June 18, 2018

CHAMPION–June 18, 2018


Jonnie’s First Day at Mill Pond

”Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer…”  Here they are in Champion!  We have reached the season long before the Summer Solstice.  That will be here on Thursday night, which, they say (whoever they are) will be the coolest day of the week—just in the low 80s.  Lovely.  Until then, our days will be getting longer.  Here in Missouri our longest day will be 14 hours, 52 minutes and four seconds long.  Over in Edinburgh, Scotland, the day will last 17 hours, thirty six minutes and 41 seconds, roughly two and a half hours longer than our day here in the warm, humid Ozarks.  Champions there will holiday at Portobello Beach enjoying the soft whisper of the waves rolling in as they have forever and as they will continue long after we are gone–kind of comforting.  Old timers here will be out early getting the heavy work done.  They lollygag during the middle of the day doing an exercise called “pre-covering.”  That is resting up for the work ahead.  They may get down to the creek just to sit with their feet in the cool water.  Evening chores include a little bit of watering and light duty puttering in the garden.  They say, (them again) that if you see a pretty garden, there is someone in it.  Haymaking has kept some Wednesday regulars away from their Champion recreation.  Alas!  Others may be absent as they prefer not to have to defend their opinions concerning the world situation.  It is awkward.  The horseshoe pitch gets a lot of action these days.  The mutually recognized strength and skill of the competitors, together with their inherent good nature, has, so far, kept the competition friendly, at least overtly.  No raised voices from the pitch have made it into the cool atmosphere of the meeting room and wagering has not yet become any kind of problem.

Meetings have been underway for some while now in preparation for the second annual Pioneer Heritage Festival.  Details are being worked out concerning the music, the food, the vendors, the demonstrations, a talent show, various contests, and all the logistics for what will be an exciting event on October 6th and 7th this year.  It will be held at Chapel Grove out on beautiful Highway 14 just east of Bryant Creek.  The organizers have a great Face Book page called Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks where you can find out all kinds of information about the happening and see some great pictures and stories from last year.  The thoughtful planning going on now will result in good family fun this fall.

Summer school will soon be over.  Kids will be loose on the countryside for the summer time fun that occupies so much of what we recall as having been some of the best times of our youth.  Teachers and staff will get a little break, but the full time process of educating our precious children is ongoing.  Higher learning has been linked to things like democracy, equality, deductive reasoning—good things.  Efforts to defund public education and to delegitimize higher education promote the notion of a population easily managed.  Champions, disinclined to be managed, stand behind our vital little rural school as it turns out tomorrow’s solid citizens.  Go, Tigers!  There is a garage sale being planned for the end of the summer.  Stay tuned to TCN for more details.

Some of the Hopper Family cooling off at the Mill Pond.

Conversations among friends meeting at the Mill Pond to while away a hot afternoon covered a lot of subjects.  The following research was the result of some of those exchanges:  The difference between an immigrant and a refugee is that the immigrant has the choice.  The refugee is seeking refuge and cannot go back to the place he fled.  “We must always take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”  This is a quote from a Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech made in 1986 by Elie Wiesel, noted Holocaust survivor and an award winning novelist, journalist, and human rights activist.  The world population is currently reported to be 7,632,819,325.  It grows by many more human beings every second.  A hundred million people are homeless worldwide.  There are 65.6 million forcibly displaced persons across the world.  Sources for these numbers are readily available.  The math works out to say that for about every 7,600 people in the world, there are about 166 who are in desperate need of some kind of help—about 8 people out of every 360.  If the unfortunate people were dispersed evenly across the globe, Douglas County would have about 300 distressed people in dire need.  This is a part of the world where we help our neighbors.  The Statistical Atlas shows that there are 780 people on food stamps in Douglas County.  We have a history of caring for each other and an infrastructure set up to do that.  Champions know that fortunes shift and change.  We do not judge those in less desirable circumstances because we could well be there ourselves tomorrow.

