March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014

CHAMPION—March 24, 2014

        Spring has arrived with great fanfare, with warm winds, a dearth of daffodils and the assurance that as seasons change, the heart of Champion remains very much the same.   Part of the sameness is the shared loss of dear friends and neighbors.  Added to that long list now are Neil Schudy and Russell Upshaw.  They welcomed strangers with their friendly smiles and good humor.  With their warm hearts they embraced their precious families with the kind of specialized love that endures long past their own passing–true Champions who never strayed long far from home.

        In recent days Russell was back around the stove in Henson’s Store enjoying the stories and reminiscences of the whittle and spit crowd.  (They don’t really spit in the store.)  With Dean and Dailey by his side, he was present at every major event in Champion—every wagon train, trail ride, jam session or get together of any kind.  He loved the place and the place loved him.  He would have liked what happened the other day.  Almarth’s bard came sauntering in with an arm load of stove wood and about an equal measure of charm.  He said there is nothing colder than an east wind.   He says turkeys will not gobble in an east wind.  And when it comes to fishing he says, “Wind out of the east, fish bite the least.  Out of the west, they bite the best.”  Texas Phyllis would interject her favorite quote here from John Buchanan that fishing is the “perpetual series of occasions for hope.” Phyllis has two pairs of earrings—one in the shape of the great state of Texas and the other a matched set of fishing lures.  Hopes are that she will make it up to the beautiful Ozarks and dip her line in the Bryant.  She can hold her own around the stove as well and would have loved to have been able to put her spin on this yarn as it unfolded Wednesday.  Russell would have liked it too:

        A prominent citizen had a large dead tree next to one of his stock ponds and engaged a neighbor to help take it down.  He wanted it to fall just so, but it was leaning well out over the water and every twig pointed to the probability that the humongous ranking of wood would empty the pond with its enormous splash.  With every drop vital in these dry times and more winter on the way, the judicious farmer knew he was treading a delicate line.  He had clean fresh water and a mountain of fire wood on one hand and on the other– a gurgling quagmire of sucking mud slowly seeping into every fiber of the ancient behemoth oak rendering it useless as well as a great liability.  The plan was set.  The position of the notch and the kerf were discussed, debated and decided upon and at last the big honking, roaring, growling chain went screaming around the bar and into the bark of that big old tree and tore with relentless vengeance into its primordial heart.   It stood.  It stood.  And continued to stand as the smoke filled the air and the saw whined and moaned and droned on and on through centuries of growth.  The farmer’s dear cowered near, safe in the cab of her truck.  She had planned to film the entire the affair but she lost her concentration just at the crucial moment, just as the die was cast, just as the balance was tipped –the wrong way.  Instantly alert to the danger and quick as a wild Ozark panther flash the nimble footed farmer scaled to the highest of the main branches and flung more than the weight of his body—the weight of his very will—against the fulcrum to over edge the tree’s desire just by a feather’s weight.  As it hesitated in its new course the farmer seized the second and lunged to the limb below.  On his way down he grabbed the limb upon which he had been standing and gave it a powerful jerk then let go to land his sure footed might on the limb below.  The force was like that of a dead-fall hammer and the double blows continued and the tree succumbed.  The farmer rode that skyscraper of a tree down like an escalator, stepping off on to his own firm ground with all the panache of a well healed, big time, up-town CEO in high polished Florsheim shoes and a custom made three pieced suit.  The events did not all make it to the video as the farmer’s dear abandoned her desire to record it in favor of relishing the moment live in rapt admiration.  “My hero!” she sighed.  The diameter of the downed tree was just about the same how high as that young lady–something to remember.

