June 22, 2024

CHAMPION—June 17, 2024


We celebrated pappas, dads, daddies, grandpas on Fathers’ Day. Children promised to be sure there was always enough duct tape and that the lights would be turned off in unoccupied rooms and the doors would be shut when the air conditioner was on. Going back 12 generations over 400 years, those fellows are part of the 4,094 ancestors that it has taken to get each person here today. They had struggles, battles, sadness, happiness, love stories, and hope for the future and here we are. Thanks.

Down from Jordan and on his way to visit an old friend outside of Ava, J.c. Owsley stopped off for a tour of the Denlow Cemetery where he has some distant kinfolks resting. James Ousley of the Seventh Tennessee Mounted Infantry was buried there in 1919. He was born in 1838, and along with Mary Ousley, also buried there, is one of the common ancestors of himself and The General. The General is a local genealogy expert, and a good cemetery guide, so much information was shared. Later they repaired to the Bright Side for lunch and general visiting with old friends and some new ones. The new friends share cattle raising interests and both seem to be well acquainted with a store in Versailles called Top Stitch. Apparently, a significant amount of money can be spent on sewing machines there and both their wives are regular customers. J.c. would have tarried longer, but he was on his way to see his old friend who had had a sinking spell. On his way out though, he made sure to buy all the cowbells the Historic Emporium had in stock. He hopes to be back more often to add to his cowbell collection and to keep up his good Champion connections. He recently went on a trail ride up Wyoming/Montana way, riding among the buffalo. He is such a cowboy he uses The Original Main ‘n Tail and Body Shampoo, and frequently shares photos of the upper end of his watershed or his back forty up in Cross Timbers.

J.c. will be sorry to miss the upcoming visit of his friend Kaitlyn McConnell. Kaitlyn is compiling a pie recipe archive, gathering recipes from all the little community, church, and fire department cookbooks all over the Ozarks. She plans to be in Champion on Wednesday the 26th to peruse some of the local publications. She will photograph her selections, so no books will leave the premises. Perhaps she will bring a pie!

Deannetta Burress and her husband took a big pile of money to the bank on Monday, the proceeds of the Haro Family Benefit held on Saturday. She said the event was wonderful. The Ava Middle School cafeteria was full of people all offering their support for this much-loved family. She thanked Hucklebucks, Town and Country Grocery, and all those who donated their time, services, merchandise, auction donations, and money. This kind of community compassion makes Ava a jewel in the Ozarks. One day the Haro Brothers Restaurant will open again.

Gary Hutchison is the unofficial mayor of Dunn. He has a pink mailbox and lots of stories to tell. Gary has deep connections to Champion and was witness to some of the interesting happenings in these parts in the old days. His birthday was on Father’s Day this year. He has a wealth of children, grand ones and great ones to wish him well on both accounts. It seems to take very little to keep old folks busy, so often we lose touch with old friends. It was good to visit with Gary. We are admonished to pick up the phone and connect with each other. Or go knock on a door.

Haymakers have been in hog-heaven this last week. How many bales to the acre does a good hay field yield? Weather’s wild variations have kept farmers busy and gardeners grateful for the first cucumbers and green beans. Feasting like Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


June 13, 2024

CHAMPION—June 10, 2024



The Skyline Saturday Swap Meet went on nicely despite an early morning rain. Good farm eggs, fried pies and cracker jack caramel corn, little bunny rabbits and free puppies were just some of the interesting offerings. Meeting up with old friends and neighbors made it a beautiful morning. Helen had some onions and carrots already and said by the next time she will have cucumbers to share. Summer will be here ‘er long and this swap meet will be a regular highlight.

Another piece of excitement comes with the progress on the new Skyline VFD firehouse. It is a big red building with three big bays. One of these days the fire trucks will be parked in there and there will be a training room and all kinds of amenities that have been a long time in coming.

