March 24, 2020

CHAMPION—March 23, 2020


Looking out at a Champion Spring

A friend, much admired and respected for insight, once said, “If I had twenty thousand years to catch a bus, I would need twenty thousand years and five minutes.” An habitual procrastinator is thrown further behind by continuous interruptions. However, one of the few positive aspects of the confounding chaos of the corona virus is that people are reaching out to friends and family in almost unprecedented ways. We say closeness has not all that much to do with geography. It is true and in these unsettling times it is precious to hear a seldom heard voice or read a note from a far-away friend who has been out of touch for far too long. So we are counting blessings and not complaining if our routines are interrupted by too much love and caring. We are all staying home, looking out our windows at Spring. Relax.

Looking out at a Champion Spring

Just because things are different, nobody has put the kibosh on birthdays. They may just be celebrated a little differently. Skyline RII Schoolers with birthdays soon are Mrs. Downs on the 27th and first grader, Brailynn Cumby, on the 28th. Another first grader, Tucker Johnson, shares his birthday with Mrs. Willhite on the 30th. However you go about it, your Champion friends hope your birthdays are sweet ones. School is closed, but good things are still going on there. The school’s food service is offering a grab-and-go meal program on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday at the south door of the cafeteria. On each of those days they will have two breakfasts and two lunches available for pick up free to any child eighteen years or younger. The drive-up service will be open from 10:00-12:00 on these days. Our great school is supporting the community in a substantial way. Hopes are the community will respond in kind at the polls on June 2, 2020.

Looking out at a Champion Spring

March 23rd is the birthday of numerous fine Champions. Among them, newcomer Susan Perry, Seattle Seahawks fan and driver of many long country miles volunteering for Meals on Wheels. She has not been here long, but she makes a positive impact. Don Bishop celebrates that day too. He has a scary stack of firewood that makes people speed when they drive by his house. He fights the groundhogs for sweet potatoes and brings Reba to Champion whenever he can. Judie Pennington up on Tar Button road is a Morrell mushroom aficionado who knows when and where to find them. She has had bears in her yard and she has a smile like a sunny day. Skyline Volunteer fire-fighter and appliance maven, Don Powell, will put out your brush fire and put a new pump in your Maytag. Those volunteers put their own lives on hold while they protect ours. The General’s lovely daughter, Elva Upshaw, also celebrates that day. Elva is a much appreciated health care professional at the Ozarks Medical Center. She is grateful that the El Charro restaurant is offering carry out in West Plains. These days we are finding many good reasons to be grateful. Enjoy your birthdays, you Champions. We remember Troy Powell on his birthday, March 26th. He was born in 1926 and passed away on his birthday in 2001. He is remembered for his great love of music and for his smile. Jack Masters down in Austin Texas is a linebacker and a Champion great-nephew. Bobby Nicholson is a Scotsman who sings in English, but you can hardly tell! He sings, “It Wisnae Me.” His birthday is on the 29th, just two days before that of the charming Morag Edward–sailor, author, painter, musician, chocolatier, and a producer of exquisite puddings and good ideas. Have a jolly day all of you!

In other good news, the arrogant, ignorant antics of a local rapscallion, flaunting common sense, ignoring his own safety and the safety of others, is somewhat ameliorated by the generosity of women at their sewing machines. All over the country they are producing face masks to donate to nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals and doctor’s offices. Find links to a number of patterns and tutorials on line and contact your local hospitals or health care provider to see how to donate them. It is a great way to use up that stash of quilt scraps and to be part of the recovery.

