March 26, 2019

CHAMPION—March 25, 2019


Fancy finches…

Spring has had an auspicious beginning.  The last time we had a full moon on the vernal equinox was in 2000.  The next time will be in the year 2030.  These nineteen years have gone by in a hurry, though in some ways it seems like a very long time ago.  The next eleven years are the mystery before us.  As Exer Hector said, “Just act like you have good sense.”

There is a Morel Mushroom Hunting Club that a person can join on the internet.  It can be found on YouTube.  Chris Matherly does an annual Morel Season forecast including many detailed maps, amazing photos, current hot spots and ten day forecasts.  Local hunters will wake up after a few warm nights, step away from their computers and get out in the woods.  Expectations are for a good year in the Missouri Ozarks.  A successful hunter says, “We’ve had a lot of moisture but not too much.”  Will Cowboy Jack find his?  Competition for the first, most and best in Champion will soon be on.  Soon the Ava Farmer’s Market will be open.  The first day is scheduled to be April 6th.  If there are Morels there, they will not last long.

Guess where…

Organizers of the Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks are already meeting on a regular basis getting ready to lay the groundwork for this great event which will occur in October.  It requires a lot of planning.  Sherry Bennet is on the lookout for ‘old time’ musicians.  She is not necessarily looking for old folks, though old musicians are welcome and much appreciated, but for folks who play the old music.  If you are one of those folks, or if you know someone who would like to share the good old stuff, get with Sherry.

I heard the bluebird sing.”  Eastern bluebirds are already making an appearance in Champion.  The Missouri Department of Conservation has good directions for building bluebird houses and they tell you where to place them for best results.  Bluebirds, phoebes, red wing black birds, and those fancy, feuding finches fill the air with the sounds of Spring.  The obligation for ‘spring cleaning’ is easy enough to ignore when sweet tweets and twitters call us outside.  Good deeds so often go unsung.  That will not be the case for the gentleman routinely strolling down Ivy Lane.  Thanks to his efforts, that section of the Road to Champion is pristine, free of refuse, and presenting a portrait of a well-loved place, and of a people with principals.  It is inspiring more righteous litter picking.  Bravo, Sir!

Far East Champion was rocking and rolling in celebration of one of three favorite daughters on Saturday.  It was a soggy affair, but well attended.  Grandmothers and aunts stayed inside but were able to enjoy the music vibrating through the walls.  That happy birthday song shook the rafters.  Kalyssa, who has the distinction of being the Great Niece of The General, sat with her avuncular kinfolk, letting her clear, lilting voice override his relentless strumming, enough so that it was surprisingly harmonious.  “Farther along,” she sang and it went out over the air and into the house to grandmothers and aunties, and out over internet for the enjoyment of Champions near and far, lovely.

Some of the world’s most interesting people were born on March 31st.  On this side of the Atlantic Ocean we had Cesar Chavez (1927-1993), a great Civil Rights leader who did good work for farm workers in California and across the country.  Christopher Walken will be 75 years old on the 31st.  He has appeared in more than 100 movies and is a fantastic dancer.  Check out the movie “Pennies from Heaven” if you have not seen it.  On the other side of the ocean, Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is described as an immortal composer who revolutionized religious and secular music.  He was much admired by Mozart.  Bach was born on the 31st as was the gifted artist, Morag Edward.  She currently has works hanging in prestigious galleries and venues across Edinburgh.  She is, in addition, a fine musician, a Sea Swimmer, and much sought after coxswain for local rowers, a wonderful cook, and a student of squirrel behavior among other things.  Your Champion friends wish happy birthdays to you talented people on both sides of the wide ocean.

Matthew Henry said, “If truth is once deserted, unity and peace will not last long.”  Though the Welshman passed away in 1714, his words ring true yet.  His was the first quote edited from The Champion News by the Herald staff back in August 2006.  There have been a few edits since then.  A look back ten years ago in the archives at finds detailed instructions, though not illustrated, for the building of a genuine washtub bass.  Further reading revealed that David Richardson, from out west of Norwood somewhere, had produced the Stradivarius of washtub basses.  He joined with Sue Murphy, Norris Woods, Jerry Wagner and a welcome visitor, Mr. Hancock of Idaho, plus a number of other regulars to make a lovely evening of music at the Junction.  Lynette Cantrell came over from Cabool with her mandolin to add to the fun.  Later on, at the behest of Russell and Sue Upshaw, that jam was relocated to the Vanzant Community Building, where it still flourishes.  There was also a notation in the archives about the First Ever Biennial Armadillo Round Up and Art Fair that was to be held on the 32nd of March that year.

