May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011


           Champion’s Nellie has been well rewarded for her patience.  The sun finally did shine and now it looks ominously like summer.  No complaints come from Champion, however, because Champions are busy being Grateful, and it is presumed that Nellie got what she was waiting for.

          The 25th Denlow School Reunion was quite a festive occasion.  Fred Follis led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and then the mischief began.  With (General) Robert Upshaw presiding, all the attending former students of the Denlow School were acknowledged, as were all of those who served in the U.S. Military.  There was special recognition for Grace Smith Hicks.  She was a former student and a former teacher.   As a student, she shared a desk with Velma Hopper Gray and Velma said that she would occasionally draw a line down the center of the desk to define the separation. There were many stories told and memories shared.  The General said that Lou Penner had been his favorite teacher.  Others talked about outings down to the creek and climbing up to the top of the hill to the ball field.  There was basketball and all kinds of fun, but everyone agreed that the schooling was solid and they all came out of there knowing how to read and write, though the General does not seem to be too big on math.  He moderated a quiz between Denlow Students and Non-Denlow Others.  There were twelve questions—no math.  Denlow was the clear winner, answering nine questions correctly with the Others answering only six.  Both teams missed the final question:  “What is the official language of the United States?”  

          Laverne Miller shared an interesting story.  In the spring of 1946, he and a bunch of fellows from around Denlow got together to play baseball.  They were the Denlow Wildcats and Miller said that by the time they had played together for a couple of years, they were pretty good.   He played third base.  Pete Roberson was the second baseman.  He had a milk route at that time and he currently lives up around Springfield somewhere.  Cecil Keller, brother of Esther Wrinkles, was first baseman and Norman Anderson played shortstop.  Cletis Upshaw was the right fielder; Jimmy Hopper was the center fielder and did some catching.  Gene Hicks was left fielder.  The pitcher was a short kid whose last name was Rainey.   Carl Honaker was their catcher and he was really good.  He played AA baseball for the Chicago White Sox and was on his way to the big leagues when he got spiked and that was the end of his career.   Miller had returned from the war on December 12, 1945, according to Jessie Mae (Williams) whom he married shortly there after.  She said that later that spring they started up the ball team.  They have been married 65 years now and enjoy reminiscing.

          The afternoon found many out in the gazebo recovering from the splendid potluck feast.  After an exciting auction, the crowd was treated to some excellent music performed by Rod Humbert—vocals and guitar, Jerry Wagner—fiddle, vocals and yodels, and Wayne Anderson–banjo and vocals.  Anderson’s daughter, Linda Clark, joined her fine voice in for those fine close harmonies, as did others at a distance.  The music brings back memories and like all these occasions the memories are mixed sweet and sad.  Connections and reconnections with dear family and friends surely are the sweetest of old memories and new ones.  It was lovely to see Ruby Proctor and Lorene Johnston and on and on. 

          The signs are about to change again.  The moon is crossing over the equator from south to north on Thursday.  Friday and Saturday the 3rd and 4th will both be good days to plant crops that bear their yield above the ground.  There is much to be learned from a good almanac, but out there in the sunshine and the soil is where the lessons bear fruit.  Some days are not good for planting and some are good for a variety of things.  The best fishing days are 4, 12, 13, 22, and 23.  Learn all this and more from Linda’s Almanac now available at and on the refrigerator in the seemingly Very Temporary Annex of the Historic Emporium located for the time being on the West Side of the Square in the current nerve center and Scenic Heart of the Commercial District of Downtown Champion situated comfortably on the wide and wild West Bank of Fox Creek.  The eastern entry is just where the pavement ends (or begins) at the bottom of the hill.  Find Linda’s Almanac up at The Plant Place in Norwood, too.   

          A Champion was finally glad that the muffler is shot on his weed-eater.  At last there is something loud enough to drown out the sound of the cicadas.  Musically minded Champions find fun cupping their hands over their ears to change the percussion effect and find it charming that the sound resonates sympathetically with their existing tinnitis.  Others are eating them.  Go out with a paper bag and gather the newly hatched ones early in the morning and they can be ready by lunch–with a nice garden salad.  A quick parboil of 4 or 5 minutes will kill any bacteria.  Discard the hard pieces, wings and heads, and roast the rest on a cookie sheet at 225 degrees for 8 minutes.  After parboiling they can be marinated for a few minutes in garlic, soy sauce or whatever you like.  They are reported to be a crunchy and tasty source of high protein with no fat or cholesterol.  Champion?