Prudence was the reason an Old Champion chose not to try to cross Clever Creek again on Wednesday. The last few feet before reaching the far bank had her thinking she may have made a terrible mistake. Turn around. Don’t drown! It was a mile and a half to get there and seventeen miles to get home. The unofficial rain gauge (a peach can) at the Historic Emporium showed three and a half more inches the next day. By Friday the creeks were well out of their banks, though Auld Fox did not rise up all the way into the square this time. She had to laugh on Friday when the power went out for a few hours. To be isolated because of the virus, then because of the high water and then to have no contact with the outside struck her as funny and as a kind of a relief to have no news for a little while and no internet stream of fear and blame. The White River Valley folks came down the road and power was back up in time for Jeopardy. Things were back to their new normal again and optimism restored. There will be hiccups but we will get through this side by side like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

Looking out at a Champion Spring

March 18, 2020

CHAMPION—March 16, 2020


A Champion Road Trip

In a nice turn-out Saturday for the Skyline VFD Biscuits and Gravy Breakfast, members had a chance to vote for additional board members and to express appreciation to the volunteer fire-fighters who leave their jobs and supper tables to come to our aid when we need it. This breakfast may be the last function of this kind for some while. This Saturday, the 21st, friends were to again congregate at the School for a catfish dinner and music by Duke McIntosh’s New Grass Attack in a get-together to support our great little rural school. Superintendent Donnie Luna was to give a presentation concerning the future of the school including information concerning our local tax levy. Our current rate is $2.77, well below the state average operating levy of $3.67. There will be an initiative on the April 7th ballot to raise our levy up to $3.43, the magic number that will make the school eligible for a substantial amount of additional funding from the state and federal government. Many local people remember when Skyline was built back in the 1950s. There have been additions and upgrades over the years, but at this time, the infrastructure could use some serious help, i.e. the gym roof, the HVAC system, etc. Moreover, the 2018 vote to raise the minimum wage has a significant impact on the annual operating budget. Residents, who have no interest in the school, still have interest in their taxes. If we lose the school and are thrown into neighboring districts, the tax levy will jump up to $3.66, at least, without a vote on the matter. Education is about the best investment to be made. After all, these bright young folks will be running the world soon. For a while they will be studying at home and being prudent like the rest of us during this unusual time. They will be learning how adults behave in an amazingly distressing situation, so we are committed to setting a good example. We need to be conscious, cool and kind—Champions.

Simone Biles is an American artistic gymnast. She has a total of 30 Olympic and World Championship medals and is the most decorated American gymnast and the world’s third most decorated gymnast. Her birthday is March 14, 1997. She is 23 years old. She is an amazing young lady who has a powerful voice as a result of her phenomenal skill and she has used it to help make some significant change. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, also an amazing individual, celebrates her birthday on the 15th, the Ides of March. She was born in 1933, and was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. She has had a substantial voice in promoting justice. In modern times, the Ides of March is best known as the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44BC. Caesar was stabbed to death at a meeting of the Senate, as described by the Bard. As many as 60 conspirators, led by Brutus and Cassius, were involved. Perhaps politics have evolved, but things seem pretty brutal these days. A friend reminds us (as if we had ever known) that when Shakespeare was quarantined because of the plague, he wrote King Lear. As we are sheltering in place, self-quarantining, and doing the prudent things to keep ourselves and our communities safe, we may write epics about the family dynamics of loyalty and selfishness; we may practice on our musical instruments or perhaps sort out our photographs, paperwork and possessions; we may focus our attention on our families, near and far, and on our friends and neighbors. Closeness has not all that much to do with geography in these modern times with our excellent technologies.

Champions up on Cold Springs Road thought to take a Sunday drive just for the purpose of ‘dirt road therapy’ to enjoy nature and a respite from the stressful news. They headed south and soon found their way impeded by the high waters of Clever Creek. So they turned left on 76-24, known as Fox Creek Road. It had been years since they had traveled this path and they were again impressed with the fine work of those gentlemen from the Douglas County road department. There were a few rough spots due to recent heavy rains, but it was overall quite passable and certainly a lovely drive with high rock cliffs on the left side and deep drop-offs on the right. Recent logging left some significant mud along the road side and opened up some lovely views of the valley beyond with Fox Creek roaring through. They turned east on 95-240 thinking to sneak up on the General from behind, but they were again thwarted by a raging torrent, perhaps just a feeder creek to Greasy or Fox, but impassable nonetheless. Sources may refer to this as the Denlow Branch. The driver backed up the several hundred yards rather than risk sinking in the wet fields on either side with a three point turn. Then it was on to Denlow. What a lovely trip. The adventure continued until bellies grumbled for lunch. They pulled into their own drive having registered 12 miles on the trip meter and reaffirmed that we live in one of the world’s truly lovely spots, surely as lovely as the Emerald Isle itself. St. Patrick was kidnapped and spent 6 years herding sheep in Ireland before he made his escape. Later he went back and made a name for himself. Champions will be wearing the green Tuesday and parading around their kitchen tables singing, “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral!” On Thursday they will not be going to the Vanzant Jam because it too has been cancelled until things get back to some form of normal.

