January 27, 2023

CHAMPION—January 23, 2023


Champion Snow

A good neighbor shared a post that said the Champion Township has a 57% chance of 6 to 10 inches of snow Tuesday night. By the time this is in ink, we will know. As our local print newspapers have gone through changes in recent years, we are still grateful to find them in our mailboxes. A small weekly paper up in Long Island, The North Shore Leader, has broken a big story that the big newspapers and other outlets finally picked up. It was of National importance. They say that the internet and television has had an impact on small papers. While we are grateful not to have to wait until Friday to find out that the Kansas City Chiefs won the big game, it is good to know what is happening within our communities and with our neighbors.

Wednesday’s Champion fiesta celebrated E.A. Poe, born 214 years ago, as well as Dolly Parton, J.c. Owsley, and another Champion, much admired and appreciated. There was a four layer chocolate cake with coconut in the frosting (thanks, Ethel) and ice cream (thank The General) along with lots of laughter and good conversation. It was a treat to see Bob Leach being out and around again after his accident back in early August. He will tell you he was lucky to get out of it alive and luckier still to have Ethel taking care of him as he recovers. Bob has a tv channel that plays Gene Autry movies. He is a fan the singing cowboy with his golden voice “Out on the Texas Plains.” Don and Reba Bishop joined the party along with The Cowboy, The General and several regulars, who prefer not to be mentioned in the paper. Reba says her sisters are doing well and Don says that he is not worried about his wood pile rolling down the hill.

Lots of good things are happening at our Skyline School these days—archery tournaments and music, plus all those academic subjects and physical education. Fourth and fifth graders, Kiley Kahler and Blake McIntosh have birthdays on the 24th. The Cowboy’s sweetheart, Joyce, has her birthday on the 26th and octopus aficionada, Kay Alexander enjoys the 27th, and most days. James Brixey was forty years old in 2012 and will celebrate again on the 30th as does Loneda Bennett Hutsell. So, happy birthday young and old. Enjoy everything you can like Champions. Penelope Rose Owens is the great granddaughter of Karen Ross, and she has just arrived. This time next year she will be a year old. We imagine our great, great grandma friend is delirious with joy and flashing her lovely smile. We enjoyed having Karen as our mail carrier in the past. She carried dog treats and shared tomato plants and her good humor. Our current mail carriers are doing a great job. They surely have stories of adventure out on their routes. Homer Akers was a legendary carrier who had a need for speed back in the 30s. Cletus Upshaw was a favorite for many years, extraordinarily punctual, and always willing to share details of local history. Champions appreciate being connected.

Skyline Archers

Brandon, one of D.J. Shumate’s very musical buddies, has been everywhere! He told us so at the Vanzant Jam on Thursday just after The General had instructed him as to how reincarnation works. Showing off his multicultural sensibilities, said General proceeded to dazzle the crowd with a scintillating version of “Bessame Mucho.” Sherry Bennett let loose with a Mexican ‘grito’ that could win a contest in any cantina. “Prrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” It was easy to see she was having a good time. She will be having a good time on January 27th at the Ava Senior Center Sock Hop. She says everyone is welcome. The dance starts at 6:30 for the Young and the Young at Heart. More fun for Sherry, she has Yorkie puppies, eight weeks old now with good appetites. They might be looking for just the right home. Willie Nelson says, “Home is where you’re happy.” We are happy in Champion—Looking on the Bright side!


January 20, 2023

CHAMPION—January 16, 2023



How foggy was it last Wednesday in Downtown Champion? There was reported to be a solid white wall between Gentryville and Highway 95. From the end of the pavement there by Fox Creek, looking west, WW Highway seemed to climb into the cloud. The magic of the sycamores in their white elegant beauty adds to the enchantment of the Bright Side. Stories around the old stove had to do with a new tablet having gone ‘kasaus’ or ‘kazults’ (spelling unknown) or, as we understand it, ‘south,’ meaning it is not working right. The term is familiar to some who have heard it all their lives, but it is new to others, and the concept can be applied to a number of things, which harkens us back to The Champion News, January 23, 2013. Syndicated columnist, Charley Reese, laid out the straight skinny of government and politics in his article “545 vs. 300,000,000 People.” It is well worth the read. Google it up.

