November 30, 2020

CHAMPION—November 30, 2020


Last Thursday afternoon an Old Champion leaned back in his chair, smiled up toward the ceiling, lacing his fingers loosely over the little round bread basket that has in time grown up on what used to be called his abs.  “Well,” he said, “I sure do feel a whole lot more like I do now than I did a while ago.”  (In truth, it sounded more like “shore do” and “a wholla go.”)  He went on to say that if he always felt like this, the price of groceries would not be anything at all.  Thanksgiving dinner for two old folks netted leftovers clear through Monday and beyond.  In many places all over the country the traditional banquet was celebrated in clusters of two.  Some fortunate families were able to gather in bigger lots.  In Champion, Kriders, Wisemans, Watts and Clines, and perhaps others of that clan were fortunate to be able to spend the day feasting together.  Some of The General’s brood visited the nest over in Vanzant for biscuits and gravy and, doubtlessly, for old family stories going back generations.  If there is one thing that Covid-19 has taught us, it is that family and dear friends are the most precious things we have.  Until we can safely hug the stuffing out of each other again, we will have to keep the phone lines, internet, and post office humming with our declarations of love and concern and, most importantly, those old family stories that tell us who we are and how we got here.

Esther Wrinkles’ Christmas cactus

A regular patron of the Historic Emporium in Downtown Champion hails from down on the Bryant and celebrates his 75th birthday on the full November Beaver Moon and this one is special for having 85% of the visible surface  darken at 3:42 a.m., central time, as a result of the last penumbral eclipse of the year.  Whether Mr. Birthday was awake to see that special sight, we hope he knows he is as special to the Champion as a rare full moon is to the heavens.  There is a wonderful story about “…..that big old yellow moon a hangin up there, and God’s sweet lanterns a hangin in the sky.”  It involves a still that produced something akin to ‘honeydew vine water.’  And then there was the bear.   That good neighbor from down on the Bryant, has plenty of stories to tell, including that one about how the 7th Calvary’s mascot mule got shot up in Vietnam and the one about Waterhole Ike, the boar hog that got his Social Security card and food stamps.  It is a true story.  Champions hope it was a happy 75th birthday for one of it favorite story tellers.

Shirley Emerson is one of those charming ladies who used to visit Champion on behalf of the Douglas County Health Department to help us regulate our blood pressure and general health.  It was a great amenity to the community and we miss their monthly visits since the pandemic has been on us.  Shirley still checks in on her favorites, in particular those whom she deems may not take care of themselves as well as they should.  Part of taking care of ourselves is staying positive.  As Mr. Python said, “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”  Do as much of that as you can and tell those old family stories like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


November 16, 2020

CHAMPION—November 16, 2020


By way of a disclaimer, it is not necessarily the case that every Champion agrees with the observations and opinions as proffered in The Champion News. However, every Champion who has the good fortune to see an eagle light in a big dead tree up on WW Highway shares the joy and excitement. That includes the Cowboy, the Prominent Champion, the Essential Shop Keeper, Deward’s Granddaughter and numerous others. Deward’s daughter, Marian Conradi, who lived on the old home place, was a great appreciator of the eagle. Her note cards most often featured eagle pictures and she referenced the link of the great bird with patriotism. From her hill top vantage point she must have often seen a local resident pair and those migrating this time of the year. Her daughter, now on the old home place, the Henson Centennial Farm, sees them there occasionally and reported seeing a young one and one with a white head and tail on Friday. “Beautiful!” she said. Indeed!

The General was a little late getting to Champion on a recent Wednesday. He sent a message that he had an appointment at 9 am to get a new muffler and tailpipe. This prompted some Champions to ask if the muffler was for himself or for his truck. Then they suggested that when he arrived, they might require him to turn around for an inspection. By and by they moved on to other topics and let that opportunity for levity pass. Levity had its place however, when The General recalled that there was a day when a person might cough in order to disguise that funny noise that happens sometimes when digestive gases escape the human body. These days it is the cough that is to be disguised, but the method in reverse is not nearly as voluntary or predictable.