To the people who have bought 27 bottles of soap leaving none on the store shelves for others, you do realize that to avoid getting coronavirus, you need other people to wash their hands too. Viruses are contagious, so is panic, fear, hysteria, calm, love, enthusiasm, kindness, joy and yawning. Think of that old song, A Beautiful Life, and lend a helping hand. An Old Champion laughed remembering a song written back in 1963, during another period of National anxiety: “Time passed and now it seems everybody’s having them dreams. Everybody sees themselves walkin around with nobody else. Half of the people can be part right all of the time and some of the people can be all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time. I think Abraham Lincoln said that. ‘I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours,’ I said that.” Bob Dylan had learned his talking blues style from Woody Guthrie who wrote, “This land is your land–this land is my land.” We are pretty sure he was a Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Clever Creek Runneth Over

March 10, 2020

CHAMPION–March 9, 2020


Kenneth and Dawn Henson — Frances and Wayne Sutherland

In addition to all the deliciousness of approaching Spring with longer days—thanks to daylight savings time (not really), and the buttery profusion of daffodils—thanks to homemakers who planted them generations ago, there are many momentous occasions to celebrate. Dawn and Kenneth (Hovie) Henson, down in Houston, Texas celebrated 53 years of marriage on March the 3rd. Their Champion friends will look forward to seeing them this summer when they tour the Bright Side. We will sing, “Grow Old With Me” and say, “Happy anniversary!” to you two and to Frances and Wayne Sutherland who marched forth on the 4th of March seventy years ago and got married. She was 17 and he was 19. They married over the state line in Mountain Home, Arkansas. It was the fad at the time, but they had to take their mothers along to sign for them. They live up in Wright County behind a mailbox that looks like a tractor and next door to about the sweetest neighbor they could have. Mandolinist, Sue Murphy, had a birthday on March 8th, which happens to be International Woman’s Day. We can thank Sue and all of today’s stand-up women, and our Mothers and all the brilliant women who have come before us and those to come for making the world better. Miss Bailey Foulke is one of those exciting young women. She is also a cousin of young Felix Osage Maverick and friend of the one legged chicken, Violet. Bailey shares her birthday on the 9th with local broom maker and Chatty Cathy, Kay Dennis. Skyline third grader, Brice King, shares his big day with teacher, Mrs. Vivod. Mrs. Casper, Skyline impresario, has the 12th for her special day. That day was also special for a couple of nice men who have passed away. Geoff Metroplos, passed away several years ago, but is well remembered for how meticulous he was in his many varied skills. Champion musician, J.R. Johnston, passed away last summer. He was recently joined again by his wife of 68 years. Janet passed away February 25th. They were the kind of folks a person would choose for kinfolks if they had a choice.

The 14th of March (3/14) is Pi day. The Greek letter is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant—the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter—approximately 3.14159. It has been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point. Exciting! On Saturday morning of Pi day, March 14 (7 a.m. to 10 a.m.) come over to the Skyline School for biscuits and gravy (and sausage and eggs, but no pie) at a get-together for the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department. Board members are being elected and it will be a chance to have your voice heard as you support this vital little organization that protects our lives and property.