Pete Seeger, the great songwriter and musician said, “If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.” Musicians are interesting people. The Whetstone outfit, of Gina Hollingshad and David Richardson, had a good show at the Star Theater in Willow Springs Saturday, with guest musician keyboard player Modene Smith. Gina and David were practicing for the show at the Vanzant Jam on Thursday evening for the enjoyment of a relatively small audience. As to enjoyment, any time there are children in the room The General lets loose with his signature song made famous by Johnny Horton: “Go and Wash Your Dirty Feet Before You Go to Bed.” The passel of Payton kids, Misty, Colton, Bubba (aka Earl), and little Zeke, joined their cousins, Lorelai and Wade, in some protracted grinning and giggling. They had a good time and happy children are marvelous mood elevators for the rest of us. The Days and Paytons, and the rest of us, were invited to the Gentryville Church on Saturday night for the First Annual Wild Game/Roadkill cook-off. They attended and really enjoyed it. The report was that the food was all very good, and the desert table was spectacular. (Bubba Earl had two plates.) The people were warm and friendly and the house was packed. They were surprised to learn that their musical friend, Dennis Shumate of Backyard Bluegrass fame, is the pastor there. Backyard Bluegrass and the Whetstone Band can both be seen anywhere in the area in support of a good cause–like Champions.

Two of Sharon Sikes’ grandchildren have birthdays in January—Miley Schober on the 16th and Rese Kutz on the 17th. Two skyline students share the 18th. They are seventh grader Jacob Brixey and fourth grader Railynn Dixon, also a big day for Marybeth Shannon. J.c. Owsley, over in Jordan, MO, and Dolly Parton of Tennessee, share their birthday on the 19th with our Preeminent Champion. Blaine Denlow’s grandmother will party on the 20th, as will Alvin Barnhart. Party girl and good time doer of many good works, Brenda Coffman Massey, will be celebrated for miles around on the 22nd. Third grader Paxton Elgie and eighth grade student Elizabeth Hinote also have the 22nd as their big day. Reba Bishop sent out a message to her son , Kris Bishop, wishing him a happy birthday and hoping he was having fun at the boat show celebrating his day, and hoping his day was the best. Happy day to all of you and your Champion friends wish you many more to come.

Friends inquire about our Champion Scots daughter who traversed the wide Atlantic under sail with a fiddle and rosin for the bow. She is making a splash in Patagonia with her art. “Night Sailing” (Navigando de Noche) is being very well received by the many patrons of the craft, art and book fairs in the busy port city. She sojourns there in a warm place, sharing her many talents, and attempting to fathom the icy winds that blow the barquito. Hot and cold at the same time, she makes the most of it like a true Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Mo's Art

January 16, 2023

CHAMPION—January 9, 2023


Champion Fog
Norris Woods
Mr. Banjo

The fiddle tune we know of as “The 8th of January” was called “Jackson’s Victory” to celebrate something that happened in 1815. The tune also went by the names “Go See the Widow,” “Old Jake Gilly,” and “Chase the Squirrel”. Any of those could be used to commemorate current events in America. Meanwhile, January got off to a lovely start with a Teeter Creek rock and roll Grandma birthday and the next day the celebration for prekindergarten teacher, Mrs. Harley, at Skyline School. That was also the big day for Kabella Cark, who is now 11 years old. Jacob Coon parties on the 3rd along with Greta Thunberg—what a pair. The 4th was for fifth grader, Christopher Yager. Either the 4th or the 5th is the birth anniversary of one of those charming Upshaw brothers, the one who can walk for miles and find a mushroom anywhere. The 5th is definitely the big day for PK student Amelia Johnson and the 6th for Mr. Bud, who drives a school bus and keeps the school plant and the expansive grounds working well and looking good. Felix the Farmer also has the 6th for his big day which started in 2018. He likes flowers. Elizabeth Johnson Lawrence has a party on the 9th and Mr. Teeter Creek, the herbalist, will enjoy the 11th for his anniversary of life. The L & E Organic Farmgirl and herbalist, Ms. Richardson, encourages gardeners all year long, even on her birthday, the 12th. The much missed Mr. Banjo Norris Woods was born on January 13th. That day we also celebrate Diane Wilbanks over on Bryant Creek, Robert Graham up on Jim Bob Hill, and Melanie Blankenship Upshaw, who has no choice but to have fun considering who her in-laws are. These are just a few of the many fine folks who have early January birthdays. Your Champion friends salute you all. We are glad to know you, grateful to have you in our lives.

