January 29, 2007

January 29, 2007

CHAMPION—January 29, 2007


        It’s cold in Champion.  No one is complaining, however, as the discomfort and damage has been so minor compared to neighbors close at hand.  Springfield will be a long time recovering from the ice storm that made the national news and was reported on the BBC around the world.  Some Champion residents are still going over to help in the clean up.  It’s a good feeling to be part of such a generous community.

        The big ‘goings on’ in Champion this past week revolved around cousins Foster and Eli and second cousin Madelyn Ward.  They, together with various parents and grandparents, descended on the Krider farm to the extent that hardly anything was accomplished.  Oh, the cows got milked and fed the way they always do, but the family focus was on the wonderful swarm of little people.  There is a reason for Love and Gratitude!

        The Krider ladies were not present at the Auxiliary meeting of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department, but they were subsequently informed by friends and neighbors of the proceedings.  The meeting was held in the home of Esther Wrinkles.  Attending were Ms. Wrinkles, Louise Hutchison, Sharon Sikes, Sarah Sikes, Betty Dye, Ruth Hamilton, Murnice Hamilton, Susan Griswold, Karen Griswold and Wilda Moses.  The main topic of the evening was the chili supper which is scheduled for February 24th.  In the event of bad weather an alternate date of March 3rd was determined. Details of the menu were discussed and responsibilities were delegated and assumed.  In addition to chili and ham & beans, this year chicken and noodles will be available for those who can’t eat spicy food late in the day.  Ruth brought the Chipmunk 22 youth rifle to show the membership.  It is a lovely little gun with a walnut stock. There will be separate drawings for the Chipmunk rifle and for the Mossberg 535 twelve gage shotgun this year.  It was reported that ticket sales have been brisk.  Ruth also brought the lovely red, white and blue star quilt to show the members.  It was completely hand made by Loren Mastrangelo and has been donated to the Auxiliary as part of the fund raiser.  It is six feet square and hand quilted.  It would serve as a beautiful wall hanging or as a quilt.  The membership was happy to learn that the Bressler Brothers will perform again this year as will Back Yard Bluegrass and The Blades of Bluegrass.  Booger County Bluegrass and the Firehouse Quartet are perennial favorites and this year for the first time Bill Conley an Ozark String Band will perform.  Other items on the agenda included the report of donations of some new merchandize to the silent auction by Betty Dye and  rumors of an impending shoot-out somewhere in the suburbs of Champion.  The meeting was concluded with coffee and Ms. Wrinkles’ excellent apple cobbler. 

        Friday is Groundhog Day.  A few years ago there was a movie made by that name staring Bill Murray and Andy McDowell.  It is one of those ‘feel good’ movies that stresses the idea that a person can start over and do a better job of living, or that when a person extends himself to help others his own life improves.  There are several songs about groundhogs too.  One such, sung by the American Indian singer Buffy St. Marie, has a verse that goes, “Groundhog, groundhog, what makes you smell so bad?  I been livin in the ground so darn long, I’m mortified in my head, head!  I’m mortified in my head.”  Several lovely people have their birthdays on Groundhog day too.  One such lives over on the other side of Ava from Champion.  Judy Sharon is as lovely a person as can be found anywhere, full of  skills and talents with a genuine appreciation for and understanding of her many friends.  She’s got a smile like a sunny day.  Charlene Dupre over in Norwood is another one like that, multitalented, compassionate, high energy and ready for fun.  It’s a delight to have them for neighbors and a gift to have them as friends. 

        As the search was made for lyrics to “My Missouri Home,” other discoveries were made. (There are quilt blocks called “The Missouri Daisy,” “Old Missouri,” and “The Missouri Star.”)  The song was suggested by Darrell Haden for the Missouri Song List and when the words are found, they will be reported.  Perhaps one of those bands that will play at Skyline’s chili supper will know the song.  Meanwhile, someone inquired about “The West Plains Explosion.” On Friday, April 28, 1928, about sixty young people had gathered at the Bond Dancehall, on the second floor of an East Main Street building (the first floor was occupied by Wiser Motors.)  At 11:05 pm, as the orchestra played “Sundown,” a violent explosion occurred.  Thirty seven people were killed and twenty two were injured.  Twenty of the dead were never identified, but buried in the Oak Lawn Cemetery, where they are memorialized by the Rock of Ages Monument erected October 6, 1929.  No cause was ascertained, though leaking gasoline from the garage below was suspected.  Windows were shattered throughout the  Halstead block and the heat, combined with subsequent explosions twisted cars on the street out of shape.  It is said that no dances were held in West Plains for many years.