The Ides of March, beware! Skyline alumnus, Six-foot-Sam, currently of Auld Reekie, celebrates that auspicious day with distant cousin, Jacob Masters, 30 years his junior, and Irish Ursula, mother of Demetri. Elizabeth Brown, nee Mastrangelo, was 23 in on March 16, 2013. The forever-young and lovely, Ms. Helen Batten, also enjoys the 16th as her birthday. Skyline Champion 8th grade archer, Myla Sarginson, has the 18th to enjoy her party.

One of the farmer’s and planter’s almanacs informs us that this year the spring equinox will occur on March 19th in all the U.S. time zones, making it the earliest spring we will have seen in our lives so far. The last time spring arrived this early was in 1896. The 19th is Thursday, so the Vanzant jammers will be whooping it up in time to the music. Starting at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 21st, Duke McIntosh and his band, New Grass Attack Bluegrass, will give a free performance at the Skyline School to usher in the season. Alumni going back to Skyline’s beginning are invited to attend, as well as you newcomers to the area who would like to check out the school and get to know your neighbors. Doug Hutchison, a good neighbor if ever there was one, will be cooking fish and French fries and there will be Cole slaw and baked beans…all for $10.00 a plate! The proceeds will go to the school, which the school can surely use. Superintendent Donnie Luna will have information concerning the upcoming tax levy vote on April 7th. Our current rate is $2.77, well below the state average operating levy of $3.67. The initiative on the ballot proposes to raise our levy up to $3.43, the magic number that will make the school eligible for a substantial amount of additional funding from the state and federal government. Many local people remember when Skyline was built back in the 1950s. There have been additions and upgrades over the years, but at this time, the infrastructure could use some serious help, i.e. the gym roof, the HVAC system, etc. Moreover, the 2018 vote to raise the minimum wage has a significant impact on the annual operating budget. Residents, who have no interest in the school, still have interest in their taxes. If we lose the school and are thrown into neighboring districts, the tax levy will jump up to $3.66, at least, without a vote on the matter. Education is about the best investment to be made. After all, these bright young folks will be running the world soon.

Beautiful days have old gardeners weary at day’s end. Seedlings are full of promise. We pause in our labors to think of Tennessee neighbors suffering great loss from last week’s raging storm and of our friends and families across the country and the world who may be in danger of the virus. Hobert Moffis, now 100 years old, grew up over around Dora and has spent most of his interesting and productive life in the West Plains area. He plays fiddle and mandolin and says, “Mind your own business. Don’t over eat.” And he says, “Be as happy as you can.” Try to keep a happy heart in troubled times as we endeavor to do in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

A Champion Circle Garden

March 4, 2020

CHAMPION—March 2, 2020


Local archers shooting in the 12:00 o’clock flight at the Skyline Archery Tournament on Saturday
were Haylee Surface, Rylee Sartor, Rowdy Woods, and Myla Sarginson.

Leap day was a lovely one in Champion. Skies were blue. The ferocious winds of the previous days finally abated and gardeners were out getting ready to get things done. Some over-did it and paid the price they know so well. There was a great turn-out for the Skyline Archery tournament. There were 166 students from all over the area participating. It is a quiet and orderly sport with very specific rules and protocols. Like musicians, these archers see that concentration, adherence to technique, and practice all add up to success.

Champions are expecting to have daffodils blooming by Monday afternoon. Sunday night’s exciting electrical storm, Thunder Rolling Lightning Flashing, and deluge has encouraged those first early ones and by the end of a sunshine filled week there will be great swaths of yellow along roadsides. The public group on Facebook called Missouri Morel Mushroom Hunting has many great photographs and good information. An answer to a newcomer’s question about when the ‘season’ is in Missouri was the suggestion that the last week in March is a good time to start looking seriously. Another tidbit of information: ”When the buds on an elm tree gets as big as a squirrel’s ear you will have shrooms.” A local person says when night time temperatures are 52 degrees two nights in a row, they will be popping up. Dandelions have been appearing occasionally all through our mild winter. Champion, Rich Heffern, shares information that dandelions are not weeds, but are from the same family as sunflowers. They are very rich in vitamins K and A. A dandelion seed can travel up to 5 miles before it lands. Every part of the dandelion is edible. Up until 1800s, dandelions were seen as extremely beneficial. People would remove grass to plant dandelions. Times change and now a person can find dandelion seeds in seed catalogues and online.

