October 2, 2022

CHAMPION—September 25, 2022


A Champion Way

Excitement and enthusiasm for the Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks caused us to report, in error, that it was happening last Friday and Saturday. This Friday and Saturday is when the fifth annual event will take place. Meet your friends and neighbors out at the Fox Trotters Park and have some fun.

Chuckles and his burrow (inset)
Mason and Grandpa Mayfield

A busy week here on the Bright Side started with Chuckles, the groundhog, distant cousin to Wilbur. Something scared him so badly that he broke into the screened in porch and wound up trapped in a wicker chair! It took a neighbor and a coat hanger to free the little fellow who took off lickety-split. Then, for the second day in a row, young Mason who is 3 or 4 years old, was able to convince Grandpa Mayfield to come over from Drury to the Champion Store for a popsicle. While he was there he probably heard about the time The Cowboy drove his 1979 brown three-quarter ton Chevy truck slowly around the field while a couple of yahoos loaded eighty-five (85!) bales on it. He said the hood kept getting higher and higher, but he made it the two and a half miles home to his barn without losing any of it. This allegedly happened during the early 1980s when farmers ordinarily maxed out their trucks with fifty bales. The story was corroborated by both the Cowboy and the yahoo doing the stacking. They said the stack barely cleared the electric lines.

The tall ship with its 25 sails and a Champion daughter aboard left the Spanish isle of Madera on Sunday and is expected to reach the Canary Islands off the western coast of Africa on Wednesday, a little over three hundred miles. To be out of the sight of land on the ocean is an experience many have not had, and one that Grandpa Mayfield does not want to have again. He got caught in a storm while fishing off the Oregon coast and was disoriented and lost for a while. He was glad to get back on dry land again. But the girl loves it. She says there is nothing between you and the sunrise and the sunset and you get to see all the colors of the ocean. Her report on the trip from Portugal to Madera was that she had spotted a fin whale, lots of dolphins, skua, predatory sea birds, and bioluminescence during night watch. To her old folks on the farm who have not been anywhere in a long time, this is a wildly exciting adventure, if only a vicarious one. She was pleased to find that the ship is equipped with a violin, but unfortunately there is no rosin for the bow. Hopes are that she will have luck finding some when they dock in Tenerife on Wednesday and that it is clear sailing all the way. We can’t direct the wind but, we can adjust the sails.


Barbara Cooper said how much she misses the Skyline Picnic. We all do. Barbara and Darrell were shopping at Richard’s Brothers Thursday and paused for a pleasant visit. She said she would like to come back to Champion some Wednesday. Darrell said he might bring his banjo. The General said he would believe it when he saw it. It seems that Darrell plays everything. He planned on seeing Cheyenne McIntosh Saturday in West Plains at HOBA and would decide if he has extra guitars to share for her Skyline R2 School guitar class. Children benefit in multiple ways with music as a part of their education. The school year is off to a good start. Runners made a good showing at the track meet in Ava last Wednesday and they will run there again this week. The Fall Carnival is coming up October 14th which will give the whole community a chance to tour the campus and to show support for the great little rural school turning out the good citizens who will be running things in just a few short years.


By the time The General got back from West Plains to Vanzant Saturday night, a sudden thunderstorm had his yard full of debris, though the downed limbs and trees had already been cleaned off Highway 76 and EE. Monday morning Commissioner Brand Loveless said the county road men were working on cleaning up storm damage and when they could, they would get over to the spot 1.3 miles south of Highway 76 on CR 76-237 to deal with a deep, wallowed out spring branch across the road with big rocks submerged. Those charming gentlemen of the Drury Shed do fine work.

