August 25, 2014

August 25, 2014

CHAMPION—August 25, 2014

        Champions have been bringing the sheaves into the air conditioning this week, preserving the harvest in their comfortable kitchens during the heat of the day.  One remarks to another, “We have too much food.”  Not nearly everyone in the world can say that and so Champions do not complain about the work and freely share their bounty.

        President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a holiday in 1887.  The celebration of the American labor movement is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers.  The holiday was meant as a tribute to their contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.  Canada shares Labor Day celebrations with its southern neighbor while 80 or more countries world-wide celebrate May 1st as International Worker’s Day.  An interesting posting on the internet says that if we want to live in a country that produces things, we need to buy things that are made here.  It stands to reason.  Whatever political motivations President Cleveland had for choosing September for the observance, and history says there were several, current observers will find bargains and reasons to celebrate….friends, family, music, corn on the cob, peach cobbler, watermelon.

        Celebrating starts on Saturday for those attending the Champion School Reunion.  The Walk of Ages is taking a new route this year.  Royce Henson and party will be leaving the Denlow Cemetery at ten in the morning with the plan of walking to Champion.  They will have to step right along if they plan to get there for lunch.  The General will be accompanying the group and will most likely mark cadence.   “Let’s go on and have some fun…walking on down to Champ-i-un…one, two…”  When they get there they will find a big crowd already in the midst of the fun.  Temperatures are forecast to be more mild, but even mid 80’s will be hard on the General who probably does not spend an hour a day on the elliptical machine and then an hour swimming as Royce does.  There will most likely be some support vehicles and cooling stations along the way as well as some new Burma Shave signs.  A favorite one of those from 1939:  “A peach looks good…With lots of fuzz…But man’s no peach…and never wuz… Burma Shave.”

        Anyone driving late at night in the area needs to be on the lookout for deer.  Fortnight Bridge players on their way back to the rendezvous point Saturday night slowed down to see an enormous deer standing by the road, not very interested in the passersby.  The Norwood player said that she sees deer every bridge night on her way home.  Conversations about deer had the Champion player (winner of the nickels) reporting seeing deer in the late afternoons out at the edge of the woods.  Often they become visible by the movement of their tails as the constant flicking of white catches the eye.  Those tails are busy flicking flies, gnats, ticks, fleas and any number of other pests that might plague a wild mammal.  It was speculated that such a handy thing as a tail would eliminate the need for bug spray and would, for a person working out in the garden, leave hands free for weeding, pruning and picking.  The Vera Cruz player (winner of the quarters) said that if people had tails they would never be able to hide their feelings.  A recent Nation Geographic article reveals that there is an ongoing study concerning the emotional context of the dog’s tail wag.  So far it has been determined that wagging to the right is the excitement of recognizing the dog’s master or another friendly dog.  Wags to the left also indicate excitement, but contingent with some anxiety.  Imagine the tails on the tattle tales and the tellers of tall tales down at the Historic Emporium.  No secret would be safe.

        Birthdays are not secrets.  People benefit by a little annual attention.  Drayson Cline had his first one on the 23rd.  He is walking with purpose, running and busy.  His cousin, Dakota Watts, is a grown up now and has his birthday on the 24th, as does a favorite nephew in Pennsylvania, Daniel Cohen.  Barbara Krider has her birthday on the 25th.  Champion friends hope Harley feels like singing that song to his sweet wife.  Across town, Donald might sing to Rita Krider on the 26th.   Seneca Parsons will have a beautiful birthday on the 27th with is dear ones around their kitchen table.  The 29th is a special day for third grader Rowdy Woods, who will be nine years old.  He shares the day with local Champion Bill Smith and with Mini Jo Henson who will be at the Champion School Reunion to meet Royce when he comes strolling down the hill.  August 30th is the day of the reunion and it will be Laine Sutherland’s birthday too.  Maybe she will bring some of her lovely musician friends with her for the enjoyment of all.  It is rumored and hoped that The General’s guitar might be waiting for him when he comes stepping into the square.  Sunday will be the best day of the year for Kalyssa Wiseman and Jenna Brixey.  One is older than the other by an hour or two.  They will both be seven.

