May 31, 2018

CHAMPION—May 31, 2018


The last item up for bid.  Pete Proctor describes the table made by Ray Hicks.
Jessie Mae Miller

It was a bright, sun shiny day for the 32nd Denlow/Fairview School Reunion on the Saturday before Memorial Day.  It started off with a little music and a lot of visiting.  Lunch was an unqualified success with great fried chicken and fixings provided by Ed and Sonja Williams.  Ed’s Mother is Shirley (Brixey) Williams, a Denlow alumnus.  The pot luck was scrumptious with too many deserts followed by the desire for a nap on a warm afternoon.  But the pavilion was full of friends and family with fond memories to recount and share.  Pete Proctor spoke on behalf of Veterans to the reason for the observance of a Memorial Day.  He described his experience on the Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. and suggests that everyone who has the opportunity should make that trip.  He is active yet with the program.  The General led a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to You!” to Jesse May Miller for her 92nd birthday on the 28th of May.  She had come to the reunion with her daughter, Beverly, bringing some great old photographs to share, some from way back showing a row of Upshaw men looking stalwart and able somewhere around the turn of the previous century.  She also had some great pictures of herself and her husband, Laverne, holding strings of enormous catfish—several of these kinds of photos spanning the years.  Laverne passed away last fall and he is well remembered, a railroad man, and a fine auctioneer.  The General cleverly enlisted Mickey Reilly, spouse of Cathie Alsup Reilly, to assume responsibility for the auction, to the dismay of Cathie who soon realized her husband has a gift for the role, bringing up the thought that upon their return to the Bluegrass State, he might be holding auctions in their driveway.  He did not rule out the possibility.  The last item sold was a beautiful hand-crafted bench/table made by Ray Hicks of Bluegrass, Iowa.  The lumber started out as two inch thick white oak, which was then planed, sawed, sanded, dadoed, joined, glued and pegged.  (That is just a guess.)  It is a fine piece of work, now possessed by Dailey Upshaw.  Ray suggests that The Champion News does not devote enough ink to Ed Henson.  He had good things to say about the way Mr. Henson helped people in the community when times were hard.  He was born May 27, 1903, and has been gone from us for some while now, but not nearly forgotten.  Anyone with a story to share about Ed can do so:  The Champion News, Rt. 72 Box 367, Norwood, MO 65717 or .  Even with attendance down a little this year, this reunion was roundly considered to be another great success.

Making hay while the sun shines in Champion may sound easier than it is.  An experienced haymaker said that when the hay is cut, it releases moisture into the air and that makes it rain.  It always seems to be an iffy proposition.  Certainly the fields are lush and glorious.  Summer is officially here as the Prominent Champion Girlfriend has pulled out all her fancy flip flops and was seen sporting a pair that looked for all the world as if they were crochet.  She is always in style.  Her blood pressure was up to normal when the nurse from the Douglas County Health Department took the reading there in the Historic Emporium on Friday morning.  She is a dynamo…a Champion!

The General led a fine version of that happy birthday song directed at the fair Lena Wagner on Thursday evening.  She is another dazzling individual with a smile like a sunny day.  It seems that fun follows her around.  She had a nephew and niece following her to the Vanzant Jam and they appeared to have had a good time.  They live in a rough neighborhood over there by Almartha, but they look as if they are coping well.  Several folks who rarely come out to the jam enjoyed the music and the chance to do some good visiting.  The holiday and the Denlow/Fairview School Reunion and other get-togethers in the area have drawn folks in from all over.  Around here, Thursday is frequently the favorite day of the week for many.  Young Chase probably sang that birthday song to his dear Mom that day.  She is one of the resident young people in Champion, which is a good thing since Chase keeps her busy.  School is out and t-ball, swimming lessons and other exciting summer activities are in full swing.  Skyline R2 summer school will run from June 4th to the 28th this year.  Ms. Helen informs us that we can save those Box Tops for Education and the Best Choice and Always Save bar-codes all year long.  They generate a little revenue for the school and every little bit counts when it comes to our important little rural school.