This is an exciting time of the year with sudden serious weather, and now all our glorious weather for our festivals and gatherings. The excitement associated with the KC Chiefs, however, dwindled a little with their unfortunate loss on Sunday. The lessons the team will have learned through the experience will doubtlessly prove valuable as the season goes on. Optimism is a great trait of Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

After the Storm

September 22, 2022

CHAMPION—September 19, 2022


Pioneer Heritage Festival Schedule

These are being glorious days for our area festivals.  The fifth annual Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks is happening this Friday and Saturday out at the Fox Trotters Park, just north of Ava on Highway 5.  In addition to all the great music, there are local artisans demonstrating ‘heritage’ skills like blacksmithing, broom making, spinning and weaving, seed saving, and bee keeping.  They are sharing these skills not just as an homage to the perseverance of our ancestors, but perhaps as instruction against their future need.  We are reminded that the more we can do for ourselves, the less reliant we are on others, as we prepare to be new pioneers in an uncertain future.  Check it out at www.heritage417.com.

Mum’s the word!  Chrysanthemums, that is.  The Skyline R2 School’s PTO fundraiser is likely to become an annual event since the community response has been so wonderful.  The beautiful plants are huge, healthy harbingers of fall.  Lots of good things are going on at Skyline.  The cross country team is getting ready to run.  Eighth grader, Tristian Jeffrey will have his birthday on the 25th.  Title I Aid, Alicia Borders, will celebrate the 27th, and fourth grade student, Melanie Hall, will have her birthday on the 30th.  Preparations are underway for the Fall Carnival on October 14th.  Go Tigers!  Skyline’s Sunshine Committee is creating a cookbook from the recipes submitted by students, their families and community members.  Champions are looking forward to seeing what’s cooking.

Politics are heating up in all our kitchens and we are encouraged to exercise our franchise in this very important mid-term election coming up in about fifty days.  When considering a candidate, ask yourself, “Would he pull me out of a mud hole?”

Fall arrives on the 21st.  That was Louise Hutchison’s birthday.  She was a real Champion, active in every good cause of the school, her church, our VFD.  Her favorite song was, “What a Day That Will Be.”  We miss Louise and her good energy.  Zoey Louise, Champion granddaughter and gifted artist, now out in California, also has her birthday on the 21st, as does her distant cousin and frequent visitor to Champion, Penelope, still in Texas.  Booger County bicyclist, Sandy Ray Chapin, will party on the 24th.  Cathy Alsup Reilly, of Denlow heritage, residing in Kentucky, has the 27th for her big day.  Belizean sailor, Becky Heston, will be celebrated on the 29th with the elegance due to someone who lives on Fortune Drive.

On Sunday, another sailor, Champion daughter Morag Edward of Edinburgh, Scotland, stepped aboard the Dutch tall ship Bark Europa, sailing from Cascais, Portugal to the Canary Islands.  They say it takes 45 minutes to hoist all 24 canvas sails, and only about 5 minutes to take all sails down.  The ship uses three and a half miles of rope to operate.  As part of the crew, Morag will not be hoisting sails or hauling on the bow line, but most likely navigating, photographing, sketching, and providing reels and jigs to her shipmates, and, perhaps, the Sailor’s Hornpipe, the melody we associate with Popeye.  She is a great musician.  Her family here wishes her clear sailing on this great adventure.  She is indeed a Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

The Bark 'Europa'

September 21, 2022

CHAMPION—September 12, 2022


Jody Henson, Eva Lois and Harold Phillips
Jody Henson, Eva Lois and Harold Phillips

September 11, 2001, will be marked in our history books the way we remember December 7, 1941. While neither Bin Laden nor Hirohito flew the planes, they inspired and directed the action—impactful words of powerful people.

David and Gina

There were nine Champion School Alumni attending the 37th Champion Reunion– Robert Brown, Larry Wrinkles, Glenna Henson, Charlene Medlock, Wilma Hamby, Eva Henson Phillips, Darrel Hutchison, Doug Hutchison, and Alvie Dooms. Eighteen others signed the guest list, though more joined the celebration as the day went on. Jody Henson came as an homage to Royce who passed away in May. She is still driving her little yellow Mustang. Eva Lois and Harold Phillips made it all the way up from Bella Vista, Arkansas. It was pleasant to visit with Glenna Henson who was married to the nephew of Ed Henson, our beloved old storekeeper. Newcomers had the chance to hear some of the old stories and to get acquainted with some of their neighbors. David Richardson and Gina Hollingshad provided some lovely tunes out on the wide veranda. They are good neighbors and busy people playing all around the area as Whetstone.