Folks in Nebraska, Iowa, northern Missouri and other parts thereabout will not have the luxury of Morel mushrooms this year, but it is the least of their worries.  The flooding there will have far reaching, long lasting effects for mushroom hunters, for farmers and their communities.  Recovery will take time.  Many here and there are experiencing hard times and loss.  Words of comfort are hard to find.  Empathy is in the consolation of that hug from a friend or from family with the pat on the back, “There, there.”  Our best thoughts go out to everyone struggling with illness, injury and the loss of loved ones–from Champion—Looking on the bright side!

Good night Champion.

March 19, 2019

CHAMPION—March 18, 2019


Daffodils dazzle…

Faith and Begorrah! It is another miracle! After an off and on brutal winter and with spring arriving on Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day already sees buds swelling on fruit trees and lilacs, flowering quince and the carpets of daffodils dazzle us. The secret meeting of the Champion Parade Committee (CPC) must have been a quick one because the annual parade of four revolutions around the Square (celebrating the four leaf clover) was such a speedy affair that virtually no one saw it. Litter left behind was scant but of good quality. Ask Fae Krider. She and a friend found a green back dollar bill crumpled in the grass Sunday afternoon. Most likely it flew off the ‘Pot ‘o Gold’ float in the early hours. She said the find was reminiscent of a time when Pat Smith and her oldest daughter were walking down by Auld Fox Creek sometime after the water had receded from an inundation. They found a billfold partially buried in sand. There was no identification, but there was somewhere in the neighborhood of two to three hundred dollars in it. This happened quite a number of years ago, so no use trying to claim the cash at this point. But, back to the parade–it must have been a doozy.

They sang “Danny Boy” at the Vanzant Jam Thursday and played “The Irish Washerwoman” to recognize the occasion. J.R. Johnston had the happy-birthday song sung to him that night as well. Speculation is that he is somewhere in the vicinity of ninety. Birthday observances that did not make it to ink last week were Skyline’s Willow Townsend, first grader on the 15th, the wonderful Ms. Helen Batten on March 16th, and seventh grader Myla Sarginson on the 18th. Don Powell and the lovely Elva Upshaw share the 23rd with Judie Pennington, who has seen a bear up on Tar Button Road. Don Bishop also celebrates on the 23rd, but he jumped the gun and had a fishing expedition with a grandson that is sure to amount to great birthday memories for both of them. This week’s celebrants include fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Downs, whose birthday is on the 27th. Kindergarten student, Brailynn Cumby, celebrates on the 28th and her classmate, Tucker Johnson, enjoys his day on the 30th along with Mrs. Melissa Willhite, fifth grade teacher. Your Champion friends wish you all happy birthdays and another enjoyable trip around the sun.

Last Wednesday was a damp day in Champion, which must have been the reason for the absence of a couple of regular couples to the gathering. They missed Dave, too-blessed-to-be-stressed, and the charming Kathryn who made the long hour and a half drive from their new home to enjoy the company of old friends around wood stove in the Historic Emporium. Dave said the wind was ferocious and that their truck had been moved around on the highway. It was a little unnerving. The coming week will have the conversations centered around the Real National Emergency happening up in Nebraska as the aftermath of the ‘bomb cyclone’ has left many hundreds of people in shelters with their homes and livelihoods under water. The recovery will be a long time coming. Folks in Nebraska and other effected areas will likely have to start all over when the waters finally withdraw and dry up. They say about nine million people in fourteen states along the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are threatened. Young people all over the world hit the streets on March 15th to bring attention to the issue of climate change. Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg has been nominated by three different notables for the Nobel Prize for inspiring so many of her peers to action. “The times they are a changing,” sang an old troubadour. If our youngsters may not have had time to make their own resounding music, perhaps they will just borrow some from an earlier generation as, once again, the young lead the way. Champions have experienced serious flooding in recent years and we do not forget the hard work of our county road crews as they repaired much of the 135 miles of dirt road in our county. Out here in the middle of the 815 square miles that is Douglas County, we feel fortunate.

All the reports about the Ozark Classic Kountry Show over in Willow Springs on Saturday indicate that it was spectacular. Sharry Lovan organized the event and gathered a bunch of local talent for a great evening of entertainment. Master of Ceremonies, David Richardson, did a fine job even though he is kind of shy. He says he has a photographic memory, but he has no film. Alas! He changed hats a couple of times during the show—from dapper bow-tied dandy to lonesome, rowdy cowboy. Sharry can pick them.

These beautiful days call to the gardener in us. Older people often lament their diminished output while their spouses say, “Why not celebrate what little we did get done?” They claim it is a better use of what little time we have left. The soil is warming, the moon is changing. The 22nd, 23rd, and 24th will be good days to start seed beds or to transplant if you have little seedlings started already. In the reaping what you sow department, from time to time it happens that we think we are doing the right thing and it turns out to have been exactly wrong. The best intentions may not yield the desired results. Something as precious as a friendship may be bruised. Gardeners are resilient and friendships are some of the very best things that grow on the planet. “One planet, one people, please” is the motto of some religious optimists. A bear hunter said that when you skin a bear it looks just like a man. Another old boy said if you were to skin us all, we would look pretty much alike. Ponder these things and others out in the garden. It is one of the best places for deep thought—where we do the best growing—inch by inch row by row, thought by thought. As we learn that friends close to home are suffering great adversity and loss, words of comfort and consolation can be hard to find. They know we are thinking about them with our best thoughts in Champion-Looking on the Bright Side!


