May 31, 2019

CHAMPION—May 29, 2019



Last Wednesday, the 22nd, was a fine day in Champion for the visit of Charlie Lambert. It is great to know he is back in the neighborhood. Hopes are that he will find his way to the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam some Thursday soon. Friday was also lovely. First, Nurse Shirley Emerson came to help us stay well with her blood pressure checking and exercise challenge through the Douglas County Health Department. This challenge represents a great chance to be rewarded for doing what you know you are supposed to be doing anyway. That does not always happen. Later in the morning Levon and Karen Lambert together with Levon’s sister, Donna Fay Gifford, paid a visit to Champion as they had been out decorating graves. It was good to see them. Levon used to grind corn with his gas-powered mill down at the Pioneer Descendant’s Gathering at Betty and Dale Thomas’s place at Yates. Karen said that she is not playing music much these days and is thinking about selling her bass. She is a fine musician with a smile that just keeps going.

Wednesday, the 29th, was overcast, humid and threatening of bad weather, but it did not materialize significantly, for which Champions are grateful. It was a treat to have Reba and Don Bishop back at the Historic Emporium for a change. Reba is working hard and making good progress with her physical therapy and Don is showing off his smooth palms, proclaiming that dishwashing does not cause calluses. Bob and Ethel Leach were happy to catch up with their friends and are looking forward to getting in the hay. Music on the porch was provided by members of the One-Time Fox Creek Band. It was pleasant enough except that one member was tuckered out from over-gardening, another had missed naps for days in a row, and the third had come out without his guitar. More than one person has remarked that musicians can be kind of flakey. In her defense, the gardener is not really a musician. She is, however, thinking about taking up the theremin. As she listened to Clara Rockmore playing Sain-Saens’ “The Swan,” she could not help but believe the theremin will be the next wave in bluegrass. Imagine what “Steel Guitar Rag” would sound like on that amazing instrument.

Wednesdays are wonderful down on the wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek. It is a pleasant pastime to see the comings and goings of friends and neighbors. The Re-creation of the Historic Emporium not only provides an extensive selection of merchandise, it provides a center for the continuity of a great community—Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 27, 2019

CHAMPION—May 27, 2019


2019 Denlow Reunion

Saturday was a beautiful day for the 33rd Denlow/Fairview School Reunion. Those little schools closed long ago, but the memories of the ‘good old golden-rule days’ are still fresh. Students, along with their families and friends, gathered for a great lunch, a little music with the One-Day Fox Creek Band and some wonderful reminiscing and visiting. It took three men to do what Lavern Miller used to do, but Kenneth Anderson, Pete Proctor and The General did the best they could as auctioneers. Right in the middle of the auction there were simultaneous screams from the south side of the pavilion as a big black snake slithered across Dean Upshaws foot and right out onto the concrete floor. For the record, it was not Dean who screamed. To the rescue came Paul Upshaw, Whitey’s son, who summarily snagged the serpent and carried it safety, releasing it in the wild woods at the edge of the cemetery. Paul came back to a hero’s ovation. He is from down around Gainesville, but will always be welcome in Denlow! The snake was four to five feet long, but may become larger as the tale is told. The stories shared about the old days and the new connections made are part of what keeps this community going.

The Memorial Day weekend generates gatherings like this one at Denlow all over the country. Pete Proctor talked about the moving experience he had on the Honor Flight of the Ozarks a couple of years ago and was pleased that Robert Upshaw had recently had the opportunity to go on the flight. Our all-volunteer military force now (as of April, 2018) is about 1.29 million, or less than 0.5 percent of the U.S. population. They are deployed out there in the big world keeping us safe. They have a lot of Love and Gratitude coming to them as do the 18 million or so Veterans living today. Thank you for your service.