David and Gina

Skyline students Luke Hall and Serenity Merryman enjoyed September 2nd and 3rd for their birthdays. Brayden Ellingsworth had his on the 5th and Ely Young on the 8th. Tanna Wiseman is a Skyline School alumnus. Her birthday is September 13th. The 14th is for Frances Sutherland who was 82 in 2014, and for kindergartner Ellie Strong. The 15th is for Tigger Patty Squirell, retired mail-gal Pat Kim Smith, and for the late Elmer Banks, whose thoughts on the current state of affairs would certainly be interesting. The 17th is for prekindergarten student Jackson Johnson and the Chief’s Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes led his team to victory on Sunday and is a most popular fellow in the Chief’s Kingdom. Prekindergartner Bailey Kilgore and Donald Krider both celebrate on the 18th. Mr. Krider grew up in Champion and recently enjoyed a trip on the Greater Peoria Honor Flight to Washington D.C. Happy birthday to all of you and to the 385,000 people who are born on any given day worldwide.

David and Gina

Delightful changes in the weather have lifted the spirits of Champions. Stacking firewood is a seasonal chore that affords security in the form of wintertime warmth and a good reason for an afternoon nap. Someone will probably be singing “Shine on Harvest Moon” at the Vanzant Jam even though the moon was full last week. Music seems to be good medicine for many of us including Gail Lawson who has been enjoying the jam in recent weeks. She taught school in Norwood for thirty years, perhaps to some of those musicians. Cheyenne McIntosh is teaching music at Skyline. She is on the lookout for good guitars for her class. Alvie Dooms just came through with the loan of a small one, just right for some of the younger students. He thinks he may have another one to share from among his many souvenirs. He will look. Look around for ways to support your local schools and teachers, no matter where you live, you will be Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Stacking Firewood

September 15, 2022

CHAMPION—September 3, 2022


September 2, 1945, aboard the Missouri in Tokyo Bay, the instrument of surrender was signed marking victory over Japan and the end of one of the deadliest and most destructive wars in history. We have a few World War Two veterans left along with many who have lasting memories of that time. The whole nation was unified in the ‘war effort.’ A recent arrival to the area posted on the Internet, “Our biggest problem is that we’re still trying to play by the rules. They have no rules!” But, she did not say who ‘they’ are. The ‘us and them’ of these days makes us regret the loss of a unified Nation.

Some things have changed over time, changed for the better. The forty hour work week, child labor laws, workers’ compensation, and other laws statutes that protect workers. We celebrated these things on Labor Day and appreciate the hard fought battles, lives lost and sacrificed that made the changes happen starting in the late nineteenth century. Our picnics and family gatherings over the holiday festivities are a good time to remember the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.

Twenty-eight celebrants gathered in and around the Historic Emporium on Saturday for the Champion Reunion, which has happened every year, except last year, since 1984. About nine of them were Champion School Alumni. That number may not be accurate, but the potluck lunch was delicious, and the visiting and reminiscing was sublime. The old days were full charm, adventure, drudgery, difficulties, and accomplishments—full of love and loss. Generations of old timers have shared their experiences out on the porch and out on the porch on the old store, and around the old wood stove that has graced both stores, taking listeners back with them to those earlier days. We look forward to more of the same next year. A couple of generous musicians shared their gift, making the whole afternoon a lovely one to remember.