Joseph Goebbels, on the other side of the Holocaust said, “Make the lie big, keep it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe.”  “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The Vanzant Bluegrass Jam goes on at the Vanzant Community Building every Thursday.  A fine pot-luck supper at 6 o’clock is followed by two great hours of music starting at 7.  There were nine guitars, three banjos, three mandolins, one bass and one fiddle last week.  Everyone is welcome and everyone with an acoustic instrument or a voice is welcome to join in the music.  Sometimes the whole crowd will sing along and those moments are wonderful.  Friends and neighbors get the chance to share the week’s happenings, garden reports, and reminiscences.

A note comes to champion@championnews.us from a distant reader.  She says, “My father passed away at 73—much too soon.  I never heard him say a cruel thing.  I never knew of him lie or lift a hand in anger.  I never knew of him to be unkind to anyone, to consider himself better than anyone or to behave in any way contrary to his idea of decency.  He was self-effacing, generous, and full of compassion, music, and laughter.  He loved his family and told us so.  We miss him every day.“  Fathers the country over were accorded well-deserved attention and accolades on Sunday.  Their examples of steadfastness, responsibility and good behavior stand us in good stead today.  Thanks, Dad.  “In a vine covered shack in the mountains, bravely fighting the battle of time, is a dear one who’s weathered my sorrows.  Tis that silver haired daddy of mine.” Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Wildflowers

June 11, 2018



Acadian Village, Lafayette, LA

Recently a Champion was down by the Eaton Cemetery over south-southeast of Gentryville. They are doing some road work in the area and the ground is soft. He reported seeing bear tracks, six inches wide and two inches deep into the soil. It was estimated that the bear must have weighed four or five hundred pounds. The observer has been back several times lately but has not seen the bear or more tracks. Someone over in the neighborhood of Vanzant saw a bear crossing the road. One remembers when a bear spent the afternoon in a tree in front of Ester Wrinkles’ house. From Brushy Knob to Champion there have been bear sightings over the years. Missouri Department of Conservation has a bear tracking program. Its aim is to reduce conflicts between bears and humans and to encourage the expansion of suitable habitats to prevent the bear population from dwindling again to the low levels of the 1940s.

Sad news has come of the passing of Shayne A. Upshaw. He lived up in Idaho and was a nephew and cousin of many of the Upshaws who live in this part of the world. He was described as being much like his father, Wayne, who passed away a few years ago–fun loving and willing to share the fun. Champions extend their sympathies. Joy Ann Coonts Firrell spoke of the recent passing of J.T. Shelton: “He was loved by so many! His loyalty to his parents was priceless. He was a huge help to his mom, Aunt Irene, after his dad, Tolbert, passed away. He and his wife Betty never missed decorating graves at New Hope. You could always find them there on Decoration Day! I’ve never seen JT without Betty or Betty without JT.” Saturday friends and family gathered at New Hope to celebrate JT and Betty.

A Champion Whatsit

A regular Wednesday visitor to Champion brought in an interesting item in for identification. After some examination, it was determined to be a buggy hub tool. It would have been used on the nuts that hold the wheel on the hub. A Johnny-Come-Lately said, “Oh! I know exactly what that is.” He proceeded to turn it about and to pronounce that it was a dental tool for a horse. Alvin Barnhart came in looking for The General, who was off hauling hay (not bucking hay, but just driving a truck). Alvin wanted to let him know that the Class Breakfast for the Mountain Grove High School Class of 1959 will be held at the Freewill Baptist Church on June 30th at 8:30 that morning. This last piece of information has been officially declared to be some ‘real’ news.