It appears that the weather is about to settle down for us in this part of the state. We have been fortunate to have escaped the devastation that many have endured. Even as we celebrate our good fortune, we acknowledge the difficulties of those impacted by the tornadoes and flooding around the country. Recovery will be a long term process and your Champion friends wish you well. Hopes are that the attention of the Nation will turn away from the circus of politics and toward healing and rebuilding of areas devastated by winds, tornadoes and floods. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

The Denlow Reunion’s unexpected guest!

May 22, 2019

CHAMPION—May 20, 2019


Trail riders line up for Wilma’s photograph.

The Merry Month of May enjoys five Wednesdays.  A recent one was particularly merry.  Twelve equestrians took out of Champion that morning on Bud Hutchison’s Spring Champion Trail Ride, but not before Wilma Hutchison had them lined up, photographed and interrogated as to who they were, where they were from and the names of their horses.  The riders were patient through the process and happy to have Wilma documenting the event as she has over many years.  It was a happy bunch that trotted up the hill to cross Clever Creek and then wander up Fox Creek Road.  They came ambling back in from the east in the early afternoon, glad for ice cream at the Historic Emporium and glad for a safe ride with no incidents.  Several of the riders had never been to Champion.  One of them, Larry Luna on Makers Mark from over at Gainesville, was heard to remark, “It’s kind of wooly down here.”  He was, at that moment, standing on the very wide, wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek.  Those mysterious cowboys from Mountain Grove did not make the ride this time—not the good looking one or the one with the big hat.  They might show up yet.  Anyway, we will look forward to Wilma’s pictures when she gets them developed.  Look for pictures of Wilma taking pictures at

Master Sargent Robert Upshaw at the U.S. Airforce Memorial in Washington D.C.

Other marvelous May memories will come to Loretta Upshaw and her Dad, MSgt. R. Upshaw, who returned Wednesday from a trip to Washington, D.C. with the Honor Flight of the Ozarks.  A huge crowd greeted them and all the Veterans and their companions at the airport that evening.  Among the welcoming throng were 19 Upshaws.  The photographs Loretta posted on the internet let us share in the experience.  Our Veteran reported that it was awesome to see the military memorials and monuments that are dedicated to the men and women who served in the wartime years.  He spoke of the hardships they each faced during their time in the war zones and lamented that many did not ever get to see the results of their efforts.  He served 21 years in the U.S. Air Force and said, “As I was never on the front lines I feel somewhat undeserving of having the distinction of getting to be a member of this year’s first Honor Flight of the Ozarks tour, especially since many of those to whom these memorials and monuments are dedicated are unable to go or are no longer with us.”  His friends and family think he is indeed deserving.  According to the guidelines, anyone serving during the campaign period of WWII, Korea, or Vietnam, is qualified to go, regardless of where they were stationed.  Also any Veteran of any other campaign after Vietnam who is terminally ill is qualified.  Go to for more information or call (417) 268-9052.  Memorial Day will give us a chance to salute all our Veterans.

Anyway, the Master Sargent has for some time now been known as The General of the Champion Navy.  He will be out mowing the grounds, getting ready for the Denlow School Reunion.  Denlow Wildcats baseball caps commemorating the 25th Denlow/Fairview Reunion were given out in 2011.  Last year there were buttons distributed that said, “Fairview/Denlow; More eduukashun than the 2nd kick of a mule!”  This year marks the 33rd reunion.  Who knows what excitement will materialize.  There will be another of those wonderful auctions.  Laverne Miller used to do the auctioneering and he did a brilliant job describing the beautiful Christmas ornaments that Jesse Mae made.  Pete Proctor was the auctioneer last year.  He had been on the Honor Flight to Washington earlier that year and had been very moved by the experience.  He saved the best for last with the final item up for bid a beautiful table made by Ray Hicks of Blue Grass, Iowa.  Joy Ann Coonts Firrell also lives in Blue Grass, Iowa.  She will be at the Reunion.  People will be coming from near and far for the fun of it, for the remembrance of days gone by, for the chance to see old friends and family again, for the fantastic pot-luck lunch and for the solemnity of celebrating Decoration Day and all that brings to mind.