Young James Mastrangelo likes to hang out with his old man. They had lunch in the Champion Store on Wednesday and told friends there about his new little sister. Her name is Reagan Grace and she weighed about seven and a half pounds when she got here on August 25th. James is going to be a good big brother because his old dad has some of his own childhood stories to tell him as he grows up. He will be three years old in May. Betty Thomas, Larry Wrinkles, and Wilma Hutchinson all have September first for their birthdays, but nobody is asking their ages. Phoebe Ward enjoys the third for her celebration. Vernon and Dailey Upshaw will both be partying on the fourth. Happy days. Teasing and harassing the Cowboy is good sport by neighbors and long time friends who failed to rush him out in time for him to catch his favorite soap opera. He can find out tomorrow what happened today, and the story line will probably not have changed much over the last twenty years.

News of the sale of Richard’s Brothers Grocery was all over the Internet and big news in Champion on Wednesday. This family business has been a mainstay in Mountain Grove since 1937. October 11th marks the day of the big change. Change is hard sometimes even for Champions—Looking on the Bright Side.


September 1, 2022

CHAMPION—August 29, 2022


Festivities for The Champion Reunion this Saturday, September 3rd, kick off at noon with a potluck luncheon. Everyone is welcome. It will be a good mix of nostalgia and fellowship. Bring your lawn chairs. Looking back, there will be stories told of the old school days and interesting happenings around the old store. Erstwhile neighbors will have a chance to reminisce and to catch up with each other’s life events. Jody Henson is planning to come as an homage to Royce who passed away in May. She is a girl from Oak Forest and said that they never had a school reunion. At some point, the Oak Forest School house was moved to Mountain Grove and is someone’s residence now. She did not know when that happened. She said Royce loved everything about Champion.

Looking forward, newcomers to the area will get a chance to soak up some of the history of the place as they make themselves at home here. Those newcomers can get on their computers (not their phones) and stroll back through time here. These archives only go back to 2006, but they are sprinkled with reports of school reunions and Skyline VFD happenings and a great video produced by David Richardson called “Champion New Store.” David is planning to make it to Champion on Saturday, perhaps with some of his Whetstone Band colleagues. (Maybe Foster and Kalyssa will be there with their mandolin and fiddle.)

Always looking for a good meal, David is then planning to go to the Crouch Farm Labor Day Picnic in Drury where the chicken dinner will be blessed at 5 PM. Roy and Pam Crouch moved here from Iowa back in 2016 and began having their annual picnic at that time to get acquainted with the community and express gratitude for being able to live in such a lovely place: Box 65, County Road 247, Drury. Everyone is welcome. Bring a side dish, if you like, your lawn chairs and musical instruments.

While they were ‘locals’ here for about fifteen minutes, Edie and Lee Richardson (a different bunch of Richardsons) are now situated nicely over on the other side of Norwood, but still Champions. Talking about the summer, Edie said, “It was a full time job just keeping everything watered and alive. The produce garden wasn’t as nice as usual. It has been 3 years now and not one season has been the same. There is still a lot to learn about Zone 6b, but we have done well so far I feel. We are still on council and doing our Master Gardener volunteering at University of Missouri Extension Wright County. If I’m not out in the gardens or herb beds, you can bet I’m doing my next passion—food.” She is an amazing cook. Lee has become a beekeeper and it is all “Honey this and Honey that” with him.

Bee Kind

An avid gardener way over west of Champion says his squash vines are thriving with many fewer squash bugs than in years past. He attributes this to having planted white icicle radishes in each hill and letting them grow up together. That is a trick he learned on the internet. He also suggests that we might Google “Grazon contamination” for information concerning the poisoning of garden soils by herbicides. He says, “Some of these chemicals are persistent in the soil for years and may be introduced through manures of animals pastured on treated fields or through straw or hay grown on treated land used as mulch or to make compost.” He said that this has been a big problem in England, with thousands of garden allotments being ruined. Champions will quiz their manure suppliers this fall.

