The Wagon Train in Champion – 2017

The West Plains Wagon Club and the Gee and Haw Wagon Club of Viola, Arkansas combined to make a wagon train of four for the one hundred mile trip from West Plains to Mansfield.  They pulled into Champion on Thursday a little ahead of schedule and were met by a nice crowd of people who enjoy seeing the teams and wagons.  For some it is a novelty and for others it harkens back to the days when that was the way most folks got around.  Absent for the second year, the much missed Clifton Luna was spoken of fondly among waggoneers and spectators alike.  He was 91 and, for the first time, not quite up for the trip last year.  He passed away in October.  He was carried to his grave on a mule drawn wagon, just the way he would have wanted with these folks and many others in attendance.

Jim and Judy Cantrell of Norwood were the first ones in the square.  Their wagon was driven by young Seth Keller.  Judy said he had driven the whole way since they turned off the pavement there at V Highway. Their mules are Long Ears and Patty.   Jerry Sanders has a nice driver too–Toni Amison.  They are from Norwood and their mules are Sadie and Buttercup.   Ken Felts’ mules are Champ and Lady.  In years past he and his friend Randal Barnett would double back through Champion after the Mansfield rendezvous and spend the night on the square on their way back home to Pocahontas, Arkansas. Mr. Barnett has just had back surgery and so was unable to make the trip this year.  His Champion friends will be looking for him next time. Harley Wayne Keller drove the wagon of Jerry and Diane Wilbanks all the way from John Webber’s place.  Their mules are Kate, RB and Smokey.   Diane had good things to say about Harley’s skill and his pleasant demeanor.  John Webber said it had been foggy at his place that morning and when he looked out the kitchen window there were mule ears standing up in it, an interesting vision.

They enjoyed a rest stop for lunch and for visiting with the spectators.  Among those who came to enjoy the spectacle were Johny Appleseed (he did not say where he was from), Bob Berry of Drury and Mary Goolsby of Gentryville,  Butch and Dawn Stone, Arnold Ahlsteadt, Shirley Brixey of Willow Springs, Kaye and Richard Johnston of Licking, Royce and Jody Henson of Springfield, Mark Keller of Drury, John Webber, Sherry Bennett, Lonnie Curtis, Tom Cooley of Mountain Grove, Skip and Ina Downen of West Plains, Alvin Barnhart, Robert Upshaw, Dean Brixey, Fae Krider, Leo Stofer, Jeff Bartsch, Wes Lambert, Dawn Stine, David Richardson and a number of others.  Dawn and David brought their instruments and did some nice picking and singing on the wide veranda there on the Historic Emporium.  It was a beautiful day for the outing and, as the wagons topped the hill on their way out of town, Champion were already looking forward to next year.  It will pass quickly though that leisurely pace of the wagon train tugs at us to slow down and enjoy every passing day here in Champion-Looking on the Bright Side!