           A message on Memorial Day from the Disabled American Veterans reminds Champions everywhere that generation after generation, brave souls continue to give their lives for freedom.  Their hospitals have been filled and refilled with wounded heroes—young men and women who have lost eyes, legs, arms, and mental well-being. Some of them in and out of hospitals are having a hard time.  All of them have the Love and Gratitude of Champions.  After the Pledge of Allegiance over at the Denlow School, they would always sing, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee, Sweet Land of Liberty, of thee I sing!”  Sing it out loud (outside) in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011

CHAMPION—May 23, 2011

          Again Champion finds itself in the catbird seat, at a decided advantage over the whole rest of the world for tranquility and beauty and good fortune–Champions have no complaints and extend their very best thoughts for those in the storm ravaged parts of the country.  Against the possibility of recurring bad weather, they are checking on their emergency supplies and revisiting their plans for taking shelter.  Phone lines are busy with people checking in on one another. 

          The Denlow School Reunion will take place on Saturday the 28th.   There will be a program starting at 11:30 followed by a potluck lunch.  It is liable to be every bit as much fun as previous years.  This is the 25th such gathering of Denlow alumni, their families and friends and curious bystanders.  Who can imagine what mischief the General and his outfit will have cooked up?  To compensate, Wayne Anderson and friends plan to play in the afternoon out in the gazebo.

          Gardens are flourishing with all the rain…now a few hot sunny days will see things popping up out of the ground.  Weeds seem to grow rain or shine, but they slip right out of the mud with minimal tugging.  Linda’s Almanac indicates that the next fruitful days for planting will be the 26th and 27th.  Haymakers are holding off on their cutting, hoping to get three or four dry days in a row to get their hay in.  It will be so wet and heavy that it may take more time to dry.  It just goes to prove that ‘it’s always something.’

          The something that it is on Monday morning is caution.  “Wait ‘till the sun shines, Nelly,” Champions continue to Look on the Bright Side!


May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011

CHAMPION—May 16, 2011

           A little recollection of winter’s chill is just what Champions enjoy on the very edge of Spring.  A brisk breeze at a damp 52 degrees is just enough to spur genuine enthusiasm for the new season.  A chance visit to the Village on Thursday revealed some definite sign of multiple horses on the Old North Road right at Clever Creek.  It turns out that Bud Hutchison had his Spring Trail Ride on Wednesday and a glorious day it was.  Fifteen riders took their regular route and it was said that some were disappointed at the lack of press coverage.  Who knew?  After the fact, the report is of a lovely adventure. 

A cold Saturday morning found the little Temporary Annex over on the West side of the Square packed with customers/socializers.  A small place can easily fill up (axel deep on a Ferris wheel) as the regulars wash metaphorical hogs and describe scenes of border collies floating down the flood on mushrooms.  Warmer days will carry this rhetoric out to the Loafing Shed where it can be diluted adequately with clean fresh Champion air. 

          On Monday morning the space shuttle Endeavor took off on its final voyage.  Champions may not see immediate tangible benefits from the particle physics experiments known as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer but will not rule out the possibility.  Exciting things happen in Champion every day.  Some of the last of the Fox Creek Rodeo stock took their final voyage off to the sale barn in Ava during the week under the stewardship of the Young Farmer and his Uncle.  The initial loading of the animals was dicey, but no one was hurt, and the unloading and the sale were well executed.  The trouble came on the way back out on Highway 14.  Now the bridge there over the Bryant is an attractive span and well built if narrow by current standards.  The terminus of a steep hill and a sharp curve marks its Western approach so that Eastbound traffic has not much of a rear view but a good clear view of the road ahead and oncoming traffic.  This consisted of a truck at an appropriate distance to allow for accommodation of one rig on the bridge at a time.  Suddenly, as the Fox Creek Boys neared the bridge, there came roaring upon them from behind another outfit pulling an empty trailer.  Reckless speed and loose control had it careening about the road, narrowly missing the Champions and nearly forcing the oncoming truck off the road.  It all happened so quickly that there was scant time to identify the offensive vehicle, just enough for great sighs of relief and expressions of profound gratitude.  Tail-gating is nervous making and it is difficult not to speed up when someone follows too closely.  It also goes to say that even excellent drivers can be compromised by thoughtless others.  The other day, over at Lazy Lee’s in Norwood, a certain Smith Champion was pumping gas when another customer pulled into the bay quickly and stopped abruptly quite near just as Smith had completed his fueling.  He returned the nozzle to the pump and stepped hastily into his truck and slammed the door.  It was then that he realized he had sat himself in the back seat of his truck.  After a moment he stepped out, gave the lady in the little car a gentlemanly wave, and got in behind the wheel this time and left.  He told the story on himself, or no one would ever have found out. 