Thursday’s jam at Vanzant was lovely if sparsely attended. HOBA’s big festival in West Plains and other bluegrass events drew a number of musicians and regular aficionados away, but they will be back, and everyone is welcome to this great Thursday night affair. Potluck is at 6:00 and the music starts at 7:00 on the dot. Bring your acoustic instrument, your voice and your appreciation for the music out to the Vanzant Community Building for the pleasure of communing with old friends and making new ones. Music is good medicine. Wednesday’s Champion porch jam gets an additional musician occasionally—always a treat. A lovely rumor has it that J.c. Owsley will venture down from Cross Timbers to take a tour of the Denlow Cemetery on Wednesday. Thereafter he plans a sojourn out on the wide veranda for refreshments and music. He has been to Champion many times in the distant past, once on a big white borrowed mule named Dot and another time on a handsome horse named Junior. This time he will be in the company of The General, who is well known for horsing around. He recently was able to entice a lady to attend the Vanzant Jam by promising to wear a grass skirt. She came. He did. Of course, he did.

Monday had excitement out on Cold Springs Road. Tony, an illustrious Rt. 72 mail carrier, making his rounds, found himself stuck in a washed-out spot in Wolf Pen Hollow. He walked halfway to the Bright Side and up a steep driveway to find a phone. Good luck had him talking to Blaine Denlow’s dad who was on his way home from Brushy Knob. It probably happened that Wes pulled Tony’s rig backwards out of the gravel until he got to a wide enough place to go around him. Then, he pulled him forward through the gravel so he could continue his appointed rounds. It may have happened another way, but Tony was lucky to meet a good neighbor. He said he had delivered mail up around Cabool where the roads are much better. While the roadside flowers and overhanging boughs here are amazingly beautiful, the paths themselves are rough and rugged.

One of the many things Old Champions like about their White River Valley Electric Cooperative is that they seldom loose power even in the big storms because the right-of-way spaces are kept clear. The cooperative is vigilant about tree trimming. They have also strung fiber-optic cables all along the power lines and one of these sweet days members will be able to access substantial, reliable internet. That means distant young folks with on-line jobs can come to see the old folks and stay a spell. They will bring fancy food stuffs and will be looking for projects for exercise. They will get to enjoy country living and help the old folks. It will be a dream come true. So, come on, White River, Connect!

Television reporting of the June 6, 1944, D Day invasion of Normandy reminded us of the sacrifices of those called ‘the greatest generation’ whose efforts were largely responsible for the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. General Eisenhower visited with the paratroopers before they deployed in advance of the amphibious invasion. Film records of that meeting showed him to be the leader that was needed for the time. We salute those Veterans and all those serving since those tumultuous days. Thank you from your friends in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Skyline VFD's New Firehouse
Skyline VFD’s new firehouse.

June 9, 2024

CHAMPION—June 3, 2024



Haymaking is dicey this time of the year under normal circumstances.  Abnormal conditions are almost normal these days.  Overall, Champions are grateful that things are no worse.  Other parts of the country are dealing with the aftermath of storms that went around us.  Farmers keep a weather eye out and do what must be done to feed the country.  Farming in these parts has never been easy.  Our predecessors here had skills that have long gone by the way.  One of those skills that we hope to see again at the seventh Pioneer Heritage Festival is that pedal scroll saw pedaled by Brian Thompson.  He makes words in wood.  All those exhibitors of skills and crafts have things to teach us.  The festival is set for early October and organizers are already lining up musicians, exhibitors, and volunteers, and doing all the other hard work that goes into making it a great event.  Anyone interested in participating or helping in any way can call 417-746-4006.  Maybe we will hear something like the Razorback Waltz by Cotton Combs (1921-1984).

