September 20, 2023

CHAMPION—September 11, 2023


We can tell the seasons are changing with these delightful temperatures and the exodus of most of the hummingbirds. A few are lingering around yet while their families have flown to Louisiana to fuel up for their jet stream flight over to the Yucatan. They may make this round trip as many as eight times in their life spans. For such tiny little things, they are resilient and they remember where they came from—from the Bright Side!

Good neighbors up on C highway a little north of Skyline have fruit trees bending over with the weight of the fruit, apples, and pears. They are pleased to freely share with passersby. It is a bountiful little orchard. Back before the pandemic, before the internet, and before everyone had television, friends and neighbors would drop in unannounced. They might call first, but often as not, they would just show up. The coffee pot was always on. The children would romp, and the grownups would sit around the table discussing the crops, the livestock, the other neighbors, the war, or the politicians. Technology has made us more and less connected at the same time. The wide veranda at the Champion Store and the chairs and tables back by the old wood stove still provide a place for neighbors to meet and trade their news, insights, and observations. Genealogists, historians, and yarn spinners are regularly there.

The PTO of the Skyline School has a wonderful fundraiser going currently, selling gorgeous two gallon mum plants in a lovely array of colors. Bud says when they sell this bunch, they will get more. The Parent Teacher Organization is responsible for many good works for our little school. We are reminded also to save those Best Choice UPC barcodes for the school. They get traded for money. Any support for this great little outfit is worth it. Solid citizens who will be running things ‘er long are roaming those halls these days. (Studebaker) Bob Berry just sent a lovely Gibson guitar to school. Cheyenne McIntosh will make good use of it in her guitar classes. If you have one languishing in your closet or under your bed, let go of it for the future of good music. Music is proven to be a great brain stimulator and children who have the advantage of music education perform better in all their academic and social situations.

Fiddlers in overalls make the Vanzant Jam a sweeter circle. Overalls are not a required uniform for them, but they look comfortable as they add melodiousness and harmony to the round of tunes. Jerry Wagner adds fun, and it is always a joy to hear him take a break on an old standard like “Red Wing” or “Soldiers’ Joy.”

Tanna (Krider) Wiseman attended Skyline. She is the daughter of a great musician and the mother of a couple of aspiring ones. Her birthday is September 13th. The 14th is for Ellie Strong, a first grade student at Skyline. Dear Frances Southerland had her birthday on the 14th. She passed away a few years ago as did Elmer Banks whose birthday was on the 15th. They were each pleasant and interesting people, if very different. Both are much missed and well-remembered. Champion Pat Kim Smith shares the 15th birthday with a Mountain Grove gal who goes by the name Tigger. Three Skyline kindergarten students have their birthdays on September 17th, 18th, and 19th. They are Jackson Johnson, Bailey Kilgore, and Gabriella Ryals. Happy birthday to all of you–many happy returns.

We recall the events of September 11, 2001. All of us who are old enough to remember that day remember it well. It was a terrible day. Many terrible things have happened since then and, doubtlessly, many more will happen by nature and by man. But, while we are here now, basking in our comfort and security, we can acknowledge the sacrifices and suffering of people the world over. We can hope for better days for everyone and do what we can to help. Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


September 17, 2023

CHAMPION—September 4, 2023


2023 Champion School Reunion

Nineteenth century labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to American strength, prosperity, and well-being. The eight hour workday, child labor laws and other workers’ rights also came about from the zeal of those activists—trade and labor organizations. Labor Day is a good time to think about the advancements that have been made and some that could be made yet.