Skyline students enjoying birthdays this week are kindergarteners, Lotus Winter and RyAnne Harvey, celebrating on the 1st and 3rd. Fifth grader and archer, Rylee Sartor, will have her party on the 6th. Skyline teacher, Mrs. Barker, shares her birthday on the 3rd with a prominent musician of the Backyard Bluegrass persuasion. Mrs. Barker’s big family will throw her a party and find all kinds of ways to express love and appreciation for her. As for the musician, the song goes: “One night he was out with a bunch of young people, making music, as he does now and then, but he was surprised when one of them young fellers said, ‘Boy, that Old Man plays a mean mandolin!’ Where, where is he tonight?” Linda, whose birthday is on the 5th, taught us much about gardening with her many years at the Plant Place. She will be celebrated by her bridge friends at their big game on Saturday. Your friends and families are wishing you happy days, so enjoy them!

Brad Lovelace made an appearance at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam on Thursday. He had to put up with a lot of good natured teasing from David Richardson and others, but he handled it well. He made a good presentation on behalf of the Skyline R2 School, pointing out that it is always a touchy and awkward situation to talk about raising taxes. Our current rate is $2.77, well below the state average operating levy of $3.67. There will be an initiative on the April 7th ballot to raise our levy up to $3.43, the magic number that will make the school eligible for a substantial amount of additional funding from the state and federal government. Many local people remember when Skyline was built back in the 1950s. There have been additions and upgrades over the years, but at this time, the infrastructure could use some serious help, i.e. the gym roof, the HVAC system, etc. Moreover, the 2018 vote to raise the minimum wage has a significant impact on the annual operating budget. Residents, who have no interest in the school, still have interest in their taxes. If we lose the school and are thrown into neighboring districts, the tax levy will jump up to $3.66, at least, without a vote on the matter. Education is about the best investment to be made. After all, these bright young folks will be running the world soon.

Champion friend, Kaitlyn McConnell of Ozarks Alive, is currently in Puerto Rico. She has been helping with the hurricane recovery program there and enjoying the beautiful beaches. She walked 30 minutes down a dirt road to find a remote beach. She said, ”As I walked the road, I heard the many creatures hiding in the vegetation. I was yet just another in the grand scheme of things. After I reached the beach, I sat and simply looked at the turquoise waves. I was reminded of what truly a miracle it is that each of us are here and how blessed by God we are to experience life.” Come down to the wide, wild banks of Auld Fox Creek to ponder important matters including the imminent arrival of Spring–Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 27, 2020

CHAMPION—February 24, 2020


Found on the internet:  “The Skyline VFD will be having biscuit and gravy breakfast Saturday, March 14th at the Skyline School from 7am to 10am.  We are also giving the community the opportunity to elect new fire department board members.  A list of candidates will be available the morning of the breakfast.  This will be a great opportunity to fellowship with your neighbors, have a great meal and let your voice be heard in your community.  $7.00 a plate.  All the funds go to the fire department.  Come cast your vote!”