        For appreciators of the old days and the old ways, these stories are interesting.  The Looking Backward column in the paper is frequently the first one read and the Reminiscent History of Douglas County together with the Centennial photos are most welcome.  From time to time a person is heard to say that he was ‘born a hundred years too late.’  The implication is that those days were better and a person could have lived a better life back then.  Those things may be true, but it would be a rare individual nowadays, brought up in the comparative ease and sloth of today, who could make a go of it.  Some look back on the old days to get an appreciation of today.  Today, almost thirty-one hundred U.S. Service People have lost their lives in the current conflict in Iraq.  That their sacrifice is appreciated by their Nation is the Hope and it is hoped that their survivors are recognized with the Love and Gratitude that is their due.


January 22, 2007

January 22, 2007

CHAMPION—January 22, 2007


        There is jubilation in Champion!  Kyle Alexander Barker has arrived!  He was born January 21st at about 4:30 in the morning.  He weighed 8 pounds two ounces and was 22 inches long.  His mother and father are Deborah and Tom Barker. Deborah is the Special Education teacher at Skyline School.  She has a large support group there and everyone is celebrating.  Young Master Barker enters an expansive family.  Next week end Robert Upshaw, his maternal grandfather, plans to make ice cream to celebrate the birthday of Gene Barker, his paternal grandfather.  It’s nice they all get along so well.  By this time next year the little fellow will have determined what his favorite flavor of homemade ice cream will be and doubtlessly will have made other preferences known that will have him identified as an individual.  He has deep roots in this community going way back.  He is already a lucky lad to have such a beautiful home place and such a rich family heritage.

        Grandpa Upshaw (Robert) was one of several who answered the call to fight that brush fire back on December 27th.  He was within ten feet of Farel Sikes when he ‘disappeared.’  Robert reported that it was a difficult situation to get Farel out of the spot into which he had fallen.  Other firefighters reported that it was slick and steep and a ‘brake’ rope had to be attached to the backboard to slow them down if things got too fast underfoot.  Good fortune mixed with good training and a genuine sense community affected a positive outcome for Farel.  To answer a number of inquiries,  he is making excellent progress in his recovery.  He says he can do pretty much anything he wants to do.  “Gee!” said a neighbor, “If I fall off a cliff can I go to the circus?”  The neighbor misses the point and probably will not get to go to the circus, no matter how much he likes clown(s).

        Sixty five years ago when Wilburn Hutchison was eight years old, he and Fleming Gheer were out in a hay field just south of Skyline when they looked up to see a dirigible!  Wilburn said it was going east.  He just celebrated his birthday on January 11th.  He was born in 1934, which he said was reported to have been a very cold winter.  He was born very close to his current residence with his grandmother and Ms. Jessie Mae Paige there to help his mother.  He and Louise married in the house where they love now.  It was 72 degrees that morning, December 30th, 1967, and by they time they had the ceremony that evening (the preacher had gone fishing) the temperature had dropped into the twenties and there was ten inches of show on the ground.  It was a dangerous adventure getting back to Iowa for the newly weds.  On November 11, 1911, there was an even more dramatic temperature drop.  Tom Hutchison’s mother and dad had gone to Norwood by wagon early in the day.  It was 80 degrees when they left home.  By the time they got back it was 20 degrees with the snow blowing and it was a treacherous trip.  In those days, with no weather service to warn them of impending disaster, people stayed prepared.  They put up their garden produce, butchered a hog, made their soap and ground their sorghum,  cut bee trees and fire wood.  They also helped each other and built deep, strong friendships…the essence of community.