March 15, 2019

CHAMPION—March 12, 2019



Like the old boy says, “The older we get, the less it takes to keep us busy.”  Time can easily get away from us and we sometimes find that we have let too much of it slip away without seeing old friends.  It might take some courage and planning to make that call and take that drive, but reconnecting can be a positive thing.  Our old friends may have aged the way we have, or less, or more, and there is likely to be the ‘organ recital’ of detailing our health issues for each other.  A couple of hours of catching up with family and mutual friends might be good for everyone even if all the news is not good.  On any day this time of the year a venture out into seldom seen countryside is a chance to be dazzled by the subtle winter colors.  Riding the ridges on the way back gives us a chance to process the new information and to marvel at the waving red-gold grasses, the green-gold carpeted acres dotted with cows and ponds, hemmed in and skirted by gray and green woods all the way to the blue hills on the horizon.  Top it off with the joy of arriving home again and there is a Champion Sunday afternoon!

Sunday evening the Douglas County Extension Center held its annual dinner and the old boy delivering the keynote address was Wes Davis.  One hundred nineteen Ava sixth graders know him as their science teacher and a couple of adorable one year olds know him as Dad.  He talked about the Agricultural Stewardship Assurance Program, giving the group some good information about sustainability and some good laughs.  There will be stories told about him off in the future—old boy stories.

Skyline School birthdays include Willow Townsend, first grader on the 15th, the wonderful Ms. Helen Batten on March 16th, and seventh grader Myla Sarginson on the 18th.  Others reveling on the Ides of March are Six Foot Sam, an alumni of Skyline now a fiddling Scotsman, Jacob Masters who will be 16 and is a baseball star in Texas, and the fair Irish lass, Ursula, mother of Demetri.  Gordon Reynolds celebrates on the22nd.  Don Powell and the lovely Elva Upshaw share the 23rd with Judie Pennington, who has seen a bear up on Tar Button Road.  Don Bishop also celebrates on the 23rd, but he jumped the gun and had a fishing expedition with a grandson that is sure to amount to great birthday memories for both of them.  Meanwhile, Reba was busy posting a picture on the internet of Champion School students and staff taken November 30, 1916.  Go to to get a look at it.  It is full of familiar names that will ring bells with Champions.

Helen Batten writes from Skyline that the school plans to host a forum on March 19th at 6:30 to talk to school board candidates.  “We have sent a letter out to invite them and they plan to attend.  Deborah Barker will moderate the event and Terri Ryan will be timer.  We will have a prepared list of questions and each candidate will be able to speak.  The community is invited to bring written questions if possible.  There will be high school students available to watch a movie with the younger children.  PTO is providing coffee, water and cookies.”  Helen also reports, “We are having another ‘Fun Run’ April 13th and we are calling it a ‘Donut Dash.’”  More information will be coming out about that soon.  Last year’s event was a lot of fun even for people who just watched the runners arrive at the finish line.

Reports are that Bertie and The Boys brought the house down in a performance at Roy’s Store in Dora on Saturday night.  There was a fine fish dinner and pie, pie, pie.  The banjo player favors banana cream pie, and that old man who really can play the mandolin is a strawberry rhubarb fan.  Roberta has a beautiful voice, a great repertory and some fine musical friends—Dave, Dennis, Montana, Terry, and Teddy—The Boys.  This success surely guarantees a repeat performance and when that happens, efforts will be made to get the word out early for pie and music lovers.  Another favorite local musician, Sharry Lovan, had an argument with her cedar chest on Sunday morning.  She wound up with a broken little toe.  There is no indication that the cedar chest felt a thing.  Sharry did get her bed made and did get the sympathy and commiseration of many friends.  She has a big show scheduled for the Saturday, the 16th, at the beautiful Star Theatre in Willow Springs.  The show must go on!  It will.  Sharry is a trouper.

One Old Champion has been having an eye caught by a brilliant blue or a flash of silver or red along the roadside as well as by a bright flapping white.  The white is a plastic bag, and the bright colors soda and beer cans and plastic bottles.  For a while she has been on her high horse about a fellow who frequently walks to the city center, passing this litter every time without seeing it or without caring.  But she has not stopped to pick it up either.  So she has decided to dismount the high horse and do a little righteous litter picking.  They say people are more apt to litter if there is litter present already, so the exercise might be preventative as well as curative.  Another Old Champion argues that a floorboard full of beer cans might represent an issue at a traffic stop.  Drive safely on your way down to the wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek. Champion! Looking on the Bright Side!