A local gardener, a while back, was said to have used fertilizer provided by miniature donkeys. That year all his produce was miniature with little bitty potatoes and tomatoes. Don Bishop reported a dismal harvest from his garden this year—small potatoes. He did not say what kind of fertilizer he used, but he said if he had a couple of big ones in addition, he might have enough sweet potatoes for a mess. There is a big doe with three fawns routinely patrolling and feasting upon his plantings. He would put her in his freezer but for Reba, who is not a fan of venison. Maybe the mama deer will wander onto neighboring property and be harvested by some hunter. A fat doe makes good eating. The season has commenced with much wind and rain, thunder and lightning. The harvest will be appreciated for the extreme conditions as much as for the kill and the resulting good food. Traffic has increased on country lanes so much as to exhaust vigilant yard dogs. Champions wish all the hunters good luck and a safe chase.

Political discourse swirls around ancient wood stoves, café tables and over fences and the internet. A room can be squelched to a sudden silence at the arrival of someone perceived to hold unpopular (other) beliefs. Tension is so high as to vilify the nonconformist. Not since Sir Walter Scot introduced the term in 1816, has the cold shoulder been turned with such conviction. Real power, a prominent figure has declared, is fear. The fear of change and of altering values, the fear of losing something and of people with nothing getting something are some of the general fears that help drive the divisiveness. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” said another prominent figure in 1933. Someone said that courage is not not being afraid but doing what needs to be done even when you are afraid. Champions are courageous, though some are pleased to say we don’t know what we are talking about.

Home is the best thing there is according to Jerry Wagner. He is pleased to be spending these days with the Fair Lena. He admits not playing his fiddle like he should. There is nothing wrong with his playing; he just does not do it as often as he ought. Otherwise, he says they are doing fine, and he, like all of us, is looking forward to the time when we can all get together again. One of his tunes is “I wonder how the old folks are at home.” The Christmas cactus that Esther Wrinkles shared a decade ago is blooming mightily, making us remember her and the many old folks who have gone on to the ‘better home.’ We will all get there eventually. Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!


November 10, 2020

CHAMPION—November 3, 2020


Halloween in Champion was spooky! It started under what might be called a ‘buttermilk sky.’ The whole expanse of the bright blue western view was curdled with golden bottomed wispy white cotton ball clouds erupting in a fountain of color from behind the hill over toward the Henson Centennial Farm. It was brilliant, explosive, but quiet–still and quiet. The parade of Waterhole Ike and Elvis impersonators, gypsies, hula girls, mummies, zombies and pirates happily did not appear. There were no trick and no treats, just a long procession of precious memories of dear spirits now rambling with the blessed. Obituaries occupy a substantial part of most newspapers and old people almost always look there first. What we learn about people after they are gone from us sometimes surprise us. Must we lose someone close to us, someone important to us in order to take seriously our vulnerability? Someone laughed and said, “If you want to clear a room fast, just cough.” We might ride that cavalier air all the way to our coffin. If you are sick, stay home.

Music has healing properties best applied live, but any way you can get it is good. Choose your favorite kind and blast it when you need your heart lifted. Banjo picking and hot fiddling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but one Old Champion takes it as a tonic to get up and get with it. As old folks break up housekeeping or just spend their quarantine time in house cleaning they are faced with the mountains of their accumulated stuff. Recent good rains have not significantly reduced the fire hazard, so take care in your blazing decluttering, while you relieve your heirs of the onerous burden of disposing of your heaps and piles and boxes of papers and junk.

Anxiety over the election, over the pandemic and our losses, over social issues and over the prospect of a hard winter ahead adds up a lot of anxiety and it is all bipartisan anxiety. Everyone feels it. We are all in it together. Our individual life experiences have shaped us all differently and as widely divergent as our points of view may be, it is understood that everyone wants what is best for the Nation…for everyone…all 331 million of us. The intensity of rancor and vitriol of recent days has been overwhelming. What a great relief it will be when we can lay those things aside finally. Then we can begin to work together to address all those other important issues. We may not all be drinking that free bubble up and eating that rainbow stew. It may be cornbread, buttermilk and good old turnip greens, but we will all be grateful to come to the table—still friends and neighbors and kin folks.