        These last hot days have turned the roads powdery dry so dust coats the wilted weeds and bedraggled grapevines drooping out of the withering trees that over spread country lanes.  Summer is winding down and leaving the countryside weary.  Just a little rain will restore enthusiasm.  Imagine that first breath of cool air that precedes a gentle shower.  Imagine that little feeling of relief and hope being inhaled everywhere so that societal and political tensions might be soothed a little.  Bring all that kind of courage and optimism with you down to the wild wooly banks of Old Fox Creek.  Deward Henson went down to “the village” every day but one for fifty years.  That was the day National Geographic showed up to feature the place in the book America’s Hidden Corners.  The picture in the book shows a good sized pile of firewood stacked up just where the good sized pile of firewood is stacked now.  Seasons change and so it is in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 18, 2014

August 18, 2014

CHAMPION—August 18, 2014

        The first Monday after Labor Day was the first day of school for many back in the ‘old’ days.  These days school is already in full swing with all the contingent excitement and anticipation for a good year ahead.  A preschool teacher was quoted as having said, “I will not believe all the things your child tells me about you if you will not believe all the things he tells you about me.”  This happened a number of years ago and is not to say that the children are, or were, necessarily prevaricators, but rather that they have a distinctly different point of view about most things based on their lack of experience.  That is what school provides—information and experience.  Skyline School’s Communications Arts teacher, Carolyn Willhite, will celebrate her birthday on August 23rd.  Third grader Rowdy Woods will have his special day on August 29th.  Jenna Brixey will be in the first grade.  She and Kalyssa Wiseman share a birthday; they will both be seven years old.  Champions!

        The Champion School Reunion happens on the Saturday before Labor Day.  New old memories will come to the surface to be shared among the many.  Last year the event took place on the hottest day of the year.  (TCN—September 2, 2013) “That did not seem to make much of a difference to the fifty or so stalwart Champions, families and friends who enjoyed the afternoon under the ancient walnut trees in the old school yard.  Ruby Proctor pointed to the tree that was home base and told about the batter who let go of the bat after a hit.  It hurled right into her face and she said she still had the scar, but her sweet smile hides it well.  Some of the others who passed the day with Ruby were Elsie Curtis, Debbie Massey, Connie Brown, Robert Brown, Paul Brown, Lee Brown, Richard and Kaye Johnston, Karen Krider, Ray Hicks, Pete Proctor, Harold and Eva Phillips, Elva Ragland, Sheila Brown, Betty Henson, Fern Bishop, Kenneth and Barbara Anderson, Wayne and JoAnn Anderson, Russell and Dean Upshaw, Frank and Freda Proctor, Arlene Cooley, Tom Cooley, Laine Sutherland, Frances Sutherland, Billy Jo Lambert and his son, Don Krewson, Anita Krewson, Wayne Sutherland, Modeen Dooms, Mrs. LuAllen and two daughters, her son and his wife, Benton Hutchinson, Jackie Coonts, Dale and Betty Thomas, Leslee Krider, Bill Smith, Wilma Hutchison Pointer and her husband, Royce and Joe Henson and Vaughn Henson.  Royce and Vaughn completed the Walk of Ages again from Cold Springs to Champion.”  That was last year.  This year Champions will miss some of those dear ones.  To the many in the area who have Champion connections and history, this is a wonderful opportunity to reconnect and recollect.  The pot luck luncheon on the grounds is always a feast.  Everyone is welcome.  You never know who you will see on the Bright Side!

        It seems that the same people in any given community do all the hard work that makes it a real community.  On a warm Saturday afternoon a week after the Skyline Picnic, a certain prominent citizen and prominent girlfriend were observed up at the fire house continuing to work.  They were doing the final tidying up after the picnic and beginning the process for another sterling event next year.  Neighbors at KZ88 FM Real Community Radio in Cabool will be broadcasting four hours of the picnic music from Saturday night together with a short interview with the Skyline Fire Chief.  It will be broadcast from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. Saturday night, August 23rd, and then again on Sunday, the 24th,  from noon to four o’clock.  It will be like being there again!  Thanks KZ88!