March 5, 2019

CHAMPION—March 4th, 2019


The new normal for weather is unusual. It seems that is the way it will be from now on. Being well, warm and content is a circumstance that evokes gratitude among Champions all year long in all kinds of weather. We just take what we get and are pleased that it is not worse. Particularly this is so when we look at others not so far away in every direction who are not faring nearly so well. One of those climate change activists recently said that it will not just be the coastal areas affected, so those newcomers to the Ozarks thinking this will be the new coast in a few years, too bad. You are in it with the rest of us. But, welcome. It looks like this will be a challenge for the young folks. Old Champions wish you much good luck at the same time some of us apologize for not understanding the situation sooner. Sixteen year old Greta Thunberg has stepped up to be one of the leaders of her generation to address the situation. She lives in Sweden where she is also experiencing unusual weather.

One hundred sixteen young people came to Skyline on Saturday for the State Qualifying Archery Tournament. They came from Gainesville, Cabool, Manes, Mountain Grove and Norwood to join our great archers for this event. It is nice to have a sport where girls and boys regardless of age or size can compete together. Each individual is really competing with him/herself. It is the quiet kind of excitement, punctuated with thumps, that observers can enjoy. The good coffee, brownies, and Frito pie help. The eighth grade class ran the concession stand and the report is they have passed their goal for funding their class trip and are now applying the profits to their graduation expenses. Skyline’s Joshua Garner qualified to go to the state tournament and placed second in the Middle School Male Division. Heidy Strong placed third in the Middle School Female Division and Gracie Nava placed third in the Elementary Female Division. Congratulations to you Skyline Champions!

Bailey and Violet

Helen Batten writes from Skyline that the school plans to host a forum on March 19th at 6:30 to talk to school board candidates. “We have sent a letter out to invite them and they plan to attend. Deborah Barker will moderate the event and Terri Ryan will be timer. We will have a prepared list of questions and each candidate will be able to speak. The community is invited to bring written questions if possible. There will be high school students available to watch a movie with the younger children. PTO is providing coffee, water and cookies.”

Violet is a chicken. She is a hen who had an injury early in life that caused her to have only one good leg. She has lived a long time and has made at least one really good friend, Bailey. On a recent visit, Bailey pointed out that Violet has grown some rooster feathers. She had a plausible scientific explanation about how it happened. Bailey’s birthday is March 9th. She is a middle school student in Portland, Oregon. She shares her birthday with local broom-maker, Kay Dennis. Brice King is in the second grade. His birthday is March 10th. Mrs. Casper is the great music/art teacher at Skyline, responsible for wonderful school musicals. Her birthday is March 12th. That was also the birthday of a favorite Champion who passed away a few years ago. He was called a risk-taker and was much respected for his keen eye and many skills.

This is the time of the year when local skunks are on the move. They have a romantic agenda. Linda was on her way to Springfield the other day and counted seven skunks dead on the side of the road. About 9:30 on a recent Thursday night one was seen dead in the north bound lane on 95 Highway south of Drury and then another at the intersection of 76 and 95 was just strolling around seeming to enjoy the headlights of a motorist hoping not to hit it. Louden Wainwright wrote the song “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.” People who are considered to be punks, scoundrels, ruffians, hoodlums, and stinker are called skunks. Getting skunked means being shut out or to be overwhelmingly defeated. ‘Skunked’ also means to run out on a bill: “He left town and skunked the landlord.” It is a New England phrase that came into use around 1831. One is reminded of a current skunk, skunking working people. (Hopes are that no one will need this recipe, but it is a good one if your dog gets sprayed: 1 quart hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid. Work it through the fur. Let it sit for about five minutes then rinse thoroughly.)

On March 4th, people often say, “March forth!” March has come in like a lion and is about to spring forward on the 10th of the month. On the 14th we can celebrate Pi Day (3.1415926535 etc. ad infinitum) and explore infinity. On March 15th we can think about the soothsayer having warned Caesar about the Ides of March. That is according to Shakespeare who also had Macbeth thinking about glum things that seem oddly appropriate now citing “A poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Mardi Gras is going on in Louisiana and other places and Ash Wednesday is the duo-birthday of an old Champion couple who now have a combined age of 152 years. Meanwhile Spring will arrive on March 20th. Champions are ready. Snowbirds from Wyoming are hoping that the Champion Spring Fling will happen before the first of May since that is their departure date. The Fling date is to be set by The Prominent Champion Spouse, who has a big day planned on March 28th. She is much loved and her friends all hope that day goes well for her and that she will be ready to party before the snowbirds fly. “The snowbird sings the song he always sings and speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring” in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!