        Russell Upshaw was the hero of the Vanzant bluegrass jam.  Folks had gone to Mansfield for a long time to hear and play music, but that venue became unavailable.  Then they took to Plummer’s Junction and had a good go of it there for a while until it changed hands and the new owner did not prove to be a great appreciator of the local music.  About that time the Vanzant community put some good energy into the old school house to make it a meeting place, a party and event center for folks living in the middle of nowhere.   The next thing you know the Vanzant Thursday night pot-luck jam became a tradition there.  It happened because at every step along the way Russell and Sue were there to encourage and make the way open and do what needed to be done so that the music could go on.   Thank you, Russell.    Last Thursday night was a good one with two dobros and all the regulars plus a novice fiddler who sat in for the first time and did a good job with the “Irish Washerwoman” and “Danny Boy.”  The dobros were swinging with “The Rose of San Antone” and then Jerry Wagner did one of those old time pieces that can bring tears to your eyes.  Norris will laugh at you if he catches you crying, but that’s ok.  He smiles most all the time anyway.

        Birthdays bring smiles to young and old alike.  March 27th Jazmine Baker will have her birthday.  She is a second grader at the Skyline School.  Ted Storie is one of the bus drivers for Skyline and his birthday is that day too.  They are lucky to be affiliated with such a vital school.  Thursday evening they had their “Wellness Night.”  Attendance was good and the wellness coordinator, Joy Beeler, and the rest of the staff made a great presentation.  One of the most impressive parts was a display of a variety of sodas, juices and drinks with a bag under each containing the exact amount of sugar that is in each beverage.  It was an eye opener.  The kids had a wonderful time with the many activities and prizes.  The Missouri Ozarks Community Health Department was well represented and had a great deal of pertinent health information available.  They make a trip to Skyline on the first Tuesday of each month to do blood pressure checks as well as a number of other screenings.  They go to Big Ed’s Store on East 76 on the second Friday of each month.  In both cases they are there from 8:00 to 10:00 a.m.  It is a great service for people who live a long way from town.

        Go to the March 10th post at to see that exquisite black and white photo of Frances and Wayne Sutherland when their love was new.  Share your tall tales and your love of music and your reminiscences of dear old friends at The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or Champion @  Come down to the wide and wooly banks of Old Fox Creek for a dose of tranquility in one of the world’s beautiful places Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 17, 2014

March 17, 2014

CHAMPION—March 17, 2014

        On a sunny St. Patrick’s Day a friend says, “May your troubles be less and your blessings be more and nothing but happiness come through your door.”  Another says, “May you always have walls for the wind, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you, and all your heart might desire.”  One of the ancient names for Ireland is “Island of Woods.”  When the Irish and Scots made it over this way from Kentucky and Tennessee way back when, it must have seemed like going home.  Many a glad heart has found its way to Champion since then—some born here and some migrated in from the great elsewhere.  It is a beautiful place to be.

        The Champion News made a Facebook posting of a picture which hangs in the Champion Store of George T. Proctor, Willie Freeman, Manford Smith and Deward Henson made in March of 1978.  Thirty-six years later it brings good memories to friends and family.  Benny Thomas said, “This is a good picture of Champion’s spit and whittle gang of days gone by.”  Vicky Czapla said, “George T. Proctor was my uncle and we sure miss him.”  Jewell Hall Elliott:  “I knew all these fellows and enjoyed drinking pop on the porch of the store when we went there to play softball a few years ago–fun times.”  Kim Linder Kelley loves the picture of her Granddad and all his buddies and has it hanging on her wall.  Jessica Puangnak-Glossip said, “Seems like forever since I have seen my Uncle Manford.  Great picture!”  From time to time a new old picture will appear on the wall in the Historic Emporium so that the trip for a loaf of bread, some bacon or calf starter or fencing staples and plumbing supplies turns into a nice nostalgic sojourn.  That is particularly true on a Wednesday in the late morning when the story tellers settle in and start to jaw.  It is well worth the trip.