June 6th was David Medlock’s birthday. He may or may not have had the birthday song sung to him at the Vanzant jam. Perhaps he picked it himself on his old banjo. Wayne Sutherland was 85 in 2015 on June 7th, so he must be getting ‘up there’ now. It is a cinch that he was celebrated. Janice Loraine has her day on the 15th and Foster Wiseman’s is on the 16th. Joshua Cohen, who used to spend a lot of time in Champion, now lives up in Hamburg, PA. His birthday is on the 19th. Tyler Clark celebrates on the 20th. Linda K. Watts and Sierra Parsons both have birthdays on the 21st. That is supposed to be the first day of summer, but it is already here in force. America’s great hope and adamant defender, Senator Elizabeth Warren, shares her birthday with historian, Cinita Brown, on the 22nd. Skyline birthdays are: Mr. Bridget, nurse and clerk—June 5; Adrianna Fulmer, 6th grade—June 7; Jacob Shannon, 3rd grade—June 10; Meguell Townsend, 7th grade—June 11; Isabelle Creed, 8th grade—June 12; Wyatt Hicks, 8th grade—June 15; Zachary Coon, 7th grade—June 15; Daniel Parkes, 6th grade—June 19; Easton Shannon 2nd grade—June 24; Kash Hurt, prekindergarten—June 24. Summer school is going on at Skyline and students are getting educated while they are enjoying their beautiful youth in a glorious part of the world in a vital, important, little rural school—a National Treasure.

Zack and Jill

There is nothing like taking a few days away from home to make it glorious to come back. There is excitement and adventure on never-before traveled roads, but relief and comfort at arriving home again. Everything is greener yet and things are blooming that were not just a few days ago. It is a glorious early summer, if warm. Some are complaining, but Champions do not listen. Some Old Champions met up with granddaughters on a trip to Lafayette, Louisiana for a family wedding. While it is not that far away, approximately 580 miles, it is a very different part of the world. Great ancient live oak trees provide deep shade and incredible Cajun food tempts every palate. Granddaughters, also far from home, had the chance to go on a swamp tour where they learned about wetland birds and alligators. It is one of those memories that will endure. They may now have alligators and marriage tied together in their imaginations. To have family drawn together for a joyful occasion is a precious gift. People came from all over the country to witness families merging in marriage. Hearing those vows spoken in solemn sincerity reminded old married people of their own ceremony. Dwight and Ruth Collins have just had a big anniversary. June is a big time for anniversaries. Kay and Shannon Alexander are celebrating an anniversary on the 12th of June, as are another couple of Old Champions. There are ups and downs in life and in relationships. It is encouraging to see young people optimistic for a lifetime of sharing come what may. These are some troubling and uncertain times for many. Anxiety is rife across all political and social spectra. To have some optimism delivered in such a sweet, genuine and loving way is restorative. By the time the celebration was over, everyone was exhausted from the joy tears and laughter. Thank you notes will be going out to the bride and groom for bringing the bunch together to share the happiness. Their song: “I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!” Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


June 4, 2018

CHAMPION—June 4, 2018


Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea)

The spring flowers blooming along the roadsides earlier in the year were mostly purple.  Today there are white ones and yellow ones along the edges of expansive mowed fields.  The tall waving grasses are now bundled up in great round bales and the country side hums with hay making equipment.  Farmers do what has to be done when it has to be done.  That makes it a demanding profession. & Along C Highway north of Champion purple coneflowers, Echinacea, is blooming profusely.  It is glorious to look at and it is said to have medicinal properties.

