William Wordsworth’s lyric poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” ends with these two lines: “And then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils!” Look for the whole poem in this week’s post at www.championnews.us. Deep sighs are heaved at the thought of Spring, as time springs forward (on the 11th) to greet it. There may be winter days yet, but they will be fewer and then will be gone. Champions cherish waning winter for the purpose of resting up in advance of the hard work to come and for finishing those inside projects that were begun last fall. Wet, dreary days give some old timers the chance to pull those dusty guitars out from under the bed to tune them up. There were some seldom seen musicians at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam on Thursday night. The music circle is different every time, but the fellowship is always lovely and the pot luck (at 6 p.m.) is always a feast. An Old Champion, coming home that night saw a beaver—a beaver! The large broad-tailed rodent climbed up the concrete on the north side of the New East Champion Fox Creek Bridge just as the headlights lit it up. He took his time ambling across the bridge and down the south side where he slipped into the swift downstream water. Spring! One time a Prominent Champion was on his way home from Mountain Grove when he saw a monkey in the road, so seeing a beaver is not that big a deal.
Frances and Wayne Sutherland have just celebrated 68 years of marriage. Anyone who has ever been married knows that is a big deal. They took their mothers (Elsie Doane Cooley and Minne Schuette Sutherland) with them down to Mountain Home, Arkansas to sign permission since they were under age–17 and 19. It seems those youngsters have made a go of it. Congratulations. Birthdays are a big deal. Dennis Shumate of Backyard Bluegrass fame had one on the 3rd of March. He was playing at The Star Theatre in Willow Springs that evening and probably had a good time. Skyline School’s lovely music and art teacher, Mrs. Casper, celebrates on the 12th. She orchestrates great holiday programs for the student body to perform and the art on display down the hallways shows how she guides and inspires them toward their own creativity. Brava! Willow Townsend is just getting started at Skyline. She is a kindergarten student with a birthday on March 15th. That is the special day for Jacob Masters and his distant cousin, 30 years his senior, now luxuriating in the Port of Leith, and Ursula Donnelly, a lively Irish lass and mother of Dimitri. The 16th is a Friday, so school will be in session and Mrs. Helen can hear “Happy Birthday!” from students and staff all day. Some Champions will be stopping by the school to drop off their Box Tops for Education and lots of Best Choice UPC barcodes cut out of labels on English muffins, butter, napkins, sandwich bags, canned vegetables and many other common products that we use all the time. Those little things translate to money for the wonderful little school that is shaping the citizens who will be in charge of us when we get old….really old. They can use all the help they can get.
A local luthier and famous-on-two-continents musician was visiting in Champion on Wednesday and entered into a conversation with The General. They were laughing still about an incident that occurred in 1954. The much loved and missed Champion, Cletus Upshaw, and Jimmy Hopper had put two sticks of dynamite in Uncle Isle Upshaw’s outhouse. (The General figured half a stick would have been sufficient.) Cletus was said to have watched from a distance and reported a great light and then “everything was gone.” The musician said, “It was all light and no smell.” The dynamite likely came from a local iron mine. There was also a story in which a hard twisted old gal played a part. The story fades from memory but the term “hard twisted” is one of those Ozark expressions that speaks to the nature of the area. Maybe the lady was fractious and/or just plain spoken. It is not necessarily an insult, but clearly a revealing description. The conversation came around to current affairs and the reprise of the old adage: “the rich get rich and the poor get children.” A recent study showed there are more poor people now than fifty years ago. In 1968, 15% of children were in poverty in the United States. That number is now 21%. Some Champions who lived through the Great Depression say they did not really think of themselves as poor because everyone they knew lived just like they did. Circumstances can throw even a prudent, responsible person into dire straits with little warning. Vulnerability is one of the universal commonalities of all people regardless of resources. To extend a hand to those less fortunate without judgment is a common tenant of most religions. Among the “Lofty Thoughts” mail this week at email@example.com is this note: “Never have I had so much respect for the Office of the President of the United States. Who knew that it could come to this? It is truly amazing.” That could be taken in any number of ways.
When asked how much rain had fallen one reported that he had a five gallon bucket full. He did not remember when he put it out—maybe in December—but it was full to overflowing. When the freeze threat is over, rain gages will come out for precise measurements. Until then odd buckets and peach cans will have to do. One realizes that using a finger to measure displaces water and renders an inaccurate reading….up to my second knuckle. A charming Champion came into the Historic Emporium the other day for a deserved rest and sat down beside the Prominent Champion. “I have a burning question.” She has been cleaning fence rows and wondering if it is safe to burn. Though we have had good rain recently, the wind dries things out quickly– Woods and grass are tinder. The Skyline Volunteer Fire Department assisted the Eastern Douglas County VFD on Saturday as they contained a fire that burned nine acres. The fire endangered three house, two garages, and two barns over in Vanzant on Highway 95 near W and CR 240. Good neighbors want everyone to be safe and greatly hope not to impact others with carelessness. More than one trash fire has spread unexpectedly this time of the year. The winds are sometimes sudden, fierce, and changeable. In 1935, Ruth Etting recorded a swinging tune: “March winds and April showers make way for sweet May flowers, and then from June, a moon and you….Ooh, March winds and April showers Make way for happy hours…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!