Photographs of the Champion School Reunion from September 3, 2016, show 29 former students gathered under the big walnut trees in the school yard. A beautiful, if warm, day gave them the opportunity to reminisce and to catch up with all the new grand- and great-grandchildren, health issues and hopes for the future. This year, five of them returned to their old stomping grounds, though several others would have come, but for various reasons, had to miss the gathering. Still, with family and new and old friends, a couple of dozen folks milled about the Historic Emporium, enjoying a lovely potluck spread and the retelling of Champion tales. The man who bought Vasel and Ruby Proctor’s old place had a chance to meet their daughter, Barbara, who grew up there. They had lots to talk about. Barbara and Darrell came down from Norwood for the festivities and hopefully will be back often. Bill Phillips brought his mother, Eva Lois (Tiny) Henson Phillips, over from Nashville. She and Jody Lorett were girlhood friends long before Jody became Mrs. Royce Henson. Connie Brown brought her dad Robert and uncle Lee Brown for the occasion. They were both students at Champion. Darrell Hutchison also studied there. He said they were having about the best tomato harvest they have had over there in Ava. Kaitlyn McConnell paused for a spell on her way to Vera Cruz. She will tell you Champion is one of her favorite spots in the Ozarks.

The internet was filled to nearly clogged early last week with good happy birthday wishes for Steve Moody. He is not only the President of a bank, but President of the Skyline School Board and the master of ceremonies for the Vanzant Picnic, where he was seen with his foot in a cast. He may be found right in the middle of any good work in the area. He helped Rowdy Woods, an illustrious Skyline graduate, celebrate his 18th birthday about that same time. He did that by responding “Thank you” to “Happy birthday, young man.” Youth is subjective in some cases—charming young men in both cases. Other lovely folks celebrating birthdays are Betty Thomas, who kept the Pioneer Descendants Gathering going for many years, and for Larry Wrinkles, a Champion who used to trade fish to Ed Henson, at the store, for candy—so the story goes. Champion granddaughter Phoebe Ward has the 3rd for her big day. This year Vernon and Dailey Upshaw celebrate their birthdays on Labor Day. Skyline School students with birthdays the first week in September are kindergartener, Luke Hall, on the 2nd; fourth grader, Serenity Merryman, on the 3rd; first grader, Brayden D. Ellingsworth, on the 5th; and fourth grader, Ely Young, on the 8th. Happy days all around!

A startling bright light in the rear view mirror alarmed an Old Champion on the way home from the Vanzant Jam. It was the great glowing moon and not a big “semi-double-clutching-e-flat-trailer-truck” suddenly hard on her heels. A turn onto the dirt road gave an opportunity to pause on a high spot to enjoy the sight and to reflect on the beauty of this part of the world. We love our gentle rolling and steep hills, our deep and sweeping valleys, our trees and streams, and our wonderful distant vistas. We have, so far, been spared the disastrous weather that other parts of the country have suffered. For that and many other reasons we are grateful in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


September 8, 2023

CHAMPION—August 28, 2023



The delicious break in the weather has Old Champions breathing a sigh of relief. It looks like Saturday will be warm (hot) again and so the Champion Reunion will be well situated inside the store. The noon time potluck feast starts off an afternoon of visiting with old friends and getting acquainted with new ones. Everyone is welcome. Folks new to the area can learn the stories behind the historic photographs on the walls along with the prize winning paintings depicting the Bright Side. Alvie Dooms hopes to make it over to his old stomping grounds. He has some stories to tell. Our “Ozarks Alive!” correspondent, Kaitlyn McConnell, might come and share some of the adventures she had at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and in the actual Library of Congress. We hear that Jerry Wagner has been seen at the barber shop on recent Wednesdays, so perhaps he will fiddle over this way again. Music is always a possibility. It goes along with the hospitality. “When you’re living in the country, everybody is your neighbor…. Y’all come!”

Our Skyline School year is off to a good start. Skyline Tiger, Jennifer Trujillo, has joined the staff as Assistant Cook. She and her husband both attended Skyline, and now their two daughters are Tigers as well. Harper Campbell is starting kindergarten this year. His Mother, Danielle Campbell, is the New Skyline RII School Art Teacher. She has previously taught first and fourth grades. She is excited to be joining the Skyline community–an exciting place. Enrollment is up to 84 sterling students and our new secretary, Sarah Harden, says the first week went very well. Way off in the future these young folks will be old folks talking about the wonderful days they had in a little country school in the middle of Booger County back in the 20s.

