May 2, 2016

May 2, 2016

CHAMPION—May 2, 2016


Ancestral Texas farm land

        An eventful week in Champion included much needed rain, burgeoning foliage, music, and a pleasant get together at the Champion Senior Center, located in the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion.  People of all ages are welcome in Champion, it just turned out that most of the Wednesday group was over 60—some well over—and a generally pleasant gathering it was.  Age is not as important as young people used to think.  Maybe they still think it is important, but old people still feel young sometimes, so what is the difference?  Waldo Champion, Linda Heffern, has a birthday on May 6th.  Skyline second grade student, Gracie Nava, will celebrate on the 7th and Dixie Pierson, Skyline’s bookkeeper will have the 8th as her special day.  Bonnie Brixey Mullins will have a great birthday on the 9th.  She is having exciting times as she and Pete settle into their new home in Douglas, Kansas.  They lived in their last home together for sixty years.  Champions Richard and Kaye Johnston have just celebrated 39 years of marriage.  Construction on the second new house in Champion Heights in as many years will soon be completed.  The coming week promises to be as full and exciting.  There will be a meeting of the Skyline VFD Auxiliary; there will be music; gardens will be belching forth broccoli and kale, lettuce and radishes; and some old gardeners will get out there and get ‘it’ done.


Terraces casting shadows in the evening light.

        The memorial service for a dear brother way out in west Texas turned out to be lovely and imminently fitting.  It was just the way he wanted it to be.  In the old cemetery where rest parents, grandparents and great grandparents, the bluebonnets had mostly gone to seed though a great variety of other wild flowers covered every grave and pathway.  Enormous cedar trees swayed in the easy breeze when just at dusk the family circled his spot to sing “I’ll Fly Away.”  From the hillside there at Palava, the farmland stretching out for miles appeared kaleidoscopic.  Red plowed ground undulated in terraces with great smears of brilliant shades of green against blue mesas in the distance topped with their whirligigs of wind farms—all of it seemed ethereal in the mix of emotion.  Family reminiscences were full of his humor and the great role he had in all their lives.  He is resting in peace now and entirely unforgettable.


The Palava Cemetery in Nolan County Texas

        Days pass swiftly in Champion as do the years.  The admonition is, “Love ‘em while you’ve got ‘em.”  Make amends while it is still possible.  Come down to the wide wonderful banks of Auld Fox Creek to declare right out loud that it is a precious gift to be alive, to have loving family and friends, and especially to be in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side.

April 25, 2016

April—25, 2016

CHAMPION—April—25, 2016


An oriole stopped on a hummingbird feeder in Champion to add its voice to the sound of Spring.

        The week began on an eventful note with flooding in Houston, Texas.  Harold Phillips of Bella Vista, Arkansas sent a message to Dawn Henson in Houston asking, “Are you high and dry or awash?”  She replied “We are okay.  We live almost out of Houston to the south.  The heavy flooding was in the northwest.  Melanie lives in Katy, which is northwest.  They got a lot of rain but it didn’t get in their house.  Roads are impassable though.  Katy schools are closed all week.  We had Avery yesterday and might have her again tomorrow.  One of the creeks is still out of its banks, but it is north of where they live.  Thanks for checking on us.”  It is nice to have the internet to keep up with distant Champions.

        Two kindergarten students at Skyline are celebrating birthdays–Eli Johnson on the 28th and Taegan Krider on the 30th.  Beth Caudill drives a bus for the school.  She shares her birthday on May Day with Mrs. Ryan of the library.  Seventh grader, Madison Shearer, celebrates on the second.  A non-resident Champion double cousin living far away also celebrates on May Day and Olivia’s grandmother up in Springfield will be partying on the second.  Happy day, dear Champions!

The tailgate bench.