A traveling Champion had the chance to enjoy some authentic ‘enchiladas de mole’ on a quick trip to the magic Rio Grande Valley down on the Mexican frontera.  The music was wonderful and the chance to visit with double-cousins after a long separation was most pleasant.  When two sisters marry two brothers and each couple has children, those children are double cousins with all the same grandparents and cousins.  It is almost like having siblings but without having grown up in the same house.  It is a common phenomenon in this part of the world.  Family is a precious commodity if you get along.  One of the keys to getting along is to avoid certain topics of conversation and when those topics do come up to acknowledge everyone’s right to his or her own belief.  It can be a tricky situation, though for the most part, core values are the same.  A warm afternoon was a chance for an outing to the Iwo Jima Monument, which stands at the entry to the U.S. Marine Academy in Harlingen.  It is an enormous statue erected by the Fourth Marine Division Association and dedicated to those Marines from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Division who sacrificed their lives on Iwo Jima between February 19th and March 16th, 1945.  The plaque also says, “We further acknowledge all our beloved brothers here not listed or known but to God, not only of Iwo Jima but of all our heroic battles—you gave us a better America—may your spirit live forever.”  “From the halls of Montezuma…” to Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 21, 2018

CHAMPION—May 21, 2018


Not our Champion landscape…

Wilma Hutchison said that when she pulled into the Champion Square on Wednesday morning she was amazed at the number of trucks and horse trailers there.  The Square was full and it made her glad to know that Bud’s Spring Trail Ride would continue.  Andrew Hardin said that he and all the other riders were made glad when she pulled into the square.  She took pictures and made notes.  Wilma’s Champion friends look forward to her account of the day and her wonderful pictures.  Go to to the May 22, 2017 posting to see a great picture of the trail riders posed on the broad steps at the Historic Emporium—a more pleasant looking bunch of folks you are not likely to see.

A trove of Champion children swarmed Elmer’s pond on Saturday.  It was a fishing expedition, one they will all remember.  Lux, Chase, Taegan, Kalyssa, and Foster pulled fish in one after another and that very evening enjoyed them fried for super.  It is a joy to see young people outside doing summertime things.  They will grow up saying they have been fishing since they were knee high to fish bait (grasshoppers.)  Someone will teach them how to take a picture of a little fish to make it look like a big one, a trick shared by Champion friend, Jack Ryan, forty years ago with a trio of young fellows whose company he enjoyed.  Journalist Doug Larson said, “If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”  An old friend, now passed, liked to quote John Buchanan, “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.”  Fishing stories run deep and wide on a warm afternoon out on the wide veranda.  Unless your important chores at home can wait, you are cautioned not to bring the subject up in the presence of a certain loafer.  No amount of looking at your watch or furtive steps as if to escape will do you any good.  Be careful or he will try to hold you with eye contact, whereupon you feel obligated to at least feign interest, hoping that he will not require some response from you.  While he talks to hear his head rattle, you can ponder lofty thoughts or mentally organize your list of chores to do when you finally get home.  Polite behavior is a Champion attribute.

Audrey Hepburn said, “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”  The good rains we are experiencing now may serve us well, though many would prefer they came regularly on Wednesday and Sunday nights all through the summer in half inch episodes.  Certainly these kinds of rains make it possible for the weeds to just jump up into your hands if you will bend down to greet them.  There is plenty of growing season ahead to enjoy all that zucchini.  Frances Banks shared some gourd seeds around at the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam a while back and if the fruit is anything like the plant, there will be some enormous squash in the neighborhood.  Cucumbers—what a wonderful thought!  Some garden by the signs and some do it when they can.  Work as hard as you want to at it.  Your results will reflect your effort.  Other parts of the country are dealing with drought conditions while places nearby are in flash flood mode.  It was just this time last year when the bridge east of town was closed, having been undermined by the early spring rains.  It was an interesting process to watch the new bridge being built.  Some call it the New East Champion Fox Creek Dam, as the single tin horn cannot handle the volume of the creek, particularly with the debris as it washes down in the heavy rains.  “You can’t go home by the way of the mill, there’s a bridge washed out at the bottom of the hill.  The big creek’s up and the little creek’s level.  Plow my corn with a double-shovel.”