The second week of school is well underway now and Skyline has 89 scholars attending plus a number of preschoolers. The year is off to a good start. The General and other old timers will miss the farm kids who have been hanging out with them on the wide veranda on Wednesdays asking for that “Dirty Feet” song. They are now laboring over their books. So far, Felix the Farmer is really enjoying kindergarten. He already knows the alphabet and can count to 30. Kindergarten is a good time to learn the ropes of school. A well educated population is the hope of the Nation. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 31, 2022

CHAMPION—August 22, 2022



The Champion Reunion will be celebrated on Saturday of the Labor Day weekend, September 3rd. It is still the Champion School Reunion, and while there may not be many students to attend, everyone is welcome to come and celebrate the lovely spot on the banks of Fox Creek at the end of the pavement. Enjoy the great Pot-Luck luncheon at noon and bring your lawn chairs to sit around and visit. There are lots of you with good memories of Ed Henson and the old Champion Store. It may be that some of you have only heard about the history and the allure of the Bright Side. Check it out. See you there and see some great pictures of previous reunions here.

Skyline’s Back to School Fair and Open House has the new school year off to a great start. Teacher Carolyn Willhite will enjoy her birthday on the second day of school and Lauren Collins will celebrate on the 25th. Students, Brantley Kilgore and Jason Smith, party on the 29th, also the big day for Bill (Wes) Smith and Minnie Jo Henson. The 31st is for Jenna Brixey, Aiden Ray Hurt, and Kalyssa Wiseman. Jenna and Kalyssa are going to different schools. Barbara and Rita are married to Krider brothers, native Champions, who live up in Illinois. Their birthdays are on the 25th and 26th of August. The 26th’s is also the big day for Felix the Farmer’s Dad. Felix will be in kindergarten this year! It’s very exciting. Your Champion friends and neighbors wish you happy, happy birthdays all.

That special birthday song was sung to Judy Russell and to Dean and Bertie at the Vanzant Jam on Thursday. It may have been pitched poorly, but the genuine good wishes prevailed. There were smiles and giggles all around. Doug Bean sang, “An Old Log Cabin for Sale.” Sherry Bennet sang, “Build Me A Cabin in the Corner of Glory Land.” There was a halting rendition of “Little Log Cabin in the Lane.” Some wonder how many old songs talk about log cabins. “There’s a Little Pine Log Cabin,” “Log Cabin on the Hill,” and “Cabin Fever” are some additional ones. There may be more. Cheyenne McIntosh is excited about the new school year. She is the music teacher at Skyline and was pleased to report that the Acoustic Shoppe in Springfield donated seven sets of the best quality guitar strings to her class. She was most pleased. Tim Tamburrino of the Midwest Bluegrass Directory may find more guitars for her class, or there may be some good ones lingering yet, long unplayed under local beds just longing for a place to get played. If you have one to donate for the joy of kids with music, call Skyline (417-683-4874).

A spokesman for the Skyline VFD said “Thank you to Jon’s Mid America Fire Apparatus Inc. for the 24 foot ladder and the 50 feet of fire hose. They call themselves ‘The Fire Truck People.’” Support for our local volunteer fire department is welcome and appreciated. Ground has not yet been broken for the new Skyline fire station, but things are in the ‘works.’ All our local area volunteer fire departments can boast of members who are willing to leave their jobs and their dinner tables and beds to rush out to protect our lives and property. They have among them something called interoperability. It means the various volunteer fire departments help each other when needed. Who does not need help sometimes?

Champions also appreciate the hard work of the Southern Construction crew. They have been clearing the right-of-ways for the White River Valley Electric Co-op. They are nice folks doing a good job. One of their field supervisors, who has worked for the company for more than 30 years, said that in years past they built out the whole electric distribution in this area. They set the poles and did all the hot work. He said they built Branson. Now they are just doing the right-of-ways. To watch the skill of those guys operating that enormous intricate equipment is a sight to behold. They know how to handle our beautiful steep and rugged topography . Though things look a little ragged in spots now, they will soften in time and we will be grateful not to lose power in an ice storm this coming winter. It is easy to find reasons to be grateful in Champion–Looking on the Bright Side!