        Elva Upshaw will have her birthday on March 23rd.  The big news in her life is not her birthday, but her engagement.  David Brott is the lucky man.  They are often seen together and those smiles of young love are infectious.  Old people married forty or fifty years remember that smile and put it on again when they see this happy couple.  They smile for the joy of having a loving partner through life’s uneven journeys.  As to unevenness, David has his work cut out for him.  Of course, he will have the most adorable mother-in-law and grandmother-in-law that a man could ask for, but then there is The General.  To his credit, he has not only not alienated his first son-in-law, but has stepped up to be a rousing good Grandpa, unlike his foray into meteorology.  Say what you will about him, he is a curious fellow.  As the subject of the shivaree has been being bandied about, a close eye will be kept upon the father of the bride.

        Troy Powell was a Champion.  He was born March 26, 1926, and passed away on his birthday in 2001.  He moved up to this part of the country from down around Bertha when he was about sixteen.  He farmed and raised a family and drove a school bus for many years.  He knew everyone and had a friendly welcoming personality.  Gospel music was his favorite.  He liked “Paradise Valley.”  “As I travel through life with its trouble and strive I’ve a glorious hope to give cheer on the way.  Soon my toil will be o’er and I’ll rest on that shore where the night has been turned into day.”

        That lovely Jigsaw Puzzle quilt from the Skyline VFD Chili Supper was won by Betty Geidd of Mansfield.  She bought her ticket at the Old Biddies Third Thursday Bridge Club meeting at the Community Center in Mansfield.  She will take possession of it at that meeting on the 27th of March and is most excited to do so.  Betty grew up in Vermont and this time of the year reminds her of home.  It is “the season of mud,” she calls it.  She and her husband are retired and live down a long dirt driveway to the pavement.  He likes to do the driving and hopes are that she will have no trouble getting to her game, though she admits we really need the rain.  So congratulations Ms. Geidd!  Thanks for supporting the great Skyline VFD.

        On the way into Ava from Champion on Highway 14 is a curious construction.  It is just west of County Road 313 on the North side of the road.  It looks for all the world like a staircase going pretty much straight up the steep bank.  Over the years, driving by, there was always the temptation to stop and climb it to see just where it goes and to discover what mystery it hides.  There is a good size cave right beside it with mysteries of its own, but the staircase seemed to have a secret exposed to the sun but still unknown.  There is no shoulder on the road there which makes stopping to investigate difficult and chores in town or at home always took president over the exploration.  Glimpsed from the road, the risers on the stairs seemed unusually high.  There must have been a giant who lived up there looking down on a peaceful valley with a pretty stream running through it.  A visit with Alvie Dooms last week solved the mystery.  He said that when the road was paved in the 1950’s the road’s crew built that staircase as a water handling device.  Now days they would pour concrete in a trough configuration to move the rain water down the hill into a ditch or through a tin horn under the road, but the technology of the time together with the availability of so much stone produced this interesting structure.  Now one is thinking to head that way in a rain to see if it is still handling water and if that water comes down in a cascade.

        The reports of the square dance at Marriott Music in Ava came with a video of dance lessons where Bill Connelly was featured together with a couple of other dancing dudes and a number of young people who were learning the steps and where to go when.  It was most entertaining.  The music was provided by David Scrivner, Alvie Dooms and Nathan McAlister.  There is a hint that another dance will be coming up there in the near future.  There is an idea that an Arts Festival might be in the works for the end of May.  Champions will be looking forward to some Spring excitement.  Meanwhile, the Thursday night pot-luck jam session at Vanzant will carry music lovers along and keep toes tapping.  The pot luck is at 6 and the music goes round and round.

        A full moon on a clean fresh snow was a sight not to have missed.  It may have been the last time for such a glorious vision in this beautiful valley until winter is new again.  Share visions, explain mysteries, share music, tell tall tales and remember old times and old friends at Champion @ or down the Historic Emporium over on the North Side of the Square.  Look in on if you are too busy planting potatoes to get down to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014