        Wilburn was a school mate of Darrell Haden from whom a postcard has been received at “Champions Items.”  They attended Ava High School.  Mr. Haden writes a complimentary note and provides some excellent information about some Missouri songs.  He reports that “I’m Goin’ Back to Whur I Come From” was written by Carson J. Robinson who also wrote “Life Gits TeeJus.”  Since life can be tedious everywhere, that one will not be considered as a strictly Missouri song.  He also wrote that Robinson penned “The West Plains Explosion” for Vernon Dalhart to record in June of 1928.  From the internet these words are found:

In a little town of West Plains
In old Missouri state
Twas in the month of April
They saw the hand of fate

The springtime flowers were blooming
The world was bright and gay
And no one dreamed the danger
Would come to them that day

Was there the young folks gathered
One fatal Friday night
And to the dance they wandered
With hearts so gay and light

And there they spent the evening
Without a thought of fear
For nothing came to warn them
That death was drawing near

The dance was nearly over
The evening nearly past
When from the floor beneath them
There came an awful blast

The building all around them
Came tumbling to the ground
And there they fought and struggled
But the hot flames beat them down

How quick the scene was shifted
From one so gay and light
How hard the brave men struggled
To save their friends that night

How sad the fears of loved ones
Who came at break of dawn
To see the great disaster
Where forty lives had gone

We can’t explain the reason
These awful things must come
But we should all be ready
To say, “Thy will be done”

And tho Our hearts are weary
Our burdens hard to bare
We have one consolation
We’ll meet them over there.

        While many Herald  readers may be acquainted with this episode in local history, it is news to many others.  The sesquicentennial celebration of Douglas County that will culminate in October this year will hopefully give residents and readers the opportunity to learn much more detail about the recent history (150 years) of the area.  Pioneer Days will also be the first week-end in October and promises to be another great event highlighting the old days and the old ways.  Perhaps Darrell Haden will consent to a reprint of “The Headless Cobbler of Smallett Cave, The Origin and Growth of a Douglas County, Missouri, Legend.”  Encouragement from the likes of Mr. Haden is encouragement indeed! He also suggests “My Missouri Home” for the song list. Words for that one are being researched.  Additional encouragement comes from Patty Squirell, via e-mail. “Really wonderful, and I love Westphalia, passing through as I did on my trips back and forth to Columbia, MO. I’m concerned that you have forgotten to mention my favorite Missouri song though. I can’t keep myself from singing anytime I head to my sister’s. “Going to Kansas City, Kansas City here I come.”

        The Missouri Song List

  1. The Missouri Waltz
  2. Take Me to St. Louie, Louie
  3. I’m Goin Back to Whur I Come From
  4. The Westphalia Waltz
  5. The West Plains Explosion
  6. My Missouri Home
  7. Kansas City, Here I Come

        Encouragement, legends, histories, poetry, grumblings, musings and music are welcome at Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717, at the Champion Store, and at Champion News.  Corrections are also welcome there.  Some misinformation about the Evan’s store will be corrected in the near future.  It was erroneously reported that Jesse Henson had started that store, when it was the Evans family’s business in its beginnings.  Readers and writers are looking forward to learning more about the truth of that matter.  There was no response to the solicitation for ‘tails’ in last weeks column. The idea of rabbits and dogs and birds loosing their trailing parts due to poor word choices is a dreadful thought.  Having fur and feathers show up in the mail would be worse.  So, tales are welcome, but no tails, please.

        The Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department will override the State of the Union Message this week with its meeting on Tuesday evening.  A full report can be expected in the next issue as plans are made for the Chili Supper on February 24th.  Excitement is building as time is getting short!  There is much to do and energy levels are running high!  Champions ooze enthusiasm!

        American Soldiers young and old are doing what is asked of them.  Love and Gratitude is their due.


January 16, 2007

January 16, 2007

CHAMPION – January 16, 2007


        No complaints of any sort are coming out of Champion.  Cold temperatures make things a little inconvenient, but just a glance over into northern and western counties is enough to remind even the most grumpy that Champion is again the seat of good fortune.

        Some good citizens from this area have gone into Springfield to help out with tree removal and other tasks for some old folks up there.  It is a good time to show our neighborly nature.  Everyone who doesn’t have to go out, however, is cautioned to say home and stay safe.

        The Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department has postponed it’s meeting again, this time due to the cold.  It will be held in the home of Mrs. Esther Wrinkles on Tuesday, January 23rd.  It will be a productive planning meeting in preparation for the annual chili supper which is scheduled for February 24th.  There is always a lot to do to get ready for one of these affairs.  Fortunately the ladies are up to the task.  Not much is going on around Champion in the cold. Even little shop keepers have let their special birthdays go by with no fanfare.

        The Westphalia Waltz” is a beautiful tune to add to the list of songs about Missouri.  Westphalia is up between here and Jeff City.  It’s a quaint little berg that has kind of a European look to it. (Champion is not a very European looking place, but it is picturesque as all get out.)  So far our song list is:  #1 The Missouri Waltz, #2 Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie, # 3 Take Me Back to Where I Came From and now # 4 The Westphalia Waltz.  One of the radio stations around here that specializes in old time music would probably have a recording of it to play upon request.