Black-eyed Susan

Ashley Meiss is a 31 year old combat Veteran of Iraq who has been missing from her Ogden, Kansas home near Wichita since the middle of May.  She has PTSD.  Anyone with information about her is asked to call the Riley County Police Department at (785) 537-2112.  The Eastern Douglas County Volunteer Fire Department shared a video on line that says that June 1st is the beginning of PTSD Awareness Month.  It is reported that 20% of firefighters and paramedics suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.  They join many of our returning military Veterans and a host of civilians, maybe friends, neighbors, or family, who have had an emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury.  Psychological trauma is often the result of an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one’s ability to cope.  So, at least during the month of June, as we observe people acting ‘badly’ we might think to ourselves there must be some reason for this kind of behavior.  Perhaps a kind word in lieu of harsh judgement would make everyone feel better.  Being kind feels as good a having kindness shown to us when we need it.  It seems that many people are feeling defensive and anxious these days–from politics, fear, illness, grief, trauma or unknown reasons.  It is good that firefighters and first responders are aware of the dangers to themselves because of the nature of their work and, hopefully, they have the training to recognize the symptoms of PTSD in those whom they are there to help and protect.  Out here in rural America we rely on the generous nature of these volunteers who give their time and energy to serve as fire fighters and first responders.  Thanks, folks.  Angie Keller posted pictures of the EDCVFD yard sale/swap meet/farmers market held over the weekend.  She said, “We had a great time, and visited with a lots of nice folks.  Thank you for your continued support.  We are blessed with a wonderful community!”

Looking back to June of 2008, Champion was wound up in great excitement for the coming wedding of Staci Krider and Dustin Cline.  They will have their tenth anniversary on June 14th.  Back then the concern was that a certain uncle might show up in a kilt with an accordion.  Then there was an uncle from Illinois who attested to having had a long, successful marriage (to lovely Barbara) on account of having worn white socks to his own wedding.  He allowed that the socks must figure prominently in all the wedding photos for them to have the desired effect.  The pictures of their day on the website at www.championnews.us do not show Dustin in white socks, but he wore a bright pink tie.  The tenth anniversary is considered to be one of the first marital milestones.  Traditional gifts for the occasion are tin and aluminum, also diamonds.  Tin and aluminum are significant for their flexibility, a major requirement in a lasting marriage.  Diamonds are for beauty and strength.  The couple lives in Tennessee now where they are raising Drayson and Carson.  Their Champion grandmother gets over to see the little boys often and the family makes it back here as often as they can.  On these nice warm days it is pleasant to sit out on the veranda remembering good times with young friends and hoping that they know that special song made popular in these parts by a favorite fiddler:  “I wouldn’t change you if I could.  I love you as you are.  You’re all that I would wish for if I wished upon a star.  An angel sent from heaven, you’re everything that’s good.  You’re perfect just the way you are.  I wouldn’t change you if I could!”  Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Hay

May 31, 2018

CHAMPION—May 31, 2018


The last item up for bid.  Pete Proctor describes the table made by Ray Hicks.
Jessie Mae Miller

It was a bright, sun shiny day for the 32nd Denlow/Fairview School Reunion on the Saturday before Memorial Day.  It started off with a little music and a lot of visiting.  Lunch was an unqualified success with great fried chicken and fixings provided by Ed and Sonja Williams.  Ed’s Mother is Shirley (Brixey) Williams, a Denlow alumnus.  The pot luck was scrumptious with too many deserts followed by the desire for a nap on a warm afternoon.  But the pavilion was full of friends and family with fond memories to recount and share.  Pete Proctor spoke on behalf of Veterans to the reason for the observance of a Memorial Day.  He described his experience on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and suggests that everyone who has the opportunity should make that trip.  He is active yet with the program.  The General led a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to You!” to Jesse May Miller for her 92nd birthday on the 28th of May.  She had come to the reunion with her daughter, Beverly, bringing some great old photographs to share, some from way back showing a row of Upshaw men looking stalwart and able somewhere around the turn of the previous century.  She also had some great pictures of herself and her husband, Laverne, holding strings of enormous catfish—several of these kinds of photos spanning the years.  Laverne passed away last fall and he is well remembered, a railroad man, and a fine auctioneer.  The General cleverly enlisted Mickey Reilly, spouse of Cathie Alsup Reilly, to assume responsibility for the auction, to the dismay of Cathie who soon realized her husband has a gift for the role, bringing up the thought that upon their return to the Bluegrass State, he might be holding auctions in their driveway.  He did not rule out the possibility.  The last item sold was a beautiful hand-crafted bench/table made by Ray Hicks of Bluegrass, Iowa.  The lumber started out as two inch thick white oak, which was then planed, sawed, sanded, dadoed, joined, glued and pegged.  (That is just a guess.)  It is a fine piece of work, now possessed by Dailey Upshaw.  Ray suggests that The Champion News does not devote enough ink to Ed Henson.  He had good things to say about the way Mr. Henson helped people in the community when times were hard.  He was born May 27, 1903, and has been gone from us for some while now, but not nearly forgotten.  Anyone with a story to share about Ed can do so:  The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or champion@championnews.us .  Even with attendance down a little this year, this reunion was roundly considered to be another great success.