Seed catalogues are already choking our mailboxes, a lovely harbinger of spring, just seventy days away. Sunflowers appeared in many gardens last year as a reminder of support for Ukraine. The Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company has raised well over a million dollars to help the people of Ukraine. Mr. Gettle’s grandfather immigrated from there a hundred years ago, fleeing Soviet aggression. The world is full of refugees fleeing poverty, war, and oppression of all kinds. Everyone is from somewhere and almost everyone could use a little help from time to time. It’s like the old boy says, “Everybody’s got to be somewhere.” That is the punch line from a long convoluted joke told buy a guy whose sweetheart is in the good thoughts of her many friends as she deals with health difficulties. She likes Old Blue Eyes. It has been a good experience to see all the NFL and other football players and fans coming together in support of their injured comrade. Opponents helping each other up off the field is an inspiring vision.

Coffman’s Place

Orville’s Barn

A Champion who grew up in Oklahoma shared a joke using names of some of the towns there. It goes: Sallisaw Henrietta Wagoner Catoosa. Douglas County has some pretty interesting names among its townships. Perhaps some clever Booger County bard can string a few of those together for some fun. It is a pleasant pastime to sit near the old wood stove in the Historic Emporium to hear current ‘old-timers’ going over old stories about the older old-timers, their triumphs and tragedies, and the hard work of their daily lives. People visiting from big cities say that being here is like going back in time. As we watch Orville’s old barn and the old Coffman place let light in through their roofs, we see the old times melting away. We have one foot in the distant past and one in the distant future, hoping for real broadband internet someday. Meanwhile, we cherish the old timers and happily soak up their stories. Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


January 8, 2023

CHAMPION—January 2, 2023



Champions welcome the new year with customary optimism and good will. It was Marian Conradi who shared her father’s motto: “Looking on the Bright Side!” He called Champion ‘the Village.’ Marian taught school for many years, third and fourth grades, and was a great appreciator of the bald eagle, which were often featured in her correspondence. Her parents’ farm is still a going concern, one hundred years later. An Old Champion has been wondering when does memory of what never was become the good old days? It is a habit of some to embellish or manufacture memories. We rely on historians to preserve the truth of the matter, and on ourselves to hold on to the good times and let the bad ones go after we have learned their lessons. Thanks to Sharon Sanders over at the Douglas County Museum for all she does to maintain the relics and records of our recent and distant past.

Whatever you were doing New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day was lovely—in the 60s. Just over a week before there were some -9° readings locally. The forecast for January looks reasonably mild, but winter is far from over. Something worth looking into is a pump-house thermostat. They cost around $20.00, look like a multi-tap outlet, and are preset to come on at 35° and go off at 45°. So, plug your heat lamp or heat tape in the thermostat and go back in the house. Perhaps invest another $20.00 in a remote-read outdoor thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature inside your well-house without having to go out there. Someone said, “Now you tell me.”

Wednesday had Day dulcimers and a banjo joining the jam, everyone smiling after a lovely Christmas. Harley joined in for some sweet gospel songs. He and Barbara were down from Peoria, making for a lot of fun and reminiscing. Barbara was in her usual good spirits, ready to play cards. Old stories around the old stove had to do with all the work a kid might have to do to get out of work. At the Vanzant Jam on Thursday, they joined the legion of Upshaw family and admiring friends of The General, who was destined to have a birthday, the last one of his eighth decade, on New Year’s Eve. Apparently, he had it, and, as the Vanzant correspondent for The Champion News, he submitted the following: “NEWS BREAK: Downtown Vanzant is in turmoil this morning. The New Year’s ‘Opossum Drop’ did not go well for the beginning of 2023. As an opossum wasn’t available, a skunk was substituted. The City Fathers (and their families) and Chamber of Commerce has concluded: ‘That won’t happen again.’” (It may be that Sherry Bennett has found them all, much to her delight.) We can look forward to a year of The General’s reports from the Vanzant Weather Station and Celestial Observatory, his accordion playing, which, as a gentleman, he rarely does, as well as his helpful household hints, such as the one he shared ten years ago. At that time, he was touting labor saving devices proffered by the Vanzant Fly-By-Night Owl Risky Business Batt Factory and this one had to do with daily replacing the newspaper in cuckoo clocks. Next year he will be an octogenarian.