CHAMPION—March 10, 2014

        It was a little damp, a little cool, a little muddy and it was a lot of fun to get together with friends and neighbors at the Skyline VFD Chili Supper on Saturday night.  The food was excellent with loads of wonderful pies.  The music was superb.  Whetstone kicked off the evening rocking the place ‘like a southbound train.‘  Then came Flatline with some great gospel music.  “There is Coming a Day” is one of Louise Hutchison’s favorite songs.  She and Wilburn were not able to be there, but they were much in the thoughts of many who remembered how much energy they have devoted to the fire department over the years.  Backyard Bluegrass’s D.J. Shumate fiddled the crowd out with a train song that included the whistle and steam coming off his bow.  He learned that from his Pa.  It was a delightful evening when old and new friends had the chance to catch up and get acquainted.  The place was loaded with dignitaries, and celebrities.  A most clever bluebird house came along with another of Tim Scrivner’s excellent bird feeders and the accusation of deviousness on the part of The Champion News.  Bidding was hot for a huge Ethan Allen basket between a Douglas County official and a prominent Wright County musician.  The winner was the Skyline VFD!  It is a joy to see people come together to support such a vital organization.  Champions all!

        Six year old birthday Bailey out in Portland had a pink heart shaped cake decorated with raspberries…almost as pretty as the girl herself.  Kay Dennis over in Ava most likely had a glorious birthday as well celebrating with friends and music and optimism that her health insurance will indeed get less expensive next year when she reaches that magic Medicare age.  Old friends will look forward to seeing her at the 40th Back to the Land Reunion this summer.  The 12th will have some special distinction celebrated with a “yahrzeit” candle.  It is a tradition that burning this special 26 hour candle on the birthday of a departed loved one is a warm way to acknowledge his life, disregarding the sadness.  Some people burn this candle on the day the loved one died, but others think to celebrate the life is somehow more positive.  Jacob Masters will be 11 years old on March 15th.  He lives in Austin, Texas and is reported to be ‘a hand-full’ by his old grandpa who lives out in West Texas with the rattlesnakes and armadillos where he is very much in his element.  One of the best things Jake has going for him, apart from his older brother Jack, is that he shares his birthday with his Uncle Sam who is thirty years his senior and exemplifies a conscious and well lived life.  They do not know each other, but they have lots of time.  Ursula of Edinburgh celebrates that day too.  She will soon have her own child for whom she can make birthday parties.  Congratulations!  March 16th is a special day for Elizabeth Mastrangelo Brown.  She was 23 in 2013.  She is not seen as often as her Champion friends would like, but she is sure to have a great day.  The 16th is also Helen Batten’s birthday.  She is the secretary at our great Skyline RII School.  She is forever young.  She just cannot help it.  Her smile and good humor meet all our one hundred kindergarten through eighth grade students every morning and gets them started on another great day—teachers and staff too.  Happy Birthday Ms. Helen!  Then Myla Sarginson has her birthday on March 18th.  She is in the 2nd grade.  Kayelyn Souder is in the 8th grade and has her birthday the next day.  Snow and ice make-up days may keep the kids in school way into May.  Grandparents will be hankering for their racket and their raids on the cookie jar.  Those Skyline Volunteer Fire-Fighters by the name of Cochran were carrying a picture of RyAnne Daniel Harvey, their first granddaughter who was born on March 3rd.  She weighed nine pounds and six ounces and is a beautiful child.  Just ask her grandmother.  Future veterinarian Candice will most likely be spending the summer with her Wilbanks grandparents.  She will be helping her grandpa out with his injured mule.  Ah summer!  It will be here just after Spring.

Frances and Wayne Sutherland

        Last week Wayne and Frances Sutherland marked their 64th wedding anniversary.  It was revealed by their daughter, Laine, who posted on line, “Happy Anniversary to my parents, Wayne & Frances Cooley Sutherland, who drove to Mountain Home, Arkansas, 64 years ago and got married.“  It was March 4th.  They were and are a handsome couple.  Look for their picture in their heyday in Champion Snapshots (Frances & Wayne) at  Laine was seen at the Skyline Chili Supper keeping company with old time fiddler Bill Connolly.  Old time refers to the music not to Bill.  He likes the old music and likes to square dance.  He says that there is going to be an especially good one on Saturday the 15th in Ava at Marriott Music on the North Side of the Square.  The dance will start at 7 p.m., and what makes it special is that David Scrivner, Alvie Dooms, and Junior Marriott will be making the music—fiddle, guitar and bass respectively.  Bill will be dancing.