The fourth Friday of every month finds Shirley Emerson of the Douglas County Health Department in downtown Champion doing blood pressure tests for people in the community.  She gets to the store and is set up by 8:30 in the morning and stays for a couple of hours enjoying the tranquility of one of the world’s truly beautiful places while she does her part to promote healthy living.  Last month she passed out some material about the ‘Douglas County Woman Exercise Challenge Summer 2019.’  There will be participation awards for those who complete four weeks of exercise–150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for any 4 weeks during May, June, or July.  She provides a log to fill in with the date, the type of exercise and the number of minutes.  Participation awards include a water bottle, a Zumba voucher, and day use passes for the MOCH Wellness Center.  All those completing the challenge will be entered into a prize drawing:  (three) $15.  Town and Country gift certificates, (one) crockpot, (one) MOCH Wellness Center 1 month membership, MOCH Wellness Center t-shirt, and (one) $25 Jean’s Heathway gift certificate.  Shirley says drop off exercise logs at Douglas County Health Department or MOCH Wellness Center by Thursday, August 8, 2019 to be eligible for prizes.  The Prize drawing will be on August 12, 2019.  Pick up a participation log from her Friday morning or stop in at the Douglas County Health Department.  One Old Champion woman plans to detail the type of exercise such as ‘Hanging laundry on a really high clothes line’ and ‘weeding the onions by hand.’  Georgianna Littilefield will write in ‘pushed a three wheeled lawn mower 14 miles.’  It is likely to be an interesting challenge.

Kristi Towe has a birthday on May 20th.  Lena Bell Wagner celebrates on the 26th and it may be that she shares the date with John Webber.  There is a question mark by his name in the Champion Birthday Book.  Anyway, the mystery will be solved on Thursday at the Vanzant Jam where they will both be serenaded by the whole crowd.  Ed Henson was born May 27, 1903.  Ray Hicks complained that there are not enough stories about Mr. Henson in The Champion News.  Brylee Clark was born May 28, 2010.  Jesse Mae Miller’s birthday is also the 28th.  She was 92 last year.  We do not know exactly how old Dale Thomas will be on the 28th.  We might have to ask Betty.  Young fiddler, Alex Moses of Austin, Texas, will celebrate her birthday on the 31st.  She is a Champion Granddaughter—Looking on the Bright Side!

Leaving Champion

May 14, 2019

CHAMPION—May 13, 2019


At the last possible moment the Third Annual Champion Spring Fling had to be cancelled. It turned out to be a good call because the cold rain just kept coming down all day Saturday. It was a disappointment, but it was the responsible thing to do. There will be some glorious day ahead when we Spring Flingers can revel in the sun. We will enjoy the fellowship of friends and neighbors, the music of local jammers and the fish dinners with all the fixings and crazy taters made to order by the Prominent Champion and his minions. Champions understand that good things are worth the wait, so enjoy the anticipation and when the new date is set, you will be the first to know.

A beautiful day in the Ozarks on Sunday made Mother’s Day a perfect day. There were extravagant expressions of gratitude and genuine appreciation for the effort it takes to raise children. Often the realization of that effort does not come until we are parents ourselves. One recalls her Mother having said, “I hope you have a dozen and I hope they are all just like you.” For those of you lucky to still have your mothers in the world with you, feel free to tell them you love and appreciate them any time you please. No need for a special day for our Champion mothers.