        A neighbor from over near Tedrick lolled away a pleasant spell in the Historic Emporium on Wednesday.  His name is Hase Tetrick.  He has a great-great grandfather, a Civil War Veteran, buried in the Tedrick Cemetery.  The community was named for the family, but the spelling was confused somewhere along the line. Mr. Tetrick hopes to get it all fixed one of these days.  He is one of seven survivors of a large family.  There were five boys born, then a girl, then five more boys and one more girl.  He said that when people asked about the size of his family, he said that he had nine brothers and each of them had two sisters…  It sounds like a family of 30!  Anyway, some of the remaining family still lives in these parts and he lives not far, as the crow flies, from his old home place.  He talked about riding a horse over to Champion when he was a kid and all the ball games.  He lived 12 years up in Davenport, Iowa, where a number of young Champion fellows found work for a while.  There are lots of stories about goings on up there, but it sounds as if some are better left untold.  Meanwhile, Deward’s Granddaughter had a picture on her phone of a seven foot long snake.  ‘Old Timers’ there at the store identified it as a coach-whip and shared a few stories about their encounters with them in years gone by.  She said that she had met the snake just as she was about to step off the porch.  She tried to coax it with a broom to turn around and head out of the yard, but the snake raised its head high and bolted strait under the porch.  It is a warning to be alert for snakes this time of the year.  Many of our local reptiles are beneficial.  A snake is a snake, but they are not all ‘bad.’  The Idaho Dooms brother will take his Champion brother fishing in Oklahoma again before he heads back north.  Mr. & Mrs. Partell had pumpkin pie to share with friends on Wednesday in honor of their wedding anniversary.  They say they will endeavor to carry on with married life.  Richard Johnston has used the tailgate of a Chevrolet pickup truck to make a bench.  The seat is wood and the backrest is the tailgate.  He has donated it to the Licking Senior Center.  It will be given away in a drawing on July 21st.  Hopefully tickets will be available at the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square.

Seven-foot Champion coachwhip–not a bad snake.

        The Douglas County Historical Society announced that the Summer 2016 edition of the Douglas County Historical & Genealogical Society Journal is available now.  If you are not a member of the society you can find the Journal at the Museum, open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays, or at Memories on the Square in Ava.  The Journal is $7.00.  Membership in the Historical Society is $20 per year and with membership comes two Journals per year.  Join by mail at Douglas County Historical Society P.O. Box 986 Ava, MO 65608.  The current issue has a dedication to Dora Jo Mahan, stories on Skyline and Dora schools, Topaz Mill reopening and much more.  The picture on the cover is of Skyline’s First Year—7th and 8th grade class in 1955.  It will be an exciting read for some.

        Seldom seen friends over on the other side of Ava have a lovely little family of Dutch Bantams helping to keep the bug population down in their garden.  These chickens are replacements for chickens that met a cruel and gruesome end by a raccoon a while back.  They are fascinating to watch and the garden is an inspiration–already full of greens, onions and legions of the Stinking Rose.  The gardener had been concerned about dogwoods as it seemed that they have been dying out in recent years.  This year, though, they are vigorous and more visible and hopefully more numerous.  It is a pleasant sight in to see them strewn across the hills like popcorn.  The woods are filling in so quickly, the dogwoods will soon be out of sight.  Nature is overtaking, embracing, and hiding cabins deep in the woods as well as many homes along the road sides. They will reappear next winter.  Champions will still be able to find their friends—friends, what a gift.

        The wide, wild wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek are greening up.  The Behemoth Bee Tree is alive with bees and signs of leaves showing up on the sprouts far atop the massive stump are reassuring.  “I never lose.  I either win or learn,” said Nelson Mandela.  Those inspirational words can apply to politics, sports, love, gardening and doubtlessly other things.  Champion gardeners, inspired beyond their capability, remark, “I can’t believe how old people of my age are!”  The wind in the trees, the birds and frogs add to the tinnitus background for the song, “Time is filled with swift transitions.  Naught of earth unchanged can stand.  Keep your hopes on things eternal.  Hold to God’s unchanging hand…” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