Felix the Farmer probably sang that birthday song to his Grandpapa on Sunday.  He has a good voice and a wonderful Grandpapa.  Champions will be singing the song to their friend Kaitlyn McConnell on June 6th.  She will probably have pie since she is baking favorite pie recipes of friends and followers her Ozarks Alive blog.  Hopes are she’ll bring another one to Champion one of these days.  She shares her birthday with Dave Medlock who comes to Champion on sunny Wednesdays via motorcycle and without banjo.  Champion Wayne Sutherland was 85 in 2015 on June 7th.  Kaylin Watkins will be a sixth grader at the Skyline School in the fall.  Her birthday is June 12th and hopes are she is having a wonderful summer.  She may get to play in the creek.

The HOBA folks will have their live shows over in West Plains on June 6-8.  They always have a good line up of musical talent.  It is the 41st Annual Spring Bluegrass Festival.  Campers began arriving on June 1st, and likely there will be jamming all over the park every day this week.  Thursday’s Vanzant Jam may contribute a musician or two, but the beat will still go on in the Community Building anyway.  It also goes on out on the wide veranda in Champion most Wednesdays starting around 11:00.  It is a treat when Joann Laurence joins in.  Anybody with any acoustic instrument or a voice to sing is welcome.

Any day of the week, save Sunday, is a good day to meet up with friends down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek.  June’s cold old wood stove still offers a point around which yarns may be spun.  On Saturday the whole of the Historic Emporium was designated a liar’s corner.  So, friends and neighbors discussed their gardening efforts, recent local events, politics, epic journeys, and local histories while they picked ticks and told lies.  Some of the lies had a grain of truth in them while others were pure fabrications.  The frequent question is:  to Deet or not to Deet?  It seems that even those who spray up still get ticks.  A pleasant gentleman steeped in local lore recently told of a fellow who was crossing the country on his way west when he noticed a tick on him.  He said that he just let it gnaw on him all the way to California where he pulled it off and let it go, thus augmenting the tick population of California.  Folks there may not have it as a gift.  Some are questioning the value of a number of so-called gifts such as old age and declining stamina.  Nevertheless, gratitude and optimism are watch words in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 28, 2024

CHAMPION—May 27, 2024


Champions are feeling blessed and grateful that the wild, dangerous weather passed us by. At the same time, neighbors all around the country are cleaning debris, calculating their losses, and formulating plans for how to proceed. Like the song says, “Time is filled with swift transitions.”

The 38th Denlow/Fairview School Reunion went off without a hitch. It also went off without many who, for reasons of traffic and health, were unable to make it. The number of surviving students is dwindling. There were four Denlow students in attendance and three from Fairview this year. The rest of the crowd was made up of descendants of alumni, friends, and neighbors. The fish, chicken, and sides were scrumptious, and the fellowship sweet. Pete and The General did a fine job with the auction, eliciting as much laughter as money.

Memorial Day—a time of remembrance and reverence. While only about one percent of the population are serving, most Americans are descendants, relatives, friends, neighbors, or acquaintances of people who are serving or who have served. The many who lost their lives in that service, the service of keeping the rest of us free in our precious democracy, are the reason for this holiday. One hundred eleven flags in the Denlow Cemetery mark the Veterans resting there. Putting their lives on the line is the nature of that service.

Ed Henson, genial storekeeper, friend, and neighbor was born May 27, 1903. He is well regarded by people who never met him but have heard the many rich stories of Champion’s early days. Paula Mudd celebrates that day and has the benefit of having many of her children and grandchildren near to help her party. A few of the others who started their lives that day are Henry Kissinger—1923, Vincent Price—1911, Rachel Carson—1907, Dashel Hammett—1894, Wild Bill Hickock—1837, and Cornelius Vanderbilt—1794. Every day of the year has some notable attached to it.

Walls are going up! Bright red walls are going up on the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department’s new fire house! It has been a long process. Back on December 12, 2023, a Skyline Assistant Fire Chief posted: “We had the exciting opportunity to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new fire station. This project has been in the works for several years now. Some of you may not be aware that there is no running water at the station and no facilities such as bathrooms. This makes it difficult to hold board meetings training events and so on. But the wait is finally over. As you drive by the firehouse, you will start to notice progress being made. Skyline area volunteer fire department would like to thank everyone who came out and showed their support—Squires Fire, Good Hope Fire, Sheriff Degase, and Commissioner Travis Chaney. A big thank you to CDBG and Jessica Moran with CDBG and South-Central Ozark council of governments for making this happen.” It is happening and the whole community is glad.