Just before the holidays, some friends from far away came visiting Champion friends. Conversation rolled around many subjects, including that any small gesture might have far reaching, unexpected, perhaps unintended effects. To illustrate this, the friend shared a note he had received: “So happy you visited us yesterday, Glenn! Actually, you did Alfred a world of good. It’s a sad fact that as we oldsters plumb deeper into our nineties, we often bemoan lost time and opportunities; we wonder, were our lives worthwhile? Did we contribute to making a better world? Or was it all for naught? Our efforts forgotten and faded into oblivion? Perhaps they really weren’t that viable? Were in fact worthless? We lose faith in who we were, or what we did, and the emptiness those doubts bring is depressive. I often remind Alfred and myself, that we may not see them, or even learn about them, but if our life’s work was well intended, most surely the germ of our ideas have been seized here and there, given impetus to new and greater ideas, and then bloomed for good. Perhaps we won’t ever know, but I assured Alfred they are there. So, to hear you tell him that he inspired you was more than gratifying. I know he was touched and pleased. Thank you for that Glenn. You did a good thing yesterday! Your friend, Nell”

Who knows what good we may have done without even knowing about it? Who knows what will happen in the year ahead? Down on the wide, wild, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek, at the end of the pavement, we hope for everyone love, good health, peace, contentment, friendship, favorable circumstances for dreams to come true, the chance to be of help to others, good crops, good music, all to be purchased with the optimism of Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


December 29, 2022

CHAMPION—December 26, 2022


Wednesday’s gathering in Champion was all it was hoped to be, except for missing Bob and Ethel. It would have been sweet to have seen Jerry too, but it was his birthday and his brother-in-law said he had gone to the barber shop. He seems to have a standing appointment at the barber shop, always looking good. The potluck feasting in the Historic Emporium was ample and sumptuous, and the attending company was a delight. Old friends and new ones got acquainted and caught up. Bishops, Barnharts, Kriders, Clines, Upshaws, Rays, Stones, Lamberts, Hensons and numerous others, including a McConnell, fed their faces and their friendships, while customers came and went, some pausing to chat and all leaving smiling.

Many lovely things have happened in late December. Gordon and Mona McCann were married in December 70 years ago. We know Gordon from Ozarks Watch Magazine and from his frequent attendance at McClurg. Royce and Jody Henson would have had their 64th anniversary on December 13th. This is Jody’s first anniversary without Royce. This this time of the year we miss Royce and the many who brought us great joy when they were here. Tim and Sarah Tamburino had their 40th anniversary on December 23rd. They are out preserving and supporting local music all around the Ozarks. He wears a red shirt, and she smiles. The amazing Corinne Leigh Zappler has a birthday on the 27th. She is as old as her old uncle’s truck. She has been to Champion, Vanzant and the barber shop! She plans another trip soon, bringing her big fiddle with her. It is really a viola. She and her old auntie are working up “Ashokan Farewell.” Eli Oglesby is a Champion grandson with a birthday on the 30th. He has many musical cousins—Foster on the mandolin, Kalyssa on the fiddle, Dakota on the banjo and guitar. There may be others. Then, of course he has a great uncle who is a proficient accordionist. Young Arvin Schroder has his birthday on New Year’s Eve! He has been attending the Sometimes Porch Band jams since he was just a little baby. He shares his birthday with The General, who commands the Vanzant First Alert Weather Team. On December 22nd, he reported that, “…the Team has determined the extremely excessive predicted cold may cause adverse effects to the sensitive ‘G’ strings,” hence, the Vanzant Thursday Night Music was cancelled. (Excessively cold weather is detrimental to B, D, A, and E strings as well.) It is likely to be 60 degrees for the jam Thursday, December 29th, so there will be a splendid opportunity then to sing that birthday song, long, loud, and rowdy to the man who makes the coffee and keeps the community informed and entertained.