April 18, 2016

April 18, 2018

CHAMPION—April 18, 2018


Looking up through Champion dogwoods…

        “Well, I took my gal to the picture show.  She promised me a kiss when we got home.  To take her in my arms I just couldn’t wait, but when we got home her Pappy was awake.  ‘Is that you, Myrtle?’  ‘Yes, Papa.’  ‘Is that you, Myrtle?’  ‘Well, just a minute!’  ‘Is that you, Myrtle?  Is that you, Myrtle?  I guess you better send that scallywag home.  I guess you better send that scallywag home.’”  Myrtle Harris is celebrating her 80-something birthday on April 19th.  She comes to the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam when she can and is a great fan of all the music.  Dave/Robert/Jim/George/Somebody Thompson had his 44th or 45th birthday acknowledged there this last Thursday, but it was never clear if this birthday of his was on Thursday, Friday or Saturday or how many years ago it happened.  Over at Skyline R2 School, seventh grade student, Haley Wilson, will celebrate on the 23rd.  The next day, the 24th, will be the big day for Shelby Wilson, a second grade student.  Another second grader, Chris Alsup, will have his celebration on the 25th.  The nice thing about birthdays is that everybody has one every year for as long as they live!  Amazing!  Enjoy this one and all those to come, you Champions!

        The Goose Nibble Gazette reporter found out that Laverne and Jessie Mae Miller celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary on the 16th.  They live over in Willow Springs.  Jessie Mae is a native of Denlow where she grew up around Upshaw cousins.  It seems as if there was a story about a blind date at a bowling alley that resulted in her getting together with Laverne.  That may not be correct.  When the Denlow School Reunion comes around again there will be a chance to get the story straight.  Laverne has been the auctioneer at that annual event for many years, and sees that there is enough humor on the bill.  That happens on the Saturday of Memorial Day with a pot luck lunch and fun on the grounds.

        The Douglas County Health Department nurse, Rebecca Turcott, will be in Champion from 9:00 to 11:00 on Tuesday morning, the 26th, to offer free blood pressure checks for people who might like to keep up with those numbers.  It has been a lifesaving for some Champions.  She is in Champion on the last Tuesday of each month and then at the Skyline School on the first Tuesday of each month.  It is a great community service and Rebecca is friendly and good at her job, a Champion.

        The world has been shaken in Ecuador and in Japan.  By Sunday evening the death toll was 246 in Ecuador and the number of injuries unknown.  In Japan–many deaths and missing people.  More and more we become aware of how small the world is and how full it is with suffering and tribulation.  Ancient Greece, now modern Greece, is having its life blood sucked away by the corporations that own its national debt.  The Mediterranean and Europe are awash with refugees fleeing the middle-east as western nations plunder resources and fight proxy wars there.  Indigenous people of the Amazon are being murdered for protesting massive dam projects that would destroy their homes.  Norwegians are fighting mining interest that will destroy fishing in their fish dependent fjords.  It is like Ray Charles said, “The world is in an uproar—danger signs are all around.”  What can we do?  Be kind.  Be conscious.  Behave.  Help where you can and be grateful for your excellent circumstances, relatively speaking.

Champion’s dogwood drive…

        A frequent unacknowledged contributor to The Champion News (one of its foreign correspondents) presents a new word for consideration:  pleonasm.  It is a noun that means the use of more words than are necessary to convey a meaning, either as a fault of style or for emphasis.  Redundancies such as black darkness, burning fire, or people’s democracy are good examples.  It was suggested that another way to look at it is as “an army of words escorting a corporal of thought.”  The Wednesday Pleonasm League had a routine meeting last time.  Mr. Partell (too blessed to be stressed) had some interesting old blacksmith tools to show—tools for forming edges and making specific bends.  He had made a heavy-duty door knocker out of a horseshoe and a marlin spike.  Upshaws were well represented with Dean and Daily, Uncle Robert and Aunt Fae.  Elmer had interesting stories to tell of his many exploits and acquaintances.  This week there will bouquets of wildflowers and lilacs on the table and mushroom bragging.  Apparently no one wants to talk about politics.  That may be a good thing.