This will be another interesting week in Champion.  On Wednesday, Shelby will be at the Historic Emporium in the morning doing blood pressure screenings.  It is an important amenity provided by the Douglas County Health Department, one that has saved lives.  Over in Far-East Champion, a.k.a. Vanzant, on Thursday at the Bluegrass Jam, Kansas City Star Sandra Scott, nee Plumber, will hopefully join in with her guitar and voice.  After five years or so in KC, she has relocated to Willow Springs, though she was heard to say last Thursday that Vanzant will always be home.  She was well received and it is always lovely to see old friends reuniting.  Saturday will be Leap-Day, Frankie Proctor’s once in four years birthday, and will also be the Archery Tournament hosted by Skyline R2 School.  Archers from all over the area will be competing:  Norwood, Mtn. Grove, Gainesville, Manes, Cabool, and maybe others.  It will be going on all day.  They always have a good concession stand and it is a nice way to spend time enjoying a quiet sport and supporting our great little rural school.  Did Frankie go to Skyline?  If we run into him we will ask.  All of us who had the chance to go to a little country school know how precious the experience was.  Perhaps we can find a way to keep this little one going for generations to come.  Think about it.  Terri Ryan said, “Coming home and seeing bald eagles flying around the house is a treat that I don’t take for granted.  I’m thankful that laws were put into place to protect them.”  We are thankful to have Ms. Ryan on staff at Skyline.

More interesting mail has come to  The first is a letter from a pastor over in Crossville, Tennessee, Tim Lewis.  He says they are looking to retire in about five years and is hoping to do it in these parts.  They have made several trips and, so far, they like eastern Douglas County the best.  He said, “Being able to read The Champion News seems to bring us closer to the place we want to someday call home.”  Maybe when they visit again in March they will come to Champion on a Wednesday morning/mid-day to get acquainted with some Champions or to the Vanzant Community Building on a Thursday evening for the pot-luck and music.  In recent years we have enjoyed an influx of retirees–immigrants from the world of working for a living.  Welcome!

The next letter came from Jenifer Miller who lives in New Zealand.  She is the Editor of an interesting blog,  Jen Reviews:  “The Authority on Everything Food, Fitness and Home.”  She ran across The Champion News post of October 29, 2019, as she was researching the Beatles.  One of our music links had been to the Beatles’ song, “Help.”  Her outfit just published an updated, comprehensive guide on how to play guitar like the Beatles on their sister site, Beginner Guitar HQ.  It is completely free and here it is:  It is exciting to make these great connections around the world.  There are Champions everywhere.

After not hearing from her in a long time, it was a pleasant surprise to get a note from Eulalia Jasmin.  She writes from some undisclosed location outside the country with concerns about our wellbeing.  She admonishes us to remember that we never win anyone over with insults and that learning how to disagree better would serve us well.  She wants us to listen to each other respectfully, really trying to understand the other person’s point of view.  Tone of voice, body language and facial expressions communicate a great deal, so she says to pay attention to yourself and engage by asking questions that show the other person that you are paying attention to what they are saying.  “Cuidado!” she says.  That translates to “Watch out!” or “Be careful!”  “When a deeply held belief is suddenly and irreparably proven wrong, the experience can be painful and disorienting, so be kind to each other, por favor.”  Thanks for the good advice, Eulalia, wherever you are.  She would probably appreciate a statement by Rosa Parks:  “Stand for something or you will fall for anything.  Today’s mighty oak is yesterday’s nut that held its ground.”

We are ahead of the game with rain for the year already and grateful for a good recharge of our wonderful aquifer.  On a nice day gardeners are piling up leaves, chicken manure, coffee grounds and wood ashes to make compost.  Some are starting seeds already.  We know that Spring will be here soon.  Lem and Ned have been back in the neighborhood checking in on the turnips planted last fall.  They are not much to look at yet, just a nice patch of little greens.  Lem and Ned are not much to look at either, what Uncle Al might have called ‘rusty-ankled’ old boys, but they are good-hearted, hard-working, and entertaining Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


