September 24, 2019

CHAMPION—September 23, 2019


The Wagon Train resting on the Square as seen from the Wide Veranda.
[click here or scroll down for more pictures]

The West Plains Wagon Club pulled into the Champion Square about 11:00 on Tuesday morning, a little earlier than they have routinely done in the past.  They made an early start out of John Webber’s place that morning, expecting a hot day.  They got it.  Jim Cantrell says that they do not mind the rain.  They never get wet unless it is time to harness or unharness.  So far, they said the trip had gone well with no significant incidents.  What a gift it would be to sit in around those camp fires as the Wagon Train moves along, to hear those stories.  Randal Barnette figures he will have traveled 3,300 miles before the year is done.  He said that he averages 20 miles a day, though once he covered 47 miles, making for home ahead of an ice storm.  Little Joe, a loyal little terrier, is his traveling buddy.  The mule train made its way up through Mansfield and Marshfield to Seymour.  Barnette and Ken Felts will retrace their steps and be back in Champion Wednesday evening.  They are on their way back to Arkansas, Felts stopping at Viola and Barnette going four hours more over to Warm Springs, arriving there sometime next week.  When asked how much time he spends on the trail, Barnette said, “All I can.”  The Champion News camera battery played out just before they took off up the hill toward Cold Springs, but there are pictures of this bunch on the Square Thursday and wagon train pictures going back to 2008 on-line at  The Wednesday Sometime Porch Band jam was in full swing during the wagon train visit and new-comer to the wagon train and to Champion, Dennis Pierce, of Seymour, suggested that he might come back some time with his fiddle and his guitar.  He says his big problem is that he finds it hard not to dance when the music is lively.

I’ve traveled this world over, a million miles or more, but a moustache on a cabbage head I never did see before.”  That is a line from an old country song that causes laughter to break out in an audience.  It comes to mind when some old Champions broke out in aggravation at ‘a computer in a washing machine.’  The blamed thing would not do what it was told.  The remedy was provided by David Lehmann and came in the form of an old fashioned Maytag minted before laundry equipment was computerized.  It is nice to harken back to the old days, but not so far back as the rub-board.  Mr. Lehmann has a fine old fiddle that he brought it with him when he came to pick up the discarded computer-infested machine.  He tuned up and played “Old Indiana,” “Sweet Betsy from Pike,” and a couple more tunes.  It might be a temptation to have appliance trouble just to get him back in the neighborhood.  He says he likes to have a guitar playing along to help keep time as he has trouble patting his foot.  It just goes to show that almost everybody has some kind of trouble.

Donna Eslinger, one of the tireless organizers of the Pioneer Heritage Festival, says that this year a couple of cowgirls will be riding their horses at the Festival 11am to 3pm both days, October 5th and 6th.  Both “cowgirls” are experienced horse riders and will be available for photo opportunities as they welcome Festival goers and ride around during the Festival.  They are Emma Dry, an 8th grade student, and Devin Rowe, a junior.  Both attend school in Ava.  Watch the weather and bring a hat if it’s going to be hot and sunny.  Bring a lawn chair and an appetite for all the good food, good music and the chance to visit with your friends.  As you walk among the many exhibitors and demonstrators you might think you have stepped back in time.  The old fashioned games of horse shoes and sack races will keep the kids busy, yet some local pioneer history might rub off on them.  A number of Skyline students, and doubtlessly, many Ava School students, are the descendants of some of those old time pioneers to this part of the world.  Skyline superintendent Donnie Luna’s family came over from Kentucky or Tennessee way back in the 1840’s.  When it was suggested those folks came to avoid the Whiskey Tax, he said that after a flood here a few years ago there washed up a big coil of copper, giving hard evidence of the rumor of family-moonshining in previous generations.