There is always a little suspicion when the score keeper wins three games in a row. Lena says she is still up one scrabble game for the year and that is what counts. To his credit, her brother has been doing the traveling to play recently. Perhaps he will join the throng at the Champion Reunion just to balance out all the truth to the stories being told, though it is not necessarily our point to call him a prevaricator. After all, he has been referred to as a motorcycle hoodlum. That should be enough.

The big Blue Moon will light things up for us Wednesday. There will likely be songs sung about it. Sunday was the right side of the moon for planting turnips for a fall cover crop and as bait for the rabbits, which have been a real nuisance this year. They got most of the beets and beans, so Champions will be eating lots of black eyed peas this winter. The deer have not been as much competition for the garden produce as they were last year, partly because of the good grazing out in the woods and otherwise because of the higher fence. Green tomato hornworms did not bother the pink morning glory growing up in the ornamental backyard tomato plant. They had plenty to eat before they were discovered and summarily sent off for a nice swim. They have spared the big tomato patch so far, but gardeners will certainly be more vigilant until frost. One almanac says the first frost date for us is October 22nd, but we have seen it much earlier. It will almost be a relief for some canners in the kitchen.

Excitement came on Friday afternoon when a Skyline VFD first responder happened upon an accident out on HW 76 near Brushy Knob. He discovered an overturned vehicle, rendered aid, and called for assistance. The driver was extracted from the wreck and hopes are that her injuries are ones from which she can recover. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that more than half of all car accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home. We are reminded that our beautiful country roads and highways are so familiar to us that we may easily become cavalier. There are many places along our local lanes that have memories of accidents attached to them. They can serve as a warning. Stay off your phones as you come down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


September 7, 2023

CHAMPION—August 21, 2023



A full house beats a straight every time, unless it is a straight flush. That was a good lesson to learn among friends down on Teeter Creek. A house full of family and friends makes for memorable summertime fun. Much of that fun is made possible by Mr. Willis Carrier who invented a device to control humidity—the fundamental building block for modern air conditioning. This week we will be singing his praises and singing Jimmy Rogers’ “Mother, the Queen of My Heart.” It is a song about a broken deathbed promise. “Son, don’t start drinking and gambling. Promise you’ll always go straight.” Ten years later, he came back around and renewed his vow to his dear Mother like a Champion.

Those gathering for the Champion Reunion on Saturday, September 2nd will also be most appreciative of Mr. Carrier. The Recreation of the Historic Emporium is cool inside. As the number of Champion School alumni dwindles, these days we are just calling it the Champion Reunion, to include so many who have great memories and long associations with the place. New comers are welcome too, to get an idea of the interesting community history where they have decided to make their home. The noon time potluck is always a feast, and the chance to hobnob with old friends and make new ones is not one to miss. You musicians, bring your instruments.

The Skyline R2 School open house Thursday was a delightful event. Donnie Luna had spent the afternoon grilling hotdogs out under the wonderful new awning. This addition will keep students dry from the bus to the door during a downpour. There were hotdogs for everyone, and the lunchroom and halls filled up with students, parents, staff, and friends for lots of socializing and planning for a great year ahead. There are about 82 students enrolled and 17 staff members. Sarah Harden is the new school secretary and bookkeeper, Karen Tamblyn, says she is already on top of things. Helen Batten had cookies to share and will be substitute teaching as needed again this year. She loves it. Bud Watkins could be seen all summer keeping the grounds in beautiful shape. The floors are gleaming, and the new HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters in every room will help keep contagion down while trapping dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any tiny airborne particles. Kaitlyn Smith will appreciate them as she travels over from Vanzant to be the new school nurse. Cheyenne McIntosh says they could use a few more guitars for her class, if any of you have one to share. Those instruments that have been in the back of the closet or under the bed for years can still be resurrected into musical learning for our future generation of bluegrassers, rock and rollers, country, jazz and classical players. They say adolescents with music training have better cognitive skills and school grades and are more conscientious, open, and ambitious–those cotton picking kids!