There was a good turnout for the public meeting concerning the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department on Friday evening. A grant proposal is in the offing for a new fire station. When it materializes it will mean a change in the configuration of the picnic grounds, but will not change the picnic! When it happens there will be improvement in the capabilities of the fire department such as being able to refill the pumper truck quickly and reliably. Hopes are that enhanced training facilities, upgraded equipment and technologies will encourage more young people in the area to become involved in the fire department. Volunteers are the folks that protect our property and our lives. The picnic has historically generated much needed income for the fire department, but more than that it has generated a sense of community. It is a chance to express our appreciation for the volunteers who leave their jobs and lives at a moment’s notice when they are needed. It is also an opportunity to renew old acquaintance and to reminiscence as we have here on these grounds for decades–Champion continuity.

May is a popular month for birthdays. The crowd sang that song for Kenneth Anderson Thursday at the bluegrass jam. His birthday was a day or two earlier according to tattle-tale sources. Elizabeth Heffern and Linda Cooley share the 15th as their special day. Alvie Dooms and Ivan Moses have the 16th for their celebration. Exer Hector Masters and Rachael Cohen, dynamic women both, have the 18th as their special day. Heidi Strong is in the 7th grade at Skyline. She and Teresa Wrinkles both celebrate on May 22nd. Happy birthday wishes go to all of you from your Champion friends.

In a chat with J.R. Johnston the other day he talked about hauling the asphalt for the road between Branson and Silver Dollar City. He knew a lot about the area and had been going there since it was just beginning to be an attraction. When he was growing up his family lived over on Fox Creek near the Manfred Smith place and he walked the three miles to the Champion School meeting up with Krider kids along the way. He enjoyed the Champion School Reunions and the Spring Flings. Hearts are broken at his sudden passing on Friday. He had been absent from the local bluegrass jams that he loved for a few weeks, doing physical therapy, trying to alleviate the pain he was having in his hip. The cold damp weather did not help. It was great that he felt like getting out on his mower on the first beautiful day in a long time, but he had an accident and lost his life. His many friends have lost the pleasantness of his company and the shared joy he had with them and music. On Monday the steady stream of friends and family at his visitation numbered in the hundreds. They came to express their affection for him and to offer condolences to the family. It was a precious scene. J.R. and Janet have been part of music gatherings all around the country for many of their 67 years together. Hearts are broken, but we smile when we think of them in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


May 7, 2019

CHAMPION—May 6, 2019


Vera Cruz

Twenty-seven tornadoes in the general area and four confirmed in Douglas County made for an exciting beginning to the week.  Downed trees and washed out roads are still making things inconvenient for some for a while, but the gentlemen who run the road graders on the county roads have made good progress on repairing the damage.  A few hours without power for one Champion family was a reminder of what it was like in the old days.  They are fortunate to have gravity fed spring water and a gas cook stove, so a lack of power is not really a big deal for them.  Still, the quiet and the disconnect from the tumult of the troubled world was kind of a gift.  A few quiet hours of candlelight and reminiscing were pleasant enough.  Some with all-electric homes were without power for six days.  They enjoyed the extended experience of life as their forbearers knew it.  However, the old timers considered hauling water for every need as just part of every-day life and early to bed was the way everyone did it.  Champions will be grateful that it was not worse and will extend their hands to help neighbors with difficulties.  Linda Clark posted pictures on the internet of the flood damage at Vera Cruz.  A camper lost his life there.  It is important to heed the warnings.

The Champion Spring Fling on Saturday the 11th will be an excellent chance for friends and neighbors to share their stories, to compare their rain fall totals and harken back to accounts of historic storms and floods.  It will also be a good chance to enjoy some excellent food, music by local jammers and the fellowship of friends and neighbors.  Bring your lawn chairs, your sun hats or parasols if it is going to be sunny, or your wraps if you expect it to be chilly, maybe an umbrella.  Who knows?  Festivities will begin around 11 in the morning and will go on well into the afternoon.  Everyone is welcome.  Kathy Pollock is part of an internet group called Southern Missouri History, Families and Photographs.  She posted a picture taken at the New Hope Cemetery with Ferley Lambert, Tom Hancock, Frank Giles, Floyd Hancock, Tom Dobbs, J.T. Shelton, CC Cooley and Tolbert Shelton.  Go to to get a gander at these Champions of Yore.  Come to the Spring Fling and enjoy Champion Today!