Tristian Jeffry is in the 5th grade in Skyline.  His birthday is September 25th.  Fourth grader, Colt Mayberry, celebrates on the 28th.  Melanie Hall is a first grade student with a birthday on September 30th   Graeme Laird, a charming Scotsman, was 42 in 2013 on September 26th.  He has written some great songs, among them is “Now’s the end of the beginning!”  Cathy Alsup Reilly celebrates on the 27th.  She has more than a little family history here, though she lives in Tennessee.  Beck Heston and Lucile Gayman will both be celebrated on the 29th—Becky in Austin or Belize, and Ms. Gayman up in the lovely assisted living facility just north of Mountain Grove.  She will have family and friends wishing her well.  Xue Lynn’s dear old dad may stroll into downtown Champion on foot on his birthday on the 30th.  Birthdays give us the chance to be acknowledged for existing in our shared world as Champions—Looking on the Bright Side!


2019 Wagon Train


Randall Barnett’s three-up are Jericho, Chief, and Junior. Randall is from Warm Springs, Arkansas.

Randal Barnett and Little Joe.

Jim Cantrell chewing the fat with Randal Barnett on a rest stop at Champion.

Jim and Judy Cantrell of Mansfield. Their mules are Long Ears and Patty.

This is the outfit of Ken Felts of Viola Arkansas. His mules are Rebel, Bill, and Kate.

Ken Felts’ Rebel, Bill, and Kate.

Jerry Sanders and Toni Amison relax with Toni’s dog Hooch. Their mules are Black Jack and Peaches.

This was the first trip through Champion for Dennis Pierce of Seymour. He has borrowed mules…Lady and Thunder.

Dennis Pierce is also a fiddle player and plays guitar. He said he might come down to Champion
from Seymour some Wednesday for the Sometimes Porch Band jam.



September 16, 2019

CHAMPION—September 16, 2019


Purslane–edible heirloom.

By the time this gets into ink and then makes its way via the wonderful United States Postal Service all the way to Champion, the wagon train will have come and gone.  If you missed it, you can go to and look for the West Plains Wagon Club in the ‘Champion Neighbors’ category on the right hand side of the page and there you will find pictures and reports of the wagon train going back to 2008.  The wagon train has a much longer history than that.  Back in the 1970s when a young couple had just purchased what is still called the Ezra Henson place, they looked up from their chores that first fall to see a whole string of wagons going by, north up Cold Springs Road.  There were matched pairs of miniature mules in beautiful harness pulling all kinds of little wagons.  There were bigger outfits too, and one or two being pulled by a three-up.  It was a surprise and a delight for the newcomers who figured they had found the right place in the world to make a home.  As the years have gone by the wagon train has become shorter and shorter.  It is not an inexpensive hobby and not many young folks are taking it up.  With their rubber tires, spring seats, and CB radios, we know that these rigs do not compare to the Spartan pioneer wagons of the distant past, but it gives us an idea of how sturdy and resilient our ancestors were as they made their arduous journeys west.  See you next year.  Wagons Ho!

Terri Ryan says, “Thank you, FCS Financial for providing all our kindergarten through 4th grade students with a free book each month through May.  Our students will love it!  We appreciate your investment in our Skyline community.”  It is great to see area businesses supporting our little rural school.  One of the ways we can help is by saving the bar-codes (UPC codes) from the store brands, Best Choice and Always Save.  Also find Box Tops for Education on many General Mills products and Ziploc brands.  You can drop them off at the school or mail them to Skyline R2 School, Rt. 72 Box 486, Norwood, MO 65717.  These are the young people who will soon be running the farms, businesses and the government.  We better give them all the support and encouragement we can.  The Beach Boys sang, “Be True to Your School.”

The 28th Annual Starvy Creek Fall Bluegrass Festival is going on this week.  Many of our local musicians will be up in Conway camping and jamming until way in the night.  They will be back at their regular jams next week happy for their experiences and ready for more music.


The Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks will happen on the first weekend in October, the 5th and 6th.  In addition to all the great music from local bands, there will be opportunities for young people to show off their musical talents and their art work.  There will be demonstrations of traditional skills and crafts, as well as lots of good food, games and contests.  This will be the third year for this family-friendly festival and it looks like it will be another great success.  Among the exhibitors this year will be Jeffrey Goss of Gainesville, who will demonstrate foraging for native foods.  Incidentally, the mailbox at has received a New York Times article extolling the virtues of purslane.  It is a succulent, considered a weed by many and a delicacy by others.  Purslane has many beneficial nutrients and there are as many as forty varieties of purslane cultivated for the tables of people across the world.  Gretchen Boisse wrote in to say that they had harvested 24 pounds of pawpaws in about an hour.  She is freezing some for pawpawsicles for next summer.  She says they are extremely nutritious, “It even has an impressive amount of protein.  The pawpaw is fun to harvest, easy to process/preserve, nutritious, delicious and free for the taking for those of us fortunate enough to live out here in this unpolluted beautiful spot on the globe, so full of the resources that we need to not only survive, but to thrive.”

Retired mail-carrier, Patricia Kim Smith, had a birthday on September 15.  Donald Krider, who used to live around here, celebrates on September 18th.  Louise Hutchison passed away in November of last year.  She is well remembered for her good humor, her beautiful singing voice and her service to the community.  Her birthday was September 21st.  That is also the special day for Champion granddaughter in Austin, TX, Zoey Louise.  She shares the day with her distant cousin, Penelope, who lives in the same town.  Adopted Champion granddaughter, Greta Thunberg, will be 17 in January.  She is still up in New York and will speak at the Climate Summit at the United Nations on the 21st.  Her biological grandparents back in Sweden must also be very proud of her.  Sandy Chapin, of “Searching for Booger County” fame, celebrates on the 24th.  Wishing you all marvelous, joyful birthdays from Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!

Greta Thunberg

September 10, 2019

CHAMPION—September 10, 2019


This is the little Vanzant Community Building where good things often happen.

Grandparents Day at Skyline was another of those excellent events that will lodge in the memories of students and grandparents and bind them closer yet.  Among the artifacts shared by grandparents were quilts, rub-boards, portable record players with 45 rpm records and a dial telephone.  You know, you have to put your finger in the hole corresponding to the number and turn it clockwise to the stop and maybe the number you call is off the hook.  That phone seems funny and old-fashioned now, but it is how things were when some of these grandparents were school kids.  Now they are old folks, sitting in the bleachers with their eyes watering a little for the joy of grandchildren singing.

“Welcome home, Elva!”  What a party!  The Vanzant Community Building was packed Saturday with family and friends well-wishing for Elva Upshaw as she is making a strong recovery from some very fancy heart surgery.  She beamed her lovely smile all evening.  The pot-luck tables were overflowing with favorite dishes and desserts, and hearts overflowed with gratitude.  Music and laughter filled the hall.  We are again reminded of the value of community and the preciousness of family.  Elva sent out a big thank you.  “…to my family, friends and people I do not even know from the Vanzant/Drury and Champion communities for your generosity.  …Time and time again I have seen community come together to offer support and it was no different for me.  There is no other place I would rather call home.  I am blessed beyond measure!”

Those good-looking Mountain Grove cowboys, Kenny and Jim, will be glad to know that the Century-Tell cable hanging low over the low-water crossing on Cold Springs Road has been repaired.  The guy-wire supporting the phone pole on the west side of the creek had given way so the pole leaned and the wire drooped.  Their observation may have saved some real difficulties for locals.  They will also be glad to know that the West Plains Wagon Club wagon train will be pulling into Champion on September 19th.  Jim Cantrell called in to Henson’s Store to share the good news.  John Webber says they will spend Wednesday night at his place in Drury and he expects there will be four or five wagons, maybe more.  They will come into the Champion Square around noon for a rest and for the community to have a chance to admire their handsome animals and their interesting rigs.  From Champion they will continue on their 100 mile journey.  It takes them a week to go from West Plains to Mansfield.  Maybe the cowboys will join them as outriders for a spell, maybe they will be discussing great American heroes and Cowboy Logic on the trail.