Ambition in the kitchen turns to making salsa, pico de gallo, and canning black eyed peas. We are grateful for the garden’s bounty even as we sympathize with those suffering bad weather and fire related calamities all over the country. The whole world seems to be in an uproar with climate catastrophes, war, poverty, and political strife. Out here on the banks of Clever and Old Fox Creeks, we acknowledge our good fortune and strive to lend a helping hand. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


September 2, 2023

CHAMPION—August 14, 2023


Champion Deer

Summer is about over for our Skyline school kids.  The first day of classes will be August 21st.  Skyline R2 School will have its open house Thursday evening from 5:00 to 7:00.  It will be a chance to deliver all those Best Choice UPC codes that you have been saving all summer and to meet some new staff members and to see the significant improvements to the campus.  There are some good employment opportunities to explore as well.  Check it out at  One of only two rural schools left in Douglas County, this sterling little enterprise is preparing our country children to meet the challenges they will face out in the big world as they take over all the farms, businesses, professions, and government organizations that keep the Country going—solid citizens, artists and musicians.  As the school year goes on, look for opportunities to support our precious and unique seat of learning.  Skyline students celebrating birthdays after school starts this year are third graders Lauren Collins and Brantley Kilgore on the 25th and 29th, and second grader Jason Smith on the 29th.  Aiden Ray Hurt will be in the 6th grade.  He shares the 31st with Jenna Brixey who graduated from Skyline last year.

Champion Tianna Krider Oglesby went to Skyline, as her mother did before her.  She celebrates her birthday on August 22nd.  The 23rd and 24th are for her nephews, Drayson Cline and Dakota Watts, both of Tennessee.  Her aunts, Barbara Krider and Rita Krider, have birthdays on the 25th and 26th and her niece, Kalyssa Wiseman, has the 31st for her day.  The 29th is also the big day for Champion Bill (Wes) Smith and for Minnie Jo (Jody) Henson up in Springfield.  Wes most likely attended Skyline.  Jody’s husband, Royce Henson, was a proud alumnus of the Champion School.  All you students, kinfolks, and Champions enjoy your special days.

Heavy rain racket drowned out the music on wide veranda Wednesday, moving the festivities inside.  The deluge had not dampened the fun of seven or eight boys who had spent the night camping in Hillbilly Hollow.  They had been fishing, collecting seed ticks, pond swimming and mudslinging–actual mud, not unkind words.  Inside the store, they gathered around the cold old wood stove to listen to the stories of Prominent Champion loiters who had boyhood tales of their own to share along with various versions of current and relatively recent events.  Mr. Stone, a talented musician himself, made a close examination of the three stringed dulcimers of Mr. Day.  His inquiries included where they were made, what were the woods used, and why they had a fourth peg if they only had three strings.  He believed that Jimmy Driftwood down in Arkansas had played one.  Mr. Day, a great fan of The Champion News, answered his questions and gave him the opportunity to try it out.  The General figured Mr. Stone would go home and make one.

An 89 year old harmonica player joined in at the Vanzant Jam on Thursday.  He and his wife live over near Dawt Mill, on the North Fork of the White River.  It is a good way over there, but he says she is a good driver, so hopes are they will be back soon.  They like to waltz.  Another pleasant gentleman with a pleasant tenor voice purchased a mandolin from his Backyard Bluegrass friend some while back.  He shared some sweet old gospel songs and seemed to have a good time sitting between brothers in the circle and putting up with and joining in their genial jests.

Ava is a bustling town on Fridays.  The Cowboy himself was seen circling the square.  Debra Massey had her lunch in the Oaxaca Restaurant and asked how things were going in Champion.  She said that her Uncle Ray Hicks had been down from Bluegrass, Iowa in June when her mother, Elsie Curtis, had passed away.  He had not made it to the Denlow School Reunion this year, but Debra said he seemed to be doing ok.  It is just a long trip for him these days.  Mary Chips spent the morning in the hot parking lot of the Heart of the Hill Thrift Store providing information to patrons concerning the Spay and Neuter Program of the Ava Area Animal Welfare League.  Mary’s neighbor, Felix the Farmer, is about ready to start to school again, so Ava will be an even more exciting place.