          The Fortnight Bridge Club met in Champion on Saturday night.  While the Vera Cruz player was off on the annual Audubon bird count, substituting for her was Champion Cookie from the East Side of Fox Creek, quite an able player.  The Norwood and Brushy Knob players both came in from the north and reported Cold Springs Road to be in quite good repair after the rains.  The play was sprightly with few errors in bidding or in the play—altogether a satisfying game.  Anyone looking to learn how to play bridge can visit with Linda over at the Plant Place in Norwood or can contact the American Contract Bridge League at  Find a link to that site in the Champion Connections section of  It is in the same section as Linda’s Almanac, which informs Champions that the 21st and 22nd will both be good days for planting root crops.  Linda has been playing bridge for a long time—decades—and still takes lessons.  Continuing to learn is a Champion endeavor.  Amy, a Norwoodian transplanted to Lee’s Summit, keeps up with Linda’s bridge playing through the Champion News.  She is a long time customer from back in the days when Linda was doing craft shows.  Now she pops into the Plant Place when she is home for a visit.  She also likes to shop at the “Army” and enjoys a good bargain.  It is good to know that the Champion News has an impact somewhere, helping to alleviate homesickness.  Describe your favorite bridge or your homesickness in a note to Champion Items, Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or to Champion at

          “A bridge to somewhere” is the title of an article written by Tom Sileo in a weekly column called The Unknown Soldier.  He makes a point to acknowledge the many U.S. service members who make the extra effort, despite risks, to give children caught in war zones a bright spot in their difficult days.  As they frequently hand out candy and toys to kids in the villages, they believe that showing kindness and compassion to innocent people oppressed by totalitarianism and terror is part of their duty.  Champions hope that kindness and compassion will extend to those soldiers upon their return home.

          The blooms of that magnificent Forsythia in Wilburn and Louise’s yard have given over to dense foliage now, but the pink and red roses on the archway over their gate are just as amazing.  They hardly look real and Champions slow down as they pass just to gawk at them. “Slow down, you’re moving too fast. You’ve got to make the morning last.”  That is from the 59th Street Bridge Song where they are “Looking for fun and feeling groovy.”  They are headed in the right direction—to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 9, 2011

May 9, 2011


CHAMPION—May 9, 2011

          Mother’s Day in Champion was a beautiful day.  That old adage about if it rains on Easter Sunday it will rain the next seven Sundays in a row did not play out and with enough rain in Champion’s bucket already, it was easy to concentrate on Mom.  The roadways, the phone lines, and the Internet were all humming with activity and matriarchs are satisfied that their offspring appreciate them.  Special visitors to the Loafing Shed brought contented smiles to some Champion mothers. As an Old Champion woman thanked a favorite young man for his good wishes for her on that day he said,  “You know we have Son Day every week and I never get a card from you.  You could slip a five dollar bill in one while you’re at it.” 

          The big blowout at the Vanzant Community Center was a terrific success.  Tom Hicks is to be commended for his outstanding cookery –such brisket!  The music was delightful.  There was a packed house for the auction and the grounds were crowded with friends new and old visiting and enjoying one of the first such outings of the social season.  Norma Shannon enjoyed watching her grandson do a splendid job with the auction.  Pie bidding was fierce though a competitor finally let up just a little so the sheriff could afford one of Esther’s pies (thinking, no doubt, that he might enjoy a little ‘consideration’ himself off in the future).  The constabulary was well represented with two handsome young uniformed officers, the sheriff in plain (but appropriate) clothes and an undisclosed number of undercover officers all alert to the reputation of the General who seemed to be everywhere at once but did not seem to cause too much trouble.  Proceeds from the event will go toward maintenance of the facility and toward supporting the summer picnic—another excellent enterprise.   A public meeting will be held on the 20th at seven in the evening to celebrate and summarize the success and to address new business. 