Organizers of The Pioneer Heritage Festival of the Ozarks are busy.  It will happen on the first week end in October, the 5th and 6th this year.  In addition to all the great music from local bands, there will be opportunities for young people to show off their musical talents.  There will be lots of good food, games and contests.  Among the many exhibitions of traditional skills will be soap making, apple butter making, pickling and canning, flint knapping, blacksmithing, turkey calls, wood carving, lace making, spinning, weaving, felting, quilting, basket making, how to cane a chair and many other such things.  This will be the third year for this family-friendly festival and it looks like it will be another great success.  Last year Jody and Royce Henson from Springfield were held up at a train crossing in Norwood for more than an hour, so they backtracked and came to the festival through Ava.  They will probably come that way again this year just to avoid a potential delay.  People will be coming from all over the place.  It will be a good opportunity to meet up with friends you may not have seen in years.

“Not just plain terrible.  This was fancy terrible; this was terrible with raisins in it.”  That is a quote from Dorothy Parker.  We do not know what she may have been referencing, but we can think of several things that could deserve the description these days.  Another quote comes from the esteemed President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican.  He said, “Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels-men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.  As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”  In the United States, about 11,000 people turn from 17 to 18 years old every day.  Imagine if they all register to vote!  Some people do not like any kind of social activism blowing in the wind.  Our adopted Champion granddaughter, Greta Thunberg, gets negativity from people who are afraid of change.  She does not care.  She takes it as kind of a super-power to be able to cause people to think.  We are immensely proud of her and of all our young people who are stepping up to public service and taking responsibility to rehabilitate the world they are inheriting.  Champions all!

Hovy Henson wrote an email to on September 2nd with the subject line, “I’m excited!”  He reported that he and Dawn had seen their first hummingbird at their feeder.  This is the second year they have put up a feeder and this was the first bird that has visited it.  The population of hummingbirds in these parts is beginning to thin out.  It may be that Hovy’s visitor is on its migration south to the Yucatan.  Seasons are changing.  Tanna Wiseman will have a birthday on September 13th.  Friday the 13th is also the full Harvest Moon.  It last happened in October of 2000, and will not happen again until August 2049.  The 14th is a day to celebrate Frances Sutherland who was 82 in 2014.  She enjoyed the Champion School Reunion last month.  The 15th is a day to appreciate Patty-Tigger and to remember old Champion friend, Elmer Banks.  Elmer did not grow up around here, but he fit in like a real Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


September 3, 2019

CHAMPION—September 2, 2019


Champion Pot-Luck
[click here or scroll down for more pictures]

Attending the 35th Champion School Reunion on Saturday, August 31st were: Robert Graham, Royce and Jody Henson, Tom and Valle Mills, Connie, Paul and Robert Brown, Dean, Dailey, and David Upshaw, Fae Krider, Ruth Daharsh, Ethel Luellen Anderson, Louise Rinebold, Phyllis and Pete Proctor, Larry and Teresa Wrinkles, Alvie Dooms, Betty Henson, Lonnie Mears, Wilda Moses, Irene Keller Dooms, Beverly Keller Dooms, Dale and Betty Thomas, Dean Brixie, Darrel Hutchison, Wes Lambert, Judy Keller Mears, Glenna L. Henson, Lee Ray, Laine and Frances Sutherland. There may have been others as well. Of those who signed the register, eleven or twelve had been Champion School students. The weather was as perfect as could have been hoped for. There was no need for the giant walnut tree that served as first base to provide its now scant shade until late afternoon. The grass is lush on the old school grounds that students all recall has having been a big sandy lot—sand four inches deep. The reminiscing was sweet, though there were many thoughts of those absent this time. Friends reconnecting and catching up with each other’s news mixed in with old stories. Grandsons of Rufus Keller shared stories about him, how he raised his own tobacco and shared it with his neighbors and a report of his having said, “He fell out of a barbed wire fence, straddled a cherry tree and tore himself from now till tomorrow morning. The Doctor said he didn’t know if he would live from one end to the other.”