February 18, 2020

CHAMPION—February 17, 2020


Champion Wild Turkeys

Among the Campion mail this week comes a letter recommending “The Turnbo Manuscripts” by Silas Clairborne Turnbo 1844-1925.  Probably local Civil War aficionados are acquainted with Mr. Turnbo’s work as many of his 800 stories have to do with happenings in this part of the world, including an incident on Fox Creek, one down south of Rock Bridge and a particularly gruesome one over at Vera Cruz.  Concerning the Civil War times here about, the letter says, “It has caused me to reflect some on how local folks suffered not only the fear of enemy armies and the fear that a son or brother, or father might return maimed or not at all, but also, because of a population of mixed sympathies, the fear that a neighbor or friend or relative might be, as well, an enemy and ride up one day and shoot you down on your own doorstep.  The events of the Civil War seem remote and unreal, but they happened not so long ago.”  The letter points out that the entire nation is now a population of mixed sympathies.  Our best hopes are that we can use civility and common sense to avoid “the unfocused, disorganized violence that happened in the Ozarks in the 1860s.”  Here is a link to “The Turnbo Manuscripts”.  Another Champion shares a piece by Scarlet Rivera called “Lady Liberty.”  It will cause you to reflect.  Keep those cards and letters coming in at and at The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.

Champion Winter Robins

Wild turkeys came strutting through a Champion yard this morning and an early flock of robins adorned tall walnut trees in profusion as the mist rising from the valley met the fog.  Spring is surely on the way in this glorious part of the world.  Gardeners are watching tiny seedlings emerge on their window sills and planning their rows and beds.  Mushrooms are on the minds of many watching the thermometer for a signal to start hunting.  The Missouri Department of Conservation reports that April is usually the peak of morel season in Southern Missouri, but there is no accurate way to predict its beginning or end.  Generally, the season lasts four to six weeks.  The exact length depends on the weather and the species of morel.  Hot, dry weather quickly ends the season, while cool, moist weather can prolong it to mid-May.  Perhaps a warm March might cause the season to start early.

The 16th is the birthday of Donna Mullens Gainer.  Her folks were Pete and Bonnie Mullens and she grew up in Kansas.  She said they were here every summer when she was a kid and now they get back to Denlow for Memorial Day every year.  They will be at the Denlow School Skyline Reunion where they can enjoy the stories of Denlow and those other precious little country schools that molded their folks into such fine people.  Skyline prekindergarten student, Rayleigh Harvey has her birthday on the 18th.  She and her classmate, Maci King, whose birthday is on the 24th, are fortunate to be attending one of the last two little country schools in all of Douglas County.  Alumni of Skyline are looking for ways to insure that this great little school continues to thrive.  It is turning out the good citizens who will be the running the country in a few years.  One little thing we can do is to save those Always Save and Best Choice UPC barcodes and the Box Tops for Education coupons that come on most General Mills products as well as on Ziplock goods.  Drop them off at the school or at Henson’s G& G in downtown Champion or mail them to Skyline R2 School, Rt. 72 Box 486, Norwood, MO 65717.  Every little bit helps.  Back to birthdays:  Joanna Bell celebrates on the 21st.  Stacy Krider Cline, Skyline alumnus and former teacher, mother of Drayson and Carson, has her birthday on the 23rd.  Farmer’s Market Arnie will have his party on the 24th.  That is also the special day for Ruth Fish Collins.  Ruth has a beautiful velvety voice and a great repertory of songs.  One starts out, “It was colder than a well diggers ankle in Cut Bank, Montana…”  That is how cold it was last Thursday when prudence prevailed.  The wild antics of the thermometer sparked the cancellation of the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  Who knows what Valentine’s Day sparked the next day?  Everyone will be ready for the music this week and to catch up with friends.  The pot-luck is at 6:00 and the music starts at 7:00.  Everyone is welcome.  Bring your acoustic instrument and sing along….”and the icicles all melt away at the sound of her name…” Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Champion Winter Robins