        In airports and bus stations around the country soldiers are leaving to go to war and some are coming home.  Outward bound, they part from their families without tears.  They are brave and stoic.  At a bus station recently a family was observed waiting for their boy.  Two teenage sisters, a wife, and a Mother and Father stood outside the terminal as the bus pulled up.  There were tender sweet hugs for the sisters and the mother and then an embrace with the Father that was at the same time beautiful and heartbreaking.  The young man, husky and a little taller than his father, seemed to shrink in the moments that they held each other.  The bristling tension of his body dissolved to a shaking that implied sobs with a Father’s comforting hand stroking and patting his son’s back, the way parents do when their children are hurt.  It was a long moment, held out no doubt by the rarity of an embrace between men.  When they parted at last and the young man opened his arms to his young wife they seemed to have a happy reunion, free of that great weight he had carried off the bus.  What passes unspoken between Fathers and sons is a gift of great Love and Gratitude.

        Send your stories of Love and Gratitude, your songs and poetry, your tails, your observations and news, your hopes and dreams, your criticisms and complaints to Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Leave them at the Champion Store or e-mail them to Champion News.


January 8, 2007

January 8, 2007



        The prevailing attitude in Champion these days is Gratitude.  Farel Sikes is fairly bristling with it.  When asked about an event that occurred on Wednesday the third of this month he said that he had taken the quick way down and that he neither bounces nor flies.  The Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department had responded to a brush fire and just about had it wrapped up late that evening.  Farel and a couple of others with their team leader, Craig Blankenship, were taking care of a last little flair up.  He went around one end of the blaze with his leaf blower and was down hill from the fire and down wind of it when he said he thought he had stepped into a hole.  He said that his next thought was that he sure wished he could get his breath.  He had stepped off a bluff and had fallen some 25 to 30 feet.  He fell on his leaf blower, but fortunately landed in some moist soil.  A few feet in any direction would have had him piled up on the rocks.  He was Grateful for that bit of luck and also Grateful to have three First Responders immediately on the scene.  Craig Blankenship, Robert Hamilton, and Donald Powell carefully moved him  75 feet to a spot where an ambulance could receive him.  At the call, “Firefighter down!”  Cox Ambulance Service arrived promptly.  Paramedic, Rick Miller, and EMT, “Mike Michael,” took good care of him and got him to the hospital quickly.  There he remained until Saturday.  He has a fractured wrist which will be getting some fancy pins put in to hold it together and he has stress fractures to L1 and L3 that are called serious but not critical.  He will be wearing a “Ninga Turtle” brace for 3 or 4 months and will be restricted to no heavy lifting until he is mended.  He is home and up and around, admittedly uncomfortable but uncomplaining.  Farel also admits that it was a lack of attention on his part that caused his fall.  Accidents, however, are part of life and the reason the Champion community is so fortunate to have these well trained Fire Fighters, First Responders, Paramedics and EMTs.  As news of the incident reached neighbors traveling in distant places they called to ask if Farel needed anything from the great state of Texas.  He said, “No, I don’t need a thing.  My sweet Mother is already here.”  Mrs. Sarah Sikes had been visiting for the holidays and will extend her stay to be of help to Farel and Sharon during his recuperation.  He and Sharon are Grateful for that and for the outpouring of Love and support from friends and neighbors and their church community.

        Down in far South Texas the eighteen wheelers full of the luscious citrus for which the area is known are lined up in front of the juice plants.  Picking the sweet Valencia oranges and Ruby Red Grapefruit right off the tree is a genuine treat.  Cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower are being harvested now and peach trees are beginning to bloom.  While the palm trees sway in gentle Gulf breezes blown in from exotic places and family ties are precious a couple of songs about home in Missouri come to mind.  One is “Meet Me in St. Louie, Louie.”  The other most surely was written about Champion itself.  It has come from two sources.  One is Mrs. Katherine Coffman a long time resident from Mountain Grove.  She said the song was made popular by Phil Harris when she was a girl and its title was “Take Me Back To Where I Come From.”  The other source was W.A. Masters whose folks were born and raised over in McDonald County.  He was a one-man band known as “Uncle Al, The Lonesome Plowboy.”  He said that the title of the song was “Where the Mocking Bird Is Singing in the Lilac Bush.”  Whatever its title it does seem like it was written about someone from around here.  This is how it goes:

         “I’m going back to where I come from, where the honeysuckle smells so sweet it darn near makes you sick.  I used to think my life was humdrum, but I shore have learned a lesson that is bound to stick.  I used to go down to the station every evening just to watch those Pullman cars come rolling in.  And then one day temptation bit me and it took me to the spot that’s got me to the shape I’m in.  I took my hat and fourteen dollars and set out upon the path of sin that always follers when your rich and a huntin’ romance, but my huntin’ days are over I can tell you that.  I met a man in Kansas City and he asked me if I thought that I would like to step around and I said, “Yep, that’s what I’m here fer.”  So he said that he’d show me the hottest spots in town.  He mentioned things he’d have to fix up, so he took my fourteen dollars, but there must have been a mix-up.  He’s been gone since Thursday morning, and I’ve got a hunch I’ll never see that guy no more.  Now when I’m old and have a grandson, I will tell him ’bout my romance days and watch his eyes bug out, but chances are, he won’t believe me and he’ll do the same darn thing when he grows up no doubt.  But he can’t say I didn’t warn him.  Oh, what will happen when he meets up with that city-slick, golldarn him!  Take me back to where I come from, where the mocking bird is singing in the lilac bush.  Where the mocking bird is singing in the lilac bush.”

        Champion residents, past or present, are welcome to add to the list of Missouri songs at Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717.  Write them in the notebook at the Champion Store or e-mail them to Champion News. Add poetry, history, yarns, tall tales or warnings or real news and make comments and corrections.

        The Missouri Song List so far:  #1.  Missouri Waltz, #2.  Meet Me in St.Louie, Louie, #3.  Take Me Back To Where I Came From.


January 1, 2007

January 1, 2007

CHAMPION–January 1, 2007


        Greetings to Champion and to all its charming Champions from far far away.  Happy New Year!  They say that home is where the heart is.  They also say that closeness has not all that much to do with geography.  Still, for those with families and loved ones dispersed across the country, sometimes it’s necessary to leave the best place in the world just to keep connected in that sweet familial way.  Emily Post said, “To do nothing that can either annoy or offend the sensibilities of others is the principle rule of conduct under all circumstances whether staying at home or traveling.”  That seems to call for short visits.  To those who have flung themselves out into the hospitality of others and to those receiving them it is to be hoped that at parting the shared affection lingers.  Stories of holiday adventures in Champion proper will be forthcoming in weeks ahead as they are leaked to the press.  No one will weary of reports of good cheer and fun around home. Leaks to the press are encouraged at Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717, at the Champion Store, and at Champion News. Histories, opinions, poetry, prognostications and any sort of pertinent yarn or admonition will also be happily accepted.

        Molly Ivins, quite a notable Texan, said that the reason the sky is bigger in Texas is because there aren’t any trees.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  There are some wonderful trees, just not too many and while there are some hills, they just are not all that tall (except for those Guadalupe Mountains.)  “There’s a Yellow Rose in Texas that I am going to see.  No body else could love her, not half as much as me….”  This popular song for voice and piano was published in an arrangement by David Guion in 1936 and dedicated to Franklin Roosevelt in honor of the Texas Centennial.  It is an old Texas folk song.  “The San Antonio Rose”, says, “Deep within my heart lies a melody, a song of Old San Antone where in dreams I live with a memory beneath the stars all alone.” That one was written by Bob Wills.  There are, no doubt, plenty of songs about Missouri.  The “Missouri Waltz” and _______?  Music loving neighbors over in Vanzant could probably crawl through a window and find stacks of songs about Missouri on pianos and bookshelves.  Compiling a list of those songs is as worthy a plan for the New Year as any. Any help with that project will be appreciated.  Send the title, author, history and as many of the lyrics as you can remember to the address above.

        More than twenty thousand U.S. Service People have been injured in conflict since March of 2003.  It is hoped that they are being acknowledged, encouraged and supported with Love and Gratitude by their families, communities and their Nation.

        The regular meeting of the Skyline Area Volunteer Fire Department Ladies’ Auxiliary will be postponed until the 16th of the month and will be held in the home of Mrs. Esther Wrinkles.

        Safe travels and happy homecomings to all those Champions on the road!