Aunt Eavvie Hector Sharrock was born in about 1910 and grew up in West Texas dry land cotton farming.  She would very much have loved Ruth Collins’ song, “Out in West Texas it hardly ever rains.  When it does, it’s Amazing Grace.”  Aunt Eavvie wrote poems about any number of things:  “Slinging Mud,” “Plowing Plans,” and “Shun Evil Thoughts.”  But the one most fitting for us now is “Vegetables, Ugh.”  Unusually good gardening conditions have us appreciating her complaints about the work associated with putting by the bushels and pecks of produce that will last us through the winter.  Alas!  Aside from rabbits and a scarcity of 410 shotgun shells, Old Champions are not really complaining.  Gratitude is rife in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

A Champion Harvest

August 20, 2023

CHAMPION—August 7, 2023


Champion Vista

August has started out in a lovely way—cooler than July with some nice rain and sometimes with enough humidity to fog up all the windows in the house. It is a good time to remember some remarkable people who got their start in life in August. Elitta January had a life-long career in nursing. Her big family, her many gardening and bridge playing friends and the many people she helped along the way miss her. She passed away in 2011. August 2nd is for Champion grandson Seamus, now a college student. On the 3rd, Clark Shannon, who some people call ‘Sparky,’ shares his birthday with R.D., that is, Bobby Davis, who was 66 years old in 2018. He will be the first to tell you everybody’s got to be somewhere, just like the old boy said. Skyline R2 School students Genesis Castillo and Caleb Harden share the 5th for their birthday. Back in the spring, Caleb was willing to skip school to go on the Bud Hutchison’s Memorial Trail Ride. That would probably have been ok with Bud. Skyliner Jaxton Harley shares the day with Gina Hollingshad who attended school in Dora and then taught there. These days she is part of the Whetstone Band teaching music to happy neophytes at local jams and performing for every good cause in the area. Roger Wiseman is a good singer, and so are his children, Foster and Kalyssa, mandolin and fiddle. He was born in 1968 on the 8th of August. Lynette Cantrell is the ‘L’ in the TLC Band, Tender Loving Care, and has the 9th for her day to celebrate. Theresa and Carol are with her sharing music in lots of appreciative places. Jaycee Hall and Cryslynn Johnson are in the same grade in Skyline. Their birthdays are the 10th and 12th. They are no doubt really looking forward to the start of school on the 21st. The 13th is for Dean Upshaw. He knows the words of almost any old song you can recall. He has long been a regular Wednesday visitor to Champion, but these days his friends will be visiting him up in Autumn Oaks.

‘Twas an unexpected and most enjoyable meeting with Ethel Leach out in the sunny Town and Country parking lot Thursday. She said Bob is getting along okay on a bland diet and that they have their hay in. She had good things to say about a young guy on a brush cutter working along her county road. Kind words go a long way and kind invitations often prove beneficial to the host as well. A young friend recently shared a “Bee Kind” note with her friend, who then began to think of her beekeeping friends. Lee, of the L and E Organic Farm, has been keeping his bees for three years now and this year has harvested a total of 12.5 gallons of honey. He and Edie were Champions for a short while, having bought Ruth and Orville’s Hicks’ old place. They later found a more developed place some twenty-five or so miles north and have continued developing it for five years now. They are still Champions—in Champion North.