Go away for a few days in the middle of May and see what happens.  Those tender greens that graced our hills the week before are now deep, lush, vibrant greens and the velvet fields are now deep grass-haying has started.  Go away for a few days to experience the exhilaration of coming home.  So long as you are going places, try getting out of your comfort zone.  Get together with dear family and loved ones who believe exactly the opposite things that you believe.  They are internally shaking their heads in disbelief, even as you are.  They know they love you and they cannot help it, but they cannot fathom how you can possibly think the way you do.  After a week or so, get back to your own space and realize gratitude.  Be grateful for home and familiar comforts and like minds.

The Denlow/Fairview School Reunion, the 32nd one, will be Saturday.  Even folks who never went to school there, but have friends and family who did are already getting excited about it.  The General will forgo his Wednesday picking session in Champion to do some sprucing up at Denlow.  He is much in demand in the whole tri-community area—Champion/Vanzant/Denlow.  Pete and Bonnie Mullens will not make it to the reunion this year.  They will look forward to pictures and reports.  Bonnie says they are finally getting rain and flowers are blooming.  Lightening bugs are out already.  What grandparent would not be happy to go find a fruit jar for a grandchild to use for collecting fire flies?  Those of us without grandchildren or grandchildren nearby will just enjoy the fire flies.  Our most beloved insect is actually a beetle and the world’s most efficient light producer.  They sing at night with light signals, bioluminescent love songs, “Blink, blink, blink” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Sunset in the air…on the way home…

May 14, 2018

CHAMPION—May 14, 2018

It was an exciting Thursday for the talented students at Skyline R2 School as they gave a great performance at their end of the year musical program.  Parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, other family, and friends enjoyed seeing their precious little ones, and big ones (they grow up so fast) working together with such good results.  The last day of school is May 18th.  There will be summer school for some, but the session is short, so they will still get some much-deserved time off.  Teachers and school staff have plenty to do during the summer, but hopefully, they get some time to relax too.  The idea of summer vacation is one that everyone remembers as a special time.  Old folks at the Denlow/Fairview School Reunion will probably be able to tell stories about their long ago summer vacations.  The reunion will be May 26.  There will be music about 11:00 in the pavilion, a great pot luck lunch at noon, and an afternoon of fun for folks remembering when they were the age of our current young ones.  It may be that in 2050, these young ones will be attending their 32nd Skyline School Reunion.

Birthday observations last week did not include those of Kenneth Anderson and Candy Bartsch, but they were serenaded vigorously at the Thursday Vanzant Bluegrass Jam.  Kenneth’s day was May 8th. He and Barbara have given up being snowbirds.  They will miss their Florida friends, but are happy to be full time local yokels again.  Candi’s celebrates her birthday on the 14th.  One of her great fiddle tunes is “Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine.”  Heidi Strong is a sixth grade student at Skyline.  Her birthday is on May 22nd, the same day as Teresa Wrinkles.  Jerry sings, “I love you just the way you are. I wouldn’t change you if I could” to his fair Lena who enjoys her birthday on the 26th.  It may be that Thomas’s old Grandpa Webber celebrates that same day.  Ed Henson was born May 27, 1903.  Brylee Clark’s great- grandmother has her birthday on the 27th and Brylee’s is the next day, also the special day for Dale Thomas.  Kazie Perkins, of KZ88, celebrates on the 29th, and Champion granddaughter and aspiring fiddler, Alexandra Jean down in Austin, Texas will have her party on the 31st.  Happy birthday to you all!  The flowers and presents were meaningful to Mother on Sunday, but nothing is as good to her as a visit or of a phone call from her children.  Jimmy Rogers sang “Mother the Queen of My Heart.”