August 23, 2022

CHAMPION—August 15, 2022



The festival season has begun with the great homage to Route 66. The Mountain Grove Heritage Festival was two days of well-coordinated music and fun. Baker Creek just had their August Festival, and the Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Pulled Pork Picking Camp and Jam is coming up in a couple of weeks in West Plains. The HOBA Festival will occur toward the end of September. Then the Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks will happen in early October over at the Fox Trotters grounds. We live in a beautiful, diverse part of the world with lovely landscapes, and good-hearted, honest, hardworking citizens with lots of history. Lucky us.

Miss B. Denlow’s great grandmother, lovely Ilene Woods, won first place in the hand-quilted division of the quilt show during the Mountain Grove Heritage Festival. They are a talented family, including a celebrated stilt walker, who celebrated his birthday Sunday. Sharon Sanders’ birthday slipped by last week. She says that The Douglas County Museum Open House will be August 20, 10-2. They will be drawing the winner of the book “Douglas County Missouri History and Families 1857-1995,” a much sought-after hardcover limited edition. Get your tickets at the museum on Saturday. They have a great t-shirt that shows the Douglas County Mail Routes in 1915.

Bud Watkins was observed Friday and Saturday to be manicuring the grounds and garden areas of our Skyline School getting ready for school to start on the 22nd. He does a beautiful job. Skyline student, Caleb Harden, had his name misspelled in The Champion News last week as birthdays were being acknowledged. Harden, not Haden. His Skyline school mates, Hoyt Webster and Kaydi Ambroziac, have August 19th and 20th for their birthdays. Skyline alumnus, Tanna Jo Krider Wiseman, will celebrate on the 22nd and her nephews Drason Cline and Dakota Watts will have the 23rd and 24th for their big days. A favorite nephew who spent time cooking pineapple upside down cakes in Champion back in the 1970s has his birthday on the 24th. He comes back to visit frequently and is always a welcome guest. He is a grandfather now—used to be just a handsome teenager—still handsome—still a good cook.

Larry Warren wandered over to Champion from Wasola again Wednesday to hob-nob with friends and to pat his foot to some of the old tunes plucked and strummed out on the porch. He brought Doyle Utchman with him. They are both great storytellers. They join the ranks of the local rank raconteurs, which include The General, the Ferrier, and the Prominent Champion. Jim Brown is a likely candidate for that august body. Ask him about his chickens if you have twenty minutes to spare. He and Kathy have migrated south from among the northern tribes to be neighbors to Alvin and Beverly Barnhart. “We’ll sing of the old, and we’ll sing of the new. We’ll sing of the changes in years. I can’t tell a lie. Last night I had pie for the first time in twenty four years.” There is another old song suitable for the occasion.

An auspicious occasion had Kaitlyn McConnell of “Ozarks Alive!” visiting the Vanzant Jam on Thursday. She has visited Champion on many occasions and was the winner of the “Instead Of The Skyline VFD Picnic Quilt” back at the beginning of the pandemic. She was in Vanzant in the company of Mike O’Brian, an avid appreciator of The Champion News, and frequent traveling companion with Kaitlyn. The General suggested that her journalism is routinely based on fact, unlike this column in which he is often the subject of mild mockery. “Where do cowgirls go when they die?” Kaitlyn was prompted to ask her new friend. Her response to his sentimental musical soliloquy on “Reincarnation” proved her to be a convivial good sport as well as a wonderful writer. She has met Glen Branstetter now, so there is a treasure trove of stories awaiting her exploration. She is currently compiling her second volume of “Passport to the Ozarks,” where she shines a light on our many hidden corners. Champion will be featured in the next edition—Looking on the Bright Side!

Kaitlyn and The General