For all you Champions who relished a glorious holiday weekend in the presence of your dear loved ones–family, and friends, count yourselves blessed beyond your deserts. While others enjoyed a quiet little Christmas, they know that closeness has not all that much to do with geography anymore as phone lines chimed and computer screens brought them close, even at great distances. God bless us every one, including all those of us with no one, no power, no warm fire, no food or shelter. There is much suffering and want in the world. War, poverty, famine, disease, and disasters are all taking their toll. In our gratitude for our own good fortune, we extend our hopes for a better day tomorrow for all those not fortunate enough to be Champions. Happy New Year! —Looking on the Bright Side!


December 27, 2022

CHAMPION—December 19, 2022



Once a number of years ago, the mayor of Macomb, Illinois, which is the county seat of McDonough County, called on A. Lee Unger to don his satin Santa suit and show up at his house on Christmas eve with the bag of gifts the mayor had provided. It was a festive and enjoyable time and, while the resident teenager was not much impressed, the three year old was heard to exclaim, “That’s the real Santa Clause!” She meant it, emphasizing ‘real.’ So, we have teased Mr. Unger by saying, “Mr. Melancholy, from the little town of Blandinsville in the squarest county in the state, claims his greatest accomplishment yet is having fooled a three year old.” Glenda will laugh at the joke and perhaps the next time they are here to visit his sister, they will stop in Champion again. He may have his baritone ukulele with him. He says it takes two years to grow a good Santa beard.

The Polar Express blew through Skyline Thursday night to the delight of more than two hundred ticket holders. Mr. Luna was the conductor, distributing tickets and directing passengers to the train where they enjoyed hot chocolate and music, music, music. Ms. McIntosh wrangled the whole student body, teachers, and staff into a great performance. The songs of the evening will likely be the soundtrack of the two week Christmas vacation they will all enjoy. Everyone enjoyed the duet with Mrs. McKay (language arts and social studies teacher) on violin and Ms. McIntosh on guitar for “Silent Night.” Cheyenne (Ms. McIntosh) then rocked the house with “Christmas Time’s A Comin’.” Her guitar students had a chance to show their skills and make her proud with “Silver Bells.” The grand finale turned out to be a gift for every student—cookies and a big box containing a blanket, a book, hot chocolate mix and other lovely things. The boxes were prepared by unnamed volunteer Santa helpers, part of the beautiful Skyline R2 School community. It is a little rural school in a place where many have had the good fortune to attend a little rural school.

Regular shoppers at the Mountain Grove Love Center Thrift Store and Food Pantry have marked the absence of the sweet and friendly Mama Carol. The word is that she had some illness and then a couple of falls that have her temporarily out of commission, pending some surgery and recovery time. Her fellow volunteers and customers have sent her cards, flowers and fudge for encouragement. She has been a volunteer there for six years, supporting the good work of the organization and offering good cheer to everyone entering the doors. Get better soon, Carol, you are being missed. Champion, Irene Dooms, has joined her sister, Esther Wrinkles, up in the Denlow Cemetery–both beautiful, dynamic women–much loved and much missed.

Kansas City and local Chiefs fans are full of jubilation with the overtime win over the Texans on Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks will be in Kansas City on Christmas Eve and Champion neighbors who hail from Seattle will be as excited as their neighbors about the game. Maybe there will be a watch party, if blackout restrictions do not apply. The neighbors will be on opposite sides, but their friendship will not suffer. Would it were so in the world at large. Our thoughts for Peace go out to those besieged in Ukraine and other troubled places in the world. Our Champion friend up in Jordan, out east of Cross-Timbers, joins us in appreciating the heroism of the Ukrainian people and their President.

Our Champion daughter, down in Argentina, says the World Cup victory over France has the whole country celebrating. She messaged that she may have some degree of hearing loss as a result and is now compelled to try her first Argentinian steak, something else for which the country is noted. She has been spending her time there on the coast painting penguins–well, pictures of penguins, not the actual seabirds.