On Saturday, June 15th, the Ava community will come together in support of the Haro Family. The benefit will be held at the Ava Middle School Cafeteria. At 5 pm Hucklebucks BBQ will serve dinner with donated sides for $15.00 per plate—water, tea or coffee provided. There will be an auction at 6 pm with donated items. Reach out to Deannetta (417) 683-0840 or Rose Zella 683-0826 to donate. Deanna Riley writes, “Sal and Silvia Haro were two of the kindest people in Ava! It didn’t matter if you were at the restaurant or saw them a store, you could always be sure Sal was going to wave big with a giant smile on his face, while Silvia always greeted with a big smile and the hugs that only a mother could give. They treated everybody like family. They cared about their community, and they showed it. This loss hits deep and hard. Please make time to join this benefit and help this family, just as they have helped others. Please show up and pack the building just as so many have done at their restaurant.”

Sudden tragedy, dangerous weather, horrific disasters, and merciless warfare join old age, disease, famine, and crime to reduce the global population. Still, there are a lot of us. We endeavor to persevere, to be grateful, compassionate and optimistic—Champions! Looking on the Bright Side!


May 25, 2024

CHAMPION—May 20, 2024



Between bouts of tumultuous weather, nature is providing us with much beauty. We appreciate it and the many other beautiful things that come around this time of year. Graduation gatherings celebrating the accomplishments of young people are some rich moments. Teachers see the results of their work. Young students look forward to their own commencements. Parents, families, and friends get to revel in the accomplishments of their special graduates and to wish them success in their new beginnings. It is a memorable time for all involved.

Those who had asked Santa for mud back during those long dry days are now enjoying the garden lushness brought on by copious amounts of rain. It would be alright if things were to balance out a bit. If it were possible to order rain, some would ask for half an inch or a little more per week. We will just work with what we get and be glad of it. The moon will have changed, and the last days of the month will be good days to plant root crops and to prune to encourage growth. The garden gives us more than food and good exercise. Watching things grow boosts our spirits. Wildflowers along our winding, bumpy country roads help us to drive slow enough to keep our rigs intact. Early on, the wild purple phlox caught our eye. Then we had miles of blooming multiflora rose and now we are enjoying little daisies. The bees enjoy them too and we are forever grateful to the bees for their part in keeping the world in food.

This is a musical part of the world. Sunday singing is a good way to start the week. Monday has the time honored McClurg Jam and Sharry Lovan’s jam in Willow Springs. Gina Hollingshad hosts a jam at Roy’s Store in Dora on Tuesday. Wednesday has the Barber Shop Jam in Ava, and a porch jam in Champion. Thursday is a lively affair in Vanzant and Ava’s Barn jam has moved to the Senion Center. Saturday surely has something musical going on. The New Grass Attack performed at a well-attended political function in Vanzant on a recent Saturday. They have been a mainstay in local music for a good many years.

Former students and graduates of the Denlow and Fairview Schools will be enjoying their 38th School Reunion on Saturday the 25th. Alumni from far and wide, together with friends and family members, will get together at the Denlow Baptist Church and Cemetery starting around ten in the morning. For the potluck luncheon, Master chef Ed Williams will again prepare fish and chicken with the good supervision of Sonja. Attendees are encouraged to bring a side dish and/or desert. Coffee and soft drinks will be provided. There will be an auction for any donated items/treasures. Hopefully, the Kentucky colonel (auctioneer) will be here with his lovely wife who has ‘Alsup’ in her name. There will be time for some reminiscing, yarn spinning and all kinds of merriment. Everyone is welcome.