        Gardeners are having a wonderful time playing in the soil.  With the promise of a few nice rains in the week ahead optimism is running rampant.  The Champion News Almanac says that the 19th through the 23rd will be great days for starting seedbeds.  The first two days will be good for above ground crops and the next three days for below ground crops.  All those days will be good for planting leafy greens.  April’s full moon is called the Pink Moon and it is the smallest full moon of the year as the Earth and moon move to their furthest points from each other.  Sweet Pea is the flower for the month and the birthstone is the diamond.  A walk in the woods this time of the year is an opportunity for rediscovery.  Areas ravaged by the most brutal logging are beautiful again with dogwood drifts.  Pale greens are replacing winter’s gray brush.  Linda Watts made it back home for a few days to rediscover and relish the beauty of her home place and to enjoy being with her big lovely family.  She is back in Tennessee now with her busy life and her own wonderful flower garden to attend.  Harley is said to be making a good recovery from his knee surgery.  Hopes are all those distant Champions will make it home again soon.  The door is always open.  To finish that song:  “Well, I thought of a plan all of my own.  We pulled off our shoes about a mile from home.  As soon as we turned in off of the street, I believe to my soul he heard the patter of her feet!  Is that you, Myrtle?”

        Bring your funny old songs or your unique political perspective down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek.  Stand on the wide veranda of the Historic Emporium and gaze out at one of the world’s truly beautiful places—Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!

April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016

CHAMPION—April 11, 2016


A scan of the room was inconclusive…

        At last, the dogwoods are out even in the low places and Champions are beginning to feel as if Spring has arrived, even though we know there still are multiple chances for frost and freeze before it will be entirely safe to put the tomato plants in the ground.  Meanwhile, the mushroom feast is going on and around every corner some new glorious thing has burst into bloom.

        Champion Grandson Dillon Watts has a birthday on the 12th of April.  His friends around here are hoping to see him sometime this summer (or anytime), particularly in conjunction with his cousin Foster–banjo and a mandolin!  Foster has added “I’ll Fly Away” and other tunes to his repertory, and not long ago, Dillon was seen on the You Tube playing banjo on “The Rebel Soldier.”  Their Granddad would have been proud of them.  Champion family and friends certainly are and are moreover pleased not only to see music passed down through the family, but to see traditional music being appreciated by young people.  Dillon is competing this week in an elocution contest and Foster has been turkey hunting.  It is an exciting life for young folks.

        Wyatt Lakey is a lucky young man.  He gets to spend his first grade school year at Skyline School and he gets to share his birthday on April 15th with some other great people, like Drayson and Carson Cline’s Great Aunt Vivian Floyd and their old Dad, Dusty Mike.  Geo. Gary Jones celebrates that day too and his young friend, Olivia Trig Mastin, celebrates on the 16th.  Readers of The Champion News know Olivia to have caught one of the largest crawdads ever down at the Mill Pond a couple of years back.  Many happy returns all!

Foster getting it done.  Twenty-two pounds with a 10.25 inch beard and one inch spurs–his first big gobbler.  Champion!

        Bud Hutchison had a birthday on the 8th of April.  On the 18th of May he will host his annual Spring Trail Ride, heading up in Champion and going who knows where?  It is always a treat to see all the beautiful horses, and to meet the interesting people who make the trip.  Maybe Champion’s friend from Cross Timbers will make it again.  The last time he was here, he rode a big white mule.  He is most likely very well versed in the history of horse domestication and various uses to which man has put them through the millennia.  They are indeed marvelous to look at, with their soulful eyes, their muscular conformation and their luxuriant manes and tails.  Somewhere north of Gaskin, south of Croup, between Stifle and Dock, is a part of the horse that is often referenced in connection with a certain human personality type–generally an unpleasant one given to unseemly behavior, flaunting ignorance, disrespect and base morality as if they were lofty traits and some cause for pride.  It is the position of The Champion News, its staff and underwriters, that to call such a person a ‘horse’s (behind)’ is to defame, malign and insult the noble equine.