Oliver Sacks was a British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science and author.  A friend recently shared an excerpt from his book, Everything In Its Place, published after his death in 2015.  He said that in 40 years of medical practice he found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases:  music and gardens  He was known to be a compassionate, caring person.  He use the words ‘biophilia,’ the love of nature and living things, and ‘hortophilia,’ the desire to interact with, manage and tend nature.  He said the effects of nature’s qualities on health are not only spiritual and emotional but physical and neurological.  Sacks wrote a book called Musicophilia:  Tales of Music and the Brain and another called Gratitude.  These will go on the Champion Reading List.  Gratitude comes in to play when we talk about dear friends who are willing to share the good things.

May the 3rd would have been Pete Seeger’s 100th birthday.  He passed away in 2014, leaving us with a great treasure trove of music.  It was said of him that he knew there were possibilities that we could–through collective participation and struggle–build a better world.  So now that the hickory leaves are as big a squirrel’s ears, we can get out there and plant that corn while singing, “This Land is Your Land.”  Back in 1950 Seeger was a member of the singing group the Weavers.  Their recording of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” topped the chart for 13 weeks.  Do you sometimes get a song in your head that just stays with you?  That happens to The Prominent Champion with, “Give me some green alligators, some long necked geese some humpty back camels and some chimpanzees…”  He saw a monkey out on 95 Highway one night coming home, just ask him.

Twenty-four Upshaw family members gathered at the Vanzant Community Building on Sunday the 26th of April.  They came from near and far for the fun of it and The General said, “I was amazed how well some behaved.”  Birthday celebrants, expected to behave but have fun on their special days include Skyline 5th grader, Gracie Nava, on the 7th and kindergarten’s Timmy Logan on the 8th.  Bonnie Brixie Mullins celebrates on the 9th.  She probably has some interesting stories to tell about growing up in these parts and attending school in the exciting berg of Denlow.  Fourth grader, Conner Jonas, will have his big day on the 12th sharing it with all America’s mothers.  On Mother’s Day, phones will be ringing off the hook.  ‘Off the hook’ may be a phrase that is slipping out of use since most telephones are no longer the kind that hang up on the wall or sit on a table.  When a modern phone recently ceased to function, an old fashioned rotary dial phone was put in its place.  It is an antique.  Old people smile when they see it, enjoying the memories.  Youngsters just think it is funny looking and cannot imagine putting their finger in the hole and turning the dial around.

J.C. Owsley called in to Champion on Saturday looking for more information about the running gunfight in Vanzant.  Per capita, Booger County has as much mischief and lawlessness as many other parts of the country.  Still, overall, we feel safe.  Mother’s Day provides an opportunity for everyone to adhere to some sound motherly advice:  “Just act like you have good sense.”  That is what we try to do every day in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Ferley Lambert, Tom Hancock, Frank Giles, Floyd Hancock, Tom Dobbs, J.T. Shelton, CC Cooley and Tolbert Shelton

May 1, 2019

CHAMPION—April 29, 2019


Racers were ready for the 8:00 a.m. start of the Skyline Donut Dash.

The Skyline R2 Fun Run, the 5k Donut Dash was an unqualified success on Saturday.  Thirty-seven runners participated.  All the runners completed the course of just over three miles in under an hour which is an improvement over last year.  The surprising thing is that the youngest and smallest of the group was the winner.  Kindergarten student, Kash Hurt (#20), came in first with a time of 29:30.  Last year, Levi Hicks won at 23:39.  Andrew Hardin was in second place last year at 23:45.  Andrew was in second place again this year at 29:04.  He was asked if he and the third place winner, Jim Hurt (29:07), had perhaps lagged back so the little guy could win.  He said Kash had led the whole way and that he won fair and square.  The whole group enjoyed donuts and fruit as prizes were awarded to the winners of the various categories.  The Skyline Wellness Committee sponsored the event with the co-operation of the Skyline Volunteer Fire Department and the sheriff’s departments of both Douglas and Wright Counties.  Promoting good health through activity is a great goal.