Making hay while the sun shines in Champion may sound easier than it is.  An experienced haymaker said that when the hay is cut, it releases moisture into the air and that makes it rain.  It always seems to be an iffy proposition.  Certainly the fields are lush and glorious.  Summer is officially here as the Prominent Champion Girlfriend has pulled out all her fancy flip flops and was seen sporting a pair that looked for all the world as if they were crochet.  She is always in style.  Her blood pressure was up to normal when the nurse from the Douglas County Health Department took the reading there in the Historic Emporium on Friday morning.  She is a dynamo…a Champion!

The General led a fine version of that happy birthday song directed at the fair Lena Wagner on Thursday evening.  She is another dazzling individual with a smile like a sunny day.  It seems that fun follows her around.  She had a nephew and niece following her to the Vanzant Jam and they appeared to have had a good time.  They live in a rough neighborhood over there by Almartha, but they look as if they are coping well.  Several folks who rarely come out to the jam enjoyed the music and the chance to do some good visiting.  The holiday and the Denlow/Fairview School Reunion and other get-togethers in the area have drawn folks in from all over.  Around here, Thursday is frequently the favorite day of the week for many.  Young Chase probably sang that birthday song to his dear Mom that day.  She is one of the resident young people in Champion, which is a good thing since Chase keeps her busy.  School is out and t-ball, swimming lessons and other exciting summer activities are in full swing.  Skyline R2 summer school will run from June 4th to the 28th this year.  Ms. Helen informs us that we can save those Box Tops for Education and the Best Choice and Always Save bar-codes all year long.  They generate a little revenue for the school and every little bit counts when it comes to our important little rural school.

A traveling Champion had the chance to enjoy some authentic ‘enchiladas de mole’ on a quick trip to the magic Rio Grande Valley down on the Mexican frontera.  The music was wonderful and the chance to visit with double-cousins after a long separation was most pleasant.  When two sisters marry two brothers and each couple has children, those children are double cousins with all the same grandparents and cousins.  It is almost like having siblings but without having grown up in the same house.  It is a common phenomenon in this part of the world.  Family is a precious commodity if you get along.  One of the keys to getting along is to avoid certain topics of conversation and when those topics do come up to acknowledge everyone’s right to his or her own belief.  It can be a tricky situation, though for the most part, core values are the same.  A warm afternoon was a chance for an outing to the Iwo Jima Monument, which stands at the entry to the U.S. Marine Academy in Harlingen.  It is an enormous statue erected by the Fourth Marine Division Association and dedicated to those Marines from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Division who sacrificed their lives on Iwo Jima between February 19th and March 16th, 1945.  The plaque also says, “We further acknowledge all our beloved brothers here not listed or known but to God, not only of Iwo Jima but of all our heroic battles—you gave us a better America—may your spirit live forever.”  “From the halls of Montezuma…” to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 21, 2018

CHAMPION—May 21, 2018


Not our Champion landscape…

Wilma Hutchison said that when she pulled into the Champion Square on Wednesday morning she was amazed at the number of trucks and horse trailers there.  The Square was full and it made her glad to know that Bud’s Spring Trail Ride would continue.  Andrew Hardin said that he and all the other riders were made glad when she pulled into the square.  She took pictures and made notes.  Wilma’s Champion friends look forward to her account of the day and her wonderful pictures.  Go to www.championnews.us to the May 22, 2017 posting to see a great picture of the trail riders posed on the broad steps at the Historic Emporium—a more pleasant looking bunch of folks you are not likely to see.