The horseshoe pitch at the Re-creation of the Historic Emporium is getting plenty of action on these warm days.  It is not infrequent that the ring of steel on steel, a ringer, can be heard all the way up on the wide veranda.  So far it would seem that everyone is exhibiting good sportsmanship, though it may be that one of the players sneaks around to practice.  It is all in good fun and the meeting room is often the place or friends to gather to exchange news and to reminisce.  Having conversations with neighbors about gardening in the heat of the afternoon is a good way to rest up from the morning’s hard work.  There is always plenty to do.  The season is just getting started—plenty of time to get some crops in the ground.  Down in the Magic Rio Grande Valley along the southern border, the corn is shoulder high and tasseling.  Cotton is up and looking good.  There are great fields of sunflowers and aloe vera.  Orchid trees, magnolias, red buds, wild olive trees and many tropical things are blooming wildly and local residents do not take the beauty for granted.  They too have tables where they sit together on warm afternoons to discuss family histories and current events.  What a delight it is to meet cousins for the first time in sixty years.  Far flung family gathering for the sake of getting acquainted is a joy—nice to not be at a funeral.  The laughter and exchanges of family stories are true gifts.  As to current events, one refers to that rock and roll song, “War, What Is It Good For?” and answers the musical question: “Lockheed Martin, Halliburton, Boeing, and Raytheon!  Support our brave CEOs and don’t question wars.”  Another shares a book, “Secret Empires” by Peter Schweizer who explains how the American political class hides corruption and enriches family and friends.  Apparently this is a practice common to every political party, liberal, conservative or centrist.  The Champion News will endeavor to find an honest politician, but cautions readers not to hold their breaths.

News from back home indicates that it is summer already, spring having been at and short lived.  Mother’s Day wishes flew through the air and over the phone lines and via the United States Postal Service.  Karen Ross is our local heroine at the mailbox and hopes are that she had a great Mother’s Day.  Beverly Barnhart has had a surgery from which she is recovering and her friends all wish her well.  Bud Hutchison’s Spring Trail Ride will start in Champion on Wednesday the 16th.  Andrew Hardin lead last fall’s ride when Bud was unable to come and he will do it again this time, though it will still be known as Bud’s Champion Trail Ride.  It will be a nostalgic time for the riders as they travel familiar trails remembering happy times with their dear old friend.  It is not a cowboy song but one that fits sweetly:  “We’ll meet again.  Don’t know where.  Don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.  Keep smiling through, just like you always do ‘till the blue skies chase the dark clouds far away” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 7, 2018

CHAMPION—May 7, 2018


2018 Champion Spring Fling

The hill was alive with the sound of laughter, visiting, and picking on Saturday.  Old friends and new ones gathered in the shade of the big oak tree and strolled about the grounds visiting and enjoying an excellent fish fry and a beautiful spring day.  It was the Second Annual Champion Spring Fling.  People came from all over—from Ava, Mountain Grove, Norwood, Dora, Vanzant, Almartha, Drury, Forsythe, Springfield, Idaho and France, as well as a number of other places.  David Richardson made his eloquent formal congratulatory presentation of a buttercream iced cupcake (with sprinkles) to the Champion Birthday Celebrant, who graciously accepted it, remarking that it having been flipped upside down and the frosting a mess made it all the more special.  She is a special person who brings a lot of fun to Champion.  Her many friends appreciate her having organized this wonderful event.  Elizabeth Heffern’s grandparents were at the Fling.  Elizabeth’s birthday is the 15th of May, the same as Linda Cooley who lives just across Auld Fox Creek from Champion.  A couple of the Dooms brothers were there.  Alvie will have his birthday on the 16th, maybe his 88th or so.  (Dovie had her day on the second.)  One of an Old Champion’s favorite sons, father of Zoey and Alex, also celebrates on the 16th.  Waylon’s Mom, up in Chicago, has the 18th for her birth anniversary, the day also for remembering Exer Hector Masters, gone from us now these 42 years, and still missed every day.  With Mother’s Day approaching, Champions say, “Love her while you have her with you.”  Phone lines will be busy all over the country Sunday, but you can call the old girl any day.  Kay Scrivner enjoyed the afternoon in Champion with her son, David.  Thanks to Laine Sutherland, Champions get to see David on Tuesdays when she publishes posts of the McClurg Jam on the internet.  Thank you, Laine!  It was a treat to have him playing his wonderful fiddle live in Champion along with Sherry Bennett, David Richardson, Alvie Dooms, J.R. Johnston, David Medlock, Candy Bartsch, The General, and others.  Good food, good music, good friends and good weather all made it a perfect day.