We pause in the midst of the election hoopla to acknowledge Veterans’ Day–November 11th. The freedom and security that we are able to enjoy here in the United States of America comes to us through the sacrifice and service of our men and women in uniform. Thank you. There are currently about 1.3 million active duty personnel and 800,000 reserve forces. We have about 17 million Veterans in the Country and more than 1000 of them live here in Douglas County. Many of them are Vietnam era Veterans. They came home to a Nation in turmoil and the recognition they deserved was long delayed. The Nation seems to be in turmoil again and hopes are that our courageous Veterans will help us all to heal and unite like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


October 29, 2020

CHAMPION—October 26, 2020


You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.” Those wise Roger Miller words remind us of what we can do. Yesterday was his birthday–1936. He passed away in 1992, but he still gives us reason to smile and sing. That inspiration is much welcome on these cold, rainy days full of anxiousness and dread. The days seem colder for having had warm ones so recently, but our aquifer is rejoicing, the fields are being nourished and soon the creeks will be running again. The pandemic and politics feed the anxiousness. The dread has to do with the uncertainty and with the certainty of a long fall and winter only just begun. Champions will “knuckle down, buckle down” and set our minds to making the most of whatever comes next.

A Sycamore beauty…

One Old Champion is holding a grudge against the Dodgers still over their move to Los Angeles in 1957, and so is rooting for the Tamp Bay bunch. The Old Champion Spouse has deep affection for some Californians, who naturally support their team, and she chooses to stand by them. “Just stand there and watch it go by,” says the Rays fan (really just an anti-Dodgers fan) when there is a strike out. “Get it! Get it! Get it!” she yells to the outfielder when some hitter has sailed one high but short of the wall. She loved baseball on the radio in the old days when the voices of Mel Allen, Harry Caray, and Red Barber used their wonderful language to bring her right into the game with every play. (Red Barber used to talk about the beautiful camellias in his yard.) They say that baseball is the most sophisticated of all the gladiator sports. The National Pastime draws us cordially together even as competitors. Ruby Proctor could tell you how she got that scar on her forehead there at home plate in Champion back “in the day.” Maybe General Fast-Pitch will share some highlights of his greatest hits and pitches from his thrilling days on the diamond all over Europe and other places. Thirty-seven years ago Dodgers won the World Series and they have done it again! “The bums!” says the Old Champion.

Serious preparations are under way for the hunting season. The Missouri Department of Conservation reminds us that ‘baiting’ with corn or grain is not permitted. This is also the time of the year for the ghosts, goblins, and ghouls to come prowling about with their jack-o-lantern pumpkin buckets, out on a wild Full Hunter’s Blue Moon looking for candy at the threat of a trick. Creative teachers and parents will find a way to keep this observance lively and safe for our young ones. Others use All Hallows Eve, El Dia de los Muertos, and All Saints Day to walk through memories with cherished ones who have left us here while they “walk the streets that are purest gold.” We will be satisfied with just a cottage below for the nonce as we remember to appreciate our family and friends while they are here with us. The reality of the Corona virus may make us more appreciative as we acknowledge the vulnerability of so many important people in our lives. Maybe you haven’t lost anyone yet, so you might feel that the precautions recommended are overblown. Still, if you are sick with a cold or the flu or with allergies that make you cough and sneeze, it is respectful of others for you to stay home.

There are spoons inside the persimmon seeds if the squirrels, coyotes and groundhogs allowed you to get any persimmons. That might mean a cold winter ahead, perhaps with lots of snow. The remark has been heard several times recently out on the Wide Veranda of the Historic Emporium that we have not had a really cold winter in a long time. This may be one. Call your old friends over in Ava and Dora and Vanzant and Brushy Knob to find out what they are thinking about the coming winter. We were good about staying in touch at the beginning of the pandemic, but may have become accustomed to our solitude as time has gone by. Tammy Bergeron wrote a note to her Mother just to say, “Hello.” She said the word Hello means: “H=How are you? E=Everything all right? L=Like to hear from you. L=Love to see you soon! O=Obviously, I miss you, so Hello!” The sound of your voice on the telephone might just be the high point of the day for some old friends. You will be their Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


October 18, 2020

CHAMPION—October 12, 2020


Grand Prize Winner!