A trove of Champion children swarmed Elmer’s pond on Saturday.  It was a fishing expedition, one they will all remember.  Lux, Chase, Taegan, Kalyssa, and Foster pulled fish in one after another and that very evening enjoyed them fried for super.  It is a joy to see young people outside doing summertime things.  They will grow up saying they have been fishing since they were knee high to fish bait (grasshoppers.)  Someone will teach them how to take a picture of a little fish to make it look like a big one, a trick shared by Champion friend, Jack Ryan, forty years ago with a trio of young fellows whose company he enjoyed.  Journalist Doug Larson said, “If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”  An old friend, now passed, liked to quote John Buchanan, “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”  Fishing stories run deep and wide on a warm afternoon out on the wide veranda.  Unless your important chores at home can wait, you are cautioned not to bring the subject up in the presence of a certain loafer.  No amount of looking at your watch or furtive steps as if to escape will do you any good.  Be careful or he will try to hold you with eye contact, whereupon you feel obligated to at least feign interest, hoping that he will not require some response from you.  While he talks to hear his head rattle, you can ponder lofty thoughts or mentally organize your list of chores to do when you finally get home.  Polite behavior is a Champion attribute.

Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  The good rains we are experiencing now may serve us well, though many would prefer they came regularly on Wednesday and Sunday nights all through the summer in half inch episodes.  Certainly these kinds of rains make it possible for the weeds to just jump up into your hands if you will bend down to greet them.  There is plenty of growing season ahead to enjoy all that zucchini.  Frances Banks shared some gourd seeds around at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam a while back and if the fruit is anything like the plant, there will be some enormous squash in the neighborhood.  Cucumbers—what a wonderful thought!  Some garden by the signs and some do it when they can.  Work as hard as you want to at it.  Your results will reflect your effort.  Other parts of the country are dealing with drought conditions while places nearby are in flash flood mode.  It was just this time last year when the bridge east of town was closed, having been undermined by the early spring rains.  It was an interesting process to watch the new bridge being built.  Some call it the New East Champion Fox Creek Dam, as the single tin horn cannot handle the volume of the creek, particularly with the debris as it washes down in the heavy rains.  “You can’t go home by the way of the mill, there’s a bridge washed out at the bottom of the hill.  The big creek’s up and the little creek’s level.  Plow my corn with a double-shovel.”

Go away for a few days in the middle of May and see what happens.  Those tender greens that graced our hills the week before are now deep, lush, vibrant greens and the velvet fields are now deep grass-haying has started.  Go away for a few days to experience the exhilaration of coming home.  So long as you are going places, try getting out of your comfort zone.  Get together with dear family and loved ones who believe exactly the opposite things that you believe.  They are internally shaking their heads in disbelief, even as you are.  They know they love you and they cannot help it, but they cannot fathom how you can possibly think the way you do.  After a week or so, get back to your own space and realize gratitude.  Be grateful for home and familiar comforts and like minds.

The Denlow/Fairview School Reunion, the 32nd one, will be Saturday.  Even folks who never went to school there, but have friends and family who did are already getting excited about it.  The General will forgo his Wednesday picking session in Champion to do some sprucing up at Denlow.  He is much in demand in the whole tri-community area—Champion/Vanzant/Denlow.  Pete and Bonnie Mullens will not make it to the reunion this year.  They will look forward to pictures and reports.  Bonnie says they are finally getting rain and flowers are blooming.  Lightening bugs are out already.  What grandparent would not be happy to go find a fruit jar for a grandchild to use for collecting fire flies?  Those of us without grandchildren or grandchildren nearby will just enjoy the fire flies.  Our most beloved insect is actually a beetle and the world’s most efficient light producer.  They sing at night with light signals, bioluminescent love songs, “Blink, blink, blink” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Sunset in the air…on the way home…