People, pets, plants, and pipes will be the priorities of Champions as the prospect of significant severe weather approaches along with Christmas. Stay warm and safe. Meanwhile mailboxes are fairly choked with annual family newsletters, unexpected gifts, and season’s greetings. In her cute homemade card, Suzie Freeman said that she and Wes had been to Norwood for their Freeman-Long Thanksgiving dinner and that, though they are both dealing with serious health issues, they are still kicking and still Hillbillies in North Texas. The post office is doing a splendid job of helping us stay connected. Maybe leave a cookie in your mailbox for the hard working dedicated folks that make it happen. Family, friends, home, health, and happiness are among the many good reasons to celebrate during this wonderful holiday season. We say, “Happy birthday!” to Joann Anderson on December 25th and we say, “Merry Christmas” to all you local and distant, far-flung Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


December 20, 2022

CHAMPION—December 12, 2022



Ilene Woods

Some people with birthdays in December do not celebrate at all, some celebrate in July, and some are just happy to have a birthday. Charming Loretta Upshaw had a happy birthday on the 11th, as did Kai Parsons, Roger Wall, and various local lawyers. Kennedy Hinote is a fifth grade student at Skyline, celebrating a birthday on December 13th. Music lover, the lovely Mary Goolsby, will enjoy her day on the 20th. J.R. and Janet’s little boy, Herbie Johnston, will probably, doubtlessly, indubitably, for sure fiddle around then as well. The shortest day of the year is a fine birthday for fifth grader, Paige Jonas, and for another fine fiddler, Jerry Wagner. (What a treat it was to see him at the Vanzant Jam again on Thursday.) The 23rd is a special day for Chase Cauthron, a third grade student, because he shares it with his dear old Dad. Blaine Denlow’s great grandmother, Sharon Sikes, lives just a little way up the road from her and also has her birthday on the 23rd. One of Blaine’s other great grandmothers, Ilene Woods, just completed another 5K run, then she ran 8.1 miles on her 81st birthday, December 12th. Champions, your Champion friends wish you Merry Birthdays!

There are now seven Yorkies at Sherry Bennet’s house. Zizzie Lou had five pups, her first litter. There is a hound somewhere in Sherry’s neighborhood, so she enjoys plenty howling, yipping, and barking. Our pets can bring us a lot of joy and give some of us much needed exercise, opening and closing doors. ‘Doggie doors’ are not advisable for people in the country who see groundhogs, racoons, five pound possums, chipmunks and squirrels and an occasional skunk out their kitchen windows. There are barn cats, neighbors’ cats, as well as feral cats, and maybe even bobcats that might enter an open door. Armadillos are not friendly. Pets like Mr. Yellow and Jonnie can be company, comfort, solace, entertainment, and aggravations just like any family member. Jonnie joined the family in January 2017, having been dumped out on Cold Springs Road when she was just about a year old. She has gained twenty pounds and the affection of some Old Champions. She really likes people, but not trucks.

The weather is brisk, and business is brisk in Downtown Champion. The holiday season is well upon us. A potluck luncheon in the meeting room of the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square on the Winter Solstice (Jerry’s birthday) will welcome the beginning of longer days, soon up to 2 minutes and 7 seconds daily of more daylight, and will welcome Champions, friends, and neighbors. Looking forward to more light–what could be more optimistic than that? The Cheyenne McIntosh production of The Polar Express at our Skyline R-II School on Thursday, December 15th. Boarding time 6:00pm – 7:00pm. Cheyenne is not just bringing music theory and technical skill to our students, but a great appreciation for music in all its many facets, elements, and benefits. The whole community is welcome to the performance. It will be a good opportunity to bring all those Best Choice UPC, bar-codes you have been saving, or those items to donate for the school Christmas Store, where students can shop for their families. Holly jolly fun times are about to overtake us. We harken back to the joy of Christmas we felt as children. A favorite carol of a favorite Champion out on the wide, wild wooly banks of Old Fox Creek is “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.”

We know there was a full moon last week, the Cold Moon, because Edie Richardson told us so. She plants by the signs and had seeds to get in pots. We would not otherwise have known, as things were gray, damp and dreary for most of the week. Thursday evening had bluegrassers grateful for the white lines along the edges of the highway as they made their way through dense fog to their jam. Then, suddenly, a sunny Friday lifted our spirits enough so that we can endure the winter days ahead. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!