        “We will kill a chicken and churn!”  That is the sentiment that goes with the open invitation to good neighbors and old friends.  A few miles across the county is still not a long trip, but as days fill up more quickly as the years have gone by, old friends who see each other rarely make it a celebration and special occasion when they can get together.  With technology and transportation improvements, closeness is less about geography now than it has ever been.  The neighborhood is big and good neighbors are a great gift.  They share the garden produce–awash with squash and unnumbered cucumbers.  They share the hard work, the troubles and triumphs.  For those who do not get The Champion News (TCN) through the Douglas County Herald, last week the paper ran an ad for a benefit to be held for Ronnie Thompson and it was the first that many had heard of his illness.  Ashley Pierson (417-686-0164) is the contact person for that event.  It is news to some that Harley Krider is also having some health issues.  All those suffering ill health and loss benefit from the ministrations of their good neighbors, friends and family.  Both these Champions are getting good health care and have a good prognosis for which their vigilant good neighbors, friends and family are grateful.  Compassion is a Champion notion.

        Not everyone has a good neighbor.  It is sad but true.  Complicated human relationships and seemingly unrelated events sometimes throw incompatible people right next to each other for better or worse for the duration.  How issues are resolved and circumstances tolerated can make the very exciting subtext of a crime novel or of a treatise on tolerance and forbearance.  “The sun comes up and the sun goes down and the hands on the clock go round and round.  Life gets tee-juss, don’t it?”  That is part of an old song that might fit the dreary life of someone who declines to be a good neighbor.  It takes two. 

        Neighbors over in Vanzant are continually kicking up their heels.  Those Thursday night bluegrass jams are still in full swing and let him who has a foot to pat come on over for a pot luck dinner about six and then enjoy an evening of great music.  “Saturday Night Under the Stars” over at the Vanzant Country Store is getting some good press on the internet and Champions on their way to Mt. Grove have seen some expansive attention going into what used to be the Junction.  By contrast Champion seems all the more laid back and easy going.  Plenty happens, however, and a lot of it out on the spacious veranda at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium overlooking the bucolic Square wrapped and boundried by the wild, wooly banks of Old Fox Creek.  The veranda is situated to catch the lovely summer breezes offered by nature and the verbose windiness of farmers, cowboys and charming itinerant vagrants and loiterers.  Check out TCN (The Champion News) at to get a clear view of Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


August 11, 2014

August 11, 2014

CHAMPION—August 11, 2014

        A cool week ahead with the potential for a little rain has Champions comfortable and optimistic, but not smug.  It is that kind of place where gratitude plays an active part in daily life.  The anniversary of the Fox Creek Flood of 2013 was observed quietly.  Some debris is still lodged in trees “higher than the Cowboy could reach if he were sitting on his high horse.”  If memory does not serve, a review of the archives at reveals that the previous August was a dry, hot one and in 2011, every drop was being measured and appreciated.  Country folks, gardeners and farmers are particularly attentive to the weather as they go about their work in harmony with the atmosphere.  Champions all!

        The 28th annual Skyline VFD Picnic lived up to its reputation as one of the sweetest events around.  Friday started out hot but as the sun went down the air became most comfortable and was filled with music and laughter and the sounds of happy reunions as old friends embraced and visited.  At five o’clock Saturday the faintest little drizzle toyed with the hosts and would have been threatening had they not all studied the radar intensely.  Some firemen used their radios to listen to The National Weather Bureau with its ominous impersonal voice crackling through the static saying, “thunder storms possible.”  People began arriving anyway and, as if by virtue and force of confidence, the clouds dispersed leaving just enough humidity around to remind revelers that they were still deep in the throes of summer.  Several hundred people from around the area and from distant parts settled in the natural amphitheater to enjoy the evening’s entertainment.  Bluegrass and gospel music is really one of the great calling cards for this extraordinary gathering.  The many local and area performers are most impressive not just in their talent but in their generous willingness to show it off.  Ray Bradley continues to amaze with his rendition of The Star Spangled Banner.  He hits those high notes solidly and makes us all feel good about the whole thing.  Others of the hundreds milled about enjoying the food and games.  The silent auction was brilliant as friends outbid each other for those Jewel Tea bowls, each hoping to give them to another of their mutual friends.  Tim Scrivner’s excellent bird feeder was snapped up by another fine wood worker who will probably steal the idea.  The author of the cedar lined red oak blanket chest can be satisfied that the raffle brought in a sizeable chunk of money to benefit the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department.  Can he top it next year?  Champion Jerry Garrison was the lucky ticket holder for that piece that is destined to become a family heirloom.  His friends and neighbors are almost as happy for him to have won it as they would have been for themselves.  Alas!  The hard work of all the volunteers before, during and after the picnic gives them a special spot in the community heart.  The merchants and organizations in the area that support the Skyline VFD can expect ‘mutual aid’ as the community pays back with patronage.  KZ88 Community Radio was on hand to record all the evening’s music as well as a short interview with the Skyline Fire Chief.  It will air sometime next week and those who were unable to attend will hear what they missed and those who were there will get to relive a lovely experience without the distractions, and, sadly, without the pie.  The Champion News Facebook page (‘like’ us please) will report the KZ88 broadcast schedule of the recording when it becomes available.