February 11, 2020

CHAMPION—February 10, 2020


Change is coming whether we like it or not according to some excited young people. And it seems to be true even locally. The east side of Highway C approaching Skyline School from the south has undergone radical changes. Dense woods have been removed in a wide swath and a long stretch of good fence accommodates a series of spared mature trees at regular intervals. The new gate is expansive and in a few short years it will be seen as an attractive spread—well cared for and productive. Just now it seems raw and ragged to the eye struggling to adjust. Sudden change is sometimes difficult to accept. Orville’s barn has been standing abandoned for forty years and now a person can see daylight through the roof. That means it probably will not last much longer. The old Coffman place up on 76 east of Fox Creek is in a similar situation. Once the roof goes, an old building seems to just melt away. That is slow change–still difficult to watch. The roof on the gym at Skyline is beginning to have issues—no daylight yet, just a little leaking from time to time. There are a number of infrastructure issues there that could use a significant influx of funding. We are in no mood to see our school disappear for lack maintenance funding. All the country little schools in this area, so well-remembered by local folks, disappeared into Skyline in the 1950s. It is the community heart.

Joshua Garner is a seventh grade student at Skyline. His birthday is on February 13th. Shelby Ward, a Champion great-niece, has her birthday on Valentine’s Day. Eighth grader, Jaime Casiano, celebrates on the 15th and Madison Bradshaw, sixth grader, on the 16th. Trish Davis and Linda Clark have both been out of school for some while now and they share their birthdays on the 17th. Pete Proctor, a Fairview alumnus, shares the 18th with Skyline prekindergarten student, Rayleigh Harvey. Ruby Proctor’s birthday was on the 19th. We miss her sweet smile still. Your friends and family are smiling for you, wishing you a happy birthday.

If you were a crow taking flight from Champion and flew in a straight line South-southwest for a few miles–eight or so—you could light in a tree along Bryant Creek in a very remote part of the Ozarks. The Bryant Creek State Park is 2,917 acres of mostly undeveloped land. There are meetings being held with people in the community and the parks department to determine just how the park will be developed. Hopes are that it will open to the public soon. A Champion who had done timber stand improvement for the forestry department back in the 1970s had some vivid memories of his three years exploring and working in this region. He was glad to have had military training when it came to reading topographical maps. It is a rugged part of the world and beautiful. A few years ago National Geographic shared a map of the world at night. It was lovely to see that we are in a dark part of the country, that is to say, sparsely populated. We have bears and eagles and places to walk that are wild and secluded. We have glorious distant vistas and wonderful clean water. We have our challenges, but overall we are blessed to live in this part of the world, particularly when we have long histories with old Champion friends who have stories to tell. Have you ever been alone and lost in the woods?

Inclement weather substantially reduced attendance at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam Thursday, but those who made it out anyway had a good time. Toes tapped, yarns were spun and there were a few lively conversations concerning current events. The potluck starts at 6:00 and the music starts at 7:00 every Thursday unless the weather forbids it. Everyone is welcome. Bring your acoustic instrument. This Thursday should be fun with Cupid’s arrows still poking old couples. They will reminisce about meeting–some at school, some on blind dates, and some, like Susanna and Wesley, at Hazel’s Café. Some met just walking through the woods in the Great Smokey Mountains. Romance might look different in our seventies and eighties than it did in our teens and twenties, though still it is a beautiful thing to have somebody to love—look at the Prominent Champion and the Prominent Champion Spouse, at Kenneth and Barbara Anderson for example, at Judy and Eldon, at Jerry and Lena, at Bob and Mary, Bob and Ethel, Don and Reba, the General and the Gipsy, Pete and Joann, John and Sherry, Skip and Ina, Sue and Dwayne, Doug and Marge, and all the old sweethearts you know. Stores are full of flowers and candy. Sweet sentiments fill greeting card racks and phone lines and the internet will be humming with declarations of love and affection. Enjoy, you Sweethearts all!

Sunday’s full moon was obscured by clouds though Champions are alert to the changes in the signs. Some are itching to get started planting. In a few months they’ll be itching for other reasons. Meanwhile, mushroom season is on the horizon and daffodils are poking up. There are lots of reasons to be optimistic. There are. Really. Look for them and find them and share them liberally. Wednesday is likely to be full of sugar at melodiousness at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square as old and new friends gather for fellowship, to share their tales of love and romance or fox hunting stories or who has had the most rain and the deepest mud. Champion Valentines love it on the Bright Side!