          One of the charming aspects of this get-together and the others like it around the country is the genial overlapping of so many circles. Someone asked how many of those attending were related to each other.  The connections go back so far and so deep that they are lost in the great circular collective briar patch of the local families’ tree.  Other circles are comprised of those newcomers, who may have lived here thirty or forty years, but whose parents were not born in the neighborhood, and newer newcomers who may have just lived in the area a few months or a few years but who have found a feeling of community and acceptance in this lovely part of the world.  Even with all the new people, the area is still not as densely populated as it was seventy-five years ago, so there is plenty of room for good neighboring.  It is a Champion kind of notion—even way over in Vanzant! 

          Champions are not oblivious to the suffering of those tornado victims in the South and East and to those being flooded out by the big rivers to the East and to the drought stricken people in the South and West.  Breadbaskets are being stressed all over the country and fuel prices will only add to the expense of putting a good meal on the table.  When Champions offer thanks for their food, they do it with humility and with compassion and consideration for those less fortunate, which includes most of the rest of the world.

          Ms. Eva Powell seemed to be having a good Mother’s Day and was pleased to report that Ronnie Thompson and that nice bunch from over at the County Shed in Drury had been working on the North end of her road.  It needed a lot of rock and gravel and they are doing an excellent job of getting so many miles of county roads back in shape after all the rain.  They were well represented over at the pie supper Saturday night and everybody is always glad to see them coming.  

          A great number of people gathered to mark the passing of Champion Dain Lambert on Thursday.  He lived his whole life here and made many friends.  His deep roots are shared and carried on by a family that will forever miss him. 

          “Build a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.”  That is what Bob Jett did and his many friends will be saddened to learn of his passing on Saturday morning.  He had been expecting to go for some while and his grace and humor at the prospect was something that gives pause to anyone contemplating mortality and fearlessness.  His dear ones left behind are happy for every moment they had with him.

          Friends are off to Arkansas to visit with the Dalai Lama.  They say that being around him is like when your Dad reached out to steady you when you were learning to walk or to ride your bicycle.  A steadying hand is a gift.  He says to be kind whenever possible and that it is always possible.  He sounds like a great guy.  He shares his birthday with another great guy, Darrell Haden who has deep Douglas County roots.  Mr. Haden will be 80 on July 6th.   The Dalai Lama will be 76.  Haden and his wife, Betty, live about twenty miles from the Mississippi River in Tennessee, and he responded to Champion inquires as to his well being with a lovely phone call.  He says things are going well for him and his family and he agrees with a Champion husband that the mushroom tales coming out of Champion are approaching Paul Bunion status.  He is the writer of “The Headless Cobbler of Smallette Cave” as well as other entirely reputable pieces and his opinion matters.  However, the photograph of young Colton and Wyatt Marler with that huge red beefsteak mushroom that Clint Marler found last week proves they can get big in these parts.  It took both those boys to hold the thing and it is pretty sure the Marler’s had enough to share. 

          Share whatever you have plenty of with whomever you like.  Share your thoughts and news at Champion Items Rt. 2, Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or at Champion at  Get an eyeful of the progress over on the North Side of the Square in Historic Downtown Champion, well situated on the broad banks of Fox Creek down at the bottom of the hill just where the pavement ends.  Peruse that progress at where you can also read excerpts of the famous Headless Cobbler story and get a look at Linda’s Almanac.  It says that the 13th of May all the way through the 16th will be an excellent time to plant corn, beans, peppers and the like, and then the 17th will be good for root crops, leafy vegetables and seedbeds. It will be a good time to get those tomatoes out for people in frost pockets.  Sing, “I’ve got a pocket full of sunshine,” or  “It’s good to touch the green, green grass of home.”  Champion! —Looking on the Bright Side!


May 2, 2011

May 2, 2011

CHAMPION—May 2, 2011

        Monday morning finds Champion damp again and still grateful.  The world around Champion has changed again and Champions stay grateful for domestic tranquility, the common defense and the wonderful Constitution.  Huzza!  Love and Gratitude goes out to Navy Seals and all those serving the Nation.