She’s got it! Kaitlyn McConnell made it to Champion on Wednesday to collect her grand prize. More than a thousand tickets were sold for the NO-2020-SKYLINE PICNIC QUILT and she was the lucky winner. Kaitlyn will tell you she is lucky all around. She has a great job in a community that she loves in an area that she appreciates and supports with her many talents. It couldn’t happen to a nicer gal! Congratulations! Meanwhile, the proceeds have been recounted and sum up to $1,213.00, all for the aid of the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department. That august organization is surely grateful to Kaitlyn and to everyone across the country who bought tickets at the Champion Store and through the mail and over the internet, and to Connie Freeman for donating the beautiful quilt and to the proprietor of Henson’s Downtown G & G for displaying the quilt and keeping track of everything and The Champion News, for what little we did do. All the acknowledgement is swell, but the real appreciation goes to the men and women of the Skyline VFD who take the time to train themselves in all the practices and procedures necessary to protect our lives and our property. They leave their dinner tables and jobs at a moment’s notice when they are needed. So thanks! Champions are all extending themselves to be cautious and prudent during this extended dry period. Outdoor burning is a risky business when conditions are as they are. There was talk on the Wide Veranda of the ‘water moon’ being portentous of rain that will lower the fire risk and nourish the pastures, ponds and streams. There was also a report of a wooly worm with a dominant dark front part, mildly beige in the middle and dark at the hind end. What does it all mean? Winters have been mild lately. Time will tell.

Wilma Hutchison beamed her beautiful smile on Andrew Hardin when he looked in on her recently. He says she is doing well and was happy for a visitor. Out on the square Wednesday afternoon Andrew reported that this was one of the best trail rides he can remember. He can remember a lot of them and has wonderful memories of Bud who he holds up as an example of being a really good man–a genuinely good person. He told a story about Bud and another rider on some old familiar trail when they came upon a fence that had never been there before. The guy pulled out his wire pliers and cut the fence, saying he would come back and fix it. When he got back to fix it a day or two later he found it repaired already. Bud had come back that very evening and fixed it himself. Probably all those guys on the ride have some story to tell about Bud. Bill Collins had not been on this trail since before the Recreation of the Historic Emporium in about 2011. (See the video of the Grand Opening on October 25, 2011.) Bill was riding Old Jim. Kenneth Forsyth was on Rain, Jeff Alcorn on Holly, Casey Alcorn on Storm Cat, Gary Braden on James, Don Hamby on Domino, Bill Winkelman on Cookie, Jim McCaughrin on Lacoda, Andrew Harden on Mable and Calvin Chambers on Blue. Wilma would have had them all lined up for their picture.

From the TCN archives of October 18, 2010: “Anyone looking for some beautiful smiles only had to get a load of those miners rescued in Chili.” In our current turmoil, we may have forgotten that ordeal ten years ago when the whole world held its breath for the 33 men trapped more than two thousand feet underground for 69 days. They made it out and so will we persevere through these difficult days. With so much illness and strife in the world, it takes effort to stay positive. Our thoughts are with the many here in Douglas County, perhaps even here in Champion, across the Country and the world who are suffering in the pandemic. We hope for a good recovery for all those ill, and comfort for all those bereft. Now is no time to be cavalier. No matter how we lose those we care for, we are faced with loss. Don’t get yourself lost. People care about you.

Just last week or ten days ago, Champion was still in the midst of “glorious summer.” Fall’s color modifications started gradually and then became dramatic and then wildly windblown. By next week, we may be looking at a vertical gray brush pile with only our cedars and pines for contrast. Change is in the air. A New England niece writes, “A whirl of falling maple leaves dances above our heads proclaiming ‘All is not lost in summers lies, see the beauty of decaying reality as it embraces a long winter’s dream of spring.’” Over in Peace Valley, Fran Martin writes, “Another season line crossed, last remnant of summer lost. I stayed up late to remonstrate. I never celebrate frost.” Champion’s first frost October 16, 2020!