This gathering happens annually on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend. That is the time designated to honor the men and women who died while in serving in the U.S. military. A small percentage of the population of our country serve in the military, but they are there to protect all the rest of us. Thank a Veteran any chance you get. The holiday is still thought of as Decoration Day by many. Our local cemeteries blossom again with the flowers placed on the resting places of dear loved ones. We remember them and acknowledge the parts they played in our lives. Our old folks taught us how to live and would have liked for us to do a good job of it as Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!

A Champion Fritillary

CHAMPION—May 20, 2024



Wednesday, May 15, found the Champion Square full of horse trailers and horses. They came from Dora, Macomb, Ava, Norwood, Fordland, West Plains, Mountain Grove, Pontiac, Edgar Springs, and Theodosia. The riders, Calvin Chambers, Cash Depriese, Lynn Johns, Andrew Harden, Caleb Harden, Juniper Wiley, Cody Greenfield, Bob Wheeler, Kay Rex, Loran Cockrum, Frank and Conny M., Corey Finch, Jennifer Wolf, Debi Sims, Jeff Alcorn, and Don Hamby made a twelve-mile loop in about four hours, then repaired to the wide veranda for ice cream and yarn spinning. Reports mentioned no bad dogs or mishaps and the mild and pleasant weather made for a beautiful ride. Many of these folks had the pleasure of riding with Bud Hutchison over the years. Andrew Harden has been leading Bud Hutchison Memorial Trail Rides out of Champion in the spring and fall since his passing in 2018. Bud would be pleased to see the young folks on this ride doing what he loved to do.


May 17, 2024



Mothers could hardly get anything done for all the phone calls, visits and emails commemorating their special day on Sunday. It turns out that we owe them our lives. It does not matter how old we are when we lose our parents, we feel like orphans. How we would love to go back and ask questions. Those of you lucky enough to still have your folks are admonished not to lose the opportunity to ask those questions now. They have stories to tell that you may not have heard.

A whole bunch of us are in our third trimester, that is if we think one hundred years is our possible life span. It goes with the territory that we lose loved ones all along the way. It hits hard, even when we know it’s coming. The parts they played in our own lives tie them to us in memory and our love for them encourages us to love life as they did. We celebrate them, appreciate them, emulate the things about them we loved. Honor them with our own living.

The soft soothing sounds of the singing cicadas made us mindful of the miracles of nature as if the aurora borealis was not enough. Some of us do not have a horizon to gaze upon because there are hills and trees in the way. The brilliant undulating colors were obscured. Even so, Champions enjoyed some especially lovely skies during the solar storm. As to storms, bigger than golf ball hail beat the daylights out of some windshields, some roofs, some Thermopane windows, flowerpots, and garden plants. Even so, Champions are awash in gratitude that it was not worse. Storm stories were shared among friends at the Second Saturday Skyline Swap Meet while they shopped for plants, pigs, ammunition, cinnamon rolls, crochet booties and lots of other things—a nice day. It is good to see progress being made on the firehouse too.

Birthdays to enjoy this part of May start with Teresa Wrinkles on May 22nd, along with a good neighbor, Keller Boehs. Jennings Harley, a kindergarten student at Skyline celebrates May 24th, the same day as Chase’s Mom. Lena Bell Wagner has the 26th for her big day. That may also be the big day for John Webber. Ed Henson was born May 27, 1903. Eva Clark’s mother was born that day some years later. Presleigh Miller was a first grader this year at Skyline. Her birthday is May 28th. Brylee Clark was born May 28, 2010. Dale and Betty Thomas hosted the Pioneer Descendants Gathering ‘down at the end of the world’ for many years. They did a lot of work through the whole year to make that happen. Dale’s birthday is May 28th. Jessie May Miller was born on that day quite a few years earlier and her presence at the Denlow/Fairview School Reunion has been one of the reasons it has always been such a lovely occasion. The reunion will occur as usual on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend. It is just a week from Saturday. The General entreats scalawags, scoundrels, and scholars (former student) to attend with family and friends. Everyone is welcome, even Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!