        Wednesday was mostly most pleasant down at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium over on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion.  Dean Brixey came down from Salem with Kaye and Richard Johnston for the day.  They met up there with a variety of friends and family.  Chief Bob Benge’s ax that was used to kill Sarah Livingston back in 1793 was the subject of some interesting conversation.  It is in a museum in Cherokee, N.C. where it has been seen by descendants of Sarah Livingston, who happen to be Upshaws.  They have a family tree that looks like the briar patch going all the way back to Noah.  Most likely, everyone has one of those, but they happen to know quite a lot about their tree.  Donald Dooms was visiting on his way back to Idaho after a few months in Arizona and a few forays down into Mexico, to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán.  He was born just across the creek from Champion and did his growing up here.  When he was 18, he and a couple of friends, took off for Idaho to work for the summer.  That was on the first of June, 1953.  By the tenth he had met Verna there and he never came back.  They were married for 54 years before she passed away eight years ago.  He was from a family of 13 children, six of whom are still living and some of them around these parts yet.  Wes Lambert came in asking, “Who’s telling the biggest lie?”  A scan of the room was inconclusive.

        It was disappointing that the levy increase for the Skyline School did not pass in the recent election.  Terri Ryan said, “I don’t think enough information was given so that people know there is a real need.  They likely see the walking trail, bike give-a-ways, fresh veggies and fruits, and our school nurse as things that are coming out of our budget, instead of a Federal grant that will not last much longer.”  Hopefully, the levy will get back on the ballot and pass.  The small increase will bring the total levy up to the minimum amount that will qualify the school for matching funds from the state.  Those funds will be critical to the survival of the school in the long run.  In the short run, the school busses could use an upgrade.  Terry said that someone had recently donated a refrigerator to replace the one in the teacher’s lounge that had stopped working.  It is reassuring to see the community step up to help in the ways it can.  A little money is still trickling in to the Skyline School Foundation which is still able to keep the Dolly Parton Imagination Library afloat.  The program gets children off to a good start, learning to love books and to love learning.  An educated population is the best hope out there.  Find out more about the Dolly Parton Imagination Library at Henson’s Store in Champion or through the Skyline School.  “It’s a universal law—intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education.  An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility,” said Aleksandra Solzhenitsyn.  He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970, and after the Soviet Union broke up was able to go back home there after many years in exile.  Home is Champion wherever it is.

        There was a man who used to live over on the other side of Bryant Creek, past the monastery, by the name of Jack Ryan.  He and Gladys lived there a long time.  He loved to grow things.  Gladys kept chickens and was a great cook. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”  That is a Greek proverb to which Jack subscribed.  “When you eat the fruit, think of him who planted the tree,” was a saying he said had come from an old Vietnamese gardener.  Jack loved Gladys, books, gardening, homemade wine, morel mushrooms, mules and people.  He loved life and saw good days in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016

CHAMPION—April 4, 2016


Champion Deer

        Spring arrives in Champion with morels for breakfast.  The season has begun and the little bit of much needed rain last week and some mild nighttime temperatures have made it so.  The country lanes are lined with wild phlox, red buds, peach trees, wild plum and cherry trees and it is apple blossom time in Champion.  The dogwoods seem late, though every burgeoning, budding, booming thing has residents again awash with awe at the splendor of their natural environs.  A facebook message appeared in recent weeks that said before it was Champion, this community was Goose Nibble.  “Nibbling geese played an important role in weed control in the cotton fields before poisons and carcinogens became the norm.  Weeder geese were often used in strawberry fields to control grass,” commented J.c. Owsley.  Perhaps Goose Nibble was a contemporary name with Militia Spring.  Notes from Hunter Creek was full of some very interesting local Civil War history and also located a small park operated by the City of Ava north of the Douglas County Herald Building where a person can still visit Militia Spring.  Local history is a well, well worth the plumbing.