Orioles lingered longer in the neighborhood on their way north this year and in greater numbers than Champions can remember.  Rose-breasted grosbeaks and Indigo buntings add color and hummingbirds swarm the feeders.  Hovey Henson wrote to The Champion News to say that the Champion hummingbird flew past 3731 Brookfield and did not stop.  He has never seen a hummingbird at his feeder there in Houston, Texas, though his daughter, Melanie, lives forty miles west and she has them.  Hovey will be back in the neighborhood for his 60th high school reunion in July and can enjoy all the beauty of his old home place then.  Just now little cabins and spacious country homes have disappeared into the forests again.  In ten days the hillsides have gone from gray and brown to every tender shade of green and the woods have closed in with just enough open to dazzle gawkers with the dogwoods.  Do-gooders picking up a piece of litter here and there along a country lane get to enjoy a quiet moment to soak in the calmness and to feel good about themselves as they help to keep our neighborhoods clean. A couple of conservative Republican law-makers from up around St. Joseph have put together the Clean Missouri Initiative.  It is still in the petition stage but could be on the ballot in November.  Among other things, it would to eliminate almost all lobbyist gifts, lower campaign contributions and require legislative records be open to the public.  State Rep. Galen Higdon said that state government is ‘pay to play’ and that he has been asked in the past to pay in order to get a seat on a committee.  He also said that his constituents were 60% against the “Right to Work” initiative, “So, I had to vote ‘no’.  Then I got a phone call telling me that ‘for $35,000, you (should) change your vote,’ and that’s just wrong.”  Higdon said he is still researching the Clean Missouri Initiative but believes it would be good for the state.  Just imagine a government as clean as Champion, free of unbridled selfishness and contempt for the common good!  Some Old Geezers discuss philosophy out on the wide veranda at the Recreation of the Historic Emporium, sitting in the shade, gazing out over the Square at the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek.  Others just gripe about having to mow already.  Some of them are talking about fishing these days and gardeners just go on and on as if talking about it would get the weeds pulled out of the bean rows.  Address your philosophical comments, observations on any subject, or questions to  Go to if you would like to peruse the archives and the many photographs of the Bright Side or if you would like to catch content that does not make it into the newspaper.  An avid on-line reader with a slow internet says he is willing to watch “the spinning blue doughnut of patience” as long as it takes.  Champion!

It is Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week at our Skyline R2 School.  The hard work and dedication that keeps this vital little rural school up and operating is considerable.  Students will present their music program at 7:00 P.M. on Thursday, May 10th.  The last day of school will be May 18th.  Even if you do not have children or grandchildren in school, the chance to see these youngsters working together in one of Ms. Casper’s great programs is a treat.  In addition to learning music and elocution, they are learning how to follow directions and to cooperate with their classmates to produce something enjoyable for everyone.  Soon enough they will be in charge of everything.  The swift passage of time is a recurring theme as we remember our own long ago school days.  The 32nd Annual Denlow/Fairgrove Reunion will be on May 26th this year.  The General says that there will be music in the pavilion about 11:00 and, “Anyone that would like to join in with the musical group will certainly be welcomed.  Several relatives from out of state are planning to attend, of which some have not been here in several years.”  Classes were last held in Denlow in November of 1955, but ask any of those at the reunion if it does not seem like just yesterday.  “As the life of a flower, as a breath or a sigh, so the years roll away…” Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

2018 Champion Spring Fling