Voters can cast their ballot for the November 3rd Election in the Douglas County Clerk’s office during business hours. It seems that ballot language can be confusing sometimes, seemingly designed to obfuscate and obscure the issues, making a person think he is voting one way when, in fact, he may be voting against his own best interest. The amendments are important and merit careful study.

USPS employees and bankers are enjoyed a day off work as the country celebrated Columbus Day. Leonard Peltier, a Native American, has been ‘celebrating’ in prison for 43 years for a crime he did not commit. He admonishes us to “Acknowledge our Loss. Respect our Culture. Learn how to Advocate.” Jacob Moffett, of Moffett Trees and More, has become an enthusiast of collecting arrowheads. The Douglas County Museum in Ava has a great collection of them on display. There are experts who can identify the age and origin of these artifacts, many of which significantly predate Columbus. This area has a number of talented flint knappers including Butch Stone, Jim Ivy, and others who appreciate and respect the skill of those pre-historic folks as they work to replicate their work. It is understandable that many might prefer October 12th be celebrated as Indigenous Peoples Day. The winds of change blow hard in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

A Champion Fall

October 10, 2020

CHAMPION—October 10, 2020



The longer we live, the more acquainted with loss we become. We people in our 70s know a great number of people who have passed out of this life. Some passings are expected, sweet, sad and gentle with loving family at the bedside. Some are tragic, sudden shocks. Some are cruel, brutal, senseless. Loss is an inevitable part of life, and grief is a natural part of the healing process. We commiserate with each other as we commemorate and memorialize our dear ones gone on. A recent memorial took the form of friends and family standing masked outside in a social distancing circle on a lovely fall afternoon. They shared, in turn, how they met their friend and what he meant to them. His kindness and generosity, his self-effacing good humor and his love of bridge, tennis, turkeys, tropical plants and his fellow man were all acknowledged, as was the loss of yet another good person from the lives of each of them. We are reminded to recognize and appreciate loved ones while they are with us. A rule to live by: “When it is good, say so.” With so much illness and strife in the world these days it takes effort to stay positive. Our thoughts are with the many here in Douglas County, perhaps even in Champion, and across the Country and the world who are suffering in the pandemic. We hope for a good recovery for all those ill, and comfort for all those bereft.

Bud’s Trail Ride will be just in time for the maximum beauty of a Champion autumn. The prolonged dry period made some think it would be a drab season, but each day brings out unexpected loveliness in our ever-changing color scheme. Bud’s Trail Ride will be about the same, taking out of Champion at 10:00, lunching somewhere on the Shannon Ranch, getting back to Champion for ice cream in the early afternoon—1:00 or 2:00, depending on adventures. Last spring there was a log across a creek. Some horses did not mind jumping over logs, but did not like jumping over logs into running water. Andrew Hardin will be leading the ride again in Bud’s stead. He recently had a nice visit with Wilma. She is doing well, smiling and happy to have a visitor. Kaitlyn McConnell is planning to be in Champion on the day of the trail ride to pick up the beautiful No-Skyline-Picnic Quilt that she won. There is always something interesting happening in Champion.

Glen Branstetter, an old family friend of Bud and Wilma, made a stop in Champion on Wednesday. Champion was not part of his route when he was the Kitty Clover man, but he was able to find it anyway. He admired some of the old fixtures in the Recreation of the Historic Emporium—the potato chip rack and the candy counter, and had a good conversation with the Proprietor. He sat around on the porch for a while listening to the music and to the prolonged unremitting blathering of a motorcicle hooligan, who, while not pontificating and prevaricating, was piteously pestering a young woman, a first time visitor, who on account of him, may make it a point never to return to the Bright Side. Alas!

If you have a photographer with you on a drive down a country lane on a perfect day this week, better give yourself plenty time to get there. Every twist in the road reveals a new combination of colors and a sudden far distant vista excites the shutter bug, “Stop, back up about six feet. Ah! Great!” Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


October 2, 2020

CHAMPION—October 2, 2020


Connie Freeman

The winning ticket.