Champion Fawn

Pleasant visiting occurred on Wednesday out on Lonnie Krider Memorial Drive. Lonnie’s granddaughter, Kalyssa Wiseman, brought her fiddle to join in with the porch jam. ‘Wildwood Flower’ and ‘Soldiers Joy’ and other tunes she shared would have made her Granddad glad. Her mother, Tanna, and her Aunt Stacy, who was visiting from Tennessee, were part of the big crowd on the wide veranda. Because it is hard to transport a banjo on a motorcycle, the young fiddler was accompanied by a most accommodating guy on a borrowed guitar. He had played his banjo many times with her granddad. We are blessed that so many of our accomplished musicians spend good time teaching, helping, and encouraging young people learning to play. Lonnie would be glad to know music is being carried on especially by his descendants and particularly down on the wide, wild, woolly banks of Old Fox Creek in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side.

Champion Livestock

August 8, 2023

CHAMPION—July 31, 2023


Richard, Dawn, Lorelai, Sam, and Marie

It is likely these days that people can live in Booger County with no other kinfolks around anywhere.  Those folks might be newcomers or just some old timers who moved here decades ago.  When distant kin and old friends come to visit them the atmosphere warms and brightens and opens.  That must be the way people with cousins, parents, grandparents, and siblings nearby must feel all the time.  Nobody takes these good feelings for granted.


Sometime back in the 1800s a young girl walked from somewhere in Missouri all the way to Oregon.  Her great, great grandson (or maybe three greats) just brought his lovely wife, Marie, down to the Ozarks to visit with her dear friend, Dawn.  The ladies had many good memories of raising their children together and of rolling their eyes when one of their husbands would start a story with, “I never will forget the time…”  It seems these fellows had been born in the same hospital four days apart and had grown up together getting into all kinds of mischief including multiple episodes of trespassing, of perilous mountain climbing escapades, and rattlesnakes.  Grandfathers themselves now, they are still friends and still up for fun.  They brought some of it to Champion on Wednesday where the Oregonians were introduced to The General who is the official arbiter of fun in the area encompassing Denlow, Vanzant, Champion and parts unknown.  This good meeting drew them all the way to the Vanzant Jam on Thursday where they enjoyed more of The General’s levity and possible prevarications, Sherry’s “Five Pounds of Possum” song and the delight of seeing Sherry and Ruby dance their jig to the swift strains of “Ragtime Annie.”  The couple headed back to the northwest on Friday morning, doubtlessly planning their next trip to the Bright Side where they will be warmly welcomed.  They will likely check into on a regular basis to keep up with the fun here.  If they check into Mark Kumming’s blog “Love My OZARKS,” they may find out about the legend of the Blue Man of the Ozarks, a well-documented story of Bigfoot in Booger County.


A memory shared by a good neighbor from five years ago:  “Each year the Up ‘n At It 4 H Cub has had a rural picnic/festival fundraiser which has been held for the past seventy years, once a year on Friday and Saturday night.  There are no towns anywhere close to this picnic, just lots of fields, cows, a few churches, and cemeteries.  For a small square in a field, it has contained much history for us.  My great grandma was crowned picnic queen there.  My mom twirled her baton on stage.  My dad first asked my mom out on the south side edge of the light there.  As kids, we loved to do turtle and sack races.  Our grandpa, Harold, stumped for district commissioner there.  My own children ran around excitedly with cousins there. Almost every year, we have met as a family with our chairs by the ring toss stand.  After losing Dad, we met with tears, but still willing to embrace the past, present, and future there under the Missouri moon in a patch of field shining with lights, filled with the sound of a banjo, a Bingo call, and folks happy to meet with folks.”  The memory came with a few family photos of happy memories of the Up ‘n At It 4-H Club picnic, 2018.  This year, the Friday night festivities were wonderful, as usual, but the Saturday night picnic activities were washed out and shut down by 8:15.  Farmers and gardeners are grateful for the rain, and hopeful that there will be another way to support the 4 H.  Missey Rogers might have some suggestions.  She and a lot of hard working volunteers always make the picnic a great event.  See you next year.

Good suggestions include singing to keep your heart happy.  Many studies show that music and singing especially helps to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.  We love to hear Jerry Wagner sing “Love Letters in the Sand.”  Staying well hydrated during this oppressive heat is another good suggestion along with staying grateful for music, for friends, family, and great community.  Champion!  Looking on the Bright Side!