This is a busy time of the year in Champion.  Gardens are going in and farmers are busy doing those things that have to be done to keep America fed.  We appreciate it.  The hummingbirds are coming back in such numbers that we feel the chance of another hard frost is slim, but we have been fooled before.  There were great flights of geese headed north Monday morning.  The almanac indicates that May 3rd will be good to plant root crops.  Above the ground crops can go in May 4, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17.  Notice how the 11th of May is not a good day for planting, harvesting, for pruning or fertilizing.  It is, however, going to be a fantastic day for the Third Annual Champion Spring Fling!  Get ready for some fun. Bring your musical instruments, your lawn chairs and your sun bonnets.  Upon seeing a picture of the old Champion Store building on the internet, Amanda Mayberry said, “My Dad used to tell us a story about Grandpa Jon Rhoades breaking a mule and winning hats and pocket knives for his prize at the store.”  There is likely to be quite a bit of reminiscing going on.  The following Wednesday morning, the 15th, Bud Hutchison’s Spring Trail Ride will head up on the Square.  The fun never stops.

First, second and third across the finish line.

The Upshaw contingent was legion in Vanzant on Thursday.  One traveled 3,654.3 + miles for the occasion.  That was Major Loni Upshaw.  She joined her mother-Sue, sister-Darcy, and brother-in-law-Ron Cecil from Idaho for a foray into the back woods.  Their presence drew in many local family members.  Darcy came bearing a gift for the General—a Redneck Brief Case.  Look for a picture of this unique item in this week’s post at  The laugher filled the Bluegrass Hall and the enjoyment spread to everyone there.  It is joyful to see a big spread-out family be so close.  Champions!

Jacob Moffett brought his big boom truck to Champion North on Monday and, with a couple of helpers, managed to bring down an enormous walnut tree that had begun to threaten the house over which it was hanging.  It was a pleasure to watch skillful, hardworking men accomplish this amazing task with such precision.

Helen Batten won first place in her division at the Skyline R2 5K Donut Dash Fun Run on Saturday.  She is a dynamo.  It was a great event orchestrated to involve the community in good health practices.  Area residents are welcome to use the quarter mile walking track that meanders through school and Skyline VFD property.  The school is a vital part of our community.  We are lucky to have it and lucky to have Terri Ryan teaching there.  Her birthday is May 1st.  She must have grown up thinking the whole world was celebrating her special day.  May Day has significance for its roots in ancient pagan festivals marking the beginning of summer.  Back in the 1880s more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs on May 1st in a bid for an 8 hour work day.  Around here we are happy to celebrate Terri on the 1st and Dovey Dooms on the 2nd.  Dovey’s sister, Reba Bishop, has been absent from the Wednesday gathering down on Auld Fox Creek lately and her friends are looking forward to having her back again.  Someone will ask Don if he has heard that it is time to plant corn when the hickory leaves are as big a squirrels’ ears.  Willie Nelson’s birthday is April 29, 1933.  He is still making music and doing good work for farmers—a National Treasure.

Spring has our attention diverted from the troubles of the world.  We are busy planting tropical milk weed and other plants beneficial for our butterflies and other pollinators.  We see that Morel mushrooms sell for $32.99 a pound at Mama Jean’s in Springfield.  Intrepid hunters in these parts pay for them with tick bites and briar scratches.  Outside in nature we can, for minutes at a time, forget the craziness that seems to be going on in every corner.  Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, May 12th.  The whole world could benefit from some solid motherly advice:  “Just act like you have good sense!”  That is what we try to do here in Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

The race course has many ups and downs, but the runners did not seem to mind.