London draws the winner.

Champion congratulations go out to Kaitlyn McConnell — the winner of the beautiful No-2020-Skyline Picnic Quilt. The drawing was held on October 1st at the Historic Emporium. Two year old (almost) London Coon was chosen, as the youngest person in the crowd, to pull the winning ticket out of the big box. (Alvin Barnhart said he thought there would be a big crowd.) London did an excellent job of it. Connie Freeman and her husband traveled all the way from Vera Cruz for the occasion. Connie, who made and donated the quilt, said that this one broke all previous records for earnings by one of her quilts–$1,212.00. The Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department has a debt of gratitude to Connie and to everyone who supported the project…from Sheridan, Wyoming; Portland, Oregon; Hurricane, Utah; New Vienna, Ohio; Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas; Houston, Austin, and Wharton, Texas, as well as from Springfield, Sparta, Ava, and Mountain Grove. It sounds like “I’ve been everywhere.” Kaitlyn McConnell has been closer to everywhere than most of us. She is a world traveler and an explorer of every back road and point of interest all over her native Ozarks. Her great blog, Ozarks Alive, is dedicated to Ozarks folklore and history and to sharing the natural beauty of the place—Ozarks Alive: Cool Photography. She shared a copy of her recent book “Passport to the Ozarks” with the Reading Room at the Historic Emporium and indicates that Champion will be included in the next edition. Her friends here are happy for her win and are pleased by her support and the generosity of so many for the Skyline VFD.

A few drops of rain fell in Champion a few days before the full Harvest Moon showed itself on the first of October. By the second day of the month temperatures were down in the thirties. “Chili today—hot tamale” is often the weather this time of the year. There may be a few hot days yet to get the work all done this fall. Soon enough old timers will have their long-handles on, hauling stove wood and ashes. There will be frost on the Champion pumpkin. There will not be as many sweet potato pies coming out of the oven on the cold days as had been hoped. It seems that the health and vigor of the vine is a pretty good indicator of the yield. Perhaps it was the rabbits or the deer, or Wilbur the Wonderful Woodchuck or his (or her) kin that kept the vines so assiduously pruned. The harvest was scant and full of fingerlings and odd shapes reminiscent of Archimedes. One can hardly blame the critters for liking the luscious leaves. We might find fault, however, with Jonnie the Friendly Dog, though, in her defense, she never promised to be anything other than loveable.

A person with a birthday on a full moon is a fortunate person. Of course, a birthday on any day celebrates another trip around the sun—a plus for people making the most of their lives. Champions observe their Prominent Citizen to be doing that very thing. Anyway, he does not need to be reminded that if a person acts like he is having a good time; pretty soon he will forget that he is acting and will really be having a good time. Hopes are that his anniversary was celebrated roundly. His cousin Bud’s Champion Trail Ride is scheduled for October 14th. That is another big event for Champion. The riders generally take out of the Square around ten in the morning and go off on their exciting adventure. By early afternoon they are back at the Historic Emporium sharing tales of the trail and enjoying ice cream and the tunes of the Sometimes Porch Band. They have been working on an instrumental version of Ghost Riders in the Sky (in A minor), hoping Roberta will come back to sing it for us again. Music is a good, free, spirit lifting medicine—highly recommended in whatever form you like the best.

Vote in whatever form suits you. A couple of Old Champions went into the Douglas County Clerk’s office to cast their ballot on Tuesday. It was easy as pie. All you need is your voter registration card and to sign the document that indicates why you are voting absentee. One of the reasons can be concern about Covid 19. They give you your ballot and escort you to a little room with voting tables. When you have completed your ballot, it goes in the locked box just like the one at the polls when you vote in person. The folks in the office are friendly and helpful and your vote is secure. Vote any way you can.

October is just the second of the ‘ber’ months. It is full of birthdays and holidays and somber occasions like all the months of the year are, but this one is special for having two full moons. The 31st is Halloween, also the full Hunter’s Moon and we will be singing, “When my Blue Moon turns to gold again and rainbows chase the clouds away” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

The “fingerling” sweets.