        It would be great to think that every part of the country is divided up into overlapping communities that rally for each other in their celebrations and in their need the way folks do around here.  It seems that people never feel so good as they do when they are helping someone else.  As people age they might wonder who is getting the comfort when the baby is being rocked.  All the festivals, fund raisers and benefits tie communities together in a great network of compassion.  Elmer was at the picnic both nights.  He is happy about the job the men from the county road crew did on V Highway.  Those fellows have a big job to do to keep the roads open and viable, tying all the communities together.  One of them could use a little help now.  Ashley Pierson (417-686-0164) can answer questions, take donations, and sign your volleyball team up for the tournament that will benefit a special one of those fellows as he deals with a serious health issue.  The volleyball tournament, chili supper and auction will kick off at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, September 6th at the Skyline School—for Champion Ronnie Thompson.

        It was quiet on Sunday afternoon as the little church yard emptied out.  From up near the church, weaving through the trees along the creek bed came a red shouldered hawk, flying silently and low, crossing the drive to light in the big walnut tree behind the garage.  It rested there a moment and then sailed across the road into Harley’s pasture and back along the creek.  It is a huge bird.  The American kestrel is quite a small hawk.  Actually, it is called ‘North America’s littlest falcon.’  Ethel Leach sees them over in her North Champion neighborhood in the headwaters of Old Fox Creek.  They hunt for insects and other small prey in open territory, perching on wires or poles or hovering facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.  They are native year round residents of this part of the world.  Big hawks, little hawks, turkeys, deer and bear are neighbors to other year round critters like bob cats, ground hogs, raccoons, possums and now armadillos.  What a remarkable place!

        Gardens are pouring forth and it is still warm enough to enjoy going to the creek.  This must be the perfect time of the year.  An old neighbor, Ruth Hicks, who used to write the Champion items, would recite a poem by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885).  (Maybe kin to Myron.)  “The golden-rod is yellow, the corn is turning brown, the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down.”  The name of the poem is September, but already it comes to mind in the golden shower of walnut leaves and as the sneeze-causing wild aster, goldenrod, comes into full bloom.  Presently the sumac will change colors and it will be time for the old Champions to gather.  Deward Henson’s old home place is now being occupied joyfully by his granddaughter, Jenny Coradi John and her brush hogging husband.  They had a good time at the picnic.  Her cousins will soon be pouring out of Springfield and other places to come to the Champion School Reunion on the Saturday before Labor Day.  Time marches on.

        March on down to the village, as Deward called it, and bring some of those squash to share.  Bring some poetry with you or some stories or a good song.  “Every day (tenor), every day (soprano), every day (alto), every day (bass) God’s sun is shining brightest beams across the sky.  On this way (tenor, soprano, alto, bass) we shall not falter, it’s the brighter side of life!”  In Champion—Thanks for the motto, Deward.  Looking on the Bright Side!


August 4, 2014

August 4, 2014

CHAMPION—August 4, 2014

        A little rain would not hurt though Champions are hard put to complain about the weather.  Such cool nights and mornings are a gift.  Days in July and August when air conditioners are not required are blissful, lovely days that no one takes for granted.  When electricity arrived in the 1950’s, it brought some families a good oscillating fan and what a luxury that must have seemed on stifling summer days when women struggled for a breath of air off in the kitchen.  The kitchen is not so isolated as it used to be and even poor folks have window units these days.  Some remember 1953 as being the driest year on record.  (The state average precipitation was 25.35”.)  The hottest temperature ever recorded for Missouri was on July 14, 1954—118°F in Warsaw and Union.  Champions do not complain.