It was another delightful Wednesday out on the wild, wooly banks of Auld Fox Creek. The broad veranda on the Historic Emporium was full of music and fun. Candi and Jeff Bartch have become regular members of the Sometimes Porch Band on fiddle and harmonica. This week Charlie Lambert joined in improving the group substantially with The Spanish Twostep. When it comes to the human brain, music is one of the best medicines. A study at McGill University in Canada revealed that listening to agreeable music encourages the production of beneficial brain chemicals, specifically the ‘feel good’ hormone known as dopamine. Not only does listening to music have a positive effect on stress and depression, playing music reduces stress on both the emotional level and the molecular level. Studies have shown that adults who play music produce higher levels of Human Growth Hormone, which is necessary for regulating body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism and possibly heart function. So, all you folks with a guitar under your bed that you have not played in 20 years, get it out. Get some new strings and play. It is good for you. Taking up an instrument as an adult, even if you have never played, is one of those ways we can fight off dementia. Just sing and you will be improved by music. There will be a “Welcome Home Elva!” jam where singing will be encouraged at the Vanzant Community Building on Saturday the 7th. Doors will open at 4, a pot-luck at 6 and music, music, music. The General’s daughter is recovering from a very fancy heart surgery and the community is happy to see what a great recovery she is making. Everyone is welcome to welcome Elva home!

At the Grandparents Day program at Skyline R2 School on Friday, September 6th, there are plans to have a living museum. Grandparents will be sharing artifacts and telling stories about their own youth. The program starts at 2:40 PM. All grandparents are welcome, whether or not you have a grandchild in Skyline. It will be a chance to meet Donnie Luna, Skyline’s new administrator. His grandfather was Clifton Luna, sawyer and wagon-master of the West Plains Wagon Club. He says that the family began to record some of his grandfather’s stories in his later years. That is a real family treasure. This Grandparents Day program will help secure that kind of treasure for our grandchildren.

Betty Thomas, Larry Wrinkles, and Wilma Hutchison all share their birthdays on September 1st. You will remember that Betty and Dale Thomas hosted the Pioneer Descendants Gathering down at Yates for many years. The Pioneer Heritage Festival gets its inspiration from that wonderful event. It will take place the first week-end in October–a great family friendly event close to home. Larry Wrinkles is a fine story teller, get him started and you are in for some fun. Wilma Hutchison is the woman who kept Bud Hutchison’s trail rides lined out, photographed and documented for many years. She regularly attends the Vanzant Bluegrass Jam and had that song sung for her last week. They will sing it to her again next time while they are singing to Daily Upshaw. She will beam that lovely smile. Andrew Harden leads Bud’s trail-rides these days and will let us know when the fall ride is scheduled. Phebe Ward celebrates her birthday on the 3rd of September, a day before her Uncle Vernon Upshaw and cousin Dailey share theirs. Skyline first grader, Ely Young, shares his birthday on the 8th of September with a bird-watching bridge player whose nickname was “Crayola” when she was in school. Your friends and families wish you all joyful birthdays from Champion.

Labor Day acknowledges the progress we have made as a Nation in improving the lives of people in the work-force. Those changes came about largely through collective bargaining, a genuinely American concept. We are grateful to live in such an enlightened part of the world, though difficulties abound. Mass shootings around the country help to promulgate the fear many already feel as democracy seems so fragile. It is as if we are all experiencing the dread and anxiousness of those on the east coast facing the terrible hurricane as it approaches. Yet, it is said that we are our best when things are the worst. Champion—Looking on the Bright Side!


September 2, 2019

2019 Champion School Reunion