Vernon Crow, Jim and Judy Cantrell, Jerry and Diane Wilbanks, Bill Jackson, the Webster family, Jerry Sanders,  Jerry and Bonnie Arnold, Randall Burnet, Coy Stone, Shelby Blades, Ed Janes, Cliff Boyles, Mr. Crawford, Bryn Ulmer,  Kenneth McIntosh and others.  Chances are good that not all of these people will be on this wagon train, but there may be someone new among the bunch looking for a Champion adventure.     

Eva Henson Phillips writes, “I wish I could have been there.”  She was talking about the recent Champion School Reunion.  “The group all looked so happy to be at the old school.  I’m amazed at the Henson clan and all walking the ‘Walk of Ages.’  Maybe I can be there in 2018.  Thank you for all the pictures and news for us out of towners to enjoy.  Our son, Bill, wants to ‘walk the walk’ with his cousins in 2018.  Our son, Barry, is waiting out the storm Irma in Florida, hoping it doesn’t come inland.  Kenneth and Dawn and family seem to be doing well in Houston.  Keep on the sunny side!”  If the coming year goes by as quickly as the current one has, we will be seeing Eva and her bunch soon.  We will be looking for the good news that all her extended family has weathered the storms well.

Young Ely Young is a prekindergarten student at Skyline School.  His birthday is September 8th.  He shares the day with a great birdwatcher who has the nickname “Crayola” and with the esteemed senator from Vermont.  He is in excellent company.  Native Champion and mother of Kalyssa and Foster, T.J. Wiseman, celebrates on the 13th of September and Frances Sutherland on the 14th. They both enjoyed the Champion School Reunion and Frances can frequently be seen on the McClurg Jam Facebook page.  She and Wayne are there most every Monday night in the company of J.R. and Janet Johnston and others.  They know how to have a good time.  The 14th is also the birthday of Sophia and Penelope’s dear old dad.  He is an annual visitor to Champion and he also knows how to have a good time.  The same can be said of Elmer Banks wherever he may be.  He and Mountain Grove’s charming Ms. Tigger share the 15th as a birthday.  They probably do not know each other and probably would agree on very little though they both can tell a good story and both have a great sense of humor.   Happy birthday all you Champions, many happy returns.

The dates for the Starvy Creek Fall Bluegrass Festival are advertised as being September 14-16th up in Conway, Missouri, but numbers of local musicians have been up there for days already, camping and jamming the nights away.  They will come home with stories to tell and accumulations of good memories.    Many interesting things happen this time of the year.  Bud Hutchison will soon have another Champion Trail Ride and come October 7 and 8, the first Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks will take place at Chapel Grove.  It will not be the same as Dale and Betty Thomas’ Pioneer Descendants Gathering which gained great steam over more than a decade down at the Edge of the World, but it will start gathering its own steam and promises to be another great happening for the area.  Dale and Betty were at the Champion School Reunion and said that they are looking forward to the new event.  Meanwhile, on Thursday or on any day, come down to the end of the pavement where country roads meet at the bottom of several beautiful hills to make your own memories.  The country roads are strewn with wild flowers and reminders of days gone by.  You might learn a new song or an old one like:  “Oh! A wild cat attacked [sic] Mammy from the rear, and Pap said, ‘Son, you have no fear.  If he ever tries to crowd her, we’ll be having wild cat chowder!’ and the covered wagon rolled along!  Rolled along, rolled along, and the covered wagon rolled along” to Champion-Looking on the Bright Side!