        Elmer Banks called to say how happy he is that the road crews have put some much needed attention to Highway V.   The pot holes are filled and the whole stretch of it is a pleasure to drive over thanks to the efforts of the local road men.  Some of them work for the State and some for the County.  It is hard work that they do and it truly serves the community well.  Elmer says, “Thanks, fellers,” to which ever bunch it was.  Some locals were up for checking it out on Saturday night, but first there was a groundhog and then an armadillo and then the sprinkler needed to be unstuck…and first one thing and then another kept them away from ‘Vanzant Under The Stars’ again.  They will make it yet.  Meanwhile, it is easier for Elmer to get out and his friends sure like to see him coming.

        Water!  When pioneers came to this part of the world and edged out the indigenous peoples, they settled near the water.  Descendants of those old settlers are still making their lives in the area as over the years new immigrants have arrived and taken places rich with wonderful springs and good wells.  By the time this is in ink the results will be in from Tuesday’s election.  The laws that protect our water from upstream hog farming and thoughtless neighbors may no longer apply.  Perhaps they will still apply—perhaps the laws will be clearer and stronger.  Optimism is a worthwhile attitude.  Congratulations to the winners of the races.  Do your best to live up to your promises—serve and protect.

        A couple of years ago a Champion lady donated some old bowls to the silent auction at Skyline VFD Picnic fund raiser.  They went on the block having been written up as “four old bowls.”  They were about five inches in diameter and only a couple of inches deep—kind of yellow colored with a design in autumn leaf colors.  Someone said, “Don’t you know what they are?”  “Nope.”  It turns out that they were “Jewel Tea.”  That is a big deal in these parts.  As it turned out several people knew all about it and the bidding was exciting.  The bowls brought in somewhere between $40.00 and $50.00!  Big surprise!  Now it turns out that the lady has found more of those bowls in her unpacking, just in time for the Skyline Picnic.  She is not the only one looking through personal treasures to see what they can share in support of the fire department.  Myron Jackson of KZ88 Radio is planning to be at the Picnic and hopes to record some of the music for broadcast on the local FM station.  He says the Skyline Picnic is “a huge deal” in the area and he is right!  Firefighters and volunteers are busy getting the grounds ready and the members of the fire district are figuring out what kind of pies they will be baking for the event and how they will decorate their cakes for the cake walk.  Generous local merchants are donating the many door prizes that make this one of the best events around as the Skyline VFD shows the community how much their backing means.  The fun starts at 6:00 in the evening both Friday and Saturday nights.  On Saturday that incredible cedar lined red oak blanket chest will be awarded to the winner of the lucky ticket.  One old Champion is buying tickets for her daughter-in-law.  Imagine what a gift like that could mean to any relationship!

        Bryon Guthrie will be in the 8th grade at Skyline this year.  His birthday was on August 3rd and born in the year 2000, he will never have any trouble calculating his age.  Not so for Roger Wiseman with a birthday of August 8, 1968, or Phyllis Winn, August 12, 1947.  They have to cipher.  Jaycee Hall and Cryslynn Bradshaw will both be in kindergarten in the fall.  Jaycee’s birthday is on the 10th and Cryslynn’s is the 12th.  They will be five years old.  Friends remember Mary Graham, whose birthday was August 15th.  She lived east of Champion a little way and had a great smile and laugh and a wonderful affection for her family, for music and dogs.  She always loved the Champion School Reunion and she will be missed there again this year.

        The Skyline Country Market was not what a person would call a raving success, but it was a good experience and some good information was gleaned.  About twenty families, individuals and organizations had booths set up under the trees in front of the school on Friday morning with a great variety of things to sell.  In spite of some fairly good publicity the turn out from the public and passers-by was minimal.  The vendors, however, did quite a bit of shopping with each other and the weather was so pleasant that it was not considered a loss.  The Skyline Community Teachers Association will put their heads together and revamp the event and the community will have another avenue open to support the great little school that is shaping the movers and shakers of the future.

        Linda’s Almanac is up on the bulletin board at Henson’s Downtown G & G over on the North Side of the Square in Downtown Champion as well as on the website at  August is the Green Corn Moon and it will be full on the 10th.  The 12th will be a good day to plant above the ground crops and the 13 will be good for root crops again.  Both days are good for transplanting and for applying organic fertilizer.  Irrigate if you have to.  “Oh, Dan, can’t you see that big green tree where the water’s running free and it’s waiting there for you and me? Water!  Cool, clear water…”  In Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!