        Burning plastic.  If you can smell it, it is getting into you.  Now some people (BK) will roll their eyes at this, but research shows that the fumes from burning plastic bags and water bottles are full of dioxin and cyanide and other chloride toxic fumes.  Must a person be exposed to these poisons over an extended period of time to suffer ill effects?  What about the effects on children, and future children?  It is easy enough to develop a new habit.  If recycling is not an option, there are still ways to deal with the excess of plastic in the modern life that do not require burning.  Neighbors burning plastic may or may not respond to a request to desist, but a friendly conversation might produce positive results and at the very least a person can take responsibility for his own actions.

        Mail carrier, Karen Goss, is a real Champion.  She keeps Champions connected to the rest of the world, to family, friends, creditors, and the news regardless of the weather.  She has recently enjoyed the welcome company of her daughter and family down from North Dakota.  They like to come this time of the year to help get the garden in.  Granddaughter Toni is five years old, grandson Gavin is eight and the baby,  Noah, is five months old.  Their last name is Owens and they are from Minot, N.D. where their Dad is stationed in the military.  They had a nice visit for a couple of weeks and many good memories were made, also some very tasty plum jelly by mother, daughter and granddaughter.

        Those fine fellows on the road graders from the County Shed over at Drury are doing a splendid job of getting the roads back in order after all the rain.  Champions say, “Thanks, fellows!”

        John Moreau was a newcomer to Champion and only lived here for a short while.  He passed away in February.  On Sunday afternoon about fifty friends and family gathered in the lovely pavilion at Noblett Lake to celebrate his life and to share their memories and feelings.  It was drizzly, wet and cold but the spirit of the celebration was warm and light hearted as many told stories and shared new information about their old friend.  He is missed but still very much in their midst.

        The official rain total for Champion for the Easter Week deluge was 12.2 inches.  That was before the May Day Rain.  One prominent Champion out on a tour of the country, as he is want to do during all kinds of weather, found himself hard up against a creek too deep and fast moving to cross.  Just as he was backing up to turn around a tremendous mushroom fell across the road behind his truck.  The phenomenal rain and sudden sunshine caused the monster fungus to emerge so quickly and staggeringly huge that it became top heavy and toppled over with a thunderous crash!  Stunned, and speechless (for a change) the Champion finally caught his breath and stepped up to examine the thing.  The stem was so large he could not reach around it with both arms.  The crown would have made a suitable bivouac had he been interested in holing up for a spell.  As if in a spell, he staggered to his truck, extricated his handy hand ax and commenced to chop his way through.  It was the find of a lifetime, and still, he has not enough mushroom to share. 

        Nonresident Champions, Richard and Kaye Johnston celebrated their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary the other day.  They reprised their outing of three years ago by taking fourteen other Upshaws with them on an outing to Dalton, Arkansas, where there is an Upshaw Cemetery replete with a Revolutionary War Veteran.  They visited the museum in Pocahontas, Arkansas where there is family memorabilia preserved for posterity.  Generally speaking, much fun was had and since the Old General was along for the ride, it is clear that there was much fun and foolishness afoot.  Other nonresident Champions fled the flood back to Illinois but may come back soon to get their little chores done.

        The Vanzant Community Center will have its first Pie Supper of the season on Saturday night.  Supper starts at six in the evening and then the auction will begin.  There will be surprises.  How many pies and what kind will Esther make this year?  Bidding is likely to be fierce and exciting.  This evening will be dedicated to getting the Vanzant Picnic off the ground.  It is always one of the highlights of the summer and Champions generally look forward to it.  (The General seems to be Everywhere.)

        The rain will let up by the middle of the week and even Champions in frost pockets can get a good start on their vegetable gardens.  Linda’s Almanac for May is available on line in the Champion Connections section of, at The Plant Place in Norwood and for perusal on the refrigerator in the Temporary Annex on the West Side of the Square in Downtown Champion, just across the avenue from the Re-creation of the Historic Mercantile/Emporium located on the very spot that was once occupied by the beloved old building.  It is rapidly approaching completion, though ‘rapid’ is a subjective term.  Globally speakin, it is moving pretty fast.  “When boating, never quarrel, for you’ll find without a doubt, a boat is not the proper place to have a falling-out.”  Sing the chorus if you know it, and wipe the mud off your feet before you dirty up Champion—Looking on the Bright Side.