        Certain stretches of road will still have a little ice and snow long after everything else has melted.  As the naked ladies (surprise lilies), crocus, hyacinths, and the glorious daffodils emerge, hearts are lightened altogether at the prospect of true spring.  There will still be cold mornings and chilly evenings that will satisfy the need of some to grouch about something.  Old hearth tenders say this is the hardest time of the year to stay warm.  “If you build a big enough fire to get warm in the morning, by mid-day you’re sweltering.”  Long suffering spouses point him to Linda’s Almanac from over at The Plant Place in Norwood.  The 12th to the 16th will be a barren period—a good time to get the garden tools and equipment in shape or to haul some manure.  St. Patrick’s Day will be ideal for planting potatoes, sowing fodder crops or hay.  Linda already has her Cole crops transplanted and she said the little marigolds are up and looking good.  Find her Almanac on line, on the bulletin board at Henson’s Grocery and Gas in Champion or on the counter at The Plant Place up in Norwood.  Thanks, Linda!

        The Edinburgh Evening News reports are that the city hopes to change the appearance of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations there to a ‘less boozy’ image.  Toward that end they post a picture of half a dozen comely lasses in full fling, dancing a jig.  The Scots Irish heritage of this part of the world shows up in the Wednesday morning tall tales confab in the chat room of the Historic Emporium over on the North Side of the Square.  On Saturday night The General was heard plotting a competition with the accomplished Almartha story teller.  He says he does not want the “Ferlie” (Champion’s “Oscar”), just the attention!  So far the only suggestion for the Ferlie Awards program for next year is the addition of a category for “The most abstruse in the written or spoken word.”  The notion that making something intentionally and unnecessarily difficult to understand might be entertaining is a caution to him and has escaped this distant reader.  Send examples of this sort of amusing confusion to The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or to Champion @  Come down to the broad wooly banks of Old Fox Creek on Wednesday morning or any time with your blarney and join the fun.  Sing “My Wild Irish Rose, the sweetest flower that grows!” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014

CHAMPION—March 3, 2014

        Monday morning finds Champions once again in the winter wonderland that marks one of the four annual seasons.  Like clockwork, they come around.  Winter is first on the calendar, then along about March 20th comes the Vernal Equinox which heralds the coming of Spring!  Some are saying that the summer will be as hot as the winter has been cold and they long for straw hats, sun screen and trips to the creek to cool off.  A full luscious color palate of leaves that have not yet been dreamt of by the trees that survive the ice and wind will be falling again ere long and then our glorious winter will return.  It will seem just that fast.  In Champion the current season is the favorite.

        Shaelyn Sarginson is a fifth grade student at Skyline.  Monday the 3rd is her birthday and one that she will have enjoyed at home because of the snow.  Teacher Deborah Barker had her day Monday as well.  Ms. Barker has entered a photography contest at The Ozark Times with a picture of a weathered red barn on a green field with a brilliant hillside of fall foliage in the background.  As her sister Elva says, “It is a classic Ozarks scene.”  Whatever the prize may be, her Champion family, friends and students will be rooting for her to win.  A favorite little Champion granddaughter, Bailey, lives out in Portland, Oregon.  Her birthday is the 6th of March and her Grandma and Papa are all smiles just thinking about her.  Krenna Long and Linda Hetherington share a birthday up in the Norwood neighborhood on March 5th.  They have a lot in common with gardening, knitting, cooking and sewing.  Linda was the big winner at the regular Fortnight Bridge game on Saturday night.  It was an exciting and very close game as each of the players was at one time high scorer and then low.  It is like Bob Dylan said, “The winner now will later be last, for the times they are a changing.”  That is what the hardworking Skyline Auxiliary is counting on for the beautiful deep snow of Monday morning to change into just a small amount of mud on Saturday for the chili supper.  Hopefully school will be well under way for Rylee Sartor to have her birthday in her prekindergarten class.  Monday, March 10th will be second grade teacher Katie Vivod’s birthday.  On the 12th Jennifer Casper will have her day.  She teaches art and music at Skyline.  The great Christmas programs and the wonderful hall displays are due to her teaching skills.  The 12th is also the birthday of Cathie O’Neal.  She claims that she will be 80, but just looking at her that seems hard to believe.  When she learned that she shared her birthday with Geoff Metroplos she said that she had known him and thought he was a nice person.  Indeed, he was.  Like Cathy, he was a great appreciator of music.  He was a farmer, a builder, and a good friend.  He could defy gravity high in a tree with a chainsaw and was tinkerer extraordinaire.  He had a great sense of humor and a keen eye for detail.  As precious friends slip away we can hold them close again in our memories.