        Deward’s granddaughter discovered among family treasures a newspaper article which she shared at the Wednesday get-together.  It concerned an ancient canoe that had been found embedded in mud in a creek bank a number of years ago.  It was a dugout canoe, probably made from a pine tree.  It was said to have still been in excellent condition considering its age.  For a while it was on display in Mansfield, but its current whereabouts is unknown.  It happened that Wes Lambert was there around the Wednesday tables.  He said that it was he and his wife who had found the canoe when they were out on the creek.  Local history goes back to prehistory.  Cletis Upshaw is well remembered in Champion.  He was another of those great local treasures who knew the history of every hill and holler hereabouts.  Visitors to www.championnews.us can go to Champion Snapshots and find pictures of the Denlow Civil War Memorial at its dedication ceremony.  Cletis provided much of the historical information associated with the memorial.  His son, Mark Upshaw, and his wife joined the Wednesday bunch.  Mark said that his grandson, who is 19, had just undergone Marine training at Paris Island just as he had.  Cletis was a Korean War Veteran and Mark, a Viet Nam Veteran.  Veterans are plentiful in the Wednesday group.  One of them shoes mules and said he met a guy from Mule Shoe, Texas when he was in Viet Nam.  Another Vet claimed to have passed through Texas one time and sported a 40 gallon hat to prove it, but he just turned out to be a hot-head.  Friends from opposite ends of the county, out on a lark, had been earlier to the G.T. Tire Shop for breakfast and thought they would sashay by Champion to see what all the fuss is about.  Any day of the week is a fine one to enjoy a tour of the village.  The creek bed is overgrown with lush green grass sprinkled with purple flowers.  The Behemoth Bee Tree is buzzing with apian life.  The wide veranda of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square invites a sit and a visit.

       Penmanship used to be a big deal.  Those of us lucky enough to have letters from our Mothers can see that they were taught to be precise.  One remembers a writing exercise required by her Mother in hopes of instilling some precision, was to copy the poem, “Rejected.”  It went, “A stranger stood at the gates of Hell.  The Devil himself had answered the bell.  He looked him over from head to toe and said, ‘My friend, I’d like to know what you have done in the line of sin that entitles you to come within?’  Then Franklin D., with his usual guile, stepped forth and flashed a toothy smile.  ‘When I took charge in ’33, a Nation’s fate was mine,’ said he. ‘I promised this and I promised that, and I calmed them down with fireside chat.’” The penmanship lesson did not have a great effect on the scrawl, but the poem persisted.  It went on and on to the conclusion that Franklin would not be allowed in Hell because the Devil was fearful of losing his own job.  The poet was not a fan of Roosevelt, though today he is often regarded with a benevolent eye, having shepherded the Country through the Great Depression and World War II, enough so that he was elected four times.  Some Old Champions are grateful for Social Security and say, “Thanks, Frank.”  His fireside chats were considered an effort to circumvent Congress as he took his messages directly to the public via the radio.  Today, hardly a breath is drawn by a politician or a want-to-be that is not reported in the press or on social media.  The world has changed.  Oddly enough, polite political conversation seems scarce, perhaps because it has just all become so bizarre.  It seems that it is hard for Republicans to talk about Democrats or Liberals to talk about Conservatives or Independents to talk about anybody without the added explicative “that so and so… whatever.”  It is sad to think that a difference of opinion in a democracy might require vitriol.  Who took the polite out of politics?  One reads that respect is earned.  Does a person who wins election by an overwhelming majority of the voters earn respect, or is the respect due to the Office itself?  Or is respect only due to people like ‘us’?  Must we be so polarized as to hate the ‘other’ when we are all in this together?  When the elections are over, we will still be neighbors and hopefully friends, Champions yet.

A Champion resident…

        They say whenever you see a pretty garden, there is someone in it.  Champions are getting excited for the season.  Some are pulling radishes already. Others are shoveling truckloads of good organic fertilizer.  The Champion News Almanac says that the 8th and 9th will be good days for planting aboveground crops.  It is not too early or too late for planting lettuce and leafy greens.  The 12th and 13th will be great for starting seedbeds.  Moles have been busy and it is advisable to be on the lookout for snakes.  A copperhead could be under that bale of straw left over from last fall.  Most of our local snakes are ‘good’ ones in that they eat rats and mice and other snakes.  Black snakes will eat eggs and chickens and baby bunnies, but if a person does not have any of those things, the big snakes are allies in rodent control.  It is a matter of perspective.  Add your perspective on garden lore, snakes, music, poetry, politics, and history at champion@championnews.us or The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Take a sashay any day down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek to see what it is all about in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!