        “Now I’ve seen the lights of old Broadway, but they can’t compare with what I saw the other day.“  He was following the scent of a nice picnic ham when he ran across the Vanzant Bluegrass jam!  The lights shown bright across big open fields under a clear starry sky and the parking lot was packed to show that on the inside were farmers, lawyers, sheet metal workers (tin knockers), housewives, horse traders, bootleggers, secretaries and perhaps a few retired people.  Sherry Bennett always gets to park next to the door because her fiddle is one of the big kinds.  Some people call it a “dog house.”  Bill Connelly was there, but he did not bring his fiddle.  He said he was going to practice up on “Chicken Reel” when he got home.  That will be a fun one to hear.  He says people like to dance to that one.  Norris Woods played “Hot corn, cold corn, bring along a demijohn.”  Yes, sir.  Many of the ‘regular’ musicians were there and the pot luck was just a thing of beauty.  This happens every Thursday and everyone is welcome.  With the promise of more exciting weather ahead, Thursday night was a gala evening.  The General was working on his forecast which finally came through late Sunday night:  “UPDATE; Vanzant Weather Station and Barnyard Bi-Products Distribution Lab:  Watch Out, Winter is making a last Hoo Rah here in the Ozark region.  Spring may get here as soon as winter is over.  High winds will occur above 195,000 feet, surface winds will occur at ground level at speeds above 12.6 MPH with rain, freezing rain, sleet, and snow.”  (It makes some question what one might call a prediction of something that has already happened.)  After Sherry kindly read all the pertinent information about the upcoming Skyline Auxiliary Chili Supper, Cathy O’Neal remarked to a new friend that the Auxiliary must really be missing Esther.  That is certainly the case.  She is missed not just for her glorious pies, and quilt ticket sales, but for her genuine enthusiasm for the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department.  Cathie also mentioned Louise and Wilburn.  They are not able to be active with the Auxiliary any more, but their interest in its success is still keen.  Teresa Wrinkles as agreed to help Betty Dye at the quilt table that night so it is a continuance of a nice tradition.  Look at the post for January 20, 2014 at to see that Jigsaw Puzzle quilt.  Karen Griswold will sit at the door to take the donations as people come in.  Her husband, Bill Griswold, was a Volunteer Firefighter and much respected by his colleagues.  He passed away recently and his family honors his attachment to the fire department with their continued participation.  It is the way of this solid community.

            Next year Champions will be ready for our Oscars.  Some are thinking that they should be called the “Ferlies” here.  There will be awards for the most longwinded story (Almartha’s own is in line for this one up against the nice transplant from Transylvania, Louisiana), for the wettest cowboy, for the driest humor, for the most visually impaired driver, the most ecologically obtuse, best troller and the most sightings of mountain lions and bears.  Send your ideas about this project to “The Ferlies” c/o The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box, 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or to Champion @  Bring your ideas about the statue, about the various categories, the dress code, the music, the host and walk the red carpet up the broad gracious steps to the Historic Emporium on the North Side of the Square.  Paparazzi are warned to keep their distance because the stars are frequently armed in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!